Good Reasons To Love Photography
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Though I don't often link to it here, I absolutely love Wired magazine's "Raw File" photo blog. This recent essay and post by PhotoShelter CEO Allen Murayabashi is a prime example of why. It's called "I love photography," and it's a little bit rant, a little bit manifesto about why Allen simply loves the state of photography today. He provides examples of all the things that are going right in the photo world, which serves as a nice counterbalance to a lot of the negativity that we all encounter when we talk to some photographers these days. Best of all, though, Allen cites tremendous examples of amazing photographs from the last couple of years. It's worth a read for the photographs alone, but the thoughtful commentary makes it a must-read too.
Monday, February 27, 2012
I saw this last week and thought that I'd save it until much closer to the Oscars, which are sure to be at least a few weeks away. Turns out time really is flying by, and the Academy Awards were last night. Well if you haven't had your fill of big-name actors yet, here's a link to a collection of portraits of all the best actor/actress/supporting nominees as photographed by master portraitist Douglas Kirkland. The exhibit "Out of Character," which was commissioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and printed on Moab Entrada Rag Natural 300 paper, is currently on display at The AMPAS Grand Lobby Gallery in Beverly Hills. It's up for the next few weeks, and it's free of charge and open to the public. If you can't make it to L.A. for the festivities, check out the online gallery at the Oscars web site, which includes some behind the scenes photographs of the making of the portraits.
Richard Avedon’s American Masters Documentary
Friday, February 24, 2012
I love documentaries about photographers. Clips of their behind the scenes workflow, interviews, simple slideshows… Any insight I can gain into how the masters work, well that's a priceless learning tool. Today I've got another photo doc to point out, courtesy of David Hobby's Strobist blog, and this one weighs in at a whopping 90 minutes in length. It's a 1995 American Masters documentary about Richard Avedon—one of the few photographers who deserve even more than 90 minutes of documentary footage about his life's work. Avedon was a true photographic genius, and there's something here for everyone. I'm going to start on it right away with hopes that I can make it through twice, just like Hobby did. It's bound to help me unlock some key to tapping my photographic creativity and becoming just a little bit more like this iconic photographer.
How Many Megapixels Is Too Many?
Thursday, February 23, 2012
To the layman, judging new cameras is easy. It only involves one simple question: how many megapixels does it have? But to photographers in the know, megapixels are just the tip of the iceberg. Ctein, the mononymous master printer and photoblogger of The Online Photographer fame, is always good for a nice editorial opinion. This time his essay is also very helpful for those of us who want a more nuanced way of evaluating camera quality. Prompted by the announcement of Nikon's new D800 dSLR and its whopping 36 megapixels, Ctein explains some of the most common misunderstandings about megapixels and their effect on picture quality. There are many myths associated with pixel counts—like the fact that more megapixels doesn't necessarily mean sharper pictures, or the fact that more megapixels can do more than just allow for bigger prints. Maybe Ctein's take will change your opinion about how many megapixels is enough for you, or even how many megapixels are too many.
Next-Gen Photoshop Tool: The Content Aware Move
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Here's some new technology that certainly looks promising. Adobe senior product manager Bryan O'Neil Hughes provides a sneak preview of a great new tool destined to make its debut in the next version of Photoshop. It's the Content Aware Move tool and its name is fairly self-explanatory. Much like content aware fill, you can automatically replace the contents of a scene without extensive pointing and clicking. After moving one element from one place to another with the Content Aware Move tool, the software automatically blends the element into its new portion of a scene, and at the same time seamlessly repairs the area from which the element has been removed. That means you could grab a stop sign from a streetscape and simply drag it to a new destination, or move a human subject from one side of a scene to another. It's a neat tool, and even if it only provides part of a perfectly seamless replacement, it's sure to be a huge timesaver. Adobe is smart to debut tools like this early, as they're bound to get many of us hooked on CS6 long before it's ever released to the public. There's a great video preview, which I found thanks to Mark Silber's blog.
New Documentary About Cinematic Photographer Gregory Crewdson
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Here's a big Hollywood film I'd like to see. It's a new documentary about photographer Gregory Crewdson, which is set to premier at the South By Southwest festival this spring. It's not "big Hollywood" in terms of who made it, but rather it's the subject matter. Crewdson is a still photographer, but he makes photographs that are as big and cinematic in scope as any film Hollywood studios ever produce. It takes painstaking effort and a crew of dozens to create these "fantastical worlds that are seamlessly real." He's a photographer unlike any other, and I expect this film to offer a fascinating glimpse into his process. "To me," Crewdson says in the trailer, "the most powerful moment in the whole process is when everything comes together. For that instance, my life makes sense."
Considering Different Approaches To Post-Processing
Monday, February 20, 2012
If we can agree with Ansel Adams that, to paraphrase, a picture is only half finished until it's printed, then we can also agree that retouching a digital image file can dramatically change its effectiveness. One of the great teaching tools of the Internet era involves tasking multiple people with post-processing a digital image file to see who comes up with what. How might you approach interpreting a given image? Not only is it helpful to see the specific techniques that go into editing and finalizing an image file, it's also incredibly useful to see how different photographers interpret a scene in vastly different ways. The Online Photographer uploaded a raw file and invited his readership to turn it into a beautiful black & white image. Some went dark and dramatic, others went light and airy. Many of the photographs are very different, which is sort of amazing when you consider that they all started with the same raw exposure. Maybe this is the perfect way to illustrate that principle of Ansel's, that the negative is the score and the print is the performance. I think it's a great exercise and a wonderful post to consider how you might have approached this black & white conversion yourself. Along with providing some context for your own aesthetic when compared to other photographers, it's a great way to learn about different approaches to retouching a photograph—both aesthetic and technical.
Chased By The Light
Friday, February 17, 2012
Regular readers may recall my fondness for a web site called Cool Tools. Every day the site updates with an addition to its catalog of tools submitted by readers everywhere. From educational resources to electronic devices to knives to kitchen aids, almost anything can qualify as a Cool Tool so long as it is useful and superior to comparable items. Site founder Kevin Kelly recently posted about a wonderful book (as well as an accompanying app and documentary film) "Chased By The Light." It's the story of outdoor photographer Jim Brandenburg and his project to spend 90 days one autumn making only one shot per day. As he put it, "There would be no second exposure, no second chance." I won't argue—as the site's readers do—whether or not this book conforms to their definition of a broadly useful tool, but I'll tell you that I think it's a brilliant idea for photographers to improve their capabilities. Practical concerns of exposure and composition are sure to be refined when you've only got one chance to get it right, but more importantly you're going to dramatically influence the way you see the world, the way you approach a scene and the way you consider its every possibility before releasing the shutter. Nothing could be more counter-intuitive to today's "shoot away" mentality, but that's what makes it so useful. That's why I recommend the project sight unseen: it just makes so much sense. But I also recommend that you do what I'm about to, and search out the book, the app and the film.