Sunday, October 17, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
The question of photographing homeless people is a vexed one. Many see it as lazy, insensitive, exploitative and unimaginative. I agree, often all those things are true. And yet I think photos of (or including) the homeless can be more. I think you can take photo's of the homeless that don't exploit them and do ask questions that deserve to be answered.
This image goes to the heart of the issue for me. When does not giving to or photographing or helping the homeless stop being a principled stand to not take advantage of their victim hood and instead become a shameful attempt to deny their existence.
Personally, exploiting the homeless might be bad, but refusing to acknowledge their existence or their humanity is worse.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
So, how did I break my buying strike?
Today I picked up the 70-400 G, 30 2.8 DT SAM Macro and 85 2.8 DT SAM. I am so stoked.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
So why stay with Sony?
Well, in January this year I was virtually on a buying strike for all camera gear. My frustrations with Sony are briefly described in this blog entry but to recap I was frustrated that a company with more technical tricks up its sleeve than any other of the big players out there seemed to be doing nothing. At the time the A500 and A550 were the best Sony could you with real innovation and I was concerned that Sony was gone, extracting itself from the market as gracefully as possible at the lowest possible cost. The constant recycling of the A2/3XX series models only heightened my fears.
But recently Sony has shown its hand and the reason for the apparent inaction is clearer now. Better, I actually like the direction Sony is taking. First the NEX, then the SLT cameras reveal that Sony has been reserving its development for entirely new lines of cameras which take the traditions of the old film cameras but truly harness what digital can do. These cameras arent the last word in photography, I'm not even certain they are best in their class but the direction they point to is really exciting. Suddenly, in camera GPS, fast AF in video, 7 to 10 FPS, in camera HDR and pannos, EVFs arent things that SLRs can have, instead, they are core parts of a mainstream product.
But it doesnt stop there. Noise performance and AF, two traditional weak areas of a Sony DSLR, are greatly improved. Again, the new Sony's arent the necessarily the class leaders but they are now far more competitive, Sony is very definitely in the game.
So, what it came to was where did I see the future of my photography? Canon and Nikon are no where with a mirrorless compact camera while the NEX is a really exciting product that is changing the way I do my business (in a good way). The Nikon D7000 and Canon 60D (and Pentax K5) are really impressive cameras but they are really just incremental improvements on what has gone before and still dont bring any excitement to the field while the A33 and A55 from Sony are game changers, a huge step forward in what a camera can be.
So I see the trajectory of Sony following a path I want to join. So with that I'm back in. So how did I break by DSLR buying strike? Well I think I've written enough for now. That can be tomorrow.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
BJP talks with Scott DiSabato, US marketing manager for Professional film at Kodak, after the release of the new Portra 400 film where he is spruiking the resurgence of film. His view is that many, formally digital shooters, are finding film, enjoying the challenge and results and a new dawn of photographers will discover the benefits of film, leading to its growth and reclamation of at least part of its former glory.
I think, perhaps, that there is also another phenomenon going on based on my involvement in a number of groups. People like me that never got into photography because, frankly, it was a pain. Learning was slow, and frustrating, and oh so expensive. Sure some punched through that phase but many of us shrugged, found something else and moved off to a new past time.
But then digital came and we could learn quickly and easily (and cheaply). Instead of toiling away, taking notes, toiling laboriously through film, processing it and printing it(or waiting for the lab) we were able to zip through the lessons. Grasping concepts that previously took days, or weeks, or months in minutes. Because it was there, immediately, you got to see the result while you still remembered what you did.
And then we understood exposure and composition and lighting, we had confidence. And film wasnt so scary, wasnt so difficult, it was just like 'normal' photography without using the review screen much. And this photography has 'street cred' its smart, and cool and somehow more real. We keep shooting digital but we see film as a viable choice and something we will really work to master. We start thinking of medium format. We buy old bronica's or pentax's or contax's.
But here's the bad news. One day, when wee are picking up the prints and paying the man 20-30 dollars for processing a single roll of MF film and there isnt a single shot on the roll that we really, truly, in our heart of hearts actually like we stop shooting film.
Well thats my story anyway.
I dont doubt that film use is stabilising, there will always be a core of people that love it, that romanticise it that make the rest of us keen to try it. But film hasnt changed and the reasons not many were really into film havent really gone away. So film wont die, it will linger on, inspiring some and teasing many more, but I cant see it ever being more than that.
A tease that very few actually grow to love.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
I recently attended an Airshow at RAAF Williamtown in NSW. The airshow was excellent with a lot of cool displays on the ground and some really wonderful air displays. The Super Hornet was so loud, so tight, really really exciting but really the star of the show was the F-111 (better known as the Pig).
