Friday, August 31, 2007

On to Fall

I've lagged in posting this week. I'm shifting gears as the Fall approaches. New gig, old gigs, and some new projects approaching.

Details soon...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Txt Me L8r Ends Today

Sunday is the last day for the Spin 3: Txt Me L8r exhibition at Houston Center for Photography. (See the Flickr site for images.)

If you attended the party or the show, I'd love to see any snaps.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Sunny F16 Rule

I have a great light meter. And the meters inside a modern digital SLR are usually spot on, if used correctly. Still, in the same way it's valuable for a musician to have perfect pitch, it's probably good for a photographer to have some sense of light. So, how can you develop that?

Well, it's a bright, sunny day, I've got my trusty Zorki 6 and a Metro card. There's no meter in the Zorki rangefinder -- so I can carry a meter or I can make my best guess as to the right exposure....

Today I'll guess. That's a great way to train your eyes -- but you'll need a good Rule of Thumb to work from: The Sunny F16 Rule. On a typical day, your exposure can be calculated in the following manner:

Shutter Speed:
What film speed or ISO setting are you using? To start the calculation, set that as your shutter speed.

shadows sharp: F16.
soft-edged shadows: F11
barely-there shadows: F8
very overcast: F5.6
Since I have 400 speed film in my Zorki, I'll start with my shutter speed at 1/400th of a second. Then, I'll look at the shadows I see and decide: sharp, soft, or very soft? F16, F11, or F8. If the clouds roll in and I notice it's darker, then F5.6.

So, I might start at 1/400th of a second and F16, but if I see the light level lower a bit switch to F11. If I see the shadows have faded, then F8. Easy, and great training for your eyes.*

*(Of course, while I want to make things simple for this post, in the real world there is a tiny bit more complication: I like to slightly overexpose black and white negative film. Like many, I find a 1/2 stop of overexposure makes a better negative, generally, even though I would avoid overexposure in digital whenever possible. So, to do that I would make a little adjustment to my calculation: my 1/400th shutter speed would change to about 1/250th. That's very convenient, since the Zorki doesn't have a 1/400th setting anyway, so I'll switch to 1/250th at F16 for the bright sun.

Then, since I find 1/250th isn't quite fast enough for walking along street shooting -- Garry Winogrand used 1/1000th when possible on the street -- I would switch to the Zorki's fastest shutter speed of 1/500th and make the corresponding change to my aperture.

So, I would shoot at 1/500th and F11 in sharp shadows, 1/500th and F8 when the light drops a little and I see soft shadows, and 1/500th and F5.6 when the light drops further. If the clouds roll, then I'd be at 1/500th and F4.)

Photography Books for Summer

Today -- a hot and steamy August Saturday -- I pulled down two books from my bookshelf:

Elliott Erwitt: On the Beach

On The Beach: Chance Portraits From Two Shores

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Seriously Fun Photography

Starting Thursday, September 13th I will once again be teaching my Seriously Fun Photography class at Hunter College Continuing Education.

Sure, the name could use some work. It's accurate, though. We meet for six sessions. The first half is spent exploring photography technique and ways of working, all with an eye for gaining control over your images. The second half involves creating a portfolio-based project. It's a good time for everyone. Usually we add a field trip to some photo shows, as well.

Build on the basics and master the skills and ideas advanced photographers use in a fun, low-pressure class. Open to anyone able to shoot a photo and import it into a computer (and welcoming advanced students as well), in this class we'll use the digital camera as a fast way to learn the essentials of photography. We'll learn-by-doing, exploring professional techniques while creating a portfolio project (on any topic of your choice) to show your advanced skills. If you've always been interested in photography, but have put off becoming great at it, this is your chance.

THU 5:30:PM - 7:30:PM, Location: 68th St Cam C100N
09/13 - 10/18 Sessions: 6

Monday, August 20, 2007

This Thursday

I'll be showing in the SPIN 3 Txt Me L8r exhibition August 24 - August 26, 2007 at Houston Center For Photography.

Co-curated by HCP and Aurora Picture Show, Txt Me L8r explores the potential for distributed creativity through the use of cell phone technology. Combining crowdsourcing with networked communication, Txt Me L8r invites artists and the general public alike to adapt new technologies for spontaneous, geographically-dispersed collaboration.


So, where are we on this 168th anniversary of the beginning of photography as a part of our culture? Well, today Canon announced two cameras:

Canon EOS 40D 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III 21.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

It's likely there will be Nikon and Sony announcements soon as well. More powerful, more capable cameras than any photographers might have dreamed of a few decades ago.

