Monday, 26 March 2012

Day Three & Some Proper Nikon Palaver

What The Muck?

What the muck?
I've just realised I've no idea where this blog is going to go. Or coming to go for that matter. Is that ok with you? Cool.

Often when I create something, especially an abstract painting, it's the painting which tells me what direction to take as it evolves throughout its production process. This is fine by me. So I'm going to treat this blog, at least in its early days, as an abstract painting.

What I currently (think I) want to do:

  • Write about Dear Nikon
  • Give you new Nikon pics daily
  • Share my Paris street photography
  • Include some technical info for the nerds
  • Talk about my creative and practical decisions
  • Get your feedback, thoughts, comments, suggestions...
  • Make it personal and fun; plenty of blogs already do serious
  • Win friends and influence people

But the style, the format, the presentation... oh dear. Should I offer you a 'before and after' type approach? But I'm not a professional retoucher by a long stretch of the imagination.

Should I make it like my Paris & I blog with a sort of photo chronicle? But that wouldn't be on target or on message according to what I've written so far.

Maybe it should just be a mish-mash of all of the above. But for that to work people would have to like my approach and my words and not just come for hard Nikon factiods, which probably isn't not be my forte, although I'd like to think it might could be.

1) The original mushy, murky picture
Oh, what the muck. I'll just plough right on with whatever comes to my mind as I start each post, slam some thoughts and pics and chat out there and see what happens. Maybe good things. I'm always positive as far as that's concerned.

Take this one for example. The first shot above is a great example to start with. Totally... underexposed. I didn't need to tell you that, did I? Here it is again on the left.

The problem's easy enough to see I guess. Here I was down in one of the disused or 'ghost' stations of the Paris metro with a geeky guide; don't get me wrong: I would LOVE to know what he does about the secrets of all those tubes and tunnels, and believe you me, there are some, and he does.

2) The autofix option, still WAY too dull
Anyway, guess what? I point the camera at white tiles and an ad which has large chunks of... white, and, surprise surprise, out it comes looking like a rugby players shorts after playing in a rainstorm. Would JAV be able to sort that out? Your guess is as good as...

Due to the circumstances (bustling) I wasn't able to employ my favourite and exceedingly simple trick of flipping the exposure up (more on my all-time favourite button many many times over the course of future blog posts, no doubt). So it came down to some simple post-processing.

I'll let you into a secret straight away. I'm no expert. I don't even use Photoshop, for cripes sake. Is this a problem for you? Don't forget: I try to take the very best shots I can as I click; for me the image, not the camera/gear/programs, is king; I'm not rich. Actually, that last one isn't true. I am very rich, because I haven't bought Photoshop. I use a program which seems perfectly adequate to my, simply because I started with it way back when it was a free download I think, and stuck with it as it went through the versions and takeovers / makeovers.

3) Now with added brightness!
It's called Paint Shop Pro. My version's 12 I think, and the latest is 13, oops, sorry, XII and XIII, silly me. I'm a fan, and from what I can see, there are plenty of image manipulation programs out there that give you the basics that I use and produce perfectly acceptable results. I don't work on women's magazine covers or food shots or weddings these days, and generally downgrade my images through various grungy and grimy special effects and whatnot (quality in, garbage out - there's a first ;~S ), so don't need most of what those fancy packages offer. So don't be here for the latest killer Photoshop top tips. Enough said.

What I'm going to offer you there, then, is three steps of my simple processing to see you how I arrived at, for me, a reasonably ok image for my purposes. In this case, my purposes were this blog post, and it took me about 5 minutes.

4) The JAV 'whiteout' effect - where's the ambiance gone?
What you see here is a French colonially-tinged ceramic ad for bleach from yesteryear, with a tastefully anonymised black person (check out the hands, check out the hands, and they're real 3D too!), because back in those days in snobby France, one didn't generally do one's own washing; not if you were the sort to buy JAV bleach, apparently, in any case.

So, it was too dark. We've established this. So I hit the 'easy fix' button in Paint Shop Pro (PSP) and let it work its magic. See how excited I am about post processing..? The result's shown in pic 2.

Now there's a problem with this automatic thingy. Several actually. First of all, it does it all, whatever 'all' is, and you really have no idea what's happened or why. Did PSP know it was a pic of white ceramics in a yellowy-lit old phantom metro station in Paris? No, it probably did not. And this counts. To their credit there's an autofix option you can go into and tweak, so I'll stop whingeing about that.

Second of all, I can't remember this one, but it was a good one, and might come back to me later... (oops!)

Go to AMAZON to get your Paris Photo Chronicles NOW!
And third of all, the danger is, when the new version pops up on the screen and looks, well, better than the original, you'll say, ok, fair enough, that'll do. But generally it won't. Look at pic 2, especially in comparison with pics 3 and 4. It's still way too dark. Those tiles are pure white, don't forget.

In pic 3 I've upped the whites quite a lot, and the blacks a tad, to get a much crisper and punchier shot.

