Bonus Round

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Last night as I was wandering back to the hotel and wandered through a few pachinko and pachislot halls, I was struck by the people who were watching, like the guys in this photo.

Inside the parlor I could understand — the players' friends or whatever. But what about the folks gazing steadfastly from outside, through the windows?

My initial reaction was that the players they were watching — at that hour near 9PM, mostly older folks — were seasoned, expert players. That the spectators were watching to see How It's Done in the same way that I used to lurk in video arcades watching as some over-caffeinated guy ran the score up to the max 99,999 playing Defender.

Considering I'd always thought of pachinko as strongly random, I realized that there were subtleties of the game far beyond my grasp. What could I be missing? I asked myself while watching a grayhaired lady dump another plastic cup of balls into the hopper on her machine, her attention too focused to notice the unlit dead cigarette still in her mouth.

But a morning later and the meaning of my looking (and my pictures) has already changed as I've learned to reinterpret those "seasoned" players as kamo — suckers — and the spectators as "hyenas," waiting to move in if the kamo loses big and leaves an unplayed bonus round.

Another lesson in how photography — like all observations — can be so easily upended and all our intentions for it thwarted.

Posted October 30, 2006 | Comments (0)

Perfect Foods

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Ah, the perfect food for the harried sarariman....

Only been here a few hours, took an hour or two walk too clear my head and move my legs after the two two-hour tran rides and the 10+ hour flight. Took a couple dozen bad pictures but maybe a couple good ones, had a curry, drank-in the neighborhood. Always the same, always new. It's like running into an old girlfriend and finding out she's even more appealing than you remembered. Dang.

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Posted October 29, 2006 | Comments (0)

Land of My People

Off to rainy Tokyo for a few days. I hear they are going to close down the Tsukiji fish market.

In the meantime, may I recommend the (latest) best cover ever.

Posted October 28, 2006 | Comments (1)

Wilcox 7257

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Posted October 25, 2006

ChartThrob: A Tool for Printing Digital Negatives

A few months back at a PHIG meeting, I met Thomas Howard, and saw how he was using charts to hand-profile his process for making digital negatives for platinum-process contact printing. I figured this could be automated, so: I automated it, and made a program called ChartThrob. I let a few folks on APUG and now HybridPhoto try it out, and after a few unexpected glitches (who knew Photoshop could have fractional pixels?), it's ready for public abuse.

ChartThrob is a a JSX-format javascript for Adobe Photoshop. It runs under Photoshop CS2 and later versions, but won't run under Photoshop 7 or Photoshop CS (Sorry, that's the price of progress). It works for both Windows and Mac versions of Photoshop. It's free.

ChartThrob creates profiles for your process, for your printer, and lets you create consistently-beautiful digital negatives from your pictures — every single time.

Version: 1.14 — April 2016

Right-Mouse-Click and Select "Save Link As..." Here for the Current Version of ChartThrob.

Typically, "Save As..." this (for Windows - Mac is similar):
  C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS4\Presets\Scripts\ChartThrob.jsx

The very latest ChartThrob and updates are also available on GitHub. The version here should be current, but you may find more info and alternative branches there.

To be notified whenever new updates appear, keep an eye on the PhotoRant RSS feed.

More details below...

Installing ChartThrob

To install it, click "Save As..." on this link. Save the file as "ChartThrob.jsx" in your Photoshop scripts directory, which will typically be something like "Adobe Photoshop CS2/Presets/Scripts" (the location within the Photoshop directory is the same for both Windows and Macintosh)

That's it! The next time you start Photoshop, ChartThrob will appear as an option under Photoshop's "File—>Scripts" menu.

Using ChartThrob

ChartThrob is really two scripts in one. First, it's a script for creating grayscale calibration charts. Second, it's a tool for automatically evaluating scanned prints of those charts and setting up appropriate profiles depending on the nature of your printing process.

