Photographing Strangers — Teaser (podcast to follow)

Many pho­tog­ra­phers love to pho­to­graph peo­ple in the street but they are shy to put their cam­eras in front of people’s faces to take a portrait.

For our next pod­cast I set up a pho­tog­ra­phy exper­i­ment with com­plete strangers and I’ll share it (and other tips for pho­tograph­ing com­plete strangers) with you within a week. I give tips for cases when the sub­ject is aware of you, and tips for when sub­jects are unaware that they are being photographed.

For now, if you are feel­ing brave try break­ing your com­fort level; approach com­plete strangers and pho­to­graph them. Tips and the actual pod­cast to fol­low next week.

Stranger meditating in Parc La Fontaine in Montreal, QC.

Stranger med­i­tat­ing in Parc La Fontaine in Mon­treal, QC.

A Good Day by Michael Orton

Today was one of those days.  After 35 years of car­ry­ing a cam­era I con­sider myself for­tu­nate indeed to have expe­ri­enced some of these days, when every­thing seems to align, the weather, the light, the sea­son, the loca­tion, and let’s not for­get, the pho­tog­ra­pher. After all, with­out the act of mak­ing the deci­sion to set out, noth­ing will be cre­ated. While work­ing in the stock photo busi­ness my work­flow was quite dif­fer­ent from today . My goal was to cre­ate mar­ketable con­cept images and I would research loca­tions to shoot spe­cific images. I would have to place myself in the right loca­tion, at the right time with the best light which was not always easy. Remark­ably I did have some of ” those days ” back then, but not like the ones that have occurred since I became immersed in ICM (Inten­tional Cam­era Move­ment) these last years. I have an inti­mate knowl­edge of the land­scape within a close dis­tance from home and can almost visu­al­ize before set­ting out the like­li­hood of there being the type of sub­ject mat­ter that will feed my imag­i­na­tion. And of course the more I explore the more data I have to draw from. With ICM the required “raw mate­r­ial”, unlike mak­ing a con­ven­tional pho­to­graph, is not a spe­cific object or rec­og­niz­able scene, but rather the start­ing point, like a piece of clay , shape­less until forged and formed into shape. This is the essence of work­ing in this fash­ion. It has lit­tle to do with the actual tech­nique of mov­ing the cam­era and every­thing to do with how you can imag­ine and explore that which is the start­ing point, the raw material.

Today is a late fall day. Leaves had been falling for weeks, morn­ing mists were begin­ning to appear, skies were a patchy blue. If I’m lucky this time of year lasts a few weeks. I love work­ing when there are spaces in the trees and the branches con­trast with the inter­spersed leaves. I set out to walk the edge of a river not far away. There are a vari­ety of trees, bushes and growth, with logs, large and small stones lin­ing the shore­line. (And the salmon are run­ning ) I made many more than the four images shown, but these I selected because they were made stand­ing in almost the same spot.

 

"A Good Day" - Image 1 by Michael Orton

A Good Day” — Image 1 by Michael Orton

 

Image one is the light reflected off of the leaves of a small bush , which I ren­dered into hun­dreds of shards of light with a fast cam­era move­ment and short shut­ter speed. When viewed at full size this image has remark­able com­plex­ity and blend­ing . The bush was a short dis­tance to my left.

 

"A Good Day" - Image 2 by Michael Orton

A Good Day” — Image 2 by Michael Orton

 

Image two is sim­ply fallen leaves on a spread of medium sized round stones with the sand washed from between them. They are in the shade , and the blue comes from the reflected blue of the sky. The sky had some clouds which occa­sion­ally gave me over­cast light. - 1/2 sec­ond with what I refer to as medium cam­era move­ment speed , using a some­what oblique line and chang­ing focal length dur­ing expo­sure. When I move my cam­era most often I do not swivel from a fixed point but move it in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to a movie cam­era on a track. These stones and leaves where just to my right.

 

"A Good Day" - Image 3 by Michael Orton

A Good Day” — Image 3 by Michael Orton

 

Image three is look­ing across the river . You can see the sandy embank­ment ren­dered as a soft­ened wash while the trees and their reflec­tion remain some­what rec­og­niz­able. I used an extended oval motion at 2 sec­onds to retain the ver­ti­cal lines.

 

"A Good Day" - Image 4 by Michael Orton

A Good Day” — Image 4 by Michael Orton

 

Image four is, yes wait for it, a pho­to­graph, and was taken stand­ing in exactly the same spot as # 3 . Some­times you just take what you are given and make the best of it. I took the polar­izer and ND fil­ter off, kneeled down and scooped this image from the sur­face of the river.The intri­cate, jagged lines of the reflected trees and a hint blue from the sky were to good to pass up. Hand­held at 1/125.

So yes it was a good day. One that I wish every pho­tog­ra­pher could expe­ri­ence, because when you do, it will fuel your pas­sion . This is what keeps us looking.

The video ” A Walk In The Palm Grove ” on our web­site is another good exam­ple of what can be cre­ated at one location.

There is no sub­sti­tute for see­ing… Michael

The pre­ced­ing arti­cle is copy­righted and writ­ten by Cana­dian fine art land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher Michael Orton. You can see more of his work at michaelortonphotography.com

The Nikon 105 with Defocus Control is Dreamy

The Nikon 105 f2.0 DC lens is one of the most inter­est­ing lenses that I’ve ever tried. I just tested one from The Cam­era Store. This lens is super-solidly con­structed, mostly of metal, and feels great both in your hand and on the cam­era. It has a built in lens hood which I found con­ve­nient but the high­light of this lens is the defo­cus con­trol which brings its cool­ness fac­tor to eleven.  What’s cool about this DC (Defo­cus Con­trol) lens, is that you can defo­cus the fore­ground or the back­ground to accen­tu­ate the bokeh (zone of blurriness/creaminess/dreaminess) in the fore­ground or the back­ground. It takes a lit­tle bit of play and the results are sub­tle, but if you are into this type of sub­tlety and you are pre­pared to pay more than a grand, you won’t be dis­ap­pointed. This lens is in a class all by itself.

