Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Contax T - a Neglected Performer

Several years ago, I bought a Contax T from a gentleman in Washington, DC. Mine is the first model, with a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 38 mm f2.8 lens, manual rangefinder, and aperture-priority exposure metering. There is no manual override of the exposure metering, with the exception of a button that provides for +1.5 stops overexposure, designed for shooting in backlit situations.
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The T is amazingly compact and shoots on 35mm film. It has a funny little flip-up lens cover which is a bit hard to get used to, and sticks out while you're shooting. The focus ring on the tiny Sonnar takes getting used to as well. Other than that, it's ergonomics are quite good, at least for my hands.
I have had the T in my car for years now, but used it very little. It's the perfect glovebox camera; my problem is that I usually have another camera with me and don't have a need to grab the T. I should get mine out and shoot it, which only requires me to bring it along.
So what got me thinking about this? I read a thread on Rangefinder Forum, where people shared both their challenges with the Contax T (light leaks around the film canister), as well as some wonderful example shots. Here's one posted by Rui Resende in the thread:

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(Click Here) to read about the Contax T on Rangefinder Forum.
I'm always considering new projects. I think I should somehow work the T into one of them. It's a bit of an oddity, not one that many people will still have or use. But, it's a unique little camera that's capable of wonderful results.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jorge Torralba Suggests We Think Twice Before Upgrading to the Newest Equipment

Shot With My Nikon F2 on Kodak TMax 400 Film
It's so easy to get caught up in the new equipment upgrade cycle. If you know me, you know that I love my old cameras. And, I still love to shoot film. I find it very rewarding, and while the results may not be as predictable (or confirmable) as shooting with the latest digital equipment, sometimes they can be outstanding.
I just found Jorge Torralba's blog, where he's written about resisting the urge to constantly upgrade. Specifically, he writes about his beloved Nikon AIS 50mm f1.2 lens, and how he enjoys using it on a film body (in his case the Nikon F6), as well as his Nikon DSLRs.
(Click Here) to read Jorge's post and see his images made with this classic, ultra-fast Nikkor lens.
My problem is that I simply love cameras. Old or new, big or small. So, even though my Nikon F2 is a great example of a camera that I love and will continue to use, the new Nikon DF is calling my name. I have not yet pulled the trigger, but it's on my mind.
So, I fully appreciate Jorge's point about appreciating the gear you have. I simply add to that the desire to test and enjoy the latest options, as well. In truth, Jorge shows images with the 50mm f1.2 on his Nikon D3S and D4 as well, which tells me he has the same approach.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Asian Archery - Japan and Korea

Japanese Kyudo Practitioner, by Reed A. George
Panasonic DMC-G1, Pana-Leica 45mm f2.8 Macro-Elmarit Lens
iso 400, f2.8, 1/50 sec.
Japanese archery, known as kyudo, has been practiced in Japan since prehistory. It first shows up in art a few hundred years B.C. No longer a part of military weaponry, kyudo in Japan is a contemplative art form, as well as a sport.
I found a related post on Walter Ulreich's blog, in his case writing about archery in Korea.
(Click Here) to see images of Korean archery, both today, and in some photojournalist's photos Walter found from 1961. Very cool.
Ulreich's blog reports the following:
"In the year 1894 bows were excluded from military use, but Emperor Gojong gave command to use archery for the cultivation of mind and body of the Korean people. As a result of that command, the Hwanghakjeoung pavilion was built in the Royal Palace and opened to the public. It is said, that Emperor Gojong personally enjoyed archery and often visited Hwanghakjeoung."

So, it seems that archery has made a similar transition from warfare into mental and physical concentration exercise in Korea, as it did in Japan.

Monday, October 27, 2014

From the Broad Creativity File - Using the Sun (and Magnifying Glass) to Make Art

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I love seeing new creative approaches to art. Usually, these come to me from the blog "Lost at E Minor," and this one is no exception.
This is Jordan Mang-osan. He makes the large murals by sketching them, then using a magnfying glass to burn the image into wood. Awesome, huh?
(Click Here) to read more.
I respect people who come up with different ideas like this. Once you see them, it's obvious. How many of us had wood burning kits when we were younger? For those who didn't, they were essentially electric soldering irons, which were used to burn pictures into wood. Using a magnifying glass instead isn't such a stretch. Why didn't I come up with that?
And regardless of who thought of it, I also respect people with the patience to put it to work on such a large scale. These pieces of art take Jordan months to complete.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How A Shot Develops - Mamiya Universal Press (MUP) at the World War II Memorial

