Tag Archives: Photography

Real photographers shoot M mode.

Modern cameras come with more computation power than the average home PC of ten years ago. They automate everything, so naturally, as a Real Photographer™, you scoff technology and put the dial where it counts: Manual mode.

You saw the light: Aperture Priority mode is just shite, as it takes away control – your control over your creative decision. Same with Shutter Priority mode or, gods forbid, Program mode. You know that with anything but Manual, the camera will try to guess what you intended, measure the light and set one or more exposure controls automatically. Automatically! How could a computer know what you’re shooting? Canikosonic must believe you’re stupid!

So you wised up and have gone Manual mode exclusively. As a Real Photographer™, your goal is to expose correctly yourself, with nothing but ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. And it’s not even that hard, just make sure there’s no single triangle showing up in the viewfinder, neither ▶ nor ◀ on its own. Turn wheels or rings or press buttons until, depending on your camera, both and/or a dot appear, and you’ve got perfect exposure. Simple!

Chrissakes. Learn to use your camera’s exposure compensation, or go all the way and run around with an external light meter. And if you want to be really hardcore, buy a camera with no built-in meter. There’s uses for M mode, yes. But to simply copy what Satan’s Little Helpers aka automatic modes would have done, well, automatically, just to feel all rad? Sorry. No cookie for you.

How to eat your own foot.

I’ve been vocal about my dislike of Adobe. For me, it was an idealist as much as a quality thingy to switch from Lightroom 3 to CaptureOne 6. RAW processors, in case you wonder, which isn’t the point.

But let me look at the RAW processor market, as is, ca. 2012. You could just as well discuss video software, word processors, or kitchen appliances. The message is the same: If you need something, say, for supporting your beer habit or the cat or – gods forbid – a family, you’ll damn well make sure it will be around in the future and won’t push you into the Pony Level vendor lock-in. Unfortunately, just as a cook might need a replacement Kitchen Aid™ because there’s tons of specific add-ons in the drawer already, photographers may remain loyal to one platform. But there’s limits to loyalty, and the limit to end all limits is: will the bloody thing still be supported when I buy a new camera or computer?

Hasselblad releases one abomination after the other, and only gods know how long they’ll still support Phocus after bundling Lightroom with their bread-and-butter cameras. They’re primarily a hardware company, after all. Phase One might be idealists, but in the end, they too want to sell digital backs. MediaPro and CaptureOne are needed to push their hardware, to justify their “everything works with everything” approach. In the light of full-frame companies turning more and more into middle-format competitors, or other middle-format dudes besides Hasselblad bundling Lightroom, well. Where to invest your limited resources? And why, if you’ll make much more money from the 15 odd K for a new digital back than from a price/feature war on software?

Don’t get me started on Apple’s Aperture. Seriously, don’t. You’ll find all my answers to all possible “but …”s here, save the copious cussing.

And, well, then there was Lightroom 4. It’s bloated as hell, it’s from Adobe, but still: I want continuity, and I rather enjoy a non-destructive workflow. So here I am, foot-in-mouth firmly inserted.

Bugger this for a game of soldiers.

High-ISO is the new 11, and just as silly.

Let’s disregard a century of photography. Everybody knows it’s impossible to create compelling images with a camera that doesn’t deliver spit-clean results at ISO 6400 and beyond.

We also know it’s incredibly difficult to take a shot with a lens that doesn’t go from 14 to 400 mm. You’d have to walk closer to your subject, or further away – what a harebrained concept! You’re a photographer, not some bloody athlete! Carry around a selection of faster primes and switch them as necessary? Ridiculous. Hell, modern cameras crank up to ISO 128.000 or something! Hence, wide-open at f/3.5-8 is just the way things work™ nowadays. You bought your camera with its kit zoom, so that’s what the camera is all about, so it bloody well better deliver results fit to be put on billboards, and then scrutinised with a magnifying glass.

