Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ed Wagner, behind-the-scenes photo industry legend, dies

It's been a bad year for photo industry giants.

First Burt Keppler passed away, then Henry Froelich. Now comes the news that Ed Wagner is gone.

You may not have heard of Ed, but he was instrumental in building the success of photo retailers nationwide during a distinguished career that spanned seven decades. Publisher of trade publications Photographic Trade News, and later Photo Industry Reporter, Wagner reported on new products, marketing campaigns and other developments that directly influenced how the local mom-and-pop camera store around the corner sold you and me cameras.

I had the pleasure of knowing Ed over the last 15 years, and occasionally did assignments for him and his publishing partner, Rudi Maschke. His enthusiasm for photography was catching. As I've discovered with so many people who have risen to the top of their industries, Ed was a gentleman, loyal, generous with his advice, and always putting in a good word.

My condolences to the Wagner family on their loss.

Read Photo Industry Reporter's obituary.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Full-frame digital Leica rangefinder mystery plot thickens

The plot thickens.

Street photographers and photojournalists were rejoicing over the news reported earlier this month by Amateur Photographer that Leica had "strongly hinted" that there would be a Leica M rangefinder in the near future that would have a full-frame, 35mm-sized digital sensor. It looked really positive because the news came from an interview with Leica CEO Steven Lee.

Now we're not so sure. Steven Lee has been "sacked", according to AP. Could his firing have been a result of what he reportedly said to Amateur Photographer? And does his firing mean the full frame thing is happening, or not? Read the story, and decide for yourself.

BTW...our hats are off to Amateur Photographer for both some outstanding reporting!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New Street Photography Showcase, The World @ Street Level, Is Launched on the Web

Here it is: Our sister site is live!

One of the most challenging, underappreciated, but ultimately rewarding forms of photography is street photography. All over the world, photographers walk the streets of major cities, cameras in hand, trying to capture total strangers in candid moments in images that entertain, surprise, and ultimately prompt people to think visually. Now a new web site, The World @ Street Level, is serving up street photography by and for a new generation.

The World @ Street Level's approach has a unique twist: All of the photos showcased on the site are taken by photographers who have successfully completed an online course, hosted by the Perfect Picture School of Photography, called "Street Photography: Finding Order in Chaos." Taught by Mason Resnick, a veteran street photographer and well-known photography author, the class begain in January 2008 and has already received critical acclaim. As part of the course, Resnick critiques students' work.

"The World @ Street Level is, in a sense, a continuation of the course. It gets good street photography out there and hopefully will encourage others to be involved" notes Resnick, who in addition to teaching the course, is the web site owner. "A forum where street photography can be discussed will be available to both students and others who are interested."

According to one former student and featured The World at Street Level photographer, Mike Mackay, the critiques provided by Resnick "provide really helpful and insightful comments that motivate you to go out again and again to try new approaches."

Based more on refining one's instincts and improving perceptions of the world than on preconcieved ideas that are the basis of many photographs, street photography combines a zen-like philosophy with adventures in seeing. Because students must master exposure, manual focusing, and printing technique to get the sharpest, best exposures possible as a part of the course while simultaneously developing instincts and reflexes in order to capture decisive moments on the street, the skills learned as a street photographer can be applied to other photographic areas such as photojournalism and sports photography.

The World @ Street Level is produced by Resnick Associates, LLC. For details, email Mason Resnick at f8at250sec@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Photoshop turns 18; arrested for displaying irrational exuberance after birthday party

Adobe Photoshop was arrested early this morning after apparently overindulging while celebrating its 18th birthday, which took place yesterday. The image editing software, which was first officially released on February 19, 1990, was defacing Ansel Adams's classic photo "Moonrise Over Hernandez, NM," according to police. "I just wanted to apply my unsharp mask, officer. Is that a crime?" is what Photoshop was heard to say as it was hauled into a Windows-less cell.

Sources say Photoshop had been on an image-editing spree the entire night, including desaturating color image files, fixing linear distortion, and using the cloning tool for nefarious purposes. "Just because it's come of age doesn't give Photoshop license to use Gaussian Blur irresponsibly," an inside source told us.

The evening started innocently enough, with Photoshop blowing out the luminescent candles on its Layers cake. But soon, grain alcohol was served, and the rest of the evening was a blur. Soon Photoshop was seen zooming around town, turning RAW files into JPEGs with buddies Graphics Converter, Paint Shop Pro, and The Gimp.

