One of my less popular posts: PS XS.
Nikon's just announced a new normal prime lens to take the place of the old bog-standard 50/1.8 24x36 lens in the reduced-sensor firmament: the Nikon 35mm ƒ/1.8G AF-S DX.
While new prime lenses are always of interest in these precincts, beyond that this is a bit of a disappointment. It's erroneously listed under "Wide Angle" at Nikon USA, when it should be under "Standard." But speaking of that, why are manufacturers having such a hard time simply translating standard WA focal lengths to APS-C? I'd have been a lot more excited about a) a 35/1.8 FX lens, so we could take our pick how to use it (on FX or DX cameras), or b) a 35mm ƒ/1.8-equivalent DX lens. A 52.5mm-equivalent DX lens—i.e., this one—limps in a distant third. First a new 50 and then a new 35 DX? At the very least, they could have made it a 30mm. Or a 28mm, given that they're apparently so attached to legacy focal length numbers.
Well, no—at the very least, they could have made it FX, because I suppose this means that now we're not going to get a medium-speed, medium-price 35mm FX lens. I suppose the next lens in this focal length that'll be coming along will be a humungous 35mm ƒ/1.2 FX lens that weighs two pounds and costs $1,200. Grump.
But if this is what you wanted, well, here ya go.
UPDATE: See also "On Second Thought..."
The previous two posts are a good example of something that happened to me a handful of times before as a blog writer. It's kind of like the old joke about parenting, which is that by the time you've finished you've learned how you ought to go about it. Occasionally, after I've finished a set of posts about something, and read all the comments, and addressed all the arguments, and understood all the misconceptions, only then do I know how I should have written the posts in the first place....
And so it goes,
(Note: If you're coming to this cold—say, from work on Monday morning—you might want to read the post below this one, "Hypothetical Technical Question," before you read this.)
To forestall further comments (there are already a lot), the proper answer to the question in the previous post was given by Edward Taylor and PhysicsMan, and implied by only a few others: in PhysicsMan's words, "The device's total score should be the max of its scores in any sub-field." So, Device 1: 9; Device 2: 7. Device 1 has higher image quality. If you think it doesn't, then try getting a quality of 9 out of the second device. We'll be waiting.
To make this more intuitive, consider a more concrete example—say, two lenses being ranked for resolution. The first lens can resolve 200 line pairs in the very middle of its field, but resolution quickly falls off to 100 halfway to the edges and much worse than that in the corners. Lens 2 can resolve 150 line pairs across its entire field. If you were doing surveillance photography and needed the utmost resolution to be able to, say, read license plates from great distances, which lens would be more useful? A single-metric score doesn't describe either lens very well, but lens 1 still has better resolution, absotively and posilutely.
That, anyway, is (to my understanding) how dxomark.com is doing it, because they've decided to measure the highest potential image quality of each device they look at. If it were up to any individual to make a single number out of a set of data, they could pretty much decide to do it however seemed most reasonable or useful to them. There are many ways to do it, as we saw in the comments.
If the two devices in my hypothetical question were cameras, there might be a valid reason for preferring the device with the lesser image quality—namely, that its average quality across all settings is higher. "Adirondack Pete" had it very right when he said that if I were reviewing both devices, I might well recommend Device 2 after going on and on about all the subtleties!
Hypothetical questions (a subset of what I think the Germans call Gedankenversuch, thought experiment) can be very useful in debating, because they can usefully isolate factors that are commonly confounded with other factors in real-world situations. Useful as they are, however, I actually consciously try to stay away from hypothetical questions in my writing because so few people seem to be able to cope with them. One of my (many) casual interests is reading about the typical fallacies of human thinking (you might begin with this nice little book, or this one)—one lesson of which is that humans in general definitely don't like hypothetical questions. It goes against the way our brains like to work. (We're especially leery when we suspect the hypothetical question has been deliberately framed to bolster one argument and discredit another.)
Typical human-brain* answers:
The only possible answer to the above question is that Hoover > Bush for the specific premises stated, and you properly understood the question if you realized that it has nothing to do with Bush or Hoover or great presidents; the point is to be able to accept the imaginary premises and argue logically from them. All the other answers are nonresponsive and and/or beside the point. (In my hypothetical question below, any answer that took the form of "1:X, 2:Y" where X and Y are integers between one and ten would earn at least half credit...or perhaps full credit, depending on what the examiner was looking for...for instance, maybe he just wanted to see who understood the [bleeping] question [grin].)
