#1228. Week Links of Photography (10 Sep 2022)

By pascaljappy | Newsletter

Sep 09

What an eventful week. A model and photographer Queen sadly passes away, leaving a huge, and fascinating photographic legacy. Two major camera launches. A viable alternative to Instagram. More cool Lightroom tools. Lessons from Joel Meyerowitz. And a film camera I – really, really – don’t want to buy. Plus more ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Revisiting colour vs b&w

My take on the subject has always been to default to the shape/light/tone-centric monochrome mode, and to invite colour in when colour is “worth it”. In other words, when colour adds something to the image compared to the b&w version. In my experience, it rarely is, or does. But see how the colour shifts the focus from the top of the drops to the bottom, above. This shows how much potential there is in trying to understand how colour works in pictures, and trying to find interesting colour everywhere we can.

And, in trying to get better at colour photography, I realised two things. First of all, colour photography is every bit as much about post processing as b&w photography is. Colour doesn’t simply happen to be there, perfect, very often. Maybe in the Aussie boonies it does, maybe in the painted desert, it does. But not in muted Europe. And even in the more colourful places of the Earth, it is rarely as we’d want our finished image to look.

Secondly, even more important is the fact that reality holds us back. As we were writing a report for school, in which truth and objectivity are crucial. But that’s not what a creative hobby is about. So I find myself ditching reality, even plausibility, more and more, focusing only on balance. If the image is balanced, it’s good. Whether the scene displayed the exact same colours is irrelevant to me. If we can – and should – take liberties to create great monochrome prints, why should it be any different with colour photography?

To be continued below …

 

Creative

  • He used AI to win a fine-arts competition. Was it cheating? (The Washington Post)

    There’s this misconception floating around that AI does the work for you. That may be the case one day. For now, making it work still requires effort and creativity. AI provides more and more powerful tools lowering the technical barrier to entry (much like photography, with respect to painting, eg) and enabling more people to produce more work. But just as with brushes and lenses, only a tiny minority of the most talented and hard working will emerge.
  • There Is No Miracle Cure for Creativity (Fstoppers)

    Our world is constantly being dumbed down by people who don’t have anyone’s best interest in mind but theirs. Dumb people think what they are told, vote what they are told, buy what they are told. This article makes a similar point for the rules of creativity, and is worth a read.
  • 10 reasons VERO is slapping instagram right now (Peter McKinnon on Youtube)

    And here is another promising challenger. Why even consider switching from IG? (1) The parent company’s appalling practices should be enough for most people. If not, (2) if you’re not already a hotshot on IG, your chances of ever becoming one are now closer to zero than ever. On Vero, you can take a chance. (3) Ten reasons provided by the author of the video, which basically boil down to doing things right ๐Ÿ˜‰ Heck, if I wasn’t so lazy and so not interested in social media, I’d give it a go myself!
 
 

Training

  • 6 Ways You Can Create Photos Like A Master (The Photographic Eye, on Youtube)

    6 interesting and actionable lessons from Joel Meyerowitz. That’s if you manage to listen to the video, lost in that sea of astonishing photographs (among a few others that I do not get at all ๐Ÿ˜‰ )
  • Unlocking Lightroomโ€™s Most Confusing yet Powerful Tools! (Mark Denney on Youtube)

    The title say it all. Mark Denney examines vignette, clarity & texture (basically local contrast of different radiuses), cloning and healing, saturation and vibrance.
 
 

Gear (including heretical film & smartphones)

This week’s news was dominated by two major launches. The first was the Hasselblad X2D. As I already wrote, the X2D looks to be rather brilliant, at a price that will make most eyes water, but seems in line with high-end competition from Leica and Fuji (in between the GFX100 & GFX100s).

You can watch the introduction video on the Hasselblad Website. It is a very interesting and exciting video, particularly from a marketing point of view. Reminding us of the รผber-prestigious heritage of the brand, responsible for some of the most iconic images of mankind, is a way of countering Leica’s strong foothold in this department. Also aimed at Germany is the cleverly researched and articulated list of target users, including cultural documentarians, explorers and artists, all of which sounds more real and relatable than “witnesses of the world”. The game in Northern Europe, it appears, is on ๐Ÿ˜‰ (I’m not alone in thinking this). Check out the very comprehensive FAQ for more info (the new lenses exist to enable faster AF, card compatibility, app compatibility …)

But, for my particular use, competition will come from the opposite corner of the ring. From that second camera that was launched, on the same day. Yes … this:

 
 

Don’t hate me. As much as I respect the X2D for the incredible image making machine it is, I do not desire it at all (though my mind will probably change when I see sample photos ๐Ÿ˜† ). For my specific use, it has very little to offer compared to my current X1D. IBIS would be nice, that’s about it.

