Author Archives: thenervousphotographer

Photojournalism Blues

Five Questions Photojournalists Get Asked

and How to Resolve Them

Lately, I’ve been working as a freelance photographer for my local newspaper, mostly covering high school events. It’s a great gig and I get to learn something new from some talented people everyday. But I’ve also had some bad days where I didn’t get the shot I was looking for and just wanted to get the cutline info and run.

Either way, here are five questions that need not be asked of photojournalists and what you, dear photojournalist, can learn from them:

 

  1. Did you get any good pictures?

Well, of course I did! I’m a brilliant photographer! Can’t you see that by the big press pass I’m wearing?

DSC_7409Joking aside, this is a question that either can rub a photojournalist the wrong way or simply be irrelevant. For example, as a sports photographer, I don’t get a lot of time to review my work in the field. I’m so focused on the game because I don’t want to miss anything. That being said, when I do occasionally check a photograph while in the field, I’m merely doing it for autofocus accuracy. That tiny LCD screen really doesn’t give me enough detail to know if I’ve got a real winner until I’ve put the pictures on my laptop.

Some photojournalists might beg to differ (mostly because they’re usually on a tighter time crunch than I am), but my point is that I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch. If you really want to know if I got a good photograph or not, go grab a paper and see for yourself. The thought of an image being a “good picture” usually doesn’t hit me until 30 minutes before deadline anyway.

What to Learn PJ: Suck it up and let your big ego take the fall or politely say yes and pretend that you are the best photographer in the world. Either way, this isn’t a question to lose your cool over.

 

  1. Can I have those pictures?

No. Period.

Look, as an up-and-coming freelancer, I try to please everybody and make as many profitable acquaintances as I can. But when you are working for someone else, the photographs go to them. There are exceptions to this, like if the paper you are working for actually recognizes you as a freelancer and says that it’s okay for you to sell photos to other people. But if you are a freelance photojournalist, the best habit to get into is to tell others that they can’t have it until it’s published. That way your newspaper doesn’t get angry at you for giving away their scoop, you have ample time to edit, and the potential clients on the other side aren’t hounding you at the same time as your actual boss.

What to learn PJ: If you are a full-time photojournalist, it’s no until they are printed. If you are a freelancer, it’s no until you’ve finished editing them.

 

  1. Can you please (__________)?

Really? You are asking me to do this now?

This is usually a really open-ended topic that can cover a multitude of things that can come up. The point of it is that the photojournalist’s job is to take photographs. He’s not there to do the meet-and-greet with everyone who walks into the event, chaperone kids, do clean up, DJ, take shout-outs from another group, etc. His job isn’t to provide favors. He’s there on the job to create photographs, whether he likes it or not.

I hasten to add that last part because I am currently working two jobs to provide for myself. That is certainly nothing new to any working photographer, but when you come off of a full shift from your other job to do photojournalism, you want to do just that. It’s not that you can’t do the task the subject asks for or that you don’t want to, it’s just that it’s not the reason why you are at the location. I’ve learned to turn down the offer or bring about another solution that doesn’t involve detracting me from my work.

This also involves paying for things. If the venue you are assigned to photograph asks you to pay for an entrance fee, kindly remind them that you are working (and basically giving the contributing parties free advertising). If they still insist, don’t make a scene over it. The photographs come first. So, simply pay for it and get some kind of receipt so that your boss can reimburse you.

DSC_8479

However, this works both ways. Sometimes, it is a real kind gesture that could be in your best interest. Like, when someone with more experience than you offers up an angle that you hadn’t thought of. In this case, the kindness of strangers can work to your mutual advantage. Just be sure to thank them in case the photograph actually makes it in print.

What to Learn PJ: Glean the habit of every single politician: deny, deny, deny.

 

  1. Why are you asking this question?

Well, it’s because I moonlight as a serial killer and I like to keep my options open.

Look, most photojournalists know what they are asking and if it’s an acceptable inquiry within the parameters of the story. However, if there is any doubt about a question, asking this same question to yourself about the line of questioning you just brought forth could bring about the answer. For instance, here’s a couple of questions that can be modified to get the same result but appear more professional:

  • Can I have your phone number?

