the contextual life

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Posts Tagged ‘photography

Week in the World: Excellent Journalism Edition

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I don’t believe this is a new phenomenon but I’ve noticed an overwhelming amount of quality journalism on the Internet lately. Here are a few pieces that made me think about creative nonfiction, links to more straightforward writing articles, and, of course, television shows and podcasts for when you’re done reading.

The Food That Ate Manhattan: The Implacable Rise of Frozen Yogurt Leaves Us Cold by Kim Velsey for The New York Observer
Frozen YogurtAnyone who knows me knows about my terrible frozen yogurt habit. I’ve memorized the locations of all the self-serve places below 14th street. I know the Tasti-d-Lites that surround the stores and coffee shops I frequent. I couldn’t go a day without it, or at least not easily. So, when I came across this fantastic article on the rise of frozen yogurt, specifically in New York City, and read its mocking, horrified tone, I was enthralled and wanted to share with everyone I knew.

It was not until one day in Union Square that I realized, in a moment of disquieting clarity, that frozen yogurt shops were everywhere. A Joyride frozen yogurt truck idled by the park, Diet Lite Ice Cream was visible just down 17th Street, and a Yelp search revealed that a Pinkberry, a Tasti D-Lite, a Red Mango, a 16 Handles, a Yoqua Bar and a Yogurberry were all within a five to 10 minute walk. None of which were deemed satisfactory by the friend at my side, who urged us on toward Flavaboom on Sixth Avenue, where one could get the nonfat flavors twisted together and heaped with cheesecake bites and cookie dough.

Nearly skipping with anticipation, she raved about frozen yogurt the whole way there. It was alarming. How could she be so into frozen yogurt? I wondered. How could anyone?

Saying Goodbye to Now by Thomas Beller for the New Yorker’s Culture Desk
CameraThomas Beller is an excellent observer. In this essay he looks at the difference between memories and photographs. At one point he asks, “Are [these memories] any more vivid to me because there are no photographs? Conversely, would photographing have taken me away and made it all less sharp in my mind?” But first he begins:

My daughter was now airborne. A flying monkey coming right at me, headfirst: straw-yellow hair, a blue skirt, blue spaghetti-strap shirt, apple cheeks, and lips garishly smudged with pink lip gloss within which is the whiteness of her bared teeth—

Stop! Right here, let’s freeze the frame. Here is an image that I will never see again, except in my memory. A girl in mid-flight, waves of green behind her, her face all bright with the colors —blue, pink, yellow, white—of joy and delight, and behind her, as though it was the place from which she had fled, an old, dignified mansion.

Right then, as she was airborne, my hand twitched and slapped my pocket, in the dim hope that I could locate my camera, pull it out, and shoot while the moment still held. But there was no camera, and anyway there was no time. I will never forget this image, though I may already be embellishing it. And you will never see it. You may picture it, but the picture itself was not taken. I had to fight off a sadness about this, because the moment, after all, was happening, and it was beautiful, and anything that detracted from my perception of that was a shame.

Deconstructed—Chris Ware’s Innovation by Steve Almond for The New Republic
Steve Almond is one of my favorite contemporary writers. I particularly like his nonfiction and usually find that his essays double as a writing lesson. In this review of Chris Ware’s epic graphic art experiment, Building Stories, Almond teaches us how to write about things of which we have no authority:

Let’s start with my qualifications as a critic of graphic novels: Putting aside an adolescent excursion into a stoner comic strip called the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, I have none. Worse yet, I tend to associate graphic novels with the regressive and haughty wing of hipsterism, the one that favors mope rock and off-brand beers. I guess what I’m getting at here is that I’m a nitwit.

There is no greater evidence of my nitwittedness (currently) than my initial reaction to the new release by the graphic novelist Chris Ware, who I have come to understand is something of a big deal in his field.

While this is totally hilarious, it is also getting at a problem that deserves attention–how do you write about something you haven’t got the slightest clue about? How do you look at a text, a work of art, a film, or listen to a piece of music and judge it, deconstruct it, and put to paper your thoughts and observations without context? Steve Almond breaks the taboo, touts his ignorance, and, inadvertently, champions the amateur.

