Archive for March, 2012

The History of Photography Part VI or It’s the Monkey, not the Banana

Posted in Brownie Camera, Kirk Tuck, Lytro, Olympus Camera, Uncategorized on March 31, 2012 by smpiv

I haven’t been able to get this one going.  So here goes one more time.

The future of photography—what could it be?  What will it bring?

It’s not a particularly long history.  Henry Fox Talbot, Daguerre and few others got us all going.  One motivator with the fixing of an image was Wedgewood trying to figure a less expensive and quicker way to decorate their china and porcelain than by hand.

Innumerable images have been taken since then using any number of processes to fix an image, usually, to paper.  I read recently that 10% of all the pictures ever taken were taken in the last year.

And, then, most of those weren’t affixed to paper, but live on our computers and social media sites.  What about photo albums?  Not so much.  And on-line books? Much more, but still the thought of a hard copy of an image is becoming an alien thought.

The image is becoming a commodity of the mind encapsulated in bits and bytes.  Something that is posted and then forgotten as evidence of participation, if not, actually interacting with the actual moment. 

This is not news.

This is science fiction.

But we are no longer comfortable with the future.

To look at a camera today is like looking into the past.  We prefer our fantastic futures to be comfortably wrapped in something familiar.  Thus we have Olympus bringing us a digital version of the Pen and OM series cameras.  High end cameras continue to look like their film base brethren for no other reason than that’s what they’ve always looked like with all their built-in soft spots—a flip up mirror that can’t get much past five fps for instance.

Except for certain esoteric purposes, extreme croppers and for pixel peepers we are already comfortably at a point where megapixels are not an issue.  Like wow and flutter passing into synaptic history, with the advent of the CD, megapixels are becoming an afterthought. 

But not quite.

What is on the immediate horizon is the merging of the still camera and movie camera as one.

Even the high end cameras of all the manufacturers have video capability and such good resolution that movies and TV shows have been made with them.

The other part of the mix that will truly put it all on its ear is the introduction of the Lytro Camera(http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/lytro/).  It’s relatively small rectangle with little more than a shutter release and no need to focus.  The point of focus can be chosen later on your computer.

The camera itself may never make much of itself, but the technology that allows for an image to be taken and then the point of focus chosen at a later date is—at the moment—almost incomprehensible and I’m sure one that will be taken advantage of.

Depth-of-field was and still is a difficult concept to explain to someone just taking up photography.  Trying to explain the relationship of shutter speed and aperture to depth-of-field is even harder.  Being able to dismiss it is revolutionary.

Now for the future.

The death of the SLR—no brainer at this point and at this juncture it is not going to be the Pro level camera leading the way, but the mirror-less consumer models showing the way.

The death of the still camera—as mentioned before video capabilities are being added to every level of camera and it’s only a matter of time before the resolution quality of the video part of the camera crosses comfortably with still camera resolution.  It will be the editorial slicing of the fluid that will create our still moments and the decisive moment will only be realized at a later date.

The death of focus—there will simply be no need for it.  With the Lycro, it’s already been proven that there is no need for it.  It will not be a standalone product, however, but a technology that will be added to video technology.  Jump frames?  Watch out!  There will be a fluid sense of focus that will turn movies and videos on their ears.

The framed photograph—seriously, when was the last time you did that?  Our pictures live on our computers and with the advent of the video moment that I’ve outlined above a capture now may require more than the fixed 1/125 of a second image we were used too.

I don’t think any of this sounds outlandish, but for someone like me who began photography while it was still firmly in the grasp of Kodak, it is a bit sad.  Unlike music reproduction where the outcome is still the same despite how it is reproduced the photographic image is going to lose its static resolution.

The still image will endure one slice at a time; it just won’t be the result of a decision behind the camera with the selective depression of a shutter by a finger.  It will be in post production as we look at our video stream and freeze the moment and then muck about with the focus with a slide bar.

Do I know what I’m talking about?  Don’t know, but this is what I’ve noticed over the last few years and diligent reading of Kirk Tuck’s blog site.  As always with technology, exciting times.

And finally I will illustrate this blog with a still picture taken with my iphone 3GS, that in photographic terms is something akin to a Brownie camera in sophistication and resolution. However, like any photographic device before it or after it, there can be magic in its results.

What I am saying is that it ain’t the equipment, it’s the person behind it, in front of it, and, soon, after it that makes technology sing and have purpose.  So bring it on and don’t sweat the future.

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The History of Photography Part V or Parents Day Two

Posted in baby photography, Baltimore, Mayfield, Photography, Uncategorized on March 24, 2012 by smpiv

May 5, 2001.

