One of the first things any photography student learns is the important of having a broad tonal range in a photograph. A photograph that is either too "bright" or too "dark" is, theoretically speaking, not aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, in photography, rules are meant to be broken. Sometimes having a vastly underexposed image can hide certain details not essential to the main thought in a photograph, or add an air of mystery to an otherwise ordinary scene. Most important of all, composing a shot with the intention of underexposing the final image creates a photo that's out of the ordinary. In the photograph above, taken inside the run-down once-popular Saltair resort in Utah, the main visual element in the composition is the highlights across the handrailing. The staircase itself is merely an afterthought, and thus does not need to be emphasized to such a degree.
Another important reason to underexpose an image is to capture interesting or visually stunning light. The art of photography itself is the capturing of light, and a good photographer holds the ability to recognize worthwhile light in a scene. The photograph above was taken on the freeway near Pleasant Grove, Utah. For most, the dance between the mountains and the clouds wouldn't seem special in any way. But at the time, I recognized that underlying layer of light that, in its present form, was simply too bright to allow for its subtle intricacies to make themselves known. Lowering the exposure on the photograph and increasing the contrast reveled what I saw in the moment which, for me, is the best possible outcome one can achieve in the post-production stage.
The photo above was taken at Angelo's Burgers in Encinitas, California. This little drive-through fast food joint is literally a "drive-through." The building is separated in two, with the drive-through lane down the middle. Though it looks moderately dirty and unmaintained from the outside, this is part of its charm. The food is big, greasy and messy, beckoning to a distant past when people weren't so obsessed with over-cleanliness and the practice of soaking every last surface with a flood of antibacterials. And the overwhelmingly wide variety of food types offered, all placed on a visually crowded and somewhat unorganized menu, results in the haphazard photograph above.
The photo above was taken with a 70-300mm lens that was picked up on eBay for $5. Though minor adjustments were made in Adobe Lightroom, it just goes to show that getting a great shot depends on having a good eye, and being in the right place at the right time. Having a plethora of various lenses and expensive equipment might be great for some circumstances, but often times, simplifying your photographic kit forces you to be more creative. And creativity is essential to getting the perfect shot.
I've seen quite a few Flickr API mash-ups, but this has got to be one of the most creative. Idée Inc. has created the "Multicolr Search Lab" that uses a collection of 10 million Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr to match photographs to a user-selected color palette.
As the user selects up to ten colors from the palette on the right, the mash-up searches an index of matched colors and pulls up results in the form of thumbnails, each linked to the image's Flickr page. Not only is this just plain fun, but because of Creative Commons licensing, an artist can quickly find images to use in a project (as long as he/she gives credit and shares alike). Idée's Piximilar, the engine behind this app, seems to be a very powerful and groundbreaking image analysis system. It will be interesting to see how this algorithm is incorporated into future projects. For now, you can check out Multicolr at http://labs.ideeinc.com/multicolr/.
Veronica Belmont wrote on her personal blog yesterday about a new application called Poladroid. The software, a simple program offered in French and English, is currently available in beta for Mac OS 10.4 or later on www.poladroid.net. So what does this little 10mb program do? One thing, and one thing only. Polaroid.
Polaroid Corporation, makers of the retro instant-developing photo products we all love[d], actually filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Since then, all products branded "Polaroid" have merely licensed the name, and were most likely cheaply made in China (read: avoid anything with the name "Polaroid" on it). With the advent of digital photography, Polaroid cameras and film slowly entered into obscurity. Their simple nature and slow shot-to-shot speed made them a staple of urban street photography and contemporary vintage art movements. With digital, though, consumers could take shot after shot without much thought (rhyme zing!). Poladroid's purpose is to take those shots and turn them into the much-loved Polaroid-esque images of the past.
So why not just use a Photoshop plugin or batch script? Well, Poladroid is free, simple and fun. In order to process an image, all you do is drag the jpeg onto the program. A few seconds later, the "undeveloped" Polaroid is spit out, and begins slowly developing. Then you wait. And wait. And even though there's absolutely no reason for you to wait, you wait some more. And this is what makes Poladroid so charming. It's just like using a Polaroid camera, in a sense. You can only process up to 10 images too, just like a Polaroid film cartridge. And if you ask me, the results look pretty cool.
You can check out some of the images I've processed below, or you can find more on the program's official Flickr group.
I came across this photograph by Flickr user Bernard Schul the other day, and felt the need to write about it. From what I can tell, this photo was taken during a reenactment of the attack on Bastogne, Belgium during World War II. The Siege of Bastogne lasted from mid-December 1944 to January 1945, and was a result of the German desire to control the crossroads where several main roads in the Ardennes met. Though this photograph was taken of a mere reenactment, it still captures the emotion of the moment in a fantastic manner. The depth of field and tonal range of this composition are also superb, and really reflect upon the dramatic undertones of the image. I'll be writing about more of my favorite photographs found on Flickr in upcoming posts.
Alright, so the truth might not be quite this simple. Nevertheless, Laugh-Out-Loud Cats has managed to bring humor to a situation that's becoming increasingly worse. On Monday, the fourth-largest investment bank in the United States, Lehman Brothers, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The BBC has a great article concerning how it affects the average individual. Think of Lehman Brothers as a wholesale investment bank. While you don't deal with them directly, many of your banks do. As the BBC states, "This in turn is likely to intensify the credit crunch, with potentially dire consequences for businesses and consumers." Seriously, folks. Why not just live within your means?
In 1979, Olympus introduced a camera into the market that was years ahead of its time. The aperture-priority camera featured a 6 element F.Zuiko 35mm f/2.8-f/22 lens with true rangefinder focusing that was somehow squeezed into a body small enough to fit into one's pocket. This camera, a marvel of Japanese engineering, also featured a leaf shutter, meaning the slightest pressure on the shutter button triggered the camera. These factors are what made the Olympus XA such a revolutionary device, and are what causes it to still have a cult following in the modern digital world.
Most modern consumers don't appreciate the beauty of a good quality camera. These individuals only care about megapixels and pocketability. I would honestly say that no modern pocket camera could come close to what the Olympus XA is capable of. The image above was taken at night, hand held, at an LA intersection. Because the lens can open up to f2.8, the camera is great in low-light situations. The leaf-shutter is also a great feature, as camera shake isn't introduced by the press of a button. Though a photograph like this is easy to take with an SLR or DSLR, it would be impossible on the majority of pocket cameras on the market.
Because the unit is so small and quiet, it's naturally a fantastic street photography camera. Though the slightly blurry photograph above is of a bad example due to the fact that I was walking when I took it and couldn't stop without being noticed, the camera could easily go unnoticed in most situations. When you carry around a DSLR with a portrait grip and a backpack full of lenses, people notice you. When you innocently snap a photo with an outdated and seemingly simple film camera, no one cares. Having such a small yet advanced camera opens up a whole new world of opportunities.
Unfortunately, my Olympus XA was one of the first cameras to go when I started selling off my film equipment for the much needed cash. I also couldn't keep up with the work that went into developing my own film and scanning the photos in with my deathly slow film scanner. If Olympus decided to introduce a digital version of this camera, I would be one of the first buyers. I have an unnatural love for rangefinders, and due to its unusual form factor and former popularity, the Olympus XA is a great cheap starter-rangefinder.