Archive for July, 2008

UFO in Unterhaching, Germany

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

We live next to a canola field, and a few days ago I noticed an alien metallic object on this field – something that could have only been an UFO. It was huge, had bright lights, a long tender beak, and it moved in a bizarre fashion. It also made loud slurping noises. I immediately saw my chance of a lifetime. I, among all the photographers in the world, had been chosen to witness the first genuine contact with an intelligence that was from outer space, clearly way beyond our own mental capabilities.

The sun had set a while ago, and it was beginning to get dark quickly. I managed to only capture a few shots at ISO 1000, before I ran away screaming. I realized that the aliens clearly were not on a friendly mission – where the canola field had been before, just a short stubble remained. The multitude of life forms in this field – extinguished. And the aliens were after me, too. The UFO came closer and closer, quickly, and I ran and ran but seemed to not get ground. And then I stumbled, fell, and thought my hour had come. I could barely save my camera, something that was more important to me than anything else in that moment.

And then the miracle happened – the object stopped abruptly, turned around, and moved away from me quickly. I was saved! I quickly got up and went home, downloaded the photos to three different hard disks, for redundancy reasons, and went back to our garden to observe the object from behind a bush. About twenty minutes later, the object simply disappeared. I had blinked, and it was gone. Scaringly, the whole canola field was gone as well. Wow. Talk about supernatural forces.

Of course, I did not tell anyone of this encounter. I first wanted to make up my mind whether I should keep quiet, or make the public aware of this? Who knows, what the aliens will do to me once they figure out that I betrayed them? But a journalist has to do his job, however uncomfortable it may get. The truth has to get out! And if you aliens are reading this blog (I’m sure you do), let me tell you this: I AM NOT AFRAID of you!


Harvester at night
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Canon 1ds mk II with EF 70-200 mm 2.8 L (at 200 mm), 1/60 sec., f/3.6, ISO 1000, no tripod, 6000 K, RAW, converted with Lightroom

B2RUN München 2008 Photos

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Yesterday a huge group of runners, joggers, and walkers gathered in Munich to participate in the annual “company run” (German: Firmenlauf), a running competition for companies who operate in or around Munich. The distance is 6.75 km, so it’s quite do-able even for untrained participants who can always walk. Companies usually sponsor their groups with both the entry fees and some funny T-Shirt, and it’s more like a big party than everything else. In order to attract additional attention, some teams appeared in costumes, like IKEA with their yellow shopping bags (as trousers), the girly group of Wallmeier Hair in their colorful 80s leggings, or the guys and girls wearing blue wigs (aka the “Bosch4speed Team”).

But the majority of this years’ record-breaking 30,600 participants came for the sport event and the party, joined by an equally large fanbase along the racetrack through Munich’s awesome Olympic Park. Despite being rather cold that evening, the crowd started almost on time at 7:33 pm, with the 1,000 best runners heading the field. For them, the distance was not a big deal: Florian Neuschwander, the winner, came in 18 minutes and 17 seconds after the start, when others had not even started their race. (See the official results at B2RUN.)

By the way, Petra participated as well, for the very first time, and she did better than she had expected. Her starting number was 28920, and she needed just 42 minutes and 11 seconds, and she was quite happy about it. Exhausted, but happy. :-)

Here are just a few photos of the event (click to enlarge):

Leggings Ladies at B2RUN 2008 München
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

B2RUN Munich
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Funny group at B2RUN München
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

A sea of people waiting for the start
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Runners at the B2RUN München 2008
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

B2RUN 2008 Munich
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Runner # 27992 of Unicredit Group
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Runner # 13025 of
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Runners passing the supporters
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

B2RUN München 2008
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Firmenlauf 2008 München
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

B2RUN Olympiapark
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Weddings: How to select photos for the couple?

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Susan asks on the excellent Flickr Wedding Photography board:

I shot my first wedding – alone – nearly two weeks ago. I have nearly 1300 photos, which I’ve been working on in Lightroom, a few at a time, and posting in a Flickr set to look at [...] I don’t know how to proceed.

This is a common problem among photographers who start to shoot weddings. The digital technology allows you to shoot everything, and you shoot everything. And once you’re back at the computer, you suddenly realize that you shot an awful lot of photos. And then you don’t know how to proceed. There are simply too much images.

The Wedding Photographer
The Wedding Photographer
Photo: FotoDawg/Flickr – Some rights reserved

In this post, I want to prepare you to shoot a wedding. If you are serious about wedding photography, you will have to adopt this workstyle, or something quite similar to it. Otherwise you will be unable to process the amount of images in the given (very limited) time. Let’s begin with the essentials:

Tip 1 – Always shoot RAW

If your camera supports RAW format, use it.

