I read the recently posted Clint Clemens interview on APhotoEditor and it highlighted some of the issues plaguing the photo industry these days.

“The photography space, as you know, has been flooded with imagery because the barrier to entry for photography has dropped so dramatically. Previously, you had to know how to focus, you had to know how to expose, you had to know how to color correct. All that’s now gone, and it’s largely an automatic function.”

What he’s doing is pointing out that photography as gotten so easy literally anyone can do it.  Now photographers, and myself as a photographer would argue that it’s not all that simple, and the quality of the content separates the art from the crap, but one sad truth is a lot of the photography industry out there doesn’t require much talent.  One of the things I notice (and it honestly saddens me) is how much great work there is out there.  I’ve seen hundreds of ’emerging’ photographer’s websites who are more than just competent, they show their style, technical know how, and ability to self edit.  Yet many of these photographers cannot and will not achieve the success they could have in another era simply because there are not enough jobs out there to sustain both their businesses and their life.

Photography is not worthless, but it certainly is worth-less.  The same thing happened to music after Napster.  Record sales aren’t going to support that industry, just as mid level ad jobs can’t support every studio out there.

Some of Clint’s more interesting comments had to do with how he built up a business that could be sustainable long after the digital arrow broke the bubble of sustainable business models.

“In 2004, I saw a lot of this stuff coming and so I got involved in High Dynamic Range Imaging. But not so much for the pictorial display of the imaging, but its ability to do image based lighting and rendering. I was trying to figure out what was going to be the next great change in photography or imaging. And, with movement towards the web, people more and more, want their information interactively. So if you’re a photographer you need to understand how your component becomes interactive, because the still image, while it may have impact, has a lot shorter shelf live, if only because there’s more imagery out in the world.

So, I thought, “where is the next threshold of imaging?” And my sense was that it’s a combination of interactivity and CGI.”

“Here’s the overall concept. When you look at a marketplace and when you look at your business, you have to figure out, “How can I maintain a barrier to entry?” Barriers to entry can be cost, they can be complexity they can be access. I can’t photograph the president of the United States but some people can.

So, how do you build a wall around yourself? It used to be your ability to focus, process, expose, etc. and that whole wall has completely fallen down. So, that’s what everybody’s trying to figure out, and that’s why I went in this direction, because the barrier to entry is so high.”

That was a pretty smart move if I do say so myself.  If I had the technical know-how to pull of some of what I see coming I might be able to position myself in the same place.  Fact is though that I can’t just be a photographer, I’d have to also be a CGI animator, web designer, and videographer (to start).  Those are the jobs of what I thought were 4 different kinds of people and in my experience lately one person is going to be expected to have these skills.

I invision the production house having more of an impact than the individual in the coming years.  Look at Chase Jarvis (my opinion of him aside) he’s not a photographer, he’s a team.  And that team made an iPhone app for god’s sake.  I never took the iPhone development class in college.  In my opinion if you want to build a successful studio, go meet some people working in other mediums and see what you can do together.  Just taking pictures these day’s ain’t gonna cut it.

It’s a lot I have to think about.  It requires a big re-imagining of my definition of success.

I’ve spent the last week playing with the mirrorless camera, the Sony NEX-3.  But at this time I’m unhappy to report that what I have on my hands is basically a brick.  Sony was applauded with the camera first came out for it’s excitingly outside the box (literally) design, and great feature set, but attacked for it’s menu driven design, and less than intuitive controls.  My experience with the camera was that the controls were only slightly annoying, and mostly easy to figure out.  I had an easier time with it than say, the Olympus Pen, which still requires some menu hunting for me.  Anyway, a recent firmware update from Sony was said to have corrected some of the gripes.  Most of the internet praise has indeed been good.  It’s not as popular as the micro 4/3rds cameras, but people who have them really like them.  My week with the camera was great.  Image quality at low ISO was pretty killer, and high ISO night scenes looked gritty but colorful, as opposed to noisy and corrupted, which is what we’ve seen from digital cameras just a few years ago.

However my fun turned to frustration after I ran the Sony updating software.  I got through the initial checklist and came to the ‘run’ stage of the update procedure.   Well this is when things got hairy.  It caused what I now know of as a Kernel Panic.  A particularly hard to trigger crash in OSX that absolutely requires a restart.  Now upon restart the firmware update was severed, so when all was said and done I am left with a brain dead camera.  The only function that remains is a small red light that illuminates itself in the battery compartment.  I’m assuming this is the Oh Shit! light, because that’s how I felt.

After contacting Sony I went through three tiers of technical support levels.  The first seemed to know that Sony may make electronic products, the second seemed to know what I digital camera is and how to connect it to the computer, but had no idea what Sony’s own firmware updating software looks like, or how it functioned.  The third basically told me after a very short conversation that this camera needs to be serviced.

It’s unfortunate because now I have to explain to my manager that this camera doesn’t work any more, and it isn’t really my fault.  I know how I’d react were the positions reversed.