Whereas I cannot watch this iPhone launch video without giggling. That is fun. That is the future. I’m not naive enough to believe 10% of the claims, but the direction phones are taking is just sooooo much more interesting than that of cameras. It’s been a decade since anything really new came to the camera world, and that was mirrorless. All we are getting now is literally more of the same (although, to be fair, Hassy’s great app and internal SSD are very cool).

So, yeah, my next camera will be a phone. A Samsung? An Apple (risking the ire of Scott and Tony)? A Sony? I honestly have no clue. But I want to give smartphone photography a serious try. As in a real chance to shine, with as much care to light and composition as I would give the X2D. Like those people did (MyModernMet). And yeah, 12Mp (DPReview) is plenty ๐Ÿ™‚ Particularly with this new Adobe app.

Two more items :

 
Mustard clouds
 

Trends

Just as two camera launches preempted the gear section, let’s devote this one to the late Queen Elizabeth II. We’ll leave the history and politics to other media and will focus only on her – close – relationship with photography. Both as a model and behind the lens, her life often involved cameras.

In the current “days of her life” media frenzy (pretty decent version here), good luck finding any of the photographs those cameras actually took. But I hope those will surface more publicly in the future. If you’ve seen them online somewhere, please share ๐Ÿ™‚

But, of course, her role as one of the world’s most famous and prestigious models placed her more often in the position of photon bouncer than that of trigger actuator. Setting aside the millions (billions?) of fanpics, and the thousands of media photographs, I’d like to provide a link to her official portraits. There may be a better resource somewhere, but my reference is the National Gallery Queen Elizabeth II, person, page (or, rather, 49 pages and 968 portraits).

Marcus Adams seemed to be in charge of early portraits, and most are interesting and original. But official duty fell to Baron Studios as soon as she became a Monarch (apparently), which resulted in a series of perfectly executed but uninspiring photographs.

However, the highlights of those pages are provided by famous photographers such as the fantastic Yousuf Karsh, Cecil Beaton (and here, and here), Lord Snowdon, Donald McKague, Eve Arnorld, Norman Parkinson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Annie Leibovitz, Chris Levine (my personal favourite), Thomas Struth, Dorothy Wilding, Charles James Dawson, Baron (Sterling Henry Nahum), among others.

Watching the evolution of photographic style, societal change and personal technique through this extensive series of portraits is fascinating. But even more so is the variety of personas the Queen allowed herself to be in so many of these, probably reflecting how she felt about herself and her role. How many of us have the opportunity and courage to project so many different images of ourselves throughout our lives?

 
HRH

As for my tiny contribution to this monumental body of work, let me offer this. It was made, totally unplanned and by sheer luck, while walking outside Buck House one spring morning. The crowds were insane, so something must have been going on, and this made me realise what a public life, an objectified life, she really had. This gave me the idea of the Warhol silkscreens in PP.

 

… discussion continued from the top

Now that the introductory paragraphs have emptied half the room, let me continue my work of sacrilege by tackling resolution. I often get a bad rap for criticizing the industry’s constant move towards more and more resolution.

I’ve nothing against resolution per se, beyond the obvious extra requirements in memory and computing power. Which, let’s not forget, chew at environmental resources.

What I’m really not comfortable with is resolution at the expense of something else. Like highlight beauty, for example. And price. Just like there’s only one winner at the casino – the casino – there’s only one winner at this resolution race – the sensor manufacturer.

 
There’s a car at the end of this road … (Hasselblad X1D/XCD30 image)
And this is its number plate, at 800%, partly erased to comply with EU blablabla. Enough res for anyone? More might land you in prison! Think about it! ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜†
 

Of course, we need some resolution. My point is merely that today, we have enough. But we are still sorely lacking in other areas that are getting little love from manufacturers. Like soft highlight transitions, something film could manage perfectly 4 decades ago and is still science fiction in the digital age. I hope the images above convey the “enough res” point I’m trying to make. At this enlargement, the whole image would cover my house. How does enhancement make any of these photos any better? More significant?

And the smaller pixels in higher resolution sensors bring their own sets of limitations – that’s physics, not me being deliberately obtuse or PITA – that have so far been covered up by algorithmic wizardry, with more or less success.

My reason for still being excited by the two expensive cameras (iPhone 14 and Hasselblad X2D) launched this week is that they appear to be handling both aspects quite well. Market dynamics and sensor availability probably dictated a move to higher res. Is there even a lower res “medium format” sensor with IBIS in someone’s catalog? I doubt it. But both manufacturers seem to have embraced the necessity with great marketing flair and superb R&D prowess. Frankly, kudos and thank you for letting quality take a ride with quantity!

