Tuesday, January 31, 2012
I recently bought a new camera. Well, it's a used camera but it's new to me. It's an old Polaroid 600 SE (the "Goose") and I did a decent amount of research prior to my purchase. The Internet certainly does make camera research easy, but there's one site in particular that can be immensely useful. It's called Camerapedia, and it's exactly what the name suggests: an encyclopedia of camera information. It's the perfect place to research old cameras and lenses, to learn things like which generation of a camera model included what features, or to distinguish subtleties of lens mounts and film formats and accessories—all of which can get you in trouble if you're purchasing a used camera and you don't know exactly what you're going to get. But even if you're uninterested in buying old cameras, Camerapedia comes in handy for researching brand new cameras too. In my opinion, though, it really shines at delivering hard-to-find, useful information about old cameras for collectors and the occasional odd purchaser who intends to shoot with his antique—like me.
Monday, January 30, 2012
A friend just sent me a link to a story in the Huffington Post about an artist who colorized old photos. He was asking what I thought about the pictures and the concept behind them. They're causing a bit of controversy. Artist Sanna Dullaway has started a photo restoration and colorization business, and in an effort to show off her talents, drum up business and garner a bit of publicity—an act which has clearly worked—she colorized classic black & white photographs. One could construe this colorization as a bit of blasphemy—dramatically changing the look of iconic black & white images. But I don’t think they’re blasphemy; I think they’re great. The reason I love them also makes for proof positive of a photographic construct: because black and white is inherently abstract, and color automatically looks more "real," so therefore these newly colorized iconic images of iconic people we've never seen in color... Well, it just makes them more real and relatable, and it serves as a reminder that they really inhabited the same world we do. That's a wonderful realization, no matter how you come about it. See more of Sanna’s work at her post at 9gag.com.
Identifying Pirated Software
Friday, January 27, 2012
As a photographer, it's my belief that if I would like people to value my work and respect my copyright then I should darn well respect the intellectual property rights of others. That includes the music I listen to and the software I use. In short, I'm no fan of pirated software. But even if you have the best intentions, how can you really know if the software you think is legitimate is actually a pirated copy? Well just the other day I stumbled across this post from web design site We Rock Your Web, which lays out a few simple steps for determining if a prospective copy of Adobe Photoshop is pirated—as well as a few alternatives (in lieu of outright theft) if you find the price of Photoshop prohibitive. That led me to dig a little deeper, until I found a page from Microsoft designed to help its customers determine the validity of their products as well. Advice such as "inspect the certificate of authenticity" and "activate the software" may be pretty simple, but they're effective, too, and need to be said. The best advice, I think, calls for a little bit of common sense: if the deal is too good to be true, it probably is.
The Weegee Map
Thursday, January 26, 2012
I've always been a fan of photographer Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, the man whose nom de plume is synonymous with New York crime scene photography in the 1930s and 40s. Weegee defined the genre, creating art out of havoc. Unsavory, sure, but also brilliant commentary and surprisingly astute. In many ways, Weegee represented New York. So it's no surprise that the new "Weegee: Murder Is My Business," exhibition at the International Center of Photography is as much about a bygone New York era as it is about the photographer himself. ICP has been home to Weegee's archive for almost 20 years, and so there's a lot of great material in the Manhattan museum as well as its online counterpart, but perhaps nothing is more interesting than the interactive Google map—pointed out by the great aCurator web site—which highlights important landmarks from Weegee's life on the island. From his living quarters to the sites of some of his most famous images, the map, notes and associated street views are a treat—a really unique way to understand where and how he worked, and just how intertwined his photography was with the city of New York.
Lightroom 4 Beta Update
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I really want to download and install the beta testing version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. For those not in the know, a beta release is not the official finished version of a piece of software, rather it's a test copy released while the programmers are still working to perfect the final version. This way they can get it into the hands of users who will provide valuable feedback, but it can also be a good way to get users hooked on your software so that they eventually purchase it, because once the final version is released the beta copies stop working. Anyway, I love testing new software especially when it's something I use everyday—and I definitely use Lightroom every day. But I can't bring myself to download this beta copy because I can't risk using a program that's going to crash, or one that has who knows how many bugs yet to be worked out. (Sure, I could download it and use it just for fun alongside the fully functional version of Lightroom 3 I rely on, but the reality is I simply wouldn't.) I want to use one program, and I really want it to work. So that puts me impatiently on the sidelines waiting for the full version's eventual release. Until then, though, my curiosity is piqued and I'm dying to know what sorts of features and improvements are waiting for me. Thankfully Peter West Carey just wrote about his experiences testing Lightroom 4 at the DPS web site. He's framed it with a simple premise: will it have enough improvements to justify upgrading? His verdict is yes, but for the breakdown of the features that are pretty nice improvements, I'll refer you to Peter's story directly.
