Saturday, October 31, 2009

Meanwhile, On Actualities

On my Actualities blog, a few new posts: on a new project, an editing lesson, some editing skills and some editing ideas.

It's all about editing, I suppose.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Advanced Photo Class, Register Now

My Advanced Seriously Fun Photography class starts at Hunter Continuing Education starts November 5th. So, register now.

They've changed the Web site, so the way to see the listing and register is to go to this interface and type "photography" into the search box.

Ready to stretch your creativity, and master the techniques you need for your photography? In this advanced photography class, we will address three topic areas of intermediate / advanced photography technique -- chosen by the students during our first session -- and we will have three special class photography sessions. (These sessions may include a class photo shoot, a museum / gallery / auction house visit, and a studio lighting shoot.) Students will also prepare a small portfolio project over the six weeks of the course, with a critique session in our last week.

Course/Section: SERFUNII/1 6 Session(s) 12 Hour(s) Tuition: $250.00
Day(s) Meet: Thursday Date: 11/05/09-12/17/09 Time: 06:00PM-08:00PM
Location: CS, 71 E 94 ST./
Instructor(s): FISHER, TED

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday At The Met: The Americans

I've taken many of my photo classes through Robert Frank's The Americans over the years, page by page. We look at it for sequencing concepts, for ideas on a documentary approach, and just because it's a good book.

So, nothing shocking to me in the Met's installation. But it's great nonetheless.

The highlight: one of the contact sheets reveals Frank shot four times when he saw a combination of the American flag, the front of a building, and women in the windows. He then shot a few attempts at something else, and came back for one last shot: and that final shot is the iconic image that's first in the book.

Quick Note On Balancing Flash and Ambient Exposure

Last night in my Seriously Fun Photography class we tried balancing on-camera flash and ambient light. A few notes on that:

1. First, let's set a manual exposure based on the ambient light available. For example, in the low-light conditions of a classroom at night, we found a reasonable exposure was around a sensitivity setting of ISO 1600, a shutter speed of 1/60th and an aperture of F/5.6. I tend to recommend dropping this exposure one stop -- after all, you may want your main subject to "pop" and the background to be a little darker. So switch to manual mode, and set an exposure that is about one stop underexposed.

2. Now pop up your on camera flash. Check the flash mode: "fill flash" will give you the best balance between subject and background. There's also a "flash compensation" setting, so if you are finding your flash is overexposing the subject, set the flash compensation to -1 or -2. Take the shot, and look how the subject and background are balancing.

3. For a more sophisticated take, consider "dragging the shutter" -- using a shutter speed that's a bit slower (for example, try 1/15th of a second). The flash will freeze the main subject, and the slow shutter may create a more interesting background to the shot. You can even purposefully move the camera to create a little bit more interest in the background -- you might get streaking lights or an overall warmly lit look.

In general, good compact cameras and good DSLR cameras do a reasonable job of balancing subject and background when handled this way, but usually you'll want to dial that flash compensation down a stop.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Advanced Relief On 88th Street

I saw that someone had left a bottle of "Advanced Relief" on the iron gate of the church, and it struck me as a strange thing. You would have to reach up to put something there.

Ten hours later, it was still there. Not moved in the slightest.

I'll look the next time I go past.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Bronx, Looking Toward Manhattan

That light-grey speck in the distance? The Chrysler Building. Or have they changed the name, now that it's been sold?

A Tree Grows In Not Exactly Brooklyn

I snapped this while walking in The Bronx because it's unusual to see a tree branch growing out of a building, but also because it reminded me of:

Nature Photography, More or Less.

Photographer, Upper East Side

I'm generally not a fan of shots taken from behind people. It tends toward the exploitive, and tends to feel unconnected as well. Still, once in a while there's one I think works. Maybe it's the light streaming past.