I had a couple of hours free this morning, so I packed up my MUP and drove into Washington, DC, to the World War II memorial. Planning to capture some people out in the fall color, I spent a little time doing that, and then walked over to the memorial itself. I saw a nice composition in my mind, with the columns and wreaths of the memorial (one for each state) tapering off into the background, and nice contrasty light separating them from the foreground. A steady parade of people, including veterans, mostly in wheelchairs, was coming up the walkway.
I set up the MUP on a tripod, changed the film back to my Polaroid back, which was loaded with Fuji FP100C color pack film, and started shooting. I shot a total of six images. They're shown in the contact scan below, and are in order from left-to-right, top-to-bottom.
"Contact Scan," by Reed A. George
You may notice the wider perspective in the first shot. It was made with the Mamiya 50mm lens, which is very wide on the MUP, especially with the oversized image of the pack film. Notice the vignetting in the corners, which is normal, since the MUP is designed for 6x9 image size and the pack film is larger than that. After the first shot, I changed lenses to the 100mm f3.5 "normal" lens for the MUP.
I was shooting at about 1/250 sec and f16 throughout the series.
I also slowly moved my tripod to the left as the series developed.
In the beginning, the veterans that were being escorted up the walkway were just too far away. I wasn't trying to make portraits of them, but wanted to capture some detail of them in the context of the memorial.
I consider the final two images to be pretty good, but the last one (bottom right in the contact scan) goes furthest in telling a little story of our remaining World War II veterans and the memorial that reminds us all of what they gave for their country.
Here it is, scanned at higher resolution:
Final Shot, by Reed A. George
Remember that these instant films are not really designed to be enlarged, so the image you see on your screen is probably much larger than intended by the engineers at Fujifilm. I think the color came out very nice, and there's enough detail to see what's going on here.
I've become very interested in how a decent photograph develops through the shooting process. This interest was sparked by starting to read the excellent book Contact Sheets by Magnum press. I highly recommend this book. Be sure to read the introduction, as it discusses a lot of aspects of contact sheets, like the fact that many photographers, including Henri Cartier Bresson, were not in favor of sharing them with viewers.
If you decide you want this book, please buy your copy by clicking on the Amazon link below. You'll get a great book for the same price as going directly to Amazon, and help support my blog in the process!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Some Camping Area Shots from Watermelon Park Festival 2014

I've shared my Watermelon Park Festival writeup on Cosmic Vibes Live, along with my digital photographs, largely taken on or around the stage.
Now, I'll share a few more casual shots, taken in the Camping area with my Nikon FM2, 200 speed drugstore color negative film, and 50mm f1.4 Nikkor AF-D lens. Of course on the FM2, I had to manually focus.
Deep Morning Thoughts with Erik Burnham, by Reed A. George
Chester and Milo, by Reed A. George
These two guys are my music photography heroes - Chester Simpson and G. Milo Farineau. Both are mad-skilled, friendly, and generally great to hang out with.
Rudy B., by Reed A. George
Speaking of fun to hang out with, here's Rudy B. of the Plank Stompers.
I really love carrying around the compact FM2 and normal lens while I'm tooling around the festival, especially during the day. Yes, I'll carry the D700 for the lowlight stuff. But, the FM2 just fits my hands so well.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Some Tips for Taking Great Images in the Studio