The ChartThrob workflow has a few basic steps:

  1. Create a Grayscale chart in ChartThrob.
  2. Print a digtial negative from that chart (on Pictorico material etc).
  3. Contact-print that negative onto your medium of choice (platinum, mimeo, silver-gelatine paper, sun prints, etc).
  4. Scan the resultant positive print.
  5. Crop the scan back to the original chart boundaries.
  6. Analyze the chart in ChartThrob — the result will be a new Curves layer containing a Printing Curve, which you can use on the spot or save for repeated use later.
  7. Apply that curve to any B&W images you like, before printing them to digital negatives. The curve will correct the original image grayscale values to neatly fit to the grayscale range of your chosen medium.

So let's begin! From any Photoshop session, you can start-up ChartThrob by selecting "File—>Scripts—>ChartThrob."

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If you have no documents open and call ChartThrob, you should see a dialog box similar to the one above (if you have documents open, the dialog will be more complex, but will still contain this info) (The illustrations in this doc page show both Windows and Mac examples). Pressing "Help" will provide you with step-by-step instructions, or pressing "Build New Chart Now" will do exactly that — it will create a new document and start filling it with profiling information. Photoshop draws very quickly, but this will typically take several seconds — especially if you have the 'Numbers' option checked. The result will look like the picture below (with or without the numeric labels).

ChartThrobTemp.jpg

This is a positive chart — that is, you'll either have to invert it when you print it to a negative, or before (depending on your printer). The text at the bottom reads: "THIS IS A POSITIVE IMAGE WITH DARK TEXT ON WHITE." Keep that in mind, because ChartThrob creates and analyzes positive images.

You may want to resize the chart when printing, by default it's pretty large. You should be able to resize it according to your own printing habits. Then print to a (typically transparent) negative, and contact-print that negative according to whatever process suits your fancy: silver-gelative, old xerox, woodburytype, cyanotype, whatever, so that once again you have a positive print that looks like the original chart. Be sure that you have a solid, dependable printing process so that you can repeat your results later. The chart print doesn't need to be huge, just big enough to see the individual patches (platinum printers will probably be happy to hear that, considering they pay by the droplet...).

If you have a good grasp of your printing already, try to print so that the midtones are as properly-exposed as you think you can get them. The blacks and pure whites will work themselves out.

Also, be sure that your printing is uniform across the entire size of the chart — if the exposure varies from one side to the other, or from the center of your prints to the edges, there won't be any way for the calibrator to second-guess that. You'll just get junk.

Okay, so now you've made a positive print from the chart. Let it dry, and then scan it, making sure you have a linear (gamma 1.0) scan with the full grayscale range (see the FAQ below on how to do this). Crop the scan back to the boundaries of the chart, and you'll have something perhaps like the image here.

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With this new scanned print loaded, call ChartThrob again. The dialog box will still let you create a new chart if you want one, but now it also contains options for analysing a scanned printed chart.

ctScanDialog.gifIf we hit <return> or press "Analyze," that's exactly what ChartThrob will do: analyze the scanned chart, adjusting for paper tone and process color and evaluating every patch. When done, it will display a brief report telling you everything's okay, and will add a new curves layer to your scanned chart document, called "Print Curve."

ctCurve.gifIf we double-click the "Print Curve" in the Photoshop layers palette to view the resultant curve, it would look like the one shown here (we're just showing the curve rather than the whole dialog, to save web-page space).

The new curve layer is hidden, because the curve isn't meant for adjusting the scan itself — instead, it's for adjusting other B&W images so that they can be printed using the same process that you used to create the scan.

When a ChartThrob curve is applied to a B&W image, the image's original gray values will be remapped so that they will print to match the grayscale range of the target printing medium, as long as you're consistent in the print exposure and processing. So if you expose a silver-gelatin contact print for 30 seconds, then as long as you expose and process all subsequent prints the same amount, they should print consistently and the curves will adjust them perfectly to that tonal range.

