Photo Workshop in Istanbul

Date: November 3 – 9, 2013 (Limited Spots Left) / November 10 – 16, 2013 (Limited Spots Left)

Join National Geographic’s Ira Block in Istanbul!

Imagine yourself in one of the world’s greatest cities, beautiful Istanbul; exploring the magnificent Blue Mosque, discovering the stunning Ottoman architecture and strolling along the legendary Bosphorus River while soaking up the local Turkish culture. We’ll visit the magnificent Hagia Sophia and the Topaki Palace, as well as the legendary Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. Hands on technical classes and daily critiques will take your photography to the next level.

You can get more information at http://lizapoliti.com/lizapoliti/istanbul.html.

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National Geographic Photography Expedition in New York City

Statue of Liberty on a Misty DayApr 25 – 28, 2013

Ira will be leading a photography expedition to New York City at the end of April.

Brimming with towering skyscrapers, historic parks, vibrant ethnic enclaves, and the colorful bustle of street life, New York City presents photographers with an endless array of subjects. Photograph the environs of Ground Zero, and Battery Park City with its views of the iconic Statue of Liberty. Capture the diverse architecture of fabled Fifth Avenue and the sights of Central Park, and complete a portrait assignment in the lively neighborhoods of Chinatown or Little Italy. Photograph the sunset from the top of Rockefeller Center, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge or bustling South Street Seaport, and the new High Line Park in the early morning light.

This workshop is designed for amateurs who are interested in improving their digital photography. All participants must bring a digital SLR camera, a laptop computer, and software for organizing and presenting images. The workshop is limited to 25 participants.

For more information please go here.

National Geographic Photography Expedition in Cuba

Remember the MaineMar 31 – Apr 08, 2013

Ira will be leading a photography expedition to Cuba in the beginning of April.

Meet and talk with Cubans in diverse settings, from urban Havana to colonial Cienfuegos. Learn firsthand from Cuban locals and experts about their splendid colonial cities, vibrant music and art scene and lush rural landscapes, and experience the timeless beauty and fascinating culture of this enigmatic island nation. Engage Cubans directly in discussions about their lives and work, culture and traditions. Meet with Cuban historians, teachers, artists, musicians, naturalists, and others, and experience this fast-changing island nation through their eyes.

For more information please go here.

Putting the New Lumix GH3 to the Test

I’m at Photokina in Cologne, Germany where today, Panasonic rolled out its Lumix GH3 camera. In late spring the folks at Panasonic asked me to test this new professional grade camera. I immediately suggested shooting in southern Utah. Although my choice was a bit self serving because I love the American west, I knew that Utah with its canyons, mountains and unique culture was the perfect place for photography.

Panasonic worked around the clock to get the prototype ready and it arrived at my studio the day before I was scheduled to leave for Utah. I was pleasantly surprised to find two new zoom lenses, a 12-35mm and 35-100mm, both with a fixed f/2.8 aperture. These two new lenses were solidly built in addition to being small. Luckily I own a GH2 and was familiar with many of the new camera’s functions and most of the seven lenses that came with it. I was able to fit the camera body, all of the lenses including the compact 100-300mm zoom, a flash, food, first aid kit and lots of water into my medium Tenba backpack. The GH3 and I were ready to go and the five hour flight would give me a chance to study the instruction manual.

This camera is also designed with a lot of dials and buttons which make it easy to change settings – when I’m working fast I don’t like scrolling through menus. The viewfinder is very bright and doesn’t have the ‘electronic’ look that earlier Electronic Viewfinders had. And the swivel screen monitor on the back made it easy for me to shoot low and high angle photos, like the image below of the bronc coming out of the chute.

During the ten days I was shooting in Utah I took the GH3 hiking and camping, climbing bluffs and exploring canyons, and exposing it to water and temperatures as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit. And as I only had one body and needed to change lenses frequently, the camera was also exposed to a lot of dust and sand. This rugged camera had no problems functioning in these extreme conditions. Shooting the spectacular landscapes was inspiring but it was important to test the camera in non-static situations as well. I knew a Native American Pow Wow and a Rodeo would offer numerous action activities.

