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The Queer and the Kooky, Plus Google Outdoes Dali!

January 11th, 2013 No Comments
The Vela Pulsar and its surrounding pulsar win...

The Vela Pulsar and its surrounding pulsar wind nebula. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome to our periodic roundup of all that is queer and kooky in the world of photography.  Here’s what made the news in the past 24 hours.

If you don’t know what NGC 6872 is, be informed that it is the World Champion, er, we mean the Cosmos Champion, galaxy.  ‘Size?’ you ask?  Suffice it to say it is measured in the hundreds of thousands of light years.  Here’s a picture of it.  While you’re at it, scroll about halfway down and view over 50 ‘Amazing Space Photos’.

Before moving away from the Huffington Post and the Cosmos but scaling down in size, check out this photo of the Vela Pulsar.  The headline isn’t lying when it says that Vela resembles the Phantom of the Opera’s mask!

EarthSky has identified five science apps to check out in 2013 and two of them are photograph-oriented apps, of which one allows us to stay with our outer space theme.  That’s the NASA app which includes a staggering 157,000-plus artefacts including space photos!    

If you’re less into outer space and more into Gaia, go for SciSpy.  It is a nature sharing app that lets you stay in touch with fellow Gaians and features automatic geotagging.

We’re not done with out space theme yet!  ‘The Afronauts’ sounds like a gag or joke but it’s not.  It’s the name of a book that is about a Zambian who was “a dreamer rather than a crazy man, a loser,” as described by the photojournalist author of the book, Christina de Middel.

An abortive mission to Mars by the Zambian eccentric in the mid-1960s inspired Middel to create a series of photographs recreating the man’s ‘dream’.  She must have done well because the first edition of this photo book is sold out and it has been short-listed for a German prize.

Let’s get ‘down to earth’ and close out with some really funky landscapes courtesy of Google Earth.  No tilt-shift camera could have captured these nor could Photoshop in its wildest dreams have achieved what Google Earth has done so effortlessly.

Apparently, Google Earth’s software is a little too smart for its own good.  The 3D images it produced by way of texture mapping are more like ‘6D’ images – they have a few extra ‘D’s – and is that D for Dimension or D for Dunce?

Dimension or Dunce, Google’s outdone Dali: the great artist only melted clocks while Google Earth melts entire highways!







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The Majestic, the Whimsical, and Some Advice for Collectors

December 29th, 2012 No Comments

“Minus 30 degrees.”  Those are the lengths some photogs will go to to find “their calling.”  Enter Camille Seaman who photographs the biggest icebergs in the worldSan Francisco Chronicle has just reported that the result of her passion is that “she has spent the last 10 years photographing enormous chunks of prehistoric ice in remote places across the globe.”

Seaman’s story is quite riveting and her photographs are awesome to behold.  How about this brilliantly composed, exposed and cropped image?  Weirdly, this iceberg looks like the prow of a listing vessel!  Look through the mini-gallery and you’ll find a gentle icescape and a frightening behemoth towering out of the ocean.

If those images turn you on, just click at this Corden Potts Gallery link to Seaman’s portfolio.  She will soon be exhibiting at the gallery.  Check out this blue, slabbish, tabletop of an iceberg.  Then click here, just for ‘contrast’.  Do you care for balance, perspective, and texture in iceberg scenes?  Click here.  

Seaman’s work merges guileless art with the majesty of nature.

From the majestic to the whimsical.

Some of the most recognizable photojournalistic and news photographs have now gotten a redo, thanks to Mike Stimpson and . . . LEGO!

Be warned, this story is nothing more than an ’empty calorie’ diversion.  Stimpson uses LEGO figures to recreate some famous photographs.  Just for fun, have a look at the Tiananmen Square tank stopper and his version of that famous Dali, water and flying cats photo.

To close with a more serious story, if you’re not a millionaire but want to build a collection of fine photographs, learn how one dedicated collector did it in Michael Hoppen opens his vault of photographic treasures.  He is a Chelsea photograph gallery owner but he got started on his collection the hard way, the painstaking old-fashioned way: browsing in flea markets, junk shops, and such.  

After taking off in the art world, Hoppen found it easier to collect the photos he loved at a knockdown price but the heart and soul of this piece is in the advice he gives to aspiring photograph collectors, starting with ” whether you trawl eBay or visit art fairs, collecting is all about spending time. . . . there are no shortcuts.”

