•March 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment


Window display, New York.




You are now free to move about the internet

•March 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This latest video from a grounded jet in  New Windsor, N.Y continues to remind us that for airline customers, happy has left the building. Airlines’ level of service seems to be in a perpetual state of decline.

Normally, when customers become unhappy with a company’s product or service one of two things happens: either the company improves or it can go out of business. Until recently airlines have avoided this because their customers have not had many realistic alternatives short of staying home. But trains, on-line conferencing and the unblinking eye of crowd-sourced journalism from social media sites like Kontain could create a convergence of rapid change.

The trains that could upset  the domestic airline business are in Asia not Europe. For starters check out Shanghai’s Maglev. This cute little train set a speed record in 2003 of 311 mph (for comparison a 737 cruises around 500 mph). Technically, I suppose you could make the case that the Maglev is actually really, really low altitude flying since nothing is touching terra firma.  The Chinese plan to expand on this idea in the next decade with two-day service between London and Beijing and beyond.

The continued travel pain associated with flying coupled with next generation on-line conferencing is leading many companies to the conclusion that they can replace some air travel with video conferencing.  Hours of non-productive time spent getting to the airport, shoes on/shoes off security and waiting for 10,000 feet before turning on one’s approved electronic devices can now be recovered.

As for adding on-board Wi-Fi, it sounded good….until people started using it to stream video of passengers in lockdown.

Musings on the future of photography

•March 17, 2010 • 2 Comments

Pondering the future, 35,000 feet.

Friend and fellow photog Suzanne Salvo asked me to comment on an article she’s writing about the evolution of photography. I’ll try to put up a link to her piece when it’s finished. In the meantime, a few of my thoughts:


If there was ever a relationship between photography and reality it evaporated with the advent of digital photography.  Expectations about photography will change gradually as different demographic groups learn about new technology. Juries may eventually reject photography as reliable evidence, I know I would. The understanding that all photographs come with an agenda will become universal.

Thumbnail nation

Check yourself the next time you pore over a gaggle of Flickr galleries. With massive numbers of still images available for viewing, the file that gets opened is often the one rendering the coolest thumbnail. Welcome to Thumbworld.  Nuanced, wide-angle shots that must be “read” are often passed over for images that generate thumbs with clean graphics, richly saturated color and a single defined element.


The line between still and moving images will become fainter. The universal acceptance of portable devices like the iPad and Kindle coupled with continued concerns about the environment will push print farther and farther from mainstream communications. As on-screen channels displace dead tree media, multi-media content will become as portable as a copy of Life Magazine. There will always be a place for the still image…even though it may be a single frame from a video capture.


I use it on a regular basis. It’s possible to tone map a single RAW capture to create this affect so I expect this technique to become more widespread. One of the advantages still images have over moving images right now is the ability to create HDR images. I’m curious if it’s possible to create HDR video footage.


The most exciting changes are the unforeseen.  These occur when a new technology is combined with another new technology to create a previously unimaginable thing: geotagging and Google Earth come to mind, or cameras with built-in international distribution systems (cell phones). Crowd sourcing is feasible. Augmented reality is conceived.

–Keith Philpott

•March 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Me, volcano spotting in Nicaragua. Photo by Cosmo D.

Bottomless camera bag for spies like us

•March 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I have heard about a bottomless camera bag but this is literally a bag with no bottom. The Cloak Bag has a zip open bottom to allow stealth shooting for the security conscious traveler. The Cloak Bag does address an age-old problem for the traveling photographer: having your gear at the ready while simultaneously protecting it from view of would-be thieves. I like the idea but being too covert while traveling around foreign countries with a camera makes me a little nervous.

My current solution is a ThinkTank holster bag which necessitates unzipping and unholstering to shoot. You miss a lot of stuff on the street by the time you’ve done this. Simply tipping up the bag and shooting from the hip makes the Cloak sound like a good idea. It doesn’t look like the current model would fit a full-size SLR body (or have room for hacksaw blades and bail money).  I’ll try one out when they make a full-size pro model.

E-books in the age of the iPad

•March 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Craig Mod has a very interesting take on how the iPad will affect book publishing which I agree with. When I talk to people about the iPad I see them nodding their heads and my guess is they’re thinking “color Kindle”. As Craig points out, nothing could be further from the truth.

An iPad (and other similar devices) will turn the traditional book-reading experience on it’s head. To the luddites of the world I can only say…brace for impact.  A low barrier to entry will loosen the strangle hold traditional gatekeepers have had on the flow of content. True, we’ll have to wade through a lot of crap to find the good stuff. But that’s a task that technology makes easier and faster every day.

Craig explains this as “formless content” (like you see in a paperback) vs “definite content” (like a magazine spread). Formless content  is shoehorned into whatever container is available. Definite content, on the other hand, is a small part of a much larger canvas which collectively creates an entirely different user experience. Through the prism of current technology this would be like an electronic magazine layout with video, audio and embedded apps.

Seeing how this ultimately plays out is–by way of understatement– going to be fun.

Will the iPad spike MiFi demand?

•February 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Or, said another way, do I really need another data plan in my life?

I haven’t heard too much chatter about running an iPad through a MiFi card but it seems to be an excellent path to connectivity. I have been using one of the Sprint MiFi cards for about a year and look forward to connecting an iPad next month.

I’m wondering if there will be a spike in MiFi demand at Sprint and Verizon (the two carriers currently offering the wireless router). This seems like a solid strategy for people who would like to have only one data plan. A standard cell phone (with no data enabled) plus a MiFi card through which all Wi-Fi enabled devices can connect to the internet could make the single data plan a reality.

Also, according to Apple, the initial iPads will only be available in Wi-Fi versions.