If you read my post back in September about Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS), you know that I’m a firm believer in making smart choices about photography-related expenditures. It’s so easy to get hypnotized by all of the shiny new trinkets and pieces of equipment that if you aren’t careful you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the rabbit hole with lots of great gear, but little else to show for it. That being said, if you are one of those lucky individuals who just got their first DSLR over the holidays, there are seven accessories which should be at the top of your new wish list. I usually hesitate to use words like “essential,” but sometimes it’s the little things that pack the biggest punch.
It’s a new year and that means a new round of photography conventions and trade shows. I’m writing this about 2,000 miles from where I’m actually supposed to be right now, which is the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Family obligations, freakishly cold weather, and gremlins all conspired to keep me away from what would have been my first CES. I even had press credentials. So if you’re there and can convince someone in charge to give you my swag bag, it’s yours.
It occurred to me recently that I’ve been a regular contributor here at DIY Photography for four months, and I’ve yet to actually write anything DIY-related. So, before anybody notices and rats me out to the boss, today’s the day I bring a little DIY to the table– compliments of a Chanukah gift from my 12-year-old son.
This particular man-cub is one of the most thoughtful people I know, which is one of the reasons he gets so pissed off every year around the holidays and my birthday over the high price of camera-related goodies. He wants to do something nice and can’t afford it. This year, though, he was bound and determined, and let me tell you– that kid of mine struck gold. For about twenty bucks, he got me the Recesky TLR DIY Camera Kit.
If you stop to think about it, that little eye on the world on the back of your smart phone is a technological wonder– particularly if you grew up in an era when leaving the house or office meant nobody could reach you until you surfaced somewhere with a land line. Even when compared to point-and-shoot digital cameras of just a few years ago, these cameras which are constantly with us keep advancing at an incredible rate, creating images often indistinguishable from those taken with our DSLRs.
But it’s not perfect– and never can be–.since perfection means drastically different things to different people, Thanks to ambitious app creators, though, we can trick out our smart phone cameras with a seemingly endless supply of options. From filtering and sharing, to editing and correcting, if there’s something you want your smart phone camera to do, chances are there’s an app for that.
“If you are a silent sniper with a telephoto, when they do notice you they will feel like you’ve taken something from them.”
As photographers, we often measure our moments in hundredths of seconds. As a result, we are regularly faced with the undeniable truth that missed moments are gone forever. It’s one thing to miss a moment due to technical issues or circumstances beyond your control, but how many times has an opportunity– business, artistic, or personal– been lost because you’ve been too shy to capture it?
It’s that time of year again. Can you feel it? Camera companies have launched shiny new, “must-have” trinkets. Your GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is raging like an inferno at an all-time high. And– of course– nothing celebrates the birth of a savior or the rededication of a holy temple quite like upgrading your camera. It’s a simple, unavoidable fact-of-photography-life. It’s the holiday season and you want a new camera. So do I. It doesn’t matter how pristine or properly functioning my cameras are at the end of the year. Without fail, I always want a new one. Every year. And this is why I’m engaged in my annual Battle of the Voices. I’ve got the devil from one shoulder talking about new cameras in my ear, while the angel from the other shoulder is trying to give him a serious beat-down.
I received the following email a few weeks ago:
“Hello, my name is Sam. I am a 7th grade student at _____ Middle School. I am doing an independent project on photography and saw some of your posts. I was wondering if you could give me some tips or anything about photography. Please get back to me as soon as you can. Thanks!”
This was my reply:
“Hi, Sam. Thanks for touching base with me. I’d love to be able to give you some tips for your project, but I think you need to narrow down your question a bit. Simply asking me for tips on “anything about photography” doesn’t give me enough information. For example, I have no way of knowing how much you already know. If you can send me a list of specific questions regarding things like exposure, composition, etc., I’ll see what I can do to help you out. Best, –J.”
I guess I’ve had lighting on the mind lately. Except for a select few, I don’t think anyone ever truly “masters” photographic lighting. As I said in another post on the topic recently, mastering light — or even just taming it– is one of the biggest and most difficult challenges facing any photographer. For me, I find that my lighting technique continues to evolve as I continue to grow as a photographer. Lighting for portraits is different than lighting for food. Lighting for products is different than lighting for fashion. And don’t even get me started on the chasm between studio and location lighting.
And yet, when it comes to lighting, all of these genres do share some very significant similarities. The bottom line when it comes to any lighting situation is that you have to get a handle on two very important things– how the light behaves, and how to make it behave for you. To that end, I’ve pulled together a sampling of 15 of some of the best lighting books available. Not e-books. Not apps, Not videos. This week we’re going old school. Photographic wisdom printed and illustrated on actual pages and bound together into a single, hand-held volume. No batteries required.
I’ve tried to include a little something for everyone, regardless of specialty or skill level. To find out more about any of the books listed, click on the title above the cover photo. This is not a ranking– just a list of suggested reading. So, in no particular order, I give you…
One of my favorite neighbors sends me photography-related emails every so often. She’ll send me a link for an upcoming museum exhibit or gallery show. Sometimes she’ll forward an article about a local photo contest. I look forward to her emails, partially because I appreciate her taking an interest in what I do, but also because it’s interesting to me to see what sort of photography stories and events are resonating with non-photographers. I received one her emails this past week and I was floored– shocked, actually, that I’d never heard the story of the Leica Freedom Train. It’s one of those rare stories that brings together so many aspects of my life, including my passions for photography and history, as well as some very deep connections to my family heritage.
While the actual numbers are lost to history, what has become known as the Leica Freedom Train was a rescue effort by Ernst Leitz II and his daughter Elsie Kuehn-Leitz to get hundreds of German Jews out of the country, starting within months of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.
Mastering light — or even just taming it– is one of the biggest and most difficult challenges facing any photographer. Regardless of whether you shoot in a studio full of strobes, or venture out on location with nothing but a reflector, overcoming the stumbling blocks that lighting throws in our way all boils down to the same set of tasks– understanding how light works, and making it work for you. The Web is bursting at its digital seams with lighting tutorials for photographers of every type and skill level. Some are good, some not, but they all share a common goal — helping you take control of one of the most important aspects of your photography. We’ve compiled ten of our favorites for you. There’s no ranking system — just a little something for everyone. So, in no particular order…