song for a photographer: Erin Rae – “Minolta”

There are plenty of songs that bring up photography or photographs in one way or another, possibly the most famous being Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome”, but there’s only one that drops in the name of my favourite camera manufacturer – now past – Minolta.

This is, of course, a love song but the lyrics of Erin Rae’s delicate melody speak perfectly of what it is that is special about the art of photography, and what a sensitive photographer is capable of –

“With your gentle eye for seeing
And your steady-handed grasp
I like the light you look for
In the places I look past”

And for all of us, we get tired looking, and sometimes it seems we look, but we just can’t see what is real anymore, a conundrum she describes beautifully –

“The way that I’ve been seeing things
Has turned old in my mind
And it’s easy now to just accept
The first thing that I find
But I like the light you look for
Where I never cast my sight
And I want to borrow vision from you
If that would be alright”


film/digital hybrid camera – anyone?

I’m not sure the ‘film/digital hybrid’ is a dead end as postulated in this Kosmo Foto post

It may be just that no-one has arrived at a viable concept, of which there could be several: we just don’t yet know what these might be. Nor does there appear to be a definition of the demographic that would convince a manufacturer which direction to take.

For instance, I want to cover my film shots with my iPhone so I have a reference for scanning colour negatives, but it’s too fiddly to do it every time. If someone could design a film camera that took a digital sample (a feed from a digital viewfinder module, perhaps) that uploaded automatically to my phone with every shot, I’d find that useful. I doubt whether my personal requirements overlap with any demographic model defined by the market research department of a potential camera manufacture, but it’s just one idea and I’m sure someone will come up with a winner sooner or later.

a camera with iOS?

At times, I get the feeling that Apple wants the iPhone to be the camera that replaces all cameras. However, they have another general purpose product with a built-in camera, the iPad. With the experience they are building up, a device that is primarily a camera should be a possible project for them – it’s just that it would not be a general purpose device.

With iOS11 just round the corner, the capabilities of their portable devices will make them even more useful for photographers. Most of my time spent as a photographer is in editing, archiving and publishing; the initial, exciting part of seeking out the elusive subject and taking the iconic photograph is soon over, to be followed by all the hard work that comes with making a body of work. When I use my iPhone to take a photograph, then open it on the iPad to finish it and publish it, I wish I could do more of my photography like this.

The dream comes crashing down when I can’t crop, batch edit or tag the RAW files, or find an image taken at a wider aperture or slower shutter speed or longer focal length. Perhaps a Bluetooth-enabled camera like the new Fujifilm X-E3 will be a solution for one side of the equation. All I will then need is the inevitable advent of software solutions that take advantage of the promised capabilities of iOS 11.

Image: the interconnectedness of ideas leads to multiple possibilities.

the photograph: concept or construct

It seems to me that, in the art world, some of what is presented as photography is more the illustration of concepts by photography than photography purely as a means of visual expression.

Not that this approach is an invalid means of conveying an idea, as it is obviously increasingly popular with artists and audiences alike. But, in conceptual bodies of work the photographs, in the graphical sense, are often banal and unconstructed. Although this allows the concept to come to the fore, the individual images can be unsatisfying and emotionally blank. Without the accompanying knowledge of the concept, the viewer perceives and receives nothing.

pink porchwhite strip 20x300pxNo. 3167white strip 20x300pxconstruct: blue and pink

Rather than address the visible form of a work of art (the structure) that provokes a direct emotional response in the viewer, the critic will often speak and write more about the ideas of an artist, delving into the history and influences that have resulted in the concept that is the apparent foundation of the artists body of work. While this may be interesting enough in itself, even instructive in understanding an artists motives, it is often as if the critic has not been able to understand the visual form of any individual work and has retreated into the world he or she, as an intellectual, is more comfortable with: the world of ideas.

It sometimes seems to be missing the point, yet I understand it is an appreciation that has its place; many artists are presenting concept-based work that requires analysis in order to be appreciated. But the visual form of a work that can create a direct emotional response in the viewer is often not achieved.

Perhaps the intellectual audience is happier with concepts than constructs.


help me Apple Photos – you’re my only hope!

While Lightroom is my application of choice for cataloguing and post-processing, I would prefer to have something more simple to use, like Photos on the iPad. It, unfortunately, falls short in some fairly basic ways, but it at least is intuitive to a large extent, which all other software, to my way of thinking, isn’t.

I’ve learned everything I need to know about the photographic process – from studying M J Langford’s Basic Photography in the 1970s, through a Diploma in Graphic Repro when my career changed direction in the 1980s, to working extensively in the print trade as a scanner operator and in desktop publishing, since.

The photographic process is not a mystery: the mystery to me is why, in 2017, image processing applications are so awkward at implementing centuries-old principles. To me, it seems the developers aren’t able to tie photographic expertise into the process of writing the software. It’s as if the right people haven’t been consulted. (Maybe they don’t even exist anymore. From the nonsense that you read on some of the internet blogs and forums, it sometimes seems so. Every newbie in the world seems to want to dish out ‘advice’, confusing matters even further with their lack of basic knowledge.)

In Lightroom, for instance, a histogram has been incorporated into the Curves pane, but it’s so small and indistinct that, particularly in the individual RGB channels, it’s almost impossible to set the end densities. Why is it not possible to set the end densities by keying in the values or even just with a single click? It was the first thing I did when scanning a transparency with a Crosfield scanner when I worked in the trade 20 years ago – and nothing could have been more straightforward.

As far as simplifying software is concerned, Apple Photos is going in the right direction and, with the platform now open for the development of extensions, perhaps the likes of Gentlemen Coders, with their sublime RAW Power app, can take it forward in ways that Apple perhaps can’t.