News Archive

New York City Sued Over Filmmaker's Right To Photograph

By Donald R. Winslow

A lawsuit filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, in Manhattan claims that New York City’s requirement to have a permit to film in public is unconstitutional, and it seeks a court order against the law’s enforcement. The New York Civil Liberties Union, along with the New York University Law School Civil Rights Clinic, filed the federal suit Tuesday on behalf of an Indian filmmaker, Rakesh Sharma, against the City of New York and the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, Katherine Oliver; a police detective, Daniel D’Alessandro; and five unidentified police officers.

Sharma, of Mumbai, India, a well-known independent filmmaker, came to New York City in May 2005 to shoot a film about the lives of everyday people, including cab drivers, in the post-9/11 world, NYCLU said in a press release. The suit says that after Sharma lawfully filmed various midtown scenes with a handheld video camera while standing on city sidewalks, he was detained by New York Police Department officers, held and interrogated for several hours, searched, and told before he was released that he needed to have a permit for any future filming.

The NYCLU says that Sharma returned to Manhattan in November 2005 and applied for a permit to film so that he would not be harassed again. His request for a permit was denied, and the film office refused to provide him with a written explanation of their denial. Applicants are also required to have $1 million of insurance to receive a permit.

In a statement from the NYCLU, executive director Donna Lieberman said, “In a democracy, people have the right to document activity in public places without being arrested. When the city tried to stop people from taking pictures in the subway, we objected and the city backed down. In the same way, we are challenging the city's arbitrary film permitting scheme, which exposes legitimate filmmakers to risk of arrest for taking pictures on the streets of New York."

The National Press Photographers Association was one of several press organizations that successfully opposed the city’s 2005 attempt to ban photography in the subway system, and opposes any restrictions upon photography in public places. NPPA also recently took formal steps to oppose a proposed ban of photography on New Jersey public transportation and its property by the New Jersey Transit Corporation, which withdrew the proposed ban in early January after it received “an unusual number of public comments” and complaints about the proposed rule.”

Chris Dunn, a professor at the New York University Civil Rights Clinic, is the associate legal director for NYCLU. Dunn said in their statement, “The police can and should investigate suspicious activity, but that does not give them license to arrest people for public photography."

Sharma is a critically acclaimed international filmmaker whose most recent film, “Final Solution,” documents politics in India by studying violence in Gujarat. An earlier film, “Aftershocks – A Rough Guide to Democracy,” tells the story of two small Indian villages that fought a government-controlled company that sought to profit from their destruction by an earthquake. Sharma’s suit against New York City says that the filmmaker makes documentaries, films that “use candid footage of peoples, places, and events. He does not use actors, sets, or a crew in his films, and often uses a small, handheld video camera to film.”

On May 13, 2005, Sharma was photographing taxi cabs emerging from the Park Avenue South Underpass near 39th Street and Park Avenue, and had been doing so for about half an hour, the suit says, and he saw no notices prohibiting filming in the area. He had seen tourists shooting footage in the same area on the previous afternoon, as well as at the same time he was filming. He then started walking toward Times Square, continuing to film images of the city when he was approached by a New York City police officer in plain clothes who flashed a badge and asked Sharma to identify himself.

The suit says Sharma did not hesitate to comply with the officer's request, immediately handing over his passport, and explained that he was a visiting filmmaker. After a few questions the officer, still keeping Sharma’s passport, instructed him to follow him to the corner of 39th Street and Park Avenue, which Sharma did. Other officers were summoned to their location and after several minutes Sharma was told that they thought it was suspicious that he was filming a “sensitive building” (the MetLife building) and that he would need to be investigated further.

As the officers questioned Sharma and searched his shoulder bag one of the officers, according to the lawsuit, charged Sharma and shoved him in the chest when Sharma tried to turn on his video camera to show the first officer his footage, believing that showing the police officer the footage might put him more at ease about what he had been photographing. The suit says that after charging and shoving Sharma, the officer grabbed and retained the video camera and said words, to the effect, “we known how to deal with you guys, asshole,” and told Sharma he was authorized to “punch him if necessary.” The suit says Sharma was stunned and scared and feared for his physical safety.

