30 November, 2018

Doc Diaries: Tunnel Vision (part 1)

I love to travel. But not like most people do.

One of my favorite things about traveling, and especially by airplane, is the actual experience of being on the plane. Watching the world through a window. Trying to notice how even familiar places and things look somewhat distant and alien through an airplane window. I try to look out the window and take pictures that will somehow explain the thoughts and feelings and curiosities and perspectives that are hiding within myself.

The sequence of images from a flight is as much a record of the changing environment around the plane, as it is a memorial to the way that my attention sometimes flutters from one subject to another, noticing commonalities and differences this time around that I had somehow missed before.

30 October, 2018

Doc Diaries: Work It!

"Can you tell a story without moving?" That's the essence of a photography exercise I first went through about 13 years ago, during one of the only two photography classes I've ever taken. More recently, I was spending time with a friend while she practiced the cello, and I decided to give that exercise another go.

The fundamental goal of the exercise isn't really to capture distinct perspectives of the scene (although that is a good outcome). But rather, the goal is to force yourself to "work the scene" — to do the work to discover novel ways of seeing and capturing the scene that might not immediately come to mind. I absolutely adore this opening photo, but I had no idea that this is something that was lurking in the environment when we started. It took me 35 minutes into the 45-minute practice session to find it.

So let's go back to the beginning, and I'll show you some of the directions I explored en route to finding this and other shots during that session. My hope is that it'll give you some ideas and techniques to explore your own scenes, and to find some new perspectives for subjects that might already be familiar.

29 September, 2018

Doc Diaries: Fuji X-T1 Mirrorless

Sometimes gear matters. My photographic journey started off with a point-and-shoot camera, about 16 years ago, and has since been powered predominantly by some combination of DSLRs and (more recently) mirrorless cameras.

As I developed as a photojournalist, and subsequently as a documentary photographer, I found myself optimizing for two competing usecases: I wanted a camera I could keep with me, because some of the best opportunities are unexpected and unpredicted. But I also wanted to be able to cover large events (like concerts and athletic events), while wearing gloves, where my movement might be constrained, without needing to change lenses.

Over the years, my kit has bifurcated into a pair of solutions that handle those two kinds of situations separately. For everyday moments and unexpected situations, I have a Fuji X-T1 mirrorless camera with a fairly compact 27mm f/2.8 prime lens that's with me most of the time. The whole package is sufficiently convenient that I carry it even on days when I expect no pictures to happen. In contrast, when I go somewhere for the purpose of shooting, I'll usually bring a pair of D7100 DSLR bodies with f/2.8 zooms attached. I still have plenty of frustrations with both setups, but even so, I still find myself able to work pretty effectively.

Finally, to put this post (and this series) into some context, I picked up the X-T1 in 2014 and have run a bit over 28k frames through it since then. The D7100 bodies are at ~92k for the pair. Previously, I had put ~118k frames onto two D300 bodies, ~23k frames onto a Sony NEX-7 and NEX-6, ~11k frames onto a Fuji X100, and ~50k frames onto the Nikon D70 that started it all for me. Suffice it to say that I have a significant amount of experience with all of these cameras, and all of the conclusions I draw are specifically against this backdrop. I'm well aware that other cameras (whether mirrorless or DSLR) have different strengths and weaknesses.

28 August, 2018

Photographic Problem Solving: Rolling Shutter in Two Shots

First and foremost, I'm a pole vaulter who trains with decathletes. So when they switch to training for a different event, I switch to my camera, to try to capture a bit of what it's like to be a non-elite, post-collegiate athlete in the US.

My everyday camera is a Fuji X-T1, a mirrorless camera that can shoot either with the mechanical focal-plane shutter, or with an electronic-only silent shutter mode. By default, it will shoot with the mechanical shutter up to the 1/4000s maximum, and then switch to the electronic shutter up to a final max of 1/32000s. That's super useful for me, because I love to shoot at relatively open apertures (to control depth-of-field) in very bright sunlight. Also, sometimes I'll try to expose for a silhouette in bright sunlight, while still keeping DoF in check. In either case, the aperture is locked, I'm at base ISO, and shutter speed is all I've got left.

During one particular shot put practice, I exposed for a silhouette as my training partner Dan took two throws. Of my various images that day, I took images of the two throws with the first at 1/4700s (shown above, with the electronic shutter), and the second at 1/3500s (with the mechanical shutter, shown below).