Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: photography

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coney Island Polar Bear New Years Day Swim 2014 : A Guide To Photographing This Tradition

Rush_to_ocean

The mad dash to get in the water first. Xpro1 – Zeiss 12mm

Attention Suspect Photography Fans- Finding Photographic Style and Composition in NYC 4 Day Intensive Workshop April 17th to April 20th 2014. Early Registration Discount By March 1st.

The first day of the New Year is celebrated by New Yorkers at Coney Island in the form of a brisk dip in the Atlantic Ocean. This has turned into an event which is organized by the Polar Bear club of Coney Island, an organization  founded in 1903. This year the event drew close to 4000 viewers and 2500 swimmers in an extremely festive environment filled with characters, personalities and lots of photographers. I was actually quite surprised at how many shooters turned out, the day was a who’s who of NY photographers that showed up; from the venerable Harvey Stein, the Daily News veteran  Todd Maisel, iPhone extraordinaire Ben Lowy, man about town Louis Mendez, Brooklyn’s Kevin Downs and a motley assortment of many local photographers. I got the idea to shoot the Polar Bears a few days prior (looking for something cool to do New Year’s Day) and I texted my friend and fellow photographer Brandon Remler to see if he was game for it, and found out he had already plans to go, so I hitched a ride with him (creative minds think alike aye?). The board walk was crawling with photographers when we arrived at 11:30 am.

The seminal NY Street Photographer Louis Mendez covering the event.

The seminal NY Street Photographer Louis Mendez covering the event.

Covering this event to make photographs is exciting, fun and actually fairly difficult. Here is my take: first off, set a parameter. I wanted to capture portraits that resonate with the oddity of the moment,  the anticipation of the action, and the shivering resulting from it. Coney Island is an old place (my Grand Mother and Grand Father met there in the late 1920’s) and has distinctive landmarks that beg to be integrated into the final image.

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Characters abound. This is a husband wife Polar Bear team. The wife parked the invisible jet behind the wonder wheel (where else?).

The first part of the day is the action on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The music was provided by a DJ  and the result was a party filled with electric energy of the new year. I slapped on the 35 mm f1.4 for this and opened up between f 4.0 and f1.4 depending on the “width” of the photo. The shot below needed a little more depth of field because I wanted to catch the stuffed polar bear and the lady, and shooting at 1.4 would have given me focus on just one of those elements. I stopped down to f4.0 to capture both.

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A very typical character you can find on the board walk of Coney Island. I love the tattered leather and the macbook.

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Elements that give a sense of place like the roller coaster are important to keep in the frame. I didn’t expect the tongue, but fired away when she stuck it out.

I love to shoot wide open and blur the background, but essential to this shoot was Coney Islands uniqueness so I was trying to get the parachute jump or the roller coasters in the background. The 35 mm f1.4 destroys backgrounds into a soft bokeh-ness so if I wanted that background to be demonstrative, I would have to really think about how far I was from the subject and carefully position myself to include those elements in the frame.

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We’re going to need a bigger camera.

The action is carnival like, and people dressed up and cavorted for the many cameras. It was easy to make a portrait, all you had to do was get their attention and ask for the photo. I found you could also direct them a fair bit and roll out with some nice work. I would wait till the subjects were not being harrangqued by any other photographers so I could get their attention. You can see in their eyes if they are working with you, or the photographer next to them. The lesson here is wait your turn and make the photo yours.

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The first wave of Polar Bears head to the cold surf.

The dip in the ocean occurs at 1 pm, so around 12:30 we made our way down to the beach and joined a crush of photographers. The Polar Bear Club makes a channel about 75 feet wide for the swimmers to run down the beach and hit the water. It gets filled up fast, so stake out your spot early. My plan was to shoot wide (Zeiss 12mm), and get in as close to the swimmers as possible. I set the camera for manual focus at f22 and just used zone focus to capture the run. I also put the camera into hi-speed drive mode and shot at 6 frames per second. Editing later on  you can find just the right shot and a lot of ones that clutter up your hard drive.

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This is my favorite shot of the day. I love the composition, but I did have to crop heavily, there was a Nikon 70-200 2.8 with lens hood sticking into the frame from the left side.

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The police boat on the horizon is an interesting element to include.