Danny Knicely, by Reed A. George
I've been doing some promo images for my musician friends lately. I'm thoroughly enjoying the process, and always looking for new tips. I thought that the studio lighting setup would be one of the challenges, and therefore looked up some common configurations before starting. After a couple of these sessions, I now feel pretty comfortable with the lights. Really, I think it's more important to get them set, stop fiddling with them, and develop trust and interaction with the person being photographed.
I recently read a post by Sarah Hipwell on the Digital Photography School website. It has several good tips for getting things to flow:
  • Music can help to calm down a tense atmosphere. I use this one every time when I'm shooting musicians. I have not tried bringing recorded music to the session, though. Since my subjects are musicians, and typically want to be photographed with their instruments anyway, I always ask them to play. I get a private concert, and they get to do what they love. Another added benefit is that it brings out the performer in the person; they're not used to being in a photo studio, but they are used to playing in front of people, and even in front of cameras.
  • A tip that Sarah shares is asking the subject to blink ten times. I like this idea very much, as it will give a better catchlight in the eyes if they're wet, and I bet it reduces blinking during exposures.
  • Ask them to wear neutral clothing. The pictures are about them, not their clothes.
  • Sarah mentions that most great images come at the end of a session. I've definitely found this to be true. I think it's when the pressure is off, and everyone is pretty sure you've got some good images, that both the photographer and subject relax. This relaxation shows in the pictures.
  • Get feedback during the session. This is a mixed bag, in my opinion. First, showing them tiny images on the camera LCD generally won't work. Connecting to a larger display requires some technical ability; if you have it, great. If not, don't fiddle with wires, cards, and gear while the studio clock is ticking.
  • Get them to talk. Yes! Except, as mentioned above, I generally get them to sing. This is easy with most musicians.
  • Work fast. Agreed. While I try to work fast, sometimes I rush myself too much, and don't go deep enough with the subject. In other cases, what should be a one hour session easily goes into the second hour, probably too long from the point of view of the person being photographed. So, for me, the challenge is to balance between rushing too much and taking too long.
  • Another practical tip - have them point their legs toward the main light source, and twist their upper body to face the camera.
(Click Here) to read Sarah's full piece on the Digital Photography School site.
It's harder than it looks, folks. In my opinion, getting the technical stuff out of the way so that you can focus on the person and interaction with them is key.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Watermelon Park Festival Report on Cosmic Vibes Live

I've been collaborating with Jeff and Jim over at Cosmic Vibes Live for a few years now. I've recently posted a report from the 2014 Watermelon Park Festival, held in Berryville, Virginia with them.
(Click Here) to read the report. The lineup this year was amazing, with Keller Williams, The Keels, Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, and so many others.
Watermelon Park Fans, by Reed A. George
I shot the entire show with my Nikon D700 and prime lenses. The D700 still rocks, even though it's getting a bit on the mature side. This experience does make me want the awesome retro-styled, D4 sensor-equipped Nikon DF even more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dreaming in Monochrom(e): Plank Stompers and Woodshedders at the Opera House

I haven't posted anything to this series in a while. I think that further affirms that I made the right decision in holding off on purchasing a Leica M Monochrom. While I know it's an amazing camera, spectacular even, I don't want to be limited to black and white only in a camera that's such an investment.
I am still enjoying shooting black and white film in my M4-2, however. Here are some shots from a recent concert of my friends the Plank Stompers and The Woodshedders. All were shot on Ilford Delta 3200 with the Leica M4-2 and Carl Zeiss C-Sonnar 50mm f1.5 lens.
Here's one that I especially like of the audience enjoying the sounds:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sad Day - Rene Burri Passes On

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Rene Burri, Magnum photographer who took the most famous images of Che Guevara, died on Monday, October 20, 2014, at the age of 81.
(Click Here) to read more on Leicaphilia.
Referring to my new book Magnum Contact Sheets, the section about Burri's shoot with Guevara in Havana, Cuba in 1963 recounts the experience. Burri says that Che would not allow him to open the blinds to get more light. Shooting with his Leica M3, Burri said it was remarkable that Guevara never looked at him, which is apparent in the three rolls of film displayed in the contact sheets. He was embroiled in an interview with Laura Berquist from Look magazine. Shot over two hours, the total of 84 shots (two rolls of 24 exposures, one of 36) show Guevara's animation and passion about his beliefs.
Burri also comments about the odd experience of purchasing t-shirts with his own image of Guevara on them.
Sorry to see him go, but Burri left an amazing record for us to study and learn from.

Monday, October 20, 2014

RoidWeek #2, 2014 - This Week!

I just found out about this. RoidWeek, which is a celebration of instant photography, starts today and goes through Friday. The event welcomes any instant film shots, but not digital facsimiles of them. They don't have to be Polaroid.
I read about it on Snap It | See It. (Click Here) to see the post. Inside, you'll find a link to the flickr page where you can submit images.
Importantly, images need to be taken this week, and the "week" is only five days, this Monday through Friday.
I'm going to have to load up my Polaroid (or Polaroid back for my MUP) and get some weekday shots to post.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Miho Kajioka's "Hello October" on burn.

