Friday, August 24, 2007

Recent Work: Poetry Garden

The Poetry Garden
at 190 Fremont Street,
San Francisco.
Howard Street Entrance.

The fountain.

Sculpture and 190 Fremont.

Photos: ©2007 David W. Sumner

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What We See

More and more I've come to realize that my intense study of anthropology and sociology in college, and the few years I worked as an archaeologist, have significantly influenced not only the way I look at the world, but what in the world I see.

It's interesting to contemplate what in our lives has shaped the way we look at our surroundings and exactly what we see.

Is this the last trace of a cave painting or simply the many layers of paint on the floor of the atrium in my house?
Twenty first century pictographs outside a pre-school in San Francisco. What of the pictographs across the South West? Are they the blackboard lessons of youth?

When we are looking are we really seeing?

Photos: ©2007 David W. Sumner

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

An Important Point, Often Overlooked

Mark Loundry's column in this month's issue of The Digital Journalist is worth a close read:

"The value of our work lies not in the fraction of a second that it takes to record an image but in the value that the client is getting from it. For example, a large-circulation magazine might charge more than $100,000 for a full-page ad. A smaller publication might charge only a fraction of that, but it's still going to be in the thousands of dollars. Since the magazine itself puts a high valuation on its pages, it makes sense that you do the same with the images that you're supplying to fill those pages."

No matter how much you charge for use rights, the publication that uses your image is always going to make more money from it than you are. So don't sell yourself short.
Photo: ©1991 David W. Sumner

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Poetry Garden

The Poetry garden at 199 Fremont Street is a nicely design urban green space established in 2000 as the result of a collaboration between former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass and sculptor Paul Kos.

While its initial charm has worn a little thin (it has become a coffee break hang out complete with cigarette butts, stale coffee spills, and carelessly discarded paper cups) it's still a calm and inviting rest stop on a weekend walk South of Market.

The official word is that photography is forbidden, I guess because the garden is technically on private property, or maybe it's a copyright issue regarding the sculpture. Supposedly ever vigilant security guards hop to every time someone pulls out a camera. However, yesterday I spent about forty minutes hanging out in the garden photographing to my heart's content, never seeing a another soul. I'll be posting my B&W images of the Poetry Garden in the very near future.

In the meantime pay the garden a visit yourself. It's right in front of 199 Fremont Street, beside the Town Hall Restaurant. Accessible from either Fremont or Howard streets.

All photos: ©2007 David W. Sumner

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Glass Counts

Visiting with a couple of friends yesterday our conversation on new photography equipment turned toward lenses. It's agreed that whatever camera you're using it's the lens that can make or break your picture.

Today there is a lot of "vintage glass" out there and people are hunting it down. In some cases prices are going up, but for the most part older, high quality optics can be had for reasonable to dirt cheap prices.

In the image above I have three of my favorites:
On the left is a Nikkor - O 35mm f/2 from the 1960s. For some reason this lens did not mass produce well so quality from sample to sample may vary, but when they got it right they really got it right. This is a sharp, sturdy, reliable lens. I had mine AI modified so it couples with the meters on all my cameras, even my F4 and F100. I bought this lens in 1989 in a shop in Berkeley. The repairman in the shop tested the lens when it came in and said it was one of the sharpest 35mm Nikkors he had ever seen. I paid about $75.00 for it.

The center lens is a Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AIS, arguably the sharpest wide angle lens Nikon has ever made. This is my standard lens. I never go out without it on my F100 and it accounts for 90% of my images. In 2003 I paid $250.00 for it in fine condition. Shortly after I received it I noticed lubricant leaking onto the diaphragm blades. I took it to the camera tech I had been using for years and had him take a look. He took it apart, cleaned it and repacked it with a new heavy duty lube. It cost me an additional $165.00, but when I picked it up he told me that it was one of the finest optics to come across his work bench and guaranteed that I wouldn't have any problem with it in the next twenty years.

The last lens in the line up is a gem. A Nikon E-series 135mm f/2.8. Nikon first made the E-series lenses in response to the popularity of third party lenses that increased in the 1970s and 1980s. E-series lenses typically had fewer elements than their Nikkor counterparts and some plastic parts. They were usually considered less rugged, light weight and optically inferior. In reality, in most cases, the E-series lenses were solid and optically sound. I've owned several Nikkor 135s and this compact E-series is every bit as sharp the Nikkor models. It's small and fast. Compared to the light weight, plastic AF lenses, made today, this E-series 135mm is a hefty work horse. I bought this one earlier this year for $76.00. It's a great telephoto for carrying around everyday and makes a nice portrait lens.

If you shoot film and aren't freaked out by manual focus lenses, you can find some very inexpensive suepurb optics that will out perform some of the newer, expensive lenses currently on the market. Happy hunting.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Rediscovering Bert Stern

Looking for inspiration for a portrait project I pulled a book from the shelf, Bert Stern Adventures. I've never been impressed by Stern's advertising work, but his portraiture is stunning. I'm especially taken by the way he closes in on a subject, creating an extreme close up without the image becoming either frighteningly stark or unflattering.

All images ©Bert Stern, from Bert Stern Adventures, Bulfinch Press, 1997