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Archive for June, 2013

‘White Out’ and Black Infra

June 26th, 2013 No Comments

Olympus PEN E-P5

Feature-packed, technology-packed, and tradition-packed.  That about sums up Olympus’s new PEN E-P5

On the 50th Anniversary of the PEN F, Olympus is launching ” a digital update of [that] classic film camera.”

Although the story on Shutterbug is actually just a press release from Olympus, it’s worth a look because of the blend of features, tech and tradition in this 16 MP interchangeable-lens compact.   For instance, the camera has built-in WiFi, a top speed of 1/8000, traditional dials and knobs, assignable functions, optional viewfinder, interval shooting, time-lapse movie, and a ‘photo story’ mode.

For a preliminary review head over to DPReview which says that it is “a serious camera, but one that has real charisma too.  Overall the E-P5 takes a significant step forward from the E-P3, and is perhaps best seen as an E-M5 in a slimmed-down body. Yet it adds useful extra features of its own . . . .”

Unfortunately, for all that it is, it seems that Olympus have overpriced the PEN E-P5.

White Out

Photographer Eirik Johnson’s “meditation on the passage of time” gives a whole different meaning to the term ‘white out’.

Johnson has taken ‘Summer’ and ‘Winter’ photographs in Barrows, Alaska of exactly the same cabin from exactly the same spot, reports D.L. Cade on PetaPixel.

Though strictly documentary, these photographs have a startling quality about them due to the intense shift in seasonal landscape.  What are sunny splotches of colour in scenes you may come across most anywhere in the world turn into stark white and shades thereof in the paired photograph.

Black Infra

From whites to intense, lustrous blacks, which is the usual result when shooting infra-red.

David English has an unusually technical article on the Leica Blog in which he explains how he used a B+W #092 filter to mimic IR film and the complications of using it with a Summilux-M 24mm.  These include issues like autofocus being affected and the exposure meter being fooled.

If the techicalities of IR don’t interest you, do check out the gallery for some arresting takes on everyday scenes that seem to be out of the Twilight Zone and feature some velvety blacks.

 

Funny and Comical, Bunny and Animal

June 25th, 2013 No Comments

We get our weekly-three pack of interesting Photography News underway with the fad du jour . . . 

Funny and Comical, Bunny and Animal

If you’re under the impression that the ‘Funny Animal’ fad sweeping Instagram and the Twitterverse is a recent phenomenon, think again.  Your great-grandparents were doing it, baby!

Earlier today ITV published a picture story, Newspaper archives reveal amusing pictures of animals shared since 1900s – and they’re showing us several actual newspaper images from the 1900s!

You can see a chimp dressed up like a toff (with top hat to boot) or you can see four chimps without any dressing up but having tea . . . like you and me!

A cat dressed up like a right royal lady is much more fortunate than a poor small dog forced into . . . a clown’s suit!  

Credit the British Newspaper Archive for the, er, ‘donkey work’ behind this effort.  

‘Underwater Waves’

Mark Tipple has an unusual photographic calling.  He focusses “on the aesthetic of the waves from below or the body language of the people evading them,” reports Wired in Crash Into Me.  The very first photograph in the 15-image album, snapped serendipitously, is the one that started it all for Tipple.

Though the first one was serendipitous, the photographer clearly has both, gobs of skill and gobs of guts to photograph what looks like an underwater explosion (descending on a diver).  

Another image is pure abstract art comprising of big daubs of white plus fine brushstrokes in various shades of green.

Shooting up into the sun, Tipple has managed to create a reverse whirlpool effect in a cool blue image.

Without the cue of the diver, at first glance would you not have thought that this photograph was one of a grim, moody sky?  As it is, Tipple has captured oceanic storm clouds, as it were.

This is Underwater Photography like you’ve never seen it before.

Doing it with Light

We’ll close on a ‘light’ note with Darren Pearson.  PetaPixel has published a gallery of his ‘light paintings’.

Light Painting is another burgeoning trend; however, it is not a fad but a photographic niche.  As such, there are many styles and techniques here.

Pearson actually makes drawings or sketches with light-sticks, usually humourous ones, in just the right settings.  

Shouldn’t this particular style of ‘Light Painting’ more accurately be called ‘Light Drawing’ or ‘Light Sketching’?  Check out the gallery and see if you agree.

