#886. Monday Post (5 Aug 2019) – Making Photography Responsible? (plus challenge and site news)

By pascaljappy | Monday Post

Aug 04

It’s funny how some topics follow ebb and flow patterns in our newsfeeds. For some reason, mine were recently flooded by doomsday perspectives on tourism. “Who killed Tulum?” “Les excรจs du tourisme” “Barcelona’s tourism headache”, just to name a very few. A couple of weeks ago, it was all about tick-spread diseases, go figure.

 
The Eiffel Gulag, Paris. Hasselblad X1D & XCD 21.
 

One interesting aspect of such reports is that they are statistical by nature, and the only individuals picked out for illustration are of such astonishing numbnutness (numbnutitude?) that it’s hard to feel a connection to our own personal habits. While these articles denounce very real issues, they also do it in a way that makes us – me, at least – pleade ‘not guilty’. And yet …

And yet.

It’s easy to view our hobby as innocuous but, once you start to think about it, it opens up a real Pandora box of uncool side effects. Here are just a few I could think of and some ideas to mitigate the negative.

 
Cafรฉ du Centre. Hasselblad X1D & XCD 18
 

The worst component has to be travel. Planes are the worst. Greta is making us very aware of this. French politicians are now suggesting we spend 5 hours and 200 euros to travel by train where the plane would do it in 2 and cost 60. The same politicians take arms against nuclear power but I’m probably too stupid to understand their logic.

Still, like it or not, car, train, bus or plane, travel is a major source of pollution. Fact. What can you do about it? The flip side of the coin can be (depending on how you travel) money flowing to populations who need it, cultural exchange, stimulation of creativity, breaking down of numbnutish nationalism (it’s official, numbnutism will be the central theme of this Monday Post. And nationalism is numbnutism, of the most dangerous type).

 
Approaching Nice. Hasselblad X1D & XCD 45.
 

My suggestion is to photo-travel with a project in mind. If you flock to the Eiffel Tower to recreate the same exact picture as hundreds of millions of others before you, that’s wasted opportunity for you and wasted life span for those who breathe your kerosene. If you’re constantly working on photographic projects and series, you’ll notice cultural differences and enrich your series whenever you are abroad. An artist friend of mine is working on series of stone walls. Those are present wherever she travels to, but in different forms and the differences reveal local stories and contexts. This nourishes her body of work, makes her more desirable to galleries (because of the narrative that comes with the prints) and creates links between people.

Whether we like it or not, whether it’s relevant or not, we’ll probably have to change the way to travel sooner than later. To me, making travel more meaningful is more nourishing and balances out the negatives with a lot more positive.

 
Hasselblad X1D & XCD 45
 

Still, air travel is far from being the only offence we togs commit. Data storage also has a big impact. Facebook now consumes as much electricity as a mid-sized country. The Internet needs 8 nuclear reactors to run. What about us?

First, what about DS? Ahem, well, the recent design update enabled me to use components that optimise the size of images on this site through size reduction and “optimally-lossy” compression. I set the slider at a point which feels like it’s not damaging image quality (it actually looks better than before) but halves the size of images. And I am investigating green hosting companies but those mostly rely on wind farms, which I positively loath. Let’s call that … ongoing.

 
Bikes are green, even in b&w. Hasselblad X1D & XCD 45.
 

But what can we, as photographic individuals do to mitigate our negative impact? That’s a tough one.

Lowering the resolution of our image making seems unlikely in the current dominant market ethos of more is better. Market numbnutism (yesss, thank you) has currently peaked at 240 Mp, with associated computing power and storage capacity requirements (nervous breakdowns being beside the point of this article) but I doubt not that a new Everest of waste will beat that one day. Or that it will do much better than the A7R4’s miserly 10fps. And maybe 3 card slots to maximise storage impact? Jesting aside, how much resolution do you need for a great 1Mb internet pic and an excellent A3 print? 6Mp?12Mp? At 50Mp, I’m guilty of overresing. But with Sony’s 61, Canon’s 70, Fuji’s 100, I’ll soon feel like a buddhist monk.