"Clearly, Photoshop has problems and needs to be saved. It needs more than an easy fix or healing tool," notes Photoshop's manager, Creative Suite. "But let's not distort the situation. It was just one night. I'm sure a new, enhanced, and fully corrected Photoshop will come out of this."

Ansel Adams and Me

Today is Ansel Adams's birthday. He would have been 106.

Today is also my birthday. No, I'm not telling. But let's just say the California school of Fine Art's department of photography, which Ansel founded in 1946, had already started its second decade by the time I had my first diaper change.

But other than our birthdays coinciding--and the fact that we both ended up doing photography and chose to work primarily in black-and-white--Ansel and I never met, and didn't really have much in common.

Yes, I studied the Zone System, and have occasionally used a large-format camera, especially when learning photography and in the Modern Photography studio. And yes there was a time when my fingernails were brown from all that time submersed in darkroom chemicals. But I grew to prefer 35mm, and became passionate about street photography, which in many ways is diametrically the opposite to Adams's approach. Ansel preconceived and worked deliberately, while I believe in using perception and quick reflexes to get the shot in rapidly-changing environments.

Nevertheless, I disagreed when my mentor, Garry Winogrand, called Ansel "a hack." (Actually, the shocked silence that followed that statement in his classroom was probably a moment Garry savored. Or maybe it was professional jealousy? After all, Garry wasn't nearly as financially successful as Ansel.)

I am in awe of what Ansel Adams accomplished--creatively, professionally, and as an advocate for the environment--even though I chose a different approach to capturing the world. Both approaches are valid. After all, as Garry Winogrand said, all things are photographable in any way. Ansel's way is as valid as Garry's.

So, to Ansel and anyone else who shares or shared my birthday (like Kurt Cobain, Cindy Crawford, Patty Hearst, Ivana Trump, J. Geils, Sidney Poitier, and Charles--not Gnarls--Barkley), happy birthday!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ansel Adams video from George Eastman House

Here's a podcast video produced for the George Eastman house--an interview with Jean Verholst, associate curator, talking about the exhibit Ansel Adams: A Celebration Of Genius.

If you've never heard the story behind how "Moonrise, Hernandez New Mexico," Ansel's best-known image, was made, this podcast is definitely worth five minutes of your time. View it now.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

You heard it here first: New Street Photography Showcase Coming Soon!!!

I am stoked.

Black and White World is just days away from getting a sister site. It will be devoted to street photography, and will feature the work of up-and-coming street photographers who have successfully completed my online street photography course. I've been working on the site, and it's gonna rock.

The course starts again on Feb. 25--so if you want to join the fun and learn about the most challenging and rewarding area of photography, register now!

Street Photography: Finding Order in Chaos

And keep watching this space...soon you'll see The World at Street Level!

Friday, February 15, 2008

New York Workshop: Color to B&W in Photoshop

If you are in or near New York City, and want to upgrade your Photoshop skills, here's a good workshop to take:

Converting Color Images to Black & White in Adobe Photoshop
with Maria Ferrari, at Workshops@Adorama.

It costs $75 for the 2-hour workshop and takes place in Adorama's 5th floor classroom. Registration deadline is March 6th.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

100 in 100: 100 photo tips in 100 days, Part II

And now, a word from my day job...(yes, this is a press release!)

Adorama will launch Part II of its popular 100 in 100 feature on February 18. In the original 100 in 100, Adorama's AIRC Learning Center published 100 photography tips in 100 days. Thanks to popular demand, Adorama will post another 100 photography tips in 100 days. The special feature will include theme weeks, reader-submitted tips, gear guides, and picture-taking ideas.

A new tip will be posted every day, Monday-Friday, for 20 weeks from February 18-July 4.

"Traffic tripled when we ran 100 in 100 last fall," notes AIRC Learning Center editor Mason Resnick. "The feedback was incredible. We got email from readers telling us it was the most useful information they'd found online. When it was over, people wanted more, and we're getting ready to deliver."

The tips range from basics for snapshooters to advanced techniques for hobbyists and pros. "You never what you're going to get from one day to the next," notes Resnick. "We have some surprises in store for the next 20 weeks."