See whether or not you like the results Hoppen achieved by viewing this mini-gallery of an exhibition of (part of) his collection, Finders Keepers


Weekly Roundup: From the Unusual to the Weird

October 30th, 2012 No Comments

Hurricane Sandy

Yesterday’s post contained a link to a photo of Hurricane Sandy from space.  Today let’s see Sandy up close and personal from the street, courtesy of some skilled – and intrepid – photographers.  

You’ll see flooded roads, submerged cars, 20-foot waves, power outages, and New York in distress in this album.  See the locals getting alarmed and making preparations and cleaning up the wreckage further south down America’s East Coast and the Caribbean in this album.  Now these photos are great examples of that much-used word, ‘Photojournalism’.

Sandy also brought about some unusual nature-made photographic effects further north in Syracuse.  There, photographers didn’t need any filters to shoot photos of an otherworldly peach-pink sky.  Sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time!

Alien Effects, Alien Figures

Some Sandy-like effects can be created artificially by talented craftsmen.  Have a look at these equally arresting, slightly otherworldly landscapes which the photographer, Matthew Albanese, calls ‘Strange Worlds’.  These landscapes are indeed ‘strange’ because they’re all shot inside his studio!  Surely that’s not giving away the game too much?

Just as ‘strange’ is Chris Bucklow’s people photography . . . for he takes photographs without any camera!  Bucklow’s visually striking and artistic images also make no use of Photoshop; he uses a rudimentary yet advanced technique using a cardboard on which a figure is mapped out with “thousands of pinholes.”

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Even though we close with a ‘straight’ photography item, this one too is well off the beaten track: you see, it’s about an underwater shoot . . . and the subject is turtles!  Closer to home, Australian Geographic reports that Doug Perrine has taken the first underwater photographs of flatback turtles.  

The eight-image album is worth a view even though it offers no tips for aspiring underwater photographers – heck, it’s probably rather unlikely anyway that you’ll be pulling a ‘Thunderball’ anytime soon! 


One Little Post, So Much Stuff!

October 29th, 2012 No Comments

Even as Fuji not only makes a respectable line of digital cameras but even stamps its own distinct brand identity on them and goes ‘high fashion’, it still supports film! 

In conjunction with two other entities, Fuji has announced a photo contest for students.  Only photographs that have been taken using film may be entered.  Though this contest is open only to photography students in the U.K., it is newsworthy worldwide because of the ‘film’ part.  Film is not dead!

Our HDR post on our sister site got lots of views so here is a collection of beach HDR photographs.  Some are in good taste while others are over the top; some are perfectly realized, others verge on the unnatural.  Enjoy the mini-gallery.

Heard about Hurricane Sandy?  Look at her from space, courtesy of a NASA satellite.  There is sooo much a photographer can learn from this awesome image and it’s so obvious that surely one doesn’t need to belabour the point . . . 

From the space to the earth thence from the earth to the sun:– Here’s a staggering collection of photographs of this year’s solar eclipse.  Among the many wonderful photographs of the eclipse itself is one that works in the eclipse into an image that is a lovely photograph in its own right.

Caution: do not photograph solar eclipses unless you (a) know how to do so safely and (b) know what you’re doing, otherwise you risk permanent blindness.

In closing, the Canon EOS M just launched in the U.S. at a sub-$1000 price and is worth taking a look at.  This APS-C mirrorless has 18 MPs, builtin HDR, Night Scene mode and more sharp features.  

This is one of those cameras that make for a very good starter camera for the beginner yet allow him/her to ‘grow’ as a photographer, not only because of the full complement of appropriate Canon lenses but also because of the advanced features and specs of this EOS.


Attention Travellers: Seasonal Photography Tutorials

October 28th, 2012 No Comments

The holiday season is round the corner and some of you will be travelling to the Mother Country or elsewhere in Europe – or even to America.  There, you’ll find radically different conditions for shooting – it’ll be winter!  Here, then, are three tutorials for effective winter photography.

Low sun, bare trees, snow and frost – winter scenes are almost nature-made silhouettes.  Accentuate the mood and effect by following the tips in How to Photograph Silhouettes This Winter.

The author provides exposure techniques that may be informative for beginners, including ‘exposure locking’ – fooling the camera into exposing (as 18 percent grey) for a very light or very dark area in your composition.  The author also assists by identifying what subjects will work best for winter silhouettes.

This article contains a really sharp example of how even a body of water can be treated in silhouette fashion, so to speak – it is in such high contrast that the crests and troughs are in near-whites and near-blacks resulting in a dramatic effect.