Sure, the format takes up more space on the memory card and on the harddisk, and it can not be handled as conveniently as JPEG, but the quality is waaay better. Plus, you have serious quality reserves for editing. This can be a lifebelt should things go badly wrong. (Yep, I’ve had a few situations where RAW actually saved me, and the clients did not notice anything.)

Tip 2 – Clean your equipment prior to the shooting

The time spent on cleaning your equipment prior to the big day is time invested wisely! While you can remove dust spots later on with Photoshop or Lightroom, it is smarter to not even have the dust spots in the first place. No dust spots = time saved at post processing time.

Tip 3 – Do not shoot everything

Yes, you have a digital camera with lots of memory. You are eager to not miss a moment. And you shoot like hell. But wait! Are the photos you are taking really good? Do they really transport an emotion or a crucial moment of the day? Do you really need the 36th shot of the couple sitting in front of the altar, motionless? If you think back to the old days of film – a roll of film was 36 exposures. Would you have spent a full roll of film for this series? If the answer is no, then think twice before you release the shutter.

You need to get a feeling for the right moments, and the right amount of pictures of that moment. This will help you to reduce the overall number of shots. It requires experience to capture the important shots, i.e. those shots that end up in the clients’ final selection (and frankly, nothing else matters). You will get there, too, but it will take time.

Tip 4 – Delete photos on location

So you have shot a couple of photos with the same setting, using the same light in the same location. Good. Now, in order to reduce the number of photos that you have to deal with, I strongly recommend to review all the photos as soon as possible on location, i.e. whenever there is a pause in the action, or while you are waiting for something. And then delete all the photos that you don’t like (aka “the bad ones”). Any bad photo deleted on location reduces the time for importing and rating later. That’s why your camera has a built-in display. :-)

Tip 5 – Use a batch software like Lightroom

The shooting is over. You bring home those images that you wanted to take and that passed your quick review on location. That are probably still a lot of pictures. Now you need a batch software, like Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture, to handle the photos. Photoshop CS3 is fine for editing low volumes, or for fine-tuning individual photos. But when facing 1,000+ photos it is not a big help for you (despite Photoshop’s Bridge).

You import all the photos into Lightroom (or Aperture) and do all the basic editing there.

Lightroom - Lights Out for Rating
Lightrooms “Lights out” function helps during the rating of photos
Photo & Screenshot: Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Tip 6 – Rate all pictures, and quickly

Right after the import has finished, I go through the whole set of images in Lightroom. I put away all the panels to maximize the image on the screen, and I put the background to dark or black using the [L] key. I want to see just the photos. My right hand rests on the arrow keys (to flip forth and back), while my left hand rests over the rating keys [1] to [5]. Here is how I rate the photos:

[X] Rejected. Mostly used for work from second shooters that has some serious problems, e.g. focus or composition. Also for all those “closed eyes” shots. Once the picture DVD is out, these will be deleted permanently. To me, it’s pretty much as if I deleted the photo on location. It just disappears. Gone forever.

[1] Mediocre. Why did I shoot that? I seldomly assign “1″, though. Usually, I delete these shots along with the rejected ones. No need to keep that crap.

[2] Below average. Shouldn’t have done this photo, but heck, I’ll keep it. What for? I don’t know. Not even I will look at these shots again in the future.

[3] Average. An okayish photo, but the clients won’t see this photo as there are better photos in the selection.

[4] Good, but not good enough. Often assigned to pictures that really are a “5″, but with other photos from the same series that are even better, some shots simply need to get a “4″.

[5] For the customer. This shot should end up in the final selection.

To me, it’s important to do the rating quickly and rather emotional. I try to not think about or analyze each individual image in depth. At 1,000 photos or more, there is no time for that (1,080 photos x 10 seconds = 3 hours!). I simply ask myself – will the couple enjoy this shot? Are they missing something if this shot is not in the final selection? Is it really good? And I try to be honest. There is no point in lying to yourself.

As soon as all the photos are rated, I apply the filter function to only show photos with a rating of [5]. Then I go once again through the set, even faster, just to see whether the balance in the selection is right. Are there any inconsistencies to the photo story, or are there obvious gaps? Are there still too many images of a single series?

Be honest. Be ruthless. Less pictures is better for everyone.

(By the way, you can do so much more with Lightroom. Take the color filters, for example. I use them to indicate second shooters’ images, so I can assign the correct photographer credits before mastering the image disk.)

