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Friday, March 30, 2007

The Pentax DA 70 Lens Does a Portrait

by Carl Weese

Several readers asked about the Pentax 70mm DA lens for portrait work, and since I had a young visitor handy today, here is a sample.

Carl Weese, Alex, Woodbury, Connecticut (click on picture for larger version)

We looked around for a "busy" background and I used the lens wide open at ƒ/2.4 to keep the depth of field as shallow as possible. My impression looking through the viewfinder was that the "drawing" of the lens was really pleasant. I also noticed that the K10D's AF system was very clever on auto-select, keeping the eyes in best focus as I tried different framings. The background isn't the smoothest I've ever seen, but strikes me as quite good.

Then I tried a couple test subjects with lots of small detail in the background. Here the results weren't as good. I noticed, though, that the out of focus rendering got smoother as the lens was stopped down. Here's ƒ/2.8:


and here's ƒ/8:


Another pair. In this shot the shapes in the background aren't as small and picky, and the result is quite nice:

ƒ/2.8

ƒ/8

When bokeh is discussed most people automatically think of a relatively small subject—a person's head, a flower, etc.—in shallow focus with the background far out of focus, like the picture above. But Oren reminded me that another important consideration is the way a lens renders highly detailed subjects in depth. The problem here is that it's impossible to achieve universal focus, so the goal is to avoid a jarring transition between the fully sharp zone and the areas in front or back that gradually go out of focus. Some lenses are so bad at this that there's no point making the picture. My first tests with the 70mm DA, though, are really promising:
ƒ/8

The rendering here is so smooth that I want not only to try some more of these but also want to see how the other members of the pancake trio play this tune.

I'd say the bokeh of the 70mm DA is unobjectionable except with picky detail in the background, at which point it gets quite harsh. To be continued when I've had a chance to do some side-by-side comparisons with other lenses of about the same focal length.

Posted by: CARL WEESE

Telling It Like It Is


Nitrozac and Snaggy tell it like it is...Adobe Edition.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to David E.

Another Little Trick

In all the talk about photographing street people, no one except Charlie D. has mentioned this yet, so perhaps it's not as well-known a trick as I thought: you take the picture first and then ask permission. If permission is granted, you take a few more (especially with digital, what can it hurt? And you might get a good one). If permission is refused, you can politely refrain...from taking any more. You still have your candid in the camera, you might say.

A "shoot-first-then-ask-permission" pair by Charlie Didrickson

I think this is justified because 1) it's true that you won't get the same shot after you approach someone (they can become self-conscious or just change position), 2) many people don't realize for sure if you've taken any pictures or not anyway, and 3) people mainly just like being asked.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Great Classic Reissued


For the first time in many years, very soon now you will again be able to buy The Photographer's Eye as a new book. John Szarkowski is arguably the best writer on photography of the second half of the 20th Century, at least in English, but he was also one of the most influential curators—especially early on in his career, when this was published. The Photographer's Eye is his visual textbook of how photographs function and why they matter. The plentiful illustrations are an invigorating hodgepodge, ranging all the way from avowed masterpieces to anonymous vernacular photography, and including snapshots, photojournalism, and historical documents; before this book, lumping all those together just wasn't done. Originally published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1966 and now selling used for up to $250, this is a book that was part of the background music for an entire generation of photographers, in one of photography's most fecund periods, the late '60s and the '70s.

It's a slim, slight, modest book with few words, probably Szarkowski's least verbal book. Personally, after a quarter of a century spent studying photography and working with and around photographers of every kind, from rank beginners to the world-famous, I can't think of a single reason why anybody who professes any interest in photography would not want this, or benefit from having it. The new reissue is not out yet—the link is to a pre-order—so I'm not sure if they've recreated the gravure reproductions of the original or not, but that's not really critical. The pictures are the crux of it. This is as close to a must-have and a mandatory buy as any recent reissue, for any photographer. Highest recommendation, and do note that the reissue won't be available forever, as is the nature of such things.

If you buy it through the links here on the site, we get a tiny commission, but that's not the point.

I'm going to be on you about this, so you might as well give in now.

Get it? Get it.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to Geoff

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Point of Procedure

Now that the hubbub surrounding the comment moderating posts from a few days ago has died down, I thought I'd gently mention a persistent fallacy that rears its head around here from time to time. There's no way, folks, that this blog can be "just about photography," for one simple reason: photography is not just about photography.

Photography is mainly about life, and the world. It's about people, events, feeling-tone, places, animals, history, death, modes, conditions, politics (yes, politics), poetry, colors, evidence, personal identity, nostalgia, artistic expression, all sorts of things...and it's about responses as well. Photography is a recording medium that can be used in innumerable ways, for every sort of purpose under the sun; it trades in information and meaning, in the observance or in the breach, and the loop it proposes is a communications loop, between subject, photographer, and viewer and back around again, twisting and rebounding and reverberating betwixt and between subject and object in its implications—and it makes no sense to ignore all these significations. In other words, when looking at pictures of the homeless, it makes no sense not to discuss homelessness—or any of the many issues that pertain to the fact of subject, or to the pictures and the act of making them.

That much is clear here, isn't it—at least cumulatively? If this website has a theme, that is probably it. If T.O.P. were "only about photography" in the sense of being restricted to the phototechnical, it would be like a website about writing that discusses only pencils and word processing programs, or a blog about music that concentrates mainly on piano tunings or a conductor's stance on repeats. It would have to ignore far more than it includes. Which is fine for them what wants it, but it certainly ain't for me.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

The Flower-Seller

by Russ Butner

A few days ago, while ambulating through Couch Park, this homeless gentleman asked if I'd like to buy his flowers for a dollar. I politely declined, but asked if he'd be willing to pose with his flowers for the one dollar fee. He happily agreed, and I made this quick snap of him. He was quite pleasant, and was quite happy to receive his "posing" fee.

Posted by: RUSS “KIRON KID” BUTNER


Featured Comment by Del Bomberger: I was going to avoid commenting on the photographing of the "homeless" issue, but, as it continues, it seems I'm going to be drawn in.

As an individual who is the Executive Director of a Homeless Shelter and has performed this job in four separate parts of the U.S. since 1994, I feel it is important to say that there is no way for the average person to know if the person they are photographing is homeless or not.

Your assumptions may well be wrong. They may be mentally ill, they may be addicts, they may simply be lonely and on Social Security and yes, some will actually be homeless, but you can't tell by looking.

I met a woman in a Walgreens in New Orleans last week who is working full-time and graduating from Tulane on the way to Law School. She lives in a homeless shelter, but you wouldn't know by looking at her.

Photographing the homeless is at best like shooting fish in a barrel—it takes little if any extra talent, and brings for the most part little or no new information to the discussion. Many of those living on the street and panhandling are not homeless, just entrepreneurs making a living, working their own hours, without any supervision and not paying any taxes on what in some areas can be considerable income.

