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January 2009 Archives

January 1, 2009

Magazine Advertising Predicited to Decline

well duuh!

[From A Photo Editor - Hello, Is That The Bottom I See?]

Magazines: We estimate magazine advertising revenue to decrease 15.0% in 2009 (vs. our prior down 12.5% estimate) and decline a further 5.0% in 2010.

Is anybody surprised?

January 2, 2009

What's the point?

Recently discovered this filter/plugin for photoshop, that adds film grain to a digital file. From where I sit if you want film grain use film, sheesh?

film filter
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Chortle

I'm researching/planning a long blog entry soon, these 2 sites [photographers] will form a part of my musings.

Firstly Frederick Sommer, who I first learnt about in Art School in the late 80's

Frederick Sommer - Frederick & Frances Sommer Foundation

Then there's good 'ol Uncle Ansel Adams, who I probably 1st learnt about before returning to study sometime in the early to late 80's

I am very familiar with the Frederick Sommer site, but for some reason I think this was my first visit to the Ansel Adams one. Boy Oh Boy! The differences speak volumes, and from what I'd heard about Ansel Adams, perfectly fitting. Both great photographers whose contribution to the history of art photography is immeasurable, but worlds apart Philosophically.

January 3, 2009

How I got Here Part One?

or... Why I do what I do, the way I do it.

This is not much more than a historical backwater, where, after chatting to a photographer on flickr about film grain of all things, I felt the need to lay out my cards. So, please do not read around siesta time, or after the consumption of alcohol.

The classic way to begin these things is to ask yourself, 3 questions. What, Why, How. So here goes.

What?

Interesting, engaging, beautiful images; with a camera or cameras, that express something more than what was in front of the lens when I pressed the shutter, or perhaps question the notion of what all the above is, amongst many other things. Memory and Identity figure in there pretty highly too.

Why? Well that's a bit longer and harder to answer, here goes though.

Picture this, it's 1984 or 5. I am a twenty something living and working for the weekend [as a cab driver]. After a year or so I realise this is probably not going to lead anywhere engaging. So I decide I'd best get back to school and give something a go. Also, I had recently bought a 35mm SLR camera; [duty free] and was pretty disappointed with the results. I wanted better, and some obscure part of my imagination had often looked around and 'seen' things and thought "that would make a good photograph". Some research and digging around had me apply to the 2 main Colleges that taught Photography in town. I got interviewed, but lucked out, [knowing what I now know this is no surprise]. Both recommended a folio building course, one even recommended what was then Brighton Technical School. I enrolled. It took 2 years to get a handle on my craft and produce a decent folio. Then on to University I went. Another 3 years of working on my craft, with the accompanying exploration of history and theory. Modernism was considered passé, and with Post-Modernism at it's height, it wasn't that interested in art as finely crafted objects, more ideas, or that's how I interpreted it. Nonetheless I was interested in finely crafted objects, namely photographic prints. Prints that were interesting, engaging, beautiful, irrespective of their subject matter, but above and beyond all else photographic.

While I was at art school, I'd learnt about many aspects of our rich photographic history, and the ideas that surrounded it's current state of play. One such idea was Pictorialism. In the mid to late 1800's photography was still struggling with it's identity, organisations like the Linked Ring, were busy trying to promote photography beyond it''s humble uses and into, the realm of art. In doing so, they used techniques, that involved heavy manipulation of their negatives & prints, to make them look more like paintings.

An American circle of photographers later renounced Pictorialism altogether and went on to found Group f/64, which espoused the ideal of un-manipulated, or straight photography.

Here's a list of the Photographers Wikipedia consider members:-

  • Ansel Adams
  • Imogen Cunningham
  • John Paul Edwards
  • Consuelo Kanaga
  • Alma Lavenson
  • Preston Holder
  • Sonya Noskowiak
  • Henry Swift
  • Willard Van Dyke
  • Brett Weston
  • Edward Weston

Those of you who know me in person pre-flickr will see a pattern.

Other Photographers I was exposed to at College, were, Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Richard Misrach, to name but a few. Robert Adams, was part of a group of photographers in the 70's who had been labelled 'The New Topographers'. This was all very new and exciting for me, as I had, through a series of experiences prior to returning to College gotten, interested in 'Landscape Photography'. All these photographers still adhered to the ideas about photography, that a photograph was just that, yet, unlike Ansel Adams, their subject matter was far from sublime.

What I wanted to be sublime was the print, the silver gelatin or 'Type C' print that hung on a wall and people looked at and admired for it's inherent beauty and for the ideas it expressed, in the context of a broader photographic history.