You can apply the curve to other images either by saving & loading it as a Photoshop .csv file, or just drag the curves layer from the layers palette onto another picture if it's opened in Photoshop.

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With the curve applied, the original image may look dull and washed out on the monitor, but those tones are what's needed to hit the darkest blacks and whitest whites that the particular printing process can handle — at least the tones that were in the printed chart. If the chart is strongly over or under exposed, ChartThrob will still make a curve, though it will tell you if the midtones seem to be strongly skewed.

Checking Your Results: If things have gone well, you can take your original chart (as created by ChartThrob), apply that correction curve to it, print again and you should get a full range of grays from the new corrected print.

The ChartThrob FAQ

Will ChartThrob work with 16-bit images? I keep giving it 16-bit scans but it reduces them to 8-bit.
Yes. You can absolutely apply a printing curve made by ChartThrob to 16-bit images. Just apply the curve in the usual ways. ChartThrob does all of its calibration work in 8-bit, but unless you have an extremely narrow and contrasty process (say, rubber stamps), that should be plenty of precision for the purpose. Applying the resultant curve to a 16-bit image will still give you a 16-bit image.
What about 32-bit images?
Do you have a 32-bit printer? Call me...
Can ChartThrob be ued to calibrate B&W images printed by bookprint services like Lulu and Blurb, or on my local newspaper's press?
If the printer is reasonably consistent from run to run, then absolutely yes.
How do I contact you to make a report or tell you my great idea for an enhancement or to send you money?
ChartThrob is free. You are, however, welcome to buy my photos. You can contact me here at PhotoRant as either 'kevin' or 'bjorke' at photorant.com.
How can I be notified of new versions of ChartThrob?
Click "Watch" on the GitHub page.
DoesChartThrob work with Photoshop CS3, now that it's out?
Yes.
I only have Photoshop 5 (or 7, or CS). Will you change ChartThrob to work with my old version of Photoshop?
Nope. ChartThrob uses UI tools that were introduced with CS2, and Photoshop pre-7 didn't have scripting at all.
Why doesn't ChartThrob set curve points for all of the patches? It only seems to set about a dozen points on the curve.
This is a limitation of Photoshop, but 14 points (along a parametric curve) seem to be plenty for real-world printing. The full range of patches are there for you to see.
What do all those extra check boxes do?
Try them out!
Can you make ChartThrob as an Action instead? I don't like having to call scripts from the 'File' menu, I'd rather see it in the actions palette and attach it to a hot key.
Actions can't do everything scripts can do, especially the stuff that ChartThrob does. You can create an Action that will start-up ChartThrob. That's easy, do it the normal way. The Action won't see the stuff you click in the ChartThrob dialogue boxes, though. That seems to be a limitation of the current Photoshop.
I resized the chart scan to be really, really small and now I'm getting junky values from ChartThrob.
The program averages-out an area of the scanned chart and samples this average. It does this to compensate for grain and paper texture. If the scan is too small to get a good average, the quality of the curve will suffer. In general, don't let your scanned-chart image get smaller than, say, 600 pixels across.
The defaut chart size is 4 inches at 300 dpi. I want 7.3 inches at 1440 dpi. Can you resize it?
You can use Photoshop's 'Image Size' command for now. I'm considering adding more print-size options, though they will make the dialog box more complicated.
Should I be setting stuff up using "Relative Colormetric" in the print dialog? What color space should I use?
It doesn't really matter what your print settings are, as long as they are always the same each time you make a printing negative. In general, try to avoid anything in your printing or scanning processes described as "automatic," since such functions may be changing stuff behind your back — and be sure that your scan is in the same color space (particularly w.r.t. gamma) as the B&W images you plan to print.
 