View some of them as not much different than someone having a hot dog cart or corner newspaper franchise without the inventory. Of course there are those who panhandle just for the money to keep drunk or high, but they are a minority of the homeless population in my experience.

Don McPhee 1945-2007


Eamonn McCabe has written a respectful send-off for Don McPhee, left, one of the defining photographers of the Manchester Guardian and for many years a leading light of photojournalism in the U.K. Added is a brief collection of tributes from colleagues who knew him best. Also, don't miss the sympathetic slideshow with commentary from Guardian picture editor Roger Tooth.


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

For Aperture Users


"Dedicated to providing information, education, training and support for Apple-based photographers."

Visit the site.

Posted by: DAVID EMERICK

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You Do It

Since I've gotten many private responses to my post about comments, I'd like to invite you to try this yourself. Pretend you're me. You've just received the following comment in response to the "Strange Days" post. The writer, by the way, is someone who often contributes comments that are approved, so it's not some interloper. (And, we don't actually dislike Texans, even though we make fun of them sometimes. That's a joke, son, I say, a joke.) Bear in mind you can't edit. All you can do is pass it along as written, or axe it. Here's the comment:

"Wow you're as warm as it was here in Central Texas today. I read with interest the global warming conversations. I wonder how much is real, how much is over-exaggerated, how much is caused by mankind and how much might be of a natural cycle. It's as warm as it been in a thousand years they say. (what caused it then?) Wasn't it in the 70's when they said we were headed for an ice age? Of my 3 winters in Maine 2 were colder than normal. Jan. and Feb. here in TX were colder than normal this year. What happened to acid rain? They said the fish would be dead by now. Does anyone know how much Al Gore has made off of his movie and lecture tour? Millions? I wonder how much of that money will be donated by Mr. Gore to the global warming cause or will it be used to purchase many thousands of gallons of jet fuel to fly in private jets? Ah that's right he has to heat his huge mansion too. Damn we all need to cut back so the elite can live like the upper class that they are. :0 My advice is enjoy that weather. You know it ain't gonna last. :0 Sorry about the rant."

So what do you do? Does your own agreement or disagreement with the political-scientific opinions of the writer determine your response? Does the fact that it says nothing about photography count against it? Would you risk triggering a debate among readers about global warming? Would you be itching to join that debate yourself?

So, leave your own comment and tell me what you'd do: allow or disallow?

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

FOLLOW-UP: I think y'all can see what I'm up against here. In the 35 comments left as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, there were 24 people who made it clear what they'd do. There were 10 "disallow" responses and 14 "allow" responses (at least as I interpret and tabulate the responses). So, although the "allows" win here, with this comment, as with many other "borderline" ones, the right thing to do isn't exactly cut-and-dried, at least not overwhelmingly so.

Neither is the response I might provoke no matter which course I chose. As you can see for yourself, some people have expressed unhappiness that their comments have been rejected in the past, while others feel it's oppressive that rejection of the comments they might write is even a possibility. Others would prefer I be a bit more heavy-handed and keep impolite, off-point, or distracting topics out of the comments. Many simply endorse autocratic rule-by-Mike, which, I might point out, is very well-adjusted of them, since that's essentially what you're all getting here anyway, like it or not!

My main goal is just to be to keep things friendly and polite, and be as fair to everyone as possible. All I can say is that I try. And I'll keep trying. I've picked on two commenters today, and perhaps that in itself violates my own principles. Of the two, special thanks to the person who wrote the comment featured in this post, for suffering their words to be used as a "guinea-pig" and get picked over by everybody.

P.S. Just for the record, I didn't reject any of the comments to this post. At least not so far—!

UPDATE: I'm sure everyone will be relieved to know that our temperatures are back very close to dead average—the high yesterday was 45°F, and the average high for the date is 46°F. Make of that what you will....

WTTW

Just a very brief reminder that I won't post comments that contain ad hominem. I've had to reject a number of comments today and yesterday in the Jonathan Greenwald thread. It's too bad, because many of those comments contained much that was thoughtful and illuminating; but a comment is rejected if it contains any direct personal insult aimed at another poster. Sorry, but I dislike flaming and I have a ".1-tolerance" policy (i.e., very close to zero) in effect to keep it suppressed.
—Mike

ADDENDUM: I hasten to add that I've seen no truly offensive and certainly no illegal behavior from visitors to this site. The comments I'm talking about are very similar to posted ones, but include some form of inconsiderateness, many of which can be quite mild. I just don't think that comments like "her picture sucks" or "that comment is absurd" do anything to further a discussion. True, this is censorship, but, as I've said before, this is not a forum.

I think it goes without saying that almost all of the comments posted here are friendly, intelligent, and polite. Every day I'm impressed by the number and the quality of people who read T.O.P., and that extends to those of you who leave comments. The genesis of this post is simply that Blogger doesn't provide the email addresses of people who leave comments, so, when I reject one, I'm unable to contact the writer privately to explain to them why I've done so—something I would otherwise try to do.

The most frustrating kind of comment is one that is polite and mature all the way through until the very end, when the writer just cannot help adding what you might call a "kick." The effect is somewhat like this:

Reader X commented that combat boots are suitable footwear for photography. While I wouldn't presume to dictate to anyone what kind of shoes they should wear, combat boots are heavy and don't dry quickly, so, with all due respect, I would suggest that Reader X hasn't tried Adidaboks—if he had, he would know how superior they are.

His mother is obviously a skinhead.

The problem for me is that Blogger doesn't allow me to edit comments. If it did, I would just chop off that last line and publish the comment; but I can't. So, in many cases, that last kick means I have to reject the whole comment. You can see my dilemma.

Oh, and "WTTW" stands for "word to the wise."

The Pentax 70mm ƒ/2.4 DA lens

by Carl Weese

When Less Really Is More
Recently I've been experimenting with a Pentax 70mm ƒ/2.4 DA lens, the longest of the Pentax compact "pancake trio" of lenses. Since its angle of view is equivalent to a 105mm on 35mm format, I was reminded that the first high quality accessory lens I ever bought, back in 1965, was a 105mm ƒ/2.8 Super Takumar for my Pentax H3 camera. Along with excellent optical quality, one feature of that lens was that it was significantly more compact than equivalent lenses from other manufacturers. But look at this comparison between the venerable 105 and its new descendent:


Here it is mounted on a K10D camera:

That is amazingly compact for a telephoto lens! I'm also impressed with the picture quality. I don't use longer-than-normal lenses very much—shorter lenses suit me better in almost all situations—but here's something from yesterday that I like:

The optical quality leaves nothing to be desired. If the designers have compromised anything to achieve the compact size, it isn't apparent in pictures I've made with the lens. Well, one compromise is obvious—the lens is quite pricey.

