Technical/Informational


I recently ordered two 16 X 20 canvas prints from Canvas On Demand (www.canvasondemand.com).  Last week, I received the finished products and thought I would give a quick review here on my blog.

Canvas On Demand (“COD”) offers a large variety of options and choices.  The 1.5″ gallery wrap is the most popular, but they also offer .75″ versions.  I opted for the 1.5 version.  They range in size from 8 X10 (which retails for $79 for the 1.5) all the way up to a gigantic 42 X 60 (which retails for $402 for the 1.5), plus panoramics up to 72 X 19.  They also offer other print services such as “photo splits” (triptych), photo panels, and a plethora of gift items such as cards, mousepads, labels, posters, photo books, etc.  They also offer touch up services, color corrections, etc. for an extra price.

Ordering is easy – click, click, upload, click, etc.  Be sure to read their sizing suggestions so your final print is cropped and wrapped correctly.  (Honestly, I had a little trouble with this step but it turned out ok.)

I uploaded my images and completed my order on March 12.  I received e-mail notification that my order had been received, and one alerting me to its shipment, together with a tracking number which was handy.  My first canvas arrived on March 20, only 8 days after I placed my order.  My second canvas arrived on March 22, 10 days after I placed my order.  I was very satisfied with the speed of the service and the fact they kept in touch as to the status of my order.

Here is a shot of the first canvas I received (a black & white image).  In my opinion, the whites are sharp and the blacks crisp, creating the right contrast needed for a black & white image.

canvas 6

Here is a close-up of the canvas.

canvas 7

This is the second image I ordered, a color image with subdued colors due to the fog in the scene.

canvas 1

And a closer look (sorry for the light glare on the left side).

canvas 2

It’s a little hard to tell from the image, but it really looks like a painting rather than a photograph.  I would suspect the canvas texture is what has caused this effect.  I really, really like it.  The canvas has a nice texture and a slight shine to it.  Honestly, it’s hard to judge the color quality based on this print due to the lack of color!  The reds and oranges seem rich enough.

The frames seem well constructed.  The edges of the print are trimmed nicely, and no staples are sticking out of the frame.

canvas 3

canvas 4

There is even a sawtooth hanger already included, which I like so I don’t have to mess with putting one on myself.

canvas 5

Overall, I’m more than satisfied with my purchase from COD and have already ordered a couple more.   The only negative comment I have is how the canvases were packed for shipping.  They both came in a cardboard carton slightly larger than the canvas itself, wrapped inside a thin cushioney soft wrap (which was fine) but the edges and corners were not stabilized within the box.  Had any rough handling taken place during shipment, I’m not sure what would have happened.  I ordered a canvas from Mpix a few months ago, and it was packed much more safely (albeit in a much larger container).  I would recommend ordering canvas prints from COD.  I was happy with the customer service and the finished products.  Keep your eyes open for coupons and deals!

I would like to note that I did not receive any compensation or other perks from COD to review this product.  These are just my opinions and impressions that I wanted to share with my photographic community.

 

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Lilly Pad Room at Onondaga Cave, Missouri

Some of you may be aware that I am a paralegal during the week, and am an avid photographer when I’m not slaving away on personal injury files. I sell fine art prints of my work, maintain a web site and a blog, and have been published in Kansas! Magazine. I also belong to on-line photography forums where I post some of my images and receive constructive criticism and commentary. Little did I suspect that by participating in these activities, I would become the victim of copyright infringement.