For two hours police held Sharma at the corner, and he was told he was not allowed to move while police retained his camera and passport. The suit says Sharma was denied permission to make a phone call, and after two hours an NYPD sergeant arrived and questioned Sharma. Detective D’Alessandro arrived along with an unidentified detective and they questioned Sharma further before taking the filmmaker to the 17th Precinct office. In the car, the suit says, Sharma told the detectives about what had happened and that he had been shoved and called an “asshole” by the officer. The suit says that detective D’Alessandro apologized for the event and said words to the effect that “we have some young detectives who have not had adequate time for training.”

The suit says that at the precinct, the detectives allowed Sharma to use a computer to search the Internet for his name in order to verify his identity. The search revealed many Web pages that mentioned him and the detectives were “seemingly satisfied that Mr. Sharma was who he claimed to be,” and they returned his passport but retained his camera. They said it was necessary to show their supervisor the footage.

Finally, several hours later, detectives returned Sharma’s camera and apologized to him for the conduct of their colleague and for having detained Sharma for so long, the suit says, and he was released without being charged with any offense. When his camera was returned, Sharma says the LCD screen flap was scratched and the display window was cracked, which had not been the case when he was using the camera earlier in the day. Sharma says he did not film in New York City in the following days because he was afraid police would harass him again, and cancelled appointments he had made for additional shooting.

In the preliminary statement at the top of the federal suit, the claim says, “This is a civil rights action to vindicate the right of law-abiding members of the public to engage in filmmaking and photography in public places in New York City. The plaintiff Rakesh Sharma is an independent documentary filmmaker who in May 2005 was detained for several hours, searched, and harassed by members of the New York City Police Department for doing nothing more than filming on a public sidewalk in midtown Manhattan… The defendants have violated Mr. Sharma’s rights under the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution and his rights under New York State law. Mr. Sharma would like to resume filming in New York City but is afraid to do so because he fears further police detention and harassment, particularly since he is unable to obtain a permit.”

The lawsuit filed by the NYCLU for Sharma can be downloaded as an Acrobat .PDF file here.


Mercury News Loses Attempt To Dismiss "Fair Use" Suit

By Donald R. Winslow

The San Jose Mercury News lost a motion requesting that the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California dismiss a copyright infringement case brought against it by freelance photographer Christopher R. Harris for publishing his photograph of Southern author Walker Percy along with a Mercury News review of the book The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage by author Paul Elie. The book contained the photograph of Percy that was taken by Harris, and the newspaper ran the photograph from the book along with the book review.

Harris, an NPPA member who is now a professor at the College of Mass Communications at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN, shot the photograph while on assignment for Esquire magazine. Harris claims that he was never contacted by the newspaper for rights to use the image, and that he was never paid for its use. He also claims in his suit that the newspaper removed his copyright notice from the photo credit when it published the picture, possibly violating a legal requirement under Federal Copyright statues. Harris worked on assignment for The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek prior to his current teaching position, and he was one of the original photographers associated with the GAMMA/Liaison agency.

On January 3, 2006 the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California ruled against the Mercury News, denying its motion for summary judgment. "[T]he Court cannot say as a matter of law that use of a copyrighted photograph in a book review, in which the book clearly states that the photograph is copyrighted, constitutes fair use," wrote District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer (brother of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer).

In the motion the Mercury News introduced evidence that its practice of accompanying book reviews with copyrighted photographs taken from the book under review is common to other metropolitan newspapers throughout the country (the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and others), and that the practice is legal under the “fair use” defense.

Denying the motion, Judge Breyer wrote that the "Defendant argues that use of the photo was the equivalent of a pictorial quotation from the book and similarly falls under the fair use exception. Yet the photograph was obviously marked as a copyrighted photograph in the book, both on the page the photograph appeared and then again in the credits in the back of the book. In other words, the photograph was a copyrighted work within a copyrighted work. … As a result, the Court cannot say as a matter of law that use of a copyrighted photograph in a book review, in which the book clearly states that the photograph is copyrighted, constitutes fair use. Accordingly, defendant’s motion for summary judgment is denied."

New York Attorney Mickey H. Osterreicher, an NPPA member since 1972 who was a photojournalist for both television and newspapers for three decades before entering law, said, "The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use. The one most pertinent to this case would be 'quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; or for clarification of the author’s observations.'"

Osterreicher said that a December 2005 advisory from the U.S. Copyright Office states that “the safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. ... When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of ‘fair use’ would clearly apply to the situation.”

