Posts filtered by tags: Photographic aesthetics[x]


 

The Biggest Flaw I See in Pictures*

In one way it's curious that Henri Cartier-Bresson is known for "the decisive moment," and for things like Joel Meyerowitz's description of him darting and pirouetting through crowds like a hummingbird, wielding his Leica like a hibachi chef's knife, because it downplays the amount of time he must have spent sitting around waiting. Because as I understand it, one of his picturetaking strategies was to find a nice setting, and then wait around until something happened in it. Who knows how long he...
Tags: Photography, Wikipedia, Albany, Michael Johnston, Mike, Michael C Johnston, Roland Barthes, Barthes, Henri Cartier Bresson, Henri, David DuChemin, Shooting techniques, Photographic aesthetics, Joel Meyerowitz, Andrew Molitor, Barthian


Synthesizing

Synthesize, verb: combine ( number of things) into a coherent whole. I was going to write more about this, but I see several people have already mentioned it: when deciding on my top five categories, I noticed that in a few cases I could synthesize several into one. For instance, I had "portraits," "kids," and "women" on my list of 25; so what's wrong with "portraits of women and children" as a category? Actually, there might be something wrong with it. I think I need to look at more of my portr...
Tags: Photography, Jeremy, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston, Photographic aesthetics, W H Murray


Warren Buffet's Principle (The Little Game, Part 3 of 3)

[Note: Some of you won't like this, and that's cool—we all own our own photography. It just means this post isn't for you, that's all. Don't sweat it—even excellent treatments can't be good for every patient.] For those of you playing along, in Part 1 you wrote down 25 categories that your photography falls into; in Part 2 you prioritized them or ranked their importance to you. Here's the big idea: You should not only concentrate on your Top Five categories, but also actively avoid the other twe...
Tags: Photography, Omaha, Warren Buffett, Buffett, Flint, Michael Johnston, James Clear, Don, Mike, Michael C Johnston, Scott Dinsmore, Photographic aesthetics, Mike Flint


The Little Game (Part 2 of 3)

(Here's Part 1.) For Part 2, prioritize your list. Put the things that are most important to you at the top and the ones that are least important at the bottom. Be intuitive about it if need be; be logical about it if that appeals. Think only of yourself, not of an audience. Eschew thoughts of remuneration*. Keep shuffling till you're satisfied. Tomorrow is "Open Mike" off-topic day, and I'm going to write about borosilicate straws and rice. So we'll get to Part 3, the payoff post, on Thursday m...
Tags: Photography, America, Mark Twain, Michael Johnston, Mike, Michael C Johnston, Twain, Photographic aesthetics, Bill Pearce


The Little Game (Part 1 of 3)

I have a little game in mind, one that might be revealing and helpful to you in your work. There are three distinct parts to it. But I think it might be good to do it in order, so I'm only going to give you the first part today, for those who want to do it "in real time." If you don't want to play the game now, you can always go back and read all three steps later. But I think it will be most beneficial to do the first two parts before you know where it's heading—otherwise, I suspect you might b...
Tags: Photography, Hdr, Editing And Portfolios, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Photographic aesthetics, Amazon UKAmazon Germany


What It Comes Down to For Me

The discussion in the previous post was certainly interesting, but sometimes I wonder if we're not getting lost in the minutiae. I thought I should just say what I think as plainly as possible to cut through all the specifics and get to a clear "global" overview of the issue: Mathew B. Brady, Abraham Lincoln, 1864 For me—just for me, I'm not telling you what to think or do—the power of photographs comes from their connection to the real world. That's where their magic resides, and what gives ...
Tags: Photography, Lincoln, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Photographic aesthetics, Amazon UKAmazon Germany, Mathew B Brady Abraham Lincoln, Rod Sainty