*Other kind of brain: Spockian.
ADDENDUM: Okay, let's put this another way.
2 3 5 7 9 7 5 3
Eight guys are testing the in-camera resolution of a film. Once the negatives are made, the results can be calibrated scientifically and measured accurately. One guy can't load the film into his camera, but he figures it must be able to form an image or they wouldn't be able to market it; he dispenses with the measurement, wings it, and gives it a 2—the equivalent of getting ten points on a quiz because you wrote your name correctly. Two more guys have poor-quality lenses and can't focus their cameras properly. Their negatives measure as 3's. Two other guys focus properly, but give too much exposure and use the wrong developer for the film because they read somewhere that it gives the "highest acutance." Their results: 5's. Two guys do everything else correctly, but mistake upside-down Peter Max posters for Air Force test targets. Their results are both 7's. The last tester is Ctein. He knows all the potential pitfalls of resolution testing. He's very experienced, having done it many times before. His methodology conforms to widely accepted standards. He uses all the correct ancilliary equipment. He doublechecks all his procedures several times and runs the experiment twice as a control. His result is a 9.
What is the best in-camera resolution the film is capable of, according to the test data?
One of our writers and one of our readers got involved in a technical dispute recently that brings up an interesting issue. Let's say you have two imaging devices. Each one has eight settings. Here are the quality scores for each device at each setting, higher being better:
Your task is to assign one rank or grade for "image quality" to each device, expressed as an integer from 1 to 10. How would you grade each device?
I find this a particularly poignant picture. It's preserved in the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress; I found it on page five of Michael L. Carlebach's excellent American Photojournalism Comes of Age (one of my favorite books about photography, by the way).
It shows the photography staff of the newspaper The New York World in 1909. Or at least we can assume the man on the left and the man on the stairs are photographers, since they're shown with cameras. I direct your attention, as Michael Carlebach does, to the wall at the back of the room that also displays the clock. Know what those are? They're negatives—the newspaper's photographic archive. The hundreds of cases you see there in neatly-shelved rows contained thousands of negatives of newsworthy events, people, and places, collected at considerable expense by the paper and with great labor and sometimes risk by the men in the picture and their cohorts.
When the newspaper folded, all those negatives were thrown away.
People sometimes ask me what the best method of preserving their pictures is, and my somewhat flip but I believe trenchant answer is, "be famous." One of the problems of historical preservation is that people only tend to preserve things that are valuable. And the problem with that is that value fluctuates over time.
Most of you are computer users. Ever thrown away a perfectly good computer simply because it was old and worth nothing? Early computers are beginning to be collectible even now, but what do you think a pristine, mint-condition, working Apple 128k Macintosh, vintage 1984, will be worth in, say, 2109, or 2209? It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to think of such a thing being worth the equivalent of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. But I threw one away once.
The problem is that many kinds of objects go through a period in their potential lifespans when they don't "pencil out"—they're not worth keeping or preserving because they're not worth any money. Here's an approximate graph of the typical value of many types of objects. The x-axis is time and the y-axis is value; the horizontal line is $0.
For some objects, what pertains would more accurately be called a trough of low value, not no value—remaindered photo books and certain old cameras come to mind—because they never actually quite reach zero value. But other objects might accurately be graphed considerably below the $0 line—those would be things that are worth nothing but that require maintenance, expense, or storage space to keep and preserve. My great-grandfather's sailboat, for instance—a gorgeous 29-foot sloop made of cedar and mahagony that was originally built for Civil War General Lew Wallace, the author of Ben-Hur. It's currently being stored at considerable annual expense by a cousin who's into historic preservation, but it's worth no money in its present condition. Graphed, I imagine it would fall well below the $0 line.