Another tutorial provides guidance for exactly the reverse situation: Coping with Contrast in Winter.  This how-to is really about retaining shadow detail and highlight detail in high-contrast situations.  It combines advice on capturing appealing images alongwith a few hard technical details.  

For instance, the photographer is advised to take advantage of the histogram to check that highlight detail won’t be lost.  Also, understanding issues of colour temperature will let you control just how snow looks in your photographs – do you want it to look pure white or do you want it to take on and reflect the cast of the sky or sun?

In Brilliant Prints’s Countdown: 7 Rules for Surefire Holiday Snaps we had said, “the mid-day and afternoon sun’s flat hard light makes for dull, lifeless images (try a polarizer).  Instead, take outdoor photographs in the morning and evening.  Sure, you’ll get shadows but early and late sunlight makes for better colour and finer detail.”

This advice is echoed in Working With Winter Sun: “Regardless of the time of year, the best lighting conditions for landscapes occur when the sun is low in the sky, when the shadow-forming angle of the light creates a strong sense of three-dimensional form in your pictures.”  However, they also mention, “when the sun comes out in winter it remains low in the sky for the entire day. So . . . when the sun makes an appearance it is perfect for landscapes.”

As you might guess, this how-to concentrates on getting the best out of natural lighting.  It goes beyond that to inform you of photographic conditions you can expect to find when shooting on winter mornings so that you can – like a boy scout – ‘be prepared’.

These three tutorials complement each other very well and will lift your winter photography skills to a new level.


Eye Versus Camera. And the Winner is . . .

October 20th, 2012 No Comments

In a direct face-off, which is superior: the Camera or the Human Eye?  That is actually the question Cambridge in Colour seeks to answer – even the title reveals that this is a adversarial contest: Cameras Vs. The Human Eye – note the ‘versus’!  

Given that a photographer has at least a tangential interest in sensitivity to, and perception of, light, and issues of optics, this article is quite a fascinating read.

The similarities abound but so do the differences.  For instance, while a camera and lens will capture a sharp image over the full frame, even with an intermediate aperture (for a given lens) for a scene where the depth of field is not too deep, our eye does not ‘see’ a sharp image over the full field of vision.  Notch up one for the camera and also put a tick in the ‘Differences’ column. 

But wait— the article states that we see a fairly sharp image in our central angle of view, and that is 40 to 60 degrees, which is “incidentally . . . close to a 50 mm ‘normal’ focal length lens on a full frame camera (43 mm to be precise).”  Thus, what had seemed to be a ‘Win’ for the camera turns out to be a ‘Tie’ and a ‘Difference’ is in truth a ‘Similarity’.

On other factors, such as Resolution and Detail, a comparison is scarcely possible because of how far apart the eye and the camera are.  Actually, as the article points out, it is more meaningful to compare the eye to a video camera than a still camera.  

After all, a still camera ‘sees’ a picture for an instant – only so long as the shutter curtain is open.  The eye and a video camera ‘see’ a picture continuously.  Indeed, they even have something in common: an iris/pupil or aperture that adjusts dynamically according to the amount of light in the scene being viewed or filmed.

Amidst all the comparisons there is one game-changer, as this article points out: “What we really see is our mind’s reconstruction . . .”  While one can compare the eye to the camera, the eye doesn’t work in a vacuum: you’ve surely read about another organ-technology comparison between the brain and the computer, right?  Well, the human mind and its neuronal circuitry does an immeasurable amount of ‘post-processing’ and ‘Photoshopping’ every nanosecond to convert the ‘raw’ images captured by the eye into what we end up ‘seeing’.  The game-changer is the human brain.

When a photographer reads and studies the educational ‘Eye Versus Camera’ face-off, there’s only going to be one ‘winner’ . . . the photographer!


A ‘Must-See’ Exhibition: The Hyland Collection

October 18th, 2012 No Comments

We’ll look at two very different exhibitions today and tomorrow starting with The Hyland Collection Of American Photography: At The American Museum In Britain.  Today we’re talking about a ‘real’ exhibition in a museum; tomorrow, a virtual one a ‘name’ website.

The first exhibition makes one reflect about the art of photography; the second enables one to learn about the practice of (street) photography.

Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Herb Ritts are some of the master photographers whose works comprise the Hyland Collection which is definitely about the ‘art of photography.’

The very first photograph featured in the Hyland article, one by Robert & Shana Parke Harrison, is an aesthetic yet charming example of photographic art.  This antiqued photograph, actually a photogravure from 1998, shows a man in a light-generating contraption cycling toward, apparently, a lightning bolt.  This ‘art photo’ is a triumph of conception and execution as much as of lighting effect and (probably above all) composition.

