Velcome to my Casual "Photoholic" Blog
I will from time to time post here my thoughts and reflections on issues related to my photographic activities and experience. I hope tat at least some of my posts will be of interest to you
Please feel free to comment on my posts - I do welcome all comments and remarks which are objective and related to my postings. But bear in mind - this blog is not about politics or anything else not related to photography.
While browsing various webpages related to photography I frequently come across the PAD acronym. This abbrevation is very familiar today, yet, when I first started using it 10 years ago, that was not the case.
From what I see today, there seems to be a very vague and broad definition in peoples mind of what this term really means.
To me, there is no doubt. PAD means "Picture A Day", a task one takes one and involves posting one picture each and every day on the internet for a certain period of time, and that picture has to be taken on the same day it is posted.
At least that was the meaning when I started my PAD assignment in September 2003. Back then, very few people knew the term, and as far as I know, I was the only person in Iceland that had taken on the challenge of posting one picture a day for a whole year. ( 366 days to be precise, as 2004 was a leap year )
My decision was a very impulsive one. I simply came across a photo gallery on pbase.com where a guy named David Mingay was posting his PAD. I found this idea interesting and exciting, and immediately opened my own PAD gallery and started posting.
The beginning of my PAD, my first upload, September 23rd 2003
Five minutes later, I seriously started doubting my impulsiveness, and a lot of questions came to my mind:
Do I really have time for this ?
Am I really that good ?
Is it really possible ?
Luckily, I posted first, before I asked those questions. By the time I had the answers, it was to late for me to step back. My gallery was already "on the air" and several people had seen my first posting and commented. I was already beyond "point of no return"
I did finish my assignment, and I did achieve what I set out to do. From September 23rd 2003 - September 23rd 2004 I did deliver, taking my PAD each and every day and upload on the same day ( apart from few days when upload was impossible due to lack of internet connection ). My success was mainly based on the clear understanding of the term PAD back in those days, and the pressure and discipline from a very dedicated PAD society on pase.com.
Yet, looking back, despite my impulsive start and success, I think each and everyone out there thinking about taking on a PAD assignment should really take some time to seriously think about what it really means to take on the challenge of PAD before deciding wether to go for it or not. There are few essential questions to be asked before rushing into it.
"Pages" - My PAD posting from January 12, 2004
Question 1: What is PAD ?
My answer: PAD is a real challenge you take on to test your endurance, determination, stamina and self discipline, while systematically, day by day, working on improving your photographic skills.
From the early days of PAD, the clear and unanimous definition of PAD being a 12 months assignment has been diluted into whatever definition one finds most appropriate. Today I do see people decide on doing PAD for a week or a month. ( I even see people start posting "PAD" meaning - "I will post a picture whenever I can, and for long as I persevere. )
I do agree that the PAD period can be something other than a whole year, yet to me one thing I still essential - PAD is useless unless it involves a real challenge. A short period of one week or a one month will never test your endurance nor give you any real opportunity to work systematically on improving your photographic skills.
Question 2: Am I ready for a this challenge for next 6 or 12 months ?
I know all to well from my own experience, that it is easy to get carried away by this splendid idea of taking one photo each and every day for next twelve months. We all love taking photos, and many of us do indeed shoot daily, without having the PAD pressure on our back. We simply love to do this.
Taking the decision to shoot and post each and every day for next 12 months is completely different. As soon as you have made you presence clear on an open webpage, there will be lot of people following you and the pressure is on. You will struggle with delivering, both in the quality of each photo uploaded, and keeping a very tight time schedule, not missing a single day. Believe me, this is more demanding than you realize in the beginning.
Yet, this is the real essence of PAD - testing your determination, your endurance and your stamina in doing what you set out to do - taking one photo each and every day, finding your daily motiv ( come rain, come hell), choosing your favorite of the day ( if you are lucky enough to have a selection - some days you will be stuck with just the one shot you managed to do five minutes to midnight ), post process the shot and upload in time. Missing the deadline is just as serious as not taking the photo.
You will as well be under pressure each and every day for delivering "better" photo than the one you uploaded yesterday. This involves both the technical aspect of your shot as well as the content and the originality. Time after time, you will be forced to step out of your comfort zone, to try new things and take on new challenges. This is the other aspect of the PAD challenge - to use it to systematically improve your photographic skills.
Assuming that you have found your answers to the 2 questions above, I think its time to confront you with the last, and the most important question. Please bear in mind, that my reflection on those two previous questions are in no way meant to discourage you in taking on the challenge of PAD. On the contrary, I urge each and every one to really consider the challenge, and the opportunity it gives you to improve your photographic skills and to learn a lot about your self at the same time.
Question 3: Am I really crazy enough to go for it ?
If your answer is negative, you have at least taken time to evaluate, consider the pros and cons to reach a conclusion based on your reasoning, and thus avoided to start a journey that might result in disappointment and a broken dream.
If, on the other hand, your answer is yes, I really urge you to go for it, and approach the challenge with the attitude that can be found in my descriprion of my feelings when I posted my PAD number 183, exactly midway through my assignment:
"TOAST" - my PAD posting on March 27, 2004
I HAVE THREE REASONS FOR MY TOAST TODAY.
REASON NUMBER ONE:
This is my PAD no 183, which means that I have completed half of the task I started on September 24th 2003. The decision to start posting one picture each day for a year was very impulsive. While browsing Pbase I came across the works of David Mingay, Paul Walters and Michael Bo Hansen, and fifteen minutes later my PAD gallery was up with my first posting. One hour after that, I had already found several reasons not to do this. Luckily I posted first and then asked.
REASON NUMBER TWO:
Much to my surprise and astonishment even, the PAD project has turned out to be far more than I expected. I saw in it a chance and a challenge to start working on my photographic skills, a necessary discipline to keep me focused on what I already had decided to do - to change my photographic behavior from collecting snapshots to making pictures, and hopefully to be able someday to make a photograph that I could be pretty proud of. What I did not expect was to find a society of people that are willing to give me some of their precious time each and every day, not only to look at my daily pics, but also to encourage me by positive and constructive comments, as well as sharing their views and feelings. During these 183 days that I have been in this game, I have gradually found that I value more the personal contact, the friendship and the solidarity of the group, than the photographic aspect of PAD. I now know that the essence of the game is having fun while you satisfy your need for photographic expression.
REASON NUMBER THREE:
As I sit down at my computer writing this it is past midnight here in Iceland. We are 5 hours ahead of NYC time. I guess that while I am working on this, some of our PAD friends are celebrating their meeting in the Big Apple, a meeting which is a hard core proof of how PAD has brought people together and created friendship across borders and continents. So, here's to PAD, to the first half of my assignment completed, to all you fellow PADers wherever you are, and last, but not least, to the PAD group celebrating in NYC. Happy shooting to all of you !!!!
So - Go for it - be a little crazy and have fun !!!!
( I will follow up on this post in coming weeks with few tips and advice on how to prepare for this interesting challenge )
Canon AE1, Itorex FD 80-205 f/4,5, Kodak Tri-X 400
My first SLR camera was a Canon AE1 which I got in early 1979. The AE1 was my 3rd camera - prior to my entry into the SLR world I had been using a Russian Leica wannabe - FED 2 rangefinder.
I really enjoyed the AE1 and it served me well for 13 years, until I got my first EOS SLR film camera and got stuck in Canon world with ever increasing investment in fancy and expensive EF lenses and Digital EOS cameras. I guess that I was not the only one that did dream of being able to use my FD lenses on EOS cameras, but we all know now that this dream never came true. Wether it was a deliberate marketing strategy to make those FD lenses obsolete or an unevitable result of technological progress is something I do not know. The only thing I know now is that the the least use of and old FD lens is to try to mate it with an EOS camera.
I am a collector by nature, very reluctant to dispose of what I have aquired, and I do find cameras and other gadgets being hardest to part with.
