I’ve been in London this week and happily discovered my visit coincided with East London Photomonth which has given me the opportunity to visit some fantastic (and free) photography events around the city. My favourites so far have been the:
Getty Images Gallery’s London Through A Lens showcasing some fantastic black and white images of London past and present.
The Cheka Kidogo (Swahili meaning “laugh a little”) portrait series featuring portraits of refugees in the Democratic Rebuplic of Congo taken by renowned celebrity portrait photographer Rankin working with Oxfam.
Landscape Photographer of the Year 2008 on display at the National Theatre (technically this one doesn’t start until Sunday but most of the photographs are already on display). To see some of last year’s winner click here.
The Conflict and Contrast: A Remembrance Day exhibition in the.gallery@oxo in the Oxo Wharf Tower showcasing images from the Defense Image Database (an official Ministry of Defense website – definitely worth a look).
If you happen to be in London through November I highly recommend checking out some of the more than 100 photography exhibitions taking place for Photomonth but even if you’re nowhere near Britain’s capital click on some of the links and check out some amazing photography across a wide range of subjects.
I’ve just returned from a little jaunt to Portugal and I have to say there is little else that gets me as eager to get my camera out as wandering around a city I’ve never seen before. And of course, in the age of the compact digital camera pretty much everyone takes a camera with them when they travel these days. But how do you come back with photographs your friends and family won’t have to feign interest in? Here’s a few basic tips:
1) Be selective. It’s tempting when you’re surrounded by new things, impressive architecture, beautiful landscapes, and photogenic locals to go nuts and photograph everything ten times over. Especially when you’re using a digital camera and can tell yourself you’ll delete half of the photos later. While there’s nothing wrong with taking lots of photos make sure you scale it down a bit (i.e. do the deleting part) before you showcase your holiday snaps. Even Great Aunt Maude is going to struggle to feign interest in 200 photos of a church, however architecturally brilliant it is.
2) Try a little originality. If you’re photographing an iconic site see if you can come up with a more original way to photograph it. A different angle, in different light, or different weather. Whatever you can think of to make it look less like you just photographed a postcard. Adding people to the shot, whether tourists or locals, can also make it more interesting. That way the iconic feature is the background to something less commonly photographed.
3) Wander away from the major tourist attractions. Two of my favourite shots from Portugal are these:
both of which were taken in “off the tourist map” areas of Porto. Not only will you get more interesting photographs but you’ll get to see more of the real culture of the area too.
4) Plan before you leave. If you want photography to be a central part of your travels think about the equipment you’re taking before you leave. For the Portugal trip photography wasn’t my main aim but I knew I would want to come back with a few good shots so I opted for my digital SLR over my compact camera. But since we would be moving around a lot and the airline I was flying with had tight luggage restrictions I chose to leave the tripod and extra lenses at home. Think about your destination and the type of photos you might want to get. For example if you’re heading to Paris and thinking you’d like to get lots of night shots of the city then don’t abandon the tripod. But if you’re backpacking and mostly going to be taking shots during the day you’ll probably want to save yourself the extra weight.
5) Get some aerial shots. If you’re flying to you destination this is your chance to do some aerial photography. It can be tricky to get good shots from a commercial airplane but it is certainly possible. It’s easiest if you have a seat forward of the wing so that vapours from the aircraft’s engines don’t appear in your shot. Wipe the window off first to get rid of all the grimy fingerprints, and put the camera near the centre of the window to avoid the effect of the curved perspex. On longer flights the flight crew will often make announcements when something of interest is visible from the plane but it’s worth keeping an eye out yourself too. Take off and landing are great chances for photography but be aware that some airlines may ask you to turn off your digital camera during these times. These were both taken on commercial flights:
6) Don’t be afraid to photograph local people or fellow tourists. But if you can ask permission first. If you ask politely you’ll find that most people will say yes. It’s worth learning to ask this question in the local language but often holding up your camera and smiling will get your intention across just as easily. If someone does say no respect their answer and don’t photograph them. In some places, especially poorer communities, you may be asked to give money in exchange for taking a photograph. And people will often ask you to send them a copy of the photograph. If you agree to do this, make sure you actually do! Don’t automatically try to exclude other travellers from your photographs, often the interaction between tourists and locals can make a great shot.
