Basic Instructions

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times one picks up a camera to shoot the potential to learn something new is always a pregnant possibility.

On Saturday I had an event to cover, a 12-hour day/night shift so naturally I checked all my equipment the day before and double-checked on Saturday that everything was there and working properly before I left: spare batteries, spare SD cards, all lenses as well as the camera itself.

In the past, when camera manuals were small books that came with the camera I always included it my kit bag. Why? Because if something can go wrong it will go wrong and it will always go wrong when you are working, so the book helps immeasurably with little quirks that sometimes happen – quirks that are interesting when you are at home and just playing, but stressful when someone is paying for your time. After doing this work for a few years one begins to think that there is nothing about the camera to learn, but a camera can always surprise you.

So I take my camera out of the bag, check that the dial is set to manual (I always shoot in manual) and then try to adjust the aperture, a flashing L appears in the information window and that’s it. The aperture changes in Aperture priority but nowhere else.

Things were happening and I needed to take pictures immediately so I worked around the problem for the entire event.

I thought at the time it was a software glitch, what else could it be my computer wire brain told me

It was the dedicated lock button. Three minutes at home the next day in a bright and quiet atmosphere was enough to solve the riddle.

My old 5D had the feature on the on/off switch, which often irritated me but I’ve never used the lock button on this camera, nor do I understand who or why one would. I think that, as I took the camera from the bag I inadvertently moved the sliding lock button half a centimeter, enough to cause the problem.

I now know what the flashing L means.

24-70mm, f2.8, 1/125sec, ISO 8,000

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Quiet Moments

At heart I am a bit of a minimalist, and I do love a good photorealistic painting, which is why the late Jeffrey Smart has been one of my favorite painters ever since I first saw his work in Sydney back in 2003.

So it would come as no surprise that I look for similar-style scenes to photograph. It’s the precise positioning of every element in a Jeffrey Smart painting that I find most engaging. Unfortunately, the very mechanical nature of the photographic medium under normal circumstances prohibits such fine placing of the elements at least for someone of my Photoshop skill level.

Photography does have the decisive moment, but that’s more about capturing a fleeting moment, a slice of time as it flashes by. What appeals to me in this picture is its contemplative restfulness. We can see that this isn’t a fleeting instance of action but a period of quiet stillness, made visually enjoyable by what we know as the appeal of vertical lines, disappearing perspectives and frames within frames. But without what Kandinsky explained as the tension within the frame, a tension that’s supplied by the almost perfect positioning of the people, it would be a dull lifeless image.

If it was a painting it would be ­­possible to correct the problems of left leaning, but in a photograph, despite the wonders of PS, when you correct that problem, other dimensions change, so more work is required.

The end result would be different, more constrained image, and not a picture I like.

 

FujifilmX20, f5.6, 1/250sec, ISO200

Altrenative Berlin

While watching TV the other night I was struck by what can only be the inconsistencies in the way people see the world, the difference between one person’s reality and another’s. The speaker, a writer who had recently moved to Berlin for creative influence, stimulation, alternative lifestyle (whatever, the expressions always seem to be the same) was waxing lyrically about what a wonderful city it is, full of excitement and change, grand open spaces and interesting people. He was talking about the area around Gorlittzer Park, where he lives, which is all of those things, give or take a superlative.

Marzahn, a suburb on the far eastern edge of the city, does not have many people waxing lyrically about the superb lifestyle their area offers. In its early years Marzahn did have a reputation as the ideal communist workers’ suburb, boasting wide streets and lots of public space. After reunification it fell out of favour with just about everybody and became renown for racism and other nefarious reasons.

Today it’s just another Berlin suburb and opinions differ as to whether it would be a nice place to live or not. To me it seems a soulless place and the wide-open spaces a bit bleak and intimidating, but the blog GDR Objectified

https://gdrobjectified.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/marzahn/

sees things in a more positive light.

In an effort to be objective I’ve included two views. The landscape was shot from the S-Bahn over pass, it’s what you see when you arrive and the shopping center was photographed from where the buses stop.

Why do I go to places like this in the middle of winter? Because I think it’s important to leave one’s comfort zone occasionally, it makes making pictures more interesting.

