The Death of the dSlr? All hail the dSlm!

For the last time, happy newyear Gang!

At the eve of the unveiling of Fuji’s latest and greatest attempt at creating a fantastic mirrorless camera, the X-T1 I took time to reflect on something that has bothered me all year long.

If one topic was hot in 2013, it was the so-called death of the dSlr. Dozens of websites pronounced the dSlr dead since the introduction of APS-C sized mirrorless cameras.

I really dont get the hype around this. Is it going to happen? Not likely. Is it really what they mean ? Even less so. Is it important? Even less so.
I think they should restate their statement. A more appropriate statement would be, Death of the mirror-based camera, for the most of the consumers. Long live the mirrorless for the rest.

When people think of the concept of the dSlr they automatically think of clapping mirrors and stuff. An etymological analysis of the term reveals this to be fundamentally incorrect. dSlr stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. As everyone can see, the word mirror is not present in that term. The term reflex is used to describe the working of the reflected image viewable in the pentaprism.

The term dslr originates in the shape that contributed to the fact that the camera we associate with the term is one of the most iconic camera-design of all times. Why? Because it was easy to use, relatively cheap to produce and made photography accesible to the masses. It allowed technological progress like AF, that at that time was only conceivable on such a platform. This is the main reason why out of all the camera designes that were designed, the dslr and the slr before that stuck the longest.

dSlr were the first digital cameras. Why? Because the were the only camera design that allowed the integration of a chip with the exact same workflow of an analog camera. The slr offered the design with the least technological difficulties when it came to implement a chip in stead of a film. The chip would have to react like a portion of film so it had to work like one. The mirror and shutter were already present, so replacing the film with a chip would be less of an issue. The transition from analog to digital would be more seamless than say, converting a twin lens reflex.

So why are they declaring the dslr dead now in stead of say, 2004, when compact cameras first started to appear without mirrors?
Because now, unlike before, the image quality produced by mirrorless cameras is rivalling and surpassing the quality of dslr’s. Something that had never been the case before.

It all has to do with technology. The reason dslr’s are big and bulky is because they need to house a lot of stuff. A sensor, a mirror box, an autofocus system, a lens mounts, a pentaprism and so on. Those things take physical space. They were so big because the only sensors capable of delivering good performance during the dawn of the dslr were larger than any before that. With the advent of full frame dslr’s it even increased. Smaller sensors didn’t have the sufficient technological prowess to produce good, professional images. It was purely technologically bound. Small cameras could never obtain the image quality of dslr’s because the technology did not allow to put all that into a smaller body. Until now.

However, that is not the point. The point is that we’ve come to a point where the technology allows us to remove the mirror. The mirror used to be a quintessential part of the (d)slr. Without it, unlike rangefinders, you wouldn’t be able to see through the lens because previous generation sensors couldn’t perform live view. You would’ve been shooting blanks back then. Used to, because the last 2 years the advances in sensor-technology have been amazing. The first introduction of liveview on dslr cameras was mostly a gimmick. Sure it was cool to be able to see what you were shooting on the larger back LCD and such, but the functionality was quite bad. The first generations wouldn’t autofocus, and if they did it was horribly slow. However, we have come to a point now that autofocus technology in liveview has advanced to a useful addition to the camera. I believe that in the next year or so, the mirror will have become more of a nuisance than an advantage. Incredible but true. This to me is the true evolution to be made.

Think about it. Mirrors are essentially glass, which means they are fragile. They are also a fast moving part, which by design is prone to mechanical failure. Mirrors also induce shutter blackouts. You know, the moment your optical viewfinder goes black when you click the shutterbutton and the mirror flops open. Another often forgotten but very annoying downside is that due to the mechanical nature of the mirror, it induces vibration where it shouldn’t. You aren’t going to notice that vibration if you are shooting at a 1/1000th of a seond, but in the critical hand-holdable spheres, like 1/60th and slower it is going to be a world of difference. I have hand held shots on my APS-C sized mirrorless camera at 1/17th of a second and they are tack-sharp. Something that, due to the inherent design of the dslr as they are built now is impossible.

However, the continued size reduction has some downsides also, and THAT, to me, is the interesting part and an essential one linked to the future of the dslr. Since these dslr’s were big due to the fact that they had to house a lot of components, they had the luxury of being able to be ergonomically designed to be pleasant. Dslr are rough and tough. The have big grips, big buttons, they are solid and that is why they are workhorses. Due to the fact that there is a lot of space, there are a lot of buttons for quick and easy access. This is why pros love them. Imagine shooting in the snow, with gloves and a ski goggles and having to change settings constantly. Your small mirrorless camera with those few buttons will be a pain in the ass to adjust.

The difference between the two usergroups will increase due to these facts. I usually lug a 2 pound lens on a 2 pound body around for my photography. If I found a valid replacement that allowed me to have the same quality for a quarter of that I would jump on it. It won’t be for every photographer, but for me it is perfect.

