photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Do NOT buy Photographer’s i

in Book Reviews , Wednesday, November 07, 2012

UPDATE: I went a bit overboard with this post, and I’m sorry as I sort of said here. However, once something’s bolted on the internet there’s little point in closing the gate, so I’ll leave this here. However, I have cut a few bits which went too far. Please note - nobody asked me to do this.

A couple of days ago I posted a review of the e-magazines “Photographer’s i” and “Photograph”. I now regret this - or rather, I regret that I implied that “Photograph” was in the same space as “Photographer’s i”. It isn’t. David duChemin, and his publishing company, Craft & Vision, have an unblemished reputation for integrity and quality. Ilex Press Ltd, the outfit behind “Photographer’s i”, have dropped the ball here though.

Let me explain:

Up until Issue 3, Photographer’s i (bit of a stupid name, by the way), was doing great. It featured high quality content, a range of interesting and sometimes renowned contributors, and great photography. Then Issue 4 went missing in action. The release schedule was supposed to be bi-monthly - which seemed very ambitious, but nobody forced it on them. Now Issue 4 has turned up. Let’s see what it’s got:

  • An editorial by Adam Juniper. Who the hell is he ?
  • 14 sections on various aspects of technique, blatantly recycled from Michael Freeman’s vast back catalogue
  • A single totally out of context page of “Pring’s Photographer’s Miscellany”, which almost looks like part of an article which got included by mistake. This is the only “contributing author” section - 1 page of utterly tedious trivia

What’s gone:

  • Editor Michael Freeman, apparently
  • Executive Editor Marti Saltzman
  • Editing, basically
  • Nothing, zilch, nada about photographers, portfolios etc
  • Zero meaningful contributors

The is a weak excuse that this is actually A TOTALLY DIFFERENT PUBLICATION, called, wait for it, “Photographer’s i Plus”, although this is not mentioned on their website, or in the App Store, or indeed anywhere in the Issue except the introduction by Who-The-Hell-Is Adam Juniper.

Clearly, “Photographer’s i” got tangled up in it’s own ambition, and/or Michael Freeman got bored / fell out with the publisher, or whatever, but basically imploded. And what we’re seeing now is a “contractual obligation album” to try to placate irate subscribers.



Emulation blues

show some respect, youngsters

in Film , Monday, July 23, 2012

I was reading a review today of the latest craze in film emulation software, VSCO Film, on Patrick La Roque’s excellent blog. It makes interesting reading, but the telling part is half way down the comments, where the one and only Robert Boyer can’t help but vent his spleen. To lift a quote:

It could be from this being the first tool of it’s type that I have acquired in a long time - they are all WAY WAY OFF in what the real films actually look like I wouldn’t say that they are more OFF than anybody else’s similar toolsets. They are in fact COMPLETELY different from every other film emulation tool on the same target film - actually every film emulator is completely different from each other - not even close - all of them being completely different from the actual film.

Patrick La Roque himself agrees that the named presets look nothing like the film they are supposed to emulate, so, leaving aside the didactic benefits of these particular Aperture presets, one really has to wonder what the point of it all is.

I’m not sure if Patrick uses VSCO a lot - I have the impression he rolls his own, mainly. Certainly his photos have a very strong identity, but they don’t look like “film” to me. And neither should they. The whole movement towards “film looks” seems to be very much weighted towards a particular type of film shots: mainly the ones that back in the days of film people would immediately bin. In the Years BD (Before Digital), strangely enough people did not, as a whole strive to produce washed out, over exposed, bleached, coffee-spill toned out of focus crap.  Actually you could, believe it or not, take good photos on film. Yes, even colour slide film. Oh, and I’d say you still can.

Take the shot below. Now, it’s not exactly Galen Rowell. But ignoring the artistic limitations, there is a feel to this that I cannot get from digital. The silvery, luminous quality of the light here is something I can only capture on Ektachrome 100G. And this is a straight scan - as close to the original as Silverfast can get it, and that’s pretty damn close. There’s no software I know of that can “emulate” it. I have tried, as I mentioned a while back.

