Photography On Film
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Here's another twofer for you. As I write this I'm watching a film about a photographer. it's called Bill Cunningham New York. Mr. Cunnigham is known to those who follow fashion and see his regular columns in the New York Times. He's a fascinating character, and the film is entertaining, enjoyable and constructive for photographers. Certainly not by way of photographic technique, as Mr. Cunningham freely admits he points and shoots whatever catches his eye. He's selling his aesthetic short, by the way, but his point is well taken: he's not a highly technical photographer. But what he does have is a highly refined eye: he knows what he likes. What photographers can most learn from him is passion. He does only what he loves, for entirely personal reasons far from the desire for financial success. He's a model many of us would be well served to emulate. More importantly, he comes off as a wonderful man and the movie is very touching. Read about the film at the Zeitgeist Films web site, and then do what I did—stream it from Netflix. I mention Netflix because it occurs to me that photographers who care to learn more about their craft, its history, technique and the arts in general could benefit greatly from a Netflix subscription. There are many great films I'd never see if it weren't for the easy access and low cost of Netflix. And because of the company's suggestion engine you can discover all sorts of instructive, educational and entertaining movies about photography that you never even new existed.
Help Amit Fight Leukemia
Monday, October 10, 2011
The founder of one of my favorite photo sites, Photojojo.com, Amit Gupta is a bit of a visionary. He also needs our help. Amit has been diagnosed with leukemia. With a bone marrow transplant—which as I understand it is carried out much like a blood transfusion—Amit's prognosis improves dramatically. But the odds of finding a perfect genetic match are daunting. So his tech-savvy friends have taken to the blogosphere to spread the word and ask anyone of South Asian decent to be tested (a simple swab to the cheek) to learn if they're a match. There's a party in New York this Wednesday night where you can be tested, but readers beyond NYC can also be tested via mail. Check out the blog of Amit's friend Tony Bacigalupo for more details, and consider this a good opportunity to register with the National Marrow Donor organization.
How HDR Can Help Black & White Photographs
Friday, October 7, 2011
I'm going to go out on a limb here and state a personal preference: I do not care for most HDR photography. That is to say, I do not find appealing images that are so candy-colored and texture-filled as to come off as painterly illustrations. I'm not saying HDR images are always this way, or that this is inherently bad and that you shouldn't keep doing them if you like. I'm simply stating a personal preference for a more "realistic" photographic vision. I state this preference because I know it's one that's shared by others as well—we hear "HDR" and immediately picture a technique we don't particularly care for. But that's kind of unfair, because HDR can mean lots of things—including the benefit of black & white tonal range. It makes perfect sense, really, because black & white photography is inherently removed from reality, and tones of gray and black and white have always been more arbitrarily "assigned" by the photographer in the quest for a beautiful black & white print. So why wouldn't utilizing the added dynamic range and detail of an HDR construction be the perfect way to make more interesting, more beautiful, and even more "real" looking black & white photos? That's part of the premise behind this great post by Joseph Eckert at DPS about seeing in black & white, and it's one that I recommend any photographer—especially those who are working in black & white or who have their own misgivings about HDR techniques—give some attention to.
Photo by Joseph Eckert
Thursday, October 6, 2011
A Facebook friend just pointed me to this awesome ten-minute documentary about two crazy awesome (and possibly just plain crazy) people who strap on suits that let them fly like birds. They're base jumpers, people who jump off of buildings and cliffs and just about anything they can, but with wingsuits on that let them fly. Or, perhaps more directly, they fall to the ground over the course of a very long time. And thanks to technology—the tiny little GoPro HD video cameras that are so often implicated in the "animal steals camera" viral videos—we get to fly along with them. And it's beautiful. And scary. And that tension makes this an awesome video. My photographic takeaway is this: look at your tools and think about how you can use them in innovative and interesting ways. That's how people started creating time lapse videos with digital SLRs and how they started shooting at night and how they started sending cameras aloft attached to balloons, and how they started strapping these tiny little cameras onto their hats and jumping off of perfectly functional building. Check it out, and then go do something crazy awesome with your camera, even if it isn't this crazy.
