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Archive for September, 2012

Exhibitions and Images; Eerie and Intriguing

September 21st, 2012 No Comments

Living in Mexico, born in Congo, father from Belgium and mother from Hungary.  And now featured in a solo exhibition, Alice in the Land of Zapata, at the Hungarian House of Photography, is Nadja Massun whose photographs bespeak sensitivity most of all, a sensitivity probably heightened and refined by her peripatetic childhood.

“I am especially intrigued by faces and their expressions,” explains Massun, “the gestures and the movements of the body that encompass a particular state of mind or mood while also telling a story.”  Strangely, even when no living person’s face or expression is in-picture, one of Massun’s photographs fascinatingly conveys “a particular state of mind or mood.”  Would you agree that it is atmospheric and sort of haunting?

I wish Hungarian House had published more of Massun’s photographs.  As things stand, we have only a hint that this may be a very fine exhibition indeed.

A photographer and a poet have teamed up to present and interpret “the night – a mysterious time, full of darkness and secrets, shadowy corners and brief flurries of activity.”  Granted, it may sound like an artsy-fartsy project but Night Photography is an unusual specialization, and that in and of itself makes this project intriguing and attention-catching.  

Deserted downtowns, archways, ruins, graveyards (of course), all lend themselves to night shooting and Alison Wills and Hazel Hammond have hit upon a novel way of conveying the bewitching splendours of the night in a photo-poetry exhibit, The Woman who slept with Bones, at the Bristol Poetry Festival.  (Some more photos on the website, please?)

Remember that cheesy 70’s song Killing me Softly?  In the song, the ‘soft-killing’ is done with . . . a song; on the current Vogue Hommes cover, the soft-killing’s done with a gentle hand that playfully chokes a model.  Does that photo project, encourage or glamourize violence towards women?  A number of American watchdog organizations think so:– 

“While this cover was perhaps intended to shock and thrill potential readers, the truly shocking fact is that it glorifies violence against women as an act of love,” is how they admonish the magazine’s publishers in their screed.  “Choking is not a fashion statement, and certainly not something that should be used to sell magazines.” 

Is this typical American Political Correctness run amok?  Or does this photo cross a red line?  It’s definitely a ‘shade’ of ‘grey’ . . . but for a magazine cover, it is a valid expression of photographic imagery that should not be subject to any censorship.


The Camera Brands’ Melting-Pot

September 20th, 2012 No Comments

    The camera market is in a bit of a tumult – credit (or blame) Leica and Fuji for having started all the ruckus.  Indeed, it’s become like a melting point with new brands arriving and old brands blending and melting into one another.

    How about Samsung and Google (with its Android O.S.) entering the camera market?  Samsung announced a Galaxy camera (to go with its Galaxy tablet and smartphone) at photokina.  

    Actually, the Galaxy camera is not a camera but a hybrid camera-smartphone device that is conceived with wireless technology and the Cloud from the ground up.  Look at it from the front and it’s a camera; look at it from the back and it’s a smartphone!  Samsung’s Sun Hong Lim says, “We combined the best bits of a smartphone with the best bits of a compact camera together.”

    The Galaxy camera probably won’t be the finished article and may not go anywhere but it may well herald a new day for cameras – think of the applications (of this kind of ‘connected’ camera) in photojournalism, war zones, and live sports events.

    Seems like the good folks at Hasselblad are feeling a bit prickly.  The overwhelmingly negative reaction from industry watchers to Hassy getting hitched with Sony (which we blogged about) has provoked a defensive reaction.  

    Briefly, their new Lunar is basically a spruced up Sony NEX 7 but neither Hassy nor Sony want you to believe that.  In a lengthy defence (published in the BJP!) that would cause any American superlawyer to roll his eyes, Luca Alessandrini and Peter Stig-Nielsen of Hasselblad make a precarious situation downright perilous.  The most insightful comment is from one Simon Burgess who commented: “Shame but with the demise of Kodak it’s clear to see that no brand, no matter how iconic, is safe and hasselblad are clearly on the same slippery slope that Kodak were on a few years ago.” 

    Unlike Hasselblad, fellow elite brand Leica definitely has the right partner in mind.  It wants to tap up Apple’s lead designer, Jonathan Ive, to design a new Leica M.  The project is a little lah-de-dah, what with charity auctions and Bono involved; nevertheless, an ideas-and-design interflow between Apple and Leica has none of the discordant notes of a Hassy-Sony marriage. 

