Eight tips for photographing your first hot air balloon festival

This article was originally published on Elliot Nahm's website, and is being republished in full here on DPReview with express permission from Elliot.

Ah, you've just received your first camera over the holiday season, and you're itching to use it. Or, perhaps you're just looking for something new to photograph this year. Well, allow me to make a suggestion: You should go photograph a hot air balloon festival!

Why hot air balloons? I personally enjoy their vibrant colors against the sky; it's a pleasure for me to meet the pilots, and their crew; and, last but certainly not least, it's fun to fly in them!

Some of you may be surprised that these festivals have already been happening in the winter. It should come as no surprise, though, that the number of events ramp up as the weather gets warmer. Check out www.hotairballoon.com for information of any events near you.

To be frank, I'm no master of photography, and there are bigger names photographing hot air balloons. However, these tips should still help make your first hot air balloon festival a more photographically enjoyable experience.

Note: these tips apply more for festivals based in the United States. I understand that other countries do some things differently, but many of the tips should still apply.

More days, better chances

I'm going to start with the most important tip of all. Try attending as many days as possible for the best chances of getting great photos. Hot air balloon festivals typically happen for at least two days, usually over a weekend. Larger events can span the entire week. Understandably, this can be difficult to budget time for, but the time isn't just for photos, it's also to account for weather.

To many peoples' dismay, hot air balloons cannot just fly whenever. High winds, rain, smoke, etc. can all prevent mass ascensions (many balloons flying together), and balloon glows (balloons glowing at night) from occurring. Balloon festivals play it very safe, and generally do not fly if winds are above 8 miles per hour (12.9 kph). You may be at an event that only flies once out of their allotted days.

I personally was at the Lake Havasu Balloon Festival & Fair this year when high winds canceled all six flights. Weather happens, and the more days you have, the better your chances of a successful day.

Get close

This tip is in almost every type of photography guide out there, and it still applies to balloons. Get close! I've seen so many people stand way out on the edge of the field using their cameras at the widest focal length possible. Then they pull out their smartphones, and take the same picture. C'mon, folks, you've already put so much money into a camera, why use it in the same pedestrian way as you would with your smartphone?

Get onto that field and get closer to the action.

Photograph the pilots, and the crew. Capture the detail in the balloon fabric. Witness the shadows from inside of the balloons. Do something more than just being an observer. Wide shots from the edge of the field have their place, but recognize that many other people already have that angle covered.

While being up close, be courteous, and follow pilot and crew instructions. I will list some DO NOTs that you need to heed:

  • Do not step on the balloon fabric. Just play it safe, and don't touch the balloon.
  • Do not smoke by the balloons. There have been many cases of carelessly tossed cigarettes burning holes into the fabric.
  • Do not bring pets near the balloons. There have been many cases of claws tearing the fabric.
  • Do not stand on, or cross, laying ropes. Always go around.
  • Do not peek inside of the balloon without asking crew and pilot permission first. You may be getting in the way.
  • Do not get in the way of the crew.
  • Do not stand right behind the basket when the pilot starts shooting flames. You will get crushed.
  • Do not be in the flight path during take off. Flight directors, or crew, will try to clear the area—follow their instructions.

I empathize that a list of DO NOTs doesn't give much credence that this is a fun subject to photograph. This is all about safety though, and we should all take safety seriously.

Note: some festivals actually fence observers off from the field. In that case, you need to start planning, and the next tips can help with that.

Find a prominent feature

Is there a body of water, or some cliffs near the launch field? If so, you want to keep an eye on balloons approaching those areas. Many pilots aim for these features, and you can get some of the best shots at these locations.

At bodies of water, balloonists like to perform a "splash-and-dash" in which the pilot will touch the basket to the surface of the water, and just float there. This provides a great chance for you to get a reflection of the balloon on the water.

For cliffs, pilots like to hang around them, and just go up and down them. If a balloon has a seated pilot instead of a basket, you may find the pilot "running" along the face of the cliff. Pilots also like to fly close to the tree line, or land onto hay stacks to flex their skills. So you may find an amusing moment even if there are no significant land features.

Larger balloon festivals have flight directors. These people give the pilots the "okay" before taking off. You'll often find these flight directors wearing a uniform that stands out. Taking a photo of them can provide great contrast to the balloons.

Attend the pilot meeting

As a photographer, understanding the conditions the pilots are flying in can help for planning where you want to be. During this meeting, someone will release the "pibal" (pronounced 'pie-ball'; short for pilot balloon). It's just a typical party balloon, but it's a great indicator for how the winds above are behaving.

If, for example, the winds are blowing south, take a note of what's down there and find a place where you want to be. This information is especially useful if you plan on taking photos away from the launch field. If the mass ascension is canceled... well... go enjoy your breakfast at the nearby Denny's before everyone else floods it.

The pilot meeting is also a good place to find the opportunity to crew for a balloon which is conveniently the next tip.

Crew for a balloon, and get free flights

Volunteer to crew for a balloon, and you may just have a chance to get a free flight out of it. Commercial flights can cost anywhere from $180 USD to $450 USD, so if you can fly for free, you had better take that opportunity. Understand, though, that crewing does not always guarantee a flight. Sometimes the pilot will already have paying passengers, and you may never fly. Still, your chances are pretty decent, and a chance to fly for free is definitely better than none.

