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Archive for November, 2012

DP School’s Top Tutorials for the Second Half of 2012

November 29th, 2012 No Comments

If you’re a photographer, you know about DP School.  Two days back they listed their fifteen most popular tutorials from the latter half of 2012, during which time they published about 300 such tutorials.

Fifteen out of 300 – we’re looking at the top five percent.

The fifteen how-tos are a seriously varied bunch – one tutorial may appeal to the rank newbie; another to the experienced pro.

The top ‘how-to’ is one that seems counter-intuitive; in fact, it is a justification or discussion rather than a how-to: Why Your Kit Lens is Better than You Think.  In second and third place are Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses for Photographing Women – Part 2 and 8 Tips for Long Exposure Photography respectively.

A good lens from a top maker, say Zeiss, or even a high-end offering from your camera’s maker itself is always going to be an improvement on your kit lens, isn’t it?  Andrew S. Gibson tries to argue otherwise.  The gist of his discussion is that you should see your kit lens as a wideangle and a short telephoto two-in-one.  Oddly enough, his counter-argument is stronger.  He goes on to list the drawbacks of kit lenses, the biggie being the small ‘hole’.  Basically, Gibson is paraphrasing John Lennon: “Give Kit-Lens a Chance.”

The posing guide has line drawings to get you started on posing your subject/model.  One point this how-to completely misses is accounting for the age and body-shape of your female subject.  A pose that will work beautifully for a particular age and body-shape can look funny and contrived for another, so keep that point in mind.  For example, no. 6 is an all-purpose pose that will work out well with mature and/or well-built women.  It won’t be a great choice for a slim teen, though, and may look artificial.  No. 13 will be great for willowy young women but is to be avoided if your subject is mature and well-built.

Things get really interesting with the Long Exposure tutorial (which has briefly been mentioned in an earlier post).  It is not so much about night photography as about using ND filters to force long exposures to smooth out water, create cloud streaks, and so on.  This how-to has some useful tips.  For instance, while Tip 3 is well known to old hands, Tip 2 – ND filters throwing off the AF sensor/mechanism – is a very sharp one.  The author’s tips clearly come from a photographer with experience in the field – take “Choose the right conditions.”  This is not a tip that one could readily anticipate.

Three of the most valuable, interesting, or unusual tutorials fall right at the end of the list, so don’t miss out the ones that teach you how to read a histogram (valuable), creating backlight/hairlight with natural light (interesting), and doing away with fear of street shooting (unusual).

  

Sinar System from Switzerland and a Sony Award for an Aussie

November 28th, 2012 No Comments

Most beginners use compacts and APS-C, a few may use DSLRs.  Take a gander, then, at this camera from Sinar of SwitzerlandSinar’s lanTec was announced yesterday.  It is an ultra-high-end camera system for landscape and architectural photography and is the digital equivalent of ‘large format’ 8×10 cameras from the film days – its resolution goes all the way up to 80 megapixels.  

Such a ‘system’ allows a photographer to use a particular ‘digital back’ per his preference.  As for the camera, it incorporates tilt-shift for landscape photography and has built-in spirit levels.

Changing digital backs also changes the camera’s orientation, say from view camera to medium-format camera.  Sinar’s website shows the three digital backs they make for the lanTec.  Look at their eXact digital back.  You will notice, among other things, that it can be used with Mamiya and Hasselblad camera systems, has a top shutter-speed of 1/10000, has a huge sensor, and can take pictures with up to 192 megapixels.

Using large-format camera systems is an entirely different method of photography altogether; though that always was the case, it is even truer now in the days of digital.

We do not know which camera Aussie shooter Palani Mohan used but we do know that the award he won was from Sony.  Sony World Photography Awards is considered to be one of the more prestigious photo contests – given that the top prize is $25,000 plus Sony digital imaging/camera equipment, both of which are ceremoniously awarded at an annual awards gala at a posh hotel is held, it’s easy to see why SWPA has such cachet.

The winners for 2012 include some stunning images.  Mohan’s photograph is not shown among the winners because he won third place.  His award came in the Nature & Wildlife category.  His common-sense advice really stands out in this Digital Age, notably, “Try to keep true to photography as after all, you are a photographer not a digital artist.”

Ed Hetherington is also a Nature & Wildlife photographer but he managed to capture a few shots he wasn’t intending to.  You see, a lioness pinched Hetherington’s EOS 5D!  The story doesn’t tell us whether Hetherington thought all the unusual photos ‘snapped’ by the lioness, and also the ones he took of lioness-and-camera, were fair compensation for his busted 5D.

 

A Beguiling Gallery of Indigenous Peoples

November 27th, 2012 No Comments

Indigenous Peoples are Humankind’s ‘endangered species’, so to speak.  This Pinterest gallery contains some wonderful images, primarily portraits and ‘head shots’, of such persons.

