Winter trees

December 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

Some trees from the last week. The bottom one is in Connecticut, the top two in Maine. What better way to end the old year and start the new one than with these wonderful giants. Happy New Year to everyone, and may 2011 be filled with photography!


Christmas ribbons

December 26, 2010 § Leave a comment


December 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy . . .

Psalm 96

Too cold to photograph

December 18, 2010 § 1 Comment

The past week has been very cold and windy here in southern New England, so I haven’t wanted to photograph outdoors. But after a few days without photography, I get restless. It feels like something is not quite right. Happily, I have a big window in my office, and it suddenly struck me one blustery day that I could take pictures of the view I look at while I’m  talking on the telephone and rushing to meet deadlines. The landscape is not spectacular, but it is pleasant . . . a college campus with a few well-tended trees and a hint of a view out to the distant hills.

My winter confinement made me think of this wonderful poem by John Milton.

To Mr. Lawrence

Lawrence of vertuous Father vertuous Son,

Now that the Fields are dank, and ways are mire,

Where shall we sometimes meet, and by the fire

Help wast a sullen day; what may be won

From the hard Season gaining: time will run

On smoother, till Favonius re-inspire

The frozen earth; and cloth in fresh attire

The Lillie and Rose, that neither sow’d nor spun.

What neat repast shall feast us, light and choice,

Of Attick tast, with Wine, whence we may rise

To hear the Lute well toucht, or artfull voice

Warble immortal Notes and Tuskan Ayre?

He who of those delights can judge, and spare

To interpose them oft, is not unwise.

Milton did not have photography to augment his lute and artfull voice, but if he had, perhaps he would have thought that “sparing to interpose the camera oft is not unwise.” My faithful Ricoh CX4, with its multitude of options, from high-contrast black and white to sepia and from square pictures to panoramas, made it easier to find something interesting in this rather plain view.



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What is a digital photograph?

December 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

In the world of analog photography, distinctive mechanical and chemical aspects of cameras and darkroom materials determined what a particular photograph would look like. 35mm cameras always made long, narrow images. Pictures made in the Rolleiflex or Hasselblad were usually (but not always) square. A soft-focus lens made a soft-focus image. Certain combinations of chemicals, film, and paper would produce brown prints, while others would produce color prints, and still others would produce very contrasty black-and-white images. Inexpensive plastic cameras like the Diana would produce images that were soft and gauzy around the edges and fairly sharp in the middle. If you “cross processed” slide film in chemicals intended for print film, you got another kind of distinctive look.

But digital photography is different. My faithful Ricoh CX4, for instance, can produce “standard” color photographs. But it can also just as easily make brown sepia images, “toy camera” images, high-contrast black-and-white, soft focus pictures, cross-processed images, and more. Many new cameras come with creative imaging options like these. My other favorites, the Olympus EP series, for example, also offers many of these possibilities. And this is not to mention the vast array of post-processing applications that are available once a digital picture is in your computer. With a few simple clicks of the mouse, you can mimic the look of almost any type of film, from the sadly departed Kodachrome to push-processed Tri-X and gem-like Polaroids.

It’s possible to look at most kinds of analog images and make a pretty accurate guess as to how they were made—what camera, what film, what paper, what chemistry. Each kind of image was fully influenced and shaped by the equipment and materials that made it. There was what I call a “native state” for analog images, an inherent, fundamental state of being that spoke clearly of each picture’s origin.

My question now is, “What is a digital photograph?” Is there any longer a “native state,” when it’s possible for my Ricoh to mimic the aspect ratios of 35mm, 2 ¼ square, and the oblong of the 4×5 negative? When it can take a picture that looks like it came out of a toy camera, followed by a picture that looks like it was taken with a soft-focus lens, followed by one that looks like it was taken with high-contrast black-and-white film?

It’s interesting that today, so much of what we do in digital has to do with mimicking what we had in analog photography. We spend much of our time reliving what came before. But 50 years from now, when people look back at the arrival of the digital age, what will they identify as digital’s “native state?”

cross processed

soft focus

high-contrast black and white

toy camera setting

Cold weather. Time to photograph indoors!

December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

The temperature outdoors right now is 29 degrees F. I went out to photograph yesterday, but could only stay a few minutes because of the cold temperatures and strong winds. Now it’s time to start looking for things to photograph inside, where it’s warmer! Like these pots and pans in the drying rack beside the sink.

Ricoh CX4, combined sepia and soft-focus settings.

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