Mar 28 2011

Charlie Kimball’s Big Move to IndyCar

Published by under diabetes,healthcare,travel,worklife

Yesterday was the IndyCar series opener in St. Petersburg, Florida and the first race that Charlie KImball ran in the big league series.  I’ve written before about him developing type 1 diabetes while he was racing in Europe and how my wife worked with him to manage his diabetes in the race car well enough to combine with his talent to drive into the premier US open-wheel auto racing series. The race was won by Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti.

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Charlie squeezing into his seat before the race

Having safely driven through a crash-fill start today Charlie worked up to 11th place before he had an unplanned connection with the turn three wall after a pit stop. The Indy Light series, where he raced the prior two years doesn’t have pit stops, and the high-speed action of changing tires and refueling was one of the many new challenges in this race. He learned the hard way today how much he can push the car with the mixture of cold tires, a full tank of fuel and racing adrenaline.

The race was run on a mix of city streets and an airport runway at a track familiar to Charlie from his Indy Lights experience. That series served as a great training ground for his move into IndyCars. There is a list of important changes that Charlie needs to master, but the race environment is very familiar.

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Pre-race fist bump with proud racing engineer father Gordon Kimball

One constant is the trackside presence of his father Gordon who serves as Charlie’s low-key manager while maintaining an active motorsport engineering and avocado-farming career. Charlie’s mother and girlfriend often join them at the track as well.

This was my first time at the St. Petersburg race, but the street course track felt familiar to the Long Beach race last year. Unlike the transition from minor league baseball to the pros where there are different stadium sizes and crowds, the Indy lights and IndyCars series are run on the same tracks on the same days.

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Charlie talking in his pit control center after qualifying

In many ways this felt like Charlie’s third year in the greater IndyCar series instead of being a rookie a new racing world.  The encouraging part about the day was how well he performed while on the racetrack. He stayed out of early trouble as other drivers took themselves out through crashes plus he made on-track passes.

The rookie mistakes, like the one he made today will pass and he will progress to finishing races and being a competitive force while being an ambassador for diabetes.

Mark Harmel

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Mar 23 2011

Don’t Steal My Photo & Then Ask for My Help

Published by under teaching,Tools,travel

Yesterday I received a call from a person that builds websites. (I’ve seen an example of his work and don’t want to call him a designer out of respect to my normal talented clients.) He “found my photo on Google” of a wonderful Sherlock Holmes tile mural that decorates the Baker Street station in the London Underground – used it without permission and got caught.

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Knowing that this was a copyrighted photo was not a case for Sherlock Holmes

This photo is part of a collection that is represented by Getty Images, that normally means that they license the photo out for various media uses and I get a portion of the license fee. In this case it also involves a Getty team that patrols the web looking for copyright infringement and makes people pay for their theft.

My caller’s unauthorized use was discovered and a bill with a hefty penalty fee was presented. He contacted me directly wondering if I would take pity on him because he normally licenses images legally “all the time” and didn’t have the money. Fortunately the negotiation was completely in the hands of the Getty legal team, but I also didn’t have much sympathy for him. He admitted to knowing the system and took a chance.

Part of me wants to go Baretta on him and tell him “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. “ But more interesting to a general audience and other bloggers could be to talk about ways to identify a photo with copyright protection that requires a license, or permission to use.

GoogleSearch Don’t Steal My Photo & Then Ask for My Help

Look for the two clues in this search result

Assuming that my caller really did find the image doing a Google search, here are the results he would have seen. Holmes would have spotted two clues in the results. First you can see that it was pulled from the Getty Images website and you can read their logo in the upper left corner. This sort of branding protection is known as a watermark and is easier to see in the expanded version before you land on the Getty page displaying the photo.

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An enlarged Getty Images watermark

The other clue you can look for in Photoshop and other programs that display the metadata information. Here you can see my contact information and a notice that the photo has been copyrighted, and at the top you can also see the little © symbol in front of the photo number. I submit all of my photos to the U.S. Copyright office to be registered which substantially increases my protection if it’s used without permission, the penalties can be much greater than the fee Getty was asking from my caller.

I apply my contact and copyright information to all my photos with both information loaded into my camera and later more details are added with an action I created and apply in Photoshop. The description and keyword information is added when the photo goes to a stock outlet.