So do I think the death of the dslr is upon us? Absolutely not. I think the death of the mirror-based dslr is upon most of us. As I’ve said, the mirror has lost its duties and advantages. It brings more negatives than positives in the near feature. However, the dslr will not disappear, it will more so become a speciality camera.

The dSlr is fundamentally different from the mirrorless camera by design and that is a good thing. They both have their places in the world of digital photography. To me, dslr have far, far superior ergonomics than mirrorless cameras, but they are meant to be. They are meant to be full of buttons and functions for quick and easy access without having to dig into rows and colums of unclear menus. They have to be rapidly set up and altered.

Another thing : you cannot forget the huge number of lenses, accessories and such that exist for the dslr. Nikon or Canon are not just going to dump that userbase. It would be an unwise businnes decision first, but an all-around bad decision as well. Neither of them can afford to drop their existing pro-userbase that have invested tens of thousands of dollars into their gear and make them switch to a completely different platform.

In conclusion : I don’t think the dslr is dead. Not at all. It is going to undergo some changes. The mirrors will disappear. But there will always be bodies like the flagship bodies of Nikon and Canon because working professionals require them. They need rough and tough cameras with a lot of buttons for easy access.
I do think however that the over-saturated market of consumer-dslr’s will die out. Nikon recently released the d3300. Yet another iteration of a perfectly fine camera to begin with that only brings minor updates. People buy them because they think the images quality if far, far superior to a mirrorless, small camera. For some time they were right, but things are about to change.

All hail the dSlm !

P.S : The last thing I quickly want to touch on is kind off the same but with cinema. A lot of people are calling out photography’s death now that Blackmagic, RED, ARRI and others are producing 4K cameras that have the same or better resolution as digital cameras.
To me, this is even less of a valid point. A first objection can be made in the practicality. Although these devices are reducing in sizes, they are still incredibly more cumbersome and fragile than dslrs. They require unwieldy battery packs, memory banks, LCD displays and such. A second objection can be made regarding the practicality. Sure you can record at 4k and in the future i guess even 16k but that doesnt make sense for photography. Photography is capture frame by frame. Traditional cinematography is 24/s. This means that holding down the shutter for a second gives you 24 frames. Imagine doing a whole photoshoot with that. How many hours and days would you spend in postproductions looking for the perfect shot? A third objection, and this is really one of the biggest is the price. You can have an excellent digital camera for 1500$. All of these abovementionned systems will cost you with lenses, batteries and such around 15,000-25,000$. That is just ridiculous for amateurs and such.

Film Photography isn’t for hipsters, it’s for the masters

Meet Andy. Andy is a 40 something-account manager with a passion for photography (or so he thinks).  He has bought shitloads of gear. He has the newest Canon or Nikon camera that came out and set him back some 3 to 5 grands. He has the newest flash, two of them actually. He’s already eyewatering the soon to be released next top-of-the-line Canon that improves dynamic range by 0,13 stops and ISO performance by 0,6 stops! Imagine that! He has to convince and bribe himself everytime he swipes his Amex card at his camera store that he really needs this to advance in his photography. He’s not sure why he’s feeling less and less happy though everytime he goes out shooting, and comes back with the same results. My dog shots should be amazingly crips, but they’re not really better than they were when I shot it with my last body.

What’s Andy’s problem? He’s fallen badly ill with a bad case of GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. And he’s not alone.

The internet is an amazing place. Sadly it’s not all rainbows and unicorn-memes. This is a rough transcript (couldn’t exactly remember the exact units the person used) of a comment I found on an internet photography forum discussion about one of Pirelli’s BTS videos of their calendar shoot.

“Come on, how could you even show up with a camera like that to a cover shoot? That camera has a 4.53p/cm pixel density! At least use one that hasn’t got more than a 1.53p/cm density! And that lens, it’s MTF curves clearly show that it’s highest resolution isn’t at f/4 but at f/7.1. Noob!”

This sparked something in me. At first I was flabbergasted. Then I thought it was anger, fury, now I realize it’s the definite trace of despair. We have truly lost ourselves.

I know this sounds quite tragic or ominous, but let me explain further.

Continue reading

The Fellowship of Fuji – Lord of the Cameras

In February 2011, Fujifilm released the long-anticipated Fuji X100. It was the first step in Fuji’s future towards reconquering marketshare with their fans.
They quickly developed a close-knitted fellowship that loved their X100’s. When I first got it as part of a sponsoring/testing opportunity from Fuji, it was a quirky camera to say the least. Weird AF that was ungodly slow and -even worse – not always accurate, slow workflow, excruciatingly slow writing speeds, the list was quite long. However, over the weeks and months that followed the camera’s release, firmware upgrades slowly but surely improved the camera substantially. I’ve loved mine since day 1 because I very quickly accepted it’s faults and just worked around them. As I’ve often said before, I believe you should know your gear intuitively inside-out, so you know the faults and can work around them. This surely beats buying a new camera every so and so.

