Wildlife photographer Charles Davis has been photographing nature for more than a decade. Budgerigars can usually be seen in flocks of about 100 birds, but after rainfall can number in the thousands. Capturing such a gathering was something he had always wanted to do.
Budgies taking flight from long dry Autumn grass. There were so many budgies flying around that Davis became cold from the volume of air they were displacing with their wings.
Cuban-born Abelardo Morell is notorious for his camera obscura works. They are in and of themselves wonderful little slices of life. The camera obscura method natively forces an image superposition upon the room the artist requires. Often inverted, these scenes are warped and contoured against the often unnatural geometric dwellings we occupy. The camera obscura was arguably, one of the first tools of photography thanks in large part to Daguerre. The images produces are often loud, chaotic and evoke the humdrum of city life.
This new “tent,” developed in response,looked much less cumbersome. With no frame apart from the tripod itself, it was more of a teepee. The black cloth draped over it, Morell said, “is the best thing I’ve ever found.” Several companies had sent him materials promising “total blackout,” but, he says, “we’d put a flashlight to it, and it just wasn’t good enough.” The cloth he eventually found is made by a scientific company that tests lasers in dark spaces. It creates “pitch blackness inside” the tent, Morell said, “so whatever’s intense out there is intense inside — focus, color, brightness.”
In a way, this a celebrated nod to 17th-century photomasking techniques. Some of the very first cameras had large black tents and huge glass plates. Traditionally, camera obscura images are tight urban interiors superimposed with inorganic cityscapes. But Morell’s latest mobile tent camera obscura produces a variety of images that evokes hints of impressionism filled with texture and picturesque brightness unseen in photographs before.
Morell’s latest body of work feel like a gargantuan leap from his Times Square Hotel Room, and yet feels so grounded and inspired from works like the masters. The organic background texture fogs your sight of the real foreground subject, and beckons you to squint. The foreground depicted, being often further than a few meters away, is clouded with dirt, rocks and nondescript organic grassy material collectively gives us a painting of a photo (in a way).
(Clockwise form top-left) “Wheat Field,” the Camargue, France, 2022. “A Single Tree in Late Afternoon,” near Arles, France, 2022. “Tree and Road,” La Crau, France, 2022. “Grass Field With Path,” near Arles, France, 2022.
Abelardo Morell has a gift. I hope he continues to push the envelope with camera obscura even further.
“Always restless, even daring when he had to be, Shaughnessy worked hard to get in and around the railroad, in all conditions, in all settings,” writes Kevin P. Keefe, former editor-in-chief of Trains magazine, in a book essay. “If the life of a crossing watchman was important, then Shaughnessy shuddered through a subzero night until the perfect moment when his subject dashed back into the warmth of a shanty. If the guts of a steam locomotive were interesting, then he’d insert himself into the depths of roundhouses and sidle up next to the hostlers in order to record the oily intricacies of valve gear and side rods.”
Born in Troy, New York, in 1933, Shaughnessy published his first photograph in Trains in 1952. While the detailed captions in Essential Witness are those of a true rail enthusiast (the “Pennsylvania Railroad 11-class 2-10-0” is identified as chugging over an elevated bridge), his images have a broader appreciation for how people exist with the railroads in North America, and how these systems altered the landscape. The silhouette of a tunnel in Canaan, New York, in 1989 reveals its jagged edges, framing the train with this rock that was blasted through for progress. Sometimes the trains are tiny against the mountains or waterfalls, sometimes the focus is elsewhere, like a 1953 photograph that concentrates on the cows in a Vermont pasture, unperturbed by the freight train zooming behind.
I love this photo. Train orders, are largely obsolete here in North America. But sometimes, it still happens. Traditionally orders get hooped to the conductor at the front, and the operator(s) at the caboose. Nowadays, operations are radioed or even downloaded.