This is an easy question to ask and an even easier one to get a rebuttal. If they ask why, simply state why: “Oh, I may need to follow up for more info”, or “Just in case there is something more you would like to add”. An easier way of getting the answer for this is to ask for a business card. It is the most professional way of getting a phone number and correct spelling of their name as quickly as possible. If there isn’t a professional reason for this one, then you should probably be looking into another line of work.

  • Are you single? (or similar, more personal questions)

A great question if you are doing a survey designed to target a certain demographic. Otherwise, there are better ways to pick up chicks. If you need to ask this question, lead with the “why” out front. It will put both parties on a level playing field and give the recipient peace of mind.

  • What was that experience like for you?

This is a tread lightly question. If it’s asking about someone’s day at a carnival, it’s pretty self explanatory. If it’s to ask a victim of domestic abuse, the ice is razor thin. This question obviously depends upon the occasion, but one thing to note is that you can usually get all that you need by working around this question with a series of other questions. “Did you like the cotton candy?”, “How was the Ferris Wheel?” “What was one of the attractions that you would recommend?” By being specific, an overall picture can be formed. The danger, however, is when photojournalists (or reporters for that matter) make conclusions based upon assumptions. That’s why being specific with specific questions is as important as being general with general questions.

Another thing to factor in with this question is time. If you are covering a sports event and a player is injured, don’t ask them about it while they are hollering in pain. The information can be reached from another source, like an athletic trainer (God willing), or when the athlete can function on their own a couple of days later. Then a question that appears like an apathetic stab in the back at the time can become an inquiry of genuine concern in the eyes of a victim.

The point is to have reason backup a line of questioning rather than mere curiosity.

What to Learn PJ: Personal vs Professional. Look up the definitions and define your questions in this light before asking them.

 

  1. What is your opinion?

Well, Pat, I think our President should win the highest award available for turning our economy around and Making America Great Again!

Yeah, you really don’t want to hear my opinion. It’s not that photojournalists don’t have opinions (because we do) or that we don’t want to contribute (because we really do!), but keeping our jobs are more important than stewing in the latest gossip. We stay objectified so that you can draw your own conclusions upon the facts.

My thoughts on the matter during an event aren’t much help either. Again, rather recently, I was coming home from a basketball game when I ran into a police barricade. The information I got from the first police officer was that they were searching for a wanted suspect. That is all I had. Suffice to say, that didn’t stop people from asking me a myriad of questions: “What was that explosion? What’s going on? Do you know who it is? When did this happen?” I mean, it’s nice to know that people do recognize when there is a reporter/photojournalist on scene and would like to be informed. In this particular instance, I think that giving out any such information would be more vital to the safety of the readers than the potential scoop the next day. But I still had nothing to give them. I was as clueless as they were.

So, in this moment, all I could offer was opinion. I will admit that I did slip here and input some speculation into my rhetoric as I talked with a couple of people. When caught up in the moment, it just happens.

But this is why we even have the term “fake news”. Whether it’s a time crunch, a slip of the tongue, or just plain journalistic laziness, we screw up and misinform the general audience. Not only do the facts walk out the door, but they take their good friend integrity with them. This is why it is so important to leave all opinions and bias out on the windowsill when you first bake them. Give them time to cool, and a delicious editorial can spring from the end product. Throw them away, and you’ll give your audience a healthy meal of news. But if you jump on them right away, all that you will accomplish is getting burned.

I know this all sounds like something only a reporter would need to care about, but the photographs I took of the event were just about as lackluster in information as the story. Simply making sure that you don’t add your own twist to the story through your image, which is a massive discussion altogether, is what’s most important.

DSC_9062In this instance, simply choosing a shot of the police officer in blue light instead of red gives a more objective view. Not only does the blue light offer more light on the subjects, but it also gives the subliminal impression that the officer is helping the pedestrian. It’s a cool, calm color. Red, on the other hand, could mean anger and violence. If the red light from the police car is used, some people could interpret the event as a confrontation rather than a helpful conversation (which was the fact of the event).

So, the next time someone asks for something you don’t know about, kindly remind them that your job is to report “just the facts, ma’am”.