Nikon AF DC105mm f/2.0 D Lens

Nikon AF DC 105mm f/2.0 D Lens

 

Let me say imme­di­ately that this spe­cialty lens is not for every­one. It is made in my esti­ma­tion for por­trait, land­scape or fine art pho­tog­ra­phers that love to play with selec­tive focus and who want to be in supreme con­trol of their bokeh. If this last sen­tence was con­fus­ing then you are prob­a­bly not ready for this lens. But if you already love bokeh and want to play in the bokeh-olympics, this might be the finest tool available.

But Doesn’t Nikon Have Another 105mm Lens That Also Does Macro?

Yes they do and that lens is another fab­u­lous por­trait lens that does true macro. The Nikon AF-S 105 mm F2.8 Micro is a lens that I’ve owned for a num­ber of years and it’s about 300. cheaper than the DC lens. It’s razor sharp, has Vibra­tion Reduc­tion (VR) and does true 1:1 Macro. If you like to do por­traits as well as Macro work, get this lens instead.

But if you don’t do that much Macro and want a fab­u­lously unique tool that is great for por­traits and bokeh-play, the DC may be the bet­ter choice for an expe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­pher. The DC lens is also an f/2 lens. The f/2 is brighter in the viewfinder and always deliv­ers more bokeh than f/2.8 all things being equal.

In terms of head to head sharp­ness and aut­o­fo­cus speed, I found the aut­o­fo­cus a bit faster on the Micro (Macro — Nikon calls their Macro lenses Micro just to be spe­cial) lens and I found the sharp­ness to be a hint sharper. The 105 DC lens is also razor sharp (but has no VR) and has very fast  aut­o­fo­cus, but head to head with the 105 Micro, it loses by the small­est of mar­gins to my eye. Please be aware that I only tested this lens on 2 shoots in cold­ish Mon­treal weather which unfor­tu­nately lim­ited my play.

How does it work?

The instruc­tion leaflet that comes with the lens is near use­less. You’ll want to play with this sucker for a while. But basi­cally, to get good bokeh effects you need a large aper­ture so you’ll choose an aper­ture like f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6. Once you set that aper­ture, you’ll focus on your sub­ject. Then you’ll decide if you want to defo­cus what’s in front of the sub­ject, what’s behind the sub­ject, or not defo­cus at all. The defo­cus­ing sim­ply soft­ens the back­ground or fore­ground more than it would be with other lenses. The effect is sub­tle and not every­one will even notice it espe­cially novice pho­tog­ra­phers. Per­son­ally though, I love this lens and I made a mis­take when I pur­chased the f/2.8 Macro lens. I don’t do that much macro and would have got­ten more use and joy from the bokeh play offered by this lens.

From L to R - Zero defocus, defocused foreground, defocused background - Click to enlarge

From L to R — Zero defo­cus, defo­cused fore­ground, defo­cused back­ground — Click to enlarge

 

The images above were shot against a giant Christ­mas tree. The mid­dle image makes the fore­ground lights around the neck have an inter­est­ing glow due to the defo­cused fore­ground, but the eyes lost sharp­ness. In gen­eral I found that defo­cus­ing the fore­ground looked weird most of the time. To my eye the nor­mal set­ting and the defo­cused back­ground set­tings are the best look­ing in this set and in gen­eral. The non defo­cused images looked superb actu­ally. But a lens like this is usu­ally bought for the abil­ity to defo­cus it.

Left image had no defocus. Middle Image had background defocused to f/4 but aperture was f/2.0. The image at right was shot with the 105 Macro lens at f/2.8 its widest aperture - Click to enlarge.

Left image had no defo­cus. Mid­dle Image had back­ground defo­cused to f/4 but aper­ture was f/2.0. The image at right was shot with the 105 Macro lens at f/2.8 its widest aper­ture — Click to enlarge.

 

The rea­son to get the Nikon 105mm DC lens is for the (De)focus play that it offers and nor­mally you’ll set the defo­cus to the same aper­ture you are shoot­ing on. But you don’t have to fol­low that rule and when you break it, it throws the back­ground or fore­ground into an even softer or dreamier state. In the set of images above, the left image shows beau­ti­ful f/2.0 bokeh with a very sharp head­stone and no defo­cus was used. The mid­dle image was shot at f/2.0 but the rear defo­cus was set to f/4 which thinned out the zone of sharp­ness in the fore­ground in this case and soft­ened the back­ground to an even dreamier state com­pared to the pre­vi­ous shot. For com­par­i­son pur­poses the shot at right was shot with the 105 Macro lens that has no defo­cus con­trol. It still shows excel­lent sharp­ness in the head­stone and lovely bokeh in the back­ground, but it is lim­ited to f/2.8 with­out defo­cus con­trol, and so it can’t be as dreamy as the DC 105mm.

 

jjj

Mount Royal Ceme­tery in Mon­treal. Rear Defo­cus used on the Nikon 105mm DC — Click to enlarge

 

In sum­mary, if you are just start­ing out in pho­tog­ra­phy and you want an awe­some fast por­trait lens that also offers macro, the 105mm f/2.8 with VR is prob­a­bly a bet­ter choice for you and it’s 300 dol­lars cheaper.  If you just love bokeh and exper­i­men­ta­tion and are a more expe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­pher that rarely uses Macro, you might well want to try the Nikon 105mm f2.0 DC lens.  It’s a one of a kind lens that will retain and go up in value in the future due to its unique­ness. I plan on adding it to my arse­nal in the very near future.

Two Photo Accessories Reviewed

Hi photo lovers!

I’ve tried a cou­ple of photo acces­sories recently that I’d like to share with you because they make my life easier.

1 — The S&F deluxe tech­ni­cal belt by Lowe­pro.