My favorite example of the Trough of No Value comes from a former acquaintance whose back room had a high, narrow shelf running all the way around it, about a foot below the ceiling. Arrayed on the shelf were dozens of kids' lunchboxes from the 1950s and '60s. He told me that not only are such lunchboxes collectible now, but that they're actually fairly hard to find. Time was, of course, when most every schoolkid had a little metal lunchbox (poor kids "brown-bagged it"). But the kids grew up, the school lunch program got started, and who wanted to keep old lunchboxes around? They weren't useful any more. They weren't worth anything. And, since they were almost all used for their intended purpose, many were damaged or worn by use (I vaguely remember owning one that was rusty and had a dent). People naturally threw them away. The "trough of no value" for lunchboxes was long and harsh. That's why they're not so common today as you might guess—because not that many made it through the trough. (By the way, the inset photo is a corner of Allen Woodall's Lunchbox Museum in Columbus, Georgia.)
Even great treasures can go through a trough of no value, too. Consider that Vincent Van Gogh used to trade finished paintings for new tubes of paint—and the art supplies merchant was doing him a favor because he took pity on him. The paintings were worthless at the time.
Craftsmanship is a preservation method
That's why "being famous" is a great way to preserve your work—because value is the #1 preservative for old objects. But want to know another? Craftsmanship. One of the great hazards of survival through time is the lack of a market and a lack of trade value, but another is simply shoddiness. (I have to chuckle whenever I read yet another description of American frontier log cabins as having been well crafted or sturdily or beautifully built. The much more likely truth is that 99% of frontier log cabins were horribly built—it's just that all of those fell down. The few that have survived intact were the ones that were well made. That doesn't mean all of them were.) It's not just that things that are poorly made deteriorate more readily, it's also that they signal their own worthlessness. Or, in the case of an archive of photos, they might actually hide their own worth. I have in mind making a book of my best 35mm black-and-white pictures, for instance, and I have it in my head which pictures would be included. But if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, nobody will ever be able to extract that book out of the great motley of my hither-and-yon mess of negatives.
Sometimes, even when something has no monetary value, people will keep it just because it seems like it's too beautiful to throw away. The expression people use is one I'm sure will sound familiar to you: "it seems a shame to throw it away." Well, why should it seem a shame? It's because people also value what other people value, and if something is beautifully made and carefully encased—honored, you might say—then it projects or advertises its own value: it will be obvious to people who come across it that someone—at least the person who made it!—valued it at one time, so maybe they should value it, too. Book dealers are very familiar with this, because of the frequency with which members of the public bring in beautifully-bound but worthless books. (The corollary must also be true, that very valuable books are thoughtlessly discarded all the time because they don't look valuable. But that doesn't bear thinking about.)
If your work is beautifully printed and matted and housed in a clamshell box or a custom album, I think it's more likely to project value, less likely to be discarded, and more likely to make it to the far side of the dreaded Trough of No Value—never mind the actual pictures. Something to think about, huh?
Featured [partial] Comment by Hugh Crawford: "[Re] photos surviving the trough, take a look at Superbomba's collection of other peoples photos on flickr. They are for the most part amazing. Not because you know these people, not because the photos are examples of good technique, and not because they are strange although many are, but there is something there that draws you in."
Mike replies: Lotsa "punctum," in Barthesian terms. (See Hugh Look's comment under the "My Old Piano" post.)
Featured Comment by Jeff: "When I first started reading this piece I immediately thought about the value of photographs. My theory is that as documentary images get further away from the 'present' they become more valuable. You've caught a moment or series of moments in time. Seen as part of the present they are ubiquitous and vying for attention with many other moments from that particular 'present.'
"But as those moments recede into the past, the more they reflect not the 'now' but the 'then.' And as something that represents a time lost forever their value increases.
"When I first photographed the physical and social effects of the building of 'the last freeway' in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, a critic called them 'prosaic.' Dull and mundane. Last year a major museum bought the work, in part because they had grown out of their dullness. They became vintage.
"By the way, the work can be seen online (in my opinion some are still prosaic but add to the total story, while others are incredibly beautiful and represent those moments in time)."
Featured Comment by Lars K. Christensen: "What this interesting post and the comments illustrate nicely, is that 'value' is not something absolute or intrinsic to an object, but something that is attributed to the object in a certain context. And as the context change, the value may change likewise.
"In a market economy, value is often equated with price. However, objects can have value in many other ways. Value is often a function of the story or meaning the object conveys to somebody—be that an individual or a certain group of people.
"This is where public museums come into play. Their objective is to find, preserve, exhibit and communicate such objects, which convey stories or meaning of importance to society.
