Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Photo Expo 2012

Tomorrow the Photo Expo opens in New York. When I originally attended way back in 1989 it was a huge show with a strong presence of many camera manufacturers, Apple, and Adobe. In recent years it has gotten much smaller, partly because of the incredibly high rates for exhibitors but also because it has become over the years much more consumer oriented, rather than geared towards the working professionals. It's still fun to go to - to see all the latest toys and software. If I find anything mind boggling, I'll report back on it (but I doubt that I will see much that really impresses me).

I shot these two images in an outing last week in midtown Manhattan. Lately I've been drawn to people wearing sunglasses. Not sure why, but maybe because I like to get some kind of expression in peoples' eyes, and the dark glasses poses a real challenge.

If he doesn't bring flowers, he's not getting anywhere.

Two Soldiers?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Photography: Document and Art

Walker Evans once said 'Leaving aside the mysteries and the inequities of human talent. brains, taste, and reputations, the matter of art in photography may come down to this: it is the capture and projection of the delights of seeing; it is the defining of observation full and felt.'

He was one of my photographic heroes. His work for the Farm Security Administration, which was part of the public relations blitz Franklin Roosevelt initiated to put forward his New Deal policies, produced iconic images that stand out in the history of American photography. Evans was a pioneer in the process of turning documentary into fine art photography. The Museum of Modern Art, in New York, has recently re-released an edition of his work, American Photographs, which is available on Amazon.

The best way to view and learn from the work of photographers is to see the actual prints of their work in galleries or museums (or on your own wall if you have the disposable income). Way back in second place as a medium for viewing is in photography books, and way back of that in a distant third place is on a computer screen. The reason I mention this is because after receiving my copy of the new Evans book, I pulled two other editions of his work from my bookshelf: Walker Evans - America (published by Rizzolli) and Walker Evans - Havana (published by Pantheon books. Not only is the print quality at great variance between the books, but the toning, cropping, and paper quality differ to such an extent that in many cases comparing a photograph in the different editions could lead one to think he was looking at an entirely different image.

My image for the day, which is in no way presented to compare myself to Walker Evans, interested me because the hand gesture and facial expression of the gentleman on the left gives the impression that he's pontificating about something important, the other people in the image are paying him no attention. The gentleman directly to his left, who I think is the intended audience, seems much more interested in my taking his photograph than what he is being told.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

X-Pro1 nailed it!

Okay, okay, I helped a little ......

Nothing else to say.

Fuji X-Pro1 and EF20 Flash

I always enjoyed the New York Halloween parade on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village. I made a resolution this year to go again and photograph the creative costumery. Even though the XP1 is wonderful in low light, at ISO 6400 there won't be enough light to get great shots, so I sprung for the Fuji EF20 flash. It's a neat little package, not a very high guide number - I think 20 at ISO 100 - but it will be fine for my close up shooting style.

Flash photography doesn't come naturally or intuitively to me. I really have to think about everything I'm doing, and it requires special settings on the camera. I've played with the flash around my house, but there's nothing like a live field test, so I took the camera and flash out on the streets of New York with me this afternoon. The sun was bright and the sky a brilliant blue, which gave me an excellent opportunity to do some fill-flash shooting. I walked around the Chelsea/Meatpacking district of Manhattan - near the lower end of the Highline on Tenth Avenue.

I sat on a wood bench under an overhang, and as people walked by I tried to get a flash shot of them in the shadows with the bright sun in the background. I was moderately successful, as I said - flash photography doesn't come naturally to me.

I had a conversation with this gentleman who introduced himself to me as an attorney, not a photographer - even though he was carrying a Nikon DSLR and was out for the day to shoot. He took a photo of me, and reciprocated by being very patient while I tried several different settings for the flash. The shot was with the 35mm lens set at f8. The only post processing was in Lightroom to crop a little, fix the white and black clipping, and adjust the clarity ever so slightly. The flash was off camera, tethered with a dedicated sync cable. I like being able to make the light come in a bit from the side, rather than directly forward just above the lens. My only problem with that is that I have to always hold the flash in my left hand, and I haven't yet figured out how to make the light come in from the right. In any case, I think the flash and camera did an admirable job in balancing the light between the very bright blue sky and the details on his face.

The sync speed of the XP1 is 1/160th second, which I think is a little slow, so sometimes moving things got a little blurred. I'm sure part of that had to do with my lack of experience using the combo, but that's what practice is for. The spot I chose to sit in was a constant parade of very interesting people, lots of very pretty and stylishly dressed women. A few actually gave me a present of a beautiful smile. Converting flash photos to b/w is a bit more complicated than my usual processing. It's going to take some investigation.