Four hours with John McAfee by Adam Thomson for The Financial Times
McafeeThis profile of John McAfee, a tech tycoon who went on the lam after his neighbor was murdered, is a story that got really weird, really fast. The first reporting I’d read was in the Financial Times when one of their correspondents met up with him in Belize to write a profile:

There was nothing serene or tranquil about McAfee. As soon as he closed the front door, he ditched the limp and the crippled arm. Then, hands trembling, he reached for one of several cigarette packets lying on the table.”

His distress, and that of Samantha, his feisty 20-year-old Belizean girlfriend – during the interview, she accused me of being scared: “I’m young and smaller than you and I’ve got more balls” – was more than understandable given the saga that their lives had become over the previous few weeks.

Apparently, VICE magazine was there as well and gave away McAfee’s location through an iPhone photo embedded with GPS coordinates. Something McAfee is now suing them for. However, as The New York Times Decoder blog reports:

Within 36 hours, he began an aggressive campaign to court and spin coverage of his story. … Mr. McAfee seemed to understand the dynamics of journalism well enough to know which assertions reporters would pass along without double-checking or qualifying — like his claim that he had eluded the police by burying himself in sand and positioning a box over his head — even as his self-created narrative veered ever further into the surreal.

How to Write a Book Review from Daily Writing Tips
Why Netflix Makes You a Better Writer on LitReactor
Five Dos and Don’ts for Picking an Editor by Susan J. Morris for Omnivoracious
Should You Spend Money On Publicity & Marketing? by Randy Susan Meyers for Beyond the Margins

GirlsFor those of you who don’t have cable, Lena Dunham’s show Girls is now available on DVD. While you’re at it, co-producer Judd Apatow’s show Freaks and Geeks (1999) is streaming on Netflix. And for his latest film, ‘This is 40,’ Apatow has been doing some interviews: The Nerdist with Chris Hardwick and Bullseye with Jesse Thorn.

Now that everyone’s caught up on Mad Men Season 5, you can listen to The Nerdist Writer’s Panel’s “Mad Men season five in review” episode with Creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner, showrunners Andre and Maria Jacquemetton, and writer Erin Levy.

Judd Apatow

Alec Baldwin spoke with Lapham’s Quarterly founder, Lewis Lapham, for his show, Here’s the Thing. Lapham has an excellent gravelly voice that makes his stories and wisdom even better, if that were possible. You can also read an interview Lewis recently conducted with Smithsonian Magazine that I meant to share last week.

To the Best of Our Knowledge spoke with autistic savant Daniel Tammet and it was mesmerizing. Daniel is one of the few people with autism who can express his thought process and explain what he experiences. To hear him tell the interviewer how he thinks was astounding.

Images: Frozen Yogurt Charms; Camera; John McAfee

Written by Gabrielle

December 18, 2012 at 6:50 am

Novel as Camera

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“I’m going outside now. Come with me.”

Over the course of four months, Lucy, the main character in Kio Stark’s debut novel, FOLLOW ME DOWN, takes readers on a noirish quest to solve the mystery of an undelivered letter. Sent  20 or so years ago, the envelope contains a photograph of a young man with the words “he has it” scrawled on the back. Finding the man becomes Lucy’s obsession and everything else in her life drifts out of focus.

It’s suiting that Lucy is a photographer, an amateur with an old, plastic camera but a devoted practitioner with a philosophical appreciation for the medium. Through Lucy’s observations, Stark crafts detailed, nearly-tangible scenes. The reader is brought onto the street, keenly aware of neighborhood routines, shown the humor in a man sitting on the steps of a bodega drinking from a porcelain mug, and, side-by-side with Lucy, navigating the invisible boundaries of casual relationships. Nothing is too insignificant to go unnoticed—hair colors, lines on the faces of the elderly, curves on the bodies of young women, and the hidden moods beneath external expressions; we hear the sound of the pavement as Lucy travels, probing for clues.

