Examining the Work of Famous Photographers

Good reading

I often search for what I would consider outstanding photography and I came across this article by the editors of Digital Camera World, “The 55 best photographers of all time.”


The editors begin, “We’re not afraid of courting controversy here at Digital Camera World…Over the years we’ve interviewed a number of famous photographers and have been inspired by each of them, but one thing we often hear from readers, social media followers, and others, is…. “Who are the best photographers of all time?” It’s a good question! We put on our thinking caps and took a stab it.”

I think the list provided is interesting and is a worthwhile read. It also includes Digital Camera’s 33 myths of the Professional Photographer and Famous Photographer’s tips for being the best.

Another website entitled, Picture Correct, also has a list of who they think are the top ten most famous photographers, http://www.picturecorrect.com/tips/top-10-most-famous-photographers-of-all-time/

They write, “If you want to take truly memorable and moving photographs, you can learn something by studying the pictures of famous photographers. Some of the most beloved artists are deceased, but some are still delighting us with their photographs. The list includes some of the more famous photographers that still impact our lives today.”

I liked what the editors of Picture Correct wrote about how famous photographers are, “impacting our lives today”.  Personally, I believe a good photograph is timeless and speaks to every generation.

I enjoy studying those that excel in the medium of photography and I concur with their statement that, as they wrote, “Can learn something by studying the pictures of famous photographers,” and that photographers can advance their personal work by examining the work of others.

Many of the photographers I come in contact with are content with viewing only the photography of their circle of friends, or those they exchange photos with on FaceBook. I expect, and regularly get blank stares when I talk about some photography book I have just purchased or when I excitedly discuss my observations about some Blogger/photographer I have recently discovered.

Photography is a medium that almost everybody within our contemporary culture has a personal familiarity with, and an opinion on, whatever photos they see.

John Kippin, the chairman of the, Association for photography in higher education,discusses photography and writes, “It is, after all, probably one of the only forms of communication that is truly universal, crossing social and cultural boundaries and interweaving itself seamlessly with so many aspects of our lives. On a global scale, relatively few of the world’s citizens are unaware of photography (either as practitioners, consumers, or subjects, suitable for photography). It not only reflects and offers commentary on our lives, but in many ways, shapes them too. Our desire and need for photography reflects our need for representation within a vast spectrum that runs from the personal use of the image within our domestic lives to the security and military requirements of an age blighted by terrorism. Many of the uses of photography are not benign – they frequently contribute nothing to celebrate or enhance the human condition. Photography as technology is mute and without mercy. It has no morality and its subject is invisible until we choose to make it otherwise.”

I suspect it is probably that familiarity with photography that drives many modern photographers to think that they will excel in spite of their lack of awareness of what is being done, and what has been done by other photographers, and that as long as they keep up with the latest technology their photography will be applauded by their peers.

I am of the belief that looking and examining the work of other photographers famous or otherwise will make positive and, I think, creative changes in one’s personal photography.

Those two lists are only the opinion of the authors and as I perused the comments that readers posted, many felt their favorite photographers had been excluded and others were unhappy with some included on the lists. In my opinion that just doesn’t matter who made or didn’t make the lists, I enjoyed reading about them and their personal perspectives on photography.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

My updated website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Why Photographers Use a Tripod

Tripod & Hat

In his book, “Backcountry Journal, Reminiscences of a Wilderness Photographer,” Dave Bohn, mountain and wilderness photographer writes, “The trouble with photographers, and anyone else attempting anything creative, and in fact doing anything, is that they get addicted…(and)…I was addicted to the tripod as a necessity for the photography of large landscapes.”

I will admit that there are times when I use my camera lazily, releasing the shutter after having aimed my camera at some interesting landscape without using a tripod. Then I quickly view the LCD in the hope of seeing a sharp image file. But, if I really care about the image, and want the best success at producing a quality enlargement, I should definitely use my tripod.

Last night I picked up my tattered old copy of Bohn’s book, “Backcountry Journal, Reminiscences of a Wilderness Photographer” and read for a while. I have had it since it was printed in 1974, and like to reread a few pages every so often.  Photographers I know are aware that I like using a tripod for landscape photography, and have heard me say, “ If you don’t like using a tripod it means you never have used a good one”. Today it’s popular to spend extra money on “vibration reduction,” or “image stabilizing,” lenses with the notion that this technology will allow the photographer to do scenic photography without needing a tripod. Many modern photographers are of the belief that the difference between a blurry and a sharp enlargement is megapixels or vibration reduction lenses. I disagree and say the difference is a good, stable tripod.