 

The Mysterious Charms of Beijing’s Hutongs by Christopher Domakis

June 24th, 2013 No Comments

“‘Hutong’ is the Chinese word for typical old town districts in Beijing,” explains Christopher Domakis in his introduction to his gallery Hutong on Behance. “While Beijing is moving fast, developing new districts and constructing massive infrastructure projects, there are still some Hutongs which provide daily life which you would expect only in villages far away from modern metropoles as Beijing.”

Domakis has produced atmospheric images of these Hutongs, photographed after dusk when all is still and quiet.

Exposure and retention of shadow detail is a major factor behind the charm and mysterious quality of these photographs.

A few of them look no different from the inner alleyways of any old town; in fact, one photograph radiates the quality of a forbidding seam of Victorian London!

A small, well-lit ‘cabin shop’ amidst semi-deserted darkness inspired Domakis into a very unusual composition.  Notice how the main subject is not only centred but also shot straight on, from the front.  The simplicity and forthrightness of this choice combine to make the cabin pop out and also look even more unceremoniously out of place than it is.

Domakis came upon another cabin-shop that is integrated into a low-slung structure.  Notice the radically different composition in this photograph: the cabin is off-centre in the image and it is also shot at an angle to present it in the context of its surroundings – shuttered doors, passers-by, two-wheelers, and more.

Clearly, Domakis’s compositions are no accident.

A few photos are taken at such an angle that, even though the perspective is fairly close and the subject-matter (close-set structures and narrow alleys) deters large fields of view, they have depth.  The photo of the neighbourhood bakery and a man shows three planes of structures and the short span of road causes the eye to move front to rear; thus, the depth of the photo is not defeated by the glowing and lit-up main subject to one side.

Talk about ‘lit-up’, here’s a nice juxtaposition between fluorescent lighting and tungsten lighting with their different colour casts combining to lend tonal interest to a scene that is already interesting to begin with.

The most common props to be seen in this gallery are bicycles and chinese lanterns.  Can you find each in five photographs?

The photo of Super 8 Hotel is the most teasing one.  First, no less than five different patches of differently-coloured light appear in a horizontal band across this night photo.  Second, the very hazy silhouettes of two persons behind a steamed-up window give a hint of human life to a fairly wide scene that is otherwise devoid of any life (except for a man standing under the bridge in the far distance).  Fourth, it hints of the conviviality that may be found behind the hotel’s walls though the street itself is dreary and deserted.  Finally, does liveliness and vibrancy lurk in the background past the left edge of the image?

If Carol Reed or Orson Welles were around and wanted to make a movie filmed in the Hutongs, they would surely ask Domakis to do the storyboarding.

 

A Charming Gallery and a Funny Article

June 19th, 2013 No Comments

Our last post of the week is a roundup of interesting, unusual, odd Photography News that’s off the beaten path.

A Gallery of Ghost Towns

Like, for instance, the photographic calling of Fargo residents Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp.  They document North Dakota’s ghost towns; indeed, they have already published a photo book titled Ghosts of North Dakota: North Dakota’s Ghost Towns and Abandoned Places.

John Lamb’s story of these two photographers’ endeavours on InForum is a very interesting read.  Their photographs are equally interesting, if not more so.

Larson and Hinnenkamp’s website is packed with photos that have a charm all their own, including a startling one of an old small church standing all by itself in the middle of a vast prairie.  These wonderful images document derelict burnt-out factories, abandoned properties, and the repossession of houses . . . by Mother Nature.

You’re an ‘Award-Winning Photographer’

Are you an ‘award-winning photographer’?  If your answer is ‘no’, you’re wrong!  You are an ‘award-winning photographer’ (and so am I).  You just don’t know it.

Cheri Frost explains in her aptly-titled article, I’m an Award-Winning Photographer, that photography competitions and contests have become so commonplace that anyone can (and does) win some or another kind of award.  That’s the reason behind the recent proliferation of ‘award-winning photographers’.

Frost’s article is funny and irreverent but there’s a subtext, if you want.  That subtext is about the cheapening and commercialization of photographic recognition.  It would make for a good op-ed.

Just don’t assume that the ‘award-winning photographer’ you’re talking to at some convention is the recipient of a phony award – because, like Frost, you just might run into the genuine article who has won a real photography award . . . such as the Pulitzer Prize.

Two Heads are Better than One

We’re doubling up on humour today.

Seen the original Doctor Doolittle, the one with Rex Harrison?  If so, you’ll remember a two-headed llama.  Debbie Bice probably took inspiration from that in bringing us this two-headed donkey!  What’s more, she did not use any kind of image manipulation, relying only on ‘perspective’.

