Thursday, February 21, 2013

First Shots With My New Fuji X100

I was working a regular glam gig this past Monday night and brought along my new Fujifilm Finepix X100. Even though I was there on someone's else's dime, I figured I could find a couple of minutes to snap a few. UPS had just dropped the camera off a few days prior and I hadn't yet shot anything with it yet which meant I was still unfamiliar with the controls and settings and such. I did spend some time, albeit not much, going through the manual.  BTW, I should note that I didn't purchase the camera to shoot glam with it. I bought it so I can, hopefully, expand my photographic horizons beyond what I normally shoot, which is mainly glam and tease.

For my work, I shoot with a Canon 5D. The X100 is nothing like a 5D. Not even close! First off, it's not a dSLR. It's a digital rangefinder. There are many more differences, of course, between the X100 and any dSLR. Here's some of the more notable ones: 1) It's a compact camera. Not a point-and-shoot but a compact; and with a very retro design. Most people think it's an old film camera from the 60s or 70s when they first see it. 2) It has a fixed, non-interchangeable, 35mm lens. No zooming in or out, either optically or electronically with this camera. 3) It has a leaf shutter. In a nutshell that means, amongst other things, you can shoot at very fast sync speeds. 4) It has an optical viewfinder that you can easily and quickly switch to an electronic viewfinder with plenty of options for what's displayed in it. 5) The LCD on the back can provide a "live view" if you'd prefer bypassing the viewfinder and shooting with it that way, plus more functions and ways you can use it but, for now, I'll leave it at that.

The stuff I just mentioned is only a partial list of cool features packed into the very cool X100.

Anyway, I've been wanting one of these cameras since they were first released nearly two years ago. An X100 review that Zach Arias authored for his blog further sold me on it, as well as Ken Rockwell's take on the camera.

As I usually am, I was stressed for time the first night I shot with my new X100 but I said, "Screw it," and decided to take a few moments to swap out my Pocket Wizard from atop my 5D and slap it on my X100.  I figured I could grab a quick few frames just to see what they looked like without having to dick around with the camera too much. In all, I was  able to shoot about a half-dozen snaps of two different models with it. That was all it took to convince me I made a wise choice buying one of these impressive cameras.

The image at the top was my first pic with the X100, straight out of the camera except for resizing. It's about a half-stop underexposed and not brilliantly framed but when I reviewed the snap on the back LCD and zoomed it in to have a closer look at the detail I was pretty happy. Later on, when I got home, I loaded the images onto my computer and had another look. The images looked great considering I was rushed and fumbling with the controls and settings when shooting with it. I decided to crop the 3/4 body shot to a tight headshot and see how it held up. It held up just fine.  Here's another shot with the X100. This pic below is the second model I snapped with it. Again, no processing, just resizing. As expected from a Fuji camera, the skin tones are terrific. (Click pics to enlarge.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

David Hockney on the Current State of Photography

In a recent interview, famed British pop-artist, painter, photographer, and collagist, David Hockney,  said that, as a result of digital photography and Photoshop, a certain staleness has descended on the art of visual display. He contends there's been a loss of creativity and uniqueness in magazines and fashion images because what's now considered a good picture is one where no blemishes are present and the highlights and shadows are perfectly set. Hockney says it's a trend where images have become too uniform and too perfect and, as a result, there’s been a loss of personal connection and human experience with what we see in those images.

Personally, I agree. And I agree in spite of the fact that I am, to various extents, guilty of regularly producing images where some or all of Hockney's complaints are in play.

Hockney's observations are not limited to magazines and fashion images. We see them in so many photographic images these days, especially when it comes to model photography.  We see them whether the photos are published, used for some other form of artwork, or appearing on photo forums, online portfolios, or photographic social media like Flickr and elsewhere.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a Luddite when it comes to Photoshop. I digitally process every image I share with others. But there's "processing" and there's "PROCESSING." Personally, I prefer "processing" my work. You know, in a lower-case sort of way.  What that means is, for me, it's a fairly quick process where I crop, adjust levels, dodge and burn a bit, and do some touching-up, e.g., removing  some blemishes and/or other things... and that's about it. If some of my models look like, for instance, they have near-perfect skin, it's because A) they probably do have near-perfect skin; B) the makeup artist is skillful; C) a result of the way I light them and expose them. (I'm a get it right in the camera kinda guy.) It's rarely because, with a heavy hand, I "artfully" apply various Photoshop tools to the model's skin or use some 3rd party skin-processing software. (I don't even own any 3rd party skin-processing software although if some photo-processing software company wants to donate any of their products to me, I'll be happy to try it out and review it.)

In my ebook, Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography,  I wrote a fair amount about some of the same sorts of things Hockney mentioned. In my view, it's not that you shouldn't use any of the many photographic cyber-tools available, it's that you might consider a bit more discretion when using them. Just because you can use something doesn't mean you always should.

There's an old Egyptian proverb that tells us, "A beautiful thing is rarely perfect."  (I'm confident David Hockney would agree with that notion.) Too many photographers, myself included, often seem overly preoccupied with creating perfection in our photographs, i.e., our photographs' technical aspects as well as in the appearances of our models. In photography, especially glamour photography, there's a place between reality -- you know, the realities of the models in front of our cameras -- and (the fantasy of) perfection. That's the place where true beauty lies regardless of the creative flourishes we add to the images-- whether we do so in production, in post, or a combination of the two. It's also the place where our photographs generally become most appealing in ways that resonate best with viewers.

The full-frontal-nude pretty girl at the top is Jayme. (Click it to enlarge.)  Three lights and a fan.  I pushed the chroma a bit. Beyond Jayme's obvious beauty, I think her pose, expression, and attitude really sells the image. Plus, IMO, she looks a bit surreal. (Which I like.) Almost android-like. Kinda like a mannequin come to life. Or maybe that's just me?