Thursday, 31 July 2008

Depth and new ideas

I've written before about my personal inclination to wide rather than deep, but came to a realisation in striking contrast to that notion last night.

I am, yet again, in Norway (in fact this is my last planned trip for the current project) which has given me much time in one location. While I was living here I did little photography of the town and, in fact, I have probably discovered more locations in these few weeks of visits than I did in several years of living here.

Where I come from in the UK is very close to many of the biggest tourist attractions in the the country and yet several of the major draws I have never visited, despite passing them frequently.

What has all this to do with photography? Where is the wide/deep connection?

For my present travels, I have made cause to get out with the camera frequently - maybe 4 or 5 days out of a 2 week trip. In a small town, that means covering quite a lot of ground multiple times. As I've little else to do of an evening, it is a good thing to do.
My initial motivation was to put together my photobook, which became my fist SoFoBoMo effort. I have since expanding the pictures under that theme and have plenty of material for a decent 50-60 image book. But then what? Having covered that particular view of the town, I have found myself looking for new ways to approach the same subjects or inventing mini-projects. This is, i suppose, what is traditionally meant by going deep.

On the other hand, I am not so sure that much of this photography is actually truly a deep exploration of the town. Many of the subjects I have photographed are anonymous of location. Much "deep" work I see by others is similarly generic. Is that deep in the sense of exploring a given location, or merely photographing details as an entirely different subject matter? My feeling is the latter. What I have realised is that my continuing to photograph the same locations repeatedly is giving me a new perspective on looking at the world in general. In looking for details, I notice details.

[A short aside as lead into the next thoughts: I watched a TV programme the other night that talked about the psychology of living in the city versus the country. The hypothesis was proposed, with some example, that city dwellers need to skip over details to avoid overload. They move faster, do more things but maybe - my interpretation - are a little more superficial (maybe target focused) in their interactions with their surroundings. It was given as example how we all skip certain details that aren't important to us at the time, in the city there are more details to skip.]

And so I have possibly come to know this one town better than I did. Apart from places I've lived, I never visited anywhere as regularly, especially with a view to photography. I think I skip the places I lived not from lack of interest but from a sense of utility. The place I live takes on a functional character, rather than being a place to explore and understand. I don't make time to just go out and photograph things. On my trips to Norway the time comes for free, so getting out is easy.

So am I getting any deeper? I not convinced I am but I certainly teaching myself some new ways of looking at the world that are likely to affect my future photographic work.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

ProStrap wrist strap: a mini review


I mentioned on my write-up of the Zeiss Ikon that I'm using a wrist strap with it. I've been looking for a wrist strap for a while. When I'm around town I like to wrap the strap around my left wrist and carry the camera in my left hand, down by my side. People don't really notice you've got it and it can be deployed for shooting in an instant. Wrapping lengths of neck strap is not ideal, however. I also don't want a quick-release design, so it can't be easily unsnapped and the camera dropped.

The doodad I'm using is a Deluxe Belt ProStrap, from I thought it was worth a mention, particularly as I'm pretty happy with it.

It's a simple device, a leather strap that attaches to the camera at one end and has a wide section to go around your wrist at the other. Price is modest, postage fast. Construction quality is very nice.

The main thing I like is the length. It's just the right size to go around my wrist and allow me to grasp the camera without a lot of excess strap material. It is also just long enough that I can carry the whole thing by the strap with the camera dangling (not recommended).
It is very grippy, having a rubberised backing - there is no way it will accidentally slip off the wrist. There is also a tightening ring to cinch in around the wrist, which I find helps tidy it all up when holding the camera.

If you're like me and tend to carry your camera in one hand, especially smaller cameras, I'd highly recommend giving a ProStrap a go. There are lots of options and there can't be too many cameras they won't fit. (I do know I couldn't fit one to my Mamiya RZ67, but then why would I want to?)

UPDATE 31/7/08 - a minor correction to the above. On closer inspection (i.e. actually lloking at the thing) I realise that the back of the wrist strap is NOT rubberised, as I stated above, but is in fact the brushed reverse surface of the leather. It actually has a very nice feel next the the skin, after a while you forget there's a strap there at all.

