Katia @ Paris

I decided to analyse my shots not, explain why I kept them, what I could have done better. I'll also put some that did not make the cut and explain why. This is all from a Mamiya RZ67II with TMax film and the 110m 2.8.

By the way, I learned that Neopan 400 is dead... it made me sad, it was a great film.

Thanks to the lovely Katia.

A diptych for a change: I tried to play with the change of distance on the same pose. Both shots are spot on focus, perfectly exposed (natural light) and could be self sufficient, but it's worth the attempt. I regret the dark stuff on her back on the right, I might photoshop that in the end.

Same shot as a stand alone for comparison. 

This is a pose I used a lot but not with the models hands placed like that. I wish her eyes were a little more open, and light a little more focused on her face / chest, but white wall makes the room light very even. Appart from that, it is sensual without being gross, so I kept it.

The original left picture on the diptych, uncropped.

I like this because of the 3 layers: black, skin, gray. Also it implies nudity but we don't really see it. Here also I wish I had the eyes looking up or a little more opened, but at the same time they look a little tripy like this.

A pose I used and abused: full nude with nothing showing, emphasis on the face. Nailed it technically yet I wish the room was significantly darker that the skin.

Flore @ Paris

Last week end my friend Flore agreed to pose for me. Shots are from:

Mamiya RZ67 II Trix 110mm 2.8

Nikon D600 50mm f/1.2 AI-S

Picture that rocks : Koko the gorilla

Because Gorilla mothering a kitten, that's why. 

So I decided of that new section called "picture that rocks", because sometimes there's nothing special about the photographer, nothing to discuss, just an image that speaks for itself.

For those who wonder, Koko is (was?) a gorilla that could speak 1000 sign words, create words by recombining existing ones, and understand 2000 words of spoken English (most humans live with 500 words).

It means Koko was listening to you, answering in sign language (primates can't speak because of posture, that's the only reason) and you could have an actual conversation with a gorilla. Read that last part again, and think about it. It personnaly blows my mind. And yes she was expressing remorse, boredom, joy, her desire to be a mother etc. Sorry Christians, God might be a female gorilla...

Koko was also famous for appearing in a documentary showing how she adopted a kitten, since she couldn't find a gorilla male while living among humans. She complained that zoo gorilla's, some were introduced to her, couldn't speak and were stupid...ah! women !

You can easily find that documentary online. Sad truth, she's worth more than many of us when it comes to what we abusively call humanity.

Post processing : digital trends & effects

By being a film integrist, I have been preventing myself from achieving a lot of things. Limiting myself to film has been pulling my creativity down. Yes larger format make pictures that are nicer that smaller formats. B&W film does destroy digital B&W, no doubt about it. But it's time for me to move on.

It happens to be that life is in color (duh), and that it is like adding 100 variables to the photographic equation, and as many possibilities. It also happens that creativity need trial and work, and the more the better. Finally, those "computers" everybody talks so much about - Oppan Grandma Style ! - do allow a lot of things.

So I got a Nikon D600 and I will force myself into digital for the next 3 months at least, no matter what.

Of course I need inspiration, and oh boy there are a lot of digital artists around ! And that's the problem really. What happens it that trends emerge, people start doing the same effects over and over again. So  I am going to talk about two of the ones that emerge, and because it's about being inspired, I'll show you examples of photographers who, in my humble opinion, do it great. Then feel free to recombine it to find your own style !

I'll also briefly explain how to do it.

1/ One of them is what I call the Florence and the Machine trend: hipstery soft tones with people tripping in the forest or a nice looking prairie, like a commercial for "well being while high in Switzerland". Usually involves lots of grass, like this:

A typical example. Hippies everywhere I'm telling you: low contrast, twisted tones and all, and grass. Loads of grass on those shots, always. Courtesy of Anoushka
The actual Florence, see ? Told Ya. And behind more grass.

Who does it great? Well many in total, but very few compared to the number of attempts. I'll pick Luisa Möhle as an example of success (lots of grass here too). It's technically impecable, always well framed, colors used for the best:

How to do it:
  • it's essentially a matter of place (with grass)
  • saturation
  • playing with curse by channel. 
  • levels to create that low contrast
  • there is no single recipe, just play with your software.

