My Blog and Soapbox

To help order and sort some of the things in my mind, it often helps me to write them down. And this is the place I do just that. Not always related to photography. Not always in English. Manchmal auch auf Deutsch.
I have recently switched blogging platforms. Here is my new blog:
I have recently switched blogging platforms. Here is my old blog:

We Need Less, Not More

Hole by Chris Marquardt
Hole by Chris Marquardt

Haven't been up on my soapbox in a while…

I have taught photography to over a thousand of students, among them many really good photographers who often weren't aware why they were great, but I have also been surprised at times as some of the more professional appearing ones weren't even able to do basic things like setting up custom white balance for a specific light situation.

There is a part of me that loves to see all the nifty photo gadgets that brilliant people come up with, but I've also been watching the development of the camera landscape with a concerned eye.

There are a lot of automated sub-systems in our cameras. Focus, exposure and white balance are the important ones among quite a few.

But the smarter these systems seem to get, the more decisions they take away from the photographer, the more the photographers lose the ability to make the right decisions.

I've seen this over and over again this year during the workshops.

It's not the photographers' fault of course. The philosophy of the camera manufacturers is quite understandable: take as many of the complicated photography stuff as possible and make the decision (and set the setting) for the photographer. This way many of the less technically inclined people out there can pick up a camera and quickly get results, which will make them happy, and as a result they will buy more cameras.

The big issue with this approach is that even though the automatic systems get it right most of the time, the camera will never be able to know the photographer's intention. How can the camera know that I'm not at all interested in exposing for the face, but instead I want to show a silhouette? How should the camera know that I actually want this shot to be bluish cool and unfriendly instead of giving it a caribbean sunset white balance? And how should the camera be able to anticipate that I deliberately want to blow out the sky in this picture?

The philosophy of me as the photography trainer is substantially different from that of the manufacturer: if you want to tell a story (and let's face it, a good story is usually what makes a good photograph), you need to make the tools that help you tell that story do the right things. The tool in this case is your camera. And making it do the right thing means to know how to make it expose, focus and white balance in exactly the way you want.

And that's a skill set that more and more photographers have either lost, or they never had the incentive to learn.

Relying on the automatisms of the camera and getting it right 80% of the time might be good enough for many photographers.

I want those remaining 20% to be under my control too.

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Don't fly and scan

20111001 scan919 Edit

It happened again. This time not on purpose, but by accident. After returning from Toronto the other day, I decided to develop some of the pictures I took on the trip. Looking through my stacks of stuff, I ran across an older batch of undeveloped negatives, that should have been developed long time ago, but wasn't. Probably too busy back then.


The problem was that I didn't know what type of film the negatives where. To find out, I took the film cassettes into the dark bag and felt the notches. Each sheet of large format negative film has a characteristic pattern of notches on one side that help you to face the film the right way and identify it in the dark.

The problem was that when I tried to detect the type of film, I was too tired, having not slept in over 30 hours, and I got it wrong.

This is why six sheets of Velvia color slide film ended up in black and white development chemistry. But as we know from my experiment a while ago, it should work in theory.

And it did work. I ended up with black and white negatives and there was even something on them. So I scanned one and you can see the result above.

Any photo accidents you'd like to share? Leave a comment!
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Minus is a Plus

NewImageThe other day I found out about minus, a new service that has set out to make sharing files really easy. It's free, it comes with apps for multiple platforms and it has a few of the standard social networks built in to share stuff on.
minus comes with a desktop application (Windows, Mac, Ubuntu), mobile apps for Android and iPhone (WP7 announced), Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox and a Chrome Web App. It looks like there is more to come.

The Mac desktop application links itself into the menu bar. It lets you drag and drop files onto it and you can define a hotkey for saving screenshots.

Being used to two gigabytes on other services, it surprised me to get 10 gigabytes of free space and no traffic limits. We'll have to see how it will hold up over time, but this sure looks interesting.

minus doesn't try to mimic Dropbox, as it won't sync. It's a plain upload-and-share type system with a social twist. minus creates an Atom feed per user, so you can subscribe to someone's shares in the feed reader of your choice.

I will give it a fair chance, maybe for pictures and for some collaboration, as I haven't really found that one place for file sharing just yet. And the pictures integration looks quite nice too, a folder is like an album that can have its own shortlink, I like the look how pictures are presented, especially using the lights out mode that dims the white background to dark grey.

Oh, and here's another nice thing they do. If you sign up using this link, we will both get an extra gigabyte.
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