So are the pictures better?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New York Portraits Turns One

I started this blog one year ago on the anniversary of the announcement of the invention of photography. It's been a very interesting year, but as always I prefer to look ahead. What trends are likely to be important in the next 365 days? Here are a few guesses:

1. The move to the Web. It feels like this has already happened, of course, with so much of photography being shown on the Web, but I get the sense we're really only at the end of Phase One. Newspapers and magazines are struggling with the costs of printing on paper and distributing on big trucks -- and as they move toward the point where the primary target is the Web, photographers will be key. Advanced amateurs using online photo services have found easy ways to put up all of their cat photos and vacation pics -- leaving professionals, who have some hesitation since they might sell their images for other uses before giving them away online, to try to figure out ways to bring high quality work to the Web.

2. A rethinking of the value of still imagery. With video now in competition with photography, and with a surfeit of photographs posted each and every day, both photographers and viewers should be asking: why a still image? What's the value of the single image, or the portfolio, when compared to the video clip and the short video? It may be time to reconsider the potential for still images. Painting faced a crisis when Photography came along, and this changed Painting and Art entirely. It may be that online video presents the same challenge, and that the result may be equally as revolutionary.

3. A repositioning of galleries and museums. The last two years have seen a number of shows that brought Flickr photo pools into the white cube of exhibition space, and the majority of photos hung on gallery walls are now made digitally, at least in part. The interest in the vernacular will fade, however, and exhibition spaces will go on with normal business. I think the smartest ones will develop better strategies for creating their own value: it can't be done by hiding the images in the show, and it can't be done by simply making scale the difference between Web and in-person viewing. The best museums and galleries will need to be reminded that the reason for entering the building goes beyond just seeing the images -- there is the potential an experience that can't be duplicated on a laptop. So what are those experiences, and how do you expand the emphasis on those experiences?

Above: Coney Island, 2007.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Made in USSR

This is my 1965 Zorki-6 rangefinder. In response to all the cell phone photographs I've taken lately, I thought it might be time to shoot a few rolls of film....

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Txt Me L8r: Say GoodBye

This is the last assignment in the Spin 3: Txt Me L8r exhibition at Houston Center for Photography. See the Flickr site for all the photos in the show.

Monday All Week

A lot going on this week -- an all-night photo shoot Monday evening included -- and I've fallen behind in posting, so a couple of quick notes. These are just my own opinions. I could be wrong.

If you see an open competition for photographers, that's great. Send in your entry, maybe you'll get in a show. Unless, of course, it says "There is a $60 handling fee for your entry."

If you start out in the morning and notice a photo in front of you but don't shoot it, for whatever reason, the rest of the day will be filled with missed photos. It will continue until you give in and take one. (There were about 15 yesterday, the photo above was taken to end that streak.)

If you hear someone say "Our dog bites" it is probably very true.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Txt Me L8r: Photograph Something Growing

This is the sixth assignment in the Spin 3: Txt Me L8r exhibition at Houston Center for Photography.

The museum sends text messages to the artists in the show, and then we respond and send in cell phone photographs. These are posted on a Flickr site and will later be projected in the museum.

Previous assignments:

assignment one
assignment two
assignment three
assignment three, part two
assignment four
assignment five

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Three Bad Trends in Photography

I talk to a lot of photographers, especially those who are students (at least in some sense) and I tend to get a sense of which way the wind is blowing. Here are three trends I think are problematic:

The Search for the 2 - 2000mm Zoom Lens
There have been great improvements in zoom lenses in the last two decades, and there are now good lenses that slide from 20mm to 200mm focal lengths. They are very convenient. They are almost a match for the quality of prime lenses (lenses with a single focal length), and very usable. But the photography discussion forums are now filled with 18-200mm evangelists, and they feel that's the answer to every lens question. How can I shoot a landscape? 18-200mm. A portrait? 18-200mm. Mainly it shows a lack of understanding about the possibilities of camera and lens, but more to the point it shows that people are gaining "knowledge" about photography by comparing specifications and reading reviews rather than shooting.

Why do I think that? Imagine you walk out onto the street, hang about a bit, and then after some patience something interesting happens somewhere near you. What are the odds you are positioned in the perfect place for the shot? Very low. But a superzoom shooter is likely to think they are in the right place -- they just have to zoom in or out for the shot. So a superzoom lens is just fine in the hands of someone who is really thinking about the situation, and almost a deficit in the hands of someone expecting the lens to do the work.

Posting the Kitchen Sink
I think it's fabulous that online photo services have allowed photographers to post work online. I also think it's great that one can use these services as a form of "cloud storage" -- a backup of images on a server somewhere out in the world. A bit of confusion has come from this, however -- and more and more photographers send me links to portfolios containing hundreds or even thousands of images. Use those services, put up gigabytes of images, show all the photos from a wedding to the bride and groom, fine -- but make some distinction in what is just available and what serves as portfolio. I think you can convince me about your work in nine images. I think if you expect anyone to look at more than twenty it's a mistake. Post every image if you want, or post one everyday. But don't lose sight of what photographers have known through the entire history of the medium: a collection of twelve great photographs is a portfolio, a post of one hundred almost identical shots is a painful family album.

