Archive for the ‘camera’ Category

I was talking with another photographer recently and he brought up that he misses hanging out at camera shops.

I knew exactly what he meant. In the days of film, that was the place to meet, to see gear, talk and hang out with other photographers.

There was still a little bit at risk when making a photograph.  And skill needed.  It could be that the photos wouldn’t turn out, the exposure was off.  Or the subject moved. We talked about techniques. We talked about photographic subjects. We talked photography.

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I worked at The Camera Shop Inc. in the Oxford Valley Mall as a teenager, upstairs by Bamberger’s, if I recall correctly.  It was such a good job, and we got to meet all the local photographers and shutterbugs who’d come in.

That’s all gone, in this age of digital phone snaps.  There’s no more photography, with all the skills and tricks, there’s just the phone.

Snap, swipe, never look at it again.

When they added electronics, the big box stores like Best Buy and Circuit City took over the camera sales, and put the small camera shops out of business.  Not all, but many.  And many of the shops lived on film processing profits, and digital photography knocked that out, too.

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This is Central Camera in Chicago, a favorite place of Vivian Maier, if you know her story.  If not, look her up.  You’re in for a treat.  She’d hang out there.

Back when we hung out as photographers.

Photography is at a low point in its history. And it makes me sad. But first a little photography history lesson to see how we got here. (And hope for how we change it for the better.)

We’ve been at this photography thing for just about 193 years–the first photograph was made in 1826.  And while it had a slow start, it grew rapidly when Kodak introduced the pocket camera and the Brownie 75 years in around 1900.

And then it had tremendous growth in the first part of the 20th century.  Films got more sensitive to light, cameras got more portable and we were happily shooting holidays and vacations, often on the same roll of film.

You can see some of these photographs gathered.  They get published regularly on Old School Cool and The Way We Were.  Photos like this.

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Time marched on.  We got through the 1950s with the great rangefinder cameras like the Leicas and Yashicas. The 60s with the 126 Instamatics and 110 pocket cameras.

Then came the SLR, with the big Nikons and Canons among other interchangeable film cameras taking the family photos.  The amazing Canon AE-1 in the 1970s, advertised as the simplest camera you can own.  You or your parents may have had one.  They sold in the millions.

All along photographs were printed, dropped into photo albums or left in the envelope they came to us from the processor.  Stored in shoe boxes,  some hung on the walls of our homes along the staircase, each of our siblings taking a place in frames in a diagonal orientation.

Then the 80s and the point and shoots, the disc camera, the APS cameras and finally around 2000 the advent of digital cameras.

And then digital was in full swing, with the small point and shoots, 1.3 megapixel to start.  Gradually, they’ve grown to 50mp as DSLRS and APS-C bodies, then mirrorless and there’s nothing we can’t shoot with them. Some of the latest bodies even shoot over 60 photo frames per second.

And that’s precisely the problem.  We can do too much.  We can shoot too much.  And we do.  Then there’s the phone where we snap away at everything in front of us all day long because we can.

The quantity is the problem.  The quantity of photographs is the problem.  We’ve never been inundated with so many pictures like we are today.  It’s constant, it’s everywhere we go, at all times–concerts, theater shows, parties, dinners.  We can’t put the phone down.  The pictures just keep coming.

And then what?  Nothing.  No one goes back to them to look at them.  Sure, maybe we show one photo to someone, but what about the 60 per second, the dozens we shot today on the phone?  No one sees them

No one will ever see them.  Because no one cares.  Even we don’t care.  We shoot them because we can.  Because we think that’s what we do now.  We’ve been told that’s the way it is.

And that photo of our family like the one above from 70 years ago?  Never gets made, because who goes to a photographer anymore for a family photograph?  No one.  We have our phones.  We can shoot selfies.

That photo above doesn’t get made, period.  We will have made millions and billions of pictures, and none of that quality will last.  Because no one cares.

The young generation, they don’t care.  They don’t have photo albums.  They don’t care about photos for the future.

They have their phone now.  That’s it.

When it gets replaced, the photos are gone.  So what.

When it gets lost, the photos are gone.  So what.

When we take them, we don’t even care about them.  Nowhere is there a family sitting around their phones or computers looking at photos of Grandma.  There’s no one doing that.

Photographs don’t exist in present day.  Pictures depicting people and things exist temporarily until we forget and can’t be bothered to offload them and edit them down.  “What?  10,000 photos–I’ll just save them all.  Who has time to look through them all?”

We are in a dark time photographically.  We don’t value photography.  We don’t hire portrait photographers to document our families.  We don’t have photographs of our families and friends in our home.  We don’t live with photographs.

