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Galleries: Combat and Worship

July 15th, 2013 No Comments

The past 24 hours have offered up two extremely contrasting galleries: one devoted to combat; the other to worship!


Kainaz Amaria on NPR’s ‘the picture show’ discusses a War Photography exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.  She says, “it has the usual array of iconic war photographs” but the real strength of this exhibition is “in the presentation of our collective war story.”

Actually, another strength may be the exhibit’s sheer breadth and range: it features “more than 185 photographs from 25 nationalities with conflicts spanning 165 years.”  Exceptional quality and selectivity are two more strengths: over one million photographs were viewed from which the exhibition images were culled.

The article includes 20-odd photos in a mini-gallery.  See a sergeant treating a recruit to a staredown and compare it with a grunt’s glazed stare.

 A photograph of Nicaraguan rebels is one of the most unusually colourful war photos you’ll ever see.  Just like bursts of bright colour, ballet and art are not associated with war either, yet this photograph of infantrymen leaping over a trench is artistic and balletic exploring form, movement, and warriors in the abstract.  If overt warfront action is more your style, this mini-gallery has you covered.

Flick through the gallery for even more overt photos, a couple of which may be gut-wrenching.


Today’s installment in Baltimore Sun Darkroom is a gallery of photographs revealing the inner workings of the seldom-seen Baltimore Carmelite Monastery where fewer than 20 sisters live of whom you can see three chanting vespers and five in prayer.

The gallery begins with the hint of a sunswept lawn seen through a dim corridor that is dominated by stained glass with a religious motif.  However, this is a modern residence for women devoted to religion and not a hillside cloister: witness other photographs that are documentary and prosaic, such as this image of a sister gardening and one that could have been taken in any suburban kitchen.

That said, this modern-day monastery has a Seventeenth Century antiquarian book or two and its own religious relics.

Combat and Worship

We close with a convergence of our two topics by way of the Spanish Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona in which a holy day – a remembrance to a saint – is marked by combat in the bullring.

The festival took place last week.  Kevin Fischer identifies two photos that are not the same old, same old.  Here’s a photo of a bull being kept at bay by stick-toting men and another of a cow leaping over scared revellers.  


A Nice Pairing: FinePix S8400W and jAlbum 11

July 8th, 2013 No Comments

Fujifilm’s FinePix S8400W has got the once-over by Daniel Bell on ePHOTOzine.  

This is classed as a ‘bridge camera’ – or should it be called a ‘hybrid camera’?  As far as appearance goes, it certainly looks like something cobbled together.   For a camera so light and small, the DSLR-style pronounced, protruding grip stands out as does the flash housing on the plate.

Bell’s review is nothing if not honest; you don’t often read sentences like this one: “At ISO 6400 and 12800 image quality is dreadful, these two settings are best avoided.”  At the same time, because it’s so strikingly honest, we can take him at his word when he says, “The EVF is very bright and makes shooting easier in low light, in bright light when outdoors and when using the zoom” and “Good value for money.” 

The lens goes from 24mm up to 1056mm (35mm equivalent), but what’s especially eye-catching is this spec: f/2.9 to f/6.5.  This f-stop range compares favourably with other superzooms and other inexpensive cameras.

The best thing about this 16.2 MP camera is that it’s chock-full of features, all available at a wallet-friendly price.  Importantly, it also has WiFi plus USB and HDMI slots.  The whole package is just right for that young ’un who wants to get a ‘real camera’.  

Bell says about the FinePix S8400W that “image quality isn’t the best, but it’s not bad, particularly if you tend to share on the web.”  How about sharing using jAlbum 11, then?

Image representing Jalbum as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

jAlbum is an album/gallery app that’s been around for a while.  It’s free but comes with a ‘Pro’ option.  The highlight feature of Version 11, just out, is seen by Softpedia as “converts over 160 video formats suitable for the web (mp4).”

Photographers, however, would be interested in the app’s utility for pictures and here it doesn’t disappoint.  Novice or amateur photographers who’re interested in a fast, inexpensive, no-fuss way of creating albums/galleries may want to take a look at this app.

The just-issued press release, available on Shutterbug, explains that all you need do is drag-drop your entire folder (or any selection of images) and jAlbum will do the rest.  Feel free to add skins (themes) and customize as you go along!

It also has some features that would be attractive to aspiring pros: batch watermarking and integration with downstream service providers.

In an age when your sole rights to your own images seem to be questioned and infringed at every digital stop, perhaps jAlbum 11’s biggest selling point is its declaration: “jAlbum does not claim any rights to your images, and never will.”


Get Bedazzled with Michael Semaan

July 3rd, 2013 No Comments

We’ll close out the week with a grab-bag of mixed news with something or another that’s sure to please everyone – you

Back, Back to the Past

If you’re interested in vintage photos, antique photos, then take a gander at this image of miners relaxing and posing inside a mine shaft.