For some reason, I thought this guy was a tourist. Maybe not. What was he so intent on photographing, up in the sky? I don't know: I snapped this with my iPhone and continued home. I'm usually fairly tuned in, but this time I just never thought to look.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


My friend Doug McCulloh was in town for a few days. You should probably buy his books:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh, Snap

Had a good studio lighting session in Seriously Fun Photography. Above: what happens when a strobe fires while taking an iPhone snapshot.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Adobe Photoshop For iPhone

Above: I took a snap of a micro pumpkin patch on 89th Street this evening. It was a great opportunity to test out Adobe's Photoshop for iPhone.

Here's the process: I clicked on the Photoshop icon, and it asked if I wanted to take a photo or use an existing image. I chose the image, then used the crop tool to take out some unneeded detail, turned the saturation slider to plus 10, turned the exposure adjustment up a little, and chose to exit and save. That's it. The photo appeared in my phone's photo library and was ready to post. The original is at left.

It's a very simple app, it's free, and it does the basics. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sunday In The Park With Joel

Is there any news from the world of photography? Tons of it. Joel Meyerowitz in NYC parks, for one.

Documentary Photographer Turns His Lens on City Parks

In the latest phase of his career, Mr. Meyerowitz, 71, has turned his lens onto nature and wildlife in city parks, in a project evocative of the work of the artists and writers hired by the Works Progress Administration during the New Deal. The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation has commissioned a series of expansive photographs of city green spaces from Mr. Meyerowitz. The resulting works — 90 photographs — are now on view in an exhibition, “Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks,” that opened on Friday at the Museum of the City of New York."

Touching Retouching

Great article about students in Baltimore who salvage photographs, then use Photoshop to restore them. I think there's something in my eye.

High school students try to save neighbors' memories

"The Patapsco photography class was spending part of Monday afternoon examining their first batch of work: photos from the flooded basement of Jane Haines. Haines lives in Logan Village, one of the communities affected last month by a main break that sent water gushing into more than 100 homes in the Dundalk area. Throughout this month, the students are offering to digitally restore photographs ruined in the deluge."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eggnog All Around

As of this weekend, stores were ready. Break out the Santa suits.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

34th Street Revisited

Friday evening I found myself standing in the same spot where the end of Blind Faith: A Film About Seeing was filmed.

Above: an iPhone snap from that spot.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Speaking Of Snapshots

Above: an iPhone snapshot on 91st Street earlier this evening.

The Snapshot Gap

All those U.S. presidents who had brush-clearing as a hobby, take note: there are better ways to spend your time away from starting pointless wars.

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's Photographer-in-Chief?

"A wide shot of a rising moon, a macro close-up of an icy branch and flames dancing in the darkness are a small taste of the photos in a large collection of personal photography by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev the Kremlin has posted online."

Seriously Fun Photography, Session Two

Last Thursday night was the second session of Seriously Fun Photography

We reviewed what we learned Week One then thought again about the relationship between aperture and depth of field. While we start to get the idea when we say "f/2 -- shallow depth of field and f/22 -- deep depth of field" actually trying this out in with some real world shots is always a good experiment. So, to make a photo where a person is in focus but the background is out of focus, we did the following:

1. Set your zoom lens toward telephoto -- 50mm or longer -- or use a telephoto lens. 90mm would be an excellent choice.

2. Set your aperature toward f/2 -- on most basic zoom lenses, you might only be able to go to f/3.5 or f/4 or f/5.6, but that's okay. If you can get closer to f/2, that will work even better.

3. Position yourself, your subject, and the background. Generally, you should be close to your subject and the background should be far away to achieve this result.
We experimented, and soon everyone was able to produce a photo with the subject in focus and the background somewhat out of focus. This is a great way to emphasize the main subject of the photograph.

We then went on to begin the long and complicated process of thinking about compositional strategies. For example, we introduced the "rule of thirds" -- which I have posts on here and here and here.

We then looked at how to create a relationship in a photo -- between a subject and the negative space around them, between two or three people, and in various other senses.

Nearer the end of class, we looked at ways to think about the space we are photographing in and how this can change / work with our compositional idea.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Color On The Street

Thursday night I teach my photo class at Hunter Extension. I've asked the students to tune in to color during the week, so I've tried to as well. Here's an iPhone snapshot from this morning, probably taken at 1st Avenue and 89th Street.

