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photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Oh, and another thing

bullshit red alert

in Unsolicited, rabid opinions , Thursday, June 03, 2021

You know, if there is one thing that the photo chattering classes go on about which really makes my blood boil, it is “storytelling”.  There’s a fine example here, if you can stomach the smug, pseudo-intellectual self-congratulatory vibe on that site.

With very few exceptions, in my opinion, single, still photographs cannot “tell stories”. One standout exception I could think of is Bill Anders’ “Earthrise” photo. But even that is not telling a story, rather it is intensely evocative. Elaborately staged photos, on the lines of Crewdson, can just about tell stories, but there it is more a case of hinting at a story, where the audience’s imagination is left to fill in the gaps. In a wider context, representational art can also hint at a story, or refer to a known story. But can a painting or a sculpture actually tell a story, any more than a photo?  I think not.

A sequence of photos might tell a story (but not a sequence of random snaps in London as in the linked article), but that’s sliding towards movie territory. Movies and naturally the written or spoken word can tell stories (astounding revelation, I know).

But all these identikit “street” photographers banging on so earnestly about being “storytellers”, when all they are doing is just constructing some pseudo-artistic babble to justify buying another (Fuji) camera…. Well, I’d say “words fail me” although obviously they haven’t.

Why is simply enjoying taking photos not enough for everybody? Why do people taking photos of mountains decide they have to be “Fine Artists”, and why do people taking photos of random stuff in cities insist of being “Storytellers”? Obviously photography can be art, but just saying it is isn’t enough.

Honestly, the bullshit level is gone way beyond critical.

 

Silent Night

(hopefully)

in General Rants , Thursday, December 24, 2015

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everybody who has visited here over the last year, and provided on- and off-line feedback, positive and less positive, a very happy Christmas, and a happy, safe and rewarding New Year.  I’ll be back soon with lots of riveting tales and uncannily fabulous photography.

drm_20151215_DP0Q0040.jpg

/rant/I’m absolutely Nondenominational, possibly atheist, but I really, really abhor this “happy holidays” nonsense. If somebody the concept of Christmas (the real one, that is) offensive, then I wouldn’t wish them happy anything. /rant>

 

Snippets #1

opinions are like cameras

in Unsolicited, rabid opinions , Wednesday, October 01, 2014

This is the first installment of what might turn out to be a semi-regular series. Or it could just be #1 of a series of 1. Basically a bunch of mini-blogs (blogettes?) inspired by random stuff I come across while commuting. Even more flippant, sarcastic and opinionated than usual.

So here we go:

Absurd gear rambling of week. Geek idol Ming Thein declares the Sony A7r as “unusable” (quick, somebody warn Joe Cornish!) and parades another million dollars’ worth of gear he’s just bought while declaring he’s just in the pursuit of Higher Art. Well, he does make some nice photos, but, really, “unusable” ?

The truly unique wildlife photography of Vincent Munier is given center stage in this month’s edition of Reponses Photo. I devoured every page, several times. So far away from the usual so-close-you-can-see-the-DNA wildlife shots.

And I’m still trying to over the shock of discovering that my 20 year old Minox 35ML loaded with Kodak Portra 400 is aesthetically more satisfying than my Olympus E-P5, and is pretty much a match technically too in equal conditions.

I came across National Geographic’s Your Shot Iceland collection the other day. To say that Iceland has become a cliché for photography has itself become a cliché. And fittingly this collection is a soul-destroying sequence of clichéd clichés of pretty much every crushingly over-exposed photo-op on the island. The dream location is fast turning into a nightmare.

And finally, on a positive note, the hopeful resurrection of Ferrania, starting with of all things, an E6 slide film. Really, who saw that coming ? Hopefully the first batch will be ready in time for my next trip to Iceland.

 

Tribal warfare

Rant mode engaged

in General Rants , Thursday, May 16, 2013

I’ve had an absolute headache from hell today - still got it - so I’m going to make myself feel better with a good mindless rant. Here goes.

The never-ending cycle of new camera releases marches onwards, and fuels the ongoing mindless squabbles in vast swathes of internet fora where self-appointed pundits viciously attack each other for daring to have a positive view on a camera made by another tribe, er, sorry, company. Is there any other object, or topic, which drives such futile passion? This year’s camera is inevitably lauded as being unbelievably superior to last year’s (well, assuming it doesn’t cross tribal boundaries), while last year’s, which was, of course, a revelation over it’s predecessor, cannot even be used to take photographs now, or so it seems. And of course this years’ best-ever-camera will be sneered upon as useless junk in under 9 months. One wonders to what extent camera companies stoke this stuff on forums, after all it all works out pretty well for them. I found out a few minutes ago that my Olympus E-5 is the worst digital camera you can buy, which came as a shock. I have to confess that the several thousand photos I took with it back in January are probably far from excellent - but at the same time, I never once felt they would be any better with a different camera.