Sometimes, I love simple images. In my own work, I tend toward more complicated compositions. In fact, I think I need to stretch and do a project of simple images.
Here's one by Miho Kajioka, posted on burn. magazine's site. David Alan Harvey is the curator of burn.
Hello October, by Miho Kajioka
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(Click Here) to go and see burn.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sometimes it Takes a Tragedy to Make Us Appreciate Things - Yukari Chikura Documents Japanese Tradition

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Yukari Chikura is a female Japanese photographer. Trained as a musician, after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, she turned her focus to documenting the traditions passed down through generations in Japan.
(Click Here) to read about Yukari on the NY Times blog, Lens.
Now for all of my photographer friends out there, something sobering. Yukari has only been photographing for two years.
How do we maintain the clarity and urgency that a disaster can give us in life? Surely we don't have to keep experiencing them for that to happen?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Studio Shoot with Musician Danny Knicely

Danny Knicely is one of the most productive and talented musicians I know. Danny is a mandolinist, violinist, guitarist, and I'm sure capable on instruments I haven't listed here. He's a member of Furnace Mountain Band, one of the best I know.
(Click Here) to see one of my posts on Danny, where he led a mandolin workshop with other legends Sam Bush and Drew Emmitt.
A few weeks back, I was thrilled to get a message from him, asking if I could help in making some promotional images for him. He wanted some images of himself to use in promoting his latest effort, a CD called "Waltz for Aimee." He also wanted some images of his classic guitar collection, including several Martin guitars, much older than either he or I.
Of course I was happy to oblige, and decided to rent a local photo studio for the project. I've had an increase in requests for this type of work recently, and hope to see that continue. I really enjoy it.
Anyway, here are a few of my favorite shots from the photo session.
I shot all of these with my Nikon D700 and prime lenses. I mostly relied on the 50mm f1.4 AF-D and 85mm f1.8 AF-D lenses. Using a relatively simple three light setup, supplied with the studio, I feel that I did a decent job with balancing the lighting overall. Getting the hairlight right on the images with a black background is something I've learned from previous sessions. This time, I struggled somewhat with the relatively narrow backdrop, even with shooting just one person and his instruments. This would become more of an issue shooting a multi-person band. I also need to focus on lighting the backdrop better for the white background images. I believe it's important to learn something from every shoot.
That said, I'm satisfied overall with the outcome. It was really a pleasure to spend some time with Danny and help him to promote his excellent musical talents.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

You Know How They Say The Camera Doesn't Matter?

Well, based on this morning's browsing of the Rolleiflex and Rolleicord group on flickr, I don't buy it.
Ada, by flickr user Traveling Darkroom
Okay, I know, the photographer matters more than the camera. That is true. But there's an abnormally high frequency of great images in this particular group, if you ask me.
(Click Here) to judge for yourself.
Now, it could be the square image format that I happen to like. Or, it could be the different perspective that you can get with any twin lens reflex (TLR) or other camera that has a waist level finder. But, I think there may be more to it than that.
I went out with my Rolleiflex yesterday, and without seeing any results yet, feel more confident than usual that I got at least one or two great images. The film ships out to The Darkroom today, so we'll know in a couple of days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nikkor 20mm f1.8 ED Lens - My New Wide Angle for Concerts?

Well, the engineers at Nikon are once again testing my resolve. My go-to camera for low light concert photography is the Nikon D700. The advent of the amazing Nikon DF has had me debating with myself for months now - with the retro design, relatively small size, and D4 sensor that trades resolution in favor of low light noise performance much as the D700 did two sensor generations back, the DF seems like a very natural fit for my style of shooting, especially in dark clubs and concerts.
Recently, I've been shooting really wide angle on my D700 at shows. My 20mm f2.8 AF-D lens does a nice job for me, but f2.8 just isn't really that fast.
Will and Larry, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor 20mm f2.8 AF-D Lens
iso 1600, f2.8, 1/250 sec.
Now, Nikon has announced a new product, the AF-S Nikkor 20mm f1.8G ED lens. An FX lens, meaning that it covers the full-frame sensor of the D700 or DF, this lens also has ultra-fast AF-S focusing and low dispersion ED glass. I don't really like "G" lens design, as it lacks an aperture ring, which means I can't use G lenses on my old film cameras. But, G design is the rule rather than the exception in Nikon's new lenses, so I'd just have to live with it.
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I have "enabler" friends who would say that the choice is clear. I simply need to buy a new DF with 20mm f1.8 lens and be done with it. It's not that simple a decision for me, especially when I have less time than I need to shoot the camera gear I already have. I suppose it's good to always have something in mind that could improve my photographic experience. Thanks for that, Nikon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thoughts on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

