Saturday, October 28, 2006

Perfect Portrait Places

When you're out and about cruising the city streets and rural highways, keep your eyes and mind wide open for unique settings to produce that signature portrait you've always been
dreaming about. Case in point: for several months, I was continually passing by a countryside supper club suffering from a lack of available parking space, so they made it clear that even the area in front of their garage--and basketball court--was fair game. Naturally when I was commissioned to photograph the State Champion Sheboygan(WI)Christian basketball team, I remembered this site and the ironic message it offered(players are never permitted to "park" themselves under the basket!) and everything else just fell neatly into place. Make it a point to mentally bookmark--or better still, list in your notebook--the location of these serendipitous spots, as you never know when you may stumble upon that perfect portrait place!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Film for All Reasons

Early in my career--and I realize I'm dating myself here--Kodak Tri-X black and white film was the industry standard. As years passed and technology advanced, the same company introduced a new film that at first was greeted with apprehension and skepticism, but eventually became accepted for what is was: a quantum leap forward in black and white image quality. This didn't happen overnight as most photographers complained and struggled with the care and effort one had to practice to properly process this film. But once these techniques were mastered, most shooters raved about the film's exceptional latitude and highlight and shadow detail even when pushed two stops to 1600 ASA! To this very day, I haven't found a 35mm black and white film as versatile, sharp, or simply beautiful as Kodak T-Max 400(not to be confused with its 100 ASA counterpart--stick with the 400 unless dealing with studio lighting conditions). The trick I have found is to "soup"(process)this film with Kodak D-76 developer rather than the recommended T-Max developer--even in push-processing situations--as I've noticed finer grain and better highlight and shadow detail. Bear in mind this film is somewhat fussy, and optimum results are obtained with development temperatures of 75 degrees and strict agitation cycles(5 tank inversions every 30 seconds). If you adhere to these few simple rules, I'm certain you'll be amazed at the results. For those brave souls(like me)that insist upon shooting black and white film, rely on T-Max 400--it's the film for all reasons!

P.S. The photo: NBA basketball action, 1/500th at F2.8, 1600 ASA, T-Max 400 film

Monday, October 23, 2006

Revolution or Evolution?

"I got a Nikon camera,
I love to take a photograph,
so mama don't take my Kodachrome away."
Paul Simon
Kodachrome, 1973

As a youngster, I remember buying and listening to the 45 rpm of this song oblivious to the fact that someday it would have particular significance in my life. Eventually I had to purchase the LP, and then the 8 track, and then the cassette, and finally the CD and naturally all the accompanying hardware necessary to play this simple memory from my childhood. In a strange sort of way, I feel the same metamorphosis is happening in the photographic world.

We all speak of the digital revolution, but in essence, is that what is truly occurring? By definition, a revolution is a drastic change in a condition, method, or idea; while evolution is the theory that all forms of life originated by decent from earlier forms--photographically speaking, I believe the latter is true.

Even though a major portion of the criteria that was judged in the beginning of my career no longer exists(e.g., print quality, focusing skills, film processing comprehension), contemporary photographers are still expected to exhibit the abilities and knowledge of their predecessors(e.g., compositional awareness, lighting competence, and news value). Therefore I believe the craft of photography is evolving, rather than revolving, and in a Darwinian sort of way, those who refuse to adapt will no longer survive. My mother once told me I was a good photographer, so I know she didn't take my Kodachrome away.

P.S. The photo is of my nephew, Michael Manke, not of me.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Greetings and thanks for visiting my blog! In the days to come, we will discuss and explore information and issues affecting contemporary photographers and our society, as well as debate and evaluate the past, present, and future of our craft. All opinions expressed here are solely my own and based upon my 20 year career as a newspaper and wire service photojournalist, current educator, and student of the medium. The past two decades have been a real eye opener for me--hopefully this blog will be that for you too!