Single Image Sunday

Just a creepy image or a Symbol of the Times?

This was taken during my community’s emergence from COVID-19 restrictions. It was in the back of an antique mall. An area that is publicly accessible so, it wasn’t as if I was someplace that I wasn’t supposed to be or any thing.

This is an area that has some inventory for sale, but is in the back and from the looks of things, I assume this particular space is fairly cheap for the vendors.

As I saw this it made me more than uneasy for maybe some obvious reasons. considering the mood and stress of the times this particular composition seemed to take on a host of different meanings as I thought about it

We could probably assign a lot of lockdown and quarantine meaning to it.

Does it somehow apply to the Black Lives Matter movement?

Is there some sort of broad societal meaning other than that?

At the end of the day is it just a photo of some mannquins?

Photography should make you think. Sometimes your own images can do that. Is that a valid reason to make them? I would have to say that it is one of the best reasons to make them. Making the viewer think is great, but making the photographer think is better, that’s how we improve.

Stay safe and see the world you own way.

Thanks for reading.

Is the Sony A6000 still Good in 2020?

Is the Sony A600 still worth owning or buying in 2020. The short answer is yes. The long answer is still yes, but with some qualifications.

Lets look at the specs for the A6000;

  • 24.3 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • BINZ X image processor
  • 3” LED Screen
  • 11 FPS continuous shooting
  • Excellent autofocus (both accuracy and speed) even by 2020 standards

There are a couple of cons to the deal;

  • No IBIS – you must use Sony’s Optical Steady Shot (OSS) lenses 
  • Only one card slot
  • Old style battery – very limited life
  • No mic jack – problematic for video shooters
  • No headphone jack 

All this from a camera first introduced in 2014.

So where does that leave it in 2020. For stills shooters, it’s still one of the best pieces of kit out there – the only issue might be IBIS but that’s not that big deal for stills if you are careful.

For video, there are better choices mainly because of built in mic jacks. The only good solution for A6000 shooters is to use an external audio recorder like the Zoom H1 and then sync audio and video in post. An extra step that requires a short learning curve to be sure. However, the video output from the A6000 even though it’s only 1080p is still quite good.

As to resolution the newest full frame from Sony, the A7C has 24.2 Megapixels, and the new Panasonic Lumix S5 comes in at the same. To be sure both cameras have features that the A6000 does not, and are full frame, but that does not make the A600 irrelevant in 2020.

A6000, 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Dallas TX 2019

The most attractive part of the A6000 right now is the price. While most other options are well over $1,000.00 USD with many approaching $2K, at the time of this writing the A6000 can be has, brand new, with the 16-50 f/3.5-5.6 kit lens for around $550.00 USD. Thats quit a deal in today’s camera market.

I may be a little prejudiced, as the A6000 is what started my journey into mirrorless and pulled me away from my canon DSLRs. You can find a more in depth, real world review by clicking here along with more photos.

All in all if you are looking for a good interchangeable lens, compact mirrorless camera for stills and maybe limited video, the Sony A6000 is still a good choice. Even in 2020.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Stay safe and see the world your own way.

Thanks for reading.

Life Magazine and the Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller is a 2013 adaptation of a short story by James Thurber, first published in The New Yorker magazine in 1939. Actually this is the second film adaptation of the story, the first, starring Danny Kaye was released in 1947. Both films deal with introverted editors with a penchant for fantasy and daydreaming, Kaye’s Mitty is employed by Pierce Publishing as an editor while Stiller’s Mitty character is employed by Life Magazine as a “Negative Assets Manager” which, in the film, is another title for a – sort of – photo editor.

Overall, I enjoyed both films, but I have a bit of an issue with the 2013 version, and, no, I don’t care how accurately it does or does not follow the original 1939 Thurber story, or the 1947 film.

