Category Archives: Reader Poll

Why Aren’t Cameras More Like Bicycles?

My Baby

[tweetmeme]Mountain biking has been another one of my passionate hobbies (though I’ve drifted away from it in the last few years). But now that I’m back home in north Idaho, I’m anxious to get back in the saddle. In fact, this last weekend, I spent some time building a bike that has been long overdue.

I’m the type of rider who refuses to buy a complete bike. I like to do my research and buy each component individually, thus ending up with a custom bike that meets my wants/needs and falls within my budget. As I was piecing my bike together, I thought “why aren’t cameras more like bicycles?” Meaning, why aren’t more components on a camera interchangeable and replaceable?

Sure, the modern dSLR has interchangeable lenses, flashes, memory cards, and batteries… but that’s about it. You want more megapixels? How about a larger LCD? A different lens mount, perhaps? Your only choice is to buy a completely new camera body. And while you might get most of the features you want in that new body, there always seems to be something you liked better on the old body.

Leaving reality behind for a moment (we’ll come back to it in a second), wouldn’t it be nice to have a truly modular camera? Starting with a frame or skeleton, you could add components to build your camera from the ground up. This sensor, that lens mount, this LCD, that control panel, this processor/computer, that hotshoe, this memory card slot, that viewfinder, etc. Essentially, you could replace only pieces of the camera that are broken or outdated. And if you have some cash to burn, why not go for some upgrades?

Now back to reality. Modern digital cameras are highly complex electro-optical-mechanical systems packed into a very tiny box. Modularizing key components would probably take some extra space and increase overall cost for the camera. Not to mention that interfaces and package dimensions would need to be standardized to allow for the swapping of parts — this would probably be impossible to achieve between different camera manufacturers.

While it may be easy to sit back and compare cameras to bicycles, the truth of the matter is that bicycles are relatively simple mechanical systems in very large packages. It may certainly be possible to create modular cameras, but the general market for such a thing is small.

As a matter of fact, there are a few modular camera systems out there. RED cameras are built on this concept, but they’re very expensive (and intended for shooting cinema rather than stills). The Ricoh GXR is sorta modular, but not entirely. In doing some research, I also found Alpha brand cameras that are built for modular exchange of parts. And of course, many large format film cameras are quite modular (which makes sense based on their size alone).

Does anybody else out there wish that cameras were more modular? Are you the type of photographer that would build something from the ground up rather than buy it off the shelf in final form? What other problems do modular cameras face?

Are You Film, Digital, or Both?

Earlier this month, I wrote a post on the film blog about the different types of film photographers and ran a poll asking the readers to categorize themselves. It was no surprise that we had zero “film haters” chime in ;).

I want to take a step back, look at the question in a broader sense, and open it up to a wider audience (you guys). I’m fascinated by the film vs digital thing, and I see a lot of people doing both (but that could just be the crowd that I associate with). So what I want to learn here, is what percentage of the Epic Edits readers shoot film, digital, or both.

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For those who know me even a little bit, you know that “I Do Both!” Give it a few years and I might get rid of my digital stuff though… j/k, calm down.

I’ve been noticing a renewed interest in film photography over the last year or two, but I’m wondering if it’s just me or if it’s really happening. What do you guys think? Are people coming back to it? Or am I delusional?

Also, don’t forget to check the results from the last poll: How often do you shoot? Looks like we have a pretty good mix of votes.

How Often Do You Shoot?

Totally 80's Techno-Geek

[tweetmeme]I was asked this same question in my interview from PetaPixel a few days ago. I answered that I’m a “weekend warrior” and I’m not ashamed of it. It’s true, I just don’t have the time or energy to get out and shoot every single day, so I reserve my shooting for the weekend. And most of the time I might shoot a single roll of film (or less), so it’s not like I’m going on 2 day photo adventures every weekend.

So now I’m curious what your shooting habits are. Do you shoot every day like some others I know? Or are you more like me and you’re lucky to get out and shoot 3 or 4 times a month? And is there anything wrong with shooting infrequently? Or does it actually make for a better experience? How do you spend your free time when you’re not shooting… working on photos, blogging, family activities, video games?

Also be sure to check out the discussion on our last reader poll — lots of great comments worth reading.

Why is Street Photography Dominated by Black and White?

