A Toronto Photography Blog.

Improve Your Photography with This One Weird Trick

Take more photographs.

That's it. That's all there is to it. Except it's not quite as simple as it seems.

Photographs are constructed images. They aren't snapshots. Take more photographs does not mean to walk around constantly firing off shots of everything you see, the 'spray and pray'  philosophy. It means you must look at what's around you and construct a worthwhile image out of what you're seeing. Then you take it, or, if you will, capture it.

If you're a landscape photographer this means capturing that scenic vista at the exact moment when the light, and mist, and the clouds, and whatever else is or isn't there, add up to the perfect image.

If you're a street photographer it means capturing the precise moment when your subject demonstrates or reveals something about the human condition.

If you're a portrait photographer it means knowing your subject well enough that you can capture the moment when they show who they really are.

Some photographers don't just capture the world, they create their own. For instance, food photographers and fashion photographers know what they want to see and then, more or less, they build it. They hunt down the props and talent they require and then they capture what they've constructed so it can be shared with others.

Take more photographs doesn't mean spending more time editing your images. Don't edit your images at all, not even to crop or to adjust the exposure. Nail everything in your head. Then capture it with your camera. Construct a photograph and then take it. If you do it right, everything that should be there already will be there, and everything that isn't, won't be.

Take more photographs this way and you will become a better photographer. You can add all the fancy stuff later.

Permalink 01/11/14 19:34, by robert, Categories: Background , Tags: commentary, instructional, photography

Ice Ice Baby

Morning After Ice Storm, Toronto

Sunday morning after the Great Toronto Ice Storm of 2013, sans electricity.

Permalink 12/24/13 13:17, by robert, Categories: News , Tags: toronto ice storm, urban landscape, winter

In Defence of Ken Rockwell

It's hard to say who the most hated person on the internets is, but in the world of photography at least, it's a fair bet to say Ken Rockwell ranks Public Enemy Number 1. Lots of people hate his guts.

If you are somehow unfamiliar with the man, the thumbs-downs aren't hard to find. You can catalogue thousands of snide comments and criticisms of Rockwell on posting boards across dozens of photography-related websites, and dedicated, full-on semi-pro assaults like this one. It's not always fair to summarize, but probably the biggest gripes against him are:

  1. He has no idea what he's talking about.
  2. He's a crummy photographer.
  3. He favors Nikon gear over Canon.
  4. He changes his mind a lot.
  5. He runs his website just to make money.

Let's look at these in turn.

  1. He has no idea what he's talking about.----------->Rockwell is an engineer by trade, and holds two U.S. Patents. Whenever he reviews a lens he provides exact measurements about distortion that you can use for corrections in Photoshop. So, realistically, he sort of has some idea what he's talking about. Technical matters aside, he also wrote this famous essay, which stands as an inspiring and insightful analysis of what it takes to be a good photographer.
  2. He's a crummy photographer.----------->The judgement of art is always going to be largely subjective. If they were unaware of him, would most people really think William Eggleston's work is great photography? (I don't). Rockwell has taken images like this. But even if he'd never shot a frame that was remotely worthwhile, realise that being a great or even good photographer is a full-time job, and his job is really his website (see below), not taking photographs. Expecting him to produce masterworks all the time is unfair.
  3. He favors Nikon gear over Canon.-----------> He used to, he was a Nikon guy. He doesn't anymore. A simple check of his website will confirm this. In fact, I believe he currently rates the Canon 5D MkIII as the best DSLR.
  4. He changes his mind a lot.----------->Okay, you got me on that one. He changes his mind a lot. GUILTY.
  5. He runs his website just to make money.----------->This is the most ridiculous criticism by far, and leads me to ask the question: Why else would you expect him to run his website? As a tribute to his dogs? Don't you do your job in order to get paid? Rockwell says he maintains his website just for fun but also admits it's his primary way of providing income for his family. His website is his job. So, yes, he does it for the money. Get over it.

Is Ken Rockwell perfect? No one's perfect. Do I always agree with him? No. But so what?

So lay off Ken Rockwell. Please. I'm asking nicely.

DISCLAIMER: Though he claims he never responds to email I have written Rockwell twice in the past and he's responded graciously both times. I only mention this because some are sure to read this and conclude I'm secretly in league with Ken Rockwell, or that I'm his cousin, and it's also possible the NSA will still have a record of these emails and want to come after me for some obscure FTC violation. But the fact is, beyond two short emails, I have no connection with Ken Rockwell whatsoever.

Permalink 12/06/13 15:22, by robert, Categories: News, On the web , Tags: commentary, opinion

KPMG Toronto

KPMG Building, Toronto

Permalink 11/16/13 13:20, by robert, Categories: Fun, In real life , Tags: architecture, black and white, fine art, toronto

Tower of Chairs

Tower of Chairs

Permalink 10/23/13 16:12, by robert, Categories: Fun, In real life , Tags: fine art, street, toronto, tower of babel

The True Father of TV's Golden Age

Alfred Hitchcock, courtesy Wikiimages

Our current era is often called 'TV's Golden Age.' This is said so often it's almost a cliché, and, like most clichés, it's true.

Still in their first run are Breaking Bad (barely), Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Homeland, and in the not-too-distant past we also had The Sopranos, and yes, I'll throw in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Great shows all, and feel free to include whatever you think I've unfairly overlooked.

In many cases, new episodes of such shows are anticipated by the viewing public more avidly than upcoming theatrical films. All too often, let's also state, the quality of the better breed of TV shows surpasses what's on the 'big screen.'

One could easily  argue in fact - and I'm doing so right now- that this current age of TV represents most of what the Golden Age of Movies and Hollywood had: great writing, great acting, and an emphasis on fast production turnaround. Let's remember that Casablanca was shot in about three weeks, and lots of other classic films in a similar timeframe. That's how they did it old school.

But I would further argue something I don't think anyone else has, that the uncredited forefather of our Golden TV Age is...Alfred Hitchcock. (You probably guessed that from the picture, huh.)

The first TV stations appeared in the US in the early 1950s, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents was already on the airwaves by the fall of 1955. In other words, Hitchcock saw the potential of TV right off the bat. He was the only great filmmaker of his age to see this potential. Often dismissed in his heyday as a merely 'commercial' director and a shameless self-promoter, it's true he was not shy about boosting his career, so one might be tempted to consider his TV show as nothing more than a vehicle created to cash in on his reputation and fame. While no doubt it was to some extent, Hitchcock actually took a strong hand in the production of the show that bore his name. He directed over a dozen episodes, and he set the general tone of what the series would be about saying "...it will be crime as practiced by ordinary people, like the fellow next door."

This formula should sound awfully familiar to fans of Breaking Bad and Walter White. Indeed, dark story lines and macabre humour are a big part of many of our current Golden Age shows, just as they were on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Beyond the story and thematic aspects however, Hitchcock saw another huge potential upside to TV.

It was cheap.

Again, even as far back as the 1950s, Hitchcock deeply resented that stars like Cary Grant got paid more than he did. He felt the director (read central creative force) behind a film should be paid the most and have total control. Today, while there are a few big directors, the power in the movie industry has shifted almost wholly toward the stars and the megaconglomerate studios. In TV however, the central creative force or forces - namely the writers - are in charge. TV is just cheap enough for the money guys to let this happen, and the result is, well...TV can sometimes actually be good.

Except for an 'honorary' award, Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar, which tells you how much of a joke the Oscars have always been. But it just might be true that, thirty years after his death, he's owed an honorary Emmy too.

Permalink 09/22/13 17:39, by robert, Categories: News, Movies , Tags: alfred hitchcock, breaking bad, commentary, film, television

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