Another Modern Digital Internet Falseism

I read it on the Internet again: "It's no use using older lenses on digital cameras. With today's best digital sensors, you must use the very best, very latest lenses." I must? Why? This is another IF (Internet Falseism, a "falseism" being a truism that isn't true). You have doubtless read it a hundred times in one form or another. What if you want to use a soft-focus lens on a digital sensor? Will the sky fall? The world explode? Will you be arrested? Must be true, though, because I've read it ...
Tags: Photography, UK, Sony, Warren Buffett, Rob, Mike Leigh, Golden Gate Bridge, John Williams, New York Times Magazine, Turner, James, Cindy Sherman, Zeiss, Photo-tech, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston


Another Modern Digital Internet Falseism

I read it on the Internet again: "It's no use using older lenses on digital cameras. With today's best digital sensors, you must use the very best, very latest lenses." I must? Why? This is another IF (Internet Falseism, a "falseism" being a truism that isn't true). You have doubtless read it a hundred times in one form or another. What if you want to use a soft-focus lens on a digital sensor? Will the sky fall? The world explode? Will you be arrested? Must be true, though, because I've read it ...
Tags: Photography, UK, Sony, Warren Buffett, Rob, Mike Leigh, Golden Gate Bridge, John Williams, New York Times Magazine, Turner, James, Cindy Sherman, Zeiss, Photo-tech, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston


Another Modern Digital Internet Falseism

I read it on the Internet again: "It's no use using older lenses on digital cameras. With today's best digital sensors, you must use the very best, very latest lenses." I must? Why? This is another IF (Internet Falseism, a "falseism" being a truism that isn't true). You have doubtless read it a hundred times in one form or another. What if you want to use a soft-focus lens on a digital sensor? Will the sky fall? The world explode? Will you be arrested? Must be true, though, because I've read it ...
Tags: Photography, Warren Buffett, John Williams, Zeiss, Photo-tech, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Photographic aesthetics, Amazon UKAmazon Germany, John B Williams


Photo of John Lennon (And Double Appeal)

Speaking of the John Lennon stamp, this is a photograph of Lennon I've always liked: It's a Polaroid by Andy Warhol. It's descriptive, but not grandiose or glorifying: the subject is wearing a T-shirt and hasn't bothered to arrange his hair, although Warhol might have liked the shape his hair makes. And the photo is plainspoken and small in size. Lennon's expression doesn't tell you what to think of him either way: he's not doing a star turn, not trying to make himself look appealing to the vie...
Tags: Photography, New York, New York City, John Lennon, George Harrison, World, Photographers, Andy Warhol, Warhol, Polaroid, Lennon, Historical, Bart, Music Notes, Michael Johnston, Mike


The Light's the Thing

Two pictures to illustrate a point: Before sundown After sundown Same camera, same lens, same scene, same framing (or close). The Celestial Assistant suggested a setup change and kindly moved the main light a little—just 15 or 20 degrees, not a huge change. But not subtle either—in the second picture there's a planetary gobo impinging and all the light is ambient. I've always loved watching how different light changes things. Whether I take a picture of it or not. It begs a more subtle con...
Tags: Photography, Moose, Hilla Becher, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston, Jerry, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Photographic aesthetics, Bernd, Amazon UKAmazon Germany, Lyle Norm, Tom Back


Limitations Aren't

Photo by Mark Hobson, from "iPhone Made" Yesterday, David Comdico wrote of Mark Hobson (who has a category on his website called "iPhone Made"): I admit to being a bit prejudiced against the iPhone-as-camera, but his square iPhone shots are really great. Bravo. I've noticed over the years that pros (especially studio pros) who are used to using whatever tools are appropriate for any given job—up to and including bleeding-edge high-tech, high-cost ones—often have little prejudice against low-s...
Tags: Photography, Diana, Polaroid, Michael Johnston, Mark, Michael C Johnston, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Photographic aesthetics, Mark Hobson, Amazon UKAmazon Germany, David Comdico


