A woden sculpture of a fisherman at a local restaurant
A wooden sculpture of a fisherman at a local restaurant

For some strange reason, I have something of an obsession with those weird, wooden and plastic sculptures that are typically used to decorate restaurants, bar, hotel lobbies, and etc.    I really like to shoot them with my phone camera.  I think the distortion of the lens gives a slightly eerie, disturbing feeling to the shots.

I modified this with Photoshop.

Old dog, new tricks

Arcata Community Forest, 1/15 sec.
Arcata Community Forest, 1/15 sec.

Lately I have been spending some time and effort trying out some ideas suggested by Freeman Patterson in his book “Photography and the Art of Seeing”.  In particular I have been very taken by an ecercise of his involving taking photos in a forest at a slow shutter speed, while jumping up and down.  While I caution readers that such activities may do little or nothing for your dignity (if you care about such things) it is a real eye-opener in terms of technique.

Depending on the shutter speed you go for, and the portion of the jump you trip the shutter during, you can get extremely varied effects, from no more than a subtle blur, to lines of abstract color almost impossible to connect to the actual subject matter.

I find that the technique works best with side lighting for the trees.  Also, because the camera is constantly moving during the exposure, the colors come out quite vibrant, even when taken near mid-day.



I have this strange love of toy cameras.  I like taking photos with my cell phone and I absolutely adore my Holga 120-S.

For those who don’t know the Holga is a very simple camera.  It has two settings for light – sunny and cloudy – and the focus ring has pictures instead of an actual focusing distance.  It shoots 120 film – as far as I know it is the cheapest camera on the market that does – and the plastic lens gives interesting distortion effects.

When you get your Holga you have to discover for yourself the distortion effects of the lens – every lens is different.  My wife has a Holga 120-S just like mine, but it has different distortions.  Her Holga has a much crisper focus than mine.

Holga’s cheap plastic body leaks light like a sieve.  My Holga is covered in gaffers tape to suppress light leaks, but I have seen photos from other Holga enthusiasts that swear by the interesting effects of the leakage.

Holga does not have through the lens viewing.  That means that what you see when you look through the viewfinder is not exactly what you get when you take the picture.  So you have to offset yourself a bit.

Holga is a scruffy looking camera.  It’s great for throwing in your car – you aren’t going to be broken-hearted if it gets stolen.  It’s great for taking on exploratory trips – you aren’t going to be heartbroken if it get drenched in salt water either, and if you drop it then it is far more likely to survive unscathed than your $2,000 DSLR.

There is a lens attachment called a lensbaby that can turn your SLR or DSLR into a Holga, introducing selective distortions into your photos.  Lensbabies run $65.00 – $270.00 depending on what sort of lens you are buying them for.  The current line of Holgas is running $28.00 – $40.00  Of course, the lensbaby lets you control your distortions – Holga just gives you whatever distortions it is built with.

Point-and-shoot — and think



If you got a new digital camera over the holidays, you probably got a point-and-shoot model. True, if you point that sort of camera at something and push the big button on top of the case, you will take a picture.

That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you will have taken a good one. The not-so-dirty, not-so-little secret about even the simplest point-and-shoot cameras is that they work best if you know just a tiny bit about what’s going on when you snap a picture.

Otherwise, even scads of megapixels and image stabilization and other ballyhooed features can’t save you from overexposed images and washed-out colors.

Below are some basic tips and tricks. They apply to most of the cameras on the market today, even if the manufacturers have different names for their various features and settings (word to the wise: don’t throw away the owner’s manual). Putting this advice in action won’t make you a great photographer, but it will elevate you to the glorified realm of the “not bad.”

Setting up your shot
Photography is, at its core, about making the most of light. All cameras include a fully automatic mode that sets optimal exposures based on lighting conditions, but most also give the user some degree of manual control to adjust settings.

Scene modes: The entry-level, basic snap-shooters may offer little to no manual control, but all cameras include scene modes. These are presets that adjust the camera to perform best in a given situation.