Drm 2013 05 11 EP33042

Hopeless photo taken last weekend with useless camera (Olympus E-P3). No shadow detail. Blown highlights. No DOF. Really hopeless. Must ask internet forums which new camera to buy

Very few of these warring snapshooters actually seem to take any photos. Those that do get shown are almost always banal to the point of comedy. Endless shots of nothing in particular at 256,000 ISO, or at f0.95, of cats, kid shots that only a mother (or expensive camera-owning father) could love, or dull closeups of flowers. And more f***ing cats.

And the noise is deafening.

Even on the more hip side of the scale, it seems these days that it cannot have been conceivable to take a decent photo without a Fuji X series camera (although they’re pretty quiet about the XS-1 and XF-1. I wonder why). Even Michael Reichmann has got in on that particular act, which may well dismay some of the hipper of the hippest. But this, I’m sorry to say, takes the absolute biscuit. “Choices need to be made, however heartbreaking” … “Safe travels little one” - Retch! It’s a sodding camera, fercrissakes. I do generally like Patrick LaRoque’s blog, and his stream-of-consciousness albeit rather affected photography, so I’m praying he’s being ironic. There is some vague hope, he’s Canadian, not American, but not much I fear.

The interesting thing is, when you actually see some good photography, and an interview of the artist touches upon gear, as it seems it must, in the vast majority of cases it turns out that they use boring old Canons and Nikons. Canon 5Ds seem particularly popular. And when I ask acquaintances of mine why they use these cameras, rather than some hip new Fuji, pretty Olympus, or tech-overkill Sony, the answer tends to be a bit boring. Basically, the killer feature is that they are ubiquitous, you can get good service and emergency spares pretty much anywhere in the world, you can get just about any lens or accessory you can think of, they “just work”, oh, and they’ve got pretty good image quality. The last point tends, indeed, to come last, because these days it’s pretty much a given. Hell, even my much aligned Olympus E-5 has quite good enough image quality for 99% of cases.

And then they just go out and concentrate on making great photos. And they stay away from nerdy forums. And they’ve never heard of most “new” cameras - they already know what they’ll buy when the current one finally wears out. By which time they’ll be making even better photos.

Time to get off the treadmill I think.

 

 

The Olympus EP-2 is a horrible camera

A rant

in Olympus E-System , Wednesday, September 07, 2011

I’m on vacation in Sicily. It’s absolutely not a photo trip, but Sicily can be painfully photogenic at all sorts of level, so good casual opportunities do come up.

WARNING: high levels of sarcasm ahead, may offend.

It started with a week on the island of Favignana, which was good enough for the likes of Selgado, Burri, and a gaggle of other Magnum photographers, so it should be good enough for me. But ... they, very luckily for them, did not have an Olympus Pen-since-1959 EP bloody 2 “camera” with them. I am coming to loathe this all style and no content device. It is by far the worst camera I have ever used. Considered as a device to prevent photography it would rank pretty highly. But that wasn’t what it was intended to be, alledgedly.

It’s difficult to know where to start, but perhaps I’ll be slightly unfair and start with the add-on electronic viewfinder. Now, this camera is unusable without the EVF. In fact it should be returned as unfit for purpose without it, because the screen is abysmal. I loathe using a back screen as a framing tool, but on my Ricoh GRD at least it can be done, quite effectively even. On the EP2, forget about it: the screen is dim and coarse. So, EVF it is. And this EVF is rated as one of the best in the business. But guess what, it still sucks. It doesn’t pixelise, it has very low delay, it even has pretty good dynamic range. But it doesn’t have enough. Under harsh contrast there is just no way I can get a fix on the highlights and shadows. It burns or blacks out stuff which my eyes do not, making it impossible for my brain to instinctively make exposure decisions. It just gets it the way. And of course, when I apply exposure compensation, it reacts. No! Don’t do that! I know you can, but if I’m sussed enough to understand what exposure compensation means, then it really is not going to help me if you keep moving the electronic goalposts around. And that’s just for starters. I could go on for a lot of paragraphs about how an EVF screws up DoF preview as well. And then of course there’s the idiot fact that the camera has to be turned on to look through the viewfinder (this is “progress”, I believe), which is unfortunate given the gusto at which the EP2 drains its battery (very easily twice as fast as the E400 with the same battery). Of course, all this applies to any EVF camera, not just the EP2, but the scary thing is that this EVF really is - relatively - very, very good. But it ruins photography as an enjoyable experience, and that’s scary.

