Capturing the Reality: Christina in Black and White

For my first end of semester photography assignment at sfai, I decided to shoot portraits. Though, not in a studio with lighting equipment or even with models. I wanted this to be more about the person, and maybe just a little bit about the photographs. After all, part of the class was to make sure we learned how to use the camera, the film and make the prints. But really, we were there to make art.

The Photography

I shot the series on Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film and printed the final shots on Kodak Polymax FD fiber based paper. I decided on this paper due to its amazing grey scale reproduction and silver-like look. The prints came out looking like they had a billion shades of grey. For showing them on the site, I scanned the prints and not the negatives to try and capture my end results from that specific time. I’m quite happy with the scans, however the actual prints themselves, I feel, look much richer. But such is the digital age. I can’t control your screen resolutions and brightness settings, but since you all seem to have LCD monitors these days, I think I have a good idea of how you see my photos.

The above is a good example of the amount of detail that can be extracted off of a black and white negative on the gelatin silver print. I even used a filed down film carrier on the enlarger to show the black edges of the negative itself. This was to teach myself to not rely on cropping and instead focused on composing the shots in-camera.

The Work

I had a classmate, Christina, who also was working on her final assignment. I asked if it was okay to shoot her for my assignment and she agreed. I let her know that I would just follow her around, get to know her and how she worked, while capturing it with my camera. It was quite the experience. Following and getting to know another photographer, another person. Observing them, and capturing tiny moments that show who they really were and what they enjoyed. No make up or lighting equipment, no guidance or staging, just capturing the reality of their existence. Every nuance, gesture, face, imperfection, feature that makes them who they are when they are just doing their thing.

Christina was working on her own project; photographing the polar bear club swimmers in San Francisco near Ghirardelli Square.

I had a follow up session, this time without her being a photographer, just herself. Same location but different types of images. More playful. You’ll see those later.

But for now, if you’d like to see the first set of portraits I shot during this project, click here to enter the full gallery.

Later that year, after submitting them, both sets ended up being featured in the Still Lights Gallery.

Posted in Black and White, Photography, Portraits Tagged , , , |

Medium Format

hassleblad

6x6

Taken with the Hasselblad 501C/M using the Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 lens. On Fuji Pro 160 S medium format film.

Posted in Medium Format, Photography Tagged , , |

The iOS Apps

Finally! After about a month of building and 7 days in submission at Apple, my 3 iOS apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch are live!

A while ago I saw a couple of photographers, including Scott Bourne from Photofocus use the iPad as a way to sell their work via the App Store. I really liked the idea and thought they were onto something. All of these photographers were selling their work through companies that build and publish apps for them for a cut of the sales. I was immediately interested.

I looked into using one of these companies, but didn’t like not being able to sell under my own name in the App Store. I also wanted my apps to look a little different. So I decided to just build them on my own.

About a year ago I started reading books on how to build your own app, watched tons of tutorial videos (filmed by 9 year old boys – that’s an ego boost), downloaded Xcode and began working. A few months went by and I had a horrible looking (but semi functional) app. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t just make the app do what I wanted it to do via Objective-C. I had the idea, the images and the execution down, I just lacked the actual source code for the app.

So I did what any good San Franciscan would do: I posted an ad on craiglist and found an amazing developer, Chris Bruce, who was available to help. A week later he had a fully working source code for the bare bones app. With this code, I then created all the images, home screens, metadata and sell text (edited by the talented Lauren Dupuis). I added it all to the app via Xcode and uploaded to iTunes Connect. Built them for distribution and submitted them for sale.

My Apps

I wanted each one to be a sort of self published, mini-photo book. I think the iPad and iPhone are a perfect device to show off your art. But rather than having to physically bring my own device to people to show them my work, distributing via the App Store was the perfect way to go. With hundreds of millions of devices out there in the world, the results feel like having a virtual book published in a giant virtual retail store.

Then to give it a bit more value, I enabled the end user to save the images locally so that they can be used as wallpaper on their mobile device. Formatting each image to specifically fit the device it was being viewed on was very important. All of this for just 99¢ each.

The launch apps are HDR Photos, Fleur and Aerials. Three different sets of work that I feel show off my work (and the amazing displays of the devices) best.

 

Formatting for specific screens

Since these apps are universal, they will work on any apple device. You only have to buy it once, and you can use it with your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. With these devices having different screen resolutions, I had to create a set of images formatted to perfectly fit each of their screens. For example, if you launch my apps on an iPhone 4, the images will be shown and saved in the Retina Display resolution of 960×640; but when launching on an iPad, they are show and saved at 1024×1024.