However, time went by and 2 years later, in February of 2013 Fuji released the follow-up model to the X100, the X100S. It was esthetically the same camera. It had the lovely time-aged metal body – the Leica-look as some call it – but the internals had changed. Fuji actually listened to their customers and upgraded the AF system, added buttons where they were needed and worked on almost all of the reported problems. It’s actually quite refreshing to see a company of that size listen to it’s users. Fuji calls it the ‘Kaizen’ philosophy, meaning that things get better along the way. Their way of saying that unlike Nikon and Canon, they’ll continue to work on your (older) camera.

X100 users witnessed the release of the new camera as a thing to upgrade to. Surely the improved AF system, speedier overall responsiveness of the camera and new X-Trans sensor would be interesting right? But what about the users that had to learned to work around the quirks? I personally didn’t feel the need to upgrade, and thus spend more money on what  was essentially the same camera for about 70%.

Traditional camera manufacterers like Nikon and Canon would have pushed you to buy that new camera. How? Very easily : discontinue support for older models, stop publishing RAW treatment instructions for software developers and so on… It has to be noted that Nikon or Canon also almost never provide firmware updates for their cameras. The only time they do this, is when they are required to because there’s a problem with the camera. In the 4 years I’ve had my D300S there has been 1 firmware update, that helped a problem almost no-one had. They didn’t add anything to the camera as such. Providing firmware updates, and thus expanding the lifespan of a camera isn’t in Nikon or Canon’s business strategy because it would lower their income-revenue from the sales of new cameras that don’t really offer anything worthy of an upgrade other than a higher series number.

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The Chess Players, Antwerp, 2013, X100

Enter mid-October 2013. In a move that defies eveything we had grown accustomed to in the camera industry, Fuji released a major firmware upgrade for existing X100 customers. That’s right, 2 years after the initial release of the X100, and AFTER they launched the follow-up model, the X100S, they still released an incredible upgrade for their ‘old’ users.
Firmware 2.0 dealt with some complaints and ideas users had had, but it amazingly added a whole bunch of functions :

-X100 users had always complained about the manual focus on the camera. It was slow, there was no focus peaking, in short : it was unuseable. When the X100S was released, all these problems had been dealt with , Focus Peaking was added, the slow ring movement had been addressed, manual focus was now useable. X100 users realized that they would be stuck with the bad manual focussing abilities and that they were just going to have to upgrade to the X100S. Then, fuji did something unparralleled. They added all of the X100S’ features to the X100. We now had focus peaking, highlight warning, the slow ring movement issue had been addressed, in short : manual focus was useable, just like on the X100S and for free!

-Another big complaint users had was that the close-focus abilities of the X100 were not great. Firmware 2.0 repaired this, and increased close focus distance by 30%. They didn’t have to do this, yet they did.

-The startup time of the X100 was a bit slow, so they upgraded it. Amazing.

-They also addressed a number of smaller issues, i’ll spare you the (boring) details about that.

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The Artist, Antwerp, 2013, X100

Why is this amazing? Because in the era of continued product launches and planned obsolescence, in the era where manufacterers only want to make profit and usually don’t care about their old userbase, Fuji continued to pay engineers to work on a product that would not generate any future earnings for them. They actually spent money to satisfy clients that wouldn’t increase their revenue.
A normal manufacturer would’ve probably just released the X100S and encourage their X100 owners to make the switch, and thereby increase their sales.

Let’s be very clear : Fuji was not obligated to do this. The X100 wasn’t perfect, but buyers knew the problems it had. The camera worked perfectly fine, albeit with some quirks, but it worked. Fuji was just so set on satisfying their user base that they didn’t stop developping a product that had already been replaced with its follow-up, but also was 2 years old.

“Oh, but you are just a Fuji fanboy, Nikon and Canon do this also”. Let’s be clear ; I am not a Fuji fanboy, if anything I considered myself for quite some time a Nikon fanboy but their recent business strategies and camera releases are making less and less sense to me, and they are become a bit to greedy in my honest opinion. I understand the economics of running a profitable company and the need for increased revenue to satisfy investors, but when you operate in an industry that has customers that are very attached to your products, you always have to treat them with respect. And that is something Nikon and Canon are losing quickly.

The D600 ordeal proves this very clearly. For those who aren’t familiar with this, I’ll explain very briefly : Nikon released the D600 in september 2012. Very quickly new users began noticing an increased amount of ‘sensor dust’ : little particles that latch themselves onto the sensor. While this isn’t uncommon, the D600 suffered significantly more from this than other camera, indicating a clear design fault. Industry-professional tests revealed that there were actually tiny particles of oil from the shutter mechanism and mirror latching themselves onto the sensor. A clear construction error. Nikon however, instead of offering free repair services for the users, quickly discontinued the D600 and introduced the D610. Evidently, the problem had been fixed, but this wasn’t advertized as such. They added some bogus, less than marginal upgrades in order to convince D600 users to switch.

