Black and white.

In 2005 I acquired a Konica Minolta 35mm camera (can't give exact specs; more on that later). I never put a lot of mileage on it, as the next year I got my first digital camera (a Canon Powershot A530 - ha!)

I took the Minolta with me on my last trip to North Carolina, and while I didn't even manage to use up a whole roll, I wanted to compare the strength of its photos with more recent digital ones. I also used black-and-white film.

I've read that many professional photographers - in this case, the superstar sense of the word - remain users of 35mm film and find themselves able to get higher quality with it, even with how far digital has come. That intrigues me; and also makes me happy because I don't think we should ever abandon something that worked very well for so long, just because something new becomes available.

Anyway, I read that in particular B&W 35mm film is superior to its digital counterpart. So I just wanted to see for myself.

Aaaaand wowza - I am in love with these pictures!







Though the rhododendren pictures are similar, I simply could not decide between them so I've shown both. And no, the last photo isn't perfectly composed or anything, but it just seems to brim with light and lushness.

I love that the photos are already beautifully saturated, and again, B&W photography lends an automatic sense of "story" to a picture. I wish I could go out and try to recapture even more, especially since I have three unused rolls....

...but times are tough, and I had to sell my Minolta a few weekends ago. (That's why I don't know the exact model; never committed it to memory)

I do know, though, that if I ever am finally in a stable situation money-wise, I'd like to purchase another 35mm camera.



I heard about noise reduction software, in particular Noiseware, and a quick google search netted me the free download version. What it does is takes photos that for whatever reason have too much grain in them - old film, badly exposed, scanned - and takes it out. Pretty simple and very necessary.



I don't know how well you'll be able to see it, but I took a file of a scan of a picture taken with film that was several years old, so pretty much the most grain a picture can have without being uselessly degraded. And while the picture still retains that soft ambiance, the grain is gone!

This is nice because I have photos I'd love to use in various capacities but felt limited because of the grain. (For example, my Advantix pictures from a previous post - film that was scanned and then put onto a disk, giving it a charming quality but not exactly a useful one)


The revolution has been digitized.

Every art form has to evolve, and I'm a big fan of this notion I have that despite the inevitability of artistic evolution, it is quite possible that the best form of the art is confined to a particular period.

So, even though HDR is here and likely here to stay, it's looking like I'm going to end up being one of those fusty photographers that never uses it out of philosophic indignation.

HDR is High Dynamic Range; in short, it allows you to photograph a scene at several different exposures from low to high, then include all of the light so that what you see is closer to what your eye normally sees. So, while it's a typical struggle to photograph, say, at sunset and keep the details of the shadows, HDR will keep the best light in the sky and also the best light in the shadows, giving you a more vibrant picture that doesn't have any weak spots.

Here's a basic example of HDR:


Pretty cool, right?!

When HDR is done right (and I use that term sparingly...) it does have a "painterly" effect, and can even be legitimately beautiful. But even that teeters too far into the territory I spoke of in an earlier post - when photos, in post-processing, get so far off course as to not even accurately portray the area or object. Some people take it waaaay too far and their pictures end up looking like some bizarre, extremely precise paint-by-numbers.


Or, hell, a cartoon. Pixar. Even the cathedral picture looks like I could have seen it any afternoon in junior high on a haunting episode of Batman.

Of course, I do admit that art photography is valid and can especially be fun to create and tinker with.

So, why do I have a problem with HDR?

I don't know. There's just something about it that doesn't feel right. If I ever get the chance and the equipment to try it, I will - it's good to be learned. Somehow, though, I can only see people taking this invention too far and getting a very skewed idea of what the best photography should be.

(photos courtesy of www.blog.makezine.com, www.digital-foto-web.com)


A day in photo land.

Today, a small victory - because I found it so strange that the photography section at Barnes & Noble now only had books of photo collections, I went and asked about it, a bit indignantly. Okay, not indignantly. But guess what? The technique/technical books were just moved! I immediately salivated. Really.

I couldn't spend too much time perusing today, but I'm going to go back tomorrow. I can't afford to buy any of them, so I will also be bringing a pen and notebook.

Funny story - I follow Kelly Clarkson on twitter and she posted a pretty awesome picture of a flower. I asked her what camera she uses, and to NOT say that she used her phone. She tweeted back and said she used her iPhone. Aaaaargh! (And wooo!)

I finally took the one roll of black and white film from my vacation to be developed, and this is the day the machine malfunctions. SIGH.

