I am that I am...


Bear with me through site updates...

If the site looks a mess lately; well, it is...  I was trying some different template styles a couple days ago, and Squarespace allows you to preview the styles w/o actually committing the changes.  I never once committed a change, but the software got stuck in this loop of asking me if I wanto ed to save changes; I kept clicking no, and it kept popping up.  Eventually I just had to close the browswer, as there was just no escape, but unfortunately, it actually committed the style change when I did that.  And man, was it ugly...  Anyway, I asked Squarespace to restore previous settings, and they said they can't do that (do they not backup their sites?  I find that hard to believe.).  So now I'm stuck trying to recreate my old style from memory, which isn't easy, as I had a lot of things customized.  I'm hoping I exported the CSS from my old style at some point, and can restore from that, but if not, expect some gradual changes to keep on for a while...


Is Full Frame dying off? (Part II)

 "Let there be light... pollution!"

Wow, it's been about 11 months since I last posted here.  I've spent way too much time on social media, gotten away from writing real, well-considered and written content.  I need to change that...

 Anyway, with that out of the way, I thought I'd pick up where I left off, on the whole APS-C vs. FF debate.  A lot has changed for me since I wrote this piece.  I wasn't even in the mirrorless market yet myself then, so it was all theoretical.  I've since jumped in, first with a Sony NEX6, and followed up about 6 months later with a Sony a6000, its successor.  I tell you, the water's warm and inviting! :)

 These are both APS-C cameras, 16MP and 24MP, respectively.  After having used them for a while, I find myself reaching for my DSLRs much, much less.  Honestly, about the only time I go for the big boys anymore is when I plan on shooting with a really large lens, like my 70-200mm f/2.8, as it just balances/handles better on a DSLR body with battery grip (in my opinion).  Otherwise, though, I'm going for the lightweight convenience of those little mirrorless cameras.  The image quality is just as good, the new lenses coming out for them (on the APS-C side anyway) are more compact, and they're just much easier to throw in a bag or pocket and take with me anywhere.

 So for me, the DSLR vs. Mirrorless debate is largely over - mirrorless all the way, and I'm slowly making my shift over.  As far as APS-C vs. FF, that's still an open question and depends on what you need.  I said before that I'd still want FF for lowlight/high-ISO work, but honestly, after seeing how well the a6000 is doing in these situations, I'm not even sure about that anymore.  The picture at the top of this post, which I shot atop Loveland Pass in Colorado in late January with my Sony a6000, was a 30-second exposure at ISO2500, and it came out pretty damn clean.  I shot others up there at 3200, and they also looked pretty good.  I think FF only offers up the real advantage if you go super high ISO, where a tool like the Sony A7s comes in handy.  And you already know if you need that capability...  Outside a specialist need, though, I'm tempted to say save your money on those FF bodies and just put towards quality glass instead.


Is Full Frame dying off?

This is somewhat of an ironic post for me, given that I just invested in full-frame (35mm) cameras over this past year; however, I honestly think FF might be becoming something of a very niche market.  Why?

Rise of the advanced, super-quality, compact APS-C (crop sensor) camera systems!  Most notably those by Fuji and Sony.  If you watch the video above, which is obviously slanted, being an ad for a lens for these systems, you can see the quality of work that is now being produced with these quality compact, mirrorless camera systems.  In this case, the photographer is shooting with either a (Sony) NEX-6/a6000 or NEX-7 (I believe one of the former, looking at the way the trigger is mounted), but many pros are also starting to use the Fuji series of mirrorless APS-C cameras, such as the XT-1 and X100s.  Look to Zack Arias and David Hobby as prime examples of this.

