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Archive for April, 2013

The Guardian Presents the Flapper

April 30th, 2013 No Comments

Yesterday The Guardian published an article surrounding one of the most photogenic of all ages: The Roaring Twenties.  Furthermore, this article is expressly about the most photogenic of subjects of an already photogenic age: The Flapper.

In When Flappers Ruled the Earth Judith Mackrell focusses on the Flapperette Revolution as contributing to what eventually became the Women’s Lib movement.  This blog does not concern itself with deep political and sociological issues but with photography and, fortunately, The Guardian has published a mini-gallery to go with its feature article.

(The title of The Guardian’s article is reminiscent of John Danforth’s stop-motion marvel When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth; a film whose miniature-based stop-motion special effects shows up and trumps the computer-generated animation studios are churning out these days, if anyone’s been noticing.  Willis O’Brien, anyone?)

The aptly-named mini-gallery Josephine Baker and the Wild Women of 1920s Dance is not a collection of delightful photographs but a collection of photographs of delightful subjects.  Take the gallery’s photo of the Toast of 1920s Paris, Josephine Baker.  Even today it comes across as sensual and seductive though not remotely lewd.  One can only wonder at the sensation photos like it must have caused in those days, especially in then-prudish swathes of Baker’s home country of America. 

Baker’s costumes and photographic props encouraged a view of black women as, what were then called, ‘Jungle Fantasies’ (indeed, there’s a Duke Ellington composition titled Jungle Fantasy from that same age).  The Guardian’s caption for this photo says “Gaga Who?” probably recognizing the fact that Lady Gaga has drawn at least some of her inspiration from Josephine Baker and the 1920s’ relatively uninhibited flappers.

Baker was, of course, a dancer and performer and not a ‘Society Flapper’, the epitome of which was probably Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote the defining novel of the 1920s, The Great Gatsby.  Unlike their image of another famous flapper of that era of “wild women,” the Guardian’s photograph of Fitzgerald is an all-too tame portraitHere’s a photograph that better reflects the energy and interests of Mrs. Fitzgerald as well as projecting the flapper ethos of her time.

This mini-gallery is only an appetizer; a search for ‘1920s flapper’ yields countless wonderful images.  With subjects, costumes, and poses like these, the photographers sure had it easy!

The American Wilderness in Monochrome

April 24th, 2013 No Comments

A group of photography ‘experts’ tends to look down on colour as they consider black-and-white as the ‘proppah’ medium for photographic art.  What would they say about images that are neither colour nor black-and-white but both: monochrome prints?

They just might say, “Oh Wow!” if they see stunners like this gorgeous composition in shades of violet and purple, and that would be apropos because “OHWOW” is also the name of the Los Angeles gallery where these photographs are being exhibited. 

“Wonderful Land” is the title of the exhibition and the photographer is David Benjamin Sherry.  His large-sized monochrome prints of the American wilderness bring a new ‘colour’ to the genre of Landscape Photography.  (They are chromogenic prints; chromogenic printing is a type of process.)

One reason for Sherry’s presentation is suggested by Dan Abbe in his photo article in American Photo.  “Given the work of photographers in Group f/64,” Abbe says, “it may be that there’s no longer any meaning to go out and photograph the same subjects using the same black and white process.”  Hence, the “strange hues” and “unexpected colors.”

As with black-and-white, in these tinted monochrome prints the lines, form and structure of the image engage the eye, the so-called ‘distraction’ of colours being eliminated.  At the same time seeing a monochrome print in shades of a hue, often a saturated hue, is a refreshing change in the manner in which a photograph ‘hits’ us.  Sherry’s technique works very well with Landscape Photography whereas it would seem downright contrived – even weird – when applied in other areas, say Wildlife Photography.

While one or two photographs simply substitute shades of a hue instead of shades of grey resulting in what is essentially a tinted print, in others the tint is so spot-on with the landscape and its elements that a hypnotizing, otherworldly atmosphere is generated.  In still others the subject and choice of hue and dynamic range combine to produce an abstract form.

These large-format images are presented as fairly large prints; most measure about nine square feet.  The sheer size would heighten the intensity of these spectacular renditions of the western wilderness for those fortunate enough to see them in L.A.

 

Unusual Gear and Gadgets

April 23rd, 2013 No Comments
English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We usually have a weekly post on unusual and the bizarre news from the World of Photography on this blog while on our Professional site’s blog we have a weekly feature on gear and gadgets.  Today we’ll do a twofer: here’s a roundup of unusual gear and gadgets.

