Monday, December 07, 2009


Between books and cameras, all the shelf space in my little house is accounted for. So, I don't need any more of either. Well, maybe just one more of each; this time of year there are certainly a lot of tempting offerings.

I stopped briefly at Barnes and Noble this morning, and found A Century of Cameras from the Collection of the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House by Eaton S.Lothrop. I think the author is a curator at Eastman House, and the photography was very nice. I'm usually too cheap to buy books new like this, so passed it up. When I got home, however, I found an old paperback edition used on line for only eight bucks, so couldn't resist getting it. I'll post a review once I have it in hand.

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Also tempting was Nick Brandt's A Shadow Falls.
Brandt's b&w photos of African Wildlife are astonishing, all the more so as he makes them with a medium-format film camera with a normal lens. The photographer talked a bit about his technique in a posting a couple years ago in response to some typically idiotic forum blather:

nick Brandt , Feb 23, 2006; 12:00 a.m.
A friend told me about this thread. Reading through it, I felt compelled to address some of the questions and many innacuracies!

Firstly, 90% of my photos are taken from the safety of a vehicle. Only the chimps and one special herd of giraffes are photographed on foot. Neither I nor anyone else could ever get this close to wild animals any other way. Forget about safety - most of the animals would run away (and a few would attack).

Secondly, the depth of field issue. I'll say it categorically - NONE of the depth of field thing is done in Photoshop - it is all done in camera. You could not get those focal planes shifting in focus in the same plane in the way that they do in Photoshop and expect it to look like this. Don Satalic is soooo wrong. Oh, and I don't use soft focus lenses. Don't even know what they are. The longest lens I own and use is a 200mm. Great lens. Tried the 300 once and hated it. Too conventional. So yes, I am close, but safe.

All anyone really needs to know is that I work in a very very impractical way - very manually - and lose a crazy number of potentially great shots with all the faffing around I do. But I do it because occasionally something great comes out of such impractical methods. My friend Rocky Schenck taught me not to reveal my trade secrets some time ago. As for my EX-SF dealer's comments, I don't know where that came from.

Grading - I nearly always use a heavy ND grad for the sky, and often a red filter, to get the sky dark. But there is significant grading done in Photoshop - the vignetting is invariably photoshop - I'm a sucker for it.

Okay, so if anyone is still reading this thread, there you go.

PS What is a 'bokeh'?

Amazon's discounted price of $31.50 is really a steal, so I'm not sure I'll wait to find this one on the remainder tables. Meanwhile, you can also look at the images on Brandt's web site.  There is also an extensive treatment of Brandt's work at the web gallery.

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When my art-collecting brother-in-law visited recently, he brought along a copy of Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, Expanded Edition.

I've probably seen all the photos in the book at one time or another, but the historical context provided in this big new edition really seems worthwhile.

I think there were only about eighty photos in the first edition of The Americans, selected from thousands shot with his Leica as Frank crisscrossed the U.S. in the 1950s. That herculean selection process was clearly as significant to the original book's production as the photographic endeavor. A good overview of Frank and his work appeared in an article by Philip Gefter just a year ago in the New York Times.


cameratakesphotos said...

I recently picked up a copy of Nick Brandt's book - it's an absolutely amazing book.

Mike said...

I regret not making time to go up to Santa Fe when his show was at the Photo Eye gallery there recently.