I went to Michael's craft store in search of a portfolio binder, since I only in the last year or so realized that they have, like, EVERYTHING an artsy person could want. And what do you know, they had an 8x10 binder and it was forty percent off! Snapped it up.

And lastly, I applied to Lifetouch for a Photographer Sales Specialist position. It was posted weeks ago, and online applications never work, and it's commission on top of that. So I ain't holding my breath. But at least I got the practice, right? Uh-huh.


Doing vs. doing well.

It's two in the morning, there's an awesome thunderstorm outside, and as usual I have The Nanny on in the background. And, of course, I'm googling photography stuff.

My photographer friend, who lives in the endlessly rewarding state of North Carolina, sent me a link to their Our State magazine, which pays for photographic submissions. I checked it out and this line caught my eye: "Please keep in mind the photographic strength of Our State has made it very competitive among professional photographers to be published here."

So I was immediately deflated, of course, because I'm not a professional. But then I thought, what is the definition of a professional photog?

According to Miriam-Webster, a professional is someone who "participates for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs" (for example, golf). So, as long as my photography makes me money...I'm a professional photographer.

(And you know, sometimes I think the phrase is used by various entities to scare off those who truly aren't ready for primetime)

While googling, this site came up immediately - it's Ken Rockwell massaging the egos of lots of people just like myself, reassuring us that the dream is still in reach, just not how we imagined it, and helping us keep in touch with reality. According to him, the best way to do what I love and make a little money while doing it is a) keep my day job, and b) don't sweat the expensive stuff.

In fact, he has another page where he goes on and on about how the best pictures are taken by people, not cameras. Which makes sense. A camera that costs thousands of dollars will never be able to compose the shots for you.

Some of my favorite pictures ever were taking ten years ago with a Kodak Advantix camera, which you'll recall was so popular because of it's drop-and-load mechanism. It wasn't digital. It didn't have manual focus. I couldn't adjust for aperture or shutter speed, alter tints or exposure compensation. But it still gave me these:






In fact, I wonder what ever happened to that old camera...I bet it's in a tub somewhere...hmmm.

Anyway, it's articles like that that give me a little hope, especially after drowning in a Chase Jarvis spectacle. I do think I have something to offer that makes my photos meaningful. While (as Ken points out) more expensive cameras make it easier to get the shot, it's still all about the operator.


To edit or not to edit?

This has been the big discussion between me and one of my photographer friends lately.

Should the photos you take stay in their pure state, or is it alright to use image editors to tweak and saturate and brighten and retouch and so on and so forth?

On the one hand, I've been in favor of the former - take the best photos you can in the moment, and be happy with the ones that really turned out just as you wanted. When we get into adding things that plainly, simply were not a part of the original surroundings or atmosphere, or even a part of the picture at all, it's like integrity has been compromised.

I've seen photos of beaches and waterfalls that have been so altered, I almost feel let down because I know that were I to want to visit that place, it would be impossible. The altered state does not exist.

On the other hand, in order to compete in today's photography business, you really have no other choice but to do what it takes to get your work to stand out. Colors have to pop. Contrast has to be stark. Subjects must be foreign. Unless you've captured a singular moment in the universe that will never be replicated and therefore contains value on its own, there's no getting away with Just Plain Photos.

So where does someone like myself draw the line?

My friend doesn't even believe in adding a little color saturation. It doesn't represent the true "moment" in which the photo was taken.

However, I gotta be honest, color saturation is awesome. So is adjusting the color temperature...and tint...and contrast...and brightness...

I have plenty of pictures that I consider to be the pinnacle of my current photo-taking abilities, and I have found no need to tweak them at all. Others, though, have benefited. Consider this aging, molding fence post. On the left is the unaltered picture, on the right, the contrast has been highly adjusted (no color saturation).


(Nikon, f/13, 1/640 sec., ISO-800)

The left photo is very cool; the right photo can compete.

Another comparison, working out the frustration that water is often not blue and using tint to rectify:


(Fuji, f/7.1, 1/320 sec., ISO-100)

The left photo is "oh, well, I'll take the picture anyway..." The right makes me want to drink the water.

Another confession...I've spent a lot of time the last couple of days picking out shots that didn't turn out spectacular and making them better. It has been fun. Do they represent the reality I saw through my lens? No.

But, isn't there a place in a photographer's stash for a second vision? For a world that maybe doesn't exist but is fun or exciting to look at regardless? I read books that are in no way grounded in the real world - but they have value because through a "different lens" the reader is allowed to relate more fully to his or her own world by being exposed to a wider view.

And anyway, there's no getting around the requirements to, as I said before, really compete with one's photography. I will not budge and compromise when it comes to music or writing, but I feel like I'm only adding to the beauty that's already there when it comes to things visually stunning.




