What’s thirty degrees and covered in snow?

The Online Photographer, an excellent blog for the general photographer, has posted a photo in its “Random Excellence” series on Ralf Dujmovits’s image of Mount Everest hikers–quite a lot of them–queued up to make the ascent. The image seems to be something of an internet sensation.


But isn’t the image sort of odd? Doesn’t it look like the hikers are leaning back about thirty degrees. And aren’t the tents all tilted as well, and in the same way? I wonder what the image would look like if you rotated it in Photoshop?


More Moon

Four more finished images, two more I’m still struggling with, one more edited out, and (I think) three more to go.


Forty-seven years old

In 1866, at the age of forty-seven, Herman Melville, ignored by critics and forgotten by readers, gave up writing professionally and got a job as a customs inspector. He worked the next twenty or so years in this low level, dead end job.

Moby Dick, a commercial and critical failure was, at forty-seven, already fifteen years in the past.

Six more Moon landscapes

Yesterday’s and today’s efforts: Six more images from my Moon landscapes. Looks like about a dozen or so to go–four were edited out today. It’s slow, I know, but they need to be just right.

Jim Campbell: Signal vs. noise at SFMOMA

A few months back I was showing some of my works-in-progress to a curator and he recommended I look into the work of Jim Campbell. Campbell’s work is very different than mine but it turns out that we have certain affinities.

So–finally–I made it up to SFMOMA, on my birthday. And what a wonderful present. Campbell’s work, entitled Exploded Views, hangs above the entryway to the museum. When you first encounter it, looking up at it, the piece looks to me nothing more than a bunch (that is to say, a thousand or more), blinking white lights hanging from wires of different length, randomly arranged in a large three dimensional rectangle.

Most of the little white lights are powered on at any one moment but each light blinks off haphazardly, occasionally forming a brief pattern or sense of movement, such as when a band of darkness crosses through the piece and then perhaps crosses back again. Quite naturally you try to see what sort of pattern there might be and though occasionally, if you watch for a while, something seems about to form, it really ends up being noise. You could easily convince yourself that the display contains no data–no imagery–at all and that the odd shapes and movements you see now and then are just artifacts of the mind’s quest for pattern.

However, you can also view the work from a higher elevation, head-on to the large side of the 3-D rectangle. SFMOMA’s upper floors are reached from a set of stairs that zig zag in and out up the side of the atrium. With each zag it reaches a small platform from which you can view the atrium–and the Campbell work–from a higher and higher elevation. The nice thing here is that once you go up the stairs you don’t emerge again into the atrium space until you are about twenty-five feet above the floor. In your approach, the new viewpoint doesn’t reveal itself so much gradually as all at once. And from this vantage point Campbell’s work is transformed.

It’s a video screen. A giant video screen, strangely low resolution, but a video screen nonetheless. Each light bulb is one pixel, from this view arranged in a rectangular grid. I watched boxers boxing and people walking to and fro. What was noise from below was clearly a image when viewed from the platform.

It’s much better to see it in person rather than to read about it but if you can’t get here you might wish to watch this video from opening night at SFMOMA:


The video was produced by the Hosfelt Gallery, which represents Campbell’s work. There is also a nice interview, produced by SFMOMA, of Campbell discussing his work:



Speaking of the Hosfelt Gallery, their YouTube channel is excellent, with well-done demonstrations of Campbell’s works and videos of the work of several other artists worth looking at and knowing about.

If you do visit SFMOMA soon be sure and set aside a few hours. Aside from the Campbell work there is an unexpectedly rewarding show on photography in Mexico, a single gallery devoted to their ongoing Picturing Modernity series (basically, images from SFMOMAs remarkeable collection, here including a half dozen from Robert Fenton and others lessor known from the beginnings of photographic time) as well as a solo show by Rineke Dijkstra. Dijkstra’s photos have always been interesting to me rather than compelling but this visit was my first time seeing her video work. One video in particular is exceptional: A young woman in Liverpool in front of the camera, white background, club music pounding in a muffled way on the soundtrack. A first she sort of stands there, not really waiting, not really bored. Then slowly she comes alive to the music. That transformation is fascinating.  (I did find a poor-quality video version of the work on Youtube. This version will give you a general sense of the work but unfortunately contains nothing of the magic of the original piece.)