What to Learn PJ: Kill the canary before he confesses the family career. Hold the tongue, and keep your opinions to yourself!

Well, I hope that helps you have peace of mind, dear photojournalists, the next time you happen upon these sorts of inquisitive bystanders. Regardless, I hope my experiences in the field have given you a chance to reflect on your own encounters and learn from them.

(DISCLAIMER: Though this is meant to help photojournalists, it’s mostly satire; so please don’t stop asking us questions! We do appreciate the interest.)

A study for the true meaning of Thanksgiving Day

What do you think about when you think of Thanksgiving? The food-focused holiday probably comes to mind is a turkey dinner, a presidential turkey pardoning and a bunch of turkeys all waiting in line for Black Friday sales. But is that what Thanksgiving is truly about?

thanksgiving_menu_quantico_virginia_1938_page_1_of_2_6348162538

Photograph from USMC Archives in Wikimedia Commons

 

In elementary school, many people may have been taught that the first Thanksgiving was about the American Indians providing a feast for the Pilgrims. The two groups sat down, said a prayer and dug in — instantly creating this November holiday.

However, this depiction of the Thanksgiving Day holiday isn’t the whole story.

For starters, the actual definition of Thanksgiving Day, as stated in the American People’s Encyclopedia, is thus: “Thanksgiving Day, the annual fall festival in the United States set aside for giving thanks to God for the blessings of the past year. It is celebrated with church services and family gatherings as one of the great American feast days. The date is the fourth Thursday in November.”

The encyclopedia continues to explain the first “Thanksgiving proclamation in America” — where the Pilgrim hunters “provided a number of wild turkeys” and the American Indians brought venison. But we have to get into the meat, so to speak, of the article to realize that this as an example rather than a definition.

hollenthon_-_erntedank_03

Photograph from Steindy in Wikimedia Commons

 

In other words, an “annual fall festival for giving thanks to God” hardly resembles the modern perception. But it seems that the definition is apt for past Thanksgivings.

Though it wasn’t recognized annually and with an exact date until the Civil War, Thanksgiving Day was practiced in times when blessings were being counted most.

After the American Revolution, the holiday was recommended in 1784 by Congress because of the exhaustive war for independence. In 1815, after the War of 1812, President Madison set aside a day for Thanksgiving in November. Sparking a custom of proclamations by governors, his act kept the custom alive for nearly 50 years. Finally, in 1863 at the behest of lifelong campaigner Mrs. Sara J. Hale, Abraham Lincoln issued a national Thanksgiving proclamation which set the official date as the fourth Thursday in November.

The transition to what we now know as Thanksgiving Day started with Franklin D. Roosevelt. Though Lincoln had proclaimed the fourth Thursday of the month as Thanksgiving, the custom with the succeeding presidents was the last Thursday. Roosevelt, according to Archives.org, changed it back to the second to last Thursday in November because he was “concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen the economic recovery.”

However, this created a rift in the states who didn’t want to change the old custom. So Congress enacted a resolution in 1941 to make the fourth Thursday of November the official date of Thanksgiving. The resolution also gave the day its name and made it “a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes.”

From then on, it seems that the definition of Thanksgiving Day has become more synonymous with awkward dinner conversations, Black Friday stampedes, and four day weekends. The “thanks” in Thanksgiving Day was lost in the gravy. The blessings that were once cherished now sit in the liner next to the Natural Resources Defence Council’s estimated 203 million pounds of wasted turkey we could hardly stomach.

One of our previous presidents recognized this and had some advice for all of us in his Proclamation of Thanksgiving Day almost 44 years to the date: “Today, in an age of too much fashionable despair, the world more than ever needs to hear America’s perennial harvest message: “Take heart, give thanks. To see clearly about us is to rejoice; and to rejoice is to worship the Father; and to worship Him is to receive more blessings still.”

In conclusion be grateful for what you have, rejoice in it, and praise God for the blessings bestowed. Funny how it took President Nixon to state the definition of Thanksgiving. Granted, he said it after being reelected with 521 electoral votes.

So, after this little history lesson, I’d like to ask: What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?