"This, I can say from my own personal experience, is not an easy task.
"At the Dept. of Modern History, Danish National Museum, where I work, we do collect photographs. However, we seldom accept or reject photos based on their artistic value—and never on the basis of their commercial value.
"One of the main aims of the department is to documents changes in people’s daily life throughout the last 350 years. Thus, we have in our collection both the archives of commercial photographers, family albums and personal collections as well as a vast number of 'diverse' photos, including such that has been taken by museum staff for documenting purpose.
"What is important for us is to gather as much information as possible for each photo. As we ultimately collect objects in order to be able to tell stories of the past, we need as much information about the objects as possible. A photo with no information about who took it, why and when can be useless to us, even if it’s a beautiful example of photographic craftsmanship.
"That is also why, that in an ideal world we would collect most of our objects not just from what the public more or less randomly comes to offer us, but as part of carefully planned research programs. This would ensure that we get as much relevant information as possible and that we expand our collections in areas, which are particularly relevant. Unfortunately, we have only very limited funding to do so.
"Looking back at the historical evolution of photography as a mass medium, from the point of view of a museum, there has and will be different challenges. From the early period of photography, the number of objects to be collected is scarcer and some of them involve at lot of work and expenses, when it comes to preservation and storing. During the mid-20th century there is a vast increase in the number of objects, since photography becomes accessible for everybody.
"But still: as long as taking pictures—even family snapshots—involves a rather lengthy and not especially cheap process of buying the film, taking the picture, having it processed, sorting out the best ones and putting them in an album, there is a great chance that the family album more or less consciously reflects the self-image of its producers: these are the pictures, that the original photographer valued and cherished. This makes such an album a possible source of how people at a certain time and space interpreted their own lives.
"With the advance of digital photography, however, the number of pictures has exploded. The process of photographing is now quick and almost free, so there is no reason not to photograph anything that catch your eyes—be it important or not. For the future museum curators, who inherit a collection of digital snapshots, the job of sorting out the meaning of the photos as the photographer’s interpretations of his or her own life becomes much more complicated. What is important here, what is not—and in what sense and context?
"There are great challenges ahead, in the area of research methodology and theory."
Scott Parsons, who wrote the popular "Memories No More" post below, has been in the photo industry for 30 years, in positions from retail to consulting. He's currently out of the industry directly, but still reads, writes, and breathes photography. He can be contacted for questions or comments.
And what happened to the slides? Here's what Scott told me:
"I finally found the customer who brought in the slides and projector. Seems that this was an estate-type sale, as the old man had passed away. The guy who bought the slides did not remember the exact address of the yard sale. I can't blame him. I don't remember exact addresses when I'm looking around for yard sales either. What was I to do with a non-working projector and slides of people I don't know? After a few months of having them lay around on my desk, I took a deep breath and tossed them in the trash. I think about the slides from time to time. I'm weird that way. But still, after all that time, they were in a yard sale!"
...On recent post topics.
For one, you've probably read that The Associated Press has decided to assert its rights in the Manny Garcia v. Shepard Fairey Obama 'Hope' poster matter. (A further article here), most likely based on the research Tom Gralish did to uncover the source photo and photographer. (Note that the Obama campaign never used the first poster officially because of concerns about the rights to the original photograph.)
I contacted Carolyn E. Wright, the author of the Photographer's Legal Guide and the writer of the Photo Attorney blog, and she's written a post about the case. Her conclusion? She'd take the case for infringement, if it were presented to her, although copyright is always situational and it would take a court ruling to truly settle the matter. Her entire post is interesting.
Another little point not to be overlooked by photographers: consider that Manny Garcia may have taken one of the defining photographs of his career in this instance—the rare shot that many photojournalists only get once in a career, similar in its iconic nature (though not, perhaps, in intrinsic newsworthiness) to Alberto Korda's portrait of Che Guevara, Sam Shere's shot of the Hindenburg crash, or Joe Rosenthal's shot of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima—but he's not likely to see any of the proceeds of any legal action or settlement between the AP and Fairey. Since he was a stringer for the AP at the time, his shot belongs to them. Granted, he probably wouldn't have been where he was or taken the shot at all if he weren't working for the AP at the time, but still. (A "stringer" is a freelancer hired part-time, or used regularly but intermittently by a magazine or newspaper but not on its staff.)