Seesaw: interesting online magazine

While doing a search for some photographers, I came across Seesaw, which is an online photo mag. Interesting concept and some pretty good work included. Seems to be an entirely non-commercial undertaking. Well worth a look.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Does Art follow technique?

UPDATE: this time with the links

There are a couple of interesting posts and discussions over a T.O.P. (here and here) on Daguerreotypes that raised some thoughts in my mind about the form of photographic art. Not so much about the Daguerreotypes, per se, but the notion coming from the discussions that particular methods yields better results. An age old question in photography, I might even have mused on it before.

To my points (as ever, more questions than answers) - does a photograph have inherent qualities irrespective of display medium? I'm pretty certain that's a no. Apart from the subject being the same regardless of display method, many of the Art qualities - including the ability to raise emotional response - stem from the means of presentation (traditionally the print form, but now we need to include electronic means, too).
But then, do certain qualities stem from the particular display process, which the artist then manipulates to their desire? By implication, does this mean that certain types of subject cannot be adequately represented by certain types of process?

The converse can also be asked, which is where I came from. The original discussion stemmed from the reproduction versus original of the Daguerreotype. At the time, there were limited photographic processes and so photographers were limited in their choices. Does this mean that the qualities we associate with those processes were happenstance at the time? Was the aim the same as today and the result dictated by process? Or, did the artist choose particular subjects or rendering to suit the medium and if so, would they have chosen to do something differently with access to other display media?

That opens up a slightly wider thought - is the Artist quality of a photography then inherent in the subject or by necessity dictated by the combination of subject and display medium? And, on a similar theme, can we render the same subject (maybe from the raw same source) differently for different media and maintain the artistic qualities?

I'm never sure that I agree with photographers who claim that they can only achieve the results they wish with one particular process. Just because one individual cannot match the effects in an ink jet print as they do with a traditional wet print doesn't necessarily mean that it is not possible. By extension, I don't believe that any one process has inherently better artistic value than another, it is specific to a particular way of representing a particular subject.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Zeiss Ikon: a review for the RF newbie

I finally succumbed to temptation and bought myself a rangefinder, a shiny new Zeiss Ikon with a Voigtlander 40 f/1.4 Nokton Classic. As this is the first RF I've used, I thought I'd give my impressions as someone coming fresh in from the (D)SLR world.

What I've noticed is most RF reviews are written by (and largely for) RF enthusiasts - preaching to the choir. There's precious little for those coming at it new. Thus my thoughts on the matter. All subjective, and the odd tangent. Plus, bear in mind I am an engineer so "devices" are a natural draw for me.

I've written before as to why I'm interested in a rangefinder, and what I'm going to be using it for. I'm going into this well aware of the limitations which are fine by me. It's exactly the genre's strengths that make it attractive for the sort of street photography I want to use it for.

This is really early use - I shot the equivalent of a couple of rolls before loading the first film and now I've shot a couple of rolls since. No results yet, they've not been processed. But frankly, this write-up is not about the pictures: that's all about the right exposure on the right film and any camera can cover that. This is all about handling.

First appearances

The 2 things that first struck me we "wow, that's small", especially when I opened the lens box and second, "wow, that's heavy" when I picked it up. Actually, the body just seems quite heavy due to its dense, metal construction. I reality, it's not really any heavier than a small DSLR body. The lens is, however, tiny but again metal construction makes it seem heavier. I'm not going to weigh it all, I'll come back to the weight thing later.

EOS500 vs Zeiss IkonCanon EOS500 next to the Zeiss Ikon. This is a small SLR set-up, the ZI is very similar is size.

In actual fact, it's not that small. If you're coming from small DLSRs or P&S cameras this will feel like a lump. If, like me, you're coming from the mid-sized cameras, this will seem reasonably sized, but not small. Only someone handling large pro gear, MF, LF etc would think a rangefinder small. Most reviewers seem to be in the last camp and seriously underplay the size. This is not a pocket camera.

Fiddling with levers and dials, turning the lens controls etc gives one a feeling of quality construction. This is not about materials. [An aside - high quality metal materials are generally lighter than the cheap stuff. Modern alloys have pushed up performance while reducing weight. A lump of cast iron is not going to be a quality product.] The few plastic parts feel pretty solid, using decent material. The mainly metal body feels appropriately weighty but not like a lump of lead.

