Posts Published in August 2009

Interview with Joseph Holmes

Joseph Holmes is a landscape photographer from California, and a pioneer in fine art print making. Visit his website here. You can also read about him on Wikipedia here.


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PetaPixel: Could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

Joseph Holmes: I live in California and had an early introduction to some of its best natural beauty. Since high school, I’ve been dedicated to making the best body of landscape photographs that I can, with my efforts having been mainly aimed at color work. I spend a lot of time studying imaging processes and tools in order to be sure that I know the best methods to apply to my work, and therefore find myself in a position to offer teaching in advanced methods to other photographers. I write articles to assist other photographers which appear on my own web site, josephholmes.com, and in magazines, and I do teaching in one-on-one sessions and in occasional workshops. I also have invented a number of imaging techniques, including my favorite method for controlling the amount of color in an RGB imaging process. This is explained on the profiles pages of my web site. Making fine prints for sale has been a big part of my work for many years. I’ve published three books and many calendars and posters of my work too.

PP: How did you get started in photography?

JH: I learned from a book that photography could be something much deeper than merely making pictures of things. I also learned that these pictures could inform people of the sacred places of the Earth and the importance of protecting the wholeness of nature’s creations from the rising tide of our own impacts upon them. And finally, I learned from that same book that I had the ability to do this job well.

Hills, San Benito County, California  1986

PP: How old were you when you came across that inspirational book?

JH: I was 16 when I saw the book. It was a paperback copy of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format book, “Gentle Wilderness: The Sierra Nevada,” with photographs by Richard Kauffman and text from John Muir’s “My First Summer in the Sierra.” It was designed by my friend David R. Brower and/or his son Ken. I got to know Richard many years later. I had always hoped to run into him backpacking somewhere, but, more predictably I suppose, I first met him at Dave Brower’s 70th birthday party at the office of Friends of the Earth in San Francisco. I also met Governor Jerry Brown there too, in a rather humorous encounter. It was 1982.

PP: What was your first camera?

JH: The very first was literally a Kodak Brownie camera, with which I exposed just one roll of B&W film when I was 5 years old. The first one I used after encountering the inspirational book mentioned above was a $20 Kodak Pony camera, which used 828 format film, which is like 35 mm film but without the sprocket holes, so the frames are a bit larger and closer to 4×5 in shape. I always used Kodachrome 25. By the time I got the next camera as a high school graduation gift, a Minolta Autocord twin-lens-reflex medium-format camera, I already knew I wanted to work with a 4×5 Linhof Technika. The Linhof was fantastically compact and therefore sufficiently portable for my kind of work, and still rich with controls for tilt focus and perspective control, and so on. The second summer after I bought my first Technika, in 1971, I carried it during all 500 miles of backpacking that I did in 14 weeks, while doing part of a survey of the Yosemite backcountry for the National Park Service. That outfit weighed a mere 11 pounds and had just one lens and three film holders. The outfit would eventually grow to more like 50 pounds.

The elegant mud, Escalante, Utah  1979

PP: What equipment do you use now?

JH: Since the fall of 2006 I have been using digital capture. My current outfit is a Phase One (Mamiya AFD 3) camera body with a group of Mamiya lenses, carefully hand-chosen for quality, with a Phase One P45+ back. It’s quite a departure from the Linhof, but the resulting quality is, on average, higher even with respect to detail, and much higher with respect to color accuracy in the raw capture. It’s also much faster and allows for a very large number of exposures, which in turn makes it feasible to use stitching and focus blending to get different aspect ratios (height to width ratios), much more detail, and essentially any amount of depth of field needed. It’s very different, and now my pictures are frequently unique in shape, due to the stitching. The increased dynamic range and color quality make it practical to include lots of bright sky with darker foreground elements and retain superb quality in the highlights as well as strong, open shadows. This system goes well beyond what was possible with chemical B&W using every possible Zone System method, and it does so in color, which is inherently far more complicated. It’s been a long time coming.

PP: How do you decide what or where to shoot?

JH: I figure out where to make pictures by learning about the appearance of landscapes, mostly from other people’s pictures, but sometimes just by going there. Sometimes travels are arranged by friends who want to raft a particular river or see a particular place. I’ve always taken notice of the potential of various places to give me what I’m looking for and filed them away for a time when I see forces aligning to make it right to visit that place. Most interestingly, I usually find things in a landscape that I’ve never seen hinted at in other people’s pictures.

Another thing that struck me once I started to travel a lot outside of central California, was that no two landscapes are the same. I had imagined that there would be substantial regions where things were a certain way — a certain mixture of vegetation, geomorphological features, and weather. But as I’ve traveled, I’ve seen that this mixture is infinitely variable and that the patterns make each place unique. There are still places that look enough alike that I can’t always tell a place from one picture of it, but I’ve gotten quite good at identifying the location of scenes from North America and often the rest of the world. Some places have had very few pictures of them published (the Andes, the mountains of Kazhakstan, parts of Ukraine, etc.), and I’ve greatly enjoyed seeing amazing images of these places which were able to come as surprises.

Redwoods, Del Norte Coast, California  1990

PP: How much film do you carry with you on a typical outing?

JH: These days I carry compact flash cards and a laptop and a couple of small hard drives as backups. Flash memory capacity has grown to be so great that one can make thousands of exposures on a single trip, whereas a very heavy shooting schedule on prior trips with 4×5 film might result in 500 exposures in a couple of weeks. Compact flash is great. Backups and previewing still need to get better.

PP: Mac or PC? What programs do you use?

JH: I’ve never relied on Windows machines for any work to speak of, except software testing. I don’t see why anybody would choose to subject themselves to PCs or would willingly contribute financially to Microsoft any more than necessary, given their marked propensity to engage in anti-competitive behavior. The big market share and the build-it-yourself features are compelling, but Apple really has it together these days especially. My new Mac Pro is quite stunning. Over the next few years, the applications I use for imaging will grow to take advantage of multiple cores and virtual cores and the upcoming 64-bit OS, and so become a great deal faster even than they are today, with no change in hardware. Photoshop lags on technological advances, usually by about four years, and has therefore usually been painfully slow and awkward for my work. I’ve at least managed to squeeze a lot more speed out of CS4 for Mac with large files by using my new, dual-Intel E SSD RAID 0 array, described in this article.