At times, these intricate snapshots of the city feel as if they’re the real reason to read the novel. They’re a reminder to the jaded urban dweller, drifting through their day in a half sleep, that humanity surrounds them—and that it’s worth taking notice.

Stark’s career in academia appears to play a role in her approach to fiction writing. A straight line can be drawn from Lucy’s hyperawareness to the courses Stark teaches at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. While the name of the school might sound obscure, even cold or inaccessible, much of the program focuses on communal interaction in everyday life—both by studying it and by practicing it in the classroom. The program is not only made up of those who you would expect to enter this area of study, engineers and technologists, but also includes artists and designers.

Stark teaches classes called For Reals: Technology and the Illusion of Authenticity, Mediated Intimacy: Closeness and Distance, and perhaps the one that most informed her novel, When Strangers Meet, a course that explores the idea that even “the simplest exchange among strangers can contain a tangled accumulation of meanings”.

“I become fixated on what passes between men and women in the streets,” says Lucy at one point. “For a week it’s the only thing I can see, these scenes of solicitation and refusal. At the grocery store, I catch the manager watching hungrily as the checkout girl bends down to pick up a dropped coin. He and I stare at each other for a moment. I would like it to be okay for him to appreciate her, but it isn’t, because he is the boss and you can tell by his face he uses that for what he can. Something, this or else the heat, leaves me nauseous.”

Although a proof reader for a large law firm, Lucy chooses to live in the projects. She stands out as “the white girl with scarlet hair.” Her otherness is intentional, she goes where she will be an outsider because, as she says early in the novel, “sometimes what you want is to be somewhere you don’t belong.”

FOLLOW ME DOWN is a poetic mediation on a city landscape and, with Lucy’s peculiar mission through uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous territory, also a lesson in urban sociology.

Kio Stark’s website
Kio’s page on Red Lemonade (publisher)

Written by Gabrielle

June 20, 2011 at 5:53 am

must see :: Bill Cunningham New York

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“Using the low-key approach that shapes Cunningham’s column, Press works up a portrait that’s as raw, gentle, funny, and—in the end—irresistible as the pictures themselves.” —Slate

If you don’t follow fashion you could be forgiven for not knowing who Bill Cunningham is. Forgiven—but not off the hook. There is even less of an excuse now that a fascinating documentary has been made about his life and work. In Bill Cunningham New York (Zeitgeist Films) Director Richard Press has captured a truly charming character who could have easily been overlooked by the wider public—and what a shame that would have been.

Although famously praised by Vogue’s Anna Wintour and given front row seating to all the fashion shows in the US and abroad, Bill, the legendary New York Times fashion photographer, is not one of these ascot-donning, private car-hiring types. Instead, this octogenarian can be seen riding his bicycle through New York City traffic in a blue smock normally worn by Parisian street cleaners—both of which point to his ascetic lifestyle beautifully captured on screen.

It might be easier to think of Bill not as a fashion photographer for one of the largest newspapers in the world, but as someone he more closely resembles: a street photographer. All day he roams the city looking for themes: hats, flowers, colors, patterns, whatever appears to be trending at the moment. His photos are candid and rarely, if ever, posed.

Every Sunday in the New York Times Style Section, Bill’s thematic photos are collected and carefully arranged. The painstaking process, also given time in the film, is both humorous and endearing. Aside from the shots of ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, people, Bill is the man behind the week’s gala event pictures. One’s heart melts when you hear Bill explain that he chooses which to go to based on the good of the organization, not on who is attending as one would assume.

This sharp divide between the notion of the fashion industry and one of its most-loved is what makes this film so compelling to those outside of this seemingly glamorous culture. Bill Cunningham is one of the most genuine characters I’ve ever seen, a humanizing force in a world viewed as vapid and materialistic. All should be grateful to Press for taking the time to capture him on film.

After you watch this documentary, you’ll never miss the Sunday Style section again.

