…..it’s been over 2 years since I last ‘needed’ to write here, but, on reviewing my photo archives I came across a reportage I made on the morning of Dec. 2, 2001. It brought to mind vivid memories of an event that will never leave me.
I have been a witness to many terrorist attacks, both in Jerusalem and whilst serving my reserve duty during the first and second intifadas. In fact I have been a victim, having been stabbed in the head as I was standing at the bus stop, of a terrorist attack. Fortunately he was incompetent and I was very lucky not to be more seriously wounded.
I don’t know why this particular incident stands out particularly. Perhaps it is because my daughter, Ariella, was in the vicinity, or the fact that 11 youngsters between the age of 14 and 21 were murdered and at least another 100 wounded. Perhaps because it was a well-planned, synchronized triple attack. Possibly all three reasons.
I was TV ‘couching’ in the living room on Saturday evening, Dec .1, when, at about 11.30p.m. I heard and felt the dull thuds of a double explosion. I immediately switched channels and as expected there was already a news flash of a double suicide bombing in downtown Jerusalem with numerous casualties. My first thoughts were ‘oh shit, Ariella’s there!!!’ but then the phone rang and she’d called to say that she and her friends were fine, although they were very close to the scene and that she didn’t know when she’d be home as the police had locked them into the cafe where they were sitting until the mess outside had been sorted. So that was my main worry set aside.
A few minutes later there was another thud of an explosion and the news flash reported a car-bomb around the corner had gone off. Apparently this was aimed at the rescue services.
On Sunday morning, I went to town and visited the site of the attack and found that there were a number of impromptu memorial services and visitors paying their respects to the victims, including members of the Diplomatic corps as well as simple members of the public.
…..it’s been a while since my last post as I haven’t had much to say, but, after viewing hundreds if not thousands of photographs online and prints, good/bad/indifferent, I noticed that the vast majority of the newer generation seem to be trapped by the format of the sensor in whatever camera they may be using. This I feel often leads to badly composed shots that could be good or even great with judicious cropping. Portraits that are spoiled by too much unnecessary info either on the top and bottom in ‘portrait’ format with the subject placed dead centre in the frame or the same problem in ‘landscape’ format. Now I’m not entering into the purist debate on whether cropping is over-manipulation or ‘cheating’. Much of the CC (constructive criticism) I see online is by those who have huge holes in their basic composition knowledge and are actually destructive critics. The “get it right in the camera” school, in my opinion, is just wrong as far as composition is concerned. The limitations of the sensor shape/size frequently makes it impossible to get the composition right. The choice of format and proportions has always been and still are the foundations of good/great/excellent/superb composition and are of equal importance to light/shade/colour and Depth of Field/Focus in creating a perfect composition. In the ‘old’ days we had different format cameras with some of the most famous being Hasselblad, Rollei, Mamiya which were all square format with 6×6 cm negatives and today all work with digital backs. There were also 4″x5″ and 8″x!0″ film and plate camera. Another limitation is the size/shape of printing papers. Since the introduction the Leica 35mm camera in 1925 and other rangefinder cameras with fixed lenses to be followed in the 60ies by a plethora of affordable single-lens reflex cameras with inter-changeable lenses and the 35mm (24x36mm 2:3 ratio) which overwhelmingly became the most used format, cropping has always been part and parcel of composition. The inter-changeable lenses and/or zooms allowed an infinity of crops and changes in perspective, but still were limited to format shape of the negative so this was dealt with in the darkroom, whilst fitting the negative to incompatible paper sizes led to cropping the frame or wasting paper, thus cropping was/is not a blasphemy. Some models of contemporary digital cameras give a choice of full sensor or square format in-camera. there is are many different sensor sizes and shapes. To me a sign of the importance of cropping is the fact that in practically all of the myriad editing programs, from the most professional/sophisticated to the simplest, the crop tool is one of the very first tools available in the work-flow. So my bottom line is cropping is a historically legitimate tool and is essential to better composition alongside proportion, content, DoF, light/shade, colour and/or grayscale.
a few photographs of Anna and Ailen, our fun models.
…..another one of my personal ‘taboos’ regarding Digital Photography has been exorcised, so it seems. After much negativity on my part about the use of ‘other people’s’ work to enhance my own Photography, I now find myself using an assortment of presets and plug-ins to create my own vision.
The studio workshops – I partook in another one last week – and my 365 project have led me into the world of ‘other people’s’ work. The thing is that in the studio workshop a small group of photographers are shooting the same scene under the same lighting conditions with the same models and to produce the ‘same’ photographs is neither very exciting nor highly creative.
The 365 project, too, can be boring to simply click-a-pic-a-day and then upload. Flowers are flowers and unless I can do something to make that flower a little different, it remains just another flower.
After all, I am a People person and no two people are alike visually and in their behaviour, so that my excitement is titillated by the countless variations possible.