The reason most of these photographers give is that the quality difference simply isn't great enough between these APS-C cameras and FF anymore.  And if they do need greater quality, larger native print size, etc., they're simply skipping FF and going straight to medium format.  Go big or go home, so to speak…

So, the question is, is a traditional DSLR even worth it anymore?  If you're new to buying into a camera system, you might be better off just buying into a compact mirrorless system instead of an APS-C DSLR (which is where most of us start).  You'll get quality just as good, save some money, and also save a lot of heft.  Then, instead of blowing money on a bigger, heavier FF body down the road, you might be better advised to just keep saving a while longer and buy into a medium format system, like Phase One or Pentax.  If you guy used, you can get into one of those systems for not much more than a new FF DSLR setup.  I almost kinda wish that's the route I had taken…

The flipside to this argument might be that FF ends up just killing off APS-C.  Sony has created an entirely new segment with their RX1 and A7 cameras, proving that a full-frame sensor can be utilized in a compact body.  If they start doing that at a more quantitative level, and the other makers join in, it could be that FF becomes the new entry point.  I kinda doubt, at least for the immediately foreseeable future, but it wouldn't completely surprise me if it happened a few years down the road either.

So I've probably actually concluded nothing here… ;-)

Have a good weekend!  By the way, be sure to check out my new Colorado landscape photography website, Living Colorado.  I hope you like it!



Technical Perfection Over Artistic Soul?

It's been weighing on me a lot lately how, particularly with the advent of the digital revolution, a quality photograph these days seems to be judged more on technical perfection than it's artistic value, whether it moves you or not; not just how well it was shot either, but if the post-processing lives up to some modern standard of portrait/fashion photography.  This standard usually entails that every female appear to have porcelain doll skin, not a single hair straying from the surface of the head, eyes and teeth so white they shine brighter than the sun, and not an ounce of grain (noise) to be seen.

I see this happen in online forums all the time - Facebook, Flickr, Google+, various photo website forums, etc.  Someone will post a photo that has great composition, captures/displays some true emotion, and is just as beautiful as any photo shot by one of the greats 40 years ago, but the critics come out in force to scream that the skin isn't smooth enough, there's too many stray hairs, too much noise, etc.  Yet never once do they actually address the expression of the photograph, if it conveys what it was intended to convey.  That's ignored for technical (post-processing) excellence.

I was thinking of this as I was looking at this book at Barnes & Noble the other night: Coming Into Fashion: A Century of Photography at Conde Nast.  It includes a century's worth of great fashion photos over the past century, progressing through the different eras and how fashions and photographic styles changed.  It's a great book if you're interested in fashion photography.  Anyway, I noticed how in so many outstanding photos from decades past, the women's hair looked REAL, in that there was a strand of hair or two showing that didn't appear glued to their heads, the eyes and teeth weren't separately sharpened (or dodged, as I guess would have been the only real option in those days), and naturally, being the film days, a little bit of grain (noise, in today's terms) wasn't considered to ruin the image.  I was thinking how if those photos were posted as they were on Flickr or similar site today, without anyone knowing who took them, they'd probably be immediately ripped apart for these "flaws".  And these are GREAT photos!

Now, to be clear, I am not against any modern photo equipment, software, etc.  Hell, I rely on these things myself.  I came of age as a photographer withing the digital era.  My only concern is that we're defining perfection today not on how well our art speaks to the soul, but rather how well it meets some arbitrary, modern technical standard.  And beyond that, I fear we're considering perfection to be our photos looking like everyone else's photos.  Our models/subjects aren't judged on how well they represent themselves, but rather how well they meet some universal beauty/fashion standard, how much we make them look like the porcelain doll.  I want my subjects to still appear human!  Not like they could have just as easily been a posed mannequin, without a freckle to be seen anywhere....

Our modern, high-resolution cameras can produce crazy, super-clean images; and with software like Photoshop, you can pretty much erase away any imperfection, along with flat-out creating a completely different digital work of art from a simple photo.  It truly is amazing what we can do today.  However, has this new technical ability stopped us from being able to look beyond that, to appreciate the actual soul of an image?


"What do I want? The answer is, 'I don't know.'"

A very thought-provoking talk by the late Alan Watts, one that's really speaking to me right now.

"That fact, that everything is in decay, is your helper. That is allowing you, that you don't have to let go, because there's nothing to hold onto." – Alan Watts