So who might be interested in spending the money to have such a miniaturized lens? My first thought would be, someone for whom a moderately long lens feels "normal" (the way a moderately short lens feels normal to me). The camera/lens package, especially if you leave the grip at home, would make a great little "walkabout" kit if this angle of view fits your vision.

Then I realized that someone like me is another obvious candidate, for one specific reason. Since I seldom use a long lens, I'm likely not to bother carrying one if it's big, heavy, and bulky. But there's practically no camera bag so small you can't slip the DA70 into it somewhere. This came in handy last Sunday when I happened on an unusual event while out looking for pictures. Pop over to my web log and see the DA70's results in my post for 3/26/07. The second and third pictures were made with the 70, literally because there was no place for me to stand where a shorter lens would have given an interesting view of the action.

Even if I use a long lens for only 2% of my pictures, a lens compact enough to encourage me to carry it at all times means I won't miss out on that 2%.

Posted by: CARL WEESE


Additional Comment from Mike: For those of you who may not be Pentaxians and may not know this, you see that old c. 1965 105mm Super Takumar in the top picture, on the left? You can actually use that lens on the K10D, Pentax's latest and most up-to-date digital SLR, albeit with some inevitable operational restrictions. Now that's back-compatibility for ya.

Strange Days

Apropos of nothing, I've got to say that this weather is freaking me out. I know, I know, the weather is supposed to be nothing but another partisan political debate (Dems: The sky is falling! The sky is falling!; Repubs: Don't know what you're talking about; our heads are securely encased in sand) and I know, it was virtually yesterday that I was complaining bitterly about the cold...but that's just the thing; it was virtually yesterday.

Here in Wisconsin we had a very strange winter. December and January were extremely mild, with "winter" basically packed into five weeks, the four weeks of February and the first week of March. And it was some kinda serious winter, with weeks on end of sub-zero nights and copious amounts of snow. But now we've just had two eighty-degree days in a row. (That's 26°C, for those of you with no respect for illogical traditional measurement systems.) Eighty degrees. In March. In Wisconsin. Less than three weeks ago I was happily griping about the frigid cold, and there was so much snow heaped up every which-where in my alley I almost couldn't get the car out. Holy greenhouse effect, Batman.

I don't know if you've noticed this, but it also freaks me out that they're suddenly pulling all sorts of giant squid out of the Southern Ocean, after millennia of giant squid being the most elusive of creatures. Something seems to be off, and every now and then it strikes me as ominous. I can't say I like it. The Republicans claim it's nothing but a natural cycle, and has nothing at all to do with us pumping trillions of tons of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. It's not often that I find myself hoping the Republicans are right.

On the other hand, I can't say it isn't pleasant: the warm weather got my lazy butt out of the house with the camera for a loop around the neighborhood. That's something good, eh?

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by Samik: Well, you're not alone wondering. We had extremely warm December and January too. And now it's +15C—all-time high.

In Finland! We're almost on other side of the globe from you.

It's freaky. But I kinda like warm weather.

We're All Famous Like

I'd like thank Nick Wright, of Independence, Kansas, for naming T.O.P. as one of his favorite blogs (he named Carl's, too) over on Sportsshooter.com. It's always humbling to have one's virtual chicken-scratchings singled out for praise, especially on a forum that's only semi-related.

I was also pleased to get my most recent issue of LensWork (no. 69, Mar.–Apr. 2007) in the mail, and, as I usually do, turn first to Bill Jay's "End Notes" column at the back of the magazine—there to read an item discussing one of T.O.P.'s very own posts. I've been an admirer of Bill's since I stumbled across his excellent 1992 Nazraeli Press book Occam's Razor, still a favorite (and, despite the philosophical title, all about photography).

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Monday, March 26, 2007

'How Come No One Called? Seriously'

In response to Ctein's post, "Customer Support, Take 2," below, Player commented "Okay, I give up. How come no one called? Seriously."

This is pure speculation, but over the years I've noticed that people have a tendency to blame themselves when something goes wrong with products. I've said before that I think that's how personal computers have made it this far as consumer products...for most of their history, computers have been very balky, buggy, complicated products, and very unreliable. The only reason people put up with them was a persistent tendency for each customer to place the primary blame for problems not on the product, not on the manufacturer, but on him- or herself. The reaction is easy to understand from a psycho-perceptual standpoint—nobody is perfectly expert in the use of personal computers—even computer professionals. And since we know we're not experts, ergo it's easy to blame problems on our own lack of expertise. Something is wrong = we must have screwed up, somehow.

There's got to be a name for this in marketing theory, but I wouldn't know what it is.

Over the years I've encountered many situations in photography in which relatively simple claims went unchallenged. In many of those cases it took an experienced researcher to simply say, "wait a minute, is this true?" and design an experiment to find out. I'll give you one example. For many years, Zone VI studios touted its print washers as being superior to others because they drained from the bottom, and "fixer is heavier than water, so it sinks to the bottom of the tank." This was repeated as "conventional wisdom" so frequently, and in so many places, that I asked PHOTO Techniques magazine's resident photochemistry expert, Bob Chapman, to put the silly myth to rest. Among Bob's array of commonsense proofs of the nonsense of the proposition was simply that if you put half fixer and half water in a jar and shook it up, then let it sit on a shelf for a year, the fixer would not come out of solution with the water and "sink to the bottom." So I promptly did just as he suggested. As luck would have it, our company had a chemistry lab as one of its divisions. After the jar had sat on the shelf for a year, more or less, I asked one of the chemists to sample the solution at the top of the jar and at the bottom. The concentration of fixer was the same in both places. Obviously, if fixer can't "sink to the bottom" of a still jar in a year's time, it's not going to "sink to the bottom" in a turbulent print washer. (A coda to this story is the amusing—and maddening—fact that some of our readers still refused to believe that fixer doesn't sink in the print washer. One photographer told me he still thought the old myth had to be true because he had just "read it in too many places" for it not to be. Argh! If you want to read more about our innate tendencies to error, I can recommend two excellent and very readable layman's books on the topic—Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking, by Thomas E. Kida, and A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives, by Cordelia Fine. Both recommendations satisfy the Pinker Rule.*)

But who, exactly, is most likely to test such a claim? Probably not casual home darkroom workers. I'm assuming that most photographers, if a particular batch of developer wasn't working, would simply presume it was operator error somehow and throw the batch out. It would take a relatively confident, informed individual to test the hypothesis that the developer was bad as it came packaged from the factory. To name one trivial experimental difficulty, the individual would need to have a second packet of the same batch of developer on hand, so they could mix it up again and insure that no stupid mistakes had been made in mixing up the first batch.