The Camera Brand that Refuses to Die

“Rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Samuel Clemens / Mark Twain once said.  That could just as well apply to Kodak as a maker of cameras: PhotoRumors reported yesterday that Kodak displayed a “new Pixpro mirrorless (interchangeable lens?) camera” sporting a 28-112mm zoom at the P&E Show in China.  A Kodak Camera!  And we all thought that Kodak cameras were dead!

Or perhaps they are?  For PhotoRumors does mention that a “few months ago JK Imaging got the rights to use the Kodak brand name” so is it really a Kodak?  Or are people in Developing Countries who may view Kodak as a major brand name seen as naive consumers for what is no more than a licensing-rights product?  

A legendary ‘good name’ is being sold off in bits and pieces by a once-dominant company as it gently, gently sinks into oblivion.

Reversed ND Filters

84.5mm’s ‘Reversed ND Filters’ are probably in that class of products one would call “Why didn’t anyone else think of it before?”

Not exactly “reversed”, these filters are graduated from the middle to the top and seem to have a harder transition at the other end.  

PhotographyBlog reports that they’re meant for using while shooting landscapes during the Golden Hour when your composition includes the sun so that you don’t get exposure imbalances and can maximize dynamic range.

Nice idea, and it should work . . . let’s see what reports from the field have to say.

Funky and Funkier

It’s all happening for the iPhone and iPad with one new novelty, er, ‘development’ each.  

FocusTwist is an iPhone app that synthesizes the Lytro effect.  Key word, ‘synethesizes’, for FocusTwist shoots a series of images with different focus points, unlike Lytro technology.  From there on, it’s easy to see how you can dynamically choose a different plane of focus for a photograph.

The iPad development is less of a novelty though it’s funkier: you get a zoom lens hanging off your tablet computer to complement its wee-wee 5 MP camera!  We couldn’t say it any better than Lauren Crabbe on DPReview: “There is something about seeing a tablet take photos that just brings on the giggles. Pair that with a telephoto lens and you’ve got a one-way ticket to lol-ville.”  

This one’s for iPad diehards only!

 

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‘Flipping’ us ‘Out’: PetaPixel Pulls a Hat-trick

April 22nd, 2013 No Comments

We’ll start off the week with our weekly ‘whacky’ news roundup because there’s been so much of it, none more ‘whacky’ than—

‘Whack!’

In one or two B-Grade Hollywood movies, the hero or heroine gets a fresh lease on life when a lucky charm amulet or medallion they’re wearing deflects a bullet that would otherwise have shattered his/her breastbone.

Real life ain’t as (melo)dramatic as Hollywood but it can be funnier: PetaPixel reports (and links to a video) on how an iPad saved its photographer-owner from getting a ‘whack’ on the noggin from . . . a softball!  (Well, Hollywood also did The Three Stooges shorts.)

The man was taking photographs with his iPad when the (near-)‘whack’ happened, and after his trusty Apple device did double duty as a shield, he just resumed taking photos with it!  This is one ‘Apple’ that sure kept the doctor away!

“Strange obsession”

That’s what Chris A. Hughes himself calls his hobby but he’s being a bit hard on himself.  He searches out vintage cameras with film inside them, which he then has developed.  

The sample photographs, published by PetaPixel, show that Hughes is preserving other, unknown people’s memories which range from historic and of public interest to very personal, from humourous to sentimental.  He’s a ‘memories salvager’!

The images include those of a space capsule, vacationing children, and a truly fine portrait that would have had the self-styled cognoscenti ‘aah’ing over it if it had been taken by a big-name photographer.  You can see more of Hughes’s finds at the Found Film website.

Whacky and Strange . . .

. . . is what Jeff Cremer has a yen for and he travels to rainforests to photograph it.

A picture story on PetaPixel introduces us to Cremer’s “rare, interesting, and bizarre” images.  However, if you’re one of the “tens of thousands” of persons who ‘liked’ one of his astonishing images of an intricate and delicate lattice-like cocoon on Facebook, this item is old news to you!  If not, don’t miss the story.

 PetaPixel also goes into how Cremer’s photos tend to go viral but if you capture such little-seen and astonishing critters in the wild, the ‘viral-ing’ is going to be pretty much automatic.

Congratulations to PetaPixel for today’s hat-trick; it too seems to specialize in ‘flipping’ us ‘out’ . . .

  

A Mixed Bag of Breaking News

April 18th, 2013 No Comments
English: Diagram comparing image sensor format...

English: Diagram comparing image sensor formats as used in digital cameras. For the sensor formats commonly used in DSLRs, the sensors are shown in comparison to the so-called “35 mm full frame” size. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been a while since we had a mixed bag of diverse news.  Today’s the perfect day for it as in the past 24 hours we’ve heard about a technological leap, a specialized sub-genre, and an artistic and imaginative concept.