Life Magazine was an inestimable cultural influence. Though the magazine was published continuously  from 1883-1972, its real “life” as a daily influencer (as we would probably call it now) was from 1936 onward when it was purchase by Time Inc. magnate Henry Luce. In fact during its heyday as a weekly publication the magazine sold some 13.5 million copies per month. In October 1978 the magazine was revived as a monthly, published until 2000

The original motto of Life Magazine published with its first issue in 1883 was;

“Where there’s Life, There’s hope”

Far from what we are told in the 2013 film version. In fact the film tries to portray the era in which Life was transitioning from being a Sunday supplement (think Parade Magazine or USA Weekend) with occasional special issues commemorating its past, to a strictly online presence. This 2004-2007 era is the time period for the 2013 film. During this period, Life’s motto actually was;

“America’s Weekend Magazine”

Certainly a far cry from what is purported in the film to be Life’s motto in the Stiller film;

Problematically, this motto has taken on a sort of “life” of its own. It seems that a lot of people are taking it as sort of a personal life mission statement attaching way more significance to it than it deserves. Sort of what happened with the 1993 novel The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. The internet is rife with innumerable trinkets and tchotchkes with the film’s motto variously etched, printed and engraved on them.

The truth of the matter is that during the planning of Life Magazine during its 1936 purchase, owner Henry Luce distributed an internal prospectus with the following statement;

“To see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events; to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud; to see strange things — machines, armies, multitudes, shadows in the jungle and on the moon; to see man’s work — his paintings, towers and discoveries; to see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to; the women that men love and many children; to see and take pleasure in seeing; to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed”.

Certainly more complex and evocative than the overly simplified lines than were given in the film and certainly stating the very essence of the “why” behind photography. 

Proof that simpler is not necessarily better.

So maybe the writers didn’t think the public could digest all of that? Maybe they oversimplified it to fit our modern attention span? I wholly prefer the real statement to the abbreviated one in the film as it is more than just a slogan, it has depth and meaning. Meaning enough to entice a sort of Hall of Fame of Photographers to shoot for the magazine over the years; Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, Alfred Eisenstaedt, W. Eugene Smith, Gordon Parks were just a few of the photographers that were immortalized within the magazine’s pages practicing the “why” of photography.

Best quote from the movie?

Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t (take the picture). If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.

Stay safe and  see the world your own way.

Thanks for reading.

Preserving the Past – Before and after

Sort of following along with the previous two posts, I though I would post a little about my recent preservation project.

I have ended up as the custodian for my Father’s slide collection. About 500-700 Kodachromes most of which were taken in the 1950s – 1960s. 

I remember the living room slide shows from my youth and still sort of remember the subject of most of the images and around when they were made. Of course there were many where I didn’t remember the people or location so I culled those out. Some people wouldn’t have, but most of the slides are around 60-70 years old and have not been stored properly over the decades and are pretty severely damaged. They are contaminated with what I think is either mold or fungus and many have actual damage to the emulsion. To preserve them for the future is going to require some work and so I reduced the workload by culling out that which is inconsequential to the story. 

So let me give you a quick overview of the process.

First I needed a scanner of some sort. For reviewing the slides I still had my old light box and loupe from the 1990’s. Now I needed to transfer them to digital. After some pretty thorough research I settled on the Epson Perfection V600 Photo scanner. A pretty basic flatbed scanner that is photo-centric and way better than some of the cheaper models that simply digitize the image to an SD card as a low resolution JPEG.

I like the Epson V600 mainly because, through their scanning app, I can choose resolution and file type. So I am not limited to JPEG. After some experimentation, a resolution of 4800 ppi and .Tiff files seems the best solution in this case.

I don’t have any need for any other scanning software than comes standard with the scanner. So far I have been extremely happy with the results. 

After scanning is when the fun begins (that was sarcasm by the way). I scan them to a folder on my desktop then import them to Lightroom (Classic not Mobile). After a brief look over, I send them from Lightroom to Photoshop where the real work begins.

This is an unretouched scan directly from the original Kodachrome transparency which was made in 1954 at the corner of Market and Powell streets in San Francisco CA. You can see the spotting and scratches in the sky, as well as spotting near the WOOLWORTH’S sign

With extensive use of the healing brushes and clone stamp tool, I am able to remove the fungus/mold contamination, and repair the damage. Then I save them back to Lightroom and make some basic adjustment to try and preserve the original colors.