The main thing that gives a quality feel, however, is fit and finish. Everything fits right. No slop or slack bits. Nothing over tight either. Just nice, smooth, clean fitting parts. The lens snaps on just so, the lens hood likewise. All the levers and dials run smoothly without any loose feeling. This is really nice in a world of loose manufacturing tolerances for mass production. Even the best Canon gear I've got seems cheaply constructed by comparison.

Holding the camera

This is a bit strange having spent so long on SLRs. I actually had to get out my old film P&S (A Konica Pop) to remind myself what it felt like to hold such a device. Without the moulded hand grip or the weight of a large lens to balance, I need to hold the camera differently, especially to focus it (more later). I don't need or want to rest the camera in the palm of my left hand - it's more a fingers around the side sort of thing. For many, this is the normal way to hold a camera, for me it's taking some getting used to. It's not uncomfortable, just different.

Konica Pop vs Zeiss IkonMy old Konica Pop next to the Zeiss Ikon. Old P&S cameras weren't pocket sized, either.

Carrying it around, I use a wrist strap (more on what I use in another post) and hold it my left hand. This leaves my right hand free for general use (I'm right handed) and allows me to bring the camera to eye in the least time. The reasonable size, especially the lens diameter, makes it easy to carry with my fingers wrapped around the lens. This is a pretty inconspicuous way to carry a camera. I have quite short fingers and find carrying an SLR in this manner uncomfortable after a while, even with the smallest lenses (with the DLSRs, I can't even do so they're so large). Not so here. As a result, it feels like a much smaller and lighter camera to carry around. The weight then doesn't become an issue. It just feels light and easy in the hand regardless.


I've no problem with the offset VF. I've no problem seeing everything in the VF (shutter speed, frame lines, focus patch) even with glasses on. I did notice early on that ones eye has to be aligned just so to see the focus patch but now it comes naturally.

As many note, compared to even a good SLR VF, this is big and bright and clear. Seeing things and focussing in low light is easy.

Framelines will take some getting used to. Yes, I can see things outside the frame but as a long-term SLR users, this is actually distracting at present, rather than helpful. Another thing to get used to.

On framelines, the 40mm Nokton brings up the 50mm framelines. I've taken some test shots to see if I prefer the 50mm or 35mm frames. If the 35mm frame is better, then the lens tab will need a little modifying to get the right auto select.


What a joy! I really don't much like manual focussing with an SLR (even in medium format it can be a bit tricky). It's all visual acuity. Get the wrong dioptre adjustment or look through your glasses wrong and focus can be off. With the mechanical style of focussing with the RF focus patch, I can even focus without my glasses (I get the same results with or without). Much, much quicker manual focus.

Only problem is finding a comfortable way to hold the camera so I can easily use the focus tab on the lens. The finger recess never seems quite in the right place. I'm getting better but practice is needed. This will be a lens by lens problem.


Obviously, I haven't checked any output but it's in the range I'm expecting. I ran a test against my Canon SLR and got pretty much the same results, which is good. I can then quickly know how much compensation to add in any situation, don't have to relearn anything.

With the shutter speed showing up in the VF, there is a slight problem. It only shows whole stops, while the electronic AE is continuous. Of course, plenty of latitude in film and mixed light always needs a couple of meter checks anyway. One thing I don't like (a personal thing) are the 1/3 stop compensation settings. I'm a half-stop man as I find it easier to do the calcs in my head.

Film handling

Actually had to read the manual to know how to load the film. The tab slots are a little odd. Easy enough to use, just different than anything I've used before. It all very smooth and film loading is a snap.

I need to get back into the habit of winding the film after each shot. I've become so used to auto wind that I'm out of the habit. With medium format film, I'm working slower so always cock the lever just before a shot rather than just after. RF is all about speed - being ready to go.

The most disappointing thing on the whole camera is the rewind lever. It's a little fiddly, too small and feels flimsy. Actual wind feel is nice and there's a nice ratcheting sound as the film spools back. One odd thing is releasing the film cartridge. One has to pop the rewind lever down manually. even my old Konica Pop has this built into the door release mechanism. Again, a bit fiddly.

A further note on the lens

This isn't a lens review and I'm not really qualified to do that well. As long as it gets the light to the film without too much bother I'm quite happy.

