Saturday, October 28, 2017

Large DIY Diffusion Scrim

One of the most commonly used tools in my photographic arsenal is the all purpose diffusion screen. I use it to soften light, create gradients and light fields or as a background. One of my current favorites is a metal framed 4' x 4' foot scrim with thick white artificial silk made by Matthews. I didn't think I would use it so much, being so large, but having borrowed it from a friend I really came to love it. The downside for me is the price. At just over $100 I couldn't really justify the cost, considering I want at least two of them. Time for a DIY alternative.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The perfect product listing


I'm not old, but I am older. My generation did not grow up with internet and social media and ecommerce. I still prefer being able to see and handle and try on the product I am looking to purchase, but it's getting harder each year to do so. Brick and mortar stores do not carry the kind of variety an ecommerce store is capable of. They are also carrying fewer of the more obscure items than they used to simply because it is becoming too expensive to devote shelf space to an item that doesn't move fast enough. Who can blame them.

It's frustrating to someone like me who looks for the convenience of on demand shopping, and the tactile feedback, of actual live shopping. To add to the frustration, many of the online stores have dropped the ball and are working with outdated selling models. Let me explain.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Long standing frustration - woodlands

My first camera I ever owned was a Pentax K-1000. One of the best no nonsense film cameras ever produced that didn't kill your budget. I was a teenager then so money was tight. My favorite film to run through that camera was Kodak Tri-X black and white film that I developed myself in the bathroom sink. There was a great sense of accomplishment when that developed roll of film came off the spool to reveal all my hard won exposures. Then the long awaited anticipation as the film was sent out for printing.

That camera traveled with me on may hikes through the woods. A run off stream from the local reservoir ran along the property line of our back yard, providing a few miles of woodlands, a stream bed and plenty of solitude. It was my zen place. The world around me disappeared when I went into those woods.

It was always my goal, back in those early film days, to try to capture the magic I felt amidst the dappled light of the leaves and the slick wet stones of the stream. A goal that always seemed out of reach.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Great American Jeep Rally 2017

This past weekend marked the 15th annual, and my third year photographing, the Great American Jeep Rally (GAJR) in Ellington, CT. This fundraising event draws hundreds of Jeep enthusiasts from as far as New Jersey as well as vendors and spectators. This year is also the first year this event has been extended to two days, a testament to this event's popularity.

I became involved with the GAJR through my association with ECOJOCS, a local jeep club I am a member of. Our club supports the fundraising endeavors by providing volunteers to work the event. Three years ago it started out as providing help with the event's parking and our involvement has expanded to designing and installing an obstacle course, providing spotters on the rock pile and assisting with setup and breakdown of the event. Many our members have gone beyond the call of duty in helping this event be the success it is.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

DIY Tilt Shift dSLR camera conversion

It is not often that people get to really see my DIY tilt/shift camera configuration, but when they do it is usually followed by a variety of questions followed by a glazed look of intimidation. After all, it's not your typical camera setup. Here is a quick rundown of my DIY conversion.

Inspiration

I originally saw this configuration being used by the amazing Alex Koloskov in several of his product photography videos. I was immediately intrigued and amazed at its capabilities. While it seemed like a lot of trouble and expense for a tilt shift lens, specially since there are dSLR TS lenses available, I knew, from experience, this setup had a far superior advantage over the standard TS lenses.

The other plus side was that I could still use it as a large format film camera should I choose to.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Artist interview - Miss Julian Grey

Selection from "Looking Glass"
Over the past several decades photography has undergone a massive transformation. Where once it took a certain level of skill and discipline, today's digital camera revolution has created an ubiquitous social tool where skill has been stripped away to allow the contrived vitriol of the masses, clamoring for attention, to create a deep cesspool of visual noise. Harsh, but that is the reality of today.

To rise above this heap of useless imagery, a photographer looking to present themselves as worthy of attention needs to really swim against the current with more guts and gusto than ever before. Miss Julian Grey is such a photographer.

I became aware of Miss Julian, a transgendered, biologically male person who refers to herself as she, through the photography on the net forum a little less than a year ago. I was instantly mesmerized and awed by the images she was posting in the forum. They had a raw quality, at first reminiscent of Robert Mapplethorpe, but with a wholly unique look that has truly become her signature. Her subject... herself.