The Super Hornet is louder, more maneuverable, and generally more spectacular, except the F-111 has a party trick no other aircraft out there can match - the dump and burn. The dump and burn is pretty simple, fuel is expelled out a fuel dump valve at the rear of the aircraft between the two engines, the pilot then hits the afterburners, lighting up the trailing fuel in a huge rooster tail of flame. I got a few images of it but these are probably my best two.
So why was this a frustrating day?
Well for many years I've read horror stories of Sigma quality problems, and in particular problems with the Sigma's handling the high torque lens drive motor fitted to the Sony A700, 850 and 900 (some discussion here on DPreview). I have avoided all these problems, secure in the belief that while the 'lower' Sigmas might has a problem, the top of the line EX series was immune. Well I was proved wrong.
On the first pass of the F111 the less was tracking well, locked focus and I was shooting nicely then suddenly as I re-composed and the lens locked up and I was greeted with a horrible grinding noise as the now stripped focus gears just spun against each other without engaging. Bugger, one pass in and I'm at at airshow with no lens longer than a 50mm prime.
Well thats not entirely true, I had no auto focusing lens longer than 50mm, I did still have a Sigma 100-300 f4 now manual focus lens. Well, I hadnt read the article on Luminous Landscape article on the importance of persisting in the face of frustration (Photography, Rain or Shine) but I decided to press on and see what I could get. Well you know, I didn't get a lot, trying the manually focus on aircraft is nightmarishly difficult so my hit rate was minute. But it was still a day out and I got a few. I think the ones I were the shots of the Roulettes, the RAAF aerobatic display team.
But thats a story for the next blog entry.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Another experiment in 'dragging the shutter' as I understand the term. Basically I've deliberately slow the exposure right down and then panned across a stationary object. In this case an old train station in Seattle.
What I was after was a sense of movement backwards, with the station leaving today behind and returning to a time when railways stations were gateways to the world, not de facto homeless shelters and places for drug buys. I dont think it entirely worked, but I still like the image.
Anyway, I recommend you try this as well as a technique. There is a lot more to photos than technical perfection, more important is the idea. I may not have nailed it, but I tried.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
And yet Sony will not change direction.
Is this sheer arrogance. Does Sony hear but just think it knows better? Is this foolishness, does Sony just not understand? Or is Sony right and everyone else wrong?
Time will tell, but frankly whether arrogance or foolishness, I believe Sony is wrong and must stop this mindless stupifying of its own product.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
I love watching and photographing musicians hands. Watching the simple, mechanical action of a hand just like mine but to see it producing a magic that is totally beyond me always draws me in.
Combine that with the wonderful shapes, colours and contours of the instruments themselves and I always end up taking a bunch of photos.
These were all taken at the 2010 Seattle Folk life festival.
Friday, August 20, 2010
I am really not a huge fan of pictures of flowers and bees that seem to be the staple of 99% of macro photographers. As a result, I've never really considered macro photography as something I would be interested in. However, with Sony's production of a really cheap little 30mm macro I figured 'what the hell' I'll give it a go.
So the lens came (and is brilliant, I really should do some equipment reviews some day) and then sat in bag for a few weeks while I had no idea what to do with it. Then, it made a work trip with me and was locked in the hotel room with me for a weekend where the weather was just appalling and I discovered that the world I live in that doesnt have flowers and insects everywhere but does have sprinkler heads, power outlets, phones and walkmen is equally deserving of (and really rewards) macro treatment.
So now I've discovered a use for macro, looking at the world around us (really around us) in our homes, offices, etc up close and personal. This is going to become one of my little, ongoing projects, so you'll be seeing more of this as we go along.
Friday, August 13, 2010
My photography is a constant stream of experiments with not fixed style or genre, that I can discern anyway. After a long time shunning the sunsets and sunrises I've seen so many of I've started hunting them myself. So much so that I can no longer claim the defence that this isnt something I normally do.
But still, I am wary of the clichés and I am equally wary that not being a strong student of photography I might be falling into a cliché not even knowing that I am. Ah well, at some point you have to stop worrying and simply make art.
So that is what I'm trying to do here, to make art, not just pretty pictures. I'm trying to capture a beautiful Newcastle sunset with the blistering sky of fire the thin line of man's industry and the brilliant blue of the oceans.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
A week or so ago I did the o dark hundred thing, crawled out of bed far to early and tried to catch some sunrise photos. In a way the morning was a complete disaster. It was cold, wet, cloudy and basically a disaster.
But a little experimentation yielded some great results and in the end it was all worth it.
First, I acknowledge this long exposure thing is a little of a photo fashion thing and I'm hardly being original but still, standing on the shoulders of giants is a well established artistic traditions and who am I to ignore that? Anyway, while a bleak, grey morning was a disaster for the shots I had planned its ideal for this sort of work.
