Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: black and white

The Tuscan Neighbor

GiostinosPortrait

Giustino of Cortona

We have a neighbor in Italy, his name is Giustino. He is a venerable character now, but spent his formative years as a farmer and real estate man in Cortona. Since I have known him (about 15 years), he has always been old, but very steady and strong. His property hooks around ours and for years he has toiled in a labor of love tending the olive and fig trees as well as a vast tomato garden. He keeps the land immaculate and I have always admired the techniques and skill he employs. The story is told he bought the house and land for a relative, but they didn’t want it, so he kept it as a pet project of sorts. Driving his little Fiat from Cortona to Terontola in the early mornings to work the land, Giustino would be at it as I woke up almost every morning. Giustino is a sweet man to speak with even though I can barely understand him. I greet him each day with a bellowing, “Boun Giorno Senor!” across the rosemary bushes. He smokes a cigarette every half hour on the mark as he works and his voice is a gravely tuscan accented Italian. He speaks with a smile, the edges of his lips up turned, bright eyes deep-set into a face that has worked under the sun for all its years. In Italian, they would say he is, he isn“persona gentile”. I truly grew to love the man over the years.

This year when we arrived the first thing i noticed was his ill-kept garden. Where Giustino tilled the land and pruned the fig trees, carefully arranging the cut boughs around the trunks, weeds had overtaken. The tomato vines were strewn across the ground, not staked and were yielding poorly. I barely recognized the land, as i had never seen it return to nature but only under the sure hand of Giustino. I feared the worst, for it was obvious that finally the years had prevailed on my neighbor and the land would be wild with out his steady efforts.

underolives

Working under the Olive tree’s shade

Then eleven days into the trip, as I woke up and walked out to the gardens I heard a familiar sound, the “Tick, Tick, Tick” staccato of Giustino working the land with a till! Was it phantasm or phantom of Giustino’s soul spirit bound to the earth? I hurried over and spied him behind the fig tree, clearing the ground beneath it. I ran back into the house and grabbed my trusty Sony RX10 mk 2 and positioned myself so as to be hidden and make exposures while observing my suddenly alive and kicking neighbor. He paused for a moment and rummaged through his jacket pockets to procure a pack of cigarettes, then sat down on his ramshackle well and took a smoke break. I silently laughed and was reassured. Time and the reaper be damned, Giustino lives!

smokebreak

Taking a smoke break at the well

It turns out earlier in the year, Giustino got into a car accident and hurt himself direly while totaling the Fiat. His family won’t let him get a new car and Giustino is subject to the whims of neices and nephews providing rides down to Terontola from Cortona. We spoke, and he is ok now, but was bedridden for several months. He is disappointed he can’t continue as he had, but regardless, keeps his back bent into the work when he can. He lamented how embarrassed he was to have his field look as it did when we arrived. Steady and with dedication over the next two weeks Giustino secured his daybreak rides down and miraculously for one so frail, he cleared the land, trimmed, cut and organized the excess boughs and brought the field to garden status.

On our last night’s aperativo in Cortona, we ran into Giustino sitting with his friends at an outside bar. It took him a moment to recognize us in the shadowy street but when he did, his eyes lit up and that chiseled smile warmed us, and somehow deep inside, I know next year’s summer will bring us together again. Long live Giustino!

walkingtheline

Done for the day.

 

A final note about these images for the gear heads our there. All images shot with a Sony RX10mk2 jpg right out of the camera with the monochrome picture mode applied.  My NIK Silver Efx is now out of date with the latest Photoshop CC2018, so my normal digital B&W workflow was upset. Instead of doing the update, I did an ever so slight edit to darken corners and minor curves adjustment in Photoshop. The image quality out of the Sony RX10 continues to amaze me. I have raved about this camera in earlier posts and really think it’s just a solid performer that is capable of wonderful image making in the hands of a proficient photographer.  I included in each picture’s description the camera settings.

Next blog post will be my summer drone work of Italy.

~David

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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

Seven Steps to Self Editing Your Work

Looking up to Montmarte, Paris. Canon Power Shot A70

Looking up to Montmarte, Paris. Canon Power Shot A70

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.

Paris in April. Canon Power Shot A70

Paris in April. Canon Power Shot A70

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.

Notre Dame. This was shot with the Canon Power Shot A70 and heavily worked in photoshop to correct perspective and monochrome convert.

Notre Dame. This was shot with the Canon Power Shot A70 and heavily worked in photoshop to correct perspective and monochrome convert.

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.

Union Square Pogo dance action. I recall shooting this, then dumping into a folder and forgetting about it. When I found it again I was thrilled to post edit and have a solid NYC street shot. A gem, hidden in a seldom used hardrive.