Be sure that your scan covers the full print range from darkest to lightest within the straight-line portion of the scan. Some scanners will "roll-off" the shadows and/or highlights. This sort of compression of the original print values will give ChartThrob a distorted input.
ChartScan-WrongRight.jpg
You want the full range when scanning. These dialogs from EpsonScan™
show that the Automatic exposure of a printed ChartThrob chart
distorts the grayscale values. Instead, manually set the max and min pointers
to beyond the brightest and darkest vales, & set the gamma to 1.00.
Note that the entire grayscale will thus be linear: the "shoulder" & "toe" buttons will be ignored.
 
I have a fax scanner and the quality is not so great. I'm losing light (or dark) tones in the printed chart! I can see them, but my scanner can't
Either get a better scanner, borrow a better scanner, or try creating a "camera scan" — take a glare-free, evenly-lit photo of the printed chart using a good-quality digital camera — this may also be a solution for printing materials where the dark tones are more reflective than the light tones, thus "fooling" the scanner and not scanning well.
Why isn't the generated chart a negative, since I'll be printing it as a negative? It hurts my hand to have to press <Ctrl-I> to invert the chart before printing.
Get a better grip on your printing! Some people print directly from a positive image to a negative and let their print driver do the inversion for them. Others need to print from an inverted image. ChartThrob can't know if you are a negative person or a positive person. So it looks on the bright side and assumes that everyone is positive.
Why does ChartThrob use the font 'Myriad Pro,' which I don't have? I have to click lots of stupid 'okay' dialog boxes when I generate a new chart.<
First: Upgrade your version of (free) ChartThrob and/or (not free but worth it) Photoshop. ChartThrob doesn't actually use "Myriad" — it only uses "Arial." I'm told it's "an Adobe Thing" which was also updated in Photoshop CS3. IFF you get those (annoying but harmless) "font not found" messages: Just upgrade to V1.06 or later. Or, if you're insanely determined to use an old version, install 'Myriad' and those dialog boxes will vanish forever.
Where can I find out more about ChartThrob, and compare results with other users?
See this discussion thread at HybridPhoto.com. In addition, check out this page by Michael Koch-Schulte, who has done additional work in understanding how to get the most out of the varying color sensitivities of different alt-process materials: A Quick Guide to Making Digital Negatives with RNP-Arrays and ChartThrob. Or just poke it into Google — it's been encouraging to see ChartThrob users have cropped up all over the net.
Sometimes ChartThrob seems to take a long time to run. How do I know that it's working at all?
Leave the 'Histogram,' 'History,' or 'Info' panels open, and you'll see just how fast and furious ChartThrob's drawing and analysis really is. It's edu-taining!
Posted October 23, 2006 | Comments (2)

Write My Book!

Yes, it's happened: we've gotten the go-ahead to create and publish GPU Gems 3, and once more I'll be a section editor. GPU Gems has been the best-selling text on GPU rendering and computation since the first edition, I'm excited to be bringing it back along with the other editors at NVIDIA. Supervising editor this time 'round will be Hubert Nguyen, who besides his graphics experience is also chief editor of ubergizmo.

Here's the official call for partipation.

Following the success of GPU Gems and GPU Gems 2, NVIDIA has decided to produce a third GPU Gems volume to showcase the best new ideas and techniques for the latest programmable GPUs. We were honored that GPU Gems won the 2004 Game Developer Front Line Award and that GPU Gems 2 was a Finalist in the 2005 Game Developer Front Line Awards. What's more, GPU Gems and GPU Gems 2 were the best-selling books at the Game Developer Conference and SIGGRAPH in their respective years.

This latest GPU Gems will, like previous volumes, be hardbound and in full color. Tentatively titled GPU Gems 3, it will be edited by Hubert Nguyen, Manager of Developer Education at NVIDIA. Nguyen contributed to previous GPU Gems volumes and brings to this role vast experience in the field of computer graphics. Section editors include a team of expert NVIDIA engineers: Cyril Zeller, Evan Hart, Ignacio Castano, Kevin Bjorke, Kevin Myers, and Nolan Goodnight.