Size Comparison - DMC-GX7 (Left) v. DMC-LX100 (Right)
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I am a huge fan of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. I have owned LX-series cameras since the LX2 came out. They are absolutely amazing in terms of features, lens speed and quality (Pana-Leica lenses, including the DC Vario-Summilux f1.4-2.3 lens on the LX7), and compact design. Up until now, the only downside to the LX cameras has been small sensor size. Of course, that small sensor enabled some of the very positive features already mentioned, most clearly the overall compact design of both body and lens (not interchangeable). From the LX3 on, there has been an available accessory electronic viewfinder (EVF).
The newest LX-series camera is the DMC-LX100, which was announced a few weeks back. The LX100 addresses that small sensor question by putting a full-size Micro 4/3 sensor into a compact camera body. Not as small as the LX7, but still pocketable, the LX100 sports a 24-75mm equivalent f1.7-2.8 lens. And, the LX100 has a built in EVF. Very nice.
Knowing that the LX100 is a little larger than the LX7, I began to wonder if the GX1 Micro 4/3 camera I already have doesn't fill the space of the LX100. Both have the Micro 4/3 sensor, though the LX100 reported uses slightly less than the full sensor area. The GX1 is truly tiny, especially without the accessory EVF attached. Even with, it's quite small. But, I have nothing like a 24-75mm equivalent zoom with fast f1.7-2.8 aperture for the GX1. There's the 14-42 Series II kit lens, which is nothing short of great in my opinion, but it's a slow f3.5-5.6 aperture lens and makes the camera too big to fit in a pocket. The Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 zoom lens for Micro 4/3, slower than that on the LX100, quite expensive, and a lot larger, just doesn't compare.
If it weren't for the compact and fast lens on the LX100, I think the GX1 would make it completely redundant. As it is, that differentiates the LX100 as a very capable pocket camera from the GX1 or GX7 for that matter, which have the benefits of many great interchangeable lenses, but at the cost of size.
I still wonder how they can make this lens on a Micro 4/3 sensor as small as it is. Maybe I need to hold an LX100 to see just how compact it has remained (or not)
I decided to see if others had the same question about the overlap of the larger LX camera and the smallest Micro 4/3 cameras. Of course they did.
(Click Here) to read a comparison of the LX100 and GX7 on
Author Damien Demolder comes to essentially the same conclusion as I did - the LX100 is indeed distinct from both the previous LX-series cameras, and the interchangeable lens G cameras.
At about $900, the LX100 is more expensive than the LX7 was. But, I'm pretty convinced that it's going to be worth every penny.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pro Photographer Shoots Fuji Instax for Fun!

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I've recently gotten back into instant film photography, because I like it. No other reason. I have a Fuji Instax Neo, which really is pretty darned good. But, for amazing quality instant pictures, my Mamiya Universal Press (MUP) with pack film back is unbeatable.
This picture is by professional photographer Cindy Leon.
(Click Here) to read about her thoughts on the Fuji Instax Wide (larger format than my Neo), and see several more nice instant images she made.
I'm down to only a few more packs of Fuji FP3000B to shoot in my MUP, and am dreading the end of it, as the film has been discontinued. The much slower (iso 100 vs. 3000) color film is still available from Fuji, but who knows for how long.
So, the Fuji Instax film, which is relatively new, may one day become our only instant film option. But, rather than focus on narrowing options, I should be focusing on enjoying making every shot with instant film!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Another Watermelon Park Festival Highlight - The Knicely Family Band