Kodak's Quiet Bankruptcy
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I wasn't going to write about Kodak's bankruptcy because I decided it had been well-covered, and so I didn't think I had anything particular to add to the story. But then it occurred to me: that a photography writer writing for a photography blog of a photography magazine might consider the bankruptcy of the ultimate titan of the photographic industry, a name synonymous in many ways with the very act of taking pictures, not worth writing about… Well this is, in fact, a noteworthy story in itself. And maybe that's why Kodak has suffered so much in recent years. Irrelevant is certainly a strong word for such an icon, but maybe that's the best word for the company's presence in the photo world of late. Unless you're a film photographer—in which case, quite obviously, the big yellow box is still very relevant—Kodak simply isn't as omnipresent in the minds of photographers today the way it was just a short decade ago. The Canons and Nikons of the world have certainly garnered their share of well-deserved attention for the last few decades, but it's telling that in the digital era names like Epson and Adobe and Lexar have largely replaced Kodak on the tips of most photographers' tongues. I sincerely hope that Kodak can continue to operate through its bankruptcy reorganization, and come back stronger, and more relevant, than ever. Because I think all of us would agree that the photographic landscape is simply much better with Kodak in it. And I think that's for way more than sentimental reasons.
SOPA And Photographers' Rights
Monday, January 23, 2012
All the discussion about SOPA last week (you know, the protests of the Stop Online Piracy Act that blacked out a lot of sites for 24 hours in order to give us an idea of what the internet might be like if we stopped the free flow of content) was sort of uncomfortable for me. On the one hand, I love the Internet just the way it is, but on the other—and this is big—as a commercial photographer my livelihood depends on my ability to create content (mostly photographs, some words) and to be paid for its usage. And that's the crux of the conflict: on the one hand are the content creators (mostly movie studios and record labels and media conglomerates) and on the other is "the internet," or at least the most popular places on the Internet where we like to gather, because that's where the good content is. So as a photographer, I've felt more than a little conflicted. But the bottom line is that SOPA as it's currently written is simply overkill; as Rob Haggert writes at A Photo Editor, "it's like banning cars because bank robbers use them to get away." Read more on Rob's take at his web site, and rest assured that in its current iteration SOPA is not, in fact, going to help you as a content creator, so it's okay to oppose it. That said, Rob also points out a crucial component in all of this organized online outrage: don't forget that the folks screaming loudest (Facebook, Google, et al) aren't in this to keep freedom free—they just want to make sure they can "keep control of the copyrighted material you produce." The comments offer interesting insights too—which is no easy feat. Taken together, it's something we should be thinking about as we creep further down the rabbit hole with every passing day.
Watching Photographers Work
Friday, January 20, 2012
I just discovered a treasure trove of photographic documentaries. It's called "the internet." Heard of it? Seriously, name a photographer and somewhere out there on the web (YouTube isn't a bad place to start) there's probably an in-depth interview with them. Occasionally I stumble across a little place online where several of these videos have gotten together to hang out. One such great place to find lots of videos about photographers is the American Suburb X blog. The site is perhaps the best place online to read in-depth interviews with the greatest art photographers of the last 50 years, but it's also a compendium of video interviews and documentaries as well. The one that prompted me to mention it here is an hour-long 1981 documentary about street photographer Joel Meyerowitz. It's a wonderful video that provides tremendous context for Mr. Meyerowitz's work through audio and video, and it does what I most love about motion pictures—you can literally watch master photographers at work. So if this is the sort of thing that floats your boat, start with the Meyerowitz video, then stick around to check out videos that include the likes of Sally Mann, William Eggleston and Harry Callahan.