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Follow the Water, Antwerp, 2013, X100

Here’s where they lost me, and here is why I respect Fuji even more. Fuji’s camera wasn’t broken. Yet, they continued to work on it, in order to improve it substantially. Nikon’s product was broken, and they didn’t even try to fix it. In an attempt at getting more money from their users, they just released a new camera.  Firmware 2.0 put the X100 right next to the X100S. There are still some differences, like the sensor, but all the quirks and faults that could have pushed X100 users to upgrade were dealt with, and I (and many others) don’t see the point in upgrading anymore. Fuji won’t receive any more income from me (at least for this product) yet still they paid engineers to work on my product, and that is am-a-zing.

Why have I written a lengthy blog post about this? Because this spectacular move from Fuji might be the first one that shakes up the industry.
Nikon, Canon and other brands are releasing new products every bloody month or so. Their product catalog is filled with cameras that are basically the same, and sometimes it looks like they just release updated models with less that marginal upgrades just to keep busy. In doing so, they lose my respect, and I think I’m not alone.
Fuji, even though they are releasing far fewer models, they have managed to conjure up a fellowship of loyal customers for their products. I’m really impressed by Fuji’s products, and the love they pour into them.
When I first received the X100 I though it was going to be a fun little camera, but nothing more, but is has rekindled my love for e.g. street photography, and since then I take this little camera everywhere I go. It has changed my perspective on photography, and my perception of Fuji.

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Urban Hiding, Antwerp, 2013, X100

But it has also changed my spending habits, and that’s good for Fuji and bad for Nikon. Whenever I buy a Nikon product, I’m terrified because I fear that they’ll release some altered version of it very shortly after. Usually, I’m right. My concern isn’t that it will be a slightly better version of my product because I’m a big believer that vision is more important than gear, but that Nikon will drop support for my product. So I wait, and I read, and I compare. And that’s bad for Nikon. I might stumble on an alternative. On a better product. I lost confidence in them so I see what others are offering.
With Fuji, I know that whatever product I buy is going to be supported for a long time. Sometimes, the lifespan of my device might even double. When I want to buy something Fuji I don’t hesitate. I go in, I buy, they make a well-earned profit. They have earned my loyalty, and they’ll make a bigger profit in that, that in the extra revenue from 1 item I have to buy from them because I need to upgrade.

In the end, I think Fuji and other companies that have the same business model based on customer loyalty and mutual respect will win. As we’ve learned, a fellowship is stronger than separated individuals. Fuji is planting seeds and cutting trees responsibly, whilst Nikon and Canon are deforesting the Amazon forest only to be stuck one day with a huge stockpile of trees and no takers.

Street Photography is the hardest branch of photography / Cartier-Bresson still teaches us every day

They often say the juice has to be worth the squeeze right? We’ll it’s something I have found is quite true, but not applicable to street photography. If you’re going to live by that adage you will not succeed in your voyage into street photography.

I’ll start by discussing my first steps into street photography and where I am at on my path now. This will be a rather lengthy post, so if you’re in a hurry, mark it for ‘read later’.

My modest start in street photography started like many others during one of my travels I believe. I remember being fascinated by the differences in everyday street life around the world. Once you start witnessing specific scenes in foreign countries you really notice that you don’t have quite the same things at home. Is this bad? Not at all, because it’s this innate diversity that makes street photography interesting.

In the beginning I was lugging along my Nikon dslr, along with at least two lenses. I didn’t go out shooting very often because bringing all that gear was annoying and I couldn’t do it always, but I loved every single time I did.
I also remember vividly that that was the moment I began researching the subject. I bought books, watched documentaries, read stories. All the greats passed by : Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, McCurry, Erwitt, Frank, Meyerowitz, Maisel, too many to enumerate. I was fascinated. How had they managed at capturing such amazing street shots? I remember the first time I saw Cartier-Bresson’s photograph of the man sitting on the street with his dog and I was stunned. Everything was right. The geometry (notice how all the important lines in this photograph are long vertical ones? That’s no coincidence) is the pure joy of it Cartier Bresson has often said. And then there was the subject matter. That man and his dog, the photograph had not could have been timed better. Had he really stumbled upon this? I didn’t believe it for quite some time, arrogantly thinking that he had to have asked the man to stay like that.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man in the street with his dog, New York, 1932

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man in the street with his dog, New York, 1932

It wasn’t until about a year later and several documentaries that I realized that this had been a coincidence, and that this is one of the reasons HCB is the greatest street photographer of the 20th century. I learned so much thanks to him that I don’t know where to start. I’ll address some of the most often-heard criticisms about street photography to start.

