Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Day

Four years from now I will return to this spot and take the same photograph. The hard part will be getting the same people to walk by.

Are They All Right?

No, I don't think they are.

Melville Dewey Would Be Proud

On Friday night it snowed, it rained, and it attempted to keep us from our appointed rounds. No chance of that, of course.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


They say snow is on the way. That's fine. I'm okay with that. It will be Leap Day, so the weather can do whatever it likes.

24 Floors And A Mirror

I struggle with the elevator at work. When I'm left alone, I try different shots, but I haven't yet found the right formula. I'll keep trying.

If someone gets on the elevator, I put my camera away, pretending I wasn't doing anything at all, then look up at the numbers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

East 43rd

I've been running about 24 hours behind all month, so I'm glad Leap Day is coming.

Fame Is Fleeting

One minute, you're right at the top of the news pack, covering all aspects of backside photography, and the next minute Google has never heard of you. Fame, clearly, is fleeting.

That sort of reversal happens, of course:

Photographer Couple Charged With Theft
"A photographer trusted for decades to capture precious events for local families is facing charges, along with his wife. Authorities said he preyed on a guest at one of those events. Authorities said photographer Steve Raab stole a guest's purse during a Bat Mitzvah at the Philmont Country Club on February 2."
Paparazzi Arrested in West Hollywood
"Photographers David Tonnessen and Christian Shostoe were arrested around 7:50 p.m. Tuesday in front of West Hollywood's B2V Hair Salon, where 50 paparazzi tried to get shots of Spears, Whitmore said. The two men did not comply with deputies' requests, Whitmore said. "They were repeatedly asked to disassemble in front of the entrances and they were obstructing traffic as well, going into the street," he said.

"About 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, in front of the nearby Villa nightclub, deputies arrested photographers Christopher Gonzalez and Vagn Rauch, who were there along with 20 other photographers on the sidewalk, Whitmore said. The celebrity news Web site reported that Lindsay Lohan was at the club."
I wonder how that works: you're tossed into a holding cell. You're surrounded by drug dealers, gang members and guys who fight in bars. One asks: What are you in for?

"Photography," you say, and they all back away slowly to the other side of the cell.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Am Third

If you google for "backside photographer" -- and why wouldn't you? -- you will find that this blog is now the third highest result. "Backside Photography" turns up the seventh highest result.

Ah, the sweet smell of, umm, something.

Which means we need a new motto: New York Portraits: For All Your Backside Photography Needs.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Photo, Shopped Around

Sure, if we were willing to sort out the facts for ourselves and think on our own, we wouldn't leave it to Drudge to tell us what to think of photographs. Or leave it to the serious journalists to tell us what to think of Drudge thinking about photographs.

Obama Photo Swaddled in Mystery of Its Intent
A silly photo of Barack Obama, dressed in some sort of traditional African garb, mysteriously made its way to the Drudge Report Web site yesterday. The photograph, which showed Obama wearing a turban and swaddled in white fabric, was taken in 2006, when the Illinois senator was on a tour of Africa.

But what did it mean? Was it a deliberately leaked smear image? Or an innocent snapshot of a guy humoring the locals by dressing up? The photograph, which might just as easily be seen as feminizing Obama as suggesting hidden Islamic sympathies, didn't yield many clues.


Our current relation to photography is, perhaps, similar to how people who've been burned romantically relate to new suitors. There's suspicion, a longer period of testing, a lot of vetting and a lot of asking your friends what they think of your new special someone. That doesn't mean you can't still be seduced by an image, but it makes every image have to work harder to seal the deal.
That is very well-written, and except for being untrue it is an excellent thought.

By "our relation to photography" does the writer mean that of the Washington Post's photo editors? I had assumed they believed every photo they published to be vetted and tested already and not merely in some trial period.

Or does he mean the public? The same public who believe any number of impossible things over breakfast, before they set the tabloid down on the subway seat? Again and again surveys show that surprisingly high percentages of the public believe things that have been proven to be untrue, usually because someone in power claimed them to be true, or because a media story said "there's a claim made, is it true?" without clearly presenting any fact check. Or because a television "news" show took the stance that all sides of an argument are equal -- no matter what the facts are.