Sherman sells for $2.88 million, not record breaking

I just read that the Akron Art Museum, where I saw so much great photography growing up, sold a Cindy Sherman from its collection. The print as I recall is four or five feet wide–I saw the original show way back in 1984. Believe it or not the Akron Art Museum was one of the first institutions to exhibit her work.

There was some expectation that the sale would beat the Gursky Rhine II record, set a few months ago. Another copy of Sherman’s image, from the same edition of ten, sold recently for almost four million dollars. But for whatever reason this one sold for “only” $2.88 million.


Video: Vignetting with the D800E and Zeiss 21mm

A few posts ago I put up a gallery of images intended to demonstrate the vignetting of the Zeiss 21mm lens on a full frame Nikon D800E. My hope was that the viewer could easily tip back and forth between the f/2.8 and f/8 images and the differences would jump out at them. However, the plug-in I used didn’t work out so well. It did a quick fade to white between images which made the comparison less clear.

For a second effort I thought I’d simply make a video, flipping back and forth between the images myself. I hope you find it useful.

D800E tests: Zeiss 25 f/2.8

This is the second of my “lens walks” with the Nikon D800E. The goal is to familiarize myself with how my lenses perform on this new camera. Not only is it much higher resolution than my previous Nikon but it is a “full frame” body–it has a physically wider and taller sensor chip and thus shows more of the image that the lens is projecting into the camera body. Every lens looks wider than before, much wider.

Less obvious, a lens’s vignetting and reduction in edge and corner sharpness become more obvious now that you are seeing further into the corners. In addition, depth-of-field at any given aperture seems to change. With the same lens, to get that bigger chip to a 16×20 print requires less magnification than that smaller chip required and less magnification means that depth-of-field–the area in front of and behind the plane of focus that is perceived to also be in focus–gets thicker. (This sort of thing is endless fodder for internet discussion boards because it is rife with unacknowledged variables. Are you moving your position–and focus distance–to keep the subject framed the same in a small vs large chip comparison? Are you including printing both prints to the same size?)

So the lenses all behave in new and sometimes unexpected ways. And though it sounds oh so technical the real way most photographers use lenses–or at least the way I do and thus I assume everyone else does it the same way–is to get a sort of feel for each lens. This takes time. Lots of time.

When I grew up I had 35mm cameras–the film was equal in size to the modern full-frame digitals, such as the D800E. So I learned the lenses in that framework. After a time you could easily just look at a scene and know which lens to use. You could sort of see the depth-of-field in your head. Then came the digital camera with the smaller chips. Each lens was now magnified about 1.5x. It was weird. At first it was just difficult to adjust. I kept forgetting about the “crop factor” as it is called and would reach for a 50mm and find the view too tight. A 35mm on a small sensor camera is about equal to a 50mm on a large sensor camera but it was always uncomfortable for me to use. Nothing ever seemed right.

The conversion was slow at first (“Oh, thirty-five times one point five is about fifty) and then got faster (thirty-five is fifty) but the conversion never went away. I was just starting to pick the right lens without that slight pause–this after years of shooting with the smaller sensor–and now I’m back to the lens’s original behavior. I was worried at first that I would do a roundabout, silly conversion (“thirty-five times one point five is fifty–oh, wait, it’s just a thirty-five) and for the first few days I did do just that. But the conversion step is fading away, the lenses are behaving as they always have, and I don’t have to think about the details so much.

That’s the real reason I’m doing these “tests.” To get to know the lenses again.

Here is the link to my previous lens “test” of the Zeiss 21 on the D800E. Same camera, same walk, different lens. NEFs (Nikon RAW files) are linked under each image for your viewing pleasure. Feel free to repost the link to this article but please don’t post direct links to the NEF files.


 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

 Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

Click here to download the original NEF (Nikon RAW FIle).

The bitch that is always smiling

That’s desert landscape photography. No matter how harsh she is, no matter how cruel and unforgiving, the pictures you see of her are always of her beautiful sunrise smile, the lovely color of her hair, her endearing little quirks. The real desert can be oven hot, desolate and faded. But by the pictures you’d think she was a cute sandy playground, with flowers bursting out all over and those eye-popping, photoshop-saturated colors drenching the land. The bitch looks to be inviting enough, alright.