1. Street Photography is pure luck, there is no effort behind it.

Half of this sentence is correct. Street photography, in its purest form is 90% luck. 90% ? Why not a 100% ? Well because you have to make yourself receptive to luck. If you never leave your apartment, or house, you can have HCB’s own personal Leica, your photos will suck anyway. They’ll be the dullest pictures on earth.
Cartier-Bresson never hid behind the fact that street photography is luck. When asked about his famous shot of the man jumping over the puddle behind the Gare St. Lazare in Paris he said that the picture was literally pure luck. He hadn’t seen the scene, he had stuck his camera in a hole in a fence and snapped a few shots without being able to look through at the scene. He quickly adds ‘But everything is pure luck in photography”. He is completely right, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t putting in effort. If he had been in his apartment he would have never gotten that shot.

HCB, Behind The Gare St Lazare, 1932.

HCB, Behind The Gare St Lazare, 1932.

This is also one of the reasons street photography is the hardest form of photography. The incertitude of result. When you are doing a studio shoot where all of the elements (subjects, lighting, gear, etc) are in your control, the prospected output is almost always certain to a degree. You are the master of the scene, if something doesn’t work out you have nobody to blame but yourself majorly. This is not true in street photography. Each time you step out of your door with your camera, you are NEVER sure to come home with a worthy shot. That uncertainty is the single, hardest part about photography. Dedicating your time to something with no certainty of outcome. Would you get up early each day, dress, go to work without being sure if you were going to get paid? I don’t think so. Yet, this is what each street photographer faces each time they step out.

Take the following into account : Cartier-Bresson shot for about 40-50 years. His oeuvre is incredibly large, however he is perhaps known for a grand, absolute maximum of 100 images. 100 images is still an enormous amount, his most famous photographs must hover around maybe 20 images. 20 images. Yet he was a professional photographer for about 40 years. Can you imagine how he must have felt?

I often encounter people when talking about photography who ‘love’ street photography. However, they criticize it with the argument, it’s pure luck. Then I ask them how often they go out and shoot street photography. Then the large sighs come. ‘Pfff, I don’t know. Once a month, once every 3 months?” And when I see their images it doesn’t surprise me. The best pictures always come from the people who go out shooting often. Then you’ll hear them say “Yeah, but nothing ever exciting happens when I go out. If only I lived in Cartier-Bresson’s time, I would go out shooting everyday and I’d have fantastic images.”
The arrogance in these excuses really annoy me each time I hear them. It’s basically saying that HCB was a lazy, lucky photographer. He most certainly was lucky, but he also most certainly wasn’t lazy.

See, in order to be lucky, you have to put your mind and body to it. HCB travelled the world. He rarely spent a long time on the same spot. He would pack up his bags and go LOOK for interesting images. He didn’t merely await their arrival. You have to chase them.

Going back to our guesstimate that 20 of his images are world-widely known, and that 50 of his images are very famous. They have been shot during a 40 year-ish careerspan. That’s around 1-2 images PER YEAR.  That’s right. For every year or so he worked, he has one famous image to show. Could you live with those numbers? Are you willing to pay the price? Does this mean however that he only shot 1 or 2 pictures a year? Evidently the answer is no. He shot thousands and thousands of pictures. Can you image how many times he got out, shot pictures in the street and had nothing interesting to show for it? Also keep in mind that this is in the analog film time. Shooting, even useless shots cost you money. In the digital age, you can shoot 1,000 pictures for 0 $. Are you willing to do what it takes?

As I stated before, street photography is 90% luck and 10% effort. It would be foolish to think that famous street photographers never stood still. It’s impossible to always the shot after your first snap. Sometimes you have to try again. One thing I learned as a street photographer is that things, events happen in patterns and repeat themselves. If you see a scene, and a person walks in a certain way, with a certain gesture it’ll either happen again pretty soon, or it won’t ever. Most of the time however, events repeat themselves. That’s why you have to always be on the lookout. “Ce qui est important, c’est de voir” HCB said.
In an era sadly fading away, photographers had things called contact sheets. For those unfamiliar with analog photography, contact sheets where sheets of film on which small ‘thumbnails’ of your pictures where printed. Since no-one printed every picture of their filmroll due to the cost of that, they printed one contact sheet which showed them a reduced version version of all the pictures on your filmroll. This was a source of incredible information, since it showed you the different versions of a shot. You could see what the differences where, and guess as to why a photographer chose a specific shot and not another.

The MAGNUM photo agency released the contact sheets for a specific roll of film by HCB upon his death in 2004. That contact sheet was invaluably rich in information about his workflow. It provided us a certain insight into the masters mind. It also showed us something incredibly interesting. HCB’s famous shot of the cyclist passing rapidly through a street is incredible. The geometry in the photograph is amazing. All the lines work. Everyone thought his was a pure chance, a piece of luck. Once again, it was but only to a certain degree. The contact sheet showed us that HCB had tried some 10 times to obtain that shot. With other cyclists, passers-by, pedestrians and such. He then chose the best one out of all those other ones and it became this incredibly famous image. He rest of them never saw the light of day.

