Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

I Just Shot the Best Photograph I Have Taken In Many Years.

Hey Sailors

Sailors in Central Park

 

Last Sunday afternoon, I shot the best photograph I have taken in many years.

That statement will depend upon the beholder, but in my not-so-humble opinion it is acurate. I’m actually not proud of that because it was so easy to execute on first glance, but was it really? Also I live up to my earlier work, which this is not, but then again, it is. If I sound confused, I’m sorry. What I really am, is amazed. Amazed that I saw this, at that the right moment, and executed it properly, perhaps even perfectly.

This image is complex, lots of things are happening and the light is just right. The composition evolved into the perfection it is. The subjects, 3 sailors along a fence and a buff guy with no shirt emerging from a field.

I love it because it’s homo hot, yea, I went there and said that. At the core of my work I want to challenge viewers and take them to dark places inside themselves and let them shine light inside themselves. For the past several years my work has been very academic, but with this image, I feel I have reached back to my roots and mission. To be clear, I don’t want my work to make you feel uncomfortable, I want it to turn you on and question what makes you uncomfortable because you got turned on.

I also love it because I have learned so much. Pierre et Gilles are terrific influences on me, albeit in color photography. Those two bring homo eroticism to the forefront, but other influences are present too. The work of my friend and mentor, the late Len Spier. Len’s work is super spontaneous, black and white, and instantly classic. Mel DiGiacomo distills lessons about being ready, searching with your eyes to find quirk in everyday life. Both of them are black and white shooters, I have sworn off color for over two years now (I only miss it occasionally).

It would seem that every lesson I have learned is present in this image. I turned a corner in Central Park around 6 pm and found my decisive moment. Immediately moving into position and pulling out the only camera I had with me, my iPhone 6. I turned it on, and swiped left to bring up the camera mode. Meanwhile the Frisbee players in the field overshot and the disc landed right of the sailors. One bent down to pick it up. There were four, now there were three. The picture was happening really fast, the moment was almost lost. I leaned out with my right hand, and took two shots in a row. I didn’t have time to solve the change in composition the fourth sailor made by leaving the frame. I was afraid the entire dynamic of the scene would be lost. It wasn’t. My quick composition was enough. I captured it. But I thought it was lost, because I would have to crop the fourth. A day later, I reviewed it and started to notice while I lost the fourth sailor/subject, I gained the frisbee player. And he was hot and shirtless. A small post crop would remove the fourth and the frisbee would become a circular element that sailors and players alike seems to be looking at. The errant frisbee gave direction to the image. It would seem that afternoon in the park, the photo gods smiled upon me.

Photo nirvana occurred. You might agree or disagree with me. It doesn’t happen often. But when it does, it reminds me why I’m riding this horse called photography.

Sailors "Raw"

The unedited version from iPhone 6.

Here is the original image, and the snapseed processed version.

Sailors in central park

Edited in Snapseed.

The above image was processed in Nik Silver Efx. I wish I had had my Fujifilm XPro2 with me, but I didn’t want to be burdened. I’m thankful for the iPhone. What’s the best camera? You know the answer to that.

~David

My Beloved Fujifilm XPro1 is up on Ebay!

I know it’s hard to believe, and it breaks my heart… But since I bought my XPro2, my XPro1 is simply getting dusty. Time to share the piece of gear that excited me so for near 4 years.

Here is the link to the camera on Ebay. The Auction ends February 5th at Noon EST.

Mention you saw it from Suspect Photography blog in the comments and I’ll send you a nice Day of the Dead Triptych.

Have fun!

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Bull Riding in NYC

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I got a last minute invitation today to photograph the third and last day of PBR- Professional Bull Riding event at Madison Square Garden. Armed with my new Fujifilm XPro2 camera I hightailed it over to meet with long time friend and fellow photographer whose gig it was to shoot for Load It, an international trade magazine for productions. I hate to say this, but I think I have known photographer Todd Kaplan for very close to 3 decades. He’s a tried and true working pro- always gets the shot. Shoots with Canon. Good guy.

bullportrait

I heard we would have access, so I imagined cowboys in dressing rooms, ready to test their mettle on the backs of beasts. I grabbed the 18mm and 35 mm lenses in eager anticipation. I should have known how crummy the sodium vapor lights at the Garden are.

monster-girls

The Monster girls posing with their boss. At least he said he was their boss…

The cowboys were getting “in the zone” so no portraits of them occurred, I figured to make the most of the it and test out that new and improved AF system on the XPro2. I switched to high speed mode, AF servo and activated all focus points in with a wide AF center box. Ready to go!

ride2

Auto Focus Mode tracked the action no problem!

