Manipulating election results

Town and School Warrants Voting – Pelham, NH (03/08/2011)

A few months ago I brought my camera with me to grab a few photos when I headed over to the local high school to cast my ballot during the Pelham, NH 2011 Town and School Warrants Voting. I didn’t get anything spectacular; just a few run of the mill snapshots of people in a high school gymnasium. But as I was going through my Lightroom workflow preparing to upload to my album I came to a realization. The filled-in ballots were clearly visible in one of the photos and you could clearly see who or what some of the people voted for.

This left me with somewhat of a conundrum. Do I publish the photo as-is and possibly reveal who or what these people voted for or do I violate universal journalistic ethics and manipulate the photo to camouflage their votes? Since I wasn’t sending these photos off for news publication and they wouldn’t be under scrutiny I opted to do the edit and protect the subjects’ privacy. If you inspect a high-resolution version of the photo you can clearly see the votes visible on the voided ballot the election official is holding; the votes would have been as clearly visible on the other voters’ ballots as well.

Searching Google Images and Google News turns up thousands of photos taken at polling stations. The money shot of the ballot getting dropped into the box or reader is a popular one. And many of those photos clearly show the voter’s face and votes on their ballot.

But this brings up an interesting question about when journalistic integrity clashes with expected privacy. Individual voting booths and voting stations hold an expectation of privacy because they’re enclosed with curtains or barriers. But what about when you step away and are walking through an open space to turn in your ballot? Does that same expectation of privacy hold true? No one thought twice about me snapping a few photos. But modern DSLRs have the capability to capture fine details from afar even with wide angle lenses.

When taking the time to carefully frame and compose photographs I always have a set of rules and guidelines running subconsciously through my mind. Lighting and exposure. Framing and composition. Am I in danger? Am I in someone’s way? Am I blocking another photographer’s shot? Am I invading the subject’s privacy? Is the subject’s dignity preserved? Do I have to recompose the shot to hide embarrassing features or transform a possibly embarrassing feature into a flattering or striking highlight? That all goes through my mind in a split second almost every time I hit the shutter release.

But this was different. I was just randomly pointing the camera in interesting directions and grabbing snapshots without thinking. It wasn’t until I got home and looked over the photos that I thought about it. In the decades I’ve been behind the viewfinder this innocuous looking snapshot is the first photo I’ve ever taken that truly made me really think twice about where to draw the line between journalistic ethics and privacy.

Official UDS-O group photo and personal photo set

After 8544 miles traveled, 16 days on the road, 40 GB of RAW photos, and two days of post-travel coma, I’ve posted the official group photos and my personal photo set from Ubuntu Developer Summit Oneiric Ocelot (UDS-O) which took place at the opulent Corinthia Hotel Budapest (formerly Grand Hotel Royal), Budapest, Hungary, EU (9th – 13th May 2011). UDS was insanely hectic as usual trying to keep everything running smoothly behind the scenes. Luckily there were enough lulls to give me a chance to meet a bunch of new faces and catch up on some of my favorite projects.

UDS-O photos cc by-sa 2011 Sean Sosik-Hamor (prints can be ordered by clicking the Buy button in the gallery):

In addition to the above SmugMug gallery I’ve added the group photos to Facebook for tagging! And if you’ve ever wanted to see what goes on behind the scenes and what gets packed for UDS, check out the UDS-O Logistics gallery.

Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 6 Plus

Testing out a Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 6 Plus

Our storage requirements have finally grown enough that it’s no longer feasible to rely on internal drives and direct-attached storage on our notebooks and workstations. Instead, we’ll be testing out a Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 6 Plus to split up the workload. All archived projects and old media files that don’t get accessed on a daily basis will get offloaded to the ReadyNAS while current projects and Lightroom galleries will continue to live on speedy internal drives. This infrastructure change will require rethinking our backup strategy but, in the long run, should drastically improve things.

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Speed Grapher

For the past week or two I’ve been Netflixing a few episodes of Speed Grapher per night on the Wii as background amusement while working in Lightroom. I added it to my Instant Queue since the excerpt described the main character as a photojournalist and the main antagonist is voiced by Christopher Ayres whom I had a chance to photograph and hang out with last April at Anime Boston 2010.

Speed Grapher follows the exploits of former war photographer Tatsumi Saiga, who investigates a secret fetish club for the ultra-wealthy called the Roppongi Club. He tries to photograph the club’s “goddess”, a 15-year-old, exploited girl named Kagura, but is discovered. As he is about to be killed, Kagura kisses him, granting him the ability to destroy anything he photographs. Source

But that’s pretty much where any actual relation to real photography ends. With the exception of Tatsumi occasionally finger framing subjects or discussing his past as a photojournalist no actual photography takes place in the series. And that’s okay. It’s a Gonzo action series, not a training film, so steer clear if you’re not an Anime fan.

But if you are an Anime fan who also happens to be a photographer then Speed Grapher, at 24 episodes of mature silliness, will alleviate quite a few hours of boredom.

Official UDS-N group photo and personal photo set

UDS-N Group Photo

I’ve posted the official group photo and my personal photo set from Ubuntu Developer Summit Natty Narwhal (UDS-N) which took place at The Caribe Royal, Orlando, Florida, USA – 25th – 29th October 2010. Overall it was quite a productive trip and, in addition to working event support, running video cameras, photographing the event, and attending sessions, I got to hang out with the usual gang of Open Source superstars and meet plenty of new faces!

UDS-N photos cc by-sa 2010 Sean Sosik-Hamor (prints can be ordered by clicking the Buy button after clicking through to the below galleries):

APC BR24BP external battery pack

Tracking down replacement UPS batteries

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) batteries have an expected lifespan of 3 to 5 years and need upkeep and maintenance just like your rechargeable camera and flash batteries. Unfortunately, after a failed self-test, maintenance pretty much translates to battery replacement for high-end units or upgrading to a new UPS for low-end consumer units. And, whether replacing just the battery or the full unit, the old lead-acid battery needs to be disposed of properly at your local dump or transfer station.

The good news is that most UPS batteries are user-replaceable and vendors like APC provide battery replacement guides that will assist in finding new batteries or recommend discounted UPS replacements through trade-in programs such as APC Trade-UPS.