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Gaslight

Images and Complaints
(All original Images)

The blog is on hiatus for a bit as I am moving

Hi:

All twenty-two of my faithful followers, never fear, I’m still around but work and suchlike is drawing my attention away. Stay tuned and I’ll be back in a bit.

Work demands may necessitate packing and putting stuff into storage. On the positive side, that’ll mean many interesting new photographic opportunities may open up. In the mean time you keep shooting!

Here are your 2014 photographic resolutions

  1. Get more content.
    Imagine you are a runner wanting to complete a marathon. Would getting into long drawn out arguments on the internet with people who refuse to look up things that are easily found in their equipment instruction manuals count toward your training miles?

    No.

    Shut up and go shoot. Even if it is the lamp post outside. Less time talking about photography in the echo chamber of this or that photography discussion forum and more time shooting. Here’s a helpful test: if you average more time reading photography discussion threads than time shooting, close your browser. 

    Content. Content. Content.

  2. Learn why things work.
    When people say they don’t like X in photography, my question is ‘what were you expecting?’ Meaning everything is a constellation of trade offs and compromises. That your expectations were not met is not necessarily a problem or the problem.

    For example, learn what an MTF chart tells you and what it does not. Learn what a camera profile does and does not. Learn what light sources do and do not. People who understand why things are built the way they are have an advantage over people who do not.

    Learn how to do things you don’t know how to do such as off camera flash, using soft boxes, shoots, or using the exposure/flash compensation, mixed light sources, why raw processors work the way they do, how Photoshop actually sees images in terms of channels, how to confuse autofocus, why diffraction kicks in, why purples and greenies appear, set a slow sync rear curtain, et cetera. Once you’ve grasped it, learn how to do it repeatedly and under less than ideal circumstances and faster.

  3. Don’t buy anything. 
    More gear is not a substitute for adding pictures to your image gallery. The gear you have now is probably more than you need. The economy won’t grind to a halt if you don’t have the latest thing.

    Besides, everything eventually becomes ‘old guy crap’ that needs to be trucked off by your relatives. Make it easier on them.

  4. Don’t take street photography literally.
    Taking photos of people on the street is ONE part of documentary photography and likely should be its smallest part. Do you want to images of bakers with their hairless arms pulling bread from the oven, men working grinders, potters shaping clay, teachers at the chalkboard, chemists staring at beakers, steelworkers on a girder, cowboys roping animals, aproned butchers at the block, medical technicians adjusting artificial limbs, politicians breaking wind  - then take those photos. 

    Stop cranking out shots from the hip as you cross an intersection or walk past a construction site or truck in the off chance that you’ll get something interesting to post to a photography discussion forum saying 'Look! I got a street photo!' Moreover, unless you’re staring at the top of a Rolliflex, shooting from the waist while pretending you’re not taking photos means you’ve given up control over your framing AND you’ll be taking photos up peoples’ noses. The reason why you’re shooting walk pasts is because you’re starved for content. 

    Go to where people are doing stuff.

    Go to where the photographers are not. 

  5. Get close. No closer than that.
    The worst thing that will happen is that someone will call the cops.

  6. The previous item does not apply to lions, alligators, crocodiles  cheetahs, pumas, tigers, sharks, giant squid, volcanos, geysers, burning oil rigs, incoming artillery et cetera. 

  7. Get in front of your subjects.
    Backs and turn aways are the lowest form of street photography. 

    Anyone telling you that this is his aesthetic probably has nothing else in his portfolio.

  8. Stop posting immediately to this or that social media. 
    Let your photos sit for a bit before looking at them so you have some editorial distance.

  9. The opinions of people who are better skilled than you matter.
    Likes on Facebook or this or that social media count for nothing. 

  10. Leave your lens caps at home. 

  11. To shoot documentary, you need very little gear. 
    If you’re going to a specific shoot, yes you’ll probably bring a bag of gear and your light kit but for being out there in the world, the old 50mm, 35 or whatever is fine. The idea that you need a heap of zooms and reflectors and strobes and this or that on hand at all times is insecurity. 

    One of my favourite films is Ronin. It’s about a bunch of ex-military people hired to steal a suitcase. The youngster of the group keeps asking the older fellow what his favourite weapon is. The older man, played by DeNiro, has no answer. You open the toolbox, see what you have and figure out a way to get the job done. 

  12. Keep your camera in your hand. It doesn’t do you any good in a camera bag.

  13. If you see the shot it’s likely too late. Stay awake.

  14. Try to take the sorts of photos you wouldn’t normally take.
    Again, this is about content or doing some weird post processing in Lightroom in the hopes that an interesting image emerges.  Yes, go to workshops but what you’ll get out of workshops mostly is access to new content. 

Saturday Cinema The Passenger, 1975 – Jack Nicholson plays a reporter who uses the coincidence that the looks like an arms dealer to get away from his life’s frustrations. Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni.