That said, to get this right you need looooong exposures and with the sun rapidly rising I was running out of options. I had a pretty weak ND filter (3 stops) but I found combining that with a circular polariser (another 2 stops of light gone), going to f 22 I was able to really stretch the frame out for 15 seconds. Not the minutes required to give the really solid milky sea some can produce but on the other hand this middling long exposure and CP also gave me the ability to play around and after a couple of goes I was able to generate this.
While I have certainly boosted the blue, the base colour is pretty much as I caught it. But even more interesting was the slight 'see through the water' effect that the polariser gave me adding some real interest in the water.
Its not going to win any prizes but you know what, I'm really proud of this one and I hope you like it.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
We've all seen the classic fireworks shot, the beautiful trials of crisp, clean colour against the velvet blackness of the sky. Well I figure that the world had enough of those images already and so strove here to capture something different.
I'm trying to capture the way we see fireworks there, at the actual event. First, there are people in the frame, second I'm aiming for the light and movement and fire and smoke. Finally, I rarely remember individual explosions, rather the night becomes a pastiche of colour and moverment, so I deliberately tried to get the busiest scene I could and frankly didnt worry at all about all those technical issues like focus and exposure. I really like the result and hope you do too.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I love this shot. Its not my favourite from the morning (I'll post that tomorrow) but still I love it.
But I must be more care, before going live on the net I must, absolutely must, check for dust.
Do you see them? I didn't (until they were pointed out to me) and now those three little spots are all I can seen. Bugger, bugger and damn.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Actually one thing that has changed, and we are mostly happy for, are the sensors. The move from the 10Mp CCD to 12Mp CMOS, 25Mp FF CMOS, 14Mp CMOS to the current 14Mp HD CMS in the NEX cameras has been excellent with improved resolution, DR, colour response and (most noticeably) high ISO performance between every generation. That said, however, the AF, metering, flash, control and customisation functions at the heart of a DSLR are little different between the June 2006 A100 and current June 2010 line-up of cameras.
So, here we are, the NEX camera and camcorder launch a few weeks behind us and another Photokina coming up about 60 days from now. What is going to happen next.
Well one site, Sony Alpha Rumours reckons it knows. Its suggesting:
Sony will introduce the two “translucent” cameras, the A55 (16MPX) and A33 (14MPX) -> (ultra fast autofocus during videorecording, very fast fps).
These ‘translucent cameras are based upon the pellical mirror technology discussed here and here.
My guess is the the different sensors (if this is true) point to the 14Mp sensor in the A550 and NEX series being the new ‘workhorse’ sensor for Sony. It will be fascinating to see if this sensor makes it way to Nikon or if Sony reckons that between the NEX series and based level A mounts it can make enough money. The presence of the 16Mp sensor probably signals what will drive the A7XX and (potentially) a future Nikon 400.
2) Sony will introduce two new Sony A5xx cameras with ExmorHD sensor. The higher-level camera will also be able to take 3D pictures (and it comes with GPS).
This is really surprising as the A500 and A550 are amongst the newest cameras in the Sony line-up and (apart from video) very competitive. And perhaps that the problem, today video is no longer an option, its seen as a requirement.
3) Many new lenses. Many current kit-lenses will be updated. The new Zeiss 24mm f/2.0 and Sony 500mm beast will finally come to market..
We always get sucked into talking about camera bodies but really it’s the lenses that many of us are really craving. The 24mm and 500mm are expected and there are strong rumours of an 16-80 CZ update. But what else is out there and what other ‘updates’ are required? My wild arsed guess, Sony is working on NEX compatibility for A mount lenses. What does this mean? Well I suspect at the least, some tweaks to AF processes (such as SSM in the CZ primes), possibly A mount lenses with Optical Stabilisation and most out there, electronic aperture support.
4) New NEX accessories are expected to be announced (electronic viewfinder???)
My guesses for NEX accessories. GPS, wireless unit(s), EVF.
If this rumour is true (and Sony Alpha Rumours doesn’t have the greatest reputation for getting it right) we are seeing almost a re-launch of the Sony Alpha brand. While it still doesn’t have the much desired A7XX (or the increasingly needed A8XX and A9XX) it would still be pretty big news.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
It is really interesting to compare the Luminous Landscape comments with those from the guys at Endgadget. For me the most interesting difference is that the quite openly gear driven guys at Endgadget were infinitely more interested in actually using the device in their preview than in analysing the spec sheet. What drove these guys was what the camera could do, not what it couldnt, they considered how they would use it rather than how they wished they'd use it.
Now, I am being a little unfair, perhaps if Michael had a camera in his hands, like the Endgadget testers he would have reacted differently. Given Michaels inability to understand the NEX UI I dont hold out much hope.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Ok, I havent spoken about it much yet but I have joined the Sony NEX(t) generation and am loving it. I got the camera about three weeks ago and the A to E adapter last week.
