Monday, June 30, 2008

The Bad With The Good

The first image is the one I posted yesterday. The second is a crop that Chuck thought I might be interested in looking at. He sent it to me with some reluctance as he himself isn't overly fond of getting crops in the mail, but I guess he felt this was sufficiently interesting to warrant the intrusion. As I too have cropped other people's images, usually not bothering to send them but occasionally doing so, he was on solid ground.

I too was taken with the tightly cropped image and thought I'd write about it.

I don't think there is anything wrong with the original image, but Chuck has managed to pare down the image to its essentials while eliminating some distracting details.

There is less plain brick wall - after all - how much brick do you need? He managed to eliminate the lights, which certainly had bothered me in the original composition. He's taken a horizontal image and turned into a vertical one with a lot of energy in it. He's managed to emphasize the looming side of the steps, eliminated the odd angles of handrails that distracted and also the white marks at the edge of the steps.

In return he lost some good features of the original and it's a question of whether it's better to remove some good to eliminate some bad, and whether in the end the new composition is simply better.

I actually went down to reshoot these steps today (I'm on an extended long weekend) but unfortunately much of downtown wasn't - no parking, too many people. I'll go again tomorrow, Canada Day and reshoot the image with tripod and HDR and adequate depth of field and low ISO, probably with the 1Ds2 for best possible resolution.

Can you use this example to help your own compositional efforts?

Below is my effort at cropping in the way of Chuck- it's actually shot from a slightly different position - you don't get the loom of the brick top to the stairs in the bottom right corner, but you do get that other shape which goes to the corner - it's going to be fun reshooting it and I think I will have to give myself several options for composition since making a final decision based on the small viewfinder isn't the best from prior experience.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Downtown Walkabout

Unable to leave town (I was on call) and with no specific project in mind, I headed downtown and wandered around and the above images were what I found. Nothing momentous, nothing I'd put in a portfolio of this years best so what's the point?

Well, I got some exercise, enjoyed the sunshine, practiced my composing and seeing skills.

Did I learn anything - yes - take the damn tripod with you - despite the IS, there were times when it would have been helpful and although 400 is good, when you really open the shadows, it starts to get a bit noisy - 100 would in fact have been better.

Wandering Downtown

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It's A Miracle

My 7600 has been sitting for the better part of a year, collecting dust. Tonight I thought I'd see if it was even possible to resurrect it after such a long time, fully anticipating hours of clean, test, clean cycles.

One clean, no tests (couldn't get the test to work), a quick reinstall of Quadtone Rip and a bit of a refresher on how to use it (I've been using the 5000 so hadn't used that either in months) and my first print looks to be perfect - I can't believe it. I'm making a print of the badlands image of the other day - 20X42 inches, 300 dpi (there was slight stretching of the image in the stitching and perspective correction process).

Actually that was a story in itself. With the base of the ball head perfectly leveled, I found that one end of the canyon wall was a bit higher than the other. I figured that if I tilted the base a bit then I could capture the canyon wall on the bias so to speak, and fix it later. What really happened was that the images when stitched came out in an arc. I didn't want to trim to get a rectangle so I brought the image into Photoshop, did a transform using warp and adjusted the warping to straighten the image. This resulted in a rectangular image but I noted later that in this image there are absolutely vertical lines of erosion in the image which could not be either curved or on the diagonal.

A second go with warp later in the editing process was able to fix that nicely without losing any of the image. I find it remarkable that I can warp an image twice and yet maintain the resolution and sharpness but that has been my experience on several occasions. I do try to avoid doing a transform twice but sometimes I miss something or there is a secondary adjustment to be made after the initial one.

The Backup Saga Continues

After four days, Retrospect had not yet backed up even half of my information - seeming to be quite a bit slower than Time Machine. Several readers pointed out that Time Machine does in fact back up other hard drives, though it seems it doesn't back up anything but Mac OS (journaled). Perhaps this is why the original attempt at using Time Machine failed. I won't know for a while yet. I am currently doing a backup of the two internal drives and will add an external drive when that is done. Two of my external drives aren't journaled and the Time Machine documentation makes it pretty plain this is a problem.