Union Square Pogo dance action. I recall shooting this, then dumping into a folder and forgetting about it. When I found it again I was thrilled to post edit and have a solid NYC street shot. A gem, hidden in a seldom used hardrive.

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 honestly don't know who's eye this is. I found a folder nested deeply among other folders with about 10 different eyes. I barely recall shooting this.

I honestly don’t know who’s eye this is. I found a folder nested deeply among other folders with about 10 different eyes. I barely recall shooting this.

~David

The Trees – A New Series Takes Root

 

 

The mist is my new favorite weather to shoot in.

The mist is my new favorite weather to shoot in.

“There is unrest in the forest

There is trouble with the trees

For the maples want more sunlight

And the oaks ignore their pleas”

Rush– The Trees

 

I’m so thrilled, in the pursuit of creating images using the RX10 for an upcoming presentation on the camera I stumbled upon a new series that is taking shape, The Trees.

 

Watchungs2

 

I like to use the long fast lens on the camera to find a pattern and texture of the trees. I am shooting jpegs, and then putting them into Nik Silver EFX2 for a black and white treatment.

The Mist in the forest at Shenandoah National Park.

The Mist in the forest at Shenandoah National Park.

 

Diagonal Composition

Diagonal Composition

Bird Watch #4 Neighbor Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

Bird Watch #4 Neighbor Mountain, Shenandoah National Park

 

I’ll be honest, I don’t really care for Nature photography. But this series is resonating to me, I mean I do really like trees. They are old and wise in general, they have a mystical quality. Being pagan it’s like photographing gods in many ways.

 

 

 

 


Watchungs3

I hope you like the trees.

Watchungs4

~David

Environmental Portraits, Location and the Importance Of Background

Yesterday I went on a motorcycle ride with my outlaw biker brothers (and fellow photographers) out of NYC and into Long Island. I brought along my trusty Fujifilm Xpro1 looking forward to shooting some portraits during the ride.

I wanted to shoot pretty wide open to get a blur going on the background, but it was mid-day and quite bright so f4.0 was about as open as I could go. I also wanted to show off the bikes, so I would be further back then my normal portrait shooting distance, thus increasing detail in the blur. The background would have to be considered and thought out as importantly as the subjects. As a matter of fact, I can’t emphasize enough a good background! I like to treat my photographs in three layers, a foreground (in this case the front of the bike), the middle layer (the subject) and the background. I place the emphasis in portraiture on the middle and the background; they are certainly the most critical of the composition, and finding a good foreground being a bonus.

18 f 2.0 2500 sec f 4.0

18 f 2.0 2500 sec f 4.0

First consideration on the background is keeping the horizon in a third. Never ever cut the horizon in half! In this portrait of Joe Otto on his big 1100 V-Twin Cruiser I made sure I lowered myself to ensure the horizon was placed 1/3 to the top. Notice the pavement line that leads your eyes up to the center of the image, and also the blurry car in the far top left, centered between grip and mirror. These background details are tiny, but are elements that ensure the portrait is pulled off with a compositional perfection.Relationships of shapes in the image should also be identified and included, the shape of the headlight mimics Joe’s helmet, so the included that in the crop.

35 f 1.4 4000 second f 4.0

35 f 1.4 4000 second f 4.0

 

In this next photograph of the Kingpin I found a background that has strong elements such as the board walk planks and the sign. While composing the image I would use the Bayside Marina sign to frame Kingpin, while being very careful where the light fixture in the upper left would be placed. During the composure I then noticed the second light fixture and made sure it didn’t touch the subject. I was conscious of the horizon cutting the frame, but the framing overided that consideration and I placed the Kingpin and his Honda RC51 Sportbike in the bottom 2/3 of the frame. By placing the subject in harmony with the planks, all the lines in the image push your eye to image right. F4 ever so slightly blurs the signage, but the intent look on the Kingpin holds the viewer’s eyes around the center of the image.

35 f 1.4 shot at 2000 second f 4.0

35 f 1.4 shot at 2000 second f 4.0

 

Jason took off his leather and underneath he sported a plain whte T with a v-neck. I thought of Marlon Brando in the Wild Ones and liked his casual pose over the handlebars. His HD Sportster Roadster is a new acquisition, and he loves it, the gesture in his left hand shows that. I asked Jason pose in this spot, due to the shade the tree to camera left affords. I like the texture from the cucoloris effect as well, not too strong, not too light. The rocks in the background mimic the bad-ass attitude of the Harley Davidson while the line of the path draws you across the image nicely. Horizon neatly placed in the top third with a hint of clouds.

All the images were shot jpeg with the b&w style applied, then imported into Snapseed with my ipad workflow used. Ride on readers, and keep a sharp on the background (and potholes for NYC riders!)

~David

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