So far I've really only been playing around and I havent tried to take any "serious" photos yet. (I'm in the middle of a major overhaul of my entire photography working regime that is actually getting in the way of just taking photos right now). Hopefully I'll get that fixed very shortly.
Anyway, so far so good. A fuller report to come soon, but just for kicks here's a snapshot of the little NEX on the Minolta 28-135. This isnt really an ideal configuration but it sure is fun.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The Sygna morning shoot yielded so many great photo opportunities I'm still wading through, processing and posting them.
Maybe I'm just bandwagon jumping seeing as my last b&w dunes shots got explored but I really do think they work. Why? I think its because there is so little detail and such a limited array of colours that the core of the images becomes just the play of light and shade, something B&W handles really nicely.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Returning to a familiar theme here on the importance of working the scene.
When you spend several hours with the same subject through a sun rise you get lots of opportunities to experiment. Add to that a few more hours of processing and you can really go to town. Here's a whole bunch of photos of the same subject (The Sygna) from basically the same spot but with a lot of variation in exposure and processing.
One way of expanding your boundaries as a photographer is to stop chasing new scenes but instead concentrate on new ways of capturing and presenting the one scene before you.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Here's a great reason why having a cheap and cheerful 2nd camera is really handy. I was out on a social shoot with the people in the car in front and the scene just struck me as worthy of capturing. So I just wrapped the strap around my arm, stuck it out and fired.
I quite like the outcome.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
So where the hell are these latest ads for a dating site coming from?
Well it seems that Sigma has had enough of that an is determined to stake a claim as a serious competitor to the OEMs.
This PMA (Feb 2010) has seen the latest (and perhaps the most convincing) barrage of new Sigma lenses. These include an 85 1.4, super-ultra wide 8-16mm zoom, a big re-vamp of the 70-200 2.8 with new glass (FLD - more on that later) and IS/VR and the release of a couple of old favorites with IS/VR.
And, not content with simply putting out new lenses, Sigma is pushing into the realms of the OEM further with advances in exotic glass elements with the advent of the new low dispersion glass with the FLD elements.
Heady days indeed and great news for us.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
My flickr stream hit 100,000 view sometime yesterday and I chosen to think that this image was the one that took me there. Why? Because its an image that speaks to me right now.
In his book "The Architecture of Happiness" Alain de Botton quotes Stendhal saying that "Beauty is the promise of happiness". He then further extends this with the proposition that often we will therefore be attracted to things that we feel are missing from our lives (or our selves).
This image is just one recent example of this for me. As my life at work is becoming more and more complex and stressful I'm finding more solace in simple, clean, soothing shots such as this.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Really simple and short post today. What is it about doors and windows that fascinates so many of us (well me at least).
For me its a couple of things:
1. Door and windows represent a point of interest in a building, therefore architects always seem to put in a little extra effort.
2. Doors and windows get used, they age and become more and more interesting. Like the one in this posting, they wear, break, get patched, break again, get fixed again. Ultimately doors and windows become like a little potted history of the building.
3. Door and windows are about more than the building, there are a physical manifestation of the building need to cater for people. I cant help but think of the people that went through a door, looked through a window etc when I see one.
Ok, I stand guilty as charged as an animal lover. Animals, especially our pets give us so much pleasure, whether its the look of absolute devotion our dog as we come home or the complete silliness of a new kitten.
But as photographers we should never also forget the wealth of photo ops they give us. Even more than our kids as our pets dont get sulky, hide their faces or run off and hide (ok they sometimes do this).
Anyway, my only advice is we shouldnt be ashamed of our pet photos. Ok, they arent going to change the world but big deal. I'd rather see 1000 photos of pets loved and cherished by their owners than 1 more posed shot of a model that I dont know, dont care about and usually has all the warmth of an antarctic winter.
So anyway - say hello to my newest addition, Othello. Our 13 week old rescue kitten.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
So its probably no surprise that I get pretty excited whenever one of my favorite photography websites does one of its regular columns on photography books. I particularly enjoyed his wrap up of 2009 and intend to try and keep an eye out for his recommendations.
However, if I may make my own recommendation its this, never walk past a second hand bookshop without checking out the photography section. Not often, but often enough, you will find a gem thats worth the small effort.
Over this years holidays I found two such books, the first is:
Witness. The worlds greatest news photographers. Ok, its not printed on luscious thick paper and its contains lots of images we've all seen before but as a quick primer on some of the people that created and developed the idea of the news photographer this is a great little book.
The Fincher File. I hadnt heard of Terry Fincher and looking through this book I didnt see many great iconic photos but somehow that makes it an even better read. Yes, I said read. There is certainly more text than images here and its a fascinating history of one man, a photojournalist, and a world undergoing massive changes following WW2. No, this book wont change your life but you can pick it up very cheaply and I think you'll enjoy it if yu find photojournalism your sort of field.