My presets and plug-ins collection has grown stealthily to DxO FilmPack 4, onOne Perfect Photo Suite 8, Topaz photoFXlab, not forgetting, of course, the Lightroom and Photoshop built-ins. The presets/plug-ins are never used straight ‘out of the box’ but are a starting point to get me to the point of my tweaking, producing and may be used in a melting-pot of combinations. I never save my work as a user/favourite preset because I never batch process or use the same twice. Each photograph is treated individually and may come in one or more variations.
The long and the short of it all, is that I’ve learned not to think of the presets and plug-ins as the end, but to use them simply as new tools in my creative palette and a means to the end.
…….the way to my Project 365/2014 the daily snap. (sey rosen – face book) After 2 months+ I suddenly realised that of the 61 shots, I’ve only edited/converted 7 into monochrome.
After years and years of thinking/seeing only in shades of gray, I’m again thinking/seeing in rainbows/light prisms/colour wheels. The way it used to be when I shot mainly colour slides.
A quick rumination brought to light the fact that I grudgingly had to admit to myself that Digital is to blame. In the old days I needed to carry 2 cameras, one loaded with Ektachrome and the other with FP4/HP5, which together with my loaded gadget bag was not exactly beneficial to my Scoliosis. This evolved into carrying one camera loaded with b/w only, as I really preferred mono for my Street Photography.
The whole Digital process from shooting to editing has brought back my colour sense, literally and figuratively. Now with my little P7000 I am only shooting in colour, although I still know which shots are destined for mono and which are shot for colour. This has broadened and/or complicated my eye’s thought processes at shutter time, but it’s becoming automatic.
The different image editing software easily allows me to achieve what my mind’s eye saw. I use a number of different software, but never all together. I have Lightroom 5, the mainstay, Photoshop Elements12 with XXL plug-ins (adds many Photoshop CS functions), DxO FilmPack, onOne PhotoSuite8 and TopazLabs FX.
The workflow is basically straight forward: Lr5 > one of the helpers according to what I’m looking for > finish in Lr5.
“to edit or not to edit – that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous photography,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of mediocrity,
And by opposing end them? To dream, to re-see, to create, or to reject,
aye there’s the rub…….”
(apologies to Hamlet and Will Shakespeare)
Being a candid people street photographer of long standing and traditional background, it has always gone against the grain (pardon) for me to see the extreme digital manipulation and editing of Street and other genre of Photography.
I have tried to draw the line between Photography and Photography Based Digital Art. I accepted ‘normal’ editing such as cropping, dodging and burning, etc. to bring the photograph into line with what I would have normally done in the dark room, but more than that was not in my vocabulary. Most of you who have troubled to read some of my rants and raves here and elsewhere know exactly how I feel.
But, hey! I suddenly find myself mellowing, just as a good wine, with age. It all started when I came across DxO Labs offer of their DxO FilmPack 3 for free, before their release of FilmPack 4. I downloaded it and started to use it to bring back some of the qualities that I loved in film but was losing when converting my scans to digital, and it worked.
The next step that evolved was playing around with different presets. I have never been a fan of using other people’s creativity as my own, but again, hey! using presets as a springboard for my own interpretations seems good. At present my workflow is Lightroom adjustments followed by preset enhancement/modification and finally Lightroom finishing.
I’m still playing with this new (for me) stuff and my Street Photography remains as it was on film, but anything else is open to creative manipulation/editing and/or seduction.
A while ago I did something that I haven’t done since I was a student. I partook in a group shoot. I am a ‘loner’ when I’m photographing. I don’t participate in photo-walks or group shoots. I need to be totally free and independent to enable my total involvement with my subject. If I’m in the street I need to be part of that street and that can’t be done within a group. If I’m doing a portrait or whatever, it’s just me, camera and subject.
An opportunity arose to be one of eight photographers shooting in a 3-hour studio nude shoot. I thought quite long and hard about it, eventually deciding to do it. I saw it as a challenge because it went against all my ‘loner’ instincts as well as my ‘natural’ light thing. I decided to play it by ear and see what happened.
The other departure from my norm was the decision to shoot both on B/W film and digital with a minimum of equipment. One Nikon F100 with 28-80mm. lens and my compact Nikon P7000. I must admit that there were some strange looks and raised eyebrows when I opened my tiny camera bag and started to load a roll of XP2 into the F100. My P7000 seemingly ‘toyish’ amongst all the D800’s, 5D’s and other biggies with their biggy lenses.
Before the shoot started, the model Eden went around and spoke to each one of us and asked if there were any specific poses we wanted, as did the photographer who was running the shoot inquire as to lighting set-ups. My answer to both was that I’d just go with the flow. No need for specifics from me.
The shoot started and I shot the first roll of film. Changed to the P7000 and clicked again then reloaded the F100 and shot with that and thus 3 hrs flew by, 4 rolls of Ilford/Kodak and 400+ P7000 RAW later.
My conclusions after the shoot was that even though the time flitted by too quickly and I enjoyed myself. Even though I went with the flow and did my own thing, I shot between 500 – 600 shots and I knew that some of them were good, my excitement and satisfaction seemed diluted by the fact that there were seven others around me doing much the same thing under the same conditions and circumstances.
Next time it’ll be me, model and camera in a mutually agreed environment.