I do love the small size an the tidy handling. All of that quality feel is there. Controls are plastic but good stuff and it's not a problem. Aperture stops are nice and positive but not too stiff.

The lens hood snaps on precisely and easily, with 3 working positions. It's spring loaded for release which prevents accidental release. All nice.

The lens cap is the best I've used. I'm sure I've seen criticism of Voigtlander lens caps in the past but the design has changed. The pinch tabs are curved for ones fingers and slightly raised in the middle for a firm grip. It can also be pinched from the outside, too, so it'll work any way you want. A small detail but shows the company cares about the small stuff.

Vioigtlander 40 Nokton vs EF 28 2.8 & EF 50 1.8The Voigtlander 40 f/1.4 nokton Classic flanked by the Canon EF 28 f/2.8 and EF 50 F/1.8.
These are the smallest lenses Canon makes and they are much larger than the Voigtlander, especially in diameter.


Well, I'm pretty happy. I did think long and hard about what and why for this camera. I tried my old SLR in a sort of RF manner to help me realise I needed something more suited to fast manual focus street use. Handling lives up to the reputation and I'm enjoying the RF way of using a camera for those specific tasks. It is not, and will not become, a do-all camera (no such thing). it's not an SLR, and I'm not expecting it to handle that way. As I use a variety of cameras, I'm happy to switch working & handling methods as I go. If you're a dyed-in-the-wool SLR nut, you may not like the change.

There are some aspects that will definitely take some practice to get honed but I'm sure that will come. As I'm more likely to take a camera with me if it's this nice to use, it'll get plenty of use. I don't mind the film thing. Sure, digital can be a whole lot more convenient but no one yet makes a digital RF that I'd be prepared to buy (and the Leica M8 is technically far from acceptable for me, let alone price).

Who should buy an RF? Well first, you've got to have some cash. There are some decent deals on lenses on ebay (if you avoid all the over-priced Leica) but I've not seen too many decent bodies. Seems a lot of people are buying up cheap Bessa kits, deciding they don't like it and flogging them off in short order. I would not rate the Zeiss Ikon a cheap camera, but it's pretty affordable if you run a mid-sized DSLR kit. lots of Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classics, probably due to disappointment (it gets the worst reviews of all the current Voigtlander line - this is why I went with the 40mm).

If you don't do much discrete, fast street photography, I wouldn't bother. If you don't like film, go elsewhere. If you are into those things, I think a rangefinder would suit you well. I don't think there is another type of camera that can do that fast, discrete thing so well. Plus, you get a fine mechanical device to play with.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Ilford Delta 100: a first look

Untitled, Kristiansund, May 2008

Some while back I was looking for a daylight complement to my usual Ilford HP5+ black and white film, something to offer more detail and better response in bright light. So I've tried Delta 100. Only a single roll so far, but enough for me to see some distinct differences.

My recent picturing around Kristiansund has been, in broad terms, a mixture of evening street shooting and daytime landscapes. HP5+ is great for closer work and low light but is too "sketchy" for detailed landscapes. Enter Delta.

Some things I've noticed

With HP5+, I find the shadow detail to be excellent but it doesn't carry highlights well. This is mostly due to the mixture of the grain and the scanning process. I can't say anything about development techniques - I send it off to the local pro lab for that. As a result, I use a -0.5 to -1 EV compensation on my Canon SLR, which gives great results.

Delta is a different beast entirely. I was exposing as for HP5+ (-0.5EV) in bright sunny conditions - similar to anything I'd do with any camera/film. Results aren't quite what I expected. fine detail rendition is excellent, highlight detail as good as anything I've seen but shadows are distinctly disappointing.

It seems as if HP5+ has a sharp roll-off in the highlights (in terms of rendered detail - combining both exposure, development and grain effects) but a long tail at the low end. with Delta it seems to be the other way around. I reckon i could happily over expose by a stop with Delta, which I wouldn't dare with HP5+. More testing definitely required, I think.

Ice cream and beer

A great combination...

Ice cream and beerIce cream and beer, Oslo, May 2008

Something from little

Back in May, when I was in Oslo, I complained of not seeing much. Well I've just finished working the roll, and found quite a few decent shots. Here are a few:

Oslo, May 2008Untitled, Oslo, May 2008

Oslo, May 2008Untitled, Oslo, May 2008

Lunchtime entertainmentLunchtime entertainment, Oslo, May 2008

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Creating movement: the wind in action

Something I mused about for my Processes of Nature series was capturing the motion of the wind in a meaningful manner. On one of my photo walks in Norway recently I was playing around with some ideas. Here I'm going to run through what I was doing and whether I think it's working.

