Breaking some rules

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta chuck the rules. Sometimes, things like motion blur, out of focus subjects, grossly over, or under-exposed light are part of the story.

The photojournalism approach. Get the shot, even at the expense of technique.

However, the best photojournalists know know all the rules, and know how to break them in ways that actually add to the story they’re trying to tell. Unless you’re trying to do something like Richard Billingham, that, to me, seems the way to go.

Make the effort trying to learn -or at least understand all the rules, then, spend the rest of your life mostly trying to ignore them.

The above, from a purely technical standpoint, are rather shitty photos, but putting them into context allows me to ignore all the flaws.

The first, taken with a phone cam, is someone doing what we’ve all done plenty of times before. Getting out of the rain.

The next two, were taken the night the Raptors won the NBA championship. People were running amok, celebrating, and high-fiving strangers. (If you’ve ever thought of getting into street photography, start by going to a big celebratory event, or something like it. People are more likely to want to have their photos taken, or are at least more accepting.)

It was nearing midnight, on a Tuesday, so obviously, the lack of light was going to be a big concern. High ISOs, and the lowest possible shutter speeds I could get away with, meant there was going to be some grain, and motion blur. 

I’m no photojournalist, that’s for sure, but I thought of some of the things that I had learned -wide angle lens; get in close; shoot lots, and did my best.

I’m happy with what I got.

Liar liar pants on fire!

All photography lies. 

And I’m not just talking about the obvious photo manipulation with Photoshop

Our eyes just don’t ‘see’ like a camera does.

For starters, we have stereoscopic vision. 

Then, there’s the fact that our eyes have way more dynamic range what used to be known as ‘exposure latitude -the range between the lightest, and darkest things in a given scene that we can distinguish) than any camera ever invented. Our eyes ‘auto-focus’ blows away even the top professional DSLRS; and if you’re in good health, your eyes can distinguish between 100,000, and ten million (depending on the source) different colours.

Pretty bloody incredible, huh?

But the most amazing part of how we see, is our processor. Our brains.

We don’t see in static images like a photograph -although we can, if we choose- we see in composites. Our eyes are constantly scanning what we are looking at, and compiling all of the input to give us an ‘image.’

That’s what Picasso was doing -or trying to say, when he broke all the rules with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

He was trying to show more than one perspective at the same time. Trying to say, ‘this is how we really see the world.’

And we do. Our world is not static. Whether our subject is moving, or we are moving, or whether it’s our eyes scanning an image, things are in motion.

Anyone who’s ever tried to doodle a human face has come across this problem before. Eyes? Not too hard. Couple of pointy ovals, with circles, and dots in them. Looks, more or less, like an eye. Mouth? Same thing. Rough crescent shape, with a curving horizontal slash through the middle to imply lips.

Now the nose. Oh shit. Now I’ve got to consider perspective. Do I shade? Do I just draw a slightly off axis  slash to suggest depth?

Unless you’re blind, everyone knows what a nose looks like. Committing that idea to paper with a pencil, however, is what separates the women from the girls.

Cameras, though, are big fat lying liars. They turn 3D images into 2D. They can force a perspective to fool us. They can create false depth of field…  Good artists, and architectural designers know this, and can use it to their creative benefit.

Then, there’s the other type of bullshitting. The type I’m most guilty of.

For starters, unless we have something seriously wrong with our eyes, and or brain, we don’t see in black and white. Then, there’s the ‘taking liberties’ aspect of creating an image -what most photographers call post processing. You know, all that Photoshop, or Lightroom shit, which is why I included the above images.

Image #1 is the set-up. The tools I use to create the lie. The only thing missing is the dollar store flashlight that I used for my ‘spotlight.’

#2 is the shot. What the camera saw. By using cunning, and deceit, (and a couple of bucks spent at the dollar store) I have you believe that my kitchen table, with it’s boring overhead lighting, is actually a sterile, controlled studio environment.

#3 is the finishing touches, and resulting payoff. If you look closely, you can see that I’ve cloned out a couple of spots that I thought were distracting. There’s a speck of flaked wood just below the right of the subject that I removed. There’s also some kind of flaw in the cheap paper that I was using, just to the left of the pointy end.

Click click. Gone!