7) Photograph your travel companions! As much as your family and friends back home will enjoy your photographs of the local landscape, culture, and wildlife they will probably be most interested in photos of you and your travel companions enjoying your trip. This is especially true if you’re traveling with children and showing the resulting photos to the grandparents or other extended family. To get some nice photos to show off put as much effort into the family shots as you put into the rest of your photographs. If you’re taking a posed photograph look for the best background, arrange the people into a good pose, and consider using a relatively low DOF so the subjects stand out from their background. Remember though that you are on holiday and your kids probably won’t appreciate too much of this kind of activity! Get unposed shots of your travel companions as well, think about the composition for these too but they may need to be a little more hurried so you don’t miss he moment.
8) Don’t forget insurance. Before you set off make sure your travel insurance will cover your camera equipment should it get lost, damaged, or stolen. Many travel insurance policies only cover single items worth up to £100 or £200 so if you’re traveling with your digital SLR and extra lenses you may need a separate policy for them to be covered. If you’re a UK resident E & L offer specific photographic equipment insurance that’s cheap and provides good worldwide cover.
If you have any tips of your own, let us know in the comments section.
First of all, let me get something off my chest. I’m not picking on this book in particular, but generally, when will photography book authors quit talking about digital photography like it’s some crazy new thing that people need to be gently introduced to? Why does every photo book have an “introduction to digital” section that is all but useless filler? It’s 2008 people! If I wanted an introduction to digital photograhy, I’d have bought an introduction to digital photography book. Ok, rant over.
Read on to learn more about the book and find out how you can get a free copy.
Mercifully, The Art of Black and White Photography by Torsten Andreas Hoffmann keeps the intro to digital section to a mere 9 pages.
The meat of this book starts in section two. Section two devotes a full chapter to each of many different genres and concepts and attempts to show by example how to make black and white photographs.
Topics include overcoming clichés, architecture, portraits, street photography, and moods. Arguably, these are all topics that apply equally well to color photography. And in fact you could easily open this book to the chapter on, say, street photography, and apply the advice easily to color photos. If the example photos were in color you might even forget you were trying to learn something about black and white.
The example photos are quite good but very little space is spent explaining why these photos are better in black and white or how the removal of color enhances them. A person unfamiliar with the attraction of black and white might come away scratching his head. Technical details are lightly sprinkled throughout the text. For example, page 121 states “The photograph was taken with an analog camera, a 20 mm wide-angle lens, and a red filter. Yet, in spite of this red filter, the sky had to be burned in towards the top in the darkroom so it could unfold to its full effect.” On page 93 you’ll find “It was important to bring out the white highway stripes in the darkroom and to increase the contrast as well.”
And for a book subtitled “Creating Superb Images in a Digital Workflow,” a surprising number of images were creating using film cameras and traditional darkroom techniques. In many of the examples, rather than black and white techniques we get discussions of history, Greek mythology, and rather bland details like “This photo was taken with a 20mm wide-angle lens.” It’s an interesting read but not at all what I thought the book would contain based on its title.
Section three is devoted to compositional techniques. Again, most of these principals apply to photography in general, not just black and white. In this section though, I think it’s easier to see the connection to black and white because composition deals with concepts like shape, line, and form—basic components that often become more prominent once color has been removed from a photograph.
Section four covers digital conversion techniques using Photoshop CS2 and CS3. This is a solid but brief section with good information on basic conversion, dodging/burning, contast, sharpening and more. (Although, at one point the author shows one example of replacing a bland sky with an even blander gray scale gradient.)
Would I recommend this book? Well, maybe. Not if you’re looking for an introduction to black and white photography, certainly. But if you’ve already got some experience with black and white and you’re looking for some inspiration? Sure. I would have liked to have seen a lot more explanation of why particular photos work better in black and white or why the photographer chose to use black and white over color. But possibly, the best audience is anyone who can benefit from the lengthy and detailed discussions on various photographic genres and compositional techniques that fill most of the pages. And if you want to talk philosophy, mysticism, or history in relation to photography, this is the book for you.
