Friday, November 21, 2014

Roger Deakins

A supercut showing a handful of magnificent scenes from the work of my favorite cinematographer, Roger Deakins:

Roger Deakins supercut

Sometimes it depresses me that guys like Deakins can create these magnificent images as part of a movie. I mean, the overhead shot of the snow-covered parking lot in Fargo should be framed and hung on a museum wall, but instead, it appears on screen for a couple of seconds and then it's gone.

On the other hand, there aren't many "guys like Deakins," and most of them work with mega-million dollar budgets. In any case, in my book, Deakins is one of the Immortals.

Whose your favorite cinematographer?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

An Excuse to Remember (thanks to Robin Williams and Woody Allen)

I never saw Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry, in which the late Robin Williams has a small part as Mel, an actor whose life is such a blur that he himself literally goes out of focus. I didn't hear good things about the movie but this idea is pretty funny.

This is an excuse to remember. No, ma'am, there wasn't anything wrong with my camera or my technique. It was you. You were blurry that day. Come back in and we'll reshoot. In the meantime, get some rest and sharpen up a little.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

My wife and I enjoyed the morning in the company of our two younger daughters, but the oldest daughter (in her second year as a resident in obstetrics and gynecology) had to answer the call of duty: she is working all day at the hospital. The younger sisters wanted to let Big Sis know they were missing her, and they thought of a patriotic way to do it, by standing in front of the flag on our porch and striking the "I want you!" pose.

We'll all be together for pizza tonight. What's more American than Friday night pizza?

Here I am in Texas, in the United States of America. As my late mother-in-law used to say, "How lucky can you be?"

Happy Independence Day to you all!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Aperture's out to pasture. Life goes on.

A year ago, I wrote a post here explaining "Why I switched from Lightroom to Aperture." I outlined some of the relative advantages of Aperture, as I saw them at the time. But even then, I knew that it was an iffy decision. Indeed, already a year or more ago it seemed likely that Apple had lost interest in Aperture and the product had no future.

So it wasn't much of a surprise last week when Apple made it official: no more updates for Aperture. They set out to make a the best raw workflow app for pros. In the eyes of many, for a while, that's just was Aperture was. And then Apple got bored with it.

Maybe it wasn't just boredom. One old observation about Apple is that it's a hardware company, not a software company. Its software is created to sell its hardware. I have no inside info, but my guess is, the decision-markers at Apple felt that Aperture wasn't selling enough Macs.

What's for certain is that Aperture wasn't selling any iPhones or iPads, and that's what Apple really wants to sell these days. Apple knows that it's now one of the biggest marketers of cameras in the world, since every iPhone and iPad is also a camera. Rather that continue to develop pro-level software that manages and processes photos taken by the small number of photographers using high-end third-party cameras, Apple has apparently decided it wants to concentrate on supporting the users of its own mobile device cameras. The money is where the mass of iPhone snappers are.

On a related note, see this earlier post: "Is it a great time for photography?"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Four ways to test a lens

This is what photography is all about: lens testing! Good news: As this photo demonstrates, the Olympus 25 f1.8 is an excellent lens. Bad news: I need a new vacuum cleaner. (View at 100% to see why.)

There are four ways to test a lens.

  1. Look at the price you paid for it. If you paid over US $600, it's a good lens. Over $800, it's a very good lens. Below $300, it's okay. Between $300 and $600 is a gray area and you might have to go one of the more advanced tests that follow. 
  2. Look it up on DxO Mark. They'll tell you if it's any good or not. Favored by the pros!
  3. Obtain or make for yourself a test chart, and try to replicate DxO Mark-style tests, taking measurements. If you can't find a chart, a brick wall will also work. Be sure to view all the photos only at 100% or you might miss something important. (The popularity of this test keeps the makers of tripods in business.)
  4. Take a number of photos with the lens: different subjects, different shooting situations and types of light. Look at the photos on a good computer display, or better yet, make prints. If you have a similar lens or lenses, make comparisons based on various photos. Does the lens seem to do what you want it to do?

Test #3 will help you find defects in the lens. In fact, if you do it right, it's nearly guaranteed to find defects. On the up side, once you find the defects you went looking for, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you have incredibly high standards.

Test #4 is deprecated in nearly every internet forum, for several reasons. First, it's not scientific. Second, in order to answer the question "Does the lens do what I want it to do?" you have to know what you want it to do, and that's not covered in this lesson. And third, because there's too high a risk that you'll accidentally take a photo that you really like, which will only lead to unhappiness, since you know from test #3 that the lens is crap and you have to return it.

Originally posted 24 June 2014 over at DPReview, in response to a question about how to test a lens.

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