In 2010, I Googled my name as I did on occasion just to make sure my web site and blog are being picked up by search engines, and I scanned the first couple of pages of results and found one labeled “Show Me State” and clicked on it. A PDF document called “The Show Me State of Mind” which appeared to be a travel and tourism supplement to a newspaper in Columbia, Missouri opened. As I scrolled through the pages, trying to figure out why this document appeared when I searched my name, I was stunned and shocked to see my photograph of the Lilly Pad Room at Onondaga Cave (located in Missouri) gracing the pages of this supplement. I looked twice, then again. Was that really my photo? I had never been contacted by anyone asking permission to use the photo, and I certainly hadn’t received any payment for its use (I would have remembered that!) As I looked again and again, I was certain it was my photo because it contained unique characteristics, and I noticed they had included a credit line underneath with my name (which is how Google picked it up). From what I could see, the supplement had been included with the printed newspaper, and they also posted it on their web site with a link to access the supplement. To make this matter even more outrageous, I discovered the newspaper was owned and operated by the University of Missouri School of Journalism. “Surely the professors there understood copyright laws and taught them to the journalism students,” I said to myself numerous times.  Although my images did not contain a copyright mark directly on them, my web site and blog both clearly state all images are copyrighted and may not be used without my knowledge or permission.

I felt cheated and violated. Someone stole my picture and although they gave me a credit line under the photo, they hadn’t asked my permission to use it and certainly didn’t pay me for this use. Although I consider myself a generous person, I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to let someone use this photo without some sort of compensation because I do have costs associated with my photography (equipment, software upgrades, mileage, gas, etc.) that I need to recoup.

I instantly posted a cry for help on my photography forum and asked my boss at the time if he knew anything about copyright law. He referred me to another attorney in our firm whose specialty was copyright law, and between these two sources, I received lots of great advice on how to handle the infringement. Later in this article, I’ll tell you what I did and what result I obtained.

Because of this situation, I had a lot of questions. What is a copyright? What is protected by copyright, and when someone violates it, what remedies can be sought for the infringement? Copyright law is located in Title 17 of the United States Code. Copyright protection is given to original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other certain intellectual works (but you cannot copyright an idea). Examples include (but are not solely limited to) poetry, books, movies, songs, computer software, photographs, paintings, sculptures, choreographic works and even architecture. Photographs are specifically included as “pictorial, graphic and sculptural works.” 17 U.S.C. § 101. In contrast, trademarks protect words, phrases, symbols or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from others (think of the golden arches that McDonald’s uses), and patents protect inventions or discoveries. Generally, copyrights (for works created on or after January 1, 1978) endure for the lifetime of the creator’s life plus an additional 70 years after his/her death. 17 U.S.C. § 302.

When is a work (such as a photograph) protected by copyright? Is registration necessary to claim copyright and recover damages in case of an infringement? A work is protected the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form, and no registration is required, although registration does afford the owner advantages in case of an infringement. Copyright is owned by the creator of the work, and mere possession of the work does not give the possessor copyright. In the case of my photograph, the moment I clicked the shutter button, the image was protected by copyright laws. Under the 1976 Copyright Act, the use of a copyright notice on works was required. However, this requirement was eliminated when the U.S. adopted the Berne Convention in 1989 (use of notice may still be required for works created before 1976). From my involvement on the photography forums, I learned it is important to include a copyright notice on photos I post to the internet (although at that time I rarely did because I honestly didn’t think anyone would steal my images), but it is not required in order to establish copyright. It does put parties on notice the work is copyrighted, even though the work might not necessarily be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. The lack of a copyright notice is not a defense to an infringement action. Registration does have benefits in case of an infringement in the form of allowance of attorney’s fees, costs and election for statutory damages. Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 412, unless the work is registered within three months after first publication, no statutory damages or attorney’s fees may be awarded.

Copyright notice should contain the three following elements:

“1. The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”; and

2. The year of first publication of the work…and;

3. The name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.”

(17 U.S.C. § 401(b))

An example of a copyright notice would be: © 2010 Angela Classen

One major exception to the exclusive right of the copyright owner is contained in 17 U.S.C. § 107, which defines “fair use.” If the use is for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research, it is not an infringement. Four factors are used to determine whether the use is fair use:

“(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.”

(17 U.S.C. § 107)

Unfortunately, the distinction between fair use and infringement is unclear and not easily defined. There’s no specific number of words, lines or notes that can be safely used without permission. Acknowledgment of the source is no substitute for obtaining permission.

