Everybody has a dream. More realistically, everybody who picks up a camera has some idea – conscious or not – of what they want to get out of it: be it a simple record of an event, or delusions of artistic grandeur. More often than not, there’s a truly enormous gap between where the photographer wants to be, and where they think they are. There yet another gap between where they think they are and where they actually are. For most, the levels tend to shake out with aspiration coming first, followed by self-perception, and then finally, reality. As with most things photographic, there’s just as much psychology involved as technicality.
Cintiq 13HD below my 27″ Thunderbolt Display. You can see straight away the problems of having a glossy screen…
Aside from my computer and Photoshop, a graphic tablet is probably the sole piece of equipment that gets used for every single image I shoot. It plays an indispensable role in processing – specifically, for precision dodging and burning, and masking and retouching on more involved images. I’ve been a big fan of the Intuos line since 2004; every couple of years or so, I have to buy a new one because I wear through the surface – that should give you an idea of just how important they are in my photography. I also use them for design work and illustration, too. My Intuos4 has been with me since 2010, and those of you who’ve attended my workshops can attest to how well-used it is: you can see your reflection in the place where my on-screen palettes go.
Thanks to Wacom Malaysia, I’ve had the opportunity to test the new Cintiq 13HD for a couple of weeks now. Thoughts follow…
I can’t really say these have a common theme other than reporting on life in the city; however, subjects, light and various urban geometry cooperated at times to make some images I was rather fond of. Enjoy! MT
I don’t normally review ‘consumer’ grade gear for the simple reason that it’s usually built to a price, rather than built to deliver a certain grade of result (or perhaps it is, only the accountants and engineers know for sure). However, sometimes you come across a piece of equipment that fills a need much better than you imagined; this lens is one such example. The Panasonic Lumix Vario PZ 14-42/3.5-5.6 X G (what a mouthful, hereafter known as the 14-42X) is a very small – about the size of the 20/1.7 pancake when collapsed – zoom for Micro Four Thirds. It was the kit lens for the GX1 and a couple of other cameras for a while, and fortunately also available separately.
Judging from the email traffic over the last couple of days, I know there are many of you wondering why I’ve been silent on the new Leica X Vario (16MP, APS-C, similar to the X2 body, 28-70/3.5-6.4 equivalent) – the simple answer is that I wasn’t given a camera to test, so not having used one, I have no opinion on it as yet. I have requested one, and have been told it should arrive this week or next. As usual I will do my best to answer your questions if/when it arrives.
And the people have spoken: following the voting, I’m pleased to be able to offer four images as a very limited print run. And when I say limited, I mean limited:
I will only print these images once, at this size. Ever. Once this run is complete, there will be no more prints.
Interested? Read on to order.
Ostensibly, this is already perhaps not the most practical of ideas; if one is extremely masochistic, things can be compounded further into the really bad idea class by using film. And a manual focus camera. Without a meter. I think it takes a certain amount of insanity – or at least a healthy dose of optimism – to even attempt it. Street photography (the genre itself being discussed in this previous article) is the kind of thing that’s handled best with a responsive, unobtrusive camera that also has a goodly amount of depth of field for a given aperture, plus what I like to think of as being very forgiving of slightly loose shot discipline. This generally means good high-ISO ability, perhaps a stabilization system, a low-vibration shutter and decently large pixels to make the effects of camera shake less obvious.
A quick status update: there are a few places left for Europe and one left for Singapore.
Amsterdam – 25-28 September Sold out but accepting standbys
Prague – 2-5 October (a couple of places left)
Munich – 9-12 October (still available)
The syllabus will still follow the core fundamentals from the USA tour: throw everything you thought you knew about photography out the window, and start again. All you need is a camera and a couple of perspectives – one wide, one tele. It could be either end of a zoom on a compact, or it could be medium format and a couple of primes – it’s up to you. What I’ll be teaching is subject independent: make great images, any time, with any subject, any camera. Put it this way: it’s easy to spend thousands on equipment that you may use a handful of times a year, but what about the knowledge that lets you make the most of that equipment, in any situation?
In part one of this article, we covered some basic organisational/ structural elements that go into making a good camera company. I’ll conclude today by discussing in some detail about what I’d turn into my cornerstone tenets/ strategies I’d use if I were to suddenly take over – thorough examination of the financials notwithstanding, of course.