Next; How?

Image credit, The Met Museum in New York

January 4, 2009

How I Got Here Part Two?

So we've established in the beginning, I was interested in what I would call a fine print. Based on the concerns of other photographers who've gone before me. Such as Ansel Adam's Technique, and later, feebly attempting to explore the surreal and philosophical underpinnings of Frederick Sommer's ideas. The next and final question is how, do you make/get a fine print?

When one starts to get serious about your prints, it easier to produce good prints from good negs, plenty of shadow detail, not too blown out in the highlights, with hopefully a long scale of tones, [all based on a well published list of characteristics of materials]. Long scales of tone, then give you license to push them, the tones, [not the 1st year students, around in the darkroom]. Grain was a no-no, and high contrast was considered bad form, unless you had a good reason for it. Remember this is based on the ideas that the f64 group had pioneered.

This necessitated knowing your materials intimately, both film and paper. [I still use the same film today as when I started exploring materials over 20 years ago, but not the same developer or paper.] It also often meant lugging a tripod EVERYWHERE, because like good ol' Uncle Ansel, you shot at the smallest possible aperture to get the maximum amount of Depth of Field, usually on Medium Format or Large Format Cameras to help keep grain to a minimum. To keep your images sharp, you not only ALWAYS used a tripod, but a lens hood as well. Depending on your film developer combination*, even on bright sunny days, the best you sometimes could get was 1/8 a second at f22. Being a 'landscape' photographer, I never practised hand holding at low speeds, and today I still feel a little weird shooting wide open.

As a consequence you rarely photographed on a whim, and unless you are lucky enough to have a boot full of gear with you at all times,making images required a level of preparation and planning that would make trips to the Himalayas look like a picnic in the park. So; given the effort required to get your gear to the spot and with hopefully good light, you also needed to get the best neg you could, you were always trying to make sure you exposed the negative correctly, and then developed it to it's full potential, if you were developing your own black and white film. I think I'm pretty good at developing my own b&w, but when compared to the 'masters' I learnt from I've another 20 years of practice to go.

Bad negatives, and I've plenty of them, were the bane of my life, but often got fewer and further between, as I became more skilled at my craft. Ever wonder what to look for in a bad neg?

Here's a list of 'straight photography' no-no's unless the idea or the print is enhanced by it*.

  • Camera Shake, not to be confused with poor/incorrect focus
  • Flare
  • Dust and scratches on the Negative/Print
  • Poor/Incorrect focus, neg or print
  • Empty blacks in a print
  • Highlights with no detail, in your prints unless spectral like chrome
  • Flat or Muddy tonality in your prints
  • Poor tonal separation in your prints
  • Chromatic Aberrations or other lens defects, in your print

The one thing bad negatives taught me, and many other people was, "How to make a good print".

So how many photographers on any of the social websites out there walk EVERYWHERE with a tripod, a medium or large format camera, have tested their materials and equipment extensively and know their place in the broader history of photography?

Well not me that's for sure. That's why I love my mobile phone and my desktop publishing software, and flickr and the web in general.

In part three, I will elaborate.

*Artists Like Joel Peter-Witkin and The Starn Twins, took this all to another level, as their work is the antithesis to these ideas, and I admire and respect these artist's work immensely.

Image credit, Calumet

*At one point in my experiments, I used a Developer called pyro, with a recipe for it, that lowered my favourite film down from 400 ISO, to 6 ISO, it gave beautiful long scale negativess, but was very tricky and messy to work with, in the end I settled for, and still use my own hand made D25.

January 5, 2009

How I got Here Part Three?

Life and time commitments make it difficult to plan shooting around good light and the best seasons these days, to then process film on top of that, means a lot, not to mention that materials, such as black and white papers, are running out as well. this puts me in a quandary and means, my creative energies would be better spent exploring ideas and the world around me, using other means, preferably with a lens and a light sensitive material of some sort.

Film & Darkroom / Black & White Papers / - CALUMET

Technological changes mean I can get good quality images quickly [excellent ones If I'm careful in an analogue sense] and easily using the smallest of devices. The caveat being they will probably only ever exist in cyber space.

Why then not explore other ideas now. I mean all that other stuff, I'd felt was important for all this time, is important, but how important in this image saturated media landscape? Why not just see if I can't just get the ideas across using the simplest of tools with nothing more to deal with then the 3 most important elements of photography, Light, Time, Space. well hey presto! Here I am using a mobile phone and or a small camera set to VGA, to hopefully get some idea across about the world I see and am somewhat incongruously part of, that I can share in real time or in a myriad of other ways.