HCB, Paris. Luck isn’t always the key

Steve McCurry who is one of the most world renowned National Geographic photographers estimates he has approx. 800.000 negatives in his archives from his days as a film shooter. 800.000. How many pictures of him are world known do you think? If you are back in the 20-50 range you are spot on. His most famous image is the Afghan Girl but he’s made so many more amazing pictures. Are you willing to go to squeeze hard enough for the juice?

Steve McCurry, Afghan Girl, Afghanistan, 1984.

Steve McCurry, Afghan Girl, Afghanistan, 1984.

Returning on the subject of interesting images and people complaining nothing exciting happens where they live. You are wrong. If you’re not seeing anything interesting you are not looking hard enough. You have to see the interesting in the mundane. When you look at the work of great photographers like HCB you’ll notice that his most interesting images happen everywhere. It’s not because something is shot in India that it’s more interesting than a shot in Paris. That being said, part of HCB’s success is that he was EVERYWHERE.

As I stated before, he travelled extensively, and therefore managed to have pictures of all around the world. Once again, are you willing to squeeze hard enough for the juice?
Travelling, putting yourself in situations you are not familiar with increases you chance of getting ‘lucky’. It’s not a certainty in any way, but it won’t hurt. Travelling is also great when you’ve extensively shot your surroundings and are becoming ‘bored’ with it. Nothing like a change of scenery to reinspire you.

I’ll give you a few tips, pointers if you like to help you on your street photographic journey.

1. Don’t expect anything. 
Once more, if you are an impatient person, you won’t succeed. What’s that saying? If you don’t have any expectations you can’t be dissapointed.”This is why it’s the hardest branche of photography.Cartier-Bresson said ‘Il ne faut pas vouloir il faut esperer.’ This is not a guaranteed risk/payoff. My biggest problem with street photography is that I can’t be out there every single day and I know we I’m missing some amazing shots. Life doesn’t stop when you walk into your house. It keeps going and that’s what’s so amazing about it. You can hop in and out like a bus. This brings us to another point. As i said before, how many times do you think HCB went out in his 40 year career to capture those 100 iconic images?

2. Always be ready to shoot. 
Chase Jarvis said the best camera is the one that’s (always) with you. While he’s partly right, don’t read any excuse to be lazy into those lines. While an iPhone is great, it’s not the best camera. Printing out large prints based on the sensor won’t prove very good. Instead, always carry a small camera like a Canon GX. I myself always carry my Fuji X100 with me. It’s the most amazing small camera I’ve owned. It’s small, versatile, and the sensor image quality is amazing. It’s like having a miniature dslr in your pocket.

3. Don’t worry about the lenses , one is fine. 

The Fuji X100 has a fixed focal length of 35mm (equiv.). Has it stopped me from taking it out and getting amazing images? Evidently not. Don’t see it as a problem, see it as an opportunity. Train your eye. Work around the focal length. Fresh shooters tend to forget your feet are the greatest zoom you’ll ever have. Don’t hesitate and get in close. Capa said that if your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough. The man is right. And he was a war photographer. If you can’t afford a small camera, don’t let that put you back either. Just grab your smallest lens (like a 50 or 35) snap it on you dslr and throw it in your everyday bag. Get you kit so small as possible.

4. Even when you’re not shooting, train your eye. 

Fortunately eyes are not like cameras. Their dynamic range is amazing, they don’t need fresh batteries or cleaning. Even when you don’t have a camera, when you walk around look for interesting images. Frame them with your eye. You’ve got to make yourself receptive towards images. Wait for that mother and child. Doens’t matter you don’t have your camera, if a moment like that happens again you’ll be able to recognize it, instantly know how to frame it and shoot it perfectly.
Ernst Haas was a world famous photographer who also held workshop classes. One day he had two women in one of his classes and both were vivid Leica afficionados. Haas himself had worked for years and years with the legendary cameras and got quite fed up with the two of them bickering about which one was the best. He burst out saying : “Leica schmeica! It doesn’t matter which camera you use, the important thing is to see’

5. Get inspired. Find a theme. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with images you want to duplicate. Don’t think your streets are less interesting then HCB or McCurry’s streets? No, their pictures reflected their era. Do the same for yours. You won’t likely find a lot of women dressed in corsets or high hats in the streets, but that’s okay, you don’t need that. Just reflect your city or life through your lens. Clothes are objective, your vision is subjective. Put your mark on your photographs. What can also help is to find a theme. Zack Arias focused on people who were so obsessed with their phones and handheld devices they forgot the world around them that hadn’t stopped. The series is great and really shows something. It’s inspired. Do the same for yourself : find something that fascinated you and make a series of it. Be selective on the editing, and show your best images.

Conclusion

As a general conclusion, I’d say that if your images are to dull do something about it. Get of your ass, don’t be lazy, and most of all don’t be arrogant. You can’t expect something amazing to happen everytime you walk out of the door. Be patient. Be Impatient. Be ready. Always have a camera at your side.