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Metadata is added by my camera and a Photoshop action

But there is a problem with posting photos on some websites, including Facebook where this metadata is stripped out and the file name is changed when the image is uploaded. That doesn’t mean that photos I upload to Facebook are available for anyone to use. The image still retains my full copyright protection, but as a user you can’t know whether the photo can be legally licensed or not.

I’m a big supporter of content creators being paid, so I’m not a fan or free or cheap photo sites, but there are photo hobbyists that are willing to share their photos on Flickr and other places for use in blogs. The proper etiquette is to always ask for permission before using the photo.

The strategy of stealing photos off the web and asking for forgiveness later could put a dent in your checkbook or land you in court. Properly license the photo or ask for permission. As Sherlock Holmes would say “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”

P.S., Before you write – I know that the Holmes quote is not accurate.

Mark Harmel

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Mar 16 2011

“You RT me and I’ll RT you” & other marketing lessons from Twitter

Update: My guest blog post for the Digital Pharma Blog on Better Meetings Through the Use of Twitter was published today. There are tips on attending meetings and admiring them from afar. Start here and then click over the the DigPharm Blog.

RT”, for readers not engaged in the Twitter world is short hand for re-tweeting, or sending the post of someone else to your followers. It’s a way for you to agree with the original observation and spread the message while giving credit to original author.

This brings the mesage to your followers and introduces them to someone they may wish to follow. It’s an act of support and friendship that creates relationship all around, and serves as a form of currency in the network.

The new marketing haiku, “You RT me and I’ll RT you” came from Bryan Vartabedian, M.D. @Doctor_V who I recently met at the Digital Pharma West conference in San Francisco.

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@Doctor_V - Bryan Vartabedian, M.D. speaking at Digital Pharma West

He was on a panel discussing ways that pharmaceutical companies can reach doctors now that golf junkets are out and drug reps have a hard time getting face time. Bryan gave a more intelligent sounding answer while on stage. But his private conversation RT quote was more profound and representative of the shift that’s going on in marketing. (You can read more profound thoughts on his 33 Charts blog.)

The drug companies can look to Twitter to find some of their marketing answers. They can move to creating a relationship, where there is an exchange with their audience instead of selling.

The traditional one way marketing message doesn’t work well on Twitter. Beverly Macy, the co-author of the upcoming book “The Power of Real-Time Marketing” @PowerRTM likes “the 80/20 rule of Twitter – give 80 percent of the time + ‘get’ or talk about yourself 20 percent of the time”.

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TweetDeck is the new black bag for @Doctor_V

This could mean a paradigm shift from moving product to focusing on helping the patient become healthier. From selling to the doctor to helping them do their job.

We heard great examples at the conference of companies creating patient support communities. Could we see a similar support to doctors that would offer practice management tips, assistance in moving to electronic medical records, or working to connect attendees at dinner meeting talks to expand referral networks?

What would be other examples of RT a customer that would work to reach physicians? What else can we learn about marketing from Twitter?

Don’t forget the Better Meetings Through the Use of Twitter post.

Mark Harmel


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Mar 10 2011

Sea the Sky

Published by under travel,visual concepts

Now that I’ve been living in California where mountains are common sights, returning to Florida after over 20 years made me to appreciate how the storm clouds add height to the flat landscape.

After a trip to Key West I made a journey to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo where I ventured out on their glass-bottom boat tour of the reef. Returning to the dock we were greeted by a massive localized rainstorm that is common in the state. In Los Angeles we get these big storm fronts that create flat grey skies almost a day before the rain, but in Florida its common to be in the sun and see sheets of rain falling on the horizon.

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Diptych of the sea and sky returning to Key Largo

This diptych shows the flatness of the Atlantic and the height of the clouds. (Note the white sailboat in each half.) My former tennis buddy Eames Yates would always comment on the height of the Florida clouds. I needed to be away for a while to appreciate them now. I hope you do as well.

What do you appreciate about Florida?

Mark Harmel

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Feb 10 2011

Is a graphic a photo better? Time vs. Smile Train

Published by under healthcare,news,portraits,press

Update: 2/10/11 – This photo of Bibi Aishia by Jodi Bieber just won the World Press Photo of the Year 2010. Congratulations Jodi, is there a lesson to be learned here?

This week’s cover of TIME has a very graphic photo of Aishia, an 18-year old Afghan woman who had her ears and nose cut off by members of the Taliban for fleeing her abusive in-laws.