2/ An other trend is the "lets ads tons of fake halo, preferably red and blue, trend". Here again, the good and the bad coexist, I'll stick to the good :)

I'll use 3 photographers I already presented, Carlos Nunez, Benoit Paille, Hannes Caspar AKA "Bluecut", and myself (last shot). Notice that it can be very subtle:

Carlos Nunez

Benoit Paille
Hannes Caspar

this one's from me (645 film as opposed to others that are digital)

How to do it: same here, no recipe here again that work perfect every time:
  • create a blank layer
  • paint colors
  • decrease opacity
  • play with blending effects

Debate with myself on nude photography.

Yes you will see boobs in that post. Yet, I would very much expect you to read the text cause that's really the all point of it. For more boobs, butts or German / Japanese people putting random body parts in randoms anatomical cavities, I recommend Google.com . My blog would be way too disappointing :)

As promised, your reward for having to read stuff  / Model: Cindy Nocks

Photography is segmented into different genres, for the sake of nomenclature, for us to be able to qualify what we do, with words. Landscape, portrait, wildlife, architecture are the most common, simple and explicit segments. 
But have you noticed that in the much appreciated field of female imagery, we have been granted with an amazing amount of qualifiers: "beauty, glamour, parts, erotic, nude, art-nude, fine-art nude" etc. 

The last one is my favorite, bullshit at its best. So you qualify your own work as "fine-art", right. Sounds like Apple brainwashing millions that their products are innovative just because well, they said so. It also sounds super snobbish:
-"oh you do portraits, good for you.
- well you do boobs...
- no I do fine-art nude, it's very classy and technical, if you don't get it I can't help you"

Lol. The following would be closer to reality:
-"Damn I like boobs, I wanna take boob pictures. No wait, it's going to look like I like boobs then. Hum... I should make it sound arty so it'd become fancy and stuff. Fine-art nude? there is such bullshit as fine-art nude? Ah ah bingo ! That will do just fine !"

Because dear reader, in art, the more bullshit the outcome (photograph, painting etc), the fancier the art words to describe it. It's supposed to make the random peons feel like they just don't get it. Applies great to the field painting. Visualize, one line of black pain on a plain white wall, some 130 pound hipster scratching his chin :
-"Oh my ! such deconstructed sophistication in the way he processes the subliminal aspects of post modernist whatever crap and I'll finish that sentence later. Any body have cocaine? I ran out at 9am."

Not it's not the traffic of my blog, it's a Miro "painting". I have actually seen this in its museum, the black part on the right is not part of it, probably just a bad picture.

And here we are, all elements in place for the debate: 
  1. Is taking picture of nude attractive ladies just a crap excuse to see tits? 
  2. Can we separate art nude from erotic photography?
  3. Does it even matter?

1/ Yes. Nude photography is about looking at naked people, of course. Keep in mind until the end of this post than I will never denied that. Landscape is about landscapes no? The only difference is the layer of guilt that was added by milleniums of religious retardation, making us use arty words to cover up a shameful thing. So motivation for doing it? Well it's a three way thing between the model, the photographers, the viewer. 
  • For the photographer, voyeurism is so obvious that denying is foolish. Now I'm not saying it's necessary sexual, one can perfectly find the human body very aesthetical. I find that a well built male is a good looking thing, and that is totally unrelated to my sexual preferences (boobs, clearly). It is about capturing something you love to look at in a way that you enjoy to look at it. Period. And we all like a good looking naked lady. Actually you could replace naked lady by naked dude all along the post if you prefer.
  • For the model, it's often a self esteem, exhibitionist thing. I don't mean that models walk around in trench coats near playgrounds, I mean that having your body made an object of desire is a powerful thing for the ego. Of course it can also be a job, but if you don't have any of that in you, you must be a very sad person posing naked just for money.
  • For the viewer, it's like for the photographer except that they are passive (lazy wankers :-p ).

