Monday, October 24, 2016

End of Summer

The temperatures here in NYC were much warmer than usual last week.  On Tuesday, there was a record high as the temperature reached 83F (28C) in Central Park.  Then, almost overnight, the thermometer sank to 45F (7C) as a cold front moved in.  Autumn is finally here now.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 NYC Photo Expo

I went yesterday afternoon to the Javits Center to take a look at this year's edition of the Photo Expo.  Since I just purchased a Nikon Df in January, I didn't bother checking out any DSLR's (I've always found dealing with Nikon reps to be an ordeal anyway) but instead concentrated on mirrorless cameras.  I'll be needing one in the near future and wanted to see what was available.

Panasonic Lumix

I've used a GH2 since 2011 and have been very pleased with it.  Although I don't consider it a professional camera, it's versatile and I like to carry it with me while moving about the city.  (I used it, in fact, to take the photos shown on this post.)  I've occasionally had a slight problem during the past few months when the camera has indicated the lens is not properly attached.  The Panasonic rep, who was very helpful and knowledgeable, told me that the most likely cause is that the lens coupling mechanism is losing its "tension" and will eventually need to be replaced at a cost of roughly $200.  That's not a big number, but I may opt simply to replace the camera itself with a newer model.  

One low end choice would be the DMC-G85 which will be released toward the end of the month (B&H is already taking pre-orders).  What makes this model especially attractive is that the introductory deal includes a 12-60 mm lens for only $100 more than the cost of the body alone.  Since this is a $500 lens, the cost of the camera itself is then only about $500 (total price for package = $997.99).

On the other hand, the new DMC-GH5 will also soon be available and one was already on display at the show, albeit locked in a glass case.  If I ever decided to shoot video, this is definitely the camera I'd go for.  Among other improvements, the video will now be 6K.  There are other enhancements as well, including better performance for still photography at high ISO's.

Fujifilm X-Pro 2

The X-Pro has been available for several years and I've always heard it highly spoken of.  The recently released X-Pro 2 has also gotten excellent reviews.  Its main attraction for me is its rangefinder design.  All the main controls are on the outside - one can even set aperture by rotating the ring on the lens barrel - and familiar to anyone who's worked with a film rangefinder (I still regularly use my Mamiya 6).  It certainly seems a great camera and at $1,699.00 is reasonably priced.

Sony Alpha A7 II

While its specs are outstanding in every respect, what makes the Alpha A7 II truly attractive to me is its ability to work in extreme low light situations.  I do quite a bit of nighttime street photography with the Nikon Df, but the Sony's performance in this area is far better.  At $1,698 ($1,998 with a 28-70 lens), it's in the same price range as the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and, presumably, the Lumix DMC-GH5.

To sum it up, I like the Lumix DMC-GH5 for its video capabilities, the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 for its rangefinder design, and the Sony Alpha A7 II for its low light capability.

Printing Papers

Aside from cameras, the only other items of immediate interest to me at the show were printing papers for use on my Epson R3000.

I use high end printing papers for my fine arts photography, and those that I've found best are Moab and Hahnemühle.  I checked both out at the show.  Moab offers a number of surfaces - I saw some wonderful black & white examples printed on Exhibition Luster - but since I prefer textured papers, I usually go with Hahnemühle.  It's interesting that the company is now marketing a Platinum Rag that can be used in alternative printing processes.  I've worked with the Ziatype formula (a palladium printing-out process) and in the past have always used Arches Platine paper purchased from art supply stores.  I'd be very interested to see what results I got with Hahnemühle's new paper.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Elizabeth Street Garden

While wandering through Soho on Monday afternoon, I came across a park I hadn't even known existed.  The Elizabeth Street Garden is a community space filled with unusual sculpture and offers visitors a rare open area downtown where they can enjoy the sunshine.  It goes without saying that there's pressure from real estate interests to remove the garden and build over the site.  There's more information on this on the Garden's website.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Shooting Street Photography in Color

I've been taking advantage of the Nikon Df's extended ISO range to explore shooting street photography at night here in NYC.  For the most part, I've gotten best results when converting these shots to black & white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, but there are a number that I feel work best when left in color.  It's largely a matter of taste, but when a photograph contains bright colors in illuminated scenes, I think it's best to take advantage of them.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Last Flowers of Summer

I went to Central Park during the last week of September to photograph the flowers before summer ended.  Just when I had finished, the weather turned chill.  Now I'll have to wait for spring to come again.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Photo Book Review: Stieglitz and His Artists

Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keefe is an excellent example of what an exhibit catalog should be.   Published as an accompaniment to the Met Museum exhibit held from October 2011 to January 2012, the catalog edited by Lisa Mintz Messinger painstakingly details the works included in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection that was bequeathed to the Met Museum by Georgia O'Keefe over a period of years following the photographer's death in 1946.

Stieglitz is remembered today primarily as perhaps the greatest photographer ever to have lived.  His photographs, as seen in the "key set" at the National Gallery of Art, display a mastery of the medium that has never been equaled.  But there is another side to his character that is arguably of even greater importance.  In his quest to have photography fully recognized as an art form, Stieglitz managed a succession of galleries, beginning with 291, that displayed not only photography but also the most important modern art of the period.  Long before the 1913 Armory Show, Stieglitz had already introduced to America some of most influential European and American artists.  These included the first showing of Rodin's late pencil and watercolor figure drawings (1908), the first exhibition of Matisse's work ever held in the United States (1908), the first U.S. one-person exhibition of Cézanne (1911) and first U.S. one-person exhibition of Picasso (1911).   Though the primary mover behind these exhibits was Steichen, who was located in Europe at the time, Stieglitz deserves every credit for recognizing the importance of these artists and purchasing their work for his own collection. 

The catalog is exhaustive in detailing not only the careers of the artists who were collected by Stieglitz but also their dealings with the mercurial photographer.  In so doing, it gives insight into Stieglitz' temperment if only by showing which works he wished to acquire for himself.  The catalog and exhibit also offer a rare opportunity to see the work of a number of artists, once considered important, who have now fallen into relative obscurity.  Of course, it also presents seminal works by America's most important artists.  These include O'Keefe's Black IrisArthur Dove's Shore Road and Charles Demuth's Figure 5 in Gold.  Most welcome are the technical notes detailing the materials used by the artists as well as their work methods.

Also refreshing in a catalog of this type is the candor with which Messinger describes Stieglitz' rocky relationship with the Met Museum itself.   He once wrote of it as follows:
"I know that I need bigger, truer, things than are housed there, in an atmosphere which repels me.  An atmosphere breathing of a cemetery dedicated to the dead rich."