"All that seems clear in this case is that the Mercury News did not attempt to contact Harris prior to publication, nor did it obtain his permission to republish his copyrighted photograph," Osterreicher said. "This most recent decision by the court holds that whether the doctrine of 'fair use' applies in this situation is a question of material fact to be determined in a hearing later this month."

Harris is represented by attorney Robert A. Spanner, of Trial & Technology Law Group, a Silicon Valley law firm. Spanner wrote to News Photographer magazine, "A photographer’s right to limit distribution and reproduction of his or her copyrighted photographs is a fundamental tenet of copyright law, and the notion that a newspaper can override that right and freely reproduce and distribute – without a license and for free – photographs which the photographer had licensed to a book publisher for a fee, would obviously be a matter of grave concern to the photographer's profession. Mr. Harris stood up for the rights of his fellow photographers because he believed it was the right thing to do, and we are are gratified that his efforts have been vindicated.”

At a hearing on the case last summer, Judge Breyer hinted that the suit brought by Harris against the Mercury News could be an important case in author and photographer rights. Breyer stated for the record that: "On the one hand, this case looks like a very small case. I don’t know whether the copyright fee would have been fifty bucks or a hundred bucks, or whatever it is. I don’t know, but it’s not a large amount. So I must believe that what is at stake here is the principle of whether a newspaper writer can take a photograph from a book and publish it without permission of the copyright holder, and I guess there’s sort of a further – there’s some further arguments as to in publishing the photograph, the copyright notice was eliminated, cropped.”

The case has been scheduled for a hearing before Judge Breyer on January 20, 2006, to set a trial date.

The December 2005 advisory from the U.S. Copyright Office that Osterreicher cites also has this to say about "fair use":

One of the more important limitations on copyrighted material is the doctrine of "fair use." This doctrine has been codified in Section 107 of the copyright act. Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered "fair," such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

the nature of the copyrighted work;

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

and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


The advisory also states that “the distinction between ‘fair use’ and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.”

NPPA member and attorney Mickey H. Osterreicher, Esq., contributed to the research and reporting of this story. He is the chair of the NPPA Media Government Relations Committee and is also a member of the New York State Bar Association Media Law Committee.


Nikon To Concentrate On Digital Cameras, Drops Film Bodies

In a press release distributed first in the United Kingdom yesterday and today in the States, Nikon Corporation announced they have made a decision to focus the company’s resources on digital cameras instead of film cameras, and that they will soon stop making almost all of the Nikon film camera product line.

Nikon said they would continue to recognize professional photographers by manufacturing their flagship film camera, the Nikon F6, along with the manual FM10 amateur camera, and a number of manual interchangeable lenses that are specifically made for the film-only Nikon camera bodies. Until today, Nikon offered nine different single lens reflex (SLR) film cameras, including the F6 and FM10.

The announcement from the Japanese company came in a statement posted on a Web site for Nikon’s UK division, where 95 percent of Nikon’s sales in the last seven years have been digital products. Nikon said that sales of their top digital cameras, and D1 and D2 product line, as well as the success of the D70s and D50, helped the company’s profits climb by 20 percent in the first half of the fiscal year, and helped to move along the company’s transition to a nearly all-digital camera product line.

In addition to the Nikon film cameras being discontinued, other products that will drop out of production and sales include all Nikkor lenses for large format cameras, Nikkor lenses for darkroom enlargers, Nikkor interchangeable manual focus lenses, and related accessories. Nikon anticipates the discontinued products may be in retail distribution until Summer 2006, but they will not be replaced when out of stock.

Nikon said they will continue to manufacture the following lenses for film cameras: Nikkor 20mm f/2.8; Nikkor24mm f/2.8; Nikkor 28mm f/2.8; Nikkor 35mm f/1.4; Nikkor 50mm f/1.2; Nikkor 50mm f/1.4; Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8; Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8; and the PC Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D.

Today’s announcement by Nikon marks another milestone in a gradual transition in the camera maker’s long history. The company started out making only lenses, and then rangefinder film cameras, and then SLR film cameras, and most recently digital cameras. For many decades three film camera makers dominated much of the world’s 35mm rangefinder and SLR photographic market: Canon, Leica, and Nikon. Nikon seemed to be the dominant force in the marketplace in the 1960s, 1970s, and the early 1980s with their film SLRs, especially with news photographers and journalists, before Canon moved heavily into the field in the 1990s and gained many of the professional users.