We live with our phone. The phone with thousands of photos we have no interest in sorting through, or looking at.

Ev-er.

How did we get here?  We were doing so well.

We got here because quantity is a good thing and a curse.  The fact that you can make thousands of photos a week doesn’t mean it’s best to make them.

We are in a photographic dark age.  The photos we are making now mean less than ever.  We will never see them, our children and grandchildren will never see them.

We may as well stop making them–it’s all pointless.  Unless we print a book of photos or make up an album of snaps at the end of the year, the photos are like vapor–here now and good for nothing tomorrow.  Because they’re gone.

No one cares. Too busy snapping.

Wouldn’t that time be better spent experiencing the thing we act like we’re photographing, since really we are doing nothing? While we are always on the phone and making the constant snaps, how much do we miss out on?

Technology has advanced so quickly, that we are at a low point in history photographically. And we need to change our culture and get to a place where we value photography again. And document who we are. And photograph our families and have professional photographs made. Value what we once had and now is lost.

We do it by printing one photo. Or having one professional family portrait made and putting it in a frame in our house.

We do it by putting a picture of grandma in a frame on our dresser. Portraits of the kids back in frames on the wall.

Print anything you want to last. It’s the only reason we can see those marvelous faces in the old photos–because they exist as photographs.

Not as digital files. Not buried in heaps of data and information, but a real photograph that we see as we cross the room–they’re here with us.

It’s what a photograph is. A printed picture.

If I get just one person to print a photograph by discussing this, that’s one great-grandchild that will get to see a photo from today that wouldn’t otherwise exist for them.

That’s why I press this issue. That’s who I’m writing this for, on their behalf.

I want us to change the culture to value photographs again. To preserve our family history in pictures. Real pictures. Real photographs.

As Seth Godin says, “People like us do things like this.” We value photography and family portraits as an important part of our history.

If you’re a person like me who values family history, join me and print a photograph. Print ten this year. Print a photo book of favorite snapshots. Just make something that will last for generations.

The great-grandchildren will be glad we did.

[As always, if you need help printing photographs, I am a professional who can help with prints and books. And I make family portraits–it’s the most important work I do. ~Kenneth]

You can share this post with this link: FamilyPhotoAlbums.net

 

 

I have this thing of shooting photographs out my car window.  Moments that unfold in front of me. I like the energy of these photos.  Some have people really engaging in their surroundings.  Like this guy in downtown Boulder.

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Others have a stillness.  Like these people waiting or standing–a woman in Denver, people on a street corner on a Sunday morning in Vegas, and three businessmen in Rochester.

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And sometimes I see a story on the street, that I have to pick up the camera and shoot.  Here are two different people with shopping carts as a major part of their lives.

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To get photographs like this, you need lightning-quick reflexes with a camera that’s already preset.  I use aperture priority on a Nikon D610 with a 50mm or 20mm with back button focus.  I make photographs out of both driver and passenger windows.  And sometimes out the front window.  I love the weed-sprayer man with the two cyclists.  Would look amazing large!

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There are scenes out there.  Just keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, too!

I’ve noticed what wins street photography contests: Weirdo photos.

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2018 winners in StreetFoto

Oddball pictures.

Have you seen this?

The photos at the right are the 2018 winners in StreetFoto.

To my eye, none of them look like the classics by Garry Winogrand or Henri Cartier-Bresson, who I’m betting are masters that these street photographers look up to.

The Winogrands and Bressons, the Friedlanders and Davidsons made pictures of real moments, not just oddities, freaks and crazy scenes.

I would suspect that none of their photographs would even place in street photography competitions today.  They look more like documentary photographs than photographs with a gimmick or a hook, grabbing the viewer’s attention.

Their photographs documented the human condition and I don’t see that as being terribly valued in today’s street photography, at least by what I see that wins awards.

What else wins awards?  Busy streets with lots of people filling in different areas of the frame.  That’s a big winner.   Add in faces of foreigners, you’ll win first place.

Visual puns–they’re also a favorite of contest judges.  See for yourself in the second place photo.  Nothing against them, but I believe that’s what’s in.  More gimmick/grab, less human condition.

Deep shadows, with something in a spot of light.  Strong graphic elements.  Those are winners, too. See the Honorable Mention to see what I mean.

Perhaps it’s because in this digital age, everything is quicker, and we have no attention span, so a photo without a hook isn’t going to be seen.  No one has time to look at a photo that doesn’t shout its meaning.

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Garry Winogrand’s Hollywood & Vine scene.  What is that, social commentary?  Next!