Still, perhaps I worry too much.

Clinton on photo: 'Why is anybody concerned about this?"
"I know nothing about it," Clinton told ABC affiliate WFAA. "This is in the public domain. But let's just stop and ask yourself: 'Why are you -- why is anybody concerned about this?'"

Clinton said that she found questions about whether her campaign leaked the photo to be "really laughable."
Well, perhaps in the future there will be a way for technology to save us and reveal whether a photo is true, false, retouched, in context, miscaptioned, significant, upside down and backwards, a slam, a slur, an outright lie, laughable or merely a Rorschach Test.

Researchers Look to Spot Photo Hoaxes
The key, she said, is to use tools in combination. A criminal or hoaxer might be sophisticated enough to defeat one technique, but not all at once.

Fridrich's research takes advantage of the fact that all cameras have tiny flaws, so small they don't affect what the eye can see. For example, her software could analyze a set of photographs taken by the same camera and notice that a certain, defective pixel is always dark. Seeing that pixel light up would suggest an alteration.

Dartmouth College professor Hany Farid, meanwhile, has developed a set of software tools he collectively calls Q-IF. He sells the programs for up to $25,000 a year.

One tool looks for the use of clone stamp, a feature for duplicating or erasing objects in an image. Two cloned flowers would appear identical and lack expected blemishes.

Another exploits how cameras capture color images. Color is a mixture of red, green and blue. Rather than have sensors that detect all three for each pixel, they generally alternate in a specific pattern. That pattern gets disrupted with airbrushing.
Yep, that does cost a lot. But at least we won't have to think about it ourselves.

Fidel and Raul Unavailable For Comment

Of course, now that the Backside Photographer is in the public imagination, we have to ask: could he (or she) simply be misunderstood? Is Backside Photography acceptable for either fun or profit?

Let's see if we can learn anything from recent cultural news coverage:

The Strokes' 'Is This It' cover model revealed
'The model whose backside adorns the British cover of The Strokes’ 2001 debut album, ‘Is This It’, had revealed how the famous image came about.

In a new video posted online by influential blog Goldenfiddle, the model explains that the photoshoot was spontaneous, and happened after she came out of the shower of photographer Colin Lane, her then boyfriend, naked.

"I walked out of the shower and I was completely naked," she recalls. "I was walking around the house – he was like, put this glove on. I walked over, boom, that was the shot."
Well, that's perhaps a bit too Spinal Tap for some. But what about serious artists of the kind you read about in The New Yorker? Are they involved in any Backside Photography these days?

Renting a studio at Chelsea Market—“I didn’t want them to have to climb up creepy stairs to some weird place”—and decorating it, like a wedding reception, with lilies and refreshments, Roth shot the women in various states of undress and girl-bonded giddiness. (Coincidentally, there was another shoot taking place at Chelsea Market, requiring an entirely different morphological profile: lingerie models.) Her own backside, distinguished by a birthmark shaped like Cuba, made a cameo in a series of shots she refers to as “the jiggly butt sequence.” But after the terrorist attacks Roth shelved the film. “It just seemed like this frivolous naked-lady project right after 9/11,” she said.
It may be then that Backside Photography is acceptable if the timing is right.

So don't be surprised when the Backside Photographer shows up with a blog, a book, and a show in Chelsea. You just know that's next.

Photography in the News

Sure, we've seen this basic People Paparazzi story before. Several times before.

But this time it's in the Wall Street Journal, so now it can be considered a business model, and WSJ readers will spend their long, long lunches pondering how to make it into a synergistic monetization initiative with a cute name and flashy Web presence.

The Rise of the 'Citizen Paparazzi'
'As it turned out, she got even more contact with her favorite singer than she expected: Mr. Mayer, hamming it up for fellow passengers, donned a neon green thong-style swimsuit as Ms. Horgan and others furiously snapped photographs. In a blog post after returning home, Ms. Horgan joked that she was going to send the pictures to celebrity magazine Us Weekly.