I'm working through my Watermelon Park images, in between traveling for work (I'm in Albany, NY at the moment), and several other projects. Here's a shot of the Knicely Family Band.
Knicely Family Band, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor 20mm f2.8 AF-D Lens
iso 3200, f5.6, 1/125 sec.
As you probably already know from my posts, the Knicely family is kind of a core of musical talent here in Virginia. Danny Knicely (second from right) is a musical powerhouse, playing in multiple bands as well as producing his own music, including his latest CD, "Waltz for Aimee." Those are his brothers on the ends, and Mom and Dad next to him.
(Click Here) to go to Danny's website and purchase the new CD.
I knew that I wanted to get all of their faces in this shot, to the extent possible. The wide angle 20mm f2.8 lens allowed me to do that from right at the front of the stage.
Along those lines, Nikon has a new 20mm f1.8 lens out. I'd love to have that extra speed in my 20mm lens. I've been using the 20 more lately for live music, in dark spaces. The extra 1.4 or so f-stops would really help. See the link below to see the new lens on Amazon.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Magnum Workshop Day 7/7 - Honoring Bruce Davidson

Bruce Davidson
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Saturday, the workshop is officially over. I slept in, rolling in to the work center sometime in the late morning.
The big event was a presentation by Bruce Davidson, who arrived the night before. Bruce has been in Magnum for 56 years.
Davidson met Henri Cartier-Bresson while stationed in France with the US military. This clearly had a positive effect on Davidson's direction and focus in photography.
One of Bruce's most famous projects was "East 100th Street," where he documented life in an almost-exclusively black neighborhood in NYC. Davidson shot 4,000 negatives, most of them 4x5, in this project. In order to gain access to the neighborhood, he presented the residents with his work and his goal in photographing them. They held a neighborhood meeting and voted to let him in. That said, he still required a "helper" for the first year of the project.
Another famous project set in NYC, Davidson documented the subways and people who rode them. In this project, Davidson was mugged, and witnessed a lot of crime against others. One picture that stuck with me was an armed mugging.
(Click Here) to see that picture on the Magnum website.
Once color film became widely available and useful, Davidson could normally be seen carrying two Leicas - one loaded with color, one with black and white - and only one lens (a 35mm).
When asked for advice for photographers trying to improve their work, Davidson repeated what I'd heard multiple times during the workshop, and multiple times from David Alan Harvey: "Stick Around." By this, he meant don't be in a hurry, find the scene and let it develop. This is probably the most important lesson I learned during the weeklong workshop.
It is apparent that Davidson also has an interest in nature, as he's photographed it in urban settings including Central Park in NYC, Los Angeles, and Paris. He has a current work in progress where he's photographing people interacting with displays at the Museum of Natural History with a digital Leica and Voigtlander wide angle lens.
So, this is the last post about the Magnum Days workshop in Provincetown. What are my conclusions?
  1. Definitely a worthwhile experience for me.
  2. I learned, firsthand, many of the things I've read and only partially practiced over the years.
  3. Each and every Magnum photographer is different, and their personalities are wide-ranging.
  4. Telling a story with pictures in a relatively short time is difficult.
  5. Magnum is very exclusive; the workshop assistants are great examples of first-rate photographers who are not in Magnum.
  6. There are a lot of amazing photographers developing out there. The students in this workshop are not just digital "point and clickers." I'm encouraged about the future of people making quality images.
I really feel that I was exposed to both the history and future of photojournalism for a week, and loved the experience. Thanks to everyone at Magnum, in Ptown, and a the FAWC who made it happen.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Magnum Workshop Day 6/7 - Showing Our Work