Winter_Splash

I did get tired of the police boat in the background, but the back lit splashes never gets old. One problem was the sun was just above the frame and wreaked havoc with the exposure. I was at +2 Exposure Comp to make this one.

After the swimmers took their dip they returned to the shore and an army of photographers converged on them. They showed great attitude and fortitude and posed for us. But again, you have to be proactive, smile at them and ask for the shot. Subjects looking into your lens will connect far better than subjects looking over you shoulder.

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He couldn’t keep his cigar dry, but that didn’t stop him from smoking it.

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This girl was skinny, so the cold was electric but look at that smile. A true NY’er and we don’t need the Giants hat to prove it.

This couple had just gotten engaged and were celebrating by taking the dip. I think everyone had a story, but with LBGT rights being the #1 story of 2013 I had a special warm place in my heart for these lovers. The woman on the right is proudly displaying her engagement ring. Let love rule!

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How do you celebrate an engagement? In 32 degrees water thats how!

So what does a Coney Island Polar Bear get aside from a jolt of excitement? They get an official certificate stating, “I Did It”! Aside from crazy NY locals, this event also attracts thrill seekers from across the country.

I_did_it.too

This Polar Bear is loud and proud of her accomplishment.

This family came all the way from Sunny San Diego for the celebration and dip.

This family came all the way from Sunny San Diego for the celebration and dip. The family that freezes together stays together. They could have done this in their home town, but it wouldn’t have been the same.:-)

This work was all shot with the Fujifilm Xpro1 and my trio of favorite lenses, the Zeiss 12mm f2.8, 18mm f2.0 and 35mm f1.4. I was aperture priority and on the beach was always at +1 1/3 exposure compensation. I shot with B&W Yellow filter to bring out a little more contrast in the sky. The entire shoot was processed on my iPad using Snapseed. For those of you who find the FujiFilm Xpro exciting, please visit this blog  that collects all artistic articles about the camera. I also brought along my Fujifilm Instax Neo-Classic Instax camera. I gave away about 15 pictures throughout the day. Like I have written before, this camera just emanates good photo karma and it makes subjects happy when you  hand them an instant photo as a take-away.

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I saw Xpans, Graphlex, Hassy, and even a pinhole camera to capture the day with.

I am definitely going again next year, and to make better images I want to try mounting the camera on a pole and shooting remote to get a higher angle. I’ve noticed the press guys had fishing waders on and were in the shallow water making shots. I think this is needed, as I found it very hard to make images without lenses and other non “polar bears” in the image.

and the last image... the lone photographer capturing the surf of a new year. Complete with black fedora.

…and the last image… the lone photographer capturing the surf of a new year. Complete with trench coat and black fedora.

Regards to the brave Polar Bears of Coney Island  and see you next year.

~David

End of Year Post : What’s In and What’s Out

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Doll with whip, Brooklyn Xpro1 35mm f1.4 B&W jpeg

2013 will forever be known as “The year to try to keep up with”. Innovation found itself at every turn, politics were as contentious as any year in my life I have been aware of, and the now ambiguous smart phone has dominated just about every aspect of life in 2013. Trying to keep up is nearly impossible and requires a devoted assault on what was once known as “free time”. There is no more free time, unless you retreat to a cave, grow your beard (oh wait, the hipsters own beards now), make a conscious decision to quit social media,  isolate yourself,  and avoid at all cost  slew of new cable series that now define pop culture. There is light at the end of the ’13 tunnel, those cables series have become so engaging that reality TV became passé. A lot of shit went down in 2013, and I don’t have time to write about it all, ‘cause I gotta catch up so I’ll break it down with a In and Out list, kinda like In and Out burger.. but much tastier.

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Candle Maker, Sugar Load NY Zeiss 12mm f2.8

 

InUmami Burger, this LA burger joint opened on 6th Avenue and all the other burger joints in NYC pretty much took the back seat. The flavors are masterful, and the trick is to just sit at the bar and let the families wait for tables.

Out– MacDonalds, actually MickyDee’s has been out for a long time, but this year even their employee HR website recommended they don’t eat what they serve as unhealthy.

 

In– Mirrorless Cameras, this got serious in 2013 after Fujifilm in 2012 was the comeback kid. Olympus pretty much abandoned their DSLR line, and Sony stuck a full frame sensor in a Mirrorless camera.

