Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spring Flowers in Central Park

The temperature rose into the mid-70's earlier this week, so I took my Lumix GH2 to Central Park to photograph the flowers that had appeared almost overnight.

The photo immediately below captures for me the whole essence of spring - new life bursting forth beside the dead and decaying leaf left from last season.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Google NIK Filter Collection Now FREE

As of March 24, 2016 Google has made the entire NIK filter Collection a free download!  I had used these filters - Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver  Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro and Dfine - before Google had bought out NIK but had found that the company did not update its software as Adobe updated Photoshop.  This meant in practice that I had to purchase an update package at a relatively high price from NIK every time Adobe came out with a new version of PS.  I finally gave up even though I had found the filters quite useful.  I simply couldn't justify the expense.  Now anyone using a recent version of Photoshop (I'm currently running CS6) can install these filters as plug-ins at no cost.  

Click on the link below and then click on "Download Now" in the upper right hand corner.  Then choose "Windows" or "Mac."  The installation process is simple and only takes a few moments.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Boat Landings in Central Park

The Conservancy began months ago to repair the boat landings scattered around the lake's edge in Central Park.  Not surprisingly considering how slowly repairs move in this city, most aren't finished yet as can be seen in the top photo.  The Conservancy did, however, manage to refurbish one landing at the southern end of the lake (photo immediately above) and added a brand new one near Oak Bridge at the northern end (photo below).

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lucis 6.0 Update

I first began using the Lucis 6.0 filter for Photoshop several years ago.  Even though it was at the time very highly priced, I found it to be the most useful filter I'd come across and worth the high cost.  It enhanced almost every photograph I edited by bringing out detail that was not readily apparent.  When used at a low setting, the filter made the final images appear sharper and more vibrant.  At higher settings, an HDR effect was achieved that in my opinion surpassed in quality that given by other software.  The interface was straightforward and easy to use.

I was surprised earlier this month when I received an email blast from Barbara Williams who designed the software.  She indicated that her one-woman company was in dire straits and that she had drastically reduced the price on her product.  The message was blunt.
"I need to make $300,000 by June 30th or I have to close my doors.

"I have reduced the price of my software to $30 and I have stopped selling any upgrade versions."
 In other words, a full version now only costs $30 rather than the hundreds it sold for only recently.  In the Windows environment in which I work, not only is the plug-in available for that price but by ordering now I am also automatically entitled to the stand-alone version that will become available in April.  (The Mac stand-alone version is already finished and currently available.)  

I had never bothered to upgrade the 32-bit version I had acquired in 2008 since, for my needs at least, it works as well as I could wish in CS6.  When I contacted Barbara, though, I was told I would need the later 64-bit version when I eventually migrate to Photoshop CC.  Accordingly, I purchased the newer version yesterday and downloaded it without problem.  I'm now looking forward to receiving the stand-alone version next month. 

Personally, I think this is a great deal.  After all, it's hard to go wrong for $30.  Also, I wanted to act while the company is still in business.  Although I wish Barbara the best of luck in raising the cash she needs to continue operating, $300,000 is a rather large sum for a one-person company to raise on such short notice.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Nighttime Street Photography

The temperature rose into the mid-70's earlier this week, and I took advantage of the early spring weather to take some nighttime street photographs with my Nikon Df.  All the photos were shot with a 50mm f1.4.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Shallow Depth of Field

I was shooting street photography with the Nikon Df on the Upper West Side yesterday evening.  On the way home stopped in to talk with my friends Bryan and Raquel.  I snapped the above photo of them with the aperture wide open on the 50mm f1.4.  Since Bryan was standing slightly ahead of Raquel, his face wasn't squarely on the focal plane and the distance between the two subjects was exaggerated by the shallow depth of field.  It would have been even more pronounced on a longer lens.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Photo Book Review: Walker Evans The Hungry Eye

The following review was also posted on my blog The Aesthetic Adventure on August 14, 2013.

I posted here late last month my impressions of the MOMA exhibit recreating the 1938 American Photographs show. Seeing Evans's photos on display renewed my interest in the photographer and motivated me to finally read Walker Evans The Hungry Eye by Gilles Mora and John T. Hill, a copy of which had lain unopened on my bookshelves for years.

The big problem with any book that attempts a comprehensive overview of Evans's work is that the photographer's career extended over such a great length of time (almost a half century from 1927 to 1975) and contained so many important works that it would be difficult for any author to cover adequately the entire breadth of his oeuvre in a single volume.  And that is the difficulty here.  The study proceeds chronologically - first in groupings by years and then in sub-groupings that discuss the individual projects completed within those time frames.  Such an approach results in major accomplishments, such as the FSA work or Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, unfortunately receiving less attention than they deserve and minor assignments, such as the 1941 Florida Mangrove Coast photos, receiving only perfunctory mention in passing.  Most importantly, there is no attempt at a synthesis that would provide the reader with an understanding of the end to which Evans was working.  The artist's intentions remain an enigma.  In the Foreword, author John T. Hill speaks of  Evans's "purposes" but makes no attempt to define them.
"For Evans, photography was an infinitely malleable medium, one meant to be hammered to fit his own purposes.  For him, there were no canons or sacrosanct methods.  The camera was simply a convenient mechanism for collecting ideas, icons, and anecdotes.   Like a master carpenter selecting the right tool, Evans moved easily from one photographic format to another, choosing whichever seemed to suit the job at hand."
Evans, of course, is one of the key figures of 20th century photography not only for his own work, which was brilliant and innovative, but also for the influence he had on the generation of photographers who followed him.  His proteges included such notable figures as Robert Frank and Diane Arbus.  Evans stubbornly adhered to his own path in determining the direction his work was to take.  While Ansel Adams and Edward Weston were promoting straight photography purely as an aesthetic experience in the service of fine arts, Evans saw the importance of creating photos that captured the spirit of the country and its people, no matter how depressed or cynical their outlook might be.  This particularly incensed Adams who wrote of American Photographs: "A poor excuse, and imitation of the real beauty and power of the land and the real people inhabiting it."  And yet Evans's insistence on anonymity rendered his images timeless so that they transcended any purely documentary function they might otherwise have had.

The reproductions of Evans's work contained in The Hungry Eye are excellent but often of such small dimensions, especially in Abrams' 2004 reduced format edition, that they lack the impact they would otherwise have had.  Also, there is very little technical information provided for any of the photos shown and this makes it difficult to fully appreciate the scope of Evans's achievement.  The text is limited to introductory remarks to each group of photos shown and is lacking any cohesive commentary.