Embracing Photographic Change
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Photo blogger Scott Kelby invites a guest blogger to fill in for him every week, and recently it was photographer Gary S. Chapman. Chapman is a photojournalist turned, well, photojournalist, but he was also a stock photographer in between. These careers don't really seem to go together, until you hear him explain his path. It used to be that he was a newspaper photographer, until changes in the newspaper business suddenly found him searching for another way to earn a living with his camera. He became a small business owner and created conceptual photographs for the stock industry. Microstock subsequently meant the virtual death of the stock photographer, so these days he puts his documentary skills to use again—not for newspapers, but to aid non-government organizations and non-profit charities to tell their stories in pictures. He's still serving the public with his camera, just in a different way. You might think that the idea of conceptual stock images and straight up documentary photographs aren't exactly one and the same, but when you realize that every time you create a photograph what you're really doing is telling a story, suddenly Mr. Chapman's career path doesn't seem quite so odd at all. His is a great story about perseverance, thinking outside the box, and making great storytelling photographs. Check out the Photoshop Insider blog to read Mr. Chapman's personal story and view a few slideshows he created that illustrate his multifaceted career at its different stages, then head over to his personal blog to read more about what he's doing with his camera nowadays.
Backup Disk Primer
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
DPS recently published a nice little shopping guide for external hard drives. It's a great help for those who are considering an external drive for backing up photos—covering the bases of connectivity, speed and capacity. And you should definitely consider an external hard drive for backing up photos. The thing is, though, it's definitely not the only thing you should consider.
You can't just put your photos on an external hard drive and assume you're covered. You've got to make sure you're doubly covered, so that if (or when) a hard drive fails you've got the files stored safe and secure somewhere else. For years that somewhere else for me has been optical media.
In 2003 I was still using CDs to back up my digital image files. Then in 2004 I made the switch to DVDs. By 2009 I was backing up a dozen DVDs every month, so I recently upgraded to Blu-Ray disks for backup. For a brief time that meant I was backing up a month's worth of work on 2 BDR disks, but now with continually larger file sizes I'm backing up on more and more of those big Blu-Ray disks too. It's a never-ending capacity problem, but at least I know when something goes wrong with my magnetic media hard drive I've got duplicates on more stable optical disks. The reverse has happened too; I’ve had DVDs fail because I bought cheap disks. That’s why having a hard disk backup is crucial; it’s come in handy for backup as well.
Salute to a jazz photography master
Monday, August 23, 2010
I've only ever dabbled with jazz. I'm certainly no expert, but I know what I like. Apparently I like Sonny Rollins quite a bit. And I definitely like jazz photography. It’s the one way I have always related to jazz easily; moody, dark images made in smoke filled clubs. You can practically feel the music in great jazz pictures. Unfortunately one of the greatest jazz photographers passed away last week. Herman Leonard has subsequently been eulogized in a variety of media, and rightly so. His work is iconic. Instead of stumbling with inadequate words I will instead simply point you to a wonderful slideshow collection of Mr. Leonard's work, put together by the BBC, and in the context it deserves—backed by the music of the jazz greats he photographed.
Do you use Flash Benders?
Friday, August 20, 2010
Do you use Flash Benders? They’re the flexible flash light shapers that affix to hot shoe mountable flashes and allow you to create a snoot or a reflector or a flagÖ Basically you can sculpt the dimension and direction of the flash output, and they look like they work simply to create effects that are unquestionably cool. Flash modifiers in general, and these things in particular, are gaining popularity all the time. That kind of makes sense. I've always just used a little white card to bounce my flash—which is a necessity when shooting with on camera flash any place indoors (particularly if that place is outfitted with a low white ceiling). I make mine by cutting down the white cardboard inserts from 4x5 film boxes. It’s always been a great way to make use of this otherwise leftover piece of packaging. But now with film becoming less and less popular (I don’t know the last time I shot it), I wonder what I’ll do for a flash card? Maybe I’ll stock up on 4x5 film boxes before it’s too late? Or maybe I’ll just invest in a Flash Bender.