Official Trailer

Now playing at the IFC Center  and Village Cinema East through Thursday, June 16 and coming to Symphony Space starting June 12th

Official site
Slate review
Bill Cunningham’s New York Times page

Written by Gabrielle

June 7, 2011 at 8:56 am

vocab:: f is for . . .

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fastidious (adj.): hard to please
fatuity (n.): something foolish or stupid
feckless (adj.): feeble; ineffective
fettle (n.): state of health or spirits
filigree (n.): ornamental work especially of fine wire of gold, silver, or copper applied chiefly to gold and silver surfaces
firkins (n.): a small wooden vessel
foist (v.): palm off as genuine
frisson (n): a brief moment of emotional excitement
fug (n.): the stuffy atmosphere of a poorly ventilated space
fulsome (adj.): cloying; offensively excessive; insincere
fussbudget (n.): someone who fusses about insignificant things

Written by Gabrielle

May 3, 2011 at 7:20 am

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the underground surfaces

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exit through the gift shop is as entertaining as Banksy’s art, and warrants the same double take

the elusive street artist Banksy has earned an incredible amount of recognition over the past few years. his public displays of political satire have since expanded from the confides of his hometown, bristol. the attention reached new heights when, in 2005, he painted nine ironic images onto the separation wall in the west bank. before that he’d caused a stir at a number of prominent museums in new york and one in brooklyn when he put a few paintings of his own up on the walls. now, the documentary exit through the gift shop, which he both stars in and is given credit for directing, is up for an Oscar.

for people unfamiliar with the big names in street art—shepard fairey, hands-down the most recognizable in the film; space invader, a true up-and-comer; swoon, a woman who knows how to use a haunting image; and ron english, a contemporary artist who turns pop-advertising on its head—this documentary is a great intro not only to the cast of deviant characters and their works but also to the essence of the movement: a rebellious world where smart asses and class clowns reign.

street artists—whether they use paint, stencils, or mixed media installations—go to great lengths to thwart fines, arrest, and injury; most of the time it’s hard to tell if they do it in spite of or because of the risks involved. these talented and determined artists use the street as their canvas. they don’t create for the money but will most likely admit that fame plays a factor. Fame: not in the lindsay lohan and lady gaga sense but fame: the ubiquity of their signature character or style. like puppies on the first day in a new home they tag every spot, leaving no corner, wall, or fixed object unmarked; the harder to reach the better. even when a person’s technique or image isn’t the best, if they reach new levels of visibility, they earn respect.

this is why thierry guetta, a frenchman living in los angeles, is the perfect documentor for an authentic film on street art. just like the people he follows, he’s driven to take it one step further.

from the day thierry held his first video camera, the context of its arrival now forgotten,  it became an appendage. this new extension was always on, filming every moment to the annoyance of strangers and movie stars, and to the resignation of family members.

as luck would have it, one of those family members, thierry’s cousin, is the french artist space invader. during a visit to france, thierry collects footage of invader’s stealth gluing adventures. space invader, for all who have not yet had the pleasure of spying his work, is the creator of small mosaics featuring much-loved 1980s video game characters. these tiled squares, ranging from small to medium in size, have since made their way to many cities around the world—berlin, bangkok, bilbao, lyon, los angeles, and new york.

in a scene where the camera is turned on the filmmaker the audience is privvy to thierry’s sincere appreciation for what his cousin is doing; pasting up art in a public space for all to enjoy without having to pay an entrance fee. the experience changes him, his focus, and sparks an obsession; all of which only adds to his quirky charm.

thierry, obviously prone to obsessive behavior, digs deeper into the haphazard project, stubbornly pursuing and building relationships with the top names in the industry.

his first non-familial subject is shepard fairey, a connection made in 2002 through space invader. thierry goes to kinkos where shepard is printing out large sheets of his trademark image: a tightly-cropped face of wrestling legend Andre the Giant with the vague command, “obey,” written overhead. shepard had become used to increased media attention, his art having been recognizable for a few years at that point, but repeat interviews was something new and like any sane person, after a few mildly-intrusive days with the odd frenchman, shepard questions thierry about his plans.

