Archive for the 'photography' Category

23
Jul
08

shadows

As you may have noticed, indoor lighting (especially industrial/corporate lighting) rarely makes things look good.  For a long time, I believed the marketing hype of the light bulb makers that this was due to the light’s color temperature – that if I used (more expensive) bulbs designed to simulate the Sun’s spectrum, I’d get better photos, and things would look better in general.

But now, I don’t see light temperature as the problem.  Instead, I think the problems with indoor lighting and photography mostly stem from a lack of shadows and contrast.  Lights designed to make sure everything is well lit prevent anything from being hidden or masked.  This makes photos inherently less interesting, because everything looks more bland.  Using a cooler light bulb won’t solve the fundamental problem!

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21
Jul
08

gearhead and anti-gearhead

As I brace myself for shooting Fringe again (last year, I shot thousands of photos), I find myself surprisingly un-anxious about gear. I’ll be using the same Nikon D40 body I used last year. My primary lens this year will be a plain 50mm f/1.8 Nikon, which doesn’t autofocus on the D40 body. I don’t know if I’ll even use any other lenses. Since last year, I’ve invested in a split-prism focus screen, which makes using a manual lens much easer. I’ll also be bringing along a monopod for stability this time around. No flash, of course.

I’ve considered getting the new Nikon 55-200mm VR (although it’s awfully slow), but if I want some zoom it might make more sense to rent a pro lens. And I’ll bring along the stock kit lens for wider angles (it’s actually very nice). I feel slightly disadvantaged in that I won’t be able to use a long lens on a tripod like a “pro”, but getting in close is part of my technique. Go with your strengths, man.

I don’t really need more gear, or even much want it.  I’ve built my photography style around a sort of modernized Cartier-Bresson approach… small camera, “normal” lens, no flash, get in close and be unobtrusive.  As I’ve written before, I find long lenses for photos of humans make me uncomfortable, socially and politically.  I get good photos of people, especially non-portrait photos, but it requires me being close enough to the subject to get a feel for what they’re feeling.

Let the pros have their pro approach, I guess.  But it doesn’t work for me.

21
Jul
08

authority, meet responsibility

Last year, I took photos of many shows in the Minnesota Fringe Festival.  I planned to do the same this year, but was concerned about potentially tightening photography restrictions, or “helpful” volunteers interfering.  So I asked if I should get a press pass this year, and sent along a link to the photos.  Instead, they asked me to be a floating staff photographer this year!  They already have staff photographers covering most of the venues/shows, but it would be my job to fill any gaps, to make sure there are official Fringe photos taken for every show. 

It’s frankly an honor to be asked to do this, but.  It’s a bit disconcerting as well.  My photos are no longer just for my amusement, and that of whomever might look at them.  They’ll be OFFICIAL.  I’ll have some actual responsibility to the subjects.

This shouldn’t be a Bad Thing.  I know I’m capable of quality work, and I was invited to do this based on the strength of my previous work.  I think my concern isn’t about the quality of my photos so much as whether this newfound sense of responsibility will lead to unnecessary caution or second-guessing.  I don’t want to try to be perfect. Photography, at least performance photography, is a hard realtime process.  A moment happens, and then it’s gone, never to return or be perfectly restaged.  It’s risky, and photographing performances well requires accepting the risks.  I don’t want to be cautious.

edit: I’m even second-guessing my decision to discuss my feelings about this on a public blog. That’s not good. It’s a variation on what Burroughs called “the Policeman Inside”, I think. Well, I’m determined to leave this up, just to thumb my nose at myself. Or something.

14
Sep
07

a minor annoyance

I’ve started using Picasa to organize and edit my photos, since I don’t have the money at the moment to invest in Adobe Lightroom (the demo was lovely, though).  One gripe… Picasa can’t show EXIF data associated with a NEF (Nikon RAW) file.  It does seem to preserve it, because it’s there when I edit photos in Picasa and upload them to Flickr. Hopefully they’ll fix it in the next release.

How quickly I’ve turned into a degenerate digicam nerd.  And to think I used to be a proud film snob.

13
Sep
07

fighting your tools

Ig on the IG BLOG wrote about how you gotta fight your guitar a little.  I generally concur, but I think the idea extends to other tools as well… I like my cameras to fight me a little as well.  But it’s not just that I want my guitars/cameras to fight… I want them to fight me in useful ways, in ways that make me a better musician or a better photographer.  I don’t want just any old thing to be harder.  For example, if my Telecaster isn’t set up just right, it frets out on bends above the twelveth fret.  I HATE that.  It limits me, as opposed to fighting me.  On the other hand, I like using a manual focus lens on my autofocus camera.  It fights me, but it makes me more conscious of what I’m doing.

That’s the advantage of a guitar that “fights” you, I think… it keeps you focused and concentrating, and not just doing something too effortlessly.

12
Sep
07

rule of thumb

NOBODY looks good in photos when they’re eating.  Take pictures of people with food, and expect to throw them out like last week’s leftovers.

12
Sep
07

idle hands

I haven’t touched my camera in days.  I’m not even sure the whether the battery is in the camera, or the charger at the moment.  This, after the Fringe Festival/wedding binge where I shot nearly 10,000 photos in a month. 

It feels weird, when I think about it.  On the other hand, I’ve spent a couple of evenings up to my elbows in my music recording stuff, which was being ignored while I was shooting so many photos.  So I guess it’s not that my hands are idle, so much as I only have two of them.