Self-Portraits Done Right
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
I've never been much for self-portraits. I remember an assignment once in college in which where we were charged with recreating a famous portrait but in self-portrait form. I chose a Bruce Weber brooding black and white portrait of actor Girard Depardieu. It worked, but not nearly as well as Mr. Weber's. Maybe because I'm not as pretty as Gerard. But I'm digressing, because the point isn't that I'm not much of a self-portrait photographer, it's that when I see great examples of them I'm insanely envious of those who can do them well. This is the same feeling I have about "picture a day" projects; I appreciate them, but I just can't seem to bring myself to invest in the commitment of taking a picture every day. Silly, I know. Anyway, the point is that I just discovered an awesome combination of the two. There's no better self-portrait project, and no better picture-a-day project, than Jeff Harris' ongoing adventure. He's up to 4,748 pictures in his "self-portrait every day" project (there they are, all laid out side by side in the picture above), which means he hasn't missed a day in nearly 15 years. You might think these images wouldn't be particularly interesting (how engaging can self-portraits be?) but it turns out they can be downright awesome, and Mr. Harris is clearly quite a talented photographer with a great sense of color and composition. Check out a fun video at the A Photo Editor blog for a glimpse into the portraits that made me a believer, then head over to Mr. Harris' own web site at www.jeffharris.org to see more. As he told A Photo Editor, Mr. Harris is just being pragmatic: "I see no reason to not make a self-portrait each day. I'm always around and always free. It's kind of like going to the gym—it flexes your muscles and keeps you in shape."
The Inner Workings Of A Memory Card
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Rob Galbraith's blog is a must-read if you're at all interested in keeping up with the newest photo gear and great links of interest to photographers. He's got a neat video up on his site right now, courtesy of Lexmark. It's an animated look inside the workings of a memory card, and it's not only entertaining, it's actually pretty darn interesting too. After all, how does a memory card work? I always assumed it was some form of magic or witchcraft. Turns out I was only half right. Okay fine, it's not magic at all—but it might as well be! It's pretty great to finally get a bit of an idea how this mysterious little device works to be such an integral part of every digital workflow.
How To Design A Good-Looking Photo Book
Monday, January 16, 2012
I recently invested a fair chunk of my time into assembling and printing more than a half dozen photo books. I learned a lot about print quality, the importance of a helpful publisher with good software, and most of all the importance of good design for the layout of a book—whether it's a portfolio, a wedding album or a coffee table keepsake. So when this morning I read a piece at Digital Photography School about how to design a good photo book layout, it really piqued my interest. I was a bit skeptical, I admit, because the one thing I found in the many book templates I tried is that those templates don't often reflect good design. But these tips were written by the young lady behind the "Photo Book Girl" web site and she knows whereof she speaks. (Her site, btw, looks to be a great resource for all sorts of how-to tips, deals and information about making great photo books. Check it out at http://www.photobookgirl.html.) Her first bit of advice is to keep the layout simple, so you know right there she's off to a good start—and bound to help you overcome some of the cluttered, cumbersome and downright goofy templates that exist out there in photo book world. So check out the tips at http://www.digital-photography-school.com/5-top-tips-for-designing-good-photo-book-layouts and then read about my experiences with a handful of publishers at the Digital Photo Pro web site, http://www.digitalphotopro.com/technique/software-technique/photo-books-101.html.
To D4 Or Not To D4. Is It Even A Question?