Culling is a more likely candidate. Although the process itself uses a lot of computing energy, it does reduce significantly on storage necessities. I personally cull a lot. By losing and not backuping, mainly ๐Ÿ˜€

Ah, backup, yes. Another big one. Ted Forbes has an excellent video titled Nobody Cares about your Photography. And, while that’s not true in a tightly nit community such as ours, I have no doubt about the veracity of Ted’s words when it comes to my pictures and the world at large. And particlarly when I’m long gone. Forget all about the idea of legacy, please. So, maybe we can relax about backuping? (perish the thought ๐Ÿ˜€ ) Fact is, I lost all (not most, all) my photographs of my children’s youth to Memorex’ exceptional quality of CDs and DVDs. I had doubled an trippled copies. All (not most, all) faded and corrupted. Not one photograph left. Two lessons:

(1) You survive. In fact, it doesn’t matter much.
(2) Cleverer people than me had taken snapshots and had them printed 6×4. I still have some of those. You want real backup? Print.

 
Hasselblad X1D & XCD 45
 

“Oh, but Pascal, isn’t that numbnutishly contradictory?”

Yes, printing is bad. Super bad for the environment. Power consumption, paper (paper has horrible impact) and assorted chemicals.

Yeah, true. But when I say print, I don’t mean print, I mean PRINT. GO all out. Not necessarily big, but good. Print one photograph every 300 you make if you want. But make it count. And dump the others. Your legacy will be a set of beautiful fine art objects, rather than disk drives and inaccessible-when-you-are-gone cloud storage. Sign the prints, sigil them, title them, stamp them, make them your own.

Photography used to be deep and narrow. Complex to set up, expensive, focus intensive. Today it has become broad and more shallow than populist argumentation. We photograph anything and everything in a fraction of a second with very little thought to the purpose of the shot.

There’s an interesting middle path of personal photography. And that will be my conclusion and suggestion to fight climate change and flygskam. Make every photograph count. Make every photograph personal. If all you want from your photographs is you in front of an endangered location, the entirety of this website will prove a huge disappointment. If you want to lower your output, create connection, increase creativity, keeper rates and ultimate quality, ask yourself, at every photograph: “how is that relevant to me”? I will now be writing my Nobel acceptance speech. Unless I Dylan the poop out of it to save on travel impact.

 
Heat storm rising. Hasselblad X1D & XCD 120
 

HEAT!

Come on people. Do not expect me to believe you are not hot. Or getting some heat for doing/saying/writing something numbnutish like me. Or hiding from the heat. Or having a heated debate about something. Or drooling at some hot actor. Or dancing in the heat of the night. Or eating hotdog or hot curry.

I’m heating my heart out here ๐Ÿ˜€

So, the challenge’s name/topic is “Heat!” And we’ve had great answers but not nearly as many as we usually do. Is it the holidays? Is it the heat? Is it the subject? I’m giving it another week and that’s it. After that, we’ll probably wait until September before we start a new challenge. You seem too happy to care in your hammocks ๐Ÿ˜‰

 
Wedding day, Mont Saint Michel. Hasselblad X1D, Zeiss C-Sonnar 1.5/50 ZM (??)
 

We have a homepage!

Some achievement, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰ A website with a homepage. I mention it only to highlight the change of focus from purely a blog to a more traditional website.

Our previous homepage was a categorised list of recent posts. The intermediate one was just a list of recent posts. Today, the homepage gives you direct access to information that used to be hidden in the archives. It features 3 categories of information that are relevant to creative travel photography (it’s in the name): locations, in particular un-destinations, gear, and personal expression (art & creativity). The first two are pretty self explanatory. The third is where you’ll find links to stuff such as composition, post processing, printing …

The About Us page and Friends of DS page have been given a well needed upgrade.