While crewing, consider having your camera on a sling so that you can use both hands freely to do your duties. If you spot a moment, take a quick snap of it, and continue your crewing. While pilots are grateful for the help, they won't sign you on again if you don't do what is asked of you.

Another incentive for crewing is free food. Many festivals cater a few meals for pilots and crew. Pilots often have tailgate parties as well. If you earn your pilot's trust, you'll likely be invited to these. Saving money is always good, right?


Whether you pay for a flight or you get it for free by crewing, flying is always a great place to be for taking pictures. Flying in a hot air balloon is quite the different experience in contrast to helicopters or fixed wing aircraft. Because the balloon moves with the wind, you too are moving with the wind, so you don't really feel it at all. Some passengers find it to be a very odd sensation.

It is tempting to go wide with your shots, just don't go too wide. In my opinion, making balloons super tiny just doesn't look too good. Wide angle lens distortion is heavily pronounced on the balloons on the edges, and sometimes the simple lens profile fix isn't enough to correct it. If the pilot allows for it, bring a telephoto lens as well when you go up.

Note: weight is an issue for ballooning. Sometimes pilots won't accept a camera bag, or second lens on board to keep things as light as possible. Also, having extra objects in the basket can be a hazard.

Attend the balloon glow

Although I greatly prefer the mass ascensions, balloon glows are still necessary to having the full experience. You may find photographing the balloon glows more difficult however.

Wide aperture glass is highly recommended, and higher ISO is required. You can attempt to use a long shutter time but, if there's any breeze, you will have blurry balloons. I personally don't like to cranking up the ISO so, I get close to the light sources (the balloon burners), and use ISO 1600 or less. I also greatly prefer the colors of the balloons during the day than the glow.

And go again...

If you ever want the best photos of anything, you must keep revisiting it. Sometimes we can get lucky with getting a grand slam of a photo on the first try. Between you, and I though, that rarely happens. If you enjoyed your first balloon festival, go to another one, and another one, and then the same festival again the near year.

Check out www.hotairballoon.com for finding out festival information around the world. It's by far the best resource I've come across, and I believe that you too will find it useful.

Whew, what a read, right? Since you've made it to the end, congratulations, I guess. For more examples of balloon photos, you can check out my portfolio, Instagram, and my other blog posts. I hope that you find these tips useful, and take fantastic photos at your first balloon festival!

Elliot Nahm is a Denver, CO-based photographer whose ambition is to be able to travel the world, camera in tow. His two great photographic passions are hot air balloons, and the outdoors. You can see more from Elliot on his website, Instagram, and YouTube channel.

Kodak says over 40,000 investors are interested in its cryptocurrency

In a statement released today, Kodak said more than 40,000 potential investors are interested in the company's recently announced KODAKCoin Initial Coin Offering (ICO). The cryptocurrency was introduced in early January alongside the company's new KODAKOne blockchain-based image rights platform for photographers.

Of course, it's not really Kodak's cryptocurrency, just cryptocurrency with the Kodak name attached, but you can read about all that below before moving on.

Ready to move on? Okay.

The company explains that it is beginning an "accredited investor" phase for KODAKCoin that will verify the status of the investors who have expressed interest in Kodak's cryptocurrency. This won't be a rapid process, though, and Kodak expects the verification phase to take several weeks.

The company explains that an accredited investor status is dependent on the potential investor's income, requiring an individual or couple to have a net worth greater than $1 million or requiring a minimum 2-year history of income exceeding $200k a year ($300k for couples). The ICO will also be available to "select non-US persons."

In short: if you thought (or hoped) this whole Kodak Cryptocurrency thing was just a marketing stunt to help juice the stock and get people talking, it doesn't look that way.

PolarPro unveils collection of filters and accessories for the DJI Mavic Air

Accessories manufacturer PolarPro has introduced new versions of its Cinema filter series for those ordering the DJI Mavic Air drone. The filters are designed to give photographers control over the shutter speed of their footage, as well as polarizing reflected light to improve color saturation.

The company has also announced it will make two cases for the drone, as well as a customizable mount for filming with the drone hand-held.


Users will be able to choose from a pack of ND filters in ND4, ND8 and ND16 strengths, or to have the filters combined with a polarizer to intensify color as well as reduce the amount of light reaching the lens.

For especially bright conditions a further pack of NDs is available in ND32 and ND64 strengths both with and without a polarizer.

The filter packs will cost $80 for the three-packs of ND and ND/PL units, and $150 for all six together. The Limited Collection of extra dense filters will be $100. For more details see the PolarPro website.


Both cases on offer have soft exteriors, with the Minimalist ($30) designed to be as compact as possible, and the Rugged ($50) designed to provide the most protection.

DJI Mavic Air Soft Case - Rugged DJI Mavic Air Soft Case - Minimalist

Katana 'Tray' System

Finally, the Katana Pro Tray system allows used to clamp the Mavic Air into a set of handles so that it can be used to film at ground level and in places where drones aren’t allowed to fly. Depending on your preferred filming orientation, you can go with the standard DJI Mavic Air Tray ($50) or purchase the Air Tray/T-Grip Combo ($80) for one-handed operation and low-angle camera control.

DJI Mavic Air Tray DJI Mavic Air Tray/T-Grip Combo

To learn more about these products or pick any of them up for yourself now that the DJI Mavic Air is officially shipping, head over to the PolarPro shop to browse the entire PolarPro Mavic Air collection.

