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Archive for January, 2013

Of Quirkiness, Popsicles, and Colour-Blind Film

January 31st, 2013 No Comments

We go off on the wayward, weird path, pointing out quirky happenings in the world of Photography no more than once a week.  Well, there’s so much weird, quirky stuff going on that we just have to follow up The Good, the Mad, and the Chuckly from earlier this week with another post treating you to off-the-wall news from yesterday and today.  Aquarius in his first week must be a joker!

Quirky Cerise

PetaPixel even starts the title of a photo-article with the word ‘quirky’: Quirky Portraits of People Surrounded by Swarms of Hanging Objects.  (See how bad things are getting?)  It features the photographs of Cerise Doucède.

Doucède’s photographs are truly, well, quirky, ranging to weird.  They are also reminiscent of surreal painting.  Perfectly natural portraits of persons are offset by a variety of objects in midair in front of and around the subject.  Some persons are clearly put out by said objects while others find them amusing!  Which are you?

Colour-Blind Film

Aquarius is such a bad influence that even staid BJP makes one of our weird-and-quirky posts!  Once upon a time, King Kodak used to produce and “infrared” film called “Aerochrome” that was “intended for various aerial photographic applications, such as vegetation and forestry surveys,” and similar serious applications.  It had the endearing trait of turning cool greens into popping purples.

Now, Lomography is bringing out their “LomoChrome Purple 400 film” which is neither infrared nor meant for aerial and/or serious applications.  It does retain Aerochrome’s endearing trait of converting greens into magentas and purples, however!  Click the link to see a few sample shots and to access a couple more links if you’re into The Colour Purple.

Popsicle-Stick Cameras

It’s the height of summer and popsicles would be most welcome.  What’s more, we should save the popsicle sticks because you can . . . build a camera out of them.

Maxim Grew used a Polaroid film holder, card stock, duct tape, and aforementioned popsicle sticks to build a working camera!  Grew even demonstrates how well his camera works with a photo or two.  In case you’d like to build one, he freely shares his fabrication process and trade secrets.

 

A Tour of East Asia with Messy Nessy Chic

January 30th, 2013 No Comments
Coat of Arms of North Korea

Coat of Arms of North Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Step aside Picasso and your ‘Blue Period’, here’s famed NatGeo photog Steve McCurry with his ‘Blue Period’ – with a little help from Jodhpur, India.  Messy Nessy Chic serves up a charming set of photographs in their photostory Steve McCurry’s Blue City.

Unlike a painter’s palette, a photographer doesn’t have much control over his ‘palette’.  While Nature photographers, of course, can work with a green-based palette, a blue-oriented palette is a rarity so this delightful one is especially enjoyable.

Here are three figures, none facing the viewer, in an image that is photojournalistic, artistic and serene all at once, and that tells a little story.

The locals seem to have a yen for reddish hues (besides – at it again – playing chess).

Here’s one that’s a joy in its activity, the composition, the strip of colour, the swath of clay-brown, and – natch – the shades of blue.

 Staying in the East Asia and with Messy Nessy, you’ve heard of the Forbidden City but what about the ‘Forbidden Country’ – North Korea – from back in the 1970s? 

Here are some ‘Postcards’ showing a way of life that is quaint, universal and charming at turns, plus what we have come to see as being classically Communistic.

The photographs are not works of art here, what’s of value is the rarity of the underlying images which show, both, a secretive country from a bygone age, albeit in such colours as were permitted by the authoritarian powers-that-be.

Still staying with Messy Nessy and in East Asia, let’s close our tour in Japan – we have ‘Postcards’ once more, these of Apprentice Geishas.  

Don’t these girls seem mature behind their years?  And these?  Does this one appear old before her time?

A Prozac victim had titled her biography, ‘Girl Interrupted’.  Can we call geisha girls (and others in similar circumstances) ‘Girl Accelerated’?

Be that as it may, as the title of the article says, a few of these photographs are indeed ‘haunting’.

 

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The Good, the Mad, and the Chuckly

January 28th, 2013 No Comments

This post has nothing to do with Spaghetti Westerns starring Clint Eastwood; it’s about a troika of articles on PetaPixel which make up our (near-)weekly set of all that’s quirky and offbeat in Photography News.  This week: The Good, the Mad, and the Chuckly.

The Good

Ethereal Macro Photos of Snowflakes is about the unusual and marvellous art of Russian photographer Andrew Osokin.: photgraphing individual snowflakes.

