6.21.2010

The Ten Trends I Am Fond Of.

Ten trends, products and things I DO like in 2010.  Not too controversial.....


1.  How about smaller and lighter cameras.  Anyone notice that the Canon 7D is nicer to use than the 5Dmk2 and that the 5dmk2 is easier to shoot all day than a 1dsMk3?  That an Olympus EP-2 is a hell of a lot more fun to shoot than an e3?  That less weight makes you less tired?  That we're mostly shooting digital and all the cameras should be smaller.  Thank goodness some of the camera companies are getting the message.  Not all pro cameras need to be designed for lumberjacks with hands as big as Frisbees.  Some people under six feet tall also pursue this hobby/profession.

2.  Laptops rule.  Desktops drool.  When my last big, hulking tower gave up the ghost I gave up having a fan cooled missle silo under my desk.  I'm not an IT guy.  I'm not "hot  swapping" drives and I'm not generally waiting for much except for slow loading websites and I have it on good authority that an i7 chip isn't going to hurry along a slow feed from a distant server.  In 2008 I went all lap top all the time.  And I love it.  Need to go into the field? Laptop.  Need to drive a big screen? Laptop.  Need to fiddle with crap and add your own gimcracks and whizzer retarders and biforcated omegavalve flux limiters?  Then you need a Windows tower and you probably don't have time to do photography what will the upgrades, patches and whatnot.  If my machine is running slow I can't tell.  Most times now all new Apple technology works so well it's just invisible.  I'm sure it's the same on the other platforms as well.
No more 10,000 rpm fan noise.  No more sticker shock.

3.  Cheap CF and SD cards.  The price of removable memory cards is falling quicker than the size of raw files is increasing.  Amazing.  For once it works out for the little guy.  Right now 8 gig cards are so cheap (and I'm talking the first tier brands) that they are cheaper than the price per frame of film.  In other words it would be equally cost effective, compared to film, to just shoot the cards and file them in the filing cabinet, using a new card for each project......That's amazingly cool.  Especially when you consider early digital adopters routinely spent thousands of dollars for cards measured in megabytes, not gigabytes.  We did the ground work.  You get the  pay off.

4.  Lens Magic.  Cameras and raw converters are getting so smart they are correcting for lens flaws on the fly.  Including PS5's raw converter.  Now we get optics that are 50% better just for upgrading our software.  Bonus if you shoot Nikon because the camera does it all, transparently.  Wow.  Better edges, no vignetting and more sharpness.  Like open bar.

5.  I know this is old news but I love photo books you can make online and have delivered to your house in a week.  They look good and they look cool and it's a great way to make gifts for family and clients.  Who would have ever thought your could have a custom, hardbound book full of color images and type for less than $100.  Less than the price of a decent dinner for two.  Unimaginable just a decade ago.....

6.  The iPad.  I don't have one but I love the idea because it's only a matter of time before my publisher gets all four of my books onto the ibook store.  Yes.  And I've seen that it's a great way to present video to potential clients.  More like this.  Plus I could run my whole business on a 32 gig model (without processing images, thank you.)

7.  God bless lights that are smart.  The Nikon SB900's, the Olympus fl50r, the Canon 580 ex2's.  Any of which can be used in groups, wirelessly, to do the kinds of things that we used to do with forty or fifty pounds of metal and explosively huge capacitors from Speedotron, Profoto and others.  With the new camera performance it's only a matter of time before we all go battery powered.  It just takes more coaxing to pull in the old guys.  I still have some big lights..........(but I love the little ones.....).

8.  VR & IS  "You say potato and I say potatoe".....    Virtual tripod in your lens or body?  What's not to like.  Seems to offset years of coffee drinking and what not.  Just remember to turn them off when the shutter speeds get higher or the camera lands on a tripod.  Don't cancel out your advantages.  This stuff really works.  Well.  So why am I racing to finish this so I can go pick up a new tripod?  (Because the ash wood Berlebach's are so cute... and they do IS/VR right on down to seconds and minutes....).

9.  Don't get me started on video capability.  I've done seven or eight projects so far this year with Canons and Olympae and it's amazing the quality and performance your can get out of these if you shoot certain syles.  If I were news gathering I might want a traditional vid cam but these are great for "on tripod" set up stuff.  Can't go backwards now....

10.  Price/performance ratios.  We're getting Porsche performance for Hyundai prices these days.  When I compare the cash we dropped in the early part of the century for six and twelve megapixel camera I can only grin and marvel at all the stuff we're playing with now.  Across the board.  Amazing how far digital has come in ten short years.  Amazing.

There's a lot more but I'll save it for another time.

Ten photo trends I am NOT fond of and ten that I AM fond of.....


Ten trends that I think are aesthetically unpleasing, or thoughtless or dumb..... Not that I've EVER been opinionated....


1.  Photo vests.  Isn't it time we lost the photo vests?  We don't have rolls of film rattling around nor little attachments that need cosseting anymore.  Zoom lenses have largely replaced the 20, 24, 28, 35 etc. lenses that used to sit, all lumpy, in our vest pockets.  Batteries last so long most of use carry only one spare.  Isn't it time to admit that, even if photographers wanted uniforms, that these would not be our top choice.  It's too hot for most of us in Texas to  even think of wearing them except as overcoats in January.  And who really wants to look like a greeter at Walmart?  If you need to wear them to shoot, well, okay.  But as around town wear?  Not likely.

2.  Giant camera bags.  Oh God.  You know the provenance of giant camera bags from Kata, Tamrac, Tenba and so on?  They were invented in an unholy collusion between chiropractors and camera makers.  Camera makers figure that the more pockets there are in a bag the more likely you are to stuff them full of new glass and bodies.  And that's a plus for their bottom line.  The chiropractors know you have a huge deductible on your real medical insurance so when your lower back finally gives out from carrying half of Sigma's inventory they'll suck you into weekly treatments.