Absent such careful testing for confirmation, I can understand that people would be reluctant to complain—they just didn't think that manufacturer error was a viable explanation, let alone the most likely one.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

*My brother and I have a rule between ourselves, named for author Stephen Pinker, that we're not allowed to recommend a book until we've actually finished reading it.

Customer Support, Take 2

by Ctein

What would you think if your film turned out looking like this?

As I said last time, customer support can be funny thing. Sometimes that's "funny" as in "weird and disturbing." As when customers' faith in the manufacturer's competence is misplaced.

This is a true story. Got it from the horse's mouth, one of the Big Four photographic manufacturers. But I'm not even going to give you a hint as to who.

Companies keep extensive quality control records to insure that their products performs just as they're supposed to. Nothing should leave the plant that isn't on spec. Unfortunately, humans are fallible creatures and sometimes the horse escapes before the barn door has been locked.

It was a simple product; standard B&W film developer. These mixes can tolerate pretty large deviations from the standard recipe and still perform well; they have to, considering the manufacturer has little control over exactly how they're used. But there are limits.

During a review of some QC logs, it was discovered that a batch of developer had been incorrectly prepared. One component had not merely been mismeasured but omitted entirely. As Murphy would have it, this was nothing trivial like a preservative. This developer was completely inactive; it was incapable of developing film.

It got worse. Photofinishing labs buy chemicals in large lots that are traceable. In case of a problem, the manufacture can determine who got the chemicals. This batch of developer, though, was packaged up into small units (e.g., 1 gal.) for the individual user market. Those couldn't be tracked.

The bum soup was long gone. It had been distributed and sold to individual B&W photographers all over. The Company was screwed.

These were honorable people; they knew they had screwed up and they weren't going to try to stonewall it. They put customer support on alert and prepared to fall on their swords and make as much nice as they could to the angry customers whose film had been ruined. Operators were standing by.

The phones never rang. No user contacted them to complain about bad developer—not one single unhappy photographer.

That's when the company became very, very worried.

A very weird and disturbing business, indeed.

Posted by: CTEIN

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jonathan Greenwald: Conscientious Street Photographer

By Chantal Stone

Street photography has never come easy for me, especially capturing people without them noticing me. It's a style of photography that I love, but I feel way too self-conscious to be stealthy, and often times I miss great shots by poorly framing or exposing incorrectly before scampering off before anyone looks at me. I so greatly admire those photographers who bravely achieve what I can not, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to chat with NYC street photographer Jonathan Greenwald.

On his photoblog, Shrued, Jonathan shares his view of the city where he now lives, New York, and the city in which he will soon reside, Toronto. Full of beauty, surprise, natural wonder, and architectural triumph, Jonathan's photoblog is a virtual tour of the non-touristy sides of these two cities.

But each city has a different side, a side we as outsiders don't often see, and it is through his camera that Jonathan is able to bring light and truth to what goes often unnoticed in two of North America's largest cities. With two projects, called "Signs of The Times" and "Forgotten," Jonathan reveals the homeless of New York and Toronto. Recently Jonathan and I talked about his project photographing the homeless.

Chantal Stone: Why did you start photographing homeless people?

Jonathan Greenwald: I think the idea came from my fascination for photographing people. In my earlier work, I rarely ever photographed someone I didn't know. I was always fearful of the repercussions and would rather avoid contact with my subjects. It wasn't until I was photographing for a little while that I decided to photograph people on the streets of NYC and Toronto. I love human interaction and sometimes the quickest movement, facial expression, or reaction could be captured by the camera and tell a wonderful story. I also enjoy how you never see the same thing twice when you photograph people and the same photograph can tell me one story, but tell the next observer an entirely different story. With everyday people, the story can be anything. With the homeless, the story is always the same; desperation, despair, and poverty. When photographing the homeless, sadness and compassion is a constant theme.

CS: Do you interact with the people you photograph? Ask for permission, or say something afterwards?

JG: In just about every situation, there is no interaction. I never give the subject the impression I'm taking their photograph and almost always look past them when I [shoot]. They probably think I'm taking their photograph, but when I fail to make eye contact with them, they probably think I was photographing something or someone behind them. If someone does catch me in the act, I do my best to ignore them. I learned this method very early on from a good friend of mine, Nick Rhodes. When he and I first walked around New York CIty, I was pointing my camera up at the wonderful architecture and he was pointing his lens in peoples' faces. It worried me at first, but I quickly got over it and tried it myself.

CS: That's an interesting technique. For a lot of people, shooting people on the street can be very intimidating.

JG: I am always asked abut my method and I always give the same advice: never make eye contact. It changes everything, especially the way you photograph people. Make eye contact behind the camera.

CS: You're often right in front of the people you're photographing. It's amazing they're not looking right into the camera.

JG: I also tend to hold the camera at obscure angles so they don't realize I'm even taking a photo. I use a battery grip for the [Canon] 20D which makes portrait shooting a bit easier; I hold the camera from the bottom and snap away. I was toying with the idea of holding the camera around my neck, walking into a crowd, and snapping away with a remote control. It would be interesting to see the results.

CS: Do you ever feel guilty about photographing homeless people and not giving them anything back—or do you give anything?

JG: I struggle with that very question every time I take a photograph. The way I look at it, I am documenting what I see and I don't make light of the situation. I am not in the area long enough to interact with my subjects and if I did, it would likely change the way I photograph people. What I most like about my photographs is the spontaneity and that would be lost if I began interacting with my subjects. I may just continue capturing people, whether homeless or not, without interacting with them. I don't exploit anyone and prefer to show people in their natural [environment].

CS: Do you find differences between the cities? Are there more homeless in one city compared to the other?

JG: I am finding a significant difference between the homeless in New York City and Toronto. I have yet to draw relevant conclusions, but my preliminary assessment is this: the homeless in Toronto are friendlier and more personable. And there is [one] big difference: age. My wife lives in downtown Toronto. Walk in either direction on Queen Street West, and you can encounter as many as four or five homeless kids on a single block. Most are dressed like punks and have signs that tout everything from solicitations for marijuana research to beer. Perhaps it's the amount of foot traffic on that one street in comparison to the multiple access points in New York City.

CS: You mention age. What about differences in the level of desperation?

JG: I think the age difference plays a role in the desperation of homeless people in New York and Toronto. Without knowing someone's situation, it is often easy to see the countless years of struggle and pain etched on the face of an older man or woman. The same struggles do not exist on a younger person. So desperation is much more prevalent in New York.

CS: I love the contrast here:


JG: Park Avenue has some of the nicest buildings in New York. Most are businesses, but a few apartments line this very busy part of the city. It's not uncommon to see a homeless person on the same corner as an affluent business person. And the lack of attention is remarkable. As if this woman does not exist.

CS: Would you call it indifference, or something more negative?