While waiting for 100 in 100 Part II to start, visitors are encouraged to visit the original 100 in 100, as well as the rest of the AIRC learning center, which contains hundreds of informative photography how-to articles, product reviews and buying guides.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

News media covers death of Polaroid film

When a brand as ubiquitous as the Polaroid dies, the media is all over it. When it was announced Friday that Polaroid was shuttering its last film production once and for all, it generated what one reporter described as a "heartfelt wake." And, fittingly, the response to the end of Polaroid film was...instantaneous.

Some examples...

Scotsman: The death of the Polaroid
"THE digital age has claimed yet another scalp. Polaroid instant photographs entranced a generation in the 1970s as colour images magically emerged from an unpromising white square of plastic..."

PC World: A heartfelt, YouTube-based wake for Polaroid Instant Photography
"I greeted today's news with an instinctive combination of shock, grief, and indignant fury: Polaroid has announced it's ceasing production of its instant film, which will become unavailable after 2009. What will I do when I need more film my trusty Polaroid?..."

The New York Times: Polaroid Abandons Instant Photography
"It was a wonder in its time: A camera that spat out photos that developed themselves in a few minutes as you watched. You got to see them where and when you took them, not a week later when the prints came back from the drugstore."

Techshout: Polaroid shuts down Instant Film Business after 60 years
"Remember the time when Polaroid film cameras were all the rage. You’d see excited people pulling a picture out of their cameras to see the image slowly but almost magically appear before their eyes. ..."

Saturday, February 09, 2008


As we remember the end of the Polaroid era (see Friday's post), here's a classic commercial for the Polaroid Swinger, starring Ally McGraw.

Just say "YES"!


Allan Grant, Life photographer

Allan Grant, life magazine staff photographer whose best-known shots include Marilyn Monroe shortly before she died and atom bomb tests in Nevada, passed away Feb. 1. He was 88. He photographed both celebrities and human interest stories--including "Flagpole Wedding," above, in a career that started in 1945.

Visit Allan Grant's web site and take a few minutes to remember and appreciate his contribution to photography and photojournalism.

Review: Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper

Mark Dubovoy and Michael Reichmann have been printing with Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper, a fine-art digital paper for inkjet printers.

Their in-depth review, published on Luminous Landscapes, is a must-read for digital B&W printers.

Friday, February 08, 2008

End of an era: Polaroid stops making instant film

Farewell, Polaroid 72.

After years of decline, Polaroid instant film is about to become a thing of the past. The company announced is closing its last two film manufacturing facilities, which currently make large-format film for commercial photography use, color and black-and-white peel-apart films for 3.5x4.25, 4x5, and 8x10 formats as well as a limited number of films for Spectra cameras.

Both of Polaroid's Massachusetts-based plants are closing, and the company's Mexico- and Netherlands-based facilities will shut down later this year.

Polaroid stopped production of instant cameras over a year ago without fanfare, and is expected to focus on digital photography equipment, including compact digital cameras, and flat-panel TVs.

In its heyday, Polaroid was one of the largest industries in Massachusetts, with thousands of employees, and its brand name was one of the most recognized in the world. In 2001, the company was forced into bankruptcy due to the advent of digital photography. It will retain approximately 150 administrative employees.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

DEAL ALERT: Free 4MB Compact Flash Card now online

Remember that free 4MB Kingston Compact Flash card we mentioned a few days ago? Now it's available online at Adorama.

Pay $40, then send in a $40 rebate.

Here's the link.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Got a Mac? Get these shareware programs!

Three new Mac-friendly image-editing programs worth looking into:

Apparent Software Image Framer: Add a frame border around your images. See what your photo would look like matted and framed before buying physical matts or frames. Shareware, $19.95.

HexCat VewIt: An image viewer that supports JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PSD and other formats, ViewIt lets you quickly sort, print and view EXIF tags. It also lets you print "contact sheets" of digital images. Shareware, $20.

Creaceed Hydra: A disadvantage of digital is that its dynamic range is limited, and you may lose detail in shadows and/or highlights. HDR (High Dynamic Range) combines bracketed photos and uses the best exposure areas of each to create an optimal image with latitude that can mimic the human eye's seeing abilities. But it's a multistep process and can be complex. Hydra simplifies the process. It'll even merge pictures that weren't taken on a tripod. (Ansel would've loved this.) Shareware, $59.95.