Will cute two-headed beasties be the next photo-mania to sweep Cyberspace?

 

Of Prettiness and Pictures

June 18th, 2013 No Comments

Make your Pictures Prettier

If Photoshop and Lightroom are a bit too complicated for you but you’d like to have pro-level image correction, here’s Athentech Imaging’s Perfectly Clear to the rescue.  Steve Bedell’s review in Shutterbug is aptly subtitled “A Quick Fix For Your Photos.”  

Perfectly Clear can batch-process hundreds of files in one fell swoop or it can attack the imperfections in a photo one image at a time.

Even if you take it photo by photo, where portraits are concerned “the stand-alone version of Perfectly Clear is doing in one step what previously took two or more in other programs, plus some Photoshop work,” says Bodell.

This ability is the result of advanced smarts and builtin presets that makes Perfectly Clear “very easy to use.”  The article has lots of impressive before and after images.  The clarity, texture, and ‘pop’ that this app introduces is self-evident.

As Pretty as a Picture

The Olympus E-P5 is in reviewers’ hands and Roger Slavens at Imaging Resource appears to be pleased with it, as was Mike Tomkins when he gave it a first look.

This classy, good looking camera is a 16 MP four-thirds mirrorless that follows on the heels of the E-P3, to which it is the successor.  It also incorporates some features from the OM-D E-M5 to which is added “a generous sprinkling of features unique to the new camera.”  Thus, perhaps the PEN standard (and perhaps the mirrorless standard) is reset to a new level?

This camera is loaded with external controls, has a top shutter speed of 1/8000 and a top ISO of 25600.  Add to that five-axis stabilization and WiFi and one has a high tech camera at an inexpensive price.  At the same time the E-P5 maintains the Olympus heritage as it is reminiscent of 1960s PEN cameras in appearance.

Its build quality is solid yet it is as pretty as a picture.  The first look includes much more than you may expect; it covers creative modes, flash, and LCD display.

 

Lenses – Seven, Hundred, Millions!

June 17th, 2013 No Comments

The past few days have seen a spate of news reports and articles about lenses.  Let’s make lenses today’s post’s theme; lenses by number and by major camera brand!

Seven Lenses with Pentax

The term ‘box set’ usually brings to mind CDs – at least of CDs during their heyday, as in ‘Bear Family box set’.  One does not associate photographic equipment with that term.  Pentax, however, wants to change that.  

Photo Rumors reports that the company has announced a limited edition box set that contains the Q7 mirrorless, a couple of filters, and seven ‘kit’ lenses, all neatly packaged in a box that’s a bit different than the standard camera packaging.  The edition is limited to 1000. 

The Photo Rumors page also includes some eye-popping news of a commercial lens-less camera and a Nokia smartphone with a 41 MP camera!

120 Lenses with Canon

Kevin Carter on DxOMark has been comparing lenses as to how they’ll function on an EOS 700D in Best lenses for you (sic) Canon EOS 700D: more than 120 lenses tested! with part 2 looking at more/other lenses

Numerous lenses have been tested as to how they perform on different Canon models and the resultant detailed report on a per-lens basis (such as Sigma 35mm F1.4) has been published.  Choose another model from the choicelist to see how the lens performs with that camera model.

More handily DxOMark has published a chart of tested lenses in order of score thus providing a ranking of sorts.  These charts are available by type of lens – prime, zoom, moderate telephoto.

One fact that pops out is the consistently high ranking and score that Sigma lenses have received coupled with their equally consistently affordable prices.  As Carter writes for one set of lenses, “For the value choice, look no further than the new Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM A.”

70 Million Lenses with Nikon

Congratulations are due to Nikon – and if current production and demand are anything to go by, BIG CONGRATULATIONS will be in order in about August 2015.

Mike Tomkins on Imaging Resource reports that it’s been only about a year since Nikon made its 70 millionth Nikkor lens but the company has already passed the landmark of 80 million lenses.  Ten million lenses in just over a year – that’s huge production and massive demand.

Tomkins closes out his report with a sprinkling of spice: “Nikon’s announcement comes hot on the heels of one from arch-rival Canon, which recently turned out its 90 millionth EF-mount lens.”

If he’s alluding to a race to the 100-million mark, the odds are surely with Canon. . . .

An Inside Look at Kodak and Some Fun Stuff

June 14th, 2013 No Comments

Live Photoshop Prank

Erik Johansson and his Photoshop prank have been the talk of the town over the past week.  Johansson composited actual persons into apparent advertisements live while they waited at a bus stop, and put the results before their eyes!  Johansson blogged about it on 7th June after which Photo Websites like Imaging Resource ran stories about it.