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Henri Cartier-Bresson’s shoreside picnic — seems rather usual, who cares, pass.

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Garry Winogrand’s sailor photo — Would this photo place anywhere today?  Doubtful.

Here’s one of mine.  I think it’s a tremendous look at a part of Las Vegas that isn’t the glitz and glamour of that city, made on a Sunday morning just off the strip when most of it was closed.  I bet these are locals who work in the area.

Las Vegas Blvd, just off the strip, Sunday morning, June 29, 2018

That’s not getting entered into any street festival award contests.  It’s real people, it’s documentary, but there’s no crazy element.  Here, see it big–does it give you any sense of what these people’s lives are like, even without the crazy?

Same with this one.  To me, it’s a fun photograph of a boy telling his mom what he saw a fisherman catch.  Not enough of a hook to win anything.  Here it is big.  With a famous name on it, everyone would be praising it, and it would hang 20×24″ in a gallery.  Without a name, it’ll never be seen.

A boy and the fishermen on the Santa Monica Pier, July 4, 2018.

Or this, of a celebrity stalked by paparazzi.  I wanted to make a photo featuring the photographers.  Not going to win any prizes.  Here’s a bigger version.  It’s a storytelling photograph of celebrity life in the early 20-teens in Studio City, California.  The celebrity is Julianne Hough from Dancing with the Stars.  I’m glad I don’t have her face.

Paparazzi on a Studio City CA sidewalk, July 5, 2018.

I know what it’s like when I’m out shooting street photos–I’m looking for the oddities, too.  That’s what grabs my attention.  I’ve been conditioned just like everyone else.

Here’s my street life photo gallery, you’ll see obviously I’m seeking a hook at times, too.  Because that’s what street photography is now.  Not a documentary photograph.

And that’s unfortunate.

I prefer the storytelling images of human nature, and people living today.

I am both a Nikon and Leica shooter.  I shoot film and digital with both brands and the other day I sat down at my Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter–that’s where I do my best thinking on paper–and I wrote out what each camera type is good for.

For shooting street photography, Leica may be classic, but my Nikon with a 20mm, auto-focus and aperture priority beats it every time.

Every. Single. Time.

Because there’s no fuss, I have the Nikons–F100 for film, D610 for digital–set for back-button focus and -0.7 dialed for exposure compensation on the digital, so I make sure I don’t blow any highlights, or +0.7 set for film, to make sure I get a dense negative, and I can shoot out my car window and guarantee a shot.

I can’t do that with my Leicas.  I’m using an M9 for digital, which does have aperture-priority, and an M2 for film. They need attention, finessing.  It’s great for contemplative work.  But not for lightning quick.  At least not for me.

Yes, I use hyperfocal/zone focusing with the Leicas.

These three photographs were all made out my car window with the Nikon as I was passing these scenes at some rate of speed.  I can’t get these with the Leica.

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Businessmen waiting on a corner in Rochester NY.

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A vintage car driving at dusk on I-70W.

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The real people of Las Vegas on a street corner just off the strip on a Sunday morning.

The first two were shot with a 20mm f2.8, the first AF 20mm Nikon made.   The last with a 50mm f1.2 AIS manual focus lens.  They show what I saw, real life, captured in split second.

Even this one, while I was attending an Italian festival in Denver, I stopped to talk to another photographer after I noticed his Sony camera and some behemoth of a lens.  But while I was talking to him, the sausage man appeared and with the Nikon and 20mm, I could turn, focus and shoot in one fluid motion, nail the shot, then it was back to my conversation.

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A man carries his sausage, his winnings, at an Italian festival in Denver.

At the end of the day, story comes first, and it’s all about the photo.  I do love the way the Leica looks and feels, and its small size, it’s just not a street shooter for me.  That’s the conclusion I came to when I was typing out my thoughts.

As a further test, I went out to downtown Denver this past weekend to shoot street photographs with another photographer.  The shoot went so well, I came back with several photos that I’ve included in my updated street photography gallery, ColoradoFaces.com.   Photos #4-13 all came from that Saturday afternoon, all shot with the Nikon and the 20mm.

So enthralled with the results, I went back down the next day with the Leica M9 and M2 and a 21mm Elmarit.  I thought, wow, if I could do that with a Leica and a 21mm, it’s so small and light, it would make a great kit for daily use.  Guess I hadn’t used the M9 recently enough, as I ended up putting battery after battery in it, four in total, and they all quit within a few shots.  I still had the film Leica, so I could keep shooting, but I certainly shoot more conservatively with film.

I wished I had brought the Nikon.