At first glance it’s a photo of a beautiful woman. Then there’s the second take of shock after seeing her missing nose.

Time Is a graphic a photo better? Time vs. Smile Train

A beautiful woman or a shocking portrait?

In a video, photographer Jodi Bieber talks about her personal reaction to the Aisha and how she wanted to portray her as a beautiful woman and not a victim.

Richard Stengel, Managing Editor expressed concern about running the photo. Her was worried about the safety of Aisha (she is in a safe location and is headed to the US for reconstructive surgery) and about the disturbing effect it could have on children viewing the cover.

I admire the balanced treatment of the photo. It would have been easy to make the photo even more shocking, but I think that causes people to turn away instead of stopping to engage the issue.

Foundations that surgically repair cleft lips and cleft palates take the opposite approach. Both Operation Smile and the Smile Train take the approach of showing very graphic photos of children with deformed faces.

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A graphic approach to fund-raising used by Smile Train

When I had the assignment of working on a cleft palate story for the UCLA School of Medicine Magazine I needed to decide on which patient to feature and how graphic of a deformity to show. As I flipped through a photo book of patient photos in the office of Dr. Henry Kawamoto there were many examples of major deformity. I selected a boy with a mild defect that I showed playing on a tire swing with his family. The cleft palate could be seen, but a happy childhood was the over-riding message.

My low-key portrayal was a conscious reaction to the Smile Train approach and supported by the editor. Their use of photography may be the right method for soliciting donations though. The co-founder, Brian Mullaney comes from an advertising background and they may have tested an entire range of fund-raising approaches and learned that the graphic photos work.

For me, the TIME approach of attraction and shock works better. The Smile Train photos just move me to quickly turn the page.

What do you think? Which engages you more? Can both approaches be right for different reasons?

Mark Harmel


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Jan 18 2011

Happy 80th Birthday Jay

In the photography world the name Jay is synonymous the legendary photographer Jay Maisel.

He’s influenced generations of photographers and my turn came in 2003 right at the time that serious digital cameras entered the market. He was in Los Angeles to give one of his inspiring presentations and his photos of course impressed me, yet at the same time I was confused.

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Jay Maisel making a gesture about color and light

Many of the shots were taken for clients, but some of the best had no reason to be shot – except for the simple fact that they were great pictures. It was at that moment that I realized that I had witness similar scenes before, but I was self-censoring myself into only taking pictures that I thought could sell.

I lamented all the photos I’d been missing and at the same time recognized the economic equation had just changed.  Instead of buying what is now a relatively cheap camera and spending thousands of dollars a year in film. I had just purchased a $7,000 digital camera where the film was “free”.

I was inspired to catch up for years of lost images and discovered that Jay was teaching a class at the Santa Fe Photo Workshops the following week. I packed my bags and was on my way.

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I couldn't make out of the driveway without being stopped in my tracks

The class was inspiring for the extended viewing of Jay’s work and to witness how his critiques of student’s work were all teaching moments instead an opportunity to pass judgment. I began to see differently. There were days that I couldn’t get out of the driveway without being stopped in my tracks by amazing light hitting the purple flowers of a sage plant.

The week went by in a blur. We shot, edited, talked and shot some more – and somehow the universe bent light differently so that interesting photos were all around. Even the weather cooperated to make great photos, as I was lucky enough to get caught in a dust storm on my drive home.

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Even the weather changed to inspire me to shoot

You can find evidence of Jay’s influence by exploring my Visual Concepts category. That is really just a fancy way of saying these are photos that are a cheap imitation of anything that Jay Maisel could shoot on his 80th birthday or any day and a tribute to his influence.  May you have another 80 years of producing great work.

I found a wonderful video made by The Big Picture in 2008 on Ed Broberg’s blog tribute. It’s a great introduction or reminder of the genius of the man.

Be sure to visit Jay’s blog to read more tributes to Jay’s birthday.

Mark Harmel

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Dec 19 2010

There’s Snow in Them Thar Hills

Living in Los Angeles saves me from shoveling snow and scraping ice off my car windshield as was required in my native Detroit, but when it comes to making a Holiday card I embrace the beauty of snow and head for the hills. In Southern California this means keeping an eye out for the magical mix of a rain front with temperature levels that will produce snow at the higher elevations. In flatter regions of the state the forecast may simply be about the chance of rain, but for the mountain areas it also includes a snow level prediction – the elevation where the rain transforms into snow. Getting these photos requires heading to a beautiful location with the right elevation, but success is not assured.