IMA Final Project: Minolta SRT102 Review

Finally! A review devoted to a camera!

Well, I mean, it’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it is a review nonetheless. If anything, it shows that you can create decent video with an entry-level DSLR. But I digress…

For this video, I used a Nikon D3300 and a Nikon 18-200mm DX lens, Audacity for the monologue, and Videopad with the NCH software for the video editing. Since I didn’t have the time or the resources for Premiere, I used freeware instead and I am all the better off. Let’s just hope that Premiere doesn’t come back around to bite me later. But back to the task at hand.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

                             A sample image taken with the Minolta SRT102

Most of what is in the video was shot on the same day. Little planning was used (except for a rudimentary script), and my expectations were low for the final result. However, I am impressed with my “presenter” (whom I will leave as nameless per request) for putting up with my “one more take” line. It’s rough for both parties when you aren’t sure of what you are doing, but hey, it’s my first time making this kind of video!

And now I can be done with it!

Sidenote: Yes, I noticed the copyright logo and I have no idea how to fix it. Considering that is on multiple websites with different users posting it though, I think the legal issue is null and void. I just want to say though, if the volvere.fi photographer reads this, I get it when people steal images. I’ve had mine stolen and… that’s not a justification for what I’ve done. But I will definitely credit you here: THIS VOLVO PICTURE IS FROM “VOLVERE.FI”. I DID NOT TAKE OR MAKE THIS PHOTO.

 

 


“Professional” Practice: A Day in the Office of The Torch

Per usual, it’s around one o’clock and the newsroom is sluggish. Walking onto campus last Monday, still excited from dropping off some film for development at Dotdotsons, I took a brisk walk down the asphalt and concrete pathways into the basement of the Center Building. Passing, and almost running into one of the patrons of the clothing outlet near the restrooms, I quickly bade my apologies, stepped headlong down the hallway, and trod into The Torch’s newsroom.

Dusty, cluttered, and most assuredly worn, the newsroom always feels like a step into another time. Sparing the seven-year-old Macintosh’s, the feeling of many up and coming reporters, photojournalists, designers, and editors from years past excites the old spark of glory days. That is , until you take a seat in one of the dusty chairs.

Moving past Andre, our editor-in-chief and boss, I glanced over to see him munching on a burrito as he tapped on his laptop and chatted with Zach, our layout manager. Thinking nothing of the conversation, I made my way to the rear desks. Depositing my backpack, lunchbox, and camera bag, I casually grabbed my own laptop and returned to the two. Taking my seat at the head of a faded red couch, I caught the drift of homework as their main topic of discussion. Boisterous as usual, Andre explained how he couldn’t decide on which designer to pick for his movie monster poster project. He had an idea of what he wanted, yet he wasn’t sure of his choice.

By now, as I worked on cut-lines and searched for information, my usual eavesdropping had caught Zach at a loss for designers. He kept noting “blocky text” and with a quick lap through my mind, I remembered Saul Bass. “You mean Saul Bass?” I blurted out. “Yeah,” he responded. They continued on like this until I once again interrupted.

“So how was the trip?” I asked, referring to the convention that Andre, Zack, and about four other members of the Torch took to L.A.

“We won best in show,” Andre responded.

“What does that mean?” I asked. “Like overall, or…”

“We won Best in Show for a two-year college,” he explained, referring to the paper that we publish weekly.

“Where’s the paper that won?” Zach asked. “And do we have any papers from the other schools that entered?”

“No,” Andre replied smugly, “We have all of them.” Retreating to his office, and then returning with a black tote bag, he then proceeded to dump all of the contesting newspapers onto the table for us to have a look at them. It was about this time that our photo editor, Kira, our faculty adviser, Dorothy, and copy chief, Keasey had entered my mind. They were probably there beforehand, but as one who usually gets lost in the tasks at hand, when I had ditched my laptop for a newspaper, I saw that they had all gathered to see their fellow competition’s work.

It was a blast seeing what other people had done and being able to smartly state that we were the best at something. I mean, sure, the Torch has had it’s ups and downs, and tonight wouldn’t be any different. But it felt good to know that we (well, minus me and the multimedia crew, Johnny and Gina) had created something worth awarding.

