- fStop 139
- PhotoRant 134
- GearHead 37
- The Open Conspiracy 22
- Nuke Em from Orbit 21
- GrayScale 18
- Botzilla 10
- Wire Service 8
- Bike 2
July 7: One of the last Silicon Valley rides before moving full-time to Sonoma County.
“Photos have no narrative content. They only describe light on a surface.” - GW
“Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts.” - Garry Winogrand
“Many pictures turn out to be limp translations of the known world instead of vital objects which create an intrinsic world of their own. There is a vast difference between taking a picture and making a photograph.” - Robert Heinecken
At Art Basel with a stop at the Miami Street Photography Festival, shooting both my little Fuji and a Leica Monochrom. Will write it up in due course.
Forgot to push the “Publish” button, March 2009
Found in the phone backups -- December 2010
"Color tends to corrupt photography and absolute color corrupts absolutely." -- Walker Evans
P1020027, March 2009
"Representation of the world like the world itself is the work of men, they describe it from their point of view which they confuse with absolute truth." - Simone de Beauvoir
J-L David ftw
Through Google Glass
Another, more-recent Paul Graham lament about the lack of respect afforded "straight" photography. and a discussion(?) of the same essay/address, which oddly attributes a review of Jeff Wall photos to.. Jeff Wall? Misreading aside it has an interest list of conflicting viewpoints, like these:
For the streetphoto salon….
About an hour ago.
Almost time to say goodbye to China, now that I’m back in Beijing. Also time to say goodbye to:
- My Canon 50mm f/1.4, which spontaneously has decided it doesn’t want to focus on anything closer than 5 feet, even in manual (at least until I can send it off to Canon)
- My Panasonic LX1, which was pick-pocketed in Xi’an (along with most of my pix of the Xi’an city walls and street musicians)
- My HTC Excalibur smartphone, with all my notes and action items from the entire trip (pick-pocketed just tonight inside the Hyatt)
- My faith in Cisco VPN (pretty-well worthless on this trip)
So that’s maybe $1000 in theft losses and a major dose of work frustration. Net balance for the trip then? Love it. Hassles and troubles like those just transform a vacation into an adventure, and the experiences I’ve had will last a lifetime, unlike any sort of electronic gizmo (and I have paper backups of my notes).
If I can just keep my laptop and 5D working for two more days….
(Follow-up: I remind myself, a bit, of my old second (third) cousin who raced motorcycles and cars and kept soldiering on through the many hospitalizations as just part of the passion….)
Which doesn’t begin to compare to what happened to Michael :(
Chongqing: grand scale, tiny side streets, cultures in rapid transition, spicy goat tendon, “Happy Birthday” trucks, 33 million people and growing by over 1300 per day. What’s not to love?
Pretty busy, and generally some pretty poor net connections. Surprised I could manage to get this posted…. I’ll be back in mid-January.
After my first visit to China I knew I would have to return. I love it.
And so I will be returning – touring from mid-December until mid-January, entering and exiting via Beijing & wandering the country by rail or whatever with planned stops in HK and Shenzen, Chongqing, Xian, and hopefully Jiangxi & Guangxi.
A challenge this time will be to maintain my “one bag that you can easily carry for long distances” rule, this time for a trip more than three times as long as the last one (but that length makes the rule all the more important!). Fortunately I can carry less than Louie Palu (I think I’ll skip the second hard drive and the Kevlar helmet), though a bit more than Tim Ferriss (mostly because I have a larger laptop and camera).
They say you can’t create in a vacuum. It’s probably true. But as with most aphorisms, its opposite is as valid: you can’t create when pummeled with unending high-pressure noise.
With that in mind I’ve moved myself away from internet inputs in a formal way, announcing and enforcing strict limits on when I allow myself to worry about incoming emails, or blogs, or the hundreds of other information-rich but meaning-spare electronic minutae that had been dominating my time.
I still leave Outlook turned on all day. I still compose e-mails at any hour. But except during narrow windows of the morning and afternoon, I leave Outlook in the Task-list or Calendar views. As the Quebecers say, je me souviens.
Sign at the temple of Nanzen-ji, Kyoto.
Somewhere in Osaka Prefecture, 1 Oct 2007
After more than 50 years, the first trains have finally rolled through this crossing between North and South Koreas.
It’s common to tell digital photographers: “don’t trust the camera LCD as a preview.”
Window, Psychiatrist’s Office, Sunnyvale.
In January and February of each year the light here in the Valley breaks in a consistent and spectacularly unique way. In the morning, on somewhat overcast days, the morning warm breaks-open a slot in the cloud cover to the East, above Mount Hamilton near San Jose. The light pours through the narrow opening at a shallow angle, aboveSan Jose to strike us here, in Santa Clara.
In the evenings, the cloud cover cracks against the Santa Cruz mountains to the west, above Saratoga and Cupertino, and the light, again, beams through the slot to strike right here.
Low, direct sunlight, shining on an otherwise overcast day. You couldn’t buy this kind of light, and it’s here every year.
Ah, the perfect food for the harried sarariman….
Only been here a few hours, took an hour or two walk too clear my head and move my legs after the two two-hour tran rides and the 10+ hour flight. Took a couple dozen bad pictures but maybe a couple good ones, had a curry, drank-in the neighborhood. Always the same, always new. It’s like running into an old girlfriend and finding out she’s even more appealing than you remembered. Dang.
As mentioned a few days ago this has been a 3D animation sort of week. I’m taking a break tonight but expect there to be more over the weekend. I’m working in multiple packages: XSI, Max, and Maya — animating and setting up shader networks in XSI, modeling and animating in Maya, consolidating and scene-building in Max. A bit like working out tunes on piano (or trumpet) so you can record them on guitar. The hardest part is dealing with it at a finger level: holding down Alt in XSI instead of hitting “s” and that sort of thing. Videogames have stabilized on some key combos, like the first-person-shooter combo of ‘asdw’ — but not these apps. Not yet.
Yesterday was the last of it: oil leak, timing belt, and today the clutch. All fixed. The car hasn’t run so smoothly nor moved so surely for a long while.
I was stuck at home, but the restriction gave me focus while I wrote code.
To celebrate my new clutch: a double-double, protein-style.
I’ve been trying to come up with the best workflow to accomodate both B&W and color digital work.
I think I’ve managed somewhat to come to terms with a seeming paradox in working with B&W: when you’re snapping a pic, obviously the world in front of you — and visible through your viewfinder — is in color. When I work digitally, and of all color photos, I only occasionally feel the urge to remove the color. Yet when I shoot B&W film, I never feel as if the color is somehow “missing.”
My conclusion so far is that the paradox is illusory, a byproduct of the work process and the fact that neither the color photograph or the B&W photograph are the things being photographed. As the old Winogrand saw goes: they’re new facts. Once you see a color photograph, already made, it’s harder to think of it as anything else. Seeing the photograph is a new experience, one that is like seeing the things photographed while photographing, but… not the same. And that this surely has an influence on the way photographs are redacted from contact sheets and so forth. If they start B&W, they are B&W. Color, color.
Part of my weekend was spent scanning the 645 negatives shown here (and the rest of the 220 roll — these are frames 17-20) — somehow they’d fallen through the cracks in my workflow. I found the processed roll sitting in a box atop my monitor, where it had probably been resting since March. Oops.
I just received a new ANR glass for my MFHolder, so it was a good time to try it. The glass mount is a huge improvement over the little “T” holders.
I haven’t run any color neg in quite a while, and have been slowly working-through my stockpile of Ektachrome. Not sure why I bought some NPH back in February, but here it is. I think maybe because I believed it would have better latitude in the snow. Frustratingly, since Calypso stopped running C-41 the closest lab that will take it (and not send it away) is Keeble & Shuchat, half an hour from here.
I think I prefer the E100 after all, but I’ve picked up a couple of rolls of the current Fuji 400 just in case it’s better than the NPH.
Note: I’m deliberately shifting my web habits, and henceforth plan to be posting more photos here on Photorant than on flickr.
Printing more, too.
It’s been too hot all week to process anything. The tap water is still close to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Three rolls today in Foma F09 (“Ur-Rodinal”) 1::20 — two rolls of Neopan 1600 exposed @ISO 800 and overdeveloped (8 minutes instead of 5 for normal ISO1600 images), and one roll of Acros exposed @ISO 50 instead of 100 and processed for 11 minutes (instead of somewhere around 7). The aim was high contrast, and the Acros negs definitely show it, but the Neopan 1600 negs seem only a tad darker than usual. A surprise.
I’ll be heading to Boston for Siggraph over the weekend. Probable kit will be the same as my last trip, the LX1 and the RF645. Toting them along with my heavy (but still sweet) Dell laptop is quite a load….
…at least that’s what the kids would have you believe. This one’s digital of course and made quickly based on looking at a scan of a real (modern) dag (by Mike Robinson), trying to suss-out some appropriate curves and such entirely by eye. Not perfect, but learn by doing.
I realized as I was heading into Oslo that my meeting might be bumped by a local holiday — my dad would probably scold me for being a bad Norwegian, the 17th of May is the holiday, it’s christmas and thanksgiving and the fourth of july. The whole city was shut down, busses not running, taxis allowed to charge exorbitant fees legally (otherwise the drivers would stay home for the holiday), and as far as I could tell everyone in southern Norway below the age of 20 or above the age of 40 (and most of those in between too) crammed into a dozen blocks or so of central Oslo.
The Bronica gots its chance for a workout: ran about seven rolls of 220 Tri-X and Fujicolor and a little Acros to sweeten the mix (okay, I ran out of Tri-X). And filled two cards with the LX1 without shooting a single RAW frame.
Among the marching band hilights were covers of most recent famous Disney songs, a bit of ABBA, a slice of Sousa, and, just as they were passing the royal stand and waving at King Harald V, one school band broke out with their rendition of “That Dude Looks Like a Lady.” I started running hoping to catch a video clip, but they were a block behind me — a block filled with 5000 hip-hurra-ing parents.
Once the city busses were running again in the evening, I limped back to my hotel out in Lysaker (Fornebu) and promptly crashed until 2AM, just in time to prep for a visit to the Oslofjord for the 4AM sunrise.
Another cycle of airplanes, heading on a circuit ‘round Scandinavia for most of the week. I’m letting Reb take the Canon for her own trip to New Jersey, and I’ll be carrying just the LX1 and the Bronica.
I’ve hardly touched the Bronica for the last couple of months — mostly just too busy! Hardly any processing or scanning has gone on since January, shame on me (even as I’ve been shooting film, buying developer and bulk rolls, etc).
Funny, I’ve never posted many impressions about the Bronica — George Masters has, but he missed one crucial flaw: the meter is not TTL and it’s entirely possible to shoot a whole roll of 220 film without ever realizing that the lens cap is still on. Not that I would know anything about that…..
Still, a lovely camera. I just got back the color negs from February’s dogsledding extravaganzo, and hope to have a few up on the web some time soon.
Phil Perkis writes of photography:
To experience the meaning of what is. To stay with it for even a few seconds is no small task. The sound of voice without language, a musical line, a ceramic vessel, a non-objective painting. The presence of it, the weight of it, the miracle of its existence, of my existence. The mystery of the fact itself.
When you drive around the city and come to a red light or a stop sign, you can just sit back and make use of these twenty or thirty seconds to relax to breathe in, breathe out, and enjoy arriving in the present moment. There are many things like that we can do. Years ago I was in Montreal on the way to a retreat, and I noticed that the license plates said Je me souviens "I remember." I did not know what they wanted to remember, but to me it means that I remember to breathe and to smile.
It often seems to me that photography is a daily form of gratitude.
I’ve added nine more pix to the slideshow from New Years Eve.
They’re at the front, so if you’ve seen the rest, it’s easy to see all the new ones at once.
Do you know why digital wins over film when shooting color? Because there are no decent C-41 labs within a thirty-minute drive of here. Which means at best I have to drive 30 minutes to Keeble’s, 30 minutes back, then repeat the process to pick up the negs hours later. Or at worst bring it to anywhere local and then spend a good deal more than those two wasted hours trying to spot-out all the crap and scratches they leave on my negatives (or even crease marks, as I recently experienced when a roll marked “process only” was dutifully folded-up into a wad and stamped flat in an envelope by one local lab guy).
These last few frames from Saturday night were completely mis-treated by a guy who was standing there listening while I discussed with his manager how I wanted the negs handled. In fact I asked him some extra questions about handling rollfilm negatives. When I returned and found the negs mis-cut and with bits of dirt scratching against them inside the “clean” enveleope? He shrugged and walked off…
This past weekend was the Margo Davis “Photographing People” workshop, offered through UC Santa Cruz and given nearby in Palo Alto. This was actually the first sort of photo class I’ve taken since my brief distribution semester back at CalArts…
Margo is a well-known B&W portraitist and creator of the recent book and gallery show Under One Sky. The course brought in students of varying interests, levels of experience, and backgrounds; and she was great at being inclusive and attentive to all.
Margo is small and very kinetic — watching her work with another student as a subject, and then in her suggestions to my own shooting, I came to appreciate how that same (inate?) kinesthetic and spatial sense could be (and was) reflected in her way of posing subjects, moving the camera, etc.
I was happy with the experience because I learned a lot of things that I wasn’t really expecting to learn from really everyone there, including the formal characteristics of what Margo describes as “edge of the forest” lighting, which is what I used for the portrait at right, of activist and co-student John Erhart.
I keep telling myself that my perpetual smirk came from a diving accident about five years ago. Today I found this old cardkey for the DP Cray lab. Another theory shot to hell!
“Senior Technical Director” w00t!
A couple of years or so back I was browsing at a San Francisco bookstore and came across a book called “Projection Control” by William Mortensen whom I had previously known only as an antagonist to the old f/64 group back in the 1930’s. His pictures seemed oddly modern however, so I read further and found that he was an advocate of what we might think of as a ridiculous method. He developed his film not for minutes but for hours.
Three rolls of Neopan 400 120, three rolls of Acros 120, two rolls of HP5+ 120, two rolls of Ektachrome E100S 120, the B&W in Xtol 1+1, Rodinal 1+50, and in one case, Rodinal 1+100…
You do what you set out to do. Even if you fail, it’s normal to frame the failure in terms of the original goal. Goals can be useful and powerful motivators, but they can also restrict. A common tragedy, told many times, is of a protagonist who pursues a goal only to find, as he approaches it, that it wasn’t what he thought — everything looked perfect, from far away.
Tomorrow starts the 2005 Pacific Art League Annual Photo Exhibition and the photo above (actually a small crop from a much larger photo) will not be on display. One very much like it, however, is…
Three 35mm rolls of Neopan 1600, three rolls of HP5+, all in Xtol 1+1.
As the saying goes, you’re never quite so fully aware as in the first second after the hammer comes down on your thumb.
Two rolls HP5, one roll Acros.
This week’s reschedule of Photography Made Difficult was smaller — just David Lee, Rebecca, and myself, alongside the larger regular group of folks from South Bay Bloggers (including Courtney and, later in the evening, myself). A couple of members have said Wednesdays are bad so I’ve shifted the schedule to Fridays starting in April.
One roll TX400-120, Rodinal 1::50 13 mins.
On Friday afternoon I received my newest toy, a Rolleinar 3, a big $6 ebay purchase and much cleaner than my Rolleinar 2. How could I resist? So I sat Courtney down in the late Saturday light, scattered by tree branches and the wavy clear plastic above the back door deck.
Larger formats supposedly make you more patient but so far it’s not working.
It’s always in the details. This weekend finds me printing and reprinting comparison pix, looking at differences between methods: between digital and medium format film cameras, and between different ways to print their results.
Since the beginning of the year I’ve found myself increasingly dissatisfied with prints smaller than 8×10”, printing 11×14 and preferably larger. The Epson will deliver a predictable solid 12x18 from 35mm format digi, or 12x12 from a MF negative. And even that seems small a lot of the time…
It’s been a crunch week and only now for the long weekend do I get a chance to even start looking at the photos from last weekend’s wedding of Nicole (obvious in this shot) and Brandon (with the cake). Still haven’t processed the Ektachrome.
Somewhat as a by-product of my filing system and just due to the nature of the season, I spend a good deal of January picking through all the files on my various computers, burning many CDs, collating pages of negative sleeves, and reviewing proof sheets by the dozen.
It seems like Ilford is back from the edge of the dissolution abyss, at least for now. Despite all the anxiety over the “death of film,” it seems to me that it won’t be film that will dry up. It’ll be other parts of the expendables supply chain that will first disappear and make life difficult.
In my own experience, the most problematic supply item has been acquiring decent negative sleeves. And right this moment, I’m completely tapped out.
Six rolls of 35mm Tri-X, Xtol 1+1.
I have to admit that I’d been stalling on processing these rolls, dreading them just a little bit. I’ve grown spoiled by the ease and clarity of digital, and by the tonalities of larger negatives. But I went ahead and ran them and started to slide them into the scanner.
What had I been I thinking? The negs are exactly what I could have hoped for — well-toned, sharp, snappy, clean. Chalk my anxiety up to an infinite fickleness and an easily-suggestible nature.
Over the past few days a number of boxes have arrived in the mail, the result of my mother cleaning her basement. In them, various treasures, like an original unopened Batman: The Dark Knight poster, a manual on BASIC for the IBM 360, and hundreds of photographs that I’d left behind when attending CalArts. I’ve only opened the first box, and hardly begun to even sort them, much less print or scan.
As a comparison, here’s a digital snap I made quickly as an exposure test before making the photos in this post.
This morning saw a sudden change for Minneapolis, from bitter-cold and brown to nearly-temperate and blanketed in snow. Who’s to argue with that?
In preparation for the holidays I’ve been printing. It started with a few small prints, then I selected some wintery shots for printing at 12”x18”, to be on the walls during the holidays and an upcoming holiday party. Then opened the cabinet to find some old prints, and.. at least five shopping trips for frames later, I’m still left with far more prints than frames, and even then more frames than wall space on which to hang them.
Stopped by the city library to quickly look for a book (Wright Morris’s Time Pieces, for the sake of a single reference for an article on PhotoPermit), stepped into the “Friends of the Library” store and walked out with a spotlessly mint copy of the Lustrum/Ralph Gibson SX-70 Art, hard to find and currently listing used on Amazon at $75. Heh. My expense: one crumpled U.S. dollar.
Tonight I’m brewing up a five-liter batch of Xtol for a couple of rolls shot a few nights back while watching Death Cab for Cutie at the Warfield. The exposure was all guesstimated so something with a longer curve than Rodinal is in order.
I have to admit that in general, I’m deeply disinterested in concert photography. Not only does it seem completely inappropriate for the core material — a musical performance — to be locked down into a motionless silent rectangle, but the creative options feel near-nil, you’re stuck with the light the designer gives you, the constrained persectives. During the DCFC show there was a fellow lurking just offstage and between the Marshall stacks, snapping and winding his Leica. Looked like he was using a 50mm or 35mm, never closer than ten feet from anyone in the band. No doubt his shots would be technically polished but ultimately impersonal. As I expect mine will be.
Multiple hand-picked drip and espresso selections at Barefoot Coffee with Courtney, under the supervision of BF’s Andy.
The ongoing household purge, emptying another massive bag of trash from the shelves and closets (including the last five yours or so of PDN magazine — I tore an article out of most every issue, more or less, but the rest got chucked: reduced the stack by over 90%. A good rag, but one that has a hard time acknowledging that artwork has any purpose other than sales).
A phonecall from one of my heroes, Robert Bergman, in response to an APUG post. When Bergman’s book A Kind of Rapture appeared back in ‘98, it caught many (me, at least) offguard, as if it had dropped from a comet — his call was just as surprising and full of its own light — a very welcome message from the outer cosmic reaches of Minnesota.
Four airports in the past five days — a busy trip. Currently Sunday morning (I think) in Tokyo.
It’s only natural to make a lot of photos when travelling. This past trip has seen me chewing through two to four hundred shots a day. More on some days. Let’s see, that’s something like 3000 shots or around 85 rolls, about six or seven rolls per day. Surprising to me, it’s not a lot more than I might have shot without the digital camera (the Contax only got used for about four rolls, total — though it’s a joy to handle compared to the lunking Canon).
When the trip is rushed it’s especially true that you’re likely to see the things most typical, or most different from those at home. They stand out as obvious. The stone tanukis, the tricycle cabs, the massive portraits of Mao. And on occasion the things surprisingly transplanted or morphed where you’d least expect them: the subtitled Korn tracks in the Karaoke machine, the Cadillac Fleetwoods negotiating slowly through the streets of Shinjuku, the Beijing DQ store. There’s simply not a lot of time for contemplation. Bang off the shot and move, you’ve got other places to go.
Three rolls TMax 100, Rodinal 1+50 8 mins; three rolls Tri-X @ ISO 250, Rodinal 1+25 11 mins…
Sooner or later I will figure out how to make a photo that looks like over-exposed and over-developed Tri-X in Rodinal. And then hopefully I’ll be able to shoot it with something as lightweight as the old Canon G-III (f/11 @ 1/500… you won’t find a better camera or lens, and certainly not one within an order of magnitude of the price. And even then, it’s grained-out Tri-X fer Pete’s sake — you HEGR-heads really think you’re going to tell the difference between 130lpmm and 135lpmm on Tri-X?). Until then I guess I’m stuck keeping the film cameras around, eh?
My trick in printing this on the computer has been to use Vuescan with auto-levels set to their far extremes, store a 16-bit file, and then do the final contrast-range adjustments in Photoshop before downgrading to 8-bit. I’ve just had to accept that I can’t get my head around Vuewscan’s whitepoint/blackpoint adjustments enough to get predictable quick results. I’d rather burn the disk space for 18MB-per-frame scans and then do the work with a tool I feel I can control.
I’ve been using strobe more and more. Outdoors in daylight especially.
Not just in color, either – strobe is clear in Diane Arbus, Bruce Gilden, and Jeff Mermelstein…. strobe is like no other light. You can make it look “natural,” sure. Should you?
A collision of “what I saw” and “what I made” is at the heart of its charm, no doubt.
Three rolls TMax 100, Rodinal 1::25
Picking through proofs I’ve found a stretch of photos that I’d essentially forgotten — the ones that were made in the weeks immediately preceding the arrival of my DSLR. Like this one. Funny how I can tell myself that materials are secondary to ideas but it’s surprising, looking through these shots, how many ideas that seemed important at the time were completely dropped when the New Toy came along.
Current listening: “Nightingale” by Yoshikazu Mera, whose voice anime fans would recognize from his melancholic rendition of the title theme from Miyazaki’s Mononoke Hime. The album is subtitled “Japanese Art Songs,” and is something of a rarity here: just voice and piano accompaniment in a Swedish recording of contemporary Japanese kunstlieder. It is at once close to the heart of conservative music and yet bold and expressive in its realization. For all the admiration I have for brilliant arrangements on a large and complex scale, whether it be a Kid Koala scratch track or Beethoven’s magnificent Ninth, there’s still nothing more expressive than the direct voice. Simple clarity. Eminem exagerrates (duh): “nobody listens to techno” but we know what he means.
I’ve been shuffling lots of digital pictures around lately, moving them from my space-strapped laptop to CDs as backups and also to one of the desktop machines. As long as I was rebuilding picture folders, last night I had Photoshop bulk-duplicate several of them in monochrome and ran the results as a slideshow for a while. The result surprised me.
Three rolls of Tri-X, Rodinal 1+25; three rolls of Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50; six rolls of TMax-100, Rodinal 1+50. You can rinse and rinse and rinse and still that pink stuff never seems to come completely out of TMX.
