Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Death of the photo print - part deux

I've written before about the death of the photographic print, so I was interested to read someone else highlighting the desire to be able to show fine art work on flatscreen displays. Head over to A Photo Editor for large format photographer Olivier Laude's take on it all.

In my original post I imagined it might be common in 10 years time (and I wrote that a year ago) but maybe it is even closer then I think...

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Finally, a decent pocket camera?

One of the things we gave up with the move to digital over the last decade, was the small but quality pocket camera. Today's digicams typically suffer from very poor high ISO performance, slow zoom lenses and glacial speed whens shooting RAW, if they shoot RAW at all.

Back in the film days we had the Olympus Mju, the Contax TVS and various other high-end compacts. And because they took exactly the same film as their SLR cousins, you lost nothing in image quality.

These days, if you want to take high quality images then that usually means packing an SLR. Now, when shooting professionally then sure, pack the SLRs and all the other gubbins. But when I'm out just taking pictures for myself or grabbing some shots of friends, I don't always want to lug around a big heavy SLR.

But if you only carry a digicam you compromise so much on image quality that you end up just taking snapshots and not tryng to make real photographs at all. Generally anything shot at ISO 400 or above is a disaster, and the handling often leaves a lot to be desired.

It seems that the launch of the micro-4/3rds format by Panasonic and Olympus last year might finally put that dilemma to rest. These cameras pack a sensor almost as large as an APS-C SLR, but by dispensing with an optical viewfinder, manage to squeeze it into a considerably smaller package.

Panasonic have already had considerable success with their micro-4/3rds G1 and video-capable GH1, and now Olympus have lept into the ring with the EP-1. Featuring a compact 17mm f/2.8 (equivalent to 35mm on full frame) pancake lens and an optional accessory optical viewfinder, this might just be what I have been looking for.

Mike Johnson over at The Online Photographer has always been an advcate of what he calls the DMD camera - DMD stands for "Decisive Moment Digital" - and on his blog he now has the first hands on preview of the new Olympus.

If it lives up to my expactations of decent image quality and handling then I may well pick one up.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

More on lighting interiors

Further to my post a few months ago on shooting interiors, Strobist has a great post on lighting for interiors featuring archive videos of legendary photo educator Dean Collins lecturing at the Brooks Institute of Photography.

These videos were shot in the early 1990s, and Dean is talking about shooting film in large format cameras. But the beauty of light is that the laws of physics don't change, and everything he talks about is just as relevant today as it was then.

Dean is one of those guys you wish all your school teachers had been like - he's passionate, amusing and extremely knowledgeable. Head over to Strobist and enjoy.

The importance of scouting

A lot of planning had gone into my recent Jamaica shoot. Over the course of several meetings and conference calls we had agreed an itinerary that allowed for some scouting time at each location the day before to find the best locations and viewpoints. All except one…

One afternoon we planned to shoot horses riding through the surf, but we weren’t going to have time to scout. However we had explained at length to the local producer exactly what we were looking to do over the phone.

On the day, we were late arriving at the stables after the producer had kept us waiting earlier. With about an hour to go until sunset, we had some horses and some guides, and they took us down to the beach.

Except that there was no beach.

Instead there was a stinking stretch of swamp knee deep in horse crap. It clearly wasn’t going to do. Tempers were fraying. On explaining that we wanted an wide, sandy beach there was much scratching of chins. After a couple of minutes it was agreed there was a sandy beach not too far away. The guides galloped off to check if the access road was open.

It was not.

By now I was getting pretty stressed. The sun was dropping fast and the light was gorgeous.
We were then told there was another beach not too far away. It was the only available option, so we had to go and give it a try.

After a 15 minute drive following the horses, we arrived at a rocky cove surrounded by low scrub. Not exactly what I had in mind, but with only 30 mins before the sun went down I was just going to have to get on and make the most of it.

So we got the models and the guides up on the horses, and had them wading through the surf back and forth. The shoreline was so rocky that the horses had to step quite gingerly – so no galloping action shots today.

So instead I chose to shoot into the sun, to disguise the location as much as possible and give a warm feeling to the shots. I was on manual exposure and took a few test shots to get the correct amount of sun flare while still holding some shadow detail.

The WFT was transmitting files to the laptop so the art director could view them as I was shooting. He liked what he saw so we tried a few different variations.
By now I was standing waist deep in the water and getting splashed a few times by the waves, but luckily the camera held out despite getting a bit of a soaking. Finally just as the sun went down we shot the other was, out to sea, to get the most of the soft light on a nearby headland.

Going over the shots back at the hotel afterwards, we agreed that we had successfully snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. And in the process I learnt a valuable lesion – no matter what others tells you, always ensure you get a chance to scout a location personally before shooting!