thierry claims he’s working on a documentary about street art; fairey, convinced, allows him unprecedented, near-continuous access. soon thierry takes off for days at a time, leaving his wife and three kids at home, to travel the world documenting shepard’s wheatpasting escapades.

through thierry’s adventure videography, and because of his unrelenting desire to capture everything, viewers experience the streets with these graffiti-world heroes, witnessing firsthand what it’s like to scale the highest point of a building, dodge the police, and remain incognito—sometimes unsuccessfully—while committing unlawful acts, often on a large scale.

after embarking on a dogged pursuit thierry tracks down Banksy, the one artist notorious for keeping his face out of the press. his encounter with the indispensable figure, who appears on film only in the shadows and with his voice digitally altered, fundamentally changes the course of the film (or, the film that wasn’t, to be more precise).

in 2006, the art world experienced a shock: banksy’s show, “barely legal,” drew lines which, until that time, were reserved only for major museum exhibit openings. adding to the awe, the line wasn’t just for the first night, it persisted for three consecutive days; and even more incredible, it was in a warehouse located in downtown LA’s skid row, an area that contains one of the largest homeless populations in the US. big-time collectors started coming out to auction houses and paying good money for these pieces that were once categorized as crude vandalism. but now shepard fairey’s work hung side-by-side with rothko’s in the homes of international elites.

concerned with the commercialization of the work, banksy told thierry it was the time to finish the documentary—to show the artists for the anti-establishment, adrenaline addicts that they were and not some money-seeking flashes in the pan.

nearly a thousand, possibly more, hours of tape sat in thierry’s garage, uncategorized and abandoned without future. under pressure thierry does something he never expected: he edits the footage into a full-length feature; the end product is akin to acid visions on speed. filmmaker thierry is not but compulsive collector his is and banksy, with the eye and instincts of a world-class artist, takes over, turning the camera on thierry in the process.

along the way thierry had come up with his own character, an image of himself with a video camera, and had begun stickering and stenciling alongside his mentors. with this in mind banksy sends thierry back to LA with the idea of curating an art show in his head. it was a way of getting thierry out of his hair so he could sift through the footage but thierry, apparently very literal-minded, took it as a direct order. moving full-steam ahead as his newly-adopted street art persona, mr. brainwash, what becomes of thierry is comical—or horrific—depending on your sense of humor. rather quickly he sets up a studio ala warhol, hiring artists to create his mashed up visions pulled from a variety of art books and pop culture resources.

the speculation surrounding the film has become trite. skeptics believe banksy staged it all as another one of his sarcasm-soaked critiques of society. it probably didnt help that around the same time, joaquin phoenix came out with a documentary that supposedly followed him during his alleged nervous breakdown. both were a hoax, confirmed by the director and mentally-healthy star a few days after it hit the theaters. real street art fans won’t care; after all, they crave intelligent, well-crafted pranks; and anyway, exit through the gift shop, is so amazingly absurd it can’t help but be genuine.

exit through the gift shop‘s official site
interview with producer and editor on KCRW’s the treatment
space invader’s website
extra special thanks to laughing squid for running a giveaway of the dvd, which i won

Written by Gabrielle

February 24, 2011 at 8:53 am

Posted in art, film

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vocab: e is for . . .

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ebullition (n.):
a boiling or overflow of liquid; an outburst of feeling, passion
elide (v.): to suppress or alter by elision; to omit
elision (n.): the omission of an unstressed vowel or syllable in a verse to achieve a uniform metrical pattern
ephemeral (adj.): lasting a short period of time
epistolary (adj): written in the form of a series of letters
eponymous (adj.): of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named
ergo (conj.): therefore
ethereal (adj.): not composed of matter; celestial, heavenly
etiolate (v.): to grow pale; weaken

Written by Gabrielle

February 23, 2011 at 8:26 am

Posted in grammar

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things new yorkers like :: art school

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from the mission statement:

3rd Ward is an incubator for innovation and possibility. Our members come from all walks of life to realize their potential and find additional meaning in their lives through our supportive community and top-of-the-line creative resources, including photo studios, media lab, jewelry studio, wood & metal shops, and a huge education program.

