The New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust recently discovered and restored a treasure-trove of century-old cellulose nitrate negatives left behind by the ill-fated Ross Sea party when they were rescued after spending three years struggling to survive on Ross Island after their ship broke loose from it’s moorings and blew out to sea. The small box of 22 unprocessed negatives were part of more than 10,000 objects conserved at Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s hut and brought back to New Zealand by the Trust and painstakingly restored.
In this month’s issue we feature black-and-white photography in all its power and glory with portfolios of portraiture, location, and street photography. We also hone in on a series of tests covering dynamic new cameras from Canon and Panasonic, a look at a B&W-focused inkjet paper, and an exciting close-up lens from Tamron.
To fully understand your flash, there are some basic principles and definitions I need to explain. When I start discussing how to be creative with your flash, you will know what I’m talking about with this information under your belt. Flash is not difficult once you understand some fundamental principles. I will start from the beginning and take you step by step to the point where it will seem like no big deal to get excellent flash pictures.
I have made the point that on-camera flash is not the most attractive artificial light for photography. In fact, I’d say it’s at or near the bottom of my list for choosing artificial light sources to illuminate the subjects I photograph. If I can’t take the flash off the camera and I’m forced to use on-camera flash, then the best approach is to diffuse the light. There are various ways to do this. Some diffusion techniques require a modest expenditure while others don’t cost anything.
Dedicated black and white photographers have always processed their images and made their own prints. Negatives were carefully developed according to exposure and contrast needs; prints were made with extensive “handwork” and archival processing procedures. Processing was and is a key element in black and white photography—digital does not change that element of the craft.
One of the most exciting aspects of black and white photography is your ability to interpret your images, that is, joining your way of seeing with the application of techniques. For example, when shooting landscapes, the aim is generally to communicate your “sense of place.” The techniques you apply define both the objective place (the record of that scene) and your perceptions and feelings about it. Depending on your decisions, you can create an image of the same scene pervaded by light and contrast, or set in deep, dark tones. The objective image does not change; what can change is your interpretation, the way the scene is altered by journeying through your mind’s eye.
In perhaps an unfortunate sign of the times, we recently learned that an unauthorized telemarketer has illegally obtained a portion of Shutterbug’s subscriber file and is contacting readers in a fraudulent attempt to collect funds for past, current or future subscriptions. We’ve heard from a number of angry readers, upset by the rude, harassing (and illegal) telephone calls from someone they perceived to be one of our authorized subscription representatives.
Many people think that professional looking portraits of either people or animals require a multiple light setup in a studio. The traditional configuration consists of a main light, a fill light, sometimes a hair light depending on the hair—or lack of hair—of the subject, and two lights on the background. You can see what this type of lighting looks like in where I used a 4-light setup. The background was black paper and the two subtle background lights made it look gray. I set the studio strobes to provide a 3:1 lighting ratio on the model’s face.
Think of a digital camera as a microprocessor with a lens. Along with doing all the things a camera does there is an immense amount of image processing that goes on inside before the image is recorded on the memory card. There are many ways to change the character of an image using the camera’s processor.
This story is oriented to photographers who are serious about their photography, and who want to learn to use flash creatively. However, I know there are a lot of people who are very happy with their camera and who aren’t interested in buying sophisticated flash units. Admittedly, there is a lot to be said for being able to use one unit for both exposure and illumination. In this section I will address the issue of pop-up flash units and tell you how to get the most out of these small and convenient types of flash.
After I had been taking pictures seriously for two or three years, I realized that photography taught me to see things I had never noticed before I picked up a camera. I had been fairly oblivious to contrast, the shapes of shadows, details, texture, light, color, and graphic design. The camera helped me finally pay attention to all of these things. It is truly remarkable how much you can miss. For example, BP (Before Photography) I would have walked right past the overturned cart in a rural area of Missouri and not given it a second thought. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that this had any artistry or beauty. Similarly, BP I would have missed the bold graphic design, warm color, and rich texture in the detail of a cathedral door in Strasbourg, France.
Multicolored neon lights turning and spinning at night are irresistible to a photographer. Even though I have photographed amusement parks at night for years, it’s still exciting to do it again because the pictures I take are never the same. The colors are always dazzling, and the abstracts are captivating. Sometimes I am happy with these images as I shoot them, like (#1 and #2), and other times I use them as composites as in (#3, #4 and #5). When I took the latter image I immediately thought of a black hole, so I added “stars” to complete the concept. The star field is actually a picture of glitter sprinkled on black velvet.
Underwater photography is a specialty that most of us don’t delve into, but I think it’s fair to say that most nature photographers are intrigued with the creatures seen in public and private aquariums. They are beautiful, bizarre, mysterious and often ethereal. Photographing them can be challenging because there are technical issues to deal with in order to get the best possible images.
I have always found tree bark intriguing. It comes in myriad colors, patterns, designs and textures, and it reminds me of photographing abstract art. I am always looking at tree trunks and branches when I travel, and at home when I visit a botanical garden I know there will be a lot of photographic material. The abstract images you can photograph run the gamut from brilliant and saturated “works of art” to those that are much more subtle. The two images (#1 and #2) illustrate the tremendous range of subject matter available to you.
Studio photographers have used black acrylic glass to create subtle reflections in product shots and portraits for many years. It’s a wonder prop because it adds an elegant quality to the photographs of many different types of subjects, from people to glassware to flowers.