Look Into the Light
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I recently did a test shoot with a model and found myself working really fast with available light and, on occasion, a simple reflector. A lot of folks would naturally put the sun behind their back to provide even illumination for the subject. I, however, recommend gravitating toward the opposite approach: put the sun at your subject’s back so that it creates separation and a rim light. This adds to the illusion of depth in a two-dimensional photograph, which naturally makes for more lively and interesting images. When doing this you’ll find a strong shadow side on your subject’s face, so to bring up the exposure without blowing out the background you’ll need a fill flash or strong reflector. This technique is particularly effective if you can get your subject positioned in the shade (for soft, even illumination) with a shaft of sunlight from behind to create the rim.
Taking the approach one step farther, though, is when this technique turns really fun. Shoot into the sun—like directly into the sun—and enjoy all the flare and backlit drama it will create. It adds a sense of spontaneity to the images, which not only makes up for exposure ìproblemsî (like blown out highlights and flare) but it makes them part of the charm. Take a look around at popular media and you’ll see this technique put into effect all over the place. From vitamin commercials to fashion magazine ads, shooting into the sun is a hot look. Lucky for you it’s also an easy one to create. Just put your subject between you and the sun, open up and shoot! To see more from my test shoot, check out my project gallery at Behance.net.
Shoot with the wrong eye
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
While watching Joe McNally demo his special grip last week, I was intrigued by the fact that he said it was ìfor left-eye shooters.î I'm a right eye, as are many of us—or most of us, I assume. So what would happen if we tried to work with our left eyes instead? Would we see differently, perhaps even more clearly? I wonder if it would have much the same effect as checking the effectiveness of compositions by holding prints upside down. This approach effectively turns off the part of your brain that identifies objects in order to clearly see the shapes, colors and composition.
Well, I decided to test this theory out to see for myself. And as it turns out, the disorienting effects of shooting with your "wrong eye" can actually be pretty interesting. I could almost feel my brain looking at the scene differently than when I look with my right eye. Not only was it uncomfortable and slightly disconcerting, it felt like I was very consciously looking through the viewfinder at a different image than the one I saw with my right eye. As best I can tell, the difference being that after you take enough pictures with your "good eye," looking through the viewfinder can become second nature. In some ways you may not even ìseeî what you're looking at. Or at least you don't see it much differently than when you’re looking at the world with naked eyes. After all, aren’t we supposed to see the world differently with our cameras? Looking with my wrong eye felt different, and different seems like a great place to start to actually see the world in your own unique way.
My experiment only lasted for a few minutes, and I wouldn't want to try it every day all the time, but as a change of pace and an awareness exercise it's a great approach. My head hurts a tiny little bit, which may just be psychosomatic. Or it could be proof that I was forcing my brain to work differently. Maybe that will come in handy in the future when I'm feeling stagnant or stuck, or maybe just to see the compositions I think I should be seeing.
Famous Lost Photographs
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The continuing saga of Ansel's old images (or do they really belong to Uncle Earl?) has inspired some folks, including Pete Brook, to ponder other lost and found photographs. Brook, via Wired magazine's Raw File photo blog, has compiled a collection of famous lost photographs that, when found, achieved their own well deserved headlines. My personal favorite is the cache of unseen street photographs, including more than 1,000 undeveloped but already exposed rolls of film, by unknown photographer Vivian Maier. She toiled in obscurity for years and is finally achieving a bit of posthumous fame. A book of her work is planned, and I for one can’t wait to see it. She was clearly a gifted photographer, and her uncovered archive represents a wonderful look at the second half of the 20th century from an extremely talented documentarian's perspective.
Photoshop for your mobile phone
Monday, August 16, 2010
It's official: the end of the world has arrived. There's a functional version of Photoshop made explicitly for use on the iPhone and iPad mobile devices. The thought of actually editing photos on those little keyless, mouseless devices actually seems like a tiny little nightmare. But the more I think about it, the better it sounds. The limited options for making cell phone photos look a little bit better can be infuriating. Surely this pared down PS makes it easy and intuitive to crop, rotate and color correct pictures on the devices. In this digital world, where many photos need not necessarily ever touch a computer, it makes sense that folks who work with camera phones might like to do things other than the same cheesy prepackaged special effects every other mobile shooter has on hand. A little bit of freedom goes a long way, and the end result could be pretty cool. I wonder what the future holds for this sort of mobile imaging. Next thing you know we'll be editing videos and publishing via the iPhone too. Actually, can’t we already do that too?