So far, it’s taken me about 30-90 minutes per image to have them done to my taste.

This is the finished product. What do you think?

When they’re done, I am taking the standard precautions with the finished files: One copy on my computer, one copy in cloud storage, and one copy on a portable drive, and last, my personal precaution of printing the best of the selects.

I have no illusions, this is going to be a long term project. But I think that it will be worth it in the end.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment.

Stay safe, see the world your own way, and thanks for reading.

The Print Part 2

In my last post, I stated that the print completes the photograph and results in the tangible thing that can actually be called a photograph as opposed to a digital image on a screen. Are there other reasons to print your work? Do you have to spend a good deal of money to print? If you are satisfied with the digital product, what is the point of printing?

There are a lot  reasons to print, aside from just the completion process. Firstly as I mentioned before it “future proofs” your work. Anyone who has been around the photographic process for any time understands the idea of preserving their work. You can have all of the digital storage you want. On site, off site, portable, and cloud storage. If you implement the standard doctrine of three places of storage with one portable and one off site, your work will probably be safe for the foreseeable future. Don’t count on it for the long term. There are several different types of digital storage that have become obsolete (like floppy discs) and some that are quickly becoming so (CD ROMS or DVDs anyone?). Prints in a box or album or whatever do not need a “device” to view, and will not become “un-openable” due to file corruption or obsolescence. Prints are always copiable and convertible to a digital format without destruction. In short, prints are as close to permanent as you can get. If you are any kind of serious photographer, it is the best insurance you can have. This doesn’t mean you have to print all of your work. Just what you think are the best images for posterity.

Thankfully I have prints that I no longer have the original digital file or transparency/negative for. They have been lost over the years, I still have the prints though, and wish I had more of them. 

Photography is not supposed to be transient. Rather it is supposed to have a sense of permanence. If you are around 20 years old or older, you probably have a relative that has boxes full of old photographs. Some may be in albums and none stored correctly. Of course, as digital photography has progressed, and as social media has become so pervasive people have stopped doing this. However, that old box of photos is a treasure trove of memories. It has preserved the past in a sense. Nostalgia. The digital environment will never be able to compete. There is no comparison to the joy of looking through a box of forgotten  photos or an old and valued family album and the quick scrolling through someone’s Instagram feed to see their latest photos. One is a quick experience that may elicit some comments the other becomes a deeper experience as you hold the photograph in your hands. What you are holding is a document of the past and it will exist into the future.

Prints can be had for very little expense. If you just shoot typical snapshots on your phone, you can take that phone to your local big box store and have 4”x 6” prints made for about 35 cents apiece. So you could have 100 prints for around $35.00 USD and go shopping in the process. When you get home, you can start your own shoebox of memories. Of course the same applies if you use a camera, you can just take your memory card and do the same. Of course for a little more money you can have bigger prints made. If you want higher quality or prints larger than about 11”x14” there are myriad online printers that can fulfill your needs at many different price points. Having prints made can be as simple and inexpensive, or as complex and expensive as you would like – your choice. The best part is  with any of these options you don’t even have to leave home. Even the big box stores have online options where you can upload your file, pay, and it will be shipped directly to you. Not having the time or the money really isn’t a consideration. 

Home printing is another story. The average budget priced all-in-one printer for the home will work in a pinch, but is not the best suited device for the job. In reality you should have a specialized and dedicated photo printer. Ranging in price from a few hundred to thousands of dollars for the printer itself, not to mention ink and paper, you are looking at an investment in equipment and consumables. Choosing and using a printer is really a subject in and of itself. There are other things too, like ICC paper profiles and monitor calibration. Suffice to say I, and many other people find it very rewarding and with a fairly budget minded set up, I can make prints up to A3 size (13”x19”) that rival lab made prints made by specialists

Ultimately, all things are impermanent and everything is transient. Neither a digital image not a print will live forever but the print will develop a life of its own.

The thing of it is to print. How you print and how frequently you print is your choice – even IF you print is your choice. But why wouldn’t you?

The Print

Ansel Adams wrote three fundamental books during his lifetime that are considered must reads for photographers The Camera, The Negative, and The Print. The point of these writings was to explain the importance of each according to him, and ultimately how all three things resulted in the photograph. Undeniably, the camera is now, and was then the most important part of the equation, obviously without the camera there cannot be a photograph.

Regarding The Negative, despite the seeming resurgence of film, this volume today would be better titled The File. The intent of course is to state the importance of the image in its raw state as that thing which will, ultimately once printed, result in a Photograph.

The series ends with The Print, stating the obvious, that to the author, a photograph does not exist until the finished print is created. More importantly in Adams’ view, until the photographer has made a print that conveys their exact vision. However at the time of his writings it must be stated that not all photographers were printers and not all printers were photographers. Indeed, many famous photographers left the printing to someone  else, only giving direction as to how they wanted the final image to look through cropping, dodging and burning.

Currently we seem to think that an image posted on the internet social media site of choice constitutes a finished photo. Now most photographers have become editors, spending far too much time fiddling around with every image in the editing software of their choice, and then, oddly, not printing it. Now, as then, an image does not constitute a photograph until it is printed. Whether created with a home printing set up, quite akin to the film darkroom of the past, or outsourced to a professional printer, it doesn’t matter and is the photographers choice, but the result is the same, a finished photograph. On a side note in the pre-digital era, many photo labs advertised “Photo Finishing” as their service. This meant that they developed and printed your film, thereby “finishing” the process started by the photographer. The obvious conclusion can be drawn, no print = not finished.

Test print: Sony A7II, FE 50mm f/1.8, Canon Pixma Pro 100, Canon Inks, HP Advanced Photo Paper – Glossy

Why then is a print an actual photograph when a digital file on social media isn’t? Because despite what you might believe, a photograph is a thing, and things can only exist in reality. Basically, if you can’t touch it, it is not a thing, it is just the idea of a thing.

I know there are some people who will say that digital art is now a thing due to the progression of technology. No, sorry. I have yet to see, or hear of a strictly digital art exhibit, of any consequence, wherein all art is viewed in a gallery setting on screens. When I came to this realization, I had to ask why? Could it be because the public at large still considers art to be a tangible thing? Then photography by extension would still have to be a tangible thing. Even if it doesn’t always rise to the standard of “Art”.

Aside from just completing the photographic process by printing (whatever method you choose), it is also a way of “future proofing your work.  Most prints when created on a proper photo printer, on photo paper, are to some degree archival and could be expected to last 25 or more years (with certain inks and papers, Canon promises 100 years, I think the jury is still out on that claim though). That should be enough of a reason to print. Consider it the final step in preserving your work once you have taken the standard storage precautions with your digital files.

Stay safe, see the world your own way and thanks for reading.

A Remarkable Absence

Once again, I have been jolted back to reality. Not by something, but rather by the lack of things.

One of the pleasures of my life used to be browsing in a good book store. Not only have bookstores become nearly extinct, but when you find them, there’s not much there. Well, fiction seems to still be doing fairly well, but non-fiction just isn’t what it used to be. I suppose because most of the content we used to get from books is now available, for free, on the internet in one form or another. 

So, recently my wife and I stopped by our local chain bookstore to browse, mostly because our favorite used bookstore was closed (they are a charity attached to the local library and only open limited hours). This particular chain happens to be one of the survivors, they have survived the onslaught from Amazon and the internet in general, but you can quickly see by the inventory that their survival has been dependent on change. Years ago the extensive magazine racks began shrinking and are now shadows of their former selves. The various non-fiction sections still have inventory, but the titles are usually sophomoric works aimed at the masses, not at the person with actual knowledge in a specific area. I found this to be especially true in the photography section, which, depressingly, is now part of the “Technology” section. Among the titles was a volume on famous photographers which from the title seemed interesting but on perusal was nothing more than a series of photographs by different photographers (some fairly notable and some well.. not so much) with a paragraph on the opposite page describing who they were and what the subject of the photograph was. Very basic stuff. I suppose it has some value for the curious, but not for anyone looking for anything in depth. Likewise a volume on vintage film cameras that was really a “Coffee Table” book and treated the matter very lightly with few actual examples and little actual information – for $44.95 USD.  Sadly I know more about vintage cameras and famous photographers than did the respective authors of either one of these books.

