When you leave home and hit the road, be it for work, play, or pretty much anything you set out t do, you should always carry a camera. There is a photographic axiom that says, “What is the best camera? The camera you have with you!” and that is undeniably true. The camera you will sling over your shoulder is going to change over the years and a new camera can stimulate you and put you into a photo-taking mood by simply being new. The technology changes, and even the great masters used a range of cameras across thier careers.
But sometimes you leave your camera at home because it’s just too heavy and cumbersome. Compositions and photo movements abound, just because you don’t have your camera with you doesn’t mean you aren’t seeing and the photo opportunities are not present. Three things you don’t leave at home that are non-negotiable are; keys, wallet and mobile phone. The camera & phone combo may be the greatest technological achievement of the 21st century because it allows us to always have a camera with us, and the ability to share our images.
My only ‘photo-phone’ experience so far has been using the Apple iPhone, so if you are going to call me an Apple fan boy, go ahead, I accept that moniker because I believe in the iPhone and started off with an iPhone 3 in 2007. The first photo I took was a homeless person in a atm bank lobby. Later I would shoot what might have been the first IPhone wedding of NY fashion designer Michele Korn using only the IPhone 3. I fell in love with the device, simply because it was always in my pocket! Dutifully I went from iPhone 3, to 4, to 4s, skipped a 5 and got the 6 early in 2015. The progression has been upward, but the 6 was a big leap in quality from its predecessors. All images shown in this blog post were taken this year with the IPhone 6.
So here are my 6 recommendations:
One- Wipe you lens off each time you go to make a photograph. That lens is tiny, and you need it as clean as can be to maintain sharpness. A finger print will substantially soften the image and lower contrast. An actual smudge or what we call “schmutz” in New York will diffuse your image to the point of total failure. Use your t-shirt, a tissue, or whatever you have handy. Of course a micro fiber is the best choice. My wife Barbara keeps her iPhone in a micro fiber pouch to protect it in her pocket book from scratches and that makes a great way to keep the lens smudge and scratch free.
Two- Be touchy. Your phone does have auto-focus and auto-exposure, but it can get fooled. Compose your image first, and then tap on the subject of your photo. Once you have a focus and exposure lock, you can then drag your finger up or down to adjust exposure. Very useful for backlit subjects and in that case, touch up for + exposure. This will come handy when you are shooting at the beach or in a snow scene.
Three- Capture with the standard camera setting. Don’t bother with the HDR mode, it’s better to adjust your image later in a post-processing app which we will talk about later. The standard photo is a 4:3 ratio which will give you a standard image. You might want to consider shooting in square mode if you plan on using instagram, since instagram forces you to use square compositions. This will save you having to crop later and perhaps missing a part of the image that you wanted in or is needed for the composition. Getting it as close to perfect in the capture, then fine tuning later in post is a great rule of thumb.
Four- Turn the flash off. Yup, unless it is really dark, like the inside of club or outside at night and you are shooting a subject less than 7 feet away, the flash (which is really a led light and not a flash at all) will make a crappy photo. There are three settings, off, on, and auto. By default it’s on auto out of the box, you will want to set that to off. I never ever use the flash function, I hate the way it looks. A trick to use if you must shoot in the dark, is have a friend hold up their iPhone and use it as a flash light. This way, the angle of light gives shape as opposed to your flash right next to the lens making a flat over exposed image.
Five- Use minimal if any zoom. Any zooming you do by pinching the image will digitally zoom it, and it’s better to just do that in a post app. I advocate if you are good with composition to use a little bit of zoom if you can’t physically get closer, like a shooting a building across a busy street, but really cropping should be done in post to maintain quality. When you have to 8 to 12 megapixels like the iPhone has, you have plenty of pixels to crop in post. Also, your focus can be tricked if you zoom heavily.
Six- Use the best app ever invented, and that is Snapseed. Invented by Nik and then acquired by Google, Snapseed does it all. I love Snapseed because it’s free, and it’s spectacular. I used to advocate Adobe PS Express and Camera bag but Google has super charged Snapseed into a beast of an app. And did I mention it’s free? Every image you see on this page was captured with the iPhone, then opened up with Snapseed and edited. I suggest you subscribe to this blog, I’ll be posting a Snapseed tutorial soon.
Well there you have it. Six tips to make you iPhone experience rock. Keep shooting!
And lastly, my two favorite things to shoot, Barbara my wife and the Raven Wing my Harley Davidson.