Snap to the middle of the article to the photograph by Marcus Leatherdale.  Notwithstanding the famous Greek’s bust, as much as Andy Warhol makes a show of hiding his face, (a) isn’t he quickly recognizable (the hair’s a giveaway ain’t it?) and (b) doesn’t something about that photograph come across as a little self-conscious?

As for the two photographs – the ‘chromogenic prints’ – by Bill Armstrong that are meant ‘to convey the concept of’ something, is that really a valid form of photography?  Or an artsy self-indulgence?  Do they belong to photography or to painting?  

Thomas Barbey’s Urban Offering seems like a missed opportunity to me.  First, there is no question that the falling sand ‘makes’ the photo; without it the image would have been dull and lifeless.  The falling sand symbolizes something (actually somethings).  

Here’s the trick Barbey seems to have missed.  Note the soft, urban, city-dwelling hands.  Why didn’t Barbey use a model with hard, tough, dirty, grimy hands to represent the anonymous blue collar construction workers who built those buildings held by those undeserving hands? 

Most down-to-earth is Shelby Lee Adams seriously humourous The Fly Swat.  Those are two wonderful expressions Adams has managed to capture and evidently there’s some backstory there!  I can’t help my eyes ping-ponging between those two faces (can you?)

This photo is a terrific example of street photography and it’s the perfect place to close this post because tomorrow’s exhibition and post will be (almost) all about street photography.

This is not an exhibition for the sake of an exhibition; it has some hidden value: an exhibition that is an eclectic collection of photographers with widely different styles allows an amateur to find his identity as a photographer; to find her style.  Watch the trailer, with many more images, here.


Exhibitions and Images; Eerie and Intriguing

September 21st, 2012 No Comments

Living in Mexico, born in Congo, father from Belgium and mother from Hungary.  And now featured in a solo exhibition, Alice in the Land of Zapata, at the Hungarian House of Photography, is Nadja Massun whose photographs bespeak sensitivity most of all, a sensitivity probably heightened and refined by her peripatetic childhood.

“I am especially intrigued by faces and their expressions,” explains Massun, “the gestures and the movements of the body that encompass a particular state of mind or mood while also telling a story.”  Strangely, even when no living person’s face or expression is in-picture, one of Massun’s photographs fascinatingly conveys “a particular state of mind or mood.”  Would you agree that it is atmospheric and sort of haunting?

I wish Hungarian House had published more of Massun’s photographs.  As things stand, we have only a hint that this may be a very fine exhibition indeed.

A photographer and a poet have teamed up to present and interpret “the night – a mysterious time, full of darkness and secrets, shadowy corners and brief flurries of activity.”  Granted, it may sound like an artsy-fartsy project but Night Photography is an unusual specialization, and that in and of itself makes this project intriguing and attention-catching.  

Deserted downtowns, archways, ruins, graveyards (of course), all lend themselves to night shooting and Alison Wills and Hazel Hammond have hit upon a novel way of conveying the bewitching splendours of the night in a photo-poetry exhibit, The Woman who slept with Bones, at the Bristol Poetry Festival.  (Some more photos on the website, please?)

Remember that cheesy 70’s song Killing me Softly?  In the song, the ‘soft-killing’ is done with . . . a song; on the current Vogue Hommes cover, the soft-killing’s done with a gentle hand that playfully chokes a model.  Does that photo project, encourage or glamourize violence towards women?  A number of American watchdog organizations think so:– 

“While this cover was perhaps intended to shock and thrill potential readers, the truly shocking fact is that it glorifies violence against women as an act of love,” is how they admonish the magazine’s publishers in their screed.  “Choking is not a fashion statement, and certainly not something that should be used to sell magazines.” 

Is this typical American Political Correctness run amok?  Or does this photo cross a red line?  It’s definitely a ‘shade’ of ‘grey’ . . . but for a magazine cover, it is a valid expression of photographic imagery that should not be subject to any censorship.


The Camera Brands’ Melting-Pot

September 20th, 2012 No Comments

    The camera market is in a bit of a tumult – credit (or blame) Leica and Fuji for having started all the ruckus.  Indeed, it’s become like a melting point with new brands arriving and old brands blending and melting into one another.

    How about Samsung and Google (with its Android O.S.) entering the camera market?  Samsung announced a Galaxy camera (to go with its Galaxy tablet and smartphone) at photokina.  

