Friday, May 18, 2012

Learning Online

The internet provides a wealth of information, material, and opportunity to learn almost anything. I have benefitted immensely from the opportunities provided by some software manufacturers who regularly broadcast webinars to enlighten us about their products. Nik Software presents daily webinars which delve into the nuts and bolts of each of their Photoshop/Lightroom plugins, as does On One software and other software developers.  Why do this? To sell software. 

There's also quite a few marketers who do online classes for a fee. Kelby Training and Peachpit Press to name just two. They may offer a free class or a few minutes from each of several classes to whet your whistle and entice you to join up or buy DVDs of the classes. There is one that I spent some time with today that prompted me to write this  blog post. Creative Live is running a series of all day classes today (Friday), Saturday, and Sunday about on-camera flash photography that are FREE. Of course, they want you to buy the DVDs of the class and other classes that they have offered. It's a lot of information to absorb just by listening to the webcast, so I can see how someone would want to purchase the product. During one of the breaks in the class I glanced at the Creative Live schedule of classes and I have to say, it's quite impressive. If it's a subject in which you are seriously interested, there's a lot to be learned, and it's probably worth the investment to purchase the DVDs. If it's a class you're just curious about, investing some time to learn something new is quite painless. 

On another note, for four days this week the DUMBO area of Brooklyn has been turned into a street photographer's dream. The New York Photo Festival hosts quite a few seminars and lectures about the state of contemporary photography, and there are quite a few shows of photographers' work that are free to the public. The area of Brooklyn is extremely photogenic, and the streets will be filled with people. 

Here's my shot for today, I think her name's Josephine the Plumber.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Photography Is Exclusion

Most of the time when I read commentaries on photography I lose interest very quickly because they seem to be not particularly about photography. The commentator usually uses the art and/or craft of photography as a vehicle for his/her intellectual gymnastics and verbosity. Occasionally, however, I happen upon an article that grabs my attention. This column, written by Joerg Colberg in Concientious magazine, was a follow-up to another which appeared earlier in the same magazine. 

Just to whet your appetite, here's a quote from the article: We must not overburden photography with something it cannot do - providing us with an accurate portrayal of anything. Instead, we must acknowledge the maker's hand, and we should talk about it's role - and our reactions. 

What especially piqued my interest in the article was the proposition that, because photography is inherently a subjective representation of reality - beginning with the photographer's choice of what to photograph and how to photograph it, through the editor's (or curator's) choice of what selection of the photographer's work to actually present to the public, and ending with the viewer's perspective of the work based on his/her experience and psychological filters - the experience of viewing photographs should be less about becoming informed by the material and more about inspiring questions in the viewer's perception of the images. 

Yeah, that's a mouthful. But it nails exactly what I shoot, how I shoot, and why I shoot it. If I get an image that moves me, I invest time to make it beautiful and/or compelling not only because I get satisfaction from making beautiful things - musical phrases, photographs, books - but also because by making something beautiful it becomes more appealing and more noticed. If I've done my job right, the more attention the object gets, the more moved my audience is, and hopefully the more questions are piqued. It doesn't always work. Sometimes my message is too subtle and goes unnoticed, and sometimes its too obvious and hits like a sledge hammer. But my mission as a creative artist is always the same: to evoke a feeling, and by so doing raise questions.

One of my favorite haunts in New York is the Museum of Modern Art. Being an inveterate people watcher, the museum is always rich with subject matter - people looking at the artwork with quizzical expressions, people interacting with others with the artwork as a backdrop. On this particular day I was walking through a corridor to a photography exhibit. On the wall was a display of words covering several panels - the significance of the words was that they were all somehow very large, powerful, and positive in meaning or connotation. And they created a sense of anticipation to anyone walking along the corridor to view the show. And yet, in complete juxtaposition to the intent of the wall display there sat this gentleman with a facial expression and body language that was a dramatic counterpoint to the wall display. That's the feeling I had, but it was just my interpretation of a gut feeling that the scene evoked for me. That I had some stirred feelings was all that was necessary for me to value the moment and capture it, to process the image in a way that focuses the viewer's attention on the counterpoint of the words and the person sitting in front of them. And in so doing present an image that hopefully touches you on some level and gives pause to consider what's happening.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Instagram, My 2¢

What is Instagram? Have a look here, here, and here.