The latest round of film shooting was launched by the arrival of the RTS and lenses. The lenses, of course, were intended for the Cantax, but the moment I picked up the RTS I knew I’d have to shoot something with it. The finder is huge and luxurious, even compared to my Canon 35mm’s, and far larger than what’s visible in the digitals or the Contax G2. The 28mm felt like a 28mm, wide and with crisply-straight horizontals. It’s a great, sharp normal optic for the digital, but as a 35mm-format wide-angle lens, it’s fantastic. A great complement to its little brother, the 28mm G-Biogon.
I’ve been selling-off my film cameras one by one but am less convinced of the wisdom of moving them all on. Film shooting is different, and no amount of Photoshop tweaking will make it match film in terms of the picture-making experience. It’s a different thing, just as playing the oboe is different from punching-up “oboe” on your Roland keyboard synthesizer. For many purposes — even most purposes — they are equivalent. Digital is better for a lot of things, such as most kinds of journalism. But it’s not the same. I won’t get rid of all the film cameras just yet (though I still have a sweet AE-1 for sale, CLA’d and all), and the differences are enough to keep me occasionally willing to spend time spotting out one dust speck after another…
Many, many snaps. Many CDs + duplicates.
I’ve been logging my film processing here in the blog for months, but none of the digital shooting, despite the increasingly-large bulk of the latter. This has been a family weekend, with relatives visiting for the graduation of my sister from Law School. 357 frames yesterday, 238 frames today. Of course most of them are simple family shots, but here and there I got a chance to make a few “for me” — that is, shots that had no specific family interest, just events and strangers that struck me as photo-worthy. And many photos of the family.
The bright sunlight compelled me to use strobe for fill quite a bit — Canon’s 550EX is really quite amazingly good at this, adding just a kiss of fill to bring the faces to the fore. We are so used to seeing photos like this in the media (especially in journalism), we rarely think twice about their lack of “naturalness” — perhaps because photos with bright, visible faces are graphically similar to how we perceive things psychologically — the faces are more luminous in our minds than in mundane reality.
Robert Adams, paraphrasing D.H. Lawrence, said that there is no sensual experience stronger than one in which we feel we are experiencing the truth. I often suspect the opposite is really the case — that our personal sensual experiences are satisfying because they are as True as we can possibly perceive them. Editing can destroy as well as enhance. In these hundreds of photos, cycling as a slideshow on my laptop, it seems so clear to me that the strongest ones are those where I just charged in and made the shot, without concern for formalities like graphic impact or interesting composition, nor worries about making sure everyone was looking forward or smiling. They are direct and impulsive, an impulse fueled by love of subject.
This morning before we went out for the day I found my dad at my desk, watching the cycling random slideshow of photos made just a handful of hours before. I saw him smile gently when a photo of my mom appeared. I’ll take that as one of my favorite reviews, ever.
Before this past trip I hadn’t been to Disney World since… well, I’m guessing 1975 or so. When I was a kid we went as a family at New Year’s, with K.C. and the Sunshine Band playing a show in Tomorrowland. The Magic Kingdom, as recall, was still unfinished, and the Big Feature of the place was Space Mountain — a ride you couldn’t get at Disneyland (even then, the traffic was backed up for over a mile before 9AM at the gate!).
The place has grown… a bit. Over 24,000 hotels rooms, and it’s not uncommon to have close to 120,000 visitors in a day — most of them travelling by foot. Even the cruise ship Disney Wonder carried over 2700 people, plus over 900 crew (the guests cleverly scheduled in groups so that you never get the impression that the ship is crowded, with almost no congestion save when boarding or debarking, or when a Disney character is in the atrium).
Rather than carry the Contax and the Canon, I alternated days. Magic Kindom Contax, MGM Studios Canon, etc. Still haven’t decided if one or the other was better overall, though the Contax was far lighter than the Canon plus batteries. I also felt more compelled to be sure I got the shot, rather than just blasting and chimping.
Three rolls Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50, 13 minutes.
So after much anxiety in the end it’ll be the DSLR with a minimal complement of lenses and a film rangefinder loaded with Tri-X for this trip — enough is enough (besides, Courtney will bring her camera, and we have the DVcam). Using the Contax over the weekend reminded me just how much more fluid and easy it is to handle than the digital. It also hammered home to me just how crudely abstract Tri-X and Rodinal can feel after many weeks of smooth, digital color. Which is a good thing.
Off to Florida and the Caribbean for a week, then — we leave the house and web in the able hands of the fantastic Elke.
Three rolls of Tri-X, X-tol 1+1 for 9 minutes.
Amazingly, I still have a film backlog from November — the three rolls now hanging are from a trip to Speaker’s Corner and a following visit to Copenhagen. Glancing at the negs it seems clear to me that I still have quite a ways to go with the DSLR before I’m as comfortable using it as I’ve grown to be with the Contax.
I’ve decided my next system expansion will be to hybridize slightly — to take the advice of Sean Reid and, for about the price of the Canon 28mm ƒ/1.8, get the Contax 28mm ƒ/2.8 and an EOS adapter (Better sell the rest of that older Canon gear, huh).
There’s just comething about the Zeiss lenses, whether its the design or the coating I’m unsure, but it’s there — I could see it just glancing at the first roll of negs when I bought my Contax. They were visibly different from Canon negs, even before they were printed. Sharp? Snappy? Sure. But it’s more than the photodo measurements, even as high as those are. Even Canon’s own lens designers have said it: “Sometimes what the eye perceives is slightly different from what is expected, even if all the measurements meet the proper values. We’ve experienced the fact that the perceptions of an expert surpass the precision of measuring instruments.”
The “roll-lessness” of digital cameras is totally messing with my filing system, which up into the last couple of years had been roll-based. Each roll tagged by date. In general, this also corresponded loosely with subjects, locations, and projects.
Now, the camera software splits everything into days. On a busy day that can mean hundreds of photos in the same directory, where before I could be confident know it was unlikely that there’d be more than 40. Add CDs to the equation and it’s clear the old system will have to go. What I haven’t settled on is a replacement.
Six rolls of Delta 400 @ ISO 800, Xtol 1+1 15:30. Three rolls of TMax 100, Xtol 1+1 9:30. One roll Fortepan 400, Rodinal 1+25 7:30. One roll Acros, Rodinal 1+25 7 minutes. Everything at 20°C, everything spot on. Rodinal and Acros — snappy! Funny that I couldn’t find a recommended time until I checked with fujifilm.de…
After running a bit of Rodinal a few days ago, I’m all enamoured with it again, after a long hiatus. The Acros was particularly impressive for the short range and high contrast that the combination delivers, but the TriX had a look that’s also hard for any other combo to beat — even with digital hackery.
Scanning all the negs as soon as they’re dry has both good and bad aspects. The good ones are that if I’m happy with the Photoshopable result, I can be churning out 8×10’s in less than an hour, or blasting them off via the net to all parts worldwide. The biggest downside is storage.
Before I started scanning regularly, I would always make a contact sheet, and store the contacts in three-ring binders. I’d page through them regularly, looking for photos I might have not been interested in one upon a time.
Photoshop can make what it calls “contact sheets,” but they are a very poor substitute for a real, silver-paper contact proof. They just don’t carry anywhere near the detail of the old-style contact, making photo assesment for the sheet near-impossible.
Yeah, sure, you could open all the original scans — but that doesn’t let you see a whole roll at a time, and it takes forever to load all those photos. It’s even worse when the scans have been archived to CD or DVD. I’ve tried slideshows, Extensis Pro, Powerpoint, browsers of all kinds… I’m just about ready to go buy a big honkin’ box of 8½×11 photo paper and start getting my fingers full of fixer small, making contact sheets for these scanned rolls in bulk.
If anyone has a better idea for how to manage the digital “contact problem,” please let me know.
Three rolls TMax 100, Xtol 1+1, 9:30 @ 20°C.
This one was shot early on the 10th of September, as we struggled to get ourselves functional before heading to Narita for our long return from Tokyo. About a week later I processed the roll, and the very next night, I ran across a similar shot by Japanese Photoblogger Samourai. Given the time of the post he may have shot his at the very same time, over in Nagoya (I have one even more like his, but I like this one better).
I suppose I could write-up a little diatribe about how everything that can be shot has been shot, and yet how nothing is ever really the same as any other shot, both before and after the moments of exposure. Yeah. I think I’ll just leave it as a little shout-out across the Pacific, yo.
Three rolls Neopan Super Presto 1600, Xtol 1+1, 7:30. This photo from the same roll of Rodinal’d Tri-X as the previous shot; made perhaps 20 minutes after that portrait.
A few years ago most of the Japanese anime production business leapt into the digital age. Gone were the inks, gone were the cel painters. Had the quality and cost ratios finally reached the magic level where producers were ready to embrace the future?
No. What happened was that Fuji, makers of many things besides photographic film and Finepix cameras, was also the primary maker of blank animation cels for the Japanese industry. The business was weak, couldn’t bear higher prices, so they shut it down. Bang suddenly digital was a great idea.
There was no nefarious plot to change things, they just made a rational business decision about something that seems like an incidental product but that had ramifications far down the industrial food chain.
I was thinking about this today when I got my latest bundle of neg storage sleeves. I’d been unable to process anything for days, while I had waited for them to arrive from NYC. Such a trivial thing, but what if PrintFile’s owners decided tomorrow that they day of the 7x6 page was over?
People worry about not being able to find film in five years, or ten. That’s not what worries me. Heck, you can still buy Super-8 film.
What worries me is going to be the steady consolidation and loss of infrastructure, until some camel’s back will be broken by a catalytic straw that will force even the diehard film users into resigning themselves to a 100% digital work environment. I expect the day’s not far off when you can’t process black and white unless you do it in a homebrew developer or you use D-76, and the only darkroom equipment you can buy will be third-hand on ebay.
At that point, of course, wet silver processes will finally have dropped into the ranks of daguerreotype and collodion process — a pricey, eccentric fringe art. The worst practitioners will jsut rehash the glories of the past, mired in nostalgia. A few good ones, we can hope, will be still finding new purposes and meaning in their stinky fixer fingers.
Three rolls of TMax 100 and another roll of Tri-X, Rodinal 1+25. TMax from around 6 minutes, the Tri-X for seven. Out of Rodinal, and out of fast film. Out of negative sleeve pages. Will have to sit tight until the next B&H box appears.
I observed here a while back that when I first started using my Canons, I used to use my 85mm almost exclusively. In recent years, I’ve switched to the wide end and use the 90mm Zeiss very little, stressing the 28mm and 45mm. I’ve been trying to understand/deconstruct what in my own tastes had changed.
Today I shot the latest in a few rolls I’ve been making completely using the 85mm. The experience was magical.
With the rangefinder, the 90mm feels like a real tele, and it’s difficult to use at wide apertures or close (or both). The depth of field can be less than a centimeter, and without much preview.
With the SLR, the 85mm is made for close, tight work. It handles like the 45mm on the Contax. The comfort zone is a quarter-step back but the result still feels intimate without being pushy. Combined with the crispness of Tri-X in Rodinal, it’s a thing of beauty.
Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 in Xtol 1+1 for ISO 800. One roll of new Tri-X TX400 in Rodinal 1+25, 7 mins. All @ 20C.
You’ve got dust leaks on the CCD, you’ve got wet leaks on the darkroom floor. My friend Joel was knocked flat on his back one morning when ammonia leaked through an aluminum pipe in our movie-film-processor, creating a dizzying gas leak.
You’ve got light leaks in the camera, light leaks in the scanner, light leaks in the drum, light leaks in the film can. I label all my re-useable cans, and if I see a light leak on the negs the can gets tossed.
Had one this morning:
“Sep03v - D@800 - 9/5/03” “Shibuya/Hachiko”,9/5/2003,Auto,f8.0,”Delta 400 Pro”,”G2”,”28mm Biogon”
Leaks around the last three frames, leaks along one edge across the roll. One frame ruined, the rest fine — but no more. Sorry, can “D” — “D” is for “Doom.”
The worst leak of all, though, is a leaky pocket, like the one in my green jacket.
“Aug03z - S@800 - 8/31/03” “Sincheon Food Street, Seoul - Night”,8/31/2003,Auto,f4.5,”Delta 400 Pro”,”G2”,”45mm Planar” “Hacker Membership Discoteque”,8/31/2003,Auto,f4.5,”Delta 400 Pro”,”G2”,”45mm Planar”
Somewhere in Korea, on the floor of New Hacker or Lotte World or somewhere in the gutter along Chamsil-dong, my jacket leaked out completed roll “S” in the wee hours of a Sunday night. The notes and the memories are all I have left. Grrr.
At least it wasn’t a memory card — then again, I might have noticed earlier.
When we were in Japan we switched hotels, from a western-styled business hotel to a Japanese-styled urban ryokan. After settling-in I thought to run out around the corner to the local Family Mart for a soda. For the first time in days I left my camera behind with Courtney – I’d only be gone for five minutes, right?
No sooner do I turn that corner outdoors, than a lone guy comes running down the street toward me — black suit, tie, and a horse’s head. He’s shouting and waving at people in an upper-story window across the street as he runs by. Me: no camera.
Today, I think to leave the Contax at home… I’ve got my little Canonet in the desk at work anyway, right? At lunchtime, I jot down to the cafeteria — at the door there’s a guy in a giant furry Shark suit (from the local hockey team). Me: no camera.
I feel an ominous trend developing.
Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 Xtol 1+1 for ISO 800. Two rolls of E-6 back from Calypso, one the new Velvia 100F (bought to try as an alternative to Ektachrome 100G). The slides look luscious but as in the past my scanner has a hard time getting detail from the shadows… though it’s in there!
The APUG turned one year old on the seventh of September — this past Sunday. To commemorate, members were to each shoot something that day and post to a shared community gallery, a little “Day in the Life” approach. While I haven’t processed or scanned everything I shot that day, I sent along the frame at right, from the first Sept 7th roll to be finished.
For the analog purist police, here’s the shot data: Shot at close range on TMax 100, Contax G2, 28mm, AE f/5.6 at around 1 in the afternoon Tokyo time.
Three rolls TMX, 9.5 mins Xtol 1+1 @ 20C. That leaves 42 rolls of black & white unprocessed, and a color lab backlog of an additional 18 rolls — I’m guessing almost 2000 frames shot over the past couple of weeks.
Big bursts like this seem to make a compelling argument for digital. As I type this I can look over C’s shoulder and see her downloading color frame after color frame from her Elph. Fast and (once the gear is paid for) free.
By comparison, the film cost is… well, let’s run the numbers. Two and a half 100’ spools of B&W film, about $60. Two Costco special packs of Kodak color neg, $18. About $50 of film from Yodobashi Camera (Neopan Super Presto for $3 a roll… couldn’t resist!). Two five-liter bags of Xtol, about $16. I changed batteries, about $9. Some stop bath ($0.50). Sixty negative-sleeve pages, about $5. Process-only at the color lab, another $55. Total: about $165. Or to put it another way — If I shot at this rate (around 5 rolls per day) for a year, it would be about half the cost of a Canon EOD 1Ds body (and I’d need new batteries, storage, and EOS lenses from 20mm to 85mm — or 15mm to 70mm for a camera with a smaller sensor, like the EOS 1D).
Then let’s add the time: if I do a run each night, I should have the B&W done in a week and a half. The color neg of course will be done almost instantly, and the slides are due tomorrow. Konica Impresa 50 Pro I ran through a lab in Japan while testing my dropped lens (everything was fine). Then of course I have to scan everything, at which point film pix and digital pix are on more-or-less an even footing, save for the potential hassle of spotting.
So between now and maybe two weeks from now, if I had a deadline, digital wins hands down, regardless of the cost. From that point onward, however, we enter the state where a viewer, seeing a photo, has essentially no interest whatsoever in how it was made or how long it took or what it cost. All they see is the picture.
So the question is then — could I have gotten the same shots with a digicam?
I don’t think so, in the dense crowds of Tokyo. A digital compact could have gotten about 20% of the more static shots, but it wouldn’t have had the quick response of my little Contax; a DSLR would have been quicker, but at three times the size and weight — and still probably unable to spontaneously shoot in quick succession. The film camera was instant-on, low-profile, and I could leave it ready all day and night. Seen in that light, film shooting still seems like a bargain.
Just a couple of rolls yesterday broke out the mini tripod and forced myself to go through a roll of TMX, indoors, on a rainy day. Mostly two-second exposures. I'm just about out of the faster films, but have hardly shot any of the sackfull of TMX that I'd anticipated using most-often.
After dinner our driver impatiently grabs the bag off my shoulder while I'm trying to get in the van, and despite my protests turns the bag sideways smack lens on the wet pavement. Everything looks okay focus still seems smooth. Not sure if Zeiss makes the lens shell from brass or titanium, but I sure can't find a mark on it. Will try to push a short roll through at wide apertures just to check.
Should pick up some more film later today considering the location I may be back on Neopan for a while. Considered picking up some Centuria in the special official commemorative package Huby, tho photo mascot cartoon character of Incheon International Airport, who adorns special film boxes and also winks at you on signs that remind passengers that photography in certain secure areas is prohibited. Decided to wait for something faster than ISO 200.
Every airport is a crap shoot Incheon doesn't hand-inspect film, they just shove it on through the xray machine. They want your shoes, too but at least they're nice enough to provide sandals for wearing while you walk the 3-4 meters to the other side of the security check.
I can see the summit of Fuji-yama just now from my airplane window, poking up through the clouds probably the last I'll see of Fuji for a while, considering the wet typhoon-season weather. Next stop on the ground will probably be Yodobashi Camera, for a lens check and some more film, if I can get settled at the hotel before Shinjuku retailers close for the day.
Three rolls of TMax 100, Xtol 1+1, 9:30. Unprocessed backlog is down to a roll of Ektachrome (off to the lab) and a single 120-sized roll of Delta.
Whacked monitors are a curse. Worse yet is trying to match them. My Eizo’s and Sony are all set to the same gamma, the same white point, but the Sony consistently displays more detail in the shadow values. The Eizos are black or nearly so for the bottom 10%, and the Sony handles the range nicely.
This is a personal annoyance, though perhaps an unusual one (not too many people have to worry about calibrating multiple monitors at home). What’s more worrisome is thinking about what people see when viewing pictures on the web.
I regularly see commercial studio pages where the “black” levels are clearly grey — often laid against a true-black background. I’ve come to the conclusion that the web designers themselves were simply unaware of how rotten their black levels are — they don’t even see the differences between 85% grey and black. And if the designers aren’t seeing the proper colors, what chance do I have that the casual web surfer will see them?
From now on I will try to preview everything using the cruddiest screen I can find. Maybe the old Sony laptop (a sweet screen for 1998, but not 2003).
Reviewing recent rolls, I will also try to stay away from using my 45mm wide-open all the time. ISO 100 film is not meant for available light indoors in the evening. I slap myself.
Three rolls of Delta 400, 15:30 in Xtol 1+1 — ISO 800 to bring-up some underexposed frames on one roll. The rest can deal with it.
My 90mm Sonnar seems to have developed “the grind.” It focuses smoothly when the Contax is held normally, but vibrates noisily when the camera is held vertically (or upside down) when focusing at near distances. Hard to tell if it just needs to distribute the lubricants or if there’s something more seriously awry. sigh just a week before leaving town. Then again I use the 90mm rarely.
The Canon is a different story — I still enjoy using that old FD 85mm, the oldest SLR lens I own. As much as I would like to consolidate entirely on rangefinders, the SLRs still have a few spots where they excel, albeit noisily. One of them is closeup, wide-open. The 50mm is also excellent for this sort of shooting.
In the morning, the world is a blur. I’ve worn glasses since the age of eight and to me, soft-focus wide-open closeup work is how morning looks. Until the glasses go on, the world within two feet is clear and the rest… a study in smooth bokeh.
Six rolls of Delta 400, Xtol 1+1@20C, 11.5 mins. Very little PhotoFlo, very short wash, squeegee’d and almost every frame seems dustless. What had I been thinking?</i>
Couple of rolls of Velvia and some 6x6 E100S for good measure.
For the past couple of months now, I’ve been collecting images for a project that I’ve not even mentioned in this log. A blog is simply a poor mechanism for working on something large, if the author has a desire to build something wth structure and scope. Imagine a composer posting a few randomly-chosen bars from a musical piece, different each day. Pointless.
Six rolls TMax 100, 9.5 mins Xtol 1+1 @ 20C.
I’ve decided to start filtering all the water, not just for chemicals but for final washing as well. Today I replaced the whole lot of chemistry, and drip-dripped multiple gallons of water through coffee filters held in my fingers. Hopefully this high-tech approach will help eliminate some of the last, nagging dust problems.
Spent the past four days on vacation in a group of nine, in L.A., usually too busy to take wandering photos. Still, I came back with eleven rolls and a few dozen digital shots (sad to say, the digitals were as ever a disappointment… even though I was quite enthused as I was making them). Just a couple of those rolls in today’s batches, but after a quick viewing I’m feeling positive about the negatives, still drying in the shower.
Disneyland and Universal Studios… if the TV has taken the place of the family shrine, then these sites are the religious pilgrimages of our day, the lands of the gods where we can pose with Mickey and SpiderMan, the untouchable and fictional made (at least momentarily) flesh.
Of course, when the real gods appeared at Disneyland for the premiere party of Pirates of the Caribbean, the faithful were shuttled to one side, allowed to cheer the gods’ entrances at a distance, then expelled quickly from the park. It is not for mortals to see Darryl Hannah riding Indiana Jones, save through the channelling mediator of a TV camera.
I must admit to feeling a bit awkward, having approached the theme in what looks like a straightforward, literal manner. Still this one does contain a bit of the layering of images and images of images that I seem to like these days, not far from the “palindrome of indirectness” I made for John B’s Shell Game.
Honestly, the photo isn’t entirely made of reflections. It’s a multiple exposure of different reflections. No intrusive Photoshopping — it’s all there on the negative — but not as it appears at first glance.
And no, it’s not the photo on the right. Surprising myself, it’s yet another color shot. You’d think this ambiguity schtick would always lends itself to black and white….
Tip of the week: Yevgeny Mokhorev
Three rolls Delta 400, 11.5 mins @ 20C Xtol 1::1. Mixed at 24C, brought the temperature down by tossing some ice cubes in a baggie and floating it in the already-diluted Xtol.
Yesterday afternoon I spooled about 20 rolls of Delta from a 100’ bulkroll — as I was cranking along, I read the Ilford label for the box, which recommended Xtol 1::1 for Delta 400 at no speed slower than ISO 500… 13 mins @ 20C. Hmmm, wonder why they don’t like Xtol?</i>
When I was living in Marin, I started work on a collection of photos of the Golden Gate bridge. Shot quite a few. My thought was to do something faintly echoing Hiroshige’s 36 Views of Fuji. One or two “straight” shots of the bridge itself, and all the rest photos of the city and countryside surrounding it, with the bridge merely a constant presence. The I moved to Hawaii and had to set this project aside.
In the meantime, what appears in the bookstores but Golden Gate by Richard Misrach. For a while, I feared that his book (and show) were exactly what I had planned — I’ve since discovered differently, even as I’ve returned to Northern California.
It’s natural to want to complete this project, though my photography is now in a very different ideological place. The greatest change w.r.t. my initial charter has been the growth of a deeper understanding (or belief that I have one, anyway) in the way Hiroshige was able to use Fuji-yama as a universal symbol of Japanese-ness. I began to see, in a less-than-superficial way, that Hiroshige’s illustrations were not of Fuji, but under the eye of Fuji.
I also came to question the role the Gate has. While physically imposing, a common iconographic symbol for the bay, what does the Gate represent? A tourist attraction, a real estate boon to Southern Marin, a tax harbor and absurd privilege to members of the bridge commission, tempting terrorist target? Is that what I want to accomplish, to celebrate, to reveal?