For many years, from about 1995 through 2006, I relied primarily on Live Picture for image edits, which made working on large files possible and practical many years ahead of Photoshop, because it’s speed was generally independent of file size. I also like Helicon Focus (see my article about my work with the developer here), and both Photomerge (in Photoshop CS3 or CS4) and PTGui Pro for stitching. ColorThink is great for learning about color management-related issues, largely by displaying gamuts of devices based on their ICC profiles, and by displaying the colors of an image as points in 3D space by opening a very down-sampled TIFF (use Nearest Neighbor to scale down to roughly 100 x 100 pixels or a little bigger).

Mac OS 10.6 is going to be quite remarkable and I feel very good about depending on it and its successors for many years to come.

Sacred datura, Escalante, Utah  1976

PP: What is the best advice you could give to an aspiring landscape photographer?

JH: Once I asked Dave Bohn, the guy who produced Glacier Bay, the Land and the Silence, one of the other Sierra Club Exhibit Format books, ‘What should I do to get my work published?’, to which he replied ‘Do good work’. I thought, duh, why did I ask? As far as deciding to be a landscape photographer, just keep it keenly in mind that a very large number of people are interested in landscape photography these days, but the size of the professional niche for it is extremely small. Consider how many original prints of fine landscape photographs you have personally purchased, and you can begin to understand this. Therefore do not assume that you can make a living doing this unless you can outdo the many fanatics who are already trying to do it. Either with hard work, or with good work, or with better marketing.

Making great photographs can be unbelievably difficult. But since the mechanisms of photography have become easier lately, the quality and quantity of work produced have both gone up. It’s gotten so that when I go to any of the most iconic landscape views to make pictures during optimal times of the year, the number of tripods set up can be mind-boggling. In one famous spot, I counted 58 tripods waiting for the sunrise. Until a few years ago, the number would have been somewhere between zero and one.

Mist on the Potomac, Fort Washington, Maryland  1999

PP: What are the biggest challenges you face as a professional photographer?

JH: It’s very difficult to get all the work done that I need to get done. I spend a great deal of time in preparation. Much of that preparation has involved making tools either from scratch or in collaboration with companies of varying size in the imaging industry. Sometimes these efforts have lasted several years. My first darkroom was a dye-transfer printing lab, and I spent five years building and equipping it, on a budget. For the next color printing method, Cibachrome II, I spent three and a half years building a very fine, additive lamphouse for my Durst 5×7/8×10 enlarger, so that my Cibas would have more satisfying color than was otherwise possible (great blues and greens), and it worked. Better in fact than I ever imagined it might. It has 1500 parts and 1,000 electrical connections, half of which I soldered myself. It has over 120 precision-fabricated sheet metal parts, mostly hard black anodized. It’s a work of art and it made a much larger improvement in my Cibachromes than I had guessed it might. But now it’s a paperweight fit for a photography museum. The advance to the current level of color imaging over the last 40 years has been vast and upending and costly. Starting off now makes things much easier, but the same is true for the others who are thinking the same thing.

There are many challenges. It’s hard to say which are the biggest, but I’d probably have to say the burden of the technologies of photography. At least during my time to date. From now on it would be less, but still a major burden. The tools are expensive, if you want to do first-class work with the finest image detail. If single frames from a 12 to 24 MP full-frame DSLR are sufficient to please you (say, prints up to 16 x 24 or so), then life is pretty easy. Comparatively.

The next big challenge is probably to impose the discipline on yourself necessary to get the work done right. But that will be for naught if you don’t see well.

Alpenglow, Yosemite, California  1994

PP: What are some common mistakes you see photographers making?

JH: One of my favorite Anselisms is the notion of making sharp pictures of fuzzy concepts. One could describe that as being the most common mistake of any photographer who doesn’t do strong work.

PP: What is something you wish you had known when you first became a professional photographer?

JH: Nothing that I can think of. Aside from how to save the world from the thrashing its getting from the human enterprise. If we don’t learn how to live in harmony, as they say, with the Earth, and do so very soon, it’ll pretty much be over. What’s left of the biosphere is already a shadow of what it was a couple of centuries ago, and the explosion is still accelerating. Unfortunately, there are enough people who don’t know, don’t understand, and couldn’t care less, who are working to stifle efforts to save what’s left, that our chances of success are not good. Unless we all decide to put our shoulders to the task and overwhelm the fundamentalists with our efforts, we’re going to loose most of what’s left of creation, and very soon.

Our constitution holds the key to living in harmony not only with ourselves but with the living planet. Read just the preamble carefully. Fewer than 200 million human beings enjoying a high standard of living might be able to make things last for millennia or longer. We’re rapidly approaching 7,000 million total, and high-tech living is spreading rapidly.

We The People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Take particular note of “…and our Posterity”. How can we secure the Blessings of Liberty to our Posterity if we use them all up for ourselves? Clearly, this most beautiful paragraph ever written is saying, among other things, that it’s unconstitutional not to live sustainably — whatever that should require.

Trees in fog, Minarets Wilderness, California  1983

PP: Who are your favorite photographers, both historical and contemporary?

JH: Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Brett Weston, Cole Weston, Richard Kauffman, Joel Meyerowitz, Charles Cramer, Huntington Witherill, and who am I forgetting?

More than that, it was the Beatles and John in particular who were the greatest inspiration to live as an artist, frankly. And several of the painters have been powerful influences: van Gogh, Monet, O’Keefe, and Thomas Moran.

PP: Who is one person you would like to see interviewed by PetaPixel?

JH: I really couldn’t say, at the moment. Maybe it’s just too close to the end of a long day.