'She didn't have to. Within days, Ms. Horgan heard not only from Us Weekly, but also from MTV, VH1, Rolling Stone, Blender and Newsweek. She ended up selling photos to Newsweek and VH1 – she says she was offered "a couple hundred" for each photo, but declines to be more specific.'
Of course, I have no idea what will happen when the WSJ reports their version of this story:

UCF Police Warn Of Backside Photographer
"Investigators want University of Central Florida students to be on the lookout for an illicit photographer. A student told police he saw videos online of women's backsides as they walked around campus. He recognized some campus landmarks in the shots."
I'm afraid to think what businesses might be launched the next day.

One question on the "Backside Photographer" story: can that student really be sure they were all women? Perhaps one of them was wearing something neon green on his way to give a concert on campus?

The Phrenologists Were Right

The thing about photography on the red carpet at an awards show is that, generally, all of the shots look about the same.

Sure, one guy has his assistant carry and aim a giant softbox so he'll have pleasant light in his shots; someone else will catch a dress from the best angle. The result, though, is a deluge of fairly interchangeable shots from photographer to photographer and from year to year.

Still, once in a while there's a moment that seems to reveal more than expected. Nice.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Followup to "Photography in the Nudes"

Last week we noted the Bert Stern nudes of Lindsay Lohan, and also the unfortunate Marilyn Monroe "expert" who mistook a famous Stephen Meisel shot of Madonna for a lost photograph of Marilyn.

Well, there's really nowhere for that story to go but downhill, fast. Only follow the link below if you are okay with seeing Michael Musto naked. Or if you are Michael Musto. (Actually, he's not completely nude: he does have a nice handbag and some pumps.)

My hope is that one day a confused photo collector will discover this photograph, and mistake it for a lost Lohan.

I Was Madonna for a Day and Almost Got Arrested!


Huge congratulations to Cynthia Wade for her Academy Award win with Freeheld. I was thrilled to see this happen.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Helpful New York Tip #2

When discarding your television onto the street (perhaps you feel pressured to do so, since everyone else is) don't just toss it onto the hard sidewalk. Place it on a mattress. That way you can maintain a comfortable distance from other trash and discarded televisions.

Snapshot: Stuyvesant Square Snowman

Posed pensively, perhaps precariously.

Speaking of Quest

For those of you who get CNN International, you might enjoy seeing Richard Quest's take on photography, which is running this weekend.

Quest for the perfect photo
"One brief window of opportunity when all the elements align themselves. The light, the look - it all comes together. And then -- the click. A fleeting magical moment come and gone, then lost forever. But preserved in one picture. This month Richard Quest goes in search of the perfect photo."

Everyone Needs a Quest

After work on Friday, seven of us marched across Midtown for a quick and inexpensive Mojito. I realized I've been in New York a long while now and have yet to find a bar for photographers. I persist in believing that there is one, and that I'll find it.

There is a place called Photo Bar on 28th Street, but it isn't actually a bar.

Manhattan 24 Hours Later

Thursdays clear skies gave way to snowfall by Friday morning. Above: a self portrait on 89th Street.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bert Stern

I've always found the Bert Stern "Last Sitting" photographs not to my taste. I see the appeal, but they've always struck me as inelegant. And now we've seen the answer to how he would remake them today: identically.

"It has also emerged that Stern shot the pictures on film rather than use a digital camera and duplicated the original Monroe set, right down to the lighting he used 46 years ago.

Lohan posed nude for the shoot, which took place on 5 February at the Hotel Bel-Air in California – the location for the photographer's famous 'The Last Sitting' pictures of Monroe, six weeks before she died of an overdose of barbiturates. The 1962 images were published in Vogue magazine.

In his latest shoot, for New York Magazine, Stern had two photo assistants on hand and said he shot hundreds of frames during the seven-hour photo session. "
I find myself thinking the behind the scenes shots are the strongest, strangely enough.

Note to Self

Some days you'll miss a shot and think about it, then move on.

The important thing is not to do this somewhere you walk by every day.

Because then you end up checking for that shot, over and over. Is the shot here today, has that combination of elements come back together? Do I get a second chance at it?

Above: on 86th Street, Wednesday.