The GH3 didn’t let me down. Its great autofocus system was responsive and fast and the six fps motor was invaluable in capturing the bull and bronc riders. The dynamic range of the sensor was beyond what I expected and produced images with detail in both the highlights and shadows. Of course everyone wants to know if a four thirds sensor can deliver enough quality to make really large prints. Here at Photokina some of my prints are almost four feet long. When I was photographing the action at the Pow Wow and rodeo I was working with ISOs of up to 800 and saw a negligible loss of image quality.

Camping out under Utah’s night sky afforded another unique photo opportunity. I had never seen so many stars. To capture these ‘extraterrestrial’ like images I set the camera’s ISO to 2500 and used an exposure of thirty seconds at f/2.8 with the 12-35mm zoom. While the shutter was open my assistant and I used small flashlights to illuminate the surrounding landscape. Although I expected some noise under these extreme exposure conditions the resulting images were remarkable.

From canyons to cowboys, Native American dancers to skies saturated with stars, the images I shot with the prototype GH3 were beyond my expectations. I can’t wait to shoot my next journey with the production model.

7-14mm at 7mm, f5, 1/500sec, ISO200

12-35mm at 26mm, f8, 1/25sec, ISO200

45mm macro, f4.5, 1/160sec, ISO320

12-35mm at 35mm, f5, 1/2000sec, ISO250

35-100mm at 100mm, f8, 1/200sec, ISO160

7-14mm at 8mm, f11, 1/5sec, ISO200

7-14mm at 10mm, f4, 1/1600sec, ISO400

35-100mm at 41mm, f2.8, 1/1000sec, ISO640

7-14mm at 12mm, f2.8, 30sec, ISO2500

You can click here to see a full gallery of my photos.

2012 Singapore Digital Photography Workshop

2012 Singapore Digital Photography Workshop: Mastering Your Flash and Outdoor Lighting for Travel and Street Photography

Flash often mystifies amateur photographers. It’s the one piece of equipment that most photographers have, but few use the correct way. However, mastering artificial light for travel shots and street portraiture is vital, and can take your photography to a new level. Flash can stop motion, or add light to a scene on a dark street, or enhance the sense of motion.

Ira Block is one of the world’s experts on flash photography, lighting outdoor scenes, using flash and powerful lights to tell a story. As a veteran National Geographic photographer, his assignments often involve remote flash and creative use of stage lights to bring subjects like mummies to dinosaur bones to caves to life.

This weekend Singapore workshop is designed to ‘demystify’ the flash, and give you concepts and tips on how to use artificial lighting ‘in the field’ for travel and street photography. This workshop will show you how to maximize your flash—on and off camera—so you can work better indoors, in low light situations and after dark. And make you a better technical photographer.

To enhance the creative atmosphere, this workshop will be held in a private Chinese Shophouse in Chinatown at 5 Blair Road.

Dates:
November 1st to November 4th 2012.

Workshop Costs:
US$950.00. This does not include hotel or airfare.

For more information, please go here.

Missed Flights are Nothing Compared to What Else Can Happen at the Airport


Preparing for an assignment is always stressful. Research, logistics, contacts, equipment, gear and the proper clothing are just some of the areas I need to get under control. Finally arriving at the airport was always a time for me to relax and regroup before beginning to work. But lately, airport security and delays, coupled with jet lag have created a new kind of stress.

Recently, my friend Mike Yamashita called me from his hotel room in Mexico. He was frantic because his Mac computer, the one he needed for the lecture he was going to give, had been picked up by someone else going through security. Mike had retrieved a Mac identical to his own, as had another passenger.
Luckily, the person with Mike’s computer made contact and both computers were able to be exchanged within a few days.

Another colleague, while going through security in Doha, Qatar in the middle of the night, was so exhausted that he simply forgot to retrieve his computer. He didn’t realize it was missing until he arrived at Dulles International Airport. Again, he was lucky in that security in Doha was able to find his computer and send it to him.

Of course, I thought these were random incidents. There was no way that I would ever forget or lose any equipment, especially in an airport. But jet lag, airport confusion, and distractions can happen to anyone, even me.