NVIDIA is looking for innovative ideas from developers who are using GPUs in new ways to create stunning graphics and cutting-edge applications. GPU Gems 3 will present techniques and ideas that are broadly useful to GPU programmers and that can be integrated into their applications. And, it will continue the tradition of featuring chapters exploring non-graphics applications of the computational capabilities of GPU hardware (learn more at www.GPGPU.org). Because our goal is to provide a comprehensive set of authoritative and practical chapters, we strongly suggest submitting ideas about techniques that you have already developed and tested.

If you would like to contribute to the GPU Gems series, please read the following submission guidelines. The deadline for proposal submissions is Monday, December 11, 2006. If your proposal is accepted, you will receive additional time to complete the chapter.
Guidelines for Chapter Proposal

Each chapter proposal should meet the following qualifications:

Subject. Your chapter can be about any topic related to applying GPUs in useful and compelling ways. For example, you may choose to write about a specific shader or technique for rendering an interesting effect, or you could write about a strategy for integrating shaders into a game engine. Or, you might discuss an interesting way to apply the GPU's horsepower in a non-graphics area. The main requirement is that your subject has practical value for the community and that you are committed to writing a clear, concise, and informative chapter.

Submission. Send an e-mail to articlesubmissions@nvidia.com with your proposed chapter title as the subject line, and a concise chapter description in the e-mail body (preferably no more than 300 words). To increase your chances of acceptance, we recommend that the description include screenshots or movies that demonstrate the technique in action. Ultimately, you must be able to provide a working program that demonstrates your technique. Complete source code is not necessarily required, though a self-contained example will be a plus.

Deadline. We will be working on an aggressive schedule, so you must submit your proposal by Monday, December 11, 2006.

Notifications will be sent out by the end of the year. If your proposal is accepted, we will contact you via e-mail and discuss our expectations for the full chapter, as well as the next steps in the process. To assist you in finalizing your chapter, we will create your figures and provide copyediting services.
Final Chapter Information

Length. The final chapters should range from five to twenty pages of formatted book pages. This requirement accounts for figures, code samples, and page layout, so there would be approximately 200 to 300 words per page. In some cases, we may accept chapters that are shorter or longer than the suggested length, depending on the content. A chapter does not have to be long or complicated to be accepted. In fact, an idea that is simple and compelling is more likely to be accepted.

Rights. You must have the right to publish your work, code and images (diagrams and screenshots).

We look forward to reading your submissions.

Posted October 21, 2006 | Comments (0)

spin

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Been slammed for the past few days, but it's all been time well-spent. For now a few quiet days catching up on laundry and mail before heading out of town for a bit.

Posted October 21, 2006 | Comments (0)

"One needn't write essays about it."

As many people have discovered, Alec Soth now has a blog and is one of the many fine photographers now writing about their work (and a bunch of other stuff).

Alec hasn't just appeared in his own blog, of course. Here's a snip from the Walker Arts Center blog which I like a great deal:

This is totally corny, but the way I think about it is I really close my eyes and I try to imagine an exhibition of pictures and see what kind of pictures — what is it I really want to look at? — and then go try to make those pictures. You never make those pictures, because they just don't emerge that way, but it takes you on a path. Recently, I was in Georgia and it was the beginning of a commission. What did I want to photograph? Like, I'm interested in hermits. So I do a little Google search on 'hermits,' 'Georgia.' And I find this Greek orthodox monastery in rural Georgia, and I go there and have this amazing encounter with these people. Those pictures weren't in my head — Greek Orthodox monks — but something developed and it took me on this crazy path.

Posted October 15, 2006 | Comments (0)

REAL

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As mentioned a few days ago this has been a 3D animation sort of week. I'm taking a break tonight but expect there to be more over the weekend. I'm working in multiple packages: XSI, Max, and Maya — animating and setting up shader networks in XSI, modeling and animating in Maya, consolidating and scene-building in Max. A bit like working out tunes on piano (or trumpet) so you can record them on guitar. The hardest part is dealing with it at a finger level: holding down Alt in XSI instead of hitting "s" and that sort of thing. Videogames have stabilized on some key combos, like the first-person-shooter combo of 'asdw' — but not these apps. Not yet.

