Life, Photography, and Security

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Criticising Photographs

I recently read a text about Aesthetic Relativism, “a Parabolic Manifesto”. If we for a moment ignore the fact that I had to dig the final page out of an html comment block, there is a lesson to be learned.

The author makes the point much better than I had managed before, the point being that taste is relative. Even if you for a moment imagine that you could somehow rank art according to how “good” it is, the ranking will only be your ranking. It is, in effect, irrelevant to everyone else, because their tastes differ. Consider this carefully when you choose to criticise someone else’s work. In the words of the “Parabolic Manifesto”:

Another way of putting it might be: If you don’t have anything potentially constructive to say about a photo, you might want to keep your taste in photos to yourself.

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Learning about Composition

Lately, I have tried to think about composition when I shoot. It’s not easy – there is a lot to be learned. There are too many web pages dedicated to technical details about cameras, or naïve descriptions of the “rule of thirds”. There are too few excellent sources for learning about composing a picture.

Digging through my link collection, I found at least the Daystar Lessons in Composition for the Art Photographer and CJ Morgan’s article On Composition to be valuable. They have at least one thing in common – the rule of thirds does not rank high among the ways to compose a photograph.

Principles to guide you in composing your photographs, according to the works above.

A final quote, taken from Daystarvision’s article Composition in the Field for the Art Photographer: Even with a zoom lens you still have to walk closer in or farther back to leverage perspective. In this time of excellent zooms, don’t forget that perspective does not change when you zoom.

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Ego boost

My meager skills as a photographer have passed a small, unremarkable milestone. “Autumn sunrise” has been marked as a favorite by someone on flickr. Actually, right now two people have done me the honor. Wow.

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Understanding bokeh (ぼけ)

The Luminous Landscape has a nice article about bokeh in its “Understanding” series. The article explores the issue from a technical viewpoint, much the same as the [current] Wikipedia article on the subject.

The technical aspect is only that interesting. Fortunately Mike Johnston has taken the time to write an article about the subject from a more artistic perspective. This article is part of his late lamented Sunday Morning Photographer series on Luminous Landscape.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson and kairos (καιρός)

I got myself a copy of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s retrospective book “The Man, the Image and the World”. This book illustrates the “decisive moment”, which Cartier-Bresson got so famous for capturing quickly and acutely. I found an article which discusses the concept of kairos in photography. Well worth a read. And the book is well worth its asking price.

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The Ultimate Exposure Computer

I have read quite a few articles on exposure, but I think I found one which is better than the rest. That is The Ultimate Exposure Computer. Which, in turn, is essentially the “Sunny 16 rule”:

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Guide to Minolta’s wireless flash

Gary L. Friedman has written a good article on Minolta’s wireless flash system. It’s actually pretty amazing, and something I wish I could use.

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The Pleasures of Minolta

I’m not the only one that has been impressed by Konica Minolta’s new digital SLRs. Mike Johnston cites his 7D’s extraordinary capacity to perform as a key reason for going digital in his July 2005 column. Anti-Shake, great control, hi ISO shooting, and superb color rendition.

It’s not (only) about the technology. It’s about getting the picture. Mike followed up with a column called The Tale Told by Two Pictures. Mike’s reasons for using his 7D are almost precisely my reasons for getting the 5D. I hope it will prove equally successful; at least the first couple of weeks have been productive and surprising in a very positive sense.

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Konica Minolta Dynax 5D

I outgrew my Canon PowerShot S30. It became painfully obvious during the last year that it was preventing me from getting some of the shots I wanted. As a compact digicam, the lens is pretty useless in the dark. When I use the flash in the dark the pictures are rarely nice to look at. The autofocus was perhaps “state-of-the-art” at some point, but in reality it is slow and often fails to focus altogether. At this point in life, I mostly shoot family pictures, quite often under low-light conditions. I need a camera that works well in existing light conditions, and that focuses quickly and reliably.

Digital SLRs have been out of my budget, and not really up to my specifications sofar. Enter the Konica Minolta Dynax 5D. Coupled with a Sigma AF 28-70mm f/2.8 EX DF zoom lens, I have a very fast digital camera. It focuses quickly and reliably. It works well under low-light conditions, up to ISO 800 the picture quality is very good. The color rendition is beautiful. When the subject is not moving rapidly, the built-in anti-shake allows me to get hand-held shots with exposures up to 1/8 of a second.

We went to Italy for a wedding. I chose to shoot jpegs, as I wanted to get many shots—I didn’t want to invest in more storage at this point. After deleting a few clear duds in-camera, I was left with 391 frames. Most were technically OK, which means that the success ratio is amazing. This includes photos without a flash both in a church and a dimly lit party hall.

From now on, I can only blame myself for bad pictures.

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My gallery moved

I now display my lousy photographs even more publicly on Fortunately they are so mediocre that nobody bothers to critique them. seems great. I enjoy watching good and bad photos. Some of the better ones on flickr make me realize just how little I know about photography and how far I still have to go. I intend to make sure that I enjoy the trip. — highly recommended!

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