Why the square ratio for the iPad? This device is the only one that has the ability to rotate the home and lock screens to be used in portrait or landscape mode. If you set an image optimized for just one of these orientations, it won’t work as well in the other. Black spaces occur in those cases, whereas the square ratio fills the screen perfectly without leaving any areas uncovered. It also creates 2 different looks, since you can see more of the image in landscape on the sides; or more on the top and bottom if viewed in portrait. Like so:

iPad Orientations

The wallpaper can fit in Landscape or Portrait orientations on the iPad

 

All in all, I feel that this method of distributing art to end users is something that has the potential to be huge. I have always wanted to have a full on photo book published and I feel that this is a great start. If you’re interested in the App, just click here to be taken straight to the App Store. I plan on releasing at least 2 other photo books in the future, and even city-specific books from any future traveling, but I’ll have to see how those turn out. Stay tuned!

 

Posted in HDR, iOS App, Photography, Selling Tagged , , |

Fire in the Sky

image

Taken using the Vignette app on my Droid Incredible.

Posted in App Enhanced, Cell Phone Photography, Droid Incredible Tagged , , |

Store Updated!

I’ve rejiggered the store a bit today. I added new photos from the Edinburgh in HDR Set, Aerials, Muir Woods and Big Sur.

Click to Enter

You can also access it any time by clicking on The Store in the menu bar above.

And remember, shipping is a flat rate of just $5, no matter how many pictures you purchase at once. I like easy math and whole numbers in prices, don’t you?

Posted in Photography, Selling, Store Tagged , , |

Edinburgh in HDR

New to the gallery, a collection of HDR photos taken in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Dugald Monument Edinburgh HDR

Dugald Monument

These were from the same trip where I was “ticketed for terrorism” a couple of years ago. I took the train up to Scotland from Warrington on two separate occasions during my stay in the UK. On the first visit I was welcomed with sunny weather, bright blue skies and lots of people walking the streets. During this “day 1″ visit I explored every bit I could, taking tons of photos along the way. Those images, just like with any others I take during a first visit to someplace new and exciting, came out rather “touristy”. Not in a bad way though. In fact, I’ll be posting those later on as part of a new category of photographs altogether.

National Monument HDR
Pink

The second visit to Edinburgh was quite different. I was welcomed with cold, rainy weather filled with dramatic skies and significantly less people walking about. Also, since I had now been here before, my eye for the place was different. The city felt even more unique. I had a fully charged camera with an empty memory card and the entire day ahead of me.

I walked up to the hills surrounding the city to take wider shots and to scope out the old buildings up close. As with any time I shoot during overcast skies, I made sure to bracket all of my exposures. Not really thinking I’d be merging and converting them to HDR (I honestly didn’t even know what HDR was back then). It was impossible to get everything exposed properly, the way I was seeing it, on the same frame in-camera. So I chugged along, snapping away.

Upon viewing the photos for the first time, I noticed none were capturing exactly what I had been seeing. The problem? I couldn’t get the dramatic afternoon, overcast, stormy skies exposed with the old castles and landscapes in the same frame. But since I had 3 or 4 different versions of the same shots, I was happy with the results.

Fast forward years later and I now have learned almost everything on making HDR images. I pretty much have my work-flow down, all from within Lightroom 3 and the Photomatix Pro plugin. So for the first time ever, I revisited my Edinburgh photos and one by one, slowly began to process, merge and build up a final series.

Edinburgh City Observatory HDR
City Observatory

This is exactly how I had wanted the exposures to turn out in-camera. This is the mood and look I was hoping to get and thanks to the amazing tools made available to photographers I now can.

You can view the rest of the Edinburgh in HDR set here.

Posted in HDR, On Location, Photography Tagged , , , , |

Rainy Haight

image

Taken using Vignette on my Droid Incredible

Posted in App Enhanced, Cell Phone Photography, Droid Incredible Tagged , , |

Almost there…

Posted in iOS App, Photography, Selling, Store Tagged , , |

You Should Sell Your Photos

“Kamel, you should really think about selling your photos! I bet people would buy them if you gave them the choice.”

I hear that a lot from people. My friends, co-workers, strangers via email and twitter. But I never thought I could easily pull that off. Especially while still having a full time job. I used to sell small prints on eBay, which was a small stream of surprisingly steady income. Not much to quit my day job for, but enough to keep me motivated to continue shooting. More than the money earned from the prints, I loved seeing the buyer feedback. I loved knowing that real people throughout the world actually enjoyed having one of my prints. Sadly after a few months of selling, I switched jobs and found myself with no time to tend to my eBaying anymore.