Nothing particularly historic happened on this day.  The history would happen in September.

For many it was another Cinco de Mayo; for most another sunny spring day; this being Baltimore, probably a sad day for a family being informed that their son had died, tragically, from a gunshot wound.  For me it was my second day of fatherhood and the last day for my 4×5 camera.

Min had arrived the day before at Gate 2A at BWI.  It was an event witnessed by a number of people, including a gaggle of nuns, who had heard why Lisa, myself and several other couples were waiting there.  We were couples waiting to be parents.

It was a moment that had arrived after two plus years of emotional peaks and valleys.  After interminable parenting classes, inspections of our house by the Fire Department, a building inspector and a class on baby CPR–we still weren’t ready.

We had all the stuff.  I had finished his room the week before.  The house had been repainted to be sure that lead paint wouldn’t poison our boy.  The roll playing with the adoption agency was over and we, along with our neighbors, were beyond excited.

We still weren’t ready.

When the skyway door opened Min was in the lead, strapped papoose style to a diminutive Korean doctor, who, for a minor monetary reward, had carried Min from Seoul to Tokyo, from Tokyo to Los Angeles, from LA to Chicago and finally from Chicago to BWI.

There was no doubt that this was Min.  We had seen his picture and his hair stood on end, practically a Mohawk.  His eyes darted around the concourse, looking.  Looking for us?  I doubt it, but the doctor was definitely looking for us. 

When our two paths finally crossed the doctor said, “Good flight. Good baby. Good luck.”  And he disappeared.  We were no longer a couple, but parents.

Ready or not.

The image attached to this blog, taken following that fateful day in May, is the last picture I would take with my 4×5 camera.  Hardly by design, but it just happened that way.

Finely etched on Kodak Ektachrome it has all the detail and tonal range large negs are known for and the prints from the neg are luscious–this is my Madonna and Child.

A wonderful beginning and a wonderful end—thank you Korea and thank you Kodak.

The History of Youth Part I or An Ode to Gunther Grass

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2012 by smpiv

Who is Katy Perry and what is she doing with my son?

Well I do know who Katy Perry is and, no, she wasn’t actually with my son.

You don’t have to feel like a waste space
You’re original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

What it is is this—her song “Firework” was blasting out of the speakers at the Fifth and Sixth Grade Social (it was a Dance dam it) when I arrived to pick Min up.  He, with the rest of his classmates, were singing the lyrics and jumping up and down as one at the appropriate time.

Many parents had issue with the “Social”, feeling the children were too young to handle the social demands and stresses of such a gathering.

I’m fairly sure many of those same parents feel that children are exposed to too much too soon and, I would agree.  However, not letting them socialize in a controlled environment, in a very brightly lit cafeteria is not the answer.  They have to be let to take those first awkward social steps with at least a bit of parental oversight and input.

Anyway, off my soapbox.

Maybe your reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will glow
And when it’s time, you’ll know

The wonderful little boy who is my son is growing up far too fast and it has nothing to do with media.  He is just getting older at a rate that defies my every effort to pull a “Tin Drum” on him.

He is starting to be his own boy, just as he will be his own man later on.

Just the other day he reminded me that I was once that little boy as well.  As we walked to the cashier at Books-a-Million he looked at the cover of People and opined,

“Who’s Davy Jones?”

Ouch.

I was a Monkee fanatic.  Loved the show, loved the music, and I even told my neighbor that The Monkees would be better remembered than the Beatles.  Ah, youthful ignorance.

The point is that, like Min, I was being caught up in my own youthful cloud that would eventually define me and eventually aggravate my parents, because—well—I knew better; my generation was better; and my generation was better looking and better dressed.

Well looking back on some of the pictures from my youth, at minimum, we were not better dressed.  In fact I’m fairly sure between the disco seventies and the big hair, Miami Vice, eighties, I don’t think we could claim that mantle for a good twenty years.

I guess I am realizing, and it’s no surprise, that my boy is beginning to leave our parental orbit and being pulled into the orbits of his friends and enemies.  It makes me sad and that’s selfish, I know.  I wish him a beautiful life and one day I’ll be a small part of it.  I can only hope that I nourished him when necessary; held him close when necessary; licked his wounds when necessary, and didn’t make too many mistakes along the way.

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make ’em go “Oh, Oh, Oh”
You’re gonna leave ’em goin’ “Oh, oh, oh”

So here is to Min and all his classmates—

May you all have beautiful lives,

Make your parents proud,

Make us all proud,

Be yourselves,

Do good,

Live.

The History of Photography Part Four or The Blue Jacket with the Red Stripe.