Many of the photographs reveal persons of considerable beauty regardless of the lighting, be the subject a mere child, or even if all you can see are the subject’s eyes.  Given the harsh conditions so many Indigenous Peoples live under and the absence of beauty parlours and facial treatments, one has to wonder how so many of them have the smooth, even complexions they do.  Even the aged possess a clear-eyed, dignified appearance.

This observation brings a thought to mind.  Those anthropologists and linguists who justifiably bemoan the looming extinction of indigenous peoples seem to be missing one fact: many Indigenous Peoples seem to possess a ‘Beauty Gene’.  Preservation of genetic diversity for the sake of beauty is is a point open for argument; what these photographs provide is factual evidence for anyone wishing to argue the ‘pro’ side of the debate. 

Most of us have read the names of some well-known Indigenous Peoples either in textbooks or in romanticized adventure or exploration books.  Now we have a one-stop shop for so many of them! – Berber, Dinka, Masai, Cheyenne, and more.  The gallery is actually so rich that it could be subdivided by geographical region and by subject matter – historical, children, features, dress, and more.

This gallery, besides hosting portraits primarily, is of value for other reasons too.  You can find photographs of vanishing ways of life and even of vanished ways of life (except on reservations).  One wishes that some ways of life never vanish!

Dress and costumes are – of course – a visually striking feature of much contrast between cultures.  Compare the bright dress of Kalash girls with the plain dress of a Somali.  A few will make you go ‘gadzooks!’ with astonishment.

Don’t neglect to view the photographs from the perspective of moods and emotions.  You will find caring, humour, excitement, surprise, jollity . . . .

This gallery is a beguiling one because the photographs and subjects are so beguiling.

 

A Mixed Bag of Three Cameras: Leica, Fuji, and Polaroid

November 26th, 2012 No Comments
Logo for Leica Camera

Logo for Leica Camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know that top-of-the-line cameras can be really expensive but $2.18 million?  The price of a mansion?  And this is not even one of those diamond-encrusted iPhones, it’s a plain old Leica.  

This Leica M3D is not a prototype or a limited edition; it is a production camera although it is “one of four that was specially customized by Leitz for American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan.”  Another Leica, this one the legendary M3, also fetched $1.17 million.  This near-mint piece is “the very first production M3 ever made.”

We all knew Leicas were high-end cameras; however, they’re obviously collectors’ items and museum pieces too.

The new Fuji X-E1 is a display piece for your neighbourhood camera store.  Like other recent Fujis, this APS-C mirrorless has that retro look with a few manual controls which makes it stand out from the crowd of NEXes and such.  There’s also a material technical difference: instead of the standard Bayer Array, it uses a new, very different, ‘X-Trans CMOS’ Array which is meant to offer improvements in “remov[ing] colour moire and false colour.”

As with the X100, the X-E1 also has digital filters that mimic the palettes of Fuji’s well-known films – Provia, Velvia, Astia – plus other filters.  Another feature worth mentioning is auto-stitched panoramic photographs.  All you need do is pan.

Now here’s one camera that doesn’t have a retro look, it has a custom look, thanks to woodworker-photographer Siebe Warmoeskerken and his skills.  He “combine[d] his two passions.”  He took a Polaroid SX-70 Alpha and designed a wenge-wood veneer around it. 

Regardless of whether you go for a Leica, Fuji or a wood-worked Polaroid, you could always brush up on your photography skills.  To that end Digital Photography School has compiled a list of the top fifteen photography books that visitors to their site clicked through to actually buy.  

Have a look at this list and each of the books on it.  You’ll probably find that the subject-area of one or another book addresses one of your weaker areas or covers an area you wanted to learn more about.  Fundamentals of digital photography, composition, natural light, RAW, even HDR – several major subject-areas are represented on the list.

However, it’s probably the number one book whose title will resonate with many novice readers: “Beyond Snapshots: How to Take That Fancy DSLR Camera Off ‘Auto’ and Photograph Your Life like a Pro.”  If only it were that easy!  Perhaps the book makes it a little less complicated?

 

 

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Beyond HDR: Deschaumes’s ‘Extreme Landscapes’

November 24th, 2012 No Comments

First, there was dodging and burning.  Then, there was Ansel Adams.  Then came HDR.  And now we have Extreme Landscape Photography and Alexandre Deschaumes.  Not only that, but Deschaumes does it the natural way and the hard way, setting out for remote and inaccessible places and bringing back photographs that take on the quality of moody paintings and even dreams.

Deschaumes has two sets of online portfolios, one on SmugMug and the other on 500px.  As you will find, a few of the images are like both, moody paintings and dreams.