Lowepro S&F deluxe technical belt

Lowe­pro S&F deluxe tech­ni­cal belt

My wife picked this up for me recently as a gift and I’m lov­ing it. As men­tioned in pre­vi­ous posts and pod­casts, I’m a big fan of lens pouches and I use them almost exclu­sively (ver­sus car­ry­ing a cam­era bag) on most per­sonal photo shoots. Usu­ally I have 3 lenses on me and 2 of them are car­ried in lens pouches. Until a few weeks ago I sim­ply clipped the pouches onto an actual belt that goes through my jeans. It works well enough but get­ting into the jean pock­ets is dif­fi­cult and my wife felt I looked all dishev­elled espe­cially if I needed to wear a jacket. She was right.

I have to say, the tech­ni­cal belt is WAY bet­ter than clip­ping the pouches to a reg­u­lar pants belt. It is so much more com­fort­able and you can see the solid back sup­port if offers, it’s a pure joy to wear. Espe­cially when going from shoot­ing to the car, the whole belt comes off in a flash with the pouches firmly secured onto them. If you do need to get into your pants pock­ets you just slide the belt around. In addi­tion, it looks and feels great when you have to wear a jacket. It might well be my favourite acces­sory of 2013. It can be pur­chased imme­di­ately at B&H in the USA or at the The Cam­era Store within about 1 week.

2 - Pho­toRe­pub­lik Twin Speedlite Holder — This acces­sory was loaned to me for review by our spon­sor The Cam­era Store and I find it to be an extremely well built acces­sory. Some of the com­mon gripes peo­ple have with flash hold­ing acces­sories are their over­all ‘dink­i­ness’  and that the actual point of con­tact between the flash and the hold­ing shoe is flimsy (read risky) and dif­fi­cult to con­trol. Good new or used flashes are at least 100–600 dol­lars, why would you want to attach it to a bracket with a flimsy flash shoe holder that looks like it costs less than a nickel. One care­less bump into the light stand can snag the bot­tom part of the flash right off.

This twin flash holder is crazy solid in all respects and oper­ates smoothly. The point of attach­ment to the flash as well as the whole unit (except the knobs which are still very solid) is made of steel and oper­ates very smoothly to attach to your flash. It feels safe and that will make you feel more secure about the setup. There’s place for an umbrella holder and it tilts from front to back for eas­ier angling of light. It’s a per­fect attach­ment for shoot­ing with an umbrella when when you need more punch than one flash can offer.

PhotoRepublik Twin Speedlite Holder

Pho­toRe­pub­lik Twin Speedlite Holder — Comes with a  threaded mount­ing screw (shown in between the 2 flash hold­ing units)

 

 

I Waited 30 Minutes in Line to See Chihuly — 6 Days Left

Dale Chi­huly is an Amer­i­can glass blow­ing artist/genius/innovator. I went to see his show at The Mon­treal Museum of Fine Arts last week and waited 30 min­utes in line because his pop­u­lar show is com­ing to an end and I’ve been busy for the last few months. The show ends offi­cially on Octo­ber 27th.

_MK18015

One of my great­est pet peeves on planet earth is wait­ing in line. Give me the best restau­rant in Paris, New York or Mon­treal and if I have to wait more than a few min­utes, I’d rather pick up a falafel or pizza slice and eat it on the go. Don’t get me wrong, I love good food, but my hate for line-waiting wins over nearly 100% of the time. Need­less to say, when I went to the museum last week and saw a line of about forty peo­ple I was not happy.  My wife and I sur­veyed the line. She knows me (and my bad whiny behav­ior) with lines…so she quickly told me that it was ‘my call’ and that we could leave imme­di­ately with­out con­se­quence. As we (mostly me) were mak­ing this deci­sion, the line sud­denly started to move rather quickly and a forty per­son wait turned to a thirty per­son wait. I bitched a bit but we sucked it up and waited in line.

Here’s my review. Words or pic­tures can’t do this show jus­tice and I only stayed at the show 60 min. It’s a 10/10 mas­ter­piece that needs to be expe­ri­enced. Period. So long as you are not colour blind, all I can say is go see it. It’s worth a 30 minute wait. It’s worth a one hour wait which is my max for wait­ing for absolutely any­thing non life-threatening. If you are a patient per­son though, it’s worth wait­ing all day.

Take your cam­era because pho­tog­ra­phy is 100% per­mit­ted and encour­aged. This mod­ern aspect of the exhi­bi­tion also impressed me because plenty of exhi­bi­tions are still in the dark ages with regard to pho­tog­ra­phy. Expect crowds but expect that the wait and bus­tle will be worth it. Expect to see the work of a Master.

chihuly-MK18041

David Johndrow — Macro photography

We are happy to fea­ture another inter­view and more pho­tog­ra­phy from Adore Noir Mag­a­zine. Adore Noir is pub­lished online from Van­cou­ver, B.C. Canada and is ded­i­cated to fine art black and white pho­tog­ra­phy. This inter­view fea­tures David Johndrow, an Amer­i­can fine art pho­tog­ra­pher from Austin, Texas.

Mantis by david Johndrow

Man­tis by David Johndrow

 

AN: Please intro­duce your­self. Where do you live and work?

DJ: My name is David Johndrow and I live and work in Austin, Texas.

AN: How did you get into photography?

DJ: I stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy while get­ting a film degree at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas. The first time I saw an image of some­thing that I shot appear in the devel­oper tray I was hooked and decided I wanted to do pho­tog­ra­phy full time. I started doing com­mer­cial work after graduating—mostly doing por­trait work. I sup­ple­mented my income by work­ing as a cus­tom printer in photo labs. I’m glad I had that expe­ri­ence because it forced me to put in a lot of hours in the dark­room. As I got bet­ter at mak­ing prints that were stronger, I also got bet­ter at visu­al­iz­ing my own work. I learned a lot from work­ing with other peo­ples pho­tographs, both good and bad.

Orb weaver spider by David Johndrow

Orb weaver spi­der by David Johndrow

 

AN: Tell us about your pas­sion for macro.

