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Monday, 15 July 2019


I recall reading (I think it was in "How to Get Hung" by Molly Barnes) that Mark Rothko once explained a work as showing that yellow looks different against green than it does against red or something to that effect. A lot of abstract or minimalist painting is all about color.

The high art world has no problem with that (it smacks of a design 101 exercise to me but then what do I know? I only have a BFA, not an MFA) and they don't get hung up over materials and methods. They will even paint wit elephant dung. Photographers OTOH contort themselves endlessly over equipment, materials, and methods. In the end, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, 'It's the image stupid'. It does matter how you got it, what you printed it one, etc. If the images touches the viewer in a meaningful way, that is the point. All photo media are ephemeral to one degree or another, whether measured in 10s of years or hundreds of years but but an image that doesn't "speak" to the viewer doesn't gain value by lasting longer.

Don't think you are alone in "colors" antipathy
b/w speaks more clearly

The bit about RC coated paper reminded me that one of my very earliest uses for e-mail was questions-and answers!-to Ctein about a chemical solution for clearing the fog (or was that metamerism?) that plagued some of the early RC papers. I couldn't believe he got my question and bothered to answer. God, that seems so long ago, and I only "met" him because of you. Thanks.

I own that "toy" in the above photo. Just holding the camera and admiring the craftsmanship is worth the purchase price.

I've made a decision: I'm no longer going to be prejudiced about smartphone cameras.

I made that decision some years ago after looking at the Mobile Phone Awards. See:


Click on the link to the 2017 awards and look at the architecture-design category.

R-click on an image to see some EXIF showing the phone used (if your browser does this)

- Richard

I'll happily make pictures of colors. Still can't take my phone seriously. (And let's not even talk about ice cream !)

It's not the tool. It's the result.

What a postcard! (The ice cream shop.)

Like a Brownie, but critically not like a Brownie in that the smartphone is a camera connected to a publishing medium.

I think the discomfort with color is not uncommon among photographers. Perhaps it's something to do with the imposing edifice of pre-color-practice canon, combined with the perhaps even more imposing edifice of color-era practitioners of the black (and white) arts, reinforced by decades of art establishment prejudice.

Or perhaps it's just a personality thing.

Anyway, I empathize and commiserate. Color is such its own universe of design considerations that it can feel overwhelming to me--seeming to require an entirely different mindset or approach, as it can conflict with other compositional approaches that I'm more comfortable with.

The "genre" is far older than photography, though, and I think--or rather hope--that that very long history might make for a good approach for coming to grips with it.

Regarding casein: Despite being more orthorexic than most people I know, I can't get worked up about casein because, for one, the link to cancer is mixed--seemingly promoting one type but protective against others; and for another, the studies involve heavy lifetime intake.

To paraphrase MFK Fisher: a meal does not a diet make. One, two, or a dozen kiddie portions of ice cream in a year, all other things being equal, is just not going to have a significant dietary impact.

Which is not to say that the guilt isn't a useful regulator.

I don't miss the extended washing followed by flattening of FB papers.

And my Ilford RC prints also look the same as the day they were printed, some over 40 years ago.

Man, Mike, you're about a cat picture away from filling in the bingo card on this post!

There's some interesting light in that color photo. I would be tempted to convert it to black and white and see if you can cuddle up to it.

...It's just a picture...

Quite an admission from a photo dawg to all the other photo dawgs reading this blog. A revelation that's crept into my consciousness lately. Yet, I keep making black and white darkroom prints on fiber-based paper. Why is that? :-)

I think you just need to emulate the old Seinfeld joke, viz.: "And that landscape image was done with a cell phone! Not that there's anything wrong with that."

I, like many are not prejudiced against phone cameras, but I enjoy the ‘craftsmanship ‘ involved in taking a photograph, from setting the aperture and speed to sizing up what is in front of me to take the best image possible. This is why your column is so good. It allows me to evaluate my skills and attitudes and enthuses me to try harder. If I was only using a phone camera most of it would be superfluous.

I think you have a point. I've lost track of the times I have thought: 'I could photograph that if I had a camera' while forgetting my phone was in my pocket. Perhaps, some photographers need a camera rather than a device that happens to take photos.

Goldenrod is not a weed.