I suspect I will have to copy the files on those disks to drobo separately, reformat the drives and restore the files to them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Ever wonder about rules in photography - rules of composition, focusing, choice of subject, lighting and whatnot.

Truth is, rules are a substitute for thinking. If you don't want to think about how best to frame your subject, you apply the rules of thirds. While a few rules are based on physics and properties of the real world (like hyperfocal distances, most are simply generalizations which work fairly well, most of the time, for most subjects. Is that really any way to treat an image that is important to you?

At the very most rules should be fall-back positions - failing a better idea, then I'll follow the rules but if you think about it, having no clue what to do with the composition doesn't say much for your involvement with the subject matter.

It's entirely different to not be able to decide which of two options is better - framing A or framing B - they may be equally attractive, all be it in different ways and difficulty deciding says more about your personality than either your intelligence or involvement.

Therefore, rules are not made to be broken, they are there to be replaced by careful consideration and should only be used when they explain the physical world or don't have any impact on the creation of the image.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another Badlands Image

Badlands Stitch

Above isa 7 image stitch with the 1Ds2, making for approx. 6000C13000 pixels, 80 megapixels. It shows a lot of detail and should make for some nice large prints, say 2 feet by five.

You may note that this is similar to the single image I posted the other day, though no cropped as tightly. Time will tell whether this should be cropped a bit but I need to live with it for a while.

Remember to click on the image to see it in a larger size.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Backing Up - There's more to this!

I found out to my disgust that Time Machine on the Mac only backs up your main hard drive, not even a second internal drive according to the apple tech support person. It definitely doesn't back up external drives (upon sit most of my important images). Ouch! That makes it near worthless to me.

I checked with the Drobo people - they recommended Super Duper - as did my friend Bill. Only catch is, Super Duper can update changed files but does not do incremental backup - so if the file is corrupted and then backed up - too bad - if you want an older version before you stupidly shrunk the original file for the net (I have done this), then so sorry, it's gone - start all over with the raw file. As I spend hours editing images and sometimes haven't a clue what all I did in which sequence to an image, this is mighty frustrating.

I may be forced to purchase and use Retrospect - which does in fact handle multiple drives and incremental backups. The standard version isn't all that expensive at $129.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Old Truck

More Of Atlas Coal Tipple

Adventures In Backup

Well, I'm doing better when it comes to protecting my images.

1) I now have a Belkin UPS protecting my computer and various hard drives.

2) I have installed Leopard on my Mac and will be using Time Machine for efficient backups.

3) I purchased a Drobo after doing some reading, and loaded it with 4 one terabyte drives. As Drobo recommended, I made a single 4 terabyte virtual drive, then partitioned it into one 80% chunk, another 20%, this move so that Drobo never goes into 85+ territory which is I gather innefficient and the way that Time Machine works is when it runs out of space, it starts throwing things out. This will now happen before Drobo goes into overdrive.

4) I have backed up all my edited image folders and detached the drive after.

5) I have backed up all raw files and returned the hard drive to my office (ie. offsite).

It cost me about $1500 for the hardware - certainly in the past this was an amount I balked at spending but the time had come...

Alternatives would have been a 2 terabyte disk but it wasn't going to be that much cheaper and wouldn't have survived a single disk failure, which the system I have will do.

Are there cheaper ways? - sure - are they as simple? - probably not - do I regret spending the money? No, it needed to be done - like getting a new roof - you don't really get to enjoy it, it just protects you.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Top Of The Tipple

17 mm., 25 seconds at f16 with the 17-40 on 1Ds2
It's extremely dark in there - auto focus won't work, manual focus is difficult since you can't see the main objects in the view finder - you rely on focusing on specular highlights where you can find them. It's remarkable that the camera did as well as it did as regards the dynamic range - a bit of recovery in camera raw and some judicious darkening of the lightest boards and the results are quite remarkable given the difficulty of the subject.

One thing I can see that I want to change is to increase the contrast in the roof boards on the left so they better match the ones on the right. No doubt other changes will occur to me over time, some of which will prove ill advised, others important.

