Just some stuff about photography

INDEX

The Photo Fundamentalist

Well worth a visit

in Recommended web sites , Monday, August 10, 2015

During my daily random wander through the photographic interwebs on my way home on the train, I came across a very nice site, new to me, entitled The Photo Fundamentalist. It’s the work of photography Tom Stanworth, a person with a very interesting background, and plenty of tales to tell. And he certainly can tell them well. This is a site which covers a wide range of topics, not only his own photography (which is excellent), but also reviews of and interviews with other photographers, book reviews, and indeed gear reviews. Seems to be the kind of photographer I’d enjoy spending an evening in a pub with. Very highly recommended.

The Photo Fundamentalist

The only problem with the site is that it is feeding my feelings of gear inadequacy. As somebody who could nominally at least describe himself as a landscape photography, since I sold my Olympus E-5s, I don’t really have anything that quite fits the bill as a landscape camera. Everybody and his dog - Tom Stanworth included - is going on about these Sony A7 things, but having looked at them again yesterday during a stopover in Heathrow airport, I’m really not convinced. The lenses are so big and heavy that I might as well go back to a DSLR, and I really do not want all that weight and clutter anymore. I also tried an Olympus E-M1, and was not all that excited. Given that I’ve been using Olympus digital cameras for well over a decade, I should have been able to switch it from Manual to Auto Focus, but it defeated me. I could get the Live Control Panel up, but I couldn’t change the focus mode. Possibly it was defective. Or possibly somebody had customised it out of existence. But anyway, it’s ok as a camera, and it is the “common sense” choice for me, but fundamentally it doesn’t offer much over my E-P5 apart from improved handling. Really, there’s nothing on the market which gives me much of a buzz right now.

So anyway, great web site, but it’s made my gear paralysis worse!

Dynamic Range - the movie

Grab the popcorn and turn down the lights!

in Product reviews , Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On my recent trip to Iceland I was very lucky to cross paths with Peter Cox, a leading Irish landscape photographer who I had been vaguely aware of from some time, through the series of essays he has written for Michael Reichmann’s Luminous Landscape site.

Peter, apart from being a very talented photographer, is clearly a good businessman - he runs his own gallery in Killarney - and is hugely entertaining. He also appears to live somewhere where there are at least 36 hours in the day, because apart from all this he finds the time to jointly host a weekly podcast, The Circle of Confusion, and now, a video series called “Dynamic Range”. His partners in these escapades, professional photographers Neil McShane and Roger Overall each add their own spice to the mix, and it all ends up being entertaining, informative, and, well, very Irish. That’s a good thing, by the way.

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So, these 2 Irishmen walk into a bar, and ...

There are currently two videos in the series, Episode 1, and, naturally, Episode 0. Episode 0 - or The Pilot - is documented as “Learning Video Production the Hard Way” on The Luminous Landscape. It is perhaps apt that it features there, since the Luminous Landscape Video Journal (“LLVJ”), seemingly now in retirement, is something of a trailblazer for this type of video. Kudos as well to Michael Reichmann for basically promoting a competitor. Actually, Episode 0 is a bit of a disappointment, in that it is far less of a disaster than it is billed as. I was really hoping for total humiliation. Episode 1 irons out the kinks and is very smooth.

The general format for The Dynamic Range will be familiar to LLVJ subscribers: photographers travel to a location, take photos, talk about them, and naturally talk about gear - whilst apologising for talking about gear. The show is presented by Peter and Neil, with Roger directing off camera. Of course, this being Ireland, there is one factor that the LLVJ didn’t always have to deal with: atrocious weather. The Irish weather seems to be determined to foil Peter and Neil, but they soldier on grimly, and usually demonstrate that the maxim that there is no such thing as bad weather for photography holds true. Although that Irish weather does sometimes get the last laugh.

