There is no such thing as technical perfection. There is no perfect camera. There is no perfect lens, flash, film or Photoshop plugin. There is only the perfect image — and people have been taking them for well over a hundred years with some amazingly imperfect gear. So why do we, as photographers, spend so much of our time wading about in the gear guano canal?
For the last several years, various mid-20th century sources have exerted a profound influence on my own photography: golden age photojournalists of the 1930s and 1940s; post-war photo essays from the 1950s; and John Szarkowski’s New Documentarian leanings of the 1960s. I wasn’t always this anachronistic. Rather, I used to be even more so, and once drew inspiration from the pictorialists, surrealists and Czech avant-garde. Lately, I seem to be backsliding into my old, early-20th century "pictsurrealist" habits, and my tool of choice is the humble pinhole. Shooting through a pinhole is like shooting through a wormhole. It’s a shortcut through time. This article talks about the aesthetics and mechanics of looking through this wormhole, and illustrates what might be looking back.
In this article, I struggle to find the perfect New Year's resolution — you know, something fairly trite and not too onerous. Along the journey, I discuss the often negative effect other people's resolutions have on me, and wax nostalgic over the one and only shining example of positive effect — a phenomena I once dubbed, "The January Effect."
I make no money writing these articles for ULTRAsomething. So I moonlight by writing the f/Egor column for Leica Camera — a gig that pays me... umm... actually it pays absolutely nothing. Obviously I haven't completely grasped the meaning of "moonlighting," but I do understand the meaning of "respect." And so should anyone else who photographs on the streets.
"Hey, I know! Why don't I take a nice black and white photo of the colorful fall foliage?" Really, I have thoughts like this. And it's not like life isn't already stressful enough without my masochistic need to invent photographic assignments that I can't possibly hope to satisfy. Why do I do this? Well, surprisingly it has something to do with underwear modeling...
When Leica lent me their new Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH lens, I gave a figurative shrug. I already owned an excellent copy of an old 21mm f/2.8 Elmarit pre-ASPH, which I absolutely love. So it would be highly unlikely that Leica's new 21mm would actually inspire a case of gear lust… but gear lust I have. The Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M is one of the most stunning lenses I've yet mounted on any camera. This article discusses the reasons why I feel this way.
Once every three months I slip away from all the limelight, tinsel and glamor of the blogging world, and I take a good long look at ULTRAsomething. I ask myself a great number of questions about what this site is and what it should be. It's a quarterly rite of passage that rarely yields any useful answers. The reason, of course, is that I'm asking the wrong person. Instead of asking myself these questions, I should be asking you, my readers...
With the release of the GXR Mount A12 module for M-series rangefinder lenses, the Ricoh GXR camera system has not only come of age, but found its way into my camera bag. This article discusses why the GXR has replaced Micro Four Thirds as the digital backup to my Leica M9, and what Ricoh can do to make it even better.
The requirements for photographing at night versus day are as different as... well... as night and day. This article proposes that night photography is best approached not as a challenge of light, but as a challenge of subject.
Earlier this year, in an attempt to maximize context in my photos, I purchased a swing lens Widelux F7. Its 120 degree horizontal field of view provides me with far more context than I've yet been able to use effectively. Sane people would be perfectly satisfied to stop here. So what would insane people do? Purchase a Lomography Spinner 360, of course.
Without a doubt, this is my most quotable article to date. Perhaps that's because it's nothing more than an assemblage of my own personal photography quotes? Whether you have a term paper to write for photography class; are looking to impress a hot hipster with a lomography fetish; or are simply suffering from attention deficit disorder, this is the article for you.
Self-doubt is a bottomless quagmire from which escape is difficult. We are who we are. If we’re lucky enough to have a vision and to feel passionately about it, then we owe it to ourselves to persevere. Slavishly adapting my style to match current trends would likely bring me more admirers, but then they wouldn’t be my admirers — they would be the style’s admirers. I’d rather have detractors. When we try to be something we’re not, we’re destined for mediocrity. When we’re true to ourselves, we give ourselves a chance to transcend it.
Every so often I see a trend develop that sort of rubs me the wrong way. That's when I invoke my "Blogger's Right to Curmudgeonly Commentary" and type out a post like this one. What bee is in my proverbial bonnet this time? Photographers who choose web publication as the ultimate display format for their photographs... and, yes, that used to include me.
In this, Part 2 of my lengthy look at the classic Widelux F7 panoramic swing lens camera, I discuss the anatomy of the camera, its various eccentricities, and my ultimate delight with its unique view of the world around it.
The Widelux F7 takes WIDE photographs. It delivers DEEP focus. And, apparently, writing about it requires LONG articles. In this, Part 1 of my look at this classic camera, I discuss the various photographic needs that drove me to consider panoramic cameras, and my rationale for choosing this particular model.
I used to think concert photography went with SLR cameras like eggs went with ham. Well, cancel that side of ham and bring me some of that rangefinder bacon. In this article I confront life after SLRs, and schlep a couple of Leica rangefinder cameras to a Heart concert.
The classification of photography as an "art" has done it a great disservice. Art demands that the viewer appreciate the technique behind it. It calls attention to its technical merits. A good photograph should never do this. Rather, it should just be. In 1951, Robert Frank told Life Magazine "When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice." Frank knew then what I've only just figured out — photography is language. And the language of photography is the language of the poet.