I’m still interested in the idea of this project, but even as the questions become sharper the answers recede.
Two rolls Kodak 100 dropped at the lab. Start to cut one up for scanning when I realize that I’m in the shot… hey, this is Kodak 200! Courtney….! Ah, she’s got the right one.
I’ve had no luck finding good C-41 lab services here in the Santa Clara area. In Hawaii, the Kailua Long’s Drugs would run C-41 process-only for 99 cents. I knew the lady at the counter and talked to her a bit about her beloved shiny new Noritsu print machine. The negs I got from Long’s were as good as the ones I could get from the $7 pro lab downtown in Honolulu. I could even leave her my 6x7 negative-sleeve pages and she’d use them in place of the drugstore 4x sleeves they normally used.
Here in the glamorous South Bay, no one I’ve found will do a process-only for less than $2.99 and they all seem to be equally miserable, even the local pro labs. Whose idea was it to roll-up the negs and shove them back into a plastic 35mm can after processing, ensuring that there are cinch-mark scratches on every negative? It’s always that or cut into odd shapes with scratches and (worse yet) little plastic tabs taped-onto the strips. This practice seems nearly universal, and no local lab seems gracious as my Long’s Drug lady, who would cut negs to my specification for free.
The first roll today is socked-in with dust — not the casual sort of dust you get while handling or sleeving or scanning, but dust that’s glued-onto the neg, big clumps that adhered when the negs were drying. Pec-12 and air blasts are helpless against this sort of thing. sigh No wonder I still like doing B&W myself. It’s just too hard to get C-41 films like XP-2 processed in a way that’s as clean as my kitchen or bathroom.
Three rolls TMax100, 9.5 mins @ 20C. They all look a wee bit thin, though the occasional dMax peeps through. Left in the fixer far too long (like by a factor of 3)? Hmmm.
I’ve realized that over the past two years, I have purchased, in order: a Canon G1, a Contax G2, and a Canon G-III. Ironically, each camera is older than the previous. I guess the next cameras in this pattern would be a 4x5 and a 6x7, if I can find any that start with the letter “G” (thank goodness for Fuji Medium-format cameras, heh). Or does my highschool-vintage 124G already count?
Shot about six rolls yesterday, trying to make the most of the three-day weekend by running up to San Francisco to visit an ill friend, his family, and other friends. We then jotted up to Marin for a bit of nostalgia around Mill Valley and the forests flanking Mount Tam and Bolinas.
The G-III is light and fast, easy and quiet, though I fear that it’s autoexposure may be reading a little bit too hot. Fine by me, since my initial belief when I bought it was that the meter would be inoperable due to a lack of discontinued mercury batteries.
One negative surprise: On my second G-III roll I had a misfeed about eight frames into the roll. Once processed it showed a krinkle, and I had to stop and rewind the mustly-unused roll. Subsequent rolls went on without a hitch though. I actually suspect I may have cut the leader in the wrong way.
The mountain was deep in fog and I felt apprehensive about shooting there, knowing perhaps too well how the photos would look. Then again, I shot them for myself, not for my ever-present imaginary art critic. The fog is beautiful. It was in a place that I love and rarely visit any more. Sometimes that is enough, as long as the photos aren’t posed, neighborhood art-fair fashion, to pretend that the simple presence of fog is enough to make the photos mysteriously meaningful.
…is one that helps make the picture.
For some time I’ve been scanning rolls (or downloading digicam sessions) and then, before doing any further editing or selections, playing the fresh photos as a random slideshow in GraphicConverter on the Mac. Not only can I watch them over and over at a large size, but the randomizing can reveal new connections and collisions on each cycle. I often leave it running for hours.
I’ve recently switched to a different slideshow program — Mac OS X itself. The “Pictures Folder” Screen Effects (screensaver) module not only cycles through folders of fresh-scanned pictures randomly, but it zooms, pans, and glides across them in a host of ways, revelaing even more possibilities as they lap-dissolve back and forth. The one fault: it won’t display empty areas, so the Apple screen aspect ratio, 4::3, is used. It doesn’t show 35mm images full-frame — only as cropped, panning slices.
Still, it’s a terrific picture frame. Tonight I’ve set it on a folder full of old contact sheets — hundreds of photos, old shots seen again for the first time. It is captivating, nostalgic, hallucinatory.
This is a very long entry. I think I may move it to its own page after a couple of days, so it won’t overwhelm the rest of the journal.
In one of Mike Johnston’s first installments (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-02-04-31.shtml) of his column Sunday Morning, he writes that working methods are the most important thing that photographers never talk about. He then seems to stop talking about them in almost all subsequent columns. Go figure.
Three rolls Delta 400, 11.5mins Xtol 1::1 @ 20C
Got my new bulkroll of TMax (and a new pack of PrintFile pages) and found that I still had a good 30 feet of it in the loader all along. Doi! Spooled-off six rolls to potentially use in San Francisco today.
Paul Graham says Hackers and Painters just want to be loved.
Hoped to do some printing Thursday night for the second Contax G Print Exchange. I had planned to make silver prints for this but there’s been no time for the darkroom & a dozen prints are due in Scotland in two weeks. Back to the Epson.
I thought of using the photo at right — already posted in this journal once. A few days ago I posted it to Contax G and to my surprise it proved terrifically popular, rapidly attracting kudos and the highest site ratings I’d ever had there; before the jpeg was corrupted by a database glitch a couple of hours later. Only a handful of people ever saw more than a 150-pixel thumbnail. After two days of struggling and failing to be allowed to replace the file, I ended up deleting it.
An object lesson in impermanence, pride turned quickly to humiliation by a few errant lines of bad code.
Putting it in a print, I thought, might make some faintly-ironic statement about the fragilty of the web, its mercurial nature and the perhaps unfounded faith we place in it — replaced by a stiff archival chunk of heavy stock.
But I’ve since realized that it would be an empty gesture. Few had seen the photo in the first place, the irony would be lost. Pick a different shot.
The incident has, however, once again indicated to me that shared gallery sites are not always a healthy place for photos. I’d already abandoned placing photos on photo.net a long while back — too much emphasis on high volume and a demand for banality, photos that confirm and conform to the Kodak-brochure norms. I think from this point I should just keep my web photos on my own site, save for special situations.
Two rolls TMax 100, one roll Fuji Neopan 400, Xtol 1::1 9.5mins @ 20C
So the backlog is dropping — tonight’s trio leaves only a couple of C-41 rolls in the “pending” box, and both of those were shot by Rebecca — not me. I think.
I fished out three white-labelled DX-coded-for-ISO-100 rolls from the box, grabbed the changing bag and tall tank, threaded them up. Pulled out the snips of leader and…. they didn’t match. Two were the expected pinkish TMax 100 color, but one of the snipped leaders was gray. Huh? I turned on the PDA, checked the GoPix log. Roll “G100,” Apr03b, TMax 100, Stevens Creek landscape photos. Hmmm.
So Courtney brought my last two C-41 rolls from the To-Do box to Long’s this afternoon and now I have a shot-but-unprocessed backlog of zero, not counting the couple of rolls that are currently loaded in cameras (including an Ektachrome 100VS 6x6 roll from January, sigh). If I want more pictures, I’d best go out and make some.
Current supplies: five rolls of TMax 100, 13 rolls of Delta 400, two rolls of Kodak Gold 100 neg and a test roll of the new Ektachrome 100 G. About a half-dozen 120 E100VS rolls, two long-cut (old bottom-loading Leica-style) TMax 100 rolls, and of course the digital… with about 200 exposures of ancient digibacklog from Helsinki needing to be spooled-off to CD (never to be seen again?).
Did it! Actually had time after 6PM to shoot something new for the midnight deadline of the streetphoto salon (click-thru the pic).
I still dug through the archives, and added a little alternate gleaned from last fall’s trip to Tokyo. I like that one, but frankly it’s something of an urban cliche. Still, the full set has quite a number of similar shots, with the hope that as a set they’re stronger.
Hmm, got a message from Michal Daniel that it’s already time for another street photography salon — photo web submissions are due tomorrow by midnight. This time the theme is “trace” and once again I haven’t gone and made a doggoned thing for it. Will have to dig through the archives, though I’d prefer to shoot something new.
Haven’t really had time for it this weekend, been struggling with last-minute tweaks to my taxes — might have to file an extension if I can’t find all of the receipts right away, though I’m happy to report that for Hawaii, California, and the IRS, I get refunds all around even without them. I just want to find the right receipts (mostly moving-related) so I can crank those refunds up just a tad more.
Picking through Dave Beckerman’s Journals on his printing process. Yeah, a lot of steps, many things to go wrong.
The darkroom here is partly re-assembled. I put the Durst back together, but the head wouldn’t light. Not sure if it’s the bulb, the wiring, a fuse in the power supply, or what. I only got to use this enlarger a very few times at the old house — it’s nicer than I remembered (if it will work).
The water situation in the new space is poor. That’s still the biggest limitation, one I’ve previously been able to bypass by just running negs in the kitchen and scanning them at my desk.
Overheard a conversation last week, two illustrators discussing one illustrator’s desire to take a photo class. The other thinks it’s a waste, “not that photography isn’t an art and all, but I don’t see how it has any effect on being able to make pictures.”
Okay, forget anything bad I ever said about TMax 100 (except maybe the drying part, and the mysterious pink stuff). These last rolls (coupla nights back) have made me a believer again. Crisp, broad latitude, good stuff. The last batch had a number of frames from something I’m calling the “infinity project” though it may be a while before any of it starts to see the light of day here or elsewhere. Looking at them gives me more ideas to improve it, and reassures me on the validity of some of the ideas.
No surprise, no Salon win for me. Maybe in a couple of weeks I can come up with something funny for the next topic, “Traces” selected by Michal Daniel.
One roll Acros, two rolls Tmax 100, Xtol 1::1 9.5mins. I forgot about the mystery red stain from the TMax (anti-halation layer?). One Neopan400 rated 800, Xtol 1::1 11.5 mins.
Acros has a unique snap, described well by one early reviewer as “metallic.” I’ve never run any charts on it, but suspect it’s just that it blocks-up in the highlights, similar to slide film. Anyone know?
I can say this much — dries faster than Kodak, probably due to the plastic film base. This is ready to scan and sleeve after 4-5 hours, while the Tmax is still a wee bit sticky and still hanging.
Feeling better about the Delta switchback — as contrasty as the Fuji maybe, but then again that just seems to be due to the Ilford’s better latitude. Scanning/printing to adjust makes all the difference.
Took me until tonight to even begin to look in detail at the first of the rolls from a couple of nights back. Previously I just grabbed a frame from the end of the roll and rushed it through. Been really slammed on schedule at work, and the process of reviewing scans has been slow. The slogging part, ironically, is the computer — takes time, even on a fast computer, to pick through photos in detail, and the little 200-px sized thumbnails are no replacement for a clean, hi-res viewing.
On the way back from errands Courtney & I stopped at Kamera Korner in SJ and bought some Dektol. Looks like the darkroom is poised to rise again, after a long hiatus…
Xtol 1::1, 11.5 mins @ 20C. About 18C, make that 12.5 mins. Three rolls @ ISO 400.
After a four-month fling with Neopan 400 Presto (aka Neopan Professional), as of this batch I’m back to Ilford Delta. The Fuji is great stuff, easily pushed, crisp, contrasty. I picked some up in a corner store in Tokyo, having run out of Ilford. I was delighted with the results, but Delta has a smooth tone and latitude that I’ve grown used to. And I can actually find it bulkrolled in the store.
I ran the Fuji through a battery of tests — to ISO 200, pushed to 800, 1600, 3200. Xtol, Rodinal. For web purposes, running it at 800 was perfectly fine — for reasonably-sized printing. Good for an overcast winter. The last dozen rolls were all shot that way.
In going back to Delta I’ve realized that I hadn’t done any methodical examination on it since first shooting the old version, almost a decade ago. So it’s overdue! Hopefully over the next few days I can run a few rolls for the sake of the same tests — do some more-formal comparisons on Tmax 100 too (Acros is really great but hard to find around here and never in bulk). Rich has said he’d like to go out shooting in Marin sometime soon… hmm
Two rolls of unprocessed Neopan still sitting in the “need to process” box. One marked “Jan03K.” Tsk.
The announcement in America of the invention of photography, as reported in The New Yorker (later renamed the New York Tribune), 13 April 1839:
You don't have to go out looking for Dr Ernesto Guevara when in Cuba -- his picture will find you. Guerrillero Heroico Che has become, as it was described to me more than once, the logo of Cuba. I've read that it's the most famous photograph in the world.
The Old Man was dead.
"We should go to Cuba before it changes too much," See See commented that evening.
"Definitely," I agreed with her, "before they finish putting in a Bubba Gump and TGIFriday's on the Malecón."
So I set aside my winter holidays and started looking at options, logistically and legally. Try to find something we could do together. Maybe an art workshop? Almost immediately, I found: Santa Fe Workshops, Open Door Havana with David Alan Harvey. Holy cow!
Trying to get my computer do my art history homework.
Here are nine statements that I hope clarify to readers (and myself) what I'm on about here at PhotoRant.
It's also a useful prep for me as I try to write up more about the nature of my actual working methods. I don't expect them to apply for everyone, but here they are:
Hidden Layers 3, 2016 (Update: this one sold)
I will have some pieces in the April exhibition at Palo Alto’s Pacific Art League. As usual the opening will be on the first Friday. As you might expect for anything containing my work, that’s April First.
Please feel free to come by during the opening reception that evening between 6 and 8PM, where you can critique in person over a glass of wine; or visit any time during the first three weeks of April. The gallery is at the corner of Forest and Ramona Streets, across from Palo Alto City Hall.
Contemporary Photography in Asia
"Color tends to corrupt photography and absolute color corrupts it absolutely. Consider the way color film usually renders blue sky, green foliage, lipstick red, and the kiddies' playsuit. These are four simple words which must be whispered: color photography is vulgar." — Walker Evans
"In photography, you always have both the medium and the depicted subject at the same time." -- Thomas Ruff
In Ruff's work, the image is a very particular thing. I especially like his over-enlarged internet Jpegs. His more recent work has wandered into CG and crypto-photograms, a process that creates an image of imagery, where the "true" object, placed on photo paper, is itself replaced by an ephemeral concept, a mental image of an optical image. So meta.
The crisis of "thingness" in photography is at once at the root of many of its greatest strengths and weaknesses, as pointed out by painter Gerhard Richter:
This post started as three different posts, each of which got bogged down in its own overwrought explication. I realized they all shared concerns about essentialism, of what makes a photo… a photo. I’ve decided to just stack them and cut straight down in straight lines across all three. Kick ‘em all.
This morning I decided to go for a bike ride. Dragged out a map, looked at some of my favorite recent destinations for riding that were at about what I felt was an appropriate distance for the amount of time I had; then drew a circle roughly around my location to fit their range. I noticed that they all tended to cluster to the north and west, to Palo Alto, Los Altos, and the hills near them.
There’s an old photographer’s maxim: if the view is interesting in a particular direction, there’s a good chance that the view will be interesting in the opposite direction, too. This is one of those little guidelines that encourage the thing I most like about the process of photography, and that I like most about cycling: it demands that you pay attention.
So I chose a different route, and a path less traveled, which has made all the difference.
The photograph at right was made along a path that I hesitated before – gravel, long, no easy turning back. Little sign of popularity, not even a guarantee that I’d not get to the far side and reach some impasse that would send me back the way I’d come.
Paul Graham was kind enough not to name the unthinking reviewer who he says doesn’t “get” photography – which is odd, because you’d think he’d want to protect others from the potentially-insulting opinions he cites in this one-paragraph Jeff Wall book blurb by Carnelia Garcia in ArtInfo’s February ART+AUCTION (Garcia claims to be a museum “PR Associate” according to her LinkedIn profile – I won’t speculate further).
What Graham’s essay seems to miss is “how there remains a sizeable part of the art world that simply does not get” a lot of art – not just photography. ..
More from The Cruel Radiance:
In 1986, the critic Andy Grundberg observed that postmodern photography "implies the exhaustion of the image universe: it suggests that a photographer can find more than enough images already existing in the world without the bother of making new ones."
Perhaps telling is that a list of Grundberg's articles for the New York Times is dominated less by art criticism and more by obituaries: Irving Penn, Julius Schulmann, Arnold Newman, Gordon Parks, Avedon, Ellen Auerbach, Carl Mydans, Eddie Adams.
Which brings us to his difficulties with the very much living Robert Bergman (PDF):
Last night I grabbed the growing stack of unopened issues of Aperture off the living room magazine rack and started in at them. On top was the current issue, which contained an except from Susie Linfield's The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence. I'll excerpt from their excerption:
This is a book of criticism, not theory [...] It is written, in large part, against the photography criticism of Susan Sontag. [...] who was responsible for establishing a tone of suspicion and distrust in photographic criticism, and for teaching us that to be smart about photographs means to disparage them.
Another, longer except can be found here.
Color study shot for Rift: Planes of Telara
Earlier this week we were privileged to have painter & storyteller James Gurney visit the art department at Trion, both to have him speak with us and also for us to get a chance to show him our game. He’s best-know to the public for the Dinotopia books (favorites at our house for many years – See See & I were also lucky enough to see the Dinotopia show at the Norton Museum in Palm Beach a few months back), and known to a lot of artists for his blog and several art technique books, including the new Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter.
We got the chance to look at some advance copies of the book and also hear him talk a little bit about (among many other things!) how the brain processes color and luminance separately – which of course reminded me of this old post on the Black and White Brain. It’s exciting to me to see someone as accomplished as Gurney coming at the same ideas from a different direction and for different purpose.
It’s been several years now where I find that some of the biggest sources of information for my work in computer-graphic coloring and shading come not from computer scientists or even other people doing similar work – instead, they come from painters. Not just realist painters, either. Gradations, highlighting, punctuation, contrast, shape – increasingly I think of shading as a sort of painting-without-drawing.
The survivors are the pages that get scissored.
Photoquotes has recently put up Berenice Abbott’s 1951 essay, “Photography at the Crossroads.” Mentioned twice already here on Photorant, it’s the same essay reprinted in The Education of a Photographer (which is now also indexed on Google books).
So you needn’t take my word for it:
"The stale vogue of drowning in technique and ignoring content adds to the pestilence and has become, for many, part of today's general hysteria..."
In the film Repo Man, Tracy Walter’s character opines: “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are,” a line I’ve glibly repeated ever since hearing it.
That line has always felt true, and the central kernel of it is this: intelligence doesn’t really enter into it. No matter how intelligent, no matter how fit, no matter how wealthy, no matter how experienced, no matter how good you could be, you simply won’t be. Michael Schumacher has essentially no advantage whatsoever in commuting when compared, say, to a semi-paralysed 87-year-old illiterate who forgot to bring her glasses. A $400K Mercedes has no operational advantage over a rattling secondhand Kia in over in 95% of real traffic. They will all arrive at the same time: late.
Almost two years ago I wrote an entry about in-camera sepia, wondering if in fact a sepia transformation could provide a photo with more tonalities than a tyical 8-bit black and white.
So many good books recently, and some good ones that I've never sung about here though I've had them for many months. There has been a special bounty of books that have no or very few photos, though they are indeed photography books. I'd like to mention four (well, four and a half) of them.
And a video.
For my Contact Photo weekend, I’d expected the Sunday to be the shorter of the two – instead under the bright sun I was able to visit MOCCA, the remaining Queen Street galleries, the Gladstone, the Drake, drive across town to the Corkin, and still take a leisurely pace back to the airport.
Of the work I saw, there were only a few standouts, but they were well worth the trouble…
Spent most of the day running back and forth through the rain to see as much of Contact Photo as the rain would allow, and last night chasing around the Lanch Event. Tomorrow I’ll hit the MOCCA portion before returning home. Fell asleep – coffee in hand – just as the early-evening weather outside my hotel room was surging past the drizzly form shown here into a real driving storm.
I also had the pleasure during the morning of driving across town to visit the Bob Carnie & Kevin Viner at Elevator Digital, where I got to see their big print line including their digital fiber-print mural-scale line, which they believe was the world’s first. These are large-format images, printed on black & white traditional darkroom paper – a good deal bgger than what the well-known Devere digital enlarger can produce.
I also got a glimpse at the results from the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF9100 60” printer, which delivered gorgeous B&W results straight our of the bx – that is, on the supplied Canon profiles without tweaking.
To my surprise, when I awoke two hours after dozing away, the view was dazzlingly different: the towers lit by an orange sunset and framed by a deep blue sky. Surprising what a couple of hours can do if you’ll just willing to stay put (sleeping helps).
What about the photographs? I’ll write more about them in the next entry.
In the morning I’m off to Japan. I stopped at Kinokuniya in San Jose today, to see if there were any interesting recent Japanese art books I could buy here and thus not have to carry around while I’m wandering – guided by my earlier acquisition of their entire collection of Rinko Kawauchi books.
To my delight, I found a brand-new copy of Farewell Photography, selling for un-marked-up retail. Yatta-w00t!
I’ll be back the first week of October, just in time to see Kawauchi in person at SFAI.
I’ve been squinting through the details of Things As They Are: Photojournalism in Context Since 1955, another of those books I’ve been procrastinating at cracking. While uncredited to him, in a way this book was one of the last to fall under the shadow of John Szarkowski, who challenged the editors: “I share your hope… that your exhibition and book will be more than one more fat compendium of the pictures that editors expect photographers to make.” I think they’ve had some really admirable success in this book.
- There is nothing to deter you from making lots of photographs with your full heavy kit bag like an intense peeling sunburn across your shoulders and back.
- Spending time with your son being hurled down the “Pacific Spin” at the water park while being seriously sunburned across your shoulders and back is 100% worth the trouble.
- I thought I knew a lot about the California landscape, having driven through it and flown over it at varying altitudes countless times. Then I took the train from San Jose to San Diego.
- At night, it is better to fly.
- In Los Angeles, yes there really are people dumb enough to drive their boyfriend’s new car in between the rail-crossing barriers, panic when they see the 9:20 commuter coming toward them, decide to drive away in the opposite direction on the railroad tracks at high speed while calling said boyfriend on the celphone – until the damage to the auto suspension halts the car between streets, paralyzing all north/south rail traffic for an hour or two until an offroad-capable truck can come to haul away the car and an inspector ensure that she didn’t do any serious damage, which the police and boyfriend search for her since she fled the scene, in a less-than-optimal neighborhood, on foot.
When Gursky was here at SFMOMA a couple of years back, he commented that he had met the CEO of K-Mart, who also had a (probably “real” and pricey) print of “99 Cent Store” in his office. It was left ambiguous as to whether the exec felt that the photo criticized or glorified its subject… a little less ambiguous in Stallworth’s discovery?
I have been picking, one by one, through the many many MANY unread blog posts that have been steadily accruing in my bloglines feeds. The numbers have been intimidating. Alec Soth, 65 posts. Ed Kashi, 28 posts. Joerg Colberg, 158 posts…. even a long backlog of What the Duck. And that’s just the “Shoot Me” folder. It goes on and on. I haven’t even dared to get started on the flickr feeds.
These things creep up on me because I want to read in detail and my circumstances so rarely give me time and focus for anything more than a glance. And then the lists grow and keep growing while I’m trying to make time for it.
This post has been lingering half-written for months, I was reminded of it this morning, as I came across this post from Suzanne Revy, and prodded with the notion that in fact this little rant has been curdling in my mind for my, much longer.
Suzanne is one of an undeclared informal group, the APUG B&W Child Portrait Society, a club that includes photographers like Cheryl Jacobs in the U.S., Nicole Boenig-McGrade in Australia, & Heli Huhtala in Finland.