A resources top menu is also new. There you can find the link to un-destination maps and to Infrequently asked questions. Those correspond to questions some of you ask and others answer. The page is meant to archive and structure hard to find information. Both pages are currently embryonic. By the way, thank you to all who answered my initial question ๐Ÿ™‚

 
Maman, Louise Bourgeois, V2.
 

Next to my first question was also the first photo sent for critique. Above is a rework of that same photo based on various comments it received (thanks guys!) that fits my personal idea. Here’s a second photo for review. Comments / suggestions / ideas / critique very welcome. Help me make it better. And please send your own for review if you have doubts on any of them.

Before that, here’s a second question I’d like to add to the infrequently asked questions: how do you set white balance (on location or in PP) in an environment that mixes several light sources / quality, such as churches, for example?

 
 

Finally, some things to come:

On the homepage, I’ll add a big slider with a selection of any photos you send me. If you made a photo you like and would like to share it, send it to me, it will be placed there.

I’ve added a subscription form that pops-up when you appear to engage with content. It felt like the least intrusive option. Feedback welcome if you feel differently.

We’re still missing a contact form, shame on me. Looking at several options for file upload.

Still working on the best personal gallery format for pwintshop and for selling prints. Several of you have confirmed interest in displaying photographs/selling prints here. If you’d like that too, drop me a line (pascal dot jappy at gmail dot com).

More types of resources are on their way. But all of this is collaborative. You don’t volunteer info, nothing goes up on those pages ๐Ÿ˜‰ Let’s consider the website as a humble version of Noah’s ark in a rising tide of meaningless content. Please send your pet subjects/expertise, even if not by pairs.

More on all this very soon.

Any questions?

 
Email: subscribed: 4
  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Pascal,
    your white balance question,
    is there really an answer?
    Isn’t there too much colour psychology involved?

    I think much depends on the difference between “real” colour and “expected” colour.
    Like when I started to photograph snow with colour film. Though I knew it would turn out yellowish in the sun and bluish in the shade I thought the photos exaggerated until I *really* looked at snow, trying to forget it was supposed to be white – then I saw that the photos weren’t exaggerating, but only slightly off.

    So for an experienced photographer or painter “perceived” colour is (more or less) close to “real” colour, but for an inexperienced onlooker probably rather closer to “expected” colour.

    Let me consider your church visitor.
    If the differently lit subjects are far apart so that (s)he has to turn the head to see them, I think most people wouldn’t realize the colour differences, perhaps notice them and then forget about it as the brain compensates to their “expected” colours -.unless they decide to enjoy the light itself.

    With a subject differetly lit from opposite directions I guess most of us would start looking for the reason of the shifting colours – but when looking at a photo of that subject we can’t do that, only guess.

    With a (wide-angle) photo of the first case with the light sources in the photo an onlooker might “see” colour exaggerations – or not, depending.

    So I guess the answer is that it depends also on the audience, or?

    I come to think of some painters creating a natural look by exaggerating colour shifts in the shade.

    ( And if the photos are to be illustrations in, say, a tourist magazine, one will probably have to choose angles of view and time of day carefully to avoid confused reader reactions!)

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Kristian,

      yes, there is a lot of colour psychology involved. And that’s the part I’m interested in. The camera will auto balance pretty well, but then some areas look a bit different from what you have in mind. If you adjust for those areas, all the rest goes away. Your snow analogy is a good one. The proper colour, in the shade (on a clear day) is blue, but it can look weird in the photograph. I know how I correct for that (local adjustments) but I’m wondering if others used another approach ๐Ÿ™‚