I’m usually an aperture priority kind a guy, but for this, I put the lens in A mode and set the camera to 1000 sec shutter speed. I opened up the auto ISO to a 12,500 cap. These settings worked like a charm!

ride5

8 frames per second and 1000th of second shutter nails the shot like the photographer was born in the bull pen. He wasn’t.

I shot these in the Film Sim mode using Across Green Filter setting. I figured the green would un-harsh the crappy stadium type lighting in B&W. My quick edit had me using the good old reliable Nik Silver EFX. I used the #22 ambrotype toning. I figured a warm look matched the classic bull riding theme of the photo shoot.

ride1

The bulls are the real stars.

Here is Todd working, it’s a tough job, someone has to do it.

todworking

bullincorral

MSG back stage, things are a little weird.

msgpbr

I finally found the picture I wanted, this cowboy was from Colorado, but has recently moved to Missouri. He works for 3 1/2 months, then gets to go home for a few weeks. He was cordial and really interested in the people he meets on the road. A gentleman. A gentleman cowboy.

cowboy

The last thing I’d like to convey, there were protesters outside of MSG. The crew I worked with Todd shooting were very professional and the cowboys taking care of the bulls were very respectful of the bulls. I saw no mistreatment and the bulls appeared to be .. well… bullish.

XPro 2 for sports? Yes!

~David

XPro2 First Thoughts and Review

Processed with Snapseed.

Fujifilm XPro2, 35 mm 1.4 lens, Cub Leather Strap, John Varvatos T-Shirt.

I just took delivery of the Fujifilm XPro2 and it will surely be replacing my beloved XPro1 as my primary camera. I’m quite thrilled, and since I’m old school, I like to hang onto photo gear and not get caught up in the great gear race of the latest. I mean, great photographers have been taking great photographs for over a 170 years now, how bourgeois to think that only the latest camera will make you shoot better!

Processed with Snapseed.

NYC High Line Rain. 18mm f 2.0 processed in Snapseed on iPhone.

On a rainy and cold Christmas Eve morning in NYC I took a stroll on the High Line with one of my favorite lenses, the 18mm f2.0. Before I left the warmth of my apartment, I did what I always recommend, take the manual along with cup of hot joe in one hand, and the camera in the other hand. Run page per page through the manual. There was a host of new features and a slight update on the menu system. I downloaded the Fujifilm Remote App and installed on my phone and tablet. The weather was totally miserable, and the normally very busy Highline empty. In a word, Perfect.

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Close up wide open on the Highline.

First thoughts are hallelujah I finally have a camera with a dependable wifi so I can use my iPhone and post the hyper quality image I get from a “real” camera as opposed to the super ease of iPhoneagraphy (which I love but makes me feel cheap and dirty). I was never able to have any success with Sony’s Memory App but Fujifilm delivers a pretty intuitive and easy app for controlling the camera and managing files transmitted to mobile devices. Note that when you transfer a file via wife to a mobile device, it sends a 3 mp file. On your cards are the big files. This blog post is comprised of only images downloaded to my phone, then airdropped to my MacBook for creating the blog post.

Processed with Snapseed.

Evidently New Yorkers are not ready to have Donald Trump as their next president. Wide open 18mm f2.0 and processed in Snapseed.

Down and Dirty on The Xpro2 from an Xpro1 User

 if you are here just for the pix, you might want to scroll past this part. 

I don’t want to cover what other camera bloggers have written, this camera has been out for a few months and admittedly, I’m late to the game. I’ll add that yes, the focus joystick is the absolute bomb. We all love to play with shallow depth of field, and this is an effortless way ensure that the focus point is exactly where you want it.

I noticed other things such as the now built in diopter and not the annoying Nikon style rubber eye cup. It’s hard to believe the XPro1 didn’t have a built in diopter now that I think about it. That’s a throwback to old school that I could live with out and a welcome feature on Xpro2.

I’m not sure how this is going to help, but when in OVF if you push the OVF/EVF arm towards the lens, a little magnified EVF window pops up in the lower right hand side of the viewfinder. I hit it by accident and had a devil of time figuring out how to remove the little pop up window (the lever now goes in both direcitons). I look forward to figuring out how to leverage that feature.