JG: Indifference is probably the right word. Most affluent people would prefer the homeless get a job and or find a different corner to squat. The former is not as easy as the latter. As a culture, especially in NYC, we tend to think of the homeless as a non-entity.

CS: This photo, of the man sitting by the trash, definitely says non-entity.

JG: This gentleman was sitting in this chair, apparently sleeping, for hours on end. I noticed him in the morning and then again when I snapped this photo later on in the afternoon. This is the only time I really wanted to ask what happened, but refrained. He was sitting on the corner of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. Quite an ideal spot for foot traffic. And he is just as indifferent about the garbage as the pedestrians were about him. However, I will say he was getting his fair share of change.

CS: Are you still photographing the homeless? Is the project a work in progress?

JG: I don't think I'll ever stop, and for several reasons. One, like the affluent, the homeless are very much a part of our society and, unlike the affluent, should not go unnoticed. I don't want to be known as the homeless photographer, rather someone who captures distinct moments in the life of a New Yorker, or Torontonian for that matter.

If I were to publish a book of my work, I don't think the homeless photos could stand on their own, at least not at the moment. Yet, even as I continue to take more photos of the homeless, it's the contrast in our daily lives that tells the entire story. A photograph of a homeless person is a powerful image on its own, but when that same person is photographed with his or her fellow man or woman in the background, paying no attention to the despair only a few feet away, that to me is a much more powerful image.

We always hear about campaigns to help the homeless, but ignorance is never mentioned in any of them. I don't want to change the way everyone thinks about the homeless situation, rather open their eyes and [help them] recognize there really is a problem.
In short, like all of my images, this project will always be a work in progress as long as there are subjects to photograph.

CS: What's next for you, photographically?

JG: I'm hooked on photographing people, although I don't think I can lock myself up in a studio for countless hours staging shots. I don't think I have the patience for it, but that could change in the future. So in the meantime, I will continue to walk the streets of NYC and Toronto, expecting the people of these great cities continue to go about their day to day lives, giving me an opportunity to capture every moment. People are fascinating subjects because you never know what to expect and every moment can either make us laugh hysterically or feel immense sorrow. That's the beauty of photography. It's a moment in time and it's up to the viewer to recreate that moment in their minds without ever knowing or meeting the person in the photograph.

Posted by: CHANTAL STONE

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Not Now, Dear, I've Just Been Killed By a High-Powered Rifle

Recently, a 20-year-old man was arrested in Wisconsin for having sex with a dead deer. Scott Adams has already commented on some of the ironies and difficulties of this situation, but he missed one additional dimension of the crime, probably because he does not live here. See, I think additional charges should be levied against the perpetrator for Gross Inconsideration of the Stereotyping of Others (GISO).

Did the guy who had sex with the dead deer stop to think that what he's doing slanders all the others of us who live in Wisconsin, by encouraging people from other states to think that Wisconsin is a backward place where people do things like bugger dead deer? I feel harmed by that, and I think he should pay extra because of it, when it comes time to atone for the crime.

GISO statutes should be set up for other acts and crimes that blatantly conform to stereotypes, too. For instance, when a black person actually steals a watermelon, or a boss has an affair with his secretary, or a Jewish person does something that is outrageously money-grubbing, or a photographer agressively hits on an underage model, it is not just that one act that should be punished, but the harm done by reinforcing, yet again, stereotypes that are already hoary and jaded. Chris Rock said in one of his bits that when a crime is reported on TV, he thinks to himself, please don't let it be a young black man! It's always a young black man! When the criminal turns out to be a young black man, hasn't he harmed Chris Rock as well as his victim? Young black men should be thinking, yeah, sure, I could pull a knife and steal that kid's Air Jordans, but wouldn't it be more refreshing for everyone if I were to buy a latte and settle in with the latest Malcolm Gladwell title instead?

I was walking down the street once with my brother, and a dog trotted by heading for a fire hydrant. As the dog lifted its leg and peed on the fire hydrant, my brother rolled his eyes and said, "God, that is such a cliché." Polygamy doesn't really do much harm to the public reputation in, say, Hawaii, but shouldn't a guy think twice before doing it in Utah? Nobody should walk around in public dressed in greasy pin-striped coveralls spattered with pig blood, but it's a greater affront to decency when they're dressed that way shambling down a dirt road in rural Virginia. Racist petty-dictator sheriffs are bad anywhere, but especially Texas.

Having sex with a dead deer would strike me as being a less serious crime in, say, New Mexico, or Florida. Nobody is going to think less of Santa Fe because of it, or persistently connect such an act to the recreational opportunities in Orlando. But here in Wisconsin we are more vulnerable to unfavorable modifications of our national reputation, since, apart from cheese (and California now makes more of it), beer (Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst—all gone now) and the Packers (who haven't exactly set the NFL on fire in recent years), we really don't have a national reputation. What little we have is easily sullied. Whatever the deer-buggerer's penalty was, it should be upped by another 50%, sez me, for—pardon the expression—the stain on the honor of the State.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Friday, March 23, 2007

Random Excellence

A nice closeup shot of an eagle owl with staring yellow eyes, by Tennessee nature photographer Byron Jorjorian. Turns out owls are rather stupid for birds their size, despite their reputation for being wise, ostensibly because those amazing eyes take up most of the room in their skulls.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

ADDENDUM: My Ph.D. ornithologist friend from the University of Oregon can't confirm or deny the above contention, so maybe it should be considered as suspect as the "wisdom" cliché it counters.

One More Reason Why I Love Artists




Dirty car art by Scott Wade.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to David Emerick

Featured Comment by David A. Goldfarb: What does Wilhelm say about this?

LightZone for Aperture and Lightroom

[Press release]

Light Crafts delivers best-of-breed photo editing to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Apple Aperture, and Apple iPhoto users

Award-winning LightZone adds visual photo editing to photo management suites

PALO ALTO, CA—March 19, 2007—Light Crafts, creators of LightZone photoediting software, today announced the integration of LightZone with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Apple Aperture and Apple iPhoto. Beginning today, Light Crafts will offer LightZone Basic, its best-of-breed photo-editing package, for the discounted rate of $99.95 (regular price: $149.95) to Lightroom and Aperture users, enabling them to take advantage of patented visual editing technology seamlessly within these proprietary photo databases.

As the premier photo editing software for both amateur and professional photographers, LightZone empowers users to edit photographs the way they shoot them—visually. Unlike traditional photo-editing software, LightZone enables users to retouch and enhance photos in a simple and natural way, without the need to learn a new editing language or mathematical representations that have no meaning to most photographers.