The Tuscan summer vacation always leads me to a mini photo project using specific gear. In the past years the cameras have been diverse such as the Instant Italy summer, using only Fujifilm Instax cameras. Other times I had the pleasure of weeks resorting only to Deardorrfs and Hassalblads, Nikon rangefinder and toy cameras and of course the summer of water color not using a camera at all. This year since a Tuscan darkroom is available after setting one up last year, I knew I’d grab a film camera and using periscope (the social media livecast software), it was decided that the Zeiss Icon 535 medium format would be employed. But I did want a digital, and after the past year of using the cream of Sony’s crop of cameras I was distraught on what to use.
On my shelf, gathering dust was my trusty Fujifilm XPro1. I was down to only two lenses, the 18 and the 35. Why was a layer of dust on it? Well for one, this past year as I said I had been using what I would call, Ultra Modern Digitals, in particular the Sony RX series and a few short weeks ago, the brandy new Sony A7rII. Scroll back on this blog to see the many posts about these cameras.
Handling the XPro1 was a joy as it always has been. With its viewfinder allowing the option of analog or digital, the classic rangefinder look, the fit and finish and of course, the solid click of the shutter I resolved that I would bring that. But I must say, I know those two lenses inside and out, just like I know Cortona and the local country side, and I needed a new lens to inspire the exploration with the Xpro1.
So I reached out to my Fujifilm connection and long time friend and photo confidant, Brandon. He replied to my text contritely saying, “or be so not Dave and do a crazy zoom 18-135”. Sometime over a year ago, Fujifilm unveiled a “super zoom” that was weather proof and a slight departure from the old school primes that preceded it. For one, it is an image stabilized lens, and secondly the aperture ring while being where you would expect it, near the lens mount, is electronic. It’s not a small lens, and on the camera takes the compact Mirrorless and makes it DSLR size. The aperture is a variable f3.5 at 18mm and at 135mm is a slow f5.6. I figured the best way to deal with the slower zoom was to keep the stabilizer on and reset my auto iso settings. Jumping into the menu I selected 200 to 6400 auto with a min shutter speed of a 1/5th of a second (taking into account the stablizer).
Brandon explained the weather proofing as ingenious. The back of the lens has air conduits built into it for intake and exhaust. This keeps dust inside the lens or pushed out of the lens, and not on the sensor. A fear of long zooms is the vacuum they create as they are zoomed. Fujifilm engineers figured a work around this inherent problem and I had no issues what so ever with dust contamination on the sensor.
I enjoy using the lens. It’s a big beast for sure, but by strapping the camera on backwards to my shoulder, the lens tucks nicely into the nook between my but and flank. How about performance? The images will speak for themselves. I found the images tack sharp from edge to edge. Shooting wide open on the wider focal lengths makes for a lack luster bokeh, but certainly at the tele settings on close up subjects, the bokeh improves. It’s no 35 f1.4 for sure, but the flexibility of the zoom overrules that objection quite nicely. Don’t buy this lens for sweet out of focus blurry for and back grounds, buy it to pull in distant details- of which it will do very nicely.
Also Fujifilm is now offering a line of filters. They are made of metal (not brass) and feature glass Fujifilm Super EBC coated optics. They are not thick and burly B&W filters, but inexpensive and well matched to the system. I would match them to any lens purchase I will make in the future. The threads are perfectly suited for the other lenses in the line up.
A crazy zoom, OK I like it!
|Focal Length||18 – 135mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 27 – 206 mm
|Aperture||Maximum: f/3.5 – 5.6|
|Camera Mount Type||Fujifilm X mount|
|Angle of View||76.5° – 12°|
|Minimum Focus Distance||1.48′ (45 cm)|
|Diaphragm Blades||7, Rounded|
|Filter Thread||Front:67 mm|
|Dimensions (DxL)||Approx. 2.98 x 3.85″ (75.7 x 97.8 mm)|
|Weight||1.08 lb (490 g)|
This is my first A7 family camera to put to the test. I have been a big fan of the RX100 and RX10 since they came out, and had a failed Sony A6000 encounter. Meatloaf says, “two out of three aint bad”, so I planned on going in with an open mind for this camera and take it for a test shoot, or two.
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t a fan of the first A7. It didn’t care for the feel, fit and finish. Of course it was Sony’s first attempt, and I always am leery of first versions. However the camera did truly put Sony on the map, and turned many photographers away from Nikon and Canon so I knew it did have merit. I was eager to put the A7rII in my camera bag on two recent shoot.