PP: Any final words of encouragement or wisdom you would like to share with PetaPixel readers?

JH: I should suggest that a finely crafted picture carries an implicit message — that the photographer cares about what was in front of the lens. In one way or another at least. And that if you work hard enough, you may be able to effect a positive change in our collective awareness of something that we might otherwise never see.

Celebrating with a Lensbaby Giveaway!

Update: This giveaway is now over. The winner has been randomly selected and announced here. Thanks for entering everyone!


If you follow us on twitter (@petapixel), you might have heard already, but we just passed 10,000 followers. Huzzah!

This blog is about four months old, so I’m definitely surprised at how far it has come in just one summer. Thank you all for reading and following us on Twitter.

To celebrate this big milestone, I’m going to be giving away a Lensbaby Composer lens and a Creative Aperture Kit. This combined package is worth $280. I probably don’t need to tell you much more about this lens. It’s Lensbaby.

composer

To enter this giveaway, simply answer the following question:

What is your favorite childhood memory?

As usual, there’s two ways to enter, and you can use both ways to double your chances.

  1. Leave your response as a comment on this PetaPixel.com post
  2. Tweet your response, and include the following link to this post anywhere in the tweet: http://bit.ly/pplbby

    If the link appears in your tweet, then our little giveaway elf will automatically find it and count it as an entry. If you don’t include the link, then our elf won’t be able to find it and it won’t be counted.

The deadline for getting your answer to us is the evening of Saturday, September 5th, 2009. We’ll be randomly selecting an entry using random.org.

Good luck!


Update: Some of you have been asking whether people outside the United States can enter. The answer is yes. The lens can be shipped internationally. Good luck!


Disclosure: Lensbaby is currently a sponsor of PetaPixel.

Shooting a Hummingbird (with a Camera)

Editor’s note: Whenever I see a hummingbird, I always want to shoot a low depth of field photograph of it, but I’ve never been able to. Thus, I was pretty impressed when I came across this photograph of a hummingbird in flight in our Flickr group pool, and asked David if he would write this guest post teaching PetaPixel readers how to photograph hummingbirds.


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Introduction

Pictures involving things that move are not always easy to come by. Pictures involving wild animals can be problematic. And getting a picture of a flying bird? However, sometimes you can make the opportunity happen. Such was the case a couple of weeks ago when my girlfriend noticed hummingbirds at our feeder. Perfect!

Equipment Used

I didn’t use any fancy equipment or tools, other than a rickety step ladder that happened to be handy. And truly, the stepladder isn’t all that important, so if you don’t have one, that is not a problem. All you truly need is your camera (my own camera of choice is a Pentax K10D) and some patience.

You also need hummingbirds. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where they are, you’re in business. Just hang up a feeder to attract them if you haven’t already done so. However, as you do this, think hard about two things. The first is making sure that you place the feeder such that the birds will use it, and the second is making sure you have a good line of camera sight to it with an acceptable background. However, since we are, hopefully, going to leave the entire background out of focus, look more for areas of color than details in the background.

hum-feeder

For us, we hung the feeder on our front porch. This gave me a very fine place to wait, gave the birds lots of excellent flying room, and provided a wonderful background of green trees and blue skies. The other great thing about the location is that although it let the birds fly as they will, it constrained their flight ever so slightly and gave me the final tool I needed: a predictable approach to the feeder.

Camera Settings

My goal was to capture a hummingbird in flight, so I didn’t want anything really distracting in the picture—like, for example, the actual feeder or anything in the background in focus. I really wanted was just the hummingbird.

For the lens I used a reasonably long focal length—250mm in this case—at a reasonably short distance away (about 4 feet). Using a quick depth of field calculation, I realized that my focus had to be spot on because the total depth of field was going to be very, very small. (You can find a great online depth of field calculator here) Because of this, I decided to place my camera in manual focus mode.

Also, because of my porch, I needed a bit more extra light to bring out all the details of the hummingbird. I popped up my onboard camera flash—no groans, please! It was all I had at the moment and it came through. Equipment at hand is often the best equipment there is and always beats having nothing.

hum-camsettingsMy final camera settings were 1/180 at f/11, using a 250mm lens at about 4 feet with my on-camera flasht. Yes, the depth of field was tight, but not impossibly so. Best of all, the background was wonderfully out of focus and provided some really nice bokeh. I fired off a couple of test shots and inspected them. My camera allows me to enlarge the picture on the LCD screen, so I did that to be extra certain of the focus.

Taking the Pictures

I wanted the picture to be more of a “from the side” picture, rather than “below, shooting up” picture, so I used my stepladder. This wasn’t the best of all supports, especially since it is rickety (to be charitable to it) and my girlfriend was ready with her camera for when I fell off (alas, she was disappointed in not getting that action shot). I sat patiently at the top of the stepladder (Photo below by Mary Beth McClean).

hum-david

After a short while the hummingbirds started coming to the feeder. I sat there first and simply studied them and watched, which was something quite enjoyable. At that point, I realized that even if the picture didn’t come to be, I had a wonderful time watching…and no matter what that alone made it enjoyable. I actually just watched them for a good while, observing what they did–how did they approach the feeder? How did they land? How long were they on the feeder? What did they do when they took off? What side did they favor?

It didn’t take long to realize that many of the birds followed a pattern. They would fly in fast to the feeder, but then, a couple of feet away from it, pull up for a moment and hover for a very brief time before heading straight to the feeder. This was to be my window of opportunity and I pointed the camera to where they often hovered, making sure the feeder was not in the frame. Since I was using manual focus the camera did not attempt to refocus—perfect. All I could see through the viewfinder was the background—again, perfect.

That’s how I did it. I simply waited until the bird I wanted (a very nice looking male) followed the pattern, and gently pressed the shutter release when he hovered for a brief moment. Presto! Even though the flash went off, the bird, amazingly, didn’t seem to mind, and went straight on to the feeder. In the end I managed several good shots.

