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Posts Tagged ‘Americana’

A How-To, a Gallery, a Controversy

September 24th, 2013 No Comments

Our weekly three-pack includes the usual tutorial and online gallery but the third component is a photography controversy which category is a weekly staple on our Pro blog.

The Einstein Monolight

We had featured this marvellously versatile piece of gear on our pro blog not too long ago.  Here it is on our retail blog as the subject of a nice tutorial by Rob Taylor on phototuts+ in which the focus is squarely on freezing action.

The amazing feature about this monolight is that this very professional piece of equipment’s “menu is as easy as operating, say, a phone or scientific calculator”!  You can learn how to use it easily, step by simple step.

In his tutorial, Taylor explains how you can set the Einstein to “1/10,000th sec at 1/16th power” and thus use it as a budget strobe to (nearly) freeze a sparrow’s flapping wings and flying water droplets.

Coast to Coast 

Ever thought of driving from New York to California?  That’s what Matt Borkowski did and he has posted some of his images on The Leica Blog.

 These are not ‘Art Photos’ but are snapshots by an unsettled wayfarer; as Borkowski tells it, they are just “some of my favorite images so far from our journey to California.”

He has managed to do quite an amazing job of portraying or expressing loneliness or solitariness.  We see man alone at the end of the land and woman alone at the literal ‘End’ of the road. 

Other images, notably a fine and appealing composition of a coastal town, various vessels, and an aircraft’s wing, impart that feeling of unsettled wanderlust that the photographer conveys in his short writeup.

“I am (HIV)-Positive” – Not

Getty Images sold a photo of a young female model to the New York State Division of Human Rights, which photo was then used for an HIV-Positive awareness campaign.  The problem was that the model is not HIV-Positive, nobody sought her consent, and she suffered a few awkward questions with family and friends as a result of the “I am Positive” admission improperly attributed to her.

Michael Zhang on PetaPixel has the story of this Brooklyn model who is now suing both Getty Images and the NYDHR for compensation.  

What Getty and NYDHR did is very controversial; what the model has done in response is not remotely so.


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 . . . .


Sentimental, Solitary, and Sunrise Galleries

February 8th, 2013 No Comments
Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice...

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice, 21 June 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s take in three very different kinds of galleries all beginning with ‘S’: a Sentimental fad that’s catching on; next, a Solitary road trip; and third, a Sunrise ‘Best Of’.

Sentimental: “Dear Photograph”

If you haven’t heard about Dear Photograph yet, you would soon have. This (sickly?) sentimental site is becoming a popular fad to the extent that prestige publishers Taschen have published a book about it!

Dear Photograph quotes TIME as saying, “that idea is taking a snapshot . . . and holding it up against the original setting so that past and present blend into a new work of art.”  That description is mostly correct except for the last three words as ‘art’ is nowhere to be found though navel-gazing and self-indulgence are found in abundance.

Wait for the owners of the site to whip it up a la Instagram and then cash out with a multimillion-dollar sale to Google or the like!

Solitary: Slicing across America

Unlike Dear Photograph which boasts about art, The Great and Ghostly American Road Trip, shot by Walker Pickering, does not.  Yet it’s infinitely more artistic than Dear Photograph.  Consider this moody image of this bit of America frozen in time.  

If that’s not to your taste, how about a barren, lonely store coloured powder-puff pink against a backdrop of a dark night?  If you’re looking for people, you won’t find any in Pickering’s photographs of a deserted American countryside where you will find a caged, captive vending machine.

Dear Photograph also quotes TIME as using the word “evocative” for itself.  Look at ‘American Road Trip’ and see whether that word is better applied to the photos in this gallery.

Sunrise: Fine Photography

 Those words, “. . . work of art” – though one cannot find that in Dear Photograph you can find a few in ePHOTOzine’s Ten Top Shots taken at Dawn.  Here are three favourites.  First, this one of waters that seem to be both soft yet raging depending on where you look, in an image has leading lines, contrast, textures, and foreground and background interest.

This gallery is mostly about light, of course, considering that the subject is dawn.  Here, though, is a colour photograph with a very narrow set of tints or a limited palette that entices the viewer into the scene.  Again, leading lines have something to do with beckoning us into this misty dream.

