An Evening with Photographer Joe Buissink

Just returned from seeing a presentation by photographer Joe Buissink. I confess Joe shattered any pre-concieved notions I held about high-paid celebrity photographers. He shared many images and his passion for capturing fleeting moments between people.

He still shoots film and his clientel are people who seek that and appreciate that. He primarily shoots available light at ISO 1600 and 3200. His images tend to be less grainy than most of us associate with high ISO. His film processing lab will visually inspect the film during development, empirically pushing the development until the density is good. This avoids low density low contrast, which requires compensation during printing and thereby incurs enhanced graininess.

Joe seeks emotional moments, not necessarily perfect sharpness or perfect composition. His pitch to prospective clients is more about himself and his passion. He tells the stories behind the images that you would not know from the image alone. Once people are hooked on his passionate approach, they tend to give him less direction and restrictions. He typically does not have to align himself to a required shot list.

Joe does more than just weddings. He recently completed work on a book about autism and the images comminicate a compelling joyful story. He photographed Stephen Spielberg’s birthday party, Christina Aguilara on tour, and the closing episode of the Frasier television show at request of Kelsey Grammer.

The Buissink approach to photographing people is eye opening (to me anyway) and it was a truly enjoyable evening. However, it is no secret that he caters to very wealthy people and the cost for his services is adjusted to their financial means. I personally do not know anyone who can afford him.

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Pixels (part 1)

Perhaps the most common question regarding digital photography is … how many megapixels do I need? The answer depends upon how you intend to use the photo. You need to answer two questions: how large will the photo appear (inches or centimeters) and how many dots per inch (or centimeter).

If you want to share it on a computer screen, one megapixel is more than enough. Why? Computer displays typically have either 72 pixels per inch or 96 dots per inch. So, for example, to display a photo at a size of 6 by 9 inches, you need (6 x 96) x (9 x 96) = 497,664 pixels = 0.497 megapixels.

Computer screen: 72 – 96 dots (pixels) per inch
Photo print: 240 – 300 dots per inch
Magazine: 100 – 200 dots per inch
Poster or banner: 100 – 150 dots per inch
Billboard: 10 – 20 dots per inch

Magazines print fewer dots per inch. If you look real close, you may see the individual dots, but maybe not. It depends upon the exact printing equipment and the tendency of ink dots to blend together. Billboards, viewed from far way, use very low resolution simply because it is not apparent from far away.

So, here is another example. For a photo print 6 x 9 inches, you need (6 x 240) x (9 x 240) = 3,110,400 pixels = 3 megapixels. More pixels in your camera means that you can get larger prints without sacrificing quality. Using the same math, you can easily see that a 20 x 24 inch print needs 27 megapixels.

You may ask: 240 dots per inch? My printer supports 1000 dots per inch.
OK, here is the bottom line. If you print at the higher resolution, can you see a difference in the final print? You might see a tiny difference, but 240 dpi usually provides excellent quality and sharpness. If you are using a photo lab to make your prints, consult their guidelines, but 240dpi or 250 dpi is very common.

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Water Lilly

Paddling the river this evening, I had planned on a quick trip; however, I stopped a half dozen times to photograph flowers (aquatic or nearly so). The day was waning and yet another stop may mean I would finish my trip in the dark. But each time I stowed the compact camera safely in my dry bag, I soon found another reason to dig it out of the bag yet again. This continued until the battery expired.

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Worth a thousand words?

While I have long loved nature photography, sometimes a still image, a photo, cannot possibly communicate a simple concept that a video can. Here is an example of moving fog with some unexpected colors. Although I tried to photograph this as a still image, it just looked like mush. Had to switch to video.

River Fog Fire from Kevin Davis on Vimeo.

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Here is an example that illustrates two concepts in composition. First concept is picture within the picture. Sometimes a perfectly good image includes another good image within it.
Second is refinement; studying what you are looking at and understanding what exactly is igniting your creative fuse. In this case it was the light on the hull. Through a series of images that gradually excluded non-essential elements, I arrived at the second photo shown below, which is entirely about (1) light and (2) texture.

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Tall Ships

After some financial wrangling, the tall ships did come to Boston, though there were a few oddities. If I understand correctly, there was no formal parade of sail. And a few of the tallest ships were berthed at piers that were frequently closed to the public.

With weather forecast for sunny skies, Tom S and I arrived at South Station shortly after 7am to catch some good morning light. However, our plans were soon foiled as we discovered that the Fish Pier and World Trade Center pier were entirely closed to the public until 5pm. After conversations with several police and pedestrians, we opted to take the water taxi to Charlestown Navy Yard and so achieved some nice images from out on the water. The attached image shows the Kruzenshtern as the water taxi came around the World Trade Center pier.

