Great Reads in Photography: November 29, 2020
Every Sunday, we bring together a collection of easy reading articles from analytical to how-to to photo-features in no particular order that did not make our regular daily coverage. Enjoy!
A photo of a celestial body surrounded by four moons was posted this year on social media. It was further claimed to be Jupiter’s four largest moons in order, left to right: Earth, Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, Io, Europa. This captured the imagination of many sky-watchers and the question on everybody’s lips: Is it real?
Yes, it is real. Bill Dunford, a writer and social media specialist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, captured it on a Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6, 2 seconds, 4:22 am, south-ish, in Brighton, Utah on July 7, 2020.
“I was glad to have Snopes verify the photo, not just for the vindication, but because I want people to know this sight is available to anyone with a pair of binoculars and some curiosity,” Dunford tells PetaPixel. He took a similar photograph in 2019, near Salt Lake City, which has been posted to NASA’s website.
Notable: Jupiter is the solar system’s largest planet and has many moons, although the ones visible in Dunford’s picture are its largest four, of a total of possibly seventy-nine.
Quiz: When was the first photo of earth taken from space*?
1946. Long before Sputnik opened the space age, photos were taken from an altitude of 65 miles by a 35mm motion picture camera riding on a V-2 missile launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. When the movie frames were stitched together, Clyde Holliday, the engineer who developed the camera, wrote in National Geographic in 1950, the V-2 photos showed for the first time “how our Earth would look to visitors from another planet coming in on a space ship.”
* Anything above 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) is generally considered space.
In the world of action sports, GoPro has been integral to capturing amazing video clips of crazy action since 2004. But Jason Halayko, a pro-photographer based in Tokyo, Japan, has found the GoPro Hero9 Black to be useful for stills as well, especially action sports photography, in which he specializes. Jason has seen a slight delay between the instant of clicking and when the photo was actually captured in single-shot mode. He, therefore, shoots in bursts of 10 frames per second in RAW to be able to capture the exact moment he needs. When he’s dealing with high-speed action, he changes to JPEG and 25 frames per second to capture that micro-adjustment of the perfect position. The Hero9 is so light that “it is no pain to lift the camera with one hand and frame the image” while looking at the LCD screen.
“The stills this camera produces are great for the price and size of the GoPro Hero9,” Halayko tells PetaPixel. “Of course, they are not as good as my Nikon D5, but that is a pretty unfair comparison. With nice light, a good idea, and good timing, these Go Pro Hero9 Blacks can produce great images that beginner photographers would be more than happy with.”
You can also watch a video of Halayko testing here.
Notable: WIRED review says: The 20-MP still images are perhaps an even more noticeable step up from previous Hero sensors. RAW images are considerably sharper, and there’s less smearing of fine details. The physical limitations of small lenses aren’t gone—purple fringing is quite common but easy to remove with software.
The new sensor also brings the ability to grab a 14.7-MP still image from videos. That’s a high enough resolution to be perfectly usable not just on the web but in print. The great thing about this is that you can leave the camera in 5K video mode and then pull out high-quality still images later, so there’s never a chance you’ll miss the action.
Quiz: How do you sleep late and still get the sunrise time-lapse?
Scheduled capture lets you set your GoPro Hero9 to automatically turn itself on and capture a shot up to 24 hours in advance. It’s available for all presets.
Rihanna reclining in a shark’s open mouth, George Clooney waltzing in a garden, Carla Bruni posing beneath the Eiffel Tower, yes those are some of the images that Canadian-born photographer Norman Jean Roy created for 30 years. He had a place in fashion photography history alongside Slim Aarons and Herb Ritts in the pantheon of artists who defined their respective eras of glamour. But Roy, 51, lost interest in his celebrity routine and missed spending time with his family. In 2014 he said goodbye to the glamour and glitz and moved into a barn in the Hudson Valley, NY. Last year he attended a bread making boot camp and a 7,000 sq. ft., 50 seat bakery was born.
“I’m making a living two, three dollars at a time,” Roy tells The New York Times. “There’s nothing more humbling than that after spending years in five-star hotels and private jets.”