Posted October 13, 2006 | Comments (0)

Double Teamed

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I had hope to write a review of William Eggleston in the Real World this past weekend, but the DVD proved to be deeply forgettable — so I forgot. I also watched, for about the eighth time, War Photographer. I keep playing the same silly game with it as I did in the first viewing — comparing when I would have hit the shutter to when Natchwey does. A silly game, but — one that reflects back on the purpose for his presence in the first place... which are the strongest pictures? (Maybe I should do this while viewing through my camera... I recall a thread a year or two back on ShortsShooter where someone was suggesting, as an exercise, going through POY and other news shots this way. His theory being — and for some it might work — that viewing in this way would give student photographers a better sense of the physical experience of the original photographer when they made the shot)

Also on the weekend movie list was Kubrick's 1956 The Killing, the last of his commercially-available output that I'd not seen. Gorgeous black and white, though to my surprise Stanley was not the camera operator or D.P. Instead that task went to Lucien Ballard, definitely a solid Hollywood old school craftsman who handled Kubrick's news-inspired style quite handily. One has to admire shooters like Ballard or Jimmy Howe, people whose careers stretched back to the late silents and yet were still working in the 1980's and doing respectable work without feeling sedate or dated.

To match that DVD, tonight I got hold of the book of Stanley's LOOK Magazine work: Stanley Kubrick: Drama and Shadows.

Haven't had much chance to crack it open, however. Lots of more immediate tasks this week, switch-hitting in modeling and texturing and shader writing between Max and Maya and XSI and scripting for all and more. Both overwhelming at moments and fun throughout. A lot of work.

Posted October 11, 2006 | Comments (0)

Homestead Ave

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Posted October 10, 2006 | Comments (0)

Dasein

Street Photo Salon

Posted October 09, 2006 | Comments (0)

My Private Africa

Today was a good reading day and saw as its centepiece Okwui Enwezor's Snap Judgements: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography.

Enwezor rightly identifies photography — specifically photography by Africans — as a powerful tool for dismantling the pervasive attitude of "Afro-pessimism" usually seen in western portrayals of Africa and its people. "Afro-pessimism proceeds by first invalidating the historical usefulness of the African experience." African artists today, largely freed from colonialism and empowered by modern media, are finding their own voices and asserting their validity very well.

The book bears rich fruit on sustained viewing, seen away from the convenient lenses with which we in the west usually view Africa: either a gritty New York Times-styled view of famine and war, or National Geographic-styled imagery where the human presence is either marginalized to the point of absence or made merely picturesque. Both such approaches, while nominally "showing" Africa (and often resulting in accolades and prizes for the western photographers who create them), also serve to distance the viewer from an African Otherness. We are shown roles, not inviduals (the recent popularity of Seydou Keita's 1950's portraiture contains a sort of double bounce for westerners: the revelation that these portraits are so vividly personable, and then the awkward realization: why would that idea have been a surprise?).

Snap Judgements provides its own corrective post-colonial lens, one that works best if you can spend the time to work your way through these images, steadily and with eyes open — rather than just as snips in reviews or small-sized partial website representations. In the absence of the more complete environment, it's easy for the casual viewer to look at a few scattered images in an abbreviated setting as simply evidence of their already-determined expected pathologies.

By coincidence, even as I was busy consuming Snap Judgements and enjoying each page of photos immensely, the latest issue of PRIVATE arrived at my door — an issue dedicated to the work of the Panos Pictures Agency (one of the founders, Martin Adler, was murdered in Mogadishu in June). On the cover of PRIVATE: the bare feet of a Sudanese AIDS victim standing on a bathroom scale. Adult weight: 31 kilos (less than 70 pounds).