The trick, I reckon, is to get the sense of movement by having some fixed reference in the shot. If everything looks blurry, it might just be camera shake (photog movement) rather than subject movement. So I'm looking for something that resembles the classic sports shot with the subject blurred against a sharp background (or vice versa).

I tried a few things this time, all hand-held as I didn't have a tripod with me:

- Single frame, slower shutters. Using my 17-55 IS, I can handhold pretty slow at 17mm, probably down around 1/4s.
- Couple of frames blended (not very successful here)
- Multiple frames blended in several ways, building on my "virtual ND filter" that I used in an earlier post.

Here are the results

Single frame at 1/8s

Several frames blended using Photomatix Pro

Several frames blended by hand in Photoshop (lots of opacity adjustments)

I think this is showing promise, especially the blends. I don't think the proper effect can be gained consistently with a single frame.

What things would I look for in future?
First up, a longer base shutter speed for blending - maybe around 1/2s. Short speeds are tending to mean too much, or too irregular, movement between exposures.
Second, I like the manual blended; I can control the effect each frame has on the blur. Good point to start is us the base image as one near the centre of the movement range, then progressively decrease the opacity as the movement gets further from that central point. Gives a more natural look. For auto blending I'd probably go with more frames (I used up to six here: 1 fill of the 20D's buffer).
Definitely a tripod, otherwise the fixed reference won't be.

Time for some pics

A couple of recent ones from the pocket cam.

Mont Blanc (almost), Morzine, June 2008

First up a nearly shot of Mont Blanc from my recent holiday. I've visited this spot several times over the last few years and still not got a decent image. It is often hazy (as it was on this day) but even when not, there is huge contrast, high UV, sun - a whole lot of problems. As it's an hour's mountain biking to get to, I'm disinclined to trek a pile of gear with me.

Stairs and door, Kristiansund, July 2008

Second is a bit of playing around I was doing kicking around the house in Norway. The light & shapes in the entrance area are pretty good, so I was trying some abstract shots.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Scope, personality and the camera in your hand

An interesting post from Colin Jago today on how he finds himself going deeper. The linked post on 2007's big theme is also pertinent. So many thoughts hit me from these posts. I've had to write my own thoughts down here.

First up - wide or deep? I'm pretty sure I'm a wide person (and not just the ever-expanding waist line). I haven't yet found a location that I want to get into more and more. I get to a certain point and run out of things that seem to interest me, photographically. But that's not to say one cannot mix and match. Why not go deep in one's own neighbourhood (the "block") yet wide on mountain landscapes? I'm sure there's room for both.

That come down to the second part, personality. As I say, I'm a wide person here and I think that is as much a part of my personality as it is of taking the time and oppotunity. I like to get through a subject and move on. This applies as much to my professional life as my personal one. My own experience tends me to think that one is either hard-wired as a wide person or a deep person, in general (but as Colin points out, this is something of a continuum). This dovetails nicely with the ideas I postulated about belonging with a subject.

Part three of my thinking came from Colin's point that

The more time I spend with a camera the smaller is the list of things that I
want to photograph.

Ah, but which camera, I thought. I'm finding that spending time with anyone particular camera (I'm turning into a something of a collector at the moment) tends me towards certain subjects. I'm not going to be rushing around town photographic candids with my 4x5. More of my wide personality coming through, I presume. Each camera allows me to narrow my focus to certain subjects. As time goes on, I might well reduce the range of equipment I use, as I find the subjects that most belong with me. But for now, I'll continue with my peripatetic ways.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Photographic tension

I had a look at my own potd for today and it put in mind something that has bugged me for a while.

The actual picture is a little off square, not quite aligned. I'm not sure that was deliberate in this case (I don't know, I only shot the thing) but often it is. What I notice is that renders such an image with a certain tension. There is a drawing of the eye off to one side or a desire to try and straighten it up. It strikes emphasis in different places.

Such pictures can really casue me frustration, maybe even a sense of annxiety - I want to line things up but cannot.