In all these cases we see similar sorts of classic iconography being used to similar means: to reveal, or seem to reveal, a private world in which children are fully involved and which adults can only glimpse. Even then, the contents of that private world remains hidden – only its existence is shown, and the rest is hidden through deep shadows and restrictive or soft focus (or even, as in Cheryl’s current title-webpage image, both shadows and soft focus combined with a wire mesh screen between the child and the photographer).
As a followup to the earlier post on skepticism about "Creative Commons," it's been sadly amusing to watch the recent flaps declaring flickr (a) as censors but (b) not censorious enough. What seems common to both situations is a failure of common sense, a failure rendered raw with typically abrasive flourish by EPUK's "Sqweegee" in his article on the Schmap smokeup:
I’ve been in Seattle for the past couple of days, attending and speaking at the Online Games Developer Conference.
Yesterday morning, I found in the New York Times an editorial by Nick Kristof which has been widely copied to other locations such as this one — the article, “Save the Darfur Puppy,” tries to grasp at some of the issues revealed by psychological research and “the implication of a series of studies by psychologists trying to understand why people — good, conscientious people — aren’t moved by genocide or famines.”
I have to admit that I slept through a lot of my CalArts “History of Photography” class. I was waist-deep in my own second-semester projects and the class was in a comfortable, air-conditioned and darkened theatre with deep cushioned seats. Sometimes I’d wake up and my friends would have drawn on me, with the approval (if not participation?) of the teacher.
One time I woke up to see this photo, twelve feet tall.
At the time I’d never heard of Garry Winogrand. The photos came from a planet past my comprehension, though I could not look away. At that moment I got the impression that the desperation I saw in those photos was a desperation in Garry himself. It’s an impression I’ve never lost – the belief that it must have been painful to be Garry Winogrand, that there’s a sort of weary melacholy in him even when smiling.
I wish I could say that seeing this made me rush right outdoors with my Nikon, but I was too caught up in filmmaking and theatre at the time. The camera stayed mostly on the sideline. Later on, when my shooting rose from its own slumber, this image and a thousand more like it were waiting just below the surface of my consciousness.
One of the consequences of using the mixed B&W/color workflow that I described a few posts ago is that when browsing through Adobe Bridge, you end up seeing both B&W and color versions of every picture. Viewing everything doubled, side by side, is oddly informative.
Both forms have a flatness, but also a sort of dimensionality that’s unique to each. Both are flat, yet both are different. I’ve not made my mind up about the real dynamics of one or the other of the effects but they’re… interesting.
Sadly my interest in these choices has been stomped on a bit, with the unfortunate theft of my 5D (and a 28mm ƒ/1.8) a couple of days ago. I still have my LX1 to continue as my RAW-making digi of choice, and I’ve been running the new Kodak Portras through the Bronica while I fume and decide what to do now that I’m dSLR-less. There are some projects that I needed that camera to continue on, that would have to mutate or die with out it.
On the plus side, it is giving me a wee boost to remember some lingering film-based projects-in-progress.
Lenswork #69 arrived today, and as is so often the case, the cover was a photo of rocks — contrasty, windswept, Western rocks. Vasquez, Indian Head, Merrick Butte. The locations we’ve all had burned into our psyches as standard backdrops for John Ford and Tom Mix.
While these locations are dramatic in and of themselves, it’s hard not to compare each new photo of them with the work of Carleton Watkins et al – people who photographed these places (& on a grand scale) because the western landscape was unknown.
Today’s shooters photograph with the opposite intent: the same locations precisely because they’re well-known. When did this shift occur? The Kodak Brownie? Timothy O’Sullivan?
Yesterday I received a Fedex envelope from Mexico, and within it was a bright yellow giftwrap containing a shrinkwrap containing Mark Alor Powell’s book V.I.P. (Mark is also known as “locaburg” on flickr). It’s only March but I’m considering it a Best of 2007 already.
At least I managed to pull-open the shrinkwrap! Far too often in 2006, I compulsively purchased books that never had much of a life past the point of purchase. This is especially true of art books that I purchased while traveling. I like the idea of buying local-artist books, but when it comes to taking the time to dig into them…. they often get the short shrift.
Part of this may be that when I’m heading home they get buried in my luggage, then once home they go straight to the bookshelves where they’re forgotten. But I’m making excuses. A lot of them sit out in plain sight for a long while.
Here are some of the books that I bought in 2006 that I was sure I wanted to read but still haven’t done so. Most I probably paged through for two minutes… some, sadly, are still in the bag:
- Absolut Viking - Lill-Ann Chepstow-Lusty (okay, it’s in Norwegian)
- Swedish NationalMuseum Catalog
- Small Wars - An-My Lê
- Excuse Me - Keisuke Nagoshi (text in Japanese)
- Capturing Light - Drew Heath Johnson (okay, a gift)
- Saga - Arno Rafael Minkkinen
Part 2 Part I is here.
Marc Hauser is a professor at Harvard’s Deptartment of Cognitive Evolution (a fully different person from photographer Marc Hauser), and his recent book Moral Minds is chock full of morality tests. These tests take the form of little thought experiments, similar to those math “word problems” of trains leaving Chicago and Philadelpha at the same time at such-and-such a speed. Unlike the meeting of two fixed-speed trains, however, these problems don’t have fixed answers — rather, they are presented as a means for the person taking the test to shine some light into the internal nature of their own moral sense.
One of the most difficult aspects surrounding the practice of war photography (and other “socially concerned” photography, as exemplified by, say, Salgado’s gold miner photos) is that almost universally, the stated aim of photgraphers who pursue that vocation is that they desire an end to war — a specific war, or all wars. As has been pointed out my a number of detractors, most prominently Susan Sontag, there’s little evidence to show that photography has done much of anything to stop wars.
The 2007 World Press Photo awards have been in announced in the past couple of days, and it’s no surprise that the dominant award winners — especially in “singles” — are of combat and its aftermath. The World Press Photo of the Year itself is one: Spencer Platt’s celebrated shot of a group of well-heeled and comopolitan young Lebanese cruising through post-airstrike destruction in their red convertible, one of them sourly fiddling with her celphone camera.
Both of my primary digital cameras now have the ability to save a full-sized JPEG image along with the corresponding RAW file. So I’ve taken to setting them both up the same way: with the JPEG stored as B&W, high contrast, and the color balance set to “AUTO” or “Daylight.”
This buys me a couple of things besides the obvious one: B&W photos that are B&W out of the box. It gives me the option of later tweaking the B&W conversion from the RAW files, but also — and I’ve found this to be genuinely useful — a strong, contrasty image on the preview screen that reads well in bright or dark conditions — even if I’m shooting in color.
The punchy B&W preview is useful as a strong litmus test about the immediate readability of an image. Not that all pictures need a crisp graphic style, but when they do, the B&W preview shows it.
When I worked a lot on TV commercials we would keep a bad B&W TV set around for previewing. There was a $3000 13-inch color studio monitor next to it. The B&W set was placed there by our postproduction color timing expert, who always wanted to preview everything on it to be sure the results of his work were truly readable.
As a shooter for the Baltimore Sun David gets lots of opportunities to work through classic location portraiture issues. In this way his job is a bit like that of Neil Turner, and some of the site reminds me of Neil’s dg28.
It ‘s one of those little paradoxes that the standard way to light still photography is to not light it at all (in fact many photographers get indignant about “respecting the original light” and so forth). This is quite opposite of motion-picture photography, where much might look “natural” but everything is deliberately lit and often the lighting is far, far, from anything that nature would have actually provided.
A byproduct of this disconnect is that a lot of the little stunts that Strobist and the like have devised (like a cardboard-and-gaffer-tape snoot, as in the snap here) are pretty similar to the things that gaffers and lighting cameramen in the movie world deal with daily.
For movies, every location shot has to be location-lit. And there’s usually a crew to do the work. I find it fascinating to read Strobist and a few other sites and see so many of the classic gaffer’s tricks and crafts re-worked so that one person can do them, quickly, and how thanks to the use of small strobes instead of 2000W Molepars, you don’t need to worry about having the fire department on standby.
Last night as I was wandering back to the hotel and wandered through a few pachinko and pachislot halls, I was struck by the people who were watching, like the guys in this photo.
Inside the parlor I could understand — the players’ friends or whatever. But what about the folks gazing steadfastly from outside, through the windows?
As many people have discovered, Alec Soth now has a blog and is one of the many fine photographers now writing about their work (and a bunch of other stuff).
Alec hasn't just appeared in his own blog, of course. Here's a snip from the Walker Arts Center blog which I like a great deal:
This is totally corny, but the way I think about it is I really close my eyes and I try to imagine an exhibition of pictures and see what kind of pictures what is it I really want to look at? and then go try to make those pictures. You never make those pictures, because they just don't emerge that way, but it takes you on a path. Recently, I was in Georgia and it was the beginning of a commission. What did I want to photograph? Like, I'm interested in hermits. So I do a little Google search on 'hermits,' 'Georgia.' And I find this Greek orthodox monastery in rural Georgia, and I go there and have this amazing encounter with these people. Those pictures weren't in my head Greek Orthodox monks but something developed and it took me on this crazy path.
I had hoped to write a review of William Eggleston in the Real World this past weekend, but the DVD proved to be deeply forgettable — so I forgot. I also watched, for about the eighth time, War Photographer. I keep playing the same silly game with it as I did in the first viewing — comparing when I would have hit the shutter to when Natchwey does. A silly game, but — one that reflects back on the purpose for his presence in the first place… which are the strongest pictures? (Maybe I should do this while viewing through my camera… I recall a thread a year or two back on ShortsShooter where someone was suggesting, as an exercise, going through POY and other news shots this way. His theory being — and for some it might work — that viewing in this way would give student photographers a better sense of the physical experience of the original photographer when they made the shot)
Today was a good reading day and saw as its centepiece Okwui Enwezor’s Snap Judgements: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography.
A couple of weeks ago I was reading Michael David Murphy’s 2point8 and started clicking the “previous entry” lin ks— eventually, over the course of a few hours, I worked my way back through the entire history of the blog, mostly in a straight line backwards but with a few Memento-like sidebars of reversed reverse time. Regardless of direction the time was well-spent (later I tried the same thing with this blog, and frankly Botzilla doesn’t bear extended reading nearly as well, with its many random discursions and distracted tone. You do what you can).
Since Michael reviews many books in his blog I thought I’d dig some of them up. In my current large bedside (and bedtop!) stack of readables, then, are two streetphoto books from the 2point8 book club: Rosalind Solomon’s Chapalingas and Gary Stochl’s On City Streets. I’ve had to wait for Gus Powell’s The Company of Strangers, though Powell’s website and his gallery on in-public.com provide a lot of material for “casual reading” of his work.
A few days before I failed to go to the show at the SF Legion of Honor, Garrison Kiellor ran the following poem on his daily radio show, which I only heard via podcast later. By further concidence the poet, Howard Nemerov, is the brother of photographer Diane Arbus and uncle of Amy.
(Republished here without permission but with great admiration. Buy the book!)
Unable to get into the Monet show,
Too many people there, too many cars,
We spent the Sunday morning at Bowl Pond
A mile from the Museum, where no one was,
And walked an hour or so around the rim
Beside five acres of flowering waterlilies
Lifting three feet above their floating pads
Huge yellow flowers heavy on bending stems
In various phases of array and disarray
Of Petals packed, unfolded, opening to show
The meaty orange centers that become,
When the ruined flags fall away, green shower heads
Spilling their wealth of seed at summer’s end
Into the filthy water among small fish
Mud-colored and duck moving explorative
Through jungle pathways opened among the fronds
Upon whose surface water drops behave
Like mercury, collecting in heavy silver coins
Instead of bubbles; some few redwinged blackbirds
Whistling above all this once in a while,
The silence else unbroken all about.
I’m surprised that I haven’t yet heard of a celphone manufacturer whose marketing deliberately capitalized on the lo-fi character of cel cameras. To my eye they have a lot more potential than the standard toycams of the past 30 years (Lomo, Holga, and Diana clones of various stripes) ever had.
Ah, those scamps at foto8. No sooner have the pixels dried from this previous post than I receive the latest “Industry” issue of EI8HT, in full-color glory and sporting a Polish mine worker on the cover, shot by Vaclav Jirasek as part of a series that follows on the heels of an earlier one, which he made in the 90’s in black and white.
To turn the ironic screw just a wee bit further, the same issue of EI8HT contains more George Georgiou photos, this time also working in color, from the streets of Kiev. “In Transit” indeed.
Soonmin Bae is a Ph.D. student at MIT and this week she published a new Siggraph Paper: “Two-Scale Tone Management for Photographic Look.”
Analog purists may reel at the technical jargon, but in her paper Bae shows several interesting effects for B&W photographs (and some color ones) that she’s discovered simply by examining come well-known classical “fine printing” photographs of the Ansel Adams variety — and then reduces the general feeling of those effects to a set of functional algorithms.
The computer may not understand the “feeling” of a “fine arts” print, but Bae’s results, to this viewer, seem to work pretty darned well — associating texture and detail to contrast range corrections, in particular, seems perfectly sensible and maps perfectly to common darkroom techniques like dodging, burning, and split-contrast printing.
That, combined with Rob Fergus et al’s “Removing Camera Shake from a Single Photograph,” might raise the ire of plenty cheezy ULF shooters, used to dragging their heavy tripods up the sides of Yosemite like it was their own personal Golgotha. But for the rest of us, bon appetit.
When I was a teenager my mom bought me the standard-for-the-time poster of Farrah Fawcett, to pin up on the wall of my room. Maybe she just thought it was in fashion, or was worried I might not know what a girl was. Not for me to say. It seemed okay, but nothing about the Charlies Angels style really worked for me anyway.
Six rolls Tri-X, two rolls Acros, rolls Neopan 1600 in Fomadon F09 (Rodinal formula) 1+40, then two rolls of Neopan 1600 stand-developed in F09 1+80 for an hour.
Obviously this shot isn’t mine, but I’ve decided to start including some shots that I’ve felt strongly about, shots that I think have had a direct personal effect. Unlike Roland Barthes I don’t think first of family photos. Neither is it some list of “my favorites” or “greatest” shots. They’re just shots that changed the way I thought about pictures and picture-making.
Over the past month or two I’ve pretty-well given up on trying to make any sense of my flickr contacts list. Too many people listing me, too many people whose photos I want to see.
I’d previously made some progress by using robots — fake user accounts — to sort things. In the end simplicity wins out, so now people and tags and topics all just get fed into my bloglines account same as everything else (or for the RSS-less, into del.icio.us).
From the Merc: Silicon Valley Hurting for Culture
“A majority of regional leaders believe Silicon Valley is losing ground in its ability to attract a creative workforce, in part because of an inadequate cultural environment, according to a new survey.”
What seems evident from my silicon valley cubicle is that there are biases within the question itself which point a finger directly at the reasons for this perceived lack. The purpose of the arts is not to enhance the creativity (read: economic value) of the general workforce.
Tonight, perhaps for the first night in a while, I managed to stay home mostly, save for a jot to the market. It let me knock-off the last bits of several library books that I'd been lingering on, but that are now due to return to their many homes across the state:
The last few days have been something of an information whirlwind. Tonight’s end was something of a respite, going to the PhotoAlliance session with photographer Alec Soth, whose quiet, vulnerable portraits are information-dense but still: quiet, to be absorbed at a human pace. I look forward to his next book, Niagra, on the subject of love at the Falls…
Friday saw the members’ reception for the new SFMOMA Photo Exhibit, Robert Adams: Turning Back. I missed my friend Graham but did run into a pair of double former colleagues, Matt Pharr & Craig Kolb; like myself veterans of both NVIDIA and Pixar (though I’m still at NVIDIA every day, thank you). As it happens, Craig’s wife Corey is one of the curators for photography, and besides having mysterious powers over the bartenders, she also introduced me directly to Sandra Philips, senior curator of photography, whom I’d seen at events but never met (Sandy had introduced Eikoh Hosoe last week, for example — a role she regularly assumes for PhotoAlliance, which I had thought was simply due not to her official station but to her obvious personal knowledge and appreciation of, and friendship to, Hosoe).
Ran over last night to the Palo Alto Art Center for their annual Fall program, which consisted of sculpture and photography. I’d listed the Photography portion on Upcoming but it was really Edward Eberle’s porcelains that impressed me the most.
Palo Alto is a money sort of town, and the Art Center plays the game of high-end decor, with flyers to hand out in each gallery, well-printed on heavy stock, ready to explain the art to the well-heeled and bow-tied retirees that tend to show up for these sorts of civic art events. Almost all the works on display were borrowed from private collections (collections of center patrons, one assumes). I brought Rebecca and as we came in the receptionist looks up at me (sorry, dressed for the wrong kind of art event!) & immediately asks in a friendly way: “are you one of the artists?”
The word of the day (well, Sunday) is “valorize,” rarely-seen in America these days and which I encountered twice in the same morning’s reading, in two different (non-American, ahem) texts on related issues, each written some forty years apart.
The older passage came from Pierre Bourdieu’s 1965 Un art moyen: essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie whose title his American editors provocatively streamlined to Photography: A Middlebrow Art:
While the flow of published entries on photorant has been slow for the past few weeks, there’s still been some writing going on — writing that has stayed in draft form until either the ideas shape up or I have the time to beat the shape into them. This is one of a couple of rambles that arc tangentially off group discussions from flickr.
You may consider it incoherent babble, that’s fine. Feel free to tell me so.
Big deal? My space is packed with books. But in fact I rarely buy them, prefering to pull from the library and its well-connected LINK+ system. Usually the only books I purchase these days are books I can’t find there, usually because they’re esoteric, rare, or too-new to be found (or stolen, as has been the case with title’s like Mona Kuhn’s Photographs or most anything that’s highly-collectable or controversial, like first edition Steichens or most of Jock Sturges’s works).
An exception is this book, by linguist and cognitive psychologist George Lakoff — the book is in the library, it’s not new (this edition, 1990), and it was readily available at the local Borders: Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things — What Categories Reveal About the Mind. It was recommended to me by Roman Ormandy over at Caligari, whose software embodies some of the principles described in Lakoff’s book. After picking at the library’s copy, I was off to the bookstore for one of my own.
Two rolls of TXP 220, Xtol 1+1.
Joerg (via Mark) finds the great links again: Laurence Demaison’s B&W works are as unlike the typical wannabe-Weston or faux-HCB Leica-foto fare as you’re likely to find. And quite devoid of anything obvious that would tag them as made in 2005, 1955, 1895… I’d happily accept her work as an example of how new B&W need not be derivative or nostalgic or even self-consciously “new.” I am entirely delighted with it….
Two strong recommendations today for excellent but almost unknown photoblogs:
The first is a new blog attached to the established site of Clay Enos, who had previously been half of the StreetStudio team (the other half being fellow New York photographer Stephan Ghukfvin). Clay’s blog, begun late last year: Take Pictures.
Even if families are drowning in photos, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing, compared to the rest of the world. 3000 pictures of your three-year-old almost doesn’t compare when you realize that during that same year you’ve seen far, far more photos of Michael Jackson, Jennifer Aniston, and George Bush than you have of the people whose pictures you should value the most.
Joerg wonders if our lives are drowning in pictures — or in his specific words, “photographic white noise.” Specifically, are people overwhelmed by their own portraiture? A child born today can expect thousands of photos to be emailed and archived on CDs before their first month of age. Byt the time they are old enough to pay attention, will they even be aware of any in particular?
This problem is not a newly-minted one, particularly comparing photos to paintings (and before 1850, the percentage of people who had portraits of familty members was miniscule). Berger’s Ways of Seeing hints a bit at it, as do Barthes’ Camera Lucida and Sontag’s On Photography. After many weeks of searching, I’ve finally tracked down a copy of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 1952 The Decisive Moment (why hasn’t this book ever been reprinted?), and HCB comments directly to this issue, not as a problem but merely a characterisitic of the medium:
While I was typing Pt I (without even thinking that it would become Pt I), part of the paradox vexing me was there on the desk, staring intently from the cover of the January PDN in the form of Jude Law, shot in classicly-crisp B&W by David Bailey, with the tag: “The Legends Issue.” So here we have Jude Law, promoting Alfie and dressed-up in 60’s Saville Row. Knockout pic, but — part of The Problem of B&W Nostalgia, right?
The “Legends” in PDN have a little gallery here — Bailey, Donna Ferrato, Danny Lyon, and Sylvia Plachy. Last year’s Legends Issue included Sebastaio Salgado, who was mentioned on the last post’s comments.
Such “Legends” present their own paradox — photographers who continue to do new and inspiring work even as the world seems to be moving off in some other direction. Plachy’s last couple of books, for example, have knocked me flat — terrific, inspiring, humbling stuff throughout. But are artists like these exceptions partly because they can carry that history with them like a shield?
The problem that was picking at me in the previous entry really was: where are the great new B&W photographers?
Three rolls HP5+, Xtol 1+1
A few weeks back, on a recommendation from Moleskinerie (or was it 43 Folders?), I picked up a copy of Howard & Barton’s 1988 writing book, Thinking on Paper. At its core lay three fundamental propositions about writing. I think that the use of “writing” in these propositions is easily swapped-out with just about any expressive/reflective activity: writing, painting, singing, gardening. This is PhotoRant.com after all, so let’s try it:
Sometimes journal entries gestate for a bit, maybe they just ferment. Or rot. This one’s been in the mulch for three weeks, even as other entries came and went. Maybe it could be several different posts. This is what I have tonight, rambling and ranting.
At the last Bay Area Photologgers event over at Cafe Reverie, there was some talk about the Creative Commons Copyright. I’m not a big fan of it, it seems to be just one more bit of legal grease for the ongoing zero-cost transfer of all creative rights to the hands of publishers. What’s wrong with the existing laws, why is Creative Commons needed? Are people that desperate to feel validated by commercial publication?
Call me jaded, but it doesn’t work for me. Especially when you know just how much commercial image theft goes on already. Don’t believe me? Try this news tidbit on for size: SAA Trial Reveals High Rate of Commercial Misuse of Getty Images Online.
A new surprise among library books: Famous Photographers Course, in three oversized volumes.
Yes, it was published by “Famous Photographers School,” which apparently is now completely defunct after being absorbed a while back by Al Dorne’s Famous Artists School (which doesn’t offer anything about photography at this point, AFAIK). These books were published back in 1964.
After having an enjoyable swipe through a few best photo books of 2004 lists, I thought the task was worth expanding — so a new project is to work through the titles in Andrew Roth’s The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century and read each one I can find. A couple of them, I happily realized, I already owned (okay, not originals but I’m not after originals — the goal is reading, not collecting). After a couple of weeks of picking-around, the score so far:
Over at her always thoughtful site the space in between, Stacy Oborn threads together three writers and their relationship to photography in perfect images, written photographs and the absolute.
For all three writers — Hervé Guibert, Roland Barthes, and Marguerite Duras —the photographs they most admire are either imagined or images from their family or even both. In each case the photo, real or imagined, comes along carrying a lot of narrative baggage. It’s the narrative baggage, more than the image, that gives value and power to each photograph. And specifically, personal narrative. The authors will not see this photograph (“their” perfect photograph) as others will see it.
We had the first session of Photography Made Difficult at Coffee Society tonight — it was a bit noisy and certainly crowded but quieter than the “Open Mic Night” over at Barefoot. The PMD group was small as expected: myself, Allan Chen, Pieris, and David Lee. Which was good — more than one or two additions and it would have been all the tougher to talk to everyone. And everyone brought prints!