Cheers,

MM

The Power of Profoto

Hi gang,

Here I am with a quick tip, not all of you might know about. There is an incredible wealth of knowledge to be learnt from
promotional videos. It might seem stupid, but it’s quite true.

Modern day companies that produce equipment for people who are very tech-savy know they have to jump on the social media/online video bandwagon. In our category of photographeres there are a lot of companies that have made that jump, and some even in a brilliant fashion.

I’m quite the YouTube addict, and I’m subscribed to at least 30 channels. The vast majority of those channels are channels created by aforementioned companies. They upload behind-the-scenes of shoots done using their equipment, hints and tips, complete user manuals for new software (ahum, PhaseOne!) and so on.

Dissecting those videos can be hugely informative. I’ll giva an example.

Profoto’s latest commercial for their new line of Rfi softboxes contains 3 frames that illustrate perfectly the effect of putting 3 softboxes very close to the model’s face in order to create a wrap-around effect. It’s only a second in the commercial, but there is a huge wealth of knowledge and data to be gained after analyzing said second.

These are all screenshots from the 1080p video. (Yes, they even upload it in HD)

One softbox, left eye

One softbox, left eye

With this frame, ProFoto illustrates the effect of a single softbox on the left side of the model. Look for the catchlights in the eyes, they’ll (usually) tell you 95% of what you need to know lighting-wise.

Second softbox added to the right

Second softbox added to the right

Here’s how it looks when you add a second softbox to the right at the same power output.

profoto3And finally, here’s what happens when you add a third softbox down and below the model.

I don’t know how you guys feel about this, but this is incredible informative to me. You get to see the direct results of adding a modifier, and remember all of this is free information. You can immediately see the huge difference the use of modifiers does.

The Profoto RFI commercial contains a few other light setups and is definitely worth checking out.

My hat goes off for the fine folks at Profoto and the other companies who spend money and time making these instructional videos.

Another champion of the social media/YouTube scene is PhaseOne. They have continued their effort to provide free, instructional videos about their products. These video’s, and there are really a ton of them go far beyond the simple sales pitch. I mean, If you’re looking at a 10 minute video on how to adjust your panel alignment, you’ve already bought their product. Most companies would stop caring about you as a consumer right at that moment. Not PhaseOne. They regularly upload new videos showcasing new features their updated software provides.

To me, a company who provides that amount of ‘after-purchase’ support is a company dedicated to it’s purpose. They are a passionate team, and they are worth my money. I much prefer investing in a product that has a strong user base behind it, and a strong team of professionals who make the software but is a little bit more expensive, than to go for the software that’s a little bit cheaper, but hasn’t any type of support.

Adobe falls in the same category as PhaseOne regarding this, Julieanne Kost and her team upload videos on a regular basis filled with instructional goodness. The times we live in are truely amazing. It might sound cheesy, especially coming from someone my age, but it’s quite true. You would’ve needed to go to a couple of classes to learn all this stuff about e.g. CaptureOne Pro 7 or Lightroom. Now, you can learn all of this, in the comfort of your own home, and at your own pace. Amazing times indeed.

Below is a list of YouTube channels I highly recommend. They’re a mixture of behind-the-scenes videos, instructional videos and all kinds of other stuff as well. I’m also going to start a new rubrique on the blog where i occassionally disect a whole BTS video and point out the stuff you can learn from it!

http://www.youtube.com/user/AdobeLightroom

http://www.youtube.com/user/PhaseOneDK

http://www.youtube.com/user/broncolorworld

http://www.youtube.com/user/HasselbladAS

http://www.youtube.com/user/ProfotoGlobal

http://www.youtube.com/user/sekonicvids

http://www.youtube.com/user/profotovids

To me, personally, PhaseOne, Adobe and Profoto’s channels take the cake. They are definitely worth checking out.

Another channel I’m religiously subscribed to is DigitalRev. If you haven’t heard of them, or Kai Wong, you’ve been living under a photographic rock. This quirkly team uploads almost every other day a review of some kind of gear. Do note, I take the word ‘review’ in a very liberal sense. It’s not really an in-depth review, it’s more of a ‘other side’ review. Absurd comparisons, long and endless words are often used to describe an object in a sarcastic manner. It’s hilarious. These guys are being called the TopGear (British TG evidently, American TG is just shameful) of Photography.

And of course, don’t forget to follow my YouTube channel. We’re going to start uploading some serious BTS content after the holiday season.

http://www.youtube.com/user/morganmoller

Cheers!

M

Back from the Cape!

Hi gang,
Writing this from the lobby of the airport here in Cape Town, South Africa. Spent an amazing 2 weeks here with family and friends at the Cape. About to board a 12-hour flight back home. Flew trusty British Airways. Always wondered what the pilots do during 12-hour flights during which you have 4-hour straight ahead lines. One of my best friends is a pilot, he keeps claiming to always be busy during those hours. We agree to disagree 🙂
Travelled light for this trip. 1 body , 3 lenses, lot’s of memory cards, batteries and a tripod. Shot the D300s for the video capabilities & highly-coveted DX-reach during travel photography.