Pic 4 was a test to see what would happen if I de-yellowed it, but in the end it looked like a sanitised hospital ward so I stuck with pic 3 as my (very 'quick and dirty') final version. But hopefully you'll see what I'm doing here, and why. As I've already said, and will say many times again, the initial image is what interests me mostly. If that's no good, then there's no way I'm going to get some seriously great garbage out ;~S

Gotta love those Parisians, huh? See you next time, and don't forget to comment, cheers.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Getting Better All The Time

Day Two (Today) Beats Day One (Yesterday) Hands Down!

Well ok, it's probably a bit premature to say that, but at least my brand new Nikon & Me blog is already looking a bit healthier than yesterday, where my impatience drove me to publish and even publicise it after about half an hour's work on it. Professionalism personified, no?

Better than this? Can it be possible..?!
But those of  you that know me already will realise that I'm of the 'Ready-Fire!-Aim' mentality. I much prefer to get something out there, get reactions and then get working on making it better. I can't stand sitting around doing nothing, or even sitting around doing something if I don't think I'll be able to publish it, hopefully get some sort of reaction, and move on to the next thing. I think there's even a medical name for it, but I don't know you well enough to go there yet!

So, the reason d'être for this blog, as I mentioned yesterday, is multifold, but hopefully very clear.
  1. To talk about the wonderful world of street photography in all its grimy glory.

  2. To chat about the gear I use, which happens to be Nikon (and the odd cracked iPhone), in all its glory and occasional failings.
I've just written to Nikon, who have just invited me to go and see the new D800, D800E and of course the flagship D4.

I told them about this blog and asked them to do something nice for me for it - we'll see what they come up with! But I also told them that much as I love Nikon, it's the image that comes first, not the camera, and that this blog is an enthusiast's independent effort. Which means even if they gave me a free D800, I still wouldn't hesitate to say if I didn't think the build quality was up to scratch or whatever.

Well OK, hopefully it's a 'bit' better...
Actually, that was probably the biggest lie I've ever told, I'd kiss smelly old Bert from the warehouse's ass if they were going to give me a free D800, but that's another story ;~S

But seriously, what I do intend doing is providing great inspirational and sometimes educational street photos, as well as telling you about Nikon gear and anything else that comes to hand or mind.

In very visibly tying this blog to one manufacturer, you might think I've seriously limited my audience. But it's not like that at all. As I also said to my as yet nameless and faceless Nikon contact, this initiative isn't to mindlessly say that Nikon is by default the best, nor to criticise the other manufacturers. It's to celebrate street photography. But for me that's not enough. There are too many people doing that already; I needed a hook, a gimmick if you like, to set this blog apart from the rest. And to be honest, if I only ever get readers who are Nikon enthusiasts, I don't think I'll be doing too badly.

All the photographic principles I'll be discussing here, though, are equally valid for any photographer, so I hope you won't be scared away if you're not a Nikon user, in many cases that will be irrelevant. Maybe I'll get known as 'that Nikon street photo guy', which could be worse, but in the end I'm just a street photographer, doing my best to produce good, worthy images, and to a great extent I consider that the equipment should be almost invisible.

The starting point is an idea, or feeling you have as you walk around. And the end point is the picture that someone else can look at and hopefully admire. Where is the camera in the final assessment? Does the person who is enjoying your pictures needing to be touching the camera you use to take them? No. And very often that's the last thing they care about.

Go to AMAZON to get your Paris Photo Chronicles NOW!
We, as photographers, do care, and care a lot. We generally love our cameras. They are our babies. However. And it's a big 'however'. There are camera clubs or groups where people get together to talk about 'photography'. But what this often turns into is a kind of macho competition to see who's got the biggest zoom lens, or the most pixels or the fastest ISO. This is hilarious and I don't do it. Well, I try not to.

Of course, as a guy, I do actually want to have the biggest lens and the most pixels and the highest ISO, but I'm not going to shout about it and I'm certainly not going to spend evenings salivating over superlatives when I could be out shooting. For me, shooting is everything. And anyway, with my new D800, when it comes, I'll probably have twice as many pixels as all those 'small-pixel' guys down the camera club.

OK, just when you think you've got me sussed, let me possibly prove you wrong. A don't actually want one of those huge zoom monsters - it's a total disaster for the sort of street work I do, and more about that as the weeks and months go by down here on Nikon & Me.

Also, 36 million pixels? 36 million?! What the hell am I gonna do with 36 million friggin' pixels, for crying out loud? I barely need 36 thousand for some of my images, almost all of which are destined for the web or eBooks. I can't even remember the last time I printed out a picture. 36 million pixels, I ask you.

As for high ISO, now that I do like, and, guess what... hey, it's not that amazing on the new D800! Great. The one thing I do need for my night work isn't anywhere as good as it could be. Having said that, I believe Nikon are saying it's still pretty darn good, so I'll take their word for it and tell you when I have it in my hot sweaty hands.