Press Release

PolarPro Announces Lens Filters and Cinematic Accessories for New DJI® Mavic Air

Consumers placing orders for the newly-release DJI Mavic Air can now preorder the PolarPro accessories to take their aerial filmmaking to the next level.

Costa Mesa, C.A. – January 30, 2018 – PolarPro, developer of products inspired by adventure, announced today it is opening preorders for its newly designed line of cinematic lens filters and purpose-built accessories for the DJI® Mavic Air. Known for producing some of the industry’s highest quality lens filters for pilots looking to maximize the cinematic aspects of their drone video, PolarPro is now offering polarized, neutral density and UV filters to help Mavic Air pilots improve overall color saturation and control shutter speed. Additionally, PolarPro’s Mavic Air line includes landing gear, handheld mounts for shooting from the ground and other workflow-streamlining accessories that have been adapted to DJI’s latest drone model. PolarPro anticipates preorders will begin to ship by early February 2018, and the full list of offerings for the Mavic Air can be found here: https://www.polarprofilters.com/collections/dji-mavic-air-filters-and-accessories.

“The new generation of consumer drones from manufacturers like DJI become more advanced every day, and though their native video capabilities are great, anyone who is looking to create videos with more cinematic qualities needs some specific tools to achieve that particular look,” said Austen Butler, VP and Co-Founder of PolarPro. “Our lineup of Mavic Air accessories includes a newly designed line of lens filters to help content creators capture the best possible footage of their adventures that stand out from the rest. We also have custom protective cases to keep their sensitive gear safe on the way to the shoot, and other camera solutions to help streamline their capture process while on location.”

PolarPro Mavic Air Lens Filters

For any drone pilot looking to ensure the best possible quality from their aerial video, no accessory is more important than a set of high quality lens filters. PolarPro offers a series of Mavic Air Filter Packs which include combinations of commonly used polarizing lenses (PL) for enhancing color saturation, UV filters for reducing haze and glare, as well as a substantial lineup of all-important neutral density (ND) filters and hybrid polarizing/ND filters for slowing shutter speeds to achieve cinematic looks.

PolarPro uses lightweight yet durable AirFrame Aluminum, producing filters that weigh just .59 grams. Combined with industry-leading HD glass and coatings for razor sharp clarity, PolarPro filters work seamlessly with the Mavic Air camera gimbal for uninhibited performance.

All PolarPro lens filters are produced in Standard Series (three pack and six pack options available) and Cinema Series (detailed below). Cinema Series filters feature production grade multi-coated glass for pilots who demand the best. PolarPro Mavic Air filters collections include:

Cinema Series Shutter Collection ($79.99): For controlling shutter speeds, includes straight ND4, ND8, and ND16 filters

Cinema Series Vivid Collection ($79.99): For controlling shutter speeds and boosting saturation, includes hybrid ND4/PL, ND8/PL, and ND16/PL filters

PolarPro Mavic Air Six Pack ($149.99): Combines the Shutter and Vivid collection in a single bundle

Cinema Series Limited Collection ($99.99): For bright light conditions, includes ND32, ND32/PL, ND64, ND64/PL filters

For more information on which PolarPro filters will fit particular pilot needs, please refer to PolarPro’s Filter Guide for the Mavic Air: https://press.polarprofilters.com/dji_mavic_air_filters/

PolarPro DJI Mavic Air Cases

With some expensive and delicate components, the Mavic Air needs to be properly protected when traveling to shooting locations or stored away in-between shoots. PolarPro has designed two Mavic Air Cases to suit the needs of most users.

Minimalist Edition ($29.99): This custom molded soft-shell case takes up the least amount of space in a pack. Featuring customizable dividers, the Minimalist Edition has space for the Mavic Air, three extra batteries, remote, charger, charging hub and filters.

Rugged Edition ($49.99): Designed with a laser cut foam insert to act as a shock absorber, the Rugged Edition snugly holds the Mavic Air, four extra batteries, remote, charger, charging hub, filters and cables. A removable shoulder strap is included for added carrying configurations.

Hand-Held PolarPro Katana Tray

The Katana Mavic Air Tray ($49.99), and even more dynamic Mavic Air Katana Pro($79.99) are essentially force multipliers for the UAV. The drone’s compact size and high-quality imaging capabilities make it a great filming platform for just about any situation, and with a little help from the PolarPro Katana it can become a powerful handheld shooting camera as well. Ideal for capturing ground-based footage, the Katana allows pilots to still shoot in no-fly zones such as national parks where drones are banned. The Katana Tray is crafted from durable glass-filled nylon and features two sturdy grips on either side of the clamping mount that holds the drone securely in position. The Katana Pro also features a T-Grip enabling one-handed and low angle camera control. Each version includes an integrated smartphone mount that lets users utilize the drone’s companion app for framing and camera controls.

For more information about these and other new PolarPro solutions for the Mavic Air, including individual anticipated ship dates, please visit: https://www.polarprofilters.com/collections/dji-mavic-air-filters-and-accessories.

Video: The ultimate Godox studio flash guide

If you are confused by the massive range of flash heads produced by Chinese manufacturer Godox, you're in luck. Professional photographer Robert Hall has produced a very useful video that aims to explain the differences (and similarities) between them all.