Anyone can come to 3rd Ward to work, play, learn, grow and, ultimately, transform.

195 Morgan Ave, Brooklyn, NY

:: [join in] ::

moviehouse :: every second sunday / doors.7pm . . . film.8pm / free
this series presents the best local filmmaking. music, drinks, snacks, and people to talk to.

sweatshop social :: every last monday / 7 to 10pm / $10 suggested donation
you bring fabric and 3rd Ward gives you sewing machines, more fabric, advice, beer, and music.

drink n draw :: every wednesday / 8 to 10:30pm / $15.person . . . $10.w friend . . . free for members
bring your drawing tools, they have the model and beer.

classes :: interdisciplinary courses in art, digital multimedia, photography, fabrication and craft.

3rd ward homepage

Written by Gabrielle

February 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

things new yorkers like :: natalie portman

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Written by Gabrielle

January 29, 2011 at 9:14 pm

must-see :: norman rockwell

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the tattoo artist / norman rockwell / 1944

norman rockwell’s illustrations are known by almost every modern american born before 1985. his style, sentimental to the core, along with talent, are what carries his work through the day.

while rockwell’s paintings most certainly have their own allure, what interested me about the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, something i’d never known, were the photo shoots he’d arranged in order to have stills to reference—one of the building blocks to his hyperrealism.

rockwell would choose his models from friends, family, and neighbors; he’d once said, “I paint human-looking humans and professional models just don’t qualify.” he selected his participants not just on appearance but also their ability to perform and smile on cue. although the camera’s shutter was ultimately snapped by one of his hired photographers, gene pelham from 1939 to 1953 when rockwell was based in vermont; then bill scovill from 1953 to 1963 when rockwell first moved to massachusetts, and finally, the longest serving assistant, louie lamone from 1953 to 1977, also based in massachusetts, it was rockwell who set the scene, showing the models sketches of the poses and then acted them out to make sure they had it right, and setting the camera angle as well. even with all his elaborate efforts to create the photos, rockwell felt as if he were cheating and often felt guilty.

authenticity was important to the artist and would travel, within the US and abroad, to get the right setting for his paintings. one advertising assignment mentioned at the exhibit that sounded interesting was his work for Pan American, the international airline. apparently the job didnt go so well for rockwell. here’s what he had to say in his autobiography:

“And then there’s advertising. and my most disappointing fiasco. A few years back Wally Elton, a vice-president at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, asked me if I would like to go around the world for Pan American Airways. I would visit all the major cities at which the Pan American clippers landed and make sketches. When I returned the sketches would be published as advertisements for Pan American.

“I [assumed] that he wanted me to sketch the people I saw and the strange sights, sort of get the flavor of the cities we passed through. And that’s what I did. In Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Istanbul, Beirut, Karachi, Calcutta, Benares, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Hawaii. People from bullfighters and priests, to snake charmers, monkey tamers, Arabs, and Geisha girls. Scenes from a fountain in Rome to a camel-elephant-water buffalo-bicycle-and-beggar-thronged street in Karachi.

But when I returned home and submitted my sketchbook it was rejected. Oh, I did a few ads. Nothing to justify the time and money which had been spent, though. Because the agency and Pan American did not want pictures of the strange lands and people. “Those would only frighten tourists,” they said; “we want pictures of smart-looking tourists sunning on smart beaches in front of smart hotels.” But that’s not the kind of picture I can do. So I did nothing.”

adapted from: my adventures as an illustrator: norman rockwell (an autobiography) / 1995

marriage counselor / norman rockwell / 1963

this exhibit is running until april 10th. jump on the 2,3 and head to the brooklyn museum stop.