      Cheers

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        The textbook answer is to shoot RAW, but that begs the question you are asking. Because it simply defers the problem to the post processing stage. Ah – but then you have tools that automatically correct the colour for white balance – or do they? Well your question mentioned the necessity to correct, with various different colours of light. And no amount of artificial intelligence can deal with that – it requires skill and judgment instead.
        You can of course try layers – filters or masks – pre sets – and so on.
        Or give up, and convert the bloody thing to a black and white image – which I was compelled to do, with a couple of photos in Nimes, 2 years back.
        Blue shadows – “correcting” them? The Academy would enthuse, but the Impressionists would scream blue murder! (Hmm – didn’t realise how apt that was, till I read it over again – LOL). Sometimes (not always) you can drain a bit of the blue out, or change the hue slightly – sometimes you can deal with it another way, by hopping around the colour wheel. Capture One has a few tricks to help deal with this – so to, “adjust hue/saturation” in PS.
        One awful truth is that Adobe’s products are getting rather long in the tooth and although they offer the tools ‘togs want, those tools aren’t always effective.
        Sharpen, clarity, haze control, noise, for example – I find it easier to deal with them in Affinity Photo.
        Horizontals & verticals – perspective generally – barrel & pincushion. All easiest in DxO ViewPoint. But then back to PS for cropping, because for some ridiculous reason it seems to be the only program that allows reformatting in both vertical and horizontal formats – and it’s also better for tweaking horizontals or verticals that didn’t quite make it in other programs. Also much easier to adjust the actual size of the image – pixel numbers and dimensions! – in PS than anywhere else that I’ve found.
        This is drifting off-topic. Maybe I should shut up and draft a post on post, running through the stuff I’ve found since I took up your suggestion of trying “other” post processing programs, Pascal.**
        **[can you see the influence of PG Wodehouse in that final sentence?).

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Pascal,
    (re.: “Maman”, v.2),
    your chosen camera position makes the legs mesh in an interesting (and a little spider-unlike) pattern, great!
    And the slight water ripples give a ripple effect to the leg contours adding a bit of a Giacometti touch…
    Rather more spidery than v.1, methinks.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ Not exactly what I had in mind initially (it was more about the symmetry) but it works on a different level. I like the fact that you realise it’s a statue (the Giacometti touch) but it still looks menacing ๐Ÿ™‚

  • John W says:

    White Balance???? I’m an old Film Dawg!!! What’s “white balance”?

    I leave it on “Auto”. The camera seems to know far more about that than I do. So far it hasn’t failed me.

    Spider V2 is SCARY!!! Clever idea to flip it and disorient the viewer. Looks like “the last thing a bug sees after it hits the web”. Love it.

    Even though I shot with a Rollei TLR exclusively for 17 years, I’m not a huge fan of square prints. I tend to see the world in rectangles. But the tree image just begs to be a square … I’d crop half off the left side to square the format (or almost) to highlight the percieved junction of the tree and the rock and push the weight of the image farther left. I’d also tone down the white rock behind the tree; it pulls the eye away from the real action. Just my two cents worth …

    BTW – I really like the way the site is evolving. But, I’m a little concerned. This is a lot for one person who still works for a living.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks, your comments helped a lot ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m a big fan of square too. Don’t (yet) see it in this one but will experiment with cropping.

      Don’t tell my boss about the website. Oh wait, that’s me ๐Ÿ˜‰ Summer is a little quieter that the rest of the year, so I can take a little more time off for DS. Also, it’s so hot we can’t go walking. And the hills are out of bounds because of forest fire risk. So that’s more time for cakes and webmastering ๐Ÿ˜‰ Cheers.

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Pascal,
        John’s comment made me play around a bit with the wall & tree.

        Your version I feel is about the wall(s), with a tree.
        Cropped รก la John feels to me to be more about the tree, surrounded by wall(s).

        I guess it’s about the long wall asking for width.
        Was there room on the right for more of the wall?

        To me it seems to depend on to what you want to draw attention to!