DJ: My use of macro came out of com­bin­ing my obses­sion with gar­den­ing with my inter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy. For a long time I had no inter­est in shoot­ing pho­tos in my gar­den. It was mostly because I didn’t want to do what other pho­tog­ra­phers have done so well before. But as I spent more and more time out­doors, I started to notice the most sub­limely beau­ti­ful things going on a very small scale and they looked amaz­ing in the nat­ural light of their own habi­tat. So, I began exper­i­ment­ing with ways to get up close and still be hand-held. I wanted to be quick and mobile. So I put exten­sion tubes on my reg­u­lar Has­sel­blad lens and dis­cov­ered that although this set-up pre­sented some restric­tions (lim­ited abil­ity to focus, lower light gath­er­ing power), I liked what I saw. In fact, the forced sim­plic­ity of the set-up allowed me to focus more on the image than on the tech­ni­cal aspects of shoot­ing the pic­ture. I used the lens wide open out of neces­sity because the film I use is rel­a­tively slow for the shade light I like. For­tu­nately, it turned out that the shal­low focus worked great at iso­lat­ing the details of the things I was shoot­ing. Sud­denly I would get lost look­ing through the camera—like enter­ing another world. Ordi­nary things took on an aura of grandeur and impor­tance. I decided I would treat the sub­jects in nature as for­mal por­traits and try and make them look iconic and, at the same time, retain their wildness.

AN: What is your inspiration?

DJ: Pho­to­graph­i­cally, my biggest influ­ence is Irv­ing Penn. I love how he can make any­thing look ele­gant , from fash­ion mod­els to tribal peo­ple to found objects. I love his high con­trast print­ing style and how graph­i­cally strong his com­po­si­tions are. I also like Edward Weston and Karl Bloss­feld. Bloss­feld was really good at show­ing the archi­tec­ture of nature. Another influ­ence on my art is the botan­i­cal artist Ernst Haeckel. I have repro­duc­tions of some of his draw­ings up in my dark­room to inspire me. He really shows the beau­ti­fully intri­cate designs of nature at all scales. Some­thing about his art is won­der­fully weird and psy­che­delic. Besides these pho­to­graphic and artis­tic influ­ences, I also need to men­tion my love of Lau­rens Van der Post’s sto­ries of the bush­men of the Kala­hari and how they revered the small things in nature the most.

Stinkbug by David Johndrow

Stinkbug by David Johndrow

 

AN: What do you wish to con­vey to your viewers?

DJ: I hope that when peo­ple look at my pho­tographs, they get a new per­spec­tive on the things that are all around us that we some­times take for granted. We tend to get dis­as­so­ci­ated from nature and for­get what a mir­a­cle it is. I am always amazed at the new things I dis­cover out in my gar­den. Things seem to appear to me as if by magic. I try to cap­ture some of that magic to share with oth­ers. It’s a real chal­lenge to depict some­thing that has been pho­tographed so many times. What I’m learn­ing is that the ways of expe­ri­enc­ing nature are infi­nite. I hope peo­ple who see my pho­tographs come away with a greater appre­ci­a­tion of the beauty of com­mon things.

AN: Can you tell us about your post pro­cess­ing techniques?

DJ: I like to print my images on sil­ver gelatin, platinum/palladium or gumoil. I let the image dic­tate what medium I will use to express it. Although I orig­i­nally cap­ture all of my images on film, I some­times make enlarged inter-negatives, either with my enlarger or dig­i­tally, depend­ing on the image, so that I can make con­tact prints. By using alter­na­tive processes I am able to have a wider range of expres­sion in my print­ing and a greater chance of the “happy acci­dents” that I think make pho­tographs unique. I strive for extreme sim­plic­ity in my images. Pho­tog­ra­phy, by its nature, is a reduc­tion of infor­ma­tion. By remov­ing what is nonessen­tial, images get clearer and more pow­er­ful. This is also the rea­son why I love work­ing in black and white.

AN: Do you have any projects on the go?

DJ: I am now exper­i­ment­ing with sim­ple pho­tograms, bypass­ing the cam­era alto­gether. I’ve got­ten so into it that I’ve amassed a large col­lec­tion of objects that I can print just using sun­light. Of course I still work in my gar­den with my cam­era close by and keep my eyes open for the next mys­tery to present itself.

Toad by David Johndrow

Toad by David Johndrow

 

This inter­view and accom­pa­ny­ing images was reprinted with per­mis­sion from Adore Noir.
Adore Noir is a sub­scrip­tion based online pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zine spe­cial­iz­ing in awe­some fine art black and white photography.

Photography forum image of the month – September 2013

Hi Photo lovers!

Every month on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum mem­bers nom­i­nate images that they like. Then at the end of the month I choose an excel­lent image and talk about why it rocks. The photo I choose is not nec­es­sar­ily the best one of the month. I’ve come to real­ize it’s not really log­i­cal to pit images from totally dif­fer­ent gen­res against each other. That’s why there are cat­e­gories in photo con­tests. I just choose a photo that has extremely strong ele­ments that we can learn from.

This month’s choice goes to Hill­bil­ly­girl for cap­tur­ing this image from Rodeo Action

I chose this image for sev­eral reasons:

1 — Deci­sive moment and ges­tur­ing — This cap­tured moment is extremely well timed and the cap­tured ges­tures are superb. Look at the mus­cu­la­ture and the angle and stretched out leg of the horse in mid–maneu­ver — It’s fab. The con­cen­tra­tion on the rider is also fab.

2 — Sharp­ness — The sharp­ness here is bloody gor­geous and any­one who has tracked mov­ing tar­gets knows it’s not easy. A nice fast shut­ter speed cou­pled with pre­cise focus­ing has frozen an intense moment. Even the kicked-up dirt in the air and on the ground is sharp — love it.

