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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

a phone. a camera. a book. an app.

Sep 29

In Books, Friends at 1:12pm

chase

The best camera is the one you have with you. True words indeed. Variations on a theme. Jay Maisel always says it’s tough to take a picture if you don’t carry a camera with you. Now Jay sports a D3, but Chase Jarvis has just elevated the Iphone camera to legitimacy with this new book. The camera’s quiet and cool, and doesn’t intrude. It is barely noticeable in the act of photography, but it is a formidable recording device, as he shows.

This book is sleek, small and well designed, not unlike the machine that made the pictures. Combine those qualities with Chase’s eye, and well, there you go. The other thing that ramps up here for me is kind of a quiet, heretofore inside thought I have thunk on occasion, which is, when I have a camera on my shoulder, I feel, you know, dangerous. I’ve got a camera, I can see, I know how to work it, and well, let’s just have a look at things. The act of making pictures can be considered inherently subversive, obviously. Why do you think there are lots of people who have jobs specifically designed to control us? Control where we stand, what we shoot, and how what we shoot gets used, where it goes, and how it is displayed. I mean there are cadres of folks out there just waiting to say, “No.” The people who are just so willing to put a velvet rope around the sense of possibility and imagination. Plus they’re generally kinda cranky. Maybe their shorts are too tight.

Okay, so I was raised Irish Catholic and I’ve got authority issues. Photography can be wonderful, friendly, healing, easy going, and enjoyable. It can be a window or a mirror, to borrow some words from my old managing editor at LIFE, Dan Okrent. But what a camera sees can also be really truthful and incisive. Clear headed. A camera can actually show us stuff. Imagine that! But hey, wait a minute, we can’t just have a bunch of people with cameras running around here!

Well, hate to clue you in Mr. You-Can’t-Stand-Here, but we do. It’s interesting to me. I have walked down corridors and paths in out of the way corners of the world with a 35mm camera or DSLR slung and it can feel like you’re walking around with the UCLA marching band on your hip. I mean, it’s an announcement, you know? “Hear ye, hear ye! Pictures are about to me made!” Sheesh. Part of the art of this is to segue, you know, slip and slide, see moments and instead of trampling them, kind of sidle up to them, quietly.

I guess it’s a variation on that old joke about the old bull and the young bull up on the ridge, looking at a whole valley full of cows. The youngster can barely contain himself. “Let’s run down there and nail one of ‘em!” he says to his elder. Who just smiles and says, “How ’bout we just walk down there?” Knowing wink. “We’ll nail ‘em all.”

Not that announcements are a bad thing always. David Turnley, an incredibly fine shooter who spent numerous years documenting apartheid in South Africa, was on assignment in Harlem, USA, for the Day in the Life of America book project in the very early 80′s. He walked into a pretty tough looking bar, and of course, he was an outsider. A white outsider to boot. He walked up to the bar tender and respectfully introduced himself and the book project and said he’d like to spend some time in the bar shooting pictures. The bar tender evidently nodded, and in a large voice announced to everyone, “This here fella’s gonna shoot some pictures. Anybody don’t like it can get the fuck out!”

It’d be nice to have someone around like that all the time.

I digress. I think what I’m getting at is that Chase has taken this camera, with its’ still nascent technology, combined it with a cool app (kind of home turf for the Iphone and many folks who use it) and also extended its’ reach to ink on paper. Everybody’s talking about convergence nowadays, and here’s a very cool, accessible example. It also gave me, along the lines of David Hobby’s recently voiced sentiments, one of those “coulda had a V-8″ moments. Christ. I mean I’m having giggles with my Iphone downloading things like Atomic Fart, and here Chase goes and builds his own app.

It pleases me no end to think of Chase roaming airports and such, and interpreting stuff people walk on, over and around into graphically striking photos. Iphone in hand, he sidles up to the heretofore unseen. Often the scene or moment is quiet, and via the Iphone, it is quietly observed. It is also pleasing to think of the combo punch of this accessible, almost invisible piece of hardware with a lens plunked into it and the potential it has for recording, interpreting, and taking in the world around us. Then launching and sharing those visual missives instantly. An updated wrinkle for the visual community. Another possibility. For me, it is doubly pleasing to think there might be some folks annoyed by this.