What does a copyright owner do once it is discovered an infringement has occurred, and what remedies are available? 17 U.S.C. § 504 provides remedies for copyright infringements, which can include actual and statutory damages, injunctions, impoundment of infringed articles, and costs and attorney’s fees. In certain instances, criminal charges can also be filed. 17 U.S.C. § 506. If the court finds the infringer willfully violated the copyright, statutory damages could be awarded in the amount of $750 to $30,000, with the discretion to increase the damages up to $150,000. Again, statutory damages and attorney’s fees may only be awarded if the copyright has been properly registered.

Because my photo was also posted on the internet, provisions of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) were also applicable. The DMCA was signed into law in 1998 and amended Title 17 to broaden copyright, while limiting liability of on-line service providers (ISP) for copyright infringement by their users. The DMCA provides that the copyright owner must serve written notice upon the ISP that an infringement has occurred, specifically identify the copyrighted work, and certify that the use is unauthorized. Upon receipt of a DMCA “take down” notice, the ISP is obligated to remove the material and if it doesn’t, may subject itself to monetary liability. 17 U.S.C. §§ 512(c)(3), 512(g)(1).

When I discovered the newspaper had used my image without my permission, I wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper advising of the infringement and requesting an exorbitant amount of money (knowing the amount would eventually be negotiated). At this point, I did not issue a formal DMCA takedown notice. Within three days, the manager of the paper called. He was unsure how the image had been used without my permission, but ensured me he was checking into it and would immediately take down the image from the web site (which he did). The next day he called again, stating the infringement had been completely unintentional on their part, and over the next week or so, we eventually negotiated an amount to settle the matter which ended up being much more than the amount they would have paid me had they contacted me prior to publishing the photo. How is this experience relevant to your everyday life? Do you prepare PowerPoint presentations for work in which you use images? Have you surfed the web in search of a particular image, to post on your Facebook page, use as wallpaper on your computer, or for whatever use? Do not assume that because an image is found on the web, it is free to use or “public domain.” The same is true for music. Have you put together “slide shows” of photos, used your favorite song in the background, and shared it with friends on the web? Or video taped your kids with music playing in the background? Unauthorized use of images or music could subject you to civil awards and fines, even if your use was completely innocent and unintentional. However, many courts have ruled such uses are considered “fair use” and have found no infringement occurred. See Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., 572 F. Supp. 2d 1150 (2008). In this case, Stephanie Lenz posted on YouTube a video of her kids dancing to Prince’s song, “Let’s Go Crazy.” Universal (the copyright owner of the song) sent YouTube a DMCA takedown notice claiming the video violated copyright. Lenz claimed fair use of the material and sued Universal for misrepresentation of a DMCA claim. The court ruled in Lenz’s favor, holding that a copyright owner must consider fair use before issuing takedown notices for content on the internet. Be cautious in what you do, or you could find yourself defending a copyright action.

What did I learn from this experience? Images posted to the internet will be stolen, no matter what I do, but by placing a copyright image on them, it might be less likely to occur. These days, when posting to Facebook, I always include my copyright on the photo.  I also learned it certainly never hurts to Google yourself once in a while just to see what pops up! For those who are curious, here is the page spread from the newspaper with my stolen image:

If you have had an experience with copyright infringement of your photos or other copyrighted material, please feel free to share your thoughts.  I would love to hear how others have handled infringements and what results they got.

Cobaea penstemon

With winter now in full swing, I long for summer’s warmth and color.  Going through my library of wildflower images is a nice diversion at this time of the year.  Thus, another installment in my “Wild Thing!” series is born.

The bell-shaped blooms of cobaea penstemon

Cobaea penstemon is also known as showy beardtongue and wild foxglove, though it is unrelated to the true European foxglove.  It is in the scrophulariaceae (figwort) family which is the same family as snapdragons.  In Kansas, it is found in the east 2/3 of the state, but its range goes north and east to Ohio and south as far as Texas.  It favors sandy, rocky hillsides and especially limestone outcrops.  It grows from 6 to 40 inches in height with strong stems that bear clusters of 2-6 blooms that range in color from white or pinkish to pale lavender.  The throats have prominent magenta or violet lines.  It normally blooms in May and June, and the plants may be 2 or 3 years old before they produce blooms.