There is somewhat of a leap of faith here between finely crafted silver gelatine prints, and the bulk of work I'm producing these days. So let me retrace my steps slightly.

Somewhere between 1994 and 2004, I started meandering in other directions. A Dip Ed and an MA, were two of them, computers the internet and DTP were other side interests. All the while, digital cameras are following Moore's Law, to an extent, and desktop printers are getting better and better. By 2004 I'm hooked into flickr using my Nikon Coolpix 5400, bought after travelling the world. This is the first digital camera I owned that I thought capable of producing reasonable A4 prints. It is however not the 1st I ever owned. The first I owned, had died a quiet death in Wales on the same trip, but in the interim had produced 13,000 plus images, a tiny selection of which made one of my 1st e-books, "buy, buy, buy". But I digress.

As I said 2004 and getting a flickr account, was somewhat of a turning point for me. The first few years on flickr were pretty insane, but eventually I picked up on some patterns and ideas that were not dissimilar to the real world, particularly amongst amateur photographers. For example.

  • 35 mm DSLRs produce better images than point and shoot cameras
  • Shallow Depth of Filed has some special magic quality about, which in turn, spawned a slather of cults/followers/groups 11,000 on flickr at time of writing
  • Skin/sex sells, but I guess I knew that already but had forgotten it
  • Subtlety/complexity was often overlooked
  • Democracy exists in a way I'd never experienced it before [is this a unique web/forum thing?]

Anyway, I enjoyed those first few years prior to the Yahoo buyout immensely, I still do enjoy my time on flickr, but in a much more pared back kind of way. Two of the factors I enjoy about flickr, are, the amount of folks who seemed prepared to push the envelope on photography, and the interface design, particularly compared to 'deviantart' and 'fotolog'. In the beginning though it,flickr or my experience of it, was still somehow tied into the idea of a polished and finished 'object' and the stuff I'd learnt at University.

Somewhere around 2006/2007, things slowly moved in another direction. I knew it was pointless obsessing over colour as colour management is still very poorly misunderstood idea, not to mention, interfaces and browsers interfere with these factors anyway. I began wondering then, how I could add a layer of complexity to my images that was uniquely digital, how I could use flickr and the internet to exploit that? So I stopped post-processing my digital images, then began looking at other ideas.

loc.alize.us_sunshine

Maps have always fascinated me. They, give some clue to your geographical location, which in turn hints at who you are, and in turn may give some clues to your culture. One thing that is unique to digital photography is, Exif Data. Digital exif data maps to the second when you made the image. The Web itself has grown to allow people many ways to geographically and visually place images into maps. These images then add data to larger databases that collectively and individually add to the greater understanding of who we are, and where we are.

Time, place, identity/memory are driving factors behind much of my output. However I'm also still am not only interested in what makes a photograph "good", but now, how I can use the simplest of tools to create images this way. ultimately the biggest change for me though is, that I carry at least one and often 2 or 3 small digital cameras everywhere, and can work at an intuitive level that I've never been able or allowed myself to work at before.[Once i've learnt how to exploit or overcome the shortcomings of each device.]

Intuition is for me the most difficult of creative processes to justify in this day and age of huge staged, or manipulated, images that adorn the halls of many Arts institutions. For me, seeing comes before speaking.


Let me finish off by, presenting one of my favourite little poems I picked up while studying at art school, it for me sums up art and photography so well;

"In modern thought, [if not in fact]
nothing is that doesn't act
So that is reckoned wisdom which
describes the scratch but not the itch"
Anon

January 6, 2009

Attempting To Avert Confusion

I realised today I may have muddied the waters slightly with my terminology, particularly in relation to the ideas about 'straight photography' and a 'fine print'. 'Straight photography' was a precursor to the 'Fine Print', the idea of a Fine Print is deeply entrenched in modernist ideas of what constitutes art. The fine print can be a means to an end, but isn't necessarily so for many artists. Emmet Gowin for example, makes sumptuous prints but his ideas and philosophy go beyond those of the object and far and beyond Ansel's ideas about art and photography.

I feel like I've opened a can of worms here, I'll see if I can dig up the abstract from my MA to help.

If I'm not back in a week send a search party!

Edit; well that didn't take so long after all. Download it and have a read if you are so inclined, please bear in mind that this is the summary, and the whole object needs to be seen t get a better idea of what I was on about. The finished piece, exists in the R.M.I.T. Library.

Picasa for Mac: Free download from Google

Less and Less on the desktop.

