Friday, September 24, 2010

A First Preview of the Fuji X100

More information is becoming available about this camera (Fuji X100). Here's a hands-on preview of the camera. There's still a lot of speculation. Interesting points: the VF has three modes, an OVF w/digital overlay, a pure EVF, and a playback mode. Also, it looks like manual  focusing might be achieved using a method called, peaking--where colored pixels generate around areas as they come in focus (maybe in EVF mode only, though?).
This image purportedly shows the X100 VF in optical/hybrid mode:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

FujiFilm X100: A Breakthrough!

Yum! Fuji stole the show at Photokina 2010 by announcing the Fuji X100 12.3 MP camera--targeted for released in early 2011 (price unkown).

Photo from Go there after reading this blog for some of the best camera news and reviews on the 'net.

A quick perusal of the marketing specs for this baby over on shows that this is not just a another retro-styled digital camera aimed at hipsters looking for shoulder-slung adornment. No, no, no. Do not be fooled by its "classic" styling and charming good looks. The X100 is a high-end point-and-shoot style camera aimed at the professional/enthusiast market. The camera will feature a pro-level build quality, a fast fixed focal length lens with aspherical elements, a big sensor (APS-C), a hybrid optical viewfinder (VF), and manual controls on the body and the lens. [RANT ON] Now, before you freak out and start whining about its fixed focal length lens, know that the X100 is not some photographic freak of nature. There is a long and sturdy tradition of high-end, high-quality fixed focal length cameras going back several decades, so there is a proven market for this type of camera.[RANT OFF] However, :-) the most exciting single detail about the camera for me is the viewfinder (VF). It's a rangefinder-style optical VF, but it's a hybrid. That means its an optical viewfinder with digital information superimposed, which also has the capability to playback your shots.

This is exciting, because as production of film cameras has faded out and digital cameras has faded in--and as the emphasis in camera size has inched toward the diminutive--the optical finder has found itself literally squeezed out of the picture. The bulkier DSLR with its through-the-lens viewing (TTL) has been the one of the last design holdouts for the optical VF. But, sometimes a photographer wants relief from the neck-wrenching weight and unpocketable bulk of a DSLR. Therefore, photographers, who want to shoot with something less bulky than a DSLR have to compromise and settle for LCD screens or tiny, squinty, tunnel vision-styled optical viewfinders as a means of composing their images. Despite the beauty of some of the high-resolution LCD screens, the act of holding a camera at arms length to compose a shot has no correlation in the world of photography where the camera is held to the eye and up against the face (unless you care equate the grab-all blind overhead shooting techniques of journalism and sports photographer or ground-glass viewing and focusing of some medium and large format cameras with composing with an LCD). Besides, shooting in broad daylight with an LCD screen is damn near impossible! So, yes, an optical VF is a very welcomed addition to a digital body.

If the camera proves successful we could very well see the trend back toward optical viewfinders or even toward higher-quality electronic view finders (EVF). For now the X100 is a major breakthrough whose announcement has created a stir that hasn't been seen since Panasonic debuted the first micro 4/3 camera (the G1).

So, be excited all you enthusiasts. Be very excited.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vivitar Offers a Novel Solution to Digital Photography's Weakness: Getting Prints

I'm hoping this shows up, but if it doesn't here's the YouTube link. There's some truth to this video, as silly as it might seem. This kind of goes along with my previous post (err...rant). Film is easier for some, and during the heyday of film, camera (and film) manufacturers were able to provide consumers with point and shoot cameras that were very easy to use (ranging in quality from the very expensive titanium models to cardboard disposables). These 'dumbed-down' cameras were capable of producing excellent results. With the technological advances in film emulsion manufacturing and the proliferation of photo labs, there was no reason for not having quality prints in your hands. I wonder if the print output from those kiosks that crowd or replaced the one-hour photo in your local drugstore comes close to output produced by those same labs.