Photographers. Despite efforts to corral us and tell us what to do, we refuse to listen. We’re like a nerf ball. Squeeze us one way, we splurge out another. Be it the Iphone, the D3, the Red Camera, the point and shoot…..the urge is upon us all to visually record our life and times. Visual passion. Knowing. Seeing. Point, shoot, breathe.

Or maybe look hip. Below my daughter Claire shot dad on recent shopping trip. It was the only way she could think of me not looking tragically flawed. (How do people work in those A&F stores? I spent 15 minutes in there and had acoustic whiplash for the rest of the day.)

dad

This guy Chase, man, he’s good. We’re friends, and respect each other a great deal. When I spoofed him a bit in a video not too long ago, he laughed a lot and in an email called me a “mad bastard.” Well, back to ya, man. Typically, he not only shot these for himself, but with the book and technology, he opens a door for all of us to take a ride. Good onya.

Check out his new book here.

Damn this guy, though. Here I’ve been happy shooting 2-4 Iphone pictures a day. Shit. I’m gonna have to go to 5-10:-) More tk…

Diaries, Questions, and Thanks…

Mar 30

In Books at 4:38pm

First off, many, many thanks to all the folks who have written to me about The Hot Shoe Diaries, and encouraged me along the way through the blog or email to finish it. I’m very grateful. As I mentioned a little bit, it was a bear to write. Talking about small flash means talking about light, which means talking about the whole shebang. The whole shebang requires a bit of thinking, a process I’m profoundly uncomfortable with. But it is out in the stores now, and I simply wanted to say all best to everyone. The book has prompted some queries, so thought I’d do a bit of a Q&A on the bloggarini.

Q: The “Hot Shoe Diaries” is a bit of a strange name for a photo book. Wazzup with that?

A: Yeah, you’re right. Hot Shoe obviously references the flashes, and it is in fact, a bit of a diary, or written a bit like one. It is an ongoing, mildly rambling account of flubs, miscues, gaffes, successes, failures, dropped flashes, blown exposures, rants, raves, and the (until now) interior ruminations of a 30 year photog. I’ve made lots more bad pictures than I’ve made good ones (every shooter has) and there has to be some value there in the scar tissue of a photographic career. So I kinda wrote like I shoot it–all over the place.

Q: Given the title, have there been any problems with folks confusing this particular photo book with books about something else? Do the bookstores put it in the wrong section ever?

A: Yeah, I guess a little bit. Couple folks found it in the adult book section, and one saw it up there with the bodice rippers. Some of the things that link to it on Amazon are pretty great, though, like there’s a link of the book to these…..

And these…..

I tried buying ‘em for Annie, but I got the eyebrow, ya know? She was like, “I’m not wearing those. I can’t walk in those.” My response? “That’s okay!”

A few people might think it’s a bit of a crime novel, with the K-Man in there a couple of times. I thought about writing it a bit like a noir novel…..

Q: Speaking of the K-Man, who is he?

Mark and I go back a ways. We worked together on a couple of annual reports. He was the client, I was the shooter. He has always been interested in photography, even back when I used to give him grief about the disposable cameras he was shooting. He got me back though and recently blogged a pic he made of me, which shoulda been disposed with the camera that made it. Over numerous Jamesons and a few Johnny Walker Blues, we realized we both were fans of noir movies and crime novels and such. His blog and his photography often go in the direction of mystery, mood and selective light. It’s a fun blog, and there are more adventures awaiting the K-Man on the streets of Gotham, to be sure. Below is Mark’s, uh, disposable effort….

Sheesh…look at that, and the question that springs to mind is, of course, who’s the ass?

Q; The book has done pretty well so far, but let’s face it, Scott Kelby is still the man, is he not?