Dawn (and twilight) is about the ‘Blue Hour’ and the hour after that is the ‘Golden Hour’.  Here’s a photograph that captures the transition from one to other.  While the sky and the light is clearly a cool blue, the horizontal rays of the rising sun impart a golden radiance to the earth and rocks to create a photograph of delightful ‘cleanness’ and clarity.


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Train Photographer Par Excellence: O. Winston Link

November 17th, 2012 No Comments
The Blue Comet #831 in Jersey City, NJ

The Blue Comet #831 in Jersey City, NJ (Photo credit: Bob Reck)

The steam-engine locomotive ‘opened up’ the American West and made it more accessible to what the wagon-train pioneers sometimes derisively called ‘Easterners’.  It was on those locomotive trains that the West was really ‘won’ in the Nineteenth Century.  However, by the early 1950s, in the heyday of Patti Page and before Elvis hit the scene, these locomotive trains were nearly extinct.  

Enter O. Winston Link, a then unknown ‘camera for hire’.

Back in 1955 when Link heard that one of the last holdouts of antiquated steam-engine technology, the Norfolk & Western Line, was going to switch over to diesel, he quietly set about doing what has come to be known by that often overblown word, ‘Photojournalism’, yet doing so with a clearly artistic touch.  Link photographed the last of the steam locomotives in and around Virginia.

In so doing, Link also managed to document a society and a vanishing way of life; he ended up making “vignettes into history and sociology” that “share an era,” according to The O. Winston Link Museum.  

This assessment is validated in a photograph that shows a boy pumping water from a hand pump into a bucket as a steam train chugs past in the near background.  It is also reflected in a photo that shows clothes drying on a clothesline beside a switch-operator’s shack.

It is Link’s night shots, though, that steal the show.

There’s one of a man holding a little boy by the hand as a locomotive is roaring up with a puff of smoke.  Notice what the boy is holding.  It’s a kerosene lantern, gone the way of the more obviously obsolete technology that dominates the picture.

And there’s another mind-blowing image of cars at a drive-in with young lovers snuggling in the foreground and a steam train going left to right in the background, complete with billowing smoke (how did Link light and expose this shot?)

In other photographs the steam-engine locomotive takes the spotlight and centre stage – alone by itself in the countryside.

Link’s photography is absolutely superb and the folks behind the O. Winston Link Collection deserve a lot of credit for making so many photographs available online.


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Weekly Weird and Whimsical Photography News

October 23rd, 2012 1 Comment

See the Earth from the Sky . . .

PETA and the SPCA ain’t gonna like this but if you want some nifty ‘birds eye view’ photographs, all you need to do is tie cameras to pigeons!  That’s what was done back in 1907, reports Jamie Condliffe.  

You see, back in those days they didn’t exactly have recon jets, let alone satellites, so a clever German named Neubronner devised this system for aerial military-related photography.  The pigeons were trained for their task and the cameras had a time-based system by which the shutters were released.  A little hit-and-miss, don’t you think?

Check out the article – there’s even a photo of a pigeon with a little camera dangling from its breast!

. . . Now to WW II . . .

Steve Meltzer takes us to the first half of the 1940s in Vintage color photographs from World War II era provoke technical mystery.  These photos are available on a Flickr album.

Anyone who’s interested in Americana will want to view this album – over three million people have already done so.  

Meltzer is quite thrilled with his discovery but also voices his bemusement, given the quality of the photographs, the era they were taken in, and the novice/amateur shooting crews.  

He observes that “action is frozen, the subjects aren’t blurry” and asks “how did the photographers achieve such great color balance?”  My sentiments precisely!  He closes with an invitation: “let me know if you have any insights about them so we can unravel this decades-old photographic mystery together.”

. . . And see the Sky from the Earth

We opened with a story about photographing the earth from the sky and we’ll close with a story about the reverse – photographing the sky from the earth.

Only a few days back someone took a photograph of . . . a UFO!  Looking at the photo, it looks more like the ghost of or an apparition of a UFO.(!)  What seems to make it authentic is the fact that the area was littered with a dozen or so dead birds and affected by “unusual noise.”  

However, the most believable line in the article is also the most party-pooping one: “some observers have dismissed the above photo as a hoax: This is a photo shop job. Completely fake.”

What do you say?


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