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Whytake

in Photography , Thursday, March 21, 2013

Whytake describes itself thus: “whytake.net is the first Social Network dedicated exclusively to Nature Photographers - Designed by Nature Photographers, for Nature Photographers”. I discovered the site about a year ago, if I remember correctly following up a link to one of the founders, Rafael Rojas (a really excellent photographer, by the way).

Whytake net  the global community of nature photographers  Inspire Connect Explore

Whytake is really nicely designed, and has a very different ethos to Flickr, 500px and the like. By limiting the number of photographers that members can upload to 48, it encourages a portfolio mindset, rather than the usual “spray and pray”. The Nature theme is strictly enforced. It is also rather light on the social side, which could be seen as a plus or a negative. There is no commenting on photos, no groups, no - thank god - awards.  You can add other member’s photos to your favourites, and that’s it. Members can create fairly extensive profiles, and also add posts to a personal wall.  There are centrally organised “photos of the day” and challenges, and that’s about it. Pretty refreshing really.

The average quality level borders on intimidating.

Whytake seems to be more about discovery than self-promotion at the moment, and providing the essential tools for “discovered” photos to market themselves.  By defining and maintaining tight constraints, it encourages quality. It’s also totally non-commercial. Whytake seems to be something of a well kept secret, I’d say it deserves to be more widely known.

Posted in category "Photography" on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 08:37 PM

discovering Stuart Klipper

in Photography , Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An unavoidable part of Antarctic Peninsula cruises is crossing the Drake Passage. Apart from the high probability of gut-churning seas, it takes at least 2 full days, more if you’re headed further South. Fortunately one of the compensations onboard OneOcean’s Akademik Vavilov is a well stocked polar library, which included a number of photo books. Most of these books were either historical (Frank Hurley, etc) or recent monographs by well-known photographers. The latter tend to follow the fine art, “National Geographic” school - beautifully crafted representations of the natural beauty of the polar regions, in the style of the particular photographer. There’s nothing at all wrong with that, of course, it’s what pretty much all photographers onboard aspired to, however unrealistically, me included. And OneOcean make sure to have not only a excellent staff photographer on-board, but often as well a professional, known photographer as “artist in residence”, for example Daisy Gilardini, or in our case, Ira Meyer. But the book that grabbed my attention was somewhat different. First of all it stood out by having a stark, subdued cover photo. And second, much to my delight, it appeared to, and indeed did, contain exclsively panoramic photography. I had stumbled across “The Antarctic: From the Circle to the Pole“, by Stuart Klipper, and it turned out to be quite a discovery.

The photography featured in the book came out of a number of visits to the Antarctic as part of the US National Science Foundation’s artist and writers programme. This has given Stuart Klipper extensive and near-exclusive access to areas of the continent well off the tourist trail, and from these he has built up a fantastic body of work. This work is generally more aligned with the “extraordinary in the ordinary” ethos pioneered by Stephen Shore, but with the twist that there is little ordinary in this particular subject matter. It presents a much more reflective and impressionistic view than we usually see. His photographs often dictate no obvious focal point. The subject is the whole frame, and often at first glance it could seem void of interest. There are few “wow” moments. But give it a little time and space, and the otherworldliness of the scene starts to take hold. Far more than another shot of an impossibly blue iceberg against a dramatic sky, Klipper’s vast expanses of ice under soft, subdued light give you a true picture of Antarctica. And it doesn’t hurt that the majority of his work is made using the unattainable, unrealistic camera of my dreams, the Linhof Technorama 617. Which in a short documentary clip, he’s seen using handheld, for heaven’s sake!

Finding further information about Stuart Klipper is not totally straightforward. He has a website, but to say it is inscrutable is putting it mildly. When you do manage to find anything written about or by him, he seems to come across as an erudite, engaging, committed, entertaining and slightly insane character. He’s certainly a million miles away from the standard pro landscape photographer type. He offers no workshops, no gear reviews, he doesn’t sell his work, at least not directly. He doesn’t even sell his book. In fact he doesn’t even mention it on his website. He does have a Facebook page, but that has only photos on it. Which, actually, is more than enough. His non-polar work is equally fascinating, and again mainly 617 panoramic. All in all he seems to pretty much a denizen of the “art” end of the photography world (actually I’ve discovered that he is an associate professor of art at the University of Colorado).

Although it’s a bit glib to say so, I feel just a little bit validated by Stuart Klipper’s work. Although I enjoy “normal” photogaphy and try to do a good job of it, both myself and others have noticed that panoramic format work is where my heart really lies. And I have a lot of shots in my archive which could be taken for attempts at copying Stuart Klipper.