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Sequoia trees provided a contrast of red bark against white snow

A November weather front created an opportunity to shoot this year’s card at a snow level in the 6,000-foot range. This meant looking on the map and finding the right spot. A contender was Sequoia National Park – it was close, in the target altitude and provided a great opportunity to shoot the red bark of sequoia trees against freshly delivered white snow. The timing required the perfect Goldilocks formula of not too hot and not too cold. A frigid temperature closes the road into the park by generating too much snow and higher mercury levels would only give me wet trees to shoot. An accurate weather forecast and perfect timing this year rewarded me with a fresh blanket of snow and I made it in and out of the park in one try.

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The sun retuned to Joshua Tree on the second day

I was less fortunate with my Joshua Tree photo from last year which required two attempts to reach the park. I was 20 cars away from getting into the 4,000-foot high desert last year before the Highway Patrol closed the road. These excursions require preparing for an overnight stay in the area, and after a good night’s sleep I was rewarded with open roads and bright sunshine the next day. (You can read more on this story and see a video version of the “Living Joshua Tree” in last year’s blog post.) Besides having the opportunity to take great photos, the other advantage of visiting parks on the edge of snowstorms is experiencing the sites without a crowd. The solitude of the normally packed Grants Grove in Sequoia was broken only by a herd of deer and I had Joshua Tree to myself untill the snow plow came through to let out trapped campers. During this slow Holiday season I’ll continue to look to the sky – not for Santa and his reindeer – but for a weather report that has the right mix of rain and temperature that would provide an opportunity to head for the hills to create next year’s card. For snow photos in the lower elevations of New York’s Central Park, view the saffron Gates series by Christo and Jeanne-Claude against fresh snow.

Mark Harmel

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Dec 17 2010

The Insulin Powered Indy Car

UPDATE: Charlie Kimball signed with championship winning IndyCar team Chip Ganassi Racing. “Charlie Kimball orchestrated one of the biggest rookie IndyCar driver signings in recent history”, says Speed’s Marshall Pruett.

There are those that say that the reason fans watch car races is to see the crashes. I was always more interested in the racing – and now that I know a driver I certainly didn’t like to see Charlie Kimball upside down on the track like he was at Chicagoland Speedway last week.

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This was a crash I didn’t want to see

Fortunately the cars are built with a strong driver’s cockpit and Charlie walked away with only memories of a “wild ride down the backstretch” and some soreness. (You can see the wild ride just before the 3 minute mark.)

A better memory is watching Charlie celebrate his second place finish in Sonoma the previous week.  It was an exciting race, one that we thought could have been his first Indy Lights victory.

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Better to see Charlie Kimball celebrating his second place finish than upside down

The Sonoma track is a wonderful winding road course with elevation changes that I was able to experience first hand in a pace car ride piloted by Charlie where he alternated between rocketing through the turns and turning his head to chat with passengers in the back seat. We knew we were in for a ride as we entered the car and Charlie told us not to worry about the odd burnt brake smell emanating from the Honda Accord.

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Charlie with his full attention on the racetrack

This pace car ride was only part of a dream weekend in Sonoma that started with dinner at the Andretti winery. We sat one table over from the owner, legendary driver Mario Andretti as well as having the opportunity to chat with team owner Michael Andretti. An added bonus was the front row seat to the introduction of all the Andretti Autosport drivers that include Michael’s son Marco, Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Charlie’s Indy Lights teammate Martin Plowman.

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One of the few times my wife wasn’t grabbing Charlie’s continuous glucose monitor

I got this combination up close and back-stage view to world of racing when my wife Anne Peters became Charlie’s diabetes doctor (more of the back story in a previous post). This opened up the winery dinner, pace-car ride, plus viewing the races from a mix of the hillside Andretti team hospitality compound and down in the pits. A bonus is socializing with the Kimball family, team sponsors and getting special tours explaining the similarities and differences of the Indy Lights and Indy cars by team mechanics.

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Charlie Kimball is a spokesman for diabetes on and off the track

Amazingly much of this is possible because of Charlie developing type 1 diabetes three years ago. He is now a leading inspirational athlete that speaks at a number of diabetes events about how he controls his blood sugar during the race and generates press attention as the series travels from racing circuits across the country.