"Light Crafts is fundamentally changing digital photo editing to reduce complexity and return control to photographers," said Georges van Hoegaerden, chief executive officer, Light Crafts. "We’re introducing the power of visual photo editing to all photographers, independent of their photo management software environment." Users simply select LightZone as the external photo editor from the preferences menu within Lightroom, Aperture or iPhoto to get started. From editing RAW photographs or JPEG, TIFF or DNG photos, LightZone's intelligent editing features help adjust exposures, boost overall color, correct color shifts and white balance errors, selectively sharpen or blur images or parts of images, remove dust spots and reduce the noise often found in high-ISO digital images.

LightZone is available in two versions, LightZone 2.0 and LightZone Basic. LightZone Basic is a best-of-breed photo editor. LightZone 2.0 is a complete photo editing and photo management suite, incorporating all the features of LightZone Basic, plus comprehensive workflow and photo management capabilities. LightZone Basic and LightZone 2.0 are currently available for download at www.LightCrafts.com. LightZone Basic is offered at an introductory price of $99.95 to eligible Lightroom and Aperture users until June 30, 2007. LightZone 2.0 is offered at $249.95.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Thursday, March 22, 2007

'I Was in Mourning Before He was dead'

Highway to hell: Hugh Laurie poses with a model
in one of Clarke's many impressive photographs


One year ago, the acclaimed photographer Bob Carlos Clarke threw himself in front of a train. Speaking for the first time, his wife Lindsey tells Janie Lawrence what drove a mercurial genius to a desperate act

from The Telegraph (U.K.)

Sometimes Lindsey Carlos Clarke is so hopping mad with her late husband that she stomps off to Brompton Cemetery in south-west London with the sole intention of having a row with him....

READ ON

Posted by: AILSA McWHINNIE

Silverbrook's Memjet

Check out this fascinating new printer technology, from "secretive" Silverbrook. "The company has released astounding videos of desktop, photo and wide-format printers that print pages and photos 5 to 10 times faster than products from current printer market leaders HP, Canon, Epson and Lexmark."

Posted by: DAVID EMERICK


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

POP Tests D40x

Popular Photography & Imaging has posted a test of the new Nikon D40x, the 10-MP sensor upgrade of the D40, written by Dan Richards. Here's a taste:

"Noise suppression was generally better than the D80's and much better than the Rebel's. As ISOs increased, the D40x's resolution exceeded that of the Rebel. Its noise levels of 0.9, 1.05, and 1.05 at ISOs of 100, 200, and 400, respectively, would qualify for a Ridiculously Low rating if we had one. (They all rank Extremely Low.) Noise reduction is applied steadily but unobtrusively at higher ISOs. At ISO 1600, noise was only Very Low, while resolution dipped by less than 5 percent, still Excellent. This is great performance—especially for $799."

There's also a fairly extensive but perfectly useless samples gallery—useless because it's impossible to tell anything about image quality from such tiny JPEGs. Although they do discuss image quality in the article.

As an aside, I have to admit that this camera annoys me. Here Nikon has a back-compatible lensmount, and it goes and makes the smallest, lightest DSLR...and then makes it so you can't put small, light primes on it. Bugger it! Probably its target market won't mind, though, so if you're in the demographic, maybe you'll want to take a look. I'd spring for a D80, myself.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

TOP Dominates Biggie Toy

This is pretty funny. The power of T.O.P.: A couple of days ago I linked to our C60 item about the Notorious B.I.G. action figure. So now, go to the page again, and click on the image. On the page that comes up, look under the fifth category down, "Customers who viewed this item also viewed," for "Explore similar items," and click on that.

Ya think any T.O.P. readers have been there already? LOL....

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, and thanks to whoever pointed this out to me. I forgot who it was! Sorry.

Riches in Store

OT (music again): Just FYI, iTunes is offering a nice opportunity in the form of "Jazz 101 on Sale," five pages of great classic albums for sale at $6 and $7 each. If you're like me you'll have most of these already, although I did pick up Joe Lovano's Rush Hour and a couple of other things. However, if you're not yet a jazz fan but have been meaning to give it a try, a lot of iTunes' selections would make anybody's top 100.

Not all great jazz is easy to get into for non-jazz-listeners, and a lot of "introductory" lists and articles make the mistake of recommending the wrong things to beginners. Among the more easily digestible things here, The Complete Atomic Basie is a must-have, as is Art Blakey's most famous record, A Night in Tunisia. Giant Steps and My Favorite Things are John Coltrane (below left) at his most accessible. Gene Ammons' Boss Tenor (that's Gene in the picture, above right) and Kenny Dorham's Quiet Kenny are both masterpieces, and not difficult. Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool is a great bargain for $6. Django and Brilliant Corners are stone must-haves for any jazz collection. Sonny Rollins' mighty twin peaks, Saxophone Colossus and Tenor Madness, both on the list, are among the best-sounding jazz albums ever recorded—I actually have two different pressings of Saxophone Colossus on vinyl and two CD versions, and all of them sound fantastic. Horace Silver's Song for My Father is one of my own all-time favorites, as is Mulligan Meets Monk. Monk's Music is there; that one would go with any jazz fan to the apocryphal desert island (wonder where we'd get electricty? Oh well, you know what I mean).

There are a few (relative) dogs. For instance, I'd stay away from The Great Summit: The Master Takes unless you know what you're getting into. It's accorded great reverence because it's the only time that Ken Burns's heroes of choice, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, recorded together, but it's actually only a fair Armstrong record and might as well not have Ellington on it at all, considering how little of his brilliance or personality comes through. (This is another of those jazz albums that people "buy to try" and come away from feeling vaguely disappointed. There are a lot of those in jazz. A Love Supreme is many peoples' first Coltrane record, which is unfortunate because it then becomes their last. Not that it's not a great record, but it should be peoples' eighth or tenth Coltrane CD, and their 200th jazz recording rather than their second*.)

For the more adventuresome, try Andrew Hill's great first album; Stan Kenton's classically-tinged City of Glass; Thelonious Alone in San Francisco (shouldn't be your first Monk album, though); or Eric Dolphy's wonderful Out There.

I have a lot of these titles on vinyl, CD, or both, and in various "audiophile" iterations, and some of these records are now as familiar as the Beatles and the Stones to me (and a quiet shout here to my younger brother Scott, who first got me into jazz, years ago). But this sale gives me a strange feeling...of envy, toward those who have yet to discover all these fantastic treasures. Anyone who has the lion's share of this music still in their future has riches in store.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

*And what's their first? Kind of Blue, of course, the overwhelming all-time #1 choice of People Who Only Have One Jazz Record. Fortunately that one's a great—and safe—recommendation for jazz fans and non-jazz-fans alike.


Featured Comment by Bob Burnett: This sale is worth it for the Monk and Miles alone! Here are a few more thoughts for people looking for a place to jump in:

Change of the Century: Ornette Coleman: A-list Coleman. This represents that glorious late '50s-early '60s moment when his quartet was the talk of the jazz world.