Where does that leave those of us who value the tactility of books, and the information they can provide? The pleasure and privilege of being able to pick up a volume of knowledge that you can hold in your hands and refer to at will, no batteries required? Are we slowly relegated to the dustbin of obsolescence? Has the internet won? Rhetorical questions for sure, but ones that need to be answered. These are the questions being asked by academics who understand the transience of the internet and have referred to the decades that comprise the 2000’s as being the lost century, information wise.

I don’t know how to change the current norm, but, I suppose, due to middle aged nostalgia, I pine for the days of books. The internet has its place to be sure. Google is likely the greatest repository of knowledge and information ever created in human history. It’s also responsible for the general “dumbing down” of society, because the information in many case is presented in short,  easily understandable bites, which over time, alters our attention spans so we are incapable of digesting more complex information. This is exemplified by the standard advice for bloggers to keep posts to less than 1,000 words or your readers won’t stay to the end. 

By the way, the irony of posting on the internet about this particular topic has not escaped me.

So where does this fit into photography, other than a lack of photography related books? Well, that’s exactly the point. Right now you have innumerable, talented photographers and educators working daily, producing great work and, doing nothing with it except posting it on the internet, mostly on social media looking for likes. Nothing is as impermanent as digital content. Literally it can be here today and gone tomorrow.  Despite what you might do to “future proof” your work, it is at the mercy of the ether. As is all of the information on the internet.

As photographers we are standing on the shoulders of giants in the sense that great photographers and curators have come before us, but as we lose touch with their work, we lose the history of the medium. 

I don’t pretend to have the answers. I know that there are many photographers out there that are self publishing and some of them are really good. That’s a good thing. But we need to reach a wider audience. As time passes, I’m afraid that books – real, tangible books, not just photography related, are appealing to a narrower and narrower audience. How long will it be before the written word in any form has become obsolete? Am I some sort of a Luddite for feeling this way? Is this my own personal “ok Boomer” moment? Possibly. That, however does nothing to change the situation, and change it we should before we are all relegated to pondering quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore, and nothing more.

As always, stay safe and see the world you own way.

Thanks for reading.

Sony A7C first Impressions

Well, it’s here, sort of, at least available for preorder at the usual retailers. What I am talking about, of course, is the new Sony A7C. Sony’s compact full frame camera.

On first inspection it is nothing more than a full frame sensor in a Sony A6XXX APS-C body.

To some, the specs are unimpressive.

  • 24MP BSI CMOS full-frame sensor
  • Bionz X processor (same as in the a7 III)
  • ‘Real-time tracking’ AF system with human head, face, eye, and animal recognition
  • Oversampled 4K video at up to 30p, including 8-bit S-Log and HLG
  • Continuous bursts at up to 10 fps
  • Fully articulating 921K dot touchscreen
  • 2.36M dot EVF with 0.59x mag.
  • Mic and headphone sockets
  • Large ‘Z-type’ battery, rated to 740 shots per charge

It, basically seems to be a standard A7X series camera, but like I said before, in an A6XXX body.

Most of the reviewers seem to be obsessing over the usual things like only one card slot, which is not that big a deal but it seems to be a deal breaker lately for the OCD spec crowd.

The interesting thing though is the new kit lens that Sony is offering up with this camera a 28-60mm f/4-5.6 zoom is, at first glance an unusual choice.

We’ll get back to that in a minute.

One of the most often asked questions I’ve seen online regarding this camera is  – “Who’s it for”, meaning what type of photographer do you have to be to use this camera. In other words, our camera selection has become so specialized that we would never consider using a “portrait” camera for landscapes or sports. Obviously some cameras are better suited for certain applications than others, but lets not obsess over it mmmkay?

Realistically, I think this camera is aimed at the smart phone convert. The person that has been using their smart phone and wants to get into more serious photography. That’s why it has an articulating selfie screen and comes with a kit lens that approximates the standard cell phone field of view.