Comments About the 'Yellow' Pictures

Photo by David Stock I want to thank everybody who participated in the latest "Baker's Dozen" call for work—we received a large-ish number of submissions (about a hundred and sixty) and there were a lot more good ones than were included in the final set. As usual I could have gone any number of ways with the edit. For example, the three most common subjects among the submissions were road stripes and markings (a number of great ones, but David Stock's simple and whimsical design above won by ...
Tags: Photography, Molly, Baker, Rich, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Photographic aesthetics, Ernest Withers, Amazon UKAmazon Germany, Baker's Dozen, Lois Elling, Yellow Pictures, David Stock, Pressman Vincent Poole Smith


The DIGITAL Glow

Jack W. asked: "Can 'the glow' be obtained with digital cameras and digital papers?" [If you just happened across this post, we've just been talking about B&W printmaking, and, just previous to that, the aesthetics of B&W tonality as seen in old-timey Hollywood movies.] My answer: naturally, yes. As I said, I think it's actually easier now. As I said in 2002 in the previous post, 'the glow' is just a look. There are slight differences, of course. "Long scale" platinum/palladium prints are diffic...
Tags: Photography, Hollywood, Earth, Black, Epson, Sally Mann, Michael Johnston, Peter Turnley, Michael C Johnston, Lewis Hine, Amazon US, Russell Lee, DMAX, Rosenblum, Amazon Canada, Lee Friedlander


TOP Classic: Ten Best B&W Movies (and Then Some)

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious. None other than the great war reporter Robert Capa was the uncredited still photographer for this film, although of course there's no way of knowing if he took this particular picture. But he might have. [2018 note: Watching B&W movies and paying attention to the visuals is an excellent way to improve your feel for B&W tonality—those old cinematographers were masters of lighting and of their filmstocks. You might also want to re...
Tags: Photography, Cary Grant, Rebecca, Netflix, Shanghai, Manhattan, Metropolis, Hud, Tokyo, Sunrise, Stagecoach, Casablanca, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Cocteau, Sin City, Falcon


Still Life: Found vs. Constructed

Of the many, many identifiable genres of photography (I'm sure there are more than you think, and the work of some people is beyond category), the ones that most naturally appeal to me are portraiture, candids and "environmental portraiture" (meaning people in their surroundings), and still life. Regarding the last, there are two basic kinds—constructed and found. Constructed still life ranges all the way from creating amazing ephemeral artwork just for the camera, to the happy activity of arran...
Tags: Photography, Michael Johnston, Mike, Michael C Johnston, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Shooting techniques, Photographic aesthetics, Amazon UKAmazon Germany, Paul Butzi


Yellow Over Dark Blue

As I said yesterday, the deadline for the Baker's Dozen "It Must Be Color" feature is Tuesday night at 11:59 p.m. I've already received enough submissions to build the feature. I'm having a bit of a conceptual mindlock about the concept, though. Many people are simply sending in pictures that are of strong colors. I'm not sure that's the same thing as a picture that needs to be in color in order to work. Pictures that are purely of colors or a color are descendants of things like Eggleston's sem...
Tags: Photography, Beethoven, Benjamin Britten, Baker, Ellsworth Kelly, Crowley, Michael Johnston, Mike, Kelly, Michael C Johnston, Mark Rothko, Rothko, Amazon US, Eggleston, John Crowley, Amazon Canada


1" Sensors as Good as Medium-Format Film

Shopping is fun but....Right. I shouldn't be saying this. Things used to be easier; now, competition has gotten fierce—even The Huffington Post (fer Pete's sake!) is publishing camera reviews and posting affiliate links to Amazon and B&H Photo. It's getting a lot tougher out there for cool old dudes who actually like to write words down such as, um, moi. And who at least sometimes provide content that goes more than just a little way past exactly what the marketing departments of the corporation...
Tags: Amazon, Photography, London, New, Cameras, Paris, Sony, Stanley Kubrick, Huffington Post, Steve, Reflections, Pentax, Michael Johnston, Mike, PAUL, Michael C Johnston


