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 🙂
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 …
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 über-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 😉 (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 😆 ). 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 🙂 Particularly with this new Adobe app.
Two more items :
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 🙂
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?
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.
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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