Selection from "X"
These are by no means the typical self deprecating, duck lipped selfies littering the social media landscape. Not by a long shot. They are a blend of artistic nudes and character explorations with all the subtleties of an experienced portrait photographer. What really caught me was the courage to expose herself  (literally and figuratively) to the camera, baring body and soul for all to judge and reflect upon. They are intriguing, emotional, suggestive and, at times, brutally honest that it is hard to believe these are all done by herself. As a photographer it is difficult to pull such a range of emotion from a subject. It is more impressive to realize she pulled this off from the lens end of the camera. An impressive feat in itself.

I would like to urge you, dear reader, to pause at this moment and take a look through Miss Julian's online portfolio. Her site, xgender.net, contains several galleries divided into themes as her style evolved. It is worth a look.

Since becoming more serious in my photographic path a decade ago I have been searching for some topic strong enough to capture my interest enough to create a long term project. I am still searching. That is why when I see the seeming ease Miss Julian show both as photographer and subject I am more than a little jealous. I long for an impassioned challenge. One that would make the viewer feel something. Maybe it'll come, maybe not. In the meantime I will continue my search and hope that some of Miss Julian's passion and courage will inspire me. I hope that by sharing this her work will inspire you as well.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Decisive Moment - a brief discussion

Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, 1932
“Making a photograph means recognising, all at once and in a fraction of a second, an event and the exact organisation of the visually perceived forms that express and signify that event. It means aligning the head, the eye and the heart along the same line of sight. It’s a way of living.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) is credited for the expression, the decisive moment. The image at right, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, has become one of the most iconic of his images to represent that expression because it succinctly captures, in a single frame, the whole of his teachings. While there have been many discussions both casual and scholarly, like the image at right, his teachings has been oversimplified and distilled down to a short definition that, to me, has lost a lot of its original meaning or, as in some cases, completely missing the mark.

Rather than getting into a lengthy dissertation on what Bresson considered the decisive moment is I thought I would just share some of my ideas about how I interpret it to be. My take is based on my own interpretation of how Henri Cartier-Bresson explains it, which in the context of his book is very little, and in how he used certain techniques to visually represent the decisive moment visually.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Prop collecting is a sickness

It doesn't matter if you are a portrait photographer, a still life photographer or a commercial product photographer, props are an essential part of your world. For the most part props are purchased on an "as needed" basis. Other times it's when opportunity presents itself.

I have come to a point in my career that I subconsciously keep an eye out for items that may be useful as a prop. The funny thing is I never know when or where I'll find them, or what, for that matter.

Recently I was at the supermarket and I happened to walk past a shelf loaded up with those classic mass produced Coca-Cola glasses. As they were on sale and I could always use glasses like these I decided to pick up a set of four... and here is where the sickness starts.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Are cellphone cameras winning the camera war

An ever going argument among professional photographers is how there are, "too many photographers!"

I find it funny because the one thing always missing from this argument is the qualifier of what type of photographer they are ranting about. I've come to believe they are just ranting on the fact that there are so many cameras nowadays that no one needs the professional photographer for the more mundane documentation they were hired for two decades ago.

Cameras, as we all now understand, are quite ubiquitous. We don't need statistics to know that almost everyone has a camera today, but what are the statistics? How far is the tipping point between photos taken by a 'traditional' camera and one taken by a 'cellphone' camera? I thought I'd find out from one place that serves as a one of the world's largest depository of public images, Flickr.

While not the most scientific way of measuring tech usage, it does provide a fairly real world overview of camera usage by 'normal' photo takers. That and the fact that Flickr tracks camera statistics quite nicely and is the source for this post. Let's take a look at the numbers.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Light Blaster initial thoughts

The first time I saw a review for the Light Blaster I have to admit I was more than a little intrigued. If you haven't seen or heard of this nifty little gadget yet here's a quick rundown.

The unit itself is a plastic housing that allows you to insert a speedlight into one end and attach a lens onto the other. A standard 2x2 inch 35mm projection slide is inserted in between the two via a special slide carrier. When the flash is triggered the image on the slide is projected on whatever the unit is aimed at.

The downside to the Light Blaster is the price. Starting at $100 for what people would consider a simple plastic shell with a lens mounting ring, the Blaster has a few other accessories that will drive the price up. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on what side of the coin your personal philosophy is on) there is a less expensive clone version of the Blaster made in China by Hpsum. At about $60 it's still pricey but a $40 savings is $40 that can go to something else.

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