3 — Com­po­si­tion — Com­po­si­tion works really well here with the fence of spec­ta­tors in the back­ground, The Coors barrel/obstacle on the left and the intense ges­tures of the cen­tral main focal points.

4 — Post processing/exposure — I like the fairly real­is­tic pro­cess­ing in this image with good well con­trolled tones in the sky and good clar­ity in the faces of the horse and rider.

For all these rea­sons, this is my choice for image of the month. Since we all have opin­ions, some mem­bers may dis­agree with my choice. That’s cool but THIS thread is not the place for debate over my pick, NOR is it the place to fur­ther cri­tique the image. The pur­pose here is to sug­gest strong ele­ments in the photo that we may learn from.

Con­grats again to Hill­bil­ly­girl for cap­tur­ing this fab­u­lous moment!

Rodeo Action by Hillbillygirl

Rodeo Action by Hill­bil­ly­girl — Click to see larger version

Calgary Canon EXPO 2013

Our spon­sor The Cam­era Store, and Canon are intro­duc­ing the Cal­gary Canon EXPO 2013. If you are in Cal­gary, Alberta the week­end of Sep­tem­ber 27th 2013, you may well want to check out the Expo. Leg­endary celebrity pho­tog­ra­pher Dou­glas Kirk­land will be giv­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion “A Life in Pic­tures” and local pros will offer sem­i­nars and tips on shoot­ing land­scape and wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy. Although this event is not free, it comes with a $50.00 credit toward new Canon gear. For addi­tional infor­ma­tion check out the Cal­gary Canon EXPO 2013.

Marilyn Monroe by Douglas Kirkland - 1961

Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe by Dou­glas Kirkland

Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal — Photo Month in Montreal

Every two years, Mon­treal, Que­bec, Canada fea­tures a major, month-long major con­tem­po­rary pho­tog­ra­phy fes­ti­val called Le mois de la photo à Mon­tréal. This year’s fes­ti­val runs from Sep­tem­ber 5 — Octo­ber 5, 2013 and fea­tures 25 pho­tog­ra­phy exhi­bi­tions in dif­fer­ent parts of the city.

This year the theme of the fes­ti­val is Drone — The auto­mated image and it is guest curated by Paul Wombell. I’ve been going to this fes­ti­val pretty much since it started and the exhi­bi­tions are almost always laden with exper­i­men­tal (less con­ven­tional) pho­tog­ra­phy and themes that require reflec­tion. If you’re look­ing for more con­ven­tional pho­tog­ra­phy (beau­ti­ful land­scapes, still lifes, street pho­tog­ra­phy) you nor­mally won’t find it at this festival.

Although Le mois de la photo is a pho­tog­ra­phy fes­ti­val, many exhi­bi­tions will be video based and some will fea­ture instal­la­tions. I always find a few exhi­bi­tions that I really like and will report back on my faves.  Feel free to check out the exhi­bi­tions here.

Le mois de la photo

Greg Cohen — Untitled Gun Project

Last week, Jas of our pho­tog­ra­phy forum posted a link to the work of Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher Greg Cohen and his Unti­tled Gun Project. This photo essay depicts mod­ern Amer­i­can chil­dren pos­ing with guns. It intrigued me enough to con­tact Greg Cohen and ask him the fol­low­ing ques­tions about this project. Here are his answers below.

Luke - Untitled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

Unti­tled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

 

MK: How did you con­ceive this project?

GC: The project was inspired by the mas­sacre in New­town, CT, where I grew up. These fam­i­lies’ entire uni­verse have been turned inside out and if we don’t keep this fer­vent con­ver­sa­tion alive, it’s des­tined to become another story soon to fade away. The prob­lem is com­plex, and part of it is that we’re com­pletely desen­si­tized to vio­lence and killing; so I wanted to cre­ate images that are dif­fi­cult to look at. If they’re dis­turb­ing, then that’s an emo­tion worth explor­ing. If they’re not dis­turb­ing, then that’s some­thing to con­sider even more. Essen­tially this is a plea from the chil­dren… why can’t this vio­lence stop?

 

Untitled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

Unti­tled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

 

MK: Who are these chil­dren, are they from the USA?

GC: Yes, all the chil­dren live in the US. I reached out to fam­i­lies who were affected emo­tion­ally by the event and who wanted to respond in some way.

 

Untitled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

Unti­tled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

 

MK: Are the guns real, where did you get them?

GC: The guns are not real. I am com­pletely against chil­dren han­dling real guns. It’s against the law for kids to drive or smoke, why is it legal for them to play with guns? Fre­quently I hear about a kid with a gun acci­den­tally shoot­ing some­one, and I’m never sur­prised. Why?  Because kids instinc­tively like to play, that’s what they do. And they should be play­ing, but instead we’re liv­ing in a world where many chil­dren are forced to grow up too fast. It’s tragic.

 

Untitled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

Unti­tled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

 

MK: Did you leave the project Unti­tled so peo­ple could title it for themselves?

GC: I con­sid­ered a lot of titles for the project, but noth­ing felt right. They were either too clever and they belit­tled the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion; or they seemed too lim­ited, and cor­nered peo­ple in a given direc­tion. So yes, I want peo­ple to run with it how­ever they wish. If an appro­pri­ate title came to me, I’d use it, but noth­ing so far.

 

Untitled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

Unti­tled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

 

MK: How long have you been work­ing on this project and what are its future plans?

GC: The idea to pho­to­graph chil­dren with guns began a long time ago, but orig­i­nally it was a very dif­fer­ent project and the images I had in mind were more involved. When the mur­der hap­pened in New­town, the project became clear, and I felt inspired to sim­plify the entire thing.

The plan is to get these images in front of as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, hop­ing to inter­rupt their day, if only for a moment. Let us con­sider the state of things, and maybe talk to one or two oth­ers about it. Hope­fully we can keep this con­ver­sa­tion alive long enough to cre­ate some real change. We deserve the free­dom to send our kids to school with­out the fear of never see­ing them again.