    P.S.  Stay tuned to know more about the iCamera, coming from you-know-who.

Painting qua Photography – Photorealism

September 18th, 2012 No Comments

    Is it a photograph or is it a painting?  While so many photographers attempt to introduce ‘painterly’ effects to their photographs (say ‘thank you’ to Photoshop), artists who possess advanced technique have eschewed Post-Modern Art and practice ‘Photorealism’ – a style of painting which aims to be both true to life yet expresses the subject from the painter’s perspective, i.e. realism through the medium of the painter.  

    Earlier today Christie’s concluded an auction in Amsterdam, Property Of The Scheringa Museum Of Realist Art, which contains several Photorealist paintings.  The works in this 158-lot auction may be viewed as a slideshow or as a catalogue.  

    One of the founders of Photorealism of a kind was surely William Waterhouse.  Yigal Ozeri’s Priscilla in Ecstasy is ’21st Century Waterhouse’, so to speak.  This painting represents a sub-style that is just about where painting ends and photography begins.  Also check out Ozeri’s Untitled (Lot 43).

    We, however, are more interested in the photography aspect of the Photorealist School and, to start off, doesn’t Michael Taylor’s grl rstng on svle chr (sic) look like a ‘stream of consciousness’ ‘day in the life’ photograph you’d see in an art institute’s exhibition?

    The oddly-named Portrait of Mr. Gachet by Stefan Hoenerloh has nothing to do with Vincent and is a wonderful composition of an impersonal urban-scape which ties in the ‘Golden Ratio’ and the ‘Rule of Thirds’ to arresting effect.  The very different tones of the foreground and background buildings and their converging angles add to the coldly hypnotic ‘pull’ of this photograph – er, painting.

    Gerard Schlosser’s C’est en Novembre is a study in lines, countours and hues which – except for a tiny green-black patch – are exclusively in ochre and beige.  Had this picture been a photograph, it would have been classed in the Modernist or Post-Modernist style but as a painting, it is classed as Photorealism!

    Do you like underexposure?  Polarizer?  Other filters?  Those are probably what Damian Loeb (figuratively) used when he painted Straw Dogs, a moody landscape – and this is how Vincent would have shot if he had been a photographer.  

    On the other hand, in The Sum of Human Knowledge, Terry Rodgers seems to have taken a photograph of a few lucky bachelors and their ravishing stripper friends, and then tightly cropped it and Photoshopped it to make it just a little ‘harder’.  Note how the tableau vivant of a kind is vertically divided by a central foreground figure into a major and minor sub-tableau.

    The above are just a few of the highlights from this very fine auction.  Don’t miss Lot 77.

    Not all the works are paintings posing as photographs.  You’ll find many that are true-blue paintings and a few that seem to have elements of both painting and photography, say, a painted-in figure over a ‘photographed’ background.  As a photographer, you’re sure to find some images here to inspire you so click on the slideshow or catalogue, and On With the Show! 


Tuesday Grab-Bag

September 17th, 2012 No Comments

    In a post a few days back, I blogged about an expert dissing Nikon’s new D600 because of its slow’ish sync speed of 1/200.  Well, here’s a sync speed right at the other end of the scale: 1/1600!  This superfast sync speed is available using Schneider Kreuznach leaf shutter lenses on Phase One’s new 645DF+.  Its max shutter speed of 1/4000 is nothing to sneeze at either.

    Phase One makes medium format, high end, open platform camera systems, meaning that you can ‘plug and play’ with different digital camera backs, besides lenses.  They’re also sold under the Mamiya Leaf brand name.

    Those who like to take snaps and be hip and chic have been following those vapid celebrities and buying Diana cameras and getting into the ‘lomography’ act.  Well, now you can be hip and chic and have a real, top-class camera, thanks to . . . fuddy-duddy Fuji!

    Fuji’s XF1 looks as hip and chic as . . . well, as Audrey Hepburn in a 60’s film.  It has a faux leather front in your choice of tan, black or red over a stylish aluminium body.  Most importantly, it has serious photography chops for a small, playful kit.  How about a 25-100mm f/1.8 zoom lens?  This baby should do wonders for Fuji’s ‘image’.

