Monday, July 29, 2013

Change - it is acoming

I just recently purchased an Fuji X-E1 with 35mm f1.4 to augment my stable of cameras. But I got to thinking again how this new setup is going to change my shooting "eye". For so many years I have carried cameras that allowed me to go extremely wide or long that my "eye" searches for image that work for that type of effect. Now that I am restricting myself to not so wide or long, I find I myself trying to adjust to this new venue. Right now I plan on having the two cameras with three lenses with the widest at 35mm (on the X100S) and the longest at 127mm (on the X-E1).

But I still want to shoot people like I always have done. This shot was taken on St. Martin in the Caribbean. We had arrived there on the Carnival Miracle and, as per our usual, were just roaming to see the place. This shot, taken with an 18-200mm superzoom at 150mm, was some distance from where we were standing. I now will have to make the effort to move closer to get the framing and composition that I want.

The challenges are still there with this new system. I just hope I am up to the task.

 
As always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Shooting "Eye" & Silver Efex Pro

Started looking at the images I am shooting with the new camera. I knew that I would require some adjustment to my shooting "eye" with a fixed lens camera. The new Fuji has a 23mm f2 fixed lens (approximately 35mm in full frame terms) and I have shot with f2.8 zooms for most of my photographic life of over 35 years. The last wide angle zoom I used was of the 12-24mm variety so I had the capability of shooting at the 35mm field of view but I usually went wider to add to the effect. But this lens is forcing me to "see" differently. It is not a better "seeing" just a different "seeing". In some ways, it has been a liberating experience as other photographers have noted but is also frustrating in the early going as I wish I had a wider or longer focal length. But, like I said, it is not better or worse just different and challenging. I think of someone like Henri Cartier-Bresson who used a 50mm almost exclusively and wondered if I could do the same. I still have times that I wish for a little more focal length and am planning on adding a second Fuji body with its 35mm prime lens to give me the approximate 50mm FOV. Since I have been carrying two camera bodies for almost as long as I have owned a SLR or DSLR, I have a love for carrying two bodies with two different focal lengths so I can switch back and forth as I see images. Sometimes it makes me less inconspicuous but that is the price I pay. With each of the Fuji cameras about half the size of my now-sold Nikons and less than half the weight with the Nikon and a wide or telephoto zoom, it is a small price to pay.
I picked this image to show the difference in some of my shooting. If one looks at my website, my shooting style is a little more "fill the frame" with a particular subject or person. This image shows more of the surroundings and was something I usually reserved for my wideangle zoom. As I am adjusting to the fixed focal length, I find myself closing in a little and believe this trend will continue even with the 50mm equivalent. While this camera provides a live view on the LCD which my Nikons did not have, I still prefer to look through a viewfinder as it seems to put me in touch more with the image. This is a simple "life on the banks" type of shot at our local grocery that I have entitled "Boar's Head". I spent some time in Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2 with this image to make the final rendition you see here. It is one piece of software that has really improved and sped up my workflow for black&white images. And, as anyone can tell, I love black&white over color any day of the week!


As always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Monday, July 22, 2013

Diagonal lines - useful in composition?

Earlier today I got an email from the buyer of my Nikkor 1.8/85mm lens saying he had detected a problem and wanted to return it. After getting that process started, I began looking for something to post today. Almost immediately, I saw this image and began doing my usual b&w post processing before I noticed the image was with the same 85mm lens. As I looked at the image I began to wonder what possessed me to press the shutter button. One of the things I was taught (back when I was a kid thinking he could be a commercial artist) was that diagonal lines have a tendency to add motion to an image. As one can easily see in this shot, the offcenter composition along with the diagonal lines of the architecture, tables, and lights drive the eye toward the left side of the image. With the one woman in sharp focus, the eye lingers for a second before proceeding on. At least, that is what happens when I look at this image.
One thing I have been considering is getting a lens in the 75mm-90mm range to go along with the Fuji X-E1 and 1.4/35mm combo and my X100S. I had sold this lens because it is an autofocus lens but would only be used manually on the X-E1 so I sold it. Now I will have to decide if this is fate returning the lens to me because it is the one tele I should keep.


As always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Water Bugs!