In 1917, three of Japan’s optical makers joined to form one company in Tokyo called Nippon Kogaku K.K. They first used the name “Nikkor” in 1932 to identify their lenses. Through the 1930s, Nikkor made lenses with a bayonet mount for Hansa-Canon cameras. The first Nikon camera was the Nikon 1, a rangefinder camera in 1948 with a 50mm f/3.5 lens, a cloth shutter, four shutter speeds plus “time” and “bulb” settings. Fewer than 1,000 Nikon 1’s were made, and some were manufactured with “Made In Occupied Japan” stamped on the base.

The rangefinder line continued through the 1950s with the Nikon M and Nikon S, the S2, the SP, the S3, and S4. The S3m Nikon Rangefinder was introduced in 1960, and for the Millennium, Nikon produced a Nikon S3 Y2K in 2000, and a limited edition black body S3. The last Nikon rangefinder film camera was the Nikon SP, released in 2004, a recreation of the original and legendary camera with a 35mm f/1.8 lens and a cloth curtain shutter.

The Nikon F 35mm SLR film camera was introduced in 1959 and it was quickly popularized by photojournalists as a “news” camera. The chrome body and a viewing prism that allowed the photographer to see exactly what the lens was seeing, regardless of which lens was in use, with a single-stroke film advance, made it easier to use than a rangefinder camera for many while photograph rapidly-moving subjects or changing scenes. Nikon followed with the Nikon F Photomic in 1962, basically a Nikon F except with an interchangeable prism “finder” that included a built-in light meter. The Photomic T version of it came along in 1965 and the TN model in 1967.

The Nikon F Photomic TN (all black, with no brand icons) was developed for NASA in 1968 for use on America’s space shuttle, and the first major advance on the F model came with the release of the Nikon F2 in 1971. Consumer (or “pro-sumer”) models first came out in 1977 with the Nikon FM, and the Nikon FE in 1978 and the EM in 1979. A high-speed motor driven version of the F2/T was released in 1978 in advance of the Moscow Olympics (the “boycotted” Olympics) with a top speed of 10 frames per second and a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th second.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Nikon continued to advance their high-end profession F camera line with the F3 in 1980, and for the “pro-sumer” the Nikon FG and Nikon FM2 in 1982. It was full eight years before the next major leap forward in the F line, with the release of the F4 in 1988. It marked a major design departure from the traditional Nikon F camera body shape. The new fourth-generation camera featured ergonomic design for fitting into the photographer’s hand, and the change in appearance even carried over to a change in the typography in the Nikon logo on the prism front. The camera had interchangeable viewfinders, interchangeable film backs, auto-focusing lenses, freeze focusing, bracketing, multiple electronic automatic exposure features, and multiple power sources. The Nikon F5 was introduced in 1996 with highly complex 3D color matrix light metering, interchangeable finders, and sophisticated integrated flash technology.

Nikon’s future changed radically in 1995 when they partnered with Fuji Film Co. to develop one of the first “35mm” professional digital cameras. Around the same time, Eastman Kodak used a Nikon N90S body to develop their version of a professional digital camera, the Nikon/Kodak DCS420, a large and bulky camera that offered no way for a photographer to view the images that were stored on an internal computer hard drive (which was housed beneath the camera body in the space traditionally occupied by a motor drive). The images had to be exported through an SCSI cable port on the camera’s back to a computer in order to be viewed on the computer’s screen.

Nikon released their first high-end digital professional camera on their own, without development partners, in 1999 with the Nikon D1, a camera modeled in appearance after the F5 35mm film camera. The D1 uses small, removeable “flash” memory cards instead of film (which can be slipped into an external card reader or a laptop computer's PCMCIA card slot), and it has an LDC viewing monitor on the camera’s back for instant visual feedback to the photographer. The next professional digital versions that followed were the D1X and the D1H, followed in 2004 with the “pro-sumer” D70. Today Nikon also offers another “pro-sumer” version, the D50.

Nikon’s commitment to the high-end film camera for professionals continued with the release of a sixth generation version of the original F, the Nikon F6 introduced in 2004. The camera, likely to be their last high-end F model as the company’s emphasis switches now to digital, features Nikon’s most advanced 3D color matrix metering to date, which works in one or all of any 11 selected focus areas, multiple auto-focus modes, five shooting modes, four film advance modes, and the full range of automated and integrated flash systems.