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The final good luck fist-bump before qualifying

In the end, once the novelty of a driver with type 1 diabetes wears off what will matter is how well Charlie does on the track. He is currently 3rd in the driver’s standings and is gunning to move up to a major-league Indy team next year.

Charlie finished 6th in Kentucky on Saturday and the final race is in Homestead, Fl on Oct. 2nd. The Indy Lights qualifying and races can be viewed on-line at

I know that I’m enjoying the ride.

To see how Charlie manages his diabetes you can watch this WGN report that was produced at the Chicago race that shows where he stows his glucose increasing orange juice and how his continuous glucose monitor works.

Mark Harmel

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Oct 08 2010

The New Look of FedEx Office

Update: FedEx Office continue to evolve and is adding free Wi-Fi to many of their locations. This gives road warriors another location option to Starbucks to conduct business. Even before the free Wi-Fi I would use the FedEx locations on my portfolio trips as places to charge up and and park before my next appointment.

I made a trip to my local FedEx/Kinko’s shop back in the summer and found a new sign on the door. Shortly after I received a call from a client asking for an estimate to do a series of photos at that same shop! It turned out that this was one of the first FedEx/Kinko’s outlets that would be transformed into a FedEx Office location.

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Delivery driver at one of the first FedEx Office locations

After landing the job it was so convenient to have one of the first locations converted down the street from me in Manhattan Beach. This made it easy to check the construction progress and to send back update snapshots to the art director back in Minnesota. I could also combine early morning airport runs to LAX with my morning coffee to precisely plot the timing and effect of the sunrise.

The client remembered me from a shoot I did for her way back in the film days, but we had never met. One month earlier, I did get to meet with the producer, who ventured out early to check out the progress of the transition. This helped to build rapport when I met the rest of the production team the day before the shoot.

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Scouting confirmed that there would be great Northern light mid-day

I knew that we had a busy shoot day planned and proposed doing a quick walk-though of the long shot list. This was designed to get a feel for the style of photo that the art director wanted and to get the simple blocking down. This way we could have a starting point that I could refine and light the next day. We used the basic back of the camera digital preview method. I would do option A, B and C and the art director would pick one, or suggest something else. I saved the favorites and printed out a reference contact sheet for the team.

I originally thought of these as simple starting sketches that would be improved the next day, but they created more of an expectation then I planned. Many times I ended up copying the scouting shot from the previous day. Perhaps it’s a sign to trust my first instincts more when I’m free from the technical constraints of lighting and worrying about the background.

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The store was open for business the day of the shoot

We had cast models and had our crew of stylists, make-up artists and photo assistants moving around lights – but we were shooting this big production in a working store. If a customer had a lifetime of photos to copy (which happened) at the duplicating machine we changed our shot or location instead of asking her to move. Some of the employees were also available to serve as models and we often used them as they served their customers.

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Our footprint needed to be small

With the shop open for business we needed to have a light footprint. Instead of overpowering the store with strobes, I opted for using continuous light sources that I blended with the existing lights. We even had one of our packs on battery power to remove the risk of tripping on a power cord.

The clients were very happy with the results and the photos seeded a new photo library. Keep an eye out for these shots. They will be making their way into the FedEx Office print and web marketing materials. I know that I will never see my local FedEx Office shop in the same way ever again.

Mark Harmel


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Oct 06 2010

Into the in Vitro Fertilization Lab

Published by under healthcare,news,press

A quick post in honor of the Nobel prize winners Robert G. Edwards, an English biologist who with a physician colleague, Dr. Patrick Steptoe, developed the in vitro fertilization procedure for treating human infertility.

ICSI1 Into the in Vitro Fertilization Lab

ICSI (artificial fertilization), sperm being injected into egg

My brush with the field came from a lab in a fertilization clinic at UCLA. We put together an illustration of Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection or ICSI.

If you look close you will notice that the little fish-like sperm is still in the injection needle instead of being placed in the egg. This was to avoid any controversy over creating and destroying a life.

The egg in the photo was a sample of the extra eggs that are produced in fertility treatment that often get discarded instead of being used for stem cell research.

(The original photo was more monochrome, the color was added by the imaging team at Getty Images. You can look for image # 876486-001.)

Mark Harmel


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