Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Elusive Elements of Visual Style

Whenever I edit my photo shoots I'm on the lookout for images that stand out. Usually I have some in mind from when I viewed them on the little screen after taking them, but often these fail to materialize in the way I had imagined. In fact, more often that not, it's those images that were captured in a rather lazy and ho-hum kind of way that get my attention first.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't ever get lucky--which is to see an image and frame it up while previsualizing the final product and nail it, but it is rare. Very rare.

Today's shot, for example, was one that I took this past weekend while on tour of the U.S.S. Razorback, a WWII Balao class submarine. It was an offhand shot, as most all the pics I took aboard the sub were, and I had no idea this image would stand out from the rest until I got home and began editing the pics.

When I came across it I was immediately attracted to the lines... the sweeping curves and the way the wheel spokes point loosely to the four corners of the images. But even more than that, I realized later, was that the image had a quality I very much enjoy in photographs, and thats one of depth. The black and white treatment was done to accentuate this, but it really wasn't much of a stretch as there was little color in the photo to begin with.

Now, I've known that I like depth in images for some time. My first foray into the DSLR world was with a Sigma SD9 because the examples I saw from that camera most often contained the depth that I liked so much. Later I came to realize that while the SD9 (and other Foveon imagers) are special in this way, it really wasn't so much the equipment used as it was the vision of the photographer that used them.

And somewhere along the way I realized that depth was an element of style, my style, and that it was something I wanted to strengthen and exploit.

So take a good look at your "Keepers" and see if you can figure what it is about them that makes them special to you. Whether you know it or not you probably do this already. The trick then is to see it, feed it, and do what you can to make your images uniquely your own.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Finding the Cost of Freedom

...photographic freedom, that is.

For me it has arrived in the form of a nifty little pocketable digicam from Fuji, the F31fd. The "fd" tagged onto the end stands for "face detection" and I could pretty much care less about that. What initially attracted me to this cam was its outstanding performance at high iso.

Fuji have created a series of F cameras (F10, F20, F30, F31fd, F40) that literally break the mold regarding high iso performance. Most digicams are good up to maybe iso 200 before the images begin to drown in their own noise... these Fuji's deliver results up to iso 800 that look better than most competitors at 200.

Today's image was taken at iso 800. And although it may not be the cleanest file I could have had (I could have used a DSLR) it was a spur of the moment shot taken during a quiet moment beneath the bridge during a local festival this past weekend. The shot was 1/4 of a second at f4, taken handheld, after dark, and that alone is cause enough for pause. Until now this just wasn't possible with a digicam.

Oh, and no noise reduction software was employed. I did jerk the color around a bit in PP, but that's all I felt the need to do for web viewing.

The thing I like most about this cam, though, is it's size. It's not much larger than a deck of cards and that makes it easy to carry everywhere, all the time. And the battery life? Supposedly it's rated to around 500 images or better on a charge. Now that's freedom.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

My Favorite M42 Lenses

While I'm feeling the need to post something again (its been two weeks already) as usual I'm struck rather dumb on the subject of subject matter. Truth is, the camera has not been out that much lately so in order to post a pic I'm obliged to throw out one from last month.

The flower is called Fire Pink (Silene virginica) and this is the most representative shot I have taken of this species. They are not uncommon around here, but I've only encountered them a few times with a camera.

This time I happened to be carrying my favorite M42 lenses: an old MF Tamron f2.5 90mm macro (model 52B), an even older Yashinon DX f1.4 50mm, and a Focal f2.8 28mm lens (yes, I think it was a K-mart brand). I honestly don't recall which lens I used for this image. Not that it matters. I like looking at it just because it was taken with one of my favorite lenses, which one is kind of irrelevent. Silly, I know, but that's the truth of things.

Over the years I have had a number of "favorite lenses." When I was using film I grew ever fond of an old 55mm Nikkor macro. Later, using digital, I got a case of the M42 lens crazies and waded through about half a dozen favorite lenses in just a few years. No longer. I have settled on this core of three that I shoot with most everytime I go out. (I'm still looking for a WA prime to fit into the mix, but I havn't found one yet that works the way I would like.)

Three is a comfortable number. I like the way they fit into my little bag with plenty of room for them, all the other junk I need, and no wasted space left over. Adding another lens upsets the natural order of things and forces me to make choices... either leave something behind or carry something extra. Neither is appealing. Oh well, at least I have something to angst over.