Monday, September 30, 2013

can you tell the difference?

Four photographs, two from the Olympus E-M5 with Panasonic Leica 25 mm and two from the Sony NEX-5N with Sigma 19 mm. Both sensors with 16 MP resolution. Does knowing the difference really matter anymore if you can't see it?

the customers
green staircase, bagatelle

Group 2

little red corvette
nice ride

All photographs taken in Key West Florida, post processed in Lightroom 5.2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

Saturday, September 21, 2013



This post and the following posts are a confluence of odd events. Let me explain a bit.

Before this post I had written Matthew that I wouldn't tweet or photography or blog throughout the upcoming week because I was going on vacation and I was pretty much burned out, and I needed a "recharge." But as life would have it, my resolve died rather quickly. Matthew had just written a review of his new Ricoh GR, which I re-read after I wrote Matthew and it triggered a memory of my Sony NEX-5N with its pair of Sigma E-mount lenses, and so, inspired (or jealous, your call), I went back to where I had it all stored and pulled it all out and started to drive around with it. I always carry a camera with me in the Prius, specifically the Olympus E-M5, but I hadn't been getting much use out of it except for the Cloud Lab blimp. I figured what the hell, change up the gear and see what happens.

And then I ran across Lee Reamsnyder's "Your Eye Is Not A Camera" post (very good) and in that post is a link to Garry Winogrand. And when I read about Winogrand it took me back to my first intense fling with photography back in Atlanta during the 1970s and how I used to buy 100 ft rolls of Tri-X (it was dirt cheap back then) and load my own 35mm cartridges (a technique I taught daughter #2 some 35 years later, in the late 2000s for her college film photography class at FSU) and shoot roll after roll because I could and because I was in charge of the college darkroom (with free and nearly limitless supplies of developer and paper) and I had no life except around photography at the time.

Unlike Winogrand I didn't wait to develop my rolls. I developed them and made thousands of contact prints. I have exactly one slim three-ring volume of negatives in acid-free sleeves sitting on my shelf from that period, split between 35mm and 120/220 (I had a Mamiya 330 pro f as well at that time). I did all that photography at the time for the same reason Winogrand did, to see what Atlanta and its surrounding environment "would look like as photographs." One critical difference being that everybody remembers Winogrand but nobody (outside my immediate family) remembers me.

And it re-opened, triggered in part by Matthew's 5Kphoto project (long finished and inspired in part by me he says) this deep upwelling to photograph, and all of a sudden I found myself with the Sony and acting like it was the 1970's all over again, photographing around Orlando just to see what it looks like photographed, like I'd never taken a single photograph before that point in time. And I'm going to be doing that for a while. After all, this is the digital age, and I have all the tools I need. And the whole world in front of me.

The title of this post is taken in part from the movie of the same name. What impressed me in the movie were the sweeping vistas (taken in Iceland) mixed in via special effects a buried New Your city. Utter desolation. That's what I feel driving around Orlando these days. The real beauty of the living landscape has long since been obliterated, covered over by the profoundly ugly works of man.



Taken with the Sony NEX 5N and the Sigma 30mm f/2.8, with the 30mm wide open. This gives an equivalent 35mm PoV of 45mm, or nearly equivalent to 50mm, or 40mm for some. If you understand all this you're damned if you do, and if you don't you're damned if you don't. Oh, and the NEX 5N won a gold award from DPreview, which goes to underscore Matthew's point that my 5N "was new and shiny once, too."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

some whom i hold dear


It's tough being a visiting parent. You want to treat your children like small children instead of adult children, to reach out and protect them still. The hardest part is acting with restraint. You offer praise without being asked, and carefully nuanced advice when asked and only when asked. It's a different form of parenting. It goes to underscore that you never stop being a parent. Your parenting continues in small and surprising ways as long as you live and breath.

This is by no means everyone. This is a small fraction. And it's extending, slowly, as my daughters build their lives. The things I have, especially my cameras, are far more important as instruments to capture moments of what is really important to me than as things to own unto themselves.

where have you been?

I have begun to shift (or perhaps the word is "pivot") in my photographic technique. Here's a surprising personal revelation. I find I don't quite like the added exposure latitude that the E-M5 sensor adds to the files as much as I thought I would. I use the added exposure latitude to pick out subtle details. I'm beginning to dial "blown highlights" and "blocked up shadows" back into my photos in little ways. I'm beginning to push away from heavy saturation and more towards a light pastel look. I'm doing what I should have done all along, and that's aim towards the middle of the exposure curve, putting the subject at that spot, and letting the rest of the composition come what may.

hunting the elusive blown highlights of tallahassee

bone dance
Look! Blown highlights! New blown highlight chaser mobile.

