On the afternoon of February 28th, in the final event of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, the Canadian men's hockey team beat the USA in a nail-biting, overtime gold medal game. If this country was a living organism, hockey would be its heart. It's a home grown sport that touches everyone who lives here. Canada is a nation of immigrants, but hockey unites us all. It's a passion that welcomes everyone and excludes nobody. It doesn't discriminate by age, nationality, religion, race, nor political view. The United Nations can only dream about this kind of harmony. When this country grants you citizenship, you must swear to uphold the principles of democracy, freedom and compassion. And this you do — through hockey.
With precipitation levels low and the temperatures high, Vancouver's cherry trees welcomed February with a display of delicate pink blossoms that, in years past, remained hidden until April. In marked contrast to most of the Northern Hemisphere, winter never arrived here, and spring has already sprung. It's a glorious time to be in Vancouver, save for one nagging little fact — we're hosting the winter Olympics.
So much for professionalism. Rather than keeping a cool, detached "street shooter's" eye, I joined the swarms of snappers and chased the Olympic flame around downtown Vancouver for 24 hours prior to the opening ceremonies. Sometimes you just need to be a tourist in your own town.
Its inevitability has, for a decade now, been forced into my consciousness and my subconsciousness. It's become a part of my Id, my Ego, and my Super-Ego. Its costs, benefits, politics and promise have permeated local news outlets since I first moved to Vancouver at the dawn of the 21st century. "It" is the XXI Olympic Winter Games and, in four days, "it" finally arrives in my downtown neighbourhood — on the very streets that I traverse each and every day.
This is an article about photographing the culture, chaos and cacophony that surrounds the NAMM music products show in Anaheim California. It includes several photos from the show, plus a link to a multimedia presentation about NAMM. The article also discusses the current state of photojournalism, and the difficulties facing those of us in this ever-challenging profession.
Out there on the mean streets of photography, it's a digital world. So what possible good can come from shooting with a 50 year old Yashica-Mat Twin Lens Reflex medium format camera? How about 50 megapixel scans, square negatives, and a classic "analog" look? Dive into this article to discover all the techniques, benefits and eccentricities inherent in Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) photography.
Common wisdom tells us that "the bigger the sensor, the better the image." Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras, though 3 times the price, have a sensor 9 times larger than a point-and-shoot. Great value! The sensor on a full-frame "35 mm" digital camera is 4 times larger than MFT and, coincidentally, costs approximately 4 times as much. Unfortunately, should you wish to shoot digital medium format, you'll run head first into the Law of Diminishing Returns, where a sensor only 1.5 times larger than 35mm currently costs about 7 times as much. Ouch. This article discusses my decision to go "medium format" in a decidedly analog way — by purchasing a 50 year old Yashica-Mat Twin Lens Reflex camera for less than $100. Read along with my tongue-in-cheek logic, and see if you won't end up scouring eBay for your own medium format film camera.
This photo-laden article displays several previously unpublished photos from 2009 and invites the readers to tell me what they do with their own orphaned, unpublished images. It discusses the philosophy behind the ULTRAsomething photography blog, and why I try to achieve a balance between equipment reviews and articles designed to help photographer's develop their own "soul" and style.
Most people would define "self portrait" as a photograph in which the photographer, himself, is the subject. This article discusses how, over the last couple of years, I've come to define "self portraits" in an entirely different way. To me, a "self portrait" is a photograph that reveals something about the photographer's true soul — his proclivities, fantasies, aesthetics, and personality. The photographer, himself, does not need to be the subject. Nor is there any requirement dictating that the photographer need appear anywhere within the photograph at all, Rather, this article asserts that a "self portrait" is a photograph that divulges something of the photographer's inner self.
Those of us who photograph the human experience spend 364 days a year trying to be 'the invisible man.' But for one glorious day each calendar year, we street photographers can drop our disguise, emerge from the shadows, and proudly hold our cameras aloft. All Hallows Eve is our night. Halloween is, quite frankly, the easiest pickins a street photographer can get. It's our Labor Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving all rolled into one.
