2015 gave us two great things: the incredible and groundbreaking Phase One XF100 digital back and the Academy Award-nominated film, “The Martian.” While the XF100 brought us to a new frontier of image quality and performance, “The Martian” has brought the idea of Mars exploration back into the spotlight. NASA has even gone so far as to build a prototype Mars mission astronaut helmet. It just so happens that Doug Sonders, one of our own contributing writers, photographed this space-age helmet with the XF100.
Articles written by Spencer Lookabaugh
Slowly but surely, I find myself shooting more film. It’s getting to the point where my digital cameras are almost strictly for video. They may offer better resolution and more versatility, but there’s a look to film and a fascination with the cameras that pull me to it. The one man that took me into the bottomless hole in my wallet that is film photography is Mat Marrash, a coworker and an avid large format photographer. It's some of the most gorgeous landscape photos of the Ohio Valley I've seen. A few weeks ago, Mat, myself, and the good folks at Rooted Content traveled to Hocking Hills, where Steve and Kyle from Rooted created this short of Mat’s work.
If you follow big name photographers or pages like FamousBTSMag on Instagram or elsewhere, you’ve likely seen a parabolic reflector. Even more likely is the prestigious names that are Broncolor or Briese plastered on the side. The results that these modifiers produce are absolutely gorgeous, there’s no doubt there. They offer the most even light spread of any modifier, a large range of sizes, and incredible versatility. If you’ve done some research, however, you’ll throw the idea of shooting with one out the door because of their incredibly steep price. A few months ago, I stumbled on a company by the name of Parabolix. What I found seemed entirely too good to be true.
One of the greatest ways to show the passage of time is with a time-lapse. A time-lapse is essentially a series of still images taken of a single subject over any given period of time (minutes, to hours, to even days), and then played back quickly to form a video. The usage of stills is really important. A common misconception is that a time-lapse is just sped-up video. While you could do this, there are issues with battery life, overheating, and storage space. With stills, you have the advantage of raw recording, better battery life, and far more storage space.
If you began shooting video within the last five to eight years, it's quite likely that you rode the "5D Mark II wave." Maybe you didn't own a 5D, and still don't, but that camera revolutionized the world of video production forever. Not only did that camera enable many "budget" filmmakers to make top notch content, it inspired almost every manufacturer to begin shoving video into every camera they could. No longer was it necessary to buy a dedicated video camera to create motion pictures. While I will certainly credit Canon with originally bringing professional video capability to the masses, I have to hand it to Sony for rocketing "DLSR video" to another level entirely.
Some of you may be familiar with Leica's R system. Though the system was certainly overshadowed by the M cameras, these lenses are some of the best that Leica ever made. I was first introduced to these lenses during my brief foray into the Sony mirrorless system. I picked up a 50mm f/2 R mount lens and it is likely the best 50mm that I have owned. It was sharp, small, smooth, and light. It could be the perfect 50mm. There is, however, another level to the Leica R madness.
Nikon has sent out quite an enticing deal for the month of May. With the purchase of a D610, D750, or D810, you can get the respective battery grip for free. This is a huge savings, as the grips for these cameras are expensive. Essentially, you're getting an extra $350 rebate on top of the already fantastic sales that Nikon has had available on their bodies.
For many of us, photography is a form of art, or at least there is an artistic process behind it. More than that, each of us strive to have a "style" that is an artistic consistency to our work. Photography, however, is quite different from your traditional art-making process. There is as much technical knowledge required as artistic or creative inspiration and thinking. This separates the process into two distinct parts: the shoot and the edit. These two parts are equally important to your identity as a photographer.
Some photographers call themselves artists, some photographers only think they’re photographers. Regardless, we all aspire for success. Maybe that means finding your work in galleries or gracing the cover of Vanity Fair. Even if you aren’t a photographer (how did you get here?), everyone strives to succeed. It’s different for everyone, that’s why it’s a difficult thing to chase. It’s tough to advise someone on how to succeed if you don’t have the same dream. There is, however, some common ground. Casey Neistat, the master Youtuber, shares his mantra, his guide, and what seems to be his daily lifestyle for pursuing his dreams and succeeding.