Out– Cameras with the “hump” (DSLR) and sub $200 point and shoot digitals. Yea, cameras that have the hump mean they have a mirror and a mirror is so everything 2012 and past. Forget a cheap digital point and shoot, you got your iPhone for that. The only p&s digitals that can keep up these days have super zooms, something we are years away from with the phone cameras. At least for now.

 

In– Adobe Light Room 5, pretty much everyone is editing and organizing with this software that pretty much does what we all really need.

Out– Adobe Photoshop CS, It’s cloud based now, and the uproar could be heard in heaven. Adobe had to lower the monthly price and even Scott Kelby was accused of being the bad guy. This move by Adobe will end Photoshop being used by the marginals, and only the pro’s will shell out $50 bux a month for the software. The days of getting serial numbers on youtube pirate vids are officially over. Pony up or just use Capture One Pro 7 or DXO Optics Pro 8 to open up your RAW files.

 

In– the Afordable Health Care Act, with the promises to lower health care costs and provide coverage for all Americans how can you go wrong? Sounds like such a great idea!

Out– Obamacare, with a clunky website and insurance dropping those who are all ready covered and pretty much those who were happy with their insurance before, now paying more to cover those who couldn’t pay. Much like all good intentions, this is looking pretty crappy now.

 

 In– Miley Cyrus- I’m not going there.

Out– Lady Gaga- Her new album is so… meh.

 

In– The Fujifilm 23mm 1.4, and now there is no reason to shoot with any other camera. It’s fast, it’s super sharp, and it’s the perfect focal length.

Out– 18-55 Kit lenses, just go prime. Slow zooms are over, and the everyone knows that to the key to good bokeh, you shoot with a fast prime.

 

In– The Nikon DF, because retro is cool, its half the price of D4, and who really needs video? Oh and did you check out in black?

Out– The Nikon D800, because who really needs 38 megapixel? It’s over kill and there are way too many buttons on that camera.

 

In– Bill D’Blasio, NYC’s next mayor. Who really knows how he’s going to do? We all have our collective fingers crossed.

Out– Bloomberg, He did good for the city and lots of rich guys, but hey isn’t that NYC is all about anyway?

 

InThe Guardian, great journalism that takes chances and it’s free to read.

Out– New York Times, except for the lens blog its clunky to read, who knows if what you’re reading is true or not, and it’s expensive. $20 bux a month!

 

InVine, really my attention span these days isn’t longer than 6 seconds anyway.

Out– Google Plus, despite how much google throws this down our throats, I still only know a handful of people who use it. Yuk.

 

In– The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 with its retro style and advanced features, it’s the best instant camera to come along since the SX-70.

Out– The Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 was great until I replaced it with the Mini 90, but still for the money, a great instant camera.

 

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Flat Iron Building Xpro1 18mm f2.0 B&W mode

 So there you have it, my list of the ins and outs of 2013. Suspect Photography is really looking forward to 2014. Workshops, a new book, and all the photographs yet to be taken. Happy New Year folks!

~David

 

Casa Toscana and the Object Project

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The Object Project:

Things, tokens, neat items, nick knacks, jewelry, ephemera, and other personal treasures or just plain stuff can make a great project with an interesting narrative. Follow your instincts on the selection of items, but make sure a strand of relativity is connecting to each object. Choose a background to photograph the subjects which can be something as simple as a colored seamless background, fabrics, a table or a wall. Use you have access too, even shooting straight down to objects laying on a soft bed of fresh cut grass might be interesting. What ever you choose as your background, make sure you use it for the whole series. Now photograph the items by utilizing a “still life genre” technique.  Feel free to be explorative by adding other elements such as flower petals, rocks, wood, toothpicks, or anything that “works” with the subjects.

Hasselblad 80mm 2.8 Distagon T* 120 Fujifilm 160ns

Hasselblad 80mm 2.8 Distagon T* 120 Fujifilm 160ns

box one from Casa Toscana Project

In my series Casa Toscana, I began by documenting the rooms of our home in Italy. I was enthralled by the light pouring into the rooms at different times of day and got very inspired to capture the nuances of the Casa Toscana. I would photograph the larger objects that were integral to the rooms, such as the vintage refrigerator or furniture. Looking closer I began to inspect drawers and boxes and set up a still life station to photograph these “house treasures” on.