I was hit hard with the potentially disastrous consequences of airport stress when I arrived in the Kathmandu airport, after traveling for over 30 hours. I was shooting a last minute assignment for the National Geographic magazine on Lumbini, Nepal, the birth place of The Buddha. The baggage area was total chaos; three planes had arrived at this small airport around the same time. I had changed planes in Doha, Qatar and of course I was concerned whether my baggage would arrive with me in Kathmandu. I was tired, jetlagged and generally out of it, but was ecstatic to see my bags of lights, stands and cold weather gear on the conveyer belt. A colleague from the National Geographic was traveling with me. A local customs fixer from Kathmandu met us with the proper paperwork to get all of my equipment though Nepalese customs. I was carrying a bottle of duty free liquor in a plastic bag, a gift for one of the people I was going to be working with and I was concerned that in all of the confusion it might break. My shoulder bag held my laptop, books, a small camera and lens and reams of paperwork.

We slid through customs and headed out to the parking area which was even more chaotic than baggage claim and customs. My local helper and his assistants quickly loaded our bags into the back of the van and my colleague and I took a seat inside. As we proceeded through heavy traffic to our hotel, I was relieved to finally leave the airport. But my relief was short lived. When we got to the hotel, I stood at the back of the van and supervised the off loading of the equipment and luggage. Everything was there – except my Tenba rolling bag of cameras. It wasn’t in the van and it wasn’t with the hotel bellman. My first thought was that it must have been left at the airport. The last time I remembered seeing it was when I took it out of the overhead on the plane and wheeled it to the baggage area. I assumed one of my helpers had loaded it onto one of the carts and put it in the van with the other luggage.

Panic overtook my jetlag as we headed back to the airport, fighting our way through the traffic, knowing that every minute would be another opportunity for someone to walk off with the bag. I hoped that it was still in the baggage area, but if someone did take it they would be caught going through customs. As we raced through the back streets of Kathmandu, I asked the customs’ fixer to call someone, anyone at the airport to try to find my bag. I was in total shock as I came to grips with my stupidity in losing control of my cameras. Ten minutes from the airport one of the locals’ cell phones rang in the van and another Nepalese conversation ensued. When the call ended, my fixer looked at me and said the bag had been found. My next concern was whether someone might have grabbed something out of the bag, or that the black rolling bag that was found might not have been mine. Since I carried it on the plane, I had neglected to tag it with my identification.

When we arrived at the airport we were faced with another challenge – going backwards through customs into the secure bag area. We were denied permission. But my fixer called his friend inside customs who eventually came out and brought me into the luggage area. He took me to a small counter on the side of the baggage area where there were approximately fifty unclaimed bags. There, chained with a padlock was my Tenba. I showed the counter attendant my passport and boarding pass but since my name wasn’t on the outside of the bag there was nothing to connect me to it. The attendant asked me what was inside: “a lot of cameras and lenses, I hope”. We unzipped the bag and everything was there.

What would I have lost if the bag hadn’t been found?

2 Canon 5D Mark IIs
8 various Canon lenses
1 Canon Strobe
2 500 gb back up drives and cables
2 Battery charges
Many CF and SD cards
My sanity

I have no one to blame for this but myself. I have tried to make excuses in my head: jetlag, worrying about breaking the bottle of liquor and my local assistants taking charge of the luggage. But at the end of the day, it is my responsibility to ensure that I have all of my equipment to do the photos and to complete the assignment. This means making sure that everything I put through security, I retrieve. It means that every piece of luggage and equipment that I check is taken off the conveyor belt. The stress of preparation is for naught if you don’t have the gear to do the job. My colleagues and I were very lucky. These incidents could have ended differently.

Canon and The National Geographic Channel Photography Seminar – Malaysia and Singapore

Image

Ira will be conducting a series of lectures for Canon and The National Geographic Channel in Malaysia and Singapore at the beginning of May in conjunction with The National Geographic Channel Young Photographer Award. He will be talking about his career as a National Geographic photographer and about how his interaction with different cultures around the world have inspired his work.

For more information, please go here