I am continuing pulling images from history as I rebuild my website and change from DSLR gear to mirrorless gear. The change in gear has been an interesting trip. While I don't want the blog to focus on gear, making a change such as this has been a little stressful. I have a tendency to stay with one type of equipment no matter what that equipment is. I bought my first Chrysler product, a Plymouth Duster 340, in 1972. My next four new cars were all Chrysler products with the last one being a 2002 PT Cruiser that my wife still owns. It was the same with camera gear. My wife let me buy my first camera for my 30th birthday - an Olympus OM-10 w/manual adapter and 50mm f1.8. I ended up progressing to the OM-2S and finally the OM-4T. When I needed autofocus for newspaper work, I shifted to a pair of Nikon F100 bodies but stayed with mostly Tokina lenses. I changed to digital around 2001 but my last DSLRs were 10-year old D2H bodies that I bought when they were introduced in 2003.
But, with this last change to mirrorless gear, I also needed to change my thought process and the images that I shoot. No longer will I be able to shoot high school sports like I did with the DSLR gear. But it makes for an interesting challenge in this vocation that is totally different for me. For the last several years, I have had a tendency to "see" long with a telephoto view or short with a wide view. Very seldom did I "see" at what is consider the "normal" lens for 35mm format at a 50mm focal length. When I started shooting my dad's old Yashica Electro35 GS I had no choice but to "see" at the normal range as it is a 45mm focal length fixed lens rangefinder. That has been helpful as I start looking into the purchase of additional mirrorless gear.
I frequent a number of blogs that suit the style of early photojournalists that shot with 35mm and 50mm lenses quite frequently. Henri Cartier-Bresson, consider the father of modern photojournalism, shot almost totally with a 50mm lens. Before I shot almost exclusively with zoom lenses in order to quickly "fill the frame" which, with cameras with APS-C size sensors and 4.1 megapixels was almost a necessity. With the new mirrorless gear not only do I have over 16 megapixels in an APS-C camera, I have a sensor that is probably 4 stops of exposure better than my old D2H. The noise at ISO6400 is very manageable where with the D2H at ISO1600 the noise required some extra work in post processing. Plus the 16 megapixels gives me the capability of cropping that I did not enjoy before. In many cases, I can crop and still resize up to my favorite print output size of 12"x18".
Today's image is from a couple of days ago when my wife and I took three grandkids to a local waterpark.This fixed focal length rangefinder-style camera has been quite an upgrade from my old DSLRs. While this image is not a real big crop, the detail is much higher and makes for, IMO, a visually interesting image.



As always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Monday, July 15, 2013

Retirement?

As I try to adjust to being "retired" (I still see myself as unemployed even as I approach 66 years old) and try to get something going with this blog, I am using mostly existing images as I sell the equipment that I used as a newspaper staffer. As I no longer have a possibility of working for another newspaper, I felt it was time. BUT selling this equipment was a tough decision. I started out with film SLRs in the late 1970s, switched to digital around 2001, and had used the same bodies (a pair of Nikon D2H's) since 2003.
What made selling this equipment hard? I know them so well I do not even think about "how" to change a setting, I just instinctively do it. Using the same equipment for a decade allowed me to really know how they would react in just about any situation. But with the layoff of an entire 20+ person photography staff at the Chicago Sun-Times, it is time for me to think differently about making money with my photography. While I have done the occasional portraits and weddings over the years, it really was not the direction I wanted to go with my efforts. When I went pro full-time, I put most of my effort into making inroads with a local weekly newspaper. I started out just freelancing, paid by the image, to going under contract (guaranteed minimum hours, mileage, etc) to finally being hired as the first staff photographer in 2005. I would work sometimes as much as 70 hours in a week and was just having a ball. When you are a member of the media in a small town setting, you get to do things that most residents do not get clearance to do. I was on the sidelines of all the high school sports, backstage at all the music festivals, up close and personal with not only local and state politicians but national ones as well. Being known by local law enforcement and firefighters allowed me access inside the usual boundaries to keep out the public.
But to today's entry in the blog. Since I am looking to go in another direction with my work, I am looking back over the images I have been shooting since leaving the newspaper biz in 2008 just before being laid off. I am finding the images that appeal to me most are the ones that showcase ordinary people being ordinary. This image is from a local resort in the Florida Panhandle. People were gathering for a free concert and just enjoying life. It reminds me of the time my wife (this year's anniversary will be number 45!) & I would open a bottle of wine in the evening and enjoy sitting on our porch overlooking the lake we used to live on. With some jazz playing on the stereo and a glass or two of wine, life is good. While there is a lot of strife going on in this world, there are ordinary people doing ordinary things and enjoying their time on this planet like these three women.