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They included a vintage telephone, an old book, a toy. In contrast to the intricate environment of the home, I took these objects and placed them on white poster board and photographed them in indirect available light. I began by taping the poster board to the edge of the table top along a wall, and then taping the top of the board to an outside wall in indirect light. I easily created a “seamless” white background. The objects sit in a neutral white space that was clean and neat. Each object had an unspoken story that it was able to communicate, and also served to break up the projects direction that was a study in rooms, compositions, and light.

the old frigo

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When I returned with this work to NYC I had the film developed and scanned. I’m not too thrilled with the scans, but I was able to create a stunning blurb book on the project. The overall idea really turned into something much more than I had planned for. I gave a copy of the book to a few members of Barbara’s family and it brought some to tears to eyes of a special few.  That’s how you know you did a good job, when you make the client cry. Please take a look at my Blurb Book Store to view the book and yes, it is available for purchase. I have a full preview of the book set up, so you can check out the whole story and all the images. The book is 111 pages!

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So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start shooting objects… and put it in a project.

~David

All images shot with a Hassy and the 80mm f2.8 or the 50 f4.0. Film was Fujifilm 160NS and scanned at time of development. One note I have to make, I was never happy with the scans and I got lazy and had the lab do them. Normally I would bust out the Epson V750 and do it myself. I learned a lesson, the more you have your hands on it, the better the final result will be.

Film Based Cameras Mean Sh*t. Yea Right.

Louis Mendes outside of B&H Photo NYC 34th Street.

Louis Mendes outside of B&H Photo NYC 34th Street.

Shooting film is rare these days. That is not to say the film-based camera is irrelevant. Quite the opposite actually. The discipline of film has its merits, mostly in the form of personal choice of process than a distinct quality factor. Digital is as good as film, if not better. Film however is tactile and extremely deliberate. The tactile essence plays the human’s desire to make something solid, visible and touchable, because zeroes and ones that make up a digital file are abstract as they reside on a hard drive invisibly to your 5 senses. The negative, for all its flaws can be beheld with out the use of any other technology. Its existence is physically a substantial object and while the negative is not the end, it has a promises that it can create something very special in the form of the print. Holding a gorgeous hand printed image on an exotic paper where texture and the light of day expresses the latent image is a much different feeling than holding an iPad or viewing on a display. I won’t diminish the digital file, I’ll just say it’s an altogether alternate way of viewing the photograph. Certainly the digital file can be printed on a vast amount of papers and styles, so in the end, the way we create our photograph is moot.

Destined to view on a screen or as a print, film and digital are interchangeable. Negatives can be scanned, and digital negatives made as well. How we arrive at the finished photograph and the style of the work is paramount in the pursuit of finding photographic style. Take for instance the NY Photographer Louis Mendes. He excretes photographic style in his choice of camera and the way the image is delivered, (as a 4×5 instant print).

“Louis Mendes is a quintessential street photographer best known for his Speed Graphic camera, blocked hat and consistent suave style dubbed “Shaft with a camera.” Mendes is a staple in New York City to tourists and natives alike. He’s been photographed thousands of times cradling his Speed Graphic as if he were the Statue of Liberty holding her tabula ansata. Portraits of Louis Mendes have won awards internationally and grace the walls of galleries world-wide.”

Louis shoots in a jacket, fedora and with an old skool effeincecny that belies a true professional. Louis is a can do guy, and his smile is wonderful to behold. Read more about Louis and his Speed Graphic here, but his facebook info sums him up nicely:

Now thats photographic style. Cheers Louis.

The Old Tuscan Farmer and Every Picture Matters Lesson

The Old Tuscan Farmer in the Cortona market

The Old Tuscan Farmer in the Cortona market

On Saturday mornings in Cortona the market comes to the squares. It’s where we buy our produce, and Barbara’s family has been shopping there for seemingly forever. We have a favorite farmer, and when I met him, he was old. Italian countryside old, which means he looks older than he is due to that famous Tuscan sun. Plus farmers always age harder than regular folk do. His stall was attended by his extremely nice wife (equally as old, but very sturdy), and who I think is his daughter in law, along with his son and a few others who might be family but might be farm hands helping to bring the crop to the market. For as long as I have been coming to Cortona, this has been the same. They are very nice, and the old farmer is jolly and congenial, he always has a firm handshake and a grand smile. For the life of me, I have a problem understanding older Italians and we would go back and forth talking and I never really knew what he was saying or if he understood me, but I grew to like him immensely, he became part of what I love about Cortona.