When I think about street photography, I see black and white. Perhaps I’ve been conditioned to think this way, or maybe there’s some other driving force here. Regardless, I hadn’t really thought about it or questioned it until Rachel Fus struck up a conversation on Twitter (@fusphoto) about the recent street photography post:

fusphoto: 15 photos from @EpicEdits’ Flickr Challenge http://tinyurl.com/2afs7uc Y r only 3 of these color? #photo

epicedits: @fusphoto Most are b/w because most of the submissions were b/w. Not surprising given the topic.

fusphoto: @epicedits street photography? how so?

epicedits: @fusphoto You don’t think street photography is typically dominated by b/w? Less so w/digital, but I still see more b/w street pics.

fusphoto: @epicedits this is true but y? the “streets” are infused with color yet people don’t use it. the merry-go-round for instance. WTF?

epicedits: @fusphoto Never really thought about the why of it… I have my ideas, but maybe I’ll post a blog discussion this week to hear from others.

[tweetmeme]And so here we are. Rachel brings up a good point and it really got me thinking. The streets are full of color, yet most street photos are either captured or published in black and white. WTF indeed!

Now, nobody’s saying that street photos can’t be in color, or even that the best ones are only in black and white. There are tons of examples out there that break the “rules” in this arena. But I have two thoughts on why street photography is closely coupled with black and white images.

1. THE MASTERS HAVE BRAINWASHED US

brainwash NOW!
Creative Commons License photo credit: ranjit

Elliott Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Gilden, Robert Frank, and countless others have taught us that street photography is black and white. William Eggleston would be a strong exception to the rule, but a lot of the “old masters” shot in black and white. Why? Probably out of convenience more than anything, though I’m sure a few of them have always loved the black and white end of things.

At any rate, a lot of the recognizable masterpieces in street photography are black and white images. If you see enough of that, your brain starts to make the connection… street photography = black and white. So I’m going to argue that we’ve been brainwashed by the masters.

2. COLOR IS A DISTRACTION

For my second reason why street photography works better in black and white, I’m going to get all “deep” and stuff.

what you are worrying about right now is a distraction from what's really important in your life
Creative Commons License photo credit: Torley

Color is an element of every photo. Just like framing, composition, subject matter, lighting, exposure, etc. But color is one of those elements that can essentially be turned off. Street scenes can be very busy with lots of distracting elements as is, and color will often add a level of complexity that leads to sensory overload in an image. Background elements can be a major distraction: the bright green car, the guy in the red shirt, the neon sign, and so on. My thought is that if the color isn’t adding something important to the image, it doesn’t need to be there (and it might even hurt having it there).

I’m not going to get much “deeper” than that… you get the point. But don’t be too quick to attack — these are just my own opinions and observations on the matter.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

Do you agree that street photography is dominated by black and white? Why or why not? Is this changing as we go further into the digital age of photography? I’d love to hear some thoughts on the topic.

What Type of Photography Books Do You Prefer?

I love photography books, and I’ve noticed that most of them fit into one of two groups: educational and inspirational. Educational books being the technical manuals, how-to’s, and general tips and techniques. Inspirational books tend to be more of a “coffee table book” with lots of photos and maybe some supplemental text.

I typically lean toward the inspirational books, but I realize that educational books certainly have their place. Most of the book reviews I do here on the blog also fall into the “inspirational” category. But maybe I’m a minority and you guys are bored to death of the coffee table books — let’s see some votes!

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Do you have any favorite books from either category? And have you ever seen a photography book that is truly both educational and inspirational?

Best Studio Lighting Tutorials?

So… it pains me to admit it, but I’ve turned a new page today. I finally learned something about artificial lighting (studio lighting to be exact).

I know… *gasp* say it isn’t so!

But don’t worry, I’m no expert quite yet. All I basically learned was that you set your camera to ISO100, f/8, and 1/200-1/250 seconds, then tune your exposure with the power settings on the lights (at least that’s the “norm” for this particular studio). Maybe not Earth-shattering for those familiar with lighting, but this is all new for me (and maybe some of you).

I’ve got a model shoot coming up next weekend for Green Man T-Shirts and I spent about an hour at DK3 Studios yesterday with Dave King learning how to work his equipment. (Cool dude, by the way. And an awesome/affordable studio here in San Diego).