Back To The Badlands

My friend Robin and I headed for Drumheller today, planning to photograph at Atlas Coal Tipple, but we noticed this side canyon on the way and marked it for a visit after supper. Robin worked his way up a cliff which faced the sunny side of the canyon while I went up the sunny side wall to photograph into the shade. Time will tell which was the better plan. As Robin shoots film and doesn't 'do' digital, it may be some time before we find out. He's into medium and large format and pyro developer - remember develoers? I think he might have been a bit miffed when I showed my images on my Epson 2000 at supper - at least I agreed to turn it off so we could eat.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More On Who Is Going To Be Remembered

Do read the comments from the previous blog. A number of important points were raised.

1) with the advent of self publishing, being published perhaps doesn't mean as much as once it did.

2) there are so many good photographers now, what does it take to be remembered?

3) Perhaps the only way to be remembered is to be different just to stand out - I surely hope this isn't the case, but perhaps Camera Arts knows something I don't.

4) Perhaps the heyday of photography is past and no one is going to stand out and be remembered 50 years hence. I don't think this is the case, but maybe...

We tend to think of Edward Weston and Ansel Adams as pioneers but truth is photography had been around for 100 years when Ansel was in his heyday. People like Timothy Sullivan were capturing the grand landscape with huge view cameras long before Ansel. Edward wasn't the first to shoot vegetables and nudes.

Throughout history each of the arts has progressed from the established to the new, the latter becoming the established in time if it's good enough.

There is still plenty of room for sharp, fully toned, well composed images. Take for example the mining photographs of Louie Palu - refreshingly new, yet not relying on any tricks, techniques or antiquated processes.

On the issue of 'so many good photographers', while it's true, few show us anything about the world we didn't already know. I suspect that those who will be remembered are the ones who were able to do so.

One problem with photographers who photograph modern life is that we are so familiar with it (after all we are living it) that we tend to discount it. Mind you, living it and looking at it aren't the same and photographers like Stephen Shore and others are appreciated by those who realize that showing us ourselves is important now and even more important in the future.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Who Is Going To Be Remembered

Ever wonder who, of the modern crop of famous photographers (or perhaps not famous) is going to be revered 50 years hence?

Did the world know that Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange et al know that they were going to be in a similar position?

Oddly, I suspect the answer is yes. Edward was being collected when collecting photography was unheard of. He was writing articles for photography magazines. Margaret Bourke White was on the cover of Life at a time when that was about as big a deal as you could be in North America. It's my impression that virtually none of the greats now revered were unknown in their own time.

The implication is that we likely already know of the photographers and their work; who will be famous 50 years hence. Kinda makes you think.

Will the revered be the current crop of Ansel Adams followers - John Sexton, Bruce Barnbaum et al, or will it be the photographers who took colour and made it art - people like Joel Myerowitz? Could it be the photographers who push the envelop and scribble on their images, use alternative processes to photograph the dead and rotting - people like Joel Peter Witkin. It's interesting to me that he's famous, but I can't think of a single person who has continued along that line who's name I know or who's images repeatedly show up, suggesting that common sense has prevailed - the originator gets the fame, the followers wallow in obscurity.

Who do you think are the photographers now in their 30's and 40's who are going to be revered in 50 years?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Compulsory Figures

When craftsmen or even skaters are tested for their skills, they are often asked to make something standard - in the case of skaters, they have compulsory figures. In a way, it's too bad that the same is not required of hobby and amateur photographers. It is in photography school.

Think about it. Your assignment is to make another Pepper # 30. Sure the world doesn't need one, but think about it. First you need a suitably funky pepper, then some sort of setting for it, you need to light it or find the natural lighting that will give that pepper the roundness and the glow and the gorgeous highlights, and you need to compose the image suitably.

What has happened when I have tried that experiment in years past is a technically competent aesthetically horrible image, looking more like an illustration in a scientific text on breeding than a piece of art.

When you take on an assignment which has a 'gold standard' with which to compare your efforts, it is downright easy to see where you failed. You can then try again and keep doing it till you get quality that is at least similar to the 'master' image you chose to copy.