To make sure your money was well spent you compare 100% crops of black cats yawning in coal cellars. Even if you only plan to put photos on Facebook, graininess at a measly ISO 3200 is totally unacceptable. Your cat may not be the most interesting subject in the world, but you simply need to blow her up to fill your living room from end to end. In print, if you actually printed to such sizes, not using explosives. Err.

So it’s just natural you always look for the next camera to end all camera hunting. Working with what you’ve got, playing within (and with) its limitations? What for? The next high-ISO body has just been announced, and if you immediately put your now-crammy camera on eBay you won’t have too much of a loss.

For decades, photo-journalists and artists dealt with a maximum sensitivity of 200-800 ASA in colour, perhaps pushed to a very grainy 1600 ASA. But who cares about the likes of Steve McCurry, Martin Schoeller, or William Eggleston? Were they alive and kickin’ today, they wouldn’t bother with such laughable specs.

Oh, wait …

Leica: So let’s be luddite and ask for a lot of money, too.

So you really did it, eh? Flick the bird to what’s up nowadays, and asking for a € 1000 premium, too? Fine by me.

So you think a rehash of a 30 years old lens design it worth a couple of thou more than what you’ve toted the best there is™, the ultimate sharpness in 50mm™? Fine by me.

Because I don’t really care.

I enjoy black-and-white photography, a lot. I also enjoy the Summicron even more; it’s reasonably fast in a small package. But dudes! What were you thinking!

I guess your thinking went along these lines:

“Well, they cough up no matter what we ask for, so, eh.”

But that’s the approach that killed Loewe, Grundig, Braun, and many other manufacturers. Their brands to be gobbled up by multinationals betting on sales due to “traditional” names.

But then, not to worry, you have not one, but two Hermès special editions at the ready! No Panasonic or Minolta will take you over, na, you‘re too cool for them sharks! You pamper your audience with calfskin leather, after all. Or Hermès is, for that matter. For people less inclined to Bling you make sure to feature the launch with a renowned BnW-only photographer. And Mr. Liefers, because Wagnerian TV pathologists are Teh Real Shit™.

(I should mention I really like what @JanJosefLiefers does, especially music- and Tatort-wise, but that’s just me.)

I might not care for your new products, but I do care about where you seem to be headed. I’m all for solutions that are out there, no worries. But, seriously, Leica – there’s a limit to bullshit even proverbial milk cows will take. And, personally, I won’t go moo just because you tell me to. Even though I love your stuff. Bugger.

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Stopping down is for babies and communists.

You paid helluva lot for that wide-aperture lens, so you’re going to use it. What’s the point in shooting at an aperture that complements an image’s composition, its message, and your personal understanding of documented reality?

Oh, wait. You just paid helluva lot for that wide-aperture lens, hence you damn well see the world at f/1.4 or below, so that’s fine. Pinpointing what matters™, highlighting it in gloriously shallow depth-of-field. After all, there’s the Bokeh to consider, the creamier, the better. Unless you bought a cheapo lens and the out-of-focus areas are kinda hard, in that case that’s the statement you truly wanted to make. The harsh reality outside of what normal people perceive. The human condition, rendered in two inches of sharpness, the rest in uncomfortable blur. You even got an ND filter to make sure you won’t get tempted to stop it down in brighter conditions. Because the shallowness is what it’s all about.

For example, how could the following photo profit from a stopped-down lens? Juxtaposing the mercantile marketing world represented by the discarded Coke can to newspapers ready for disposal? As a somewhat ironic comment? Are you bloody kidding me?

Yeah, that’s what you need f/1.1 for. Exactly this.

Na, the message is: the “% sodium” label sits in the same focus plane as the twine on the right. Because that’s what you can do with this fucking lens, that’s what it’s there for and what you’ve paid for. It’s huge, it’s heavy, it’s expensive. It’s irritating the manufacturer still bothers with aperture blades! Such lenses are made to be shot wide open, so you’ll do your damnedest to only use it wide open. Always. No exception. The Bokeh will make it a good image by default. No?