I was surprised/impressed by an unexpected dramatic use of photography in an old re-run — the second half of a two-part episode of the time-travel series Quantum Leap (The premise of the series is that the current-day hero Sam’s consciousness “leaps” into the bodies of various (usually non-famous) characters from late 20th century history. He is assisted by his colleague Al, who guides him with info gleaned from 21st-century sources). The episode is titled “The Leap Home Pt 2.” If you like this TV series and haven’t seen that episode re-run on SciFi yet, well:
Jealousy, it’s pure and simple jealousy.
An hour north of here is fotovision. But not in San Jose.
In Boston they have the Boston Street group. But not in Santa Clara.
So here’s a possible tonic: The Photography Made Difficult Meetup Group. A chance to talk about pictures, and process, and what’s going right and what’s going wrong and are the pictures good enough and maybe just have too much coffee.
Three rolls of Tri-X rated ISO 3200 in Xtol 1+1; two rolls of Portra 400UC.
I keep wanting to stop mentioning Henry Rankin Poore so here’s a last (?) chance to diss his opinions just a little more (not that he deserves it in general).
In Poore’s later books he keeps hammering on his own little drum “art is thought passed through emotion and frozen into form.” As opposed to emotion passed through thought and frozen into form, or most any other handy definition.
For a long time I’ve been answering the question “what is art?” with a line told me by the late Nick England (there is a memorial concert for Nick this weekend at CalArts, BTW):
In high school I read that perceptually, the human eye sees at around 30fps. This has a big ramification not just on movies and TV (where 1/60th of a second is perceptually “smooth” because it’s within the Nyquist of the optic nerve’s sensory rate) but also photos and sculpture and painting and maybe even music because that 1/30-ish number represents what we humans perceive as “momentary.” It defines our distinction between moving and still, both in images and life (and everything in between, like video games).
A kid once asked: How long does it take to become a photographer? To which the smartass wise man replied: 1/125th of a second, kid.
I finally got around to setting up a news aggregator that I intend to actually maintain in just one place, on one machine (NetNewsWire, on my desk mac at home). Too many recent crashes and disparate bookmark lists on different computers under vaying OS’s.
I also did a keyword search on Photoblogs.Org looking around for… well, stuff, and came across what looks like a fairly-recent blog belonging to Gordon Stettinius, who for a while had been publishing a magazine called EyeCaramba. I’d recently been digging through Gordo’s website anyway, while looking for interesting work done in 6x6 format. Some of it was familiar – maybe because of a Minneapolis connection, or his collection on Rollei-Gallery.net? — even without this new blog his website would have rated a mention here some time soon.
As a pleasant surprise, Matthias’s blog entry from yesterday, “on the way back,” is a fine slice of topnotch photo ranting about images, their potential for meaning and perception (whether it was there in the moment of photographing or not), on violence, romanticism, and Sebastaio Salgado. No wonder people are afraid of his sharp lenses and perceptively hi-res sensor.
Four 220 rolls of TXP, two 120 rolls of Neopan 400, two 120 rolls of TX400 (sometimes you use what yuou can find, on the road…). All in Xtol 1+1.
(Extra note, 14 Jan 2004: see a digital exposure test version of the same shot as a comparison)
As Courtney has wisely reminded me so often, the best gifts are the unexpected ones that you realize really ought to have been on your wish list (though the couple of gifts I received from my wish list are most treasured too). I’d place as a close second the gifts you give to yourself to share. Thus the best gifts of the season have been the trip to see our family in Minnesota, and as a happy side-effect, a chance to make pictures of my parents and brother’s family in their own homes (note to my sister, who lives nearby in Oakland: you’re next!).
Poore again. This page was in his last 1933 book, the long-out-of-print Art Principles in Practice — a sequel to the only book of the series still in print (the first one, oddly enough), Pictorial Composition and the Critcial Judgement of Pictures. Pity this little taxonomic chart isn’t part of that still-popular paperback.
I call this the AMOT*SL chart.
The long flights to and from Europe last week gave me a chance to catch up again on some of my reading. Some, at least. One of my burdens, literally at times, is a fondness for reading and the ability to read very fast — so I end up carrying multiple books in my briefcase alongside the big Dell computer. Cab drivers and bellmen are always surprised when they discover my briefcase’s weight (along with my suitcase, which is usually further loaded-up).
It’s been many days again since I’ve written here (though I have written a few short entries for PhotoPermit.Org), a good chunk of them consumed by reading. I feel like I’ve had some growth and change in the way I approach picture books. And that’s separate from doing a perhaps nutty thing with photo books: trying to view them through a camera viewfinder, to get a better grasp on what might have been seen by the original shooter (something worth doing once, but if it’s persistent, call a doctor).
No, but I think my new plateau comes from a similar leap of imagination, of having a stronger sense of what was in the maker’s mind for each image: where to stand with the camera, when to press the shutter; how to lay down the colors broadly and then to refine them with each successive stroke of the brush. The reading is slower but the enjoyment deeper.
Since Red Color News Soldier, which I’d written about earlier, I’ve managed to make it through these books:
When I first started this journal, I did a fair amount of searching for blogs and photoblogs that were involved with wet-darkroom photography, using searches on google amd photoblogs.org for matches to things like darkroom or film rangefinder. But while there were lots of matches for search terms, as often as not the first post on the found blog would said something like “I’ve sold off my film-based rangerfinders and darkroom equipment to pay for a D100 so I can post blog pictures every single day…”
So there were very few analog sites (and mostly of the nostalgic variety), though with some high-profile exceptions like Todd Gross’s Quarlo. In the past couple of years they’ve multiplied, though still not in great numbers. Here are a few found this week, owned by APUG members (what’s wrong with this picture?), a list based on this thread:
On a busy day, it’s not uncommon for me to shoot two or three hundred photos. I used to gauge this as a “six roll day” and now think of it usually as a “half gig day” for the amount of space used by digi-cam JPEGs.
Unless I shoot RAW, or use the high-quality JPEG settings. A six-roll day of RAW files is a “gig and a half day,” though to tell the truth I’ve never had one — for all their dynamic-range merits, RAW files are significantly slower to use on my camera, so most of the time I stick to JPEGs. As a bonus, a half-gig’s worth of pics will all fit onto a single CD.
A good way to rate locations is to gauge how likely it is that something randomly wonderful will occur on any given day. Downstairs from the Grand Hyatt in Beijing is a very westernized mall, the Oriental Plaza. While cutting through it for an air-conditioned shortcut, I found in a clutch a Sony store, and Apple store, and an Epson store, adjoining one of Epson’s epSite galleries (try using http://www.worldlingo.com/wl/translate to translate from Simplified Chinese). I’d embarrassingly failed to find the epSite in Tokyo a few days before (though supposedly it was next door to my hotel), and hadn’t even tried to find the one in Shanghai — and now here was their newest, so handy I almost tripped over it.
Inside the gallery, almost empty save for the staff, was a collection of magnificent Jiang Jian prints.
This morning, while randomly surfing I came across Vincent Laforet’s Website. Laforet is an excellent well-known shooter with the New York Times.
Looking into his “Projects” area, I saw “China - Past and Future Intertwined …shot in Beijing and Shanghai, China over a period of eight days.” Figured I should take a gander, having just returned from a similar trip (though not for the purpose of making photos, but to attend developer events and meetings — photography simply gives an excuse and structure to my compulsive flanerie, squeezed in for an hour or two in bits during the week).
What surprised me was just how much the photos Laforet had made, and my own photos, overlapped — at least in terms of very particular locations, situations, and in one or two cases, I think we may have even photographed the same people (in a country with a billion population).
With three hours to kill between afternoon presentations at Kogakuin University, I took a three-block walk, first across the street to the Mitsui Building, where I failed to find either the the Pentax Forum Gallery or Epson’s epSite. Then around the corner past Subaru to the Nikon Salon and Salon 21bis, tucked-away on the 28th floor of the Shinjuku L Tower.
It’s the 4th of July, time for fireworks and plenty of public parties, fairs, and parades. Just remember, don’t take photos at large public events, and whatever you do don’t go videotaping in random public places, lest you too might get three months of solitary confinement from agencies that know darned well you’ve done nothing wrong.
But don’t worry, our valiant public servants are there to protect us from those bad, bad evildoers — just hush up, slug back a Prozac or three and let them decide what you should see so you don’t go handing your children to Osama Bin Laden. After all, they’ve been there to help us even well before 9-11.
Now you may say, I’m just a big crab. Or a worthless commie Al-Quaeda-loving treasonous wrong-question-asking meanie. The US is still near the best part of the scale in the RSF’s Hall of Shame. Still, it’s more and more obvious that everyone’s camera kit needs a bust card just as surely as they need fresh batteries.
I spent a good chunk of today letting search engines search. I was looking for blog sites that seemed interesting to me, and sad to say there was a lot more searching than finding.
Lots of typical sites — meg upon meg of toycam and pencam and pincam photos, lots of grinning heads, brightly-colored market stalls, pigeons and rainy windowsills. But little — very little — of work and thought that seemed as if someone had worked or thought very hard.
Nature of the beast, I guess. When everyone got desktop publishing, we were buried in paper. Video cameras, buried in home movies. And there are some regions of light in the swampy fog. But also a lot of swamp.
One problem seems to be the technology — people are so caught-up in the latest tool, and their blogs are largely expressions of fashionability (which thrives on conformity). There is a broad, deep culture of “me too!” that is at once central to the nature of blogging and at the same time inhospitable to independant, demanding, work. The blogiverse seems to be more about quantity that quality. Why have three amazing photos when we can have 780 mediocre variations on the same obvious idea by 600 people?
If it floats your boat, great. But among those 780 photos are the three amazing ones. I, for one, will tire after the first dozen, which puts my chances of seeing even one of the amazing shots at something like ((777!772!)/(780!769!)) which is only about 4%
That’s a lot of googling.
Remember The Treasure of Sierra Madre, the explanation that gold’s value lies not in its inherent qualities but in the thousands of wasted hours spent looking for each tiny nugget?
There are some glimmers of hope — I found a few sites worth blogrolling, a few veins that might be worth tapping. I’m not entirely discouraged yet.
If anyone knows of any 3D computer animation sites, let me know.
I'm hardly the first person to observe the irony that novellists, whose stock in trade are observations of human behavior and character, work almost always alone (not counting corporate potboiler writers and their assistants, whom I'm reluctant to label "novelists"). So too street photographers of the portraiture variety.
A couple of nights ago I watched (again) Bruce Gilden on Egg. When Gilden talks it's all about people yet he moves through the street alone, violates people's spaces, then carries on with a smile and a complement. Is it anti-social? Is it deeply social? Is it pretended intimacy, siezed before the subject can grasp what's going on, and pinned to the wall by Gilden's flash unit?
The Kind of Blindness post has had me thinking further about color perception, cognition, etc etc — of the many interactions that drive the life of any sort of image (or performance): interactions between the world and the artist; between artist and their tools and medium; between the image as made and the artist; between the image and an external viewer; and sometimes even between that external viewer, as part of the world, back onto the artist (or their dealer). Wheels within wheels.
A few years back (okay, a bunch of years back), I attended a session at the University Film Society, at the Bell Museum on the University of Minnesota campus. Guest for the evening, Werner Herzog, I think to promote Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, though that night we watched Aguirre, the Wrath of God.
“I think that’s great, 900 fewer assholes in the world.”
I was browsing Lenswork’s forums and came across this post and its responses — obviously made at the same time (and by the same person) as this post on streetphoto. In both, Jason/Manic worries that if he buys a copy of Sally Mann’s book Immediate Family, the police may show up at his door, sent by some conservative Bible-Belt neighbor, to arrest him for possesion of child pornography.
Coupla days ago I was pointed at this old link on B&W World, in which Mason Resnick writes his recollections of a 1970’s class with Garry Winogrand. A key lesson: “He told us that the most successful art is almost on the verge of failure.” Not that anyone was asking me, but I couldn’t agree more.
Winogrand also told his class that “without technique you won’t get anything good,” but it’s sad when that fear of technical failure takes over — when people become obsessed with ensuring that every print have at least one point of full white and one of full black, or fretting over blocked-up highlights or maximum sharpness. Everyone obsessed with getting an A for craftsmanship, for managing-away all the elements of risk.
On the BotzBlog link page, in the blog roll, you’ll find the Three C’s: Conscientious, Consumptive, and Coincidences; run by Joerg Colberg, James Luckett, and the slightly reclusive Robert Mirani respectively. They are the leaders in a form (also followed by some sites like Luis Forrolas’s flux+mutability) that presents an alternative to sites about photo equipment — they are sites about Other People’s Pictures. All of these sites have great photos — I mean great — every single day. Because they’re OPP.
The spring 2004 issue of Modern Painters is out, containing an interview with John Szarkowski, the man who was appointed by Steichen to run the photo program at MOMA and brought us the first large shows by Winogrand, Arbus, and Eggleston:
Q: Do you think photographs become more interesting with time?
A: Most become more interesting with time. Naïve photographs always become more interesting with time. By naïve I mean photographs that were not made with high artistic ambition. On the other hand, if you take the photographs that Steiglitz exhibited at the Albright Gallery in Buffalo in 1910, those pictures have become much less interesting — and they weren’t very interesting to begin with because all they had was artistic ambition. Whereas naïve photographs almost always have something of the world in them. Misdirected artistic ambition can turn into an effort to squeeze the world out so that there is nothing left but aesthetics, because everybody can then plainly see that it is art. It has to be art, because there is nothing else there! [My emphasis]
Szarkowski’s sentiment seems very close to the advice given in this now-old /photorant/2003/07/05/Advice.htmlprotorant entry,</a> in response to what I see far too often on photo websites: “this work elicits nothing in us but a dreary impression of quality.”
Six rolls Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50 13 minutes.
A pair of children run headlong across my view, and their keeper shouts after them: “kids, you stop that! Can’t you see the man is taking The Picture?”
I glance at him and gently shake my head with a smile: no problem. Another tip of the head to let him know the rest of the family can proceed, they’ve done no harm, even as the klaxons are sounding furiously in my head: Kevin you idiot, you’ve been sucked into taking The Picture again. I look at the shot I was setting up: late cerulean sky, distant shops, their lights reflected on the lake, a row of matching beach chairs. Balanced, placid. In a few seconds a canopied ferry will appear below the bridge. A speaker hidden in a rock nearby plays an instrumental medley of songs from The Lion King. It’s all been laid out carefully for me, which is just the point. It’s ready-made. The lake itself was sculpted by a design team. It’s beautiful, but it’s not really my picture. It’s The(ir) Picture.
Three rolls Tri-X, Rodinal 1+50, 12:45.
Mason Resnick, who put together the now-fairly-dormant website Black and White World, is today busy as managing editor over at Popular Photography & Imaging Magazine. This month the magazine contains a feature on Street Photography. As a web-only extra feature, Mason sent out a short questionaire to the featured photographers — the answers amount to a set of short interviews with nine street snappers (Mason included himself in their number). Among the nine were two from the StreetPhoto mailing list — its founder John Brownlow (who also included a pitch for Bee in his answers) and John Beeching. All of the rest, save Resnick himself, were photographers whose work can be found on in-public.com.
One question in the interviews concerned sales. To no great surprise, there’s not much of a market for street and urban photography, even as the prices of prints by shooters like Diane Arbus and (not really a street shooter, but how would you describe him?) Andreas Gursky go through the ceiling. Everyone in Pop Photo’s list was subsidizing their “real” photography through other jobs, ranging from photojournalist to courier to screenwriter. The few people who were actually selling (a few) street photos seemed to be doing so entirely through in-public.com’s visibility.
</a>Yesterday I intended to write about some vague notion connecting suburban anthropology and focal lengths. It’ll have to wait — a day of illness knocked me down and I barely left the house.
I did have the computer around though, and between working on some 3D models I got a chance to look at the April issue of The Digital Journalist, which contains a few items about the new New York Times contract for freelancers. As recounted in the American Socitety of Media Photographers analysis and the letter to NYT from freelancers who say they cannot sign the new contract, the basic consensus for most shooters is clear: the contract simply appropriates all value for NYT and leaves the photographers with all the expenses and legal liabilities. Great. Editorial Photographers, mentioned here only one entry ago, has also entered the fray, urging its members not to sign.
And staffers at companies like NYT, who make more than freelancers, have got to be watching their backs now too. The future for them looks grim. Read Greg Smith’s core article to work-out the numbers for yourself.
I’m hardly the only one struggling with the hidden expenses and travails of digital. Read this recent Digital Manifesto from Editorial Photographers. The very group whom camera companies love to promote as users of their top digital equipment are, in fact, getting powerfully squeezed as a result of that equipment. Or at least by people’s attitudes about it.
There are a number of factors in play here, regarding the relationship of fee structures and technology. There’s plenty of polarization in camps, plenty of confusion, and (as EP members have discovered) plenty of opportunity for abuse. Perhaps not surprisingly, these occurences are not new to other fields that have been diffused with digital technology.
As Paul Strassman has become famous in Information Technology circles for pointing out, digital technology alone does not make anyone more profitable or more productive. On balance, it may even be hard to economically justify the existence of the entire computer industry, in broad terms of enhancing the overall economy. His 1997 book, The Squandered Computer, brought many of these issues into sharp focus, though its message was (at the time) drowned-out by the dot-com boom (even as his message presaged the later dot-com crash).
Strassman (and other economists) asked: what’s the Return On Investment (ROI)? Where’s the beef? As Nobel winner Robert Solow observed: “We see computers everywhere but not in the productivity statistics.”
Emese asks: “Is photoblogging good for photography?” Though it’s not clear if she means her photography or the general world of all photography (or more likely, some particular slice of it, like advertising photography).
Here on PhotoRant, Dirk asks: Is the chef with three Michelin stars getting upset about people cooking their daily meals?
The simplest and most common use of photography is, as Roland Barthes famously put it, a unary purpose — that is, a direct representation of a thing. The photo is (within a limited scope) interchangeable with that thing. We take the tiny snapshot from our wallet and say proudly: “There’s my son.”
That photography is not really as directly literal as it looks is something that is constantly at play in the world of art photography, and a hot potato among journalists and their editors; but we usually assume simple unary purpose and function for less rarified pursuits, such as the simple representation of domestic events. How untrue this can be was brought home in a personal way very recently.
Since I was asked, here is a sample of one of the proof sheets I’ve been making using XnView. The original is 3075×2175 pixels, for printing at 300dpi. This is enough to see detail on the page. For a 100% detail showing the level of detail that’s visible, just click-through on the image at right.
Some of the surprising things in the exhibit (which may be in the expensive companion book) are a few of Arbus’s proof sheets. Some are about what you might expect: a suite of similar shots from which just one was selected. But for most of the others, what’s astonishing is their variety — proofs where each photo is markedly different, of a completely different person, sometimes in another location. The photos that were printed weren’t one from a set — they were just the one photo.
I know that Arbus was constantly dismissive of her ability to know what was in the photo until she saw it. But the proof sheets tell a different story. In, nail it, and go on to the next thing. Pretty impressive. Scary, even.
In reading Bill Jay’s and David Hurn’s On Being a Photographer, I was struck by Hurn’s comments about shooting many photos of a static subject, but fewer of a moving one, which was much harder to get balanced and well-formed for the camera.
Static subjects with lots of subtle variation — perfect for consumer digicams with their low cost-per-frame and inability to react quickly.
In the past couple of days I’ve run across notices for two established and Contax-related sites — based on photos, not gear.
An interview with Luc Delahaye talks about his experience shooting, among other things, his series “Wintereisse,” which was reputedly made with the G2. Delahaye also is no slouch when it comes to kicking over a few cans around the Magnum Agency crowd, with comments like “Cartier-Bresson… didn’t really need to put the film in the camera — the importance for him is the act of taking pictures … being in the right position and being fast.”
(Supposedly Josef Koudelka had a similar moment of Magnum-founder-busting, leaning into frame during a Cartier-Bresson TV interview to say “Henri, you are so full of it!”)
Or again from Delahaye: “[Salgado]… is a cliché-maker. He is producing what everyone has in mind.” Another good healthy Photo Rant.
Best of all, the photos are terrific.
On the other side of the planet is our own Contax homie Eddie Ng, whose website I’ve just found featured in the December issue of the UK <a href=”http://www.gmcmags.com/bw/index.html” target=linkframe”>Black and White Magazine.</a> I’ve known enough to mark his site (even without an RSS feed) on the PhotoRant blogroll for a long time.
So if you live in NYC, as I used to, you know what WFMU is, and you probably know that they have an interview program called The SpeakEasy, and you might even know that the hostess Dorian has a habit of bringing photographers on the air to talk, without pictures, about pictures.
Di Corcia’s interview is in the true photrant tradition — “Cindy Sherman… fruit flies have evolved more than her work” is just the tip of the iceberg. A worthy waste of an hour of your time.
I’ve enjoyed Michael Johnston’s Sunday Morning columns for the past couple of years — back in 2002 he published a short list of book titles that he considered crucial for “practicing photographers.” Some I had read, and others I logged-away in my PDA for future reference. I generally trust Michael’s opinions on photography as being reasoned and informed, even if they don’t always coincide with my own (He also was the one who, through this article, got me going on a chain of links to John Brownlow and the streetphoto list).
See the many nice things I do for you. I have given you many hours of wonder, and a reason to visit your library many times over. Here’s a book list compiled by folks on the StreetPhoto mailing list:
The foreigner only sees what he already knows.
— Marc Riboud
I will be gone for a few days — while the technology would let me post entries while away, it seems like a waste of perfectly good travel time.
If you are in southern France toward the end of next week, swing on by Virtual Storytelling 2003.
On my last afternoon in Toulouse, I had lunch with Ken Perlin of NYU, Naoko Tosa of MIT, and Ryohei Nakatsu of Kwansei Gakuin University. On the way over to the restaurant, I was churning mentally — I found myself quite unable to think of even a single word in Japanese.
I’d been speaking French for the previous several days, for the first time in years — after the first anxious moments (afraid I’d forgotten everything), I discovered that le français had merely lain dormant, and I had little trouble re-grasping it. But to my dismay, it had completely displaced le japonaise. Apparently my brain can only handle one non-English language at a time, and Japanese had been swapped-out to make way for French. It was infuriating — try as I might, my mind was just blank, blank, blank. It was only when I heard someone else speaking Japanese that the logjam burst, and the nihongo started bubbling up as the furansugo drained away.
Old saw: When critics gather, they discuss art. When painters gather, they discuss turpentine.
Technical discussions are the inevitable evil of photography. Partly because they function easily as words — one can talk at length about pixels, Permawash, bromoil, MTFs, market share. Simple, quantifiable, explicit. It’s very difficult to talk about the balance of a photo, or why you prefer the print that’s a half-stop brighter, or the slight variation in poignance that differentiates two portraits in an otherwise largely-identical series. These are attributes of what Nabokov defined as “sensual thinking” — art.
That disclaimer made, here are some thoughts about exposure:
I was reading a recent ArtForum article about moblog photos, and the reviewer hit upon a key word: inessential. Photos that run counter to the notion of “a perfect flower,” they are just: “a flower.”
They don’t contend to any special uniqueness or meaningful significance. They’re just tonight’s dinner, or the cat. They’re even less momentous than old snapshots — at least old snapshots were made on someone’s birthday or on the family’s Grand Canyon roadtrip. Moblog photos tend to be somewhere even less worthy of inspection, between snapshots and the dull gray eye of a security camera. And there’s a lot of them.
Finally replaced the battery for my G1 yesterday morning — once again able to run more than three or four shots before it poops out. Ran a couple of hundred frames through it since then.