The Maxar Worldview-3 satellite is a high-resolution commercial satellite armed with an impressive 31cm panchromatic resolution DSLR camera. Kottke shared this impressive low-angle shot the camera took of NYC:
Here’s a tighter crop which includes the Hudson river, East New Jersey, lower Manhattan, and Brooklyn (Prospect Park is huge!):
Since I.M. Pei’s upside-down cake of a modernist building first opened in 1978, people have complained about Dallas City Hall. Much of the decades-long jeremiad has centered on the vast, mostly useless—or, at least, underutilized—expanse in front of the building. The 6-acre plaza was part of Pei’s design, even though it’s more a shrug than an actual plan. To its credit, the city realized this early on and commissioned author and urban sociology professor William H. Whyte to study the plaza and recommend a fix. On June 15, 1983, Whyte delivered his presentation to the City Council. His idea: a pavilion with a food kiosk at its center and trees all around it, something that would provide sustenance and shade, somewhere to sit. He wanted to “bring down the scale of the plaza to the individual dimensions”—to make it “a place” (emphasis his). Apparently, the City Council was made up entirely of Alpha Betas from Revenge of the Nerds, because Whyte eloquently put forth all of these ideas, and all anyone heard was “BEACH PARTY!” A year later, in June 1984, the city trucked in tons of sand, and everyone put on their OP shorts. Lynn Lennon, who was working on a project about public spaces for the Dallas Public Library, captured the event for posterity. Lennon, whose work is in the permanent collection of SMU’s DeGolyer Library, was kind enough to dig up some of those photos for us.
I wonder when the Beach Party stopped being an annual thing. Here’s a couple of fun images from D Magazine (disclaimer, these were photographed by my friend, Kyle Pennington. An excellent food photographer, and musician):
Fellow blogger, writer, front-end engineer, and John Gruber fan (who doesn’t like Daring Fireball seriously?) — Tim Smith of BrightPixels is Kickstarting probably the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while. If you like services like Letterboxd or Micro.blog I think you’ll enjoy this Kickstarter.
More on that in a bit. But first, let’s back up. If you follow the blog here, you know I’m no fan of Facebook. No surprise there. There’s been some interesting developments recently concerning Facebook:
Oh. Fun. 2.8B fake accounts.
That. Is fucking insane. A huge admittance.
Our precious fragile WWW is dire peril ya’ll. It’s up to us. It’s time to dump Facebook. Zuckerberg’s recent pivot to “encryption” and “privacy” is a nothing short of malarkey and an attempt to circumvent potential FCC fines for future data-mishandling. He knows Facebook is bleeding users and there’s a reason why Instagram’s co-founder left Facebook last year.
Magic Mirror, on the wall, who, now, is the fairest one of all?
So yeah. Facebook is horrible. There’s really no disputing that Facebooks suite of social media applications are tearing apart the web, our mental health, and society. *sighs*
Enter Bokeh. A refreshing new take on photo-sharing.
If you’re a fan of MLTSHP (or the predecessor MLKSHK), I think you’ll enjoy Bokeh’s vision (from the Kickstarter):
Bokeh will be ad-free, have a chronological timeline, and will be private by default. That means that all accounts will start off as private. Public accounts will have an RSS feed, will have the option to cross-post to other social networks, and will support custom domains. All accounts will have an indie web compatible export so you can self-host if you want to.
People won’t be able to find you by name, but will instead need to know your username to find you. Bokeh will never display publicly who follows you or who you follow. If someone has requested to follow you 3 times and you’ve declined, the app will prompt you to block them. In other words, these are your pictures and I want you to have precise control over who sees them.
I think this is really compelling privacy-focused concept. I’m an avidly public persona online, and that’s just me personally — but everyone isn’t into that. So, having this privacy-by-default option is really rad. Moreover, I’m digging the pricing strategy:
Bokeh will have individual and family accounts. Individual accounts will cost $3/month or $30/year, and family accounts will cost $5/month or $50/year. You’ll be able to add up to 5 people to a family account, including the account admin. By backing this project now, you’ll get a discount and allow me to pay for the initial development.
This right here is what hopefully keeps hate-speech at bay, and might even eliminate bots and spam. I firmly believe pay-to-play models will save our online communities. Whereas, free-to-play models might become (predictably) the last bastions of hate-speech.
I really like Tim’s blog. I really like Tim’s idea and that’s why I’m backing his project. I really want privacy to win. But more importantly I want us to win. The more we use services like Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp — the more we lose. For the longest time, I thought Apple was uniquely positioned to bring us a privacy-focused photo-network but that never really panned out did it? It’s time for a change. Isn’t it time we had a real place to share photos with our friends?
American Interiors depicts the psychological repercussions of war and military service through images of the interiors of cars owned by veterans in the USA.
While some car interiors paint a grim, even bleak picture of veteran life — others are more interesting. Some are quite lively, and a reminder that our lives are complicated. Our country’s system is in shambles. The nightmares of country’s skirmishes and campaigns abroad that persist on were not created, nor are dealt with equally. I applaud anyone who can deal with the horrors of war.