I was heavily into Ireland in the 90s. I couldn’t get enough of the place, especially the South West of Cork, and the west coast in general. Probably my favourite place in Ireland was Westport in County Mayo. But the last time I went was 2002, and it wasn’t a great success. So it has faded a bit from my mind. These videos bring it all back though, and show what a great, and possibly under-exploited photographic resource Ireland is.  This does give me the excuse to drag out a few badly scanned and generally so-so shots from 2002 that have not yet seen the light of day. I might even have a go and tarting them up a bit.

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Somewhere in Ireland

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Somewhere else in Ireland

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Somewhere else ... well, you get the drift

So far, the Dynamic Range is going strong. The production values are impressive, and are improving at a rapid rate. Whatever the slightly ramshackle air that might be being conveyed, there is no doubt that a huge amount of work is going into these productions, and personally I’d say they are already at Broadcast TV standard. The format avoids the overlong talking head sequences that made some parts of the LLVJ a little boring, but there are some weak spots.

The weakest, in my opinion, is the “gear” section in Episode 1. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with a “gear” section, in particular if it concentrates at least in part in showing people how to get the best out of standard tools they may already have - such as tripods. But there’s really very little point in talking about Neil’s geared tripod head, with just a long shot where you can barely see said tripod, and no mention of the manufacturer or anything else. Same with the clip-on viewfinder - I wasn’t the only one left wondering where I could find out more. This section just didn’t work.

There’s also a lot of interesting talk on using filters, generally, but again this could be made more practical by adding some close-ups and before / after, or with / without shots. Generally, perhaps some material, for example reviewing of photos, could be shot off-site and edited in in post-production.  Things like this would serve to tighten up the show a bit. And personally I would like to see a little more of the photography, with perhaps, who knows, some innovative ways of talking us through why selected shots work - or not.

The humour certainly works. The ending pan (I won’t spoil it) at the end of Episode 1 is a classic. Oh, and Peter, I got a fabulous rainbow shot in Keflavik :-)

It will be interesting to see how they can keep interest up. My feeling is that the travelogue format works fine to start with, but after 2 or 3 episodes it will need something added to the mix. But so far, so good. The Dynamic Range is not free, but it is good value for money. At one level, it’s pure entertainment for photographers, taking you so close you can smell the peat fires burning. And I certainly picked up a few tips, and some food for thought. And a rekindling somewhere of a desire to return to the Emerald Isle…

You can see a brief preview of Episode 1 here (why do they make it so hard to find ? I’d have put it on download page, personally). I’d be interested to hear what you think of it.

Great British Landscapes

For your reading pleasure

in Recommended web sites , Friday, February 18, 2011

The online magazine Great British Landscapes was launched late last year, and has now reached issue 8. The brainchild of Tim Parkin and Joe Cornish, it is a very interesting hybrid between a traditional photography periodical (albeit at the higher brow end) and a blog. It is interesting that is was launched more or less at the same time as Advanced Photographer, both apparently in reaction to the somewhat mindless level of standard magazine fare - at least in the UK market.

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Great British Landscapes, Issue 8

The content is part free, part subscription, with several subscription models including an issue by issue one, which is a good way to test the waters (I’d upgrade to an annual subscription if only I could find out how to do it!).

The subject matter is essentially, and obviously, British landscape photography, an area of which both the founders are strong exponents. This style was recently lambasted by some commentators to Mike Johnston’s The Online Photographer, in response to a review of a David Noton book, as (for example) “the padding of a thousand amateur photography magazines” - and worse. Now that’s not very polite, and one could argue that they just don’t get it, or flame back with choice comments about eyeball-searingly dull and witless “art” photography ... but there is a kernel of justification in that viewpoint. So there’s a trap there which needs to be avoided.

I don’t consider myself a landscape photographer - although I’ve got all Joe Cornish’s books, and one of David Noton’s, not to mention Charlie Ward and the rest of the usual suspects - so I’m not unappreciative of it. I also don’t really consider myself British, although nominally I am. And as for “Great”, well…  So I’m not really in the sweet spot of the target audience. But I subscribed anyway, partly out of support for a valiant effort.