        • pascaljappy says:

          Very true. To be honest, it’s more about composition than anything else. As for spider v1, it was the composition I was interesed in. I’d like to cut a bit of the left off, but the right outside the frame was messy. The sun was also very violent, so I increased contrast rather than try to mask it, but it may be a bit much. I have to live with the pics a bit to find the final image.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Quelle honte – pas de vรฉlos!
    Well storage is a problem. When I was young, B&W was favoured because notoriously colour faded – to a rather uninteresting toneless mix of pink and pale blue. Of course we had to “fix” our prints, or they’d fade anyway, even B&W. Hollywood has been spending millions – or more likely billions! – on their film archive, trying to ensure there’s always a decent copy available. As long as they persist with analogue, that will remain a major issue.
    And as you and countless others have discovered, digital storage has its issues too – mostly self inflicted – successive “advances” in technology rendering previous ones utterly useless. Even if your DVDs didn’t fade, how the hell are you going to access them? – the machinery is no longer made!
    Heaps of drives on your desk? – I doubt whether that can be a complete cure – they fail occasionally too.
    The cloud? At least one cloud in America has already gone into chapter 11, leaving all its customers with no access to any of their photos or other data files.
    So printing offers some hope. Modern printing relies on acid free papers, non-vegetable (ie “permanent”) dyes or inks. And if you get the combination right, it offers archival permanence of over a century – which is OK, because I really don’t want to reach 180 – I’d rather head off to the Rainbow Bridge before then, and rejoin all my dogs.
    6×4 is my staple size, but I do go larger if I like the shot enough. And no, I don’t store them all – because I take a lot of them for other people, so they get to store them instead!
    And there are billions of people out there who imagine they are photographers, but never take their photos off digital media, to make a print. Does it matter? – not to me, because most of their stuff is taken on cellphones and I’m no fan of cellphone “cameras”. Should it matter? – depends how pedantic you are – a “photo graph” is a graphic image made from light. That demands something solid, not a cloud or umpteen bytes in a computer or similar. But I’m happy to leave them playing in their land of self delusion – and they’re perfectly happy there, too, so everyone’s happy.
    Printing is a stage in the photographic process that cellphone “photographers” miss out, completely. It is a phase during which we appraise our work – see the colours and the tones, the shapes, the patterns, the image[s] – manipulate it – change perspectives – correct for chroma etc or distortion – dodge & burn – crop – adjust the format – and eventually, when our families want us elsewhere, we dispatch the end product to the printer. It doesn’t even stop there – because the inks definitely seem to change, over a period of about 24 hours, after the print emerges from the printer – but at least we get a rough idea, once it comes out and we can see what we’ve done.
    Printing is an additional phase in which we repeat the exercise of studying light – the light we captured in the camera – the light we’re now trying to place on a piece of paper.
    And for all of those reasons, printing our photos is an important part of the process of learning how to take a photograph. Just grabbing a cam and going “BLAT” does nothing of the kind. So whether or not it answers your question about storage, everyone should do it. NOT sending it to a print counter in a place like a Walmart store – doing the actual print itself! Till you do that, you’re only going to be half of what constitutes a photographer

  • Pascal B. says:

    Dear Pascal,
    first and foremost, thank you and congratulations for all the hard work to make DearSusan better and better. Genuinely appreciated.
    Now my two cents on storage since I have a recent experience to contribute. When I went digital with a Nikon E 990 back in 2001 (who wants to talk about the non-camera with me? ^^), I started making digital albums on Picasa which became Google photos, following my prior practice of making photo albums with prints.
    Two plus points, culling was done along the road so to speak, and secondly when the time came, recently, to hand over some 6/700 pics in print to each of my children for them to have a recap of their first 18/20 years of existence, the sorting was all done (I am talking about a total 70.000 pictures in total coming from all sorts of cameras, phones…). Or nearly since I also had some earlier prints from my Nikon film camera days which I scanned to make them digital and print them again ^^.
    So as far as printing is concerned imho yes, but it is not the only solution for me.
    Fires, moves etc. can destroy them just as well.
    Thus my children now have an album (or rather three…) of their early life and a full access to those pictures in digital format.
    So when I (eventually?) pass on, these pictures will also still be accessible to them in the cloud.
    Not to mention some smart password management applications ร  la Dashlane which enable you to transmit your password to someone you trust in case of no activity for a given, flexible time.
    Hope this helps.
    Cheers

