Digital Manipulation Part I: Should You Use Digital Filters?

A few postings back I showed a color image from the Leica M8 and said that with some post processing and treatment, I could maybe, possibly turn the photo into something more dramatic. Well, I had some time to play with it and here’s the before and after:

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Now I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s certainly more “dramatic” than the first photo!

Ok the color shot on top was a straight out of camera jpeg from the M8 with a 50mm f/2 Summicron attached. The bottom b&w image is the same image processed through Google’s Analog Efex using a wet plate filter. It’s basically a digital filter attempting to emulate the look of a wet plate film print.

Seeing the image from a photographer’s perspective, I would certainly choose the “Plain Jane” straight out of camera color shot, but I do have to say that I did like the b&w conversion too. But that’s probably me being partial to the subjects 🙂

Anyway, it got me thinking this…if this image was a true wet plate photo, I’d wager that most photographers, even analog only photographers would accept it, maybe even think it was cool with all its grit and drama.

But since it’s a digital manipulation, they’d probably dismiss it. I can understand this. First of all, a true wet plate print requires a lot of work and people can respect the process. And most will give your props for that. Digital manipulation, digital filters, etc, are much easier in comparison.

Digital photography “purists” may not accept it either as using filters seem “fake” and especially now when people are on the “no filter” wave. Technology has made life easy, but people still seem to prefer hard.

So you get no respect from analog photographers and no respect from digital photography “purists.” So who would be the audience for this kind of digital manipulation? Why I’d bet my money on social media! Your friends on Facebook, Instagram, etc. I think images using these filters would be perfect for social media.

Why? You might think I’d say that the audience there don’t know any better, but I’m not saying that. Being on social media for many years, I can honestly say that while there are a lot of non photographers posting photos, there are also many, many hardcore photographers posting there as well. And many of these folks are very knowledgeable and would know that the photo has received some kind of “artificial” treatment.

The wonderful thing about social media though vs the photo forums is a general sense of acceptance for almost anything. The folks tend to view images on a broader scope, accepting the image as it is first. The process too sometimes helps to get the votes, the likes, etc, but if you didn’t mention it, they probably wouldn’t care and they’d probably accept it as is. But we photo geeks care about the process, don’t we? 🙂

On the negative side, there’s also a drive for votes and likes, so your followers will likely “like” your image anyway, whether they really like it or not.

Please understand, I am just using this image as an example, not because I think it’s a great photo or not. I love the photo because of the subjects, but I’d honestly say that to the general public it’s probably not a very interesting shot, even processed.

If it were me looking at this from an outsider’s eye, I would say there’s no way this is a real wet plate photo. Real wet plate photos are rarely ever this clean nor this sharp, though I have seen some sharp ones. They do tend to be dark, and the Analog Efex did a good job there.

In the end though, it has always been my belief that digital b&w started out of a desire to emulate film. As things evolved, it was no longer just about film but about achieving a look that is unique and different from everyone else. The incredibly high saturation of photographers in today’s world drives this desire even more.

All I can say is…

If you shoot film, continue to shoot it. You will always be a little different in today’s world and part of a wonderfully amazing and passionate brotherhood. But film can only take you so far in and of itself. Content is most important.

Content to me is subject, composition, and the overall “interesting-ness” of the photo. Technical quality is usually second. You can have a technically perfect photo that’s boring as hell and not many people will like it.

If you shoot digital, that’s awesome too but try to make your mark by content first. Again content is key. Interesting photos will always win over filters. And if you want to use filters, I have nothing against that. Just know that filters get old pretty fast so use them sparingly.

There is room for everybody and every style in the wonderful world of photography so let’s not lose any sleep over this. As long as you’re having fun, I’d say that’s good enough for me and it should be good enough for you 🙂

Flashback Friday March 24, 2017 Edition: M8 Pic & The End Of Pop Photo Magazine

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“Shout For Spring” 2016. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M.