 

Untitled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

Unti­tled Gun Project by Greg Cohen

Mitch Dobrowner — Storm Photography

It gives me great plea­sure to announce that our pho­tog­ra­phy blog will be fea­tur­ing inter­views and the pho­tog­ra­phy of some of the extremely tal­ented pho­tog­ra­phers from Adore Noir Mag­a­zine. Adore Noir mag­a­zine is pub­lished online from Van­cou­ver, B.C. Canada and is ded­i­cated to fine art black and white pho­tog­ra­phy. This inter­view fea­tures Mitch Dobrowner, an Amer­i­can fine art pho­tog­ra­pher who spe­cial­izes in storm photography.

Monsoon by Mitch Dobrowner

Mon­soon by Mitch Dobrowner

 

AN: Please tell us about your pho­to­graphic back­ground. What led you to your path of creativity?

MD: I’m pretty much self taught. I worked in New York City for a short time as an assis­tant for two com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phers. After get­ting in a bunch of trou­ble and feel­ing lost in my teens my father slung me an old Argus rangefinder, with his fin­gers crossed! The first time I shot a roll of film and processed it I fell in love with the art. Then after see­ing the images of Ansel Adams and Minor White at the age of twenty, I decided to see the Amer­i­can South­west for myself. To make a long story short, I left home, quit my jobs, and left my friends and fam­ily to see the Amer­i­can South­west for myself. Over the next four years I trav­eled cross coun­try seven times, liv­ing out of my car, camp­ing in the deserts and show­er­ing once in a while in a cheap motel. I was shoot­ing pic­tures the entire time.

I even­tu­ally landed in Los Ange­les. I man­aged to get a solo exhibit for Canon at their gallery on Wilshire Blvd. That exhibit was reviewed in Mod­ern Pho­tog­ra­phy, which was one of two major pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zines at the time. My mom sent me that mag­a­zine recently. It was fun to read.

About a year later I met my wife Wendy, she is an amaz­ing designer. Together we have three chil­dren. We also cre­ated our own design stu­dio. Dur­ing that time the tasks of run­ning a busi­ness and rais­ing a fam­ily took a pri­or­ity to pho­tog­ra­phy and I stopped tak­ing pic­tures. Then in early 2005, inspired by my wife, chil­dren and friends, I picked up my cam­eras again.

Today pho­tog­ra­phy is my way to com­mu­ni­cate how I feel with­out words. When I’m out pho­tograph­ing things seem sim­ple again, time slows down and the world around me gets quiet. It’s then that I’m able to focus in a man­ner that allows me to con­nect with my imag­i­na­tion. Those moments are how I’ve learned to still my soul; it’s my happy place. It’s about the only times where I’m alone and can hear my heart beat­ing again. So today I see myself on a pas­sion­ate mis­sion to make up for years of lost time by cre­at­ing images that help evoke how I see our world.

Shiprock Storm by Mitch Dobrowner

Shiprock Storm by Mitch Dobrowner

 

AN: What do you enjoy most about pho­tograph­ing landscapes?

MD: I’m in love with the South­west. It’s a truly mys­ti­cal and spir­i­tual place. I find it easy to pho­to­graph. I see my work as being por­traits of the rocks and their envi­ron­ment. I think you have to love what you decide to shoot. The images need to come from deep inside your heart. For me, I love spend­ing time in that envi­ron­ment, learn­ing about it, see­ing in in dif­fer­ent light­ing and weather con­di­tions. It may sounds strange to some, but I need to talk to the sub­ject when I’m shoot­ing, in my own way and with my own voice. When I get to that place I know things will hap­pen. It’s kind of like walk­ing into a dark room and not being able to see but the more time you spend there the more you can see. It’s then that I just enjoy sit­ting back and wait­ing for nature to show me what she’s got. I live for that.

AN: What are your influences?

MD: I love the images of Ansel Adams and Minor White. Besides my fam­ily, they pro­vide my pho­to­graphic inspi­ra­tion. The first time I saw either of those pho­tog­ra­phers works I was floored. Their images left a major impact on my life and the direc­tion it would go. Cre­atively I also have to include the artis­tic vision of Jimi Hen­drix. He was an amaz­ing artist.

AN: How did you become inter­ested in storms?

MD: Prior to the storm series my pri­mary focus was on land­scapes, both in the South­west and urban envi­ron­ments. When shoot­ing them I always found myself seek­ing out nasty, unsta­ble weather. So I always won­dered what it would be like to expe­ri­ence the storm sys­tems in the mid-west. So in the sum­mer of 2009 I said — fuck it, and decided to take a trip out there. I thought that if I could find what I was visu­al­iz­ing in my mind it could lead to the next step in the pro­gres­sion of my work. I also wanted to chal­lenge myself because I wanted to con­tinue to grow in my art and not be seen as the next “color of the month” or “one trick pony.” I wanted to keep push­ing, I directed my focus away from the South­west for a period of time and started work­ing on under­stand­ing the sci­ence of weather and find an expe­ri­enced chaser to help me. And I did! His name is Roger Hill.

Bears Claw by Mitch Dobrowner

Bears Claw by Mitch Dobrowner

 

AN: Know­ing the risks involved, what made you want to pho­to­graph storms?

MD: My imag­i­na­tion. I kept see­ing images in my mind of what pho­tograph­ing a major storm would look like. As I started research­ing the sub­ject I came to appre­ci­ate the sci­ence behind find­ing these large struc­tured super cells. As a land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher it always took skill, and a bit of luck, to be in the right place at the right time. To actively pur­sue these weather events just seemed like it would be a fun exper­i­ment and challenge.

AN: What is your most mem­o­rable expe­ri­ence while on a shoot?

MD: Prob­a­bly my time at Shiprock, New Mex­ico, though there were oth­ers that came in at a close sec­ond, like the Valen­tine Nebraska storm. But Shiprock was very spe­cial to me.