2/ Yes too. Plain simple:  composition, exposure, creativity still applies. The difference between plain erotic and art nude is simply the graphical, visual value of the image beyond the desirability of the person who's on it. Desirable lady in sexy pose: erotic. Desirable lady in a pleasantly compose image with great mastery on details: art nude, even if still erotic. And that's precisely where I want to kill the hypocrisy: an art nude image is erotic too, it is erotic plus something else. The real segmentation should be between erotic and porn:
  • Eroticism is creating the "desire to desire" (quote from some smart dude I forgot the name of, but I greatly agree with it). It's about arousing deep parts of your imagination.
  • porn is about stimulating yourself in order to touch your genitals until you reach satisfaction.
Then yes we can separate those two things rather easily. I would never ever go at polishing the snake looking at a picture from Jan Scholz:

Jan Scholz AKA Micmojo, a guy who knows a thing or two about good nudes

Jan Scholz AKA Micmojo, a guy who knows a thing or two about good nudes

Jan Scholz AKA Micmojo, a guy who knows a thing or two about good nudes

3/ Does it even matter? I was invited to a thanksgiving dinner last Saturday, and as we opened wine bottles a wise guest said:
-"Don't know much about wine, don't care. Do I like it when I drink it? If yes, then it's good wine."

Some might say that practical approach is the best. I mean, look at the above displayed Miro painting: you can tell me all you want Miro is a genius, I still wouldn't put it in my garage. So if you like what you see, should you care if it's art nude? Or just a raw, nice looking pair of boobs, without any effort put into making the image worth anything on its own?

Well I think it matters. Firstly, if it didn't I would have wrote that post for nothing. Then it also matters because tastes evolve. At 12 you might think Katy Perry is the greatest artist in the world, to much later realize that Pearl Jam, Dream Theater, Brahms, or Duke Ellington are actually the real thing. The difference between the young and the older you? Time. You had time to be exposed to other things, opinions, critical ideas, and it shaped your mind into appreciating beauty. The same way candies are awesome at 6yo and gross you up after 3 pieces when you're 40yo, age at which you'll much prefer a fine Bourbon.

You might first look at nude photography to see boobs, you might do nude photography to see boobs, but you should ask yourself the question: if I don't put any effort into my pictures, I might just be doing masturbation material (nothing wrong with that). If I put some efforts into it, I can actually achieve to create a piece that mixes 3 awesome things together:
  • A beautiful pictural representation, an object that is visually pleasant to the eye, maybe even a story telling piece that really sets a mood once put on a wall
  • A nice looking naked person, because we all love that and fuck all that guilt.
  • Make viewers happy, as well as the model who'll enjoy the way she's be capture, the way you perceived her through your camera

Add on: to answer the questions, all shots above are medium or large format film indeed.

Inspiration: Arnaud Legrand

Paris based photographer, 32 yo (could be me but no, he isn't). I don't know much about the man, I just found a series on DeviantArt that in my opinion is at the level of the best of the best.

All are 35mm film, Tri X (my favorite black and white film)

Here is his site, and here are the shots:

Photoclub stories.

Today I'll try something new. Today I'll actually write a story, a fiction heavily inspired by real events. My story of what goes on in a photography club. 
Let's be clear, this is an aggregation of 3 different events so those of you who recognize themselves, don't email to say "that's not how it went!", because indeed, that's not how it went. I will voluntarily bend reality for the purpose of making stronger points and having a tad bit more fun. Also if you recognize yourself and don't like the way you've been pictured, don't cry: 95% of who I'll describe here I can't recall the name of, or even the face. It's really not personal. Also It is meant to be sarcastic and mean, otherwise it's less fun. I've also met people with real talent, but if I ever mention them in would be as one of my "Inspiration" post. In case you don't read until end, I am in no way pretending this is an accurate description of every photography club. I'm sure there are plenty around that are totally worth it. So take it easy :)

Anyway, this is the story of why I am not part of any photography club. Yet. 

My first attempt at being part of a photography club was motivated by raw enthusiasm: I was boring the hell out of people who had to listen to my photography talk when clearly, they didn't care. I needed an audience that did, and who would talk back with passion. Then a couple of fellas sent an email to other employees of my company: "hey how about we create a photography club? let's meet and brainstorm". Yeah ! I'll go to that! So I enter the room, hands in my pocket and happy to talk about influences, composition, places where we could go to shoot landscapes etc. My first surprise came from the fact that a half of the attendees carried a fully loaded photography equipement bag; and those bags look ed heavy with tripods and strobes, the full package. And it's only guys. Are we going to shoot anything?  Is it the wrong room where they do a gay porn amateur casting?
15 minutes later my pants are still on, it appears it is the photography club room indeed. The hosts have kicked off the conversation by a rather normal "what do you expect from that club" but it's still going all over the place, little structure which it's understandable after a long day of work. Who wants another boring meeting. Then I asked 
-"hey what's with all the gear?". 
Boom baby! Bad idea... That's when I was made aware of the segmentation of this audience.