Photography in The News

"50 Cent has reached a settlement with photographer Jim Alcorn, who claimed he was assaulted by the rapper's security outside a New York jewelry store in 2003. The New York Post photog filed a $21 million lawsuit in 2003, after he was allegedly roughed up by the rapper's bodyguards while attempting to snap a picture."
50 Cent Settles $21 Million Dollar Lawsuit
"According to Alcorn, one of the men “cross-checked” him into one of two black Chevy Suburban’s waiting for the rapper. Then, one of seven men hit him on the head, knocking him to the street."

Elliott Erwitt's Camera Case, Circa 1974

On my bookshelf is a copy of The Private Experience, Elliott Erwitt which was published in 1974. At the back of the book there's a technical section which includes a glimpse into "Erwitt's complete traveling camera case with Canon cameras and lenses."

While best known for shooting with a Leica, it turns out that:
'For most of his "professional" still photography -- the pictures he makes for money -- Erwitt has reduced his equipment arsenal to the contents of one case weighing approximately 32 pounds.'
Inside the case: two Canon F1s, a complete set of prime lenses (17mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 35mm tilt/shift, 50mm, 100mm, 135mm, 200mm and 300mm), a cable release, a Minolta light meter and an Eastman Kodak "Pocket Guide to Photography."

I like the fact that they put "professional" in quotes.

Photography in the Nudes

Monday started with New York Magazine's not-safe-for-workplace-viewing:

Lindsay Lohan as Marilyn Monroe in "The Last Sitting" -- Photographs by Bert Stern
'In 1962, photographer Bert Stern shot a series of photos of Marilyn Monroe that have collectively come to be known as “The Last Sitting.” Taken during several boozy sessions at the Hotel Bel-Air, the photographs are arguably the most famous images ever captured of America’s most famous actress: Monroe, sleepy-eyed and naked, sips from a Champagne glass, enacts a fan dance of sorts with various diaphanous scarves, romps with erotic playfulness on a bed of white linens. Six weeks after she had posed, Monroe was found dead of an apparent barbiturate overdose.'
On Tuesday, Radar Magazine complicated the matter:

'The plan to publish nudes—a monumental move in her career—was never made clear, Lohan's rep says. Photographer Bert Stern, the now 78-year-old most famous for getting Marilyn Monroe to strip on film six weeks before her overdose on barbiturates (then going ahead and publishing contact sheets Monroe had exed out with red marker), suggested a much less revealing homage for the mag. A rumor from the very closed set suggests Stern dangled the possibility that the nudes would be displayed only in a museum or as part of his book and that the tamer shots would go to New York.

Stern did not immediately return messages left via phone and e-mail. Lauren Starke, communications manager for New York tells Radar in a statement, "We're very grateful to Lindsay Lohan for participating in this historic photo shoot with Bert Stern and we hope that she is as pleased with the beautiful results as we are."'
On Wednesday, BBC News followed with:

Madonna shot fools Monroe expert
'A Las Vegas couple and a Marilyn Monroe expert have been left embarrassed after what they thought was a nude photo of the star turned out to be a shot of pop star Madonna.'
And the circle of life is complete.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Story and an Observation

Well, the story is straightforward enough:

Photographer attacked by subject
"An amateur photographer's candid picture snapped on a London Underground escalator could lead police to the man who attacked him seconds later. The black and white image of a man climbing escalators at Waterloo railway station was one of several taken by the city street scene photographer. But after being unexpectedly captured on film the subject turned violent, attempting to grab the camera and punching the photographer in the face."
The observation? The advertisements at the bottom of the page: one says "Become a Photographer" and the next says "Career in Photography."

Documentaries in the News

Discovery Channel Accused of Political Censorship for Dropping Oscar-Nominated Doc on U.S. Torture
ALEX GIBNEY: Well, it turns out that the Discovery Channel isn’t so interested in discovery. I mean, I heard that—I was told a little bit before my Academy Award nomination that they had no intention of airing the film, that new management had come in and they were about to go through a public offering, so it was probably too controversial for that. They didn’t want to cause any waves. It turns out, Discovery turns out to be the see-no-evil/hear-no-evil channel.

Photography in the News

Of course, if you are going to 'shop, you'll want to do it well enough to not get caught. Also, not when employed as a news photographer.

"Photo enthusiasts used their detective skills to prove that an award-winning photographer had digitally doctored an image purportedly showing antelope roaming just metres from a fast-moving train.

