Spring photo contest
It’s time for the second Redoubt Reporter, reader-submitted photo contest.
Photos will be judged and winners selected by a three-member panel. After each contest closes, we’ll publish and discuss some of our favorites in the Redoubt Reporter, space permitting. We’ll choose some of our favorite submissions from this spring 2012 photo contest and our fall 2011 contest and invite those photographers to frame and hang their photos at a Redoubt Reporter June 2012 group photo show already scheduled at the Sterling Highway Kaladi Brothers coffee shop.
The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. April 20, 2012. All submissions must be in high-quality digital format. Submit no more than five JPEG images by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Our themes are “Winter into spring” or “End of a long winter,” and submissions must fit this theme. Entrants must be amateur photographers who are residents of the central Kenai Peninsula.
2. Photographs can be of any subject fitting the theme but must have been taken of the Kenai Peninsula on or after Jan. 1, 2011.
3. If you submit photographs in which people are recognizable, you must also provide us with their permission for us to publish any such photographs.
4. Please do not submit portrait photos. Do not submit photographs whose content would not be appropriate for publication in a family newspaper. Do not submit photos of illegal subject matter. All such photos will be deleted immediately without notice to you and at the sole discretion of the editor.
5. Photographers must include their name, telephone number, email address, town of residency and each photo’s date, location and subject matter.
6. Submitted JPEG images should be of the best possible technical quality. Good technique and technical quality are important, but originality, creativity, interesting subject matter, artistic merit and good composition are even more important.
7. By submitting photos, you agree to our publication of them in the Redoubt Reporter newspaper and on our website. The Redoubt Reporter will have the right of first publication of your photos. However, you will retain the copyright for all other purposes and your name will be listed if we publish any of your photos.
8. Our decisions about what’s published or selected for exhibition are final and are admittedly subjective. Space is limited, and the judging panel and editor reserve the right to choose photos at their discretion.
9. Retain your original digital files of all submitted images. We are not responsible for preserving copies of your digital images.
By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter
BBC TV’s acclaimed series “Civilization,” a 13-part program now on DVD, traces the rise and fall of Western civilizations through their art. It’s one of the most interesting and rewarding TV series that I’ve ever seen, and the inspiration for this week’s philistine rant.
The success of the “Civilization” series ultimately rests on the unpretentious yet authoritatively knowledgeable presence of its author and narrator, Kenneth Clark, one of the 20th century’s most noted art historians. Having expressed my admiration for Clark, my belief that recent art history methods are killing American photography may surprise you. That’s my starting point for this week’s article, one far removed from a dry discussion about which lens or camera is technically superior in some small way.
Throughout his narration, Clark illustrates and recounts the history of Western civilizations by showing their great cathedrals, Viking ships, Rembrandt paintings, religious music and noted sculpture. In the process, Clark places famous artworks in their objective historical and religious context, rather than deconstructing and subjectively declaiming about the supposedly unequivocal intention and meaning of such art. Unfortunately, Clark’s high level of objective scholarship and comfort with uncertainty is now too often the exception, rather than the rule.
Clark had an additional observation, one sure to stimulate controversy. Echoing Rustin and other earlier art historians of note, Clark argued, admittedly reluctantly, that great Western art has arisen only in energetic, confident cultures, what he termed “warrior cultures” that “just did it,” rather than analyzing and conceptualizing interminably.
One can certainly argue that mastering quick and sure intuitive action is vital to both warriors and photographers, each in their own very different ways. Deconstruction, originally a French conceptual art criticism method, is now also dominant in the U.S., and I believe that that’s damaging. Personally, I believe that the subjective but rigid conceptual analysis central to the deconstruction of photography tends to drown spontaneous creativity and diversity if taken at all seriously. In the process, deconstruction tends to promote banal images and that requires too many words and too much explanation.
As we discussed last week, a powerful visual image should have enough generality and ambiguity that every viewer can project their own experiences and subjective meanings into a visual image without the need for a lot of words and conceptual explanations. In that regard, the viewer exercises as much creativity and insight as the photographer or painter. That’s been a central tenet of the finest American photographers of the 20th century — Alfred Steiglitz, Minor White, Edward Weston, etc. — and I see no good reason to abandon it.
As with the now-discredited Pictorialist movement of the early 20th century, photography over the past few decades again self-consciously attempts to emulate the necessarily constructed visual arts of painting and drawing. By their very nature, painting, drawing, sculpture and other, more traditional, arts must be constructed by the artist. They can’t simply be snapped with a camera because they don’t exist until created from whole cloth by the painter or sculptor.
Photography’s great strength, on the other hand, is the ability to quickly, accurately and intuitively recognize and capture daily life as it flashes by. As with the classic Leica of 1950s photojournalism, compact-system cameras often feel just right in these situations.