The Technological Leap: Aptina’s Sensor

Aptina’s new sensor is sized one inch, has 14 megapixels, and is a CMOS type.  Ho-hum?  No: because it will ‘crank in’ “4K Ultra HD video at 60fps,” reports PhotographyBlog.  If you’re content with regulation 1080p Full HD then this sensor will blaze along at 120fps.

 Aptina says that this new sensor, the AR1411HS, also offers excellent still image quality.  However, the secret is that this “1-inch sensor effectively bridges the performance and price gap between the smaller 1/2.3-inch sensors commonly used in compact digital still cameras and the larger APS-C and full-frame sensors that are used in DSLR cameras,” even as it delivers high-end video performance.

It’s a statement of intent from Aptina that should have other makers of sensors, particularly Canon, looking over their shoulders.

Specialized Sub-Genre: Insects in Flight

Linden Gledhill “didn’t have the engineering and electrical know-how to create a homebrew trigger system,” yet he managed to “built a handheld integrated high speed insect rig” that takes laser-beam tripped photographs of insects in flight!  

That sounds pretty darn impressive to do without a goodly bit of technical “know-how.”  Is PetaPixel trying to confuse us or are its standards insanely high?

Whichever it is, Gledhill’s photographs speak for themselves – they verily ‘fly’!  Leaving the technical complexities aside and looking at the photographs qua photographs, some are actually truly aesthetic, such as the one of the bee about to descend on a blossom and the one of two amber insects against a pink floral background, while one or two are simply delightful.  No wonder these images are generating so much . . . ‘buzz’! 

New Concept: Imaginative Hard-Copy Media 

Digital cameras have made film cameras nearly obsolete but they’ve also made prints nearly obsolete as the vast majority of images are shared and viewed digitally with a tiny proportion making the transition to a hard copy.

In fact, the technological advancement of digital perhaps ought to have had a parallel advancement in the way in which photographs are printed, viewed, and displayed.  And such an ‘advance’ of a kind does exist!  

From Fleeting to Forever is an e-book and website that is filled to the gills with imaginative and creative methods to ‘print’ your photographs, reports PhotographyBlog.

 

3D Prints, composite photo frames, bamboo backing, and in-glass images are some of the hip new ways of preserving and displaying your photographic memories.  None of this should suggest that high-quality printing on fine paper is passe´; it just gives you options – say, a lucite slab for the office cubicle, a monotone bamboo print for the den, and a composite family photo frame for the grandparents.

 

 

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Genesis by Sebastião Salgado

April 16th, 2013 No Comments

The Natural History Museum of England is hosting an exhibit, Genesis, of photographs by Sebastião Salgado.  One doesn’t have to attend the exhibition to conclude that the images are breathtaking – the slideshow is proof enough.

This exhibition is about remote peoples and remote places; Salgado has tried to bring ‘The Ends of the Earth’ to an exhibition hall.

The very first photograph that greets us is one that would draw gasps of disbelief from most viewers: the two tribal women wearing lip plates are grotesquely deformed by our standards (though likely beautiful by their own).  A stark, businesslike, front-on portrait in flat light suffices because Salgado’s subject-matter is itself so compelling.

In contrast, the very last photograph in the slideshow of a village shaman could not be more different in execution.  It is far removed from that of the two women in terms of lighting, composition, crop, angle of elevation, the tonal definition, and even the impression of movement.  Vastly different from the other portrait!

This distinction indicates the choices Salgado has made so as to maximize the effect of his images; to impart the atmosphere of a particular place: while location-specific dust and mist are clearly visible in some photographs; you can almost hear the swoosh of the water and the warbling of the dozens of birds in the photographs of the whale’s tail and the albatross colony.  As for the Firefighter on page 2 of the exhibition booklet, feel that heat!

That booklet contains a short but heartfelt interview with Salgado in which he reflects on the growing ‘disconnect’ between Humankind and the Planet it inhabits, and what drove him to embark upon his epic photographic journey.

A niggle: why is each and every photograph in black-and-white?  No doubt many, say even most, of the images are such that they lend themselves to B&W – here’s a prime example.  What, though, about the mountain gorilla and the desert firefighter?  The elimination of the colours Mother Nature herself lent to the primate and his habitat, and of the fiery towers and explosions, weakens the expressive power of the images.

On the other hand some images are probably enhanced by the absence of colour: here is a Nature-made Fantasy-Scape.  The drama inherent in this image by way of the fantastical shape of the iceberg and the glowering, moody sky is heightened by the image being in highly tonal B&W.