But what does this have to do with professional practice? Nothing really, it’s really just a long winded setup, with some bragging, and a way to quietly tick away the word count while hopefully entertaining and informing you. I’m an anecdotal writer, so sue me! Anyways, the professional practices bit didn’t come until later. So, as I was saying…

We all enjoyed the magazines while we waited for the others to show up. Andre had his managerial meeting while I snacked on trail mix and worked on… well, let’s pretend I was working. Waiting in line for the assignment meetings can get loathsome at best, especially when you are the only one there on the lower staff. Showing up early does not win you any badges in this bunch. But it does get your work done in one of the most laid back atmospheres I have ever had the pleasure to work in.

Continuing on, John (a photojournalist, and one who can write) and Charlie (our other academic advisor) arrived in their usual flair: John with a “hello” and Charlie with a flamboyant “Congratulations on the win!”. What we would ever get done without John’s reporting and Charlie’s wit I say is a mystery. So the time ticks away and before I know it, three o-clock has splayed itself upon the clock face and what I had shown up for has finally arrived: the assignment meeting.

This is where the preoccupied suddenly meets the professional. This, and the workshops every other Wednesday, are the true events of what anyone who enjoyed their work would consider the actual job portion. The meetings are usually tedious, but highly informative; and provide the groundwork for what makes us better at our jobs everyday. This is about the time when Gina arrived and good old Keasey took his place at the high chair for the beginning of the assignment meeting.

As blunt as using a sledgehammer to chop carrot sticks, the first words to come out of his mouth were: “Pitches (for stories) have been really light this week. It’s a requirement, right? Without pitches, you don’t get paid.” Well, that’s Keasey for you. But it’s that blunt sense of honesty that I most appreciate and what ultimately has led to a great respect for him in the newsroom. It also lends to making his teaching more personal and constructive; something I think all of The Torch team admires.

After his spiel, and his “I love you guys” after realizing how tense the room had become, we all dove into the assignment. Fortunately for us, we get to pick and choose our work. It not only qualifies us in honing our craft, but also gives us more confidence for when we have to step out of our comfort zones. I, naturally, took on sports with Kylee (a new reporter), Kira took on dancing, John went to town on construction, and Gina took on video editing. All in all, pretty light in both turnout (with no reporters showing up to the meeting) and assignments (we pitched as fast as we could think of something). But we got it done.

The assignment meetings, in terms of a professional practice, are ones of tenacity, learning, and the collective good. They promote perseverance by way of a deadline, create an environment of obstacles to hurdle, and in the end, help everyone who is involved not only to produce a paper, yet to better our fellow coworkers as well. It gives us structure at the expense of other classes/life obligations. The downside is that this isn’t a place where your schedule will be as flexible as a regular job. But it is one where your work will be highly valued and your participation is worth more than gold. It’s a difficult balance, and one that I have repeatedly thought of giving up. Day after day, I find it harder to justify because of constantly looming homework assignments. But I always feel that it is a decision that I would regret making.

DSC_6540

           (Zach Russell, layout director for The Torch newspaper, plays pirate with a 500mm Japanese-made lens as he and other members rummage through the photo editor’s desk in the basement of the Center Building, Monday. However, designed for a camera, he could not get the resulting image to focus properly. Feb. 22, 2016.)

For instance, just after the meeting, when everyone is usually ready to leave or work on finalizing their projects, John, Zach, Kira, and I began rummaging through the hollow cabinets and creaky shelves in awe of the treasure trove of random multimedia gear. From an expensive Canon L-lens all the way down to a floppy disk with track photographs from 1997, we had a blast foraging.

It’s for those little moments, and so many more, that I would hate to leave it. I know Teresa Hughes or John Meyers, my current teachers, would gladly see it leave my agenda for punctual attendance and more professional assignments. But I think that I’ll stick with it just a little while longer.

And as for The Torch paper that won? It was the MLK edition that made the grade. Who knew that we were that good at making newspapers?


Video Editing Project-Homework.

Ah, at it again with another post all based around homework.