‘Ethereal’ is the word for captures like this one, straight out of Fairyland.  PetaPixel assures us that no trickery is involved, stating that all images are macro photographs.

You’ve heard this before, now see it for yourself: isn’t the wondrous breadth and diversity in the tiniest aspects of nature breathtaking?  Compare this intricate detailwork to the delicate fragility seen in this snowflake, both crafted by a master lapidary.  Thanks to Osokin for preserving fleeting, ethereal beauty.

The Mad

Is Kerry Skarbakka  mad?  After all, he photographs ‘self portraits’ in the act of . . . falling!  If asking whether Skarbakka is ‘mad’ sounds rude, consider that PetaPixel writes, “. . . you find yourself worrying about Skarbakka health… and sanity” in Photographer Shoots Scary Self-Portraits.

The opening shot shows a man in midair falling off a toppling stepladder!  

Here too little Photoshopping is involved: “His trick is that he uses climbing gear, ropes, and other rigging in order to stop his fall before his body actually makes painful contact with the ground” but “when all else fails, he admits to editing out glimpses of his safety gear during post-processing.”

The man’s talents are not limited to photography and falling, he’s a trick cyclist and apparently he can levitate too.  Let’s say ‘goodbye’ to Skarbakka with this fine suicide shot.

The Chuckly

Trust New York and New Yorkers to do wacko things that would make the rest of us (more normal people, shall we say?) chuckle and giggle.

Evidently the whole business of not-so-well-heeled diners at Noo Yawk’s de luxe establishments taking quickie snapshots of their entrees and then posting the results on Facebook or wherever is totally out of control now.  So much so that several New York restaurants are banning the practice, as reported by PetaPixel in Upscale Restaurants are Starting to ban Food Photography.

That story piggybacks on an NYT story, Restaurants Turn Camera Shy which reports a spokesman as saying, “It’s reached epic proportions. They don’t care how it affects people around them.”  He has a point; such behaviour is unmannerly.  Throw the bums out!

 

A Full Review, a First Look, and a Lacy Leak

January 25th, 2013 No Comments
English: Candid photo of Zsa Zsa Gabor at a so...

English: Candid photo of Zsa Zsa Gabor at a social function (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Full Review

Canon’s PowerShot A810 is the entry-level compact for the layman according to Photography Blog because “prove a hit with newcomers to photography.”  

At the price, this camera seems to be a just-right balance in features and specs.  In fact, it “appears to be identical, if not slightly better than models we’ve seen at a higher price point.”

Though it is an ultra-simple point-and-shoot, it also provides a plethora of buttons and camera options in the Main Menu for the tyro who wants to exert some finer control.  

In image quality the camera shows its low-budget colours, specially once ISO 400 is reached.  But then, it “is great value for money” specially in undemanding situations where the main requirement is to get off a shot fast

The First Look

Sony has recently released a slew of cameras, among them the ‘bridge’ H200, alongwith more modest models in their Cyber-shot range.  ePHOTOzine has just published a first look.  The H200 has 20.1 megapixels and a long 26x optical zoom.  At ‘first look’, it is styled rather like a ‘Big Two’ DSLR.

If you’re looking for a new compact, you can choose between the TF1, WX200 and WX60.  The TF1 distinguishes itself by being waterproof up to ten metres and also claims to be dustproof and shockproof whereas the other two boast superior specs in zoom, ISO, and continuous shooting.  What they have in common is those shapeless shapes that are a hallmark of the Cyber-shot range!

The Lacy Leak

PhotoRumors has a ‘leak’ comprising all of three lines about the Olympus XZ-10 which they close with “No other details are available.”  But when you have pictures like these, ‘details’ are irrelevant.  Cameras were made of aluminium, plastic, polycarbonate . . . now they’re made of chiffon and lace!  Somehow I don’t think George Schaller would have chosen this baby . . . Zsa Zsa Gabor on the other hand . . .

Regardless of whether or not this camera can even actually take pictures, it will appeal to Manhattan socialites and Nashville vixens alike.

Women have long had their ‘clutch purse’; now, thanks to Olympus, they have the ‘clutch camera’ for formal nights.

  

 

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Post-Processing Filters can turn you into a Pissaro, Monet, or Van Gogh!

January 24th, 2013 No Comments

The very word ‘filter’ has come to connote something totally different from what it used to – pieces of tinted gelatin or glass from Hoya, Tiffen, and such.  How ‘totally different’ is brought to the fore in An Artistic Approach to Post-Production in Photography Using Filter Effects by Celso Bressan who turns his photographs into impressionistic paintings by applying post-processing filters!