1. The dudes with the heavy bags. 
Those were craving for the "what's with the gear" question. They had from 5 to 15 G's worth of gear with them and oh boy did they want to show it off. It was a matter of social positioning, like in a high school reunion when you can't wait for someone to ask
-"so what do you do now?
-I'm riiiich I'm so fuckiinnnnng riiiicchhhhher than all of you!  Ok now I can go home, boy that feels good". Those guys rushed on their bag opening it proudly like they were making an offer to get the King's daughter's hand. Also they were looking at each other's bag to figure out who was the alpha, ready to throw a judgmental comment in a faked nice tone. Those guys had really funny combinations of gear: the starting point was usually a Canon 5D. Then, according to the rules of compensation, the 400mm huge white telezoom was the one piece to own. Shooting safaris? No no, but in a street they could point at stuff and say "look look how well I can see it". Also shooting a couple of homeless dudes without having to come too close. We never know, you could catch poverty. Also a couple of exotic lenses, like a 3000$ 6mm fisheye (???????). Those guys made their point, other guys in the rooms should look up to them.

"Hey man look at those nice pixels! wow nice dude, wait i'll go get a bigger lens in my Hummer" Apologies to those guys who might be actually shooting wildlife, but some meetings looked the same.
2. The complete beginners. 
Coming to learn out of others, with a large range of motivations behind them. From the ones trying to understand the gear they got, to the ones with no gear but who just really enjoy a photo exhibit and would like to give it a go. Half those guys entered worship mode when the first category above mentioned opened their bags of candy. The other half was like "oh come on, you guys can compare your dicks in the other room where the gay casting is". 

3. The in-betweeners
Those with a decent camera but too ashamed to show it  in public. Those where the ones who could clearly feel their limitations and they came here to learn. I'm not saying they were limited talent wise. They might have just lacked motivation, opportunities to shoot, skills on how to use their gear, etc. A large chunk of those guys unfortunately believed that they were mostly limited by the fact that they needed the gear displayed by the show offs. Hence they became the main audience of those guys.
-"Oh it's a 5Dmk XXIV with a 970mm f0.015 lens ! Can I touch? Does it take nice pictures?".
Oh now the lens takes the pictures? That's new. In that case I'll just tell my camera to go shoot stuff and I'll  stay home to play Borderland 2. The problem is that this specific segment of the audience still has a chance to be educated into paying attention to the right stuff: composition, exposure, framing, getting inspired by great photographs, etc. But no matter how you put it, the gear conversation seems more interesting. I assume that's because there is no uncertainty: if you pay, you get it. It's not like being inspired or talented. And even when you are, it doesn't mean you're going to pull a good shot anyway. Doisneau used to say "If I knew the recipe for a good picture, I'd only take good pictures!"

   Anyway, after 15 mins of peni... photo equipment show and tell, some one reframed the conversation. 
-"Ok we get it, you guys want to be able to have gear try outs, check. What else?" 
At this moment, my naive sense of hope leads me to think that the conversation on great reporters of the 60ies will start, that we'll speak of the parallels in composition between painting and photography -I exaggerate a little here to sound arty and intellectual- that finally it'll be about pictures. Oh wait, some guy wants to project on the big screen ! Yes we're about to see a picture. Screen turns on...aaaaand...vomit.

I am now facing a 2 by 3 meters horrible piece of HDR pushed so hard that it seems like cell shading in a video game.  Then the question falls: 
-"I want to learn how to do that". 
Yeah. Right. "What's your favorite Twilight movie" would have been a more appropriate question, and probably somehow more related to photography. I look at the audience, for the first sign of hostility. That guy definitely fits  the rules of engagement, somebody open fire please ! 
-"Oh yes me too actually". 