Cobaea penstemon, habitat shot (Wilson Lake in the background)

The first time I ever saw these exquisite blooms was two years ago while hiking at Wilson Lake.  We walked into this area (pictured above) that had dozens of these beautiful flowers, gently swaying in the breeze.  The blooms are bell-shaped and very graceful and elegant.  The purple stripes around the throat are beautiful, and the details inside are amazing.

Details of the throat of cobaea penstemon, shot near Tuttle Creek Reservoir

In this close-up, you can see why it is called a “beardtongue.”  Look at the fuzzy stamen protruding from the throat.

Cobaea penstemon grow gracefully next to a post rock at Wilson Lake

Cobaea penstemon is closely related to another prairie penstemon, Buckley’s penstemon, that blooms around the same time.  The blooms of Buckley’s penstemon are not as showy or as large, being more elongated in shape than bell-like.  It is a perennial, and livestock will quickly eat new growth.  The blooms are also a larval host for the dotted checkerspot butterfly, and attract other various butterflies and moths with its sweet nectar.

Sources:  Wildflowers & Grasses of Kansas by Michael John Haddock; www.kswildflower.org, www.wildflower.org

If you have any facts or information to share about this Wild Thing!, please feel free to post a comment.  I would like my posts to be both informative and entertaining, and any feedback is always appreciated.

For those of you already familiar with my photography, you know that I absolutely love wildflowers!  It’s fun to go out and find them, and to see how many different varieties I can find.  Of course, needless to say, it’s also a lot of fun shooting them 🙂

This is the first installment of my “Wild Thing!” series.  I will showcase a different wildflower each time, going more in depth with facts and information.  At this time, many will be Kansas wildflowers, but as I add to my portfolio, wildflowers from Colorado and Utah will also be featured.  People may not think of Kansas as a wildflower/plant hot spot, but due to its varied terrain, over 600 species of wildflowers, grasses, sedges, rushes, trees and other woody plants call Kansas home. 

The first “Wild Thing!” I want to share is one of my favorite early-bloomers on the Kansas prairie:  plains wild indigo or long-bracted wild indigo.  Scientific name: baptisia bracteata.

Plains wild indigo (baptisia bracteata)

The plains wild indigo is one of the first bloomers I notice on the prairie because it starts blooming in late April or early May, shortly after the pastures are burned.  When I see these flowers, I know the big show isn’t far away!  They are very easy to spot because of their distinct, mounding shape.  They grow 8-30 inches in height, with the long flower stems growing downward in a drooping characteristic as shown here.  They bloom early because as the grass height increases, it decreases the chances for pollination as the grass would cover the blooms.

Plains wild indigo, habitat shot

I shot this one in a pasture in Chase Co., Kansas, a few miles west of the Chase Co. Fishing Lake in early May 2010.  As you can see, the grass is still quite short, allowing the blooms to have plenty of attention from hungry bees.

The plains wild indigo is a member of the bean family (Fabaceae), which all share pea-like flowers.  It is closely related to the blue wild indigo, which blooms a little later.  The plains wild indigo has “fuzzy” foliage, whereas the blue wild indigo does not.  In Kansas, the plains wild indigo is found primarily in the eastern half of the state on sandy or rocky prairies, pastures and roadsides.  Their range extends from eastern Nebraska and southeastern Minnesota south and eastward to western Indiana and Kentucky.  The roots can grow to an incredible six feet long, so they are fairly drought tolerant.  If eaten in large quantities, the foliage of the young plants can be toxic to livestock.  The plants produce seed pods which turn brown or black and rattle in the wind.  Bees love all members of the indigo family and visit the showy blossoms frequently to feed.  Another insect that favors indigo plants is the wild indigo duskywing, a butterfly which lays its eggs on the plant.  It is believed the butterflies use these plants because the mild toxicity of the foliage makes them less attractive to eat, thus protecting the butterfly’s caterpillars from predators.  It amazes me how creatures know these things and use them to their advantage in order to survive.