In the video, Hall goes through the functions of five ranges of heads, points out who they are designed for, and then talks about each of the 17 models Godox produces in all, covering the features each of the heads do and don’t have. He includes an amazing amount of detail and specification, making clear what you get with each model. He even provides a spreadsheet that lists prices, output, recycle times and flash duration, as well as other features and physical characteristics.

The video has information on the DP, SK, QS, GS and QT studio and portable heads, and if you can’t take all the information in quickly enough Hall has written a lot of it in the video’s description.

Zion National Park clarifies controversial tripod restrictions

Photo by Jeremy Bishop

A few weeks ago, Zion National Park published its 2018 Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) for photography workshops, and found in its "Unauthorized Use" section on public use obstruction was a troubling note: The use of tripods on trails is prohibited by permittees or clients (monopods are authorized).

Restricting such a vital piece of gear would be fatal to most photography workshops operating in the park, and operators were quick to criticize the decision.

Speaking anonymously to DPReview, one photography workshop operator and permit holder explained how such a restriction would impact their workshop, saying, "I will be forced to cease all commercial workshops in Zion National Park ... [by] enforcing this rule, they are essentially saying that they don't want commercial photography workshops in their park."

In light of the criticism, Zion National Park officials reassessed the tripod restriction and have since issued a clarification to workshop operators via an email sent Monday. In the email, officials said that "misleading information" had been spread earlier this month on social media about the matter, and that commercial photography workshops aren't entirely banned from using tripods.

Rather, according to a copy of the email published by Fstoppers, commercial photography workshop participants are allowed to use tripods on road-side pullouts and in other designated park areas. Tripod usage is restricted on park trails, however, due to the size of these groups and the potential safety issues, trail congestion, and environmental effects they pose.

The email states, in part:

Large groups concentrated in one place can result in trampling of vegetation, soil erosion, widening of formal trails, and impact other visitors' experience of the natural views and soundscapes along these trails.

In order to reduce roadway safety concerns for all photographers on the Canyon Junction Road Bridge, the use of tripods on the Pa'rus Trail will soon be added to the 2018 conditions of use for Commercial Photography Workshops. Otherwise, the conditions of use for commercial photography workshops are unchanged from 2017.

Per the 2018 Zion National Park CUA, photography workshops may have up to 12 participants, plus up to two instructors, allowing for up to 14 individuals total per group.

Aperture Versus Shutter Priority – Which Shooting Mode to Use and When

I too was once a beginner and I completely understand that how difficult it is to move into using Manual Mode directly from shooting Automatic. Thankfully camera manufacturers have also thoughtfully provided us with Aperture and Shutter Priority modes. These two camera shooting modes are possibly the best ways you can understand the nature and role of aperture and shutter speed.

Aperture and Shutter Priority are semi-automatic, or we can call them semi-manual camera modes. These two modes can help you get away from the fully automatic modes (P, Auto) and at the same time get you a step closer to using Manual Mode.

What is Aperture Priority Mode?

The Aperture Priority shooting mode allows you to take control of the aperture, whereas the shutter speed and ISO (if you are set on Auto-ISO) are still controlled by your camera. This means that you can adjust the amount of light entering into the camera through the lens. So using Aperture Priority you can set the aperture value as per your need and control the depth of field.

Aperture Versus Shutter Priority - Which Shooting Mode to Use and When

Unlike the automatic modes, this mode gives you the freedom to adjust the aperture value and set the amount of blur effect that you want in your photo.

When should you use the Aperture Priority Mode?

As we discussed, Aperture Priority mode allows you to control the aperture value, which ultimately affects the depth of field. This shooting mode is ideal if you wish to adjust the depth of field as per your desire, whereas leaving the shutter speed and ISO value selection up to the camera.

Situation 1: Portraits

While taking portrait or close-up shots, I am sure you would want to keep the subject in focus and blur out the background by choosing a large aperture (small aperture value). Using Aperture Priority Mode you can manually choose the required aperture value such as f/1.8 or f/2.8 to achieve a shallow depth of field.

Aperture Versus Shutter Priority - Which Shooting Mode to Use and When

Situation 2: Landscapes

While shooting landscapes or cityscapes, you might want to have both the foreground and the background very much in focus. This is only possible if you manually choose a small aperture (high aperture value). Aperture Priority Mode gives you the freedom to select desired aperture value such as f/16 or f/22 to get deep depth of field, while your camera takes care of the shutter speed and ISO value.

Situation 3: Low lighting

Suppose you are in a dim lighting condition and your photos are coming out underexposed. By increasing the size of the aperture opening (selecting a smaller aperture value like f/1.8), you can allow more light into the camera and capture a better-exposed photo. Read: 6 Tips for Getting Consistent Results Shooting in Low Light

Situation 4: Midday bright sunlight

If you are shooting in broad daylight and are getting overexposed photos while shooting in automatic mode, you can close the aperture opening. This means that by using a higher aperture number (like f/16), you can minimize the amount of light entering the camera through the lens.

Aperture Versus Shutter Priority - Which Shooting Mode to Use and When

What is Shutter Priority Mode?

As the name suggests, Shutter Priority mode allows you to take charge of the shutter speed. Just to brainstorm, shutter speed is the duration for which the camera shutter remains open for the light to enter the camera and ht the sensor. The slower the shutter speed is set on the camera, the more the light is received by the image sensor. Similarly, the faster the shutter speed the less light would hit the image sensor.