Chinese photographer Liu Weiqiang confessed after an internet user spotted a 'red line', which on closer inspection, turned out to be a join between two separate images that had been stitched together."
Editor quits, paper apologizes over doctored photo
"Photographer Liu Weiqiang's fake shot that appears to show Tibetan antelopes crossing near a bridge on the Qinghai-Tibet railway as a train passes. Wang Zhongyi, chief editor of the newspaper, resigned on Sunday over the scandal, according to sources at the Daqing-based press.

The newspaper's apology came two days after staff photographer Liu Weiqiang, 41, admitted he faked the picture."
Photographer 'sorry' for faking Tibetan antelope picture, blacklisted by Chinese media
"The 41-year-old photographer allegedly pieced together two photos into one to show more than 20 Tibetan antelopes roaming peacefully under a bridge of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

The photo, named "Qinghai-Tibet Railway opening green passageway for wild animals", was among the "10 most impressive news photos of 2006", an annual event sponsored by state media China Central Television (CCTV)."
And I thought Photoshop meant never having to say you're sorry.


I'm teaching a unit on retouching in Photoshop, so I've been giving my students "before" pictures. I decided I would try one myself, so I grabbed a celebrity mugshot, and started a timer.

Above: twenty minutes later. I think more could be done with the hair, but I ran out of time.

It's a Walk Off

Well, Fashion Week came and went. I didn't go anywhere near the tents, watching instead from the safe distance of the living room television.

One of my students gave it a shot, though. Two articles I wrote about his experience went up today: an interview and some how-to hints:

Life at the End of the Runway

Seven Tips for Runway Photographers

There's Always Room For Why

Sure, time management matters, when you're an anarchist. But you'll also want to plan ahead in the sense of understanding how much space you have to work with.

Walking on Bond Street in the Village, stumbled on the same tag I found on the Upper East Side. Is this a tagger who specializes in pricey neighborhoods? Or someone who lives or works there, practicing rebellion on their lunch hour?

No, it is not me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kodak Six - 16 Brownie Junior

While recording podcasts the other day, I mentioned the Kodak Brownie in the discussion of street photography. When you start asking the question "When does street photography become Street Photography?" you have to include the Brownie as one factor, I think.

Above is an image of my Kodak Six - 16 Brownie Junior. I believe this would have been made at the end of the 1930s. Notice the Art Deco styling....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Bargain Lens Lineup

So here was the question I was answering: "I have $1000 to spend on lenses, not much compared to the price of professional lenses, but I'd like to get a range of useful, quality glass. Any ideas?"

Well, here's my list of lenses that provide the same image quality as "pro" lenses, but that are easy on the bottom line.

For under $300, a fast 28mm:
Sigma 28mm f/1.8 for Nikon
Sigma 28mm f/1.8 for Canon
Sigma 28mm f/1.8 for Pentax and Samsung
Sigma 28mm f/1.8 Minolta and Sony
Sigma 28mm f/1.8 for Sigma
For about $100, a fast 50mm:
Canon 50mm f/1.8
Nikon 50mm f/1.8
For $400, a great macro / portrait lens:
Tamron SP Autofocus 90mm f/2.8 for Nikon
Tamron SP Autofocus 90mm f/2.8 for Canon
Tamron SP Autofocus 90mm f/2.8 for Konica Minolta and Sony
Tamron SP Autofocus 90mm f/2.8 for Pentax
For $150, a creative lens:
Lensbaby 2.0 Canon EF Mount
Lensbaby 2.0 Nikon F Mount
Lensbaby 2.0 Pentax K Mount
Lensbaby 2.0 Minolta Maxxum Mount
Lensbaby 2.0 Olympus E1 Mount

Unnatural Shadows Need Not Apply

I didn't much like Lee Friedlander: A Ramble in Olmsted Parks, though I like Friedlander's work.

I wrote one paragraph and it was straightforward. Clearly that's not the way to go. The Financial Times gives it 12 paragraphs, and I really have no idea what they think about it. Or if they have any understanding of photography at all. Are they faking it? Making it up?