Typical scene modes include party, night, portrait, snow, beach, sunset, fireworks, sports and kids and pets. In sports mode, for instance, the camera will automatically set a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.

Scene settings are a great place to start experimenting because they help you capture the best shots in specific shooting conditions, and you don’t have to a thing about exposure.

ISO: One of the most basic ways to control the light is to adjust the ISO. Doing so will make your camera more or less sensitive to light. Cameras use lower ISO settings of 80 or 100 for photographing in bright conditions like sunny days. Higher ISO settings — 400 and up — enable the camera to capture the details of subjects in lower light. Today’s cameras may include ISO settings of 3200 or higher, but use them judiciously — you’ll start to see “noise,” or multicolored specks in images, starting at ISO 400.

Exposure compensation: Exposure compensation can save the day in difficult lighting conditions, such as bright sunlight and strongly backlit scenes. For instance, if you photograph a friend with very bright lighting behind her, the details of her face will probably be in shadow. Set the exposure compensation to a positive value to capture more details of the foreground and her face.

White balance: Another useful setting that is available on most cameras is white balance, which ensures that the light source — fluorescent or tungsten lamps, for instance — does not apply an artificial color cast to your image. For instance, white objects snapped under fluorescent lighting often exhibit a greenish tint. To correct white balance, simply select the correct light source from a list that typically includes tungsten, fluorescent, shade or sunlight.

Flash modes: Most people set their flash to Auto and don’t think about it again (unless they’re trying to sneak in a few surreptitious shots in a museum, in which case they turn off the flash). But auto flash isn’t always the best flash, which is why cameras typically offer a couple of flash settings that can greatly enhance photos.

For instance, if you’re taking an outdoor photo of someone whose face is in shadow, using force flash (or flash on) will coax your subject’s face out of the shadows. Many cameras also enable you to adjust the brightness of the flash, which is useful when snapping shots of subjects in close range. You’ll want to decrease the brightness of the flash so that the image isn’t washed out.

Another useful flash setting is slow synchro (also called nighttime mode), which slows the shutter speed in combination with the flash. With slow synchro, you can get more background detail in dimly lighted scenes, such as portraits shot outdoors at twilight or indoor shots where you want the right amount of flash for your subject, but don’t want to wash out the whole room with a bright flash.

Snapping the shot
Now that you understand the adjustments to make in order to capture the right exposure, you’re ready to shoot.

Auto-focus: Auto-focus is a two-step process. First, press the shutter button halfway to focus on your subject and set the correct exposure. You’ll hear a beep to indicate that the lens has focused and that the automatic exposure is locked. Press the button all the way down to snap the shot.

Optical zoom: Most basic point-and-shoot cameras have an optical zoom range of 3X to 5X, which enables you to zoom in (or out) on your subject. Many models also include a digital zoom.

You can tell the difference when zooming in because you can feel and hear optical zoom — the lens is actually moving. If you zoom in after that, it will be silent, because digital zoom is happening deep inside a microchip in the camera.

It’s best to ignore digital zoom because it simply enlarges the pixels and results in inferior images. Also, zoomed-in shots are more prone to the blurring caused by shaky hands. So if you are in close, make sure that your camera’s image stabilization is turned on.

Macro mode: Macro enables you to move in as tight as an inch to take extreme close-ups of objects. You’ll need to enable Macro mode to ensure the proper focus.

Burst mode: Most digital cameras have a burst mode that snaps off a series of photos in quick succession. It’s a useful feature for capturing a soccer goal or Junior’s quick smile. A caveat is that many cameras will save burst-mode shots in a lower resolution. Also, continuous shooting will not work with flash, because the electronic flash cannot recycle that quickly.

Movie mode: Just about any point-and-shoot camera will record a movie with sound (digital SLRs traditionally have not offered video, although high-end models are beginning to add movie capabilities). Increasingly, newer cameras let you capture video in high definition.

Movie mode is typically selected on a top-level dial. To use movie mode, depress the button halfway to focus and set the exposure, then fully depress to start recording. To stop, fully press the button again. Note that most cameras do not allow you to use the zoom while you’re recording a movie, so you’ll need to decide on focal length before you begin.