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Final Thoughts

The key to my success with this photo wasn’t anything fancy—rather, it was taking advantage of a situation I found, being patient, and observing. Once I discovered there was a pattern, it became a matter of waiting and watching. It didn’t take all that long, and all the while I was able to take the shot I wanted, rather than chasing the birds all over the place.

Although we can’t always get Mother Nature to do our bidding, she does help us along. All we have to do is be sensitive to her rhythms and patterns.


About the author: David lives just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico and is considered armed and dangerous when he has a camera. Mostly dangerous. You can view more of his work on Flickr. He still talks about the “shot that got away” but is optimistic he will get it next time.

An Automated Street Photography Tool?

party-shotIf you haven’t heard already, earlier this month Sony unveiled the new Party-shot personal photographer.

As the name suggests, this is a new camera dock that automatically tilts, pans, composes, detects faces, and takes candid photographs of people at parties. Pretty interesting, huh?

When I first heard about this new “personal photographer”, I immediately started thinking about its potential uses. Basically, you have an immobile robot that can take candid photos through facial recognition that you can place anywhere.

Wouldn’t candid street photography be an interesting application of this new technology?

You would place the camera and robotic dock anywhere on the street at any height, stand by it for a while as people walk near it, and then harvest the candid photographs taken afterwards.

Though you wouldn’t have creative control over the photographs you end up with, this would still be a neat experiment. I can already imagine people making Flickr sets or groups around this very idea.

In fact, I’m going to make one right now, before the thing is even shipped in September. Here it is: Party-shot Street Shots. If you end up buying this $150 dock come September and take some automatic candid street photos with it, be sure to join the group and add them to the pool!

There’s no word on whether it will be customizable or programmable, allowing you to specify conditions for the automatic photography. If Sony is smart, they’ll open up the system to hackers and people who want to customize the Party-shot’s operation.

Let me know what you think about the Party-shot’s potential street photography application. Also, if you can think of any other interesting applications of the Party-shot, let’s discuss it in the comments of this post!

Noise Ninja Winners Announced

Sorry for not picking and announcing the Noise Ninja giveaway winners last night as I said I would. I just moved back to Berkeley for graduate studies in CS, and my new place doesn’t have Internet yet. I finally got some Internet access now, sitting in the East Asian Library on campus:

library

So, the giveaway has ended, and we received a total of 95 comment entries and 67 entries through twitter for a total of 162 entries. The three numbers (and winners) that I randomly selected are:

#155: Bob Snyder (@fordan)

A Snow Leopard. I heard there’s a cool new operating system modeled after it!

#132: Joe Reding (@JoeReding)

If I could be any animal I wanted to be I would be an owl.

#110: Treasa Lynch (@treasa)

I’d like to be a bat, today, at least.

Congratulations! Please email [email protected] to claim your Noise Ninja license.

Thanks to everyone who participated! Also, I’ll be giving away something pretty awesome in the coming days to celebrate PetaPixel crossing the 10,000 follower mark on Twitter. Stay tuned!


Some other interesting responses we received:

ivoryhut (website)

I’d be a panda bear and pinch my own cheeks all day. I’d have to figure out how to work a camera remote, though, for all those pictures I’ll be wanting to take of myself. Before I go extinct.

micahtaylor (website)

For sure a Three-toed sloth. It’s like a Wookie in real life.

Rob Goldberg (@rob_goldberg)

If I could be an animal I would be an Organ Oak. Also known in some parts of the world as a Kangaroo (at least those parts of the world that don’t speak in anagrams).

Interview with Larry Treadway of gotreadgo

Larry Treadway is the photoblogger behind gotreadgo.


ltp

PetaPixel: Could you tell me a little about yourself?

Larry Treadway: Brief history, working graphic artist since about age 19, I took an early “retirement” from local government to host a talk radio show for a couple years when the “internets” hit and I went back into graphic arts doing web design and advertising. Somewhere in there while doing some of that I managed then owned a bar that featured bad music and cheap beer. Ultimately landed in the field of healthcare doing marketing, advertising and design. Analog photography is the disconnect from my digital work life. Bad plastic cameras are my kind of rebellion to the glut of computers, monitors and peripherals required for me to make a living. I’ve tried to be an artist of some sort most of my life, from photography to a stint screaming in a loud punk rock band I’ve had that need to express something…basically I’ve failed at a lot of different things. Trying to be a decent father, Internet instigator and creative-type using photography as a tool to help that along.

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PP: How did you first get into photography?

LT: I’ll try and keep some of the sentimentality to a minimum here but as a child I was raised by my grandparents and my grandmother kept a box of old photos, black and white mostly. I was somewhat obsessed with looking at this box of scattered family history. At about age 11 I got a camera for Xmas. At about 17, I got another one, a 35mm SLR. I shot stuff, read a lot, shot more, looked at Edward Weston books and images constantly, discovered Arbus, Meatyard, Bresson…started listening to more extreme musicians, reading about tortured artists and ultimately ended up with a part-time job developing black and white film for a Public Information office which allowed me access to doing my own stuff. From there I took on some freelance photo work and as I continued with school and learned more about design the two things, in the end collided for me professionally. I’m draw to imagery and design in much the same way but I don’t do any commercial photography that looks anything like what I consider “my art.” I don’t know if I really answered the question, the simplest answer, I just got myself into it, studied, practiced and shot…and I am still doing all of those things 25 years later.

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PP: What was your first camera?

LT: A Kodak “the Handle.” A crankable instant film competitor to Polaroid. My first 35mm was a Pentax MESuper. I loved it, ultimately became a Nikon geek but came back to Pentax of late with a big ol’ Pentax 67.

PP: What equipment do you use now?