I think you will find it time well spent.

It's too bad that some of the 'art' photographers featured in Camera Arts didn't do this first, then we'd get to see their avant garde and alternative process images at their best.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What Do We Really Want From Photography?

I would suggest that "why we photograph" and "what we want from photography" are not the same and that further, a study of what we want from our photography and an analysis of other peoples goals and how practical ours are given our circumstances could be very useful.

A good answer to why we photograph might be one of the following:

a) a burning need to create


b) I like messing with cameras

or more likely a bit of both, in varying ratios to suit our personalities.

An honest look at what we want from photography might include any of the following:

1) to be recognized as a craftsman or artist, anyway a skilled photographer

2) money - money to justify expensive equipment (see above - playing with toys) or to actually supplement income (in which case forget the expensive toys).

3) to have some nice photographs, to look at

4) to improve our skills, at whatever level me might be now

5) fame - which isn't necessarily the same as recognition

6) to make some really great images, whether anyone else sees them or not.

And I dare say you can add your own suggested goals either observed or experienced.

I have a portfolio case of matted silver prints, probably about 35 of them, representing some of the best work I did BD (before digital). I doubt more than a dozen people in the world have ever seen them (except one workshop). The portfolio rarely sees the light of day, even to me. I suspect that a lot of photographers were the same before digital and the internet.

This can tell us quite a lot about both drive to photograph and goals achieved. There were a lot of happy photographers before the internet, who like me seemed to get satisfaction from photography without fame, money, recognition or even the social aspects of photography. While it is tempting to suggest that nowadays the main goals are fame and fortune, in fact I suspect that the vast majority of photographers might dream of same, but realistically aim for different, more realistic goals. It's a bit like being 58 and pot bellied (not to mention any names, but there's a mirror in our hall) and wishing you had some gorgeous model, star, stud or being of ultimate desire to your taste) at your beck and call. You know damn well you're lucky to have the aging spouse you have, and if you were honest with yourself, having to keep pace with someone like the above dream would be far more trouble than 99% of us would be willing to put out.

Fame and fortune in photography are no different - they are high maintenance, demanding, rude, all consuming and downright fickle. Most of us aren't willing to put up with high and mighty gallery owners, pushy clients, deadlines, marketing, more time spent matting and framing (because we can't make a profit if we get someone else to do it) than we do photographing. We become experts at packaging and mailing rather than composing.

Most of us have jobs which provide a steady income, and which in fact allow us to buy the lovely tools we use). We have houses that need maintained, families who need attention, and probably a life style which we aren't willing to sacrifice to achieve either fame or fortune.

It's a miracle of no small proportion that I, a busy family doctor; have had as much recognition as I have. Largely it's been luck, a certain amount of nerve to put myself forth to be judged, and no small coincidence that I happen to be able to write (even if I can't spell) and to explain things fairly clearly.

The vast majority of photographers are satisfied to produce some nice images, and if every so often someone else gets to appreciate them, so much the better.

A more realistic set of wants might be the following:

i) to always be improving

ii) to have some sense of this progress and where we are. It's not so much the recognition we desire as the assurance that we are doing good work, and how else do we achieve this other than to ask someone else for their opinion?

iii) to create a select few images images which in some small way add to the medium

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What Do You Need To Back Up?

I'm enjoying the new series on backup strategies at Outback Photo and it got me thinking.

I have three kinds of images.

a) those from film negatives

b) raw files which are then edited in Photoshop

c) stitching jobs which come from several raw files and are then edited in Photoshop.

If I have the negatives, then I only have to decide if the edited version took enough trouble to create and would be a great deal of trouble to recreate and is therefore worth the trouble preserving.

With images from a single raw file, the obvious thing is to back up the raw file and redo the editing. Now, Ansel Adams did exactly that with every print he made, and arguably styles of printing change, we get better at editing and so perhaps there are advantages to not having the edited version to recreate.

With stitched images, I'd need to remember which original raw files were used to create the stitch (currently that would be difficult for me), or I'd need to save the stitched image (which is the same size as the edited image) so I might as well save the edited image.

