December 2, 2010

November 25, 2010

November 18, 2010

Coming to grips with Wired's pick of the litter

Always on the hunt for the perfect combination of equipment to live and work with, I recently got a Panasonic GF1 thinking it would the perfect little commuter camera to accompany me on the train and other domestic adventures.  

After shooting with both the 20mm f/1.7 and 14mm-45mm zoom lenses, I started questioning my choice.  Fitted with a lens, the finder, neck strap and shade, while it was considerable lighter that a 5DmkII, the form factor was remarkably large.  Vowing to be less Sherpa-like, I switched from my backpack to a small commuter bag, so size is important. 

While the images the GF1 made were good, I have to say, I was expecting more. For the high cost and larger then expected size of the system, the GF1 made it’s way to eBay as I replaced it with it's little brother, the Lumix LX5.  Loving both German lenses (my license plates are Zeiss 1, after all) and wide-angle lenses, the 24mm f/2 Leica lens sure looked hard to beat. 

After shooting with the camera for a couple days, I am ecstatic with my decision, the lens is hard to beat and the smaller, pocketable size makes all the difference in the world.  It is clearly the logical bridge between the iPhone and the mkII. 

The only improvement I was looking for was a more robust grip than the camera provided.  The current Leica version of the LX5, the D-LUX 5 and the earlier D-LUX 4 both have accessory grips available that would solve this.  A quick trip to world famous Leica dealer, Central Camera to talk to Dan and Mani, proved the D-LUX grip would be perfect...


the D-LUX 4 has a completely flat front and Panasonic added a moulded grip that looked freakishly similar to one of the fantastic products made by Richard Franiec.

Looking at the Leica grip (model #18697) it looked like soft aluminum that could be milled down to fit over the handgrip.  I'm game...out came the plastic and a minute later I was the owner of a shiny new D-LUX 4 grip.

After the wife and kids were tucked away in bed, I headed into the basement and constructed a mount to hold the grip properly in the mill and fired it up.  Less then a minute later I slammed on the brakes because I realized the grip is actually made of plastic.  Bummer, but now, easy peasy... plug in the Dremel and get to work.  About an hour later I had removed enough of the upright that the grip will mount to the camera perfectly.  Even the centering pin on the bottom of the grip lines up perfectly to the bottom of the camera.

So out goes this call to all large handed owners of Wired Magazine's camera of the year: if you own a Dremel (and are comfortable dicing up some perfectly good Leica products) then rejoice and enjoy the added ergonomics you find with this modification.


November 8, 2010

Parting thoughts (and shots) about/of New York

Times Square shot and stitched with the iphone

I was only in New York for two days and after a two hour wind delay leaving Chicago and an hour-long medical emergency that kept us from our gate upon arrival, it seemed as if I would be in a airplane longer then I would be on the ground.  The last time I was in New York was 2006, also for PhotoPlus, but with my wonderful wife Kate. 

24 hour Apple Store
When I'm traveling by myself I tend to be a people watcher, wearing headphones and shades so I can keep to myself while peering out observing others.  This trip was different from the get go.  I spent most of the flight chatting about all things Mac as I found myself having an enjoyable flight comparing not just iPhone but iPad apps with my neighbors.

Once on the ground in NY, I keep waiting for the overtly rude encounters that are depicted almost as a sport in the movies but I have to say, each interaction with a true blue New Yorker was pleasant and genuine.

Right from the cab ride, check-in and my 1:00 am visit to the deli across from the hotel (best baklava that I've had in a while) the Soup Nazi was nowhere to be found.  It felt more like stepping into the Carlos Bakery for an episode of the Cake Boss.  Cab drivers, the B&H shuttle bus driver guy, even random people on the street seemed warm and genuinely eager to tell me about their family and kids and really anything 'New York' when asked.

I was particularly moved by an interaction I glimpsed quickly that brought a tear to my eye.  My boss and I (both devout Applephiles) were cutting across town after dinner to check out the flagship Apple Store.  We were walking through the theater district taking it all in when I spotted the handoff.  A behind the scenes theater tech was poking his head out a back door with what I would guess was his six year old son.  His batman back pack was hanging squarely across both shoulders and his coat was zipped up to his chin.  At 10:00 pm his eyes were glassy and the poor kid looked as weary as one would expect.  As we passed them, mom was picking him up and I overheard dad saying, 'he only had one worksheet that he did at school'... that's what made me pull my phone out to check the time. 