LT: For most of my personal photography work I keep it limited to antiquated little shitty 120 cameras like the Holga, Diana and the clones of the Diana. I also love old 35mm rangefinders. I have a couple fantastic old Canon GIII QL17s and that Pentax 67 and a Kiev 60 and an old Rolleiflex. Throw in some old Polaroids and a Lomo LC-A and those things capture most of the images I show the world. I just love shooting with equipment with limitations. Don’t get me wrong new cameras are great tools and capture beautiful images but personally I like having parameters placed on me. Toy cameras don’t focus well, the viewfinders suck, the exposure compensation is nil and in the end nothing I do shoot is about the camera, it’s just about the subject and whether I was capable enough to capture it provocatively enough to matter…at least to me.

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PP: What, in your opinion, are the biggest pros and cons of shooting with toy cameras?

LT: Well I’ll start with the cons, there’s many, most all of them relating to lack of camera controls. If you’re lucky you get a couple apertures, not a very dynamic range of options and when you consider you have one shutter speed controlled by a cheap little spring that ultimately will wear out and lack real consistency of speed. You have to guess on focus based on distance, your viewfinder aids you very little in framing and the fact that your aren’t viewing what the lens is seeing is definitely problematic. You throw in the fact they are difficult to load quickly, they allow light in, you can drop them and they bust and “real” photographers snicker at you and you have a lackluster tool at best. But you can take all those cons and try and make those into pros by learning what your camera does, each one seems to have individuality, the cheap plastic lenses blur in different areas, the cheap film transfer system might not hold the film plane as level as it should which also causes aberrations and who knows where the light might come in. These things can make for interesting in camera effects. The lack of control is the beauty of it all, there’s a freedom to it, all you can do is shoot and try to get an image, it’s a lottery, you may or may not win every time. That might not be for you if tend to be a perfectionist, shooting with toy cameras will frustrate you, there is no perfection.

lt1

PP: What are some common mistakes you see people make when using toy cameras?

LT: There’s a lot to think about initially when using a toy camera, remembering the little things…removing the lens cap, setting the focus, remembering to advance the film. Making mistakes is all part of it. If you haven’t wasted more than a few frames or rolls you probably haven’t shot enough with your toy camera. The biggest misconception is that these crappy cameras might make your crappy photography somehow better. The same rules apply, the camera is just a tool, you still need good light, composition, subject matter — it’s no different. I think toy camera see great images online made with Holgas or Dianas and fall in love with some of these shots and decide it’s all the camera. Believe me the people doing the best work with toy cameras would be doing the best work no matter what camera is in their hands. Warren Harold, Bill Vaccaro, Gary Moyer, Susan Burnstine, Annabelle Texter, Gordon Stettinius, these folks I love their work dearly, they have been using these cameras for years but believe me, they all have a wealth of cameras at their disposal and they all create great images not matter what tool they are using. You can’t depend on your camera to make you a photographer that really is all on you.

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PP: How would you describe your photography to someone who has never seen it?

LT: I love the band Jesus Lizard, David Yow, the singer, was always asked, “what kind of music do you play?” His simple answer was “loud rock.” My simple answer I guess would be “fine art without the fine.” Shit, for the most part the pictures that have the most impact on people seem to be the ones that I can best describe as “blurry, sad stories of boys growing up.” I guess that works pretty well.

PP: Is there any background behind the name “tread”?

LT: My last name is Treadway. I went to elementary school in the 70s and it was common for male teachers to refer to male students by their last name down here in the pseudoSouth where I was raised. I got called “trailway,” “treadwell,” “trailwood,” “turdway,” most of my young life except by friends who just sort of shortened it to “tread” as an easy to pronounce, one syllable alternative to my last name. It just kind of stuck and although it probably plays like some egomanical one name “madonna,” “cher,” or “prince” thing it’s really not, it’s just something that works well online, quick, dirty and a little easier to remember…the go tread go thing is well, just that, a cheer, a motivational chant, an urging to myself…to go, to make something happen, to say something…to continue.

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PP: When, why, and how did you start gotreadgo and your photoblog?

LT: I guess I’m about at 800 posts on the blog. So it’s about 4 years old I guess. I have to blame ToyCamera.com for really making me realize that there might be a method to my madness. Back in the late 80s I discovered a magazine called Shots…it’s the same great magazine that Russell Joslin publishes but back then it was published about 20 miles away in a small town called Danville, KY. I saw black and white images that were blurry, framed oddly and just plain different featured in those pages. That’s when I bought my first Holga, like everyone else, it frustrated me at first, not as quick and durable as my Nikons so it stayed stored away for years until I pulled it out one day and loaded it…and then I found ToyCamera.com. Talented people were sharing insight, motivation and images at the forum and I looked in on them for a while before diving in submitting to a World Camera Day gallery thing that Mike Barnes at the site had put together…from there I got a better scanner and started building a portfolio of work and expanded that to the web and started submitting to gallery shows and applying for grants and fellowships and the like that artists ultimately wind up doing. It’s worked out pretty well and I have no doubt it’s because of my online presence. The blog is just a way to stay motivated, to vent, to talk out loud. I have no real idea who is listening, I have some rudimentary web tracking to the site and blog and it gets a little traffic but that’s the mystery of the web, you don’t know how to measure successes or failures relating to web traffic unless of course you’re hawking porn or seeing how many hits you can get for your chimp washing a cat video clip. Not that I don’t like the occasional monkey doing something funny video. I guess it’s just about keeping myself interested.

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PP: What role does text play in your photoblog?

LT: Text in the photoblog? Well, I’m not very good at just letting images tell the complete story I guess. Too much of a big, dumb mouth. Sometimes the words are about the pictures, sometimes the pictures just illustrate something to do with the words. Sometimes the picture is just the picture and the words, well the words are just a rant about my world. That could be political, artistic, music related, but it’s always personal and hopefully, at least a little, thought provoking. I think it works sometimes, I get a fair share of emails from supporters and detractors. I try and educate and entertain if I can, edutainment I guess but I don’t take myself that seriously but art and words and being caustic and confrontational is all that sort of old schooly punk rock thing. I love zines, fanzines from the 80s and 90s that provoked a bit while reviewing whatever, music, movies, culture. So my photoblog is a rip-off of old zine culture a little I guess. But I’m cool with that, I hope it’s my own slant on obnoxiousness with better photography.