Granted, it is perhaps a misnomer to use the word ‘filter’ for some of the effects available through the likes of Nik Software and Filter Forge, which Bressan mentions, but that’s progress (or redefining terminology, take your pick).

Bressan does not provide a mechanical how-to; rather, he explains his approach and outlook starting with “selecting photographs for work.”  “some pictures were just ‘made’ for the job” i.e. filter-based post-processing into “something that resembles a piece of art.”

That said, he offers two unequivocal technical pointers to get you off the ground: use low-res images and don’t discount noise.  Another one is to split photographs into two to four parts when applying processor-intensive filters because “some effects take hours [to process].”

That Bressan is very adept at his very unusual field of photography-art is obvious from his mini-gallery.  If you had not known about Bressan’s niche, wouldn’t this image have left you asking “Is that a painting or it is a photograph?”  And talk of paintings . . .

Here is something distinctly Monet’ish.  

Consider the subject, composition, and (very importantly) palette here.  Anyone else reminded of Vincent?

Isn’t something besides the name and the subject of this ‘photograph’ and this painting by Pissaro very similar?  How about the impressionistic style?

I hear you: “Just how did he make them?”  Well, even Bressan doesn’t know: “Some effects are so complex and random that, if needed to go back and do it again, more often than not it would be quite difficult or even impossible to obtain the same result again unless careful notes are being taken about every single step used.”

No problem – the photo-artist has given you a clue or two.  It’s up to you, shutterbug, to make a Picasso now.

One Little Filter, So Many Applications . . .

January 22nd, 2013 No Comments

You know just what Lightroom’s graduated filter tool does but where and when do you put it to best effect, i.e. how do you recognize a situation that would benefit by one or another application of a post-processing graduated filter?

In 4 Uses for Lightroom’s Graduated Filter Tool, Jason Weddington shows four kinds of situations where use of Lightroom’s graduated filter can create a more compelling image, and not all of these uses may be intuitive and obvious.

For instance, a grad filter doesn’t have to be a grad filter: tip 3 explains that, though you apply the effect across a part of the image, you can use it to adjust white balance thus, in effect, strengthening a hue or shifting a tint.  The ‘after’ shot is a vast improvement on the ‘before’: the blades of grass and flare (both lens and iris in a single image) fairly pop.

Tip 2 offers something very different.  Weddington doesn’t use that (now old-fashioned) word ‘polarizer’.  However, polarizers used to be used to (among other things) ‘cut through the haze’ and that’s just what is explained in ‘Reducing Atmospheric Haze’, with the example photo demonstrating a dramatic improvement in clarity on the horizon.

Tips 1 and 4 are two sides of the same coin; as Weddington says, “This technique builds on #1 above, because we are actually manipulating exposure.”  Though the same technique is applied, it is applied for extremely different purposes: in the first case to correct a perceived defect by smoothing out tonal range; in the second, to strengthen or highlight a particular area of a photograph to deliberately draw the eye into that area.

That is where “recogniz[ing] a situation that would benefit by one or another application of a post-processing graduated filter” comes into play: though there’s one filter there are many applications; you have to recognize the picture and the situation to exploit.  If you have a relatively low-contrast seascape with a washed-out sky, would decreasing exposure of the sky by a stop help?

For a more aggressive application of post-processing filters to achieve quasi-painterly images, check out our next post!

 

Top Ten Photography Books for 2012

January 18th, 2013 No Comments

England’s The Independent has published a list of its Top Ten Photography Books for 2012.

Probably not surprisingly, a book celebrating the charms of London tops the British daily’s list.  The newspaper’s website incorrectly identifies it as ‘London Street Photography’; the correct title is London, Portrait of a City.  This looks like a gorgeous photo book with images of arguably the world’s premier, most diverse, city so let’s not quibble over this book’s top ranking.

You know about the British Royals and the Swinging Sixties but if you’re curious about “foggy, cobbled streets” and “Hoxton Hipsters,” this picture book’s for you.

What leaps out from the Independent’s list, compiled by Will Coldwell, is the name Franz Lanting, who is at number 3 with OkavangoHere is the publisher’s product page.

Okavango is far from a new book; it was published over a decade back.  The present edition is “updated and expanded” and “further enhanced” and clocks in at 250 pages.  Lanting is the wildlife photographer who manages to bring to the fore a serenity, balance, and an ‘in the greater scheme of things’ feel to wildlife images.