I believe Casteels photography shines a light on problem in America that no one is willing to talk about: plainly, America doesn’t care about their veterans. We build monuments to honor them and praise their services but when it comes time to write a check, raise taxes or give our veterans the medical/psychological help they need — no one is willing to help.
I really hope the private citizen sentiment changes in my lifetime. M L Casteel’s book compiling his photography of veteran’s car interiors over a five-year period, can be purchased from Amazon.
While I could drone on and on about his accomplishments, his life’s work, and incredible war motifs — I suggest that you, yourself get lost in his body of work at Magnum Photos another time. But today, I want to share something specific from his life.
A documentation of a terrible day in history, D-Day. It’s true that the horrors of war are often poorly captured, and all too-often, censored. But Capa, being of the daring and lucky sort, volunteered to be a war photographer during the operation at Normandy.
He took over a hundred photos, which is astounding given the total and complete chaos that ensued on all six of the gritty, blood-ridden foamy shores. After the monumental achievement of surviving the battle, he mailed off his rolls of film for processing at a film lab in London operated by Life.
Of all 106 photographs Capa took that fateful day, a photo lab assistant had ruined all but eleven photographs. While it’s tragic, it’s almost fitting that the images that survived carry the full weight of that dangerous and wicked day. In a sense, it amplifies the mythology and altitude of the operation. The images have since been called The Magnificent Eleven. You can see all of the eleven here, but this one is my favorite:
It’s straight from a nightmare. It turns out that the eleven served as inspiration for Spielberg’s, Saving Private Ryan. Which is not surprising. It’s a powerful film, and wonderful homage to Capa’s work, and more importantly an homage to all who braved their lives during the war.
According to the Snap’s second quarter earnings report, the number of daily active users have dropped from 191 million in the first quarter of the year, to 188 million. That’s a drop of 2 percent, or 3 million users, since the last quarter, and marks the first time that user count has dropped in the company’s corporate history.
So, what to do? Simple, sell. Only Snap is a terrible investment and a nightmare for investors, as the firm is controlled, via two-class stock, by a 28-year-old who is already a billionaire, so he is a terrible fiduciary for shareholders, as he will not sell to the highest bidder. There are only two relevant criteria for who will acquire Snap:
Galloway goes on saying “It can’t be Facebook,” and that much is for certain — and who would Evan Spiegel even work for after an acquisition? Galloway has his sights on Disney or Amazon, and honestly I don’t see Iger making a play for Snap. But it could happen. Disney could use a pick-me-up for their teenage audience.
Contributing New York Times opinion writer, Tim Wu:
I’m a little surprised by how many people tell me they have no hobbies. It may seem a small thing, but — at the risk of sounding grandiose — I see it as a sign of a civilization in decline. The idea of leisure, after all, is a hard-won achievement; it presupposes that we have overcome the exigencies of brute survival. Yet here in the United States, the wealthiest country in history, we seem to have forgotten the importance of doing things solely because we enjoy them.
But there’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them. Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time. Our “hobbies,” if that’s even the word for them anymore, have become too serious, too demanding, too much an occasion to become anxious about whether you are really the person you claim to be.
While hyperbolic at first, I think Tim is onto something here. Having a hobby is hard. There’s certainly a deep social expectation that one must be an expert to satisfy the appearance of a hobbyist. I’ve felt it. What once was leisure, is now subject to the intensity and bombardment of excellence.
There’s nothing’s wrong with maintaining mediocrity — and there’s certainly nothing wrong with amateur hobbies either. Be it painting, drawing, yoga, reading, jogging, or even playing video games (or golf, for a different generation). Skill shouldn’t matter in the arena of hobbyists. That’s the whole point. It’s just a hobby.
I’m not saying hobbies have no room for improvement. I’m sure many will seek out means to hone their craft. Others will not. Some will become frustrated and move onto other hobbies. That’s how it should work. Probably best to ignore societal pressures to pro-actively level-up your hobby too. Let’s say you enjoy gardening. You’ve’re under no obligation to study up on heredity, and follow the footsteps of Gregor Mendel in breeding varieties of pea plants. Because, well that would no longer make it a hobby wouldn’t it?