The Pawnee indians used plains wild indigo to treat colic by rubbing a mixture of pulverized indigo seeds and bison fat on the abdomen.

Sources:  www.kswildflowers.org, www.gpnc.org, “Wildflowers & Grasses of Kansas” by Michael John Haddock

If you have any facts or information to share about this Wild Thing!, please feel free to post a comment.  I would like my posts to be both informative and entertaining, and any feedback is always appreciated.

The Central Kansas Photography Club is hosting a one-day Canon “Explorer of Light” seminar featuring George Lepp on Saturday, June 26, 2010 at the Crest Theatre in Great Bend, Kansas.  George is one of North America’s best-known nature photographers, and is a huge advocate of digital imaging.  His photos have appeared in various national magazines, and he is a monthly contributor to Outdoor Photographer.  The seminar begins at 9:15 a.m. and runs through 4:30 p.m., and the cost is $15 per person and the student rate is $7 per person.  Lunch is on your own, but coffee, rolls and juice will be provided in the morning.  Registration will be available at the door, but it would be appreciated if reservations could be made by June 7 to assist in the planning.  For more information, contact Jay Miller, 3626 22nd Street, Great Bend, KS 67530.

During the seminar, the Club will also be holding a photography contest open to anyone.  Photographers may submit a total of up to three entries in categories of Wildlife, Travel Nature and Great Plains Nature.  Mpix is providing prizes!

I’ve had the pleasure of attending two of George’s seminars and I can say with all honesty he’s a phenomenal speaker, an enormous talent but yet very laid back and approachable, and you will almost surely come away with some nugget of information.  It was after attending a seminar he presented in the Kansas City area about 8 years ago that I became more serious about photography and began to read a lot of how-to books and practice, practice, practice shooting.  He discusses many unique and unusual techniques that will inspire your creativity.  Wait until you see his huge panoramic prints – they will blow you away! 

Registration Form

When I was a kid, I loved snow. I had a blast building snowmen and pummeling my parents with snowballs. Then I got a little older and had to learn to drive in the stuff. Suddenly, snow wasn’t my friend anymore – until last winter. We had very little snow last winter, but after seeing all the great frosty shots posted on Nature Photographer’s Network, I thought I might be missing out on something. So, when we finally did get some of the white stuff, I bundled up, headed out, and rediscovered a little love for winter and snow.

This year, we’ve had around 6 inches more snow than is typical in an entire winter season, and I’ve made an effort to get out and enjoy it, camera in hand. Here are a few tips that you might find helpful should you decide to resurrect your inner Frosty:

Inner layers need to keep you warm, but not too warm.  You really need to think how to dress for the cold, especially if you plan to be out for any length of time. Layers are the way to go, but if you put on too many layers, you’ll overheat and get sweaty, which isn’t good because you’ll end up chilled and in danger of hypothermia. My cold-weather dress has consisted of thermals (top and bottom), a flannel shirt or sweatshirt, and waterproof ski pants. Yes, ski pants. They are waterproof, they have elastic around the ankles to keep snow out, and they’re insulated. When I kneel down to compose a shot, they cushion the ground a bit and keep me dry. Which brings me to my next point.

Outer layers need to keep you dry.  If you’re dry, it’s likely you’ll feel warmer.  My outside layer consists of my waterproof Goretex hiking boots, winter coat with detachable hood (which unfortunately isn’t waterproof), a scarf, a fleece headband with ear flaps, and top it off with a light pair of liner gloves over which I wear mittens.  When I get ready to shoot, I yank off the mittens and the thin liner gloves keep my fingers from totally freezing while allowing me flexibility to operate the camera controls.  If your coat doesn’t have a hood, definitely wear a stocking cap or something on your head because that is where you lose the most body heat.

This configuration of layers hasn’t been tested below 10 degrees, and might need adjustments if you are going to be outside for a very long time. Also, adjustments would need to be made if you plan to do some heavy-duty hiking in between shoots. While hiking, your body heats up but then when you stop to shoot, it cools off. Experiment and find what works best for you and your particular situation.