A documentary film maker is in Africa in the 70s when he find an opportunity to get away from his life. Unable to meet with the right people to assemble a good film about the war in Chad, his wife is having an affair in London, and having to abandon his Landrover in a sand dune, he returns to his hotel to find a man with whom he’d struck up a friendship dead of a cardiac arrest.

 The men had resembled one another physically. The reporter takes on the dead man’s identity. In theory, he’ll see if pretending the arms dealer will lead to more material for his film.  In actuality, he’s bored with is own life

However, the reporter’s colleagues and wife are now looking for him. Unfortunately, pretending to be an arms dealer when you don’t have any weapons to deliver is a risky business. The film’s last major scene has as seven minute tracking shot that very subtly ends the film with a key action taking place off screen.  

Maria Schenider, famous Last Tango in Paris stars as an architecture student helping Nicholson in his ill-thought adventure as his old life, and his new one close in on him. The quarrelsome Steve Berkhoff also stars.

Director Michelangelo Antonioni specialized in using very long single takes in contrast with apparently disconnected events and very spare scripts about men and women who felt trapped in their lives to sew together his stories. His most famous film is Blow Up, about a photographer who, when processing a negative, realizes he may have witnessed a murder.  This film making style is not to everyone’s taste as even Igmar Baergman thought Blow Up was good, but otherwise couldn’t figure out what the big deal was about Antonioni. However, lots of people like this slow-moving film.

Off until New Year

I’ll post a Saturday Cinema mind you.

In the mean time, stop reading photography blogs and going to workshops. Get out there and shoot.

Saturday Cinema – The Stuntman, 1979 – A man on the run sees a stuntman’s death during an impromptu shoot. The director covers it up, but what will be the new stuntman’s fate?

Peter O’Toole died this week.

O’Toole was in any number of classics and stinkers. But his presence was enough to add star power to any scene he was in. Why? His height. His sing-song voice and punctuated, clipped diction. His good looks. His ability turn all that off or crank up to excess and play a parody version of himself. I never met the man and am not sure that I’d like him as drinkers are a difficult bunch but his acting was riveting.

If you don’t know the Stuntman, stop reading this and locate a copy.

If anyone could also tell me why Richard Rush never directed after this, I’d also be very grateful.

Steve Railsback is a man on the run who stumbles onto a film scene being shot on a bridge. The result is an accident where the stunt driver dies. The director decides to cover up the accident and continue shooting his World War 1 love story using the escaped felon as a replacement stuntman.

I’ll come out and say it, I never liked Lawrence of Arabia. It’s well-shot, edited and would great to watch with the sound off if I didn’t like Jarre’s score so much. It’s just that Lawrence of Arabia is so full of people doing not-obvious things for cloudy reasons. Perhaps because of this, O’Toole was perfect casting because his charisma would wallpaper over the what is in my opinion, script weaknesses. In Stuntman, O’Toole’s demonic motivations are open to question by the man on the run. Does the director need the new stunt man to survive the film shoot? This too is unclear but we’re given a definitive answer by the end.

Anyway, this film is part thriller, funny, romance and has the best jump cut in the world after 2001’s bone throw/space ship.  This film made a heck of an impression on my adolescent mind and I remember being blown away by it. Every few minutes, the film seemed to change into a completely different kind of story.

This film took a long time to come out on DVD and it included a documentary called the Sinister Saga of the Making of the Stuntman where the director details studio interference when shooting and then trying to distribute the film. However, Rush fails to name names so the documentary is kind of a frustrating watch. Rush must have pissed off people with money because he never was near a camera again. 

Saturday Cinema, The Wilby Conspiracy - 1975

This little-known thriller has visiting English engineer Michael Caine blunder into South Africa’s racist police state. Sidney Poitier also stars.

What else could we do the week Nelson Mandela died? Cry Freedom was a bit too obvious.

I remember seeing this now unknown-thriller on a black and white television late at night when I was young and being utterly confused that by the racist apparatus of that state. How naïve I was, eh? It made it easy to sympathize with Caine’s character, an engineer who’s taken a job in South Africa to make a few quid and get out.

Poitier plays a political prisoner who’s lawyer is sweet on Michael Chain. Poitier’s just been released thanks to her efforts but he’s swept up again in a mass arrest over identity paper checks. However, the police wanted several things, not just to see if he had his ID card in his wallet.

His job be damned, Caine tries to make a bolt for the border as he’s had enough with this crazy country. Unfortunately, the police have other ideas for him. 

Miss India 1965, and Star Trek star Persis Khambatta also stars. Nicol Williamson, whom you may have seen as the Merlin in Excalibur, plays the South African major. The film is based upon a book of the same title by Peter Driscoll, a minor writer of thrillers who lived for a time in South Africa. According to Wiki, he set several of his adventure stories in Africa.

Caine apparently said that this film this film was his first production that strayed into ‘sending a message.’ More trivia about this film here.