Friday rolled around very quickly. I was now in a position of knowing that I had at least 5 or 6 acceptable images that loosely fit into a theme. It was the hardest I've ever worked for such a small number of decent images. But, with this group the bar was pretty high. There were many, many images that I decided were not even good enough to put in front of a Magnum photographer.
In the morning, we met with DAH and the group, reviewed images one more time, and started supplying them along with title slide information and our selected music for a combined digital slideshow. First thing, DAH asked me what I'd added to my set during the last evening after dinner. I said nothing. My project was mostly a daytime thing. He told me that I really needed to add at least one more good shot, one that could wrap up the series. In other words, he said "get your ass back out there and shoot." So, I did.
I decided to go to the wharf and catch people saying goodbye at the ferry dock. The ferry runs from Ptown to Boston a couple of times per day. I walked up to the front of the line, near the ticket booth, and asked the attendant if I could set up and shoot from there. He agreed. This should be the right place to catch people saying their final goodbyes for the season. The line was a little small, but there were a few groups around. It was also hard to tell if they were all passengers, or if some were well-wishers, who may give a final hug or kiss as their friends moved onto the boat. Anyway, all set up in a good location, I waited and watched.
Pretty near the last minute before boarding, I saw a car pull up and park right at the end of the wharf. The security guy went over to talk to them, I imagined to tell them they couldn't park there. It obviously wasn't the normal parking place. Then he sort of nodded and walked away as three beautiful ladies and a young boy emerged from the car. Well, I had to abandon my spot and see if they may be my subjects.
Last Minute Arrivals
Turns out that they were three sisters, from Sweden. The lady in the leather jacket is a Ptown native, which helped to explain why the guard made an exception. The little boy is her son. Her two sisters were leaving to return to Sweden that day. Wonderful, gorgeous subjects, obviously. And, once I explained what I was doing, they agreed to let me photograph their goodbyes.
Here's one from their final hug at the wharf. Good, but not great.
I just had to have something better. Once the two sisters were onboard, I asked the Ptown sister if she wasn't going to walk over and wave to them. She said "Oh yes, I should do that." This was what I was waiting for.
The Wave
This was going to be the final shot in my slideshow. When you see it large enough, you can see her sister on the deck of the ferry, waving back. I thanked her and headed back to the Fine Arts Work Center.
As I went to drop my gear in my room, I noticed David Kaplan (who I'd never met) standing outside his home speaking on his phone. Asking if I could shoot a picture of him there, he obliged, but said that I must come back because I "had no idea" what I was photographing. I did, and that led to the portraits I shot of him, a true highlight of the workshop experience. It was that ten minutes of access that I'd been searching for the whole week.
(Click Here) to see my portraits of David Kaplan, author and Curator of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival. In fact, this resulted in my being invited to stay another week in Ptown to photograph behind the scenes at the festival. Boy, I wish I could've done that, but it wasn't in the cards.
On this evening, the public presentation was a slideshow of results from all of the different workshop sessions of the week. I found it quite impressive what others were able to come up with in such a short time in Ptown. I'll post the link to the slideshow as soon as it's up on the Magnum education blog.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Magnum Workshop Day 5/7 - Focus Pays Off, With One Usable Shot

Okay, at the end of Day 4 I felt pretty confident. I had a few images from the beach and the ladder shot, which reasonably tied in to my "end of the season" in Ptown theme. DAH selected a couple of the images, didn't like the beach exit picture I posted yesterday, and told me frankly that I had more work to do. He did suggest that I head back to the beach to see what else I could make of that.
I had in the back of my mind that I may once again find the surf fishermen, but that didn't happen.
I threw my Lumix GX7 over my shoulder, grabbed lunch to go in a bag, and biked back out to the shore. I went to the places I'd been the day before, met and talked with a few different people on the beach, and even got a young couple to let me shoot their relaxing day in the sand. None of these made it past my own filter.
Making a long loop ride around the seashore as shown below, I ended up at a bike shop near the west end of town.
Original Map Source:
Sort of out of options after leaving the beach with no real good additions to show for my efforts, I decided to act on DAH's advice to find a spot and let the image develop. The bike shop had lots of "Sale" signs up, indicating the end of the season. The deli inside the store was already closed for the season, and I photographed that, but not to much effect.
Going back outside, I noticed one of the shop employees working there. I struck up a conversation, and found that he himself was a sign of the change of seasons in town. Having come to Ptown for the summer from Bulgaria, this young man was preparing to return home in a couple of days. While he had enjoyed Ptown very much, working very long hours (90 hours per week!), he was looking forward to getting home to see his family. I asked where he had lived during the summer, and he told me he'd shared a space with two other people on the property. Asking if I could photograph his room, he told me that he was not allowed to bring guests in. And, he was working at the moment, anyway.
Having to pursue it further, I asked him if he could grab his suitcase, and let me photograph him walking out the door of the shop. Not exactly what I wanted, and staged for sure, it would have at least been something. He politely told me that he'd already been on break that afternoon, and wasn't allowed to take another. I asked him if I could request that his boss make an exception. He replied that his boss himself was on break, and not available. He would not be back for about 30 minutes. I said I'd wait.
Now at this point, it was clear that I was pushing hard, and quite possibly had outstayed my welcome. This guy was extremely nice, but was getting a little uncomfortable about my persistence. Anyway, I decided to wait it out.
Sitting on a picnic table in front of the store, waiting, I shot a couple of pictures of people coming and going, but nothing with a story. And then it happened. A lady from the neighborhood who'd befriended this young gentleman over the summer came to say goodbye before he left to return to Bulgaria. She hugged him, and told him how much she enjoyed knowing him. Real emotion, finally! I asked her permission to photograph them together, and she happily obliged. Here's the one shot I got from a few hours of pursuit:
Goodbye My Friend
This one shot made it all worthwhile. In fact, it was the only useful image I got the entire day.
That evening back at the Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC), Costa Manos was our featured speaker. Like Bruno Barbey, Costa has been with Magnum for 50 years. Costa was the main motivator for the Magnum Days in Provincetown program. Costa walked us through his amazing career in photography, beginning with his early coverage of a South Carolina island known as Daufuskie. This was where Costa made his first "serious" image, in 1952.
(Click Here) to see that image on the Magnum website.
It is an amazing image. In fact, it haunted me. Haunted me to the point that I purchased a limited edition print of it. I am not an art collector, but I really wanted to have this image to put on my wall as a reminder of the workshop, meeting Costa, and all of the other great people involved in the workshop.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Magnum Workshop Day 4/7 - Starting to Find My Way