Picking through the World Press Photo 2002 book, I realized: despite a ton of assurances that journalism has gone digital in a deep deep way, you might not know it looking at this “best-of-the-best” collection. What I was surprised at was the persistence, if not of film itself (hard to say for professional gear these days, really), but of Black and White Photography.
Such a literate bunch today.
• Street Photography is Link Number One
• “To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”
“Photography has not changed since its origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not important.”
“Photography appears to be an easy activity; in fact it is a varied andambiguous process in which the only common denominator among its practitioners is in the instrument.”
“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”
Blog listing of the day has to go to Jörg at Conscientious. Conscientious, like PhotoRant, looks for good photography on the web; though unlike photorant, Jörg spends no time crabbing about how barren the desert is, and actually doesn’t seem to spend much time, if any, digging through photoblogs — only photography of established artists. Also unlike photorant, Conscientious is more than happy to post other people’s photos as he finds them — given that he can then choose freely this makes Conscientious a very pretty site. And since he blends his own photos into the mix, this gives them an added haute association, as if we had discovered them hanging at SFMOMA.
Speaking of photoblogs, photoblogs.org is set to release the long-publicized new version of their site later today. I’ve been assured that the new software will restore one of my favborite features, which was to be able to search for similar sites, based on self-assigned keywords (now if only it could display a map of similarities, a la kartoo….).
…and speaking of SFMOMA, KQED Forum ran a program on Friday, hyping and discussing the new Diane Arbus: Revelations exhibit, which officially opened there on Saturday. Clicking on the Forum link above will let you listen to the entire program, with the curators of the show, a writer from Vanity Fair (apparently certifying Arbus’s status as a “legendary” photographer), and a number of call-ins, including the lady who wanted to know why SFMOMA wastes so much time on photography.
Salon day. Theme for the designated period: “transcendance.”
Before I picked a shot for submission (and frankly, nothing from recent shooting came readily to mind until the last hour or so), my mind catalogued the likely shots to be seen — religious iconography, motion-blur ghosting, the brilliant light of inspiration. Got it all in spades, once I had made my shot, sent it off, and then surveyed the field. Hosannah! The only thing I didn’t see, that I had expected, was a rogue Ansel Adams knockoff. Maybe next time.
Expected images — to confirm and conform — are the bane of the single-shot salon, I suspect. It’s hard not to end up shooting along one or two predictable axes: either the picturesque or the ironic (and in the latter, I’d include the “surreal”). At this point in history, when even the smallest of children are bombarded with sophisticated imagery, it’s hard to imagine any great value in any single image. It takes a host of them if you really are hoping to make anything but a very well-worn point.
A few days ago, documentary photographer Rob Appleby opined that for him, the photo essay was a dead form, that he’s busy looking into something a bit more meaningful, to Rob himself and hopefully to his audience, whoever they may ultimately be.
Personally, I think there’s rarely such a thing as a truly dead form, not in a general sense. Individual veins may tap out, but the mine stays open.
Schönberg commented, even as he developed his own tonal scale, that there were still many masterpieces yet to be written in the key of C major — what’s true for piano works is surely also true for image-making. A form may feel exhausted to individual practitioners, or perhaps has grown tired from extended rehashing of its own best successes — but there is always the potential for something new, fresh, and meaningful to be drawn from existing forms.
Debate about the application of color in photography will continue as long as there are photographs. Feature articles on the topic pop up with great regularity in the standard photo mags, and online articles and debates rage endlessly. My local bookstore carries at least two magazines, B&W and Black and White Photography, dedicated entirely to one camp (and yes, Benetton’s advertising rag Colors, too).
The language of these debates is often laughably inflammatory, raging from “anyone shooting B&W today is morally suspect” to “B/W is the true photographer’s medium.” It’s right up there with declarations like “film is dead” (and has been for many years, or so I’ve often been told in one well-meaning lecture after another since at least the early 90’s) or “digital is just craftsmanship, photography [with silver wet processes] is art.”
Can somebody open a window in here? Phew!
Mechanical rangefinders are small, lightweight, discreet, and tend to have good optics. That doesn’t stop some of us from using them on subjects that don’t benefit much from those attributes — say, a fog-shrouded forest road (though having no mirror slap can be helpful for a 1/4 second handheld exposure).
Add professional Leica durability to the equation and Jason P. Howe has definitely figured out the right way to use a rangefinder. In his case, to cover the apparently-endless military and paramilitary violence in Colombia.
It’s a situation made for this sort of work — no generators, no sat phones and laptops, just a guy with lightweight sturdy mechanical equipment, no batteries, but pockets full of black and white film that can withstand the hot and damp environment. Compare his setup to the giant rucksacks full of gear carried by the Humvee-embedded journalists during the Iraq invasion. The immediacy and grit of Howe’s photos make the crisp, colorful Iraqi shots, while illustrative of American military power, seem like so much sport shooting.
Howe deals with both sides of the conflict, the government AUC and the FARC (which while labelled as a terrorist organization by the Bush administration, still manages to have their own slick and public web site). Among all countries in the western hemisphere, only Cuba is more oppresive to journalists, according the Reporters Sans Frontières — here’s a telling example.
It’s hard not to bring some presumptions to a show with such a title, if only because of its similarity to Gene Smith’s dictum Let Truth Be the Prejudice. Is Adams, like Smith, convinced that he has the inside track on “truth?”
The show is a collection of portraits, large prints, the faces of people who have in some way fought against the predjudices, inequalities, and brutalities in their home countries. These huamn rights activists (err, in the language of the show, “Defenders” — always with a capital “D”) are scattered around the globe — some of them exiled from their original homes and now living in places like the U.S. or Switzerland, others hiding out in the jungle, some resting peacefully at home because their primary goals have begun to be addressed.
At long last, the library has re-opened in San Jose.
A good library is one of the most useful photographic tools. Here in Santa Clara we’ve been a bit starved. I had an excellent library just at the bottom of the hillside block from the house in Mill Valley — the state (formerly royal) library was a five-minute walk from my office in Honolulu. But here we just have a local suburban library packed into house trailers, while the city is building their own new building. It’s been a long dry spell.
Almost no individual can have a collection to match even a minor library. Robert Bergman’s A Kind of Rapture? Got it. Every issue of U.S. Camera from the 1950’s? All volumes of August Sander’s portrait books? Got those too. de Tolnay’s History and Technique of Old Master Drawings? Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook? Check and check.
During my visit to San Diego I stayed at a seafront hotel and above my bed was a large frame holding four photographs, 11x14 color prints. The matte board was signed and numbered: Xxxx Xxxx, 1/250. The photographs were unremarkable simple graphic triangles of spinakers, probably from a boat or ship in the local harbor. 1 of 250... I wondered how many of those 250 had been purchased by the hotel.
I got my answer the next morning, walking down the halllway and seeing several more similarly-unchallenging photos of ropes and anchors, with the same signature and bearing numbers like 34/250 and 387/500 the same set of four sails from my hotel bedroom also adorned the lobby shoeshine stand. 177/250. So the hotel had likely purchased all of these prints.
…and a little white.
"But anyway, the big emphasis in digital photography is how many more million pixels this new model has than the competitor's model. It's about resolution, resolution, resolution, as though that were going to provide us with a picture that harbored more content, more emotional power. Well in fact. It's very good for a certain kind of graphic thing in color but I don't necessarily do that kind of photograph."
Sounds much like what I wrote about computers a couple of days ago — and Gibson is a big fan of digital, at least on the printing end of preduction. Surely his comments were a subconscious influence on my thinking.
At one time, I used a Canon 85mm lens for nearly everything. Now it (and my Zeiss 90mm) sit at the bottom of the bag, largely unused. Tried forcing myself to use the 90 today — if only, as Duchamp said, “to avoid conforming to my own taste.”
Photoblogs are all the rage and while journos are busy smugly comparing them to “Walker Evans and Nan Goldin rolled together on your computer screen,” the articles seem little more than catalogs, lists of someone’s favorites from an afternoon sweeping of the blogroll links on photojunkie or maybe a swipe through the top tops on photoblogs.org.
In the websphere outside the blogiverse (extending our methaphors as broadly as possible), the last few years have seen the blossoming of the PAW meme, or Picture A Week, started by Kyle Cassidy and spread outwards from the LUG to all corners of online photography.
Finally there’s no shortage of other personal photo collections and galleries that are neither plogs or PAWs but simply photos collected and shown on their makers’ various sites — some for commercial purposes, some simply to share snaps of Whiskers and Mittens with the granchildren. And most to inhabit the spaces between. You know the ones: “I’m not a professional photographer, but here are my shots of the Taj Mahal and a sunset over the Willamette Bridge…”
While a few attempts have been made to catalog all of these sites, let’s face it — it’s a fool’s errand, especially when there are so many, and so little information to go on about them. And the notion of any critical voice is entirely absent — thousands of sites, each going their own merry ways and so many of them aspiring to the most banal sorts of chocolate-box imagery.
For all these reasons and more, I’ve decided to start PhotoRant. PhotoRant will take names and taunt the guilty, with a liberal dose of praise for those who rise to deserve it. You have been warned.
As long as we're on the subject of Merton, how about Strain Theory?
Sociologically, Strain Theory divvies-up the population along two primary axes. Merton theorized that most everyone has the same goals and desires, but unequal means to achieve them and that these disparities lead to different strategies in lifestyle. The two axes are both related to individuality. One axis is the individual's acceptance of society's general suite of goals, the other axis is that person's access to the standard socially-prescribed means to achieve those goals. Division by these axes leads to five possible groupings:
A young photographer shows his work: pictures of gratings, crosswalks, curbs, textures, grids, faultless exercises in graphics that seem to repeat all of recent American photography. What can we say about it? Mention the quality of the prints? The precision of the framing? What can we do to not appear inattentive? Looking at the photographs twice, go through them again slowly while we feel the other’s presence near us, tense, pretending to be looking somewhere else? And then, why can’t we say that we have nothing to say, that this work elicits nothing in us but a dreary impression of quality? “You should photograph the people you love with the same precision as you photograph your gratings.” That’s what we should say.
– Hervé Guibert,
Ghost Image, 1982
That would be ProtoRant!
Guess that means I’d better get on the stick and add those extra twenty or thirty new entries to the strobe information page, huh.
Or maybe update the search dada page, which is also fallling behind by several weeks. Looking at today’s logs (how I noticed the link above), I find this lovely gem: “instrucions how to make a homemade bomb.” I am so happy to know that search term gets you here. I’d better pencil-in some time for visits and interviews from the FBI later in the day.
As a much easier way to merit this title, I’ll just post a link to Bee. He has some new stuff that I recommend highly. See it now, before you end up having to pay $40 to see it a Barnes & Noble.
Speaking of Bee’s site, he was the one who got me to realize the only sensible way to design web pages with slideshows — click on the picture to get to the next picture. Web designers, please take note of this very simple notion. Forcing the reader to hunt around for a “next” link (often disguised cleverly as a doorknob or some tiny arrangement of » signs), a link that usually jumps around the screen from page to page, is an unnessesary RSI-inducing evil, and one that’s easily avoided.
Not by me, sadly.
Cosmin Bumbut and six photographer friends of the 7 days photoclub have been spending just such a week annually for almost five years, in the more-traditional and remote parts of their country. The 2003 version, set in the village of Harnicesti, is due soon. The variation in styles is particularly interesting — each photographer has a different take.
How has Kodak managed to sell 8x10” paper, 5x7” paper, and 11x14” paper, for year upon year upon year, and none of them have the same aspect ratio? 8x10 at least matches the aspect ratio of a 4x5 camera, but none of them match the aspect ratio of 35mm, 6x7, 6x6, 6x9…. then digicams come along and almost all of them are the aspect ratio of a video camera, 4::3, and digital printers come along and expect everyone to switch from 8x10” to 8.5x11”, or 13x17”, with each printer having a slightly-different printable area within those fields. Only the humble 4x6” quickie print actually gets the aspect-ratio game under control.
It ticks me off.
Pretty much, you’re guaranteed not to be able to use some significant portion of the expensive paper you’ve purchased, or some significant portion of your (probably more-important) photograph is going to get cropped. Paper waste: borders to adjust, or chunks trimmed-off, or both.
John Bolgiano, aka “coldmarble,” runs ColdMarble Musings,the only alternative-process (Cyanotype, Van Dyke process, etc) blog I’ve seen — so far. Looks like Courtney might give him some competition soon.
She checked-out Reed & Webb’s Alternative Photographic Processes from the library yesterday, prepping for an alt-process class, and noticed that it was completely untouched — never checked-out before, the book’s binding crackling as she turned each page.
We’ve noticed similar behavior on some other library photo books recently — she acquired a stack of beautiful Martin Parr books via loan from a library in San Diego, and their stamps showed they’d not been checked out for years. Tsk!
Thought I’d paste-together a list of URLs that have had important influences on my thinking over the past few months. YMMV.
- Michael Johnson on why some photos are better than others
- Pink Headed Bug
- The SP List
- Jack Kurtz
- In Public
- Michael Jang
- On how not to be a photojournalist, and more
- On how to be a photojournalist, and more
- Dave Beckerman
- Eddie Ng
- Paul Roark
- B&W World
- Ben Lifson
- Zone Zero
Current backlog: one roll of TMax. Very little shooting this weekend, except for the garden shots that followed after the story below.
When I collected my little Selected Stereotypes web gallery two years, ago, I didn’t anticipate the effects of time.
The … industrialization of camera technology only carried out a promise inherent in photography from its very beginning: to democratize all experiences by translating them into images.
- Susan Sontag, On Photography
Such democratization’s most-obvious expression, its adherents might say, is the photoblog. There’s no obvious shortage of them —a href=”http://www.photoblogs.org/”>photoblogs.org</a> currently lists over 1100, with new ones being added four or five each day.
I’ve seen a few video tutorials about getting good skintones in Photoshop. Some were illuminating, some even inspiring — but all were more involved than they needed to be: using numeric templates or eyedropper-tool tricks in concert with the info panel and a calculator, etc.
Time for an easy select-click-done tool: SkinToner
(Updated November 2018)
Can a Chromebook be your photo-production machine?
While the first Chromebooks could basically just run a browser, current Chromebooks can also run Android apps, placing Chromebooks somewhere between a “regular” laptop and a phone or tablet in functionality — opening up the possibilities of using a light, inexpensive device in place of (or alongside) a larger, pricey one.
Of course a new under-$400 Chromebook is no match for a full-powered $2000+ laptop as a photo workflow machine… right?
In November I purchased a Meike 50mm ƒ/2 lens for Fujifilm X mount, as a travel and X-Pro-OVF-friendly alternative to my 56mm ƒ/1.2, which is great but not really pocketable (and it obscures a lot of the X-Pro2 optical finder). I had hoped for an early release of the upcoming Fuji XF 50mm ƒ/2 WR, but it was delayed. And delayed. And even now, in 2017, it is still not officially released. Since the release date of Fuji's lens is reportedly tomorrow, and since I've never actually seen a review of the Meike lens, it seems about time to write a few notes:
Adding the Fujifilm X-Pro2 to my kit has had me reviewing jpg-output custom image settings again. It's a regular topic of conversation on internet forums and reviews and blogs -- how to set up the custom functions in the X100T, on the X-T1, or, now, the X-Pro2?
There are something like a million possible permutations of settings for each of the custom collections: how to pick, and how to keep track of the selections (What did I have on C3 again?)? My choice has been to break things down along just two axes: picture type and color/monochrome. I then to set all cameras to use the same custom-settings layout so I only have to learn one setup:
A picture is worth books full of text. Here are the various film simulation modes available on the X-Pro2, along with Adobe Camera Raw’s attempt at “Auto” adjustment. New for this camera are the “Acros” B&W modes.
Why don’t more industrial designers design for fingertips? They seem to understand grip, but sensation… less.
Over the past couple of years I’ve taken to hacking the mechanical controls of my cameras (and a few other items) with Sugru, a quick-curing material that’s a bit like a cross between modeling clay and rubber. The idea is simple: provide tactile landmarks for my fingers, so that I can use the camera’s controls without needing to look at them – either because it’s raised to my eye, or even if the camera is out of sight in my bag or jacket pocket, preparing for the next shot.
Who needs Photoshop when you have Theano?
Fuji’s X100s is about to bow out as the X100T is introduced. Time for my non-review of the S, then! Just as well, since most online reviews (of most equipment – not just cameras) tend to get written by someone with general skill but a few hours or at most a couple of weeks actually using the thing. They might be "putting it through its paces" in a tinkertoy sort of way, but not chasing pictures with it in a sustained way, in all weather, different circumstances, lighting, time, and weight constraints. There are a few exceptions, of which I’d probably single out Kevin Mullins’s The Owl (and his book, which taught me not to use the Fuji like a Canon or Panaleica) for usability tips, and Zack Arias’s excited gush over the original X100 after using it for a good while.
There are plenty of people who will tell you all the things they enjoy about this camera. This leaves me more room to kvetch! Don’t worry, it’s kvetching that comes from love…
As has been a habit, I'm coming to write up a usage report for a camera only by the time its replacement has been announced: the LX7 is about to make way for LX100 (or for the Leica marque, D-Lux Typ 109), which I'm sure will be a fine camera too. I'll stick to my 7 until circumstances warrant a switch -- which is how I felt about the LX5 for nearly a year after the LX7 first appeared. What finally changed my mind?
I’ll be the first to say that I find most Holga/Diana-wana-be photgraphy cloying and twee and it’s pretty rare that even the most earnest results feel like anything more than just a rehash of Nancy Rexroth’s “IOWA.” So you can imagine my reflex reaction to programs that deliberately “crappify” otherwise-clear, direct images, burying them under just so much mannered noise. And you’d be right, at least about my initial reaction. Why my attitude has changed in the next photorant entry.
In the mean time, since I couldn’t find one that entirely suited me, here are a couple of guides to the color modes (and below, frame styles) offered as presets by the Android camera-phone program Vignette. A similar chart can be found here, but it was missing skin tones).
When I purchased a new phone, I copied the pictures that had been accumulating in my old phone* into my computer. I’ve really just this week gotten to looking at them at any length.
Many were purely utilitarian images-as-notes: where did I park the car, various serial numbers, dinner plates, labels on grocery items. A few were shot out the driver’s side window.
The new phone seems to be filling with pictures of the dog, which feels a bit strange considering how slowly phone cameras operate.
I used to carry a set of pocket-sized and mid-sized gadgets. Then technology reduced them to one gadget. But now in their places are a bunch of new pocket sized gadgets that I keep on carrying. Without North Face and Columbia making trousers with ample extra pockets, where would I be?
It's been a couple of years now since I wrote this entry on digital Black and White conversions. I'm still using a variation of the Caponigro conversion described there. What prompted me here was a combination of events, including reconciling the many scripts and actions I had on several different Photoshop-equipped computers, each of which had diverged from ts brethren; meeting Bob Carnie at Elevator Digital in Toronto, thanks to Dinesh; this APUG thread, which also included more info from Bob; and the latest edition of Digital Photo Pro magazine, which has run B&W articles as its cover story quite a lot over the last year or two, and this one was no exception. What surprised me was that DPP were freshly touting the old Gorman/Holbert method (aka the Gorman Method).
After returning from China I gave myself a few weeks to see if Panasonic would announce a new LX3 at February’s camera-business trade show. No dice, so I promptly ordered a new LX2 to replace the stolen LX1. Here are a few notes, comparing the two.
I’m something of a believer in half-baked photo tests. If test results aren’t obvious except in highly-exacting circumstances, for equipment that’s unlikely to be used in exacting circumstances, then: who needs them?
If results can be shown in ad hoc, half-baked test situations, then they’re more worth examining. So here’s a quick little comparison. I’m not looking at bokeh, or chromatic aberrations, or anything else. Just focus near the center.
While my iTunes subscribes to it, I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of NAPP’s “Photoshop TV” video podcast. I subscribe in the hope that some of the tips on the show will be useful. At the same time I dread having to wade through the hosts’ gossipy and self-congratulatory prattle. It’s better to watch on iTunes than the iPod, mostly because it’s easier to fast-forward and skip those sections on the PC.
Another gripe: often the latest episode sometimes takes an hour to download on a broadband connection. Ugh.
This week, though, my pains were rewarded by a segment shot at the recent Photoshop World conference, featuring John Paul Caponigro and his recommendations and method for converting color images to black and white. His method was different from what I have been using and I like it a lot. If you’re used to working in Photoshop adjustment layers, the pic above tells almost the whole story… with more details below.
Updated Jan 2019
In 2006, at a Pacific At League meeting, I met Thomas Howard, and saw how he was using charts to hand-profile his process to make digital negatives for platinum-process contact printing.
I figured this labor-intensive process could be automated, so: I automated it, and made a tool called ChartThrob, which runs right inside Adobe Photoshop. It’s available for public, free-for-everyone
As I may have mentioned before, one feature of the LX1 that I like is the ability to simultaneously store both a RAW file and a full-sized JPEG image, complete with whatever imaging mode is currently active: particularly grayscale and/or sepia toning.
More on the LX1:
I'm finding that the UnRAW files that is, the JPGs stored with the RAW files are often what I end up using instead of the RAW image. The RAW gets pumped through ACR, which wants to interpret and optimise (or encourage me to do so). The JPG is more often than not what I was shooting in the first place. Funny, but I'm starting to see the RAW as mainly a backup in case I screwed up (or the contrast range was way out of line).
I've come across a few more scattered LX1 links.
- Bernard Marks is sponsored by Leica. I recognize at least one of his photos from NatGeo. The ad copy claims he uses a DLux2 and an M6, but there's no tellling which (if any) of the shots on his site were made with the digi.
- Flag-obsessed shooter Daniel Creighton got excited by his first day using the LX1.
- Here's a more interesting LX1 flickr link.
- Some links comparing the Panasonic LX1 and Leica DLux2: discussion on Galbraith and comparative pictures.
After some time using it daily, I can recognize my own way of working with the LX1, so it seems time to share some rambling notes. Operationally, electrically, and optically the camera is identical to the Leica D-Lux2 — these notes apply equally well to both cameras.
Let me start why saying why I bought the LX1. I knew that it would be slower to use than a DSLR, but I wanted a high-quality compact. A friend at work was raving about his DLux2, and I checked out the Panasonic alternative but wasn’t feeling a need to buy anything at the time. A couple of weeks later, I saw a very cool camera at Fry’s and realized that this was the same camera I’d been web-browsing. Besides the pleasant feel of the camera in my hand, it had an actually-wide wide-angle (28mm equivalent) and native 16::9 aspect ratio.
This past week I received a Panasonic LX1, my first non-Canon digital (other than a phone camera). Tiny, 8MP, Leica lens (essentially, it’s identical to the Leica D-Lux2) — and 16::9 aspect ratio, which was the Big Deal for me. So far: though the pace is definitely slower (and the ISO’s lower) than using a DSLR, as a pocketable high-quality camera: fantastico. Loving it.
On Tuesday Canon told me they can fix (actually replace) my whacked shutter for marginally less than the cost of a new camera, so that’s what we’ll do. Not sure if it will return before the holidays… in the meantime I always have my celphone cam and the new old Elan 7E, which has been a real joy to use, alongside the Bronica. The Elan is quick, light, and impressively quiet. I really don’t know why DSLRs are all much louder than Canon’s film cameras.. makes no sense to me!
The words you don’t want to see if you own a Canon: “ERR 99”
My 300D blinked them this afternoon. The manual suggested removing and replacing the battery. Nope. “ERR 99” again. Switched CF cards. ERR 99. Eventually, I gently lifted the mirror to look at the shutter.
A few months ago I wrapped up my Digital Rebel/300D “Cantax” in black gaffer tape. At first it was just a few pieces of tape on the large curved surfaces, then more, then pretty much everywhere that I could fit it that wouldn’t cause operational trouble. Why so much tape? Is it useful, or just some dopey affectation (declared another shooter: “it’s so, like, ghetto”)?