Aperture Versus Shutter Priority - Which shooting Mode to Use and When

While you are shooting in Shutter Priority mode, you have the freedom to adjust the shutter speed as per your requirement while the camera chooses the aperture and ISO value on its own.

When should you use Shutter Priority Mode?

As we just discussed, if you want to take full control of the shutter speed and experiment with your camera then this is the ideal camera mode. Let’s look at two situations when you are most likely to shoot in Shutter Priority mode.

Situation 1: Freeze a moving subject

If you want to freeze a fast moving bird, animal, or car in your photo, using Shutter Priority mode will allow you to do so by setting a fast shutter speed. A shutter speed of anything faster than 1/500th of a second is considered ideal for freezing an object, but this may vary depending on the speed of the subject. Your camera will judge the required aperture and ISO values as per the available light.

Situation 2: Showing movement

If you are out and planning to capture star trails, light trails, or blue hour photos, you would have to select a slow shutter speed so that the subject’s movement is well captured in the single photo. To capture long exposure photos, you must carry a tripod along to avoid any kind of shake.

Aperture Versus Shutter Priority - Which shooting Mode to Use and When

Situation 3: Dim lighting

If you are in dim lighting conditions you might get underexposed photos while shooting in automatic mode. By simply reducing the shutter speed (e.g. from 1/200th to 1/50th), you can allow more light into the camera and capture a well-exposed photo.

Note: Watch out for the shutter speed going too slow as to introduce camera shake into your image;

Situation 4: Broad daylight

Let’s suppose you are shooting in broad daylight and your camera is capturing overexposed photos while shooting in automatic mode. Here you can increase the shutter speed. This means that by using a faster shutter speed (e.g. from 1/200thh 1/1000th), you can minimize the amount of light entering the camera sensor.

Aperture Versus Shutter Priority - Which shooting Mode to Use and When


Using Aperture and Shutter Priority camera modes enables you to get familiar with how the lens’s aperture and the camera shutter works. These modes ensure that you get well-exposed photos with your desired selection of aperture value or shutter speed, unlike automatic mode (where the camera makes all the choices for you).

So if your utmost priority is to manually choose the desired aperture value in order to get a particular depth of field, then you must shoot in Aperture Priority Mode. Otherwise, if your priority is to choose a specific shutter speed to capture something creative with the available light (freeze or blur motion), then you must go with Shutter Priority camera mode.

The post Aperture Versus Shutter Priority – Which Shooting Mode to Use and When by Kunal Malhotra appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Steven Soderbergh shot his latest movie entirely on the iPhone, calls it a ‘gamechanger’

We've seen plenty of film makers shooting movies on an Apple iPhone in the past. However, director Steven Soderbergh—whose filmography includes movies such as Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and Ocean’s Eleven—is arguably the highest-profile iPhone movie makers yet.

His latest project, the psychological horror-thriller Unsane, was shot entirely on the iPhone, and Soderbergh wasn't afraid to admit (and embrace) that fact when speaking to IndieWire.

“I think this is the future,” Soderbergh said. “Anybody going to see this movie who has no idea of the backstory to the production will have no idea this was shot on the phone. That’s not part of the conceit."

In fact, the director was so impressed by the iPhone's movie capabilities and the recorded levels of detail, that he is likely to also use the Apple smartphone for future projects. “People forget, this is a 4k capture. I’ve seen it 40 feet tall. It looks like velvet," he told IndieWire. "This is a gamechanger to me.”

We don't know which exact iPhone model(s) Soderbergh used in the production of the movie, but it's fair to speculate that the latest iPhone X/iPhone 8 generation was deployed in combination with all sorts of professional lighting, audio and stabilization equipment.

By the way, in case you're curious, the movie's synopsis is the following:

A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution where she is confronted by her greatest fear – but is it real or is it a product of her delusion?

You can find more information about the movie on its website and view the trailer at the top of this page.

Photographing in Daulatdia: The world largest brothel town

The location

Daulatdia is a brothel town Bangladesh and is considered the biggest in the world. The number of prostitutes there is estimate at 1,600 and the average age of new arrivals is 14. Most women and girls that end up in this shanty town brothel are trafficked from remote parts of Bangladesh and are slaves to the brothel owners that buy them from the traffickers.

Daulatdia is located on the side of the Padma river, the Bangladeshi part of the Ganges, where ferries carrying trucks, buses and people across the river. Lines of trucks queue to cross the river toward Dhaka and the drivers are the target clientele of the brothel.

There is no luxury for the prostitutes. Simple food is cooked on clay stoves fueled by wood in a common area between shacks.

How did I come to be there

After 15 years of photographing in South & South East Asia, I decided that it was time to give back by donating my time and skills and offering two weeks of free photography a year to an aid organization working in a deprived area. I thought it would be fitting, as some of my income is generated from photographing in these “third world” environments.

I am based in New Zealand, so I got in touch with an umbrella organization there (The Council of International Development) and gave member organizations a couple of months deadline to submit proposals for my work. Fast-forward several months, and I found myself in Daulatdia on behalf of Save the Children, to cover the school that they support and the environment it is situated in.

The school is for the children born in the brothel. In the past they had no school to go to because of their association to the brothel. The school offers a way out for many of the children, especially the girls, who are pressured to join the “work force.” An education gives them options to escape that life.