Anyway, think of this video the next time your mother or grandmother passes her little digital point and shoot with the three-inch screen to you so you can see the pictures from her cruise.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Magic

Still shooting film. That's me and a lot of the people I know. We still shoot film, not exclusively, mind you. Well, most of us anyway shoot both film and digital, but the fact remains, we still shoot film. For me, the reasons why I continue to shoot film are complex to most non-film shooters. It's pretty simple to me, but to others it causes head-scratching and smirking. I guess I can't expect those individuals to understand. Most of these individuals didn't enjoy film photography as I did back when it was the 'only thing going'. Most complain and offer excuses about the things that caused them to make technically poor photos, or they complain about the inconveniences and the overly complex nature of what they refer to as 'analog' photography. What I hear mostly is that digital is better, because it's easier. It's easier to make better photos.

That's what most are saying when they cite the merits of digital photography, and it's hard to argue that digital isn't easier, but argument is what they want. If you've ever engaged in such discussions or found yourself defending the virtues of film, you know exactly what I mean. These types want an admission, particularly (no especially) from a die-hard film shooter. Well, I won't admit that digital is better, but I also won't admit that film is better either. The fact of the matter is, I really don't care. To a certain extent image capture is image capture, and all that truly matters is the final product. I have as many 'final' digital images as I do 'final' film images.

What I enjoy about film, the thing that hooked me some 30 years ago is the magic, the magic of the ritual, the alchemy of the magic of souping your own film, the pleasure of holding a loupe against a strip of negatives or a contact sheet, a simplicity of a stack of slides, the wonderment of seeing a silver print hanging on a wall, seemingly emitting its own light.

So you're 'back into photography' now that digital has made things easier. Honestly, that's great. If you ever come up against a film shooter (don't stereotype them as old, because I know a LOT of "kids" who are bigger luddites than I), don't try to convert them or make them admit that digital is better. We are of the old school of photography, the school that appreciates the magic in the craft. You aren't. You never were, and that is the difference between you and I. You are as happy about that as we are. We can enjoy digital photography, but you can't and never did enjoy 'analog'.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Well, I finally finished it. I'll give details in a later post, but for now, here's the badge that leads to a customized preview of the book:

A book of answers
By raymond angelo

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Poignant Reminder of Kodachrome's Earliest Days

With the announcement recently that the "last" roll of Kodachrome was exposed by photographer, Steve McCurry (he shot the 36 exposure roll on the streets of New York), I reminisced a bit about Kodachrome and how it was use to record images of my past--mostly on 8mm and Super 8 movie film. Therefore, there's something very poignant about this video. It shows the early origins of the film, the beginning really. Here's a 1922 Kodak Kodachrome Film Test. It's very nice YouTube production. You just might get a little misty eyed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Contact Sheets: The Americans, Jim Marshall—Proof

As an amateur photographer whose photographic experience extends over several decades, I've done my time in many honest-to-goodness analog/wet darkrooms—including the several years I worked as a professional printer. I don't miss it. Sure it's a magical experience, pure, closer to what "real" photography is all about, but for me photography has always been about the other side of the equation. I prefer to shoot. Spending time in the darkroom was a necessary evil that I thankfully do not have to endure anymore. But there is one thing I miss about the darkroom, contact sheets. Without a doubt, the only thing I liked to do in the darkroom was make contact sheets. I LOVE contact sheets, but then again...

all photographers love contact sheets.

I don't think I'm going out on limb or taking a huge risk when I make that statement. It might be less true now, but I'm certain that even photographers with little or no analog experience appreciate the value of the contact sheet. Besides the fact that it used to be an important part of the photographic process, and that it's a great photographic learning tool, it is absolutely pure photographic joy, a treat. So when photographers have the opportunity to peruse a contact sheet, they will seldom pass it up.

Therefore, it's been a blast over the last several years to see the release of photo books that include contact sheets of important or iconic images. The one that had most of the photogs I know drooling is Robert Frank's Americans: Looking In. This book is a real feast for photographers. It has over 80 pages of contact sheets from Frank's epic journey around the U.S. It's such a wonderful pleasure to peer into these treasures and to see how Frank went about creating the images that eventually became what is arguably the most important photographic work ever created.

