Posted March 29, 2016 | Comments (0)

Nine Statements


Here are nine statements that I hope clarify to readers (and myself) what I'm on about here at PhotoRant.

It's also a useful prep for me as I try to write up more about the nature of my actual working methods. I don't expect them to apply for everyone, but here they are:

  1. I attempt to involve myself in work and ideas which constantly challenge that which I previously understood or thought I understood.
  2. I am interested in the relationships and play between an unfamiliar picture/object content and the familiar photographic image.
  3. As aspect of the work has to do with altering the literal/cultural meaning of existing public images and additions. Using superimposition, juxtaposition, and other contextual changes, I am functioning as a visual guerrilla.
  4. I am interested in the various ways that photographic images transcend their relationship to actuality.
  5. The pictures and objects are not related to direct experiential camera vision, but represent formalized symbolic equivalents of experience.
  6. The figure, because of its human, erotic, sensual and psychological connections, remains my primary subject interest and is the vehicle for the formal content of this work.
  7. Often the work relates to my ongoing interest in random and aleatory occurrences and associations. The images are the result of situational rather than visualized stimuli. Synthesis rather than selection is significant.
  8. Through my work, I am involved in extending the photographic medium into new processes, concepts, and areas of concern and utilization of new light sensitive materials.
  9. My basic aim is to be able to relate the concept and the content of the last piece into the next, so as to be involved in the constant development of individual subjective work. I value the open-ended evolution of ideas as opposed to a particular aesthetic resolution.

In fact, this list was actually created by Robert Heinecken in 1963, two years after starting to lead the UCLA Photography Department. I recently encountered it and was surprised how well it resonated 40+ years later.

"Students seem to want to know where they should stop," he wrote, "rather than where they might go."

Posted March 27, 2016 | Comments (0)

April Art in Palo Alto

Hidden Layers 3, 2016

I will have some pieces in the April exhibition at Palo Alto's Pacific Art League. As usual the opening will be on the first Friday. As you might expect for anything containing my work, that's April First.

Please feel free to come by during the opening reception that evening between 6 and 8PM, where you can critique in person over a glass of wine; or visit any time during the first three weeks of April. The gallery is at the corner of Forest and Ramona Streets, across from Palo Alto City Hall.

Posted March 25, 2016 | Comments (0)

Seven C's

Adding the Fujifilm X-Pro2 to my kit has had me reviewing jpg-output custom image settings again. It's a regular topic of conversation on internet forums and reviews and blogs -- how to set up the custom functions in the X100T, on the X-T1, or, now, the X-Pro2?

There are something like a million possible permutations of settings for each of the custom collections: how to pick, and how to keep track of the selections (What did I have on C3 again?)? My choice has been to break things down along just two axes: picture type and color/monochrome. I then to set all cameras to use the same custom-settings layout so I only have to learn one setup.

The table shows the layout and details about the choices follow below the fold.

  Sim WB DR Shad Hi Sharp NR Color ISO Grain Notes
C1 Std AWB A 0 0 0 0 0 800 - RESET EVERYTHING.
C2 By AWB A +2 -1 +1 -1 - A3200 S B&W Street.
C3 Cc AWB A +2 -1 +1 -1 +1 A3200 W Color Street.
C4 Bg Sun 100 -1 -1 -1 -2 - 800 - B&W Studio/Flash Portraits.
C5 NPS Sun 100 -1 -1 -1 -2 0 800 - Color Studio/Flash Portraits.
C6 Bg AWB 100 -1 -1 -1 -2 - 800 - B&W Existing Light Portraits.
C7 NPS AWB 100 -1 -1 -1 -2 0 800 - Color Existing Light Portraits.

These settings don't cover every kind of shooting! But they do, at present, cover most of the situations I normally shoot. There's no such thing as "best" settings, just "best for me." I don't really shoot landscapes, I don't do macro, etc. There are no "C" modes here using Vivid/Velvia color or other mode choices that might have their place in some other shooter's toolkit. The crucial question should be: "What do I actually use my cameras for, and how quickly cen I be set up for those situations?"

Reviewing the pictures I make, I've found that almost all my shooting falls into a few simple categories: contrasty street; lower-contrast portraits of various types, using either flash or existing light, and finally (via C1) a deliberately-vague "general photography" that is usually perfectly served by the cameras with their factory settings. On rare occasions where I want to vary, I can quickly get to a known state from C1 rather than trying to guess what other setting might be good.

Each camera has its own characteristics, and so the settings are not exactly the same on each body:

  • The X100T includes ISO in custom modes, while the X-T1 and X-Pro2 use dials.
  • The X-Pro2 has a Grain control not found on the other bodies. I only apply it for my punchy "Street" settings.
  • The X-Pro2 also has Acros monochrome simulation. On the other bodies I use the standard "Black & White" but for the X-Pro2 it's Acros all the way. Longtime readers of this blog may recall that I'm an old advocate of the film stock and used to bring lots of it back with me on any trip to Japan. Try it with stand development — it's a great film!

I'd love to hear other people's thought about custom functions, and how they're most useful to them.

Posted March 24, 2016 | Comments (0)

FujiFilm X-Pro2 Film Simulations

X-Pro2 Film Simulations
A picture is worth books full of text. Here are the various film simulation modes available on the X-Pro2, along with Adobe Camera Raw's attempt at "Auto" adjustment. New for this camera are the "Acros" B&W modes.

Here are the same samples, repackaged in rows of four.

The lens here was an old Canon FD 50mm 1.8, mounted on a Fotasy adapter.

X-Pro2 Color Modes, Tall

Posted March 18, 2016 | Comments (0)

Home-Hacking the Fujifilm X-Pro-2

Why don't more industrial designers design for fingertips? They seem to understand grip, but sensation... less.

Over the past couple of years I've taken to hacking the mechanical controls of my cameras (and a few other items) with Sugru, a quick-curing material that's a bit like a cross between modeling clay and rubber. The idea is simple: provide tactile landmarks for my fingers, so that I can use the camera's controls without needing to look at them -- either because it's raised to my eye, or even if the camera is out of sight in my bag or jacket pocket, preparing for the next shot.

In this photo, the red blobs are bits of Sugru. In the past I've used black. The color is pretty unimportant, what matters is the material feel against your finger.

Sugru is strong but the nubs usually wear down after a few months of daily use. They're easily replaced in about three minutes.

The Idea:

If you're reading this on a computer, run your fingers along the center row of keys. On most American-style QWERTY keyboards you'll feel tiny "nubs" on the "F" and "J" keys. Even if you don't think about them, your brain does use that extra information to help align and coordinate touch-typing (You may find a bump on the "5" key if you have a numeric keyboard, too). They're nearly ubiquitous now, though the patent on the idea (for keyboards) was only filed by June E Botich in 2002.

The same idea works great for cameras or other devices with multiple hard-to-distinguish buttons. On my Fuji-X cameras, I put a dot of rubber on the AF and AE lock buttons, and one near the "zero" of the exposure-compensation dial.

Not only does it help me navigate individual cameras, but it also helps me when I switch cameras, say from the X-Pro2 to X-T1 or X100T. The button layouts might be different, but my thumb and fingers know the feel of matching controls.

For other cameras with fewer mechanical controls, like the little Lumixes, I just add a dot on the main dial to indicate the "P" setting. Always, the goal is to let my hand do as much of the navigation as possible, rather than burden my eye, which should be watching for The Picture.

Posted March 17, 2016 | Comments (0)


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