As always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"The Looks"

Stopped by to visit my son and his family after the eye doctor yesterday. Not sure if my son realized he was in the frame or not but his look made me wonder what he was thinking. His oldest daughter was also looking at me but her look is more "yeah, go ahead and take a picture, old man!"

My son is really a hoot. He keeps us laughing most of the time even when he is pissed off about something. This week he bought a new lawnmower. While he was using it for the first time, it exploded and dumped oil everywhere. On his way back to the store where he bought it, he got a speeding ticket.

But the way he tells it had us rolling with laughter.

That is where this image comes from. My images are going through a change as I continue to use the Fuji X100S. I have sold (or am selling) all of my Nikon gear since I will not have another job at a newspaper. I am really looking to do a long term project now that I am no longer gainfully employed. But I want it to be something personal. With the newspaper, it was get in, get the shot, get out, move on to the next assignment. Since it was a small weekly, the editor was not real interested in a project that would take months. So I am trying to come up with something that not only interest me and my new community but that will also give me a chance to get to know the people in the area. As I make the change with equipment, my shooting style will need to be more personal. No more f2.8 zooms or 8 frame per second cameras. Right now I am down to the X100S and an old Yashica Electro35 GS fixed lens film rangefinder that was my dad's.

Enough said, here is "The Looks"!!!

 
As always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Monday, July 8, 2013

B&W vs color - for me it is B&W

I just read an article by B. D. Colen of A Day in Our Life fame. It is about why he does most of his work in black&white including forcing students of his workshops to do black&white. When I first got going in photography, I shot a lot of different films both color and black&white and print and slides. I took my first roll of b&w, Kodak Tri-X, to a local 1-hour lab and waited for the results. Well, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. There was none of the pop of the images I was seeing in the books I was looking at. Then I happened on trio of books by Ansel Adams, the acclaimed landscape photographer. In reading about his Zone System, I learned that my problem was not with the film I was using but the lab's way of printing. So I enrolled in some basic photography courses at the local community college and learned how to do it myself. Back in the day of film, the only way to get a decent b&w image was to do it yourself.
Now I was never a decent darkroom artist. Too little time to really spend in a bathroom-turned-darkroom to learn the intricacies of different papers and chemicals to become proficient as a printer. But I did see the difference that printing your own images made over some machine that could not see the "soul" of the image that I wanted to project.

Fast forward to today and I still develop my own b&w with a changing bag and then use a film scanner to get it into the computer. But, with the majority of my shooting color digital, I have to convert it. Initially, I used layers in Photoshop to get the look that I wanted. Today, I use Silver Efex Pro 2 as it simplifies the workflow and has all the power of the darkroom to dodge and burn, spot any flaws, etc.
 But, even with all that said (or written), it is still about the image. Now I have always been inspired by the documentary work of the early photojournalists. Now I am not talking about the images of the wars, famines, etc., that most people associate with the term "photojournalist". I am talking about ordinary people that are living ordinary lives - getting up, going to work, raising a family, etc. "Slice of life" images are the term I have seen somewhere and it holds true for the image that mean the most to me.
The image I have chosen to take a look at today is, to me, one of those type of images. Taken at a local market in London, I think this shot epitomizes the focus of some of the early PJs like Cartier-Breeson, Roisneau, Ronis and others. While this image was taken with a big pro DSLR and a superzoom lens, it was shot at 35mm and an aperture of f5.0. A wide enough field of view to bring context to the image but close enough to the subjects to see there is some interaction. I have no clue what this gentleman was saying to [what I presume was] his wife. BUT I hope that an image like this gets the viewer to wonder what is being said.....



As always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Just another photo blog