3.  The guys who carry giant camera bags.  Ever covered a press event?  Most shooters have one camera around their neck and one over the shoulder.  The two cameras with complementary lenses cover just about anything.  Well.   So shooters can bunch together without knocking each other over and still get the shot.  And then, along comes the guy who doesn't get fashion cues or social cues but loves to bunch up the queue.  He's convinced that he'll need that 8mm fish eye and the 300-700mm zoom and they're all in the bag right next to something from Gary Fong and something else from The Endless Photo Gimmick Superstore.  He comes swinging the bag through the crowd like an elephant in an antique lens shop.  Takes up two places.  You can actually see his spine bending to one side.  People move away in case he snaps........Kinda like the guy on the two day trip who has a whole Samsonite Hard Luggage collection.  If it doesn't fit in the original Domke F1 bag it shouldn't be over your shoulder.

4.  Giant Prints.  Does crappy art get better when it gets bigger or is the new trend for big prints part of the aging process of the baby boomer generation.  Like large type and boxes full of colorful reading glasses.  If an image doesn't look good at 8x10 why would it look any better as a wall size thing?  Could we have a return to the idea of a hand holdable piece of art?  I think it's mostly a matter of wishing.  A lot of commercial guys bought wide carriage printers hoping the public wanted giant prints.  Turns out most of them just want the digital file.  Let's cap it at 17 by 22 inches unless there's a compelling space to fill.  And enough space to back up and take it all in.

5.  Smart Phones and dumb users.  This is the opposite thing.  The legions of people who come up to show you "this incredible shot" on the screen of their iPhone or the inferior windows equivilent.  It's what? two by three inches.  And they have it in their hands.  Which are shaking from caffeine poisoning.  And the sun is bouncing off the screen that you can't see unless you take your reading glasses out of your camera bag.  It looks like crap.  It will always look like crap.  And doing the thing with your fingers where you make part of the image bigger to show me just how sharp it is?  That's not working either.  Phone cameras are for you, personally.  It's a private thing.   Or, you could use the device to make phone calls.  (We don't encourage cellphone use.  most people are dumb enough without the risk of brain tumors......caveat added at attorney suggestion....getting ready for that class action thing).

6.  Technicolor vomit.  Doesn't sound good and it usually doesn't look good but they've at least cleaned the name up and now they are calling it HDR.  For some people being a photographer is just not enough.  They want to be artists.  As in painter type artists.  So they take their images and additional images of their images and put lace collars on pigs and glowering landscapes on the land of the Munchkins and gold foil on sunsets and call it art.   Now, just for  moment I'll admit that I've seen ten....maybe a dozen.... images made using "HDR" techniques that looked pretty good.  Amazing really.  A guy in Precision Camera showed me a small album last weekend that was great.  Very interesting stuff.  But that's a dozen out of the thousands.  Here's a new rule.  If it doesn't look good enough to take as a plain photograph puking color all over it really isn't going to help.  Nor is flattening out all the contrast.  (No, really, you are not increasing the contrast range.....honest.)

7.  Portrait bling.  This is an easy one and I'll admit, a matter of taste.  Not every portrait needs to be back lit, rim lit, and otherwise turned into a facsimile of a broadway stage show with can lights across the back of the stage.  If the light isn't motivated by the light we see in real life we get tired of it real quickly.  How many times was the "pull my finger" gag really funny??  Or the whoppee cushion.  neato.

8.  Gulliver's travels.  If micro-processors keep getting smaller and better then why are our cameras and lights getting bigger and heavier.  I like the smaller cameras like the Olympus Pens and the G series from Canon.  Can anyone explain to me why the D3 has to be so much bigger than a D300 or even a D700?  Why Canon's One series has to be bigger than any camera we ever shot with in the film days?  Do they really sell them by the pound?

9.  Open That Kimono.  Why are the big camera companies afraid of open standards?  Their raw converters have a tradition of sucking.  Not just sucking in terms of interface and operation but as in sucking away your life force as you wait for them to process.  Can't we all just get along?  Can't we all just use DNG?  My hard drive is littered with raw converters and no one has the time or budget to keep upgrading them all.  Maybe this is why so many people use Jpeg as their default.  By the time Adobe has their camera RAW profile ready they've already learned to use the camera and so don't need the "water wings for the unschooled" that Raw really represents.  Yes, yes.  Raw is so good for squeezing the most out of your shot......and you did use a tripod, a meter and mirror lock up, right?  Liar.

10.  Weird new camera straps.  One of my friends came up to me on saturday at Precision Camera (the book signing, remember?) and he had this big, black military looking strap worn bandolier style across his chest.  At the bottom of this one loop strap he had an Olympus EP2 dangling upside down by an attachment to the tripod socket.  As he stood there talking I stood there waiting for the screw to work free and the camera to come crashing to the floor.  It was basically a black, nylon web belt with one attachment point to the camera.  Of course you'd have to totally remove the strap to even use a tripod.  Great design, yeah?  Worn over one shoulder.  My friend looked faint as he stood there and I could see that the strap was digging into his carotid artery on one side, cutting off blood to his brain.  I wonder what cut off blood to his brain before he actually bought the strap?  Otherwise, why would he have bought it in the first place?

Why buy a better mousetrap if you aren't having a problem with mice???????

I'm too fatigued now to write about the trends I do like.  I'll have to do that later this evening while I'm processing those raw files.  The ones my friends told me to take because it would be superior to let the camera think about things instead of bringing a couple decades of experience into the mix and getting it right in the first place.......curses.