On one side, we have advertising photography, where everything is contrived and meant to look a certain way. It might as well be a painting with how planned out each step is. On the other, we have photojournalism. As the opposite, true photojournalism should never be staged, posed or "created." The idea is to capture what is and has happened. Unlike a painting, photography has the power to show real time exactly how it is with no artistic interpretation. What captivates me is when those two worlds collide to create art with purpose, and that is exactly what Clay Cook has done with his portraits of impoverished youth in Ethiopia.
Medium-format cameras have long been in the hands of working pros because of their combination of ease of use and incredible image quality. While large format was always the king of resolution and dynamic range, it is difficult to work with on location and cumbersome. Today, medium format is a little different. Phase One and Hasselblad have both released 100 MP options, allowing for unparalleled image quality.
Canon and Nikon have always had their single digit models at the top level of performance. From the original D1, bringing a professional digital camera to the world that didn’t require a separate backpack for a processor, to the D3, Nikon’s first ever full-frame body, this series of cameras has pushed the envelope of what a camera can do. The Nikon D5 not only pushed the boundary, it has demolished any previous limitation that I have found in a camera.
Composition is something that can be slightly overlooked in digital photography. With the ability to take hundreds or thousands of images on a single memory card and cropping achieved so simply in Lightroom, photographers have become lazy. There are certain situations, however, where composition can make or break a photo. While every genre of photography can benefit from good composition, photojournalism may be the realm that sees the largest impact. In his series "Counterflow," Photographer Mauro Martins exemplifies just that.
Last week, I took a look at personal projects and showed how I created my most recent portrait series. These personal projects are a great way to grow as a photographer and create new work you have a passion for, as you have the opportunity to create images with full control of the visual style. However, they may not always require you to step out of your comfort zone. To expand your repertoire of photographic knowledge and to create a more diverse, yet consistent portfolio, you need to experiment.
In a way, your journey as a photographer will start out with personal projects. Everything that you shoot for those first few months or years are things that you choose to shoot for fun. Personal projects help you to learn, experiment, and grow as an artist. Actually organizing and creating a series, however, takes a little bit of planning. From brainstorming to gallery showings, I’m going to help you put together a game plan for your next personal project.
For many forms of photography, an off camera flash should pop-up (pun intended) at some point in your career. Whether you’re a portrait photographer, a product photographer, or a sports photographer, some sort of flash other than what is built into your camera will be necessary. Whether you’re keeping it on or off camera, picking a speedlight can be a daunting task. Here is a guide to picking the right speedlight.
"Undisturbed Places" is a time-lapse film by Maciej Tomkow. This breathtaking four-minute film transports you to some of the most beautiful uninhabited places in the world. Tomkow presents them in a way that creates a sense of awe that I didn’t think possible. I had previously seen another award-winning film created by Tomkow, "Treasures of Zakynthos." This film covered a relatively small area, focusing on the Greek island of Zakynthos. Tomkow has taken that same masterful vision and technique and applied it to a vast array of locations around Namibia and Botswana.
As we all know, photography is ludicrously expensive. Even entry level DSLRs are a few hundred dollars these days; some point and shoots hit close to $1,000. This can be daunting to anyone looking to get into photography, as the sticker shock may drive them away. For working professionals, the price tags get higher and higher as apertures are larger, build quality is higher, and resolution jumps to ridiculous levels. There is, however, an alternative. It’s something that people fear, swear off, and curse because they got bit by a sketchy dude on eBay: buying used gear.
Ok Go is a band whose internet fame probably started with the music video for their song "Here It Goes Again." The brilliant part of that video is the production quality. It isn't your typical cinematic, beautifully lit, shallow depth of field aesthetic; it looks like a VHS tape from a family gathering in the 90s. The video gained its fame from the pure creativity involved. Since then, their videos have all shared one other quality that makes them so entertaining and captivating: they are all just a single take.
Let us venture back in time for a minute. 35mm film was always considered small. In fact, it was developed in the early 1900s as a means to make high-volume shooting and consumer photography possible. If you were a working professional, you were shooting at least medium format (6x4.5-6x19 cm) or even more likely, large format, like 4”x5” or 8x10”. The idea is that the larger the format, the more detail you can see. As we fast forward to digital, full-frame is the ideal format for many working pros in a variety of genres. While full-frame can be expensive and yields incredible image quality, there is something more.