Dear Editor. Of course they're cameras. They have the big advantage of being more available-at-all-times than most other cameras. Their recent sensors put to shame film cameras of old. They even do amazing tricks like creating bokeh from nothing.
But they're bloody uncomfortable to use, with their flat form factor and unwieldy shutter 'buttons'. I live in forever fear of losing grip of mine. And they don't have an OVF. Hence, they are great note-takers, xerox-substitutes, whatever you want. But a camera is to me something to wrap my hand around, not gingerly hold with a few fingers...
Call me a luddite, I'll keep my Ricoh...
PS Glad your eye has recovered just fine!!!

For me it was the magazine covers showing the space shuttle Columbia breaking up (in 2003). Newsweek and Time both used photos taken by amateurs with early digital or cell-phone cameras—I can't track down exactly which in the time I've spent so far, but it doesn't really matter to me. In either case it showed me the biggest news organizations using new-tech citizen photos for their covers.


The daylily is indeed beautiful, and giving it room to grow and bloom is certainly the kind of thing that gardeners do, but isn't treating another flower--goldenrod--as a weed even when it's NOT threatening anything else (especially in a "wildflower garden") pretty much exactly the same thing as disparaging some photos just because they were made with a phone or a cheap camera or in color? Just asking.


[That's an existential question if ever I heard one! However, the goldenrod (the species I have...apparently there are 120 different species of goldenrod) is definitely threatening everything else. It even smothered the peonies, and those are four feet tall. And, it has spread seeds to pretty much every other patch of open ground on the property--I have pulled juvenile goldenrod from every other garden on the grounds, including a garden on the far side of the house. It's on the rampage! --Mike]

Some fabulous pictures have been taken with phone cameras, by people who know how to photograph, how to use them well and process the images well... and who can handle the damn things! They're useful but I completely hate using mine... nevertheless an iPhone picture from the Alps last year came out looking better than the Portra 400 image I took a few minutes later!

I don't really take 'serious photos' with my phone, but I do use the phone camera for note taking, and things like plant identification (with Google Lens). A cell phone is a handy device!

Ok. So maybe I shouldn't admit this on line but I've started on-line dating. A match asked me to send them a selfie when I replied to their phone text. I think they either wanted (a) to verify that I actually look like my profile or (b) an easy way to add me officially/memorably to their ample contact list. Phones are good for that y'know. Anyway, they happen to be a professional photographer and I needed to impress.

I struggled like mad to take a decent selfie. The easier front-side camera gives me a big nose (or that's at least what I've chosen to blame) so I try the back camera and look into a mirror instead. I found I couldn't get anything passable without either sticking the phone right next to my face (obscuring it, maybe that's a plus?) or holding the phone to my side in some weird way. Continuing to try the latter, and in natural light, with me hunting for the damn "shutter" icon all I got was blurry messes (again, maybe that's a plus??). I hated all of them. What to do?

So I pulled out the old traditional digital camera, set the aperture and shutter speed as I know best, braced it against my chest, made sure the lens was facing me by seeing it squarely through the mirror reflection, and pressed the shutter. Bingo. A proper self portrait. And an "environmental" one at that. Okay!

So then my match immediately sends me a quick selfie back. Must've took a full second for her. The lighting was beautiful, she looked amazing and had this wonderful glow. It felt classy and properly intimate, relaxed, fun. Mine was as goofy and contrived as that famous Normal Rockwell in his mirror.

Two lessons here: (1) it's the person behind the phone camera that matters and (2) it's the subject of the phone's camera that matters. Oh and (3) in 2019, non-phone cameras are for when you gotta do a ton of heavy lifting to make any old fool look sorta golden.

It’s taken me many years to figure out I have a personal leaning towards Monochrome. It’s become a preference and to my own eye, an expertise. Colours trigger emotional responses, without colour I am freer to express and explore my own emotions. Monochrome also enhances the abstraction of reality that photography inherently does. I do also love the old world feeling of it too.

I mix my iPhone work in with the rest of my work. No one ever notices. Sometimes the best camera is the one you have at hand.

Just my two cents Mike... thanks

My Ilford RC prints have aged very nicely, but also my FB ones, for that matter. Regarding my phone, I hate it. Keep it off as much as I can and the lens is so scratched that it can’t be used. It’s an ok timer, though.

This is an interesting article.....https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/7/11/20686194/antelope-canyon-instagram-page-arizona-Navajo.....I remember going there some 20 years ago. To the lower where you had to use ladders, not the upper that the article is about. It would give me the willies to think about using a phone it that setting.

