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The Library of Congress… on Flickr?!

Part of the cowling for one of the motors for a B-25 bomber is assembled in the engine department of North American [Aviation, Inc.]’s Inglewood, Calif., plant (LOC)In a post titled “My Friend Flickr: A Match Made in Photo Heaven” on the Library of Congress blog (who knew the Library of Congress had a blog?), the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world and research arm of the United States Congress, announced today (January 16th 2008) that they have posted over 3,000 photos to Flickr from their most popular collections. And all of the photos have no known copyright restrictions.

The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.

How cool is that? But there’s more! This is a pilot project created in partnership with the Library of Congress called The Commons. The Flickr blog describes it best:

There are two main aims to The Commons project, starting with the pilot: firstly, to increase exposure to the amazing content currently held in the public collections of civic institutions around the world, and secondly, to facilitate the collection of general knowledge about these collections, with the hope that this information can feed back into the catalogues, making them richer and easier to search.

So far, the photos are grouped into two sets: The 1930s-40s in color and News in the 1910s. Both amazing collections, but don’t take my word for it, go check it out!

Library of Congress on Flickr

The Commons

Free noise reduction plugin for the GIMP

GREYCstoration pluginI’ve been using the GIMP image editor (also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program) (also known as the wonderful, open source, free photo editor with the awful name) a lot lately. Version 2.4.2. I highly recommend a second look if you haven’t tried it recently. The newest version has vastly improved controls for cropping and selections, a foreground selection tool, a healing tool, and better brush management among other enhancements.

But one thing my stock GIMP install didn’t have was a decent noise removal filter. That is, until I downloaded and installed the GREYCstoration plugin. Installing it is as simple as downloading and dropping the plugin into the GIMP plugins directory. Restart GIMP and you’ll find a new menu under Filters | Enhance | GREYCstoration.

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Take better flash photos in one easy step

Photo by *Micky
Photo by *Micky

Many people shy away from flash photography because it makes people look bad. Photographs taken with a flash can leave harsh shadows that highlight every wrinkle, turn skin blue, shine a flood light at thinning hair, create hot spots on the forehead, nose and cheeks, and generally make subjects look unattractive. But when there isn’t enough light, sometimes your only choice is to use a flash or not take photos at all.

Well, I’m here to tell you that your flash photos indoors can look amazing. And here’s how…

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Quick Fix for Cluttered Backgrounds

Despite all that has been written about keeping the background of your photos simple, that goal is not always achievable. Sometimes your subject is in a place with a busy background everywhere. Or perhaps the subject is doing something that you don’t want to interrupt by walking around the person or requesting that she or he move to a different location.

I have found a very quick solution for such cases. Take the picture you want and then work on the background in Photoshop or another image editing program. First, I crop such images to remove part of the background. That alone makes the background somewhat less intrusive. But often I don’t want to eliminate it entirely; I merely want to de-emphasize it. One quick fix is first to blur the background slightly and then to adjust the saturation of both background and subject.

My brother PeteRecently, my brother came to visit. He and another friend of mine had an animated conversation in my kitchen. These were two very large guys and their expansive gestures and expressions really captured my interest. I grabbed a camera and took a whole series of pictures of them holding their conversation in my cluttered kitchen. The first picture shows enough of the background to distract from the person, my brother.

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Travel Photographer of the Year

Travel Photographer of the Year, one of my favourite photography competitions (which I always enter and never win!), recently announced the 2007 winners. This year Cat Viton, from the UK, became the competition’s first female winner and, among other prizes, won the opportunity to go to India and photograph the Dalai Lama.

Her winning photographs are beautiful, as are many of the runner-up shots, and as always with this competition, inspire me to travel to more new places. You can check them out here if you feel like getting a little inspiration for your 2008 travel plans.

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