Two years ago he stopped working the main part of the stall, and broke off to the side setting up next to a wall, sitting mostly, and selling herbs in little pots. No more the heavy melons and sacks of tomatoes, this aspect of the business was now delegated to his wife and the kids. His hands would be always wrapped around a cane, and it was understood he was letting the next generation take over and he would just be in charge of a much smaller crop. When asked how he was feeling, he shook his head and said he was fine, but age was taking its toll on the old farmer, and his pride wouldn’t let him stay home, complain, nor stop what he had been doing his whole life. When I was working on my Instant Italy project (shooting Fujifilm Instax photos exclusively) I took a fine photograph of the old farmer and tried to give it to him but he didn’t comprehend an instant photo so I slipped it in his top pocket as the image was developing. I shot a second photograph of him, the one I would keep, but didn’t come out well. Pointing a camera at the old farmer produced a random result because he didn’t keep still and was always in conversation with who ever would be near him. The next year, I came with the Fuji X-Pro 1 and had decided that I would shoot the people I knew, but I would do it unobtrusively and I would focus on thier hands frequently.

I was eager to be shooting him, and as Barbara and mom selected produce I chatted him up and photographed his hands wrapped around his now ever present cane. I made one exposure, that’s all. I didn’t want to be intrusive as he was now engrossed in another conversation. We saw him a few more times that year on following Saturdays but I had my image.

This year we trotted through the market to buy our produce. I looked forward greatly to seeing the old farmer and being in the presence of his smile and hearing his undecipherable Italian. When we turned the corner the herbs where there, in little black plastic pots but he was nowhere to be seen. His wife upon seeing Barbara and mom greeted us, and mom and Barbara had an exchange with her. They asked where he was and I was hoping for another story of what I had already gotten and inkling about. The farmer’s wife looked down, and said something I of course couldn’t follow. Barbara turned slowly to me and lamented, “he’s gone” with a long face confirming what I had already suspected. He had passed 4 months ago, and further details were absent. I hoped it was an easy passing, and I walked away sadly, feeling empty, like a little part of my summer was forever gone, and then I thought about the photo of his hands. Holding on to his cane, and perhaps a grip onto this world for his last year here. The old farmer will live on in my memories and in that photograph, as well as the Fujifilm Instax photo. I don’t have the latter, but I hope his family found it in his belongings and it’s sitting on a hearth in the farmhouse.

Photography is powerful, it can make a man immortal or conjure the emotions of a past moment. As I lamented the passing of my nameless old farmer I knew I would treasure that image for all time. When I made the image I was thinking of how I could elaborate on my style and work that I shoot in Tuscany. When I edited the image I was unimpressed and not too excited about the photograph I had made. Now, with his passing the condition has changed dramatically, the importance of the image magnified.

Never ever take an exposure for granted. What is drab can become brilliant, what is mundane exceptional. Photographs like wine can into something far more important and relevant than what you thought during the 1/60th of a second it took to expose.

Every picture matters.

Image made with Fujifilm XPro1 and 35mm 1.4  shot in film sim B&W Mode 1:1 format. Processed in Snapseed.

The Exhibition at the old Hospital and the Zeiss Touit 12mm for X-Pro1

View of Val di Chiana from the Old Hospital

View of Val di Chiana from the Old Hospital

I’ll be honest, I’m not that much of a super wide guy. My preferred focal length is just a little wider than normal view. The 28mm to 35mm is pretty perfect for me. Back in May, I got two lenses from Zeiss to try out, the 35 1.8 and 12mm 2.8 Touit lenses. I walked with the 35 1.8 around NYC for a few weeks testing the lens before I passed it on to Gabe from Ruinism and wrote about it on my “Part 1” of the Zeiss Touit tests which can be found here in this earlier blog. I then began to shoot with the 12mm and actually had trouble making images I was excited about. It wasn’t that the gorgeous lens was anything less than a great optic, it was I who had issue with the lens. For those who follow my blog, its not just words, the images have to back up what I’m saying. The environments that I was testing the lens in were just not coexisting and the lens wasn’t working for me. Well, all that changed yesterday when I took the 12mm and mounted it on my trusty Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the aim of checking out some exhibitions at the Cortona On the Move Photo Festival in Italy. All of the images are shot using the 12mm 2.8 at ISO Auto 1600, color shots are Velvia Film Sim Mode unless I chose the B&W Y mode (I used film sim bracketing so I was able to capture it all).