I’m not saying photographers shouldn’t get image stabilizing lenses, as they are great to use in certain situations and conditions when you can’t use a tripod, and must use slower shutter speeds. Nevertheless, using a good tripod that allows one to stand up straight, take time to analyze the scene, problem solve, compose, and contemplate is an excellent experience. In addition, it keeps the camera from moving.

When I select a tripod I want one that extends above my head so I can use it on hills. I don’t like bending over to peer through my camera’s viewfinder. I prefer tripod legs that can be extended out horizontally when the ground is uneven.  I don’t want a crank to raise the center column as that is just added weight, and becomes one more thing to get caught on things. I like a column lock that turns to lock and unlock so I can easily move the camera when I need to adjust it up or down.  An important feature on the tripod I select is a strong and easily available quick release on the tripod head. The tripod head is another subject completely and my advice is get one that has a reasonable size ball surface and that is lightweight.  A tripod shouldn’t be so heavy that it’s a bother to carry as I walk up and down the hills around my backwoods home. And here is an important reason: I also want a sturdy-enough tripod that is capable of supporting my camera, and I am always amazed when someone buys a cheap, little tripod to hold their camera and lens which are worth well over the thousand dollar plus mark.

I suggest buying from people that have used, or at least can discuss, the tripods they sell.  The department store outlets will allow you to bring it back if you aren’t satisfied, but I am sure they are not interested in paying for the damages to your camera and lens that crashed to the ground while using their bargain tripod.

In recent years more and more quality tripods have become available and are worth owning and using. All one needs to do is spend some time researching and checking reviews. Hopefully you spent time selecting your digital camera and lenses and my advice is to take the time and also purchase a really good tripod to go along with them.

I really enjoy everyone’s comments. Thanks, John

My website is at at www.enmanscamera.com

What is Your Favourite Photographic Accessory?


Thursday mornings at my shop, I always have coffee with several friends. The conversation is always good, lively and is, of course, usually about photography.

Last week we ended our morning conversation discussing how off-camera flash technology was advancing, and I had mentioned how amazing it was to be able to synchronize a camera’s flash at 1/8000th of a second, and how I liked the versatility of positioning a speedlight with the off-camera flash bracket that I use.

Later that day as I thought about what my friends had talked about that morning, I got to thinking about how some accessories make our experience as photographers easier. There is always lots of discussion about cameras and lenses, but photographers only seem to mention occasionally the accessories that they use.

I decided to post the question, “What is your favourite photographic accessory?” on a couple on-line photography forums, but I received very few replies. I suspect “What is your favourite camera or lens” would have gained more attention. Nevertheless, here are some responses that I selected.

This first from someone called Hawaiiboy says, “I would have to say my tripod combined with my wired timer/remote.”

Then Merlin from British Columbia wrote, “My iphone.  I use maps to find my way around and play birdcalls when needed.  It acts as a flashlight at night.  Oh yeah I can even make phone calls with it.”

The third I’ll include is from a Toronto, Ontario photographer, “My 10 stop Neutral Density filter is right up there.”

Another photographer called Cicopo in Ontario posted, “My cable release and tripod because that allows me to shoot from a higher perspective and steadies my camera.”

Dave from Alberta included, “I would have to go with the obvious ones like an air bulb blower, and micro-fibre cleaning cloth. I photograph mainly out side so I use them a lot.

A photographer named Matt that shoots in Manitoba wrote, “My monopod, the next best way to stabilize my camera after a tripod. I also use it like a walking stick during my weekend hikes.”

My wife Linda leaned back over her chair, after I interrupted her reading with the question, and said, “My polarizing and graduated ND filters. I shoot mostly scenics and those filters help me control the sky.”

From Saskatchewan, Gary wrote, I’d include my 5 in One reflector as my favourite accessory. I shoot portraits and always use a reflector.

I think my favourite commentator was Hendrik, from Alberta who wrote, “My bean bag. It gives me the best stability I can ask for; it enables me to shoot from the safety of my car and lets me use my car as a blind. When I am out a whole day and stop for lunch, I can use it as a super comfy pillow to lay down in the grass and look at the clouds flying by.”

