Posts Tagged ‘photography’

We are at a crossroads, now more than ever.  At first it was just digital technology as a new way to capture light and make a picture. We all embraced it because it was no cost, no worry, shoot shoot shoot and delete later, or don’t. (Because let’s face it, we don’t delete, we just get more hard drives or up our iCloud plan.) There, done!

Then we filled computers with images like there was no tomorrow.  Thousands of photos downloaded from our digital cameras.  DSLRs.  Point and shoots.  All kinds of cameras shooting more and more megapixels.  Win!

More is more.  More is good.

Then phones got really good at shooting and sending a pic, and even if the form factor wasn’t very good, and the photo wasn’t as good as a camera, ah well, so what, it was good enough, and it had the added perk that it fit in our pocket and we could be sent now.  No need to download to our computers. Score!

Sure, the phone manufacturers charged quite a bit for these, not to mention that computer or laptop upgrade, hard drive purchases and Photoshop software licenses, but we still felt like it was free. Yay!

And we became video producers at concerts, shooting and posting whole songs to whole shows so our friends could hear Elton sing, too. Because we can.  And look where we are. Too bad for the people behind us–we’re working here. Impressive!

More is more. More is good.

And then we got computers to compute.  Computational photography, we can make everything work, and everything perfect.  We can fake blur the background in ‘portrait’ mode, no need for a real photographer. It’s not like they do anything more than our phones–good thing Avedon isn’t working today, that chump would be out of a job.  Loser!

We can even fake videos and make it look like people saying things they never said.  We have technology.  We win again!

It used to be the news was a good source if information, but then we got the internet and things got a bit cloudy, lines were blurred.  News outlets and not-so-trustworthy news outlets  We have fake truths, alternative facts.  No one knows what to believe anymore.  Sucks!

So, this crossroads we’re at. Which way do we go, now?  Keep heading down the same road we’ve been on since we stopped shooting film and making actual photographs? You know, those paper representations of the pictures on our phones.

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The ones of grandma and grandpa that don’t need a computer to enjoy? The ones that are authentic, storytelling.  That aren’t digitally altered and perfected, but just…  Real!

We used to have fewer pics and we enjoyed them more.  Now we have more and, oh no…

More isn’t more.  More isn’t better.

We have become inundated with images that they don’t even matter.  They don’t matter! Who cares? It’s not like we look at them for more than a half-second anyway. Instagram double tap–scroll, scroll, scroll, double tap, scroll, scroll.  That’s what photography is now.  Lame!

Phones are note-takers, and notes don’t need to be saved.  Photographs used to be historical family documents, not anymore.  Now, it’s where we ate, where we parked, what we drank and never see them again.  Sucks!

Professionals don’t make our portraits anymore. We shoot everything ourselves, even for our businesses, since we’ve adopted a mentality that good enough is good enough.  Even if it’s not, it is.  Because it doesn’t cost us anything.  Cheap!

What will it take to hire a pro to photograph our family?  Maybe they do have something to offer that we can’t do ourselves.  But the lure of free is so strong.  Why pay for anything? We can put that money into more cloud storage and new phones.  Score!

We’re standing at the crossroads.  Which way we go will very seriously impact what photography is, what value it holds and purpose it serves.  It may be the biggest challenge in its history, what it will be for. Decisions!

I know which way I’m headed–I’m photographing my family and friends on film, printing their photographs and living with them on the shelves of my home.  Call me old school, I know where my photographs are and I get to see them for more than a swipe-second.  Dinorsaur!

Maybe, but maybe it’s the digital photos that that will go extinct.  Gone!

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.

I’ve started a podcast, Kenneth Wajda’s Daily Photography Blog Podcast.  You can subscribe to it at DailyPhotographyBlog.com and find it on your favorite podcast app–just search for Kenneth Wajda Daily Photography Blog.

I put out a new episode every morning, so tune in.  They’re short, to a point and feature techniques, photographers, current topics and more.  It’s fun and inspiring for photographers!

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True story happened yesterday.

I met a young couple, mid-20s, and we were talking about film photography. I told them how they could get one roll of black and white film from Mike’s Camera and shoot one photo a month in an old Minolta SLR they had, and after three years they’d have a wonderful surprise waiting for them–all the photographs they forgot but the moments they got to relive.

ml-mom-car1That’s the power of film and removing the immediacy of the results. You have a chance to step away and come back to the moment later, it’s not all complete right now.

(To me, that’s what makes photography special, and why I still shoot film for portraits of family and friends, and what’s missing in today’s phone-snappy world.)

So, they said they wanted to do that, shoot some black and whites and print the photographs.

The couple said they were recently married, and they have exactly three photographs from the wedding, and a hard drive of all the photos, which they said has several hundred pics–too many and that they never look at. They wish they just had a photo album like their parents do.

How many wedding couples want “all the photos”? Why? What are you ever going to do with them? Get some prints, put them in an album, lay it on your coffee table. Done!

More is not better. Printed photographs can be shared without screens, and are more fun as real photographs, just like holding a book still has appeal in the days of e-readers.

Print your memories. Share your stories.

If you need help, have a hard drive of useless images and want some prints, let me know: FamilyPhotoAlbums.net

Here’s what one North Carolina photojournalist created by going back to one roll of black and white film.

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The photographers of days gone past, they used view cameras, those lovely wood 4×5 and 8×10 cameras, which gave them the ability to keep their verticals straight.  Not tilted.  Not leaning.

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Basically, if the film plane is parallel to the building, the vertical will stand straight.  But if you tilt the film up, like when you tilt up a 35mm film camera, or a digital SLR or phone, the film plane/sensor isn’t parallel to the buildings, so the tops of the buildings will converge.

That’s why there is that angled brass piece on the back of the camera above–you can tilt the camera up, then reset the back to parallel.

Look at these photos.  See how all the verticals are, well, vertical?  These were made for the FSA–Farm Security Administration, and they often used large view cameras.

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Same with this one.  (This is from the wonderful Shorpy.com web site that I highly recommend.  Click the photos on the Shorpy site to make them load large so you can zoom in on details.)

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You don’t see straight verticals in photographs by cameras without perspective control.  But these were made with view cameras that you could control perspective.

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Those are a far cry from photos made today, with their tilted verticals.

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It’s a look we’re used to seeing, but it’s not accurate to the way they are really, and to me, it’s a sloppy representation of the town/building. It’s a record shot, but not much of a photograph.

There’s a time and place for quick and easy and convenient.  But speed and easy aren’t always the best way to document a location well.  And until you see the difference, you might not even know what you’re missing.

If you want to get straight verticals in your photographs, make sure you keep the back of the camera parallel to the subject, even if you have to lower it down or up to make that happen.

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.