A: No question. Scott is, like, the number one selling author of our time or any time, and the reason for that is, he’s a damn good writer and a teacher whose humanity and humor shine through even when he’s talking about the frikkin’ liquify tool, ya know? But, one of the reasons Hot Shoes is doing well is because of my own little guerrilla marketing campaign. I target Scott’s books, ya see, cause I know people are gonna go right there to those shelves to buy ‘em. And then, I look around, and well….see for yourself……

Q: What’s with small flash? Why is it a topic of interest?

A: David Hobby.

Q: Now hold on, here. You mean to say one guy started this whole thing? This planet wide fervor over all things strobist?

A: Yep. David, from what I know, started teaching flash informally a few years back to get some friends and fellow shooters on track with it. He began blogging, called it Strobist, and the rest is history. He has built a worldwide community of learning, sharing and participation around the phenomenon of small, portable flashes. Pretty incredible.

Q: Why did you stick a flash in the chicken?

A: Didn’t have floor stand for it, and I found a dead chicken worked pretty well. Hmmm…..does that qualify as a field tip?

Q: Who’s in the gorilla suit?

A: It’s really a gorilla. The Nikon Creative Lighting System is so simple, even a monkey can do it! (Geez, I’m goin’ straight to hell for that one.) No, it’s just me. After years of chimping, well, that’s what happens. More tk…

It’s Done…It’s Real…..

Feb 22

In Books at 11:59am

Finally…it is done. 320 pages, and the thing kicked my butt, up, down and sideways. I thought, naively, hey, write a book about small flash…cool!

Thing is, you start talking about light, you start talking about color, and exposure, and f-stops, and EV compensation, and white balance, and well, the whole technicolor enchilada. I was really gettin’ stymied. The book….the book……the book. Everyday I tried to write I would plop myself down in front of the computer and stare at the screen with about as much energy and appeal as a big turd that just dropped out of a tall cow’s ass.

I finally turned a corner, thanks to Annie and my long suffering editor, Ted Waitt, with them beseeching me to drop the numbers and the specifics and the half stops of clogged imagination and just write about using a flash. So I mentally put myself at the front door of my house, gear in hand, and just started writing about everything (well, not everything) that crosses my mind as I go out to shoot a small flash job. It really cleared the decks of the tramp steamer of my brain and became a section up front in the book called, “What I Use and Why and When I Use It.” It runs pretty long, surprisingly, seeing as I’ve got the attention span of gnat and a great deal of my memory bank is used up by storing useless movie quotes.

But this really did open up the barn doors and cleared some cobwebs. I went through everything, tips, tricks, exposure modes, types of flash, types of light shaping tools, strategies, EV, mixing light, you name it. It marries up with a couple other sections on holding cameras, and also holding flash, general notions about quality, color and direction of light, and pictures of the whole camera bag, every item that goes out the door. The whole chapter is called, “Nuts and Bolts” or Don’t Worry. As long as you hit that wire with the connecting hook at precisely 88mph the instant the lighting strikes the tower…everything will be fine.”

Also did a back section that is all buttons and dials.

The book is Nikon-centric, obviously, cause that’s the system I use, and to the extent I talk over buttons and dials and where they are and what they do, they are Nikon buttons and dials. But the much larger part of the book is devoted to using light, in this case, light that comes from hot shoe flashes. I try to show progression and the tools that are used, and how to use small flash in an intuitive way.

There’s a bunch of stuff on light shaping tools, cheap and easy, others, more of a commitment….

There’s several sections of the first chapter, in which one small flash is used…only one….

Some advanced stuff too…

I talk a bunch about color, and how to use, quick and easy…

And everybody’s favorite thing….

