Friday, May 31, 2013

Photography Tip Of The Day: Don't Worry About What Camera You Do Or Do Not Own

Take a look at this recent post of mine. Go ahead, look at the images, and come back.

Does it matter what camera I used to create those photographs? Was it a Canon 5D? Nikon D800? Does anyone really care what camera I used? I can tell you that I don't care what camera I used.

But do you want to know? Well, it was a "free" cell phone camera. Yes, those are cell phone images! Does it matter? No.

What is my point? Don't worry about what camera you do or don't own. Use what camera you have! With photographic vision, you can use any equipment to create your art. It doesn't matter what camera you use. It doesn't matter how expensive or inexpensive that camera is.

There are plenty of great photographers out there that are using surprisingly "bad" equipment to create fantastic images. And there are plenty of people who own "great" equipment who can't create even one great photograph. It is never about the camera.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Your First 10,000 Photographs Are Your Worst

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." --Henri Cartier-Bresson
And if you are anything like me, your next 10,000 photographs are your second worst.
Hedgehog Cactus - Goodyear, Arizona
I captured this photograph three years ago.
I get asked from time-to-time why I don't share some of my older images on this Blog. I've been photographing for 15 years now, but you won't find many photographs on here that are over two years old.

One big reason that I don't share those older images is that I'm embarrassed by them. When I created those photographs, I thought they were good. I thought some of them were really good. But now that I look back, I see that many of them were actually terrible.
Train and Corn - Omaha, Nebraska
This is the oldest image on the Blog, captured almost eight years ago.
I can see that my photography has improved since beginning this Blog. I'm a little embarrassed by some of the photographs that I created even just one year ago. That's not a bad thing because I'm constantly striving to improve, and I can see that I'm moving forward. I hope a couple years from now that I'm embarrassed by some of the photographs that I'm creating today.

Another reason that I don't share those older photographs is because of their format. Those images are slides, negatives and sometimes black-and-white prints. I simply don't have digital copies of most of them.
Cathedral Rock Reflected - Sedona, Arizona
This image was captured almost three years ago.
The final reason that I don't share some of those older images is that some of them were stolen. My home was burglarized about 11 years ago, and some of my photographs were taken.

So instead I try to focus on the here-and-now. Some things that I've learned are photographic vision and the decisive moment. I learned how to be a creator of art. I wish I knew those things 15 years ago. Or five years ago. Or even two years ago.
Flower About To Bloom - Scottsdale, Arizona
I captured this photograph three years ago.
Hopefully, my next 10,000 photographs won't have the title "worst" on them.

Shadow Photographs

Sometimes I notice a theme with images that I've captured. For one reason or another, I find that I've gravitated toward a certain subject more than others. One that I recently noticed is shadows.

The photographs below all have shadows as the main subject (or at least a major element of the subject). Many different cameras were used, and it doesn't really matter which ones. Vision is important, not cameras. They are in no particular order.
Shadow Catcher - Stallion Springs, California
Shadows On Brick - Surprise, Arizona
Cactus Man - Surprise, Arizona
The shadow isn't "front-and-center" in this image, but it is what I think makes it interesting.
Slip Through A Tear In The Fabric Of The World - Lake Isabella, California
The shadow is really subtle in this image, but it is what gives this image meaning (hint: look for the "drowning man" at the bottom right).
Broken Window Shadow - Victorville, California
Floor Lines - Scottsdale, Arizona
Broken Window Shadow - Victorville, California
Shadow Floor - Victorville, California
Shadow Thought - Tehachapi, California
Shadow Mortar - Tehachapi, California
Gunman Shadow - Tehachapi, California
Plant Shadows - Anaheim, California
Telephone Pole Shadow - Tehachapi, California

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

DxOMark Sensor Ratings - Good or Bad?

Mojave August Sunrise - Mojave, California
Created with a camera that DxOMark would have given a really low score to if they had tested it.
Tony Flores commented on yesterday's post about the Ricoh GR, saying, "Be careful when comparing sensors on DxOmark.com. Their up front numbers for high ISO are not really real, and they favor high MP sensors."

And that comment got me thinking. Are DxOMark sensor ratings good or bad? Should anyone pay attention to them?
California Sunset - Stallion Springs, California
Created with a camera that DxOMark would have given a really low score to if they had tested it.
The reason that I sometimes refer to DxOMark's camera sensor ratings is because DxOMark is the most renown and respected scientific testers of digital camera sensors. The key word in that last sentence is scientific. There are two points I'd like to make about that.

