Eastern Perspectives

In the first half of the last decade in the previous century I was in Prague for six weeks and naturally I visited the few galleries exhibiting photographs. Having recently thrown of the stupefying effects of foreign occupation, photography in Czechoslovakia was in the process of realigning itself with western style aesthetics; however, it had not historically had the same love affair with small format street photography that America had had.

The focus was on medium or large format pieces that explored the intrinsic beauty of the everyday, the tonal ranges between black and white and the way light creates form and dimension in a picture.

Both simple and complex at the same time, they tend to be quiet and meditative. Totally at odds with the freneticism of modern photography.

I have retained a long and enduring love for this type of work -, so much that when I once again picked up my larger format film camera, it was almost a fait accompli that I would begin with this style.

Bronica SQA, 80mm, 1/2sec, +1 filter, Classic Pan 200asa (10 years out of date) developed with Adox Rodinol, diluted 1/50 for 12 minutes

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Glory Days?

One would expect to be able to say that as one’s style matures then it would be normal to do more and more unusual stuff. However, as this 2003 picture attests, my framing has slipped back towards the banal instead of seeking new horizons.

If pressed, I would say that the reason I have regressed back towards film (the last two months) is because the ease of digital has robbed me of something important. With film everything requires time and concentration. Each shot has to have something to validate the expense of shooting the frame, consequently composition is very, very important.

Nope, I am much more conservative today than I was yesterday, but that can/will change.

No idea of the technical data of this picture except that the film used was Ortho Classic Pan 200 asa and it was shot with a Canon Eos5 using a 50mm lens.

A Post Revisited

I received a comment and a request to enlarge on a post done on May 26th of this year. I put the post up just after I bought a battery grip for my camera in effort to induce myself to break the long established habit of shooting in the landscape position and shoot more in the portrait position.

In this post I explained I spent the day shooting with the camera in a vertical position to become overly  familiar with the compositional elements of this format.

Why did I think this necessary? Because one of the main problems I’ve always had with shooting in this style was negative space either at the top or bottom of the frame, as is evident in the first picture of the car, which was also the first image shot on the day. The unwieldiness due to the large expanse of black at the top of the picture easily demonstrates my lack of familiarity with the format when shooting street work.

The second image (according to the metadata), was shot about an hour later, and still evident is my need to fill the bottom of the frame which in this case left the top a little empty .

The frame is getting fuller and more controled by the third image, which was about two hours later. After aprox three hours and a couple of hundred frames the format has been tamed, as is evidenced in the last photo, which is obeying rules of two thirds but ignoring the time-honored tradition of not placing the center of interest in the center of the frame.

Since the May post the battery grip has remained connected to my working camera and I now work comfortably in either landscape or portrait position. In fact, I’ve begun to notice many of my contemporaries still shoot only in the landscape position, whereas now I’m constantly switching as I seek to optimize the compositional elements of the image within the frame.

The first two images were shot using 50 mm and the bottom two images using a 70-200mm.

I’ve also found that a when shooting in the portrait position a lens’ length of 50mm or more is often an easier option than a wide-angle lens.

An Advantage of Age

In a world where the old is thrown away for the next new thing, I think we may be missing out on some of the sensational things that the old things can do best.

This bucolic rural image of country Germany was shot with a 10-year old 5d, no, not a 5D mk11 or mk111, the ignored first model. A camera that has so many stains on the sensor from years in the tropics that it’s unadvisable to shoot with an f-stop of more than f5.6.

Coupled to old faithful is a cheap Sigma 28-300mm zoom I use when on holidays, it is also an old lens (about 15years old, but glass, not plastic). The picture may not be as tack sharp like it would be if shot with my 6D and a pro lens but would such equipment really help me get this image like I wanted?

The original picture, which has had a minimum of post processing, was easily made to look like it was shot in the early 20th century. The picture is about memories, looking back.

What I am trying to say is, don’t get rid of the old equipment, it may just be what you need to get what you want.

 

5D, 28-300mm, f5.6, 1/600sec

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

Exposing Experiments

I’ve had a friend who is also a photographer visiting me in Berlin the last few days, so naturally we talked about photographic trends like the ubiquitous selfie/selfie stick and all the other happenings in the photographic world.

As we discussed these things we looked at images I had shot in Vienna and when we saw this image (which was grossly underexposed in the shadows and consequently never processed) we both agreed that it was a shame the underexposure made it useable and yet it was indicative of the quintessential Vienna café society I had heard so much about.

After she had left Berlin I thought I’d process the picture just to see what would happen and found the result very interesting.

What I’ve learnt.

Digital sensors are so remarkable it’s very hard to make a picture with the coarse grain of high speed film in camera . Normally lots of post-processing is required.

To get a photo with soft, course grain, that resembles high ISO film, early experiments have shown that it is imperative to grossly underexpose to create the film like characteristics that the digital revolution disposed with.

The whites are already in place so only the mid-tones and blacks are going to be excessively noisy/grainy, which is what I’m after

Post-processing of this image was very basic; I increased the brightness until I had details in the dark shadow areas, cropped, toned it and added a faux border for effect. Even the most basic free software can do this.

50mm, f3,2, 1/125sec, ISO100

Street Theatre

It’s been a few weeks since I simply wandered the streets of Berlin with my camera idly looking at and photographing the street theatre. Every city and town in the world has its own rhythm that induces a specific style of image making and while New York was once the center of street photography, the genre moved on decades ago, but the lessons remained. I firmly believe that a major ingredient of what makes NYC street photographs so interesting is large groups of people in motion juxtaposed against the hard slanting light and massive structures of stone, glass and steel, which are features of the city.

Naturally there is more to a good picture than contrasting light and architecture, something also needs to be happening but strong sunlight and hard shadows help a lot in making the image visually interesting as well as making it very pleasant to aimlessly wander the city taking pictures.

70-200mm,f4, 1/650 sec, ISO100