 

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  • Mer says:

    I think you’re right about balance. A lot of film didn’t try and stay true-to-life, but the balance was great and so the images looked great. That and – as you said – film’s handling of highlights. There’s often a relaxed softness to images produced on film, something that digital would sharpen and hi-contrast out of existence.

    Phones, I think, have the edge in recapturing this filmic quality on digital platforms. The trickery they do with multiple exposures and movement compensation(not always successfully) goes well beyond protect the highlights and raise the shadows, especially when combined with the sneaky color-balancing phones get up to. As that guy in the video you linked to said, there’s just something about the way his iphone deals with light(paraphrased wildly). Mind you, a lot of that must also be down to his ability to recognise situations with interesting light.

    Has anyone tried creating a HDR DNG file in Capture One? I thought it might go some way towards what phones can do, but the idea of using a tripod and bracketing feels like it would suck a lot of the joy out of my photo taking.

    I’ve wondered if there are any cameras that link to apps on your phone and farm out the heavy lifting when processing. Could this help to emulate what phones are doing, but with higher quality captures to work with?

    Cheers

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Mer, yeah, I think the future for cameras is most certainly not in sensors. They reached peak quantum efficiency almost a decade ago and, whatever the leaflet says, we will not be seeing improvement on that front anytime soon. However, apps are definitely the way to go.

      I like that Adobe are getting it. I’ve yet to use their app, but intelligent computational photography will change the game significantly. By the way, that’s alwo what got me interested in Pixii. All their future hinges on computational photography, and the monochrome mode was step one in that direction. The idea of blending this with a rangefinder proves that computational photography doesn’t have to be restricted to phones. The X2D launch hints at the fact that Hassy are starting to get it as well. So things are certainly exciting for the future.

      Outside of these, I don’t know of any manufacturer embracing computational photography. Not in a clever way, anything. But my interest in gear has been so low recently, that something important may have slipped by me. And it seems impossible that the mainstream won’t catch up one day. Particularly Sony. As brainwashed as the media is today, sensors are a dead end. But Sony has as much to gain from selling processors than sensors. So we can probably expect a revolution in that direction, when the market finally clicks ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Cheers

    • PaulB says:

      Mer

      Staying true to life was the mantra that Kodak locked themselves into so tightly that it almost did them in; sooner rather than later.

      When Fujifilm started making in roads into the US market, they asked photographers; โ€œWhat do you remember?โ€ For a lot of photographers the answer was, the greens seemed greener and the reds redder. Which became how Fuji was able to challenge Kodak, it did not hurt that Fujiโ€™s films resolved a little better than Kodakโ€™s.

      Concerning Capture One and HDR, it should be able to do it with the previous version update, which included stitching. I donโ€™t think a tripod would be a necessity if you set your camera for auto bracketing and hold still for the 3 frames. Though, I might need to compose with a little wiggle room depending one how much coffee I have had. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      PaulB

      • pascaljappy says:

        I did not know that about Fuji. Cool, and intelligent marketing. Pleasing is far more important than true, in this matter.

        Cheers

      • Mer says:

        Paul

        Many thanks for the Fuji-Kodak background. It seems that Kodak has a history of not reading the room.

        I’m using CO express for Sony, their freebie. I guess I should trial the full version and see how it goes. I’ll be more inclined to give a thumbs-up if – as you suggest – a tripod can be avoided. Apparently CO is quite good at avoiding the overdone HDR nasties and gives a DNG file with a lot of range.

        Ahhh, coffee. It never lets you down, unless you have a couple of strong ones after 3pm.

        Cheers

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        I always thought Kodacolor was kind of chocolate-boxy. I preferred Ektacolor, and a heap of pros did, too. Their clients were chasing an image that looked like their product – not something with to much make-up. So I edged away from colour in those days, and strayed over to B&W most of the time. Then came Fujicolor, and things changed – magazine backs on the Contarex suddenly included colour film, and my final days with 35mm were mostly shot in colour.
        The simple truth is that you CANNOT make the full colour palette by mixing three colours – no matter how smart you are. So all of these colour photography media end up as a compromise.
        Looking at my Fuji print now, I am struck by how they seem to be stuck in an “older” time slot – what’s followed, to my eye, beats them. Yet at the time, they did that to Kodak. And colour printing labs added a third dimension. One you can dissect now, because with digi you have the choice – do it yourself or get it done by one of the “labs” still churning out prints for the masses. Theirs is consistently “good” but, IMHO, rarely “stellar”. They might beat your efforts overall, but not on every photo – quite often you’ll find you can trounce theirs.