Sunday at the Village Vanguard/Waltz with Debbie: See my review on C60 of the full day of music—at $6.99 these are a perfect way to find out about that legendary and fabled summer day in NYC.

Memphis Underground: Herbie Mann: A surprise album that features Sonny Sharrock on guitar in the early days of his re-shaping the range of what guitar playing can be. Sharrock is often called the Jimi Hendrix of jazz.

Art Pepper: Smooth, drifting, savory stuff here. Plus it wins the award for jazz artist in the worst throes of heroin withdrawal album cover photo session. And you guys think it's tough doing a northern light photo session with a CEO! Pepper wrote wonderfully about this cover photo session in his autobiography, Straight Life.

UPDATE: We've just posted a review of Monk's Music (written by Bob) at the C60 site. —Mike

Monday, March 19, 2007

Viewfinders, Round 12

I was able to compare the viewfinders of the Pentax K10D and Nikon D80 today, and discovered that they are exactly the same size.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

ADDENDUM: I didn't shoot with these cameras or do any sort of detailed comparison, and am not prepared to write a full review of either of them, separately or together. Although I agree it would be an interesting article.

One thing I can say is that the D80 feels markedly more comfortable in my hand and held to my eye, although I could certainly live with the Pentax. This is not a judgment of either camera, really; it's simply personal preference, and you might feel the same or the opposite. It does underscore the need to "heft and hold" a camera yourself before making up your mind about it. When the Nikon D70 and Canon XT were current, I knew people who strongly preferred the ergonomics and hand-feel of one, and other people who felt the same way about the other. It's still an important consideration for most people even though it's completely subjective.

ADDENDUM 2: Oh, and for what it's worth, the salesman was concerned when I asked to see the K10D and the D80 together, apparently fearing that the D80 would suffer in comparison. He suggested that the D200 was a more appropriate comparison for the K10D, and pulled one out and set it on the counter for me without being asked.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Try It: The Northlight Portrait

Here's a simple assignment that's a good example of one thing digital often does better than film: the classic north-facing window-light portrait. North light—long favored by painters—can be particularly beautiful in many types of weather, but it's often not very bright on the indoor side of a typical window. A film of ISO 200 or less often made for a somewhat uncomfortable balance between slow shutter speeds, motion blur, and apertures that were a bit too wide. But with a DSLR, ISO 800 or 1600 (particularly if you also have IS of some sort) can be very liberating, allowing you more latitude for experimenting to find the right aperture while still keeping the camera off a tripod and not risking subject motion blur.

A few hints: try it with and without the window in the frame. If you're going tight on the head or head-and-shoulders, use a lens with a 35mm equivalent of 100mm or more—as much as 200mm if you're going in tight on just the face. Experiment with the reflector, which can be anything from a large sheet of cardboard or Fome-core (often available in the school- and stationary- supply aisle of your local drugstore) or a white bedsheet held up by a helpful assistant—anything large and white (or just light-colored, if you're converting to B&W) will do. You can experiment with reflector angle, size, or distance from the subject; the closer the reflector is, obviously, the more it will fill. Less light in the background often looks nice (bright objects in the background may be distracting), although there's often no need to be fanatical about making the background completely black. The subject can be looking at the camera or not, or out the window.

This is the very light that many studio portrait lighting setups are attempting to emulate. Having a few nice window-light portraits under your belt can "calibrate your eye" to what you're looking for in the studio as well.

Jan Vermeer, Mistress and Maid, c. 1666–7.
Many of Vermeer's scenes have the look of north light.

Try it. If you like what you've done, leave a link to your picture in the comments—I'd like to see, and I'm sure others would, too.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

On Beauty and Old Ways

The non-sarcastic version of the post below is: "progress isn't everything."

Granted, progress is good. For the most part, modern improvements come about because they're needed. (Or wanted, as we sometimes discover after we have them.) Not everyone can afford wholesome, natural food ingredients, for instance, much less a wooden sailboat. And no one wants or advocates a return to the horse as the primary means of human transportation.

Indeed, I've sung the praises of digital and all it can do. It enables photographers, and helps enable certain kinds of work. I'm not against it.

Still, in almost all of the "old ways" I mentioned, there is some sort of merit. Each has certain aspects that are distinct and unique, and therefore rewarding, or pleasurable.

Mainly, what the old ways have to offer is beauty. I mentioned the word only once in the post below, with respect to handmade furniture, but it goes for many of the other things I mentioned as well. If you haven't seen a few dozen examples of either platinum prints or dye transfers—well, you need to, that's all.

(I do think inkjet prints can be lovely, too. Just not in the same way.)

It's in this way that I already appreciate film. It will become a connoisseur's medium, a distinctive craft that can rise to the level of art in the right hands, much as handmade pottery or letterpress books or copperplate etchings are now. It makes no sense to depend on fine things for our happiness, but the appreciatipon of fine things can be nurturing and enriching. In times to come, few people might appreciate silver prints, and fewer will own one, and fewer still will make them. But they will continue to have a certain beauty to offer, the sort of beauty that can enrich us. The sort of beauty on which it makes no sense to turn our backs.

That's my take, for what it's worth.


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, in non-sarcastic mode

Featured Comment by Paul: Mike, it's time to introduce you to Allison's Law:

'You can be certain that a technology is truly dead when people start to pay good money just to experience it.'

Steam locomotives (more running now than in 1960) are the uber-example, but there are plenty more.

Particularly with something like film, which will never lose its marginal usefulness anymore that oil paints will, the afterlife of dead technologies may ultimately be more satisfying than their 'useful life.'

Featured Comment by Chris: I explained it to a friend this way: imagine that Gibson and Fender came out with digital stringless guitars. Sensors on the neck recorded every finger push, bend and slide, pressure perfect. Synths and effects on board. The notes were always in tune with each other. Sound quality was always constant and there were no strings to break. In ten years, every band in the world was playing and recording with these. You have to hunt for strings for your old guitars, they’re getting scarce. That collection of awesome vintage Stratocasters and Les Pauls you have, you might get half of what you paid for it on eBay. No one has the patience for anything you have to stop and tune anymore. That, I said, is how it feels sometimes….

Featured Comment by Jeremy: You have to give it time. It takes many decades, sometimes centuries, for a technology to reach a level that satisfies viscerally. Using Maslow's pyramid to imagine how technologies develop is useful. Manufacturers have to keep addding value to their products. Once they've covered the left-brain attributes they'll move to tackle the right brain ones.

Take for instance the early days of computerised typography and typesetting ('70s–'80s). They mimicked the typewriter! Awful. Scientists everywhere were publishing their articles, very many even their textbooks in them. It took the disgusted Stanford professor Donald Knuth, who was old enough to remember the days when textbooks were objects to behold in and of themselves, 10 years of solitary work to "port" the glorious craft of typography and manual typesetting over to the computer. Thus was born TeX.