I had seen images of Shiprock before, but never the image I had in my mind. Though I hadn’t seen the for­ma­tion in per­son, Shiprock touched some­thing deep inside me. I think it was because I knew that it is the spir­i­tual cen­ter of the Navajo Nation, or maybe it was because it is the rem­nant of an ancient vol­cano. But this com­bi­na­tion of his­tory and geol­ogy ignited some­thing inside me. So I trav­eled to the Four Cor­ners area of New Mex­ico with my fam­ily to pho­to­graph it.

When I arrived in Farm­ing­ton, New Mex­ico, I was totally over­whelmed by my first dis­tant sight­ing of this oth­er­worldly for­ma­tion. Over the next ten days I woke up at ungodly hours to drive long dis­tances in order to arrive at first light, and then left after sun­down each day in order to catch the last light. I had to drive in the rain, over rocks, mud, snow, and sand. As we arrived in late Decem­ber, the weather con­di­tions made for moody, atmos­pheric pho­tographs, it also gave me frozen fin­gers and toes! I spent the first eight days dri­ving, scout­ing, and sit­ting qui­etly in the area that sur­rounds Shiprock. It also seemed like the more time I spent in the area, the more I knew that I would need to be patient despite the cold.

On the morn­ing of the eighth day I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and got into my truck in the freez­ing rain and snow — with a warm cup of cof­fee. From Farm­ing­ton, the drive to Shiprock was 50 miles one way. It was snow­ing, rain­ing, dark, and freez­ing. The ther­mome­ter on my truck read between two and twelve degrees Fahren­heit above zero. For a few min­utes I remem­ber think­ing I was nuts. As this was the fifth time in eight days that I was mak­ing this trip. My mind kept say­ing, “Why are you going out again when you could have stayed with your fam­ily in a warm bed? You’re an idiot. You’re not going to get any­thing.” But I felt dri­ven, as I wanted to cap­ture the image I had dri­ven eight-hundred miles from Cal­i­for­nia to get.

When I finally arrived at Shiprock that morn­ing it was about 5:45 a.m. The sun was just com­ing up and the Shiprock was behind a wall of clouds. When I finally stopped and stepped out with my cam­era and tri­pod, I sank ankle deep into cold mud. But when I looked up I knew that what was about to hap­pen in front of me was the thing I had come all this way for. For the next three hours I sat in front of Shiprock, not a soul around, it felt like we had a conversation.

My hope is that this image helps com­mu­ni­cate what I saw and the humil­ity I felt while
pho­tograph­ing this amaz­ing structure.

AN: Please tell us about your post processing.

MD: I’d say that most of my time is spent in the pre-process stage, not post-processing. That focus makes my post process work flow pretty sim­ple. But one thing that is impor­tant is that I stay focused on the total process because it all leads up to the qual­ity of the final print. The way a JPG looks on my web­site is impor­tant but the final print rep­re­sents my final vision.
I come from a film/wet dark­room back­ground, how­ever, I cur­rently use a dig­i­tal work flow for spe­cific rea­sons, the qual­ity of the final prod­uct being num­ber one.

My cam­eras have always felt like an exten­sion of my brain and hands when I’m out shoot­ing. That’s because I spend time learn­ing the tool (ie: cam­era) inside and out, just as I would if I was a musi­cian play­ing an instru­ment. If you wanted to be a great gui­tar player you’d have to prac­tice and learn every aspect of the gui­tar, right? I feel the same way about a cam­era. I’m also not one to buy an expen­sive cam­era and put in in auto mode and just shoot away. I trash my cam­eras, I treat them like paint brushes, it’s just a tool. It’s just some­thing I use to cap­ture a vision.

All my images are cap­tured latent, mean­ing in cam­era. Live-view really allows me to use my cam­era in the same man­ner I use the ground glass on a view-camera. With live-view I can now see the image in the exact way I am cap­tur­ing it, in black-and-white, with the cam­era in black-and-white mode. In the past when shoot­ing film and using a view-camera, I always had to view the image upside down, back­wards and red, green or blue (if I used filters).

Dur­ing print­ing I per­form a nor­mal amount of dodg­ing, burn­ing, bright­ness and con­trast con­trols on the images in Pho­to­shop. Sim­i­lar to what I would do in the wet dark­room. I print on Epson 3800 and 9800 print­ers with cot­ton rag papers.

AN: Can you give us a bit of a time­line regard­ing your rise in pop­u­lar­ity. How did you go about get­ting noticed?

MD: It all started by sub­mit­ting work to LensWork mag­a­zine. The first time I saw LensWork I had low expec­ta­tions for get­ting pub­lished in it. I had only been shoot­ing again for about a year, but I sub­mit­ted any­way. I never expected to even hear back.

About a month later, I received and email say­ing I would be pub­lished in the next edi­tion and that one of my images Church Rock would be used on the cover. To say the least I was shocked, and I jumped up and down! Since that fist port­fo­lio was pub­lished in March of 2007 I’ve been pub­lished in LensWork two more times. A total of three times to date.

After that first LensWork edi­tion I was con­tacted by the John Cleary Gallery in Hous­ton, Texas, ask­ing if I would like to do a solo exhibit. So my first solo show was July 2007. I still remem­ber the email I received from Cather­ine Cou­turier, the gallery’s direc­tor. It read “we love your work and would like to put on a solo show”. What can ya say — no? That show was really well received, much bet­ter then I could have ever imag­ined! At the time I also had the oppor­tu­nity to meet the late John Cleary. My wife and I had a won­der­ful time with him for the four days we spent together. What an hon­our. Since then I have had a total of three solo exhibits at the gallery.

After the first John Cleary exhibit I was approached by Alex Novak at Vintage/Contemporary Works — and from there things con­tin­ued to hap­pen. I count myself very lucky.

AN: You have had a lot of suc­cess in your pho­to­graphic career, to what do you attribute this?