If you want your Xpro2 to be all it was born to be (LOTR reference) make sure you go into power setting and switch on “Performance Mode”. Thanks Big B Brandon for that tip. The factory default is a middle setting. Performance mode helps focusing by engaging phase detection. I have learned to live with the fact that the XPro platform is a battery hog and just roll with extra batteries. Seems that the XPro2 is the pig that  the XPro1 was. Well what ever we are used to that, if you have a problem keeping batteries charged and on deck, then I suggest you go look at Leica M camera.

The Exposure Compensation Dial has more tension than the XPro1 did, so a casual brush up agains your gut doesn’t result in a +2 exposure mistake you notice later. My first thought was a locking button on the dial would be great, but the tension is just right and a lock is not necessary. Somebody at Fuji was listening.

More Buttons and dials! Yup, pretty much you gain joystick, dials and buttons to customize any which way. The dials push in, turn and simply add tons of customization. I’m fortunate have video game training so my fingers can dance across the camera and do exactly what I want. Well.. almost what I want. I’d love to be able to assign the Fn button to activate the wife transfer instead of going through the menu.

The Grip (which I feel is essential if your hands are larger than Trumps) now has a hole to be able to change the battery (yea we do that a lot) and not have to go through the rigamarole of removing the grip as with the XPro1. The grip also has a machined arca-style QR built into it. #lovethat. Memory card slots (yup, now two of them) are accessed in the side of the camera as opposed to next to the battery. Two slots may entice me to shoot raw when I shoot Jpeg. Pretty cool update and modernization.

In short, if you are a XPro1 user, run, don’t walk to B&H and buy this camera now. Click here for the goodness.

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The next four years are going to be great for art, oppression has that effect. Glad I had the 18mm, to get this shot I was pressed agains the opposite wall. Wide Saves Lives.

I’m excited the focus system is now really snappy and accurate. I appreciate that, since I like to shoot wide open and have limited depth of field. I need to nail that focus! And the XPro2 delivers.

I did an unboxing video. It’s funny because Elvira (my dear mother in law) helps out. Check it and please, subscribe to my youtube channel)

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Happy Holidays and let’s toast to no matter what camera you have, make some most excellent photographs!

~David

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Brommer & Bradley Beach in Film

This year I decided that I wanted to continue my work photographing Day of the Dead in Mexico. I had first visited and photographed the holiday in 2013. I used the Fujifilm Xpro1 and have a blog post of the work you can find here. I was quite pleased with the work, but had been recently influenced by Rodney Smith and Paul Caponigro to shoot film. I hadn’t shot with my Hasselblad 501 in years, so I thought this would be a good reemergence as such.

I decided to test it out and see about how I would pack it. I’m extremely retentive when it comes to packing for travel. It’s the back packer in me. I first grabbed the Think Tank Speed Racer bag that is preferred by National Geographic field photographers. They know something about travel right?

I packed a Hassy 501 with 50 f4, 80 2.8, 150 F 4 Zeiss glass. One 120 back and a roll of Tri-X to photograph two subjects, my Father and Bradley Beach.

My father is 91 and is a survivor. He outlived all his friends, co-workers, siblings (and their husbands) and one wife. Ed loves his cars. He picks them out carefully, and all through my life, he had cool cars. I asked him to stand in beautiful light in his garage, with his latest prize, a loaded Buick LaCrosse. He had the vanity plate since the 80’s. I gave him the Seahawks sweat shirt back in ’94. He still wears it.

edbrommer

Ed Brommer in his garage, fall 2016 New Jersey

I used the 80 mm 2.8 Distagon with Tri-X rated at 320. Meter reading was taken below Dad’s chin. 250th of a second f 4.0. Cha-Click-Unk.

I spent my summers in Bradley Beach as little kid in the 1970’s. It had a great influence on me, and when i return to Bradley I always get a tear or two in my eye from the sweet memories. This snapshot is the fountain on the board walk at LaReine and Ocean Avenue. All my life, I have seen this classic Jersey Shore fountain.

bradleybeach

Fountain, Bradley Beach, New Jersey.

I enjoyed making these images but what I learned was that the kit would be way too heavy. The Speed Racer bag is made for DSLR with a long zoom lens, while I could pack it nicely, the weight of that glass, especially the 50 and 150 was just prohibitive. The second problem I had with the film workflow, was the cost. I dropped off the roll of film to CRC on 22nd Street. They offer three levels of scans, 2.5 mb scans + processing would be $16.00. I know from experience, never ever get the low grade scan. The next was 15 mb for $30.00 per roll. Whoa, way to costly for me.