Shot in the park
"His new exhibition reveals what happens when Friedlander turns his painterly, avant-garde lens on the landscapes of North American parks."
Painterly? Really?
"Friedlander's genius in capturing and cropping images permits him to transform natural shadows into spectacular forms. Here he is perfectly served by his technique of shooting in black and white on gelatin-silver print, a method that results in silky, metallic monochromes ideal for rendering contrasts of light and shade."
Yep. That's pretty painterly and avant-garde of him to use that unusual technique of shooting in black and white on gelatin-silver print. It seems much advanced over other photographers, who just shoot on black and white film and then make gelatin-silver prints.

Which is traditional black-and-white photography.

I'm going to have to look into that rendering contrasts of light and shade thing, too -- it sounds great, if one is dead set on capturing and cropping images.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Helpful New York Tip #1

If your elevator is smelly, place "stick-up" deodorizers in it. Place them up high. It may help with the odor, and not that many people look up there, generally.

In The Studio

Today was spent shooting a few intro / outro sections for an upcoming piece, then recording voiceover commentary. Later, there was a podcasting session. I'll link to those once they are posted....

Another shot is posted over on my other blog Actualities.

Studio Day

Today was spent in a recording studio. First: voiceovers for some upcoming DVDs. Next: some podcasts.

Another view can be seen on my other blog.

I'm fine whenever I'm recording basics, but whenever I have to speak about myself my practice is to say too little, followed by saying too much, and then quickly follow this up by saying the wrong thing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Appliance Watch 2008

I saw no discarded televisions tonight. This will have to do.

Thanks For Asking

There are handwritten signs all over The Bronx. There's one that's everywhere, or at least all over where I go. It takes on more meaning, though, in the form above.

Burnside Avenue

It was a beautiful day in The Bronx today. It was cool and clear, and not snowing or raining.

Valentine's Day

Ah, Valentine's Day. It's a made-up holiday, you know.

Above: People bidding on roses on their way home, near Grand Central Terminal.

The Times on Street Photography

From yesterday's New York Times "City Room" blog:

Street Photography in an Image-Filled Age
One of the most interesting topics in the talk was the discussion of how to take images unobtrusively; all three artists have shot images that are startlingly frank, but in which the subjects seem utterly oblivious to the presence of the image-maker. Mr. Powell, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall, said his height means “I really can’t do that invisible thing so much.”

Big Sky Opens Today

Well, it's finally here, and our film "Blind Faith: A Film About Seeing" will be included.

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Missoula, Montana - The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival opens Thursday, February 14 at Missoula's Wilma Theatre for the first of seven consecutive days and nights of world-class documentary cinema. The fifth annual event boasts 106 films from more than 40 countries, including many world premieres. In addition to screenings, the festival includes panel discussions, a Retrospective Series, Q&A sessions with dozens of filmmakers, as well as VIP events, receptions and parties. Since its 2004 debut, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival has matured into an internationally-recognized venue for showcasing innovative, contemporary, and classic works of documentary film


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

And Read All Over

I usually grab a coffee as I go into work. I couldn't help but notice the tasteful coverage of last night's events.

On 88th Street

Ah, it's that special time of year when people toss their old television sets on the street because they've bought a big screen TV. I guess tomorrow I'll check 87th Street.

Yorkville Breaking News

I generally only mention photography-related news, but once in a while there's a story that has some interest for other reasons. For example: apparently their is a meat-cleaver-wielding maniac loose in my neighborhood this morning.

Psychologist Killed In UES Meat Cleaver Attack
"NEW YORK (CBS) ― Residents on the Upper East Side were in shock on Tuesday night after 56-year-old psychologist Kathryn Faughey was hacked to death with a meat cleaver inside an office building on East 79th Street and York Avenue at shortly after 9 p.m., police said.

The killer is still at large.

The NYPD said it is looking for a suspect described as a middle aged, blonde haired male, and is believed to be a patient of the deceased therapist. Police believe the suspect escaped through a basement exit into an alley after the attack."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On 86th Street

The snow blanketed everything today, clean and white as I left for work then sloppy and grey by the end of the day. They say rain will come in tonight, then heavy rain. Then more heavy rain.