There are some edits which were so complex that recreating the edit would be next to impossible and there is enough about the edit that I would be lothe to lose it.

Lastly, since often disasters befall entire hard drives, not just one or two images, if I lost all my edits and had to start over, each edit taking hours of work, would I be willing to take that risk.

Given that hard disks fail and the issue is not if but when, it sounds like I need the following:

1) an absolutely reliable way of preserving the raw files since anything that took out both the edits and the raw files would mean total loss of images - NOT ACCEPTABLE.

2) a pretty reliable way to protect the edited images so that the odds of loss of many edited images is low. I would interpret this as a hard drive detached from the power between uses to store all edited images and two backups of raw files, one onsite, the other away (that could be with a relative or at the office or even online). Any really tricky edited images and stitches should perhaps be saved the same as raw files.

By raw files, I mean those raw files which have led to useful edited images. Whether there is a role for saving the hundreds if not thousands of raw files which never inspired you enough to do anything with them is a whole other matter. People sometimes quote the newspaper photographer who happened to capture a picture of someone completely unknown but who years later becomes famous or infamous and suddenly that old image becomes important. Frankly, if I haven't found a use for a raw file within a couple of years, it isn't very likely that I ever will, and the simple fairly reliable backup will be just fine thank you.

Risk Analysis

The risk of a hard disk failure should be considered 100%. It may well be that most times you buy a new computer before a hard disk fails, but frankly that's mostly luck, like seeing storm clouds and not taking your umbrella.

The risk of a power surge getting past your rudimentary power bar is basically the risk of a nearby lightning strike. While such risks vary with climate and power grids, you should plan that once in your life you are going to have a power surge that destroys any storage device currently hooked to the electrical grid.

The risk of losing both the computer and the hooked up backup drive and the disconnected backup drive isn't zero. All you'd need is something to go wrong in doing the backup which said problem gets propagated to the backup before it gets disconnected - not impossible, so you don't have to think house fire.

I'm a family doctor. My medical records are irreplaceable. My income depends on them staying intact. If your income depends on your images, then you need a pretty darn full-proof system to protect them and in that situation you probably won't have time to re-edit your images so all decent edited images need saved connected, disconnected and off site.

One issue I struggle with is whether it's easier to back up all raw files securely or to select out only those that pertain to important images for backup - all my edited images that come from a single raw file retain the raw file number so it wouldn't be impossible to search out those. My stitched images don't, and I have a lot of them - so this is a problem, meaning that saving all raw is certainly easier, if not as cheap. Easy beats cheap every time for me!

It's possible to break down backups another way.

Always backed up - basically we're talking a raid drive or similar, and while that will help in the future, won't deal with the 4 drives I have almost full already. I'd need a big expensive raid system to deal with those. But it's probably more important to start backing up continuously with new images and do intermittent backups of the old stuff.

Intermittent backups - if it's nightly, then I don't want to be plugging and unplugging a drive - as likely to cause problems as fix with all that wear and tear, shaking and static. So nightly backups need to be kept plugged in. A suitably big backup drive(s) is what's needed. If it has redundancy, so much the better, though arguably redundancy in a backup isn't needed.

Occasional backups - given the concerns of long term stability of dvd's, not to mention the hassles of burning a hundred of them, this really means an unpluggable hard drive. How often you do this comes down to how much time you are willing to commit to do it, and how much work you are willing to lose in case of a power surge sneaking past your protection.

How do I do it? Badly and not often enough, but at least I do have a system.

Raw files are offsite and backed up seldom - I should do this monthly.
Edited images are backed up and then unplugged - again it should be monthly

As for continuous backup - well it hasn't happened yet and sooner or later it's going to cost me. Raid systems are cheap enough that I will do something to correct continuous backups within the next month or so. As I'm running out of drive space, a new large raid system seems the way to go.

Nightly backups, well if I back up new work continuously, this isn't as needed but as I'm constantly editing old images, I guess I'm going to do a nightly backup of changed files on the existing drives.