The entire concept of having a hobby at all is because we enjoy leisure and relaxation. Focus on yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Lovely. Marc goes forward to say that browsers should support bitmap image filetypes, be flexible and recommends browser behavior when an <img> has been given a non-supported filetype in the src argument:
Browsers should be afforded flexibility as to which image formats they support. Xbm and Xpm are good ones to support, for example. If a browser cannot interpret a given format, it can do whatever it wants instead (X Mosaic will pop up a default bitmap as a placeholder).
But it wasn’t until 1980 that Dorfman found her ultimate medium: a rare large-format camera devised by the Polaroid Corporation. The instant photographs it produced were enormous—20 inches wide and 24 inches tall—with saturated colors and unparalleled detail. Dorfman was bewitched by the scale and clarity of this magical camera. The B-Side traces Dorfman’s love affair with the 20×24, while also presenting the wide range of formats Dorfman’s portraits and self-portraits haven taken over the years—from early 2-¼” negatives to prints produced by Polaroid’s even larger-format 40×80 instant camera.
If you’ve owned the magic of an instant camera, you probably understand Dorfman’s love of instant photography. What you’ve probably never seen, is a 40x80inch instant photograph.
Truly remarkable. Dorfman’s whimsy traits are literally the physical manifestation of the instant format itself. Excitable, fun, playful and true. This is going to be a fun doc to watch.
You can rent or buy the film from iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo or Google Play at bsidefilm.com
Stephen Shore is a languished expert of the American portrait. He has always held a special place in my heart. His work is sublime, relaxed and so beautiful to look at. Shore’s work just captivates me. His photography reads like a journal, and that’s something I think we can all empathize with.
I was probably 15 years old when I initially discovered Shore’s photographs. I completely fell in love with his color prints when I was able to get my hands on a book from my local library on The Factory.
Being a young teenager in the new millennium, I was enamored by Pop Art, and completely devoured any books I could find on the subject. It was all so compelling. These young men and women were completely exploring a new world of art. Subsidized by their wits, cigarettes, chasing fame and drugs — nothing was sacred. Shore was the de-facto documentarian, and an expert in his craft by the age of 14 nonetheless. There was something dignified but unfiltered about his photography of The Factory. Purely raw, and a real thrill to thumb through. You could just hear the echoing transistor radio amidst the cigarette smoking workers.
Examining some of his photographs from 1974, I felt as if I was in the passenger seat with him. Peering deeply into the few gloss prints I could find in the Time-Life tomes, I saw myself — I saw my father’s amateur photography and my aunt’s artwork as a portal to expression. Something I think I had struggled with growing up. My self-doubt over my own crude artwork began to wash away with every desolate and sublime photo. I realized the importance of process and adventure.
Later, in college I revisited Shore’s work for a class assignment. It couldn’t have been more timely either. I had just gone through a traumatic time dealing with failure. It was as if, I just picked up where I left off with him. Looking back, working on that research project was extremely cathartic. His work served as a reminder of persistence. I can’t be certain exactly what it was, but Shore’s photography really helped me press onward. But of course, with all things in our youth — time passed, and I moved on.
I still haven’t seen a print of Shore’s in person. However that may change soon enough, as he has an exhibition at the MoMa going on until May 28th. Since moving to New York City in the beginning of 2017, I’ve been lucky to experience some incredible collections at many of the city’s wonderful art museums. From Kara Walker to Georgia O’Keeffe, the spectrum of work on display are pretty varied here. I love it.
Shore’s deliberate choice to use large-format cameras and delicate subject matter seems so nonchalant and ethereal. But it feels as though it was shot on a small point-and-shoot. There’s something so casual and fleeting in frame.
I think a few filmmakers and directors of photography have taken cues from Shore — purposely or not. Notably and in no particular order: David Lynch, Guillermo del Toro, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, Robert Yeoman, and of course the Coen Brothers.
What makes the mundane so compelling here? Perhaps it’s that life moves so fucking fast. Shore’s photography provides a reprieve, a deep breath and a moment to reflect.
Have you ever been on a roadtrip? The scenery changes so quickly we don’t have time to digest. The ephemeral hand-painted signs, or the cashier behind the counter at the gas station, the brass knobs on a door, or the meticuloustephen.newsd soaps in your motel — just quick flashes in the grand scheme. Taken for granted and forgotten.
This is probably why Instagram is a such a popular photo sharing network. Everything is important. Stacked upon the previously important snapshot. A rich slice of life, that everyone can take part of. Perhaps, Shore’s lasting impact on the American landscape wasn’t the culmination of Uncommon Places, but instead merely the plated food photograph. The original Instagramer.
First, and foremost — Peak Design’s 20L Everyday Backpack is the greatest backpack to ever grace the Earth. I’m not kidding. It’s a must have for camera enthusiasts, commuters and urban dwellers. The velcro-enabled shelves ensure organization and protection for your gear. Wether you’re carrying camera equipment or not, it’s really handy. I can see this bag having great outdoor use as well. The rucksack inspired flip-top has a custom designed mag-clip. Durable and extremely rugged the clip can expand to give the bag an extra 10L of storage. 10 fucking liters. Insane.
I don’t have a lot of gripes with this bag. The laptop sleeve is a bit tight (you could fit an iPad as well, there’s a felt partition), but perhaps I’ve just had shitty loose bags my whole life and never had a proper laptop sleeve like this before. All-in-all, it’s a very thoughtfully designed backpack and I don’t foresee myself replacing this for a very long time, as Peak Design offers a Lifetime Warranty on all of their products. Very bold.
While it’s not for me, it’s worth noting Peak Design’s camera clips are pretty badass. I can see this having great utility on a film or photo set or even while hiking.
I’m still rocking the iPhone 7+ (for now). It’s a solid iPhone with a decent 12 hour battery life. I may have a go with the iPhone X next year, but I’m pretty satisfied with my iOS device. It’s served well so far, and I want to see how long I can hold onto this one. I’m not in any hurry to have a Qi charging or Face ID enabled iPhone. Great hardware achievements no doubt, but I think I’ll sit on the sidelines for now while the Apple Software team plays catch up.
That being said, I have to say…AirPods are fucking phenomenal. I can’t believe it took me this long to try out AirPods. I had previously purchased the Beatsx but oh boy were those trash. It may just be me, but it felt like it was just piping everything in mono and the treble always felt way too high, and podcasts sounded horribly muffled. The AirPods however, have a great range, and the noise cancelling is favorable — even on a subway platform. Tapping gestures are the way to go, took me a day to get used to them but oh man —there’s no going back for me.
I’ve never really owned a great camera. In the past, I’ve dabbled with GoPro’s, camera rentals and of course, my iPhone. But I’ve never really owned a worthy digital camera. After a great deal of searching, I narrowed my selection down to two contenders: The Fujifilm X-T20, and the Sony Alpha a6500. Two very capable, and very well received cameras. On one hand the X-T20 was very affordable — and on the other huge mass adoption the Sony Alpha line was taking off at the beginning of the 2017. I found the Fujifilm lenses were pretty expensive, and so I ultimately went with the Alpha.
I’ve been very happy with the stills and video. 4K capable (not stabilized) video could be better, but the stills take the cake. It’s a lightweight companion for any photographer. Mirrorless cameras are taking off, and personally I couldn’t be happier. The battery life has been the most impressive trade-off. Even while recording 4k 60fps video, the battery really lasts. The end of massive, weighty DSLR’s are neigh. A++.
Tripods are annoying. They’re big. They’re bulky. They’re heavy. Well, the Rangers 57” Tripod changes all that. It’s a great buy. 100% worth it. Even if you use your tripod only a couple times a year — this thing is worth the trouble. Weighing in at only 2.89 lbs. (1.3 kg) with the ballhead attached is crazy.
I bought this last November, and so far I have to say it’s a cool device. I wouldn’t say it’s immensely useful. But it is a great way to interface with the Chromecast. An audio query to play Ugly Delicious on Netflix is a lot faster than whipping out my iPhone, open Netflix, search, play, and Chromecast to the TV.
The iOS companion (unassumingly called Google Home) app, it pretty terrible. I’ve sent feedback on the app probably 10 times. You can’t output audio from Chromecast => Google Home which is a damn shame. It should be a two-way street but I guess Chromecast just can’t handle the bandwidth.
Furthermore, I’m disappointed Google Home doesn’t support Apple Music. You can play Apple Music over bluetooth audio to the speaker, but come on — I want Google Home to have access to the Apple Music API for voice queries.
2015 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display
Still going strong. It’s tough to justify buying a new MacBook when this one just keeps going and going. It’s had some minor graphics bugs when it hasn’t been shut down in weeks, but apart from that it’s been great.
I’d also like to point out I bought this gently used on eBay. Never underestimate the power of used computer equipment. I was apprehensive at first, especially since I’m a strong advocate of AppleCare but it’s been the best. I saved nearly $800 buying it used. I cannot recommend eBay enough.