So, as soon as I’d got a little immersed in “The Antarctic: From the Circle to the Pole” for the first time, I couldn’t resist going to grab my XPan, and spending some time outside in the southern reaches of the Drake Passage shooting a whole roll of essentially nothing, with a few chunks of ice floating in it. Totally undistracted by the later, unavoidable lures of penguins, whales, leopard seals and big blue icebergs against dramatic skies (and indeed anybody else on deck), I tried to let the approaching Antarctic speak to me.


—-

Coda - actually, doing a touch more Googling turns up quite a lot of references to Stuart Klipper, even on one of my favourite websites, The Online Photographer.  I obviously haven’t been paying attention. It’s also gratifying to discover that pretty much everything I’ve read about him is more or less aligned with my own reactions.

Oh, and two great quotes from this interview:

Film or digital, why ?
I’m not a Luddite. Film is what
the Linhof uses.

When asked why he prefers the ‘wide-field’ format he simply says ‘because it’s wider’.

Posted in category "Photography" on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 09:23 PM

Iceland Within

in Book Reviews , Monday, November 12, 2012

I didn’t think I really needed any more Iceland photography books. I’ve got quite a lot, in all shapes and sizes. Some are excellent, some so-so, a couple are outstanding and one or two are crap. But altogether they add up to a lot. Or indeed too many.

lots of iceland books

Rather too much of a good thing?

So, when I first heard that Bruce Percy’s second book was to be about Iceland, I was perhaps a little underwhelmed. But eventually, for various reasons, I decided to order it, and it arrived a few days ago. Now, this is absolutely not a review. Bruce has stated that he doesn’t like reading reviews, and I’m not much good at writing them. But this book, “Iceland - a Journal of Nocturnes” makes me want to write about it. It’s a bit like that feeling you got as a teenager when you discovered a new band, that you wanted to keep to yourself, but tell everybody about at the same time. This book is like that. First of all, it’s not just a book of photos. It’s a work of art in its own right. Beautifully presented, with every detail obviously obsessed over, it’s the sort of thing you’d expect to find wrapped around a David Sylvian CD. The typography alone is worth the price of entry. An astonishing number of photographers show absolutely zero design skills, or taste. Bruce Percy is not among that number.

The photography is masterful and close to unique. I’ll admit I’d got a bit jaded with Bruce’s long-exposure style, finding it all a little repetitive. But that was from looking at small JPGs on the web. Here, in print, all together and given space to breathe these photos come alive. Many people, starting with Michael Kenna of course, have done the low-light long-exposure thing. But Bruce adds his own character, and in particular an extremely delicate sensibility for colour to the mix, and avoids the heavy-handedness and sterility which so many Kenna copyists suffer from.

Iceland is a magnet for photographers, and these days is heavily over-exposed. As a source of dramatic, contrasty, saturated landscapes it’s pretty much endless. Point, shoot wind up the contrast to drama+11 in Photoshop, post it on Flickr and wait for the “great capture” comments to come flooding in. Well you won’t find any such great captures here. There is plenty of drama, and indeed contrast, but it is subtle, controlled, and feels part of the scene rather than plastered on top. Perhaps because Bruce works exclusively with colour slide film, a restricted and unforgiving medium which offers little scope for Photoshopping, the natural ambience doesn’t get suffocated, and a realistic luminosity pervades.

The cornerstone of this book, though, is a few hundred meters of black sand beach, where the outlet from the Jökulsarlon flows into the Atlantic. Although many thousands of photographers have visited this area, Bruce has captured - and seemingly been captured by - it’s soul. My reading is that this beach is in some way his muse. In a collection of photographs totally devoid of any sign of life or human intervention, these lonely scattered ice fragments are recomposed into living sculptures. I was very prepared to just shrug my shoulders and think “same old”, but I was very wrong. In fact I find the rest of the photos, to one degree or another, rather incidental in this context, and I keep coming back to the beach.


What I see here is not a book of landscape photographs, but a book which obliquely reveals something of the photographer. That’s pretty common in other areas, such as street or reportage, but not in landscape, where we tend to go for the pretty picture and the quick win. This book shows how a collection of work can be much stronger than a set of random images. Iceland is the stage, not the subject.

I didn’t need another book about Iceland. But I did need this.

Posted in category "Book Reviews" on Monday, November 12, 2012 at 08:08 PM

Outside world

, Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Just discovered some interesting links today, which I should have known about...

This one, Photographical.net I discovered a few weeks ago, but today it led me to the somewhat opaque but still interesting 28mm.org. Opaque, because as far as I can see it doesn't appear to be run by anybody :-). Anyway, that led me to the gallery by Alexandra Emde on Munich Airport, which was interesting because today's background theme in my head is architectural photography. Following up to Alexandra's website, I then discovered a near cousin to this site, PhotographyBLOG (I think Photoblogography is a better name, but obviously there's no competition on content...)

Endless wonderful stuff out there...so little time to explore. Come back here when you've seen them all!

Posted in on Wednesday, December 10, 2003 at 04:10 PM

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