Last year, the Leica rangefinder replaced the SLR as my 'go to' camera for reportage, street, documentary, candid, travel, and just plain 'fun' photography. It changed the way I approach these subjects, and made me a better photographer for it. I took to the Leica instantly — coming to grips with its myriad quirks, methodologies, and differences quite easily. Strangely, in spite of the ease with which I was able to mentally grasp the M8, I had no such luck physically. Frankly, the Leica M8 was a hard camera to hold. Gripping it in one hand was a pain — both figuratively and literally. After several months of walking around town squeezing the heck out of the Leica, I finally caved to my internal wimp. I ordered a "Thumbs Up" device from Match Technical. This article discusses my experiences with several Match Technical products — all designed to improve the usability of Leica rangefinders. Included in the review are the "Thumbs Up," the "E-Clypse" eye magnifier, the "Bip" mini soft release, and the "Coder Kit" for coding Leica lenses.
"We humans are quick to embrace new technologies, aesthetics, techniques and trends. We are equally adept at discarding the old ones. And, while few of us would choose to live in the past, its wanton abandonment comes with a heavy price — ignorance." This article discusses why Black & White photography is still relevant.
Cameras have an odd psychological effect on me. They have a way of heightening one form of reality, while diminishing others. With my camera in hand, I'm singularly focused on creating the perfect image — one with the potential to entertain, enlighten, inform, or influence those who view it. When I'm on assignment, everything in front of me is filtered through my eyes as if it were already a photograph. Realtime is no longer time at all, but a series of contact sheets from which I'm choosing the images I want to preserve. The result is that non-photographic impulses fail to trigger proper cognition and, subsequently, adequate defenses. This is what I call "the mythical invisible shield." And this article discusses how to use it to your advantage.
Have you ever hunted through a photography forum for answers to such questions as, "What lens should I take on my Alaskan cruise?" or, "Should I bring a tripod on my Alaskan cruise?" If those forums left you with more questions than answers, I suggest you grab a cup of coffee, click on this link, and get reading. It contains a wealth of statistical information about both lens and camera usage, plenty of analysis comparing different stabilization techniques, and a cornucopia of discussion about all the photographic flotsam and jetsam that you might not even have considered taking aboard. Even if you're not planning an Alaskan cruise, this article might just make you want to take one.
A simple little story about heat stroke, and the way it makes you do crazy things. Like, say, photograph fireworks in black and white on a dark beach in the middle of the night — hand-holding a Leica M8 while using ridiculously long exposures without benefit of a tripod.
There are geeks and then there are photo geeks. In the old days, geeks worked in carnivals and were oddly entertaining folks who swallowed swords, hammered spikes into their nostrils, and decapitated chickens and snakes without benefit of a cleaver. The photo geek, by contrast, is not nearly so riveting. In fact, photo geeks are downright dull. They photograph things like test charts and brick walls, and talk about spherical aberrations and aperture diffraction rather than composition, light, and shadow. In general, I tend to avoid partaking in the nerdier aspects of photo geekiness. But ever since I began sharing M-mount lenses between the Leica M8 and the Panasonic DMC-G1, I've been consciously aware that they perform quite differently on the two cameras. Because of the way I use these lenses, I'm not actually bothered by this — but readers of this blog feel otherwise, and they asked me to write specifically about the differences between these cameras when using M-mount lenses. This article discusses one such lens — a 1991 Leica v5 50mm f/2 Summicron — and the performance differences one sees when mounting it on a Panasonic DMC-G1 vs. a Leica M8.
"What do you photograph?" Inevitably, when someone discovers that I'm a photographer, this is their Pavlovian response. It's a question framed in an expression of utmost earnestness — as if they were asking a medical doctor to state his specialty, or an actor to enumerate the roles they had played. It's an Innocuous query, but one I find absolutely impossible to answer... Oh, the torment!
What would you do if an event coordinator asked for "action" shots at an event, and that event is about "people sitting around exchanging ideas?" It's just another "Day in the Life" story for the fearless ULTRAsomething photographer.
In this third and final entry into my "working" review of the Leica M8, I discuss image fidelity. Specifically, I discuss the obvious visual benefits of shooting a camera without an anti-aliasing filter. I take Leica to task for recording 12-bits of data, but downsampling the RAW files to 8-bit. I conclude with a discussion about rangefinder shooting, and how the Leica M8 and a Micro Four Thirds camera make a potently dynamic duo for reportage.
In Part Two of my report on the Leica M8, I discuss such things as the camera's ergonomics, its shutter noise, and whether or not it succeeds in making me "invisible" on the streets. Granted, they're not the normal topics one discusses when reviewing a camera. But there's nothing "normal" about the unique requirements of a street photographer, either.