Time changes everything. Today, for many youngsters, G.A.S. pain is no longer a problem.

On the 14th, The Guardian had an article on the new popularity of hiking: ...ties into broader consumer trends: we want to enhance our lives with greater experiences rather than more stuff ...Everyone is surrounded by technology and ‘on’ all the time ...a mental escape as much as a physical one – and it’s good for you. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jul/14/hiking-walking-younger-generation-ramblers

As a lifelong walker, I understand the attractions of trekking. As a lifelong shooter, my iPhone is replacing my fiddly cameras. It's OK if your mileage varies.

I gave myself a iPhone for Christmas, 2018, and after 60+ years of carrying a pocket camera, resolved to use only the smartphone for 6 months. That was plenty of time to acclimate myself to it's use.
So far I haven't made a single image that is really good enough to print. Next month I'll be back to the Sony RX100/6. (One more damn thing that I'll have to keep in my pockets.)
I did discover one thing of interest, however. Many people (young AND old) who would never even consider posing for a nudie seem incredibly willing to do so if a smartphone is pointed at them, rather than a real camera. Like it's no big deal!!!
I'll be damned!!!

Casein proteins are abundant in the milk of all mammals, including human milk. Regarding the "cancer-promoting casein" in your ice cream, a recent meta-analysis of multiple population-based studies of dairy product intake (Google "Lu et al. Nutrition Journal (2016) 15:91" for a copy) showed that total dairy products intake was not associated with increased mortality risk in both men and women, for just about all the cancers studied, and that low total dairy products intake even reduced relative risk based on a dose–response analyses. This study thus suggests that casein proteins are generally not cancer-promoting. However, whole milk intake in men did contribute to a slightly elevated prostate cancer mortality risk, an effect not seen with skim/low-fat milk intake. The latter result suggests that milk fat, or fat-associated components, may be responsible for this effect, rather than the casein. I think it's probably fair to conclude from all this that the occasional indulgence in an ice cream cone is not a serious health concern, at least with respect to the cancer risk.

All else aside, the flowers you discovered in your yard are day lilies (we have orange, yellow and red varieties here in Oregon). Enjoy them, as their name suggests they don't last long.

If only I could be happy with my iPhone. It would save lots of GAS. But I like to print at A2, and can't quite make that size reliably. And I just cannot cope without an eye-level viewfinder using a camera without a tripod. I don't know why, I just can't. So ... how about someone just building a decent smartphone into the back of a small-ish camera? The Zeiss Zx1 doesn't seem too far away.

For anyone not in the habit of doing so, clicking or tapping on the photos to see them in higher resolution makes a world of difference. Plenty of detail and sharpness in the ice cream shop view, for example, quite obscured in the inline image.

As for camera phones - my iPhone often makes better photos than I do.
Embarrassing, but true.

The best camera is the one you have with you. Not the most original comment I am sure, but it is nice to have a camera in your pocket all the time.

Thanks for the defence of RC photo-papers. I worked through one box of FB, but the line of 8x10's on Ilford RC from 1984 propped against the wall are looking just fine.
Maybe one day there will be a similar acknowledgement of RC inkjet papers in the face of the baryta snobs... but in the meantime, I'm happy to have paper at half the price.

Assertion: A weed is any plant growing where it should not.

I looked at the mobile awards, 2018, Nature, Landscapes, and the photo essays. Some nice colors and compositions but I cannot overcome the feeling that everyone is trying too hard by over processing. The photo essays were not overdone. Maybe I'm under processing??

I don't understand the complaints about camera "connectivity". Who cares.

Outside of the studio setup I used to have for professional work, I've long been primarily a single 50mm lens shooter (generally of the static nature,) so, once the iPhone came out with a 50mm lens equivalent for its second lens, I bit.

Well, it's now been about a year...and, in the digital world, I've owned Hasselblad digital backs, Sony A100/700/900, Fuji X100/XT-1/XT-2, amongst many others, to now just my damned iPhone and a film Hasselblad on the shelf, just in case I feel like fussing with it again.

Digital cameras will never make fine art photos - you must use film! We all know how that worked out. The useless arguments about phone cameras vs “real” cameras are much the same, and only occur between “serious” photographers. The only thing that matters in the end is the image that is made by the photographer assisted by whatever tool he had in his hand in that moment. Who cares if it is a fine image!

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