HOLY BOOK UPDATE! BATMAN!!! Print version arriving soon.

Just wanted to update you all on what's happening with my insanely fun, vanity publishing adventure, the photo novel: The Lisbon Portfolio

Belinda finished fine tuning all of the interior design and building the print version from scratch. We could have gotten up quicker if we'd just taken the short cut and uploaded the e-version. But we knew it wouldn't look as good. She's done an incredible job but that shouldn't surprise anyone who knows her since she's been the lead graphic designer on countless magazines and books for corporate clients.  Can you say #BrilliantDesigner ? 

So, we uploaded the print version and passed all the publisher tests and formatting double checks with flying colors. I ordered three proof copies today and they should be here early next week. We'll go through and make sure everything from the front cover to the last manuscript page is perfect and then we'll push the magic button and let Amazon.com come publish the printed version (all 472 pages of it) and make it available to an international audience of photo spy book cognoscenti. I'll post the links to the print book the minute after we launch. 

Thanks to my readers for their patience and support with this project. All the help and encouragement behind the scenes has been wonderful. What a nice group of people we've got here!

Have you shot with the Olympus 75mm 1.8 lens? If you have I would love to hear your opinions about it.

I am vacillating between buying one of these
or buying one of the 42.5 Nocticrons.
I can't buy both at once. 
This one is half the price. 

What do you think of yours?
Or the one you've used?

I can read the review sites. 
I might just trust you more.


Layers are lovely.

I experimented yesterday with turning things off. I was heading out for a walk and I decided to take a counterintuitive camera and lens combination with me; the Samsung NX30 and the its 85mm 1.4. The general twist is that I set the camera up in manual exposure, center focusing spot, raw, AWB and ISO 200. Then I turned the rear screen completely around to it faced the camera body. I wanted to shoot as we used to shoot with film cameras, without the benefit of instantaneous review of the images I was shooting. I wanted to trust the camera and let it do the work.

I actively ignored the EVF image and tried to just meter each shot using the metering indications in the finder. I think that I've become so dependent on "pre-chimping" and trying to get everything just right in the moments before exposure that I've been losing my connection with the subject and the real reason I might want to take a photograph in the first place. I didn't adjust anything if the screen in front of my eye seemed too light or too dark. I concentrated on using my exposure experience and fine tuning based on a spot metering of a subject and a little dial in of aperture to avoid running out of shutter speed. I find this is a good way to shoot this camera. The EVF never seemed to track proper exposure (or my interpretation of proper exposure) anyway. Juggling screen images was becoming a distraction. 

I found that willfully ignoring the rear screen and squelching the idea of making lots of little adjustments at the time of shooting freed me up to enjoy the process of actually looking for images more. We've talked here before about having a camera with just a few basic controls. One which would shoot to raw files and allow correction from there. This is what I was trying to do. Essentially pushing the ability to recognize something I wanted to shoot instead of focusing on how to optimize a scene.

Was I successful? I was in that the images I captured pleased me and my walk was more fluid and less stoppy-starty. What would it take to really do this right? I'd want to use a camera with an optical viewfinder and put gaffer's tape over the screen on the back. The finder would merely be an indication of composition and whether the camera had hit focus. All other information would be blacked out. Is this a new trend in shooting? Well, judging by the new Leica which does away with a screen entirely, maybe. Will I be shooting this way a lot? Probably not. More of an exercise in re-asserting my visual primacy over the highly addictive interplay of pre-chimping and compulsive correction. 

It has piqued my curiosity though. I'm heading out the door this afternoon with a Nikon F camera and a 50mm lens. Two rolls of generic ISO 100 print film. 72 blind exposures. Should be frustrating and exciting. But to me the "hunt" is always better than the "dissection."

Walk Image #1 and Walk Image #2


Clicking through life. One website at a time.

This image is for visual anchoring. It's a frame from the King and I, 
now playing at Zach Theatre. It was shot with a Panasonic GH4
and the wonderful 35-100mm X Vario lens.

Doesn't matter what I say or do, the steamroller just comes along and flattens everything down to the same level. Every day I get e-mail messages that guide me to sites. Some sites are touting medium format cameras. Invariably the images are of models or race cars. These images are all sharp and contrasty and grainless but uniformly safe and boring. One site shows me "new talent" (which means young photographers) that is selected by "anonymous" art buyers and editors but all the images look like they were shot by the same person. They're all casual lifestyle scenes that seem as though they were shot by someone who has never even see a lighting instrument, let alone read the instructions about how to turn one on. How many images of wandering millenials in quasi (dispassionate) love do we need to see? How unlit can an image be? Do we need to even recognize the person being portrayed?

I get e-mails guiding me to sites that tell me how to shoot models. But all the models are lit the same way and all of them seem to have gone through the same retouching car wash that scrubbed all the detail off their faces. Are we still at all even mildly amused by tattoos and piercings? Do all video cameras have to slide during every take? Help me, Jim Jarmusch!

Sometimes it makes me just want to put my camera down and go for yet another walk. To see what real people are out seeing and to see what real people, with lives and jobs and kids, are doing. How do people look when they are walking through their reality trying to balance a cellphone on one ear, a cup of coffee in one hand and a messenger bag in the other? What does beauty feel like for unattractive people? Can anyone pull off looking cool as they climb into their ten year old mini-van? Can anyone not look like a sociopath as they climb into a Ferrari at the grocery store? Do men really still wear gold chains around their necks in 2014? Are small children being parented while their parents look into the vague middle distance and chatter inanely on their phones.

I have other questions that vex me as I "learn" more about the "importance" of creating visual content for the cellphone screen. Here's one: Why do we give a crap about huge, wonderful video cameras or "4K" if 65% of the population will "enjoy" the content on the screen of a phone? Is there any correlation between the sheer, enormous, corpulent size of people and our new addiction to the web?

I thought of all this as I was taking images in a very high end tech company a few weeks ago. One person asked another if the web was systematically destroying all jobs. "No." replied the other, "technology has been doing that for a long time." They went on to discuss the recent protests by fast food workers. One person said to the other, "If they push this wage thing too far we'll just put an app on a bunch of iPads and automate the fast food front counters. People can handle ordering and paying for themselves..."

And, for a second I imagined that this would only flatten the finances of the poorest people, but someone else had just finished telling me about decision tree software for psychiatry that may be at least as effective as talk therapy performed by a psychiatrist/analyst. Most psychiatrist have long since been relegated to prescribing pills instead. This next step will allow their jobs to "migrate" down to trained nurses. And then we'll automate mental health care and what next?

What does any of this have to do with photography? Well, nothing and everything. A life that goes from screen to screen to screen. Perhaps photography is one of the things that actually makes people go outside and see for themselves. That's a start.