PP: How do you approach photography? What is your mindset when shooting, and how much do you shoot at a time?

LT: I ebb and flow as approach. Sometimes I set out to photograph. Photography being the goal. I need to shoot. But as you know doubt have personally witnessed it doesn’t always work out creatively. You’ll have camera full of film, something in mind to shoot or a place to go and in the end, there’s something lacking. I hate that, but it happens, there just isn’t any thing magical that’s going to get captured. I shoot my kids a lot, it’s an ongoing project of sorts, documenting them and the sometimes banal or boring aspects of growing up a boy. Those things don’t require a lot of planning. Of course, they aren’t always into having a shitty camera in their face, so it can wait, the art can be put on hold or I can try a different approach. I like to shoot a roll at a time. 12 or 16 frames on 120 of the same mood, same set-up, same filters or lighting or whatever then reload and try something different if possible. I’ve learned what my cameras can do, I think it’s important so I don’t have to use the viewfinder much. I point the lens, it sounds silly I know but I set the focus at the distance it needs to be and I point the lens at the subject. I don’t always get what I want, but sometimes I get something better than what I wanted. I still like the surprise, that surprise affirms my less than conventional approach. I can just point and wait till I want to click while looking at my subject unfettered by the viewfinder. Sometimes it’s weeks before I get to process the film — that multiplies the surprise. Gene Meatyard would shoot all year and process and print on his two week vacation from his business. I imagine that had to be quite an experience when he saw the negs. I like that feeling of forgetting what I had shot.

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PP: Can you briefly describe your workflow?

LT: I load. I tape the hell out of the camera. I shoot. I develop. I scan using a nice Epson film scanner. I clean up dust in Photoshop save a hi-res and make a lower res version for online use. It’s not very exciting as far as technical geekery goes. I wish it was. I like to do stuff with old close-up diopters and some homemade filters and sometimes I just fog the lens with my breath and wait for it to begin to dissipate or I lick the lens and slobber it up and then click. But my workflow doesn’t include must glamour. I’m old, my equipment is old…but I do have a 30-inch monitor and a 24 monitor at the office so I look pretty hi-tech. This Mac is sporting about 16 gb or ram so I can get some nice negative scans…

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PP: What are some common questions or comments you receive from fans?

LT: I don’t know if I have fans. Honestly, I don’t. I have friends I have met online or photographers who say nice things but I don’t know if they are fans. I get a lot of newbie toy camera emails, I teach a couple Toy Camera workshops a year locally so I’m cool with sharing info and how-tos and camera mods. That’s a big thing, folks always want to know how to get close-ups with a toy camera since they only really focus down to about 3 feet. So as I said, I share what I know. I get a lot of comments about the politics. I’m liberal, I’m not militant or anything but I guess I offend some while sometimes saying things folks wish they could say or say in private. I like being that photoblog guy who rants like a lunatic. I’m cool with that. I hope though I that I have the photos to back it up in the end. The ones that might end up on a gallery wall or in a living room or something. Just being the town crier isn’t really what I want, I still want to be considered a decent photo artist. I think people connect with pictures of the kids despite my loud mouth or bad taste. So maybe that is a testament to the images.

PP: What is the most annoying thing you’re asked?

LT: This happens more away from the web. It has to do with carrying around toy cameras. I have to explain them a lot. Taped up, plastic and cheap compared to the digi-nightmares that are all the rage. I get sick of explaining the “why?” and “what does it do?” questions about the toy cameras. I don’t mind if there is real curiosity and not just the typical “my ***** is bigger than yours” photographer talk. If it comes off as that, I usually just say, “they do the same thing yours does…just slower…and better.” I’m the same lovable asshole in person that I am on the web. I smile while cutting them off at the knees, so it’s not really annoying…it’s just an opportunity.

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PP: Who are your favorite photographers?

LT: I consider myself a student. I’m learning every single day. I love so many shooters, so many artists. My favorite photographer, hands down, is Ralph Eugene Meatyard. He lived and worked here, in Lexington, Kentucky. They’re just so much to love about his work, the kids, the surrealism, the work ethic, the constant striving to establish photography as art. Had Meatyard been a New Yorker he might be considered one of the greatest photographers in the world during his life. But he was content to make his art in Kentucky and work as an optician. I mentioned Weston, again, incredible inspiration for me although I don’t try and shoot anything like him. I love Diane Arbus. I love Nancy Rexroth. Those are all name you know. Right now I love seeing what many of my online “friends” are doing. You’ve interviewed Shannon Richardson here, he’s phenomenal. I mentioned Warren Harold, Bill Vaccaro, Gary Moyer, Susan Burnstine, Annabelle Texter, Gordon Stettinius, they all continue to amaze me because of their vision and how it is transferred to their ongoing work. There’s so many others shooting today, all different styles. I’m not just boxed into toy camera photographers, Shen Wei, Otto K, Aline Smithson, Polly Chandler, Beck, Blake Andrews, Rocky Schenck, are all deliver imagery worthy of any wall. I’m not good at this because I love so much work and I’ll always forget someone who means something to me.

PP: Who is one person you would like to see interviewed by PetaPixel?

LT: I’m going with Gordon Stettinius. He seems to have something to say about things that I like.

PP: Anything else you would like to say to PetaPixel readers?

LT: Do as I say, not as I do… Shoot more, gripe less. And in all seriousness, thanks.

MIOPS: Smartphone Controllable High Speed Camera Trigger

MIOPS is a new smartphone-controlled camera trigger that combines all of the features photographers want in a high-speed camera trigger into one convenient device.

Read more…

Fotomoto Takes the Pain Out of Selling Prints

fotomotoRecently I’ve been working with Fotomoto co-founder Ahmad Kiarostami towards getting their service integrated into Photoblog. They’re a relatively new company offering a pretty interesting service, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on what I’ve seen so far with you.