The prank may seem like intrusion but such a viewpoint would be overly harsh, given the nature and motivations behind the exercise.  In a

 

ny case, judging from the reactions of the subjects, as reported in Ad Week, they actually liked it all!  Wouldn’t you love seeing yourself “transformed into a city-smashing monster” before your eyes?

Wedding Party Gag

Often a photo goes viral but sometimes a gag goes viral.

You may recall seeing a T-Rex chasing a freaked out wedding party.  Well, now Star Wars’s AT-AT Walkers have gone after another terrified wedding party, reports The Guardian.

The Imperial AT-AT Walkers at the Battle of Ho...

The Imperial AT-AT Walkers at the Battle of Hoth were created using go motion photography. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kudos to photographer Quinn Miller who seems to have set off this smart gag cum fad.

This fad will continue for a few months until one of the maids of honour or – perish the thought! – the pretty bride herself twists her foot running in those high heels and . . . splat!

O, Kodak!

We close with a story that is at the opposite end on the Seriousness Spectrum.  We have run a few posts on the continuing saga of Kodak.  Kenny Suleimanagich has authored a fascinating, lengthy and extremely detailed article, Kodak’s Problem Child: How the Blue-chip Company Was Bankrupted by One of Its Own Innovations.

It is a well-known fact that the digital camera came into being at Kodak where this “innovation” was disregarded and deprecated by the corporate brass in favour of its be-all, end-all, film.  Suleimanagich takes us into the hows and whys behind that decision, using a few first person accounts.

We get to learn some interesting titbits.  For example, Kodak used to sell a roll of film at a staggering 800 percent profit margin.  Directors and officers got addicted to this easy cash and corporate greed became a barrier to innovation and evolution.  Other first person accounts disclose that Kodak’s directors and officers were profoundly anti-computer.

You’ll also read someone’s opinion that Kodak’s demise was “inevitable:” “‘Even if Kodak went into [digital] wholeheartedly, things would remain the same,’ says Anderson. ‘It’s a fact that they were too early, and inevitably doomed.'”  But Fujifilm was in more or less the same boat as Kodak except for the fact that that company was/is in Japan, land of CaNikon.  Look where they are now.

This article is a top read.

 

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Tutorials: The Golden Hour and Fireworks

June 11th, 2013 No Comments

Here are two dandy tutorials: one shows you how to simulate the ‘Golden Hour’ and the other one’s a tutorial on a special type of Night Photography – fireworks.

Mimicking the Golden Hour

David Hobby on Strobist was miffed at some clouds for obscuring the sun one evening when he wanted to take portraits of a pair of pretty flautists posing against the woods.  So he ‘faked’ the ‘Golden Hour’!  If you look at his photograph you may well conclude that it is indeed naturally lit with nothing but a large reflector fairly close to the camera.

Hobby used a monolight with – and here’s the trick – “a Rosco #08 straw gel” and also set it 50 feet away from the subjects.  He explains that the “#08 gel is like a ¼ CTO.”  (CTO is an abbreviation for ‘Colour Temperature Orange’; a warming gel.)  This was for rim lighting and highlights, besides what was reflected off the umberellas in front.

In front, he used a more conventional clamshell setup – speedlights in umberellas angled up and down.  That said, this setup actually mimicked what would have been natural, directional sunlight reflected off the umberellas.

Hobby also teaches you how to light and shoot a faux ‘studio’ portrait outdoors.

A Firework Spectacular

Darlene Hildebrandt writing in DPSchool states up front that shooting fireworks is “all about practice, experimentation” and “trial and error.”  The fifteen tips that she proceeds to give were evidently learnt in this way by her.  

A few tips may seem intuitive, such as the need to use a really good, “sturdy” tripod (though these ‘obvious’ tips are great to have because this makes the tutorial comprehensive and complete).  Others may either seem counter-intuitive until you read the reasoning or may be altogether expert knowledge.

For example, it’s best to keep long-exposure noise reduction off.  Another thing to turn off is autofocus.  Instead, prefocus (and considering the distance to the subject, i.e. near-infinity, that shouldn’t be too hard).

She also offers more mechanical guidance, such as advising that an aperture of f/8 is the ‘go to’ aperture for Fireworks Photography.