And I show progression, from the pop up flash treatment, to a sophisticated quality of light, in minutes, using no more than two flashes…

And of course, Numnuts did some sketches…

So…it’s done. It’s a big reason the blog has been intermittent of late. But it is officially out the door, done deal, and it’s up to the printer now to follow the type out the window, as they used to say. The Hot Shoe Diaries, Big Light from Small Flashes, is out March 12. That’s the date it ships, so dunno when that translates to it actually getting on the shelf. You know, it leaves the warehouse in a shrink wrapped pallet and gets put behind Mrs. McGillicuddy’s Ikea order, and the truck shows up there and she’s at the Piggly Wiggly, so they can’t deliver, which means that pallet stays stuck on the truck for another day or so. Then it makes its way down the interstate on an overnight, and it gets delayed a bit by rain, so it sits in the truck in the parking lot of the Extaxy Gentlem, er, the truck stop, and finally it gets to the loading dock, and the crew there is on their lunch/reefer break, and finally it gets on that little cart that they use in the bookstores and out into the aisles and the dude putting the books on the shelf sees the title, “Hot Shoe Diaries,” and puts it in the romance section, or worse, in the adult titles section, you know the one with the opaque plexiglass covers and the big signs warning you that if you go in there you might actually see a breast.

There’s lotsa stuff that could happen along the way. But it is done. More tk….






LIGHTING KIT FOR THE ELDERLY

Dec 10

In Books, Friends, Travels, Videos at 12:16am

Its small, airplane friendly, easy to use and very light so even photographers of, well, a certain age can lift it. Bob Krist demonstrated his lighting kit in the new Nikon SB900 video…..

And people are going nuts about it, emailing him, wanting to know about every bit and piece. He showed the kit during the video, pulling out all the stuff, but not a couple of the crucial items, such as the heating pad and the flask of Geritol.

He’s one tough sonofagun, though I tell ya. Check out the fight we had on the set…..

Actually, it was a pleasure to knock out this instructional video with Bob, who is one of my dear friends. When you are still carrying cameras and shooting great stuff at his age, there are several things that are true. You are a complete gentleman and a pro. You know your stuff and learned a long time ago that this business is all about what comes around going around, again and again. Bob, who considering his career as a Geographic shooter and peerless travel photographer and writer, could easily have let Mr. Ego out for a healthy, career long romp, has never done that. He checks the self important bullshit at the door, rolls up his sleeves, and gets to work. He is one of those rare commodities; a good shooter who is also a good teacher. He communicates well, and his avuncular “Sit back and Bob’s gonna explain it all for you” style puts people at ease and lets them learn in a zone where they are comfortable making mistakes and asking questions, which is the real key to any teaching environment.

Bob and I are the same age, by the way.

Take a look at a couple of his pix…He has, as he says, over time, covered the waterfront.

He has a new book out…..

.

This tome is a must if you want to dive into the competitive world of travel photography, either as a pro, or as traveler who simply wants good pictures to show at the end of the experience. He talks composition, lighting and flash, photographing people, using color, you name it. He shows you work flow and what to do with all those gigabytes when you come home. And he talks turkey about how to survive out there, right from when you get on the airplane, to getting to the hotel and then up and down the river at dawn or dusk. In a word, its complete. The whole nine or even ten yards. Right from when you pack your bag till when you get home and unpack that same bag. (If you read this book, there might even be a good chance that when you unpack, you’ll still have the same stuff you packed:-)

One of the things Bob has learned over the years, is to travel light. So, here you go…..

The Bob Krist Lighting Kit, As Seen on TV!

Bracket:   Morris MTH-202

Smallballhead:   Giotto MH-1004 Mini Ballhead

Cold shoe on ballhead: Stroboframe General Purpose shoe

Compact lightstand: Bogen Manfrotto Retractable
Collapsible Umbrella: Westcott 43″ Collapsible Umbrella with Removable Cover

Grids, Snoots, Speedstraps, Colored Gels.

Rolling case: Stormcase iM2500

You can get most of this stuff from Jeff Snyder at Adorama (jsnyder@adorama.com) and if you ping him, he will be able to put the whole damn thing together for you.

Trust me, if Bob can pull and haul it, so can you:-)

More tk…..