Likewise, back in 2004 Chronicle Books released a book of iconic images + contact sheets, Jim Marshall: Proof. Proof is a cool book with some very cool images. It's also much less of a beast of to wrangle with than the Frank book, which is just a bit too big to deal with comfortably. Instead, Proof has a nice open feel. It's 12" x 10" and less than an inch thick. The Frank book is 11" x 9" and just over two inches thick.

Most of the images in Proof are portraits of celebrities from the sixties and the seventies--with a good percentage of those images being shots of musicians. If you were cognizant from the sixties to the nineties and mildly interested in popular music (rock and roll) and current events, then you'll recognize the images and the individuals. There's the famous shot of Bob Dylan rolling a car tire down a New York street with a stick and iconic images of Johnny Cash (with the often replicated 'camera flip-off'), Janis Joplin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Woody Allen, Allen Ginsberg. There's even a more recent shot of Ben Harper and Laura Dern that is really nice. And of course, you get the contact sheet from the roll that produced the image.

The contact sheets allow you to see Marshall's M.O. It's a blast to see how he worked with his subjects to get the final shot, especially the non-portrait shots where he seems to be floating around an event and recognizing photo ops. This is the real value of this book for photographers, especially those interested in portraiture. It's not hard to see and imagine how Marshall interacted with this subjects to get what he needed. He adds a short blurb of information and storytelling to each image that bring the shoot to life. All the blurbs are informative and some are pretty funny, such as when he told the Allman Brothers band that he wanted a "laughing" shot for the cover of the album 'Live at Filmore East', and that if he didn't get it, no one would get any coke.

Photography is a learning experience that never ends. If you've ever shot on the street or made an attempt at portraiture then you already know how fluid events and sittings can be—despite your best effort to control everything. Other than mentoring with an experienced photographer, the next best thing just might be perusing the contact sheets of an experienced photographer.

Book Proof!

The 'proof' of my next Blurb book arrived last weekend. On the whole, I'm pleased. I like the book size, the cover, and the fonts, but it's going to need another iteration. I need to do adjustments to several of the images, a few for tone and a few for size.

The tones are close, much closer than with World Away. I chalked that up to using the printer profile to check the adjustments. (I did not use the profile with World Away.) I should clarify that the new book is a mix of black and white and color images, with the majority of the black and white images having heavier shadow and mid tones. The printer that Blurb uses really struggles on these types of images; it has a tendency to add contrast and weight to the tones.

I like the book size; although, several of the images are too big, so I'll need to scale those down. I used a variety of page templates, because I just couldn't get a feel for what the Blurb software was going to do around the crop lines, so seeing now what I need to see, I'll have to change the layout.

Anyway, I decided to take a breather and give it a week before I jumped back into it.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Blow-Up Magazine

What can you get for $9 these days? Well, here's an instance where nine bucks guarantees you 26 different takes on the world around you from 26 different photographers. This latest edition of Blow-Up magazine (named for the 75 member Flickr group) is heavily influenced by the street shooting element within the San Francisco-based group. Kudos for this edition's production goes to group member and local photographer, Brad Evans, who compiled the photographs from the group pool and did the layout.

The images that Brad chose--while not indicative of the group as a whole--are definitely indicative of the stronger and more interesting street shooting contingent within the group and of an identifiable San Francisco-styled approach to the genre.

These are all very strong images, so don't get this expecting your typical Flickr artsy/calendar-worthy photography (although, I''d buy this if it was a calendar (note: please don't make this a calendar!)). As good photography should, these are images that resist and challenge. These are images that look back at you and stare you down in an unrelenting fashion. That ain't a bad entertainment value. After all, we could all use a good stare down.

If you want this edition, you should buy it soon. These PoD magazines are limited run and can sell out quickly, especially since the publisher, MagCloud is offering a special St. Patrick's day discount.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Eskanzi's Wonderland

I finally got my hands on this book, Wonderland by Jason Eskenazi. The book is one of those titles that has been sporadically popping up in my little world over the last several years. It seems I would hear it mentioned in a positive light (which would pique my interest), and then I wouldn't hear about it for a while. I would forget about the book, and then it would pop up again as a positive mention in an online discussion forum, blog, or in a magazine. The persistence of a thing seems to always be a very good sign, and Wonderland is no exception. This book has instantly become my favorite photo book.