Unlike the previous "East Europe" issue of PRIVATE, the photos here are not made by members of the social groups depicted. Yet in cases like the AIDS center or Somalian regugees from famine, who else would have made them? Without that external reportage, these people have no photographic voice of their own.

It is difficult at moments to reconcile the vibrant, imaginative, and wholly contemporary art found in Snap Judgements and the strong PJ images that give the impression of a continent populated with victims. Yet to confront the reality of both is inescapable and important. Enwezor deliberately excluded such imagery of Africa from his book because it invites easy and dismissive interpretation of the broader African experience. He is right to an extent but in doing so he himself also as easily dismisses the real and difficult situations of that subset of Africa depicted in photos like those from Panos. A subset, to be sure, that may get more press and by extension mis-represent the lives of post-colonial Africans elsewhere. But that subset, like all of Africa, is populated by very real people. Snap Judgements, even without including such journalism, helps us to remember and value the identity and story of each face in every photograph.

Posted October 08, 2006 | Comments (0)

Random(ized) Fix

After a long dry spell, the photoblog sampler page is functioning again. The previous page-builder script had been invalidated when Botzilla's host environment was changed by the ISP, but that software's now bee re-written.

Many of the thumbnails that appear on the sampler page a coming up as dummies currently, since there are no thumbs for most of the images used in the blog for 2005 and 2006. That will be remedied transparently as I create such images. Or maybe you like clicking on unknown question marks....

The page contains random links to images used in blog entries. Usually they are photos, though on rare occasion you may see a chart or title card. If you don't like the selection, you can try randomizing it yourself.

Posted October 07, 2006 | Comments (0)

100%

I promise to try to make this the last "ain't full frame grand" post. This one is the 28mm ƒ/1.8 again, ISO 1600 and pushed a stop further in Adobe Camera RAW — 1/200 sec wide open.

100% crop below.

Posted October 07, 2006 | Comments (0)

Auto Row

Posted October 06, 2006 | Comments (0)

100mm f/2

On a whim I checked Craigslist to see what the Canon 100mm f/2 might be going for — to my surprise the least-expensive one in the entire Bay Area was on sale just a few blocks away.

Posted October 05, 2006 | Comments (0)

Cheeze at the Coffeeshop

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Posted October 04, 2006 | Comments (0)

Vacuum

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Posted October 03, 2006 | Comments (0)

Bigger = Gooder

I'm incredibly enthused after printing this at 12" × 18" and having each figure clearly resolved, even to the point of making out the webbing in the beach chair on the right.

(ISO 400, Canon 28mm ƒ/1.8 - 1/250 @ ƒ/7.1)

Posted October 02, 2006 | Comments (0)

The 2point8 Book Corner

(C)2006

A couple of weeks ago I was reading Michael David Murphy's 2point8 and started clicking the "previous entry" lin ks— eventually, over the course of a few hours, I worked my way back through the entire history of the blog, mostly in a straight line backwards but with a few Memento-like sidebars of reversed reverse time. Regardless of direction the time was well-spent (later I tried the same thing with this blog, and frankly Botzilla doesn't bear extended reading nearly as well, with its many random discursions and distracted tone. You do what you can).

Since Michael reviews many books in his blog I thought I'd dig some of them up. In my current large bedside (and bedtop!) stack of readables, then, are two streetphoto books from the 2point8 book club: Rosalind Solomon's Chapalingas and Gary Stochl's On City Streets. I've had to wait for Gus Powell's The Company of Strangers, though Powell's website and his gallery on in-public.com provide a lot of material for "casual reading" of his work.

Chapalingas has been a difficult book for me to approach, starting with its size — seven pounds, 460+ oversized pages. Enough material for a number of smaller books, and to a degree I feel that what Alec Soth blogged recently — that a gallery show, even a great one, may become just a blur when there are more than about sixty images — applies similarly to books. Chapalingas is so sprawling that it requires repeated return viewing, at some pace of the viewer that's seperate from the book's own sequence of pages. Perhaps Solomon realized this in her arrangements of photos: chapters connected loosely by themes like "Holds: Grasps, Ties, Clutches, Grips, Bars" or "Heads: Hats, Hair, Hoods" that can be more easily consumed as mini-books by themselves.

