Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Month: May, 2012

Zen, Zones, and Focal Lengths are now the new drugs.

Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm, Snapseed processed

The sublime pleasure of seeing space surrounding the self as a trained photographer is our greatest gift and pleasure. Shape, lines, shadows, highlights, objects, nuances of patterns, both similar and interrupted, the delicate ballet of balanced forms, transitions of contrast defined in air and matter while viewed in whole, then fractured and selected inside a frame, bounded by our souls perspective focal length. It is sublime when in the zone, when all those take prioritization in you vision, the camera clicks, and its done.

Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm 1/200 f 8 200 iso jpg

The sometimes and not-often secret peak of the photograph making experience is felt in a tremor of the shutter release and can be drawn out for 3 seconds or more after the exposure, this is the satisfaction sensation. You did it. You got that shot amongst a special plane of non-interest.

Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm Snapseed processed

Shooting and seeing is akin to seeking. What it is you seek may not be known to you, walking about armed with your camera and having no particular agenda. Space will reveal what is interesting, time will put your body in the right temporal position and you just might make an interesting photograph. Or you can exert heavy control and manufacture the perfect storm to capture that superlative image. Shooting in a studio makes you the great creator of light, like Lucifer and Prometheus you can encase your image with brilliant photons, be the master of the subject and set. Photographers that create in a studio assume the aspect of gods.

Fitness bill boards

Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm Snapseed processed

How can you shorten the length of mediocre image making from the creating of greater images? There is one way, and that is to make lots of images on an almost daily basis. Live in the margin of seeing, be ready to take the viewfinder as a macroscope for living in this space, here, breathing these sights, and feeling those reflections. Incorporate “often” as way of answering the question, “when do you take pictures”. Raise the camera and make exposures often.

Fuji X Pro 1 18mm 1/30 f 4 iso 400 jpg

A click is a drug and the resulting image the high. Multiple clicks lead to visible euphoria and in that fog of stimulus better images lie. Do it enough and you will find a reliable friend in f8 and a fickle friend at f 1.4. Stay shooting and 1/15 second all of sudden seems like a month. ¼  second and a year shoots by a like the Silver Surfer on speed.

Sean Kernan told me Tidd Hido said, “I think I’m addicted to the feeling of having just taken what I think is a good photograph.” Feed your addiction and makes lots of images. Embrace the “studium” and don’t bogart the camera.

Film Simulation Modes on Fuji X Pro 1

18mm 1/30th at f/2.0 B&W r ISO 800 B&W- Y JPG

So I’m old, I cut my photo teeth on film, I predate digital photography. Back in the halcyon days of film the choices were plenty and you could match a film to your style or the subject. Kodak was king, but then in the late 80’s Fuji Film came out with a highly saturated slide film (e6) called Velvia and the game changed. Fuji roared into the market and just kept coming up with innovative professional emulsions that defined the film mindset and challenged Kodaks hold on film. These Fuji films all had a certain look to them, some subtle and some bold. Velvia possesses a super saturated slightly contrasty look that became the darling of nature shooters. Provia was the “go-to” film for product, commercial and general use, while Astia and its lower contrast smoothness hinting with a touch of warmness was perfect for portrait and fashion work. These were just the slide films, in the print world of negatives (c41) you also had a bevy of specialized films such as Reala for portraits, Press film for journalists (very pushable to higher iso’s), and some great b&w choices. Neopan 1600 was a wonderful high speed fine grain film, and I still shoot with Across 100, a smooth and fine grain emulsion that produces lovely prints.

Digital Photography is very versatile, in post  you can easily adjust the look of your image to match the attributes of these films. In many ways, the art of matching a film emulsion to your subject is lost these days but was crucial back in the day. The X Pro 1 however has something very cool that us old shooters dig, it’s called “Film Simulation Modes” and in the menu we can bias the camera to shoot like a particular film. I teach a class called, “finding photographic style” and I encourage people to work with in-camera digital styles to fine tune their vision. Shooting this way forces you match subject, genre, and style to a look, easily achievable with a film sim mode. The X Pro 1 takes it even further and offers a film sim bracket mode. You can assign three films and take one shot and the camera gives your three images each with a different film simulation. It’s a bit slower to work this way, as the process time takes few seconds. But the results are fun and shows you the comparison between three types of classic Fuji emulsions.