Picasa for Mac: Free download from Google]

Where will it lead? When will it end?

January 8, 2009

Journals and Magazines?

jpgmag

Unless you've been living under a rock of late, jpgmag.com announced it would be closing this week.

This appears to have spurred a flurry of activity in the blogosphere, according to the a photoeditor blog. Plenty of opinions to boot as to why it folded. Personally I have no idea, other than perhaps the market can't handle an online and a print publication? The idea seemed great at the start from my perspective, but never sat that well with me, I wish it had continued, as I'm all for giving everyone a shot.


In other news, [thanks to poodly on flickr, who writes junk for code]RMIT, has set up an online journal, called Second Nature, and is taking scholarly submissions, of text, no word on images yet?

An Epiphany

Looking at this site, today, I had an epiphany. Photography has reached the same place where painting was when it was famously announced that "from this day forward painting is dead"

Center - formerly the Santa Fe Center for Photography
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Here's how things looked in the early 1800's. you could almost argue a precursor to flickr.

Have things gone pear shaped?

January 9, 2009

altfotonet.org

In the depths of summer holidays here and after extensive discussions with Gary, on both flickr and his blog, and mine, I've managed to the find the energy to pick up the idea of publishing work in cyberspace, again using altfotnet.org, this time with a slightly different approach.
Flickr is a deep and exponentially expanding resource, why not tap into that? Which I have now decided to do. Gary has also come on aboard as an editor, and his background combined with the other editors, will hopefully produce some fine examples of what people are doing out there in the big wide world.
The selection process therefore has changed now, either, use your existing or new flickr account to apply, [then join the companion pool], or alternatively go down the email path, both are now outlined on the submissions page.
I hope to have the inaugural issue up and running by the end of this month, warm weather and a boozy busy social life permitting.
The next stage of the plan is to apply for ISSN, but we need a minimum of one issue to apply and I feel 2 would be grounds for an even more solid application.

January 10, 2009

Grammar & Spam?

This gem via kottke.org

[From McSweeney's Internet Tendency: The Elements of Spam.]

Takes the piss out of spammers; and yes it is Saturday morning, I'm just waiting for the rest of the household to surface.

Second Nature

News just in, I recently mentioned, Second Nature a new online Journal, being published by R.M.I.T, and wondered abut images for it. After contacting the editor, it turns out they are looking for images.

Go ahead, give it a go.

Moore's Law...

According to the SD Association, a 2 Terabyte SD card is on the horizon.

TWO TERABYTES!!!

SDXC is a next-generation memory card format, with up to 2 terabytes storage capacity and read/write speeds of 300 megabytes per second. SDXC (eXtended Capacity) will provide maximum speeds even when it achieves its maximum 2TB storage capacity. "SDXC is a large-capacity card that can store more than 4,000 RAW images, which is the uncompressed mode professionals use, and 17,000 of the fine-mode most consumers use." said Shigeto Kanda, general manager at Canon. Developed by the SD Association, specifications for the new SDXC standard will be released in the first quarter of 2009.

January 11, 2009

DLK COLLECTION: Broken Glass: Photographs of the South Bronx by Ray Mortenson @MCNY

mortensen.jpg

This, sentence, on a collector's blog surpises me.

"Collector's POV: Prior to this show, we knew nothing about the work of Ray Mortenson."

The reason being, the fist photographic monograph I bought, way back in, 1989, was by Ray Mortensen, entitled, Meadowland.

Books figure very highly in my creative output and inspiration, and while I had to 'think' about the name, I recognised it eventually, which I then confirmed by checking my library.

January 12, 2009

Sony's G3 Cyber-shot Includes Wi-Fi Web Browser.

January 10, 2009: Sony's CES announcements include the Cyber-shot G3, which is claimed as the world's first Wi-Fi-enabled digicam capable of uploading photos and videos to web sites through any public hotspot.

The built-in web browser enables the camera to connect wirelessly to free or fee-based hotspots, as well as to secure and unsecured access points.

Read more

January 13, 2009

Anther Photographer criminalised by police 'abuse' anti-terror laws

Reuben Powell is an unlikely terrorist. A white, middle-aged, middle-class artist, he has been photographing and drawing life around the capital's Elephant & Castle for 25 years. Sigh?

Glossy; yet Dull

I want to share a couple of sites with you, if memory serves me, I found them either using boing boing, or my news-reader. Firstly a body of work in the vein of Stephen Shore, by Tim Carpenter, I like the work but it just doesn't seem to have the strenght of Shore's work, maybe it's the light, not sure, nor does it seem to have a cohesive depth? Secondly, yet another, photography re-contextualsing the Dutch Painters, this work by Julie Blackmon, is a prime example of the 'cold' and intellectual style that made Anne Zahallka a name in Australia in the 80's, despite this, some of the images, are indeed quirky and slightly edgy.