The only real problem I see is the pricing. Right now, at preorder prices it’s at $1798 body only and $2098 with the kit lens. As I’ve discussed before, Sony seems to always be at the high end of the spectrum especially with this camera that seems targeted at an entry level type of user. 

I can almost get behind the pricing if you are already invested in the Sony lens system, if not, then there are better options available.

For instance the Panasonic Lumix S5 is $1197 body only and $2297 with the 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. The well regarded Nikon Z5 comes in at even less with body only at $1396 or with a 20-50mm f/4-6.3 kit lens for a mere $1696. Both cameras do have some features that Sony has omitted like joystick controls and touch screen menus.

All in all, at the end of the day, the best use for the A7C might be to pair it with an M-mount adapter and use Leica M-mount glass with it in manual focus mode. You could use anything from vintage to modern glass at a host of different price points.

I don’t think I’ll seriously be looking at it any time soon as my A6000 suits me just fine when I need a compact camera and my A7II is the full frame option.

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment!

Stay safe and see the world you own way. Thanks for reading.

The Canon of Photography (not the camera)

Photography needs an official canon of literary work. What I am referring to is not photography per se, butrather the study of photography at the academic level. 

Photography has become such an important part of the zeitgeist that a serious student of the medium must study not only the art, but also the philosophy and history at an existential level. To this end, there must be an acknowledged canon, or a traditional collection of writings against which all other writings on the subject of photography are judged and evaluated. 

Of course there is a difference in this case between what should be referred to as the applied canon as opposed to the literary canon. The applied canon would be the significant work of the medium as produced by the acknowledged masters in the various genres. This work is absolutely worthy of study by any student or aficionado of photography. There has been a significant effort by a few dedicated individuals to define, preserve, and curate this work.

The literary canon, though, is much less well defined and only seems to appear on the photographic radar years after publication as certain volumes are elevated within the genre and assume an above average significance.

To this end, I would like to submit for consideration, three volumes as the basis of the Canon of Photography.

The History of Photography by Beaumont NewhallThe Museum of Modern Art – New York


This is an astoundingly complete volume encompassing the history of the photographic process from the very early experiments just before 1800 forward to the 1970’s. 

The author was not only incredibly well versed in photography, but had many friends and associates in the photographic world, some of which would be considered giants of the medium such as László Moholy-Nagy and Ansel Adams. The author served as Curator of MOMA’s photography collection from 1940 – 1947 and was the appointed Curator at the George Eastman Museum until his retirement as Director in 1971.

This is the best foundational read there is in photography, and a great place to start your academic study of photography.

On Photography by Susan Sontag 


I own the Anchor Books version from 1990. This is a collection of essays on photography that originally appeared in The New York Review of Books between 1973 – 1977. 

Ms. Sontag was the long time partner of Photographer and Portraitist Annie Leibovitz so her observations and opinions do carry some authority. However I, and most everyone that has read On Photography, find her writing style to be pretentious and verbose. The material is worth working your way through to the conclusions and the book itself is the only real volume that begins to tackle the psychological impact of photography versus how we as a society react to, and view it. Therefore it is a necessary volume in the literary canon of photography. 

Looking at Photographs 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art by John Szarkowski

ISBN 0-87070-515-6

Originally published in 1973, this volume is, on one hand, rather simply, a picture book with each of the 100 photos having a paragraph that describes the image and what makes it interesting. On the other hand it takes an attentive reader deeper into the image and discusses composition and artistic merit. It is a simple “must have” volume.

The three books combined are the fundamental basis of the art of photography at an existential level, having nothing to do with the technical points on how to make a photograph but everything to do with why we should, and do, make them in the first place.

Stay safe and thanks for reading.

Single Image


This is a “just for fun” image  that had been hanging around the back of my mind for some time and ended up being a “quarantine weekend” project put together from some things that I have around the house.

Taken with a Sony A7II and 16-35, f/4 G series lens in mixed light, Edited in Lightroom  Classic.

I can highly recommend the Magnum book if you are interested in how an agency like Magnum works and how it developed from its inception through the nineties.

-Stay safe, see the world through your own eyes, and thanks  for reading.