Rather than taking contemporary photographic criticism too seriously, I believe that one can more profitably learn by viewing good photographs from the beginning of photography through the present day. Understand something of the historical context in which these were taken, and then be inspired — or not — by those images that particularly resonate with you.
The best single book about the history of photography that I’ve found is Phaidon Press’ “The Photo Book,” an inexpensive but comprehensive survey of about 500 pictures with explanatory text, each by a different photographer. I’ve gone back to “The Photo Book” many times and often find something that’s thought-provoking and challenging. Learn something of photography’s images and history, then be yourself and march to your own drummer.
Why I bought Olympus
After much research, comparison and hesitation, I personally decided that Micro Four-Thirds compact-system cameras and lenses made the most sense for me. I was particularly influenced by the broad availability of small but sharp and affordable Micro Four-Thirds lenses.
It’s true that M 4/3 sensors show a little more image noise on average than slightly larger APS-C sensors. However, we tend to buy lenses for the long term and update digital camera bodies fairly regularly. Because optical technology is generally mature, improving only slowly, it’s highly probable that good lenses purchased in 2012 will remain perfectly usable in 2020. Digital sensors, the other hand, continue to improve rapidly and I have little doubt that next year’s Micro 4/3 sensors, or those in 2014, will show further improvement, catching up to the already good optics.
Once I decided to acquire an M 4/3 system, rather than a Sony NEX or Samsung NX, I chose Olympus rather than Panasonic after considerable thought. Panasonic’s new 16-megapixel sensors in its G3 and GH2 cameras are slightly superior to older Olympus sensors when used at higher ISO sensitivities. However, many of the best M 4/3 lenses do not include built-in image stabilization hardware, making them dependent on image stabilization built directly into the camera body. Among compact-system camera makers, only Olympus builds image stabilization directly into its camera bodies.
When an unstabilized lens might require noisy ISO 800 or 1,600 sensitivities to get a sharp image, using that same lens on a stabilized Olympus body allows you to use a much-lower ISO without blur due to camera shake. In most instances, using that lower ISO and a slower shutter speed isn’t a problem unless a subject’s moving quickly.
On balance, Olympus’ in-camera image stabilization more than makes up for any current deficiency in its sensors. Even that will soon change as newer camera bodies reach the market.
With those general thoughts in mind, let’s look at the M 4/3 cameras now on the market from Panasonic and Olympus. These generally fall into similar groupings. All use the same interchangeable lenses.
- Step-up cameras: At the bottom rung, both the Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic GF5 are intended as simple and small interchangeable-lens cameras that are a unintimidating step up for people currently using small-sensor consumer cameras. They’re generally affordable and capable of high-quality results, but more-experienced users will chafe at the many button pushes and menu items needed to change settings. When fit with a very small lens, like Panasonic’s 14- to 42-mm X series zoom lens, they are very compact, almost but not quite pocket-size. Neither has an eye-level viewfinder.
- Midrange M 4/3 Cameras: Only Olympus currently makes a M 4/3 camera in this range, the E-PL3. Image quality is quite comparable across the entire Olympus E-P “Pen” line, because all three models use the same sensor, processing chip and lenses. The differences are build quality and features. The E-PL3 is a reasonable blend of intermediate cost, size and feature set.
- High-end: At the end, we have the fairly new 16-megapixel Panasonic GX1 and G3, along with the 12-megapixel Olympus E-P3. These are designed for more knowledgeable photographers who want easy access to a broad range of manual settings and controls. While the G3 is shaped and built like a miniature consumer dSLR camera, the GX1 and E-P3 have the look and feel of classic high-end rangefinder cameras, such as Leica and Zeiss Contax. I bought an E-P3 for my own use.
- Premium M 4/3 cameras: Panasonic’s GH2 has been on the market for some time now and is probably due for replacement. It’s particularly oriented toward video makers but does produce excellent still images. I believe it’s rather overpriced, costing more than a Pentax K-5 or Nikon D7000 — semipro cameras that produce better images.
Olympus is new to the premium M 4/3 market but has made quite an impression with its new OM-D (E-M5) camera. This model uses a brand-new, 16-megapixel sensor that produces the best images yet seen among M 4/3 cameras, along with weather resistant sealing and a unique, five-axis image stabilization system that’s among the best. The OM-D (E-M5) looks very much like a miniature Olympus OM-1 film SLR camera carried by many pros back in the 1980s.
The OM-D combines prolevel features, small size, excellent image quality and a relatively low $999 body-only list price. I may pick one up myself. After all, it’s all in the service of “art,” right?
Local attorney Joe Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published many articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his website, http://www.kashilaw.com.