Any photography? Right now, that is relegated just to Breadfolks’ Instagram feed.
A great portrait needs to first grab you and then let you sit in there and continue to draw you in. [Whereas] with a lot of fashion photography, it really hits you hard, and then it slowly fades away. – Norman Jean Roy
Photographer Steve McCurry Goes in Search of Elsewhere – My Modern Met
Steve McCurry has been used to traveling since he was 20 years old, but the pandemic forced him to stay at home for the first time. He spent the time at his Philadelphia studio sifting through his archive spanning from 1981 to 2019, re-discovering many unpublished images from his past works: the photos from the journeys in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in Burma and Cambodia, in Germany, as well as in India and Africa.
A new book, In Search of Elsewhere, now reveals 100 previously unseen photographs, with many of those images showing off his portraiture, a skill McCurry says he has learned a lot from throughout his career. “You can only really work with people who want to be photographed, and there could be a million great reasons why they just don’t want to participate,” he says. “You have to respect that.”
McCurry presents the photos without captions in a minimalistic presentation so that the reader can possibly take in just the image without the distraction of words. The captions are provided at the back of the book, but since they are not cross-referenced with the page numbers, it becomes a bit of a back and forth to locate them.
Note: Steve McCurry’s portrait on the top was captured by Bruno Barbey of Magnum, who recently passed away.
Just because people use Instagram and take cellphone pictures, it doesn’t mean the pictures are meaningful, any more than a text someone sends a friend is great literature. – Steve McCurry
In a 2015 conversation with Brennavan Sritharan at British Journal of Photography
How to Avoid Taking Boring Street Portraits – Asia Photo Review
Tim Russell, a street/travel photographer from the UK and now based in Bangkok, recently joined a street portraits group on Facebook and found a good 90% of the images posted extremely boring and unimaginative. Many of the photos were shot with telephotos without any engagement with the subject, normal-looking people doing normal looking things without any point of interest, stalker-style where the photographer is afraid to approach, and boring photos converted to B&W in the hope of making them exciting.
Russell has another whole website dedicated to street photography – and “while I’m no expert or professional,” I like to think I’m half-decent at it at least. So here are his tips to avoid boring street portraits:
- Get closer. The most famous piece of photography advice ever given is Robert Capa’s “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
- Look for interesting people. Quirky, eccentric-looking people make for more interesting street portraits.
- Look at the eyes. If there’s a face in a picture, that’s what we go to first, and it’s the eyes that draw us in the most.
- Use context to tell stories. When we show a person in their surroundings, the full story emerges.
- Look for contradictions. People doing things they wouldn’t normally do, or in places they wouldn’t normally be, naturally stand out
- Use light. Photography is, of course, all about light, and few things give us more satisfaction than a beautifully lit image, or the light can sometimes become a subject in itself.
- Shoot a series or project. You’re also more likely to get noticed and published if you can put your images together into a project – editors are more likely to work with you if you can create interesting and cohesive photo essays
- Relax and engage. If your subjects are stiff and posing, take a couple of shots and show them. They’ll instantly relax and probably laugh, at which point you can fire off a few more spontaneous shots, and these are more likely to be winners.
Opinion: Camera Names are Getting Ridiculous – DPReview
Remembering camera model numbers is becoming a challenge for salespeople, journalists, and anybody else who has to deal with them. In the film days, a camera’s shelf life was long, and therefore the name lasted many, many years. The Pentax K1000 was produced for 21 years from 1976 –1997, and 3 million units were made. With digital cameras, many are not even lasting 2.1 years. Sony has really exhausted all possible permutations, even “… replacing each model before the previous generation had arrived in the shops,” notes DPReview, technical editor and scientist, Richard Butler.
Maybe it all started at Photokina 2008 when the Canon 5D Mk II was unveiled, and it ushered in the era of Full HD video in DSLRs. At that time, it seemed logical that “Mark II” branding appeared to have been developed from the previous model. Later, Canon adopted ‘Mark’ designations for its compacts, giving us three G1 Xs, two iterations of the G5 X, and three of the G7 X.