Then, I adjusted the contrast, and lighting a bit to bring out a bit more depth, and voila! The lie is complete.

I’m a bullshitter supreme! 

So, if you’ve ever wondered why your photographs aren’t looking the way you’d like, or you just cant figure out why your images aren’t as good as that guy up the street with the fancy camera, maybe it’s just because you’re not as full of shit as some of us are.

New Shit

“Get out there and buy some shit. Hell, get in debt! It keeps the economy running smoothly. It’s what makes this country great!   …..What? You’re not in debt? Whatareyeh? Some kinda’ Goddamned communist?”

Went out and bought a new camera purs… uh, bag yesterday to accommodate the new, bigger lens that I bought last fall. Didn’t take long, ‘cause I don’t really like shopping very much. Actually, that’s an understatement -I hate shopping. Like just about everyone, I like having new shit, it’s just the ‘getting it’ part that I don’t like.

Every time I’m in a camera shop, I’m almost overwhelmed by the amount of choices that are on offer. There’s at least a half-dozen major camera brands; and each has at least a half-dozen more variations, plus myriad lenses, flashes, attachments, and tons of other shit you never even knew you needed.

Yay capitalism! Yay free market economy!

For decades, the two biggest players; Nikon, and Canon, would release a new flagship model about once every ten years. For about the last year of those ten year brackets, there would be speculation about what the next model would bring. Autofocus? Stepless metering? Higher flash synch speed?

Then, just before release, the camera company would send out a glamourously glossy, almost pornographic brochure, to all the camera shops, with the new camera on the front, and all kinds of propaganda extolling the marvels of the new forthcoming machine! 

Whew! Heady days, to be sure!

Nowadays, the major camera manufacturers release a new flagship model every two, to four years!

My main camera, a Fuji X-T2, released in 2016, which was for a time, Fuji’s flagship, will soon be two generations behind. Apparently, Fuji is on the verge of releasing an X-T4.

People want new shit.

So much so, that they’ll buy stuff sight unseen.

We’ve all seen the line-ups at Apple stores when a new iPhone gets released, yeah? It makes the evening news. Christ, I don’t know if they still do, but people even used to camp out overnight…. for something they’ve never even touched; let alone tried. There’s a video game store just down the street, and I’ve seen people lining up for a midnight release in winter that rivals the line-ups that people make waiting to get into a sold out show where I work, for a hot new touring act. (I’ll fess up here. For a while there, I got seriously into a couple of video racing games. Could play for twelve hours straight if I had the time, so I understand the allure. While I was playing, a new version of the game that I liked was released, so I pre-ordered a copy. It was my first, and only venture into seeing how these things are introduced to the public, and as soon as I jump out of these parentheses, I’ll explain myself.)

Seems to me like these things all come in an incomplete state. Unfinished. We’re living in a world of software updates, firmware releases, bug repairs, and ‘beta testing.’

The new video game that I pre-purchased, as I mentioned when I was back in parentheses jail, was glaringly incomplete. I guy whom I used to race with that I met online, agreed that the game was essentially broken. Sure, big parts of it played as you would expect, but there were some seriously major flaws in some very important aspects of the game.

O.K., I see your point, Joe, but you’ve got to understand, these things are outrageously complex devices, or software programs, and if you consider the various ‘platforms’ they’ll be used with, or the billions of possible combinations with which these things can be used, there’s bound to be some teething problems.

TEETHING PROBLEMS?!?’ When a camera company releases a CDN $3000. lens that wont even focus properly; when phone companies are releasing new phones that are causing major apps to crash; when video games are released that have so many bugs you can’t even play it properly….

And on, and on. Yes, I get it. These things are complex, but when colossally obvious errors like these are considered normal and acceptable, it makes me think that there really needs to be an increase in the amount of workplace drug testing.

Then, there’s the other buyer’s dilemma: Should I upgrade now, or wait until the new model comes out later this year…

“The next big thing is RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER… Therefore don’t ever buy anything!”

Buridan’s ass. You know, the donkey and the hay bales. Free will, and all that other nightmare-ish bullshit…

Alright, back to my camera bag. 

It works. 

Two zippers, two velcro pockets, and one clasp strap. No USB input for software, or firmware updates. There’s no Next Big Bag waiting right around the corner waiting to spring out at me.

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