I’m still blown away by how simple this stuff can be if you switch the camera over to manual and follow a few basic rules… maybe I’ll post more about this after the photo shoot next weekend, but right now I’m looking for advice.

Assuming that the technical side of the equipment is not the issue, I’m still up against lighting techniques for photographing models (upper body shots, portraits, etc.).

SO HERE’S MY QUESTION TO YOU:

What are the best studio/model/portrait lighting techniques that you’ve encountered?

I’m looking for links to articles, resources, ebooks, blogs, etc. Here are a few that I’ve gathered myself…

I’m sure there are many more out there, so feel free to share in the comments. If we get enough, I’ll post them in an article next week so others can check it out.

What Would You Like to Learn About Film Photography?

Most of you know that I’m a big fan of film photography and I’ve posted a few articles here on the blog. I started with digital, but I’ve been doing the film thing for about the last 2 years now. At this point, I’m fairly comfortable with discussing most film photography topics from shooting to printing and everything in between.

The poll this time around will be another open-ended question because I’d like to get some open-ended feedback from you guys. I know that quite a few of you are film buffs and/or upcoming film enthusiasts, and I know that there are a lot of questions out there on the topic. So open it up and ask away! What film photography topics, tips, techniques, and methods would you like to learn more about?

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT FILM PHOTOGRAPHY? REALLY… ANYTHING!

Seriously… don’t be shy and don’t blow it off. I can’t answer if you don’t ask. And for those of you interested in film, stay tuned for a BIG announcement next week.

How Well Do You Know Your Curves?

I’m in the process of writing the 2nd part to a previous article on Photo Editing With Histograms and it basically centers around the curves adjustment tool found in many pieces of photo editing software. The problem I’m having is determining how deep to go into the topic — curves can be highly technical and complex if you start from ground zero.

So help me out with this poll and let me know your experience level with curves. I’m assuming that most of you know what it is and how to use it, but with an audience this size it’s hard to tell for sure. If I see a lot of people with absolutely no clue, I’ll try to include some of the basics in the article. But if the majority is already familiar with curves and how they work, I might trim that stuff down and just give a few links to other articles that cover the fundamentals.

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And if you have any specific questions about curve adjustments or how they relate to the image/histogram, leave a comment and let me know! Hey, I can’t answer your questions if you don’t ask.

Full Feed, or Not Full Feed…

Half Empty or Half Full?
Creative Commons License photo credit: jaxxon

In my recent post about my photography resolutions for 2010, a couple of you suggested moving to truncated rss feeds for the blog. One suggested that it could make the site more attractive to advertisers by “forcing” readers to visit the site, and another mentioned that a truncated feed might also encourage comments and interaction here on the blog.

The common theme between both comments is that the feed consumers aren’t visiting the site very often. While making the blog more profitable is on my mind, I’m more concerned with the amount of interaction on-site. In 2009 we had around 2500 comments and pingbacks. But in 2008 we had around 4300 comments and pingbacks. My only guess is that a bunch of the old base-community has migrated over to the feed reader and assumed that the conversations would continue without them.

Then again, it could be a lot of contributing factors: feed readers are getting better, people’s lives are busier, my writing is turning to crap, etc. At any rate, I’d like to try a little feed experiment for a while and see what changes.

From here out, I’ll be syndicating partial feeds on most of the articles — but I’ll be setting the breakpoint manually on each post, so I’ll give you guys enough content to get a feel for the article. I’m not really a fan of the too-short partial feed, so I’ll try to avoid that whenever possible.

[UPDATE 1/12/2010] Looks like I’ll be keeping full feeds after all. Most people prefer them (myself included) and there doesn’t seem to be a good method for setting a breakpoint manually.

I’d also like to hear from you feed readers on this subject. Does it matter to you one way or the other? Will you wash your hands of Epic Edits once and for all? Or would you actually prefer to have condensed feeds in your reader/email?

Visit the site to leave a comment and vote on the poll

Brainstorming On Our Next Project

I’d like to do projects here on the blog more often. I think they provide a good way to expand our creativity and knowledge. We’ve done a few over the years, and they’ve mostly been my own ideas. Here are all of the past projects (and mini-projects) we’ve done over the last 2.5 years.

This time, I want you guys to suggest projects. Anything goes at this point — let’s just do a little brainstorming to see what we come up with. If we get a few good ideas, we’ll refine them later.