Saturday, April 25, 2009

is photographing graffiti stealing?

I'm going to equivocate on this question (because it suits me to). So yes it is and no it isnt. What the?!? 'Legal' graffiti with registered artists that can be readily found is off limits to me, they have played by the rules and created a property right to be respected, I wont touch it. Anonymous taggers, stecilers, etc are a whole lot harder to figure out.

This is my rule. If I've got a tag I can identify (and that's something I'm not good at) I'll try and attribute it and in the event I made some cash and found the creator I'll gladly come to some arrangement.

But then again how do I come to an agreement with an anonymous person, who do I make the cheque out to or whose bank account do I deposit the funds into. How do I know the person purporting to own the copyright to the image in fact does. If all I have is a false identity how do I get recourse later if another person claims/proves ownership? I see some really difficult practical questions arising here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

a little brand validation

You know I'd like to pretend that my choice to invest in the Sony system is behind me and that I can go forward happy in the knowledge the system provides everything I want etc. But the truth is, like just about everyone who finds themselves owning a 'fringe' brand I always enjoy a little brand validation. Well today that came in the form of a lovely little article on one of the better photography blogs - The Online Photographer - where the Sony A900 got quite a nice write-up.

Is this the last word in reviews, of course not. Does it mean that my decision to be in the Sony system is right - nah! In fact it means nothing - but still its better than getting a kicking.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The idea of using film as a Zen experience

A professional photographer and pretty good blogger, Doug Munuez, has written a nice piece on his transition from film to digital, the feeling of dissatisfaction that left him with and how using film has restored his sense of balance and fulfilment. He has characterised this as the Zen of Film.

I respectfully disagree. Or more positively, I agree, but only sort of.

I think what the author is reflecting upon is “his” Zen. ‘Zen’, stripped down and condensed is just a way of learning from direct experience rather than on rational creeds or revealed scriptures. Wisdom is passed, not through words, but through a lineage of one-to-one direct transmission of thought from teacher to student. (adapted from a Wiki definition).

From the articles wistful reminiscing on using film since ten, boozy late night development /printing sessions, and the times spent with older mentors its pretty clear that the author experienced this sort of learning with his film development. Whilst I am certain that there would have been theory lessons on the nuts and bolts of photography, the overall theme is of his development in film is one of a slow, lifelong meditative growth.

Conversely, for the author, digital is all theory and rationality. Its not about finding new things to do or believe in, its merely about finding out how to do what he was doing in film using a new technique. Again stealing from wiki: What Zen emphasizes is that the awakening taught by the Buddha came through his meditation practice, not from any words that he read or discovered, and so it is primarily through meditation that others too may awaken to the same insights as the Buddha.” For the author, digital is all words and discoveries hence digital is ultimately unsatisfying. This becomes clear in his choice of words to describe how he uses digital – he always chooses a pejorative to describe digital practices.

So nothing the author has written is wrong – for him.

However, for others (like me) its not so clear. In fact, I sense that for me, it could be the other way round. My only ‘zen’ could be digital – that is my slow meditative practice. Digital is my first path to wisdom through the exploration and contemplation of the world through my experience whereas there is a real risk that film could be nothing but cold rationality and theory, simply learned mechanistic technique to reproduce what I already had.

But I don’t believe it has to be this way, hence I say it “could” be like this for me. I am trying to make both digital and film my ‘zen’. I think the key to this is not trying to replace one with the other but to allow yourself the room to meditate on both. The author of this piece clearly has not done this for digital.

Ultimately, therefore I see this story as a record of failure. When confronted with a challenge (his dissatisfaction with digital) rather than embrace the challenge, allow himself to meditate on that path he has surrendered and reverted to an older, safer way.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My new film camera

Personally I dont really care about the IQ differences many appear to see between analogue and digital capture. Frankly my experience has been that with careful processing you can get pretty much the same image outputs irrespective of how you input the data.

For me the only material differences are in flexibility and handling. And while the basic flexibility limitations of film remain, my experience is that by pairing a digital camera with a film one I can ameliorate the worst of the issues I have with film, settle back and enjoy the experience a lot more.

All of which I've said before, so why the new post?

Well to be honest I've got a new addiction. I love my nice new little Peugeot hot hatch - if I've got to go somewhere I always grab its keys and I know I'll have a great drive, it will be reliable and comfortable and - well - easy. But usually once a week I dont "have" to drive anywhere - then I break out my old Lancia which is slower, rougher, less dependable but oh so cool and fun and gorgeous.

Whats this got to go with photography?

Well, the Sony A700 and all my lovely AF lenses are my modern little hot hatch but I've been having so much fun with the occasional fang with film with my $40 Minolta HiMatic I've decided to get a bit more into this 'classic' photography with a more powerful old timer.