[big moments] ::
1894 : born in new york city
1916 : first cover illustration for the saturday evening post
1963 : ends relations with the saturday evening post
1978 : dies, age 84, stockbridge, massachusetts

[sources] ::
rockwell exhibit page at the brooklyn museum

brooklyn museum

Written by Gabrielle

January 5, 2011 at 6:06 am

Posted in art

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things new yorkers like :: thievin’

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Written by Gabrielle

January 1, 2011 at 12:32 pm

things new yorkers like :: holiday markets

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union square holiday market
until december 24th
11am to 9pm daily / 11am to 4pm december 24

[more info]
Urban Space

Written by Gabrielle

December 17, 2010 at 10:33 am

woman about town

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Written by Gabrielle

December 7, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Posted in photography

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. . . humans have the ability to conceive a past which is not constructed from the materials of our own experience, and which precedes our existence. We are able, in other words, to imagine both a historical and an abstract past. . . .the conception of time outside the present moment is surely a formative act of abstraction altogether. In the apprehension of a “past” and a “future” we recognize the existence of something that is not present to our senses as concrete reality. But such detachment from what we can see, smell or hear is the basic condition of thought altogether—at least, of symbolic thought, as opposed to immediate sensory perception. —time, eva hoffman (2009)

Written by Gabrielle

December 5, 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in books

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things new yorkers like :: packin’

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Written by Gabrielle

December 4, 2010 at 9:50 am

photography :: what the f/stop?

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if you’re like me, you’ve put off learning the basics of manual photography way too long. all those numbers and decimal points: they make my brain hurt and my heart race. my eyes go blurry with each page, which often read like an eternity. automatic is fine by me, thanks—until now. it’s time. i can handle it. so can you. here’s what i’m starting with:

time of day: early morning and late afternoon produce long shadows, which make pictures more effective. but this doesnt mean you shouldn’t go out shooting at other times.

ISO: the sensitivity of the film. the more sensitive, the less light it needs; the less sensitive, the longer you need to keep the shutter open—not good for photographing things that move. my grandpa once told me about 800 speed film; it saved me from needing a tripod. the least sensitive i’ve seen, the one needing the most time with the lens open, is 100.

shutter speed: the shutter speed is one of the two basic exposure settings on your camera, the other being the lens opening which i get to next. shutter speed determines the amount of time you allow light through the opening of the shutter—how long you expose the film to light. remember your ISO number: the higher that number is, the less light you’ll need to produce a photo, which means you can snap away at faster shutter speeds. some cameras can go as fast as 1/8000 second (the standard unit for measuring shutter speed) and some can keep the shutter open for 30 seconds, a long time in the photo world. with the automatic setting, your camera will choose the best speed to try and capture a still image, read: not blurry. but what if you want something blurred? what if you’re off at the races and think a trail behind a horse would look pretty cool. the shutter speed will help you with this effect.

here’s the math: as you decrease the shutter time, making the snap quicker, you cut the amount of light hitting the film in half. as you increase the shutter time, holding it open longer, you double the amount of light hitting the film. this doubling and halfing will, i’m sure, mean something to me one day.

f/stop: this is the term used to indicate the opening of the lens. its other names, which are a bit more descriptive, are lens aperture and lens diaphragm. this determines the amount of light allowed to pass through the lens.

from largest opening to smallest, here are the most common f/stops: f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, and f/16. notice that the numbers on this one feel a bit counter-intuitive: when you increase the lens opening the number paired with the ‘f’ decreases and vice versa.

here’s the math on this one: as you let more light in by decreasing the f/stop number you double the amount of light hitting the film. as you slow the light coming in by increasing the number you increase the amount of light by half compared to what it was before.

reason to care: so far, the most intriguing reason to learn this stuff is called “depth of field”. depth of field is a way of saying what in your photo, from the foreground to the background, is in (sharp) focus. if you want a sharp foreground and a fuzzy background, set the f/stop to the largest opening—or the lowest number on the number line. to have the entire photo in focus, use a small lens opening, the smallest f/stop—or the highest number on the number line. and everywhere in between. see, fun. i’m sure the shutter speed plays a role in making sure you don’t overexpose or underexpose your work—go outside and figure it out.


Written by Gabrielle

November 22, 2010 at 10:01 am

Posted in how-to, photography

Tagged with ,

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