NPPA Charter Member Maurice Johnson, 86

A memorial service will be held February 3, 2006, in Chevy Chase, MD, for NPPA charter member Maurice Johnson, 86, who was the longest serving director of the U.S. Senate Press Photographers Gallery in Washington, DC, until he retired in 1998. Johnson died December 22 at his home.

Johnson was a legendary Washington congressional photographer, and he became the superintendent of the Senate Gallery for press photographers in 1969. He was a photographer for International News Photos and United Press International before serving in the Capitol. He’s also a past president of the White House News Photographers Association. Johnson was a charter NPPA member when it Joseph Costa founded the organization in 1946 and he remained an active member through 1954.

Surviving Johnson are his wife, Rolanda, and children Keith and Maureen.

Johnson’s memorial service is scheduled to be held at All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, MD, on February 3 at 2 p.m. and a reception will follow. For more information about the service please contact Senate Gallery director Jeff Kent at +

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area, 7913 Westpark Drive, Suite 101, McLean, VA, 22102.


KNPA Seminar & POY Contest On January 20, 21

Kentucky News Photographers Association president Joe Imel wants to remind everyone in NPPA’s Region 4 that KNPA’s annual Photographer of the Year contest and photojournalism seminar will be held January 20 and 21, 2006, at the Louisville Marriott East hotel. Imel says the event is “the premier showcase for photojournalism in the state.”

Still and television judging will take place on Friday, January 20, and it is open to the public. The educational seminar takes place all day Saturday, January 21, and includes a lighting session. Speakers scheduled to appear include Vincent Laforet, a contract photographer for The New York Times; Susan Biddle of The Washington Post; and freelance photographer Amy Toensing from Philadelphia, PA.

Television speakers scheduled to appear include independent producer Ray Farkas; KUSA-TV’s Corky Scholl, who is the NPPA Ernie Crisp Television News Photographer of the Year; and Michael Rosenblum, a video-journalist (JV).

The deadline for entries into the still photography and television contests is January 10. Imel says that in-depth, as well as all team and sports categories, need to be delivered to Drew Cook no later than January 7.

For more information contact Imel at [email protected] or see the Web site at for contest and seminar information. On the Web site is a downloadable Acrobat .PDF file of the still and television contest rules, as well as information about registering for the seminar and the awards luncheon.


Changes In This Year's Best Of Photojournalism Competition

By Stephen Sample & Jared Haworth

DURHAM, NC – The first year of the Best Of Photojournalism contest was remarkable. In the space of a month, we created an international photojournalism contest that — unlike the other major photojournalism contests such as World Press and POYi — covers all of photojournalism, whether presented in print, on television, or on the Web.

Five years ago during that first BOP contest, we took in and judged nearly 25,000 images. Considering that the contest committee members themselves had predicted 10,000 images in the first year, the initial success of the contest was remarkable. And the contest has grown and prospered since: the number of entries grew by a whopping 66 percent from 2002 to 2005. However, the very success of the contest means that it’s now time to revisit some of the entry and judging procedures. We need to make sure that they will still work efficiently with 50,000 images – or 100,000, for that matter.

There are some changes in the entry and judging processes for the 2006 Best Of Photojournalism competition, with the largest changes being in the Photo Editing and Still Photography contests (but all the divisions benefited from the new development efforts).

Registering for contest. All four divisions of the contest are now using the registration system that was developed for the Still Photo division last year. Each entrant fills out the Contest Registration Form and gets their unique Contest Identification Code, which is then submitted along with each entry. This ensures that every entry can be clearly identified, while keeping judging anonymous.

The change to a single online registration system also means that (1) users don’t have to fill out contact information for every entry, and (2) users who enter more than one division of the contest (for example, Photo Editing and Web Sites) can use the same Contest Identification Code for all their entries.

Photo editing division. Starting in the 2006 contest, entries in Newspaper and Magazine Picture Editing categories must be submitted in Acrobat .PDF format: only the Best Use of Photography categories (EU01, EU02 and EU03) will use hard copy. This change should make the entry process faster and easier for everyone, especially for those outside the United States.

The adoption of a digital entry workflow for the Picture Editing division also means that entrants can now enter electronically, using FTP. This offers faster turnaround times, and faster confirmation of submissions.

