Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tools Are Important

When people see my work, either on the internet or when its exhibited, they often ask me what kind of camera I use. I get the feeling that the underlying message is that if they could use the same equipment, they'd be able to get the same kind of picture. So I dodge answering the question. Doesn't matter their level of experience - more than me, same as me, less than me - they're not me, they can't take the picture I would take, theirs would have to be different.

But then again, what camera I use is important to me. The tools I use define the limits of what I can do with my insight and intuition. If I'm shooting with my D700 and 24-70 f2.8 lens, I can do things that won't work with the X-Pro1 (regardless of which lens I'm using), and the reverse is also true. The D700 response time is much faster than the XP1, it's also much larger, heavier, and more conspicuous. The XP1 requires me to work with a different sense of timing - I have to be more selective and pick my shots more carefully, and I have to do a split second's more preparation to get the shot - and it's smaller, lighter, and much less conspicuous so I can work much more easily in crowds, in close, on the street. 

The tools I use are important to me. Just as the tools someone else uses are important to them for what they want to, or can, do. I shot this with the XP1 and the 18-55 zoom lens (with the OIS set to continuous) at 55mm, f5.6, 1/250th second, ISO 1000. Processed in Lightroom, Nik's Dfine, Color Efex Pro 4, and Silver Efex Pro 2. For my street shooting the continuous OIS is essential, I'll just have to live with the battery drain (I now carry two spares with me). If you could view this image full size, you'd be able to see every little strand of fur on the collar of her coat, and every strand of blowing hair. 

Just look at her eyelashes!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A few interesting articles

The new year has propagated a few interesting articles that caught my eye and need to be passed on.
This article appeared in the Lens column of the New York Times. It's a transcript of a rediscovered interview with W. Eugene Smith, who is to my mind the greatest documentary photographer, ever.

This article was written last year in response to a physical attack on a photojournalist by Alec Baldwin.

And this article from the Online Photographer Blog addresses an issue which may not at first appear to be about photography, but it is.

Ok, now on to my work. I grabbed this shot on Lexington Avenue. Right after I took it, she asked me to come to her place so she could model the outfit for me (just kidding).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fuji OIS Set to Continuous Mode

In my never ending quest to find the most optimum/sublime/perfect settings for the X-Pro1-zoom-lens-combo, I set out on the frigid streets of New York City this afternoon to experiment yet again. Although I've been committed to working with the zoom lens, I felt the draw of the familiarity of working with the fixed 18mm lens. The flexibility of the zoom lens is a compelling factor to keep at it, though.

I'm sure the cold temperature had something to do with it, but when I set the camera to 'continuous OIS' I burned through the first battery rather quickly. I sat in one place for a while and shot at the long end, 55mm, but sitting still made the cold much more intense, so I took a long walk in midtown. That's when the zoom flexibility really came in handy

I think this gentleman had a few tips to suggest for a trip he'd like to send me on.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Personal Growth

After making the selection for yesterday's blog post I realized that there is quite a difference in the processing techniques of the first image in the post and the later images which were shot and processed much later in the year. That put in perspective for me the changes that I've gone through during the year. It's always about progress and growth, never perfection. The choice to include this image in the Ten Best selection was for its content.

This is the image I posted yesterday and is the processing I did in January of 2012. :

I went back to the RAW image and started over again: used Dfine for noise reduction, Color Efex 4 for color balance and contrast, and Silver Efex 2 for the b/w conversion. This version is not quite as contrasty - I liked that in the first image - but I avoided the halo effect on the letters which gave the earlier version an over-processed appearance.

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 The Year's Ten Best Shots

I narrowed the field down to fourteen, and from there it could have been any ten. Choices like this are so subjective, but I ultimately had to choose content over technical. These are not in any particular order of preference. Except for the first image, they were all shot with the Fuji X-Pro1.

.... NOT!

Where's Charles Atlas when you need him?

Something smells fishy

Ummm .... Real

Because I said so!

Who, me?

Something I can do for you?

Queen of Fifth Avenue

The kids are laughing

Cough cough

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thoughts for the end of the year

First an apology. An error in the processing of one of the images in yesterday's posting was pointed out to me. It was simply an oversight on my part that I didn't notice pixelation in one corner of an image that was the result of a glitch in Silver Efex Pro 2 talking to Lightroom. It happens sometimes that when I finish processing images in SEP2, during the process of applying the filter and re-importing back to Lightroom, I get strange effects happening. So far it's been infrequent. Rather than call Nik Tech Support and hold on the line for several minutes (a phenomenon that is new to Nik Support only since the Google takeover. Hmmmm ......) I reprocess the image and it's fine. I didn't post the comment, but have decided to change my comment procedure for next year and post all comments, except those that are abusive.

I'm reviewing my shots for the past year in preparation for submission to an annual review. Later this week I'll be posting a blog entry of my 'Ten Best Shots of 2012'. I have narrowed the selection to forty-fours images for now. My exciting plans for New Year's Day include beginning work on my 2012 tax figures, giving two lessons, and doing a final review of the images and narrowing the choice down to ten. This is heady stuff!

I've had a little too much time on my hands lately and been thinking a bit too much - about anything and everything. For those of you who don't know me personally, it may come as a bit of a surprise that I am somewhat obsessive/compulsive and correspondingly have a tendency to act impulsively. Non, pas vous! You say. Oh, mai oui! This is not necessarily a bad thing. When I was younger I would at times berate myself, wishing to be more normal like I thought everyone else was. As I grew older I learned to accept my differences, to utilize them to my advantage. Lately I've come to cherish them. Really.

Everyone of us begins life as a creative person. Children love to draw and play with crayons. As they become adults they forget how to do that, or put it on a back burner and think about making money and raising a family. Talented people learn to apply their talents towards more adult and mature endeavors. The artist, however, never quite becomes an adult, never grows up, in the sense that he never loses that creative drive. He learns to combine his creativity and talent, and accepts that the world around him will deal with life in a mature adult manner (not quite the same thing as sane, however) and find a modicum of satisfaction in his conformity to the norms of society. The artist stops at twelve, and that's were I've been ever since. I tried mightily to change, but always reverted. I've stopped fighting. What a gift is every day when I start out and have to decide how I'm going to have fun, how I'm going to spend my minutes and hours searching for my grail cup.

And that brings me finally to my point. Whatever I do is with an end result in mind. I go out to shoot so that I can create images, process them, write about them here, and present them to the world. But my joy, my bliss, is in the search, the process, the doing. Not in how others do or don't appreciate my product.  I like to hear back from people about the images, how they've enjoyed them, or not. How they would have shot or processed them differently. And I especially like to teach - whether it be music and the violin, or photography. But if I never received feedback or responses, if I never had any students, would I still play with my toys? Go out to shoot? Write about my experiences here?

Absolutely. The thrill is in the exploration and discovery, the experimentation, the risk taking. The rest is just icing on the cake. And it's not about the toys you use, it is about using your toys. My current toy of choice is the Fuji X-Pro1 with the 18-55mm zoom lens. The shot below was taken at 55mm. I generally tend to stay at the wider end of the focal length spectrum, but without the long range flexibility of the zoom lens I wouldn't have been able to get the shot. The sidewalk was very crowded, and isolating this character would have been impossible with a wider focal length. A big thanks to Mike Cinelli who, after reading my post yesterday, supplied me with a preset of sharpening parameters which really puts some zip into the Adobe raw processing algorithm for the X trans sensor.