Xpan verzasca0412 02

Lavertezzo, Val Verzasca, Ticino, on Ektachrome E100G. Hasselblad XPan with 45mm lens

Film, unlike VCSO, Instagram et al is not just there to recapture your parents reject 1970s holiday snaps.  Believe it or not it remains not only a viable alternative to digital, but something quite unique and special, which cannot be obtained by shoving a few sliders in whatever iPhone app is in favour this month. But for how much longer ? Black & white film will live on in its own little niche. Colour print film will carry on so long as there’s the still huge disposable camera market to back it up.  Ektachrome was supposed to be saved by Hollywood, but Holly would, wouldn’t she ? And Fuji’s chrome lines seen under serious threat - it looks like Provia will be the last decent slide film standing.  I foresee howls of anguish from the beards with the view cameras, but I’d put a reasonable bet (that I’d hope to lose) on there being no positive film of any format on the market in two years time.

VCSO doesn’t even condescend to try to imitate positive emulsions. At least Alien Skin & DXO do make the effort. But anyway, that’s not the point. As RB says, none of them get it right. And none of them can emulate the stunning effect of seeing a well exposed Ektachrome (or even Velvia, if you must) on a light box. Digital has nothing on that. Not even close.

Slide film is on it’s way out. You don’t care. But you’ll miss it when it’s gone.


Sort of about camera bags

It gets to the point, eventually.

in General Rants , Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I bought a camera bag today.

The trickle-like pace at which I post stuff on this blog has recently reduced to a drip feed without the drops. It’s not that I haven’t got anything to write about. I’ve got plenty of ideas in my head, but the effort to actually set anything down in words seems to get harder and harder, and the constant questioning of the actual point of it all regularly resurfaces.

I’m not sure where blogging gets us all really, either as readers or writers. Some blogs have a clear objective, like the fascinating and eminently readable One Hundred Mountains.  But most seem to be mainly about self-promotion, openly or under a thin disguise. Being good at self promotion is pretty much a pre-requisite for being a successful professional photographer, or a well-known amateur. But being an interesting and compelling writer probably isn’t, at least not on the evidence I’ve seen.

I’ve given up on photography bloggers who are basically in it to market their book / ebook / workshop and generally build up their business. Good luck to them, but I’m not terribly interested in endless repetitive marketing wrapped up in tidbits of recycled wisdom. Yes, I know, I should use a tripod. Thanks. Got that. I’ll shortly be updating my blogroll to publicise bloggers who actually inspire me with their words, images, or both. Although I’m open to offers to provide paid marketing links…

WARNING: you are now approaching The Point. Please do not undo your seatbelt until this rant has exhausted itself to a complete standstill

So, a certain prominent blogger recently wrote what presumably was a tongue in cheek, opinionated piece on camera bags. It can be summed up quite easily: anybody who has a Domke bag (or apparently a Leica branded sack… whatever) is a way cool dude, anybody who uses a camera backpack is a mindless, unfit moron who couldn’t tie his own shoelaces.

Well that makes me a cool, mindless moron (etc) because I’ve got both. A Domke F803, which is fab for leisurely wandering, say, the coastal paths and villages of Liguria with an Olympus PEN and a few lenses, but pretty ******* stupid for hiking across a glacier in Svalbard with a DSLR, several heavy lenses and a large tripod (to fight bears off with, you understand). For that I’ve got a pretty good huge, ballistic nylon, super-size-me bag LowePro backpack. As have several million others. I’ve also got a smaller but remarkably flexible Kata backpack for less rugged outings (sadly Kata is apparently in the “super crappy camera bag” category. Oh well.). Of course, if I were a studio photographer, carrying my gear in my big fat SUV to my next air-conditioned gig shooting flawless models in Downtown, USA, I might well use the Domke. Equally if I were to wander the streets of Laredo, coolly dropping in to photograph a perfect cappuccino with the camera I just bought, then, yes, the F803 would do nicely. But if I also had some perspective, I might realise that other people have different needs and compromises to make, and maybe, just maybe, their choice of a LowePro backpack doesn’t make them a total dongle. Or indeed an engineer.

Anyway, the author does of course state in his article that this is all just his own opinion, he doesn’t expect anybody to share it, bla bla bla. Which brings me to the real point. If it really is of no interest or relevance, why bother writing about it? This kind of article might make me question why I dedicate time to reading that particular blog, and whether the author is actually worth my time.  And indeed, what the sum total of this shouting from our metaphorical little islands is amounting to.  One might hope it is in part a building of relationships, and exchange of ideas, a conversation even, but when certain (other) A-List bloggers decided that reading and managing comments is just too tiresome, one must really wonder how relevant they are.

Rob Boyer has a far more convincing blog in praise of Domke bags, by the way.