Call me Blown Highlight Bill. Some weeks ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me in Orlando, I thought I would drive about a little and see the blown highlight part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a humid, stormy August in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before camera stores, and bringing up the rear of every forum post on photography I meet; and especially whenever my typos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically strangling people with their DSLR straps - then, I account it high time to get to the road as soon as I can.

flower power
is air
xpomoia - live hard die free
love + canine
laughing boy
please do not climb on the art

Taken in or near Railroad Square, Tallahassee, FL. With profound apologies to the spirit of Herman Melville.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

how to launch a blimp in four easy steps

blimp launch, step 1
Step 1: Get everybody lined up
blimp launch, step 2
Step 2: Decouple the nose from the mooring mast
blimp launch, step 3
Step 3: Pull 'er waaaayyyyy back
blimp launch, up, up, and away
Step 4; Rev up the engines, let 'er go, and let 'er fly

Finding a sufficiently large blimp, plenty of helium, a well trained staff, and airport facilities to do all this is left as an exercise for the reader.

NOTE: This is BBC's science team in Orlando. More information here:

Sunday, September 08, 2013

sunday whimsy

automotive sunday whimsy

After my long rambling exposition in the prior post I thought I'd put this out to counter-balance all the intense seriousness. I saw this car this morning while I was out buying some bagels for breakfast. I spied it briefly as I hurried into the store. Once I had my precious bagels I found I could linger a bit near the car to appreciate it's decorative elements, particularly the pink eye lashes.

I'm sure that such car decorations have been and will continue to be the subject of casual derision. But not from me. At a point where it seems every piece of news is so grim (Syria, the NSA spying on us, the echos of Trayvon Martin, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and our Fifth Amendment rights by an increasingly clueless and hostile supreme court...) it's nice to come across an act of non-destructive creativity that brings a big smile to your face.

I hope this car stays this way. And I hope one day to meet the person that owns it. It should be interesting.

automotive sunday whimsy

tired of the critics, tired of the online photographer

You're looking at a photograph taken by English wedding photographer Kevin Mullens while he was in Tokyo trying out the new Fujifilm XF23mm F1.4 lens. Mr. Mullens is, according to his site, is an award-winning photographer who uses the Fujifilm X-Pro1 as one of his tools. Kevin Mullens is a globe-spanning photographer; according to his basic review of the lens he traveled from Rome to Tokyo to review the lens before heading back home to London. I found out about this excellent review from a link via The Online Photographer.

What got me started writing this piece was this sentence written by Mike Johnston in the post:
Some samples here (all the blown highlights appear to be the photographer's style, not evidence of some technical problem). emphasis mine
When I read that sentence, it was as if a switch toggled in my mind. I'd read one off-handed criticism too many, and I decided to do something about it: criticise the critic, in this case Mike Johnston.

You're probably thinking that with all the problems in this world, such as Syria and the horrific surveillance state created by the NSA, that an apparently minor criticism made by a retired editor running a so-called "high-concept" photography blog shouldn't be that big an issue. In the grand scheme of things you're right. But this was the last straw as far as such off-handed "artistic" calls made by many in the photographic blog-o-sphere. It's been a steady rain over the years, and when someone of Mike Johnston's "stature" makes a comment such as this then Mike needs to be called out on it.

This is the kind of low comment (and worse) I've seen far too many times in the forums on DPreview and 43rumors, to name but two (and the worst of the lot). This is not the kind of critique I would have expected from Mike Johnston. I took the time to read Mullens' review and to really look at Mullen's photos that accompanied the review, individually and together. They are in my opinion excellent photos that formed a nice simple story arc, from his travels around Tokyo, to his trip back home and the final photo of his children racing to greet him. They might not win any specific awards, and certainly not Mr. Johnston's approval, but they are non-the-less excellent photography, "blown highlights" and all.

I then took the time to check out Keven Mullens' wedding photography and came to appreciate his style even further. Not only will you see more blown highlights, you'll see blown highlight's dark evil twin, blocked-up shadows. And yet, if you look at the central subject of every photo you'll see them well exposed, in focus, and full of life, telling an interesting and at times compelling story. What's most important, the subject is the subject, such that so-called blown highlights (which might also be called high-key) or blocked shadows (which might also be called low-key) are not distracting but add to the story the photograph is telling.

Over the last seven years, since my first "serious" digital camera, the Olympus E-300, my tastes, technique, and understanding have slowly devolved to the point where I no longer worship at the feet of the false gods of technique: ultra-high sharpness, ultra image quality, and bokeh. I've gone back to what I learned in art school back in the 1970s.

I learned in two years of art school that technique is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Technique can be all over the map; art and artistic creativity is a joyfully messy and wonderfully imprecise process that produces powerful Art with a capital 'A' if you let it. If all you can do is critique the image quality of a photograph (and questionable critiquing at that) then you've missed the whole point of photography, and that's the artful process of creating a momentary story in an image. And if you miss that you wind up killing any and all creative enjoyment and the joy of sharing your creativity.