 

Fujifilm X20, f5.6, 1/125, ISO200

Comparisons

I thought it a good idea to put up the original image from the latest of my relentless investigations into how the photographic process can be used, abused and manipulated as I struggle to get the camera and post-processing deliver the image I want.

Being digital the first thing I do after I taken a shot is look to see if the image is correctly exposed, but at the time the camera showed just a dark blodge with a highlight, it doesn’t look much better now, but this is the images that became the pervious post on the 25th , after minimal post processing.

As I’ve said before, technology, I just love it.

35mm f2.5, 1/20sec, ISO400

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes (like now) I get weary with the work I’m doing and just enjoy shooting a picture of something that strikes me as beautiful at the time.

There is no rhyme or rhythm to it and the urge passes as fast as it comes.

I guess it was the stormy sunset skies that first struck my eye, got me out of my chair and away from the computer.

But I’ve shot so many frames of stormy sunsets from my balcony that another was going to be superfluous.

But winter is coming and soon these blooms will wither and die, although right now they are young and glorious, worth a photo.

28-300mm (at 300mm), f5.6, 1/250sec, ISO 300

Prime Time

I would consider myself a very practical person, one who doesn’t buy things unless there is a real need and I’ve had this need for a 35mm prime for a few weeks now. I already own a 24-70mm f2.8 zoom, but it is so heavy I dread taking it out. It is a wonderful lens, but all that great glass weighs more than the camera.

I’m doing portraits on location and as a consequence I’ve learnt the joys of shedding excess weight in the kit bag. At the moment I have the kit bag down to 14 kilos, not bad when you consider this includes a camera, three lenses, a tripod, two stands, three speedlights, four light modifiers, plus ancillary triggers, batteries, etc.

My go to lenses are the 50mm and 70-200mm, but sometimes you just need something a little wider and I struggle to be enthusiastic about carrying the 24-70mm for those few times. So it had become incumbent on me to price a light-weight wide. An original Canon 35mm f2 is €560, a lot more than I was prepared to spend on an occasional lens, and then by accident I stumbled on a page advertising Yonugnuo 35mm f2 for €120, which seemed to be too cheap for a lens of anything but meager quality. Reviews on the net seemed to think it was passable for the price so I ordered one (I finally found it for €95).

Sure, it’s like stepping back ten years to the days when lenses didn’t have super quiet sonic auto focus motors, but the build is solid and it’s as sharp as I’ll ever need. I know the Canon lenes has all the latest developments including image stabilizer, but with usable ISO’s of 3500 I’ve never used image stabilizer and in worst-case scenarios (I will be in such a scenario tomorrow) I will usually default to a tripod or monopole.

This picture was taken yesterday in Dresden with the new 35mm, which I spent the day testing. I’m a little bit in love with it at the moment, but these things pass.

 

35mm, f2, 1/1250sec,  ISO100

 

if your interested in portraits my other site is;

https://peerlessportraitcompany.wordpress.com

 

Intellectual Slippage

It was while looking at this photograph taken in Café Central in the very old part of Vienna that I began to realize just how absurd the tourist experience can be.

Café Central is a famous landmark, it’s where in the past, intellectuals from all over the world met. A list of luminaries too long to list, all elegantly dressed, sipped coffee, ate delicate cakes and discussed the meaning of mind here.

It is important to note the word past in the previous sentence. The guidebook may say that it was a quiet haven where the intellectual elite could relax, but today one has to queue to get in.

Also, like almost everybody in the vast room I was dressed to accommodate the weather outside, which means T-shirt and shorts, not what one would call elegant. As you can see, I, like everybody else, was also busy taking pictures.

The staff, who are elegantly dressed are still playing their role, despite the day long manic deluge of gawking tourists, but one has to wonder what they think of the vast, sweating, badly dressed herd that is the current customer base.

Bottom line, it is simply not possible to experience the past as it was. It is not even possible to get a glimpse because there are too many me’s and you’s irreparably altering the social and visual landscape.

It was too hot for coffee so I had a beer. But the room is nice in a crowded, busy sort of way.

Drinks, as one would expect, are not cheap. The cakes are wonderful.

50mm, f2.8, 1/50sec, ISO500