01 October, 2017

Amazing Gaze

Anne along Queens Wharf Road, Brisbane - Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art

I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.*
In life, when you first notice someone and they're already smiling, the one thing you know is that they are not smiling at you: Heard a joke, happy person, birthday. Could be anything, but it's nothing to do with you.

When you catch someone's gaze, however, you hold that gaze awaiting the outcome: A nod, a wave, a turn away, a frown, or a smile.

So in portraiture, when the subject is gazing directly into the camera lens (our eyes), we lock on to that — awaiting an outcome that never arrives.

* From the lyrics to "Amazing Grace,"  author unknown, ca 1779

29 September, 2017

Low light

Anne along Queens Wharf Road, Brisbane - Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art 

I never  cease to be amazed by our new (I still find it new) ability to shoot in low light. Of course this is mostly due to the new sensors, but also to the image stabilisation that's in some camera bodies and lenses. Even with some of my own light added, the above image, for example, was shot at ISO 6400.

I used to be impressed by pushing Tri-X from ASA 400 to an even grainier 1600.

Am I nostalgic for the old days of film? Not in the slightest.

23 September, 2017

Happy belated birthday

Singapore Night Festival - Sigma 24-105mm, f/4.0

Last Wednesday slipped by unnoticed as the 7th birthday of the blog. This is getting to be a bad habit, as I missed it last year as well.

So, no cake, no party; just this post. Maybe something more significant at the 10-year mark.

17 September, 2017

YES, to Marriage Equality


This is about equality. Nothing more.

There are those who want to say this is about polygamy or freedom of speech, etc, etc. It's not. It's only about extending the right to marry (a right that most Australians enjoy) to same-sex couples.

Freedom: It's already illegal in Queensland to discriminate against someone (in employment, housing and most commerce) on the basis of their sexual orientation. Those laws promote an open and fair Australia. That's not going to change.

Religious practice: Churches who find marriage equality repugnant will be able to go about their business. That's because government doesn't intrude on the religious beliefs of its citizens. But, conversely, there should be a recognition that a church should not be able to impose its religious views on the rest of society.

I think we've lost our way on that issue.

When I was boy I was raised as a Catholic. So, we didn't eat meat on Fridays for religious reasons — although I'm still not clear what those reasons were. Anyway, my Mother was a devout Catholic, but she would never have entertained the idea of imposing her Friday dietary views on others — unless, of course, you were coming to our house for a Friday feed. 

I know what you're thinking: Do I still like tuna casserole? YES, I do.

[For those of you outside of Australia: The Australian government is currently running a survey in regard to marriage equity. Without a positive survey result they won't let the question go to a vote in the parliament. But, by the way, the survey results are not binding.]

Props - I (mostly) hate props

Alisha - Sigma 135mm, f/1.8 Art

In editorial photography a prop can be the easiest path to attaching the person to the editorial topic. If the article is about a violinist, then you shoot the budding Heifetz with his or her instrument. And, of course, if you're selling violins, then you'll want your musician to be holding the object of the exercise. Portraits, however....

If you Google the images of "Picasso," for example, and look at the photos of the man himself, unless he's actually working, most images don't show him holding a brush or palette.

Environment is another thing; it's, literally, in the background: Context, not a contest. 

With any image, the question I ask is, Where will the viewer look first?

14 September, 2017

Portraiture vs Fashion

Anastasia Snow - Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art

I was mentioning, elsewhere, that I'm a portrait photographer and not a fashion photographer. It got me to thinking about what that means.

The fashion photographer's goal is to emphasise a look. The fashion is the star (or at least the co-star). For a portrait photographer, the model is the star. The outfit is like the environment — important, but not the object of the exercise. 

In fashion, the model is in service to the clothes (or jewellery, etc); in portraiture the environment and the outfit are in service to the model.

Happily, Art can be hiding in either.

13 September, 2017

Rotolight Neo

Vex at West End - Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art

I've been using the Rotolight Neos for some time and I'm a fan. The image of Vex, above, for example, shows the ability of the Neos to provide soft, balancing light. (BTW - Vex has her own site at www.vexdarling.com)

We've come a long way from the unadjustable, Rotolight RL48B.

A Neo II, however, is coming out shortly with more power, a flash mode, zero recycling time, high speed sync, and a built-in receiver for off-camera flash. Quite a list, but I think that I'll hold out for the larger Rotolight Aeos. 

What I don't get is why the Aeos doesn't come with a built-in receiver, equivalent to the one in the Neo II. Soon?

12 September, 2017

Lilford Station

Shearing shed on Lilford Station - Sigma 24-105mm, f/4.0

My Bride grew up on Lilford Station about 85k's north of Winton, in Northwest Queensland — 1,196.66 km (743.57 miles) northwest of Brisbane, as the crow flies (1435 k's if you drive).

In the intervening 40+ years Lilford has been aggregated with other properties and the homestead has fallen into disuse. Lilford was sheep property, but it's cattle now. It was the last opportunity for the family to visit.

It's dry now in Winton. They're hoping for rain before the end of the year. Decisions about stock will need to be made.

It was an important trip. I'm glad I saw it and I'm glad our daughter saw it.


"Gravel Road - Drive to Prevailing Road Conditions"

02 September, 2017

No Beauty Without Truth

Anastasia Snow - Logical Unsanity Books and Miscellaneous Phantasmagoria, Bardon
Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art

I like the photographer Peter Lindbergh — and not just because he's one of the few photographers who's older than I am. When he was doing the 2017 Pirelli Calendar, he said, 
“There is no beauty without truth. All this fake making up of a person into something that is not them cannot be beautiful. It is just ridiculous.” 
I have a similar view: I see a spectrum with "Authentic" on the one end, and "Contrived" on the other. I think it's clear, however, that as soon as a photographer brings subjects to locations new to them and poses them, it's contrived.

So it seems to me that "beauty" in portrait photography relates to the appearance of truth and the appearance of authenticity. And, from that, the two obvious questions for me are: 
  1. Do the subjects actually bring their real selves to the shoot?
  2. And, if so, through my choices (of environment, lighting, perspective, clothes and poses) do I hide or reveal them?

18 August, 2017

Sigma 85mm

Anastasia Snow - Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art

I continue to be impressed by the Sigma 85mm with the MC-11 Mount  Converter. But it's not perfect. 

Occasionally, when using eye-autofocus, the 85 can lock up when hunting. It's fixed by putting it into normal-focus mode and then back. 

I use back button focusing, so this is quick enough for me doing portraits, but it would be more than annoying for a wedding photographer.

08 August, 2017

Hannnah-Jean, Mt Coot-tha and the Sigma 85mm

Hannah-Jean - Mt Coot-tha - Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art (with the MC-11 Mount Converter)

I'm not a morning person, but I was up at Mt Coot-tha for a shoot with Hannah-Jean. It was clear and cool. It was good to see the sun come up.

03 August, 2017

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art meets Vex

Vex - Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art
The Sigma 85mm with the MC-11 on the Sony A7Rii, with a vertical grip, two batteries and a strap weighs in at over 2.3kg (5lbs). After a few hours I notice the weight. Is it worth it? For portrait work I think it is.

Previously I had the Zeiss 85mm, f/1.8 Batis. It's a great lens and less than half the weight, but the Sigma is my choice.

It's rarely the case that I take the Sigma off f/1.4. It's in that extra two-thirds of a stop where the Sigma shines. It's sharp wide open, even out to the corners.