Initially it did seem to be playing a bit safe, and there seemed to be a few teething production problems.  Design-wise, however, it was a hit straight out of the box.  The site is very attractively produced and laid out, and highly readable. Extremely impressive work.  The initial subject matter was fairly predictable (you can see all Issue 1 for free), Scotland, Landscape Photographer of the Year, etc, and generally - and understandably - took a somewhat more conservative line than Tim Parkin’s blog.

One thing that in my opinion didn’t work, and still doesn’t, are the videos. Generally following a “masterclass” sort of format, I’m afraid to be blunt they’re pretty tedious. Way too long, and nothing that actually justifies the use of video. But to be fair video - essentially TV production - is a pretty hard nut to crack. I’d recommend they work with a videographer. Or maybe I need to acquire a better attention span.

As the issues started piling up, the content started to really take off, and with the last few issues it has pushed well past the boundaries of “a thousand amateur photography magazines” into something approach Ag territory, in quality terms.  Issue 6 laid into camera clubs with Tim Parkin’s entertaining rant on The Sacred Rule Of Thirds, Issue 7 has a in-depth and excellent article about Fay Godwin, and Issue 8 has a lengthy interview with Chris Tancock, a photographer who is actually well over on the “art” side of the field, and is himself not that enamored with the “Great British Landscape” school.

If anything the title could start to become a limiting factor in the site’s success. I would not want it to abandon its roots, but the editorial team has already clearly demonstrated that it has the intelligence and photographic education to step outside of the genre and examine it through other eyes.

I think I’ve gone on enough about this. If you haven’t already done so, you really should click here and make your mind up. For my part I strongly recommend Great British Landscapes. Well… maybe except the videos :-)

Matt Lauder

panoramas down under

in Recommended web sites , Thursday, July 08, 2010

I recently discovered Australian photographer Matt Lauder’s website, along with his pay-to-view tutorial site, rubbing pixels.

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It’s an interesting site, and you can get a good feel for his style from the generous selection of free content. His approach is pretty much the no-nonsense, straight to the point sort of thing you’d expect from an Australian (and that’s a compliment).

I’m particularly drawn to Matt’s work and teaching as he goes for a similar blend of DSLR / film panorama as I do, although on steroids ... he’s working with 617 film (or even 624), whereas for me the limit is XPan 66x24mm ... he’s got an Imacon scanner (cue pure envy) and I’ve got a Minolta (well, actually, that’s no so bad). Certainly there’s enough there to convince me to subscribe.

I don’t fully agree with everything he does or recommends - but he says himself, there are endless ways to skin a cat in Photoshop.

Definitely well worth a look!

Aperture 3

Everybody’s got a opinion

in Apple Aperture , Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Has anybody noticed yet ? What’s that ? Oh. Right. I’m last.

Actually I got the tip off for Aperture 3’s release from the excellent and still improving RB Design blog run by Robert Boyer.  I highly recommend his site as well as his eBook series, without a doubt the best value for money technical writing you’re going to find on Aperture. It’s great to see an Aperture-related web site at least on a par with the best of the Lightroom community. Some of Robert’s tips will leave wondering why you never knew that ... and make Aperture really hum. AND he’s got a sense of humour and doesn’t shy clear of the odd rant, bit of invective or rude word. Highly entertaining.

I’m stuck with Aperture 2 since my photo workstation is a Mac G5, and the budget for a Mac Pro is in the realms of fantasy. But I’m not complaining - Aperture 2 does everything I need.

Aperture 3 looks like it has some outstanding new features, and although it isn’t really an issue, at least not for me, it seems to becoming a far more powerful tool than Lightroom. One thing that does disappoint me though is RAW support: although it doesn’t affect me, the lack of support for the Olympus m4/3 series is a let-down, and the no-show for the Leica M9 is really surprising (yes, I know it records DNG, but the Ricoh GRDII also records DNGs, and at default settings they look crap in Aperture). At least the Lumix LX-3 finally made it. But I predict that RAW support is going to provide some fuel for Ye Olde Forum Flame Wars.

Whatever. Welcome Aperture 3. We’ve been expecting you.

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