First, by having a standard test in which camera sensors can be examined, one can get a good idea about which ones are better and which ones are worse. This does not mean the final score is 100% accurate. It also doesn't factor in other important components of a camera. Just because one camera scores better than another doesn't mean it is indeed a better camera. The value, however, is giving consumers the knowledge about which sensors are generally better than others.
Artificial - Tehachapi, California
Created with a camera that DxOMark would have given a really low score to if they had tested it.
But people shouldn't worry about that. All of the cameras tested by DxOMark, including the low-scoring ones, are good enough. Cameras are devolving, and people having been choosing convenience over quality for many, many decades. If you are truly worried about image quality, then the cameras you should be looking at will not be found on DxOMark's website. So either stop worrying, or begin actually choosing high-image-quality cameras.

Second, art is not science. Science is about formulas and charts and rules and structure. Art is vision. Art is being creative. Art is throwing all of the "rules" out the window and paving your own path. So while there is value in the DxOMark ratings, none of those ratings will ever create art. I don't know about you, but creating art is what photography is all about for me.
Desert Mine - Mojave, California
Created with a camera that DxOMark would have given a really low score to if they had tested it.
It turns out that Tony is correct about being careful with DxOMark sensor ratings. Just not for the reason he stated.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ricoh GR DxOMark Tested (vs The Fuji X100)

About five weeks ago I said, "Its closest competitor is the Fuji X100s, which is a pretty highly regarded camera, and probably a better camera than the GR. The Fuji camera costs significantly more, so it will be interesting to see if the price difference is equal to the quality difference."

DxOMark has recently tested the Ricoh GR, and now we can see how it and the Fuji X100 compare. DxOMark tested the sensors and not the lenses, and while both cameras have excellent lenses, the Fuji lens is generally considered the sharper one. The GR doesn't have an anti-aliasing filter.

The Ricoh GR, to my surprise, actually outperforms the Fuji X100, according to DxOMark. The GR has better dynamic range and color depth, while the X100 has better high-ISO performance. The differences aren't huge, but considering that the GR is less expensive, there are really compelling reasons to choose it over the Fuji camera.

Now DxOMark hasn't tested the Fuji X100s, which is an improved version of the X100. It will be interesting to see how it compares.

For those considering purchasing the Fuji X100, you may want to take a close look at the Ricoh GR. For about $250-$350 less (depending on where you shop), you can get essentially the same thing. More so, the GR might actually be the better of the two cameras.

This post has been updated for corrections.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Photographer's Journey Update

I've been working on my personal photography project, A Photographer's Journey, for two months now. In its most simplest description, it is me photographing me while photographing.

I mentioned at the very beginning that I wanted the images to look natural, as if I were photographing someone other than myself. To facilitate that, in many of the images, I've been actually capturing photographs while being photographed (as opposed to just pretending).
Dusk Photographer - Stallion Springs, California
The photograph above is a good example of that. I'm capturing the image below while being photographed by myself (with help from the self-timer and a tripod). The image below is what I was creating while simultaneously creating the image above. That is the heart of what A Photographer's Journey is about.
Lake At Dusk - Stallion Springs, California
One thing that has been a challenge is balancing the literal and the interpretive definitions of this project. Dusk Photographer is a very literal definition. Through The Lens (below) is a very interpretive definition. Hopefully, with both literal and interpretive photographs, there is a complete story.
Through The Lens - Stallion Springs, California

Sunday, May 26, 2013

From 4,000' Above - My New Project

As you may know, I've been working on a personal photography project, A Photographer's Journey. Well, I also began another project called From 4,000' Above. This series is photographs of the Central Valley in California captured from about 4,000' above it. The images can be found on my Flickr page.

Here are a few photographs from this new project:
Valley Flight - Stallion Springs, California
Trees On Hill - Stallion Springs, California
The Valley Below - Stallion Springs, California
Country Road - Stallion Springs, California
Cattle Pen - Stallion Springs, California

Friday, May 24, 2013

United Pegasus Foundation - Tehachapi, California

The United Pegasus Foundation is a great organization in Tehachapi, California that rehabilitates neglected or abused horses and facilitates their adaption. This foundation specializes in unwanted thoroughbreds.