Solomon is clearly a product of her interactions as a student of Lisette Model, and like other Model prodigies (most famously Dianne Arbus), she has set herself that classic task that is so simple, yet so infuriatingly and breaktakingly difficult: "I wanted to take portraits of people that showed them as real human beings, no matter where they were or what their background was."

Indira Ghandi or a random couple in Burger King, department store Santa or a Peruvian funeral. So many photos that push hard at these same themes of photographic specificity, and with the sort of surrealist eye that only the hyper-realism of photography can really reflect without seeming cartoonish. As with many of the best photographs (imo), very few of these would make good paintings — not only because of their immediacy and the natural appeal that photographs have as evidence of a privileged view, but also (despite David Hockey's own recent assertions) because I really believe that no other medium could be as expressive in its presentation (a characteristic that expalins the large size of this book, too — the photographs suffer when printed poorly, or small — or reproduced on the web).

Solomon's prodigious output, stretching over decades, is sadly her own worst enemy here. It's easy to start turning pages too quickly after a few too many wonderful shots. Better to come back later, and open instead to a random page as if this were some other book on another day.

Stochl's On City Streets, like Chapalingas, collects photographs made over the decades from the 1960s until now. Yet his results, like his small camera, are more handily grasped: about fifty pictures in an easily-held volume. Stochl's story has already been well-told by others. His photographs, made in Chacago, seem a natural extension of the style of the Chicago School's formalism, particularly in his repeated use of some graphic conceits from which he draws repeated surprises, making good use of the Leica's suddenness and the particular natures of black, white, and still photography.

Unlike Solomon, Stochl has no apparent direct connection with the people who appear in his photographs. At most their glances into his camera are curious or at the cusp of accusatory. Instead, like Winogrand, Stochl is involved in surprising arrangements of figures, of fragments of figures, and of the tones of the figure against the background. Unlike Winogrand, if I understand them correctly, Stochl seems to be more aware and deliberate in setting himself up for particular locations and awaiting a photograph, as opposed to Winogrand's more ambulatory through-the-crowd approach. Yet both depend on surprise and a quick hand.

Both Chapalingas and On City Streets represent a slice of the output of an artist who spent many years working at focused ideas and with a unity of technique. Both seem to have used one film and one camera for the entire period: Stochl his 35mm, Solomon her 6x6. It's hard to imagine a photographer embarking on a similar task today. Even photographers who have already been working on prolonged projects are finding themselves being rushed into a changing era of technological churn, and many have been collecting stockpiles of their materials against the days when those materials may suddenly disappear even while being used, as Marshall Oils and Kodak Azo paper have vanished in recent months (indeed, all Kodak B&W paper).

What [digital] camera of today can one imagine using steadily until 2046? I'm not saying it's impossible. But I'd like to know. New cameras are beautiful. The pictures possible can be truly striking in their detail and flexibility. But I wonder what might be lost when artists are unable to stay the course with a consistent program. Or: perhaps this constant technical rootlessness is a more honest expression of the accelerating and changing environment in which we all now find ourselves embedded.

The newest entry at 2point8 is this one: "How To : No Flash Corner," where Michael reveals his favorite no-flash spot. To my surprise it wasn't on Market Street where I expected, but a corner that might be the one I used for the photograph above, just a couple of weeks ago (or maybe it was a block away...). Go figure.

Also in my bookstack is a non-photography book, Seminal Graphics, a collection of older graphics-research papers including "An Image Sythesizer" by Ken Perlin. That's a no-flash Ken on the left, alongside our mutual buddy Mark V.

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Posted October 01, 2006 | Comments (0)

 

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