It’s one of a stash of 40-plus photos that are well over a century old, all of South African miners, that were discovered in a house’s wine-cellar!  Read about it on Amateur Photographer.

An Unusual How-To

Keith Cooper at NorthLight had published an excellent article that shows you how to extend your approach alongwith a set of pointers.  It had flown under the radar back in October.

For example, this unusual how-to points out not only the value of sharpening but tells you just what to sharpen and when (the driving factors).  He also explains how merely looking at (and subconsciously studying) lots and lots of photographs will make you a better photographer.  This article has one or two more hints that are uncommon.

It’s an ideal read for amateurs who’re wanting to take that step up to the ‘serious amateur’ category.    

Get Bedazzled

If you’re an amateur who’s toying with the thought of going pro, this blog post on the Leica Blog is just for you.  After all, he says, “though I’ve been doing photography on the side since I was 14. At the age of 38, I decided to focus 100% of my time and efforts on my photography and make it my career as well as my passion . . .”

This post is also for anyone who like good old-fashioned luscious pictures—

Vivid, saturated, ‘colourbursting’ landscapes are Michael Semaan’s calling cards (good job Leica, we need more of these!)  Semaan’s secret?  Here it is from the horse’s mouth: “Indeed, light itself can often be your subject.”

He uses light in several different ways, witness this image of a seashore (whose composition breaks the ‘rules’ to super effect).  Also, this photograph somehow makes one think ‘Zen’ . . . and notice the lines in the foreground . . . coincidence?

You can study and learn from Semaan’s style, which is for the most part extroverted and joyous, or just ‘bathe’ in the beauty of his vision


Richard Heeps, Sun Times’s ‘Dark Times’, and Sly Samsungites

July 2nd, 2013 No Comments

Richard Heeps and “Man’s Ruin”

“Man’s Ruin” is the rather strange name of Richard Heeps’s photo book and ongoing exhibition in London which pay homage to a near-vanished America of the 50s.  

PhotographyBlog reports that Heeps used manual film cameras (including the now-legendary FM2) and “rare, end-of-line films.”  Be that as it may, it’s the photographs that deserve a look and they’re all available on Heeps’s website!

You can see a youthful jiving bobby-soxer complete with saddle shoes and lace petticoat and a dolled-up roadster, both right out of the 50s.

Heeps also does Americana and here’s a fine contradiction: a young woman with ‘bad girl’ and ‘girly girl’ style and accoutrements!  Americana has always meant souping up your battered old wreck.

This big gallery is both nostalgic, eye-opening, and loads of fun with its many off-the-cuff shots.

Keeping an Eye on the Chicago Sun-Times

About one month back we had blogged about the mass sacking of the entire photography staff of the Chicago Sun-Times as a cost-cutting measure.  In The Expendables, the Threatened Species, the *Pro Photogs!*, we had opined that the Sun-Times “is no longer ‘shooting’ for quality photography; it’s content with sufficient photography; good-enough images.”

That’s exactly what it looks like gauging from a Tumblr blog that DPReview mentioned a few days back.  Sun Times / Dark Times takes it upon itself to show the front page of the Sun-Times every day, juxtaposing it with that of its fellow Chicago newspaper, the Tribune.

It doesn’t look all bad for the Sun-Times but many of their photographs are distinctly ‘amateurish’, flat, and lacking a locus of interest.  Overall it’s clearly shown up by the photographic quality of the Tribune.

Samsung’s Fake DSLR

The difference between the respective image qualities of DSLRs and compacts is one of psychology and not rooted in reality – at least that is what Samsung would have us believe by way of its guerrilla street test which resulted in a commercial.

Tim Barribeau reports on Imaging Resource that some sly Samsungites asked random passers-by to tell them whether they preferred a photo from one of their NX300s or a ‘pro’ DSLR.  What they didn’t say was that the ‘pro’ DSLR was another NX300 all dressed up to look like a DSLR.

Most persons preferred the images of the faux DSLR.  But – as Barribeau points out – the ad is a “final cut.”  How many people told the Samsungites “They’re both the same” or “There’s no difference!”?

Samsung ain’t picking up the phone . . . .


Francesca Balaguer-Mercado’s Photographs and Other News

July 1st, 2013 No Comments

The week gets underway with our weekly three-pack on whimsical and offbeat news.

Abstract Art in Soap Bubbles

For the ultimate in Abstract Art by way of Photography, look no further than soap bubbles in your wash.  Actually, creating the Abstract Art may be another matter entirely, for you’ll need specialized skills as well as specialized gear.

You need high-speed flashes and reflective panels and a whole lot of experience to capture a bubble at the precise nano-second that it’s bursting.  However, the charm and attraction of this gallery are in the vivid, saturated hues and arresting globular designs on display.

