Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: Sony RX10

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

Advertisements

Do we really need a Black & White Challenge? The Answer is a colorful YES!

Eastern State Penitentiary Sony RX10 B&W Jpeg

Eastern State Penitentiary Sony RX10 B&W Jpeg

Recently on social media, and in particular Facebook, the Black and White challenge has gone viral. The parameters appear to be that once you are nominated by a peer or friend, you have to post one image a day for five days, and on each post, you must nominate another photographer to do the same. The result, if the challenge is accepted, creates a pyramid of photographers posting B&W images exclusively. These rules are stated in the post of the photograph, and of course the nomination tags the photographer. When I did it, I liked to tag the person who nominated me, and on each daily post I made, I also tagged those who I was nominating during the duration of the challenge.

Eastern State Walls

 

I believe this to be a very interesting social media phenomenon, since it is creative and not just a social media useless trend, like the Bill Gates Millions chain e-letter. You can engage it many ways with deepness, like challenging a photographer who is known for color (I challenged Brandon Remler) or a more timid social media poster and film guy from Japan, my friend Mark Hammon. What was interesting about nominating Mark was that the mainstay of his photography circle is Japanese, so the challenge is spread globally.

Eastern State Pen View

I nominated my wife Barbara, who is a capable of making stunning color images and the occasional b&w. She took it to a new level and put the parameter of “some of her favorite things” and her posts are of objects and places that she loves instead of arbitrary images. She also nominated an Italian co-founder of the Cortona on the Move Photography festival, thus expanding once again across cultural and geographic boundaries.

Eastern State Walls

 

I tried to find out where and who the originator of the challenge is, but alas, that appears to be lost in the web. The Phoblographer made a good post about the challenge as well. Their post elaborated on what makes a good b&w shot. Pretty cool. Another aspect is that the level of photographers participating is very high, Sean Kernan is in on it. At this point, the challenge has gone through my photographer circle and some stunning work has been posted.

The above images were all shot at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. The reason I chose to include this catalog of images for this blog post is that the location begged to be shot in b&w.

 

I believe this to be a blast, and very good for our medium. It’s actually a useful social media endeavor that can be challenging and interactive. Social Media is always evolving in unexpected and welcome ways.

 

What about you? Have you accepted the challenge?

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

The Aesthetic of Compositional Perfection and Post Production

The fog was thicker than pea soup at the Dickey Ridge Lodge.

The fog was thicker than pea soup at the Dickey Ridge Lodge.

I’m one of those odd people who throw on a heavy backpack and hike in the woods for days. I have been doing it for a long time now, at least 25 years. I have a dwindling network of friends who I go on these hiking trips and we fancy to call our selves Trailpounders. Among all the miles I have hiked in pristine wilderness across many states I am reluctant to carry a cameras, or serious one at least. The reason being weight, and getting the picture right. Cameras can weigh quite a bit, and add to that good lenses so that you can make high quality photographs is daunting when you’re crossing mountains and pushing every fiber of your body to keep moving up switchbacks.

I have been tasked by B&H & Sony to create a program on the RX10. The focus of the program will be, “Travel Composition with the RX10”. To prepare for the program I have been shooting exclusively with the RX10 and pushing what it can do while learning what it cannot do. I’m familiar with the camera, and those who follow my blog will recall the initial review of the RX10 I wrote and shot a little under a year ago.

Elderly folk appreciating the park. They moved slow, but stuck a cord inside me. America's National Parks are for everyone, every age.

Elderly folk appreciating the park. They moved slow, but stuck a cord inside me. America’s National Parks are for everyone, every age.

This past weekend the Trail Pounders planned a four day hike in the beautiful Shenandoah National Park. Since I was working on material for the presentation, I figured this would be the perfect place to shoot with the RX10 and put it to test doing some nature photography. I would suck up the weight (1.79 lb / 813 g with battery and memory card) and stuff the camera in my trusty Moutainsmith Frost Fire pack.

The trip was excellent and pretty heavy duty. I’m not getting any younger and that pack isn’t getting any lighter. I felt I could have reached for the camera more often, but hiking (especially in a group) is an act all of its own. We managed to traverse about 17 miles in three days which didn’t afford me much lens time. On the trail we crossed a pine covered mountain top (Neighbor Mountain) and ran the ridge. I came across these interesting pine cones that had survived a fire, called a pack break and took some photos. I did my “composition dance” and moved around trying to find that perfect angle to capture the pine cones, you know that angle, the one with a perfect background and every branch facing the right direction? Well I couldn’t find it. I just couldn’t get the lens, the pine cone, and what I wanted to capture groove.

Pine Cone as it was shot- no editing.

Pine Cone as it was shot- no editing.

As I sat editing I thought, “I was so close… but darn those extra branches”… I saw them when I shot and figured they would not cut my mustard. It was then that I figured I’d work them in post and try to rescue them. This wouldn’t be retouching per sey , but more compositional rescue. I busted out my trusty Wacom table and set to it. After the image was cleaned up I ran it through Silver FX and finished it to my personal standards.

Pine Cone

Did I succeed? Did I just polish a turd? I always joke that I have taken so many bad photographs that when I do shoot now, it’s with a great intensity to only shoot what is decent if not compositionally perfect. But now, when the world is simply not cooperating it might be safe to shoot the best you can, and then do some very heavy post to get it right. Ethically I’m not 100 percent behind this, but I do feel good that at least the option is open. What do you think?

Here are a few more from the first edit. I shot in jpeg and used the creative modes that are built into the RX10 such as “Autumn Leaves” and “B&W”. Each image is taken into Photoshop and massaged.

Home and Shelter. I have had this tent since 1993.

Home and Shelter. I have had this tent since 1993.

Hiker JA- one of the Trail Pounders founders. Note, a circular polarizer was used to clear up the water behind Joe.

Hiker JA- one of the Trail Pounders founders. Note, a circular polarizer was used to clear up the water behind Joe.

SHAZAM! Joey V, he was a  Trail Pounder for years and didn't even know it.

SHAZAM! Joey V, he was a Trail Pounder for years and didn’t even know it.

Fall Leaves straight up.

Fall Leaves straight up.

The lone tree sits in the fog.

The lone tree sits in the fog.

I’ll post a link to the RX10 Presentation when it goes live. If you don’t live near NYC, we will be recording the presentation and I’ll post that too.

Till then, this Trail Pounder is signing off!

The three last Trail Pounders.

The three last Trail Pounders.

%d bloggers like this: