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Posts from the ‘Opinion’ Category


Studio Lighting Gear~ What To Buy?

There is mucho lighting gear out there. And it’s expensive. It can be overwhelming when you’re starting out. You don’t want to waste money on stuff you don’t really need.
All of my gear is from Paul C Buff out of Nashville. I can’t say enough about this company and their products. You can also buy directly from them out of Australia and Europe.

There is no “right” answer for what you need in the studio. But here’s what I use.

I own two White Lightning X1600 flash units. I only use one at a time. One is for backup.

They are relatively inexpensive, easy to use and bullet-proof. I’ve had one drop with a light stand into concrete from 10 feet high. Didn’t even faze it. The color balance is great and they recycle fast.

One AlienBees™ ABR800 Ringflash Unit

Ringflash is a specialty lighting effect. However this Ringflash doubles as a lightweight remote flash unit for location shoots. And for around 500 bucks, it’s not going to break the bank to get a ringflash. You can get cheaper one’s that attach to a speedlight. But they don’t have the same power. This one is plenty powerful. I’m going to do a shoot with it soon. So I might go into how it works on a future post. It can be tricky to use.

White High Output Beauty Dish

This has become my favorite light modifier. The light IS beautiful! You can’t beat it for crispness in the shadows and nice round catch lights in the eyes. If I had to pick one modifier, this would be it.

Large (32″ x 40″) Softbox

You really have to have one of these. It’s just indispensable for full-length fashion shots. A large Octabox is another good choice. I think I might get one of those soon.

This is what I use and it works for me. It’s fun to experiment, research and find out what lighting gear you want to get. I’m always looking to more lighting toys to the arsenal.

Depending on what you shoot, and what your lighting aesthetics are, you’ll end up with a completely different kit than mine. But I hope this helps.


Photojournalism~The Future Is Hipstamatic

Photojournalism ~ a type of journalism in which photographs are used more than words. Someone who reports news using photographs is called a photojournalist.

Hipstamatic~ iPhone camera app called Hipstamatic that allows users to digitally manipulate “lenses,” “flashes,” and “film.”

DSLR~ camera often preferred by professional still photographers because they allow an accurate preview of framing close to the moment of exposure.

It’s happening.

One of the first shots across the bow of “traditional” photojournalism occurred in November 2010 when NYT photog Damon Winter went to northern Afghanistan to capture the efforts of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division.

With an iPhone and the Hipstamatic app.

His pictures subsequently won third place in the Pictures Of The Year International.

What’s happened lately?…well get this.

VII Photo Agency which represents the world’s eminent photojournalists has opened a new show_ i See The eyes of VII in the hands of Hipstamatic

Need more proof?

Legendary photojournalist Ron Haviv covered the fall of Tripoli with the Hipstamatic app.

Ron Haviv, Rebel soldiers fight for control of a pro-Qaddafi neighborhood.

Now I’m talking about the Hipstamatic app for the iPhone. Not Instagram.

There is a HUGE difference.

Instagram is a sharing app where you apply a filter of choice to the picture after it’s taken. They basically look vintage.

Hipstamatic on the other hand is much different. It’s name suggests that the images will look vintage. But in truth the name applies to the analog feel of the app. You chose a combination of lens , film and flash. The app processes the image in the phone. You can’t really do much after the picture is taken to enhance the image. Much like film.

The Hipstamatic app may have brought about the death, or eminent death of straight DSLR photojournalism, whatever that is, but not on it’s own. The move from content to aesthetics has been going on for quite some time now. Brought about by photographers of course. Also the big contests, and editors have been pushing them along. Today a Cartier-Bresson straight black and white print would never stand a chance against a vignetted, grainy, high contrast World Press Photo type image in a contest. Of course editors have chosen aesthetics over content to sell magazines.

Damon Winter, Northern Afghanistan

So what will it take to put traditional photojournalism in the grave? Time. Within 10 years it will be gone. If Apple decides to use some of it’s $100 billion to develop a stand alone camera (Oh…please…pretty please)…..maybe sooner.

News photography may take longer. Newspaper and wire images are still living in the world where realism and content are king. But this will change. Straight DSLR images that come over the wire seem tired and uninspired when compared to Hipstamatic images. As newspapers go online and the need for newsprint colour balance isn’t required, we’ll see much different news photographs. Pushed once again by photographers and contests. But mostly by editors. They desperately need to sell their product. Now more than ever.

And news photographers capture sports action images. Something that isn’t possible with an iPhone…..yet. But remember the $100 billion? If Apple comes out with an iCamera with telephoto, fast auto-focus and external flash capabilities, it’s all over.