First of all the book is actually called Wonderland: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith. It's a small book, and it has a handmade feel to it. The front and back covers are made of a thick cardboard and the binding is exposed, which allows it to lay flat. That's a good thing, because most of the photos cross over the gutter and utilize both pages. With this binding, you don't lose a goodly percentage of the image, because it doesn't disappear into the crease, and believe me you'll want to see every inch of these photographs. The printing is very good, and the photographs are just incredible. The compositions are tight and every image is strong. This is classic documentary and street-style photography. They remind me quite a bit of Koudelka, because like Koudelka, the photographer seems to immerse himself in the mix of the environment and the subjects. He is so up close and involved that he is seemingly invisible.

The photographer is Jason Eskanazi a New Yorker (and MOMA security guard) who felt compelled to leave his job to travel and photograph the former Soviet Union after the fall of communism. He became intrigued with the concept of a nation suddenly coming to grips with the downfall of communism after almost a century. Eskanazi summed what he was trying to photograph as a nation dealing with the "difficulty of losing what you always thought would be there."

What Eskanazi came away with is an incredibly beautiful collection of some of the strongest images I have seen in a long time. The images are striking in their strength and sensitivity. The compositions are charged and dynamic. I put the images in this book on par with the best of Koudelka. The great lesson that Eskanazi came away with was "the realization that the people I was encountering had a nostalgia for tragedy." That realization is very much a part of the beauty of Wonderland. The sense of that is in every single image.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finally...Book Sent for a Proof

Well it took a while, but my next photo book is off to Blurb for a proof. I should see the book in about a week. The book is set up as a hard cover, which allows more options when ordering. For this initial proof, I ordered a soft cover—mainly to check the quality of the printing. However, I'm still wrangling with the concept of cover flaps, and right now the flaps are blank. So while I wait for the proof to arrive, I'm playing around with some ideas, including adding a very serious-looking selfy. I don't mind the blank flaps. Looking at the online preview of the book, the blank flaps kind of lend a cleaner/indie look.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I picked up a book of the work of the controversial outsider artist photographer, Miroslav Tichy. He is the voyeuristic, peeping-tom, recluse photographer; a Czech who dressed in rags, lived a life of solitude, and secretly took thousands of pics of women in his village using cameras he made from toys and other junk (such as tin cans and toilet paper rolls). His work is fairly recently discovered and obviously very "low-fi".

Book: Miroslav Tichy (Fototorst) (Russian Edition)

Photo: Miroslav Tichy

The work is interesting, especially if viewed within the scope of 'outsider artists'. Most artists fitting the description have no formal training (Tichy did) and usually have a sort of mental illness or obsessive compulsive nature that results in a certain type of prolific repetitive creative outpouring. Some are considered savants, some are or have been institutionalized.

Run some searches on 'outsider artists', 'miroslav tichy, or check out wikipee for a list of notable outsider artists.

I assume the book is pretty much indicative of Tichy's work. The photos are not everyone's cup. They are at times beautiful, ugly, quaint, original, inspirational, creepy, cutting edge, and just plain weird.

If you're interested, the Fototorst book can be had fairly cheaply. It contains both english and russian text. But if you are interested, definitely read what you can about the man. There's plenty online and in the book.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Deadline Come and Gone!

Bummer. I'm still working on my photo books, and here's the thing, I haven't even started one of them, yet. I thought I could get two done by the end of January, but I've been bogging down on the first one of the two. This is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. My first book just fell together for me. I hadn't planned that one to be thematically based. I really just wanted a sample book to carry with me when I shot. It ended up becoming something else, something finite and manageable like a narrative. I can't seem to articulate this next book. I have the images, the theme, and a working title but man it all seems to unravel as I put it together. I'll get there.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Rest in Peace, Al Kaplan

The photographer, photo-blogger, and lovable online gadfly has left us. You can spend some time with Al by reading his blog, The Price of Silver Rest in peace, Al.