That's enough for today. From tomorrow we'll get down to chatting about some D700 pics and, although I don't want to be negative, I'll tell you the one thing that really bugs me about it. What do you think that might be?! Indeed, let's have a bitch session: what don't you like about the otherwise god-like D700? The comments box is below. Oh, and a big thanks to the 200 or so of you who stopped by yesterday to see the piece of crap this blog was after 30 minutes (literally) of existence. Hopefully the title I chose for this piece is true! See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Welcome to the Weirdness

Hi everyone. We're living in excting times. The D800 has just been released, as has the iPad 3. Street photography has never been so popular and technology has never been rushing ahead as quickly as it is today. As I said, exciting times.

A bit of background, and an apology. The latter first. Sorry about the appearance of this blog. When I have an idea, I execute, and that isn't boasting. Normally impatience, a sort of blind enthusiasm and a good dose of sheer stupidity drive my creative decisions. I pay the price.

Hence the raw, Blogger-created blog I'm offering you today (complete with sexy Blogger-bar up top!!!) in my rush to get new content out there. Some of you will hopefully understand what's driving this. Changes will come, and they'll come quickly. It may end up looking suspiciously like this. In the meantime, enjoy the crudity - it's all part of the creative process and I 'assume' it, as the French would say.

Raison d'Être

So a bit of background to let you know where you are, and why you might want to hang around.

This blog is about street photography taken with Nikon gear. Personally, my motivation for photography has nothing to do with the equipment and everything to do with 'the eye'. So why this insistence on Nikon? Because I think I owe them one.

I love everything about Nikon; the cameras, the lenses, the look, the feel and yes, even the name does it for me.

As a disclaimer, in the end I would take my photos with whatever equipment came to hand, and frequently do, but this blog is a homage to the brand which lets my street photography shine and I don't intend changing any time soon.

Welcome, One & All

If you don't use Nikon, or aren't interested in their gear, this blog can still be for you, as the majority of the stuff I'll share here will be pure street photography, where the actual camera is irrelevant; either you have 'the eye' or you don't, and what you happen to be cradling in your hand is irrelevant. But as I've claimed that the equipment is irrelevant for so long now, I'm getting a bit fed up with NOT being a bit of a geek, as I actually love my camera with a vengeance, and so I'm now giving myself an official platform to chat about it to my heart's desire, whatever anyone may say.

Don't feel alienated or sore if you're a Canon or Sony or Pentax or Leica or Panasonic or Olympus or Samsung or Lomo or Box Brownie fan - me too! These companies produce fabulous cameras and will allow your street photography to shine just as well (ok, almost, he he ;~S ) as Nikon, and 90% of what I'll post here should be of interest. But there will be a definite Nikon slant, discussing the features of the cameras I happen to be using, the pros and cons, my favourite techniques, but above all, street photography, pur et dur, again as the French would say.

I'm no technical wizard, I'm a street photographer, so you won't be getting any geeky graphs about god-knows what technical specification. I look at images, not graphs, and I humbly advise you to do the same if you want your street photography to be worth anything at all.

The French Connection

And why all this French nodding and winking? Because I'm a Paris street photographer and nothing else. I mean, I do do other stuff, but as far as photography is concerned, I've dedicated my creative photographic life to the Paris street.

Sometimes I don't even take a camera with me when visiting an exciting and exotic foreign city. You might think that's crazy, but that's because you don't know about my relationship with the French capital. It goes deeper than geography or demographics.

It's a visceral thing, and I would almost be betraying my adopted home, which has saved me more than once, if I pointed my lens at any other city with the same love I feel for this place. Crazy and stupid, I know, but that's the way it is, and I assume it!

My Story

So, I think that'll do for the moment. Except to say that I've been in street photography for many years now, I have a similar blog to this one dedicated to iPhone Paris street photography, I do private Paris photo, history and curiosity tours for enthusiasts, I have published hundreds of street photography tips videos on You Tube and, well, I'm nuts about the topic and can't wait to start chatting with you guys about it.

Comments are absolutely vital to this project. So please comment! Welcome to the weirdness of my world, and I mean that most sincerely, the welcome and the weirdness, because life's like that!

Sab, Saturday, 24th March, 2012 (for posterity, we'll be getting to know each other quite well, so let's note this important moment for the records)

P.S. This blog is, in the end, all about cutting edge street photography, where I'll be competing with the masters of many decades ago (it's not really a competition, of course) to create images which count. I'll probably come out wanting, but in the end, it's all about the photography. By that I mean the images, not the grains or pixels, much as I love 'em. What I really wanted to say here (getting to know me already?) was that you may have noticed a certain preponderance for doggies in the introductory shots above. This is not a coincidence. I'm currently embroiled in a delicate process of convincing partner that I really should, at the ripe old age of 46, have the dog I never had as a kid. Someone to keep me company on my long perambulations around the city I'll be showing you. Watch this space, and watch out for doggy doo-doos, although I'll definitely be clearing up after any unfortunate events, promise. Oh, and if you've made it this far, thanks!