Fotomoto is a service that helps you sell prints (and cards) of your photographs through your website or photoblog. I don’t have any personal experience with anything past getting the service set up, but the functionality and print quality probably isn’t very shabby, since some pretty notable photobloggers have begun selling their prints exclusively through Fotomoto (i.e. David Nightingale of Chromasia and Sam Javanrouh of daily dose of imagery).

When Ahmad first told me that the service required adding only two lines of code, I figured he meant two lines for each image you intend to sell. Turns out, you literally add two lines of javascript to the footer of your page, and the service “magically” figures out which images you’re trying to sell based on image dimensions.

Here’s what the code you add looks like:

<script type=’text/javascript’ src=’http://widget.fotomoto.com/stores/script/63ca5507bcee031e7976a1c4ca03be349b491033.js’></script>
<noscript>If Javascript is disabled browser, to place orders please visit the page where I <a href=’http://www.fotomoto.com/store/63ca5507bcee031e7976a1c4ca03be349b491033′ target=’_blank’>sell my photos</a>, powered by <a href=’http://www.fotomoto.com’ target=’_blank’>Fotomoto</a>.</noscript>

Basically it’s just a single line of javascript. The second line shows a message to people who don’t have javascript enabled. The long, random string of letters and numbers is my personal Site Key. It’s of no use to you, since you’re also required to enter the URL of each site the Fotomoto code will appear on to activate those URLs.

Does this installation process remind you of anything?

If you’ve ever installed Google Analytics on a website, then you’ll find the Fotomoto installation process to be nearly identical. Once you have it installed, it automatically adds a text toolbar under your photographs. Here’s what it looks like on Sam’s photoblog:

fotomoto1

What it looks like on David’s (a little more customized):

fotomoto2

Clicking the link to buy a print brings up a Fotomoto widget that steps the buyer through the purchasing process.

fotomoto3

You don’t need high-resolution images available to Fotomoto at the time of the sale. Once you make a print sale, you’ll be asked to upload a high-resolution image with which the print will be made.

There’s a good amount of flexibility in the system, allowing you to set your own prices, manage which photos are for sale, etc… The service is free to sign up for and use, and you pay Fotomoto only when you sell prints (the cost to produce the print + 15% of the sale price). You get paid when your balance grows past $200.

Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed with what I’ve seen. I think it’s a service that many photographers will find useful, since it takes the pain and hassle out of selling prints, allowing you to focus on your photography. They’re in open beta now, so you can sign up without an invite code. Check it out!


I just asked David Nightingale about his experience with Fotomoto, since I don’t have any first-hand experience with their quality:

Before I started using Fotomoto I sent them one of my most difficult images to print: a deeply saturated shot, with a wide tonal range, that I couldn’t print myself – at least not well. Suffice to say that Fotomoto did a great job of it and I’ve been using them ever since.

Interview with Gary Salter

Gary Salter is a professional photographer based in London UK. You can visit his website at Gary Salter Photography. His clients include Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Ford, Vodafone, Citibank, LG, Jaguar, Nike, McDonalds, and Playstation.


PetaPixel: Could you tell me a little about yourself and what you do?

Gary Salter: I’m a Photographer based in London, I’ve been shooting for 17 years. I grew up in the north of England, I Studied graphics and photography at Liverpool, worked for a short time in the design world before making the break into photography. My interest in photography developed when I was about 8, It seemed natural that I would end up in a visual field when I was older. I also had an ability to draw, this eventually pushed me into studying graphics , the liverpool course had a strong photographic department, which was perfect for me. After college I ended up in the design world, working alongside some of londons top photographers, this was inspiring,

It was only time before I had to make the break.

PP: What kind of photography do you do?

GS: My commissioned work is 90% advertising based. It’s mainly people on location, quirky people. Some of the images are quite ironic, and we try to have as much fun as possible with them.

The commissioned work originally stem from my early street photography which contain a lot of observational humour. I still continue my ‘hobby’ street photography and tend to use it as a ‘sketch pad’ for ideas. Ideas that I can make into something bigger.

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PP: How did you first get into photography? What was your first camera?

GS: I was 8 years old and I loved it, I think it was a Kodak Instamatic. My first serious camera at 18 was a Canon AE1. It was a gift when I started at college.

PP: What equipment do you use for your work now?

GS: I use whatever it takes for the job. It’s not really about the camera, it’s about the picture. I work out the requirements then use the best camera to solve the problem, I have a lot of cameras in the collection.

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PP: Which would you say are your favorite cameras and lenses?

GS: My favourite camera is the one that will solve the problem the best, I can list a few. The Canon 1Ds MK3 is amazing, It’s a work horse, Is great in more stressed conditions where there’s less control. The hassleblad H3 D2, fantastic for the larger setup multiple people sets and huge productions. The leica M8 is fantastic as the street camera, it looks old fashioned its not in your face and it’s quiet.

PP: You’ve work with some pretty notable clients. Were there any that stick out as being especially fun to shoot for?

GS: I’m very fortunate in having a fantastic crew, all jobs are fun, there are many a story from many productions and some do stand out, but it would not be fair to name them.

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PP: Can you tell me about your workflow? What’s the process like for a photo to go from your camera to the final image?

GS: Varies again on requirement, we shoot into Macs, makes life much easier, files are regularly backed up onto external raids.

We then build presentation websites for the clients to make selections. I have already made my selections and they are on the site too as preferenced shots. These tend to be the ones we work with at the end. Post production is split between myself and a company called loupe. They know how I want the images to look, and we work well together.

The client is kept up to date with the progress of the post production by a website where we launch the latest ‘critical’ changes to the image, they see a string of images next to each other from start to finish. Then it’s supplied to the client.

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PP: Many of your photographs seem to be very elaborately staged. How many people are involved in each shoot, and how long do the shoots generally take?