Now here's the sad news: Technologies today are replaced by new ones so quickly they may not have the time to go much beyond the convenient.

Film Is Dead

SA*

The Online Photographer
is relieved to report that film continues to go downhill. Soon it will be widely unavailable, and everyone will be shooting digital, as they should. Film is inconvenient and, what's worse, old-fashioned.

We all should get with the fashions!

Printed books are going downhill, too. Many texts can now be found online, and there will be less and less need for bulky paper versions. Some libraries are "guillotining" rare old books—chopping off the spine, scanning the pages, and then throwing the pages away. No longer needed. Sounds modern. Good for them.

No one likes tube audio amplifiers any more, either. Transistors are much more efficient, and they measure better! Less distortion, more power. Everyone likes that.

Of course, CDs replaced vinyl years ago, and now CDs themselves are in steep decline. (Did you know? It's true.) Why? Well, do you know how many MP3's you can store on an iPod?

Back to photography, few people want to trouble themselves with platinum/palladium prints, dye transfer, or other alternative processes. If people were still doing such work then the rest of us might have to look at it. No, that's all gone the way of the Dodo, not to mention the way of copperplate etching, stone lithography, woodcut, and other obsolete, antiquated methods of image reproduction. Good riddance.

Wooden boats are dead too. Nobody likes wooden boats, and no wonder, when you can have boats made of shiny, gleaming Fiberglas. Resin molds are where it's at. Wooden boats take so much longer to make and require (ugh!) maintenance.

And on that topic, who could want a boat that's powered by wind? How primitive.

(Why do they think God made diesels, anyway?)

Of course, view cameras are a thing of the past. That's natural. You can perform the equivalent of view camera movements in Photoshop, with less hassle. And why else would someone use a view camera? Am I right?

Natural fibers are no longer valued for clothing. We can now do just as well with petroleum-derived synthetics, can we not? You have to iron cotton. Silk. Linen. Wool. Bah.

People used to have to make pottery and ceramics by hand. You gotta be putting us on.

Furniture can now be made by CNC machines, using dimensionally stable composites, veneers, and plastic varnishes. Much of it can be cleverly designed to be flat-packed, too, making it easy to ship. There is no longer much call for skilled craftspeople making furniture out of solid wood by hand, the only real advantage of which is beauty.

Food technology has also greatly improved in recent years. We can now make an astonishing variety of foods almost completely out of corn. For instance: orange drink mix, which can be 100% corn-derived—even the citric acid in orange drink is made from corn. Cool, huh? With chemical flavorings, it's no longer necessary to worry about the quality of raw ingredients in cooking.

Believe it or not, cars used to have manual transmissions. That is, you had to shift gears using a hand lever, coordinating the motion with a foot-pedal clutch. Whew. (Some such cars only had two seats, if you can believe that. And no cup-holders.) Someone please explain the appeal. Now we drive proper modern vehicles that are as tall as a full-grown man, are built on nice strong truck frames, use lots and lots of fuel (which is important, as fuel is plentiful) and can transport a whole Little League team at once. As a result, driving is more fun than ever.

And while we're on the topic, let's thank our lucky stars that no one has to ride horses any more. Transportation should not require exercise, and it should certainly not have a personality. Horses are going downhill, too, just like film. Maybe they'll soon go the way of the dodo.

Let's hope humankind continues to improve convenience and eliminate the need for craft. Most of all, it's important to limit choice. We wouldn't want to support alternatives, especially alternatives that are old-fashioned and require care and effort. If we don't practice them ourselves, it's important that no one else practice them either.

And anyway, some film doesn't even record color.

The prosecution rests.


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

*Satire Alert

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The 'I Use Film' Ribbon

by Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson, Untitled [Didcot Railway Centre]


Badger Graphic's little flashing message, and also MJMiller's comment in the "Wisconsin Stalwart" post, made me think we film users should make it known that we use film, not just so that other film users know they aren't alone, but for the people coming into photography now who may be under the impression there's no alternative to digital (I know, I've come across some).

To this end, I'm proposing a "I use film" ribbon. Wearing a ribbon seems to be the in way to show your support for the latest good cause, so why not a "film ribbon"? I've made one (an image anyway) and pinned it to my Web site. If anyone else wants to do the same, you can download copies off my site—just click the ribbon on the front page.

Show your support for film and if just one other person buys a roll as a consequence, it'll have been worth it.

Posted by: PETER ROBINSON

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hello, Kodak?

by Ken Wronkiewicz, Wirehead Arts

I noticed lately that a few films I was playing with were hard to find—most specifically EPT (Ektachrome 160T) and EPJ (Ektachrome 320T)—and dealers were mentioning that they thought it was discontinued. However, there wasn't an announcement on Kodak's site. Finally, I called Kodak and asked them.

Apparently EPJ has been out of production for over a year. And EPT has been out of production for some months now. I asked the guy on the phone why there wasn't an announcement about the film being discontinued. He told me to go to a URL on the Kodak website and that there should be a notice there...and then confirmed that the website didn't contain a discontinuation notice, even though the film was out of production.

Then, I found out something I didn't even realize I needed to ask about...

READ ON

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by David A. Goldfarb: Kodak introduced four new Portra color neg films this year, and Scott DiSabato, representing Kodak at the film desk at PMA last week, said that B&W is strong right now at Kodak, expressing enthusiasm for regular special orders of Kodak B&W sheet film in ultra-large format sizes.

Fuji has two new films, mentioned by one of the commenters to this post.

Ilford has also been running special orders for ULF and odd-sized sheet film shooters, and has been doing R&D on a Delta 25 film.

If anyone is interested, here's my film-user's review of PMA.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Music Review: The Real Ramona


Throwing Muses' untitled first album (left), which I have and treasure on vinyl and CD, has had a furtive history. The band was the first American group signed to the then-white-hot English label 4AD, and Kristin Hersh's songwriting, like Thelonious Monk's piano-playing, arrived fully formed (as a friend once put it, "she's an 'is-type' artist, not a 'growth-type' artist"). The album was arguably the most seismically significant debut since Dylan's—genuinely life-changing for many people, many of whom were women. But it was never released in America—has not been to this day—although you can find all ten of its songs on a Rykodisk archive CD called In A Doghouse, grouped with an early EP and some demo tapes once famous as bootlegs, in murky, bottom-of-a-[wishing]-well sound.

That sort of thing is fine with "just music," but great albums are holistic artistic creations that deserve to be respected as having an intended sequence and arc, a defined beginning and end. To have the untitled debut relegated to such treatment (while better, I suppose, than if it were not available at all)—well, it's a tawdry fate for a record that ought to be celebrated as one of the artistic high points of the 1980s....

READ ON

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON