I found an image that I don’t want to see. Too familiar, and so, too hurtful. But as the Internet meme jokes, “What has been seen can’t be unseen.” In that context, such images are considered shocking, graphic, violent. The image I refer to, however, is far removed from any of these labels. But for me, there it is, that Punctum that Barthes spoke of. As I write, Google Chrome suggests the correct spelling is ‘puncture’ — how appropriate.
A source of what could be considered ’emotional pain’, and I can only speak for myself, comes from the lack of answers to unspoken questions. And this is exactly what hurts about this image. Questions that conflictingly, I don’t want to ask, and I don’t want to care about the answers. Yet I’m continually driven by the lack of answers. Perhaps if I had the answers, I wouldn’t care, but if I didn’t care, I’d feel nothing. I care, because I feel.
What does the image become then? Torturous, no, (in this case, such a word being too extreme) but rather, frustrating. Frustration driven by myself, and so self inflicting, serving as a form of what I would call ‘visual self-harm’.
As a recovering self-harmer (In this context, I refer to the deliberate means of self-harm as an act of cutting) has to ‘look’ and ‘see’ their scars, so too, I have to ‘look’ and ‘see’ this image as, after all, ‘what has been seen can’t be unseen’. The scar it leaves not physical, but rather it remains within the matter of the brain – beyond what an MRI scan could visually represent, beyond the understanding of neuroscience – so only I alone, can attest to the existence of such a scar.
A self-harmer can cease the act of self-harming, but I can not cease the act of either looking or seeing. Were I to be as extreme as to rip out my physical eye, the visual scar within memory remains. Hence my skepticism with regards to, for example, Shapiro’s Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy.
To be scarred by something visual, the act of ‘forgetting’ or ‘moving on’ from such an image, seems far more complex. An ex-self-harmer could wear certain clothes to hide a scar, from themselves or from others, offering the luxury of choice, and therefore, a degree of control. What choice, what control, do I have, as a ‘visual self-harmer?’ We could consider that I ‘found’ this image, that is, I stumbled upon its existence perchance. To offer a solution such as to never ‘look’ at or ‘see’ an image again is entirely unrealistic.
One could perhaps say to a drug abuser for example, that they should remove themselves from an environment where drugs are prevalent, one can not suggest to a ‘visual self-harmer’, to simply remove themselves from an entirely visual world. With this in mind, what possible solution can I offer myself? I will always look, and so I will always see.
Even if I were to cease searching for images, I will always look at images, and I will always see images, this is wholly unavoidable. Were I to, as previously suggested, rip out my physical eye, I will always be left with the eye deep within my brain at both the conscious and subconscious level. At the absolute extreme, one could conclude that the only solution, is the ultimate one; to destroy the brain, that is, suicide. I have no desire for this, my will to live too strong. I enjoy the experience of being alive far too much.
The image, it seems, is therefore destined to forever remain. However, I find myself experiencing a strange respect for the frustration that it brings. It confirms to me, the existence of self, of empathy, of love, of hurt, of pain, of joy, of suffering, of sadness, of happiness, of what it is to be human. To live, to breathe, to exist, to be.
About the author: Danny Day is a photographer based in the UK. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Day graduated from the Cleveland College of Art and Design with a degree in photography. You can find more of his work and writing on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.
SDUC Express Memory Cards to Allow 128TB Storage and 985MB/s Speed
The SD Association has just announced the latest specifications for the widely used Secure Digital (SD) memory card format. The new Ultra Capacity (UC) designation will mean capacities of up to 128 terabytes and the “Express” designation will mean transfer speeds of up to 985 megabytes per second.
SDUC follows in the footsteps of the original SD card, the SDHC (“High Capacity”), and the SDXC (“eXtended Capacity”), raising the maximum storage capacity level from 2TB with SDXC to 128TB, or a 64x increase.
SD Express adds PCI Express and NVMe interfaces to the legacy SD interface, bringing the maximum data transfer rate from 624 MB/s in UHS-III to 985 MB/s, or 1.58 times faster.
And in addition to appearing in SDUC cards, SD Express will also be offered in SDXC and SDHC cards.
Both innovations, part of the SD 7.0 specification, continue the SD Association’s tradition of backward compatibility.
“With SD Express we’re offering an entirely new level of memory card with faster protocols turning cards into a removable SSD,” says SDA president Hiroyuki Sakamoto.
Future SDUC Express cards should be useful for photographers who need to space and speed for working with ultra-high-res still photos and videos.
“SD Express delivers speeds necessary to move large amounts of data generated by data-intense wireless communication, super-slow-motion video, RAW continuous burst mode and 8K video capture and playback, [and] 360 degree cameras/videos,” the SD Association says.
No word yet on when we’ll be seeing SDUC Express cards hit the market or what storage capacities the initial cards will offer. SanDisk announced a 1 terabyte SDXC card in 2016, but that has yet to materialize on any store shelves, and the current maximum capacity on the market today remains at 512GB.
Photographer Anya Anti recently did a space-inspired photo shoot and created this 7.5-minute behind-the-scenes and time-lapse view of how she styled, set up, shot, and retouched the portrait.
To create a space helmet, Anti purchased a lightweight acrylic sphere online and then cut out a neck hole and breathing holes.
For the space suit and collar, Anti used a silver jacket and a piece of spray-painted cardboard, respectively. An old faux leather belt was used for the details on the collar and sleeves.
Anti initially set up a space-themed backdrop that she had created for a previous photo shoot for starry bokeh behind her model, Angel Zheng.
But during retouching, Anti decided to go a different route for the background.
“During the shoot, I was using my old creative backdrop from My Universe photoshoot with a LED lamp behind it and I thought it would work great as a space background,” she writes. “But as I was editing the image I realized it looked bad and fake so I removed all the bokeh circles and replaced them with starry sky texture.
“Things don’t always work out the way you think and it’s ok to change your mind and fix them. If I have to I go and reshoot or just edit in Photoshop.”
After four hours of editing the image, here’s the final portrait that resulted:
pixl-latr is a Simple Holder and Diffuser for Digitizing Film
Film photographer and bloggerHamish Gill wanted a cheap and simple way to scan 5×4 large-format film. After searching and failing to find a suitable diffuser holder for his film, Gill decided to create his own, and that’s how the idea for the pixl-latr was born.
The pixl-latr is an innovative modular system that lets you hold films of various formats in place in front of a diffused light source to digitize using a standard camera.
“If you’ve ever tried to digitize a negative or transparency with a digital camera, you’ll know that two of biggest headaches are keeping the film in place and flat; and backlighting it in a uniform manner,” Gill says.
His invention solves both of those problems.
Everything is built around a diffuser with 4 locator pins and a texture that avoids Newton rings.
Different film formats are positioned against different pins.
Next, you slide on the frame and then the necessary number of gates depending on your film format to fill the remaining gaps.
With your film held securely in the pixl-latr, you can then backlight it with various light sources and then photograph the evenly-lit film for a digital file.
“pixl-latr is a handy tool for anyone looking to digitize film with a camera rather than a scanner,” Gill says.
pixl-latr is currently being crowdfunded through Kickstarter, where supporters have already blown the project past its initial $10,000 goal (nearly $60,000 has been pledged at the time of this writing).
A pledge of £32 (~$42) will get you a pixl-latr if the project successfully delivers. The estimated ship date is September 2018.
My photo project Wildlife is a series of black-and-white film photos showing some of the most amazing and beautiful animals in the world. But these photos aren’t what they appear to be.
These photos were all shot at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. I carefully chose my use of film camera and a high ISO film with the maximum amount of grain (Delta 3200 or HP5 pushed to 1600). The idea was to use the features of the film and camera to hide any hint of fakery.
In person, the painted backdrops fool no one, but through the single lens of a camera, they are transformed into sprawling landscapes. The animals themselves border on the uncanny valley when viewed in real life, but the thick grain hides any and all imperfections in the taxidermy.
What is left is an image that can be easily seen as real and honest.
Watch a Guy Teleport Across America While Trying to Pose for a Picture
In May 2018, stop-motion and video wizard Kevin Parry spent three weeks driving around the United States. He posed for carefully planned “pictures” at various locations and then created this impressive 2-minute video showing himself teleporting around the country.
“All I wanted was to pose for one good picture,” Parry says. The video, titled “Portland to Portland (Teleporting Across America),” is filled with creative illusions and seamless transitions.
Two years ago, I splurged some money and bought a camera because I’d always wanted to try to take pictures of the stars. The left photo above was the only decent picture out of 700 taken on my first clueless attempt. The right photo was taken about 2 weeks ago. Don’t let your dreams be dreams.
I can distinctly remember the first time a camera was put into my hands. It was the wedding of one of my oldest cousins, and I was 10 or 11 years old. A family friend was the photographer, and he must have noticed me walking around bored and clueless, because he took one of his SLRs, put it in my hand with a full roll of film, and told me to help him take pictures.
None of the photos turned out. I was a kid and I had no idea what I was doing, but 15 years later, that moment is still crystal clear in my memory. It spurred me into action, asking for digital cameras for my subsequent birthdays (my first was a 3.2MP point-and-shoot), saving up my lawnmowing money all summer to buy a 512MB Compact Flash memory card, and messing around with the old Pentax K1000 that had been collecting dust in my dad’s closet — whenever I could afford film and processing, that is.
Unfortunately, somewhere between working two jobs, trying to succeed in high school, beginning college, and spending 2 years abroad in Eastern Europe, I simply lacked the time, money, and know-how to pursue photography beyond the capabilities of my cell phone, and my interest in photography faded.
There was, however, always a shade of desire. I remember being jealous of friends who owned big, hefty, DSLRs. I was green with envy when my mom decided to buy my dad a Nikon D3200 for his birthday. I stole it often to take pictures and it didn’t take long before I knew more about it than he did. My time to own a DSLR came when I accepted an internship at a local art museum that needed me to act as an event photographer and videographer. I purchased a Nikon D3300 with a kit lens and a $20 tripod and immediately got to photographing everything in sight.
Those first couple of months, I tried to take pictures every day. I didn’t always succeed, but it taught me to be constantly looking for compelling subject matters. Growing up in the heart of Utah, landscape photography was a natural fit: there are canyons every 30 feet (it seems), 5 National Parks, a variety of National Monuments, and more to do than anyone could in a lifetime.
I spent much of my time hiking on the weekends and I had a close friend with whom I’d take road trips every year. Glacier or Banff, the Grand Canyon or California, wherever sounded most exciting. Landscape photography, as I often say, meant simply doing what I already did — but bringing back evidence.
From the get-go, I also had a strong desire to take pictures of the stars. Humans have always had this primordial fascination with the stars, and I’ve always felt that strongly. Many a summer night growing up was spent on my rooftop watching the sky shift from sunset to blue hour to suburban starscape. For that reason, the stars seemed a natural subject as well, and I can vividly remember my first attempt at capturing them.
My friend and I hiked a steep trail to a lake on the night of a full moon. It was nearly dark by the time we arrived at the destination, but the area was beautifully lit. I moseyed over to the far side of the lake, set up my tripod and camera and spent the better part of an hour troubleshooting. Simple photographic concepts — focus, aperture, exposure — became less intuitive at night. I guessed at settings, wrote them down, made slight adjustments, and tried again. 700 terrible photos and a few hours later, we made the long trek back down to our car, trail poorly lit by cell phone flashlight.
The whole night, the best photo I had managed to produce featured brightly illuminated cliffs and a few faint stars. My expectations for what I would be able to do were extremely high and I’d certainly fallen short, but at the end of the day, I was thrilled I could see stars at all. I went out the next night and the next night and the next night, always to different locations, getting more and more excited with each photograph that got closer to representing the vision I had for what my photography could be.
The follow-up to those feelings could only be described as an obsession. I was getting distracted at work because I was googling articles about night photography. I signed up for a dozen newsletters on various websites with tips and tricks. I began researching gear the second I realized that, well, an entry-level camera and a kit lens weren’t going to cut it. I thought I knew cameras because I understood the basic concepts of ISO, aperture, and exposure and (more-or-less) how they worked together in the daytime, but I purchased books that taught me to understand their effects and use them beyond simply to manipulate light.
I learned what a crop-sensor was and immediately ached for a full-frame camera, I began to study the construction of and limitations of lenses and I immediately began researching which lenses I needed to buy in order to increase the quality of my work. I read articles about low-light performance in various cameras, I read about sensor technology, I bought Photoshop and Lightroom and began to watch YouTube tutorials about Milky Way post-processing techniques. Star tracking and median stacking and focal blending were terms of which I had never heard, but with time, I began to understand and apply them.
Just as importantly, I learned how to compose an image. I bought a couple books that helped me understand the theory, but trial-and-error was the real teacher. As a trained Art Historian, I studied the likes of Ansel Adams, Eadweard Muybridge, and William Henry Jackson, even handling original prints of theirs, all the while trying to see through their eyes and understanding how to see the way that they saw.
Along those same lines, I studied the work of famous 19th-century romantic landscape painters like Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt, attempting to understand (and later replicate) what made their compositions compelling.
Miraculously, throughout this entire multi-year process, I began to see improvement. And as I saw improvement, my interest waxed instead of waned. That first year I shot upwards of 100 GB worth of photographic data. The next year, it more than tripled.
It’s important to realize in retrospect that improvement is often slow-going and always requires a lot of sacrifice and diligence. Nothing says sacrifice quite like taking an hour-long nap and then having to crawl out of a warm sleeping bag to go wander through the desert all by yourself (machete in hand, in case any wild animals want to tussle).
During the week of the new moon in June 2018, I spent 6 out of 7 days camping, on average driving 4 hours round trip to a camping spot dark enough to photograph the skies. I spent 4 of those nights sleeping in the driver’s seat of my car while the wind howled outside. I returned home with only a few worthwhile images to process (Good ol’ Ansel said it best: “12 significant photographs in one year is a good crop.”) Besides that, each of those mornings, I drove 1-3 hours back home to work an 8-9 hour shift at my day job.
I rarely get paid for my photography, but exhaustion and lack of monetary payoff aside, I am in love with what I do. I never imagined I’d be to the point that people would want me to write about my experiences, that Reddit posts of my photography would hit the front page (41k upvotes and counting), or that strangers and friends would be asking me for advice — I’m just a guy who loves the world I live in and whose eyes shimmer like a little kid’s every time I look up at the night sky.
I still have a lot to learn and a lot to improve upon. I look forward to the future, but those formative moments as an innocent and naive student of photography will always be some of my favorites—when every shutter click was an uneasy step forward and I was always anxious to learn something new. I hope that that early spirit never leaves me.
I think often of the 10- or 11-year-old version of myself snapping wedding photos and wish I could watch him excitedly click away, but I feel lucky to be able to experience that same excitement every time I see the world through my own lens or look up and try to soak up the beauty of the sky.
About the author: Matthew Pockrus is a landscape photographer based in Utah and focusing on the American West. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Pockrus’ work on his website and Instagram.
Chatting with Kodak About its Past, Present, and Future
Recently, we (Steven, John, and Bill of the podcast Studio C-41) traveled to Rochester, New York, to interview Josh Coon with The Kodakery (Kodak’s podcast) and “EKTACHROME Super Fan” Matt Stoffel. We learned about George Eastman, how film is made in the Kodak factory, and Kodak’s response to the film resurgence.
It all started with an Instagram message to Matt Stoffel. “Hey Matt, I hope all is well! I wanted to reach out to you and possibly talk about my little trip to Rochester in a couple months!” I honestly didn’t think I had a snowflake’s chance in hell in pitching a podcast episode with Kodak. Matt soon replied, “Yeah! When are you thinking of coming?”
In the following months after that message, I really thought hard about the questions I wanted to ask. Of course, just like every film photographer, I have a million questions about Ektachrome. However, I wanted this podcast episode to have depth and didn’t want to spoil what could possibly be the only chance we have to interview Kodak on a single emulsion. So while there are some tidbits in regards to Ektachrome in the podcast episode, we focus on other aspects of Kodak as well.
The episode is broken out into three segments:
1. Who is George Eastman? Why was he so iconic? 2. How is film made? 3. What is Kodak doing about the film resurgence?
Here’s the hour-long interview and episode:
We know George Eastman started Kodak and invented products that revolutionized photography and motion pictures. However, those are not the only things Eastman’s legacy left behind. George strongly believed that a happy employee was a productive employee. He created benefit programs that we commonly see with employers today such as retirement accounts, healthcare, leisure accommodations, and more. George effectively created the ‘Google Campus’ long before Google. You can learn more about George Eastman by visiting the museum!
When we arrived in Rochester, Matt gave us the grand tour of Kodak Park, a complex park compromising of dozens of buildings. Some were built for the production of film, some for other business processes Kodak is involved with, while space in other buildings is leased out to other companies. After an overview of all the buildings was complete, we hopped into a van and headed to the film manufacturing building.
I will leave the technical film manufacturing nitty-gritty process for the podcast episode, in which Matt does an amazing job explaining the film-making process and describing the machinery the brilliant minds at Kodak built. I will mention this: we walked away with a newfound appreciation for the workers in the factory.
Each step of the process, no matter how automated it may seem, has a human element involved. In many cases, much of the labor is done in total darkness. To all of the workers at Kodak, we want to say “Thank you” for all of your hard work and sincerely appreciate you all.
For those that are interested in learning more about the process, the Kodakery did an excellent job explaining the manufacturing process for Ektachrome. You can listen to that episode here:
Kodak recognizes the film resurgence is real. Josh references the analog resurgence to a book called The Revenge of Analog, which brings to light a form of technology that is on the verge of being lost forever and the consequence of what is lost if analog goes the way of the dodo bird.
In 2012, blockbuster Hollywood Directors Christopher Nolan, Quinten Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, Martin Scorsese, were just a few that voiced their concerns in protecting film as a medium for moviemaking. For me, a catalyst to shooting film was a behind the scenes clip to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where J.J. Abrams is making it an effort to film the movie in Kodak motion picture film. Even more so recently, we are seeing screenings of new movies in 65mm such as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Quinten Tarantino’s Hateful 8. But the resurgence isn’t only found in Hollywood and on the silver screen. It has made its way into the stills community and to indie filmmaking.
As a result of the resurgence, we are seeing the highly anticipated return of Ektachrome. Josh tells the story of a Kodak employee having to sit down in amazement because they never thought they would see the day where Kodak could bring back a discontinued emulsion. However, Kodak’s efforts would not be possible without the film community. And in return, Kodak says, “Thank you” to the film community.
In order to stay in touch with the community, Kodak has started programs to enrich the full experience of shooting film. Matt says Kodak’s programs are in the early stages; however, they are focusing on three pillars: experience, education, and exhibition. They are organizing photowalks, teaching new photographers how to shoot film, and showcasing creators’ works through publications like ‘Kodachrome’, a limited edition magazine published by the film giant.
We would have never expected Kodak to be so incredibly open and invite us into the factory and The Kodakery to record this episode. It was an incredibly special moment for Steven, John, and me and it is something we will always remember. A huge thank you to Matt and Josh for the opportunity. We’re ecstatic to see the positive impact Kodak will continue to make on the film community.
About the author: Bill Manning is the co-host of Studio C-41, a podcast about film photography. You can also connect with Studio C-41 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
“With the once unthinkable Nuclear threat re-entering the global discussion and the big little boys continue to throw their toys out of the pram, the threat to our global food system from nuclear war is real,” the artists tell PetaPixel. “The image of the mushroom cloud evokes the end of the world but fungi themselves have much to teach us about resiliency and adaptation in disturbed environments.”