Friday, January 13, 2012
The Nikon D4 was announced last week to much fanfare. I have to admit, the flagship D-SLR in the Nikon pro lineup seriously pulled on my irrational "I need to buy this camera" heart-strings. Maybe it's nostalgia for my most beloved camera ever, the perfect tank of film SLR, the F4. Maybe it's that on paper the D4 doesn't reinvent the wheel—which makes me think that the company has created a really good camera that delivers really good pictures. It appears that Nikon has focused on improving usability and picture quality, rather than simply filling the thing with specs that make it look great on paper. But that's really neither here nor there, because there's plenty to read on this site and elsewhere about the new D4. What prompted me to write today was reading The Strobist's take on it. A Nikon guy himself, David Hobby says he won't be buying this great new camera, which is surprising in and of itself. More surprising is that it's because he recently unloaded his arsenal of Nikon equipment and made the switch—not to a Canon D-SLR, but to a medium format digital system. Given the trend of 35mm-film-format D-SLRs getting better by leaps and bounds on an almost yearly basis and rivaling medium format, it's quite a surprising take—made even more surprising since The Strobist is all about using hand-held strobes to take D-SLR photography to the next level. It's a fascinating read, whether or not you agree with David's rationale. But it's one that certainly made me think, and made me extremely envious that I don't have $6,000 or $10,000 to consider investing in new camera equipment at the moment.
The King Of Decay Photography
Thursday, January 12, 2012
I recently read about a hobbyist photographer who has turned his passion for exploring run-down places into a stunning photographic portfolio. Henk van Rensbergen is his name, and he's an airline pilot by day, explorer by night. (Well, actually, most of his photography is done by day as well, but those must be his off days.) I'm usually not much of a fan of "ruin porn" as it's become derisively known, but Henk's work is different. First, it's the knowledge that he started his work simply to document the places he enjoyed exploring. His photography stems from a passion, first and foremost, for examining and cataloging these abandoned places. It doesn't seem predatory or exploitative like some urban decay photography. In fact, it's clear that he's paying homage to the places he photographs—and he's doing them wonderful justice. My favorite thing about exploring Henk's web site(s) is to see just how much his photography evolved over the decades he's been making pictures. So first check out his eponymous site at www.henkvanrensbergen.com for his newest work, then head over to www.abandoned-places.com to browse through the back catalog of amazing places he's visited since 1988.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Do you know Carl Warner? You should, because he's the photographer who combines two of my favorite subjects: food and landscapes. He doesn't shoot sand dunes with bowls of fruit perched on them or anything like that. That would be weird. But what Carl does actually might be weirder. Carl is a still life photographer who photographs food landscapes. In fact, his book is called Food Landscapes and it's just what you think it might be: landscapes comprised of food. From marshmallow clouds to noodle trees, Carl creates amazing sculptural food worlds and then photographs them in his London studio. Read all about it at his web site, where you can also purchase his wonderful book too.
Photographers As Television Stars?
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
It's not every day you see photographers being interviewed on television. When you do, it's usually the icons of the 20th century who are household names anyway: Leibovitz, Avedon, Cartier-Bresson. But recently a regular photographer—talented, phenomenal, amazing, but still a regular working photographer—got his due on "the second best fake news show" on TV when Jon Stewart interviewed Ben Lowy on The Daily Show. Ben is a photojournalist whose new book, Iraq Perspectives, has received several honors including being selected by iconic William Eggleston to win the Center for Documentary Studies Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. That wasn't why he was interviewed, though. He was assigned to cover The Daily Show for an article in Rolling Stone and the producers were impressed enough to put him in front of their cameras. Check out the interview via The Online Photographer blog, then head over to Ben's web site to learn more about him and see his impressive work.
What Would Ansel Do?
Monday, January 9, 2012
I love bandying about the ultimate unanswerable hypothetical question: If he were alive today, would Ansel Adams have embraced digital photography? Better yet, would he have shot with a digital camera? You can make some great cases for why he would and why he wouldn't. He would, of course, because he was no technophobe and was eager to embrace any scientific advantage he could find to make his images great. And he wouldn't, of course, because the most serious old-school landscape photographers still shoot on large format film. It is, after all, the long established best way to create beautiful, finely detailed high-quality landscape photographs. It's great to ponder the question from a distance, but the opportunity to get actual insight into the question from those who knew the man himself is even better. Alan Ross is a photographer and blogger who worked closely with Ansel for the last ten years of the master's life. Alan recently wrote a blog post with his answer to this hypothetical question. His take surprised me a bit, so I won't spoil it here. Suffice it to say Alan knows a lot more about Ansel than I do, which makes it especially fun to read his answer to the ultimately hypothetical photo question.