Face in the crowd
Switching gears, I know I've beaten David Bergman's Gigapan photo of the Inauguration half to death here (I'm guessing this will be the last mention), but I can't resist this nifty update. Here's my friend Bob Burnett and his family at the Inauguration...
...And here, after hearing about the Gigapan photo here on TOP, is what Bob was able to find in the crowd with a diligent search within the image of the area where he and his family were standing.
Pretty cool, I thought. Now Bob doesn't have to prove to his grandchildren that he was there.
(On an unrelated note, Bob, a film director, recently won CINE's Special Jury Award, one of their top honors, for his Wolf video made for Defenders of Wildlife. Congrats to Bob and his production team for that.)
So why were all these memories for sale anyway? While none of the pictures were of a high art value in and of themselves, the whole collection represents perhaps four years in a family's life. Irreplaceable memories sitting on folding tables, on the driveway, in the sun. Now lost to them.
Now I want you to think about all of your photographs. If you are like me you also have thousands of pictures stored. Some of mine are my parents' Kodachromes I've kept. Some are 35mm slides I took from the late '70s until the late '90s. Including a large assortment of medium-format transparencies. And now, recently, a huge amount of digital images in raw, TIFF and JPEG formats. These are existing on an assortment of hard drives and DVDs, waiting. Waiting for something. Waiting for me to go back and view them, make prints, make something. Even if all I'm doing is checking to see if they still exist before the eventual hard drive crash. Or DVD failure. Waiting for me to move them to whatever new technology is next after DVDs are old technology. Waiting for me to die so my kids can decide what to do with them. Vault? Basement? Dumpster? Yard sale? All of our pictures mean something to us. Some are really nice and when printed or projected, may elicit oohs and aahs from the audience. But most of our pictures are snapshots. With built-in memories of time and place. We were with Mom and Dad when we took that trip. I was with Jenny during that rainstorm. We went to Ouray on the 4th of July. My kids were opening presents on Christmas morning. This was my Mom. That was my Dad. This is my sister holding the kitten.
Memories on top of memories living on celluloid. Or living as 1’s and 0’s in a computer. Memories of lives, in pictures.
And Greg and Val trying out brand new red bikes. On Christmas morning. In the newly fallen snow.
Featured [partial] Comment by Marty McAuliff: "My Dad's cousin was at one time a news photographer and for a very short time he owned a portrait studio. His career, and life, was cut short by an auto accident, but while he lived he was that family member that would document the occasions. He's been gone since the mid sixties. Now a couple of years ago my Dad found one of his cousin's cameras in the basement of the house he grew up in, among an assortment of personal effects. My Dad gave the camera to me...its a well-used but fine working Ciro-Flex TLR. Of course...duhhh...I gave no thought to it and opened the back. In that split second we're all familiar with, I slapped it shut after seeing a milli-milli-millisecond of bright red paper.
"Long story short...I had the film developed and found two fine negatives showing my grandmother (the photographer's aunt), in her flower garden, in the backyard of my father's childhood home. Sharp, well exposed, and now a part of my scrapbook. There was also a blurry, over-exposed, frame of my own cousin as a toddler. It appears only three frames were taken. I wrecked only the tail of film when I opened the door and there were no "adjacent" frames. My Dad says these were probably shot in 1962.
"Never open a camera belonging to your departed family members in anything but complete darkness."
See the comments section for Marty's entire comment.
Featured Comment by Andy W.: "I read a similar post recently in a friend's blog, which was also very moving. It's obviously a subject on people's mind at the moment."
I've been working on a little essay for The Luminous Landscape about "modes of approach" to a photograph—a sort of laundry-list of the various ways critics and viewers can deconstruct pictures.
One of those "modes" is meaning, which I think is really considerably simpler than a lot of people might think. In a classic news photograph, the caption provides the meaning, but the photograph is both illustration of what the caption asserts or describes and also evidence of it. But while the meaning is clear in such a case, it presumes that the subject of the caption (and hence the picture) is of intrinsic general interest, sufficient to involve the viewer. That's often (um, rather decisively) not the case with many of our personal pictures.