 

So I decided to pack my Fujifilm Xpro 1 and a few lightweight easy lenses and roll with that in Mexico. At least I got to make these two cool shots and dust off the Hassy. I still love that sound and dig the grain from the Tri-X.

Work from Day of the Dead 2016 will be posted soon. I took a year off the blog to see if it would change anything. The only thing it did was keep me off the screen and outside more.

~David

 

 

Happy Halloween my Darklings! 

Here is a trio of scary photos, shoot with the season!

iphone 6 processed in snapseed

 

Sony x100 m3

 

6 Tips to Make Great Photographs with the iPhone 6

This shot was taken while I was at a stop light sitting on my Vespa. I looked up and the drama of the clouds struck me. I slipped the phone out of my pocket pointed it straight up and make this shot. It looked good in color, but the B&W was more dramatic.

This shot was taken while I was at a stop light sitting on my Vespa. I looked up and the drama of the clouds struck me. I slipped the phone out of my pocket pointed it straight up and make this shot. It looked good in color, but the B&W was more dramatic.

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.

Taken at dusk on a bridge over the Arno River in Florence. I pushed the saturation to give it extra punch. I also shot this with my trusty Fuji XPro1, but made the same shot with the IPhone so I could tag and share it by the time I steppe off the bridge.

Taken at dusk on a bridge over the Arno River in Florence. I pushed the saturation to give it extra punch. I also shot this with my trusty Fuji XPro1, but made the same shot with the IPhone so I could tag and share it by the time I steppe off the bridge.

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.

Keep your eyes open when walking and when you see something interesting, bam! You can capture faster than you can call your mom. Construction site for Hudson Yards project in NYC.

Keep your eyes open when walking and when you see something interesting, bam! You can capture faster than you can call your mom. Construction site for Hudson Yards project in NYC.

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.

Still Life with the IPhone, you bet! This was a homage to Edward Weston's pepper. I added the cherry tomatoes to give the image a set of balls ;-)

Still Life with the IPhone, you bet! This was a homage to Edward Weston’s pepper. I added the cherry tomatoes to give the image a set of balls 😉

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.

Nikki Sixx on tour with Six AM. I was about 15 feet back and did cropped in post. The colors were awful as most concert photography is, so I just converted to black and white.

Nikki Sixx on tour with Six AM. I was about 15 feet back and cropped in post. The colors were awful as most concert photography is, so I just converted to black and white.

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.

Little_round_top

View from Little Round Top over the Valley of Death at Gettysburg, PA. This is a great example of working the exposure. I tapped the cannon and then had to further adjust the exposure due to the setting sun in the photo.

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.

I saw this composition across the street and waited about 3 minutes for the traffic to clear. Look close, they are all on their phones! I corrected the perspective in Snapseed to make the lines all straight.

I saw this composition across the street and waited about 3 minutes for the traffic to clear. Look close, All but one (who is eating) are on their phones! I corrected the perspective in Snapseed to make the lines all straight.

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.

Go ahead, be that person who posts their food, but make sure it looks good! If you can't shoot your dish in good light then just don't. Use the table cloth to add to the ambiance, feel free to arrange the salt shaker and utensils so it looks good. Never use the flash!

Go ahead, be that person who posts their food, but make sure it looks good! If you can’t shoot your dish in good light then just don’t. Use the table cloth to add to the ambiance, feel free to arrange the salt shaker and utensils so it looks good. Never use the flash!

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.

Street shooting with the IPhone you never miss a shot. Just keep an eye on the street signs so you don't get a ticket ;-)

Street shooting with the IPhone you never miss a shot. Just keep an eye on the street signs so you don’t get a ticket 😉

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.

NY Harbor from a tall building in Battery Park. the Drama filter in Snapseed just really brings out the rays of light and clouds.

NY Harbor from a tall building in Battery Park. the Drama filter in Snapseed just really brings out the rays of light and clouds.

Well there you have it. Six tips to make you iPhone experience rock. Keep shooting!

~David

The house I summered in when I was a kid in the 70's. Bradley Beach.

The house I summered in when I was a kid in the 70’s. Bradley Beach.

ArmsLength

And lastly, my two favorite things to shoot, Barbara my wife and the Raven Wing my Harley Davidson.

wooden bridge and harleyvespa

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