The Diptych (But Not Really)

Image pair. iPhone 7 Plus, taken last Tuesday. This one's still in progress, no pun intended. Although it masquerades as being altrusitic and exalted, the Art World (cap-cap) is a lot about status. That's why we call pictures "images" now—because photo-based artworks that were not strictly straight photographs were called images to differentiate them, and the practice spread from there to all photographs presented as art in museums, and then soon, because it was clearly a marker of status, to...
Tags: Photography, Kodak, Michael Johnston, PAUL, Michael C Johnston, Carl Zeiss, Amazon US, Mike Johnston, Paul Caponigro, Amazon Canada, Photographic aesthetics, Ralph Gibson, Jamie Livingston, Amazon UKAmazon Germany, Ilford Galerie, Eleanor Morris Caponigro


There is No Such Thing as Image Quality

There is no such thing as "image quality" in expressive photography. There are only properties. This might seem counter-intuitive, or argumentative, or even subversive. Many people who are happily engaged in the discussion about technical properties have fully integrated the term "image quality" and know what they mean by it. But quality is subjective. Only by first agreeing which properties to value can something be said to have quality. Even if that agreement is implicit or assumed...as it ver...
Tags: Photography, England, New York, San Francisco, Panasonic, Michael, Photo Equipment, Thomas, Michael Johnston, Mike, Zeppelin, Michael C Johnston, Wolff, Johnston, Alfred Stieglitz, Amazon US


Are Classic Photographs Still Relevant?

A nice "idle question" for a sunny Tuesday in the Finger Lakes...are classic photos and photobooks still relevant as references, inspiration, and instruction for today's photographers? I'm not sure. Granted, I love the history of photography; I love learning about the great practitioners as well as the excellent-but-little-known ones; and I certainly love looking at old photographs, from Shorpy to snapshots, and everything from the greatest of classic photobooks to ancient, musty photo annuals a...
Tags: Photography, Kodak, Reflections, Michael Johnston, Mike, Michael C Johnston, Amazon US, Art Institute of Chicago, Robert Frank, Kodachrome, Amazon Canada, John Szarkowski, Photographic aesthetics, Shorpy, Amazon UKAmazon Germany, Sergey Prokudin Gorsky


Are Images Getting More or Less Real?

You know how a thought can sometimes hit you between the eyes? Like a small blob of something softish moving at a velocity sufficient to keep it airborne. It arrives with a wettish splat and jerks your head back. Ouch! The thought that hit me yesterday was this: as camera technology, lenses, and processing have gotten so much better, are images becoming more realistic, or less? I mean more like the reporting or recording of subjects that might be seen by our own eyes, "in the flesh" as the expre...
Tags: Photography, Reflections, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Photographic aesthetics, Amazon UKAmazon Germany


Photography Isn't Getting Any Easier

Photography isn't getting any easier mainly because the hard parts are still hard. Seeing and recognizing photographs (both while shooting and while editing) and understanding their meaning and their appeal have never been common skills, and still aren't. Some things are much easier c. 2017—for instance, getting a sharp, clear, well-exposed, in-focus shot with accurate color in low light with a minimum of labor. But for everything that's easier there are other things that are harder—for example,...
Tags: Photography, Michael Johnston, Michael C Johnston, Photographic aesthetics, Gar Give Mike


The Mysterious "Legs" Phenomenon

An Aussie reader, Mim, found a link I couldn't find yesterday, to the picture I labeled "Hands" in an old post. Mim also said this about it: I went looking because I remembered it, but I also remembered that it didn't grab me the first time. And yet it does this time around. Is it my mood is different? or the white border? I don't know but I really like it now! Therein lies a mystery...one of the bigger mysteries about how photographs work, in my opinion. It's that some photographs—I think we ca...
Tags: Photography, Michael Johnston, Mike, Michael C Johnston, MIM, Photographic aesthetics, Frank DiPerna