Here’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the project was done:
Mixing ambient light with flash is a tough technique to get around. I can do it no problem, but when someone asks me to explain it I draw a blank. There’s a very good reason why it’s hard to understand: you’re smashing two distinct schools of lighting an image together.
You could be the best studio photographer in your area yet don’t dabble with daylight pictures. Likewise, you could be a natural light photographer who has found flashes to always be super overpowering and look “flash lit”.
I’m going to break down a great shot I lit for my photographer friend Andy Hoang. We gained special permission to shoot at 5 am in Cabot Circus in Bristol, a large shopping center which a giant suspended glass roof. Our goal was to get the blue sky of the morning to mix perfectly with the flash, and not one look more powerful than the other. We also didn’t want to edit it much in post (because, if you have the knowledge to light properly, you can save time by not messing about in Photoshop correcting the mistakes).
Let’s start with the basic image first off. We got down to our shooting angle, beneath the model shooting upwards so the sky is behind him. Our initial goal here is to get the ambient level to how you want it, within parameters that flashes can work in. That means we wanted our ISO to be pretty low ish, somewhere between 100-400 ISO (any higher and the flash on even its lowest setting will be too powerful). Our shutter speed needed to be somewhere between 1/30 and 1/125 sec (any slower and you’ll get blur, any faster and some flashes might not fire). Aperture can be whatever it needs to be to let in enough light to expose properly. I guess you could say the easiest way to get this is by using shutter speed priority, taking a few test shots and transferring those settings into manual mode.
To recap: we only want to get our ambient exposure sorted at the moment, so keep the flashes off. Stay away from slow shutter speeds and high ISO. You’ll probably end up with your subject as a silhouette or darker than you’d like, but focus on getting that sky exposed. If you want the sky to be more saturated and deep blue, you can underexpose it a little to get that.
So we’ve got our ambient down. The next thing we need to know is that ambient can be controlled by nothing but the shutter speed. If you see that sky starts to get a little too bright, change from 1/100 to 1/125. If its looking way too dark, change it from 1/100 to 1/60. You know how to do this part – if you don’t refer to the exposure triangle articles on the web and learn how to increase or decrease light coming into your camera.
Right. You can now take silhouette-y shots all day with this setup – but let’s bring in the light. We used a Profoto B1 on a stand, with a small portable beauty dish. As we were shooting about 30m from any power port, we needed a battery powered flash unit. The beauty dish was used as its small, gives direct light with no hotspots (if you need more advice on which modifier you need for a job, there are millions of videos online.) We stuck the flash pretty close to the model on camera left side, aiming down so we get a side light.
So we were lucky and the flash was spot on from the first shot of turning it on. But what if your shot the flash is too dark or too bright? Don’t change camera settings just yet – use that flash power adjustment! This way you don’t end up in a whole world of confusion by tweaking the camera, going back to change the ambient, then flash, forever and ever.
If you’ve exhausted your flashes power capabilities, and it’s still either too bright on its lowest power or too dark on its highest, then I’m sorry, you’ll have to change those camera settings. I’d suggest tweaking that ISO first – using any ISO setting up to about 800 ISO nowadays is completely fine. Failing that, change the aperture. Just be aware that changing either of these will have an effect on the ambient light level, so you need to go back and get that adjusted with the shutter speed.
It really is that straightforward. As long as you remember the method and which bit to adjust first, you should never have an issue with mixing your flash with ambient. Shooting outdoors will need more powerful flashes, indoors you can get away with less powerful, like just little standard flashguns.
One last time:
Get your ambient
Add your flash
Adjust flash to match
Adjust camera if the flash is out of usable range
Go back to step one and repeat.
I understand a lot of photographers out there will know this already — if you do, that’s great! This is more for the intermediate photographers who struggle with the process of mixing light, much like I did when I first started trying it out.
About the author: Jon Sparkman is a Cheltenham, UK-based fine art photographer, lighting technician, and photography educator. He centers his work around conveying a message through his photography. You can find his work at www.sparkman.photography and follow him on Instagram and Twitter. This post was also published here.