The door way is used to frame the girl (15 years old). I had no choice in the matter, as the shack was so small that the door would not open any farther. Better looking prostitutes make more money, hence their madam will give them a bit more money to decorate their shack and make it a more pleasant place to live. This image was taken with the camera against my hip with eye focus and silent shutter. The horizon is slightly off due to this technique.

Photographing in Daulatdia

I prepared myself as well as I could for this experience, but the reality on the ground is far sadder then I imagined. I wanted to capture as much as possible but the freedom to photograph, as per a usual documentary assignment, is limited when you work for a child-focused NGO.

A big part of my documentary images are taken while people are not aware that they are being photographed. The reason is that I want to document them without affecting the scene and behavior by waving a big camera in their faces (for technic tips please refer to my previous article).

Babies and toddlers will be put under the bed while the mother is working, while older kids will be sent out of the room. From a technical point of view, I made sure that I had the lit window shutter in the frame to balance the scene.

But on this assignment, all the images of women and girls inside the brothel had to have consent, for two good reasons:

  1. Save the Children staff have an on going relation within the brothel, and I did not want to jeopardize that.
  2. These women and girls have had every thing taken from them, and I did not want to add to this by taking away their power to say no to being photographed. I had to be invited into the small shacks that the women and girls live and work in, and had very limited time to shoot.

I was escorted by Save the Children staff almost like body guards in side the complex but never really felt under threat.

So, whenever possible, I used the Sony a7R II's eye autofocus and silent shutter while holding the the camera off my eye at about chest hight or to the side of my hip. This way, even with the subject well aware of my presence, they did not know when I was shooting. This allowed me to get less guarded moments. Other wise I used very simple portraiture composition. I did not position or direct people. I just captured what in-front of me.

Daulatdia is a hard place, and displays of emotion are not easy to come by. I wanted to ask if I can take a photo, but the moment of tenderness came before I could, so I took the old school "shoot-first-ask-later" approach. The average age of new arrivals at Daulatdia is 14 years old.

Technically, this is a very simple image. It was shot with my camera against my hip and eye focus, hence the severe angle, which is the price of not looking through the viewfinder or at the camera at all.

The story, however, is in the details. This new arrival is in a bare room with a simple bed. The buckets under her bed are the toilet, bath and food preparation gear. This is the face of a girl looking at a life with no choices or hope. When she has finished paying off “her buying price” one day in the far future, she will have nowhere to go.

The Gear

About a week before I left for Bangladesh, I switched to the Sony a7R II. Not the wisest decision at one level, and a very wise decision on another. The not-wise part is that the camera was completely new to me, which is not the best when going into a technically and mentally challenging assignment.

The wise part? Keep on reading.

I had a bunch of Sony native lenses but mostly used the 16-35mm F4 and the GM 24-70mm F2.8. I really enjoyed using both but would prefer the 24-70mm F4 for its compact size. It makes photographing in this type of environment easier. The reason I chose to stick to zoom lenses, rather then switching primes constantly, is that the time frame I had for each shoot was extremely tight and changing lenses would ‘eat’ into the time given.

The two a7R II's I used were just the right stuff for this type of work. Setting all the custom buttons to do what I needed saved me from getting into the overwhelming menu, the auto focus capabilities were very impressive, and the Eye Autofocus made shooting with a camera away from my eye easy and accurate.

One thing that I am almost too embarrassed to admit is my love for the EVF. Setting the EVF effects on let me focus on composition and timing, and removed the need to look at the bottom or side of the frame for exposure information.

Does it make me a lazy photographer? Maybe, but I will take any technological advantage I can if it'll help me get the job done.

The shacks that the women and girls work in is also their ‘home’. The Pokemon pattern-covered bed will be used later that day for work.

This image was taken with the camera against my chest, using eye focus and silent shutter. This way, I could capture a somewhat unguarded moment while standing in front of them.

Final Thoughts

Daulatdia represents both sides of humanity. It is a place where people are commodities and are traded for money with no self-determination; on the other hand, it has drawn to it very dedicated people that help with free health-care and education, trying to make the best of a place of very little hope.

Giora Dan is an internationally published documentary and commercial photographer based in Christchurch New Zealand. His images have been widely published in geographical magazines in North America, Europe, Africa and the Asia/ Pacific region, including NZ Geographic, the Smithsonian Magazine and British Geographical. You can see more of his work at his website, www.gioradan.com

3 Bad Habits You Need to Break to Improve Your Photography

Teaching our photography workshops over the years, my wife and I have come to recognize there are three things many people do habitually which do not help the advancement of their photography experience. Here are three bad habits for you to break in order to improve your photography.

Man who works making gold leaf in Mandalay, Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

1. Don’t always stand when you take photos

Most beginner photographers do this. They stand at their full height to take a photo. It’s very natural to stand upright and take photos, but it is incredibly limiting. Sure, you see the world from a standing position most of the time, but it’s not always, (or even often,) the most interesting point of view from which to photograph something.

Climbing up on a chair or lying down on the ground will often give you a far more interesting perspective. Getting low or getting up high will afford you a different view of your subject which may be far more interesting because it is not how your subject is typically seen.

Parents and young daughter working in a field in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Squat down to make eye contact with your smaller subjects.

Look around you for opportunities

I am always looking around for opportunities to get above my subject to make photographs. But you don’t have to go to extremes. Just squatting down or even bending your waist slightly and you will see your subject differently than when you’re standing upright – as will the viewers of your images (that is the key to standing out from the pack).