Steven Paul Jobs
February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
I lost a hero today. He was a handsome man.
My first experience with an Apple computer was in 1984, when I was in the sixth grade. I remember using LOGO, a programming language that you might also remember, to direct a virtual turtle around the screen to draw things in its wake. I was just 11 years old, and yet here I was, "programming" a computer. One of Steve Jobs' great legacies will be his talent for making high technology easy and intuitive for everybody.
In the years since my first Macintosh, I've used dozens of computers, not all of them Apple — though I've owned an Apple computer of some kind throughout my electronic life. As a creative professional, I could quickly make myself tiresome extolling the virtues of the machines and software Steve Jobs built compared to those of his competition. On the subject of typography alone I would survey in soliloquy for an hour.
There's a refinement and polish in an Apple product that makes it a tool that's not only functional, it's a pleasure to use. Yes, a common wrench performs the same duty as a Snap-On, but excellence begets excellence. When the toolmaker elevates his work to the highest, most uncompromising art, the craftsman who selects those tools begins with an advantage.
That sounds lofty, especially when you consider that I'm talking about a man who regularly appeared on stage before an international audience in Levis and running shoes. Steve Jobs wasn't a pretentious man. But he pushed those around him to take science fiction and make it simple enough and beautiful enough to carry in your pocket. He had a vision for technology that was stunningly and inspirationally democratic. No single individual in my lifetime has compared to the man we lost today, Steven Paul Jobs, for the transformative influence he had on all of our lives, and in so many ways, whether customers of Apple or not.
I am proud to have been an Apple customer almost thirty years. As creative professional, I can't imagine my experience without the tools which Steve Jobs played an integral role in making possible.
I lost a hero today. He was a handsome man.
More Awesomeness From Photojojo
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Photojojo is one of those web sites that strikes a great balance for photo geeks: it sells stuff that's practical and stuff that's fun. And no matter what it is, it seems to always hit a sweet spot for me personally: I really need that! This time it's two new things I absolutely must have—one useful, both fun. First, the totally impractical wood iPhone case. It serves its protective purpose alright, but mostly it's neat and clever and just plain fun. And it makes me wish I had an iPhone just so I could get this case and turn it into a "real" camera. The other item at the other end of the spectrum is still plenty of fun, but it's way more practical too. It's the Digital Time-Lapse Camera. For $150 you get a little weather-resistant camera that churns out a completed HD video of a time-lapse scene—no video editing required. That alone is worth it, but the simple way it makes movies really makes it useful too.
Tiny Tripod, Big Use
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Ever try to make a time exposure with your point-and-shoot pocket camera? It can be tricky. Mostly because you're almost never using a tripod; after all, if you're the kind of guy who carries a tripod you're probably also carrying something a little more deluxe than a pocket camera. But I know that I love to travel light, and that's why sometimes all I have handy is that pocket point-and-shoot. And so what do I do when I want to make a slow-shutter-speed-picture? I prop the camera on a bench or a hand railing or whatever happens to be handy, and then I hope that I can get the framing to work out. Thankfully JOBY has just introduced an ingenious little tripod that solves this problem. Sure, there have been tiny tripods as long as there have been cameras, but this one's different. It's tiny enough to remain permanently affixed to the bottom of your camera. It's the GorillaPod Micro 250, and it folds down to almost nothing as it sits out of the way on the bottom of your camera, waiting to be useful. When its time comes, boy is it useful. Check it out at the JOBY web site, where you can buy one for just $20.
Focusing Assistance From The Kitchen
Monday, October 3, 2011
File this under, "I thought I was the only one." Turns out I'm not the only one who confuses the focusing ring with the zoom ring. I often accidentally twist the zoom ring on a long zoom instead of the focus ring. Sometimes it's vice versa, but either way it seems whenever I want to focus I accidentally zoom, and when I want to zoom I accidentally focus. So leave it to former Outdoor Photographer editor Rob Sheppard to come up with this beautifully simple solution, posted on his Nature and Photography blog. It's a silicone jar opener that he purchased in a kitchen supply store, and it's the perfect way to differentiate focus ring from zoom. Great idea, Rob!