So, what about some specifics? Let’s start with “manual focus assist”. This zooms the center of the VF area so you can focus more easily. Well fine, provided (a) the object you want to focus on is in the middle, which if you’re slightly beyound idiot level it quite probably isn’t, and (b) you’re not interest in the object’s context. Ok, so you can turn it off, provided you can remember where the option is in the labyrinthine menu system - I’d happily swap it for the “art filter” position on the mode dial - and it is genuinely useful in Live View mode, on a tripod, when you’re moving the focus point around. It is absolutely a pain when it engages when you as little as think about glancing at the focus ring, ruining another shot. And yes you can turn it off. If you remembered to, and if you’ve got several minutes to waste in the menu system.

Ah yes, the menu system: ever since the E400, Olympus cameras have had the “super control panel” screen for direct access to shooting parameters. It’s actually pretty useful and has been widely copied, like a lot of good innovations from Olympus. I’m fairly sure the EP2 has it to, but I cannot for the life of me work out how to get at it. If it is there, and not just a figment if my immagination, it is anyway but 1 of 3 completely seperate systems for configuring the camera. One well designed one would suffice.

(ok, finally I worked it out. Press “OK” several times to cycle through the modes.)

The electronic level is very nice. It would be even nicer if it could be combined with the display of basic shooting info, like Aperture, Exposure, that sort of thing.

Then there’s more general stuff about the ergonomics and user interface. In A-mode, which is pretty much all I use, if you press the exposure compensation button, the value highlights in the display and you can change it with either the thumbwheel or the control dial. I try to avoid the control dial. If you click the button a second time, both the aperture and compensation values highlight, and now you can change the aperture with the thumbwheel and compensation with the dial. Or is it the other way around? And why, anyway? The opportunity for error is endless, especially if you have to use the control dial.
The control dial is a truly stunningly bad example of industrial design. Like many similar devices, it also functions as a 4 way pad, with the 4 buttons providing a quick entry point to things like ISO and White Balance. Useful, but not when the thing is so fiddly and sensitive that when you just had that shot lined up of Elvis climbing out of his flying saucer, you discover that you’re in 12 second self timer mode. Or something even more obscure. Even when you’re intentionally using the dial, the slightest misapplication of pressure can have you at ISO 3200 in a microsecond. Reversing out, however, would take a while longer.

Finally, because otherwise this could go on for ever, a word about the standard 14-42 lens. In order to pretend that it is small, Olympus made it collapsible. This provides yet another potential roadblock in getting the shot. And attaching a filter to it, especially a polariser, is an exercise in frustration. Turning the polariser almost always throws the focus completely off, and triggers an error message. And when you remove the filter it feels like you’re in serious danger of dismantling the lens inner barrel. Yet another ghastly Pen experience.

kodak_films

Kodak Films? Unfortunately, no ho bisogno, grazie

Ok, you can get good results out of the EP2, all being well, but for me at least it provides little enjoyment and kills spontaneity. So much that the whole point of the thing seems weak.

On a general note, in 2 weeks, some spent in very photogenic tourist spots, where everybody has a camera, I have not seen one “compact system camera”. No micro four thirds, no Sony NEX, no Samsung. Plently of Lumix and Fuji bridges, plenty of Canikon DSLRs, even a sprinkling of Olympus DSLRs, some high end compacts and of course hordes of digicams. But the world takeover by compact system cameras? I see no evidence of that on the streets.

So, what ‘s the alternative? I don’t always feel like carrying a DSLR around, even a small one, and compacts have their own compromises and lack creative control. Film seems tempting. A small SLR, maybe, but even an Olympus OM isn’t all that light. Or maybe a Voigtlander or Zeiss Ikon rangefinder ... but again, these involve compromises. Maybe somebody will make a CSC actually designed to encourage photography, but I’m not holding my breath.

But as far as the Olympus EP2 is concerned, I think I’ve had my fill. The worst, and possibly the prettiest, camera I have ever owned. And it seems I’m stuck with it.

 
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