Spring just arrived this week. I’m not sure about you, but I just don’t get to take many pictures in the winter. Not for a lack of things to take pictures of, but I just don’t find myself going to places that would make me want to take photos. Spring is more my thing! Hopefully, we’ll get to try some stuff we’re wanting to review and come back with some decent pics.

The above photo was taken last spring with a Leica M8 and 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. This is just straight from the camera. With a little post-processing, one could possibly turn this into something more dramatic and if I were still posting to photo sites, I might have done that but I find it too time consuming these days.

The M8 raw files or even jpegs have a crisp, chrome like quality when shot in color and can be very filmic in black and white.

Knock on wood, the M8, she looks fragile at first but has proven to be one heck of a durable and reliable camera. Knock on wood again!

I’m sure many of you wouldn’t mind another M8 review, just as I wouldn’t, and I’m going to try to give it to you someday. But let me just say when I first got it in 2010, I truly did not think I’d have it this long or that it would even last this long! Don’t wait for me, if you find a good deal at a good price with a good warranty go for it. M8 rocks!

THE END OF POPULAR PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE

Well, it was announced about two weeks ago that Popular Photography, aka Pop Photo magazine would cease production after 80 years. They started in 1937 and was a mainstay at newstands here in the USA, and I’ve seen it in Asia too. Their sister publication American Photo has also been cancelled. I’m only talking about Pop Photo in this article.

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Popular Photography Magazine has come to an end. This 1997/1998 Buyer’s Guide was one of the last issues I actually bought. RIP Pop Photo!

I guess we should have known this was coming when they started changing to a bi-monthly publication recently, that’s never a good sign.

As a nostalgic fool, it saddens me a little to see them go. The magazine was very much responsible for keeping my interest in photography in the 80s and 90s. I loved those Nikon F3 and Minolta X-700 ads!

Then in the early 1990s, I remember spending hours in the college library reading nearly every copy of Pop Photo they had and it renewed my interest in photography, after a brief loss of interest. I know I should’ve been reading my school books instead, maybe this was the reason for my below-average grades 🙂

The magazine also served to fuel my G.A.S. even then as a poor college student. All those nice equipment photos, all those glowing reviews!

Yet it was those glowing reviews that made them lose some credibility to some people. I learned that the hard way. Back in the 90s Nikon came out with a headline grabbing super-zoom, the 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-D.

I got one based on one of their reviews. It was an impressive looking lens with its large 72mm filter size. After using it for a while though, I remember being very disappointed with this lens. Even with my then still learning eyes, I could tell this lens was sub-par on my N90s. I sold it and got the 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF Nikkor which was a much better lens.

However, I still picked up the magazine or (actually if I may admit) looked at it every month at Barnes & Nobles, Borders, or whatever bookstore carried it. You got to remember this was pre internet days and this was one of the few ways to read about cameras, lenses, and photography back then.

I loved the articles from the late, great Herbert “Burt” Keppler. He was the main man at Pop Photo and a Camera Legend. He would write in this straight-up style that only a New Yorker could relate to. I remember I was over the moon when he sent me back a hand written response to a question I sent in. Sadly, he passed away in 2008.

As the years progressed, I would still look at the magazine, but it was usually for a quick glance and nothing more. I began to lose interest in the magazine as I could read better things online.

People used to trash them as a “rag” and only there to make money because of all those ads. In their defense, I would say come on now, they are Pop Photo after all and anything “Pop” is all about the masses. Just like pop music, yes they have to make some money.

They did attempt to give you reviews with some backup. They had this “SQF” (Subjective Quality Factor) thing on their lens reviews which were based on MTF charts I think. But it clearly stated “Subjective” so you had to be careful.

The thing with Pop Photo is that you had to read between the lines to figure out for yourself what they’re trying to say. They probably didn’t want to burn any bridges with their advertisers. For example, you might read in the article that a camera’s high iso was generally good, but look at their chart and it says “Unacceptable.” If you see that, then you know “unacceptable” is the real answer. It wasn’t that hard.