AF, MF, VF, SAF.
After having to answer this over and over again, and by request, I’m making a permanent entry here on the subject of fast accurate focusing with the Contax G2. The next time a Leica collector starts up about “slow AF” (this from a guy with no AF), I’ll at least be able to lean back and type a URL to them with a smooth, authoritarian air.
So here goes:
Over on Coincidences, Robert has occasionally sung the praises of ContaxG.Com. It’s one of a few sites centered around equipment that actually seems to function well not as a site of LUG-like arguments over esoteric attachments and SKU numbers, but as a site about pictures, which just happen to have been made with a particular kind of camera.
So it’s gone, bubbled-wrapped and brown papered, stamped and mailed on its way back to Canon. As ever with mechanical widgets, it’s the cheapest parts that break — 2-cent battery clips and a 5-cent button cap. Just the same it’s under warranty, and off it goes. No DSLR. So at least for a while it’s no CF cards, no chargers, no PCMCIA slots, no USB or burning CDs or connector cables — at least not when it comes to making pictures. I put them all away in a big bag at the back of the cabinet.
The Contax 35mm as ever is solid and quick and surprisingly light after carrying around the 300D for a while (probably 1/3 the weight of the Canon w/lens). What have I been doing with this bulky digicam? Heck, I can carry the G and all three lenses, ten rolls of film, toss-in the RTS for good measure and the bag still feels shockingly light. What was I thinking, dragging around that digital brick?
…has arrived, the big “popeye” Sigma 12-24mm zoom. It’s a full-frame 35mm lens, though on my digi its range is 19-38mm. Ran a bunch of shots through it right away, anxious about reports that some copies were soft in the corners. Not this one! It performed well for every aperture, with a minimum of barrel distortion too.
At last, a proper wide angle view for the DSLR. I am so digging it. But the size — yeow!
So I’ve almost finished selling my Canon SLR gear, to pay for my… Canon SLR gear. That is, the old-school manual-focus SLR gear to pay for… well, old-school manual-focus SLR gear, in the guise of old-style AE/MM Zeiss Contax lenses mounted on a digital Canon EOS. Monday I was lucky enough to snag a new 28 ƒ/2.8 for less than the price of a nice used one, by following up on someone else’s Ebay transaction gone wrong. Hurrah.
I’ve noticed in practice that I much prefer using manual focus with my EOS 300D, despite so many earnest users telling me that it’s a bad idea, that the screen is hard to focus on, the AF is terrific, etc etc. The only thing lacking, really, has been manual-focus lenses that are built to be focused manually, with a longer throw on the barrel for exacting manual control, combined with a hardy, solid feel (Canon’s 50mm ƒ/1.8 Mk II is a lens that, while inexpensive, is built to keep margins low — in other words, it’s lightly built, and the front elements wander). The Zeiss, built for cameras like the Aria and pro-level RTS, has that solid feel in spades.
Even better luck, I hope, on the 50mm ƒ/1.4, a lens that’s sharper than either Canon version and yet cheaper due to the small demand from Contax shooters. Used ones usually run $150 to $200. On a hunch, a few days ago I started looking to see if I could get a better deal by simply buying an old Aria or 167MT, with a 50mm attached — lucky me, I found a 50 for a low-end price, complete with an attached RTS! If it’s at all in good shape (particularly the shutter, which is impossible to service these days) I should be able to turn the body alone around for nearly the cost of the lens. Or consider it a free camera :)
On the subject of how few Contax users there are — ‘twas ever thus, even in the beginning days of the Japanese Contaxes. A tragedy, really. It’s not easy to find much about them on the web, either — which is why I tried to pile as many links as possible into this entry. My friend Knut, while tossing back Tuborgs a couple of months back, opined that he was the only Contax user he knew of in Denmark.
C’mon man, your Contax G2 is silver too (and the Leica as well? Tsk!) You know darned well that the camera body is just a little dark box at the back of the lens, with an extra little hole for peeping through.
It’s also for Michael Johnson, who has rollover pains with regards to cameras that aren’t made of metal. (You should subscribe to his newsletter anyway — here’s hoping he can manage to keep printing it!)
Now to doctor-up a logo…
(Sorry for the obvious pixel noise in this quick snap — shot with my old Canon G1…. which has been recently borrowed often by my daughter. A mere 8MB card? Not a problem when you’re enthusiastic as she is….)
As I mentioned before, I like the feel of an 85mm ƒ/1.8 on my 35mm SLRs. On the Canon D300, the 50mm ƒ/1.8, with the 1.6× multiplier in effect, is almost the same lens — an equivalent to an 80mm for the 35mm camera.
An awkward feature of that particular Canon EOS lens is its complete lack of distance scales. The 50mm ƒ/1.4 has them, but at a much, much higher cost. So I just wrote some on the side of my lens.
First I marked one of the knurled edges on the focus ring with an office white-out marker (model paint might have been better, but I didn’t feel like digging that stuff out of the garage). Then I cut a scrap of cloth first-aid tape (which I also use for framing and matting) to the right length, with a notch for the MF/AF switch. Finally, I did some quick measurements in my kitchen, focused to the appropriate spots, and made marks on the tape with a ball-point pen for infinity, 10, 5, 2.5, and 1.5 feet. Close enough for wandering around shooting from the hip.
Total upgrade time: less than ten minutes. I’ll happily sell this lens for $200, now that it has the cool ƒ/1.4 feature. That’s cheap compared to Canon’s price!
One thing that’s missing is depth-of-field indicators. By my estimation, ƒ/22 markers would be quite close together — about three notches, or a little bit less on each side than the distance between the infinity and 10-foot marks.
(PS: This later entry gives more detail on DoF for digital cameras. I realized I was slightly wrong — the markers would need to be closer-together)
(This entry has nothing to do with John Matturi.)
As a followup to the lens hack of a few days ago, for laughs I thought I’d poke the Canon sensor into David Eubank’s PCam as a custom film format, to give myself some extra guidance on demand about technical details like Depth of Field. 22.7mm×15.1 mm, 3072×2048 pixels… so what should I choose as a Circle of Confusion size?
Right on the heels of my previous post about DSLR circles of confusion and sensor size, Canon goes and releases (well, leaked) news of the 1D Mk II, with an 8MP sensor and a new multiplier factor: 1.3× — my guess got the exact sensor size wrong, but the trend (and apparently price) just about nailed.
So much for Canon going the EF-S or Four-Thirds route — they’re clearly headed in the direction of full frame for the line.
This will play a bit of extra havok with the lens market, which can only sell more lenses for Canon (and a few for Sigma and friends). That 50mm is now a 65mm, getting right into Leica R “normal” territory. And the 20mm is genuinely a wide lens again. I wonder how many 16-35 and 17-40 zooms will pop up on Ebay later this year.
Okay, so Saturday night.
We were at a little end-of-an-era party for Gretchen Pirillo and (less-directly) Chris Pirillo, and run into Robert Scoble who is headed off to work for the Octopus that is called Microsoft. Convinced me more than ever that I really ought to have a good Tablet PC. With lots of, err, stuff. He does Tablet stuff right now, just around the corner from NVIDIA at NEC for a few more days. But fat chance getting a Real Deal! :)
I also fiddled around a bit (towards the end of things) with Chris’s Canon G3 in a much handier way than you can at Best Buy or Gasser’s. Yeah, the G3’s way faster than my G1, but I already knew that. Courtney’s Digital Ixus is faster than my G1. What I really liked was that the focus lock button was in a reasonable place, right under your thumb like it is on the Contax G2 or an EOS camera. It has a light, natural feel.
But then… aggggh! Canon’s designers turned off the MF lock if the LCD panel is closed. This is just like the G1 and it ticks me off so much! It means you can’t use the optical finder and focus lock together, unless you have the LCD spun-round and turned on. And if the LCD is turned on, then the shutter gets an additional lag for screen updating. Plus you get nose oil all over your LCD. Grrrr.
Please someone, tell me there’s a custom function to turn that behavior off…
The G3 is definitely better than the G1, and its movie mode, size, and weight still make it an attractive alternative to a heavier SLR digicam like the 10D. I might trade up to one yet. But Canon still knows how to get me riled-up.
The Open Conspiracy
It strikes me that designers themselves provide ample evidence that “Intelligent Design” is a fundamentally flawed idea.
At this point everyone in America and certainly most people in English-speaking countries are aware of last fall's election success of Proposition 8, by which a majority of California voters banned non-pairing non-heterosexual marriage in the state. At its core it opens the curtain not only on the single issue trumpeted on the TV networks (gay marriage), but several: with the toughest, most difficult being those relating to what constitutes a "right" and what status "rights" have against that other favorite human institution: God.
It’s just economics of scale, we like to tell ourselves. On my last rushed morning in Boston I set off to seek out a few extra gifts for my return to the bay, something unique and memorable. Instead as I orbitted in increasing circles through downtown it was clear that I was less in Massachussetts and more in the United State of Generica, with every storefront filled with familiar brands and stocked with goods in no way different from those in Santana Row or The Great Mall. In the end I settled for some team shirts, sold every fifty feet throughout the mall under the Prudential tower and all supplied by… a centralized web site in Washington State.
Okay, the big guys succeed on costs and inevitably the little guys end up either losing on price or having to carve out a space based on tradition, design, or quality… right?
Then I got home and found this Metro story waiting un-read on my kitchen table: how Stanford Coffee Roasters, a small, popular, successful and long-established business in Stanford’s tony mall, was pushed out not, apparently, for any economic reasons, but because the mall owners prefered homogeneity.
“I was told that they preferred to rent to a Triple A tenant,” she recalls. “I said, What is a Triple A tenant? They told me it was a business that would have a national chain and national marketing.”
In other words, the mall managers prefered Starbucks over the successful Stanford (in Stanford) not for the rent values but simply because they felt that national chains were inherently superior to anything that might have a local flavor (literally or figuratively) — so superior that it was worth crowbarring-out a local landmark for the sake of enforcing dullness.
Note to self: never shop at Stanford Mall again.
When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. — Eric Hoffer
Measured in “blog years” perhaps I haven’t posted for a while, but it’s good to keep it in perspective. Consider the timeline above, for instance, which describes part of our relationship to foods.
Each horizontal pixel in the timeline represents 162.5 years, and I’ve only run it back as far as the advent of modern humans — people who are physically the same as you or I. The timeline could have gone further — for example, to the beginnings of fire and cooking, which vary in estimation from 500,000 to 1.7 million years ago — anywhere from five to fifteen times as long as the current chart (or 2125 years per pixel, which would place the advent of agriculture a mere four pixels from the end of the timeline).
I got the new National Geographic yesterday and the lead article was simply banner-titled: “Love.” The text was about the neurochemistry of attraction and attachment, with connecting photos by Jodi Cobb. I have to admit that I was a bit puzzled on (a) what made this a NatGeo story (yeah, yeah, an easy one: to sell magazines. But why NatGeo instead of Cosmo then? Where’s the market differentation?), and (b) why they sent Cobb out on this one, since the resultant photos of affection are, well, charming but hard to point as particularly specific to the topics in the article, and why would you need to fly around the world to get them? Anyway, to the Real Meat of this entry:
A couple of days ago I was having a coffee-shop stop and spied a travel book. At that moment, I realized something important:
If the letter “F” were prepended to Ireland, then it would be Fireland. Which would be great, because they would be the closest country to Iceland. Then, they could have a war!
It would be so cool. Err, hot.
One of my favorite work-related blogs, one which I read very deliberately, is Garr Reynolds’s Presentation Zen. In a <a “href=”http://presentationzen.blogs.com/presentationzen/2005/12/talking_at_them.html”>recent entry,</a> Garr writes about the recent Nobel Prize award lecture given by Harold Pinter.
Like most people casually interested in the Nobels, I sat down and read the transcript of Pinter’s lecture —
A bit ago (actually before the recent elections) I got a call in the evening that I mistakenly thought was from one of Isaac’s guitar buddies — so I ignored the caller ID and picked up. Oops. Instead, it was from a political survey group. They wanted to ask my opinions about digital TV, which was just geeky enough to keep me on the phone.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to an area of turbulence” announced the hostess, just a few seconds after the Air China 777 had lurched and shuddered, prompting gasps and exclamations from around the plane. Enroute from Shanghai to Beijing, sitting next to a 40-something woman in ocelot-patterned tights, her eyes closed as she was lost in the synthpop from her MP3 player, the hostess’s sentiment seemed perfectly apt.
The very day I left London last week for parts more Nordic, George W. Bush was arriving. A good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. Personally, I’d have liked to witness the public fracas, but was glad to be away from it as well. The paranoia was evident everywhere — just taking a quick snapshot of the American flag decorations along the Mall a few blocks away from Buckingham Palace was enough to attract a pair of quick-stepping constables (who had been sitting in a nearby parked van, watching the street), wanting to know what I was up to.
No surprise that Dubya didn’t spend time for any further European touring — it seems unlikely that he’d be welcome anywhere (if you consider the public reception he got in the U.K. to be “welcoming”). At each of my stops last week, I was told the same thing by the locals, repeatedly and unprompted: we like America, we like Americans, you are very nice, but that idiot George Bush is the biggest menace to the world we’ve ever seen….
Tomorrow, “officially,” is the day of election-like activities in Chechnya.
I’m surprised — alarmed, really — at how many Americans are blissfully unaware of the situation in Chechnya. We think the war ended half a decade ago (if they were even aware of that), and are unaware of the second war. We remember the Moscow Theatre Massacre, but are completely unaware of the human rights situation in Chechnya. We are unaware of how many Russian soldiers die there every week, in greater numbers and with far less conviction than the U.S. victims in Iraq. We’re unaware of how the fighting has spread to Ingushetia, where now the number of Chechen refugees is as great as the original population of the republic, and how the separatists have fanned-out to neighboring states like Azerbaijan (recent new site of U.S. air bases), Iraq, and Afghanistan.
It’s easy to wring one’s hands over the evils of the world, or to earnestly hope that Somebody will do Something. But even this doesn’t seem to happen — these events go on daily as non-stories, not just under-reported but unreported.
People in Spain and Germany march in the street against the US coalition in Baghdad. It’s certainly their prerogative — it’s great fun to wear a grotesque Bush mask and complain about the oil business. But why do these people say nothing about Grozny? Who has decided that these people, Chechens and Russians alike, are worth so little?
"Please Sir come down from there! No picture! No picture!"
Well what the heck did these guys think would happen? Next time they should consider these things first: If you park a motorized howitzer in the middle of the sidewalk in a busy city during morning rush hour, leave it unattended with the hatches open, and place a short run of portable steps next to it, what do you think will happen? People will walk up those steps and get a look-see.
Their surprise and paranoia was inexplicable. We are going to park a 20-ton K1A1 main battle tank in the middle of your street. Please do not look very closely.
We walk to the end of the rough stone passageway, stepping over the vents and careful not to slip on the wet floor. At the end of the passageway is a steel door, a meter square, elevated from the floor. The welding marks give a hint that the metal is heavy, thick. Nearby a video camera on a pole watches the door, 24 hours a day, well-lit, and the monitor at the other end of the video cable is monitored by a live person continuously. Through a crack near the floor we can see that the other side of the wall is also lit I'm assured that behind the steel door are complex explosive traps, and more unblinkingly diligent video cameras. Two coils of barbed wire prevent me from walking the last six or seven steps to touch the door. We're about 73 meters under the ground, and 100 meters from North Korea.
I planning our upcoming trip to Tokyo, I’m surprised at how little info there is on the web (other than in Japanese) about kyotei boat racing. We passed a stadium along the highway during the past visit, while driving down toward Haneda airport — huge place, yet not found in any web tour guide that I’ve come across. Hmmm…..
If anyone has some pointers on seeing the races, please let me know!
Why this is major news is beyond me, but CNN is reporting via Reuters that the old TV series V is in for a remake. Ungh. One supposes they will say that Osama is a lizard now, or some similarly-pandering “deep” metaphor. Big deal?
What’s annoying to me is that a search of the web still doesn’t show just how much of the original pilot mini was straight-lifted from Bertolt Brecht’s little-seen play The Private Life of the Master Race (aka Fear and Misery of the Third Reich)
A few years back I was rabidly attacked by a certain Warner Bros’ producer for saying this in an online forum, an ongoing barrage of threatening emails until I finally had to contact Brecht’s estate. How dare I impugn the literary majesty of the author of V, who had already said that he was inspired by Sinclair Lewis, not some foreign-refugee upstart?
Still today, one is hard-pressed to find the names “Kenneth Johnson” and “Brecht” on the same web search, save on Amazon.com’s German site (where the audience is far more likely to have ever heard of Furcht und Elend im Dritten Reich). But not here in the good ol’ US of A, no sir. We only credit lifts from Amurrican writers ‘round here.
Guess we can all go back thinking Keanu’s an overpaid block of wood masquerading as an actor, rather than a misguided but bighearted benevolent force.
Social scientists, take note:
King Lear had three daughters. Nothing but trouble.
Courtney posted a link to the geek test. So I took it. Scored a 55-ish value, which I guess is “Extreme Geek.” Okay, I can live with that, but as I was going through the many, many checkboxes, I came to a realization or two about the general state of geekdom.
It’s hard to really know how the test is scored, but clearly it’s anime-deficient — no Belldandy in the “I Want…” list? What were they thinking? Seems hard to believe considering the source of such prime geek canon as Otaku No Video.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, I keep a little robot that tracks down links, picture theft, usage of pictures, pages, and also the search terms that people use on search engines like Google and Kartoo to find pages here on Botzilla.
In the past few days I’ve seen a sudden surge in one search term, that had never been present before: “Saddam Art.” This one, along with variations like “Saddam Art Collection” and “Hussein Artworks” and “painting of Saddam Hussein.” have shot to the #1 spot in the past week.
I actually don’t have much in the way of Saddam art, though I’ve wanted some since well before Iraq invaded Kuwait. In the late 80’s there was to have been a show of, as I recall, impressionist masterworks to be held at a new state-run museum in Baghdad — the first show of its kind anywhere in the arab region. Scholars were greatly excited and paintings were being loaned from numerous high-profile institutions. Then, near the last minute, the show was canned, and replaced with a show of paintings by sundry Iraqis of the Beloved Leader, Saddam Hussein. Almost immediately the show was declared to be permanent, and the museum to be dedicated to this one exhibition. I really wanted that exhibition catalog!
Guess Saddam couldn’t stand being one-upped by L. Ron Hubbard.
In the last few days, as the Washington Post reports, Iraqi artists are starting to deal with an Iraq free from government minders. No telling what has happened to Salaam Abid, one of Hussein’s favorite full-time portraitists.
Now CNN is reporting it too — the taste of the Hussein family for fantasy art.
I’m really itching to see his record collection and game system, now.
Watching the “Raw Video” clips over at reuters.com and as usual they rock. Being able to just watch the lightly-edited raw footage, without voiceover or some dopey camerahog doing a standup in front of a safe gate or highway berm, is a monumentally great and apparently not-well-known resource.
Today the feeds were full of Iraqi looting, of course. And a quick snip of the departing Iraqi delegate to the UN: “I love New York.” One long clip covered a tour one of Qusay Hussein’s so-far largely-unlooted palaces, along with the associated undestroyed yacht.
The palaces are fascinating in their bizarre mixtures of art, high, low, and indifferent. When the first footage of a Saddam residence showed up on Tuesday, CNN repeated showed a tall multiple-picture frame, the sides adorned with sprocket holes, to make some allusion to motion picture stills — the sort of thing you would find at any of the cheapest gift shops on Hollywood Boulevard. It was filled not with family snaps but official portraits.
Qusay’s yacht was decorated with Babylonian motifs, mixed with a large dose of Louis XIV gold trim. The house? Huge Boris Vallejo fantasy paintings, or perhaps simply commisioned knockoffs of Boris Vallejo paintings (the fortune you could get for those at Comicon, heh).
If the Iraqi government hasn’t already done so, someone should really create a catalog of Hussein art — not the art owned by him, per se, but the art of him. I wonder if any of it dared have a voice of its own, or if it all was safely kitsch, like that of the great dictatorships of the 30’s and 40’s so admired by Saddam.
Back in the 1960’s, there was an episode when Lyndon Johnson suggested offering North Vietnam a large dose of western-style incentive, as a deal to secure the peace. Cash and know-how to build hydroelectic power reservoirs in Vietnam, thinking it would transform the region into Tennessee-on-the-Mekong.
“Ol’ Ho just can’t turn that down!” Johnson is reported to have gleefully proclaimed, before the plan was rejected by the Vietnamese.
I have thought often of this story whenever I hear current politicians talking about Iraqis’ supposed willingness to turn themselves into happily westernized “free” consumers as a result of the coming (now current, and stalled) invasion.
Nuke Em from Orbit
As “ Senior Technical Artist” on Rift, my tasks often involved the creation of specialized tool software; helping non-technical people within the art dept (usually) solve specific problems; interfacing between the art, management, and engineering groups… But the part of my job that’s been most-visible to game players is shading.
Four years ago I departed a good job at NVIDIA to join a start-up games company called Trion World Network -- Trion’s plan was to revolutionize online gaming in the US, and their stated goals were ones that I also shared: to create a new, innovative, more-immersive and immediate online-gaming experience.
I really believe that graphics matter. That great art is more than just simulating realism, and that it goes right to your emotions without waiting for rational analysis. That it’s those emotions that bring you back again and again to entertaining experiences, more than DPS and EXP and leveling-up to get the next BFG. Those are just background. Beautiful, vivid imagery -- even a beautiful image of an ugly subject -- goes right to the heart of an audience’s mind.
Speaking of painting and computers, I’ve been working off and on on “JokerPaint,” a little let’s-beat-images-senseless sort of toy made using Processing and with a lot of the heavy pixel lifting being done via chains of filters that I’ve made using the GLSL framework in Andrés Colubri’s GLGraphics library. I expect that at some point I’ll post it to OpenProcessing.
The image above was generated from the photo in this recent post. Unlike most paint-like image processes, JokerPaint’s imaging is continuous and real-time – never static. It’s constantly revising and touching-up and I just picked a frame at random for this still picture.
This is a little game development (or general graphics) tip that I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of nights, with additional applications for photographic and other images.
It’s really a simple observation, followed by some implementation tricks. The dumb observation is that people like noisy pictures. This has been well known, of course, in famous older papers like Rob Cook’s 1985/86 paper Stochastic Sampling in Computer Graphics (PDF). And for many years photographers have been keen on using grain as a means to elicit a sense of sharpness that may be actually greater than what’s really in the picture. This isn’t really news, but in playing with noise I’ve found a really simple trick or two that have pretty broad uses.
First, we’re going to make a texture.
That’s it! Back to Santa Clara and cats and snakes and kids. But not for long, Microsoft Gamefest is only about a week away….
This is one of those never-quite-finished entries that’s been long-lingering due to lack of time and attention — in this case it’s been months (there are some that are older… what can I say?) — the original save date was early 2005, and it’s lingered in “draft mode” ever since.
I was digging around on del.icio.us one afternoon and saw that after a lot of web traffic and game-industry furor back in November 2004, ea_spouse was still drawing hits from across the del.icio.us spectrum.
Now, I know a lot of folks at EA, I deal with them and know that a lot of them are happy, that they keep moving on from one project to the next, from group to group, production to production, and they’re doing fine. If the general picture were really as bleak as ea_spouse paints, then I doubt very much that anyone would work there for more than a few months. And that’s not the case — plenty of people at EA have been there, happy, for years.