Thus - my old AE1 along with several FD lenses have been sitting idle on my bookshelves for decades, serving as mantelpieces and reminding me of past days of film, manual focus photography and mystical moments in the darkroom.
Although I do feel from time to time the urge to once more load a roll of film into the AE1 and see my FD lenses in action once more, that urge has always been subdued and put to sleep by the fact that I've been spoiled by the comforts of a digital camera with a high quality autofocus zoom lens.
Enter the MTF ( Micro Four Thirds )
Having gradually accepted the fact that my old FD lenses were nothing else than memories of yesterday sitting on my bookshelf, this suddenly changed with the arrival of a new breed of digital cameras - mirrorless camera system that in the beginning was known by its ill fitted acronym "EVIL" ( Electronic viewfinder - Interchangable Lens ) - some of those cameras better known today as "MTF" og "Micro Four Thirds" by reference to a standard adopted by Olympus and Panasonic.
Eager to use this new opportunity I bought myself a Panasonic Lumix GF1 and ordered an FD/M43 adapter from Fotodiox.com. The GF1 has later been replaced by its successor, the more advanced GX1.
Using my old FD lenses on those cameras has been a real joy. The quality of the lenses really shine through, and they seem to work very well with the M43 sensor and the crop factor on those cameras.
As there is no communication between the lens and the camera, neither electrical nor mechanical, using them brings one back to the good old days of manual operation. Focusing has to be done manually, using the LCD display, and the lens has to be stopped down manually for the camera to be able to get correct exposure. To me, this is an added bonus, facing me with the challenge of shooting without the luxuries of the modern DSLR camera.
I'm really glad that I did not part with my Canon A series cameras and those FD lenses.
Panasonic Lumix GF1, Canon FD 135mm @ f/3,5
Larger version here: http://pallgudjonsson.zenfolio.com/p207052452/h57ab6e74#h57ab6e74
Panasonic Lumix GF1, Canon FD 35mm f/2,8
Larger version here: http://pallgudjonsson.zenfolio.com/p207052452/h57ab6e74#h57ab6e76
Panasonic Lumix GF1, Canon FD 50 mm f/1,8 SC
Larger version here: http://pallgudjonsson.zenfolio.com/p207052452/h57ab6e74#h57ab6e82
Panasonic Lumix GF1, Canon FD 50mm f/1,8 SC
Larger version here: http://pallgudjonsson.zenfolio.com/p207052452/h57ab6e74#h57ab6e8e
Panasonic Lumix GF1, Canon FD 50mm f/1,8 SC
Larger version here: http://pallgudjonsson.zenfolio.com/p207052452/h57ab6e74#h57ab6e88
Panasonic GX1, Canon FD 35mm f/2,8 @ f/2,8
Larger version here: http://pallgudjonsson.zenfolio.com/p207052452/h57ab6e74#h57ab6e9c
Panasonic GX1, Caon FD 35mm f/2,8 @ f/11
Larger version here: http://pallgudjonsson.zenfolio.com/p207052452/h57ab6e74#h57ab6e94
Panasonic Lumix GX1, Canon FD 50mm f/1,8 @ f/2,8
Larger version here: http://pallgudjonsson.zenfolio.com/p207052452/h57ab6e74#h57ab6ea2
While compiling and working on a collection for my photo exhibition in December 2010, I chose this photo as one of the candidates for that part of the exhibition which should represent the abstract side of my work.
Fence Poles - shot in 2004 with Canon EOS 10D and Canon EF 28-105 f/3,5-5,6 USM - Original - unprocessed
While working on, a question struck my mind:
WHEN IS A PHOTO NOT A PHOTO ANYMORE ?
How far can I take this photo through post processing before it turnes into something else ?
Where are the boundaries - where are the limits ?
I find this question rather interesting, and I really doubt that there can be found one particular, let alone a correct answer to this question.
To take this debate a little further, I decided to use the original above and make 3 different versions in square format. Every single step in this little exercise was done by using methods that have been around and used by photographers from the birth of photography. There were no fancy or complicated PS tricks involved. Every step, and every single alteration I used were known and used long before the advent of digital photography and photo editing software.
