Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Landscape - the Online Magazine

Tim Parkin who did the work on comparing landscapes shot with 8X10, 4X5, IQ 180 and even the Sony 900 earlier this year continues to publish the online magazine On Landscape.

It's quite expensive and I think many will reject it out of hand without thinking about just what it's giving us.

There have been technical articles like the above - a huge and very useful achievement, as well as quite indepth discussions by real photographers on the art of photography - as well as book reviews and portfolios.

Given the videos alone, and coming every couple of weeks as it does, this makes the sign up cost pretty darn reasonable - $100 approx. for 26 issues - but that's $4 an issue, no advertizing to pile through, useful stuff in every issue - I think well worth the expense.  It's nicely set up so you can see the beginning of many of the articles without signing up - so do check it out, and consider subscribing as I have done.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Michael Reichmann

Sad news today that Michael has been ill with bladder cancer and is now recovering from major surgery. I wish him the speediest recovery and best wishes for his future health.

I've met Michael a couple of times - attending his Algonquin workshop one year and then the very first Podas workshop in Death Valley - a friendly, helpful man, an excellent teacher, and fun. His Luminous Landscape has been the go-to website for information on equipment and technique for years.

Michael published my 'Take Your Photography To The Next Level' series of articles that led to me being offered a book deal by Rockynook Publishers.  Michael's review of 'Why Photographs Work' gave huge boost to sales around the world.

Michael's videos have been of tremendous help and are one of my most often recommended tools. His original and then new 'From Camera To Print (and Screen) were fun, entertaining and incredibly helpful.

Truth is, we need Michael, so all the best to you my friend, for the pleasures given, and those anticipated.


Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

Shot this morning with my new 24 ts-e tilt and shift lens, taking advantage of the left and right shift.
I'd arrived before sunrise but by the time I'd photographed for about 30 minutes, the sun was coming over the hill (guess getting up at 5 was a bit late). The only image made before the sun came out that had any real possibilities was spoiled by incorrect use of the tilt. I'm so used to the 90 tilt where a small amount of tilt goes a fair way. With this lens, a small amount of tilt is way too much, and unlike the 90, the 24 is quite hard to focus - clearly it's going to take me some practice with this lens.

And here's the black and white version.

And if any of you have been following my search for the ideal high pixel count camera, you will remember I had placed an order for the D800E a few months ago. No sign of it arriving and in the mean time spent months pouring over what lenses I'd want to use, using,, and to help me pick lenses.

I hated to lose my 70-200 f4 L IS lens - not only was the nikon 2.8 going to be heavier, it tested not quite as sharp at the long end. Then I thought, I'd need to replace my extension tubes, and oh yes, my lensbaby composer. The last straw was realizing all my filters including my very expensive variable neutral density filter weren't going to fit. I came up with a dozen different lens combinations, all of them costing an absolute fortune, easily enough to pay for the Pentax 645D that I'd choked on.

I ended up with a list of 8 things I didn't like, or didn't like the reports of the D800E.

They were:

1) mechanical first shutter curtain in live view - with some reports of image blur because of it - the Canon 5D2 and 3 are pure electronic - absolutely no vibration till the shutter closes.

2) the delay in using live view - sure it was only five seconds between image and probably less with good cards, but when I'm stitching, or focus blending, this is way frustrating.

3) Eye relief for glasses, 17 vs. 21 mm.  - not a lot but things were already tight seeing the entire viewfinder on the 5D2...

4) Cost of lenses, and the fact that at some focal lengths, just not as good as canon. Sure I could get Zeiss glass, but guess what - my new 24 ts-e tests as well or better than the Zeiss 21 - and without the mustache distortion.

5) focus problems - with some of the d800/e - not a huge deal for me

6) quality of live view - even at 100% it isn't as good as canon - and that was something I really liked about moving from the 1DsII to the 5D2.

7) the 3:2 lcd screen on the Canon meant bigger images on the screen - again hardly a deal breaker, but nice.

8) Having to learn to focus a different way, and have entirely different controls - I quite like the Canon way. Sure I could learn, but why should I?

No question, 30% more resolution with the D800E sure was attractive, and two more stops dynamic range was appealing too - though I'd never complained about the 5D2 - and the image from today is a fine example of that, with considerable adjustment to open up the shadows and control the highlights without any difficulty or problem - fact is I shot the two stitches with two different exposures intending to exposure blend then stitch, but in the end it proved unncessary. The Canon is more forgiving at the top end, Nikon a lot more forgiving at the bottom end.

The final factor is that I would be extremely surprised if Canon doesn't come out with a high megapixel camera within the next year. I'm selling my 5D2, have already picked up a 5D3 and it will do me just fine till a better Canon option comes along.

It's been two weeks and so far I haven't regretted the decision.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Photography as Puzzle Solving

There's lots of reasons to be a photographer, the need to create, the enjoyment of being outdoors (and now an excuse to be there instead of at home with the job jar), the love of the fine image and so on.

I wonder though if an important reason doesn't have more to do with the challenge of solving puzzles. In the old days this could be the challenge of producing good images from a wet darkroom - and perhaps explains the obsession of many with ultimate quality, finest grain, best developers etc.  These days with the technical aspects of photography easier, the puzzle is more in the finding and framing of the fine image.

This starts with choosing the subject in general terms, planning where to go and when, and then finding the scene and deciding what you are going to do with it, and then moving into a position that best helps you tell your story or make your point or simply show what you are most interested in about the subject in the best way possible such that the viewer can best appreciate what interested you.

This business of puzzle solving perhaps explains the phenomenon of the lone worker who doesn't share his work, doesn't even put it on the wall, and files away the images. The hunt, the solving of the puzzle is the quest, not the actual final image.

Yes, but so what - how does thinking of photography as puzzle solving help me make better photographs, or enjoy my craft more?

Well, for a start, it may suggest that subject matter isn't nearly as important as you thought. Sure you do landscapes, because that's what you have always done, but if the chase is the thing, the puzzle solving the satisfaction, then might not just about any subject provide the same thrills and satisfactions.  Instead of agonizing over whether photographing someone else's creation is valid, just go out and photograph architecture or even sculpture for the challenge and let the final print be a validation of that challenge successfully met.

I've just signed up for a workshop on photographing cowboys - about as far away from my usual subject matter as one could get (I'm guessing I won't need my tripod). I have no special interest in cowboys but think the challenge will be satisfying - making decisions on the fly, in a split second, and being able to predict the action so as to be in the right place ad the right time. So this is a new puzzle for me to solve.

One can appreciate the puzzle solving involved in photographing, for example a particular sport, even though one has no special interest in that sport - either watching or participating, because we like solving the puzzle of getting the best images.

The world has no use for any more cute cat pictures, but truth is getting good cat pictures can be extremely challenging and success in doing so very satisfying and does it really matter if the world doesn't beat a path to your door to appreciate your images.

This puzzle solving tends to take away from the feeling that we must produce images that others appreciate and frees us to work on what we want or find satisfying.

Perhaps this explains the fascination with Holga cameras and home made lenses and limiting oneself to a single lens or only black and white or learning to solve the puzzle of effective use of the Lensbaby.

Socrates referred to the unexamined life as being 'not worth living' which is perhaps a tad harsh, yet understanding the motives behind what we do can be illuminating (sorry).

As a physician, I work with people who have ADHD, and while helping them with the right combination of medications is satisfying, sometimes the most useful thing I can do is help explain why the patient makes the choices they do - the education path, the job, or even who they are attracted to. That 'Ahah' moment helps them make future decisions.

Why do you photograph?