Monday, December 20, 2010

Seasons Greetings / The wackiest house in the region

I just watched CNBC with a report from Bejing´s impressive Xmas-markets (!), Santas en masse and all the cheap deco stuff that we use to ornate our holiday season, including of course all the different LED lighting gadgets.
The wackiest house in the region 

The people interviewed about "What Christmas means" all said things like

"... it´s the alien´s "new years feast""
".. it celebrates the spring" and so on.

There was no relegious association whatsoever (among those people in this chinese market).
But we should not wonder as we drive it ourselves in this direction.

This does not mean that I would not appreciate this marvellous and award winning Xmas-Illumination above.

The house is more a simple wooden cottage and in its simplicity rather untypical for the middle class German neighborhood. But around Chrismas this little hut becomes the phoenix from the ashes and dwarfs all other illuminations of the town.

With this I wish all readers happy holidays and a successful new year!.

Eventually the blog will finally find a clear focus and direction in 2011 ;-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Ansel Adams still matters

Sharing some thoughts and insights after reading #1 of the classic book series from Ansels Adams - The Camera -
Cover Photo of "The Camera" - Half Dome and Moon in Yosemeti NP

To start with the summary first:
Ansel Adams explains in clear language the very basics and successfully transports his belief of perfectionism that is simply contagious and motivates to produce higher quality.
The issue "The Camera" is certainly a valuable addition to every photographers bookshelf.

Rubber Trees (Hevea brasiliensis) in Cu Chi, Vietnam
35mm lens, Nikon D90, f22, 1seond, exposed in "Ansel Adams style"
The book contains a foreword from 1980 (Ansel Adams died in 1984) and is technically up to date until the late seventies. Some quotes may seem antique, deranged and irrelevant in today´s electronic world but they are not:

Some examples: (Quotes)

"There is no question that using a view camera requires some physical stamina"
- About his enormous set of equipment in the early days with a 8x10 view camera

"The modern monorail camera is designed to accept interchangeble bellows"

"On a trip to the canadian rockies I had a secondary pinhole image on the ground glass which after about ten days work I traced to an unfilled screwhole"
- About the importance of checking older lensboards and the sealing of mounting screws

"In general, I do not find the normal lens especially desirable, functionally and aesthetically"
- About his preference for shorter focal lenses under aesthetic criteria.

" I can recall the time in the early 1920s when my means of regulation exposure was by remove and replace the lens cap"

" The early shutters had only a "bulb" setting for manually timed exposures and perhaps a setting marked "instantaneous" for exposures of about a 1/25 second.

- About the evolution of shutters, then continuing to leaf and modern focal plane shutters, illustrating the space compression effect of those modern slit shutters that I have not seen anywhere else in this clarity.

"Those who have this eye condition should consult the doctor"
- about extraocular imbalance as being the frequent medical cause for many people who produce images with a tilt horizon.

" promotes a shotgun approach to photographing which some photographers substitute for active use of the eye and brain"

- About the increasing trend to use a motor winder for transporting the film

This collectionof quotes from a diffent time and world seems to suggest that in fact there might be little real relevance left - but I don´t think so.
The ground-up explanation of all the details and fundamentals together with consequent craftmenship is absolutely timeless. And 35mm SLRs are covered up to the Nikon A5.

Ansel starts to explain the basic camera concept with the pinhole like every major physics textbook - but unlike those he actually takes photos with a pinhole camera, explains why these exposures can never be 100% sharp and suggests the "optimum" pinhole size as 1/64 inch on a piece of gold foil, but aluminum would do as well.
Lenses, lens design and aberrations are discussed,  every picture in the book is explained with metadata "I took this with a 12" Sonar lens on an 8x10 film" and illustrations of all the different adjustments on a view camera (sliding the lensboard, tilt and shift of the lens-plane and/or the film plane). You begin to understand what you lose when counting on fully automatic functions of today´s DSLRs and the dominance of the fixed 35mm handheld cameras.
There is no mention of any of the recent electronic features like "smile and face recognition", "predictive autofocus" or any such thing. I do not see this as a left out but instead it is a refreshing reminder on the things that really matter.

Ansel himself states in the beginning:
"The world does not need another book on equipment" - but this one is a true classic and can be considered a must have for every serious enthusiast.

In his own words:
"It is my intention in this book to stir excitement for photography and its craft in terms of personal expression. Too many people do what they are told to do."