Just the same, there can be problems in the industry. I regularly see people griping on message boards, usually about pay, hours, and credits. I read the recent article on IGDA purporting to be lessons for EA managers (and game managers in general), & I felt that the authors had gotten a few things wrong.
I don’t think this is really an EA issue at its core — maybe “ea_spouse” hails from there, but EA is just a big, easy target for journalists. Rather, it’s an industry-wide issue. There are many other companies, better and worse alike…
Garr’s recent post on slideuments got me thinking about my current Powerpoint method.
I sometimes do fall into the “write the presentation on the plane while traveling to the conference” method, but after taking it in the face a few times I’ve tried to avoid it. It’s worth thinking on your feet though — a couple of years back I traveled some 14 hours to give a presentation to a group, only to discover that just before we began they had “warmed up” by watching one of my presentations on video: the same one I was about to give. Fast backtrack! Happily I had colleagues and enough extra material to come up with a useful session on the spot (and spend part of the time provoking audience response and asking them a lot of questions).
GDC 2005 was in San Francisco this year, and it was the first GDC where we were able to get a good showing, out on the Expo floor, of the NVIDIA Stereo Driver. This came with the advent of two great display partners: the dep3d rear-projection display that you can see clearly here, and (where the knot of people behind the Dep3D are looking) a Planar SD1300 stereo display.
It’s here! Today I had a copy of GPU Gems 2 in my hand, newly back from the printer. Like new cars, freshly-printed books have that Special Sellable Smell all their own. Sweet. You’ll find a teensy print of this photo inside the front section, as I’ve reprised my section-editor role from the previous edition — though this time I’ve stepped back to let other people write more of the book content proper.
My section, titled simply “High Quality Rendering” covers innovative uses of GPUs in image processing for movies like SpiderMan; in high-end compositing programs like Apple Motion and rendering programs like Gelato; and a handful of other push-the-envelope imaging methods aimed at getting the best quality images possible from a high-speed GPU pipeline. You can get a glimpse of them by checking out the Visual Table of Contents that’s printed inside the book’s front cover. We think this new edition is even better than the first best seller.
You can order Gems 2 from Amazon or just show up at the Moscone Center for the Game Developers Conference 2005 where there are sure to be copies on-hand and on sale. Last year’s conference booksellers sold as many copies of Gems 1 as the printer could ship!
It’s time again for… Siggraph! This year Siggraph is in L.A., just a short 50-minute commuter flight from SJC.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I’ll be lecturing in a sponsored session: Transforming Production Workflows with the GPU. As you might have guessed from Chris Maughan’s Jorvik Utopia, I’ll be talking a lot about HLSL and interactive tool design and building realtime shaders with FX Composer.
In a related note I’ll be proctoring Microsoft’s HLSL Shader Workshops, which occur from Monday through Thursday — not really the lecturer this time, I’ll just stand alongside the door with a spear, raise it and shout “Hail, Mighty Caesar!” at the appropriate moments, or prod students along when they have difficulties.
This year I’m bringing along a pedometer. If it’s anything like last year, I’ll be running up those daily 10,000 steps before lunch time all week.
On the heels of Siggraph, we’re doing the Asia Leg of the 2004 NVIDIA Developer Tour starting next week in Seoul. We’ll then be moving on to Tokyo, Shanghai, and Beijing. A bit like Siggraph, I’ll be giving lectures about high-end shading and showing off ideas in FX Composer.
What’s pretty cool about getting this technology out to the world is that we can really get a sense of exponential growth — things literally seem to be changing at a progressively-faster rate. Only a few months ago it was hard to get anyone to think about using the best shading methods, now we’re not only getting lots of response but the requests and new products seem to be popping up in all sorts of unexpected directions.
I’m especially pleased at how many developers have been adopting to using GPU power for image processing — not just obvious users like film compositors and such, but games, sci-viz users, and even operating systems. It’s a great time to be a rapidly-moving pixel.
I’m also excited to visit at least a small slice of China — it was only a handful of years ago that the standard garb of the street was a Mao suit. Now it’s the “Wild, Wild, East” and it genuinely seems a lot farther from the US than Japan or Korea — even as the people there rocket themselves toward what they perceive as a western style of affluence but with their own sense of self and place. I’m really eager to see what is going on there and what the local developers are trying to accomplish with some rapidly-moving pixels of their own.
This past Friday was a good example of the sort of day I enjoy most at NVIDIA — spending it both creating fun cool stuff with the latest hardware and more importantly getting a chance to talk to artists and programmers on lots of different cool projects, finding out what they’re doing, getting excited by their ideas, and hopefully playing a helpful role with ideas of my own. It’s one of those jobs where the most productive days are also the most exhilarating and thought provoking; Friday was just such a day.
It started in the morning as my Friday alarm clock reminded me of my to-do list for the week — with everything major completed and some extra besides. I’d had some simple ideas on Thursday night for Microsoft HLSL FX shaders, had roughed them out in a few minutes. On Friday morning I started thinking about applications for these ideas, and within a few minutes had started roughing-out some GeForce 6800 code prototypes in FX Composer. I had it well on the way to a fun demo by lunchtime.
A few weeks back I alluded in passing to my general contempt for the “stand-up” — a modern practice of TV “news reporting” where instead of actually showing you something revealing about a news story, the camera instead simply rests on the “on-air talent” while they stand in front of someplace where actual news and possibly reporting once took place (or maybe just nearby). This month’s digitaljournalist has a story about one news shooter’s experience doing stand-ups here in San Francisco. One local channel (probably others), our NBC affiliate, prides itself on LIVE stand-ups — each evening’s 11 PM newscast is overloaded with reporters standing around in the cold night air, usually in front of a court building or other news-intensive locale that’s been closed for five or six hours already.
It’s hard to imagine the stand-up in any media other than television. Even the old movie newsreels didn’t have it. The appearance and nightly re-appearance of the reporter-as-demi-celebrity is purely a television invention and it doesn’t work anywhere else. No one writes a newspaper headline in first person. We don’t open and close magazine stories with photos of the reporters and photographers. We don’t care what they wear.
Some time ago I’d mentioned David Pye’s The Nature and Art of Workmanship, a book recommended to me w.r.t. photography but which I felt has far-reaching consequences throughout all creative, information-intensive endeavors. It’s actually a follow-on to a 1964 book titled The Nature of Design (in fact in it he hints at the later book to come, writing in the final pages: “there is no space here to write what needs writing about workmanship…”).
Today we’ve been discussing upgrades and rewrites and redesigns, the advent of the next generation of graphics hardware, algortihms, and paradigms. Great, amazing stuff, to follow (and eventually bury) the great, amazing stuff that’s already been accomplished. We collect our facts, our task plans, our AI’s and PORs; scratch our heads wondering “how will we ever get this finished?” But really, is it ever finished? Has software ever been finished?
Pye writes, in the days before lasers, desktop computers, or anyone had bothered coining terms like “software engineering,” “use cases,” or “design patterns”:
I think that I shall never see
A number lovelier than three.
We Try Harder: Part Three
One of the — ahem — features of longer air travel is that you get to see a lot of movies on the inflight screens that you otherwise might have successfully avoided. One of these movies, in the past couple of weeks, was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
We released a set of Mel scripts that I’ve been developing and using with Maya 4.5 and the NVIDIA Cg Plugin: <a href=”http://developer.nvidia.com/view.asp?IO=cgfx_mel”target = “linkframe”>http://developer.nvidia.com/view.asp?IO=cgfx_mel</a> — you can get the free plugin etc from the same site.
Unless I’m mistaken, the plugin should work with the Maya 4.5 Personal Learning Edition, also free from Alias|Wavefront — should make for a pretty cool way to get into high-quality realtime 3D graphics for a very low price (read: $0).
Okay, so if I’m so hot on digital imaging, why do I still lunk-around a film-based camera? What? No color?
I get asked this regularly by people in the offline world. It’s usually a lead-in to a recommendation that I buy a digital camera, often tied to a specific recommendation to get one just like theirs, which they recently purchased and like a lot. They’re usually surprised when I say that I spent almost a year toting around a digital camera all day most every day, that I have a digital photo enthusiast site, and that after that experience I dug-out the old 1950’s style gear, expanded my 35mm equipment, and have been quite pleased with the results of that choice. I still use the digicam at times, but mostly it stays home. I waver at moments, but usually have no desire to grab at the latest generation of DSLRs.
How can this jibe with my day-to-day work, daily pushing the envelope of useful computer imaging tools for games and movies? How can I be supervising imagery on films like Final Fantasy and simultaneously be such a Luddite (partial quick answer: I’m not a Luddite)?
I ask myself this regularly, and have decided that it’s all about the “C” word.
Nothing Hawaiian this time: I’ll be giving a keynote lecture at the 2nd International Conference on Virtual Storytelling in Toulouse, France.
The conference is neatly-tucked between November Comdex and the Thanksgiving holiday…
As usual I’m late to the party when it comes to seeing the Big Release films. No, I’m not about to talk about The Matrix but the latest XMen movie, X2, which we watched yesterday. Since the movie has been out for weeks I’ll be quite happy to issue a singleSpoiler Alert
and get on with things.
After a year of sitting on it, Warners has finally released Final Flight of the Osiris, the final production of the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within studio, Square USA. Though it gets this release in theatres, latched-onto Dreamcatcher as a standalone short, it will also appear as part of the upcoming AniMatrix DVD.
What a difference a year makes! After Final Flight I shifted my attention from production on a massive scale to doing it all on your PC (and every scale in between). I've been hammering furiously at the latest release of the CgFX plugins for Maya and 3ds Max. I hate to sound like an ad but for me, this stuff is hecka great lets you work-out ideas about light, shading, and texture really quickly and fluidly. I'm really keen to get one of the upcoming GeForce FX Go laptops studio!
(Now if I can just find a way to wedge 150 artists into that same suitcase....)
I've received two handsome books of current black and white photography, just before the holidays.
That Isaac’s choice of university is also near one of the best skate parks.
Hard to look at B&W photos these days without suspecting the hand of Nik Software behind the curtain.
@ MOMA, NYC
Wayne Levin w/Akule
For those who think that monochrome != contemporary, stop reading here.
After a long break we finally got a chance to head up for a lecture at PhotoAlliance during the weekend -- a special session featuring not one or two but four different photographer speakers, as part of the launch of the PhotoAlliance Our World Portfolio Review.
Of the four photographers showing work that night, all of them showed black and white imagery -- and all for different reasons:
There is little that can lead you to treasure good photography than to look at a lot of bad photography, interspersed with an occasional gem. Which is exactly what I was doing a few weeks ago on (where else?) flickr, where I was editing group pools.
When I started the New Black and White group, back in flickr’s early pre-yahoo fog, there were no editing or moderation tools, it was slow and painstaking to remove each and every pic I felt didn’t belong. And at first that was fine, as there were very few pics submitted. Two or three a day. I stopped messing with it, left it fallow – came back to find a thousand pictures.
Edited those down to a few dozen, watched it fill up quickly again. Eventually the flood was far more than I could manage as anything less than a full-time job, so I ignored it for months until there were more than 55,000 photos in the pool, most of them “flickr noise” of the cute kitten variety.
Rather than even try to deal with all that, I started another group, Contemporary Black and White, and invited a few select members. I thought: at least I don’t need to edit them (and I don’t – they’ve been contributing good stuff). But then I started wondering about the old one…..
Shannon Ebner’s forum comments on Charlotte Cotton’s recent “Tip of the Tongue” article sent me to revisit Stephen Shore’s The Nature of Photographs. This is a slim — no, lean — book that should be available to anyone who wants to approach their picture-making and picture-appreciation in a thoughtful way. It is a remarkable book not only in its direct economy but also in that it so deliberately and successfully provokes you towards moments of personal insight and reflection as you are reading it.
Right on the heels of the Conscientiously Gray list, both Jörg and Tim Atherton have cited this Charlotte Cotton essay on contemporary B&W photography, which in turn contains a fair number of interesting B&W links — and some great comments in the short but dense forum discussion on the right side of the page.
Just before Siggraph I ran across an imported, ad-free, all-black-and-white magazine that hadn’t been in my local store before: PRIVATE. Issue #33 bears what I consider to be an rather classic-looking (almost clichéd) image for its “East Europe” issue: a George Georgiou cover shot of Serbian workers in front of a heavy, rust-era-looking pipeline — a bit grainy, contrasty, and one assumes that other than a slight shift in the fashions of their coats, these fellows coud have been working on the same heavy-industry line in 1980 or 1950 or 1930.
On this surface we can see reflected a great difficulty in the “timeless” character of black and white — its very timelessness reveals its disconnection from immediate reality. For example, the image above could have been made twenty years ago, or yesterday — only subtle clues can let you determine which.
<img src=”http://static.flickr.com/38/76189190_87fdddd9ed_o.jpg” width=807 height=545 border=0>
For the past week or two I've been banging on the New Black and White Photo Pool.
The group photo pool was started back in August and I kept tabs on it for a while... removing pictures I felt didn't follow its (completely subjective) charter:
Black and White is the oldest form of picture-making. It has been said that these are the true tones of photography, from the white light of hope to the black of despair.
This is a public group and the group pool is actively moderated part of the group's ambition is to showcase a concentration of great, memorable black and white images, so don't be surprised if casual black and white snaps or even some pretty good shots disappear from the pool spontaneously. High pool volume isn't required.
Here are a few more portrait gallery additions to the Gray Scale. And some of them aren’t entirely in B&W, given the realities of commercial publication (and the varying tastes of photographers — color isn’t bad, it’s just different). Mona Kuhn, for example, who says in an interview on Lens Culture that she prefers B&W for its “depth,” despite her current fame as a color portraitist.
Why so much emphasis on B&W portraiture? Mostly because I continue to believe that portraiture is one of B&W’s stronger genres, and that portraiture in general is one of the most-difficult forms of photography — despite its universal appeal, look how many sites and portfolios one can find without a single portrait. Instead we see rocks, we see skyscrapers, we see trees and flowers but portraiture… that’s hard. Even most of the portraits that one does find online tend to be driven more by fashionable stylings rather than portraiture’s implicit promise: that through this image you will touch. It will touch you, and perhaps you will even feel the opposite is true as well. Fashion is a mask — portraiture’s revelation tries to find the unmasked individual.
Why then, should B&W be more compelling? Doesn’t B&W also mask, hiding the true colors in favor of stylized ones? Yes, but it strikes us because the color is rarely what we remember about a person. Instead it’s the curve of the eyes, the particular smile, the form — even for a blue-eyed freckled redhead. Instead of seeing the uneven ruddiness & blemishes, what we see in our mind’s eye: the face. And within that, is where the illusion of human connection can be found.
At times I have pointed a link to just part of a site — of course, the purpose for having the following links in the first place is as an invitation to explore:
Today’s list: a quick alternative to just poking ‘“black and white” portraits’ into Google yourself.
Truth is, doing that will generate dozens of links to shooters of “classic” imagery — that is, just the sort of “timeless treasures” that people want for their weddings or to remember their children when they were still obedient enough to sit still in front of a roll-down backdrop for an hour.
Anyhow, here are a few alternatives that sprang readily to mind or crossed my browser after a half-hour of digging around. Some have been mentioned here before. Hardly an end-all list — rather, a few small hints that might indicate the shape of a much larger survey. Suggestions are always very welcome.
Afer a few pokes at this particular issue, I’ve added a filing category to this journal, specific to the question: where can I find great new black and white photography?
“Too hyper to be useful.” That’s me!
Non-sequitur of the day…
Part of a brief series that started here.
The world is full of patterns: art, physics, weather, music. In some camps, it’s been proposed that human ability to grasp at patterns is the core of conscious experience. We understand our surroundings, and one another, as a complex carpet of overlapping and expected patterns. The patterns might be hard to fathom at first, then… like the sudden twist in a mystery story, Aha! the experience of understanding. It all makes sense now.
With that possibility for epiphany in mind, here’s a paradoxical pattern to consider: when is a point a line, and when is line a point, especially when that line is.. a curve? And how, may I ask, does this relate to beer?
May we present: The Hough Transform…
Part of a brief series that started here.
How can we use k-Means to understand and/or manipulate photographic images? As a first example, here’s a classic from the poster-printing world: choosing a very small number of inks to represent a full-tone photo.
In our example, we grab random photos from the web – some work great as posters, some… not so much. But the code will do its best given the narrow constraints: all it knows is grayscale values, and we’ve reduce our calculation to just one dimension: the values along the grayscale histogram from each picture.
This is the first post in a brief series on algorithms (simple methods) that I like and that I think more people should know about: either because of their simplicity, their novelty, their usefulness, or all three. Each comes with a live demo. To begin, let’s introduce: k-Means Clustering .
Web Geek Warning
I'll admit that I was a little bit skeptical about coming away with much useful information (a general rule: be cautious around tech companies that have had near-zero evolution since, oh, 1995), but in fact the debugging bits were pretty illuminating. Here are some sketchy notes:
What a difference a day makes as I start assembling all the real components and trying to sort them out – even doubling the size of the chassis the whole thing seems… smaller. And it’s definitely slower. And I still haven’t added the USB router or the second power supply for the linux portion. Or the lasers.
I just realized, looking at my calendar, that sometime during the month of March, Botzilla has reached its tenth anniversary!
Sometime in March of 1994, after a decade of junkie-like email usage (ihnp4, baby!), I went onto the infant web with my own site via rahul.net, listed on the “NCSA Cool Site of the Day” first as “National Pixel Products,” and then (as the site grew past software marketing and photo galleries to include tools and pages on my friend Jim’s program The Palace), as “Botzilla” and “The House o’ Props n Bots.”
I can still remember getting that first copy of NCSA Mosaic for my SGI workstation and being told that I could use it to access interesting data “from more than a hundred different sites!”
So belated cheers, o-tanjobi omedeto gozaimasu, and here’s hoping that by the time another ten years have passed we aren’t stuck with another Bush in the White House, heh.
So during the South Bay Bloggers’ Meetup on Tuesday Night, I discovered a new sport: Google Voyeur.
Simplicity itself: take a typical digital-camera photo ID, like ih, Title: 143_4354
Now, just poke that number into Google. Chances are, it’ll come up with other people’s digital photos. Their personal photos, dutifully crawled and catalogued by Google’s robot.
Okay, I suck. Not a single post since my return from China. Of course, I have tons of excuses, including the fact that I was back in the office for less than one hour before hustling off to the airport for yet another business trip; or that GDC came in the middle of this period; or that I was sick in bed for weeks; or that it’s beta time and much software needs writing; or that I keep catching myself putting my web energy into (giant sucking sound….) Facebook; or that a large slice of the remaining time has been happily spent on family and wonderfulness. All true.
How to handle portrait-format images in an ongoing weblog? is the question that’s been dogging me since switching PhotoRant to its current, 807-pixels-across form (why 807 pixels? I genuinely don’t remember). As Michael pointed out in a recent 2point8 post, there’s an appeal to the idea of giving all photos “equal time” — that is, giving them all equal area on-screen (in his case, 375,000 pixels), distributed according to whatever aspect ratio they have.
The troubles are in the tall ones. The 16x9 pictures I make regularly are 897x454 when put into this format . If I turn it those same pixels on their sides, the 807 pixels is just, well, too tall. It doesn’t fit most web browsers, and scrolls off the top. Ungh. Making a photo 512 high (as this one is) fits most browsers, but leaves the picture only 40% as big as the horizontal version. And the horizontal one is minimized enough as it is (then again, the version here is still a tiny big bigger than a flicker standard or “medium” picture).
I’ve come pretty well to the conclusion that there is no good answer. I could reduce the size of the webpage header, but I can’t control how many extra bars of lins and navigation tools are in each user’s browser. I hate the idea of pictures appearing so tall that you can’t see them all at once.
The relentless landscape format of web presentation is one of those attributes that have probably had more influence than we realize, and will continue to do so. Compare it to books, whose pages are usually portrait format but that can be any aspect at all. Is it any surprise that the default formats for internet-based book printers like iPhoto and Lulu are landscape-format books?
A couple of days back I was part of an informal web conversation about “Creative Commons” copyrights (spurred by a publisher who had grabbed CC-marked images off the web and republished them for a profit without clear notification to the owner). A predictable pro-CC argument came up: that somehow using a CC notice, rather than the traditionally-restrictive “All Rights Reserved,” would encourage the publication of images from artists who might otherwise never get a venue (The takeaway: one should be honored when their otherwise-unknown creations have been found worth stealing?).
When we lived in Hawaii I enjoyed what seemed like a relatively short commute: only twenty minutes from Leeward to Windward sides of Oahu, traffic permitting. I could have the sunrise over the sea going in and up the Pali, and the sunset over the sea driving back away from the harbor.
In the morning I would usually time my drive to coincide with the local broadcast of the local news in Hawaiian, tacked-onto the end of All Things Considered and just before a program I had not heard since our move: Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. The presence of some single poem each morning was a regular reminder that life and spirit could contain more than just another predictable workday.
Another ten-day delay. Like everything, I can find a reason.
In a recent post-new-year’s post on 43F, Merlin linked to Thoreau’s Walden, which to my (not great) surprise exists in its entirety on Wikisource. The section Merlin was quoting from is the introductory chapter, “Economy,” which in turn contains the famous line: Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.
Like most Americans, I was given this to read and ignore when I was 14 years old. Y had been mentioning Thoreau too, just a few days ago. So the coincidence prompted me to re-read it, and I was struck by both the sentences before and after the famous line above:
You read it here first….
Well not really since I have been sending SMS pages with the expression “JFX” for some time. I thought it was a common parlance but I haven’t been able to find it in any web search, so maybe I just made it up. I like it regardless.
“JFX” is short for “Jesus FX” which appealed to my picture-making nature.
“Jesus FX” is in turn is short for the maledictive “Jesus F***ing Christ”
Except that, unlike this blog post, it can appear in a Google safe-mode search.
I had meant to spend a couple of brief minutes this morning writing about how incredibly busy I have been in recent days, how fragmented it often seems as I leap between multiple tasks roles/mental frameworks/whatever hat-related-metaphors. Funny thing is that I was too busy to get to it. Well, not that funny.
The five computers (sharing four monitors) on my desk (plus the hidden sixth one, used to snap the pic) are only the start — the snap doesn’t show the other three computers on my workdesk at home (augmented by the traveling Dell as #4) or the Tivo or the kids or the actual physical 43 folders sitting next to the kitchen phone or the developer events or the time spent trying to prove to myself that I am actually a social person or the workouts or the latest stack of books that’s been growing and spreading in the space around my bed (still no time for Happiness BTW).
I really should have anticipated that after attending WebZine I’d be spending a good chunk of time picking-through all the many blogs and bloglike web resources that I’d see there. doi! In fact I’d already started before WebZine began, and the pace has increased significantly.
Not just the many sites that were featured in the official schedule, but the sites of the volunteers too — most of whom I knew a bit, but many new to me — and also taking the time to catch-up on some of the blogs of my friends and acquaintances, which have been illuminating and exciting in their own ways. There are people who I know who are much cooler than I realized (sorry guys for not realizing it sooner).
There’s already been immediate cross-pollination: meeting someone at WebZine whose blog led me to their company and it turned right back at my professional life over at the office. Wonder if that means I can expense-account the Bacardi…
Bike Friday Pocket Rocket + Burley Travoy + Samsonite
The state publishes a PDF containing the 2012 California Dept of Transportation Bicycle-Related Roadway Standards. It contained, across several pages, all of the current standards for bicycle-related signage (and much more). I’ve collected the signs together here for easier web reference (fabric patterns, anyone?).
Note that the vague legacy “Share the Road” sign seems to be fading out, to be replaced by the much clearer “MAY USE FULL LANE.” About time!