I visited the United Pegasus Foundation's ranch and brought along a Holga 120N camera loaded with Ilford Delta 400 film. Helen Meredith, founder of United Pegasus Foundation, is happy to show you around--be sure to bring a lot of carrots! Here are eight of the 12 exposures from that roll of film:
White Horse Eating Carrot - Tehachapi, California
Horse Trot - Tehachapi, California
Happy To See You - Tehachapi, California
Ranch Dog - Tehachapi, California
Window Horse - Tehachapi, California
Helen Meredith - Tehachapi, California
Legs - Tehachapi, California
Coming and Going - Tehachapi, California

Dietmar Eckell's Abandonment Photography

I saw last night on Yahoo an interesting piece on Dietmar Eckell's abandonment photographs. I'm fascinated by abandoned and forgotten buildings and locations. These ghostly places are all around us, if we'd just look. And they beg to be photographed--they beg to be remembered.
Photo By Dietmar Eckell via Yahoo.com
Check out Eckell's work by clicking the links above. You may even want to financially support his book project. I certainly applaud him for undertaking this interesting series.

Like I said above, I'm fascinated by abandoned and forgotten buildings and locations. One of those places that I've photographed is the old George Air Force Base military housing in Victorville, California. This  is an eerie and sad example of urban decay. Check it out!
Destroyed By Fire - Victorville, California

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Minolta XG-1 35mm SLR

Minolta XG-1
I love old film cameras. I like the way they look and feel. I like the look of silver film. Each time the shutter is opened there is a literal cost when using film, so the photographer is more careful about each image. I find that I capture far fewer frames with film, yet have a much higher success rate than with digital cameras.
Morning Rooster - Surprise, Arizona
Fuji Velvia 100
The XG-1, alternatively called the XG 1 and XG-1(n), is a 35mm single-lens reflex camera built by Minolta between 1979 and 1982. The XG-E (manufactured between 1977 and 1978) and the XG-SE (manufactured in 1983) are very, very close siblings to the XG-1, with only extremely minor differences.
Small Lifesaver - Surprise, Arizona
Fuji Velvia 100
While the XG-1 was considered a "budget" camera, it was just as capable as Minolta's more advanced line (the XD series). This camera has two modes: "Aperture Priority" and fully manual. Aperture Priority is where you choose the f-stop and the camera chooses the shutter speed. There is a "+ or -" two-stop exposure compensation control for Aperture Priority mode. I personally like using Aperture Priority whenever practical, so this camera is an excellent fit for me.
Thornless Cactus - Surprise, Arizona
Ilford Delta 400
The XG-1 has a center-weighted CdS metering system, which is par-for-the-course for this era, but it is certainly not the best metering system (it works, but it is important to understand its limitations). A handheld light meter might be worth having around (or a light meter "app" for your smart phone). Interestingly, the light meter only works in Aperture Priority mode.
Boy With Drink - Surprise, Arizona
Ilford Delta 400
This camera is a manual film camera, which means you must load the 35mm film by hand and rewind by hand when you are done. There is no auto-focus since auto-focus hadn't been invented yet. The only automatic feature is Aperture Priority mode, in which the camera will choose the shutter speed for you. Beyond that, everything is manual. Minolta called it "electronically easy pictures" in their advertisements--times sure do change!
Color Palette Abstract - Surprise, Arizona
Fuji Velvia 100
What doesn't change is image quality. The XG-1, with a good roll of film and a good lens, is capable of producing exceptional image quality that beats almost every digital camera on the market today. Cameras are devolving, so this old relic isn't obsolete.
Forever Young - Surprise, Arizona
Fuji Velvia 100
Other features of the XG-1 are the self-timer, battery check, hot shoe for external flash, x-sync terminal and cable shutter release socket. Basically, everything you need and nothing that you don't. Sometimes simplicity is better.
Palm Branch - Surprise, Arizona
Ilford Delta 400
The Minolta XG-1 is a good SLR that works just as well today as the day is was made. If you can find it for a good price (and you should be able to find it for a good price), it is a quality camera that produce quality images.
Hibiscus - Surprise, Arizona
Ilford Delta 400
For fun, here is an old advertisement for the XG-1:


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Photographer's Journey - Update!

I frequently update my personal project, A photographer's Journey. If you have yet to check it out, please visit my Flickr page. Here are two recent photographs from this project:
Brownie Target Six-20 - Stallion Springs, California
Shadow Catcher - Stallion Springs, California