Thursday, July 25, 2013

Photography Print on Demand Services

The article immediately below was originally published on September 9, 2012

Fine Art America

The idea of opening exhibits to every artist who wishes to participate is a venerable and laudable tradition in America.  Perhaps the most famous example is the Society of Independent Artists founded by John Sloan and other artists in 1916.  This Society's egalitarian principles were sorely tested, and failed, when  Marcel Duchamp anonymously submitted a urinal, entitled Fountain, as a work of art.  The piece was rejected and Duchamp resigned.

I'm reminded of this story while looking at the site for Fine Art America.  I really do like the site.  Artists of all styles can post their work online, set their own prices and let FAA handle the actual printing, framing and shipping.  This, of course, is classic "Print On Demand" technology applied to graphics just as it is currently used in book publishing.

The site is well designed, has reasonable policies, and appears to be operated in a businesslike manner.  The most detailed review I could find, in Digital Image Magazine, is generally very positive.  

Since FAA's standard package is free, there really is not much to lose.  Though based on the prices I saw, there does not seem much opportunity for artists to make a great deal of money, there definitely are artworks being sold.  Theoretically, at least, it could become a viable marketplace for those artists not represented by traditional galleries.  I think John Sloan would be intrigued.


The article below was originally published on September 12, 2012

Source for Comparison of Print on Demand Services

Searching online for a service similar to Fine Art America, I came across Imagekind which is owned by Cafe Press.  It's another very professional looking site and offers pretty much the same services as FAA.  It's difficult to see the differences between them or to know which is better for my purposes.  Of course, I could try both and make a decision later.

One good source I found for making comparisons among the various POD services was a site called Big Sun Photography which provides faily detailed pros and cons for each.  The reviews definitely helped with my decision making.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Arista Lith Film

I've subscribed to Photo Technique Magazine for many years.  (I believe when I started my subscription it was still called Darkroom Technique or something similar.)  The print edition of the magazine, though small in size, usually has a number of articles that are well worth photographers' time reading.  The January/February 2013 edition has an especially good selection on both digital and traditional photography topics.  One article of note was Making In-Camera Lith Film Negatives by Tom Persinger.  

The great advantage in using lith sheet film for both interpositives and enlarged negatives is that orth film is not sensitive to red light and therefore can be tray processed with the darkroom safelight turned on.  This allows the photographer much greater control.  He/she can actually follow the development process by sight and accordingly can more easily make corrections.

In his article Persinger gives useful step by step instuctions for processing lith film using Soemarko LC-1B Low Contrast Developer. Although I have never used lith film in-camera but only in making enlarged copy negatives, I have in the past processed Arista film using Agfa Rodinal with excellent results.  Rodinal is one of the oldest developers still in use.  When prepared in a dilute solution of 1:50, it renders excellent low contrast interpositives that preserve all the detail from the original 35mm or 120 negative.  Afterwards, when making the enlarged negative from the 8x10 interpositive, I use a much higher contrast developer, Ilford Universal, in a 1:9 solution.

What was most exciting to me in reading the article was learning that Freestyle Photographics once again is stocking the Arista lith film after a lengthy absence.  I have never purchased the Ilford Ortho Copy Film because of its high price.  A box of 25 8x10 Ilford sheets is currently listed at $129.95 at B&H compared to $19.99 for the same size and number of sheets of Arista Ortho Litho at Freestyle.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ilford Delta 3200 B&W Film

This article was originally published on October 20, 2012

Earlier this month, Popular Photography reported that Ilford has promised film photographers that it will continue to produce its popular Delta 3200 b&w film.  This is especially important to photographers now that Kodak has announced the discontinuance of TMax 3200Fujifilm had already discontinued its own high speed film, Neopan 1600, in 2010.

Of the three high speed films mentioned above, I've found the the Ilford to be best for high speed shooting.  Although I've used TMax 3200 often, it's because its high grain gives the most faithful simulation of the old grainy news photos from prior eras.  Ilford 3200, on the other hand, does not have nearly so much grain when push processed.  Neopan 1600 was a contrasty film that I had difficulty working with.