 

I promise that I’ll get back to cameras and lenses… eventually. But back to the topic.

This was a last minute ordeal. Too much work and too little time management skills on my part really ruined a good opportunity. Then again, it also lent me a gratifying illusion: free time. Taking this assignment as an excuse for a break from everything else and exploring my campus as a personal project, I simply shot what I see everyday in the pattern of five. Five flowers, five modes of transportation, five signs… you get the gist.

Honesty, all I wanted to accomplish with this project was to complete it. It sounds bad, but all I really like about video is the compilation/editing. I personally think that for an editing project that the project should be based around an established video and edited. For example, taking the epic The Ten Commandments, and editing it down to five minutes with a coherent storyline. That, to me, would be closer to the point of the assignment. But I do get how creating content is key to becoming a better media artist.

All in all, it was simply a nice break from everything else. It’s certainly not video heavy, but then again, it’s not my forte.


Audio Project: Meeting Marvin

f9809465143dad7e9ec42e637b958dd7

(Image pulled from Google images. If you’re the owner and don’t want it here then please say so!)

By: Christopher Palanuk

Not all of what I do is photography. Sometimes (and usually when class requires it) I dabble in audio or writing. In this case, I did both. It’s not much in terms of good. It’s probably bad, and most likely ugly, but it was rather fun.

I just took a excerpt from a random idea I had and fleshed it into spoken word. Unfortunately, with only three minutes, I wasn’t able to even get to the themes I wanted to tackle (sexism, racism, justification of violence/language, how ridiculous some stories are in video games). Yet, overall, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to have made it.

The technical data definitely should have been stronger. The atmosphere, or lack thereof, needed to be improved. The backdrop was supposed to be an equivalent to an icy snow planet and there isn’t one hint of that in the ambiance. Another hiccup was that there wasn’t a female voice actor. So, sadly, the robotic voice and the “female” voice sound roughly the same because of both being my voice differentiated only by pitch. Ah, well.

Some backdrop: One high level programmer (female), who built part of a new virtual reality console, is tasked with fixing it. Unfortunately, it’s problem is located virtually, not physically. So, to combat the program’s dangers, she hires a random character (the hero), to help her get to the problem (Ironic, right? Trying to tackle sexism in video games and a male hero is used to physically help the female sidekick? Oh well.). When they enter the world, they meet a rather unusual character… and that’s where the sound-byte begins.

SO…. what do you think?


Blog Search: The Leica Camera Blog Review

 

Capture

By: Christopher Palanuk

The main home page can be found here.

There isn’t much that happens in the world of Leica cameras that I really can say I care about. The price of such cameras are about as much as a car, are ridiculously old fashioned in regards to their technology (most of the time), and don’t really seem to carry enough image quality to say that they are of the highest standard.

Yet, as I was searching for a reasonable blog to use, this one caught my eye. I do not normally use blogs for photography; rather I search for statistics on gear or will a buy a book rather than read opinion articles on what people like and don’t like. That’s just me. But the layout intrigued me. So, I continued further.

What I chose from the blog was this particular interview: http://blog.leica-camera.com/?s=kai+man+wong, where the popular host of Digitalrev was asked various questions. It’s very well done, in terms of questions asked and formatting for easy, simple reading.

The site, as a whole, is well organized and most important, categorized. Each major body of work published can be found under the words “photographer”, “stories”, and “made with”, with subcategories under these. If there is something specific that the viewer is interested in, there is a search bar near the bottom of the homepage for the focused web-surfer.

As for the information on the Leica blog, it could be better in terms of the who, what, where, why, and how for most of the interviews. I wish there were some outside sources for some of it, like for the Oskar Barnack Awards, but otherwise it’s great for the web.

I’d suggest checking it out. If not for the interviews, then certainly for the pictures!

 


Exploring Lane Community College Campus

 

This is an exploration of my campus, Lane Community College, and the finishing of a assignment, The Scavenger Hunt. Here are the photographs from that experiment.