My boys, ages 7 and 10, would not be able to do homework this late and I was relieved this little guy wouldn't have to sit at the dining room table to get his done before bed.  I can only hope this was the end of a super special behind the scenes night with his dad and not a regular occurrence by hard working parents simply trying to make ends meet.

It still makes me sad to think about him.

So New Yorkers and everyone, I hope you enjoy these pictures of your city.  I sure enjoyed shooting them and especially my time in your city -  see ya next year!

November 4, 2010

Robert Vreeland, 1986-2010

Student turned published photographer and friend.

you will be missed Rob.

November 1, 2010

Cutting to the Chase, Jarvis @ Javits!

This years keynote speaker on the opening day of PDN's PhotoPlus was photographer, artist and innovator/extraordinaire, Chase Jarvis. The topic, The New Creativity and the Social Art of Photography
His opening statement: 'There has never been a better time to be a photographer' was a prelude to a discussion about new avenues that technology has has made available for photographers and visual artists. Chase went on to challenge all 600 in the audience and the tens of thousands watching a live feed, to embrace these tools, use them often to share your voice and vision with other like-minded individuals. 

Regularly squawking a similar message in my classroom, I felt like he was preaching to the choir, which makes this part pretty funny. 

As he's urging us all to share our own vision with the world, not a soul (a least that I could see) was shooting any pictures.  So to give him an instant and global shout out plus a hearty amen, I shot this pan and uploaded to my flickr stream, all during his round table discussion, which was fantastic, btw.

So shoot share and be happy.  Be on the lookout for the keynote and push yourself to apply any and all new technology to your own work.
iPhone 4, flipped to B&W and tweaked in PS Express and assembled in AutoStitch

Ironic beyond belief...

Heading out to PhotoEast for workshops and industry stuff, I pulled into the new long term parking lot at Midway just as the sun was setting.  For some time, I have wanted to photograph the small propeller wind turbines the city has installed on the roof the evening  sky and light looked great.  

Being that day (October 27th) was the windiest day in Chicago in decades (and my mom's birthday, Happy Birthday Mom! Celebrate by checking out her blog) one would think they would be spinning with enough might to power the entire parking garage and half the airport too, but no, securely tied in place, they were going nowhere, generating nothing.

Between trying not to get blown over and wiping the amazing amount of tears pouring out of my eyes from the gritty 50 mph gusts, I was struggling to hold the camera still and compose a decent photo.     

For some time now I've described my work Cultural Irony and while this particular image is not ironic on it's own, the situation and back story certainly was.

Building your own cine style 5D MKII finder

Late in October 2008 I got an email to come to ProGear to check out the new 5D mkII live and in person.  Without a doubt it would be an hit, I don't think anybody knew at the time (well maybe Vincent Laforet did) just what a complete game changer this single camera would turn out to be. 

I truly feel as if Canon thought it would be a nice feature to capture the video already generated from the live view LCD that made its first prosumer appearance in the 40D, I don't think they anticipated just how this one little feature would change the face of commercial photography as we know it. 

By I digress... I went home after playing with the camera that night wondering how to adapt a professional video finder to this new and magical machine that was on its way to capturing the attention of the industry. 

October 30, 2010

New Career?

Thanks to the amazing Danyel Duncan, photo student and cage worker who was nice enough to shoot a picture of my madden voyage as a big-time auctioneer at this years annual charity auction, Imagine.  I have to admit it was a bit scary at first, but it turned out to be an absolute gas and an all around enjoyable evening downtown and all for a great cause to boot.

I personally had two pieces sell (whoo-hoo) with 100% of the proceeds going to the Chicago chapter of DIFFA, The Design Industry Fighting For Aids.

October 22, 2010


For whatever reason lately, paperwork seems to be multiplying when I’m looking away.  As the pile was growing on my desk, I finally got to sneak away yesterday and shoot a picture of Dawn Heitsch of Grow Here, an architecture and design firm focused on growing food in Chicago.

Even if it was just for 30 minutes in the studio,  it was enough to be completely refreshed.  I shot her in two setups, a more formal sitting and this one here.  The scuffed up wall of the studio seemed to fit the image nicely.