Want my review copy? Leave a comment with a valid email address. One reader will be chosen at random this weekend to receive a free copy.
This book was provided to Photodoto free of charge for review.
On semi-impulse I bought a Nikon D90 kit last Thursday from Amazon after nearly four years with my trusty D70. I sat down with the manual over the weekend and got to know it a little better. There are plenty of great in-depth reviews of the D90 out there with tech comparisons and sample photos. This is not one of those. I’m just going to give you my first impressions of the D90, especially things about it that made me smile, from the perspective of a D70 upgrader:
- Live view! Giant LCD! 6.7x image review zoom! Awesome. The D70 screen looks like a postage stamp now.
- It is perceptibly faster and lighter.
- I turned on the viewfinder grid, turned off the focus beep, and switched to selected area for focus because that’s how I roll.
- The default image processing settings are fairly neutral and true to life. In Flickr terms: boring. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but I’m not particularly interested in absolute truth, photographically speaking. I prefer my photos to have a little more pop so I adjusted the default to Vivid which boosts both the contrast and saturation. Speaking of which, you can record up to 9 custom image processing settings in the camera and save them off to SD cards to store or share.
- Turned on custom setting d3 which shows the ISO setting in the viewfinder instead of the remaining frame count. Maybe that will stop me from shooting entire rolls at ISO 500 instead of 200. I doubt it. But one must try to be optimistic. I said “rolls.” How old am I?
- The self-timer can be set for 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 seconds and you can adjust the number of shots (up to 9). So you can set the self-timer to go off in 5 seconds and take, say, 3 shots (which it does at what feels like the low-speed frame rate).
- The new AF-A focusing mode which automatically chooses between AF-S (single) and AF-C (continuous) focus depending on subject movement seems really good on paper and so far it has worked out well in practice. And thank you Nikon for the AF selector button on the body.
- I must say I’m a fan of active D-lighting. In almost every test shot, the D90 makes better exposures than my D70 at default settings. Matrix metering and auto white balance are markedly improved, especially in difficult lighting situations. The D70 has a strong bias against blown highlights, so much so that I routinely shot my D70 with an exposure compensation of +0.7. The D90 isn’t nearly as overprotective (especially with active D-lighting enabled, strength: Normal). At the moment I think the D90 will work quite nicely at +0 or even -0.3.
- It can record RAW + JPG FINE for every exposure. On an 8GB SDHC card I get a readout of 361 available images at that setting (539 RAW only, 1.1k JPG Fine only).
- Built-in image adjustment and RAW processing. Pretty cool, though it’s no Photoshop/Lightroom/Gimp obviously. Post-processing lets you do the usual stuff: crop, rotate, adjust white balance, exposure compensation, choose picture controls (e.g. vivid, landscape, portrait, custom, etc.). In addition, you can apply D-lighting, red-eye removal (although I couldn’t get the D90 to give me red-eye), convert to black and white, sepia, cyanotype, filter effects (skylight, warm, red, green, blue, cross screen), resize, quick retouch (contrast + saturation), adjust distortion, and add fisheye effect. Each adjustment creates a new JPG and leaves the original untouched. It’s a nice-to-have for a guy like me who doesn’t particularly like post-processing images.
- Strobists take note: The D90 has built-in flash commander support for up to two groups + the built-in flash + adjustable channels (1-4)! It’s almost like getting an SB-800 thrown into the kit for free. Awesome news for folks with multiple strobes.
- No complaints about the 18-105 kit lens. The VR works well, it has the same field of view at the wide end as the 18-70, and it has produced fine bokeh so far. Plastic lens mount but, hey, it’s the kit lens. Exactly the same lens hood as the 18-70 kit and takes the same filter size (67mm).
- Movie mode is a fun, fun, fun little battery drainer. Image quality is excellent, sound quality is acceptable (what you’d expect from a dinky in-camera microphone). I’ll post a video sample soon.
As I said, I’ve only had the camera a few days. More impressions as I learn more about it. Some weekend shots below, from my Flickr account:
One of the techniques people most often ask me to teach them is making a photograph like the one on the right that is black and white with one other colour.
There are a few ways to achieve this effect but here are two ones I find easiest for Photoshop users. Read more…