Recently, Lauren asked me the question again. Only this time she suggested I do it through this website. I researched how to pull that off, set up a really basic paypal based e-commerce thingy, picked 12 images to start out with and now the whole thing is ready.

How do I get there? Well, you can just click here for my store. Or you can select it from the menu bar located at the top of this site.

All color photos are printed on Kodak Professional Supra Endura VC Digital Paper. Which is basically an E-Surface (matte) paper. I love it, and I’m sure you will too. The Black and White photos are printed on true panchromatic, resin-coated B&W paper. Which is also a matte surface.

The Gallery Wrap choice is printed on actual canvas, wrapped around a 1.5″ thick wooden stretcher frame and it would arrive ready to hang.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments or use the “contact me” link from the menu bar.

Posted in Photography, Selling, Store Tagged , |

Ticket for Terrorism

A few years ago I was in the UK for work. After about 3 weeks of working non-stop, I had a day off, and decided to take the Virgin train as far away as it could take me. The destination: Waverley Station in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Edinburgh Waverley Station Rooftops

This place was beautiful! I had never been to a city like this in my entire life, no joke. I was in a brand new city, with my camera and had the entire day to myself. What more could I ask for? I walked everywhere – within the city and even up to the hills around it. I took hundreds of photos (which you’ll see more of soon enough) of everything – the city,the  people, the castles, the close (alleys), the buildings, the statues, the churches and the trains. Ah yes… the trains…

Towards the end of my day, I walked back to the train station with about an hour to spare. Intentionally so that I could photograph the trains at Waverley Station. I had a vision of shooting them, with no people in the frame. So I walked towards the side of the station, still inside, but along the wall. Once I got there, I wanted to move further in to get the trains at a straight 90 degree view. The problem was I had a short fence with an unlocked gate in my way. There were no mean signs around, (not that that would have stopped me) so I did what any photographer with a vision would do; I opened the gate and got to my desired position.

I took a couple of photos, none where as epic as I had hoped. So I walked back to the main waiting area and headed up the escalator to at least try to get a bird’s eye view before leaving.

As I reached the top I heard a loud, Scottish voice saying “Hey you! Stop right there!” I turned around to see two unfriendly Scottish police officers walking towards me. Once they stopped me, they asked me to take off my hood and to surrender my bag. I had no idea what was going on, but these dudes were serious, so I complied.

They asked me, “what were you doing near those trains!?” “Don’t you know you can’t photograph train stations!?” I answered with the truth. I was taking pictures and had no idea I wasn’t supposed to do that. They then asked me what was in my bag. “Just my camera and other random things,” I said. They then informed me that they were going to search it and began opening my bag, taking out everything while they continued to tell me how suspicious I looked.

The entire time, while scared, I was fighting back giggles because they did have thick Scottish accents and all I could think of was Mike Meyers in So I Married an Ax Murderer. After the officers finished searching my bag they informed me that I was being held and searched under suspicion of terrorism.

Yes… Terrorism.

Not only that, but they were required to write me a notice for this. I was going to get a “ticket” for Terrorism? No effing way.

Section 44 - Terrorism

Yes way. The Scottish officers asked for all my personal information and informed me that since 9/11 they are required to question and write up all suspicious individuals under their new “section 44 terrorism” code. After they jotted down everything they handed me a copy of my notice and my camera bag. They asked me to be more careful next time, to stay away from forbidden areas, added a tip to never photograph government buildings and finally wished me a nice day.

I started walking away, when a local (the accent gives them away) elderly gentleman stopped and asked me, “Why did they stop you?” I explained what had happened and the nice old man became enraged! “What! That is ridiculous!” He turned towards the cops and continued his rant, “This is why tourists think poorly of us! Why must you harass this poor young man, who was only admiring our trains! Shame on you!” The cops ignored him. He apologized profusely on their behalf, “I cannot believe you had to go through that,” he said. I put him at ease by telling him it was okay, that I didn’t mind so much, and that at least I got a pretty unique souvenir out of it.

I’ve gotten in trouble several times before for going places I’m not supposed to, or for photographing forbidden things. But this one was the most memorable. I just hope their filed copy doesn’t bite me in the ass later on when I try going back to the UK one day on vacation.

Posted in On Location, Photography Tagged , |