So I just placed my order for Contax 167 and Zeiss Planar 50 1.7. Why Contax? Lots of reasons, one (like a classic Lancia) it rare, you'll months without seeing another. Two, its got all those wonderful Zeiss lenses that are (with a few astronomical exceptions) remarkably reasonably priced. Three - Robert Capa used one (ok not the 167 but close enough). Four - this particular camera is really small but reputably as hard as a coffin nail. Five - have you seen these camera's and lenses? just looking at them is a treat.

You'll notice I havent really spent any time trying to say my new camera is particularly good - I hope it is, but really this new experience is all about the journey not the destination.

Maybe its not that tough going back to film (occasionally).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Well I've given film another try

My first photo with film in a long, long time (maybe over a decade). Anyone whose scene this blog before would know I hate film and never wanted to use it again. Well I was challenged by a few mates to give it another try.

This is what I've found.

After an abortive attempt at returning to film (where the camera broke and I got nothing from the first roll I shot in 15 or so years) I bought a new camera, put two rolls of awful supermarket film thru it and had a really fun time. Anyway, here's a few notes:

1. My number one issue with film, its lack of flexibility, the knowledge I only have so many shots, the not knowing if I got the shot etc havent gone away.

2. But, with a digital along for the ride I can relax about this and if in doubt follow up an analogue capture with a digital shot to make sure I've got it.

3. But with the film camera I still get far fewer photos than I would with a DSLR as I just cant bring myself to fire off every shot I want. Whereas with a DSLR I might take 200 shots, of which 50 are keepers I'm now finding at the same sort of event I'll only shoot maybe 50 frames of which 25 are keepers. Yeah, the percentage of keepers is higher but the total number (which is really the only thing that counts) is about half what I get with the A700.

4. Processing is a major problem. First its expensive (about 10 bucks a roll) plus the digitized version they provide free is rubbish. I've got a pro lab that will do better scans but that's even more money. Secondly its slow, I took half a roll of photos last week and unless I throw the rest of the roll away I'm unlikely to get a result out of those for another week or so. I know some people seem to enjoy this waiting but frankly its killing me.

5. So ultimately with a DSLR in tow to get anything the film couldnt and back up the odd doubtful frame I'm quite enjoying film and I think I will use more of it. I am already becoming more confident and am beginning to trust it more but still flexibility and cost are pretty certain to make sure using film will only be a bit of fun and the uncertainty of whether it worked or not means I'll not rely on it for shots I really really want or need.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Our new puppy - and my latest hit on flickr

Every now and then a photo manages to break through and instead of slowly gathering 10 or 20 views quickly garners hundreds of views and dozens of comments. This is just such an image. Lets face it, while its fun and the dog (Aggador by the way) is seriously cute, this is hardly a great photo. Well it just goes to show....(what I'm not entirely sure, but it sure does show it).
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

My first stab at listing some mentors/exemplars.

Well I promised myself I would start the process of finding some mentors or exemplars I could use to guide my ideas of what I wanted my photography to be, where I wanted it to go, etc. Well I started in a pretty simple place - a book. I went to my shelf and picked out a nice little book - American Photographs 1900/2000 by James Danzinger, published by Assouline. The I just started at the front and went through every photo, when I came to one I liked (using my definition of "I wish I took that"), I checked on line to see if this was a one off or if the photographer really produced a body of work that grabbed me.

So in the end I came up with this list - its not exhaustive, but its a start (so in no particular order):

Robert Capa

William Klein

Edward Weston

Danny Lyon

Lewis W Hine

Joel Meyerowitz

Alfred Stieglitz

Berenice Abbott

Dorothea Lange

Richard Avedon

Charles Moore

Donna Ferrato

Andrew Bush

Another first - a submission to JPG Magazine

Well, a busy day. As well as working the blog, Redbubble, Alamy and Flickr - I've joined JPG Magazine. Not for the money - because its tiny - but in a continuing attempt to build a profile.

Any way, not only did I join up up I've actually submitted my first entry to be considered for publication. Nowhere near my best, but with everything else I'm trying to achieve in a short time this photo has the huge advantage of being handy and meeting the required theme.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ads on the blog - am I a whore?

Since settling back into Australia and trying to come up with a more business-like way of approaching photography - notwithstanding I hope to never deal with "clients" - coming up with a business model has been hard.

So I've taken the shotgun approach given that I dont shoot portraits, or products, or weddings etc. I shoot what I like when I like and then try and sell it. This means I have to fight for every view, every comment, every cent I can. So yeah, I've put ads on my blog. I suppose that makes me a whore. If it upsets people - sorry - but I wont stop.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Finding a (silent) photographic mentor

A quick and dirty journal entry here because I've promised to let my daughter have the computer (damn silly of me).

Anyway, pretty much everyone who talks about improving their (or someone elses) photography recommends finding photographers out there that they relate to, that can provide a guide, and example, an aspiration. Well I've decided to do that. But How? What constitutes a mentor I'd like to follow.

Anyway I've got an answer - for now.

Over the next few days my plan is to sift through a couple of the books I've got, find photographers whose body of work have a significant number of shots that make me think "God, I wish I'd taken that!" and make a list.

Next entry - the first list.