The big advantage of personal work, though, is that it can have personal meaning. This rescues it from all manner of potential failings, including a lack of general interest, as well as the most common flaw of "average" photographs, which is that they're nondescript, approximate, bland.
I was struggling to try to express this when I coincidentally put together this two-frame "panorama" for my friend Jim. We have a friend, Jerry—he's Jim's brother's father-in-law—who tells great stories, and I've learned to watch not only the storyteller's expressions as he engages his audience but the expressions of the people listening to him. The two halves of this picture were actually taken a couple of minutes apart, although the implication of the picture as a whole is perfectly authentic.
Jim's reaction was succinct and pretty much encapsulates how pictures like this work:
I like fact that he mentioned the piano, where he spent many hundreds of hours when we were kids, practicing.
I like the "snapshot aesthetic," it's true, but I also feel that personal associations to what a picture shows is really the best way for most of us to make something of our photographs. This picture is rich for me, considerably richer for Jim, and probably doesn't mean much to you. But that's okay.
Of course, there's a downside to this, as you'll see in the post that follows this one.
The Stephen Colbert link I posted yesterday is funny, but it concerns a serious matter, and it's one that I think we should all be at least mildly concerned about—as photographers, true, but also as citizens. What that kind of thing is portending is a rise in authoritarianism.
As I've written elsewhere, "authoritarian" is the opposite of "liberal." (The opposite of conservative is progressive.) Authoritarianism is not a feature of true American conservatism, which largely seeks to preserve the values of classical liberalism. For a decade and a half now it's been a concern to me that a number of high-profile demagogues and a substantial segment of the corporate-owned media, backed by the instigators of a determined and well-funded fringe movement, have exhorted ordinary people (many of them less educated) to abhor and deride liberalism.
The problem with the word "liberalism" is that it really means two different things. First there's classical liberalism—personal freedom, the right to hold private property, equality under the law, liberty, freedom to trade and do business as you please—which conforms closely to the foundational values of American government and society (with the exception of "liberty," i.e., freedom from being indentured or enslaved, a principle that the United States applied only selectively for many years, even though the principle was firmly ensconced in our documents and our rhetoric from the start). Classical liberalism is what conservatism seeks to conserve. Then along came a theorist called John Rawls, who essentially added "fairness" and "inclusiveness" to the liberal stew of values. Because fairness and inclusiveness can really only be enforced by government, proponents of modern liberalism have leaned heavily on government to express and enforce their values. It is modern, post-Rawlsian liberalism that the demagogues fulminate against.
This is confused enough, but the picture is confused even further by the overlay of economic ideologies (capitalism, socialism, etc.), social issues (gay marriage, abortion rights, etc.), and religious allegiances, all of which are separate from political ideologies but overlap them, sometimes (and for some people) significantly.
But really, nowhere in American political life or political fundamentals does classical right-wing authoritarianism have a legitimate place. The classic form of authoritarian government is a dictatorship, and its primary feature is that individuals do not have clear rights or protections in the face of the dictatorial apparatus. Much in our Constitution and the very structure of our government (its three branches, and the so-called "checks and balances") is specifically designed to thwart authoritarianism. True conservatives are no more its friend than liberals are.
But what happens when you create a thriving culture of anti-liberalism? Can you assume that most people understand the nuances of the terms, and are clear about exactly which features of the general principle are being demonized? Or do you just begin to get its opposite—authoritarianism—both in government and culture?
Handcuffing the Cat-Walker
It might be funny when a mild-mannered guy who walks his cat on a leash gets arrested for taking pictures of trains, especially when the people who run the trains have explicitly encouraged the activity. Humor helps, because ridicule can be influential. We laugh. But it ought to be a laughter tinged with nervousness. The current rise of authoritarianism (I've called it "the totalitarian dawn") in America, England, and the democracies of the West is something to be taken with the utmost seriousness, in principle. Authoritanism has got its toehold, and the current climate of persecution against photographers is a good illustration of how it goes about gaining momentum. We can only oppose authoritarianism so long as it stays small and its power remains limited: once it gets free rein and power, it will usurp our protections, abrogate our rights, and, most likely, make life miserable for the greater mass of us. That, anyway, is authoritarianism's usual course.