It should be noted that, of the three films, it was Neopan that was the fastest.  Both Kodak and Ilford have a true ISO of about 1,000.  They are only marketed with the higher ISO because they respond so well to push processing.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Safely Packing Camera Gear for Travel

I came across a useful article on a site called lifehacker.com that provides solid advice on the best way to pack expensive photography gear for travel.  While all the article's "rules" are worth reviewing, there are two that I would like to emphasize based on my own experience.

First (article Rule #5), don't overpack.  Photographers tend to accumulate a large amount of gear over the years, but that doesn't mean that every piece need be taken along on a trip.  For example, when traveling for pleasure, I leave my DSLR at home and carry a lightweight mirrorless camera in its place.  Mirrorless cameras have evolved to such an extent that they can consistently provide quality photos at such resolution that they often render a DSLR redundant.  In my case, I carry a Lumix GH2 with a 14-140 (28-280 35mm equivalent) lens.  As I still shoot film, I also pack a pocket size Contax T2 and a few rolls of Tri-X.  The film camera gives me more options when shooting and also serves as a backup.  But even if on assignment, a photographer traveling to a large city can usually arrange to rent whatever additional gear he/she needs at his destination and treat it as a billable expense.

Second, (article Rule #2), always put camera gear in a carry on.  If the photographer has not overpacked, this should not be a problem.  In any event, a photographer should never put himself in a position where he is required to place photography gear in checked baggage.  This is just asking for unnecessary problems.

Third (there was no "rule" for this one), once a photographer arrives at his destination, he should be constantly aware of his surroundings.  If he has arrived in an area with a high crime rate, the last thing he wants is to draw attention to his gear.  Metal cases and huge camera bags can make one a target.  If a photographer is on assignment and needs to work with any amount of expensive equipment, he should hire a local as an assistant, not only to carry the gear but also to provide protection.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

False Photos Can Change Memory and Behavior

This article was originally published on December 20, 2012

One of the more fascinating articles I've read on the power of photography is a BBC piece documenting studies that trace the ability of doctored photographs to change both memory and behavior.  The article provides a list of experiments in which participants who were shown false photos from their pasts came to believe that the information shown in the photos was true and accordingly altered their own memories of the incidents shown.

Since the inception of photography, cameras have been seen as recording devices.  Unlike painting, where the viewer understands that the reality shown has been altered and may not necessarily be accurate, a photograph is taken as a true rendering of an actual event.  Whatever is shown in a photo is accepted in the viewer's mind as reality.  Although one may intellectually realize that it is possible to alter the content of a given image using Adobe Photoshop or other software, the final product is nevertheless accepted as "real."

While the article focuses on the deliberate use of false photos to alter perception and behavior in a manner reminiscent of Orwell's Big Brother, what I find truly frightening is the implication that one's entire sense of reality is much more fragile than has been believed.  If someone is asked to recount his/her life history or any incident within it, one responds by calling forth a series of memories of the past.  But what if these memories are false and cannot be depended upon?  If what one considers to be his life history is shown to be false, then one cannot know who he actually is.  One's entire sense of self is suddenly shown to be an illusion.

In the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate, a group of American prisoners are systematically brainwashed by a hostile regime and given a false history.  The plot of the film revolves around the protagonist's attempts to get past the false memories that had been implanted by his captors and to recover his "true" memories of what actually occurred in the past. The BBC article, though, would seem to indicate that no advanced brainwashing techniques are necessary.  The subject's memories can be altered by simply showing him a photograph.

But what of incidents in a person's life that have not been photographed or otherwise recorded?  How can anyone be sure that his memories of such an incident are accurate or that the event even actually occurred in the first place?  If memory can be so easily influenced by a false image, it seems entirely possible that one's entire "life story" can be no more than a fiction he has unknowingly created for himself.  In that case, a person can have no idea who he really is.  Such a case is referred to as False Memory Syndrome and is defined as follows:
"[A] condition in which a person's identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of traumatic experience which is objectively false but in which the person strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have memories that are inaccurate. Rather, the syndrome may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual's entire personality and lifestyle, in turn disrupting all sorts of other adaptive behavior..."
While FMS is considered a psychological aberration meriting psychiatric intervention, the the studies recounted in the BBC article suggest that anyone may suffer from it to a certain extent, even if it does not rise to the level of a pathological condition, and that a given memory need not be "traumatic" in order to effect behavioral change.