Another thing you can and should do: Take a lot of pictures. A whole lot. Play with the settings and see what kind of pictures you get. After all, you’re not going to have to shell out for extra film.

The Getty Museum Explores the Important Genre of Portaiture in Photography

30.2 X 45.1 cm. 98.XM.232.3 ⓒEggleston Artistic Trust. Gift of Caldecot Chubb, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
William Eggleston (American, born 1939), Morton, Mississippi, 1971. Dye transfer print. Image: 30.2 X 45.1 cm. 98.XM.232.3 ⓒEggleston Artistic Trust. Gift of Caldecot Chubb, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.


LOS ANGELES, CA.- In Focus: The Portrait presents a selection of about 50 photographs, affording visitors the opportunity to explore a sampling of the Getty Museum’s world-renowned collection of photographs on the subject of portraiture.

Following the invention of photography, portraiture became widely accessible to the masses. This exhibition presents a cross section of technical and aesthetic developments in the medium. It shows a broad range of styles throughout the history of photography including works by Félix Nadar (French, 1820–1910), Edward Steichen (American, 1879–1973), Dorothea Lange (American, 1895–1965), and Cecil Beaton (British, 1904–1980), amongst others.

“If photography was initially perceived to be the most truthful of artistic representations, its underlying subjectivity is especially relevant in portraiture,” says Anne Lacoste, curator of the exhibition. “The exhibition illustrates the relationship between photographer and sitter. Selected quotes from both the maker and subject provide insight into their experiences of the photographic process.”

In Focus: The Portrait is organized according to three distinct approaches. Marking the beginnings of photography as an entrepreneurial activity, the Formal Portrait refers to the traditional practice of professional studios. The works in this section range from a rare daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe to more contemporary works by Irving Penn (American, born 1917) and Richard Avedon (American, 1923–2004). A selection of cartes-de-visite from the 1860s–1880s will also be on display.

The Intimate Portrait presents photographers’ exploration of their immediate environment. The section includes a pictorial portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815–1879); the artist Georgia O’Keeffe photographed by her husband, Alfred Stieglitz (American 1864–1946); and snapshots of life at the Bauhaus by Theodore Lux Feininger (American, born Germany, 1910).

The Documentary Portrait responds to a more conventional idea of the camera as a device to record the world. An example of the early application of photography to sciences such as anthropology or psychiatry can be found in a portrait by Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond (British, 1809–1886), while a “mug shot” album demonstrates how the photographic portrait became a useful tool of the modern states in identifying and tracking criminals. This section also illustrates how the medium successfully addresses social issues. Visitors will see the photographic work of Lewis Hine (American, 1874–1940), whose images resulted in protective legislation for children in the United States; Walker Evans (American, 1903–1975), who made iconic portraits during the Great Depression; and Diane Arbus (American, 1923–1971), a member of this new generation of photographers who directed the documentary approach toward more personal ends in the 1960s.

In Focus: The Portrait is curated by Anne Lacoste, assistant curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum. It is the third in the “In Focus” series of thematic exhibitions drawn from the Getty’s extensive permanent collection of photographs. Upcoming “In Focus” shows include In Focus: Making a Scene and In Focus: The Worker, both opening in 2009. In September 2009, Getty Museum presents Irving Penn’s Small Trades, an exhibition designed to highlight the 2008 acquisition of Penn’s seminal body of work entitled “The Small Trades,” which consists of several hundred full-length portraits of skilled tradespeople dressed in their work clothes and carrying the tools of their respective trades.

Bill to require sound when pics are taken with cell phone?

By OMAR EL AKKAD Toronto Globe and Mail

A New York congressman has introduced a bill that would force U.S. phone manufacturers to program an audible tone that plays every time the cell phone’s camera is used, in an effort to stem the voyeuristic tide of revealing, unauthorized photography.

Read entire article here.

Misha B

Just your friendly neighborhood ego striker.

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