Tip 7 – Batch edit the photos

Now the hard work begins. You go to “Develop” mode and (batch) edit all the images that survived your ruthless rating process with a 5-star-rating. Despite the tools Lightroom provides, this will take considerable time. At this point you will be glad that you shot RAW and that you cleaned your equipment prior to the shooting, see tips #1 and 2.

Even during editing I often decide to “downgrade” a photo from [5] to [4], thus effectively removing it from the final client selection.

When you are finished, let it rest for a day. Do something else. Take the camera and shoot another job, relax in the garden, go shopping. But do not touch Lightroom for at least 24 hours. Then go through the selection one last time and see whether your photos really make sense for the couple. Be harsh to yourself, in the name of the client! Remember – they will still get a suitable number of photos, and they shall only get the shots that you consider to be the best of the best.

Tip 8 – Get the photos out

You are done – almost. You export the photos from Lightroom to the desired format and burn a DVD. Maybe you design a nice cover? Then ship the thing off and let the couple haggle over which shot is best. ;-) You made sure that they only get the best, but it’s ultimately their call to make prints, or send the files off to family and friends.

Tip 9 – Clean up

The next job will come, sooner or later, so you can not have the files piling up on your hard disk! You better move the photo files to a place where they can stay for a long time, e.g. your network server, an external hard disk, or a set of DVDs. Lightroom will allow you to access the files even on the external hard disk should it be required.

Now you can focus on the next job.

Beautiful idea to enhance a multi cultural wedding

Monday, July 21st, 2008

99.9% of the inquiries we receive for photo licencing are pretty boring. Publishers or design agencies contact us, knowing exactly what they want, how they want it, and when they want it (asap). Don’t get me wrong – we are very happy to respond to these inquiries and to satisfy demand with high quality photos from our archives (be it the public archive, the unpublished stuff, or the Zettpress archive). We appreciate our customers for doing business with us, but honestly, the excitement factor is often, er, rather limited. ;-)

And then there is the odd request that comes in every now and then. Here’s the latest example.

Sue wrote an email:

I am interested in any pictures of South Africa that you have taken. Especially Cape Town and Franschoek area. Would you mind emailing any that you have. I would like to purchase anywhere from 1-6. Do you sell them in such a low number. I would purchase the picture and enlarge it to poster size to display at a wedding celebration. I live in the US and would need them as sonn as possible.

The one phrase that made me curious was wedding celebration. Huh? Why would anyone need travel photos from South Africa for a wedding celebration in Wisconsin? And why on posters? I politely wrote back with a price quote, asking for further information in order to find matching images from the archive.

Sue replied with the set of images she had in mind and explained:

I will enlarge [the photos] to an 18″x24″ size on posterboard. They will have a sentence or two to identifying them. I am displaying them on easels at a wedding celebration. My daughter is getting married in South Africa in September. We are having a celebration here before. Her fiance is from South Africa and I would like them to see where he is from and where they are getting married.

What you email I will take to a place here called Kinkos and have them enlarge them for me. It will definitely change the quality, but, am not sure what else can be done. It might give it a feel of romance/excitement.

This is my plan.

I think that’s an awesome plan. I loved the idea the second Sue explained what she had in mind. I could envision their guests having no idea what the Western Cape area and Franschoek might look like, and obviously their family and friends could not join them for the ceremony in South Africa. So based on Sue’s initial selection I dug into the archive to get additional ten images that might be a good match. She finally ordered five images:

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa 
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa
Mark Zanzig/

Hout Bay, Western Cape, South Africa
Hout Bay, Western Cape, South Africa
Mark Zanzig/

Laborie Vineyard, Paarl, South Africa
Laborie Vineyard, Paarl, South Africa
Mark Zanzig/

View from Franschoek Pass, Western Cape, South Africa
View from Franschoek Pass, Western Cape, South Africa
Mark Zanzig/

Vineyards, Franschoek, Western Cape, South Africa
Vineyards, Franschoek, Western Cape, South Africa
Mark Zanzig/

Excellent choice in my view. Needless to say, I was a bit worried about Kinkos actually messing the posters up, but two days ago, Sue wrote in again:

I received [the prints] on Thursday. They are perfect. When I showed them to my son-in-law, he told me that the last two are of Franschoek where they will be getting married. I appreciate all of your help. It was a pleasure working with you. Enjoy your travels. If you ever get to Milwaukee, give us a call.

Thanks, Sue, for the positive feedback. I am happy that I was part of your daughter’s wedding celebration (even if just very indirectly), and yes, should I get to Milwaukee, I’ll definitely call you. I wish your daughter and your son-in-law a wonderful wedding in South Africa and all the best for their future. Having been there myself, I know that this is one beautiful place to be. Even more so, if you are getting married there!

Now, if only I could be their wedding photographer. :-)