Saturday, August 30, 2008

Random NYC street shot #24

© 2008 by Mason Resnick

Monday, August 25, 2008


Remember Izzy the Whatizit? He (or it) was the ill-fated mascot of the summer Olympics games in Atlanta in 1996. The name (or actually, the question, whatizzit?) came to mind when I found the above photo on a German web site, They found the images on a Chinese language site, Note the Micro Four Thirds and Panasonic logos on the camera. It apparently has interchangeable lenses, and maybe that means also an interchangeable optical viewfinder. Could this be the first of the Micro Four Thirds cameras--and might it be that non-Leica digital rangefinder I've been asking the Great Pumpkin for?

Here's my free-form interpretation of the Google-translation of the German:

"Anticipation has been running high since Olympus and Panasonic announced the Micro Four Thirds System. What, exactly, will the cameras look like? Does this system have a future? (Garbled translation...then...)

"This photo has added to the conjecture. We don't know if there will be an optical viewfinder, but in this photo it appears that there will simply be a rear LCD monitor. If this camera has an optical or very good electronic viewfinder, we want it. But we don't know if these pictures are leaked product shots, or simply photos of concept cameras. We'll know more when Photokina starts."


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Previously unpublished photo of Garry Winogrand at work

© 1976, 2008 by Mason Resnick

I recently came across this old photo of Garry Winogrand. I took this shot during a 2-week Master Workshop with Garry at the Germain School of Photography in August, 1976. Our classroom was the streets of lower Manhattan, and I took this shot of Garry on Broadway. While it many not be the most interesting photo visually speaking, it's reminded me of one aspect of Garry's working methods.

First, notice that he has no camera strap. He's simply holding the camera in his hand.

Second, look at his camera bag, which is covered with strips of white tape (see detail). These were labels, and every time he finished a roll he'd jot down basic info about the lighting conditions and ISO, then put the strip on the roll of film before dropping it into his bag. Later, he would refer to this information and adjust film processing to best fit the shooting conditions. You could call it pre-digital EXIF data.

Inside the camera bag was dozens of rolls of film, and a spare Leica M camera.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Remembering Henri Cartier Bresson on his 100th Birthday

Today would have been Henri Cartier-Bresson's 100th birthday. I consider him, along with Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank, and Elliott Erwitt to be one of the most influential photographers in my life.

I was lucky enough to meet HCB, at the New York Museum of Modern Art, at the press opening for his show, The Early Years. He was standing in one of the galleries, wearing a windbreaker with his camera descretely mostly hidden. My friend and co-worker Peter Moore recognized him and pointed him out to me. We walked over and introduced ourselves. I thanked him for his beautiful work. He smiled politely bowed his head as we shook hands.

Then he quickly walked off into the next gallery. That was the entire meeting, but for me it was, to coin a phrase, a decisive moment!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

One day at Modern Photography in 1983...

Photo ©1983 by Robert Alexander

When Herbert Keppler passed away in January, I looked around but couldn't find this shot. It just surfaced and is still worth posting because of the story behind it. We staged this meeting at Modern Photography magazine as part as an effort to publicize the fact that we were making extraordinary efforts to clean up the mail order camera advertisers, many of whom in the early 80s were ripping off their customers with increased boldness. In the first year, we rejected over a million bucks worth of ads because the store owners wouldn't do simple things like deliver what people ordered at the advertised price. This was my first job, and I was hired by Burt Keppler (standing, in the center) to run a team of secret shoppers to help weed out the bad ads. The whole thing was Burt's idea, which is why I wanted to find this photo.

So here was the team, discussing how we would protect our readers from our unscrupulous advertisers, from left to right: yours truly (pretending to look corporate), Bob Kinney, Larry Wienstein, Burt Keppler, Rachel Segall, and Howard Shaw.

As I recall, some of us were having a bit of trouble keeping a straight face during this shoot, possibly because Howard was telling a dirty joke.

Random NYC street shot #23

©2008 by Mason Resnick

Quick reminder: My online street photography class starts Sept. 12. Register today!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Staten Island Ferry #2

© 2008 by Mason Resnick

Monday, August 18, 2008

Staten Island Ferry #1

© 2008 by Mason Resnick

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Point Pleasant Beach, NJ #3

©2008 by Mason Resnick

Friday, August 08, 2008

The time is right for a digital rangefinder that's not a Leica

My first rangefinder camera was not a Leica. It was a Rollei 35--a tiny 35mm camera with a 40mm lens that you had to zone-focus (in other words, guess) and guestimate exposure, since the meter was less accurate than my guesses. It was quiet and unobtrusive. Years later, I would add the Olympus XA4, the palm-sized, clamshel design camera with (bless 'em) a focusing tab, to my collection, and took some amazing shots with it. Once I could afford one, I bought a Leica M3 from Ken Hansen in New York, but those two little cameras carried me through until then.

The joy of these cameras is that they were in the $100-150 range, while even a used Leica with a lens would set me back around $600 (oh how times have changed!).

Now, in the digital age, there is the Leica M8, for $5,000, plus around $3,000 for a new lens. For street photographers and others who like to work with a small, inconspicuous lens and demand high performance (read: no lag time) and high quality (read: no golf-ball-sized digital grain at ISO 400), there is nothing available for less than that.

Sure, there are compromise cameras such as the Canon G9, Ricoh GRII, or the Sigma DP-1--they're small and offer some great features, but quality starts to suffer by ISO 400 (with the excepton of the Sigma), and there is lag time (notably in the Sigma). Or, you can go with a small-ish DSLR like the Olympus E-410, but it's still bigger than a compact and more noticeable--and you can't see what's going on when the mirror slaps up.

But there is no digital equivalent to the Olympus XA series or Rollei 35. There really should be for the sake of those starting out in street photography, and I am optimistic that there will be one soon. My optimism stems from this week's announcement of the Micro Four Thirds system, developed by Olympus (!) and Panasonic. The sensor will be the same size as an Olympus or Panasonic DSLR, but because the camera won't have a mirror prism, it can be designed "radically smaller and lighter" (to quote the press release). Could they mean Olympus XA-small? I hope so!

But if someone's going to produce a (presumably affordable) digital rangefinder, they should do it right:
• No lag time. Use a mechanical shutter.
• A focus tab that would override autofocus when you wanted to. The XA focus tab design is a fine precedent to follow.
• Aperture and shutter speed dials.
• An optical rangefinder. No EVFs!

Can they do it? Given the timing of the announcement, we may see the first generation of affordable digital rangefinders by the end of September, at Photokina. The technology is there. Here's hopin'.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Point Pleasant Beach, NJ #2

© 2008 by Mason Resnick

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

© 2008 by Mason Resnick
Boardwalk, Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.