 

Some Nice Things I’ve Missed

April 15th, 2013 No Comments

 

Cover of "Some Nice Things I've Missed"

Cover of Some Nice Things I’ve Missed

Some Nice Things I’ve Missed is the title of one of The Chairman of the Board’s lesser known and somewhat under-rated albums; after all, it does have three drop-dead killahs.  This post is not about that album and FAS had nothing to do with photography but we’ll steal the title because it’s oh-so apropos as we look at ocean waves, a ‘hyper-simplified’ camera, and an exhibition of ‘movers and shakers’.

 

Waves in Satin

We’re used to seeing country streams and little waterfalls as smooth, satinny bands courtesy of long exposures while ‘Big Surf’ ocean waves usually get the 1/2000 treatment.  David Orias has pulled a switcheroo and shot ocean waves using a looong lens and slooow shutter speed.  The photographs have a very “painterly feel” as Orias (correctly) describes them.

Try this: disregard the upper, foamy spume of the wave and look at the lower half of each image only.  You’ll see lines and streaks in similar tones and tints creating a unique sort of abstract image.

Conran’s Hyper-simplification

Would you believe that “the form factor of our cameras hasn’t kept pace with their function”?  That’s what Jared Mankelow of Conran thought as he designed a new type of “hyper-simplified” camera as a challenge.

PetaPixel reports that it is so “hyper-simplified” that it lacks both lens and screen!  How does it work?  The designers think that the photos may as well be viewed on your smartphone or tablet device.

This camera will probably fail to attract serious photographers but the hip, with-it crowd may well flock to it, given its retro yet offbeat look.  Note to Conran: the charcoal grey colour won’t fly; market it in chic neon hues and watch it sell like hot cakes!

Schapiro’s Heroes

That’s the name of an exhibition of portraits of the rich and famous as photographed by Steve Schapiro who has seen his work published in many prestigious magazines.

WWNO has published an interview with Schapiro and a mini-gallery which includes studies of Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, Truman Capote and a Karsh-like portrait of Barbra Streisand.

The interview is an interesting and enlightening one as Schapiro explains his M.O. of being “a fly on the wall” while also allowing for “collaboration[s]” with “talented” subjects to create “iconic” portraits.

Correction!

Did we say “FAS had nothing to do with photography”?  Oops!  Though certainly no photographer, Frank Sinatra was a bit of an enthusiast to the extent that he was ringside, taking photos of a certain bustup back in 1971 in Madison Square Garden between one Muhammad Ali and one Joe Frazier.

Two of Sinatra’s Ali-Frazier photographs were recently up for auction.  Check ’em out here and here!

 

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A ‘Tank’ of a Camera: Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FT5

April 12th, 2013 No Comments
Image representing Panasonic as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

It’s always the same: no sooner has a new champion been crowned than a gaggle of young pretenders are challenging him for his title, whatever it may be.  A scant month back we had blogged about TIPA crowning Pentax’s Optio WG-2 ‘The Best Rugged Camera’.  The latest contender who wants to lance the WG-2 off its saddle is Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FT5.

In his review on Pocket-lint, Mike Lowe refers to it as “the tank of compact cameras” which is “tough enough to flatten most traditional compact cameras’ specifications.”  Or maybe tough enough to flatten most traditional compact cameras, full-stop?

Let’s begin, however, by examining the DMC-FT5 qua camera (rather than qua tank).  It boasts 16 megapixels and that’s a big plus straight off the bat because “[e]very major manufacturer has its tough and waterproof compact camera range these days but . . . many models . . . tend to consider the key camera component as an aside to the tough concept.”  Not so this Lumix which also has an able zoom with an attractive range of 28 to 128mm (36×24 equivalent).

On-board are a variety of autofocus modes and several exposure modes including a programme mode and full manual yet straightforward shutter-priority and aperture-priority have rather oddly gone M.I.A.  On the positive side its performance and specs in burst mode and in shooting video are clearly a cut above other cameras in this class.

Though it is a chunky beast, the DMC-FT5 is also quite ergonomic according to Pocket-lint.  It certainly looks that way with the well-labelled buttons being perfectly positioned for the right thumb to control.

So far, so good.

This Lumix’s freeze-proof and dust-proof qualities mean that you can lug it from K-2 to the Kalahari where its GPS, NFC and WiFi could prove very useful.  And, if Lowe is to be believed, you can perhaps use this shock-proof kit in lieu of a tennis ball as well: “we’ve lobbed it around a fair bit without worry and every ground and surface the camera’s met hasn’t made a single dent or scratch.”

