Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Instagram’:

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez, handsomely photographed by Nick Laham and processed by Instagram

In a way, nothing… in another way, everything. Here’s the front page of last Sunday’s New York Times, with major above-the-fold prominence for a beautifully framed, lit and posed portrait of A-Rod. Look at the credit, to Nick Laham (via Getty Images). The first words in the credit line are “Instagram Photo.” Nick Laham is a very gifted photographer, and this image, taken in the bathroom of the Yankees’ training facility in Florida, was made with an iPhone.

It really is remarkable that we’ve reached this point in the art and craft of photography that photographers are willing to yield to a free app to (arguably) enhance their creativity. It’s sort of like the trend in typography a number of years ago when advertising headlines looked like they were set  by five-year-olds in kindergarten and then run over  by the muddy tires of a truck.

As I look at a whole generation of iPhone photography,  it’s ironic to see that my great friend of many years, David Burnett, has chosen a very opposite path – he uses a vintage Speed Graphic 4×5 to make many of his great series of pictures, including at the Olympics. A number of years ago, the dream assignment was one where a client said yes to first-class travel, multiple assistants, and as much gear as you wanted to carry, to wherever you wanted to shoot. No secret that those days are gone, but I always thought that a credo of ‘one camera, one lens’ would be a good way to define oneself as a photographer. A twin-lens Rollei, or a Leica M-series with a 35mm optic, was the choice of many. But no one ever suggested using a post-production technique to diminish the original quality of the original image.

Finally, it seems to say a lot that The New York Times feels the need to tells its readers that it embraces Instagram. Coming soon (perhaps): an all-Instagram edition of the NYT.

Final Score: 14-2

Jen's and Carl's wedding cake

Everywhere you turn these days, it seems the majority of snapshots (and sometimes more serious photographic projects) are being taken with camera phones. That trend is not going to reverse anytime soon.This past weekend, months after my niece, Jen and her husband, Carl,  eloped and got married in Las Vegas, the newlyweds threw a party. As you’d imagine, lots of pictures were taken;  my quick and unscientific count showed a 7-to-1 ratio of phones to cameras (hence this blog’s title).

Last Thursday, David Pogue’s New York Times column, State of the Art, was headlined: Tiny Camera To Rival The Pros. Pogue may not make his living as a professional  photographer, but he is a great writer, on-camera talent and interpreter of trends in technology. The object of his affection in this particular column is Sony’s new DSC-RX100, which he calls “the best pocket camera ever made.” Read the review for yourself and go on to look at the sample pictures.

I’ve been a big fan, and user, of the Canon G-series for a lot of years. My G11 delivers great images, some of which have gone to double-page spreads. The only thing that has kept me from acquiring the new Canon G1X is the loss of the same degree of macro capability I’ve been used to. But that’s a consequence of the vastly larger imaging chip in the G1X. Every feature seems to have its price. Somehow, according to David Pogue, the new Sony camera can focus from 2 inches. Coupled with a Zeiss f/1.8 lens, this may be the next big purchase.

Wood-wrapped Argus C3

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Edition did a feature on 50 summer essentials. Number 48, cited by Lucas Allen Buck, CEO and co-founder of the maker of Hipstamatic, is a vintage Argus C3 camera wrapped in wood.

If you have $1850, just go to:  www.store.ilottvintage.com and beat Mr. Buck to the punch. Or, save a whole lot of money and send me $650 and I’ll send you my C3 (minus the wood, but still a very cool object). And if you do, I’ll get the new Sony camera for those times that my iPhone just won’t do.

Argus C3

Meet the Granddaddy of the Hipstamatic iPhone App: The Polaroid Land Camera

I was really pleased recently to see a small article by Kevin Sintumuang in The Wall Street Journal that began this way – “Pre-Facebook, pre-Flickr, pre-You’ve Got Mail!, there was a simpler way of sharing photos: instant film.”

Polaroid Land Camera

He was writing about Polaroid, whose products we had believed disappeared by 2008. But thanks to the Netherlands-based Impossible Project, old Polaroid cameras are being refurbished and, on an experimental basis, Polaroid film is being re-created. At the same time, FujiFilm is producing instant cameras and film.

Polaroid Land Camera closeup

That sent me to my shelves of obsolete gear, where I retrieved the original Polaroid camera that my father had bought in the early 1950s. It’s the Model 80 Highlander. Taking it out of the original box brought back a lot of memories about just how revolutionary the Polaroid experience was. The original manual was still with the camera, and I’ve scanned some of the pages so you can get a feel for learning a new piece of technology in the years before a point-and-shoot camera came with 100+ pages of instructions. There’s a lot of information about old Polaroid models on the internet, and it’s interesting that with iPhone apps like Hipstamatic, there’s so much interest in taking the quality out of your pictures. Still, for two dollars or so, there’s no great harm done. I’ll probably do it myself.

Polaroid Highlander Land Camera Manual

High Praise for Low Fidelity

The New York Times' front page for November 22nd, 2010

The New York Times is at our doorstep before the sun rises, particularly at this time of year, and a quick look at the front page told me that something very interesting is unfolding in the area of major newspaper photojournalism. Four photos from Afghanistan (there are six more on the inside ‘jump’), credited to staffer Damon Winter, looked nothing like images from the Nikon/Canon realm of equipment.

There is no mention in the captions, or in the long piece they accompany (about a unit of U.S. forces in that country)  that provide a clue. But a quick trip to the paper’s photo blog gave the answer: Following the lead of the troops who routinely use their cell phone cameras to record life in a war zone, Damon Winter has taken his iPhone and, with the Hipstamatic app, produced a series of vignettes (with more to be seen on the web). At the same time, he’s using his Canon EOS 5D Mk II to shoot video for the paper (as well as, presumably, still photos). In any case, his coverage on the web is very impressive.

That got me in a back-to-the-future mode. Just this past weekend, the Wall Street Journal did a piece on the latest generation of cameras (think Sony/Samsung/Panasonic/Olympus) that provide a nearly professional bridge between point-and-shoot and SLR equipment. The essence of the WSJ article is that the SLRs are too bulky and too complicated for the average user to truly master. I know this is true – even my Canon G11 and Nikon D300 have features and capabilities that I can’t begin to remember. That’s why I keep a Nikon F (from 1967) and a Kodak Hawkeye (from the early ’50s) on my desk, just as reminders of how simple things used to be.

1967 Nikon F

I’ve got nothing at all against technology; after all, I’ve built a company that provides equipment (some of it quite sophisticated) to photographers and filmmakers. But not so many years ago, I never had to carry a 200-page manual to take advantage of the features of any of my cameras. I know lots of very smart people who are buying some very expensive digital cameras and never (never!) taking them off the ‘auto’ setting. So it’s easy to understand the appeal of keeping it as simple as using my first Brownie was 60 years ago.

An early-1950s-vintage Kodak Brownie Hawkeye

By the way, in a nod to recursion, the photo of today’s NY Times front page was taken with my iPhone 4.