    Canon has gone Cloud.  Their Project 1709, announced just before photokina, enables users to store all their photos on the figurative ‘Cloud’ such that they can be accessed transparently, regardless of type of system or device, from anywhere and anytime you have an Internet connection.  The project is in beta and is scheduled to go live in 2013.

    One doesn’t expect to find or share photography-related articles from non-photography publications but I stumbled across what I think is a pretty good ‘how-to’ on buying a DSLR in PCMag.  It neatly explains the differences between full-frame DSLRs and other types of cameras.  Worth a read.



Offbeat Day: The Silly, the Spooky, and the Sad

September 15th, 2012 No Comments


    Bad photographs are making a comeback because . . . well, because apparently they’re cool!  The fashion world strikes again.  I know it sounds silly but it’s true.

    The photography techniques and ideals of the day are now “blurry shots, shadows, overexposure” according to Anne-Marie Conway, who seems (at least a little) enraptured by this retrograde development.  Known as ‘Lomography’, boiled down to its essentials this Art & Science centres around deliberate use of el cheapo cameras to simply point and click, and then see what happens.

    The boxes of choice for the hip and cool (and silly) crowd are Diana+, Holga and Lomo LC-A (which are said to represent a serious threat to Nikon, Canon and Olympus’s long-term viability).  Evidently these are ultra-complicated rigs, for Create Studios offers a half-day Holga and Diana Workshop, according to Conway.  No doubt it will be expensive but I am sure it will be well worth the stiff price so I am booking a place . . .


    Talk about this lomography business’s “burry shots” and “shadows,” Julie Griffin’s blurry shots of shadows from the spirit world represent a much more honest endeavour than the lomography fraud, er, I mean fad.

    Cathy Torrisi writes about Griffin’s childhood in a purported haunted house in which para-normal activity was . . . normal.  Swaying chandeliers and swinging doors aroused a desire in Griffin to photograph the spooks and she set about her task with whole-hearted dedication. 

    Spooky Goffe House is said to be one of the more in-demand retreats for sophisticated ghosties and Griffin tried to hunt down a few with notable success: “Last week, she set up her camera with a motion detector inside the Goffe House when no one was there, and it did go off,” reports Torrisi.  The results of Griffin’s ghost-hunting exploits are at  Definitely worth a look-see.


    We move from hunting ghosts to hunting elephants, and from the ghosts of humans to the ghosts of elephants – slaughtered, mass-murdered elephants.

    Ivory, though illegal under CITES, is big business.  NatGeo’s sad story, Blood Ivory – Ivory Worship, exposes the Elephant Killing Fields and reveals that the outlawed ‘Blood Ivory’ trade runs into the unknown ‘multi-tons’ and spans the Middle East and Far East.

    Here’s the photography connection: attached to the article is a photo album by Brent Stirton.  It captures some low points in the transit route of illegal ivory, including a nice pic of the ‘Elephant Monk’ outside his temple.  

    The killers will surely stop someday . . . that sad day when all the tuskers are gone.







No Studio? No Problem. Rent One!

September 14th, 2012 No Comments

    If you’ve ever idly planned to set up a home studio but never got around to it or simply wanted to shoot in a studio but ‘knew’ you couldn’t unless you set one up yourself, well, Russell Masters has some good news for you: rent one!

    Though renting a studio may seem like something a photographer in a different sector, say outdoor or industrial, may want to do from time to time, it’s actually an excellent way for an amateur to significantly sharpen his/her indoor photography skills and technique.

    Masters’s very original how-to is pretty frank in stating “Just like you I have always found the thought of shooting in a studio exciting but have until recently never been brave enough to actually try. . . . the thought of putting ourselves in a high expectation situation such as a studio shoot is enough to ensure we never actually do it.”  Reading this interesting how-to will make you jump up and want to ‘do it’!

    The main advantage of renting a studio is the considerable variety of lighting equipment and reflectors plus props and backdrops.  Masters explains how to use the Web to find rental studios near you and offers tips and hints as to how to approach the session including advice as to how to engage a model or whether to bring along a friend.  

    One point I would like to add is that the first-timer make his/her booking in person, doing so when the studio is not occupied.  Then, spend five or ten minutes acquainting yourself with the studio you’ll be shooting in and also take a gander at the rental equipment that will be at your disposal so that you don’t suddenly parachute into unknown territory.

