This month marks the anniversary of a column that began in July 1999 as Website of the Month and has evolved into Web Profiles. Along the way, I’ve tried to include tips and trends to help readers improve their own web-based activities. Take Pinterest (http://pinterest.com), for example. It’s a virtual pinboard that lets you organize and share images, among other stuff, with people on the web. It’s like Twitter (www.twitter.com) for your photographs! I’m going to give it a try and so should you. In the meantime, I’ll continue to seek out new websites, to boldly go…sorry, I got carried away. I try to include at least one Shutterbug reader’s site in each episode but I can’t always tell that from your site, so click the Contact button on my website, www.joefarace.com, and tell me about it. You could find yourself featured in an upcoming column.
When I was studying photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art, one of my instructors commented that some of the best photographs were made in the break room. Not real photographs, mind you, but chitchat among my erstwhile colleagues about the great photographs they were going to make—someday. While some of those images may have eventually gotten made, I’ll bet only a few of my fellow students actually produced the photographs they talked about so excitedly. And that’s because it’s easy to get wrapped up in what you have been successfully doing for so long that you forget to explore what attracted you to photography in the first place. You can be so mesmerized by the pixels on your monitor that you forget to create new photographs, something that’s different from the last batch of images captured. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to not only take time to smell the roses but to photograph them as well.
A typical digital camera’s sensor sees a range of light in wavelengths from approximately 350 to 1000 nanometers. A nanometer (nm) is a metric unit of length equal to one billionth of a meter. Your eyes usually see a range of light from approximately 400 to 700 nanometers. Most digital cameras place a low pass filter directly in front of the imaging sensor to allow low frequency light visible to the human eye to pass through to the sensor. It blocks unwanted light from the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums (the high end and the low end wavelengths) from polluting a photograph’s color. As owners of early Leica M8 cameras quickly discovered, this piece of glass is very important for maintaining maximum color fidelity.
One of the guiding philosophies for my personal work is to “have fun with photography” and that involves using image manipulation software to create either an idealized version, as in a portrait of a subject, or an interpretation of a previously captured photograph. Retouching portraits goes back to the hand-tinting Mathew Brady added to daguerreotypes delivered to his customers but in more recent times photojournalists have been fired from newspapers for applying a bit too much Photoshop on their images. The whole question of what is “too much” is fraught with contradictions: since we see the world in color, is a black-and-white photograph manipulated? Is burning and dodging or changing an image’s contrast a manipulation? Trying to find answers that everyone will agree on is enough to make you crazy so I don’t let it bother me because all I want to do is have fun with my photography. If you agree, here are some useful tools to help you do just that.
Tiffen’s Dfx 3.0 offers photographers software that can make their images stand out from the crowd. The bundle is a digital emulation of 2000 of the company’s glass filters that for convenience uses the same names of the company’s Soft/FX or Pro-Mist filters, so those who’ve shot with their filters in the past know exactly what to expect when applying their digital equivalents. For those who haven’t, rest assured that the company who made their name in filters knows their stuff. As a bonus, the software also includes effects created by lenses, lab processes, film grain, color correction, plus natural light effects.
I must confess that previous versions of Tiffen’s Dfx Digital Filter Suite, while interesting, did not make the final cut of power tools in my personal digital toolbox. All that’s changed in 3.0. It takes all of the good stuff from the previous versions, blends in new options, and wraps it around an interface that, while still containing a few less-than-elegant elements, retains its individuality and provides for smooth workflow.
While National Photography Month may be the entire month of May, Camera Day is celebrated on June 29th. That day is also the 126th anniversary of the birth of James Van Der Zee, the African-American photographer of the Harlem Renaissance that occurred during the 1920s and ’30s. It’s also a day when photographers of all ages and abilities should venture forth into the world to capture all the beauty that surrounds us. Follow the examples set by the four photographers who are featured in this month’s column and I’m sure they’ll serve as great sources of inspiration for your images.
National Photography Month started in 1984 as the week-long American Photography Celebration but now runs the entire month. May was also the home of “Take Your Camera to Work Day” that was funded out of my own pocket but faded after a few years because of the cost of creating a user-friendly site. If anybody’s interested in helping relaunch the website I could restart it next year, depending on whether the Mayans were wrong or not. May is also my birthday month and I’d like to thank all of Shutterbug’s readers for their support over the years.
Tumblr (www.tumblr.com) is a free microblogging platform that lets you post text, images, videos, quotes, and audio using a short-form blog called a tumblelog. Using free or modestly priced templates, it’s the easiest kinds of photoblog to produce and you can literally have a blog up and running within minutes. With 6.8 million weekly visits the site ranks as the 10th largest social network so it’s a good way to keep clients and friends up-to-date about the kinds of photographs you’re making. You can see my own attempt at http://joefarace.tumblr.com. Give Tumblr a try and send me a link to your blog because I plan to have an all-Tumblr Web Profiles in the near future.
A monolight is a self-contained studio flash that consists of a power supply, flash head, and modeling light wrapped up inside a single housing. Monolights are typically powered by AC current but there are times on location when an electrical outlet may not be so conveniently located and long extension cords can create safety hazards, even when securely fastened down. I’ve had people trip over taped cords and believe me, it can ruin your day. That’s why a new breed of monolights, such as Adorama’s Flashpoint II monolights, offer a DC option with a battery pack when you might be out standing in a field or, at one time during my tests, in a big parking lot. A switch lets you choose between AC or DC power provided by a dedicated Ni-MH battery pack that measures 7x7x3” and weighs 2.65 lbs.
Maybe it was the 17th Earl of Oxford (www.shakespeare-oxford.com) who really wrote the above line but it’s a nice thought nevertheless. The quote’s actual authorship was the concept proposed in the film Anonymous as well. (Look for a review of the film on my movie blog www.ihatepopcorn.com.) What’s for sure is that the creative endeavors of the four wedding photographers featured this month display work that transcends the genre, producing images of beauty, sensitivity, and love. And isn’t that what weddings are all about?