Table mountain, as seen from Signal Hill. Nikon d300s, Sandisk Digital Film, Sigma 10-20mm @ f/8.0

Shot a lot of street photography here. Streets are filled with amazing, interesting people. I keep finding people a bit boring in Antwerp lately. They’re al such comformists. They (almost) all dress alike, in the same style. People in Africa are way more extravagant. Exhuberant. They all dress in colour. It’s like moving through a lifelike painting. The canvas is surreal. That’s why I love heading out to Paris for a few days a couple of times per trimester.
Brought 3 lenses with me : the Nikon AF-S 18-105 VR f/3.5-5.6 for street photography. It’s not a very fast lens, but it’s sharp and since I’m in auto-ISO when doing street photography, doesn’t really matter. Like the 18-105 more than the 18-70 for the reach and sharpness. Opinions differ, but that’s my POV. Also brought the Sigma 10-20mm with me. This badboy is THE go-to lens when you’re going to step in building and such. Churches look surreal with this baby. The colors are amazing, and it’s sharp. After 7 years of lugging it all over the world, including the sandy beaches of Thailand, the wet lagoons of Vietnam, the moisty fields of Cambodia and such, it’s starting to show it, but I consider it like a soldier’s rifle. You want it to be dented and scratched. The markings of war.
Last, but not least : the Nikon 80-200 AF-D f/2.8. Wonderful lens. Don’t own the 70-200, but used it and optically they’re almost alike. This is not the lightest of lenses to carry around, but I didn’t mind. In my Lowepro backpack it didn’t bother, and shooting wildlife at f/2.8 gives that wonderfully, creamy bokeh that makes all the effort worthwhile.
Shot some timelapses as well during my stay at Knysna. Slept in beautiful lodges owned by Made, a person really trying to make a difference here in South Africa. She gets her water from her own borehole and purifies it ecologically. The lodges have this amazing view over the lagoon at Knysna.
Tripod is indispensable here. It’s a no-go territory if you haven’t brought one. Get a carbon tripod, they’re ultralight. Shot in Aperture priority mode, f/8 for sharpness and using the amazing intervalometer built-in the D300s and other higher end Nikon models.
A 12-hour long flight gives you time to get stuff done. Watched 2 docu’s about Cartier-Bresson, one of the masters of (35mm) street photography. Amazing that all these masters (HCB, Ernst Haas, Jay Maisel,…) share the same point of view concerning gear. They don’t give a crap about what gear they’re shooting. It’s all about vision. I’m preaching this as well. The sooner you detach yourself from the illusion that better gear will give you better images, your photography will improve.
Love Haas’ quote about Leica’s.
Leica schmeica. Any camera could’ve captured that image. What counts is to learn how to see
He said that to two women that attended his workshop and couldn’t stop preaching about the qualities of their respective cameras. Eventually Haas (who knew Leica very well) burst out whilst looking over their portfolios.
Gear is good. Vision is better. Repeat 100x times, then restart.
Passed through the ‘Seweweeksepoort’ in the main land. Translated that’s ‘7-week pass’. A route that carves through the deep mountains of the mainland. It’s called like that because it used to take up to 7 weeks to cross that patch. It’s hellish. There is a saying here that you can’t pass through it without having at least one flat tire due to the sharpness of the rocks that are the untarred road. We didn’t have one thankfully. The ‘Seweweeksepoort’ is a dead zone. The whole route feels like that disaster movie when the annoying character (who is about to die a horrible death) checks his cell and the cell reads ‘No Service’.
Beautiful landscapes though. Amazing rocks.
Also visited some wineries. South Africa has a huge cultural wine-heritage. Dutch settlers came here with French vines in the 1600’s and the fruit of their labor is delicious. Amazing estates, beyond belief. I’ve visited some wineries in my life, but the geographical extend of the South African estates is unbelievable. Huge would be understating it.
Also ran into some traffic jams whilst being down here. Although not the same you’d encounter anywhere else in the world…
All in all, Amazing place, amazing trip. Really recommended!
More soon!
Cheers,
MM

Old wheels, Hi-Hats & Belgian Beer

Hi gang!

Been a busy weekend last week. Trying to juggle the whole work/social life thingy, and the 50/50 balance is very thin. But I like it!

On the 27th of March, Leningrad, which is a fantastic group where a lot of my close friends play in had a concert at the Duvel Brewery. If you aren’t familiar with Duvel, hop out the door and enter any ‘big’ bar, and they’ll probably have it. It’s one of Belgium’s most famous beers, and you find it quite often.

Laurent, Lead Guitarist, Nikon dSlr, Nikon 80-200 f/2.8, ISO-800, 1/25th

Their sponsor is Duvel (how great for a band right?) and this was a private concert, between intimitate friends to enjoy their music. Free drinks all night long made it even sweeter.

More on the south side of the equater…

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