While we might not realize it we have all been making portraits since the day we were born. We recognized the shapes and proportions of the face as being of our own kind, and grew to recognize the features of those who were near to us and were dependent upon. We also began to understand that as we went out in the world how the rearrangement of those features boded ill or well, and began to understand the looks of love, empathy, anger, fear, and even indifference. The ability to read those signs was what enabled us to cope with the world and the people who inhabit it.
When we all started out in photography we had something that lit the spark, some picture we took or some special interest that we knew would be part of our guiding light in the craft. Or we saw the work of another photographer, a mentor if you will, that we immediately connected to and saw in their work a path into our own inner vision. Our aim here at the magazine, along with how-tos and reviews, is to present the work of a wide diversity of photographers who have gotten involved on an intense level with one topic, one locale, or one point of view and created a body of work that speaks to their own inner vision. It can be a project or a life’s work, but in each case we understand and appreciate the tremendous amount of focus and energy it involves.
Long banished for being retro, unconnected, and perhaps even unhip, this year’s worldwide photo show, photokina, marked the return of what might be called RLCs, or “Real Live Cameras,” at least in their appearance and build and in all instances in digital manifestations. Most have new features, new capabilities, and even have sprouted “antennae” for connectivity, yet at the same time have the look and feel of photographic instruments with world-class lenses and handling to match. We begin our photokina reports in this issue, and will follow through with other reports on new products in subsequent issues of Shutterbug.
In this issue we offer a host of camera reports covering a wide variety of models and camera types, and this gives me a good opportunity to discuss the forms our camera tests take—lab tests and what I call “anecdotal” reports. In most cases we limit a model to one type of test, except when we feel that it rates a second look and that there’s more to add by using both approaches. We also make a decision about lab or field tests when we feel overwhelmed by new cameras coming our way, and simply don’t have the space each month to cover every one of them. Plus, we offer tests that never see the pages of the magazine that can be found under the Image Tech section of our website at www.shutterbug.com.
Travel and photography have been intertwined since the earliest days of the craft. At photography’s beginnings, photographers often carted gear on horseback and mule, bringing along tents for wet plate coating and processing in the field. Coated film changed all that, and amateurs and professionals alike soon discovered newfound freedom in where a camera could go, and a profusion of images showed us every corner of the globe.
While much has changed in the display and distribution of images you might like to sell, there’s no question that what has remained the same in making sales is first having work that’s marketable and then catching a few breaks to get the work sold. While the following may sound like I’m telling old tales, I thought relating how I got my first ever stock sales might give an indication of what it takes to get into the marketplace and start having your images pay some of the rent.
There have been profound changes in lighting gear options of late, and each adds newfound ways to make images. You can work using hot or cold continuous lights, with AC or battery-powered units, and even choose between LED and strobe sources. Some “new” light sources are coming into their own. For example, we have been covering LEDs for a while, and now we see how they are growing in their use in both the studio and on location.
Every year editors from photo magazines around the world gather to pick what they consider the top photo and imaging products of the year. This is no easy task, for the most part, as there are literally hundreds of products that could vie for the award in each category, and in fact each year there are some new categories that did not exist a few years ago.
For years we have been working with the “traditional” Bayer sensor and its concomitant pluses and minuses, but we might soon see a change in the capture devices we have in our cameras. In this issue, Christopher Dack covers the recent work by Fujifilm, with a new filter pattern, Sigma’s Foveon sensor, and the elimination of the low-pass filter in Nikon’s coming D800E camera. As you’ll see, these moves challenge conventional thinking about the sensor we have become accustomed to in our cameras.
While many cameras today have extensive on-board image processing, and offer numerous special effects and “retouch” functions, you are in fact relying on someone else’s opinion of how your images should look when you avail yourself of them. At Shutterbug we emphasize quality imaging, and part of attaining quality is taking control of your own images by getting involved in how they look and “feel” by taking them in hand and doing your own processing work.
One of our feature stories this month, Jason Schneider’s “The Shape of (Digital) Things to Come,” got me thinking about just what might be ahead in the ever-changing world of photography. In the past few years we’ve seen pretty much variations on the theme, with every feature manufacturers can think of being added to digital cameras. We’ve seen GPS, more in-camera processing options, in-camera HDR and tone curve control, and of course the update of virtually every camera line to incorporate HD video. All of this is to the good, but only if it gets you where you need to go.
For a number of years we have been presenting the work of photographers that we generally include under a “personal project” heading, meaning essays and long-term dedication to a subject, a “cause,” or a particular field of study that uses images to help tell the tale. These projects generally focus on a point of view, a social commentary, or a distinct subject that the photographer finds of interest. They draw upon a legacy of photo essays that are a mainstay of how the camera has always been and continues to be used to communicate, to amuse, to give you a sense of wonder, or to convince you about changes that need to be addressed to better the world. They are presented as “evidence” of a point of view and often ask you to consider more deeply the topic presented, or inspire you to undertake a body of work that both codifies your perception of the world around you and makes a statement about where you stand.
While parts of the nation are blessed with warm or let’s say tolerable weather during these winter months there are many more areas in which we inhabitants spend the short days thinking about the springtime to come. For photographers who earn all or part of their keep with their camera some of the planning has to be preparing for what is hoped will be a busy season—the myriad social events that photographers are paid to document, including weddings, graduations and concomitant senior portraits, Easter and First Communions, and whatever social and familial events that come along. Granted, a good many jobs are already booked by now, but there are always late calls, cancellations, and rebookings.
I grew up in a black-and-white photographic world. Sure there was color and plenty of it, but what attracted my eye were the black-and-white pictorials in Life magazine, black-and-white movies like The Third Man and the film noir B-flicks, and the amazing work that came out of the FSA and that of Weston, Evans, and Siskind. When I began photography “seriously” I couldn’t imagine shooting in color, except for the rent-paying jobs, or not being the one who processed and printed my own work.
First off, the staff of Shutterbug wishes the very best for you and yours during the coming year. We thank you for your continued support, ideas and images, and look forward to another great year in 2012.