Figure out what to kill. There will be product lines that are simply unprofitable, or not worth the hassle – a well-structured product offering will mean you have something to offer to every potential customer that doesn’t result in internal cannibalism (still, better than losing customers to another brand) and the supply chain, production and inventory management/ distribution advantages associated with simply having fewer products. Currently, you need one entry level, one midrange and one high end/ professional/ niche model in every class – that’s about nine products, by my reckoning – fixed lens, mirrorless and DSLR. In the future, that may well streamline to just a mid-entry level and mid-pro; firstly because there may not be an entry level market after initial saturation, and secondly because the features that previously differentiated tiers have now slowly migrated down the price scale. The same should be true of lenses – in fact, even more so: one low-mid priced offering, one mid-high offering, and perhaps a halo piece or two. Example – the Leica 50/0.95. Nobody needs it, but most want it and owners probably have one or two of the other 50mms – but theres no need to have 0.95, 1.4, 2, 2 APO, 2.5 and 2.8 flavors – that just complicates production and inventory management unnecessarily, and confuses the hell out of your customers.
For a moment, let’s say that I – we, collectively – had any say in how a camera company was run. Let’s go further to assume that we not only had say, but we could do as we pleased. There are two considerations here, which I think the existing companies tend to see as separate: making cameras for photographers, and making cameras that sell. They aren’t: if you make cameras that photographers want to buy, then even the non-photographers will want them because of the power of association, the halo effect and all of those other things that turn on the marketing people. A good example is Leica: very few pros shoot exclusively Leica now, but they did in the early days: this created a halo effect that’s existed to this day. If money is no object and you’re in the market for a camera or want to take up photography, then chances are you’ve considered a Leica. It’s also the sole reason why they manage to sell any of the rebadged Panasonics.
Over the last couple of posts, we’ve looked at the qualities of bokeh, and some examples of cinematic photography in New York; although one of the most obvious hallmarks of the cinematic style is an abundance of very out of focus zones, in reality there’s a lot more subtlety to it. Since this is one of my most frequently used and well-developed styles, I felt that perhaps a little intellectual exercise was in order.
Following on from the results of that survey on the direction of this site several months back, it seems that there is definitely some interest in a limited run of prints: how many, exactly, I have no idea. But in collaboration with local master printer Wesley Wong of Giclee Art (he does all of my exhibition and commercial printing, and a good number of other major local pros), I’m pleased to open up a print offer for my readers from my body of work from the first half of this year. If this is a success – and of course I hope it is – I think it may well turn into a biannual or quarterly affair.
I found the people and streets of New York to be eminently suited to a bit of cinematic street photography. Perhaps it’s the fact that so many movies have already been filmed in New York, or it’s the quality of light filtering between and reflecting off buildings, or it’s the various diverse characters that live in the city. These are little moments, vignettes and slices-of-life; I don’t want to use the word ‘stolen’, but it does sometimes feel like one is peering into a pre-coreographed scene and simply borrowing a frame. I sincerely apologise in advance for having some fun with the captions.
This article is one of my first from the archives, brought up, dusted off and refreshed with new images in preparation for the next mini-series on cinematic photography: let’s just say that bokeh matters, and having a little pre-prep can’t hurt. Plus, things tend to get buried in the depths of time and forgotten…
Bokeh. Possibly one of the most misunderstood, yet most bandied-about terms in the world of photography today – right up there with dynamic range, resolution, A-is-noisier-than-B and other such myths.
The term is a derivative of the Japanese word boke, which doesn’t really have a good translation into English. I believe Mike Johnston was the one who coined/ Anglicised it, though there may be earlier derivations. The closest we can get is ‘the nature/ character of blur’. It’s certainly not quantitative in any way – what constitutes good bokeh and what is bad or ugly bokeh is very much up to the viewer. There are some who like ‘busy’ bokeh where out of focus areas take on double images, swirls or other patterns; some like the pentagons and other shapes on highlights. Yet others prefer a uniform wall of gaussian blur foreground-background.
After writing the article on why we photograph and fresh off the back of several overseas trips, I wanted to share a few thoughts on travel photography. It seems that like street photography, the ‘travel’ genre is almost a generic catch-all bucket for images that don’t fit anything else; it’s a bit of portrait, a bit of landscape, a bit of street, a bit of still life, a bit of architecture, and, well, just ill-defined.