GS: The idea stages take the time. Once we have a plan then anything can be achieved. There are many people. Vinita Dave does the production alongside myself. There will be hair make up and assistant, stylist and assistant, location finders. I like to build my own sets, (e.g. the sauna shots we built in my studio in shoreditch, and so was the changing room for the old footballers), I build these with one of my long term assistants Jose, amongst others. We will have 3 assistants on a shootday and a digital operator, then anyone else the project requires, eg stylists, hairmakeup etc etc.

PP: Who are the people that appear in your staged photos? How do you find the people you want?

GS: We use a mixture of model agencies and actors agents. It’s organised via a casting agent. If we can’t find them there, then we’ll street cast. I have a lot of respect for my casting agent, she really knows the business.

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PP: Is there anything you wish you had known when you first started out in commercial photography?

GS: Yes, you don’t get much time off. You have to be completely committed, and have a love for images.

Money too. Very difficult… This means all the money goes back into the business, banks don’t understand what we do. We don’t make widgets, so they don’t get it. It’s hard work to get to a level where you don’t have to talk to them.

If you believe in pictures, you can do it.

PP: What advice would you have for an aspiring photographer who dreams of getting to where you are now?

GS: Carry a camera at all times and use it all the time. Observe and enjoy.

Test, test, test, set yourself projects, and see them through. Pictures get old quicker these days, you always need something new to show people.

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PP: How important would you say a formal education in photography is?

GS: Good question. My best assistants over the years have all done degree courses, they know their stuff. They have then assisted for 4 years before moving on to their own stuff.

I have met allot of assistants that think its easier than it is, They break out too soon because they see the money. They tend to struggle and end up shooting things they don’t want to, things that aren’t right for them. The guys who really do well are the ones that do the time.

It’s not essential these days, but it’s a massive advantage.

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PP: What does a formal education provide you with that is difficult to obtain otherwise?

GS: A chance to find your own direction, find what you would like to create in a competitive market, then give you the opportunity to go and get work with someone in that area who’s work you respect.

PP: Are there any photographers whom you keep up keep up with online?

GS: It seems strange to say I try to avoid that as much as possible, I like to do my own thing which has taken a very natural progression, watching what others are doing isn’t that healthy. I have had experiences when I have known people to become a little over influenced.

I do go to exhibitions, I keep up with the industry press, I love photo books, I just don’t like the online thing.

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PP: Could you name some other photographers you respect?

GS: I’d have to go to the old school guys, likes of Elliott Erwitt, and Bresson.

Quite like more recent people like Martin Parr and David LaChapelle.

PP: If you could choose one person to be interviewed on PetaPixel, who would it be?

GS: Elliott Erwitt. Love to know what he was thinking when he took some funnier images.

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PP: Any final thoughts you’d like to leave PetaPixel readers with?

GS: Final thoughts, many, but most importantly, Always carry a camera, use it as a sketch pad for your ideas, enjoy using it, ignore the rules and have fun.

Hi-Yah! Killing Noise With Noise Ninja

Update: This giveaway is now over. The winners were randomly selected and announced here. Thanks to everyone who participated!


One of the tools I occasionally bust out during post-processing is Noise Ninja, a noise-reduction program/plugin used by seven of the ten largest newspapers in the United States.

Take this photograph I took yesterday as an example:

before

Though I was shooting outdoors with plenty of light, I had accidentally left my ISO set at 1600. This caused the photograph to end up looking dirty and full of noise. In addition, I underexposed the photo, giving it even more noise after correcting the exposure during post-processing.

You can hover over the above image to see the image after using Noise Ninja on it.

Don’t see much of a difference? Maybe a crop of a smaller area of the frame will help you see what Noise Ninja does (hover over this before image to see the after image):

beforec

Neat, huh? The amount of noise in the photo was significantly reduced, even before tweaking and selectively editing the image. For some more before-and-after examples, visit the gallery on the PictureCode website.

I’m giving away three (3) Noise Ninja Pro Bundle licenses, each worth $79.95. These bundles include the Photoshop plugin, the Aperture plugin, and the standalone program. All you need to do to enter this giveaway is answer the following question:

If you could turn into any animal, which animal would you choose?

There’s two ways you can tell us your answer, and feel free to use both ways:

  1. Leave a comment on this post (at PetaPixel.com)
  2. Tweet your answer, and include this link somewhere in the tweet:

    http://bit.ly/ptpxnn

    The tweet doesn’t even need to be @petapixel. As long as the link is somewhere in the tweet, our friendly little giveaway bot will find it.

This giveaway will end next Tuesday morning, on August 25th, 2009. We’ll be picking the winner randomly using random.org. As usual, in addition to the winner we’ll post some of the more creative or interesting responses we receive.

Good luck!


PictureCode is not (currently) a sponsor of PetaPixel. They were simply nice enough to provide us with these licenses for us to give away to you, our awesome readers.


Update: Just learned that I had accidentally posted the deadline as September 1st, or a week later than I intended. Fixed it to read August 25th. Thanks for catching this @scottnopants!

An App for Finding Original Flickr Pages

findr_logoOne of the things I often come across when looking for interesting photography to tweet about is static Flickr image URLs. People seem to like posting these images without linking back to their original Flickr pages, while I prefer linking to Flickr pages so the photographer can get the credit for the photo.

If you’re not sure what I mean by static image URLs, here is an example of a static Flickr URL that links directly to the image and not the Flickr page of the original photograph:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3632/3811569661_f801d1837f.jpg

A while back I tweeted a link to an article teaching you how to find the original Flickr page of a static URL. I’ve found this technique very useful, but it’s a big hassle if you need to do it often, since is not exactly something you memorize.

Thus, I decided to make a really simple web application that takes you directly to the original Flickr page of any static Flickr URL. It’s called findr, and here’s what it ended up looking like:

findr_screen

Hopefully some of you will find this useful. It sure beats doing the process by hand. Let me know if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or bug reports.


Update: If you have any suggestions for simple apps that you would find useful, let me know!