Every December and January, there are plenty of “image of the year” round-ups, many of them quite good. This year I was particularly drawn to (and inspired by) two blog posts over on the newly resurgent Flickr. The first, And the winners of Your Best Shot 2018 Are…, contains five spectacular shots chosen from more than 8,000 submissions. What is special about these five is that they have a heart that is transcendent in this day of the ever-present photo stream. And, in the case of the shot above, there is a truth and a poignancy that hits you as you scan the scene, even before you read the attending caption.
Last week, I was a guest on the PhotoActive podcast, chatting about photo printing with the hosts Jeff Carlson and Kirk McElhearn. We talked about such things as “Why print at all?” (heresy!); why printing today—whether online or with your own printer—is better than it has ever been; and how learning about printing is no different than learning about your camera (practice, practice, practice!). It was a lot of fun, and if you are interested in the state of photo printing today, I humbly think it’s well worth taking time to listen in. It’s short—my segment is only about 30 minutes in length.
I’m not a huge podcast guy—especially ones about such a visual medium as photography—but I’ve really enjoyed PhotoActive since Jeff and Kirk started it up earlier this year. The episodes are brief, with minimal chit-chat, and they find interesting guests (who mostly don’t talk about gear, which I also love). If you want to get a taste, but don’t care about printing, I recommend the recent episode with photographer and author Michael Rubin, who spoke about how his family collected fine-art prints when he was growing up, and how it has informed his photographic life.
PhotoActive is subtitled, “A Podcast about Photography and the Apple Ecosystem,” but the Mac angle is fairly low-key. If you’re a Windows user, don’t avoid it; I’ve found most episodes are focused more on photography than the Mac, and I almost always learn something. It’s worth checking out.
You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or Spotify, or download it directly from photoactive.co.
[When it rains, it prints: Epson has great rebates this month on their SureColor photo printer line.]
Computational photography is coming up more and more as a topic these days, driven largely by developments in the smartphone world. Apple and Google, specifically, have worked diligently over the past few years to overcome the inherent limitations in the cameras of their pocket-size phones—small sensors and tiny lenses—to produce better images than would be available solely from the phones’ optics alone. By using custom chips, advanced software, dual lenses (in the case of newer iPhones and some Android phones) and more, these phones can create photographs that once required high-end cameras or painstaking compositing to produce. (For more, see Jeff Carlson’s piece on DPReview.com about the computational aspects of the iPhone XS.)
The result is that our phones now use this technology to provide impressive images, ones combined in the phone from multiple “shots.” They include things like automatic high-dynamic range (HDR) photos, seamless panoramas, and portraits with shallow depth of field. Sure, you can find many online commenters who rail against the bad portrait shots and wonky panos as proof that this iPhone or that Pixel is not as good as a basic SLR or mirrorless camera, but that misses the point (something we talk about extensively in Taking Better Pictures Doesn’t Mean a New Camera). Read more »
Jeff Carlson has a look at the new features in Lightroom CC 2.0 over on DPReview.com. Version 1.0 was announced last year at the annual Adobe MAX conference, and Jeff looks at what’s new in the second generation of the cloud-centric image management and editing app. He also talks about what’s missing, and where he thinks Adobe might be headed with Lightroom CC:
Adobe is wisely undertaking a more gradual transition, continuing to develop both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic simultaneously without an apparent rush to supplant the latter….
Will Lightroom CC ultimately become the one true Lightroom in the future? I believe so, but Adobe doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get there yet. In the meantime, I think Lightroom CC is becoming more compelling, but Lightroom Classic photographers, especially if they rely on Classic-only features, will continue to watch for it to get more interesting.
Over at DPReview this morning, our old friend Jeff Carlson has a very interesting review of the camera in Apple’s new iPhone XS and XS Max. It’s not a traditional, all-you-need-to-know review, however. Instead, Jeff focuses on the “computational power” found in the phone’s hardware, and how it drives the improved HDR and Portrait modes:
“Aside from folks who still shoot film, almost nobody uses the term ‘digital photography’ anymore – it’s simply ‘photography,’ just as we don’t keep our food in an ‘electric refrigerator.’ Given the changes in the camera system in Apple’s latest iPhone models, we’re headed down a path where the term ‘computational photography’ will also just be referred to as ‘photography,’ at least by the majority of photographers.”