Day 4. Wednesday. David Alan Harvey (DAH) had arrived on Tuesday night, and I knew that I'd be working with him for the rest of the week.
My final meeting with Bruno Barbey in the morning allowed me to share my images from Rego Automotive, two or three of which Bruno actually liked. I also showed him my shots from meeting the NYC surf fishermen. Bruno suggested that I try to find them again.
I joined DAH at around 10:30AM, and each of us students shared what we had so far. David was clear in telling us that we didn't have much for being on the third day of the workshop, and I agreed. He shared some of his own work, including a series from a strip bar in NYC, and showed us every exposure. This helped us to understand how he built up to the final few amazing images by working the scene. DAH doesn't believe in walking around looking for images. He finds a spot and sticks with it until a photograph emerges. This was an important lesson for me, and one that would pay off in the end.
After lunch, I grabbed my bike and headed back toward the beach, hopeful of finding the surf fisherman again.
On the way, I noticed this scene, which has some relation to the changing of seasons in Ptown. Trying to follow directions and work the scene, I shot this one, which I thought was just an ice breaker. Then I proceeded to get close, and shoot images of individuals working. Technically fine, they just showed one or two guys painting. DAH picked this shot below because the real visual draw was having all of these ladders in place on one house. It gives the impression of working to get the painting done quickly. So, this was the only one that made the cut.
Winter Preparations
I never did find the surf fishing group again. However, on this day, I did finally start to find my groove. It was Wednesday, DAH was in town, and the pressure was on. Walking the beach, I caught a flash of brilliant color out of the corner of my eye. It was this young lady, letting her beach towel blow in the breeze. Walking over to her, I explained that I simply had to have that image for my workshop series. She happily obliged. I knew at this point that things were starting to go somewhere, at least a little.
Golden Towel
Then, I happened to catch this amusing little moment. Having my Lumix DMC-GX7 and kit zoom allowed me to quickly capture this image without anyone noticing. One second later and it was gone.
Caught in the Moment
Not five minutes later, I found this somewhat similar scene:
A Theme, Perhaps?
Deciding that a final day or two at the beach did fit my story line of Ptown shutting down for the season, I was happy to bring these into my image collection. I knew that I would need some pictures of people departing, and grabbed the shot below to try to capture that feeling.
Leaving the Beach
That shot didn't make the cut. DAH liked the concept, but not the execution. Getting a couple of closing shots would prove to be no simple feat. At least I had a start, however. I went into Wednesday evening feeling much more confident. Maybe too much so.
The public talk was by DAH on this evening. Knowing that he'd just arrived after days of trying to fly in from Europe, and had worked the full day that day, I was impressed with his energy and clear thought in presenting his work. There are many great examples of DAH's work to look at. Having been a National Geographic photographer for many years, of course he had stories. One of his latest projects, "Based on a True Story," demonstrates an edgy, energy-filled depiction of Rio de Janeiro. I was very pleased to get a copy of the book, complete with signature, as part of being in David's workshop.
So, I had a start. Far from really having a full story, I knew I had to find more good images in the coming two days, but at least I had a start.