October 6, 2010

Zeiss 18mm test

A little while back I bought the amazing new 18mm Zeiss in an EF mount for use on the full frame 5DmkII.  I’ve always loved wide angle lenses and while I was stuffing the piggy bank in the name of the new 14mm mkII Canon when Zeiss announced this lens, which comes in much cheaper then the Canon. It would be a perfect complement to the 25mm Zeiss I've been using for video.  Since getting it a couple months ago I’ve shot it on a couple of jobs but I haven’t really done as detailed of a test as I usually do on a lens.  Attached are some test shots made on the way to the Apple store on a perfect Chicago afternoon. 

The lens does amazing well in a variety of situations as you would expect any lens carrying the Zeiss name. Several have complete tonal ranges, from the brightest of highlights to the deepest dark shadow areas and in each situation it performs swimmingly, even the shots with the sun in the frame.  The only word I can think of is ‘buttery’ which doesn't really describe a darn thing until you see the results on a decent monitor and then you will agree, ‘buttery’ is a perfect word. 


no really....

I think I'm really done with the book this time.  

Again, thanks to all the students that contributed their amazing images to this project, it’s a better book because of it.
front cover image, Ricky Kluge 
Now go and pre-order…  


September 11, 2010

iPhone 4 handheld shooting mount

With the iPhone 4’s 720p video there is an explosion of people using them to make everything from corporate films and music videos, commercials and numerous experimental films.  When you use them in ideal conditions the phone can produce some pretty remarkable results, keeping in mind it is designed to make calls after all.

Soon after I got my phone I realized the ergonomics for using it as a video camera are far from ideal. So, like so many times before, I began scratching some sketches in a notebook and after everybody was asleep I found myself digging through a box of spare parts and heading to the workbench.

Not long there after, I had a working grip that made the phone feel more like a camera.  Getting your wrist under the phone instead finger tipping the sides makes for much smoother shooting. With the grip on the left you can one hand it, if need be without worrying about dropping it. 

Just about the same time I emerged from the basement, a friend sent me a link to the Owle Bubo, a commercially available product designed with a similar goal.  The Owle comes with a Vericorder mic (that is incompatible with the iPhone 4) and a silicone case that keeps it in the mount nice and snug.  Each corner of the Olwe has a ¼ 20-tripod mount that is great for mounting it just about anywhere and anyhow.  The unit also ships with a two-part macro/wide angle lens of pretty decent quality…for what it is.

My grip, while looking nowhere as svelte as the Bubo, uses a plethora of spare parts.  It is essentially a Metz handle mount bottom bracket with a Hasselblad ergonomic flash bracket handle topped off with a Stroboframe accessory shoe which is perfect for mounting an LED or Sennheiser MKE 400 microphone.  I should note that the Sennheiser mic works swimmingly with the phone without needing adapters.  Initially I had used a car mount to mount the phone but it didn’t hold it securely so I bought the cage portion of the Zacuto iPhone mount, which holds the phone perfectly secure.  Even though I’m not at all crazy about putting any lens whatsoever in front of the already tiny lens and sensor of the phone, I added a magnetic wide angle lens to the front which works OK…a bit dreamy when heavily backlit… I’ve already ordered a higher quality wide-angle lens.

September 7, 2010

The light at the end.....

I might be mistaken but I just might be done with the book.  I actually tried calculating how much PepsiMax I drank while I was writing and shooting.  While the gallon count may never be known but I have to say, it sure did the trick. 

My portion of book is done and will be out early December.  I have to say I would be nowhere if it weren’t for the amazing students that shared some of their fantastic imagery with me. 

Here is the portion from the acknowledgments in the front of the book where I get to thank them:

“A huge debt of gratitude needs to be paid to my students whose energy and enthusiasm makes every day at the college feel like a weekend.  I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate being able to work around you, with you, and for you each and every day. I especially need to thank a group of young professionals who were so kind to lend their fantastic imagery to this project. Your images truly make these pages jump! Not necessarily in order of appearance, the students whose images appear are Britton Black, Stephanie Remelius, John Karl Brewick, Nick Provost, Robert Vreeland, Ricky Kluge, and Tyler Lundburg.” 

Please click on their sites and check them out for yourselves:

Nick Provost:
Britton Black:
Ricky Kluge (for the cover photo):
Stephanie Remelius:
J. Karl Brewick:
Tyler Lundburg:


July 28, 2010

phones, films and fun...

So tonight is my first big ‘iPhone-as-a-movie-camera-and-editing-platform’ shoot with Barbara Karant at MSI.  In prep, I shot a little video Monday night of the boys on a post-dinner bike ride to test out the phone and the iMovie editing software that you can use on the phone.