Online Anger
At one time being a photographer was a fairly rare gig. Later -- from the Kodak Brownie on -- it developed into a social practice and the sharing and discussion of photographs became a valuable element of the process. Now, everyone has a camera and an opinion. That's great: but since the online forums allow anonymous nicknames and little moderation, the potentially fabulous amount of knowledge we could all gain by productive critique and the sharing of ideas is held back by uninformed and angry idiots. The classy, valuable and helpful posts are always pulled down by those who feel there's only one way to do things and that their poorly-reasoned, poorly-spelled and poorly-considered comments should be presented in all-capital letters....

Post Number 117

Tomorrow (August 12th) will mark two years since we moved to New York.

Next week (August 19th) is the one-year anniversary of this blog. It will also mark the 168th anniversary of the announcement of the invention of photography.

Friday, August 10, 2007

World's Largest Photograph

My friends in California were just mentioned in Pravda.

"A three-story-tall image that was taken using a special camera made from an old California airplane hangar has qualified with the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest photograph in the world, the photographers who created it said.

The hangar-turned-camera also qualified as the world's largest camera, measuring more than 44 feet (13 meters) tall and 161 feet (49 meters) long, according to The Legacy Project, which created the artwork."
Full story here.

Txt Me L8r: Photograph Your Baggage

The fifth assignment for the SPIN 3: Txt Me L8r show.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Photograph the First Body of Water You See

The fourth assignment for the SPIN 3: Txt Me L8r show.

Photograph Your Next Destination, Part 2

Another take for the SPIN 3: Txt Me L8r show.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Txt Me L8R: Photograph Your Next Destination

The third assignment for the SPIN 3: Txt Me L8r show is posted.

Monday, August 06, 2007

You Walk to the Big Park, Then Turn Left

On Friday evening, we went to the Met.

I really enjoyed Poiret: King of Fashion, but didn't get much out of Hidden in Plain Sight: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection.

Why didn't I like the photography exhibition? Well, after some thought, I believe it's because it consisted of completely literal work presented as conceptual art. The museum makes this claim for the show:

"Often deliberately understated in style, these photographs are filled with everyday epiphanies. They capture the unexpected beauty of found still lifes and modest interventions in the landscape, inviting us to look more closely at the world around us."
A while back, a friend taught me about titles and captions: if they are the least bit redundant, they're wrong. That is, if the caption says the same thing as the photograph, you don't need it. If it gives new information, or better yet deepens the meaning of the work, then it's fine. And that's the problem with this show: "Sand on Table" is a photograph of sand, on a table.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Basic Photography Notes: The Horizon Line

One of the first things that comes up in a basic photography class is the placement of a horizon line in landscape photographs.

There seems to be a basic human impulse to place the horizon line in the center of the frame, dividing the image into a top and bottom half. That sort of division, however, is usually less dynamic than a 1/3 to 2/3 split, so one of the first lessons for landscape photographers is to divide the frame into three parts and place the horizon line 1/3 from the bottom or 1/3 from the top of the frame. After a while that sort of composition becomes second nature, and becomes a basic tool for most photographers.

There are always exceptions of course. Above is a snapshot I made of the Central Park Reservoir. I've purposefully placed the horizon in the center of the frame, but the stronger element of the railing is placed 1/3 from the bottom of the frame -- making the image read as divided into that traditional 1/3 vs 2/3 split.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What Does the Weather Look Like?

My second assignment in the SPIN 3: Txt Me L8r exhibition is posted.The Flickr group for the show has images by all the participants. (Remember, these are made with cell phones.)

The image above was made on Friday after rain swept through Manhattan, revealing the Chrysler Building reflected in a puddle at Lexington and 43rd.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Nine on the Shirl-ometer

This? This is Shirley. She's been photographed by thousands.

She's recently gone into retirement (though most say she's kept her looks after all these years) and I'm considering doing a short documentary on her career.

If you've worked with Shirley, send me an email. If you've dated Shirley, send me an anonymous email. Or just post a comment.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Feed for Txt Me L8r Photos

The Txt Me L8r exhibition RSS Feed is available.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Txt Me L8r Exhibition

I'll be participating in the upcoming SPIN 3: Txt Me L8r exhibition at Houston Center for Photography.

There is, of course, a Flickr group for you to check out. Above, my first image in response to "Take a picture now- don't think about it!" Made with a cell phone.