(Nikon, f/5.3, 1/125 sec., ISO-400)


It changes. :-)


Yes, it's late at night.

I can't sleep so I'm googling photography stuff. My cousin was a photographer's assistant several years back. I asked how she got the gig and she said the guy (gal?) had seen some of her work. Now, she has not only traveled to all the major spots in Europe but has also lived in Peru and currently calls the Dominican Republic her home. She has some stuff to work with. I, well, typically don't...

I figure you have to have gone to school for photography to really land an assistant job. Or, in the case of my cousin, stumble upon a photographer while flipping through your portfolio?

After reading through a few professional photographer's blogs, however, it sounds like they do value hard work, willingness to learn, and a natural creativity, sometimes more than a degree (except in the case of first and second assistants). Which is nice. Lord knows expecting every single person to have picked the perfect career path before entering college is asking too, too, too much.

Sadly, whilst perusing those blogs and seeing their portfolios, I also got a case of the not-good-enoughs.

Next, I decided to see how much Photoshop costs. Um, $600? This means I'll never own it.  (Of course my cousin has it) Even though I'm sure Adobe has the market on all the best editing (including awesomely old photos!), I'll have to stick with trying to take great pictures in the first place. (More on the philosophical pitfalls of editing later)

Sigh. Well. That's all.


The sky.

Driving home this evening, I happened to have my camera and because of storms south of the city, the clouds were very cool.


(Nikon, f/5, 1/160 sec., ISO-400)

BUT, as you can see, the sky is pretty washed out. That is one of my pet-peeves. I ran through in my mind all of the little tweaks I knew of and settled on exposure compensation. I previously had only ever used it indoors, to lighten up a picture to avoid using flash at all costs (I hate flash). So I thought, what the heck. I took the exposure compensation down to -0.7.


(Nikon, f/9, 1/500, ISO-400)

Wonder of wonders! New trick learned! No, the sky wasn't that richly deep of a blue but it didn't feel entirely like a lie. :-)

(And yes. I take pictures while driving)


The apothecary's shelf.

There's been a big trend in photography the last several years in having photos look older than they really are. Whether it be added grain, tint, going for the Polaroid look, or just using black-and-white or sepia, it's hard to get away from "old" photos in the hipster circles.

About a year ago I did download a program called Poladroid that turns any picture into a Polaroid, with minimum to maximum aging effects. (You can even "shake" the photo with your mouse to help it develop faster - very cute)

As a demonstration, I've taken a photo from my collection of what is already an old subject - bottles on an apothecary's shelf in the preserved town of Old Salem, in North Carolina. Here's the original shot:


(Fuji, f/2.8, 1/75 sec., ISO-200)

Here's how it looks when processed in Poladroid:


And when I crop out the white edging, we have here a nice, muted, aged picture:


Look closely and you'll also notice scratches, and a fingerprint. I could actually do without the fingerprint, I am super, super, super careful not to get any on my photos. Which is why I love matte. :-)

I know there are plenty of image editors out there, but I don't have much extra money so I've never been able to purchase the ones that come with price tags. I use the editor in Photobucket, and I have Photoscape because it's free and you can chop up/combine photos. But I'm wondering what the hipsters use. I wonder what their method is, because sometime their photos just look too awesomely old for, well, words.

Maybe I should add a little grain?



In honor of my actually very pretty new blog template, I thought I'd talk briefly about my obssession with trees.

No, not learning about them, growing them, saving them...just taking pictures of them.


(Fuji, f/4, 1/340 sec., ISO-64)

What I've found, after years of taking random pictures of trees, is that I don't think any camera will ever truly capture what I see with my eyes. There is an experience of trees that can't be transmitted photographically, I don't think. Also, all of the photos tend to look the same. :-\

There are better ways to capture them, however, such as part of a landscape.


(Fuji, f/2.8, 1/58 sec., ISO-64)

I love those photos of lush tree-lined paths (especially in autumn), and wish I knew of a place like that personally.

Brand new.

Here it is - my photography blog.

I decided to start one so that I could mull over everything having to do with my progression toward, hopefully, a viable career. I will be completely honest - I am an amateur in every sense of the word. But I have a curiosity about the process that isn't going away, so I will post my thoughts here, along with examples from my own stash. It should be fun.

I can't, however, quite fathom what they did to the blogger templates - they kind of suck. So I'm doing what I can with what I've got, and hopefully I'll get a bright idea about how to make it better sometime soon.

Thanks for stopping by. :-)