Is this just me, am I some kind of nut-job or do others get the same feelings with pictures askew?

The Landscapist: the magazine

I'm a regular reader and fan of The Landscapist. I'm not saying I agree with all of Hobson's writings, indeed it is couterpoint that is as (maybe more) effective in stimulating debate than endless agreement.

Well now, there is to be a print version. Submissions (picture and writing) called for. Of course, one cannot tell what sort of work it will be until published but I'm quite looking forward to it. Just as much, it will be an interesting test of the self-publish model.

FWIW, I totally agree with all of the obseravtions of web versus print. Web content is ephemeral, print material can be cherished.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Just when you had it all decided...

...a spanner gets thrown in the works.

I've finally decided I can't resist the RF temptation any longer. I've been enjoying the whole B&W film thing with my old Canon EOS500, but find it's really too slow and noisy for what I want. Manual focus is not too pleasant with the small primes I'm using. So to a RF set-up.

Body, easy decision: Zeiss Ikon. Looks good, got the large RF base distance, good reports from glasses wearers. Bessas seem a bit clunky in appearance, while being a lot cheaper. Lots of poky out bits as well, not great for stowing. All my opinion. Oh and Leica is ridiculous in price it doesn't get look-in. Had thought about 2nd hand (which introduces a slew of other considerations) but quite frankly can't be doing with the hassle of checking them all out, checking quality etc.

Then there's the lens. 35mm, for sure. I like the view it gives, wish there was a compact one for the Canon.

here's the catch - was all set on the CV 35 1.4 Nokton - that seemingly magic bullet: small, light, cheap, fast, right focal length. But reviews aren't to sharp and I'm not really sure how much I'll need the 1.4 (right now I'm quite happen at 2.0 or even slower).

So then there's the others to consider, all Voigtlanders: the 1.7 Ultron, 2.5 Colour Skopar (bit slow, though), 40 1.4 Nokton. Don't want to stretch to a Zeiss - heck I could add a 75 for the extra money. Decisions, decisions. Again, Leica have priced themselves out of this one.

Of course I'm trying to justify this as more than G.A.S. but I'm pretty certain it'll be a nice addition for travelling.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

What is photogenic?

I was lying on the sofa last night wondering what makes an image worth making, what subjects are worth photographing? And from that, is this an inherent property of the subject or more a function of the photographers eye?

I had been half-minded to go out and o some more photography around town but in the end felt I wasn't going to get anything from it. Possibly a bit of general malaise thrown in. I did take a few snaps around the house and tried a few odd things in focus and composition. All on film so I'll have to wait for results.

The point to my thinking was, however, that photographers all around the world seem able to make good or compelling images of almost anything that might happen along. That is not to say, however, that every photographer seems able to make all subjects into good images. And of course there is the hit rate to consider - take a thousand shots and there is bound to be a good image in there somewhere.

As ever with this sort of thinking, no firm answers came to me. I am leaning towards the notion, however, that it takes a particular combination of subject and photographer to create a compelling image. This is not just a matter of application - banging away at an unsuitable subject will not yield results. Each photographer has, in this respect, subjects that "belong" with (not to) them. I think it is one of the skills of a photographer to recognise ones own subjects and work assiduously on those.

Thoughts without pictures

I was all set to post some pictures I'd taken recently but to no avail. Seems the work servers are just getting in the way (hey, if i have to work the weekend, I'm going to get in some blogging in between times).

So for now, thoughts without the pictures. Check out potd for piccies, and for today a 2-for-1 special (as I bodged the schedule dates).

Friday, 11 July 2008

Megapixel mania

So Hasselblad have launched a new monster. Woohoo. I don't think I'll be rushing to the bank quite yet at those prices. (Although, apparently they've now got an "affordable" offering.)

However, far more interesting to me, was the parallel announcement of a new tilt-shift adapter. Now that, coupled with the super high resolution, could start moving into the territory larger LF formats. I've always thought the lack of movements was the biggest weakness in MF equipment.

Personally, though, I'd rather any number of Mike Johnston's suggestions would come to fruition.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Photography: some economic realities

I've just read a post by Doug Plummer from his trip to the MS Pro Photo Summit regarding stock selling. (On this note, you may also have been reading Howard Grill's Advetures in Microstock.) There is a really interesting point in there

Lise's [Gagne] old boss didn't want to spend money for photography, period.
This led me off on 2 thoughts.