Sony’s naming system seems to have got completely out of control. There are multiple “Marks” of the different RX0, RX1, RX10, and RX100 models. The RX100 series has apparently been divided into parallel short (Mark 1-5) and long-zoom variants (Marks 6 and 7), necessitating the creation of the RX100 Mark 5A. Where is all this going to end up?
Fujifilm takes the cake or maybe the camera! Do they really have two different models? The Fujifilm X100T and Fujifilm X-T100!! Go figure.
HOW THIS PHOTO WAS MADE
Light Trails & Starry Sky Composite – Alpha Universe
Demas Rusli is based in Sydney, Australia, and gave up a career in architecture to become a full-time photographer. He created the above composite at the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada while on a Southwest U.S. road trip.
- Arrived at the location just before sunset and stayed until blue hour.
- Climbed up some rock formations to get the vantage point looking down onto this road.
- Created final photo by compositing four different shots. All photos were shot on a tripod, with a Sony a7R IV and Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master.
#1 Car Trails: His friend drove down the road in a snake-like pattern when it started to get dark, ISO 100, 30-second exposure.
#2 Car Trails Extended: Since he had only exposed for 30 seconds in the first image, the car lights did not go further down the part of the road that was still in the frame. He asked his friend to drive the same way further down so he could stack the images together and join the two light trails.
#3 Empty Valley with Subject Standing on Road Just Before Blue-Hour: Before it got fully dark, he had his friend go stand in the empty valley.
#4 Stars: This image was actually shot at a separate location, Monument Valley, and then added to this composite in post-production.
Post-Production: All four images were imported into Adobe Lightroom for color grading and then composited together using Adobe Photoshop.
Check out Demas Rusli’s How to Straighten a Photo Perfectly Using Lightroom and Photoshop
WHY I LIKE THIS PHOTO – Steve Simon
I made this photograph at the Phelisanong Children’s Center in Lesotho, South Africa while working on my book Heroines & Heroes: Hope, HIV and Africa. Kids are often easy subjects, but it was hard for me to keep a low profile among the throngs of children all focused on me, the camera-toting stranger in town.
Impossible to be a fly on the wall, I just started shooting—having fun connecting with the kids who were having fun back. I find my best street photography portraits often start as a posed situation— but if something spontaneous and authentic happens, that’s the moment that can make a good image great.
As I scanned the crowd of light-hearted kids and shot, I noticed this young guy had picked up a discarded piece of plastic and started photographing me back. I moved closer and closer still—as he continued to mimic my moves. Just as I got a little too close for comfort, we were both startled; and I triggered the shutter. If his camera was real, I’m sure he would have captured a similar expression.
I remember him being a sharp, smart, and really nice kid. Lesotho is a developing country with too many orphans, resulting from the scourge of HIV/ Aids there. I loved the picture, but I couldn’t help thinking that I first fell in love with photography around his age, turning my obsession into a wonderful life and career. But for him to become a photographer…well, the odds were not in his favor—so much potential in that group of kids that beautiful afternoon. But the odds were against them too.
Steve Simon is an award-winning documentary photographer and author of five critically acclaimed photography books, including The Passionate Photographer, chosen as one of Amazon’s “Top Ten Art and Photography Books.”
He has photographed on assignment in more than 40 countries, and his work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Colors, Life, Time, Le Monde, Harpers, and many others. Simon Says you can read more of his writing here.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK (or a Previous Week):
Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures. – Don McCullin (Sir Donald McCullin CBE, b. 1935, is a British photojournalist, particularly recognized for his war photography and images of urban strife.)
To see an archive of past issues of Great Reads in Photography, click here.
We welcome comments as well as suggestions. As we cannot possibly cover each and every source, if you see something interesting in your reading or local newspaper anywhere in the world, kindly forward the link to us here. ALL messages will be personally acknowledged.
About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at The International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days Workshops. You can reach him via email here.
Image credits: All photographs as credited and used with permission from the photographers or agencies.