Are Hipstmatic images accepted by readers as real and true?

The answer is yes.

What does this all mean for the young photojournalist? By all means get a Canon or Nikon kit. You still need it to break in. But keep it simple. Try not to invest too much. Get an iPhone and learn the Hipstmatic app. You don’t need a cell contract. Just get the phone.

What it means for Canon and Nikon is a much more interesting question. Let’s just say I wouldn’t buy any shares.

As for Hipstamatic. They’re probably working on a Ron Haviv lens, a James Nachtwey film and a Weegee flash.


When Digital Wasn’t An Easy Sell

Way back in 1975 -- when Kodachrome color slides and Kodak Instamatics were all the rage -- Kodak researcher Steve Sasson built the first digicam, cobbled together from spare parts and bleeding edge digital technology.

It seems ridiculous now.

But if you were a photographer a decade or so ago, the word on the street was, digital cameras were going to wipe out photography. Kill the craft and lower the quality. I remember standing in front of photo students, pleading with them to embrace this brave new world of digital. It wasn’t an easy sell with the first generation of digital cameras. The bubble had just burst….the jury was still out on digital..

At newspapers we never had a choice. It was do or die. And initially, digital cameras were extremly difficult to use. If you used one the first digital SLR’s, you’d wonder why anyone would want to do this as a hobby. If you accidentally shot at 400 ISO you’d be panic stricken. Exposure had to be “slide film” accurate on one of those babies. The sensors? A whopping 2 million pixels. Try cropping that.

Newspaper photographers knew that digital cameras would become faster and easier to use. We just needed to be pioneers and slog through the early days.

But now, the skill and craft required to secure an image isn’t what it used to be. Anyone can get a properly exposed image on a digital camera. And you don’t have to practice the art of loading film anymore. And who cares?

The opinions on digital photography 10-15 years ago seem absurd in retrospect. Digital arguably saved photography when things were getting pretty stale in the nineties. The biggest news at the time was the introduction of faster films and auto-focus.

The only thing we can be sure of is change. So let’s grab our phones….or whatever….. get out there and take some photos!

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Marilyn Monroe


10 Great Photography Movies

It’s Oscar time! Here are some of my favourite photography movies.

#1 Bill Cunningham,New York.

A delightful documentary about New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham.

#2 American Masters – Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light.

Great insight into the creative power of Richard Avedon.

#3 Apocalypse Now

I know. It’s not a photography movie. But who can resist Dennis Hopper as a hyper-manic Vietnam-era photojournalist.

#4 The September Issue

Great photo shoot scenes.

#5 American Masters – Alfred Stieglitz: The Eloquent Eye

Terrific documentary on the father of modern photography.

#6 Blow-up

Drama inspired by the life of an actual “Swinging London” photographer, David Bailey.

#7 City of God

Two boys growing up in a violent neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro take different paths: one becomes a photographer, the other a drug dealer.

#8 Salvador

A journalist, down on his luck in the US, drives to El Salvador

#9 Helmut Newton – Frames From the Edge

Documentary that follows photographer Helmut Newton

#10 Cat Walk

A little known movie where a camera follows model Christy Turlington through the spring fashion shows


Do You Like Your Vogue Organic?

A New Direction for American Vogue?

Or processed?

I couldn’t help noticing the image of Taylor Swift by photographer Mario Testino on the February American Vogue cover. It’s a lovely image. But I’ve marked the areas that most technicians would lighten and correct with Photoshop cloning, dodging and healing brushes.

Call me a geek for noticing.

So what happened? It’s anyone’s guess, but here’s some theories.

1-Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has changed directions and has limited post-processing on the cover.

I’m sure Vogue would have to have a complete change of photographic ethics in order to do this.The images inside are still heavily post-processsed.

#2- They forgot to enhance it.

Well I suppose weirder things have happened. But come on…… It’s Vogue!

3- Someone, perhaps creative director Grace Coddington, convinced the “powers that be” to leave to image raw to give it a vintage feel. The picture does have a nice 60’s “hippy” feel to it.

I like this theory, and I think it’s the most likely.

Whatever happened, it sure was refreshing. I’m getting kinda tired of models and celebs being cloned into aliens . And to be fair to Vogue I think ….just maybe….they’re laying off the Photoshop on the inside editorial pages a bit. But the advertising?…Forget it!

I’m sure the public would respond to a more natural photographic look in fashion magazines. And there may be a move to more minimalist manipulation of images. This can only be a good thing…..aesthetically and ethically.

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