Upon opening the camera I was taken aback about how sturdy and good feeling the camera is. The shutter has a solid quality snap to it, and is much quieter than it’s predecessor. I still wouldn’t call it quiet like a Leica, but the sound is lower and deeper. Something akin to a dulcet clunk than a tinny smack.
I ran the camera with two lenses, a 90 F 2.8 macro and a 24-70 F 4.0. I shot with the 90 more; because I am a fan of portraits and that was the current project I’m on, Throttle Portraits of bikers and thier bikes.
The auto focus is superb. The A7rII has 399 focus points. Yes, that’s 399 focus points. My wife and I hosted Brian Smith and his lovely wife Fazia over for a dinner the first day I had the camera. Brian set up the autofocus spots to be manually shifted by hitting the OK button and then navigating the plane of focus. This took some getting used to, but the camera as you move the point of focus across its generous full frame view, you can also adjust the size of the focus spot with a command dial. Brian’s findings on the camera can be found here. Focus is crisp, and the multi point auto hits it’s mark effortlessly. I would venture to say that it is the best auto focusing camera I have ever shot with. This coming from a guy who sold the Maxxum 700 camera at JC Penny when Minolta first introduced the first generation at AF SLR.
An advancement with the A7rII is it’s low light capability. I really didn’t test that aspect since I was too consumed with shooting portraits. I did get the chance to bring Vincent Versace to Hogs and Heifers, a classic NY dive bar that will be closing at the end of August due to massive rent increases from a soulless corporation (that is rant you can joing me on Facebook about). I made one shot of the whole bar, with the setting sun pouring in from the east. I think it was a difficult shot to expose and the camera really handled it well. The interior shot of Hogs and Heifers was made in Aperture Priority f8 and auto out of the box auto iso. I wish I could tell you the iso it chose, but the 42 megapixel file is crippling my aging powerbook.
I found the buttons plenty, and this is a camera that when getting used to, is a fine instrument to make digital photographs. That being said, at $3200 it better be. It is not that much smaller than a SLR, the Mirrorless aspect doesn’t shed that much size nor weight. It does, but not that much. Don’t buy this just to save weight, once you slap on the lenses it will be heavy. Buy this for the technological wonder it is. I didn’t test video, but lets make an assumption, it’s going to do very well. The only real problem I had with the camera was its viewfinder. It’s top of the line and works very well, however it is digital and I’m old school, I’ll take a digital camera and accept it and make inspired images, but I’ll be darned if I have to see the world pixilated. Come shoot with me using the Deardorff and you will see why I prefer an analog approach.
I will be moderating a panel with Colby Brown, Daniel Watson and Kenta Honjo August 12th at 2:00 pm. More info below- please join us.
Have a ball with this camera! It’s a serious contender.
Battlefield n. the field or ground on which a battle is fought.
Cant n. the phraseology peculiar to a particular class, party, profession
“Battlefield Cant” are a series of photographs from the European battlefields of WW2 and prose from the soldiers who fought there.
The heroic deeds of the landings at Normandy and the Allied triumph of WW2 are the defining moment of a dying generation. I have a keen interest in what remains of these sacred locations, both in images & words. In April of 2011 I began the project “Battlefield Cant” and visited the Normandy D-Day landing beaches and battlefields photographing with my trusty wooden 8×10 camera.
Today, June 6th 2015 marks the 71st Anniversary of the start of the battle to retake France and defeat the German Third Reich. Suspect Photography salutes the men who sacrificed their lives to so that we may live free today.
The most difficult aspect of Photography to master is Picture Image Editing. You can learn to shoot better, to expose properly, to capture composition, achieve perfect timing, master the light, focus on details and blur what you don’t want. You will have to ensure you are in the right place at the golden hour, always coaxing gesture from subjects and understanding the camera you hold in your hands, these are all hallmarks of a great photographer. You can learn these things by shooting a whole lot, or you can fast track an be taught in schools and workshops. However there is one skill that can’t be taught, its importance is paramount, yet is seldom discussed in the arsenal of photographic skills, that of picture editing.
I’m not referring to post editing, as in using Light Room, DxO, or even Photoshop to crop and adjust, I’m suggesting editing in the sense of “I have these 748 pictures and which ones are the best”? Self-editing is very difficult, I see poor editing while reviewing photographers work frequently and especially among the new photographers. When you have to choose 3 images from your archive, it’s an art all itself to make the right picks.