Snacks on a blue table in Myanmar. - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Getting up higher, above your subject can create a more interesting photo.

Think about it each time you go to make a new photo. Consider getting lower or higher up than your subject. If you can, make a series of photos at each position and compare them all later on your computer. If you do this, pretty soon it will become a new habit.

men sitting having breakfast in a market in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

A lower perspective and using the man’s arm in the foreground created this interesting portrait.

2. Research and understand your subject

Starting to photograph something new and not knowing anything much about your subject is limiting. If you don’t have some understanding of what you are creating photos of they will be more likely to look like anyone else’s photos of the same subject. Getting to know and understand your subject, even a little, before you take any photos will help improve your photography.

I am often surprised when we begin a day photography workshop here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, how little our customers know about the location. We don’t spend a lot of time teaching about the history or the economy. But some essentials about culture and way of life are so beneficial to help people have some understanding of what they are photographing.

For example, knowing that it’s okay to politely photograph monks, knowing a few phrases in the local language, knowing which direction the traffic moves on the road, etc. These are all simple things that can help you have a richer photography experience if you know about them in advance.

Young novice monks in a morning market in Mandalay, Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Monks in a morning market in Myanmar.

Connect with people

Getting to know a person before you photograph them will help you relate to one another and certainly alter the type of images you will make compared to having no communication with them beforehand. Photographing someone you already know is often easier, unless they are adverse to having their picture taken. But when you meet a stranger and want to photograph them it’s often best to connect with them first, even on some level (a smile can work too).

Happy market vendor in Mandaly, Myanmar. - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

It does not often take much to encourage a smile.

A smile and saying “Hello”, (preferably in their language) are the best icebreakers most of the time. Often when I am photographing in the streets or markets I will just smile, say hello, and nod at my camera. If the person smiles back I go ahead and make a few pictures. I will then show them the back of my camera so they can see their photos. If I get a favorable response I will turn the camera around and continue to make some more photos.

When I find a person who enjoys the interaction and the experience I will spend more time. This relationship is valuable. Taking the time to relate to and get to know your subject even a little, will help you to make more creative photographs of them because they will be more relaxed and happy that you are showing an interest in them.

A quick internet search on anything you are want to photograph will provide you with more reading than you’re willing to do in a single sitting. You don’t have to go overboard with it, but do spend some time finding the essential information about your chosen subject so you are more informed and more interested in the location and/or person.

blue yellow and green painted boat on the water. 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

3. Use Manual Mode

Learning to use Manual Mode consistently when you are photographing will help your photography more than anything. Having your camera set to any of the Automatic or semi-automatic modes means your camera is in control of the exposure.

Photography is so much about light. The word “photography” literally means drawing with light. If you have no light you cannot make a photograph. The more you can appreciate and understand light, the better you can learn to control the exposure settings on your camera, and the more you will develop as a photographer.

Worker in a field in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Learn to master your camera

I know there are a lot of hard-core photographers who prefer using auto modes, but it’s really not that difficult to learn to master your camera in Manual Mode and gain the maximum amount of control and creativity with your exposures.

Your camera is incredibly intelligent and capable of making even exposures in many situations. But your camera is not creative. You are!

Kayan long neck woman cooking outdoors in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography

Taking the time to study a little about how cameras function to capture an image will help you to control your camera more precisely. It doesn’t matter that much which camera you study as they have not essentially changed how they make an exposure since they were first invented.

Practicing in Manual Mode, (and not cutting corners and slipping back into an auto mode,) will help you build your confidence and speed every time you come to make photographs.

Kayan long neck woman in a house in Myanmar - 3 Bad Habits to Break to Improve Your Photography


Stepping out of your comfort zones and breaking some (bad) habits will help you to develop your style and you will come to enjoy your photography experience more and more.

Move around, look for alternative locations to make your photos. Learn about your subject. The more interested you are and the more knowledge you have will enhance your experience and you will therefore also produce more interesting photographs. Take the time and practice in Manual Mode. You may be frustrated at first because it is more difficult, but the results you will achieve will be well worth your effort.

The post 3 Bad Habits You Need to Break to Improve Your Photography by Kevin Landwer-Johan appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Fujifilm introduces XC 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 lens, its first X-series power zoom

Fujifilm has announced its first power zoom lens for X-series cameras: the XC 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS PZ. This compact, stabilized lens is equivalent to 23-69mm on Fuji's X-series cameras, such as the new X-A5 with which it will be kitted. It has a minimum focus distance of 5 cm and weighs just 136 g (4.8 oz.).

The XC 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS PZ comes in silver and black and will ship in early February for $299.

Press Release:


Featuring an enhanced sensor, newly developed zoom lens, the latest Bluetooth® technology, and 4K video recording, the X-A5 delivers outstanding image quality and ease of use

Valhalla, N.Y., January 31, 2018 FUJIFILM North America Corporation is excited to announce the new FUJIFILM X-A5 Digital Camera Body with XC15-45mm Lens Kit, the lightest camera-zoom lens combination within the X Series lineup. With a host of new and improved features, the X-A5 kit debuts the new FUJINON XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 OIS PZ, the first electric powered zoom lens for X Mount digital cameras. Available in three colors of synthetic leather, the X-A5 is equipped with the latest Bluetooth® technology for quick and easy image transfer and allows for a broader range of video capabilities with its 4K output.

