Thursday, 30 June 2011

It's nice to see them so big!

I work for an international company and as such, I get to see my pictures used all over the world in everything from brochures, posters, newsletters, catalogues and in magazines etc.

The images normally range in size from small postage stamp dimensions for use in pocket catalogues to A3 (29.7 cm x 42 cm) in books.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised recently to see some of my images blown up to 3 meters and used to cover walls at exhibition stands.

The following two images were taken at the "Restauro Ferrara" exhibition in Italy. The original image on the wall was snapped last year at the "Giannada Fondation" when I was in the French speaking part of Switzerland on a photo-tour last year.

What I find especially pleasing is that it was taken with my EOS 5d and a 17 - 40 L lens! That's right. A 24 x 36 sensor. Granted, a bit of post production work went into the image (not from me though. My thoughts of after image editing are here.)

This second image was taken at the "Sisseg" exhibition in Paris.

You can see two images on the walls. One was taken again with my 5d and the 17 - 40 The other was taken with a Rolleiflex SL66 and a 40 mm wide angle lens, using Kodak EPT tungsten balanced film in one of my studios in Basel. Which is which? Well the 5d is the one on the left.
On closer inspection, they both look equally sharp.

I took delivery of a digital Hasselblad earlier this year and am already blown away by the amount of details recorded. It'll be interesting to see what level of enlargement we can achieve with it.

 The old

... and the new (pic by Marcel Brodbeck)

As a side note. Both of the exhibition stands you see here were conceived, designed and produced by our in-house Visual Communications director Marcel Brodbeck.

Comments anyone?

Friday, 17 June 2011

The good old bad old days. Or, as time goes byte.

“Is digital photography making photographers lazy? Is it bringing in new talent who wouldn't otherwise have a chance to produce great "art" without understanding basic photographic techniques?”

In other words “Has digital made you a better photographer or has it made it easier for you to be a photographer?”

I got thinking about workflow and picture editing recently.

I read on Twitter about a cosmonaut who shot 35000 images during his time in space.

I see Tweets from photographers saying:

A day of catching up on retouching

Catching up on retouching today

1300 images down to 107 selects… now to choose the final 10 images

Retouching marathon… 24 hours before I fly

1600 images down to 110 selects

.. and so it goes on.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticising these very talented photographers, but when I read that they are shooting several THOUSAND images on a job then I get to wondering. Is this a case of "Spray 'n Pray?" I.e. Take loads of pictures and some of them are sure to be OK.

I have never shot that many images on one job but it seems to be slowly affecting me also. I recently shot a friends’ wedding and was amazed afterwards to see that I taken 680 pictures! Granted I had to reject 47 of them due to people blinking or the flash not going off and I’d been photographing constantly for eighteen hours but I’ve NEVER previously shot so many pictures on one job. I guess that this is due to my being raised with film. Previously I always knew that there were only 36 exposures to play with and that they had to be developed and that I wouldn’t see the results until they came back from the lab. This taught me about trying to get it right first time in the camera. I certainly do not want to spend half a day messing about on a computer after a job.

I was reminded of this a couple of weekends ago. I was in the French part of Switzerland and had set up my tripod and composed a photograph for a brochure shoot. I did a last minute check through the viewfinder. All verticals vertical? check. Horizontal lines true? Check. Then I noticed about six metres (about 20 feet) away a white object on the floor. I looked up and saw that it was a cigarette packet. Discarded by some Neanderthal too stupid to deposit it a bin.

I thought to myself. It's barely a speck and will be nearly invisible on the final TIFF file. I can always correct it in post production. Then it hit me. Digital photography is making me lazy. I went and deposited the packet into the nearest bin.
I have Photoshop. Version six to be exact. I don't need more as there isn't enough time for me to learn all its nuances. I use it mainly to spot my images, slightly sharpen images that the RAW conversion programme hasn't done properly and to correct converging verticals in photos where I didn't have a tilt and shift lens / camera combo with me on site. ( For that particular feature I use a Photoshop addon called "PTLens" by Tom Niemann)

All these things I used to do in the days when I used a darkroom. Dust would be blown off with some canned air, focus could be checked with the loupe under the enlarger and verticals corrected (somewhat) by tilting the enlarger head or at the taking process by either raising the camera (if possible) or using a tilt / shift lens.

If it’s people photography, then I may retouch a pimple or two but that’s as far as it goes. I’d like to think that the subject likes my pictures because it shows him / her as they really are. I get dismayed when I see the heavily airbrushed magazine covers on the shelves here. Beaming faces with impossibly flawless complexions. 

This image hasn't been 'shopped

I’m really trying with this post, not to sound like some Luddite who is afraid of welcoming new equipment and ideas. I'm not against technology but I use it sparingly.  I love the histogram feature on my camera. It gives me instant feedback and lets me know (most of the time), if I’m over or under exposing. But for most of the time, I shoot with the camera on manual and about half the time with the lens on manual focus. I still carry a Minolta light meter with me for those times when I want to have peace of mind regarding exposure. Granted, the instant preview is also good because now I don’t have to worry if my subject blinked or if a car or other object encroached on the image whilst I was taking it. It’s also good to give feedback to the model about the pose. In the old days, I’d have a mirror behind me (on studio shoots), where the model could see themselves and how the pose looked.

But even if digital went away tomorrow, I'd still be in love with the medium of photography and I'd still be able to limit myself to 36 pictures.

How many of today's current crop of rising star digital photogrpahers could say that?


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Interesting day

Photographing my friend Raphaela bodypainting the lovely Kisha today at the 15th Cruising Night party in Rothrist Switzerland.


More pictures to follow.

UPDATE: More pictures of Raphaela and Kisha on my website here.