Featured Comment by Carl Blesch: "When I was growing up in a conservative white middle-class Midwestern American suburb, my parents of course taught me not to do any wrong. But equally, they taught me to avoid association with those who did wrong and to in fact avoid any appearance of doing wrong. Getting too close to wrongdoers or having any appearance of doing something wrong made you just as guilty of being wrong as if you'd actually done the deed. Sounded like good advice at the time, and it generally served me well.
"But I can't reconcile that upbringing with a passion in my life—railroad photography. By my parents' teaching and by the current popular mood in this and other free countries, I should simply stop photographing trains. True, photographing a train from a public vantage point* is perfectly legal, but in this era, it looks suspicious. So according to my parents' dogma, I'm as guilty as a terrorist.
"(*Much legal hair-splitting can be done on the meaning of a public vantage point, but let's not go there right now.)
"Trouble is, I don't see why I should have to give up my photographic passion, when the landscape photographer doesn't have to give up his or hers because it's not suspicious. But I know I won't get any sympathy pleading my case to the public, which has no idea what I or other 'foamers' (perjorative for railfan) see in trains. That attitude came through loud and clear in the comedy video. I can handle the teasing I get for being dorky and geeky when I shoot trains (on that point I'm guilty as charged!), but I'm not ready to be told to cease and desist or be branded as a terrorist."
Featured Comment by Peter T.: "Sadly, the link won't work in Canada due to licensing nonsense. This link should work for Canadian readers."
Mike replies: Thanks Peter! I'm taking your word for this, because your link won't work where I am....
Featured Comment by Andreas Manessinger: "Actually it gets harder and harder to laugh about these things. There is so much paranoia in our societies, so much suspicion, that there is hardly anything in satire, that I wouldn't expect sombody to do in reality, and often it turns out, reality writes the weirder scripts."
Mike replies: And if you think that's bad, Andreas, check this out. (Thanks to Mrten for this one.)
Featured Comment by Jerred Zegelis: "As a high school photography teacher, it was one of my most disheartening moments as a teacher when my students were stopped and told they couldn't take photographs of the Woodmen building in Omaha, Nebraska. They were on public property, doing everything respectfully, and they simply walked away and told me what happened. It took every ounce of control for me to not 'go off' on the security guards for this, but I had to try to set an example for my students. We did receive an apology from management, however, after I complained, and were asked to come back with our cameras. I'll at least give them that."
Featured Comment by David A. Goldfarb: "I had a funny moment just a couple of days ago when I attracted the attention of security guards for taking photos in B&H of all places! I'd just bought a focusing screen and sat down to install it and test it out in the lounge area near the exit, where there's a little space for customers to organize their things, and then I noticed two guards glancing at me and saying, 'Did he just take a picture? Are people allowed to take pictures here?' I laughed and said I was testing the focusing screen that I'd just bought in the store, and they were okay with that. B&H!"
(From the press release.)
A sample comparison:
This sample would indicate that there is virtually no difference between the sensor quality of these two cameras, apart from low-light capability (which is not a limitation for the Hasselblad's target market, since studio photographers use artificial lighting. Might be important for you, though). Of course the big difference is image size (39 MP vs. 12 MP). Interesting, as I would have thought that the medium-format camera would have had better dynamic range than it does. I thought that was the tradeoff with high-ISO capability. Guess not....
ADDENDUM: Read Michael Reichmann's thoughts on these new numbers. Michael's actually used a lot of medium-format digital cameras, and, like him, I tend to trust eyes over measurements.
The British Journal of Photography is reporting in its blog, called 1854 (the year of the Journal's founding) that the release of the long-awaited-by-some Fujifilm folder is imminent. The BJoP has lots of pics but not much more news. It will be distributed by Fujifilm in Japan and by Cosina in the rest of the world as the "Voigtländer Bessa III 667." Largely a retro tribute to medium-format folders of yore, the new camera's innovation is that it will be switchable from 6x6cm to 6x7cm. We've heard rumors of pricing but nothing we're at liberty to divulge.
UPDATE: The Japanese press release for the Fujifilm folder is here; the pre-order price at Yodobashi, which lists mid-March delivery, is 218,000 yen, about US$2,440 at today's exchange rate.