Sure is a hell of a lot more complicated than throwing your negatives in a drawer - though the number of famous photographers who lost negatives to processing errors, floods and darkroom fires is pretty impressive, even after the days of nitrocellulose film stock. All my wedding pictures succumbed to a humid basement in Kentucky.

Bendy Trees

Monday, June 09, 2008

More On What Makes A Good Image

Seems to me that a photograph is like an ambassador, representing the thing or the idea that the photograph is about. Said representative can mumble and shuffle his feet, lie to the listener, not know his facts or refuse to be helpful. The print represents the idea in a somewhat similar way.

You might say that an image is about this particular piece of rust, but in fact it stands representative of all pieces of rust and more specifically the best pieces of rust, the rust that is really interesting in shape or colour, in composition, uniqueness and in it's surround.

If you photograph a winding path in the woods, it stands in for all winding paths and if it isn't twisting enough, or if the view is blocked by an unfortunate placing of a tree, or if there are distracting elements in the image, then it can't do a good job representing all winding paths. Oh sure, it can act as a representative of one particular path, and for someone contemplating hiking down it, they might want to see it, but for those enjoying the image, it isn't enough to represent only the one path. it needs to be the path of all paths, a path so well lit and presented that it makes a connection with lots of viewers.

Just because you take the best possible picture of a particular gorge, it doesn't necessarily mean you have the archetype image of a gorge - this one simply may be lacking, at least at the time that you photographed it.

Sometimes representing 'what it is' isn't good enough. The image needs to work in a different plane. I remember a Paul Caponigro image of an apple and it reminded me of an astronomical picture - stars, galaxies and clusters. The rust may not be the most famous, dramatic, wonderful rust around, but if it looks like John Lennon, then it's going to become famous. If it looks like Aunt Ruth, on a bad day, well maybe not.

What does this mean in choosing what to photograph? It means that we should be asking ourselves whether this particular scene from this position at this time, is capable of making an image which will stand representative of all similar scenes. If it can't - if you know you have seen better, and can't improve this one, then just maybe it isn't worth photographing, no matter how well you composed and exposed.

Mind you, if you are insecure, you could decide that none of your possible images is that good and so you don't take any pictures and end the day frustrated. If you know it's the best you can do and if the subject matter and it's presentation are the best you can find, then you have done all you can and since none of us can predict 100% the effectiveness of an image beforehand, why not shoot it anyway. In fact, usually the shooting is the fast part of the whole process. I'm just glad I'm not responsible for an 8X20 sheet of film (one of only a dozen I carry for an entire day's shooting).

Rock Abstract III

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Rock Abstract II


I headed to Edmonton to visit my dad (age 86) and decided to make a weekend of it by taking the rural route to Edmonton, visiting Stettler, home of Alberta Prairie Railways
. I spent a pleasant hour photographing locomotive 41 and chatting with the fireman in the cab.

They offered to remove the rag for me but I insisted on leaving it in situ - there's a lot of cleaning and oiling of these beasts and it seemed appropriate.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What Makes An Interesting Photograph?

In the past I have written that in choosing a subject to photograph, first you must have an interest. Then I wrote that that interest could simply be in discovering interesting compositions and unique subjects or view points. Then I wrote that sometimes the interest comes from working on a project for a time and learning to appreciate the subject (as happened with my Independent Machinery series). After that I wrote about the worth of the individual image which isn't part of a project, or at least, is the only or one of a few images resulting from a project (like Pepper # 30).

Of course, all of the above relates to the viewpoint of the photographer. Given that we are the photographers, I felt this was entirely justified. However, should we wish to have an audience for our images, it doesn't hurt to talk about interesting from the point of view of the audience.

I have also written about the elements of great photographs but now I want to discuss in a more general way what makes a photograph interesting to viewers.

It's incredible the variety of images which are shown in galleries or sold or whose creator becomes famous.

Often photographers don't 'get' photographs of the mundane. We admire the work of Walker Evans, but when someone like Stephen Shore shows images of modern streets we can't understand the point of the image. Oh, we can see the images are well composed and so on, but in the end, it's just a picture of a street. We tend to discount the fact that this street image is representative of and illustrates modern society - life in the burbs or whatever and that images which show this especially well will be admired and appreciated in the future, and someone needs to take them now - before they change.

