23 May, 2015

The Homeless

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Gardens Point, Brisbane, Queensland [click to enlarge]

The homeless are easy targets for photographers. They can be found in every large city, they are out of the ordinary and are in contrast with most of the other people we might photograph.

In the early 70's I worked in the Midwest Regional Office of the Veterans' Administration in Chicago, then next door to the VA's West Side Hospital. There I regularly came into contact with the homeless. What became immediately clear was that our differences were merely accidents of circumstances.

So, yes, they are in public places, and we have a legal right to photograph them as we please. But they are us — fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters — in more difficult circumstances.

We must be aware of the difference in power. The homeless know they can't make a fuss. They know that in any dispute they will come out the worse for it. We cannot exploit them.

Photographers who have done amazing work with the homeless; work and photographs that show compassion without condescension include Steve Huff (see his homeless project) and Michael O'Brien (see the Kirk Tuck video about O'Brien's book/project "Hard Ground").

If you look carefully at the photo above, you'll notice that the man on the bench is very much awake. When I was passing, he turned and noticed me. I asked him if I could take his picture. He kindly agreed.

19 May, 2015

Cheeky self portrait

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - The English Channel, by Michael Parekowhai [click to enlarge]

I don't photograph other people's art, except when I'm showing something else. (In this case, me.)

The heroic, stainless-steel sculpture above, is by New Zealand artist, Michael Parekowhai. The figure is from an installation (called The English Channel) within the exhibition, entitled, The Promised Land. The exhibition is showing at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), in Brisbane, until 21 June.

I have a few rules, and I wondered whether the one mentioned above should be included in the ones I mention on my "About" page. I decided it would be silly of me to even try to formulate an exhaustive list. I'm happy with the bare-bones list of things I won't do:
  • Photograph anyone in a way that will hold them up to ridicule, make them uncomfortable, or in a way that, I believe they (or I) will later regret;
  • photograph young children without care;
  • take advantage of the powerless, the distressed or the disadvantaged;
  • disregard my safety or anyone else's; or
  • fail to be forthright about who I am, and that I'm there to take photographs.

17 May, 2015

Lightroom CC - Performance

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Gardens Point, Brisbane, Queensland [click to enlarge]

It's not really fair for me to comment on the performance of the latest version of Lightroom CC, as I don't have a graphics card that Lightroom will recognise for doing some of its work.

This means that for me, the performance has dropped. It hasn't gone off a cliff, but the handwriting is on the wall for a computer upgrade. (I'll stretch it out as long as I can.)

In order to pick a little time, I've taken to using a tactic from the blog of Julieanne Kost (an Adobe Principal Evangelist for Photoshop and Lightroom). Kost imports her images in the proprietary RAW format for her camera, does her cull of her shots, and only then converts to DNG (Digital Negative - Adobe's RAW format). Previously I'd been converting to DNG on import.

Kost's blog has wealth of techniques and videos about Lightroom and Photoshop.

14 May, 2015

Very large format envy

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Kookaburra - Toorbul, Queensland [click to enlarge]

When I see very large prints, particularly landscapes, coming out of 24 and 44-inch printers, it's hard not to be envious. It would be easy to dismiss these as wall-hangings rather than art; but there's something elemental about a very large print.

But, to paraphrase, with great size comes great responsibility.

I think I would feel obliged not to just make big prints, but to fill that space with great detail. That, of course presents a whole new set of challenges. (I'm already challenged by my 17-inch printer.)

I was visiting a photography auction website recently. The site was awash with the great names of American photography: Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, Gary Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, and Irving Penn.

I was struck by the fact that the great majority of the prints were in sizes below 17 x 22 inches, easily printable on an Epson 3880, 4900, or the new P800.

As you would expect, many of these were gelatin silver prints, and there was even a Type C-print in there (for US$6,600.00). Where the media wasn't mentioned, I would guess that they were pigment ink prints.

I'm not suggesting that I'll be joining that august group mentioned above or commanding their prices, but I have the tools to produce prints with all the range and resolution of those, and with greater longevity (the prints, not me).

The only limitation on modern photographers/printers is our mastery of the art of photography and the craft of printing.

09 May, 2015

Lightroom CC - HDR

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Mouth of Moreton Bay from Bribie Island, Queensland [click to enlarge]

I'll be talking about some of the features of the new Lightroom CC (one at a time); but even in their sum they won't constitute a full review. This post is about High Dynamic Range (HDR). If you're not a Lightroom user, then this won't be useful to you. Sorry.

I've been using the HDR program, Photomatix Pro, for some time now. And while it seems to me that Photomatix affords much more control, having HDR so readily available as a direct menu item within Lightroom is very convenient.

Photomatix was also easier to use than making a trip to Photoshop. I think that if you've been happy with Photoshop for your HDR, then you're more likely to be happy with the built-in Lightroom feature.

First, an admission. I'm not a serious tone mapper. When I use HDR it's only to extend the exposure range. I only want to see and capture the world, not create it. Creating the world is a noble endeavour, it's just not mine.

If you want to see great (highly mapped) HDR images, visit, TreyRatcliff.com,or his site, "Stuck in Customs." I love Trey's intensity, flash and colour. (He's also a Sony user.)

So, if tone mapping is your thing, I don't think you're going to be satisfied with Lightroom's HDR. If you just want to experiment with extending the range, then the new feature is so easy to use and preview, you'll find it very useful — as I do.

I've been known to lay a heavy hand on Lightroom's clarity and vibrance sliders, but that's the exception. Alternatively, when I've bracketed to do HDR, I've occasionally found that the "overexposed" image (if no needed highlights were blown) had enough range to do the job. 

We won't have another "Expose To The Right" (ETTR) discussion here, but the current crop of sensors are really great. (I've set my A7II so that moving to custom 1 on the PASM dial keeps everything the same, except that it does three shot bracketing: unadjusted, two stops up, two down.)

It will be interesting to see whether I upgrade Photomatix at the next jump.

After creating an HDR in Lightroom, the relevant sliders in the "Develop" module have increased adjustment ranges to accommodate the new range of the image. It's also nice that Lightroom HDR works from DNGs, and returns a DNG. Returned DNGs have an appended "HDR" to the end of the existing name, making them easy to find. I didn't much mind, however, going into TIFF using either Photomatix or Photoshop. DNG is a wrapper for what is essentially a TIFF file anyway.

01 May, 2015

Pretty tough

Wake, South Pacific [click to enlarge]

I was watching a YouTube video, “Saul Leiter in Conversation with Vince Aletti,” produced by Dear Dave, Magazine and the School of Visual Art, New York (below). In it, Saul Leiter said,

To put it very simply, I think the world is full of endless things, and there are many beautiful things around us and people have a way and a talent for not noticing it — because they're lazy and because they're spoiled and because they lack the imagination to see that what is around them is actually sometimes very beautiful.
Lazy, spoiled or unimaginative. Pretty tough.

If it's not true, then it's a challenge.

Last year I talked about Saul and the movie, "In No Great Hurry - 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter."  In any case, here's that interview (if you've got an hour and ten minutes).