We talked about Robert Frank's The Americans a lot last year, and I realize that some readers might be suffering from at least a mild case of "Americans fatigue." And then, too, there's the problem that an hour-long audio interview is a big time commitment for a lot of us. Even so, if you're so inclined and you have the time, Bob Edwards' recent interview with curator Sarah Greenough and Frank himself is both unusual and excellent. You can stream it online or download it as a podcast.
Featured Comment by Sean: "I've downloaded the podcast and look forward to listening to it. Mike, did you notice that Alen MacWeeney left the only comment on the forum? Do you know much about him? My friend bought me his book Irish Travellers, Tinkers No More. It's a great advert for documentary photography and the book is beautifully made."
Mike replies: I don't know Alen, no. I believe he used to teach at the Zone VI Workshops in the '90s, and I've heard he's an expert traditional B&W printer, but that's all I know. I haven't seen his book(s?).
Featured Comment by Joe Cameron: "I saw the Frank show at NGA last weekend and found several things that make the trip worthwhile. First, a look at some of his contact sheets revealing the shots just before and after the ones in the book. If I'm not mistaken the voluminous show catalog includes a contact sheet for every photo in The Americans.
"Second, as an old-timer raised on the 'ethic' of full frame printing, I was surprised by Frank's willingness to crop when it was useful. As an example, 'Hotel Lobby—Miami Beach,' a very tightly cropped vertical, is actually (on the film) a wide horizontal.
"But most interesting of all to me, after devouring and teaching The Americans for nearly forty years, seeing the entire book on gallery walls—all enlarged (vintage?) prints (I would guess 11x14 to maybe 16x20)—was like seeing many of the images for the first time. In several prints I saw details I had never seen in the book prints and found myself 'reading' them in new ways. Without intending a judgment here, this is a prime illustration of just how important image size is to image content, and what a difference there is between silver and printer's ink.
"P.S. Thanks for the link to the recorded interview. Very interesting."
Sports, like life, can be very dramatic. It's just that it sometimes doesn't tell the story you want it to.
The Super Bowl yesterday was very dramatic, in a Keystone Cops kind of way. Although penalties every which way and bumbles, fumbles, and interceptions charted the course of the game, it was very entertaining most of the way through and genuinely dramatic in the last five minutes. Trouble was, the narrative I really liked was the one that ended with 2:37 to go.
...No, seriously, that shaved-wood padding stuff is called "excelsior."
Longtime camera buffs will recognize those telltale lenscaps as being from the AF Carl Zeiss lenses for the Contax G1 and G2, which were deluxe AF viewfinder cameras from the end of the film era. The lenses have been converted by Japan Exposures (which loaned us these) to manual-focus Leica M mount, for use on any M-mount camera.
Here's a size comparison between the tiny converted Planar 45mm ƒ/2 and the Panasonic Lumix G1's already wee zoom lens, shown here with the lens hood on in a transparent attempt to make it look bigger. Next we need...
...The currently coveted and hard-to-find RayQual Leica M to Micro 4/3 adapter.
The adapter is actually a fairly intricate bit of machining, complete with a little spring-loaded lens locking clip. So maybe the price isn't quite so exorbitant as it initially seems.
Be careful, though—with the adapter attached, the rear element of the Biogon 28mm ƒ2.8 protrudes past the rear rim. Don't forget and set this down the wrong way.
So put it all together and what have you got?
...Right, a li'l bastard. Lest anyone think I'm being crude, I hasten to point out that I'm using both terms in the technical sense...meaning "small" and "of mixed parentage."
And you know what this means, of course. It means that before the week is out, I'm probably going to be out making comparison shots between the Contax G 28mm (56mm-e) and 45mm ƒ/2 (90mm-e) vs. the G1's zoom at the appropriate settings. I live an empty, useless life.
Kinda cute, though, idn't it? Of course you don't need to use the Leica M to Micro 4/3 adapter to mount converted Contax G lenses; you can mount any Leica M mount lens you happen to have, from the Konica M-Hexanons to the M-Rokkor 40mm ƒ/2 made for the Minolta CLE. ...Or, of course, many different authentic Leica lenses of a wide variety of vintages. And, if you also get an M-to-screw adapter, you can mount LTM (Leica Thread Mount) 39mm screwmount lenses too.
Featured Comment by Michelle: "All of this just to put G1 lenses on a G1? (Sorry, I know it's a silly joke, but someone had to say it.)"