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      The pros all recognise the risk of the house burning down. They recommend that backup is at different sites, for that reason – and not just one, but a total of at least THREE different sites.
      After the debacle with one of the cloud storage companies in the US going bust and costing everyone all their data files & photos, I’d be suggesting much the same with digi/cloud based storage.
      The great thing about digi is instant retrieval, PB, as you suggest. Depending, of course, on the tags you stuck on each photo! As any librarian will tell you! With 70,000 photos, you’d be hard pressed to dream up enough tags to cover the game, but you’d have a heap of fun trying.
      My push for printing, however, is not about storage – it’s about digging yourself out of digi altogether, because all digi screens produce a different version of your image. And because until you go to print, you can never really know what the photo looks like – colour gamuts in digi flick around all over, till you get out of the trench and onto a nice flat piece of paper.
      Then, and only then, can you properly curate the photos – critique your work – learn from it – and improve your photography, for next time. That part of this exercise is worth all the fire risks in the world. Because when we stop learning, we have ceased to “live” – we merely “exist”.

      • pascaljappy says:

        No no no no ๐Ÿ˜€

        Guess what an archeologist in Syria recently said about rebuilding destroyed sites. “Death is part of life. Destruction is part of a building’s cycle”.

        We should focus on creating, not backuping. If stuff gets lost, so be it. Ansel Adams survived it, Takuma Nakahira survived it, Capa survived it, Friedman survived it. I think we can survive it. I’m not suggesting we should neglect backuping, merely that it would be nice if amateur devoted as much energy to creating stuff and improving than worshiping their legacy.

        100% with you about printing.
        Cheers

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Pascal ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for the interesting comment.

      I think selection is the key here. The benefits of this curating are many. The whole set becomes higher quality, obviously, but also more personal. It uses up less space. Less time for the viewer, who can focus more on each photograph rather than wade superficially in thousands.

      Prints, I think, are the end game. 50 prints are the concentrated Italian coffee to your curated 600 files (and to the 70 000 american diner coffee-inspired-apparently drinks ๐Ÿ˜‰ Prints are complicated and expensive. Your save them for the very best of your work. If I wanted to pass something on, it would be a small but exquisite set of prints ๐Ÿ™‚ On his deathbead, Brett Weston said “”The prints are posterity, not the negatives.” and that speaks to me ๐Ÿ™‚

      I hope life is good for you and that we can meet soon again ๐Ÿ™‚
      Cheers

  • NMc says:

    Pascal, a bit late but here goes;-
    The issues re sustainability are all too often corrupted by the types that are telling others what to do, but consider themselves exempt; their travel is more important, worthy, and justifiable than everyone elseโ€™s (especially the great unwashed).

    For the image; I think you could look at making the stone spout and chute more strongly identifiable as the subject. If the grass and herbs were still green, try darkening the green colour or try using masking to darken grass area if the stone and grass are both mainly yellow. This would be more like what Kristian wrote earlier, emphasising the wall and stone rather than Johns suggestion to make the tree stronger.

    Regards Noel

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Noel, yes, same here. Do as I say, not as I do …

      I didn’t mean to be a pest with this post. Only to remind everyone, myself included, that all of this is not a matter to be left to governments. It’s the little things all of us do every day that make a difference. To me, higher pixel counts, higher burst rates, obsessive bbackuping are all steps in the wrond direction.

      Thanks for the suggestions about the photograph. I’m happy with the composition, not with the tones. It was really harsh light. As with the previous one, I’ll let the adivse sink in and rework the photo in a few days ๐Ÿ™‚

      Cheers, Pascal

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    > ‘ โ€œoptimally-lossyโ€ compression’ on DS

    Pascal,
    what input does the new DS compression slider prefer?
    100% jpg, or already compressed like e.g. 85% jpg (just before I can see a difference and much smaller)?
    [ Or perhaps by “JPEGmini” (also supposed to be โ€œoptimally-lossyโ€)?]

    And size, some time ago you mentioned 1500px on the long side, how about now?

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