The following seven elements are what I have learned to use over the years. They have served me well and this post is populated with images I found in my archive, never before published pulled up just for use here. Some go back 12 years.
One: Take a page from Ansel Adams and pre-visualize the best shot that can be made from the scene before you. Ansel worked with large format cameras and they force you to get it right with an economy of shutter snaps. Contemplate the image in front of you and take time realizing the elements that will make a solid photograph. Resist a haphazard approach like overshooting in the hopes that one image will have a correct horizon and cloud will be in the just the right place. All this creates is a clutter of files and essentially- a bigger haystack to find the best shot.
Two: Archive or develop as soon as possible. Get the images off the card or the film processed before image anarchy occurs. Cluttered memory cards, unprocessed rolls of film in drawers, make bad for editing.
Three: Soak up a good look at what you have shot. This can start a healthy review of work via the playback button the camera. Don’t be afraid to pixel peep (zooming into the image) to check for proper focus. You have a succession of very similar shots, and one or two missed the mark for focus, but the other shots are tack sharp, feel free to delete the softies right out of the camera. I have found that I can edit very well right off the camera in most circumstances. I like to use a Hoodman Hood Loupe if I decide to pack it, it’s fairly cumbersome but it’s great at isolating your point of view when using the camera LCD.
Four: However you archive, be it Adobe Lightroom or manually like me, do it the same way, set up a consistent file structure and keep two hard drives or a raid as a back up. Name the shoot, and I also will date it too. Once the images are off the card, or processed and scanned, run through them again. Pick out a few favorites. Open them up and do a little post editing.
Five: Show them off and get some opinions. Throw them up on Face Book, tweet ‘em, Instagram them (even though I hate Instagram). My rule when I put up a shot on my Facebook if it gets over 100 likes then I know I nailed it.
Six: Move on. Forget about them. Work on your next shot. When you are ready to do something with them, and need them, make sure you have them properly cataloged on your drives so they are easy to locate for when you need them.
Seven: Dive back in fresh and do what really is your third edit. Based on your internal instinct and some reactions from your network look at your edit again, and also, the un-edited archive. You might very well have missed something. Become friends with this edit, improve on them with post processing. If you need to narrow them down further, set them up in folder for your screen saver and then your monitors become a “familiarization device” to better understand which are the strongest images. I learned this trick from Jock Sturges.
In summary, don’t shoot so much, go for quality not quantity and ask your network what they think of the images, then sit on them for awhile and keep shooting, return to them and look at your edit and the un-edited again. My last tip is that frequently, a crop is in order. Many a good image can be overlooked but stands out with a good crop. They say it’s all in the eyes.
I have one fear, and that is to shoot my beloved portraits with an 8×10 camera. I fear being able to focus, I fear not be able to see as I do with a reflex view, I fear the time it takes to focus, pull the dark cloth, load the film, pull the dark slide, and finally make the exposure. What if the model moves in that time and the focus is so shallow that I miss the mark?
So I played it safe and stuck to landscapes. But when I set up my 10 Hours Walking as a Goth photoshoot I decided to face my fears and start the video shoot with a still shot. Camera of choice being a 8×10 Deardorff loaded with Ilford FP4. We started the shoot late, and the sun was setting early in mid November. I pushed the FP4 to 400 iso (two stops from its native 125) and opened up the Kodak Commercial 14 inch f6.8 all the way. Using a Pentax Digi Spot I arrived at 100th of a second wide open. My assistant held a 32″ Silver Reflector to try to direct the anemic light while giving a little fill to Paradox’s magnetic eyes. I miss-placed the heavy duty cable release that is needed for that behemoth of a lens and had to hand trip the shutter. This photoshoot had all the hallmarks of a crappy outcome.
But an amazing thing happened, out of the two plates I made, one worked. I’d say I nailed the focus by a tight margin, but what really got me was the amazing bokeh. That huge herkin’ Kodak 14 inch lens wide open is smoother than a newborn babies but!
I scanned the Ilford FP4 negs on a Epson 3600 perfection using Silverfast AI software. Then using PS I retouched the image and applied Nik Silver EFX to fine tune the black and white. The detail when working with such a large negative is positively sick and allows for extreme cropping with little to no loss.
If you like Paradox, then check out the short viral video I produce with her shot in November of 2014.
I’m hooked on 8×10 Portraits and shall be shooting and posting more soon.