Let’s stay with the odd numbers (like the more hidebound Beethoven fans) and proceed to no. 5, Kodachrome.  Coldwell says: “To mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri, Mack has produced a second edition of the first book he self-published in 1978.”

One wonders whether the word ‘death’ so closely following the title ‘Kodachrome’ was a Freudian Slip or well-meant with irony – with a Brit one never knows!  But anniversaries of death may just as well apply to Kodachrome now.

From (unintentional?) irony to strange coincidence: in our post of three days back we had blogged about Steve McCurry and the last roll of Kodachrome, and now on Coldwell’s list we have McCurry following Kodachrome in the next odd-numbered position, 7.  (No, on this blog we’re not in thrall to popular Beethoven doctrine; we believe that the ‘Evens’ are exceptional in their own, less dramatic, but more tranquil and contemplative, fashion.)

McCurry is to people and portraits what Lanting is to wildlife.  His Steve McCurry: The Iconic Photographs is a monster of a book at 380 x 275 mm and 272 pages.  The book’s page on Phaidon’s website contains a slideshow of several captivating people photographs.  Also available is a signed limited edition with a signed print.

Bucking the ‘Odd’ trend, we skip number 9 to jump to number 10, and with good reason: there is no ‘Joy’ a la the Ninth for persons who are hunted like animals by predacious paparazzi, and on tenth spot is a book featuring photos taken by those predators: Famous: Life Through the Lens of the Paparazzi.

The photos may be delightful; the means by which they were taken surely are not; Thames & Hudson’s product page frankly describes the book’s photographs as “a star-studded selection of those who live their lives in the spotlight, sometimes welcoming the camera, sometimes pursued by it.”  

Big game hunters pursue their prey using the barrel of a gun; these hunters do it with the barrel of a telephoto lens.  When you admire their ‘shots’, spare a thought for their prey – may they rest in peace!

 

Thrilling Kite Aerial Photography (KAP)!

January 16th, 2013 1 Comment
Strathblane and Dumbrock Muir by kite aerial p...

Strathblane and Dumbrock Muir by kite aerial photography (KAP) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“[T]he results can be pretty amazing in the right setting” is how DPSchool describes aerial photography by way of ‘unmanned’ kite.  Looking at said results, methinks the qualifier “in the right setting” is superfluous!

Consider this smashing shot of a brilliantly-lit and packed college football stadium.  The photo is an event with the red and green complementaries delighting the eye in their perfectly balanced hues.  Whether or not this is a crop circle, it makes for a startling contrast with the colourful college stadium, with its shades of dull brown and exclusively circular shapes.  

If you liked those two then here’s another monotone beaut in greyish browns, and here’s another green-and-red entry that’s more of a study in greens with red accents.

Such are the varied wonders of 61 Amazing Kite Aerial Photography Images, an unusual and interesting gallery virtual-curated by Darren Rowse.

Rowse doesn’t just take us on a tour of ‘amazing’ ‘images’, he provides some tips and introduces the reader to the tools of the trade, such as “purpose-built rigging” – probably useful if you’ve got your 5D Mk II a thousand feet above the earth.

Here are some of the most riveting images from the 61.

From the air, a car dealership looks like an orderly, even austere, columns of pegs but Stone Fishing in Maupiti is a visually-appealing, disorganized, splatter of shapes and colours.  

Turns out that diagonally bisected images with one subdued dappled triangle and crazy splashes of colour arouse and ‘turn on’ the eye.

If any photograph is the essence of KAP, of flying, this one’s it.  The tilt, the blur, the vertigo, the falcon – you could be airborne yourself.

From the air to the sea, and this photo of a sailboat is another winner.  The boat, with its myriad bright tints, pops out of the deep, dark water and grey skies.  The contrast, the elevation, the composition – they all work together in this shot.

This one wins the prize for the weirdest, wildest KAP image – courtesy of its subject!  Most artistic and aesthetic?  How about this lucky accident, as admitted by the photographer?  Or this one, a candidate for the abstract art prize?

We have to close out with this straightforward shot that is a bewitching view of what looks like a doll’s house town rising from the sea, crowned by a gigantic monastery and cathedral.

 

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(Larger than) Life, and Death

January 16th, 2013 No Comments

 

English: Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas

English: Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

La Mort La Vie.  That’s the name of an exhibition that just opened in Staten Island, New York, and the emphasis is more on the ‘Mort’ part – Death.