    If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll recall that it was about Nikon’s newly announced D600.  Well, the Nikon-Canon Love Affair that revolves around the oh-so-romantic line “Wither Thou Goest . . .” continues.  Canon has “followed” Nikon and released a rumour to the effect that their “EOS 6D DSLR camera will be the direct competitor of the Nikon D600”!  Which one do you like?





Nikon D600 — does it sync too slow at 1/200?

September 13th, 2012 1 Comment

    The gear announcements are flying thick and fast in the Autumn season when new products are unveiled and among the various gizmos announced today, amateurs would probably be struck by the odd mix of a Nikon full-frame body, Tamron lenses and (wait for this) Apple’s new iPhone – and why not?  Would you believe that the iPhone is one of the most popular snapshot cameras!

    The iPhone 5’s camera has an 8 MP resolution, like its predecessor.  However, it’s going ‘upmarket’ with additions like a sapphire-crystal lens coating.  The biggest evolution seems to be in the software as you can pan across a scene to take a panoramic picture of upto 28 MP.  You just click and pan, the software will straighten out the hand-shake and off-axis movement, and create the panorama!

    Since the days of film Tamron has been one of the ‘go-to’ names in optics.  Many pros opt for Tamron lenses because they are seen to offer above-average quality at below-average prices.  Their A009 zoom catches the eye because of its maximum aperture – a big f/2.8.  The 90mm macro opens up to f/2.8 and has a magnification ratio of 1:1.

    The biggie surely has to be Nikon’s D600; one can call it the amateur’s ‘pro’ camera or the pro’s backup body.  An expert has dissed this camera’s sync speed of 1/200 which has caused quite a flurry of chatter on the Strobist blog.  (Remember when flash sync used to be 1/60?  Those were the days!)

     (Flash sync-speed is important, and the higher the better because that results in a wider aperture which is what is really important as it lets in more light; consequently, assuming all other variables are constant, you can either get more juice out of your lighting setup or, more critically, it will give you more ‘reach’ or ‘throw’.) 

    On the point of (flash-)freezing motion, the blog’s author makes the pitch-perfect point that flash cares only about aperture and not shutter-speed.  And, the converse point, in a somewhat back-to-front way, is that motion blur ‘cares’ only about shutter-speed, i.e. even with motion-freezing flash, you can get some residual (post-flash) motion blur for effect.  Anyway, how about a choice of sync speeds?  I think that would make everyone happy!  






Hiya Shutterbug! Here’s a new blog for you

September 12th, 2012 No Comments

Hiya Shutterbug!


    Brilliant Prints is delighted to bring you a cool new blog that won’t try to keep ‘educating’ you with a never-ending stream of photography how-tos . . . most of which you already know!  We’ll mix it up by telling you about photography exhibitions and auctions, plus gadgets and gizmos, all seasoned with the practical lesson and spiced with the offbeat item, say about the love-hate relationships our chi-chi ‘celebrities’ have with the lens (go ahead Angelina Jolie, strike another whacko ‘binbag’ pose and make our day . . . puh-leez!)  

    If you snap the shutter for a living then do we have more good news for you! You’ll find a more professionally-oriented blog on our BPro site.   However, if you’re a casual shutterbug then (in real casual way) mosey along to the Pro Blog; you just might find some useful tip or trick or it may even inspire you to take the plunge and go pro!  

    In any event, this blog’s purpose is to keep you informed and excited about photography, and sometimes even amused and entertained.  As we said on the Pro Blog, “You don’t have to trawl the Web – because we do it for you!”

    Today has to be ‘gadget and gizmo’ day, courtesy of Sony.  In our pro blog yesterday we mentioned that Pentax had made a ‘news splash’.  If that was right, then today Sony has made a news SPLASH!  They’ve announced an assortment of gear – semi-pro cameras, snapshot cameras, zoom lenses, fixed-focal-length lenses . . . .  The SLT-A99 is surely the ‘Headline Act’ in glitzy Sony’s lineup – it’s certainly a lightning rod and is attracting a slew of comments.  Also take a peep at the new DSC-RX1 which too is getting a lot of attention.  

    In closing, we at Brilliant Prints don’t plan to do this in a vacuum so feel free to wade in.  Tell us if there’s anything in particular you’d like us to discuss or dig up!






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