Study in the geometry of Composition in Tuscany

Study of the geometry of Composition in Tuscany

This photo festival is really unlike any other that ever existed before. Taking place is Cortona Italy, a hilltop medieval city made famous lately by the Frances Mayes book, “Under the Tuscan Sun” (Mayes tells the tale of being an expat American and finding herself while rebuilding a Tuscan villa) the festival consists of a series of exhibitions that are found in odd locations throughout the city. By using spaces that are currently unused or abandonded, the festival curates photography with a theme of movement, travel and exploration. It’s a super cool way to explore the old city and see some photography and also, gain entry to spaces that would otherwise not be available.

The festival for the second time was able to procure the old hospital and transform it to a gallery featuring edgy and stimulating photographers as well as a retrospective look at the now defunct Newsweek magazine. For me, hospitals are associated with death, and I found it fitting that Newsweek (which ended publication in December of 2012) a perfect fit to showcase multiple news themes that it was known for, along with some of the brightest documentary shooters. Indeed, the exhibition is aptly titled, “An Autopsy”. RIP Newsweek.

Crowd sourced installation where readers of La Republica were asked to submit photos taken prior to 1999

Crowd sourced installation where readers of La Republica were asked to submit photos taken prior to 1999

I have a new hero, Zed Nelson, who over 5 years shot in 18 countries across 5 continents the diaspora of western concepts of beauty being exported as a new manifestation of aesthetic globalization. His work is akin to Lauren Greenfield and Erwin Olaf but has a technical savvy and execution I was moved by. The room that Zed is displayed in has wide-open windows that over look the city and the valley below. Visitors are torn between looking at glass jar containing fat taken during a liposuction procedure and a view to die for. The dichotomy is exquisite.

Sol Neelman is a North West photographer who couldn’t cut it as a jock, and became a photographer. His are larger than life shots of extreme and weird sports. The subject matter is instantly interesting and his timing for the camera frame impeccable. I look forward to purchasing his book of the complete project, the exhibition left me wanting more.

Salvatore Santoro documentary of his childhood home and despotic local of Campania was what I felt the weakest of the exhibitions, yet still the spirit of the festival pervades the curation of work. While Salvatore’s work is solid, the subject matter is sad and the locations simply run down from the effects of mafia and pollution. I preferred to look at weird sports and go back in history with the covers of Newsweek.

The 12mm super wide lets you explore space unlike a normal view.

The 12mm super wide lets you explore space unlike a normal view.

The crazy Italian photographer I met at Photo Show Milan, Antonio Manta led a workshop at the opening of the festival. This wild spirit and master printer always works with a quirky twist on his portraiture and his workshop embodided that spirt. He set up a red carpet with an inspired throne in front of the signature building in Cortona, the Palazo del Comune and had his class photograph tourists and while choosing the theatre location for the Cortonesi (locals) to be photographed. A selection from his class is on exhibit and shows the organic nature of the festival, work from students attending on display.

Charlatan

I loved how with the use of Newsweek large proofs the festival was able to make a political commentary on thier home country and the world at large. Seeing a Tim Hetherington print as well reminded me what a genius we lost in Libya and I lament that we can’t have Tim’s eye look at current events any longer.

fallensign

Walking the corridors of old hospital and looking at great examples of photography is inspiring, but doing so with the super wide 12mm Zeiss Touit was the icing on the cake. I wanted to take it all in, not just a slice. What better way to examine it all than with a larger than life lens? After all the trying with the lens, I found its home in my bag, as I travel. All the shots in the blog entry are shot with the 12mm, I’ll let the images do the talking.

View3

The super wide is great at taking it all in, and perhaps if Cortona On The Move festival is about travel going places, then its official lens should be the Touit 12mm.

B&W  w/ Yellow Filter Film Sim mode

B&W w/ Yellow Filter Film Sim mode

David Brommer on August 22nd and 23rd will be conducting a Composition seminar in Cortona that is part classroom, part portfolio review, and part photo walk. A trip to the old hospital will be in order!

Steps leading to multiple levels of the exhibition

Steps leading to multiple levels of the exhibition

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