Read Michael Zhang’s write-up on photographer Fabian Oefner’s newest obsession on PetaPixel.

Exotic Animals on Gurneys

Exotic Animals Far from Home by Jordan G. Teicher features the photographs of Linda Kuo.  This is a gallery that will appeal to animal lovers and those interested in veterinary sciences because they document a veterinary hospital for exotic animals.

The value of these photographs is in their straightforward portrayals of (exotic) small animals and birds in a hospital setting, far removed from their natural habitat.  This leads to two outcomes.  First, the focus is squarely on the bird or animal and nothing else.  Second, it seems to lend a vulnerable and frightened air to the subject, which would exude no such air in its native habitat, especially when it is at the mercy of some human.

Women in Intriguing Situations

Upon reading Peter Imbong’s intro, in which he talks about breaking stereotypes and “women in traditional roles gone bad,” for Anti-stereotypes in ‘Blame it on the Heat’ you may prep yourself to view something edgy, dark, disturbing.  What a surprise, then, to run into images that are colourful, pleasing, and even gorgeous.

The article is about an exhibition of photographs by Francesca Balaguer-Mercado in which women are posed in non-traditional situations to break supposed stereotypes.

However, the photography of a hostess serving up a handgun, ostensibly to unwelcome guests, is simultaneously fashionable, sexy and humourous!  Which housewife, at some point or another, hasn’t wanted to take a gun to uninvited guests who just won’t leave?

How about a young lass who, harried by old-fashioned telephones all over the place, has broken out in spots?  And against a Roy Lichtenstein-type of colour-explosion background!  Nothing iconoclastic or ‘bad girl’ here; indeed, gals going bananas with phones is actually a classic stereotype! 

Balaguer-Mercado’s photographs have amazing breadth and variety.  You’ll find an atmospheric image of a ‘bad girl’ in some dive reminiscent of film noir (a wonderful contrast to the ‘Lichtenstein Girl’) while a gorgeous, pastel-tints image of an East Asian beauty with a parasol is reminiscent of Japanese camera-makers’ ad campaigns from back in the 1980s!

Compliments to VASK Gallery in Bonifacio Global City for giving this very talented photographer a solo exhibition.


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.


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?


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.


Tutorials: Far Out and *Also* ‘Far Out’ . . .

May 30th, 2013 No Comments
English: Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake ...

English: Ansel Adams The Tetons and the Snake River (1942) Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the National Park Service. (79-AAG-1) Français : Ansel Adams. Les Grands Tetons et la rivière Snake (1942). Parc National des Grands Tetons, Wyoming. Archives Nationales des USA, Archives du service des parcs nationaux. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We take in two tutorials at the ‘long’ and ‘short’ end of the lens today.  One has to do with Landscape Photography and the other with close-in Macro Photography!

From Far Out . . .

Elliot Hook’s Landscape Photography tutorial in DPSchool addresses the question Where to Position that Horizon?  Hook relates the ‘rules’ and also explicates just when and where to break the rules.  The ‘rules’ for high and low horizon explained, Hook shows when and where to go for a centred horizon.

He also says that you can entirely omit the sky if the landscape itself has sufficient interest and detail, illustrating the point with a picture of a textured, undulating meadow.  Actually, waterfalls and cascades are an excellent example of scenes in which one can omit the horizon.

Aspect ratio has a little something to do with horizon positioning as well.  A panoramic landscape will generally look best with a horizon that is off-centre but not dramatically so.  A vertically-oriented composition, however, will benefit from horizons that are well off centre, close to the top of the frame.  Also, assuming that the subject-matter is complementary, 1:1 aspect ratios and centred horizons go very well together as the symmetries reinforce one another.

Vantage point and angle of elevation will also influence the placement of horizon.

Also ‘Far Out’ – in a Different Sense

How about photographing a landscape reflected in a water drop?  That’s the technique you can learn in Harold Davis’s how-to, Photographing Waterdrops: Exploring Macro Worlds, published on Shutterbug.

Davis has a philosophy around photographing waterdrops; he says that having a “visual structure” and “metaphorical stage” is important if you want to create an image such as this soothing semi-abstract photo.  Fortunately, you do not have to go that far because he also provides some more nuts-and-bolts type of guidance.

To begin with, he explains why it’s a good idea to use macro flashes and what their effects are.  However, he also provides tips on how to photograph sunbursts in a drop – and that can only be done with natural lighting.  

Davis’s text relays which weather conditions provide the best opportunities for photographing waterdrops.  You can also learn a few tricks from the detailed exposure information provided with each image

If you’re psyched for this kind of photography but only find a ‘blah’ droplet on a ‘blah’ setting, add one or another type of diffraction filter to your lens and see what it does!


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