Hildebrandt creates striking images by keeping the shutter open long enough to capture two or more clearly different fireworks bursts in a single exposure.  Indeed, she explains, “Or you can switch to Bulb and just open and close manually when you feel you’ve captured enough bursts in one image.”

You can also learn a lot about Fireworks Photography by studying Hildebrandt’s photographs, a few of which are quite spectacular.

A few of her photos are not about just fireworks; they show fireworks in their setting with an urban landscape and human viewers; thus, such images are also excellent compositions and can be seen as (comparatively hard-to-shoot) photojournalism.

 

Richard Bernabe’s Masterful Composition and Lighting

June 10th, 2013 No Comments

Composition and Lighting are perhaps the two essentials of Outdoor Photography.  Richard Bernabe has not only authored an e-book on each of these subjects, many of his photographs reveal mastery over both, composition and light, such as his image of rocks, sea and cliff that has lateral symmetry on the horizon with even the sky and clouds being fairly laterally symmetric which is wonderfully balanced by an assymetric sub-horizon.

 A very readable interview with Bernabe has just appeared on PhotoTuts+.  He says, “When one is confronted with their life’s passion, they are either forever saved or ruined.”  Even though Nature Photography is a tough nut to crack as compared to Wedding and Portraits Photography, Bernabe’s devotion to his passion and calling ‘saved’ him.  It has also been the spur for some stunning Art Photography that verily breathes Composition and Lighting.

Check out Bernabe’s mist-shrouded vision of Machu Picchu.  He has precisely centred the tip of the peak but the background on the right and the slope of the plateau offset the centreing of the peak so that one has both lateral symmetry of a kind (or ‘lateral balance’) and also lateral assymetry in one and the same image.  This technique or vision seems to be a Bernabe speciality.

How about the lighting in the photo of Mt Kirkjufell in Iceland?  The brilliant gold-and-purple sky coupled with the flat-lit yet well textured landscape without any distinct shadows is quite confusing.  The lighting mystery is solved when you read the title of the photo: ‘Midnight Magic’.  Bernabe used the Midnight Sun to super advantage.

Even with a prosaic subject like maple trees Bernabe’s imagination creates a poetic and minimalist impressionistic canvas.  He says that to some extent this is teachable: besides the “mechanics,” he says he can show students “why moving three feet to the left completely changed the image for the better.”  More critically, he says, “I can plant the seeds of curiosity in another person, however, and see if they germinate or just rot away.”

It is those “seeds of curiosity” that may eventually enable a Bernabe student to someday take a photograph of a suitable subject with this palette, shutter speed, perspective, angle of elevation, and aspect ratio that combine to form a perfect picture.

 

Christy Lee Rogers’s Underwater Fine Art Photography

June 5th, 2013 No Comments

Yesterday’s post on our BPro sister site featured three news items and galleries about Underwater Photography.  We’re continuing that theme today but with an extreme twist.  The images we’re looking at are not regulation underwater photos, i.e. there are no pin-sharp depictions of marine life here.  Instead, Christy Lee Rogers uses water-based refraction, diffusion and distortion to artistic advantage to create what is accurately termed ‘Underwater Fine Art Photography’ or ‘Fine Art Underwater Photography’.

The trick here is that Rogers herself is not in the water; she photographs from land while her subjects pose in a pool.

Jordan G. Teicher on Slate says that Rogers’s images “look like Baroque masterpieces” and that is only a slight exaggeration, for the photographs are indeed that good.  The gallery on Slate is loaded with high-res images.

Some of Rogers’s photos look like, well, what they are: underwater photos.  Others, however, resemble a painting that is a cross between an ‘Old Master’ and an Impressionistic canvas.

Teicher writes that Rogers’s “visual style . . . is often compared to that of the Baroque painter Caravaggio,” which makes sense.  However, there’s clearly some of Michelangelo’s chiaroscuro in a few photographs, such as The Innocents.  Apart from the light-and-shadow effects, a troubling mystery lurks in this image – something is not quite right.

If we’re going to talk of paintings and the masters, the photographs here will bring to mind more than one.  For instance, doesn’t the lovely Drowning in her Sea suggest William Waterhouse in an uncharacteristically impressionistic mood?

A few images are more like Abstract Art than Baroque or Old Master paintings.  Reckless Unbound is a visually luscious arrangement of hues both arresting and calming – brilliant carmine anchoring pastel greens and limpid blues. 

How much of her work and which images are the result of anticipation and execution, and how much and which ones are the outcome of happy chance, only Rogers knows.  To the viewer, the visual delights brought by these photographs are completely independent of their provenance.

 

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