Wednesday, July 2, 2014

JoziFolk - where I hang out now!

 Grandmother and grandchildren, Johannesburg

 One look at my posting history on this blog will show it's been patchy at best! Fact is, I've come to realize I have too many irons in the fire and can't look after any of them properly.
 The time has come for consolidation and that is in the form of JoziFolk.
 JoziFolk, the Voice and Colors of Real Johannesburgers, is a shameless copy of Humans of New York and other similar websites.
 We are still young but the response has been fantastic!
 Right now the focus has been purely on photographing the amazing people who live, work, visit and interact with the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. And that will always be the main emphasis. New images are posted every weekday and sometimes on weekends too.
 But, with time, I shall add articles, many about photography.
 While you may never visit Johannesburg in person, may I invite you to meet her people.
 We're a strange bunch, with deep political divisions and lingering racism but we're trying to shake that off and move forward together.
 Whether that will be fully achieved in my lifetime is debatable but, even so, we're a cool bunch to hang out with.
 Join us on JoziFolk and see who we are and have a little peek into our minds and psyche.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My ongoing love affair with real film

 It's no secret, I love real, good-old-fashioned film!
 And this weekend I was reminded exactly why I've had this 40-something years-long love affair.
 I am in the final stages of putting together a film-shooting workshop that'll be called "The Magic of Real Film" and figured I needed to run a roll or two through some of the cameras that'll be used but have sat idle for some time.
 I wanted to be sure all the foam seal were still up to scratch and there were no light-leaks or surprises for workshop participants. So, out came a 70s-era Minolta SRT 100x. This was originally sold as a sort of trimmed down version of the famous SRT 101. It lacks a self-timer and the mirror lock-up facility but enjoys the same legendary build-quality.
 It is a totally mechanical camera with a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second and uses an obsolete battery to power it's lightmeter. There are work-arounds for the battery issue but I didn't bother, as I planned to use an ancient, small, shoe-mounted Kodak meter or a hand-held lightmeter because that is what workshop delegates will be required to use.
 I loaded the camera with standard, over-the-counter Fuji 400 colour film and sallied forth. Two lenses were used, a Rokkor MD 50mm f1.4 (55mm filter thread) and a Rokkor MD 28mm f2.8.


 For the past few months I've primarily shot digital images, as quick turn-around times were required and, as a result, I'd sort of forgotten just how beautiful real film is. But when the scans popped up on my computer screen I was in love all over again and it was as if my ancient bride was once again young and beautiful.
 The images are gentle and three-dimensional, the out-of-focus areas like cream stirred into melted chocolate. In a word, the pictures are gorgeous! They will easily print at 12" x 18" (30cm x 45cm)!
 Much of the credit must go the the wonderful Rokkor lenses. I've been a Nikon user for around 40 years, I still am but in MY OPINION the Rokkors blow the equivalent Nikons out of the water. They are, in my eyes, the equal (and may in fact be better) than the Leica lenses I owned when I had an M3.
 I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. My two best-selling images were shot with a humble X700 Minolta and 50mm f1.7 lens bought for under R300 (approx $27).

The only post-processing done to these images was slight adjustment of the levels in GIMP.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I'm baaaaack with Paintographs!!

Paintograph. Click on the picture to download the high-res file.

 It's been a long time! I won't go into all the details about why this blog went into hibernation but it involved the death of someone close to me and very healthy dose of personal re-evaluation and reflection.
 After pretty much a lifetime of writing for magazines, newspapers, myself and large corporations - and millions of words later - I one day awoke to the harsh realization: I was sick of it.
 I was tired of the bullshit, stress and constant hustling that goes with trying to earn a living in the business.
 What I wanted was to become involved in creative projects that made people happy. I know writing is considered creative - if you are a bestselling author - but few are, and for the rest of us, it's a daily grind to churning out copy matching client briefs and then to going through the arduous process of getting paid for our labours.


 A change in direction was in order. Photography is something I have known, loved and done professionally for some 40 years but nowadays it's an industry populated by millions of "weekend warriors" who are happy to work for a pittance or even give away their work.
 There is always someone with a DSLR camera who is happy to work for less and I'm getting too old and cranky to put up with that crap.
 I few years ago I tried my hand at painting and, much to my surprise, I sold quite a few pieces. Not enough to make a living, but certainly encouraging. I also discovered painting gave me immense pleasure and satisfaction.
 In my ponderings, I knew I wanted to somehow be involved in painting but here's the background:

 I am based in South Africa, which is pretty much off the world's radar. We are far from Europe, Asia, the US and Australia, where all the markets are. Selling physical artworks overseas (unless you are playing in the big-name leagues), is pretty much a "no-go" because postage and insurance can end up being more than the cost of the article itself. There is also, I believe, a justified fear many buyers have that their money will disappear into some dark hole at the bottom of Africa and they'll never get the goods.
 But I needed to broaden my market with international sales but the problems listed above, seemed to preclude this.

So what's a man to do? 

 Long story short, I became involved in digitally painting fine art photographs where the final paintograph, when printed on canvas, pretty well looks like an original oil. The initial process can be time-consuming but once done I have a high-res digital file from which I can make any number of copies. Naturally, this allows me to sell the physical product at ridiculously low prices. It also allows me to sell (licence actually) the high-res digital file that anyone, anywhere in the world, can download instantly through a secure gateway (I use Gumroad) and can be printed at any shop involved in canvas or photographic printing.
 It's no more difficult than getting prints from photos shot on a camera or mobile phone!
The file is large enough to be printed at pretty much any size anyone chosen and sells for LESS THAN THE PRICE OF A GOOD CUP OF COFFEE! (There are some advantages to a weak currency!)

The pros of this model:
  • Priced to remove buyers' fear of risk
  • Process is completely automatic, instant and requires no further input from me -- other than to transfer the cash from my Paypal account :) )
  • Access to a global marketplace
  •  ... and there are a few more.
Repeat and rinse.

The cons:

 Despite the licence agreement, the image can be reproduced and resold but the way I see it, those are sales I would not get anyway and, perhaps foolishly, I believe most people are basically honest. So it's a risk I am prepared to take.
 I realize this approach will likely stick in the craw of many artists and will no doubt bring accusations of "cheapening" art but I figure I need to cut my cloth according to my geographical circumstances and the world is a constantly changing place.

 Here is an example of what's on offer:

What are your thoughts?