Still photo division. The Still Photo division has always included a lot of information with each image — story name, headline, caption, photographer and publication credits, copyright, time and location where the image was created, contest category, and more. But that breadth of information also means that there is a lot of room for typos. And some typos (in the contest ID or the category, for example) can get an entry disqualified.

On the entry preparation side, one solution is to make it easier to apply file information like categories, contest IDs, and story names to a group of images. Most of the category errors last year were from images that had been entered both in a single-image category and as part of a story, and which still had the category information from the other time they were entered. Using Photo Mechanic for the captioning process should help with this, since it allows the user to apply headers from an IPTC Stationery Pad to groups of files — and does so without touching the image data, so setting file information in multiple passes won’t result in a lower-quality image.

But even with better user control and validation of the file information, there will be some errors, which will need to be corrected after the images are sent.

Last year, we did some simple validation on the entry data, but the real safeguard was the preview period: users could check their entries online, and contact the Contest Coordinator with any corrections. This worked, but it left all the changes in the hands of one person, with all the time constraints that implies.

Validating headers. While all the information included as part of the Still Photo entry images provides additional opportunities for errors, it also provides ways to check for them. For example, entrants arrange their images into folders by category, and if the category name from the folder doesn’t match the category name from the file headers, that’s a red flag. Similar checks exist if the Contest ID from the Object field doesn’t match the one from the folder structure, or if the eMail address doesn’t match the Contest ID. This year, the import processing code is being significantly smarter about suggesting likely values when it finds a conflict — and those automatic corrections will be noted in the entry confirmation eMail in case the user wants to override.

Still photo & photo editing. This year, both the Still Photo and Photo Editing divisions will allow some of the entry data to be edited directly by the contestant. So if an entry is mis-labeled, it can be corrected before judging begins. On the Editing side, only the credits can be changed; but the Still Photography division allows headlines, captions, credits, and more to be edited.

Editing will be conducted via a secure login interface, using the password the user set up when they joined the contest — so choosing a good password is important. But to guard against bad password choices, or users who leave a shared machine logged in after editing an image caption, changes will be made to a copy of the image database, rather than to the master; and all changes will be reported to the entrant via eMail. So if an unauthorized change were made, it could easily be “rolled back.”

Entrants will be informed when the editing period begins. The editing period will end before the images become available for public view, so once the contest entry archive has been “published,” the information will remain stable.

Some might argue that user editing works against the educational goals of the contest — after all, why bother to get your category right in the first place if you can just go in and correct it later? Whatever happened to taking care with your entries, and responsibility for your errors? And indeed, the contest committee has taken a similar position with respect to captions: by publishing captions “as is,” we are pushing photographers to learn to write — or at least, to learn to write captions. But it was felt that allowing entrants to correct their files prior to the start of judging was a useful educational goal on its own. And the administrative benefits of removing the editing bottleneck are considerable.

Still photos & online judging. Judging a thousand images per hour is grueling work. Some images are clearly not going to be winners, but deciding which image is the best can be a lot harder. As the pool gets smaller, the judges have to argue the relative merits of each entry, and the judging slows down. But having the judges spend more time at Poynter (and take more time off work to do so) really isn’t practical. So as the contest grows, it becomes harder and harder to get through all the judging in the time available. To alleviate this time crunch, the judging for the 2006 contest is being split in half. The judges will make a first “triage” pass over the images remotely, before they go to Poynter, and they then can spend the full week of on-site judging deciding which of the remaining images are really the best.

One issue for the judging in the past has been thumbnail image quality. Using a better scaling method would make it easier to judge images in Gallery view, but even then a larger size thumbnail is needed. The situation for the Single-image view was in some ways even worse, since at standard screen sizes the image was being scaled on the fly, which almost requires a low-quality algorithm.

However, high-quality scaling methods such as Lanczos and Mitchell are slow. Since we are creating multiple thumbnails for each image, performance is critical: there will be over 300,000 thumbnails generated from the Still entries this year, and at two seconds per thumbnail, just generating the thumbnails — without any of the other entry processing — would take a week.

Creating thumbnails. Fortunately, Apple included a Lanczos scaler in Core Image, which is a part of Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger). Core Image is a graphics manipulation library that automatically optimizes your code to run on whatever processors are available — including the one on your graphics card. Just handing the thumbnail generation off to Core Image — with no other optimizations — cut 40 percent off the thumbnail generation time. And that’s with an Unsharp Mask and a crop thrown in to give the images clean edges. That’s almost three days shaved off the entry processing.