“The X-A5 packs Fujifilm’s renowned image quality and exciting fun features in a compact, lightweight body,” says Yuji Igarashi, General Manager of the Electronic Imaging Division & Optical Devices Division at FUJIFILM North America Corporation. “We are excited to bring a user-friendly camera that can capture great images, to the market at an affordable price.”

Featuring an Enhanced Sensor and Color Reproduction Technology

The X-A5 features a powerful 24.2MP APS-C sensor equipped with phase detection autofocus and a newly developed image processing engine with a processing speed 1.5 times faster than that of previous models. Combined with Fujifilm’s renowned color reproduction technology, the X-A5 achieves outstanding image quality and outperforms previous models in its scene recognition accuracy and skin tone reproduction, making it perfect for portraits.

The X-A5 is the first in the X-A series to feature phase detection pixels, and an intelligent Hybrid AF system that focuses twice as fast as previous models to ensure capture of swiftly moving subjects. With an ISO sensitivity range now up to ISO12800 and extended sensitivity range up to ISO51200, camera shake and noise are significantly reduced even in low-light conditions.

New Compact and Lightweight Electric Powered Zoom Lens

The new X-A5 introduces the first electric powered zoom lens for X Mount cameras, the FUJINON XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 OIS PZ. With a minimum working distance of just 2 inches, this lightweight and compact lens is great for achieving clear close-up shots while making the photographic experience easy and comfortable. Capable of capturing crisp, intricate textures, the XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 OIS PZ is ideal for food and macro photography. Starting at a wide angle, this smooth electric-powered zoom also allows for great freedom in composition framing.

The new XC15-45mmF3.5-5.6 OIS PZ lens will also be available for standalone purchase as a portable addition for existing X Series users.

Equipped with 4K Video Capabilities

The X-A5 features a variety of 4K video capabilities. Utilizing the Burst Function, users are able to shoot 15 frames per second in 4K image quality, ensuring that photo opportunities are never missed. Offering an HD video function to record videos up to quad speed for slow motion clips and a Multi Focus Mode which stacks 4K quality images and automatically changes the depth of field setting, the X-A5 is the perfect companion for a wide range of creative captures.

Bluetooth® Pairing Technology for Easy Image Transfer

Featuring the latest Bluetooth® technology, the X-A5 allows for automatic transfer of images and videos to paired smart devices using the free “FUJIFILM Camera Remote” app. The camera is compatible with Instax Share™ Printers to instantly transfer and print images directly from the camera.

Film Simulation Modes and Improved User Interface for Ease of Operation

The X-A5 allows for artistic expression through Fujifilm’s unique Film Simulation Modes that boast the company’s advances in color reproduction. Offering eleven different modes, users can add a creative twist to their images. In addition, the camera offers seventeen variations of Advanced Filters including the new “Fog Remove” and “HDR Art.”

An improved user interface allows for superior ease of use. The large LCD screen uses new touch-panel GUI, facilitating intuitive operation and is capable of rotating 180 degrees, making the X-A5 perfect for taking high quality self-portraits. When the panel is rotated 180 degrees, the Rear Command Dial switches to the Zoom and Shutter Release function and automatically activates the Eye AF function for sharp focus on the subject’s eyes. Additionally, the Portrait Enhancer Mode allows for users to select from three levels of skin tone enhancement with easy touchscreen operation.

FUJIFILM X-A5 Key Features:

  • 2MP APS-C CMOS sensor and newly developed processor equipped with phase detection AF system
  • FUJINON XC15-45mmF3.5- 5.6 OIS PZ wide angle electric-powered zoom lens with minimum working distance of 2”
  • 3” (approx. 1,040K-dot) high resolution LCD touchscreen using new touch-panel GUI can be tilted to 180°
    • Portrait Enhancement Level, Touch AF in Movie Mode, Advanced Filter Select
  • Standard output sensitivity of ISO200 – ISO12800
    • Extended output sensitivity: ISO100 – ISO51200
  • 4K video recording up to approx. 5 mins
    • Full HD 1920 x 1080 59.94p / 50p / 24p / 23.98p; continuous recording up to approx.14 mins
    • HD 1280 x 720 59.94p / 50p / 24p / 23.98p; continuous recording up to approx. 27 mins
    • High Speed Movie 1280x720 1.6x / 2x / 3.3x / 4x
  • Bluetooth® version 4.1 low energy technology
  • In-camera RAW processing
  • New Advanced Filters: “Fog Remove” and “HDR Art”
  • Wi-Fi® image transfer and remote camera operation
  • Improved battery life for still images - approx. 450 frames
  • Improved start-up period:
    • 0.4 sec., when High Performance mode set to ON
    • 0.8 sec., when High Performance mode set to OFF
  • Photos can be sent to instax SHARE printers using the free instax SHARE App (iOS and Android)
  • Accessories include:
    • Li-ion battery NP-W126S
    • AC power adapter
    • Plug adapter
    • USB cable
    • Shoulder strap
    • Body cap
    • Owner's manual

Availability and Pricing

The new FUJIFILM X-A5 Camera Kit will be available on February 8, 2018 in the U.S. and Canada for USD $599.95 and CAD $749.99.

The new standalone XC15-45mmF3.5- 5.6 OIS PZ Lens will be available on March 15, 2018 in the U.S. and Canada for USD $299.95 and CAD $379.99.

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