Yep, just another photo blog! I read a lot of photo blogs myself but, with the rare exception, too many of them are talking about how this camera/lens combo produces images that provide this or that exceptional difference.
Since I first got involved with photography back in 1978, to me it has been all about the image and its content. I have images I love, not for their technical accuracy (or lack of), but for their content. And that, my friends, is what I will try to do here. I am not sure what kind of following I will (or hope to) get but I will leave that for the future.
I guess the first thing that needs to be done is an introduction. I am an old guy on the cusp of full retirement age living in Carrollton, GA, USA. I squandered my youth by not applying myself in college. I first thought I could be a commercial artist but then met people who were really gifted like one of my granddaughters (more on her later) so shifted to civil engineering. But it was too late to bring up my GPA so the folks at Mississippi State University thought I deserved a break. Well, it was 1968 and guys like me did not get to just sit around. I joined the US Navy and spent 8+ years as a submarine sonar technician. During that time I got married, had three children, and spent a LOT of time at sea during the Cold War. When I got out in 1976, I started working for military contractors. My wife bought me my first (what I considered) serious SLR in 1978 for a birthday present. I chose an Olympus OM-10 with a manual adapter and Zuiko 1.8/50mm lens. I had never had an opportunity to have this type of equipment and starting perusing books to get a better understanding. Long story short, I fell for the black&white artistry of Ansel Adams and the subject matter of photojournalists like Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, Ronis, and the like. I started taking a few classes at the local community college to gain experience in composition (part of my earlier training in commercial art helped here) and the technical aspects of the darkroom.
I never was very good in the darkroom. There are people even today that can produce some beautiful work without a computer using the techniques of Adams. Sadly, I am not one of them.
Over the last 35 years, I have slowly progressed in technical skill but have not really changed from my initial precepts about subject matter. I went from a single camera and lens to a pair of bodies with multiple f2.8 zooms and even faster primes. But thought of being a photojournalist documenting life as it happens was something that was a dream.
After raising our three kids (including the burying of our oldest son at the age of 19), my wife and I decided life was too short to spend it working in dead end jobs. So, after working for several military contractors, I quit my job in Atlanta, GA, and we moved to the Florida Panhandle into a log cabin on a coastal dune lake.
I approached a small weekly newspaper (that was only a year old) with sports images from the local high school. The paper had no staff photographer and no sports reporter which became my way of getting in. Eventually, in the economic boom of the mid-2000's, I became the first (and, as it has turned out, ONLY) staff photographer for the paper. This was both a blessing and a bane. A blessing because I had a fulltime staff position (my dream job!) and a bane because I had no time for commercial endeavors.
When the bust started in late 2007, I could see what was going to happen. After a job search with local military contractors, I landed a fulltime job which got me through the early recession with decent pay and good benefits. After four years, military contract cutbacks began in 2011. I went through several iterations of being furloughed before being laid off in July 2012. My wife and I had already discussed retiring back to Georgia to be close to our kids (and, of course, grandkids) so we sold our cabin (for a decent profit) and moved to Carrollton.
After almost a year of submitting resumes to no avail, I am now resigning myself to the fact that "retirement" is going to happen.
So, now what?
Well, to that end, I am starting this blog. Doubtful that it will make any money but hopefully will inspire some people. I plan on going back through 35+ years of images to start posting. For each image, I will talk about why the image is special TO ME. If it inspires you either negative or positive, I would love to know your thoughts. In the past, I have had people come up to me to tell what an image meant to them or what they saw in it and I have looked at the image again with renewed interest. Besides this blog, I plan on printing some of my favorites and looking around locally to find someone or place that might let me hang a series.
Oh, one final thought, about the title of the blog. Several years ago, I purchased a photobook by Bryan Moss titled "Photosynthesis". Moss makes reference to American philosopher Will Durant and Durant's thoughts on civilization. After making remarks about how people view "history as a turbulent stream of conflicts", Durant talks about the quieter side of life. That is, the ordinary people just getting through each day, raising their children, listening to music, and greeting neighbors. "The history of civilization," Durant said, "is a record of what happened on the banks.”That is my goal here. During my photo career (such as it was), I was fortunate to shoot a number of high political figures and a few jazz greats but the images that stick the most with me are the ones of ordinary people going about their daily lives. I would like to thank Bryan Moss for his "simple guide to the magic of photography" that put to words what he said with his images and what I hope to achieve with mine.
Whew, after all that, here is the first image.


This image is from the very early years of my (so-called) career in photography. It is a simple shot of my oldest son at the age of approximately 7 on roller skates. When I first viewed this image all those years ago, I thought, how boring! Today, some 22 years after his death in an auto accident, it is among the most precious of images I have ever shot. The composition sucks and the horizon is tilted (look at the power poles and townhomes) but this is an image that I will always treasure as it is one of the few links to my son. Yes, I have other children and they are just as precious (along with my grandchildren). Now that I am closer I am able to see them more often but I look back now and wish I had done more shooting of them at this age. That is why the few images I have are like gold to me.

Make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....