Love It / Don't Get It

I had another visitor yesterday—longtime reader and not-infrequent commenter Nikhil Ramkarran came all the way from Georgetown, Guyana. Via New York City, where he was visiting old friends in Queens. He's a lawyer in Guyana, the only country in South America where English is the native language. His name is culturally Indian, but his family has been in Guyana for generations. He wouldn't admit how many cameras he owns, but I asked him to send me a picture of his camera shelves. Plural. (Now if ...
Tags: Photography, Queens, South America, Guyana, Blog Notes, Mamiya, Michael Johnston, Mike, Michael C Johnston, Gordon, Rollei, Girls Club, Lella, Nikhil, Ken Tanaka, Photographic aesthetics


Another Function of a Portfolio

In the "How I Practiced Portraiture" post, Steve Caddy wrote: So many of these problems boil down to a difference between what the customer thinks they're buying and what the photographer thinks they're selling. Amen, and my experience was a vivid illustration of that. Steve was probably talking mainly about the business dealings between the photographer and the customer, but it applies equally well to the aesthetic side of the transaction as well. When I started doing portraiture, in Washington...
Tags: Photography, Washington, Dell, Audrey Hepburn, Steve, Editing And Portfolios, Henry Viii, Michael Johnston, Mike, Michael C Johnston, Georgetown, Hans Holbein, Kirk Tuck, Photographic aesthetics, Steve Caddy, Yosuf Karsh


Look at Tone as Light

...So to pick up where I left off yesterday...I was railing with good-natured hyperbole about the general run of digital B&W. And on that point I need to begin by making a short digression to emphasize two points: I wasn't necessarily talking about the B&W of devoted practitioners—experts—many of whom know more about conversion than I do, and do splendid work (at least, they do the work they want to be doing). It's not a matter of film v. digital with one or the other being better or worse. I a...
Tags: Photography, Sony, York, Digital Techniques, Michael Johnston, Mike, PAUL, Michael C Johnston, Photographic aesthetics, Paul Grubb


How to Cure the Digital B&W Nasties

The biggest change in film > digital from a visual, artistic, results standpoint* is the wholesale changeover from B&W to color. When I got into photography in 1980, almost all serious photography was B&W. Color was considered "literal" and "decorative" and widely denigrated as being the province of commercial photography on the one hand and amateur snapshooters with their machine-made 3 1/2 x 5-inch prints on the other. There were a few serious color photographers, but they were token. When se...
Tags: Photography, Digital, Sony, Digital Techniques, Michael Johnston, Mike, Michael C Johnston, Bill Wheeler, Chris Craft, Carl Weese, Photographic aesthetics


20 Years Ago Next Month: What Is 'Bokeh'?

By John Kennerdell A still from "Legend" (2015), Dick Pope, director of photography. In 2014 Pope evidently went through just about every lens at a large London rental house before settling on some old Cooke Speed Panchros for his brilliantly photographed "Mr. Turner." In "Legend," the following year, he switched to Cooke S4s, a more modern design that nevertheless carries on the "Cooke look"—warm and rounded with notably smooth out-of-focus rendering. - Introduction, 2017: Thank us or blam...
Tags: Photography, Japan, London, Kodak, Photo Techniques, West, Pope, John, Nikon, Cuba, Smith, Bokeh, Canon, Konica, Leica, Zeiss


Cool, With an Accent

...I meant to mention yesterday that the "Girl in Red" autochrome from 1913 is a good example of "cool with a warm accent," which is one of maybe a dozen or so basic, baseline strategies for making a picture appeal to people. Curiously, it doesn't work the other way around—"warm with a cool accent" might work or might not, but doesn't necessarily have any intrinsic appeal. The appeal seems to come from somewhere deep in our brains. Perhaps it's due to some deep species memory that hearkens back...
Tags: Photography, Michael Johnston, Mike, Michael C Johnston, Photographic aesthetics