DSC_8466

The Equipment Checkout Counter

DSC_7510

“The Blue Cyc Wall”

DSC_8497

Center for Student Engagement

DSC_8503

Main Art Gallery

DSC_7494

The “Art-O-Mat”

DSC_8506

“Identifier” in the Library

DSC_7657

“Large Silver Sculpture”

DSC_8504

Mary Jo Kreindel’s “Office”

DSC_8510

Media Creation Lab

DSC_8516

Judy Gates Office

DSC_8513

The Indy Lab

DSC_8519

The Flag(s)

DSC_8495

“Creative” Construction Shot

      Anyways, it’s just a little glance at LCC, but there is so much more! I may upload some more later!

Christopher


Talking to Myself… by: Christopher Palanuk

DSC_7623

If ever there was something that I hated talking about, especially online, it’s about myself. I don’t mind it so much when it’s between friends over trivial things or posting about cool new equipment I’ve added to my camera bag. But when the task is asked of a person every college term, it starts to wear on said person as a redundant filler for a teacher’s agenda. I’m not saying that teachers who use this assignment aren’t caring or don’t have anything else to use. However, I do feel that there are greater subjects to contemplate for breaking in new forms of media. But, I digress.

Working through the Media Arts program in college, I am currently focused upon photography and how to hone my craft. It’s not only become a hobby of mine, as well as a pursuit of a career, but also as a current “job”. I personally don’t know if you can consider a school newspaper as an official place of employment, yet it does fit the criteria of the definition. Either way, it is a rewardable experience with an enjoyable way to learn.

More to the point of an autobiography, I enjoy listening to pop/rock, killing time studying other artist’s works, and flipping through Super Chevy magazines. If there is one thing that tops them all, however, (and as you may have already guessed), grabbing a camera and hitting the bricks. It doesn’t matter where, when, or even what (most of the time). So long as there is film in the camera case, I’m shooting and always searching for the next big thing. For me, it’s therapy.

Copy - DSC_3814

It’s always rewarding to have pics like this, too.

Now to wrap this all up: This is me in a nutshell; it may not be all of me, but it’s enough to keep me within the 300 word count.

 


Lenses: Is Old Truly Gold? (feat. Sakar 28mm)

411824111_d46ecd644c_z

Ah, lenses. No matter how many a photographer owns, somehow he can always find an excuse to buy one more. Case and point, I found myself shopping at a used camera store looking for an affordable, quality lens. What I came up with was…well… an odd little compromise.

I had been longing for a prime lens, a lens with which you use your feet to “zoom”, and one with a larger aperture for better macro and portrait shots. A prime lens was no problem to find. Like a kid looking for sugar as the main ingredient in a candy store, I was able to quickly amass a slew of primes to choose from. There were even a couple that did everything that I wanted. But the best part was walking away from the store feeling like a million bucks. The price: $25. The catch? It was a 28mm Sakar f2.8.

DSC_3406

WHAT?” “A SAKAR?” “TWENTY-EIGHT MILLIMETERS FOR MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY?” “I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT F2.8 STANDS FOR!” If you are in the first couple of questions, let me address your adamant concerns or disgust in the next paragraph. As for those who are new here, (considering this is my first post, that includes all of you), or are new to photography, let me back the lorry up and unload some packages of insight:

1.)  Twenty-eight millimeters, or as it is printed on a lens “28mm”, is considered to be a “wide angle” lens. The smaller the “focal length“, the larger the field of view. These are lenses which take in a larger field of view than a “standard” lens, or one that has the rough equivalent of what your eye sees naturally. For proper definitions, I have posted some links here and here. (For those experienced photographers with doubts and counterarguments rumbling in your throats, I understand that this isn’t the best explanation for wide angle or standard lenses. It’s just an easier explanation for those who haven’t picked up on it yet. Feel free to correct me below… and skip the beginner explanations.)

2.) The f-stop, or f-number, is literally the size of the hole in the lens. The smaller the f-number, the larger the hole is. This, in turn, is one factor that determines how much light is allowed to enter the camera. The technical term for the hole itself is aperture. To be clear, the f-stop is the numeric size and the aperture is the hole. The other factor of how much light is let in is shutter speed, but that’s another topic.