Monday, February 04, 2008

New Street Photo Class Starts Feb. 15

You have about a week to sign up for my street photography class at the Perfect Picture School of Photography. It's a small class and you get my personal attention--and I'll critique every photo!

Get the info and register here!


New street shooter added to In-Public

Meet David Solomons, the latest photographer to join the iN-PUBLiC.com group street photography web site. I really like his work--and this shot reminds me of the work of Tony Ray-Jones.

See David's portfolio.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Spread the word about Black & White World

Traffic to Black & White World since the relaunch on Jan. 1 has jumped 150% compared to the month before--from around 10,000 unique visitors to approximately 25,000, and this blog had 1,000 visitors for the first time in January, after a December in double figures. But we want to reclaim our position as the number one site devoted to black-and-white photography on the web, and that'll require a lot more traffic.

So, If you like what we're doing here at Black & White World, please take a few moments to tell a friend. In fact, tell a bunch of friends--as many as you'd like! Tell them Black & White photography is back, and so are we.

Fill in the "Tell A Friend" form on the right side of this page, or at the bottom of nearly every page in Black & White World. I love the traffic--especially when you click on the links to our advertisers. That helps support the site and I truly appreciate that support!

Ands if you have any suggestions for features or content that would make Black & White World a more enticing, exciting, and popular place, I'm all ears.


New Featured Photo on Black & White World

Jump to Black & White World to find out why this photo by Geoff Smith is the new Featured Photo!

GREAT DEAL ALERT! By phone or in person: 4MB card for FREE

This deal was so hot last week, when it was announced last week it brought Adorama.com to a screeching halt for an hour or so. Apparently when popular photo blogger Ken Rockwell--a really nice guy and a fellow former Long Islander--mentioned the deal, a gazillion people tried logging on to Adorama.com simultaneously, overwhelming its servers.

What was all the fuss about?

It's a Kingston 4GB 133x Elite Pro Compact Flash memory card, for sale $40 (which is a good deal all by itself), but with a $40 mail-in rebate. In other words, it's free (plus shipping).

Well, there's a catch: because this deal generated so much traffic to the web site, Adorama now requires customers to buy it in the store (Adorama Camera, Inc. 42 West 18th Street New York, NY) or ordering it by phone, 800-223-2500. Caveats: quantities limited, offers expire Feb. 8. Yes, the store is open Sundays. Good luck!

Vote in our new poll

For those of you keeping tabs on B&W World via the blog RSS feed, we've just put up a new poll in reaction to Sony's news that it has developed a full-frame 35mm sized digital camera sensor that captures 24 megapixels. Let us know what you think!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Kodak interviews John Sexton about Black & White

I met Audrey Jonckheer, who preaches the black-and-white gospel at Kodak, while attending PMA this week. We talked about how there seems to be a B&W comeback, and she was very interested in B&W World's potential role in it.

She pointed me to this interview she had with Ansel Adams protege John Sexton, in which he talks about his passion for B&W film. It's a good promotion for T-Max 400 but also check out all of those beautiful photos!

Also be sure to watch this video with John Sexton, also part of Kodak's efforts. (It's the second video down)

Like so many of us, he was turned on to B&W by watching a print come up in a tray of developer!

Black & White at PMA: The Roundup (This will be very short)

OK, so the news for B&W photographers is...not much.

Ilford has a new film developer for slower-speed films that replaces the older one.

Ilford also has unveiled Ilford Galerie Gold, a baryta-like paper that's optimized for digital B&W printing.

Kodak? Same ol' chemicals, new T-Max 400, which was introduced at Photo Plus Expo back in November.

I spent most of the show running down the latest digital gizmos so sorry, that's all I found.

The following pre-show rumors are false:
1. There is no full-frame Leica M9
2. Nikon did not come out with a digital rangefinder camera
3. Canon did not upgrade the 5D

Biggest news of the show?
Sony's 24MP, 35mm-format sensor, introduced the morning before the show got underway. It's big news because while Sony will be the first to offer a camera with this sensor, it won't be alone, since Sony sells its sensors to whoever's buying (usually Pentax, Nikon, and others.) A mock-up camera was shown under glass, presumably the Pro Sony, and it's a big mama. So yeah, Sony's going to go after professional photographers. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that their new camera will be officially released around Photokina time later this year.

So, who's buying?