I found Pop Photo to be a much more enjoyable read than many other competing magazines. For example, if you compare Petersen’s Photographic to Pop Photo, there’s no comparison. Petersen’s reads like a rehash of the manufacturers brochure. Shutterbug was generally ok,  a little bit better than Pop Photo, but not much. My favorite photography magazines by far were those fancy British magazines and of course the awesome Japanese magazines. I can’t read a lick of Japanese, but I loved the photos!

Anyway, in today’s virtual world it should really come as no surprise to see Pop Photo go. Just like books, music, porn, etc, the internet killed everything real or “real” as we knew it. It’s still unclear whether they will continue as a website.

I hope they will, but speaking for myself, I never found their website engaging enough to keep my interest as the magazine did. Just like many old school companies, transitioning from the real to virtual world did not seem easy for Pop Photo. I think if they hired some real pros to refurnish their site, they could turn it around. They had a huge audience for their magazine, especially back in the day. It would be a shame if someone at the top could not capitalize on that and keep it running.

As it is right now, RIP Pop Photo. You were a great source of inspiration back in the day. Thank you.

 

 

Black & White Portraits

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“The Tsingtao Boy” 2009. Canon F-1N, 50mm f/1.4 FD lens, Tri-X. Chinatown, NYC.

While I do love color photography, there’s just something different about black and white photography that really endears me to it. And when you combine b&w with people (or animals!), that really takes it to another level for me.

These are just some b&w images taken over the years. Like I’ve said before, sometimes I do want to remind myself that I love shooting almost as much as I love cameras…I think! These are also images from cameras I am planning to review for you, cameras like the Leica M8 and the Canon F-1N, which is one of my favorite Canon bodies ever, past or present.

It seems almost unbelievable to me that it has taken this long, but after two weeks I’m finally getting my main working computer back today! As I mentioned before, this really set me back as far as content for this website is concerned and I’m just beginning to catch up. Thanks to those who continue to visit and I do appreciate your time and comments.

This is admittedly going to be a busy week and writing a blog with any kind of content takes a lot of time. Even my shortest article takes me almost half a day. I admire those who can do this consistently on a daily basis, I know I can’t!

Hope you all have a good short week in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA.

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“Man In The Middle” 2011. Canon Powershot G10, Paranaque, Philippines.

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“Imported From The Past” 2011. Nikon F4s, Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AIS. The great Louis Mendes stands out like an icon from the past with his old school Speed Graphic and sharp, retro outfits.

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“Vimeo” 2006. Canon Rebel XT, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC. I was buying a lens from this man and I took this shot while testing it. I found out a couple of years later that he is apparently one of the founders of the video sharing site Vimeo!

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“The Competition” 2006. Canon Rebel XT, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC. Sometimes facial expression tells you everything!

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“Time Will Not Wait” 2011. Leica M8, 35mm f/2 Zeiss Biogon. Koh Samui, Thailand.

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“Brother Blues” 2010. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. Washington Square Park, NYC.

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“My Door Is Open” 2011. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. Nonthaburi, Thailand.

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“The Godfather Of Bangkok” 2011. Minolta CLE, 40mm f/2 Summicron-M, Tri-X. A scene from a restaurant on the side streets of Bangkok, Thailand. With one hand on his meal, the other hand reaches for the plate before anyone else could get to it first. Don’t mess with the Godfather of Bangkok! 🙂

A couple of my favorite portraits from the selection above were done with Sigma lenses. Our affiliate and friends at Adorama is offering some incredible savings on SIGMA lenses which only runs through 11/30/15 so if you wanted to pick up some of those super sharp “ART” lenses, this is a good time to do it! And if you order within a certain time, they make every effort to ship same day, which is a great benefit to buying from Adorama versus the competition.