So, you need a mobile devise. Which I don't have ...... yet. The attraction of the app, from what I can see, is that anyone who can take a photo with their iPhone or Android can then apply some quick processing and upload the image for all the world to see. Everyone can bathe in the incredible creativity that the app allows to blossom (because, of course, given that we all have the spark of God in us, we are all artists). I'm sure there are many millions of photos uploaded every day. And I'm sure that there are very capable photographers who will invest the time and effort to generate a following and gain recognition for their work. As with everything else, cream will rise to the surface.

I may embrace this technology, maybe not. It's too soon to tell, and since I don't own a device (again .... yet) that would allow me to indulge in the frenzy I can't make any evaluations about my personal involvement.

But what will the phenomenon do for photography in general? Well, it can't hurt. The digital photography revolution has changed the way we all view pictures because so many people have some kind of picture creating devise now. Sure, most of them may be crap. And sure, most of the picture takers haven't got a clue as to how to take a good photo. But many more people are involved now than ever before. Our awareness of images and the impact they can have on our lives has increased exponentially - no matter whether they are viewed on an iPhone, iPad, computer screen, in a gallery or museum, or a publication. 

There will most definitely be much more dross mucking up the bottom of the picture barrel, but there will also be more cream rising to the surface. At my age I recognize that I'm on the downside of my creative life. Although my capacity to do so is limited, I still push forward and embrace new technology. I can be happy using whatever new tools I can absorb into my workflow to enhance my creative output, even though it may not be everything that becomes de rigueur

Here's my image for today, created with my very old workflow which employs technology that I began using about six months ago (heaven forfend)!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Go, Man, Go!

Columbus Park is at the  lower end of Chinatown, just behind the New York City municipal complex of police buildings, jails, and courthouses. On weekends throughout the year the park is a space for social gatherings, Chinese opera performances, card games, and Go

Go is a Chinese board game that developed early in the first millennium CE and spread to Japan and Korea. There are variants of the basic game, which in its Japanese form uses a board of squares 19x19 and small checker-like pieces of black or white. The rules and basic idea of the game seem simple, but the strategy is quite complex (at least to my occidental mind). The version of the game played in the park uses a board (or cloth) comprising squares 8x8 and large pieces with chinese designations on them.

Saturday was a very sunny day, but the park is surrounded and filled with very tall trees which, when in full foliage, create a wonderful tapestry of light and shadows. I was attracted to one game in particular because the sun was streaming through the leaves to highlight the Go board, and the light was reflected back up to the player's face.

I was fascinated by the intense expression on the player's face, and the opinions reflected in the faces of his 'advisors' standing behind him.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Back To Me!

I feel as though I've been given a new lease on life. I'm going to try a pool workout tomorrow morning. After over two weeks away I probably will be buzzing and tired at the same time. I was out for a long photo walk in Manhattan yesterday. Started across Canal Street, down to Columbus Park in Chinatown. then back up West Broadway through the West Village to Penn Station - just about four miles.

Canal Street, on a weekend when the weather is good, is buzzing with activity. Shoppers for jewelry and clothing bargains, chinese fish and vegetable markets, street vendors selling $25 Rolex watches (yeah, right.....). It's a streettog's dream. Columbus park always buzzes with goings on - chinese opera performers, Go players, card games - it's a mad social scene. 

As much as I've been practicing with my focus technique using the Fuji X-Pro1, I still have a little ways to go. I discovered a flaw yesterday squeezing the shutter button with my very impatient right hand index finger. For moving subjects, when I don't have time to get the camera up to my eye for a proper framing, I've been firing the shutter in one motion - as opposed to my old DSLR technique of depressing the button half way to get the focus set (after the zzzzzz sound) and then firing, works with the DSLR because the motors are so fast. With the XP1 I can nail movement most of the time by the one motion squeeze because the shutter won't fire until the focus is locked, so there's a very slight delay in the firing. The trick is to keep the shutter pressed and the camera still until I can feel the shutter click (it's impossible to 'hear' because the shutter is so silent). I started off with a squeeze and immediately release, so I missed quite a few shots. Then I tried the more patient and relaxed way, and shazam (as in Captain Marvel), it worked! 

Here's two shots on Canal Street of the same young lady. I processed this first one and was quite pleased with it, especially the leg position of the mannequin and the girl.

But then, after a second review of the images I shot yesterday, I also liked this shot. The leg and body positions are a little more subtle, and the processing a bit brighter.

There's nothing wrong with liking them both.