 

Photographer Agnes Thor has long had a preoccupation with death: “Death has been on my mind for so long I can’t remember what sparked it to life” (a strangely inverted play on words there) and a personal tragedy was the trigger for her photographic exhibition that “this will all end someday.”  

The opening photograph of the grave of Thor’s grandmother has so much space, depth and light – yet it is somewhat overshadowed by the obvious, dark, hulking headstone in the near left foreground – wonderfully framed and composed.   A similar feeling of stillness, a calmness, pervades all of Thor’s photographs, even one with a trace of motion: sand streaming in an hourglass.

One or two pictures are overtly morbid but are thoughtfully done.  Interestingly, light plays a key part in most photographs of Thor’s dark subject, from the misty, ‘blue hour’ photograph of a cemetery to the light-flooded but russet and relatively dark image of something more basic and elemental

Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, will soon be hosting an equally unusual exhibition but, instead of having to do with death or life, it has to do with larger than life.  They call it ‘Big Pictures’.  It’s all about huge, vast prints.  A very informative press release is virtually a mini-essay about the exhibition.  

The museum explains their exhibition thus: “Photographers like Ansel Adams (1902–1984) and Margaret Bourke White (1904 1971) understood that larger photographs resulted in a distinctive shift for the viewer.”

True: a larger-than-life image allows the eye to roam through limited areas and explore the photograph, “creating a unique and powerful personal experience.”  

That being the case, one wonders why all that real estate is wasted on a few unworthy images that would be suitable for postcards.  For instance, on what can only be described as a ‘Modern Artsy’ image that is not much of a ‘Landscape’, as the title proclaims it to be, due to limitations on part of both the photographer and her subject.

Much better are images that are not only epic in scale but which project the grandeur of nature alongside the inventiveness of man, and are beautifully lit and composedWilliam Henry Jackson’s Excursion Train is the type of image that would enthrall as a ‘big picture’.  Too bad that the Amon Carter Museum’s curators seem to have missed the boat – or the ‘excursion train’ as it were – in choosing a few too many ‘small-time’ artsy images for their ‘Big Picture’ exhibition.

 

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Two Exhibitions: (Larger than) Life, and Death

January 15th, 2013 No Comments

La Mort La Vie.  That’s the name of an exhibition that just opened in Staten Island, New York, and the emphasis is more on the ‘Mort’ part – Death.

Photographer Agnes Thor has long had a preoccupation with death: “Death has been on my mind for so long I can’t remember what sparked it to life” (a strangely inverted play on words there) and a personal tragedy was the trigger for her photographic exhibition that “this will all end someday.”  

The opening photograph of the grave of Thor’s grandmother has so much space, depth and light – yet it is somewhat overshadowed by the obvious, dark, hulking headstone in the near left foreground – wonderfully framed and composed.   A similar feeling of stillness, a calmness, pervades all of Thor’s photographs, even one with a trace of motion: sand streaming in an hourglass.

One or two pictures are overtly morbid but are thoughtfully done.  Interestingly, light plays a key part in most photographs of Thor’s dark subject, from the misty, ‘blue hour’ photograph of a cemetery to the light-flooded but russet and relatively dark image of something more basic and elemental

Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, will soon be hosting an equally unusual exhibition but, instead of having to do with death or life, it has to do with larger than life.  They call it ‘Big Pictures’.  It’s all about huge, vast prints.  A very informative press release is virtually a mini-essay about the exhibition.  

The museum explains their exhibition thus: “Photographers like Ansel Adams (1902–1984) and Margaret Bourke White (1904 1971) understood that larger photographs resulted in a distinctive shift for the viewer.”

True: a larger-than-life image allows the eye to roam through limited areas and explore the photograph, “creating a unique and powerful personal experience.”  

That being the case, one wonders why all that real estate is wasted on a few unworthy images that would be suitable for postcards.  For instance, on what can only be described as a ‘Modern Artsy’ image that is not much of a ‘Landscape’, as the title proclaims it to be, due to limitations on part of both the photographer and her subject.

Much better are images that are not only epic in scale but which project the grandeur of nature alongside the inventiveness of man, and are beautifully lit and composedWilliam Henry Jackson’s Excursion Train is the type of image that would enthrall as a ‘big picture’.  Too bad that the Amon Carter Museum’s curators seem to have missed the boat – or the ‘excursion train’ as it were – in choosing a few too many small-time artsy images for their ‘Big Picture’ exhibition.

 

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