I bought a camera bag today. It’s small and black, and lets me carry my PEN around on workdays without looking like a total tourist. It’s made by Crumpler and didn’t cost very much.

Drm 2012 05 25 IMG 0682

A small, brand new Crumpler bag, some flowers and a bit of my thumb

Marmalade! I like marmalade!



Guru Fatigue

Mr Grumpy strikes again

in General Rants , Monday, April 30, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to have a bit of a clean-up of the various photography and photographer RSS feeds I’ve been following.  Although I hadn’t intended it that way, the ones that got the chop are, to be blunt, the self-appointed gurus. The ones that stayed tend not to be selling anything. I realised that I’ve been getting far too hung up on various people’s opinions that just don’t matter.  We seem to be going through some kind of bubble, where a whole slew of people who’ve owned a camera for about 5 years have set up websites left, right & center setting out their stalls and inscribing the Truth on their stone tablets. Usually there’s more than a whiff of cod mysticism involved, or some slightly nauseating goody two shoes humanism. And all wrapped up in one of three visual recipes: wild over saturation, fake cross processing, or long exposure complete with vignetting. And spread over countless e-pages in e-books, or even,

, print books.  Travel advertising as travel photography, IKEA prints as art. Sadly the amount of original thought is very low, and awareness of any kind of context or history of photography is even lower. It’s like the world was reset with Digital, or maybe with expired film in crap cameras.

About 10 years ago, things were a little different. I learnt a lot from Michael Reichmann’s Luminous Landscape - which started out around 1998 if I remember correctly, which took a rather different approach. No preachy tone, although plenty of opinions, but opinions, suggestions and pointers backed up with many years of experience. A few others are worthy of note, but none have had the staying power of the Luminous Landscape - even if, personally, both it & I have moved on, and we’re not really in the same space anymore. But actually after all these years it’s still the gold standard.

Much of the preachiness involves the exhortation to “Follow Your Vision (but give me money so I can tell you what it is)” (does that bring the same analogy to your mind as it does to mine) ?  But I’m cutting loose. You can’t buy inspiration in an eBook. Inspiration is all around, it’s free, and uniquely personal. Not everybody in the world can be a great photographer, but everybody can follow their own personal journey through photography. And personally I find it a lot more rewarding when I manage to forget all the gurus whispering in my ears.


Save Hermann Hesse’s legacy

Pull up the trees and put up a parking lot…

in General Rants , Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ever since I moved to Ticino I have been saddened by the apparent total lack of respect that planning authorities and property speculators (who by some wild coincidence may well be closely related) have for the history and beauty of the landscape.  It is incredibly striking to drive from Lugano along the lakeside road towards Porlezza and then Menaggio on Lake Como. As soon as you cross the border, the banal, ugly mass of concrete blockhouses gives way to a more gentle mix of older and newer building styles which blend in to the landscape and give true atmosphere, unlike the frankly ugly and increasingly soulless Lugano. Of course it’s not all black & white: Italian chaos and disrespect for the environment is alive and well even there. But 100 or even 50 years ago Lugano could rival comparable northern Italian cities for the elegance of it’s civic architecture. Now, well it would make a British 1960’s town planner blush.

But the ongoing march of the bulldozer, crane and cement mixer has plumbed new depths in Ticino. Property speculators now plan to cram a set of square concrete boxes (than you so much, Mario Botta…) into the small park in front of the second house Herman Hesse lived in in Montagnola, Casa Rossa.  This takes not only selfishness, greed and tastelessness to new heights, but it adds in a healthy dose of blind stupidity as well. Ticino lives increasingly from tourism, despite the fact that it does very little to deserve it, and somehow expects the Tourist Euro / Dollar / Yen as a Divine Right. But now to deface with legalised vandalism an important part of one of the richest tourist attractions on the territory to build a few extra lake view boxes (priced in Roubles, no doubt) is beyond shameful.

Even if Hermann Hesse’s legacy was not popular (which is not the case - visitor numbers to the museum are increasing), the lack of respect for a valuable cultural legacy of worldwide interest puts the responsible authorities somewhere near the Taliban in this respect.

There is actually a photographic angle to this, because the issue is being championed by veteran Swiss photographer Giosanna Crivelli, and she has created a dedicated website with further information and a multi-language petition which anybody can sign.

If you also feel that this is a step too far, please take a few minutes to add your voice.

Oh well, that’s blown my chances of Swiss citizenship. Again grin


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