This concept of computational photography will be one of the driving forces in the camera world over the next few years. As we move (slowly) away from big SLRs to mirrorless cameras and vastly improved smartphones, companies like Apple, Google and Samsung could very well be the leaders in this space, leaving traditional camera makers like Canon, Nikon and others to play catch-up.
Just a quick tip for today: Julianne Kost, over at Adobe.com, has a nice two-part set of blog posts covering blend modes in Photoshop. The first, Working with Blend Modes in Photoshop, is a nice overview of blending modes and how they work, with good examples. The second, Five Additional Tips for Accessing and Applying Blend Modes in Photoshop CC, has a number of great tips for using blend modes and multiple layers (and layer groups).
While both posts are specific to Photoshop, the first one (Working with Blend Modes) is useful for people using other layer- or effects-based apps with blend mode options, like ON1 Photo RAW, Skylum’s Luminar, and Alien Skin’s Exposure X3, among others.
(See our Bookmarks post from last fall for more about Julianne, and why we think she’s worth following.)
I came across this fascinating story about photography, education, and place in The New York Times recently, entitled “Capturing the Beauty of Everyday Life in the Bronx.” The essay talks about a new photography exhibit that showcases a 20-year partnership between the International Center of Photography and the Point, a community organization based in the Bronx:
For two decades, hundreds of young people have learned analog photography through a partnership between the Point, a community group in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, and the International Center of Photography. This community, whose 6,000 residents live on a peninsula cut off from the rest of the borough by the Bruckner Expressway, has had its resilience tested by nature — like Hurricane Sandy — and man-made disasters like abandonment, crime and, now, gentrification. But the young photographers who have come up through this program — more than 2,000 so far — have devoted themselves to presenting a full, honest portrayal of their community.
I admire the tenacity of wildlife photographers, especially those who shoot birds. The patience, drive, and focus required—sometimes helped with a pinch of luck—to capture great images of birds is an art form in and of itself. And, while I don’t have the desire to go out in a blind and wait with a very long lens, I appreciate those who are masters of the form. That’s why it was great to see the 2018 Audubon Photography Awards posted this week.
National Geographic has posted the results of its Travel Photographer of the Year contest, and, as usual, there are some spectacular images to be seen. The grand prize winning image, shown below, is from Japanese photographer Reiko Takahashi, and is absolutely gorgeous on a big screen.
If you’re looking for a bit of photographic inspiration today, it is well worth taking a leisurely stroll through the galleries. One thing that really jumped out at me was how many of the winning images (in both the standard and people’s choice groups) were shot with a drone. The one of the crocodiles in Costa Rica, for example, is pretty terrifying, while the shot of the flamingos taking off (taken from a helicopter, not a drone) is stunningly beautiful.
One nice touch is that National Geo, and the photographers, let you download many of the winning photos for personal use as wallpaper for desktops, tablets and phones.
This week, The New Yorker has an absolutely delightful photo essay, “Where the Amish Go on Vacation,” with photos by Dina Litovsky (and text by Alice Gregory) that capture a “place of brief leisure for people who consider work to be sacred”:
“Each winter, for close to a century now, hundreds of Amish and Mennonite families have travelled from their homes in icy quarters of the U.S. and Canada to Pinecraft, a small, sunny neighborhood in Sarasota, Florida. Arriving on chartered buses specializing in the transportation of ‘Plain people’ from areas such as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Holmes County, Ohio, they rent modest bungalows and stay for weeks, or sometimes months, at a time. It’s vacation. For many, it’s the one time of the year that they spend with people from communities other than their own.”
Litovsky doesn’t gawk at or exploit her subjects; instead, she tells this story with respect and care, capturing her subjects as they are in this world. (My favorite photos are the shots of the volleyball game at night, but the entire piece is wonderful.)
The photographer, originally from the Ukraine, is now a resident of the U.S., and has a great eye for people in their environment. Her work has been in National Geographic, New York Magazine, The New York Times, and more. Her website is well worth perusing, especially if you are interested in telling stories through photography.