I’ll add one of my personal favourite accessories. I have written many times in the past that I almost never photograph people, indoors or out, without adding light from a flash. My favourite accessory that makes that all so easy is a flash bracket that I use to lift my flash way up off my camera.

I am sure readers will have their own, even if they never think about it, that is there in the camera bag, always waiting and ready to be used. These favourites that I listed from my responses aren’t that special, they are just those accessories that, as I wrote earlier, make our experience as photographers easier.

I like comments. Let me know what you think.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Camera Predictions from four decades ago.

enlargerCamera's 3

My good friend and fellow photographer, Sam Bruno, stopped by excited about some rumours after he had read predictions regarding upcoming changes to the next Nikon camera. Rumours, predictions, prophesies, opinions, and conjecture by so-called insiders about what camera manufacturers will be doing in the future are rarely very accurate, but fun to talk about anyway.

I dug out an article that I wrote in 2007 on a magazine commentary I thought might be an entertaining re-read.  In the May 1974 (39 years ago) issue of Photo World Magazine was an article entitled “Tomorrow’s Camera: Report from Japan.”  The article by author Tony Chiu first discussed what would be the “next major technological breakthrough in Japanese-manufactured SLRs…a solid-state shutter, which would make cameras less prone to jamming,” and praised that breakthrough. One must remember that in 1974 cameras were mechanically pulling film off a roll, and in front of the shutter.

On miniaturization, he wrote that, “The manufacturers had misgivings about reducing the current dimensions of their SLRs because the decreasing weight reduced protection against shutter vibration.”

On lenses Chiu commented that, “It is conceivable that 10 years from now a compound lens (a lens that has several elements, like all lenses have now) may weigh more than the SLR body. Although light weight, plastic lenses have long been an industry dream, there is today no major research toward their development.”

In the article he mentioned also that electronic shutter cameras “in the next decade” would be an  “expensive option available only to top-of-the-line models.”  I am amazed at the changes that have occurred since 1974.  Is it conceivable that the writer of that article would have been astonished at modern developments, and would the thought have crossed his mind that even inexpensive cameras would have electronics?

This next part is really interesting because each of the major companies was asked what their predictions for cameras of the future would be:

Canon – Suichi Ando visualized a portable camera small enough “to be carried in the pocket”, and capable of using 35mm film. Such an instrument would have a “universal lens, which can be changed by the flip of the finger from microphotography to telephotography.”

Nikon – Takateru Koakimoto said that the perfect camera would be one that excludes the chance of human error: “It will be fully automatic, perhaps with a small computer to control the exposure.”  I say that he wasn’t far off in his prediction.

Olympus – Yoshihisa Maitanni believed the ideal camera would have a universal lens and one button will wind the film, focus the picture, frame the image and make the perfect exposure.  He also thought that “Images will be projected directly on to a sensitized material,” fully edited, and enlarged.

Ricoh – Tomomasu Takeshita predicted that major advances in the film industry would reduce the film size. “Within 20 years the 16mm camera will replace today’s 35mm camera.” Such an instrument, as he saw it, would be considerably smaller and simpler – it would have a one-piece plastic lens in a partial return to the “pinhole concept” as well as an “electronic crystal” shutter.

Yashica – Nobukazu Sato’s dream was one that would not utilize film. “Just put the paper into the camera, make the exposure, pull the paper out and spray it.” Such a camera would make use of ultraviolet rays, and would also feature a universal lens and a fully automatic focusing system.  Both Ricoh and Yashica are no longer manufacturing cameras.

The writer of the article continues to say “Will we see such marvels in or lifetime?”

“Perhaps by the end of this century” a photographer’s choice could be  “For the amateur, a single lightweight, compound (today one would use the word “zoom”) lens will replace three or four of today’s standard lenses. And price – as it is today (1974) – will remain just within reach at the upper end of your budget.”

Digital camera technology wasn’t even a dream in 1974. Yes, they were printing digitally, but not taking pictures.  I can remember one of my first jobs working as a photographer for the California Office of Alternative Education in 1972. I bought myself the newest and coolest Pentax camera, a Spotmatic II.  The batteries it used aren’t even made today. And Pentax had just come out with a technological breakthrough, “multicoated lenses”. Will the cameras that we think are amazing today even be around in 20 years? I wonder what the future will bring?

I always appreciate comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com