Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Portrait of the Line Writer as a Young Artist

No, he's not fallen off the face of the earth; he'd have to be a pirate, asail on some gnarly brigand, battling sea-monsters and the like, for that to happen. Of course, there's no telling what's happening on the inside, with that overly active imagination of his.

He's been more active recently with the visual arts than with writing; he stayed the night last night with us, and I had to remind him that his blog was, shall we say, languishing; I didn't want to pressure him too badly into sitting down and writing, but there's a fine balance between a nudge and an arm-twist. I thought about using some used car salesman tactics; "what's it gonna take to get you into this writing business TODAY, young man?" But my better senses prevailed.

In the meantime, I took this as an opportunity to work some more with my Lumix G1 camera. You see, I've been a film photographer for years; still have a darkroom in the corner of the garage that's, technically, still active (still actively accumulating dust). But over the span of my film years I did mostly landscape imagery, both rural and urban. Lately, I've taken more of an interest in human-interest, documentary and street photography, something that's new to me. So, having acquired the G1 early this year, I've begun to explore its usefulness as a documentary tool.

There are several requirements for a good documentary camera. It must be wieldy, handy, easy to carry and use. The G1 is a micro-four-thirds format camera; check. It must possess the quality of good focus, both auto and manual. The G1 has great contrast-detect auto-focus; and the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) assists manual focus better than virtually any other camera on the market; check. It must have good image quality at high-ISO; the G1's, while not the best on the market, is up there with the best; especially in black & white, where the color noise is absent; check. It must enable the use of lenses with wide-open apertures, to provide for narrow depth-of-focus effects and also an adequately fast shutter speed for good hand held quality in low light; the G1's kit lens only opens up to f3.5; but with an adapter, manual lenses of wide aperture can be readily adapted; check.

For last night's documentary opportunity we were faced with our subject in the dimly lit office, illuminated only by two low-wattage incandescent lamps. I attached my Vivitar 28mm/f2.5 lens in Minolta MD mount, via my MD-U4/3 adapter, set the lens to wide open aperture and the camera to ISO1000. Prior experience has shown good image quality in JPEG images from this camera, so I used the "dynamic B/W" film mode, which permitted me to preview the scene, as it was being captured, already in black & white; a feature absent in SLR cameras with optical viewfinders. I was able to achieve shutter speeds around 1/50 second, entirely adequate for hand held use if one observes proper camera-handling skills.

I'm pleased with the results as much as I am of Noah's artwork; he was following along with Mark Kistler's drawing videos, and so was having a good time.

Now, what I really want to do is go out and find some jazz nightclub and try the same techniques there. I want to capture the cigar smoke wafting into the beam of the onstage spot light; the dimly lit saxophonist's half-illuminated face, and the glare off the brass instrument. It's too bad Albuquerque is now a public non-smoking city, for that reason only. I'll perhaps have to make a trip up to Santa Fe -- naw, I think they're non-smoking, too. Oh,well; it's just a dream. Maybe a dive biker bar in some dusty town far removed off the beaten path. And they probably won't even permit cameras inside the bar anyway; most of the patrons are probably running from something or someone. ;)



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