Read the full review to find out whether or not this tough-compact is your cup of tea but the gist is that its image quality is “as good as any other tough compact camera out there, which does put the FT5 in the mix as a tough cam favourite” because it has the edge in toughness and technical features.

 

Do we have a new champion?  Let’s see what TIPA has to say about the DMC-FT5 next year. . . .

 

 

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Tim Flach Presents the Animal as an Individual

April 11th, 2013 No Comments

In his extended and brilliant parable The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells tells the story of a scientist who performs vivisections on animals so as to make human beings out of them; to ‘improve’ the animals.  Tim Flach wants to achieve the same purpose though he certainly does not go as far as did Moreau; he only uses his camera, not a scalpel.  Furthermore, he does not try to humanize the animals; he tries to find and convey superficial similarities between animal and human, or even identify and expose human characteristics that may be inherent in animals.

In More than Human, a book of animal portraits, Flach presents animals in ultra-close-up and in poses somewhat resembling those of humans.  The photo at the top accompanying Stefany Anne Golberg’s article illustrates the point: is the rooster a tightrope walker or cheerleader by occupation?  As for the simian, the pose, lighting, and angle are quite similar to those for a body-building shot!

An 18-image slideshow is available on ABC News and more have been published online on various sites.  

Also compare Flach’s approach with that of Morten Koldby.

Flach’s goal is to bring animals “closer and closer” and that, apparently, is meant in multiple senses of the word: the purely physical and also the covertly artistic.  Some resultant ‘semi macro’ shots detailing animal hides and scales do not go down well with Golberg: her criticism is that many of photographs have been taken from too close and she does not approve of the anonymous setting in which they’re taken.  

That critique, however, tends to overlook the unusual mindset with which these photographs have been taken, a mindset that is revealed in the images themselves: does not this bat look like it’s walking while pulling a cape around itself (and looking shyly at the photographer to boot)?

This type of humanlike (or anthropomorphized, if you will) portrayal goes beyond ‘action photographs’ to almost pure studies.  It doesn’t take imagination to see the quizzical, probing look worn by this owl.  As for this monkey with the pained expression, can you but help wondering what’s happened to his/her hand?

Also, Golberg herself writes that in one of Flach’s images, “A panda bear sits face-front with arms folded, like he is posing for a passport.”  That is the beauty behind these images; to make one think in terms of pandas getting passports made; of animals stepping into the day-to-day affairs of Humankind.

Here’s what Golberg misses.  Flach’s photographs do not portray the animal as a component of nature because that is not his approach or mindset.  Flach’s photographs are about – as odd as this may sound – the animal as an individual.

 

The London Street Scene

April 8th, 2013 No Comments

Is this deeply private photograph – almost an intrusion – posed?  Just what is the couple doing?  All we can tell is that an intense human drama is playing out at a picturesque setting.  Apparently it is not posed and is a spontaneous exposure, for Stewart Marsden is a ‘street shooter’ who documents life in London.  His images were published in The Telegraph earlier this year.

Cartier-Bresson’s “fleeting moment” is on show in this Marsden shot which captures two tableaus.  This exposure recalls to mind another Cartier-Bresson expression as to the photographer having to wait like a “hunter” until the moment arrives.

How much more ‘composed’, in all senses of the word, is this riverscape.  What a picture— we have much-photographed and romanticized Tower Bridge presented in a matter-of-fact manner, unusual in being full side-on, and as the backdrop to a lone youth and barges in the foreground, with construction work and a crane in-frame.  One might call this image an exemplar of the Naturalism or Realism style.  Good eye!

Here are a few people on the fringes of society with a couple of them wearing rather ‘spacy’ looks.  But who’s that in the background?  People smack-dab in the mainstream of society such as commuters waiting for a bus!  Oh, for a shallower perspective (with a longer lens set to a narrow aperture) which would have brought these extremely different classes of Londoners closer to one another to heighten the impact. 

Here’s a fine little slice of life on the sidewalk.  First, is the blonde ignoring that pest Marsden or has she not seen her ‘hunter’ as she claws her hair back?  Second, did Marsden ignore himself or did he not see himself in the window pane?  Either way, ‘it works’.

Check out this lovely image encompassing two of London’s most famous sights.  It is more artistic (note the symmetry and also how Big Ben is framed within the Ferris Wheel and how both are framed within the two buildings on either side and the grimy wall below), more alive, and more genuine than any brochure or postcard photograph of these two sights – don’t you agree?

We’ve covered only a small sampling from the first half of this 30-image gallery.

Marsden’s street shooting is a cut above; many of the photographs make you wonder what’s happening or make you just take in the scene.  They convey both the throb and the tinkle of London’s street scene.

 

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