  • PaulB says:

    Pascal

    See my reply to your reply. Great minds think alike.
    PaulB

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “For my specific use, it has very little to offer compared to my current X1D. IBIS would be nice, thatโ€™s about it.” I wonder how many ‘togs wives have found themselves wishing their husbands could think like that! Wouldn’t do much for the manufacturers, or the camera shops, though.
    On the other hand – to be thinking of buying what – an Apple iPhone? – instead of a camera is NOT an equivalent thought. It’s just a different form of GAS.

    Colour vs B&W. I think I’ve already had my say on that. Too recently to repeat it here.

    Resolution. Were you REALLY trying to photograph the car at the end of the road? If so, surely it would be better to stand closer? – or use a longer focal length? Seriously, though – your Hassy gives you better detail in highlights (and shadows) than any FF or HF cams. But surely the real measure of “how many pixels is enough” depends what size enlargements you plan on making? Most of my photos are printed 4×6. Some A4. Rarely, A2. I really couldn’t justify chasing anything much more than 45MP or thereabouts. HF with around 25MP gives quite sharp results up to A4, and I’m starting to run out of wall space for too many more massive prints.

    As for HM – I’ve been a devout republican my entire life, so I’ll leave that for the Monarchists to chew on.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ah, the new phone isn’t my GAS. Mine is over 6 years old and in tatters. It’s a professional purchase and that doesn’t count ๐Ÿ˜‰

      My true GAS is the RED V-Raptor. Another level of spending altogether, which really isn’t justified for me, but still tugs at my heart with insistance. The X2D offers more pixels and I couldn’t care less. But the RED offers extraordinary highlight control and colours. And that matters a lot to me. A lot more than resolution ever will.

      Yeah, not a big fan of the idea of monarchy either, to be honest. But she was still a person, an interesting photographer and an extraordinary model. Far more interesting to me than a Kardashian or whoever tops the instawham charts these days.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        “The X2D offers more pixels and I couldnโ€™t care less. But the RED offers extraordinary highlight control and colours. And that matters a lot to me. A lot more than resolution ever will.”
        LOL – I have much the same reasons for deferring my next purchase, to see if I can ever get hold of the “proposed” full frame SIGMA Foveon sensor camera. They’ve been talking about it & working on it for years, and I’ve seen plenty shot with existing SIGMA Foveon HFs, but it’s taking time. Currently they hope to have all the sensor issues sorted by the end of this year.
        Never mind – it’s a good discipline – turning the “GAS” down for a while, and giving me a chance to catch up on other things.

  • PaulB says:

    โ€œ Colour doesnโ€™t simply happen to be there, perfect, very often. Maybe in the Aussie boonies it does, maybe in the painted desert, it does. But not in muted Europe. And even in the more colourful places of the Earth, it is rarely as weโ€™d want our finished image to look.โ€

    So true. The perception of color is a very personal thing, and where you are in the world really does matter to your perception.

    Which brings me to a story.

    20+ years ago a friend and I were traveling to a farming area north of Seattle for a photo club event. During the trip we stopped into the gallery of photographer Lee Mann, who was an acquaintance of my friend. While we were discussing prints with him he mentioned he was thankful for for the new digital printing technology that was becoming available at the time. Included in this conversation was a story about almost getting into a fist fight with the Master Printer of his latest book of Pacific Northwest images. The book was being printed in South Korea and the print master changed the color balance of all of the prints because: โ€œColors donโ€™t look like that!โ€

    PaulB

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    I would just love to see where the Pagani owners are going to stow the medium format camera when they go out for a photo shoot ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ian Varkevisser says:

      next years model comes out with a tow hitch and trailer as standard ??? ๐Ÿ™‚

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Ian, its’ going to be like my great-grandfather, who went all over the place with a huge wooden framed job, making collodion wet-plate glass negatives on the spot. He travelled around with a horse & cart, to carry all the gear. On arriving at a spot for “shoot”, he’d erect a tent to make the collodion job, shove it in the camera, tell everyone to stand still for 3 minutes or whatever, take the shot, and take the collodion job back to the tent for development & fixing.
      Printing was done on his return to the farm, where he’d added a darkroom to the side of the farmhouse. I used to have to convert the cellar, and shut the family out for the duration, while I was printing. Digi’s far more convenient, whatever else it is!

  • PaulB says:

    โ€œAnd this is its number plate, at 800%, partly erased to comply with EU blablabla. Enough res for anyone? More might land you in prison! Think about it! โ€œ

    I have thought about it, after an experience of my own. I was trying out the high resolution (pixel shift) mode in my Panasonic G9 with a Leica 135mm APO-Telyt attached. I was taking skyline shots from a hilltop park overlooking Seattle. From about a mile (1.67 km) away the people in the Space Needle were almost recognizable and some room features could be discerned looking in bedroom windows at maximum enlargement. More lens or more resolution could put you over a line of decency.

    PaulB

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