What the camera lacks in tonal range and what iMovie for the iPhone lacks in functionality (remember…it is still a phone after all) is more then made up by the fact that the entire video was shot, edited and soundtrack added on a phone that fits in your pocket!

Both as a society and as professional creators of imagery, moving and still, I don’t think anybody has really grappled with the long-term ramifications of this kind of functionality.  Sure the technology isn’t going to replace my MKII or a Panavision as it has some obvious drawbacks but think where this technology will be in five years. 

If the goal is to tell an interesting and compelling story and get it out to the world, then this phone has made a quantum leap in delivering that ability to the masses. 

Everyone is now free to make a bad film!
Here is a link for an HD version:

The other thing I found interesting was the packing list for the shoot, it looked like this:

Fully charged iPhone 4
Custom made handle bracket for greater handheld stability (photo to follow)
Tripod with fluid head
Bug spray
Water, coffee and gum

That’s about it…easy peasy.

So, enjoy my babies and the minute long test film while you ponder the future.

July 22, 2010

Awwww jeez!!

Alright, I got my first iPhone, a shiny new iPhone 4 and I have to say I’m hooked.  I got it on Sunday and I’ve been shooting pictures and video like crazy.  So much so that I set up a Flickr account to post the images straight from the phone, it’s a kick!

Here is a link to the flickr account:

Look for my first iPhone HD film that will be shot and edited on the phone in a couple of weeks.  Rock star architectural photographer Barbara Karant is taking our Architecture and Interior Photography students to the Smart Home at Museum of Science and Industry for a shoot and I plan to be in tow with my camera err phone in hand.

Here is a couple of my first shots -the train platform below was the first shot I made with it.

July 17, 2010

Harrington at NeoCon, 2010

Here is a short film project I just completed.  It also served as an editing test for my upcoming Multimedia class.  I wanted to see how well my older 13-inch MacBook Pro could manage the MKII files.  FCP was quite sticky at times so I tried iMovie which ran surprisingly smooth if down sizing the file is OK for your use.

The majority of the film was cut w/ iMovie, then FCP for a little bit of color finessing and the end credits. 

I shot with Canon’s 14mm, 24mm–70mm, and the 100-400mm L lenses along with the Zeiss 25mm for the Merlin stuff.

Thanks to Professor Kliq for the kicking soundtrack!


July 16, 2010

Psychedelic aftermath?

What looks like Dexter Morgan making a stop in the 60’s, are the remnants of Interior Design instructor Peter Klick’s experimental design class.  Here are some pics of the project:
quite odd…

July 4, 2010

America America

Linhof Super Technika III w/ a 65mm Super Angulon on 4x5 Velvia

June 30, 2010

bridges and bombs...

images from the 55 to 294 south feeder ramp, 6/29/2010

June 19, 2010


at least the 4.0 is around the corner...

June 7, 2010


I thought I had a great idea...

turns out it was screwy...

pictures from my forthcoming book :)

May 24, 2010

Monday Monday...

out the window with a 300mm lens.

May 20, 2010

Holy 'I can see in the dark Batman!'

The amazing 5DmkII, 24-70mm f/2.8L, 15 seconds @ f/5.6, ISO 100, Lastolite grey balance on location.

May 5, 2010

Stop the Presses

Almost caused a traffic accident while coming home from a yummy dinner celebrating my wife’s 40th Monday evening.  Saw the light reflecting off the aluminum studs and just about slammed on the brakes.  Got a couple shots before the sun dropped behind the hill of a new golf course.  

The developer pulled up and said, you wanna see the best view in the west, and he took Sam and me up to the 9th hole, which is an whopping 8 stories above 31st avenue with a view of the skyline.

Here he is at sunset.

May 2, 2010


Yesterday was Harrington’s graduation.  Despite botching some of the names as I was announcing, it is truly a wonderful feeling to see the pride and confidence of the students as they complete the program.  

The student speaker for digital photography was Samantha Hunter whose speech was simply FANTASTIC!

Congratulations to all the grads, I'm proud of you all!!


Saturday Morning

I saw these while I was driving downtown on Saturday morning, couldn't help but think about what went wrong on Friday night.

Had to pull off to shoot them on my way home, don't know why but it has really stuck with me.

April 28, 2010

Board for an Hour.

This morning I got to spend a rare hour at the Chicago Board of Trade and the CME documenting a delegation of Saudi Arabian officials visiting the exchanges.