Sigh.  Shit happens.

Here are some of the images from the camera while it worked though.

Who doesn’t love a favorite diner breakfast? Mine, is called Snacktown. It’s local and in close proximity to the Clean Max Laundry Center, so you’ll often find me here on Mondays, my day off from the camera store. My only big plans for the day are finishing my laundry, cleaning my apartment, and finishing a DVD slideshow project for a client.

That’s sort of what it’s been like for me lately, which makes me feel like I’m not doing enough for my ultimate goals, the idea I started this blog to complete. Applications for graduate school aren’t due until January and my meeting with a favored professor isn’t until the end of November. Life has taken over somewhat. I’ve been cooking with my girlfriend, shooting more snapshots than projects, and gearing up to settle a credit card debt I incurred from some camera purchases.

It feels like that, but it’s not all like that. One needs to remind one’s self of the little accomplishments that are adding up. I’ve entered contests, finished minor projects, centered in on a grad school I can afford and is local. I’ve done what I can around the time I have. Plus I’m pretty happy. I just got a raise at work, my girlfriend and I are moving in together, and I’m enjoying the time I spend with my friends.

Photography is a journey, not something that needs to get done before I turn 30. This is something I need to remind myself every now and then when I get down on myself about where I’m at in life.

Since I work in the used department, I can borrow gear sometimes.  I’m pretty much a Cosina Voigtlander fan boy.  They’re best known for making an affordable line of rangefinder equipment that competes with the super high endsystem for rich people.  It has the same lens mount, so you can use Leica lenses interchangeably, but they make their own line of sometimes very high quality, sometimes alternative ‘character’ type lenses.

In addition to this however, they have a small, largely unappreciated line of SLR lenses, for Canon and Nikon mounts.  They call this series the SL-II series, and it includes (for Canon) a 40mm ƒ2 Ultron, a 90mm ƒ3.5 APO Lanthar, and a 20mm ƒ3.5 Color-Skopar.  I own the 40mm, and I find it a wonderful companion to my 5D.  It has loads of character, and ample sharpness even wide open.  Plus ƒ2 is a completely respectable fast working aperture.

The 20mm is something of a strange lens (as is the 90 in some ways), it’s not fast, and has a lot of competition from excellent zoom, and prime lenses from Canon and Zeiss that are either faster or have auto focus.  However what the 20mm (along with the 40) have over all the competition is size.  They’re tiny!  Super tiny!  Normally referred to as ‘pancake’ lenses, they sit quite flat on the body.  I find these ideal for my style.  I prefer rangefinders for small format cameras, so when I do have to use an SLR I am usually bothered by the gargantuan (albeit excellent) zoom lenses.  The 40, and the 20mm lenses can be put into a small bag, and make the 5D seem like a much smaller camera.  No longer is it a burden on my shoulder, and no more do I have to worry about the huge rig slamming into things as I walk around corners.

Anyways,  I was able to spend a day with the 20mm Color-Skopar, walking around the city with my girlfriend.  My short review is that this lens is great!  A wonderful companion to the 40mm.  The performance is not as far off as some may think from the outstanding Zeiss 21mm 2.8, and at least equal to the Canon equivalents.  Take a look at some of the pictures I made last Saturday.


I had a ton of fun with this lens, and because I’ve been mostly disappointed with Canon lenses that I can afford, I’ll put it on my ‘to buy’ list.  There are ‘better’ lenses performance wise, but I like this one.  It’s sharp, small, and different.  Plus supporting the Voigtlander system is something I’m more than happy to do.

[YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZx55gcX0TM%5D

I was quite inspired by this video. I hope you are too.

Short post here, sorry I’ve been M.I.A. from blog land but it’s been a busy week.

1.  I bought a lovely Toyo 45A field camera off Craigslist.  I got a great deal on a great 4×5 camera.  I cannot WAIT to get back into the field with this thing.  Nothing, not even the most expensive digital back, beats large format.  It even make me miss 8×10.

2.  I am selling my Anniversary Speed Graphic.  Please love this camera, as I did.  Link

3. One of my images was selected to be sold on the online art gallery 52Editions.com. As I get more information about the date this goes on sale, I’ll reveal which.  I’m also planning a special offer to those who decide to purchase one of these prints!

It inexplicably upsets me that Leica continues to live up to it’s ‘luxury’ brand business model.  These once proud and honest photographic tools have now been reserved only for the super rich, the kind of person who buys Bulgari watches and drives super cars.  I can’t even imagine how many great picture stories aren’t being told with these wonderful tools, simply because they’ve been priced out of the hands of the talent that could afford them.  No wonder they’re considered something of a joke among professional photographers.  The working shooter just looks at something like this with spite, simply because it’s not just expensive.  It’s ridiculously expensive. Couple that with these silly limited editions that only the super (duper?) rich would buy and it just makes me sigh.

Still, I’ve got one on order.  I just had to stop at the Gold ATM before picking one up.