What if? Critical systems, as anyone working with technology knows, are prone to failure. The Still Photography contest judges have tens of thousands of images to judge in a little less than a week: they can’t afford downtime. So, what happens to the Best of Photojournalism competition if the contest server fails during a judging session at the Poynter Institute? Hopefully, very little.

The main Still Photo contest server is kept on-site in St. Petersburg, so that the judges can zip through the images without worrying about network speed. But there is also a second “backup” server with a mirror image of all the contest data that is held in reserve at another location and can be sent to Poynter if needed.

In the past, this was adequate: we could have completed judging even with a 12-hour “hole” while the backup server was in transit (or conducted the judging over the Internet, if we were near the end of the contest). But with the anticipated size of this year’s contest, even overnight shipping takes too long: if we lost eight hours of judging, we wouldn’t be able to process all the images. So we are adding a third backup that can be accessed remotely while the second server is in transit.

Judging results will be synchronized in real time between the primary contest server and a local database in the judging room. If the on-site contest server fails, we will have a real-time record of which images have been voted in or out. That snapshot can then be applied to the two backup machines, and judging will switch over to the online server until the reserve server arrives on site.

For links to the rules and guidelines for each division, please click here. For more information, please contact Kenniff at [email protected]. The Best Of Photojournalism 2006 contest is sponsored by Canon.

Read earlier story.


NPPA Retains First Amendment Attorney

DURHAM, NC – The National Press Photographers Association announced today that it will be retaining an attorney to assist with its growing need to support photographers’ rights. The move will enhance the organization’s ability to fight policies that are harmful for photojournalists.

“With the frequency of issues that we have been dealing with,” said NPPA president Tony Overman, “from the smallest municipality to the Supreme Court, we really needed someone with legal experience and an understanding of photojournalism to help NPPA defend photojournalists’ rights in America.”

Attorney Mickey Osterreicher at the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC.Mickey Osterreicher, an attorney based in the Buffalo, NY, area will be retained by the NPPA effective September 1, 2006. Osterreicher is a long time NPPA member and has done significant legal work for the organization on a pro-bono basis. In 2006 he was awarded NPPA’s Kenneth P. McLaughlin Award of Merit and the Presidential Medal.

“After having been a member of NPPA since 1973, it is an honor and a pleasure to represent the organization in a legal capacity,” Osterreicher commented. “I believe that it is very important that the rights of photojournalists be upheld and I look forward to working with the NPPA to advocate on behalf of our members.”

“The work that the NPPA is doing on First Amendment matters continues at a break-neck pace and is beyond what can be handled on a volunteer basis,” said Alicia Wagner Calzada, NPPA Advocacy Committee chairperson and NPPA’s immediate past president. “This is a natural step as our commitment to supporting photographers continues. We are fortunate that an attorney like Mickey is available to us. His familiarity with the industry, with the NPPA, and with the legal issues we deal with, makes him the ideal person for this position.”

The Washington, DC, law firm of Covington & Burling has also provided significant pro-bono legal support to the NPPA and will continue to do so. The main contact at the firm had been Kurt Wimmer, who recently left to take a position as senior vice president and general counsel for Gannett. The new NPPA contacts at Covington & Burling are partner Steve Weiswasser and associate Robert Sherman.

Osterreicher has served as chairman of the NPPA Government Media Relations Committee and as a member of the Advocacy Committee. He is also a member of the New York State Bar Association Media Law Committee and an adjunct lecturer for SUNY at Buffalo and the University of Buffalo. He has advised and provided support to the NPPA in the matter of cameras in the courtroom, the need for a shield law, the NFL’s removal of local television photographers from the sidelines, copyright issues, the attempted New York City subway photography ban, and the NCAA vs. photographers issue. A new Media Government Relations Committee chair will be appointed by Overman to replace Osterreicher.

Osterreicher, who is married with two grown children, was a photographer for the Buffalo Courier-Express until its demise in 1982. He worked for the ABC television affiliate WKBW-TV from 1982 until 2004. His still and video work have appeared in such news outlets as The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, USA Today, ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, and ESPN.