By the way, my Nikon has five bars on its battery readout, and it can be down to two bars, and I can still get a whole afternoon of shooting with it.  Nikon batteries rock for lasting and not petering out.

So, what’s my point.  For me, it’s Nikon film and digital for shooting documentary photographs, they’re quicker and I feel more confident I’ll get the shot with them.  And I do.

Leica is a great camera for portraits and documentary coverage where you’re going to be working the scene.  The build quality is incredible, as you know.  I love documenting my friends with it.  Posing them and creating photographs.  And it’s a treat to use.

But just like a Rolleiflex and a Hasselblad are both portrait cameras in my hands, a Leica is a special camera for portraits or a day of deliberate shooting.  Not grabbing life on the street.

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A portrait with the Leica, HP5, a beautiful negative and the magic of film.

When it’s speed I need, I go with the Nikon with the 20mm.  Or the 50mm.   The viewer feels like they’re in the shot.

And I get it every time.   That’s my story.   And story is king.

PEOPLE, PASSIONS, SUCCESSES & DREAMS

I’m working on a photography project where I put a question to people on the street. “What are you famous for?” Their answers can be current, or post-dated.

WhatAreYouFamousFor.com – (Follow here, the photographs are much better displayed than on Facebook.)

The question has made people consider what do they want to be known for. And what is fame? And when will they achieve their goal, if pressed for a date.

So far, I’ve met an NFL Tight End for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a Canadian National Cycling Champion, and a Theater Lighting Designer, a Pulitzer-winning Investigative Journalist and a National Geographic Photographer, among others.

Follow along if you want to get updates with the next famous people who I meet. Maybe I’ll get you and your “fame” into the project.

www.facebook.com/groups/whatareyoufamousfor/ is the FB group link for updates.

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The words in the title were spoken to me by a very experienced, award-winning professional photographer and the photo editor at the newspaper where I worked for many years.

He went on to say that photography is insignificant now.  The sheer quantity that is made and made available to see makes it less fun to create, less fun to look at.  There’s a huge swath of mediocrity, and it’s in front of us at all times.

We can’t avoid it.

I responded that there were always poor photographs made by snapshooters. He said, when he was young, his father would load a roll of film into a camera and it would last four years.  He has only a half-dozen photographs of himself as a youngster for that reason.

And he cherishes those photographs!

But now, people are shooting thousands of photographs a week.  They’re going on vacations and experiencing it from behind a screen.  They’re filling up cards, hard drives, and distributing them in real- time–“Look at me and what I’m doing right this second!”

Here was a guy traveling to Colorado to go skiing and taking time out to meet with me, and he didn’t even bring a camera, just his Samsung phone.  “Because who cares?”

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He said when he went on a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, he shot maybe 10 photographs.  And then he hasn’t looked at them since, and hasn’t shown them to anyone.  His wife doesn’t care.  His daughter doesn’t want to see them.

And really, what would they look at them on, their phone?  Talk about insignificant!

He’s a great cataloger of his photographs. All his images are tagged with keywords, so they can be located, because as he said, “A photo you can’t find is like not having a photo at all.”  But what good is it?  He says when he’s gone, no one is going to want them–his files and hard drives of photographs.

But those half-dozen when he was a kid–those photographs…now those…<He lights up!>

Because things that are scarce, we value more.  Things that are too available, who cares?  Like photography today.  Everyone thinks they’re a photographer.  Everywhere you go photos are being snapped.  It makes it less than exciting to look at.

Silhouette of a Man Playing Saxophone during SunsetIt’d be like taking up the saxophone, and going outside and finding everyone’s playing a saxophone.  Everyone is posting themselves playing the saxophone.   It would get old.  Quick.

I suggested even all those cataloged photographs are worthless unless they’re printed.  Without making them into physical prints, they won’t survive for 50 years. He countered with, “Who’s going to carry around this heavy box of prints?”  He knows his daughter doesn’t want to move them.  So, they’re as good as done, once the hard drives fail or new technology supersedes them.

We seem to think that whatever is easy is the best way to go, but perhaps we’ve been cursed by the glut of images, our depictions of commonness in all the photographic forums in real time, which exist to feed our egos–someone likes us–while really the reason is to market blenders and wrenches to us–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

So, are we at the end of an era?  Photography used to be creative.  It use to resonate.  A great photo would be printed, hung in a frame on a wall.  There were gallery shows. There were clubs.  People made photographs.  Real well thought-out photographs.

Now, photos have a shelf life of a quarter-second, long enough to hit LIKE and swipe to something else.

And anyway, who cares?