My first alteration was done by cropping the original into a 1:1 format, followed by basic photo enhancement in Adobe Lightroom. This involved minor adjustment of exposure, contrast and saturation, as well as sharpening the original raw file.
Despite those basic alterations, I guess everybody will agree with me that this is still a true photo in every sence of the word - yet its not the same as the original.
Lesson learned: Photographs can be altered and still be considered a photograph
So when is a photo not a photo anymore ?
Is it when it stops depicting reality, life and our surroundings precisely as it is ?
Hardly, as if that was the case, the first version would'nt be considered a photo, already being different version from the original.
Life all around us comes in all shades of color. That is not the case with photographs. We tend to distinct between color photos vs. "black and white" photographs.
So - are black and white not colors ?
B&W photos do definitely not depict life as it is - yet many of the greatest masterpieces in photography were made in black and white, representing our life and surroundings in different shades of gray, completely lacking all the colors that play an important part in our life.
So - on to the next step:
My only action here was to take version I and convert it in PS to a monochrome version, creating a true B&W / grayscale version.
Is this still a photo - or was the removal of the colors enough to transform the photo into something other than a photo ?
To me - the answer is obvious - this is still a photo.
Lesson learned: Colors are not one of the essential ingredients for making a photo ( that is - if "black" and "white" and all the shades of gray are not considered "colors" )
So when is a photo not a photo anymore ?
This version was made by simply using "Invert" in PS to create a negative version of the B&W version above. Nothing more.
Is this still a photo, or has it been transformed into something else ?
I'll leave it up to the reader to answer that last question.
OK - I'll gladly admit that I am a frantic lens collector.
Currently there are 10 lenses in my bag, covering a range from 14mm to 896mm in focal length. Most of those are either Canon L lenses or precious Zeiss optics.
Having all those lenses in the bag and at hand is both comforting and satisfying. I know that I've got a lens for every purpose and every task that I might have to deal with.
Yet - there is a problem.
Each lens has it's own character, strength and weaknesses - and each lens is built for a specific purpose, less suited for tasks not related to that purpose.
Having all those lenses means that I have to know the character, the strength, sweet spots and weakness of every single lens in order to get the most out of my investment.
In time, most of us tend to pick few favorites, one or two lenses, which cover the most part of our shooting. In most cases those favorites are general purpose, walk around zoom lenses that more or less cover 80 - 90% of our photographic activities. We know all there is to know about these workhorses and exploiding them to their limits.
The other ones, not falling in the the group of "workhorses" tend to spend most of their time in the dark corners of the camera bag or as mantel pieces, only rarely given the opportunity to show their merits.
The problem is that when we suddenly find the urge to take those lenses out to the light, we may not be familiar with their real merits, their strengths and weaknesses, and thus not able to use them to their utmost capabilities. The result can easily be a bit of a dissatisfaction and a tour to the dark corners of the camera bag.
Fortunately - there is a solution to the problem.
I even got a name for this solution:
"Walking the lens"
Being well aware of that problem, I have found my personal solution, a simple and effective one.
I try to use Saturday or Sunday mornings ( or weekdays afternoons ) for a healthy stroll in my neighborhood. While doing that, I take along my camera with one lens - and one lens only. The lens of choice each time will be the one that I am least familiar with and may have spent the longest time in the dark corner of my camera bag. The purpose is not bringing home my masterpiece, but to force myself to work with that particular lens, trying my skills in shooting different subjects with that lens, and gradually finding out where it shines, and where it can not do me any good.
By doing that, I not only learn a lot about the technical aspects of each lens - it gives my a great opportunity to look at familiar objects in a new and different way which I might not have done if my "workhorses" had been brought along.
And finally, by this way I know a lot more about those "idle glasses" when they are really needed in the struggle to bring home the "masterpiece.
Walking the EF 135mm f/2 L USM:
© PG Photography - Páll Guðjónsson