31 October, 2013

It is what it is.

Windshield Teddy

Is photography art? Sure, sometimes. Does it matter what we call our part of it? Probably not.

The first part is easy: Photography can be art. I liked what Michael Prodger had to say in his Guardian article last year, "Photography: is it art?"
"What some pioneering photographers recognised straight away was that photographs, like paintings, are artificially constructed portrayals: they too had to be carefully composed, lit and produced."
This is the recognition that photography can go beyond the documentary to be a creative endeavour. (It also makes me more comfortable about manipulating images – just a tiny bit, of course – in Lightroom, Photoshop or Silver Efex Pro.)

Am I just a hobbyist with pretensions?

Is it a waste of time? Am I misunderstood? Both?

What's more important, I think, is that we treat our efforts (and the efforts of others) with respect. In regard to our work then, it may a truism, but — It is what it is.

I will not grow old gracefully.
I will fight against becoming invisible by refusing to fade away.
And if that means I have to grow old disgracefully, well so be it.
— Sarah Macdonald

18 October, 2013

Anatomy of a Murder

There are movies that I watch at least once a year. Movies that, even though I have them on DVD, if they're on the tube, I watch them anyway. One of these is Anatomy of a Murder – a 1959 courtroom drama by Otto Preminger. Anatomy is THE courtroom drama.

I was only 11 in '59, growing up in a Chicago suburb. So, I didn't see Anatomy in the theatre when it came out. Chicago, interestingly, banned the movie until Preminger took the city to court.

I did see it on the big screen almost a decade later, however, at the Clark Theatre in the Loop. The Clark was a 'grind house' in the late '60s (running a different double feature every day). The Clark was in the Loop near Clark and Madison; not to be confused with the current Century Cinema (on Clark) further north, just past Diversey.

I've embedded the trailer for the movie at the top of this post. With a Grammy-winning jazz score by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn (there's Billy again), you need to do yourself a favour and see the film.

The judge in the movie is played by real-life lawyer, Joseph Welsh. Welsh was counsel representing the Army in what came to be known as the Army-McCarthy Hearings. Welsh took on Senator McCarthy regarding McCarthy's attempt to smear the name of a young lawyer in Welsh's law firm. Sadly, Welsh passed away a year after Anatomy of a Murder came out.

Anatomy was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, 3 Golden Globes, and 3 BAFTAs – didn't win any of them.

13 October, 2013

Sturdy 30

Visit to the Botanic Garden

The angle-of-view of the 50mm lens on a full-frame camera (about 47 degrees) is still my favourite. It was Henri Cartier-Bresson's favourite as well. I'm not drawing a comparison – just saying.

Of course, in the world of APS-C and micro 4/3 cameras, that angle-of-view is achieved with a 33mm or 25mm, respectively. Because I can't afford full-frame cameras or their lenses, the "nifty 50" is, for me, the "sturdy 30." So my walk-around, "desert-island" lens is now an (APS-C) 35mm.

It's okay

07 October, 2013

Fort Lytton

Guide for traversing the 6" disappearing gun

We visited Fort Lytton, a National Park on the banks of the Brisbane River. The location was once a major defence for the city of Brisbane, 16 km further up the river. It's a small park, now nestled between the river and oil refineries. But the history of the fort touches on much of the history of Queensland and Australia.

If you go, make sure to do the tour – it's both entertaining and informative. The park is only open on Sundays from 10:00 until 4:00 (with the first tour at 10:30 am); and, unfortunately, the park will be closed from Monday, 21 October to Friday, 22 November 2013 for major works.

Path to one of the gun emplacements

06 October, 2013

I've switched on the comments

Not always appreciated

I've switched on the comments. (Of course, messages sent via the "Contact Form for Bill Danby" on the sidebar are always welcome as well.) We'll see how it goes. Some other blogs have had troubles with comments; but with as few readers as I have, it shouldn't be a problem.

William Camden said, 'The early bird catches the worm.'
Well, the worm was up early
and it didn't do him any good.
It's less about whether you're early or late,
and more about whether you're the bird or the worm.
—Yllib Ybnad (b. 1948)

02 October, 2013


"Stairway to the stars"
I've commented on RAW and JPEGs in a couple of forums, but (until now) I haven't talked about them here.

RAW works for me. I only shoot in RAW. But I recognise that it’s not for everyone.

Many photographers are fully occupied with the opportunities they already have. They seem to be saying that if they have extra time, they want to spend it taking NEW pictures instead of sitting in front of their computers working with OLD ones. I have great respect for that argument.

I understand why a serious digital photographer who is:
  • taking the time to make sure that the picture going in the lens is the one that he or she wants; and
  • does not intend to manipulate the image in the computer; and
  • wants to print at 8 x 10 or smaller (or directly to the web)
will be happy to work with JPEGs.

Also, I think that JPEG users are also right to see the format as future-proofed. JPEG will probably be around longer than most of the RAW formats – but perhaps not DNGs. (DNGs will be a discussion for another day.)

And, finally, many of the pictures that we take are of family or friends. Working in JPEGs means that they are immediately portable. They can go into emails, social media sites, photography sites, blogs, into the new live photo frames, or many of the high-res digital TVs — with no more work to do.

A family friend, for example, is an inveterate traveller and photographer. Her travel compact goes with her everywhere. She has a lovely eye, and is quite satisfied to capture moments in what can’t be described as anything other than Art. (With a capital "A.")

In my youth, I did my time in the darkroom. In those days (the early 60's), the darkroom was the only avenue for photographic control and it was the only way to do photography on the cheap. I think that once you get a taste of that level of control, it’s hard to give it up. So, for me, shooting digital (and RAW) is that control – on steroids.

So, if you have ambitions (and the time) to
  • print at exhibition sizes or quality; 
  • work seriously in black and white;
  • rescue shots that might otherwise be lost;
  • maximise photos taken in low light;
  • exploit the full potential of photographs; or
  • improve the aesthetic appeal of your photos—
then you should be working in RAW.

But RAW is not without its troubles:

Working with RAW as a once-in-awhile thing isn't fun. For me, working with RAW needed to be part of a regular workflow. (For this reason I found saving in RAW + JPEG, and and doing a bit of one and then a bit of the other unhelpful.) 

At first I was using Silkypix, Raw Therapee, Sagelight and Noise Ninja (all great programs), but in ad hoc sorts of ways. I had some success, but I struggled. 

There’s a learning curve with RAW – understanding what makes digital files tick. (If you don’t understand them, it’s harder to fix them.) I see now that, initially, I didn't have a firm grasp of all (okay, most) of the digital elements.

Two things turned that around for me: First I bought Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom introduced me to a real workflow. Suddenly I had a, well, flow. Then I got the Luminous Landscape’s Lightroom videos. In addition to learning the program, that series of videos took what I knew about film and oriented it to digital photography. (While Lightroom worked for me, I'm not suggesting that similar results couldn't be obtained by other programs like Aperture.)

So, Good Luck — with whatever path you choose.

Don't make me come back there....

What the heck is going on? I go away for just a few years and the next time I look the whole damn thing has shut down.

"Grand Old Party," my ass. Lincoln will be turning over in his grave.

If I have to come back there the GOP is going to get such a smack....