Emerging technology and the fate of photojournalism

InnovationTechnology seems to change more and more rapidly with each passing year, and the technology of photography is no exception. Some of this has had a positive effect on the field of photojournalism while some has not. Some recent technology threatens to change the face of photojournalism forever.

It’s hard to have a conversation about breaking news photography these days without inevitably mentioning the Chicago Sun-Times bold move of firing its entire photo staff in favor of iPhone. Technology has made near-real-time reporting a possibility for just about anyone, but at the sacrifice of absolute quality. There are certainly a lot of people up in arms about laying off the photo staff of the Chicago Sun-Times, but what if the problem isn’t technology or social media, but our own inability to adapt to these new mediums? Continue reading

Airman celebrates being “total person”

Senior Airman Cody Mitchell

This is Senior Airman Cody Mitchell. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month proclaimed by President Barack Obama, Mitchell celebrates the normalcy he enjoys being openly gay, thanks to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (Photo by Samuel Morse)

Throughout an Airman’s career, the “total person concept” is held as the pinnacle of what an Airman can be, not just for professional development, but also for personal resiliency. For gay, lesbian and bisexual Airmen, the possibility of being a total person was only recently made possible. Continue reading

Behind the Scenes: Operation Christmas Drop

Operation Christmas Drop 2012 from Samuel Morse on Vimeo / YouTube.

Ever since the Operation Christmas Drop video went live, I have received a lot of questions about how I put the video together and how I managed to get the feel and emotion that permeates the video. Truth is, there were a lot of factors that played into it, a bit of help from a few key people. The factors could be grouped into the following categories (not necessarily in order of importance): the steadicam, in-flight documentation techniques, the interviews, the music and sound design, the scope and perspective of the video, and the editing.

Accolades:
1st Place, Video Documentary — Pacific Air Forces Media Contest
2nd Place, Multimedia — NPPA Monthly Multimedia Contest
3rd Place, Video Documentary – Air Force Media Contest
3rd Place, Multimedia Feature — Military Photographer of the Year Competition

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A discussion of bits

RAW for the win

Josh Voyles and his RAW shirt.
image © 2012 Samuel Morse

Ever wonder what “14-bit RAW recording” or “24-bit audio” really mean? Hopefully this will help clear some things up.

Bit depth, or the number of bits used to define a pixel’s color or an audio sample’s amplitude, is an indicator of image or audio fidelity. A bit is one digit in binary code, a one or a zero. For instance, 16-bit audio has 16 ones or zeros to define amplitude. I say that this is an “indicator” of fidelity, because a high quality analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is required to accurately translate the analog world into ones and zeros.

Each additional bit doubles the possible number of combinations or values. Two bits has four possible values (00, 01, 10, 11), and three bits has eight. Coincidentally, this is how you can count to 32 on a single hand, using your fingers as binary digits rather than a cumulative total. Here are some more examples of what a number of bits equates to in terms of possible values. I’ve color-coded the values to make them easier to read.

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The Modern Celluloid Closet

A couple weeks ago, I watched an HBO documentary called “Vito” at the 2012 Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. I highly recommend it to anyone if they get a chance to see it. The documentary chronicles the life of a man named Vito Russo, a pioneer in LGBTQ rights in America, and the author of a book called The Celluloid Closet.

In the book (and lecture series), Russo talked about how in the early days of cinema, gays were portrayed as perfectly normal people. It wasn’t until the mid 20th century that gays disappeared entirely. Over the years, they were slowly brought back, but always portrayed as villains, comic relief, or mentally unstable people. It wasn’t until very recently that the LGBTQ community has come full circle to be portrayed as normal people again.

Watching the movie and hearing about Russo’s work has really opened my eyes to the marginalization of the LGBTQ community within film and TV. Today, I realized it’s not limited to western film either. I was re-watching the second season of “Darker Than Black” today, and found that series was somewhat guilty of it too.  Continue reading

Etiquette of the online culture war

keyboardI thought I’d take a moment to talk about something that’s been bothering me lately. While I appreciate the public outcry over things like Chick-Fil-A’s “family-oriented” funding to fight equal marriage rights, I think there needs to be a level of decorum if we hope to achieve anything with the endless spam created over the internet. In light of this, I hope to offer some suggestions and words of wisdom garnered from my experience as a public affairs guy.

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Nikon D800: Initial Thoughts

The new D800

*Click for full resolution, but the image is a bit soft due to shooting wide open into a mirror.

My Nikon D800 came in about two days ago. To say I was giddy as a school girl on prom night might be putting it mildly. This camera really is a dream come true in a lot of respects. The only two things that ever really irked me about the D700 was that sometimes I just wanted a bit more resolution to work with for large prints, and it didn’t have a video mode. My D5100 filled the video gap, but only just barely. Its manual controls for video were shoddy at best, and I ran into a lot of issues, especially trying to get a specific shutter speed in fluorescent lighting to minimize rolling shutter or banding.

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Camera purchasing advice

Sony NEX-7I recently made a fairly extensive post on facebook answering the question “Can anyone recommend a good but fairly inexpensive DSLR?” Since it was really detailed, I figured I’d repost this to share this wisdom with the rest of you. Note that this is published mid-2012, so if you’re reading this a year from now, don’t expect it to still be relevant. Also note that these are just cameras that have piqued my interest for various reasons, and I don’t receive any endorsements from them or give endorsements. Also, the quality of your photos relies on your own photographic technique. Ansel Adams once said that the most important part of a camera is the six inches behind the viewfinder.

For reference, my current camera setup (once I have it in my hands in a few days) is a Nikon D800 with about $16k in lenses, so to me, everything below is pretty cheap. This is, of course, all relative. With that, here’s the post: Continue reading

Coming out, the hardest two words to say

The simple phrase “I’m gay” can easily be one of the hardest sets of syllables to form and give voice, right up there with “will you marry me?” or “you’re adopted.” For someone who is straight, and especially someone who hasn’t been around LGBT people who are just coming out of the closet, I could see how it would be hard to understand exactly what coming out means. I’m sure people can get an idea, much in the same way we can imagine what it’s like to ride a roller coaster before we’ve been on one, or what it was like to be a prisoner in Auschwitz during WWII. However, getting an accurate picture is easier said than done. The only way to really understand without experiencing one of these things yourself, is to look at all the factors that go into it. Hopefully, this blog will help with understanding the internal battles of coming out of the closet.

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Pride in Uniform

Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade 2012

A Japanese volunteer holds up rainbow flags for sale during the first annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, April 29, 2012.

Perhaps the phrase “have pride in your uniform” evokes flashbacks of basic training or a particularly exacting first sergeant, but in the spirit of National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, I think we can look at this phrase in new light.

I have to say, I’m proud of my nation, my President, my Air Force and my colleagues, for giving us the current state of LGBT rights in the United States. As a bisexual service member, being able to put on my uniform and live the core values of integrity, service and excellence to their truest meaning has instilled immeasurable pride in wearing that uniform. The past year has seen some significant changes to LGBT rights as a whole, but no change has been more pivotal to those of us serving in the armed forces than the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” last September.

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