Buy covers for your tripod legs.  There’s nothing worse than grabbing an icy cold metal tripod when it’s freezing outside!  Some tripod manufacturers actually make padded coverings for tripod legs, but I’ve got a cheapo alternative. Buy some foam pipe insulation (it comes in long round tubes) at the hardware store.  The inside diameter should be big enough to fit around your tripod legs but small enough not to fall off.  Cut it to length, cut a slit down the length, place it over the tripod legs, and secure with duct tape. This also provides some cushion if you haul your tripod slung over your shoulder.  I have yet to do this, but plan to before I go shooting in the cold again.  I keep having visions of that little boy in “Christmas Story” who gets his tongue stuck to the flagpole – I sure don’t want that to happen to my hands while handling my tripod 😉

Bring extra batteries.  The cold totally sucks the life out of batteries, so bring extras and keep them as close to your body as possible. If you are carrying a GPS, bring extra batteries for it as well.

Bring tissues!   Inevitably, when I’m outside in the winter, my nose starts running and dripping.  Don’t be a guy and wipe it on your sleeve! Besides being totally gross, eventually all that moisture will make your arm wet, and you’ll get cold. Bring some tissues and use for those nasal drips.

Bring a lens cloth and protection for your camera.  If you’re shooting while it’s snowing, you definitely need to bring a lens cloth to wipe moisture off your lenses while shooting. There’s nothing more annoying than to discover that great shot you took is practically useless because of the big water drop right in the middle!  If the white stuff is coming down really hard, you’ll need to cover your camera.  Again, there are expensive camera covers available. I find that a small plastic grocery bag works well.

Use your creativity.  Winter presents us with some spectacular photographic opportunities that just aren’t possible any other time of year.  See and think creatively!  Go beyond the pretty tree covered in snow, and look for intimate shots or abstracts of details.  Icicles, snow drifts, sparkling snowflakes and textures in the ice are all wonderful subjects to shoot.  Also, since in the gloom of winter, there may not be a lot of color to be found, think about converting your shots to black & white and focusing on the tones and gradations of shadows and light.

I’ve had a lot of fun this year playing in the snow.  I hope you get out and take advantage of the cold weather, too!

ISO 200, F11 @ 2.5 sec., no flash

ISO 200, F6.3 @ .6 sec., no flash

Christmas is almost upon us!  Admist all the preparations for the holidays and dealing with the wintery weather outside, don’t overlook opportunties to make some wonderful holiday images – inside or out.  Get creative portrait shots of your family finding the perfect tree at the tree farm, having a snowball fight, decorating the tree or helping Mom make Christmas goodies.  Sneak around and get candid shots rather than posed shots – they will look much more natural.  Get right in their face using ultra wide angle lenses for some fun results. Shots like these will be treasured forever!  

Shoot macro shots of some of your favorite ornaments on the tree.  The Santa ornament here could almost be considered an “antique.”  It is part of a light cover set that was placed over individual lightbulbs on the tree, and has been in my family as long as I can remember. When I moved from my parents’ home, my mom let me have half the set for my own tree, and I lovingly place the Santas in prominent view every year. My entire tree has many ornaments that family and friends have given me over the years, and it’s so much fun for me to unpack them every year and think of that special person while decorating the tree.

ISO 200, F10 @ 1.3 sec., no flash

  

Use a tripod, higher ISO’s and wider apertures in order to avoid using a flash, which will cause harsh shadows. Of course, always check your histogram to make sure your exposure is correct.

ISO 200, F11 @ 2 sec., no flash

 

ISO 200, F16 @ 6 sec., no flash

Try shooting close-ups of bright holiday flowers such as poinsettias and amaryllis, boughs of holly, or sprigs of holly berries.

ISO 200, F16 @ 6 sec., no flash

 

For something more abstract, take out of focus shots of the twinkling lights on the tree. 

ISO 200, F11 @ .6 sec., no flash

Go outdoors and shoot the outdoor light displays – some folks get pretty elaborate with those!  The ideas are endless. Look beyond the simple posed family portrait in front of the Christmas tree.

I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!  A new decade of photographic opportunities awaits us!

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