Call It "Barking Mad"

In these difficult economic times, newspapers like to give their readers a glimpse at alternative, wacky careers. You know, like photography.

How hard is it to photograph a wedding?

"The memorable shots from Marc and Sylvia Day's wedding are unusual, to say the least. Decapitated guests, a ceremony hardly visible through the gloom, and random close-ups of... not the bouquet, or a snatched kiss, but of carriage wheels."
The noisy art of pooch photography
"When the gadgets don’t work, Schwartz mimicks animals, woofing, mooing, clucking, sometimes resorting to bogus sneezing and the occasional raspberry; whatever it takes to garner cooperation from his subjects, who tend to be preoccupied by their surroundings."
I like the idea of a situation comedy about a pet photographer forced in hard times to shoot weddings -- keeping the tactic of making animal noises, of course -- or maybe something on the world's worst wedding photographer. More likely: a reality show where pet photographers and wedding photographers switch jobs for the day.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Photography In The News

Brian Duffy, for most people who follow photography, is not the first name to come to mind. Say "David Bailey" and a particular place and time and attitude will come to mind. But Duffy?

He was right there, though, part of the "Terrible Trio" with Bailey and Terence Donovan. Swinging London. Picture David Hemmings in Blow Up. So why isn't he remembered?

For one: he quit photography. Also: he burnt quite a bit of his work.

Why would you burn your life's work?

"One morning I came into work, my assistant said we haven't got any toilet paper. I was employing four staff, was managing director, head of this organisation and my decision was on toilet paper. At that moment I cracked. Later that day I burned something, then I went into burning mode. I got reported and the council came round. "They were in a big bin. I was making a lot of smoke. Negatives don't burn easily. They make a hell of a lot of smoke."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Happy Holidays

It's October. Duane Reade is ready.

Documentary Digital Distribution Dollars Delineated

Scott Kirsner has an article and followup on the current state of independent film distribution through online venues -- and actually provides some hard numbers to consider.

The numbers:

One of the most popular documentaries on iTunes brought in over $100,000 from downloads; Apple gives a 70/30 revenue split. Typical results are more like $1,000 per title over a year, however.

Netflix pays a flat annual fee; one source claims the one-year rate ranges from $1,000 to $10,000 for the "Watch Instantly" streaming service.

Hulu is bringing in 6 million unique visitors each month, but mostly for the mainstream material, not the indy material.

SnagFilms appears small next to Hulu, but its distribution model (you "snag" the film and put it on your own site) means it's probably larger than initial reports; it also feeds some documentaries to Hulu.

The most significant point, I think, is just hinted at in the article: indie films, especially documentaries, now need a smartly timed release cycle. Get the film into festivals, get the media talking about it, then find a way to sell viewings in a cycled release: maybe $9.99 early, then at lower rates as the cycle cools. Maybe the long tail is DVD sales, maybe it's pennies per click via advertisements inserted into "free" viewings. Theatrical release or a cable purchase can happen in the middle, but this hasn't been a great year for that, really.

Indies still looking for Internet equation
'One thing the Internet has clearly changed, observes distribution consultant Adam Chapnick, is access to an audience. "But having easy access to the global audience doesn't get anyone to see your movie," he says. A solid marketing strategy, whether traditional or digital, is still essential.'
An Update on the State of Indie Film Online
'Rick Allen, CEO of doc-streaming network Snagfilms, takes issue with the traffic figures I cited in the story, supplied by Compete says the Snagfilms site gets about 100,000 unique visitors a month, compared to about six million for Hulu. Allen accurately points out that some of Hulu's most popular full-length films actually come from Snag (like 'The Future of Food' and 'Super-Size Me.') And he argues that a lot of Snagfilms content is viewed on other sites, describing Snag as "a massively sub-distributed network."'
By the way, did I mention you can see Blind Faith: A Film About Seeing on SnagFilms? For "free" -- so watch it over and over.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Update on Polanski Doc

On my other blog, there's a little more on the revelations about that documentary on Polanski. Less Hypothetically