First, there is an economic principle in here about value and pricing that seems to be dominating many business decisions, photogrpahy amoung them. It is this: sellers wish to sell on a value basis - i.e. at a price that reflects the cost to the buyer of doing it themselves or the value they will generate from the product. In the case of photography, it would relate to the cost of a company hiring a photographer themselves to get the work they want (photographers selling based on the costs to them of doing the work is a derivative of this idea). Buyers, on the other hand, want to buy based on the inherent value they see in the product. In the case of photography that would be based effectively on the direct cost of printing or transmittal or whatever. Premium gets added for quality and consistency of product etc (the service element) which is all part of the same thing.

Thus we have the gap between the value sell price and the cost buy price. With digital photography, I believe that the cost being associated with photography is ever decreasing (digitial comes for free). Hence the attitude demonstrated in the quote.

On a related note but different tack (nice mixed metaphors!), there are the huge numbers of photography contests/submissions on-going. Most seem to have rights-grabs attached (I saw one just this week, forget where and I'm not going to publicise wrong-doers). Typically they are requesting: send us your pics, oh, and by the way, we own them once you do. Tough luck on your copyright.

When you can get suckers to send all your photography needs for free, why should you ever want to pay for it?

It seems in today's world the only way to have your time valued is to sell it directly. Maybe all photographers need to move to a consultancy model: we'll sell you hours of effort, for which you get a given product. Tell us the product, and we'll tell you how much effort it takes to produce it. It's the way engineers have been working for years, works for us nicely and we don't have to worry if we're going to get paid at the end of it.

Monsters are human, too

I think this has been mentioned in web-land before, but there is a length review of the Auschwitz album, and its context, over at The Daily Telegraph. Chillingly interesting stuff and proving to be a very useful historical record. Not much more I can add that isn't written over there.

A downside of technology

We've all become used to auto this, auto that, digital everything. I ran right into the downside last night: power, or lack thereof. Having failed to put new batteries in my pocket camera, and failed to bring a charger with me, it died. Bit of a pain, as I've been shooting a series of shots with it as a sort of mini-project for the week.

And of course, as our devices become fancier, they need ever increasing amounts of power. Why hasn't someone designed a modern, slimmed-down camera that will take about 10,000 frames with a single charge of a small battery?

This is one of the things I love about my large format camera: no batteries required (apart from the meter, but I could guess that).

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

They were The Americans

I got a first look at my copy of the new edition of Robert Frank's "The Americans" at the weekend. There has been a lot of glowing praise and good words said about it in web-land. I thought I'd add a few of my initial thoughts, being new to the work.

First up, I was surpirsed by how physically small the book is. Great work doesn't ned huge enlargement. But I'm also sligthly disappointed by the size of the inmages on the page. Many are too large for me, running too close to the margins and often into the binding fold. I don't know how the original was, but this does distract somewhat from proper viewing of the images.

Next, I was struck by how much the total work seems like a documentary of a time and place. For sure, individual images stand as great work, and there are some interesting choices. Mostly, though, I'm surprised at how much the whole comes across as a work belonging to mid-'50s' America.

While many argue this is seminal, never to be repeated work, I somewhat disagree. I think a work like this could be undertaken once a generation and remain fresh. From my travels, I thnk there are many aspects that modern Americans would not recognise as their own country: baseball caps have replaced the fedoras, malls have replaced the corner-store and local bar.

From a photographic quality point of view I think this is a great book. The documentary aspects do seem to make it a little dated, however.

Monday, 7 July 2008

What I got up to

Dust trails, Morzine, France, June 2008

I'm back (for fully 24h) from vacation before jetting off again tomorrow for work. In the meantime, these are a couple of shots that give a flavour of what I get up to on vacation and where. Some of the best biking and scenery n Europe, for sure.

In the shadow of the mountain, Morzine, June 2008

If you're into that kind of thing, more can be found from a trip I took on Friday on the Flickr set posted by the company I was with (Endlessride).

A top couple of weeks of both on- and off-road riding, great weather, good company, tasty food and cold beer. What more could one ask for?

My photography brain will be back in shortly.