New Errol Morris Addresses Photography

The first documentary to be unspooled in competition at Berlin, Errol Morris’ “Standard Operating Procedure” not only examines a tragic and shameful chapter in U.S. military history but also plays with what a photograph can meaningfully convey — and if what it shows is the truth.

“I became really interested in war photography,” said Morris. “I’d been writing a series of essays about photography for the New York Times; I thought I’d do a film about a set of photographs.”

Aperture 2 Released

For those on a Mac, there's a new version of Aperture out. There's a 30-day trial version available for download, also. I've been using Lightroom, but my impression is that the Apple product is equivalent. I haven't noticed any features that put one program ahead of the other significantly.

Monday, February 11, 2008

No Place is Boring

If you've had a good night's sleep and have a pocket full of unexposed film. Or the equivalent.

Apparently, There Was No Time

The Upper East Side streets are often lined with little discarded treasures. Some nights: not so much.

Memory Cards

Memory cards have dropped in price. If you don't need the absolute fastest card in your camera -- and for most shooting, you don't -- then prices are down to record lows. Very reliable, fast cards are now inexpensive.

Last I looked, for $30 you can get a:

SanDisk 2 GB Extreme III CompactFlash Card

Not that long ago, those were going for about $200.

Or for $25 you can get a:

SanDisk 2 GB Extreme III SD Memory Card

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Irving Penn

On Sunday, we went to Close Encounters: Irving Penn, Portraits of Artists and Writers. Excellent show, but an expensive admission ticket if you're just going for the exhibition. (So plan to take in the rest of the museum, especially the space redesigned by Renzo Piano.)
"Close Encounters showcases a group of sixty-seven portraits of notable subjects by Irving Penn (b. 1917), acquired by The Morgan Library & Museum in 2007. The exhibition demonstrates Penn's incredible achievement as a portraitist, and photography's vital role among the twentieth-century arts."
The show ends April 13th.

Using Manual Mode with a DSLR

I've been asked a few times recently about using manual mode on a digital SLR camera. "Turn the big knob on top of the camera to M," I say, "point the camera at your subject and press the shutter halfway down. You'll see in your viewfinder if the camera thinks you are underexposing or overexposing -- there's a little indicator that will let you know."

Sometimes that's enough, but usually the next question is about what settings to start with -- as in what aperture and shutter speed to use.

Well, a while back I wrote about using the The Sunny F16 Rule. It turns out those same ideas will help you estimate exposure for shooting outside during the day. Try this:

1. Set your ISO to 400.

2. When using the "Sunny F16 Rule" you set your shutter speed to match your ISO: so set it to 1/400th of second.

3. Look at the shadows the sun is casting. If it is clear and bright, you'll probably see hard shadows, but as it gets more overcast the shadows will get softer or disappear. So:

a. if you see hard shadows, set your aperture to f/16
b. if you see soft shadows, set your aperture to f/11
c. if you see no shadows, set your aperture to f/8
d. if the light level seems even lower, set your aperture to f/5.6

That's all. Set your camera to M. Set your ISO to 400. Look at the shadows and set your aperture. Point your camera at your subject, press the shutter halfway down. Your camera may have a little triangle, or a light or another indicator that lets you know if it thinks you are over or under on your exposure. Adjust if you agree, or go with your guess. Take the shot.

Look on your viewscreen, and see if you've got it right -- and then act superior to anyone using automatic modes.

Macro and Portrait Lenses

Often I'm asked about macro lenses. These are lenses that let you fill the frame (at a 1:1 ratio) when photographing small things like jewelry or insects.

Since I'm not actually a huge fan of pictures of jewelry or insects, in any combination, I always recommend that folks buy a macro lens that also works as a portrait lens. Fortunately, there are several that combine the sharpness and optical quality needed for close-up photography with a focal length that works for photographing people. (On a digital SLR, a focal length of between 70mm to 90mm is very flattering to the human face.)

I received a gift certificate over the holiday, so I looked in my camera bag and then took my own advice, ordering this lens:

Tamron SP Autofocus 90mm f/2.8 DI 1:1 Macro Lens for Konica Minolta and Sony DSLR Cameras

It's also available in Nikon mount and Canon mount of course.

When it eventually arrives, I'll post a few pictures and a brief review.