The Rise And Fall Of Kodak
Friday, March 23, 2012
If, like so many photographers around the world, you're interested in knowing a little bit more about how Kodak found itself in the predicament it's currently in—bankrupt and in need of new life to navigate the increasingly digital 21st century—then I suggest you read this article in the international online edition of the German news magazine, Der Spiegel. It's a long piece, but also an easy read with a human touch as it includes stories of then and now at the former giant of the industry. It touches on how the city of Rochester and Kodak's remaining employees are faring through the crisis, and ultimately what will happen—or perhaps, "could" or even "should" happen depending on the choices the company's board of directors makes from here on out—in the next phase of life for Kodak. But one thing is for sure, and this article does a good job of pointing out this poignant fact: the thought of a bankrupt Kodak was probably as foreign to the public in 1990 as the thought of a bankrupt Google or Facebook would be to us today. But maybe the very nature of the companies in that analogy is particularly telling. Though Kodak may survive, it won't be the giant it once was—the one that shaped our very memories for an entire century.
Build Your Own Light-Modifying Softbox Grid
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I work side by side with video crews on a relatively frequent basis, and one of my favorite tools that they regularly rely on—one which I don't often employ nearly as much as I should—is the softbox grid. This honeycomb-shaped black fabric modifier attaches to the front of a softbox to help focus it slightly and keep it from spreading quite so far and wide. It allows the light to remain soft but focused. And I know I can run down to the camera store and pick up a new one of them on a whim, but I just never have. And now, thanks to the fun folks at DIYPhotography.net, I probably never will. You see, they've just explained to me—and everyone else on the internet—how to make one of these honeycomb grids using nothing but gaffer's tape. That's right, simple black gaff tape now officially has one million and one uses. Flickr user cUKi uploaded the tutorial, and this person should be roundly hailed as a bit of a genius. Also a bit nutty, but definitely somewhat genius. So check it out, even if you'd rather buy your grids than make them out of tape.
Behind The Scenes With Caleb Charland
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
So at this point I'm pretty much a Caleb Charland groupie. I interviewed the photographer a few months back and fell in love with his whimsical, wonderful, awe-inspiring style. His photographs practically drop your jaw every time; they really are something special. So I've followed Caleb and new developments in his career ever since. He emailed me a photograph he was particularly proud of, in which he used the minor amount of electricity generated by the apples in an orchard to power a light bulb, which he then photographed. The result is quite literally wonderful. So when he just emailed me to tell me a little behind the scenes video of the making of that image was recently aired on the Discovery Channel, I had to check it out. It's a quick, simple, fun video that I highly recommend to Caleb's fans, and those who haven't yet heard of him but are surely about to count themselves among his fans. See for yourself at http://watch.discoverychannel.ca/daily-planet/january-2012/daily-planet---january-23-2012/#clip605968
Double-Decker Portraits, Then And Now
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
A good friend alerted me to this gallery a couple of weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to sharing it with you. (Sorry to make you wait!) It's a collection of "double-decker portraits" made by photographer Daniel Meadows over the course of, oh, just a few decades. You see, back in 1973 Daniel spent a year touring England on a double-decker bus. He made almost 1000 portraits (free of charge) during his trip, and that alone would make for an interesting enough story. But then 25 years later, Daniel decided to go back and revisit some of his subjects, rephotographing them as well. The results were delivered to me via the CNN photoblog, and they're a tremendous collection. What a great way to visualize the passage of time, and all the things that have changed—in England, in the world, and with the people in these pictures—over the course of just a few years. Check out the collection at http://cnnphotos.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/01/double-decker-portraits/?hpt=hp_c2
Online Lighting Diagram Creator
Monday, March 19, 2012
Photography is all about repeatability. I've believed this for years. Anybody can luck into a good picture every now and then, but it takes genuine skills to repeat your success. And that skill is what makes a good photographer. I think one of the best ways to develop the skill of repeatability is to take good notes. From exposures to post-processing, notes about how you approached a shot are important. And that's nowhere more true than when it comes to lighting. So many photographers sketch out lighting diagrams to help remember, and next time build upon, a given lighting setup. But drawing good lighting diagrams can actually be a bit of a challenge. So when I stumbled across this web site I was pretty stoked. It makes lighting diagrams easily via a free and intuitive online tool. Now you can make nice, appealing, even downright elaborate lighting diagrams with just a few mouse clicks. And that is sure to help you keep track of your setups so you can recreate your successes and improve on the setups that aren't quite right. Check it out at http://www.lightingdiagrams.com/Creator
Shooting The Shooter
Friday, March 16, 2012
At the risk of coming off as entirely self-serving, today's blog post is all about me. I was just the featured subject in another photographer's series of photographs of photographers. How meta is that! Corey Woodruff is a photographer and blogger, and he asked if he could photograph me in my studio classroom as part of his "Shooting The Shooter" portrait series. Of course I obliged, and while it's immensely uncomfortable for us photographers to find ourselves on the other side of the camera for a change, it wasn't as excruciating as I thought it might be. Corey made it easy and fun and—especially important given the circumstances—informative for my students too. Corey's only been shooting professionally for four years, but he's quickly becoming a master of the handheld flash in the same vein as David Hobby's Strobist style. Check out the blog post for a glimpse at my ugly mug, and a look inside my classroom (with, I might add, a fairly accurate retelling of the vibe in the class).
Rembrandt Lighting For Portraits
Thursday, March 15, 2012
It's funny to me how often clients and their art directors request from me that I make flat, shadowless lighting on the faces of my portrait subjects. And they don't mean eliminating dramatic shadows, they mean eliminating all shadows on faces. Ugh. Any photographer worth his salt knows that shadows are the key to a good portrait. Used properly they accentuate attractive shapes and features, and minimize flaws. Consequently there have arisen throughout the history of photography a few reliable portrait lighting patterns that we have constantly been able to rely on. There's the butterfly pattern (with its butterfly-shaped shadow just below the nose), loop lighting, split lighting, and my personal favorite, Rembrandt lighting. The Rembrandt pattern is so named because, well, the man himself (seen above) with his tremendous sensitivity to light and shadow often rendered his subjects with just a small triangle of light on one cheek. The result is almost uniformly gorgeous. And if you want to know how to do it for yourself—or do it better than you currently do—then I suggest you read this introduction to Rembrandt lighting on the Light Stalking blog. With a few examples and a diagram to help position subject, camera and lights, you'll be your own master light painter in no time.
Great Magazines Feature Great Photography
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The society of Publication Designers gives out awards every year for achievement in the field of publication design. At first glance this might seem to have little to do with photography—certainly not enough to justify a whole blog post dedicated to it. But in fact I eagerly await the SPD awards every year because they do a great job of showcasing amazing photography. (It doesn't hurt that it's also in conjunction with amazing design, which should be a reminder of how important each is to the other.) They just announced the finalists for the 47th annual SPD awards, and while you can see the covers if you cross reference the list with a Google image search, it might be easier to wait and get the book of winners when it's published. Until then, check out the most recent winners in the recently published SPD 46 annual, which you can read all about at SPD.org, and even thumb through it to see the great photography via the Amazon.com "Look Inside" feature. You'll find a collection of tremendous portraits, landscapes and still life photographs on the covers of a dozen magazines that clearly care about good design (and great photography). So go get inspired, and remember that great magazines require great photography—and vice versa.