Check out Opalescent Dream for a very different kind of mood (than the image linked to above); these photographs would have made ideal backdrops for a few scenes of the LOTR movies.  This gallery has to be seen for some of the most delicate hues and textures in landscape photography.

Here is a radically different ‘evocation’ of the same subject matter, brilliantly composed.  In that same gallery is this spellbinding image of a mountaintop lake which truly defines ‘Extreme Landscape Photography’.  

What we find all too easy to do with rivers and stars must be a little complicated where clouds are concerned, i.e. long exposures.  Look at these ribbony tendrils Deschaumes has produced while the same technique also yields a more dramatic, minimalist and stark image.

Without any doubt this photographer is a master technician who has his own secrets and creates his own magic, including – of course – via post-processing techniques.  At the same time he is an artist in the true sense of the word.  That much-bandied word, ‘Vision’, is something that Deschaumes clearly has in spades.  Even if you or I made it out to the same godforsaken place, would we have been able to produce this image?  Or this oneThat’s ‘Vision’.

As strange as it sounds, a few of Deschaumes mountain photographs resemble some of Rembrandt’s portraits with respect to lighting.  Here is chiaroscuro effect, montane style.  You can see more examples of mountain photos a la Rembrandt, so to speak, on this page.

What has been summarized here is but a drop in the ‘Photobucket’ of a single photographer who has been shooting for only ten years!

 

DPReview’s Five Best Compact Cameras

November 23rd, 2012 No Comments
Image representing dpreview as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

The folks at DPReview waded through their reviews of compacts and earlier today selected the five that, in their opinion, are the best.

The “five of what [DPReview] think[s] are the best compact cameras on the market right now” include two Panasonics but nary a Nikon, with one each of Canon, Olympus and Sony.  The only surprise is that this is not much of a surprise because, despite the strengths of the P7700 and the popularity of the Coolpix, Nikon is a little behind the curve in the Compact category.

The Sony RX100 presence on this list is surely not a surprise.  Its image quality and cutting-edge technology are what distinguish this compact.  However, it’s nothing to look at, being very business-like and functional; all straight lines, edges and corners, it is the plain girl in the school.  The Lumix DMC-FZ200 veers to the other extreme; it is an overdone medley of curves, ridges and bumps, including an awkward-looking, massive bulge for the grip.

Camera reviews pay a lot of attention to image quality, features, technology and specs while design, styling, and ergonomics, though mentioned in passing, tend to take a back seat.  Sony’s RX100 and Panny’s DMC-FZ200 are cases in point.  Why don’t camera makers learn a lesson or two from 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino?

As we are on the topic of design, styling, and ergonomics, we may as well point out that in these categories the Canon and Olympus are the winners; these being the PowerShot G15 and XZ-2 respectively.  The Canon is a little more stylized; the Olympus, more sedate.  Interestingly, in terms of features and specs the two are neck-and-neck.

Each of these five cameras ranks at the top of the class but each also has its own particular characteristics and strengths.  For instance, the Lumix DMC-ZS20 is great for travel because of its GPS and database of a million landmarks and also for tyros because of its ‘iAuto’ mode.  On the other hand, comparatively speaking the Olympus XZ-2 has features that more advanced users would prefer, including extensive customization.

Any of these five cameras would be ideal for that everyday second camera or to give as a present to a teen.  DPReview’s compare-and-contrast will let you choose just the right one.

 

 

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The ‘Dark’ of Crime and the ‘Light’ of Glamour: Gordon Parks

November 22nd, 2012 No Comments
Farm Security Administration photo by Gordon P...

Farm Security Administration photo by Gordon Parks of Mrs. Ella Watson with three grandchildren and her adopted daughter. Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where photography intersects race relations, Gordon Parks is a name that stands out, especially in America.  Two days back Duke University remembered this multi-talented man with a lecture and slideshow.  Parks, among other things, was also one of LIFE magazine’s premier photographers.

His oeuvre is varied, so much so that The Gordon Parks Foundation website has divided his work into eight categories.  Though most of his photographs are (rightfully) celebrated, Parks is primarily known for documenting the Civil Rights Movement and the issues of race that sparked and surrounded it.  What’s more, he artistically documented the reality of the day – check out this photo of a black woman and child in animated conversation under a sign (of sorts) in the segregated Deep South. 

While this photo of Malcolm X documents the age, this one is a gem of composition, framing, cropping, and capturing of a moment.

Parks also documented the lives of the poor – here’s a touching photograph of a Parisian busker.  Parks’s photographs of the impoverished do get a little harrowing, as may be seen in this photo of a malnourished little ghetto-dwelling Carioca.

Do you want to comprehend the bleakness of incarceration?  Click here to see an expository and painterly image.  Parks’s other images in the Crime category are progressively darker, featuring drugs, addicts, and prisons but here’s one expressive masterpiece that would adorn any exhibition. 