Damnit, this is a lost cause, it's like trying to explain a Justin Bieber audience why Tchaikovsky is awesome (here I am also showing off, coz truthfully by I've been taken to my first opera last week,  Iolanta by tchaikovsky, great stuff).

So here we are, they start projecting things that are essentially a compilation of cheap catchy visual effects, super intense blur, stuff that goes fast but that is sharp, fish eye, HDR, night skies, stuff taken in the dark but where the noise is kinda ok, stuff that was really far away, etc etc. I feel like a bunch of rednecks are being mesmerized by siliconed hookers in an Amsterdam display window, while they would not notice if Natalie Portman walked by them. 

And then, when I though we've hit rock bottom, something I should have seen coming happened: one of the 5Ds guys decided to show us his work. Ok I'll pick that one time when it sucked real bad. I've seen guys taking very clean, academically good shots. But then it's not funny to tell. 
So that guy starts displaying his portfolio. It contains about 500 images, which tells you how satisfied he is with his work and how much efforts he puts in self criticism. We have all the usual homeless portraits, the usual kids portraits, couple of kittens, couple of sunsets, couples in parks loving each other very naturally. All of them have in common that they are sharp (thank you 5000$ camera!), which is actually what qualified them to be in the portfolio. The quality of the above mentioned portfolio having been confirmed on Flickr by "wow, great shots, so sharp!", it is now carved in stone and not open for debate. 
Most of those shots are horribly composed, with things like two subjects one behind the other, both being in focus, no risk whatsoever in the framing since it's totally random anyway, exposition in full auto. Overall you can tell he shot 3000 images and kept the 50 best.
But that's not my favorite part. Here is my favorite part: the "model" photoshoot when the guy convinced the best looking girl he knows among his acquaintances to pose for him in swimwear, in his uncle's garden (because his house looks nicer, he's like the rich one in the family), or on the hood of his dad's car (because what's the difference between a red Mazda MX5 and an Aston Martin). 

Told you ! 

The girl can go from actually good looking to plain comedy. What I love the most is the girl who's convinced she's a super hottie according to our same Amsterdam display windows standards, and who poses like a on a cheap Vegas flyer for his photographer cousin. Priceless family moments. 
The result is usually pathetic poses with subtle attempts at making you believe it's about the eyes (crossing arms under the breasts happens to be accidental), or the usual decors elements that haven't been removed from the scene before shooting (garbage bin in the back etc.) An other personal best is the studio background made of bed sheets. This one is just out of this world ! Here is an example because seriously, I don't possess the narrative skills to describe this shit. Oh and because I had to see a lot of dicks on Flickr to find one, there's no reason you don't get some too:

Finally, there is the priceless reactions in the room: the beginners are looking at it with a mix of suspicion and faked admiration. Wondering when the hell that guy will be done exposing his cousin / sister / wife / wife's sister he secretly wants to bang. 

I could go on and on about how most tend to force contrast, saturation and vignetting like a little girl putting on make up for the first time, but I'll spare you.

Of course, in none of those cases did I stay in the club. One time I even admit I've been lazy and didn't really do anything to level it up. Too much work not enough free time. I should watch my commitments. 
Anyway, here is my advice if you want to set up a photography club in your company, school or group of friends:
  • Forbid gear talk. There is seriously enough of it online to fullfil anybody's needs. If someone wants to try a piece that belongs to an other dude, then can send each other emails. 
  • Temper the show off, encourage the shyest to express themselves. 
  • Have a "shut up and accept the critic" time when people know that they will be facing subjective opinions about their work. It's about fuel for the brain, maybe they agree, maybe not, but it's good to hear constructive points like : "I'm wondering if isolating this part with less depth wouldn't make the story stronger?"
  • Shoot, organize sessions where you start by showing a few inspirational great images to define a theme, then every body out to shoot !
  • You're only as good as your worst picture. When it comes to showing other, only show what you believe is your best. Don't show something just because you like some effect. Or show it if you can explain what you were trying to do, and you still can't tell why it didn't work.
  • Promote shooting in full manual mode with just spot metering. If it's about learning, you need to be able to do yourself what all that engineering tries to do for you. Why? Because no computer can understand what you are trying to capture, don't let technology get in the way. This way everybody will be equal in the group.

see ya next time !