Barbara models for me at Central Park trying out different film sim modes.

The X Pro 1 offers you a choice of Provia (standard), Velvia (punchy & saturated), Astia (soft), Pro Neg Hi (contrasty), Pro Neg Standard (great range of tones), Monochrome (b&w), Monochrome Y (Yellow filter for contrast), Monochrome R (Red filter for higher contrast, great for clouds), Monochrome G (green filter for smooth skin tones), and Sepia tone (warm old feel).

35 mm lens 1/4000th at f/1.4 Provia ISO 200 JPG

I have been shooting Jpegs with the X 1 Pro on account of no RAW support from Fuji yet, so I haven’t been able to test how a RAW image would work under a film sim mode. The merits of this feature are certainly debatable, but I stand by my statement that it allows you to instantly “own” your image in a unique way. I would advise you to explore these settings both in color and b&w. You just may be surprised at the path this film simulation takes you, or at least get a warm fuzzy feeling now that you can shoot with Velvia again… sort of.


Rangefinders are less jerky

Malaysia Beef Jerky Co.

Mirrors slapping around cause vibrations, and vibrations make for less sharp images. Less sharp images make for less of a good photograph. I do like to see creatively blurry shots, but soft is something entirely else. Rangefinders do not use a mirror, and can be shot at very low shutter speeds hand held while maintaining good sharpness. It’s one of the advantages rangefinder and mirrorless cameras have over their SLR younger brothers. Another advantage is since there is no mirror, the rear element of the lens can mount close to the film/sensor plane making retrofocus lens design not needed. This allows for better edge to edge sharpness. Seems like it all comes down to sharpness, but actually it allows for great versatility in shooting in the neighborhood of  low shutter speeds (below 1/10 of a second and the vaunted 1/4 of a second ) where you can catch moving subjects and sharp static elements.

Hand Held 1/18 F 8.0 ISO 200 JPG

There are a few tricks you can do to increase stability, but first lets talk about what shutter speed you have to start paying attention. There are image stabilizers in many lenses and camera bodies nowadays. Olympus, Sony and Pentax integrate them into their digital bodies, while Canon’s IS (image stabilization) and Nikon’s VR (vibration reduction) are built into the lens. The rules with an SLR is that  you need your shutter speed to be what your focal length is. Thus a 210 mm lens needs a 200th of a second shutter speed. A stabilizer lets you cheat that by 3 stops, thus 200th to 125th to 60th (hello 50mm lens) to a 30th of a second. Pretty darn good when shooting with a Telephoto lenses that can really benefit from stabilizer tech. Most people can hand hold a 3oth of second as a matter of fact, It’s pretty safe to hand held at 1/15 of second with an SLR. Lower than that, the mirror can cause vibrations as stated earlier. 1/8, 1/4, even half a second are very difficult are difficult or impossible to capture an image sharply.

Being able to shoot at low shutter speeds hand held can be an art all to itself. You really do have to achieve a stillness akin to zen. Inhale slowly, have the camera strap wrapped about you so that the camera is taunt, slowly release the shutter with out jerking the camera, hold your breath, utter a word to the diety of your choice, and make the expososure.

1/4 s at f/2.0 B&W r ISO1600 JPG lit by a single table candle

You may have had 2 tall lattes and are now quite  jittery or perhaps just really excited about what your photographing (yea, I have been on a few Suspect  shoots back in the 90’s where I was shaking like a hound dog passing peach pits during the studio session). In this case, bump the ISO up two stops to be sure. The Fuji X Pro 1 is exceptional at high ISO shooting. If all that fails, then find a hood of car, mailbox, pole, or something suitable to prop the camera on just to give you a steady edge. The best of the best can handhold a rangefinder for 2 seconds and still achieve super sharpness. Me, I’m good for a second. But then again, it depends on how many espresso’s I had at dinner.

Shoot well, shoot sharp, and shoot stable fellow Suspects,


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