If Parks’s searing images of Poverty and Crime are too much for you, veer off to the Fashion or Portraits-Children categories.  It’s hard to believe that the same photographer who specialized in the seamy and sorrowful side of life also shot this restrained and classy image of the high life – beautifully posed, lit, and arranged.  As for this one, it is high glamour portraiture at its finest – from the man who shot drug addicts!

Parks was even a time traveller: shooting in 1948, he somehow achieved an image that screams ‘Art Deco’ from the Roaring Twenties!

Though some lovely images are linked to above, would you believe that some of Parks’s finest are not included – click on Workers to view first-rate documentary ‘street shooting’.  All credit to Duke University for commemorating the life of this wonderful photographer.

 

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Have you Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’?

November 21st, 2012 No Comments

Have you lost that lovin’ feelin’?  Are you stagnating and getting into a rut doing the same ol’ same ol’?  Here’s an unknown name on an unknown website to the rescue, and props to them: Simon Bray and photo.tutsplus.com.  Though Bray’s article is titled Ten Cheap Ways to Grow as a Photographer, this very helpful and insightful guide will be a boon to those who are trying to keep the flame alive.

The first suggestion, ‘Try Something New’, is the obvious one that has to open the list.  Bray’s guide pays off from the very second tip, ‘Try a New Lens for a Day.’  He writes “The most unattainable lenses for photographers on a budget will be the wide aperture telephoto lenses” but you could just as well spend a day with a super wideangle ‘fisheye’.  Either will allow you to ‘see’ in a way that you had not been able to until you give this tip a shot.

Though Bray doesn’t properly flesh out his exciting exhortation ‘Undertake a Photography Project’, this one’s a top tip.  A photography project can have to do with photographing architecture and landscapes using filters, night photography, ‘street shooting’, silhouettes, close-up and macro compositions . . . once you get ‘stuck in’ a project, it will take on a life of its own. 

In ‘Book in a Day Trip!’ Bray advises you to spend a day in a nearby town.  Or village.  Or wilderness.  If you’re a meat-and-potatoes wedding photographer or jaded commercial-shoots specialist, the experience may well jolt you into a new direction and a fresh bout of creativity.

Bray says, “My photography mentors have always said, if you’re not out shooting images, you should be looking at them,” in his tip ‘Go to Exhibits and Galleries.’  A photographic exhibition can both inspire you and spur you on.  You may begin to think, “How did he do that?” and try to figure it out for yourself.  What better way to learn something new and develop your technique?  (Photo exhibitions have been covered in this blog and also on its sister blog.)

This list offers many more helpful tips.  Check it out, try out some of the suggestions, and you may just get back that lovin’ feelin’.

 

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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Seven Tutorials on Capturing Motion and Movement

November 15th, 2012 No Comments
motion

motion (Photo credit: sramtebilon)

Only two days back our post was about 100 photography tutorials spanning the gamut of topics and subject areas.  Today, we look at an article listing only seven tutorials but they concentrate on a single topic: capturing motion and movement.  Posted only last week on ePhotozine, these seven how-tos are the very best they’ve published on the topic.

One usually associates landscapes with stillness and rest.  It may be a surprise, then, that one tutorial explains how to capture landscapes that show motion.  Though the now-common technique of showing water movement and blur is covered, there’s one possibility we automatically tend to shut out.  As the author puts it, “So often people worry about wind movement of trees and grasses spoiling their photographs, but why not emphasise it instead of stopping it . . .”  The author demonstrates this point with a luscious photo of a tree with that satiny long-exposure effect that is so commonplace for rivers and waterfalls.

The tutorial titled Add Action to Your Photos with Blur begins with the word ‘Contradictory’ – and that’s ironic, because, ‘contradictory’ to the title of this how-to, it offers a few fine tips on freezing motion!  The helpful tips on offer are many.  Pre-focussing, locking focus, and continuous shooting are a few of them.  This tutorial also goes into ‘zoom explosions’.

Though Add Action to Your Photos with Blur covers panning, Camera Panning Technique is dedicated to this subject.  What is most useful in this how-to are all the pitfalls that is exposes and even illustrates with example photos.  Read it and you’ll be forewarned of all that can go wrong so you can pan like a pro.

These three tutorials seem like the pick of the bunch but check them all out – your preferences may well be different.

In general, shutter speed, tripod, pan, ND filters, and strobe light is a basic checklist of sorts when you’re thinking ‘motion blur and movement’

Over and above the subjects presented in these seven tutorials, keep your eyes open for day-to-day situations that lend themselves to motion blur that captures the spirit of the moment.  For example, children at play and pet dogs and cats make wonderful subjects for capturing movement.

 

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