MD: I’m not so sure I’ve reached any­thing yet. The last five years have been really fluid, and I’d like it to stay that way. I’m thrilled that peo­ple have reacted to my work, but what is most impor­tant to me is to con­tinue con­cen­trat­ing on cre­at­ing new imagery. I do count myself very lucky to be in the posi­tion I’m in today, I believe that my best work is still to come.

Church Rock by Mitch Dobrowner

Church Rock by Mitch Dobrowner

 

AN: How did you get involved with 21st Edi­tions for your book?

MD: I was never in a rush to do a book, I always thought that things would hap­pen when the time was right. So I never pushed it think­ing that even­tu­ally the right oppor­tu­nity would arise.

Then in mid-2010 I received a call from the pub­lisher of 21st Edi­tions — Steve Alba­hari. He asked a few ques­tions and before I knew it I found the per­fect pub­lish­ing com­pany to work with. For any­one not famil­iar with 21st Edi­tions, the books are of the high­est cal­i­bre, they’re amazing!

Work­ing with 21st Edi­tions has been a dream come true. They are an amaz­ing ded­i­cated, pas­sion­ate group of crafts­man. The books are all hand made and are in per­fect tune with me. They are totally sen­si­tive to each detail per­tain­ing to the pro­duc­tion of the books and the pre­sen­ta­tion my work. I’m a very lucky man. The first of the two books comes out in Sep­tem­ber 2011. The sec­ond book is out some­time before the end of 2011. I’m thrilled with they way they’re turn­ing out.

AN: What advice would you give to a young fine art pho­tog­ra­pher who is dream­ing of grandeur?

MD: I’d rec­om­mend read­ing Ansel Adams’ Print, Neg­a­tive, Cam­era series of books. For me, it’s my bible. All the method­olo­gies still apply, it was rev­o­lu­tion­ary thinking.

Today there are so many avenues that pho­tog­ra­phers can take to get their work shown. Just think of what avenues the mas­ter pho­tog­ra­phers of old had. They had no inter­net, no e-mail, very few pub­li­ca­tions, and pho­tog­ra­phy only had a few peo­ple that were con­sid­ered true “artists”. How did they get their imagery out there? It was quite a chal­lenge as com­pared to what tools we have today. I also remem­ber what Michael Kenna once told me when I first started: “show to every­one and any­one who is inter­ested in your work and if the gods shine down on you, things could happen.”

My only other piece of advice is: no mat­ter what any­one says you should always fol­low your gut instincts. Don’t care what peo­ple think or how they feel about your work. Do what you want to do as it’s Your art. Even if it means break­ing away from what every­one else is doing. Don’t fol­low advice, just do it! That’s all I ever do. Break­ing from the pack is a good thing.

AN: Can you tell us about any future projects?

MD: I intend to spend more time pho­tograph­ing storm sys­tems and land­scapes, I would even­tu­ally like to pub­lish a few more books. I see books as being time­less, some­thing we can leave behind for our kids, grand kids and future gen­er­a­tions. I’m really look­ing for­ward to get­ting back to my land­scapes project. I miss the South­west tremen­dously. Utah, New Mex­ico and Ari­zona is where my heart truly is. I can feel my antic­i­pa­tion build­ing as I get set to go back out. It’s a hard feel­ing to describe so I try to just describe it in my images.

AN: What’s your final say?

MD: The final image is all that is important.

Civilization by Mitch Dobrowner

Civ­i­liza­tion by Mitch Dobrowner

 

This inter­view and accom­pa­ny­ing images was reprinted with per­mis­sion from Adore Noir.
Adore Noir is a sub­scrip­tion based online pho­tog­ra­phy mag­a­zine spe­cial­iz­ing in awe­some fine art black and white photography.

Photography forum image of the month – July 2013

Hi Photo lovers!

Every month on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum mem­bers nom­i­nate images that they like. Then at the end of the month I choose an excel­lent image and talk about why it rocks. The photo I choose is not nec­es­sar­ily the best one of the month. I’ve come to real­ize it’s not really log­i­cal to pit images from totally dif­fer­ent gen­res against each other. That’s why there are cat­e­gories in photo con­tests. I just choose a photo that has extremely strong ele­ments that we can learn from.

Just so it’s clear, the photo I choose is not nec­es­sar­ily the best one of the month. I’ve come to real­ize it’s not really log­i­cal to pit images from totally dif­fer­ent gen­res against each other. That’s why there are cat­e­gories in photo contests.

My goal is to sim­ply choose an excel­lent photo and talk about why I think it rocks. This month was another crazy hard month though as the nom­i­na­tions from dif­fer­ent gen­res were of very high quality.

This month’s choice goes to Hill­bil­ly­girl  is for cap­tur­ing Air Time .

Air Time by Hillbillygirl

Air Time by Hillbillygirl

I chose this image for a few reasons:

1 –Deci­sive moment and tim­ing — The moment cap­tured is very excit­ing! The wake­boarder is par­al­lel with the water and yet he looks per­fectly calm and con­cen­trated even though he is fly­ing through the air.

2– Com­po­si­tion — I really like the fram­ing here. The frozen wave at the bot­tom, the spray com­ing off the wake­board at top left, the line pulling the wake­boarder at right — it’s all work­ing well. I like that the back­ground has gone medium soft which high­lights the wake­boarder so nice aper­ture choice as well.

3 — Sharp­ness and high shut­ter speed — I really like that the eyes are nice and sharp. It’s a tes­ta­ment to good track­ing skills and the use of an appro­pri­ately high shut­ter speed to nail this scene. The eyes are sharp enough to see and feel the con­cen­tra­tion. The whole body ges­ture is won­der­fully frozen.

For all these rea­sons, this is my choice for image of the month. Since we all have opin­ions, some mem­bers may dis­agree with my choice. That’s cool but THIS thread is not the place for debate over my pick, NOR is it the place to fur­ther cri­tique the image. The pur­pose here is to sug­gest strong ele­ments in the photo that we may learn from.

Con­grats Hill­bil­ly­girl on this excit­ing capture!