    Actually, the Galaxy camera is not a camera but a hybrid camera-smartphone device that is conceived with wireless technology and the Cloud from the ground up.  Look at it from the front and it’s a camera; look at it from the back and it’s a smartphone!  Samsung’s Sun Hong Lim says, “We combined the best bits of a smartphone with the best bits of a compact camera together.”

    The Galaxy camera probably won’t be the finished article and may not go anywhere but it may well herald a new day for cameras – think of the applications (of this kind of ‘connected’ camera) in photojournalism, war zones, and live sports events.

    Seems like the good folks at Hasselblad are feeling a bit prickly.  The overwhelmingly negative reaction from industry watchers to Hassy getting hitched with Sony (which we blogged about) has provoked a defensive reaction.  

    Briefly, their new Lunar is basically a spruced up Sony NEX 7 but neither Hassy nor Sony want you to believe that.  In a lengthy defence (published in the BJP!) that would cause any American superlawyer to roll his eyes, Luca Alessandrini and Peter Stig-Nielsen of Hasselblad make a precarious situation downright perilous.  The most insightful comment is from one Simon Burgess who commented: “Shame but with the demise of Kodak it’s clear to see that no brand, no matter how iconic, is safe and hasselblad are clearly on the same slippery slope that Kodak were on a few years ago.” 

    Unlike Hasselblad, fellow elite brand Leica definitely has the right partner in mind.  It wants to tap up Apple’s lead designer, Jonathan Ive, to design a new Leica M.  The project is a little lah-de-dah, what with charity auctions and Bono involved; nevertheless, an ideas-and-design interflow between Apple and Leica has none of the discordant notes of a Hassy-Sony marriage. 

    P.S.  Stay tuned to know more about the iCamera, coming from you-know-who.

Painting qua Photography – Photorealism

September 18th, 2012 No Comments

    Is it a photograph or is it a painting?  While so many photographers attempt to introduce ‘painterly’ effects to their photographs (say ‘thank you’ to Photoshop), artists who possess advanced technique have eschewed Post-Modern Art and practice ‘Photorealism’ – a style of painting which aims to be both true to life yet expresses the subject from the painter’s perspective, i.e. realism through the medium of the painter.  

    Earlier today Christie’s concluded an auction in Amsterdam, Property Of The Scheringa Museum Of Realist Art, which contains several Photorealist paintings.  The works in this 158-lot auction may be viewed as a slideshow or as a catalogue.  

    One of the founders of Photorealism of a kind was surely William Waterhouse.  Yigal Ozeri’s Priscilla in Ecstasy is ’21st Century Waterhouse’, so to speak.  This painting represents a sub-style that is just about where painting ends and photography begins.  Also check out Ozeri’s Untitled (Lot 43).

    We, however, are more interested in the photography aspect of the Photorealist School and, to start off, doesn’t Michael Taylor’s grl rstng on svle chr (sic) look like a ‘stream of consciousness’ ‘day in the life’ photograph you’d see in an art institute’s exhibition?

    The oddly-named Portrait of Mr. Gachet by Stefan Hoenerloh has nothing to do with Vincent and is a wonderful composition of an impersonal urban-scape which ties in the ‘Golden Ratio’ and the ‘Rule of Thirds’ to arresting effect.  The very different tones of the foreground and background buildings and their converging angles add to the coldly hypnotic ‘pull’ of this photograph – er, painting.

    Gerard Schlosser’s C’est en Novembre is a study in lines, countours and hues which – except for a tiny green-black patch – are exclusively in ochre and beige.  Had this picture been a photograph, it would have been classed in the Modernist or Post-Modernist style but as a painting, it is classed as Photorealism!

    Do you like underexposure?  Polarizer?  Other filters?  Those are probably what Damian Loeb (figuratively) used when he painted Straw Dogs, a moody landscape – and this is how Vincent would have shot if he had been a photographer.  

    On the other hand, in The Sum of Human Knowledge, Terry Rodgers seems to have taken a photograph of a few lucky bachelors and their ravishing stripper friends, and then tightly cropped it and Photoshopped it to make it just a little ‘harder’.  Note how the tableau vivant of a kind is vertically divided by a central foreground figure into a major and minor sub-tableau.

    The above are just a few of the highlights from this very fine auction.  Don’t miss Lot 77.

    Not all the works are paintings posing as photographs.  You’ll find many that are true-blue paintings and a few that seem to have elements of both painting and photography, say, a painted-in figure over a ‘photographed’ background.  As a photographer, you’re sure to find some images here to inspire you so click on the slideshow or catalogue, and On With the Show! 


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