He became interested in pursuing a career in law while covering court cases on the job and graduated cum laude from the University of Buffalo Law School in 1998. Osterreicher continues his photography work as he practices law. He volunteers, teaches, and advises in various capacities that combine the two talents.

Legal articles by Mickey Osterreicher:


Best Of Photojournalism 2006 Accepting Entries

DURHAM, NC – NPPA is accepting entries in the Best Of Photojournalism 2006 contest. Online registration is active and entries are being uploaded by photojournalists from around the world. All entrants in all divisions of the contest must first register online. Entrants will then receive an ID code by eMail that will allow photographers and editors to submit their entries.

“There are many submission, category, and rule changes in all the divisions of the contest this year, so please review the rules and read about all the changes,” NPPA contest coordinator Thomas Kenniff said. The Still Photography rules are currently posted online in English, French, Japanese, and German, and soon will be posted in Spanish and Russian as well.

There have also been some technical changes this year, and also changes in the entry and juding processes. Read about many of these changes here.

The Best Of Photojournalism 2006 is sponsored by Canon.

Photojournalists with questions about the rules or entries and who want more information should contact Kenniff at [email protected] or by calling +1.919.383.7246 ext. 16.

Go here for links to the rules and guidelines for each division.

Still photography entrants can go here to register.

Inside the eMail with the registration ID code, entrants will also receive a license code for the application PhotoMechanic. The download of PhotoMechanic for Macintosh or Windows-based computers is here. (Note: This version of PhotoMechanic is a trial license that will expire on the contest entry deadline, February 10, 2006. To purchase a full version of PhotoMechanic, please go here.)

To enter the Still Photography Editing categories, please go here to read the rules and submit entries.

To enter the Television Photography categories, please go here to read the rules and submit entries.

To enter the Television Editing categories, please go here to read the rules and submit entries.

To enter the Web categories, go here to read the rules and to submit entries.

For links to the rules and guidelines for each division, please click here. For more information, please contact Kenniff at [email protected]. The Best Of Photojournalism 2006 contest is sponsored by Canon.

Read earlier story.


Bay Area Photojournalist Bob McLeod, 59

Bob McLeod, 59, a staff photojournalist and picture editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, died January 3, 2006, at his home in Antioch, CA, from lung cancer – although he was never a smoker – the newspaper reported. He retired from the newspaper recently because of his health, and his condition was only discovered within the last year.

McLeod's friends at the Chronicle say a memorial service or wake is being planned for sometime soon, in the coming months. Details will be provided when available. For more information about the service please contact Rick Romagosa via eMail.

McLeod was a photojournalist in the Bay Area for nearly four decades, first at the San Francisco Examiner and then for the Chronicle. A native of Daly City, CA, he started photography as a hobby as a 12-year-old and, after studying briefly at San Francisco State, joined the Examiner in 1967 as a copy boy. He did that for five years before becoming a staff photographer, and McLeod was named director of photography for the Examiner in 1989.

As a general assignment photographer for the Examiner, he was the first to photograph Patty Hearst with her parents in their Knob Hill apartment when she was released from jail, and he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for a photo essay called “The Caregivers” done with his wife, Examiner reporter Beth Witrogen McLeod. She told the Chronicle that her husband's favorite pictures were the thousands of images he took of ballet dancers over the years, pictures that he donated to the San Francisco Ballet photo archive.

McLeod is survived by his wife and a brother and sister. Plans for a memorial service are pending. The family requests memorial donations be made to Hospice and Palliative Care of Contra Costa, 2051 Harrison Street, Concord, CA, 94520.


NJ Photographer Donald L. "Don" Davidson, 76

Donald L. “Don” Davidson, 76, of Denville, NJ, an NPPA Life Member, died December 16, 2005, from cancer. He joined NPPA in 1964 and had been a photojournalist for the Associated Press as well as being the owner of New Jersey Newsphotos, Inc., which represented the photographs of The Star-Ledger in Newark for more than three decades.

The New York Press Photographers Association reported that Davidson was born in Queens, NY, and had served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean and Vietnam wars, retiring from the service in 1989 as a first sergeant. He then worked for the New York City Medical Examiner’s office in New York City as a forensic pathologist until retiring from that post in 1987.

Davidson is survived by his wife, Maureen, and three adult children: Mark, Carole, and Steve. Funeral services were held December 19 at the Norman Dean Home for Services in Denville.