3.) Macro photography is a type of photography simply based on getting close to a subject to bring out previously unnoticed details or enhancing such details. Pictures of arachnids, insects, and flowers spring to mind…

spider 1

(Isn’t he cute? I mean, you know, if he didn’t look like he was going to swallow you whole after his moon-age daydream…)

4.) Finally, Sakar is a company that produces third party lenses, now seemingly rebranded as Vivitar and Kodak. You can check out what they are up to here.

OK, now that both sides are on a somewhat equal ground, we can move on to the actual discussion. Needless to say, I bought this lens for all the right reasons, with one of the worst focal lengths for my actual wants/needs. The good: there’s good bokeh, reasonably sharp images, and gets closer than a Nikon E series 28mm. The bad: It’s too wide for proper subject isolation even at f2.8, close isn’t close enough for macro, and it has only reasonably sharp images.

But what does any of this have to do with new vs old lenses? Well, since this lens is so old that it doesn’t even meter on my Nikon D3300, the question is why even go old-school? There’s no auto-focus, no special coatings, no metering, the elements are hand ground (that’s a guess on my part), and no vibration reduction. What’s the point of getting a used lens in comparison to a new equivalent?

Now, I could compare this lens to another and decide which is sharper, has better contrast, less distortion, etc. But since I don’t have anything but the Nikon 18-55mm VR2 kit lens, it would be a very apples-to-oranges comparison. A prime vs zoom lens comparison with these two lenses would be a very sad conclusion indeed, not to mention that it’s almost impossible to find 28mm on the kit lens.

So, to reach a conclusion, and wrap up what is becoming a rather long-in-the-tooth post, I’ve decided to go for the reasons why to go for the teachable rather than the technical.

For one, a prime lens makes you think. Composition becomes a conscientious factor rather than an afterthought and what is chosen to be removed from the frame suddenly becomes more important than what is put in. This becomes extremely important when you attain a wide angle lens and seemingly everything is included in the frame. Here’s a video of a snarky, but popular YouTube photographer who can explain more.

(It may be on a 50mm, or standard, lens but the principles are the same.)

Secondly, all of that extra fluff on a new lens can hamper the basic lessons of taking a photograph. Can you take a photograph that is in focus without using autofocus? In example, the camera won’t focus on the subject you want it to focus on. The camera cannot get a focus lock because the subject is either to0 close or is in a crowd of other subjects, such as in street photography. Can you manual focus? Can you isolate a subject without using a picture mode? Also, can you judge a scene, and based on that inkling alone, make a proper exposure if you don’t have a meter to suggest otherwise? For most casual, point-and-shoot photographers, this may sound ridiculous. But for the budding enthusiast, these can be crucial questions. My ultimate point here is that an all-manual lens forces you to adapt and creates an environment for a photographer to grow.

Third, and finally, old is gold. What I mean by that is that it gives a certain look. It is surprising how different, no matter how subtle, an old lens is in comparison to a new one. For instance, do you like those sun-stars; the ones that give a light source dozens of long, pointy edges? The way they design the aperture these days, it’s less likely to produce the same effect as well as an older lens. Examples below.

DSC_2699SakarDSC_1321Nikon (Different subjects and what-not, I know, but the point is that the picture taken with the Sakar has a more pronounced star shape.)

But it also creates horrible flaring, distortion, and other-worldly ghosting at its widest aperture (F2.8), a side effect of old tech. If that’s what is desired, then great. However, and most often than not, these abnormalities will usually ruin a good photograph rather than make it.

DSC_4004(See the flare? Even without the box, it’s hard to miss.)

DSC_3414(It’s kind of difficult to see, but there is a copy of the light right there in the circle. That’s not another light, it’s a ghost!)

Ultimately, it’s up to you. New lenses are more convenient, usually weigh less, and come with better optics. Older lenses create a noire, and give the user greater input for learning. My input: decide on your goals. Cameras are many things in different people’s hands. Figure out what it is to you and what you want to accomplish. Just promise me you won’t go out and buy a lens simply to have another lens to brag about.

Verdict: The Sakar 28mm f/2.8 is… old.

Next test: Minolta 58mm F1.4!

(FYI, those little, annoying camera icons are there just to say that those images are mine. Just saying.)