I remember years ago seeing an image by George Tice, of a gas station with a water tower in the the background, taken late in the evening. Sometimes photographers make their reputations based on capturing the quaint and disappearing before it's gone. This is what David Plowden has done. Is he any more clever than someone who has the foresight to capture similar images while they are still ordinary, when every street looks like that?

In my book in writing about levels of skill, I talked about the picture of your nephew which could be very ordinary, or catch him being uniquely himself or when he was especially cute, bad, mad or whatever, or catching him in a fashion which stands in for all the kids who ever had a temper tantrum. We admire the latter image but tend to discount the same when it's applied to other aspects of our lives like our gas stations, corner groceries, bingo parlors or whatever.

Since some people have become famous selling work of this type, clearly some people find it interesting and are willing to pay money for it. This would suggest that many of us photographers are very poor judges of what our audience might like. Editors already knew this and that's one reason why they usually insist on making the selections of images for publication.

Perhaps we should therefore not worry too much about what types of images would do well and simply photograph what catches our fancy. Maybe we should leave the externally imposed assignments to the professionals who when assigned to photograph toilets at least have the satisfaction of taking a pay cheque home at the end of the day and who's working reward comes in accepting the challenge and successfully tackling it.

If we make some assumptions.

1) you belong to the human race. If you don't then the following may not apply to you.
2. you are not insane, hugely perverted or a sociopath. (you might need help with this one)
3.your life is not totally unique and unprecedented, not to say freakish.

On that basis, it is reasonable to conclude that whatever you find interesting to photograph, someone, and likely several someones; share your interest or are at least curious about your interest or at least appreciate your interest and will enjoy whatever work you happen to think is significant.

I may not be interested in mud bogging, or even approve of it, but that doesn't mean that I couldn't appreciate a really good series of images about mud boggers and their lives.

So, go ahead and photograph cutlery, candle stick holders, weirdos, rocks or whatever and if you are technically competent and know a bit about composition and presenting your subject well and can make a half decent print, more than a few people are going to appreciate what you do.

It may not make you rich or famous, but that takes lots of luck, a huge ego, more luck, the right contacts, a politically correct subject matter, more luck, brass balls (or the female equivalent), a tad extra luck, and impeccable timing. Oh, and usually it takes all your time including that which would normally be given to your job or your family, all your energy, and did I say luck?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Live View

The combination of live view and a large and tilting LCD screen is a powerful combination and one I am looking forward to. It makes working low a lot more comfortable, not to say drier. It makes working overhead possible. It's not uncommon to find that the camera is at eye level, but it's aiming down so you still need a step stool to see in the view finder.

Likewise, there are awkward positions like a low camera looking up that need a contortionist to access the viewfinder, or at least someone younger, thinner, fitter and more flexible than me (that includes a lot of people to be fair).

This could be the return of the waist level finder for a different view point and less obvious photographing.

Initial presentations of live view have not been perfect, but it's clear that things will improve - autofocus while using live view for example, blackouts when taking the picture so following a subject is problematic.

Live view brings live histogram, what about live zones. Anyone interested in checking focus anywhere within the image. With my tilt/shift lens, this would be immensely valuable. As it happens, I haven't used that lens on my 40D, but sure will when my main camera has live view.

There are comments on the net about increased noise when the sensor is allowed to run hot because of using live view but I haven't come across any actual test - how long and how much - would be good to know.

Spot metering in live view would be a treat, being able to set one or more 'spots', each with a + or - X next to them indicating where they are placed relative to each other and to middle gray.

Mind you, I'm still predicting the demise of the optical viewfinder entirely - it's just a matter of quality and responsiveness - once those issues are taken care of, SLR's won't be SLR's any more - no mirror, no blackout, no pentaprism, tilting viewfinder. It wouldn't take much. The resolution on my Panasonic FZ50 electronic view finder isn't bad so double the resolution in both width and height would be downright awesome (4X as many pixels). Panning would have to be better and blackout during exposure would have to be minimized - I don't see these as difficult to achieve.