January 14, 2009

LEGO Announces Digital Camera, MP3 Player and Other Branded Electronics | Kid's Tech Toys Reviews

Digital Blue and LEGO have announced a licencing agreement that will bring several LEGO branded kid's tech products to market. The line is scheduled for release this summer and will include digital cameras, video cameras, MP3 players, walkie talkies and other electronics. Read on!

January 15, 2009

Max Dupain on Assignment [Exhibition]

This looks like it will be worth a visit

A new photographic exhibition featuring many never seen before works by legendary Australian photographer, Max Dupain (1911-92) is opening for the first time at the Victorian Archives Centre.

Victorian Archives Centre 99 Shiel Street North Melbourne

A Conversation with Joshua Lutz (Conscientious)

A few days ago, I mentioned a reference to a body of work, by a Photographer, who had published the work in a book many years earlier on an area called Meadowlands, well today I discover that another photographer has spent 10 years working in the same area, and, has also published a book and an exhibition. This time however in colour. Joel over at Conscientious, has interviewed the photographer

Joshua Lutz just had Meadowlands published, after spending ten years on the project. His book (and recent show) had me curious about the background of the project, and I approached Joshua to talk about it.

I'd be curious to chat to Joshua and see how much the place had changed, and if Ray Mortensen's work had any influence on him, or the idea?

January 18, 2009

Boxee, Used to View Web on TV, Generates Buzz - NYTimes.com

Is this the answer to my digital media search?

The software, which is free and available for download at www.boxee.tv, works on Mac and Linux computers, and on Apple's set-top box, Apple TV. A version of Boxee for Windows PCs is being tested among a limited group of users.

Mophone Research

Just discovered one of my flickr contacts, who also blogs, using a mobile phone camera, wrote Masters on 'Moleskine to Mobile : How Creative Professionals are Using Their Mobile', back in 2006.

January 23, 2009

Lightroom

As part of my ongoing investigations regarding professional image editing software, and as a PD commitment, I've been working with Lightroom over the holidays, and let me say as a photographic editing tool it is very good. A no nonsense digital darkroom, I'm still not convinced however that the Asset management side of things is going to work as well as it could? Because I've been using Expression Media for so long now, we'll see, for the time being I guess I'll have to use both, systems to compare, thank god hard disks are so cheap these days.

These first four of five screens, will be a great class starter this year.

Smart Panel
Smart Panel2
Smart Panel4
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Everything a digital photographer could need is here, with no extra bells and whistles to slow down the learning process or the workflow.

January 24, 2009

More Free Software

More Free photo editing software available on the market, thanks the social networking tool, twitter, and photojojo.com.

.: Sumo Paint :.

What never ceases to a amaze me is that with the interface which is so so similar to Adobe's soon to be extinct, and almost irrelevant Dinosaur, how do the makers of this software get away with it?

This software however seems squarely aimed at the web/design market with an emphasis on web design as the colour pickers and system seems limited hexadecimal input. Still I'm always glad to see the 'spirit' of the early computer days kept alive by these free offerings. Uploading is easy once yo work where and how, but I've been unable to save images to the account I created, and a couple of the duds I uploaded won't delete either?

Like so many of these apps there is a social element as well. Which is great, but is the world ready for more social websites?

January 26, 2009

Cheap Hi Resolution Scans

In, 2007 I had a, solo show which was scanned and printed at VCA, they now offer these services to anyone. While their print service, in terms of cost, may not be for everybody, their scanning services are, in my opinion. To the best of my knowledge, C>Lab is only one of two places in Melbourne that offer 16 bit tiff scans, at a reasonable price. From their website,

The C>Lab now offers its digital photographic services to artists and fine art photographers working outside of the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts at The University of Melbourne. The C>Lab provides a consultative-based service to clients who require a more personalised approach to their print/artwork production. Whether it be a one-off print or an entire exhibition C>Lab can provide you with what you need.

Their blog too maybe worth watching for up and coming interesting art work.

January 31, 2009

Phonecams....

... are here to stay

But what of the implications, for the future of image making?

This image of the inauguration of President Obama, speaks volumes.

Image credit, http://www.tomorrowmuseum.com/.

About January 2009

This page contains all entries posted to musings from the photographic memepool [the shallow end] in January 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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