Posted in Architecture, Corcoran School of Art, Madrid, Photography, Spain, The Prado, Uncategorized on March 13, 2012 by smpiv

The funny thing about blogging is that I’ve written far more blogs in my head in anticipation of writing a blog than I have actually written.

I’ve started many and they sit in my blog file awaiting an inspiration that will finish them or that finishes them off.

Many I’ve started thinking I’m onto something interesting only to have them die a paragraph to five hundred words later.  Some of my best—to my way of thinking—just come out as fingers hit keys.  Some I’ve posted despite knowing there are some rough patches and transitions within them, but the overall nugget is good.

The same thing happens when I take pictures.

I’ve been at photography, now, a long time and I still, rarely, know when I’ve gotten a good shot.  Quite often I’ll make the discovery during the editing process.  For that reason I have saved every digital capture I’ve made—over 100,000 at this point.

Like any photographer worth their salt, my best shots are surrounded by cast offs.  The wonder of a truly

A great image within anyone’s pantheon is a rare and wonderful thing.

And it’s even rarer when a number of shots come out in the same shoot.

I am now going to put my neck out there and look over a few shots I took over the period of a week while Lisa, Min and I were in Madrid a few years ago.  Nearly all are of Min—baby-bore I know—but what I think separates these shots is that they are of a child who is seeing himself for the first time and his world around him.  For that reason they transcend the family snapshot and, obviously, you are welcome to disagree.

The first shot is not one of them, but a grab shot of a person I didn’t recognize as my little boy–the one who talked endlessly to his stuffed rabbit Bun Bun–but a seasoned traveler, not a six year old boy.  A six year old boy who would come in and out of focus over the following week.

Madrid is a city full of graffiti.  And It seemed that unlike many cities that make efforts to clean graffiti it is a city that lets it be.  I’m not sure if this an appreciation for and hopes of fostering another Jean-Michel Basquiat or not, but it was everywhere.

There is something compelling about Min’s slightly blurred figure, his eyes looking past and somewhat startled look that juxtaposes nicely with FEAR.  It has long transcended the moment, because I have long forgotten where we were in the city, but I come back to this shot time and again.

It set the tone for what would come later in the trip and began the thread of a little boy who was widening his world view.

Our hotel was close by this building that was half of a set, the other out of frame leaning in on the other side of the street.  The both of them evidence of the horrors that architects can create with too much leeway.

Min could care less, but within this stare, this giving to a pesky photographer father is as much questioning in that fraction of a second that I could look forward too later.

This is a shot that I like more and more.  Again, the distant stare with the upturned hands and questioning eyes.  Mother is close by, but separated nicely by distance and the knife edge of the building in the background.

Min as a youngster was wise beyond his years and, although, my guess is that he’s thinking about something to do with Thomas the Tank Engine it’s with an intensity that serves him well.

This is a square that I was certain I had visited with my Mother and Brother years before when I was the same age as Min is in this picture.  Come to find out we never went to Madrid.

Again the confident pose of a boy who is certain of himself and baring that that his father would take care of him.

I love the layering in this shot—the ill defined man in the blue t, the man to the right glancing back and the pack of three women.  Min sits on top of it all with the same uncertain look he had in FEAR.  He is amongst these people, but not quite ready to join in.

Earlier as we set out for the Prado we arrived at the top of the escalator from the subway.  I looked around to get my bearings when Min chirped in.

“Dad, hold it.  Let me get my compass out and I’ll find out which way to go.”

I didn’t mind because I truthfully didn’t quite know where I was, so any input would be nice.

He looked intently at the compass that didn’t even work and confidently said, “It’s this way.”

What the hell, couldn’t be any worse than my plan and damned if we didn’t walk straight to the museum.

In this shot he is again intent on his bearings, holding his hand steady to be sure of his readings.

He’s always had that steadiness.

Without doubt, this is one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken.

Min impatiently spreads his fingers being grasped by his mother.  Lisa’s look is one of absolute love and adoration for this child we have been given the honored task of rearing.

I look at this shot and see everything that I was taught in the Foundations program at the Corcoran so many years before.  The dark to light diagonal, the tension in the hands, the triangulation of the composition—two chairs, the couple in the tiles and Lisa and Min in the foreground.

Both Lisa and Min pack clothes and toys away for Min’s children and I often wonder if the blue jacket with the red stripe we see in just about every picture here is one of the pieces of clothing that has been packed away.  Maybe I should ask.

But, I suppose it doesn’t really matter because I have enshrined it in these images of a resolute six year old that was making his way out of his insular world and into the bigger one.  Fortunately he still has a ways to go but I was there for one of his first forays beyond himself.

God, I wish it would all slow down.