In Charlsetown, we were among the first group of people to board the Picton Castle and Bluenose II, before the crowds and long lines formed. USS Constitution, permanent resident in Charlestown, was undergoing major renovations, but still earned a very long line of eager spectators. We skipped it, thinking it is here year round and there is no need to wait in line today.

By 11am, the light was harsh and we called it a day. Shooting film that morning, Tom dropped off his film at a local lab where it was processed within a couple hours. Though I was shooting digital, Tom beat me to the punch, posting a couple of scanned images in email before I could complete my digital workflow.

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Kodachrome is dead; long live Kodachrome

With the increasing dominance of digital photography, the demand for film has been ever decreasing (but not dead). It is amazing that Kodachrome endured to 2009. While most color transparency films are developed via E6 process, venerable Kodachrome films are not. So, Kodachrome is both a film and a developing process.

Having experimented with a variety of films during the late 1980s and early 90s, I preferred Ektachrome over Kodachrome. But more importantly, for the outdoor images I typically shoot, my favorite film was not Kodak at all but rather Fuji Provia.

“In 20 stunning photos, the glory of Kodachrome comes through in the work of Fortune’s distinguished photographers.”

In 1973, Paul Simon wrote:
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

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Windows vs Mac -and- Nikon vs Canon

Windows 7 will be available later this year and most reports agree that it is the operating system that Windows Vista should have been.

Considering Mac OS X and Windows 7, some people dare to say that the culture war between Mac and PC has now become somewhat moot. Feature-for-feature, Mac and PC are now entirely comparable. It’s akin to the culture war between Nikon and Canon cameras. Those people who maintain extreme brand loyalty usually do so because of experiences 10 years ago and not because of objective comparison.

If you’re looking to buy a new SLR camera, and you already have some Nikon lenses, you will likely buy a Nikon. Same goes for Canon.

f you’re looking to buy a new computer, and you already have a software and accessories for Mac, you will likely buy a Mac. Same goes for PC.

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Social media – reality vs hype

Personally, I know friends and family who tenatively signed up for social media, such as Facebook, at the urging of someone else, but ultimately do not find it compelling. Worse yet, for some people, social media is simply more noise in their already busy lives. Yet, many many writers online continue to promote social media as absolutely essential for modern living. So … what is the disconnect here? Is it reality or hype?

The primary disconnect lies in how different people use social media differently. There are millions of people who use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc just for fun, posting videos of their family vacation, or exchanging thoughts on matters that endure for mere minutes to maybe a week (then forgotten). Then there are tens of thousands of small buisiness owners who are trying to maintain their professional identity or “brand” on the internet. In truth, there is a broad spectrum of users. Most people do not have a critical interest in promoting themselves online. Most of the talking and writing is being done by people whose buisiness involves internet services and/or media, particularly independant contractors, consultants, and small buisiness owners who rely upon clients or simply fans. But if you sell tires at a local auto mart, “social media” is mostly hype.

In a recent blog post, photographer Jim Goldstein made some very good clarifying points regarding social media, particularly for visual artists. He contrasts different types of online networking. Static web sites are oriented around posting content, to which viewers might possibly leave comments or ask questions. Blogs are a part of that, perhaps encouraging more reader feedback. Podcasts are similar, though there seems less of an option for leaving comments/feedback. Discussion forums provide more of multi-person conversation, where participants can periodically pop in and see if anything interesting is being discussed. Although Jim does not mention it, there is another style here, the digest; a forum may optionally send to you a digest topics that interest you. Ultimately, down the far end of the spectrum, you end up at Twitter, a gumbo of communication streams that never stop.

“The interesting thing about Social Media and how to get the most out of it is to change ones mindset from merely posting content, but to talking to your target audience about your content.” – JG

My own perspective is that all these tools are just that, tools. Not everyone needs every tool, though some writers seem to suggest it is so. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, Twitter is probably not for you. And if you’re looking for work, Facebook may not be the most effective tool.


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Here is a very different type of image from Katahdin / Baxter State Park.
Both painted trillium and purple trillium are common in the northeast forests and both have a very small window of time during which they bloom, maybe three weeks. Purple trillium are more difficult to photograph because the flowers have a nodding presentation (the flowers droop over and face the ground).
What always catches my eye is groups of these flowers. Typically they are solitary plants, so a cluster of them is a nice find. For this shot, I used a wide-angle zoom lens with an extension tube. Without the extension tube, focusing distance is perhaps 14 inches. With the extension tube, I can get much closer to the flower, reducing the distance about 50%.
Canon 5D mk II, ISO 400, f/14, 1/6 sec (on a tripod of course)
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