Way back in 1990 when I was 22, during my college days at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara CA, I had the chance to photograph Josef Muench at the tender age of 85 – father of David, grandfather to Mark – all great photographers in their own right, David probably being the most famous of the three.  


Josef was a landscape pioneer, many of his images gracing the pages of Arizona Highways for much of the 1940s and 1950s.  To my understanding, he worked for the magazine for roughly 50 years, and his stunning landscape images (shot with his 4×5 camera in 1936) helped place Monument Valley on the map.  He returned hundreds of times and to many, his views are some of the most memorable photographs ever taken of this southwest location.  He went on to capture images around the world, in Africa, Alaska, Asia, Canada, Colorado, Europe, and Hawaii.  Even the unmanned Voyager Expeditions, launched in 1977, included one of his photos (in a group of 117 images of Earth’s landscapes) – a snow-covered Sequoia redwood taken in Kings Canyon National Park.


Born in Germany in 1904, some say Josef once threw a tomato at Adolf Hitler, hitting him in the face.  I couldn’t verify this, but he sounded like my kinda guy.  While writing this post, I was able to find a nice quote online, Josef talking about the deserts of the Southwest: “When I first saw the desert I liked it. It was new and different. It immediately took on a meaning to me. I had heard it was barren. It isn’t. A little cactus–so delicate and beautiful, can hide from you. You have to go slowly, and look carefully.”


I can’t recall how I found his information when I was in college, but when I contacted him to fill one of my school assignments, he was kind enough to schedule a time, welcomed me into his home, sat patiently while I set up my 4×5 view camera, and allowed me to capture this portrait, even giving his suggestions on how he might pose.  

 

Portrait of Josef Muench, Santa Barbara, California – © Sean Arbabi | seanarbabi.com

We talked for a bit about photography, and although I wasn’t old enough to really interview him the way I would today, I knew I was with an old photographic soul, so I attempted to soak up his words of wisdom during our brief time together.  Ironically we shared the same age (11) when we received our first cameras, and now I’ve had the chance to photograph some of the places he visited (although oddly enough, I’ve traveled all through the Southwest but never been to Monument Valley and have had the desire for years).


He past away in 1998 at the age of 94, but his images live on- just Google his name (Josef with an “f”) to review some of his work.  May I be so lucky as to live as long as he did, viewing the world through photographic eyes.


I just had to share a photo I captured yesterday while teaching a photo workshop on flowers at Calumet and the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco.  Sharing not so much to show the image I captured, yet more so the detail I’ve loving in my new Nikon D800E 36MP DSLR (and no, Nikon doesn’t pay or sponsor me).In a garden of dahlia flowers, I captured this scene with my 70-200mm f/2.8 Tamron lens – not a macro lens.  Take into account this bumblebee was visiting various flowers, buzzing in and out of each one, constantly on the move, so I wasn’t dealing with a still subject, nor was I using a tripod.  Even outside the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, on the edge of the coastal fog rolling in, the flowers were catching some wind and moving themselves.

As far as my DSLR goes, yeah, I love it- it’s the camera I’ve always wanted.  The image sensor ranks even higher than the D4 (in fact DxO Labs rated it the highest DSLR on the market), and that’s a big part of why I bought it.  It’s also about the engine of this beast – 36 megapixels, which for an outdoor/ landscape/commercial photographer provides huge files to blow up nicely, tons of intricate detail, and minimal noise in a top-notch full-frame image sensor.  There’s lots of extra bells and whistles – cool new LiveView functions, an incredibly fast auto-focus (although I still manual focus a ton), and a sturdy well-built frame.

This image was captured at 1/400 sec, using f/2.8 and ISO 100 in manual exposure mode while spot metering.  You can see the detail of the bee here in a close-up.

It’s rare that a piece of equipment gets me excited about photography – usually it’s my subject, the location, the moment, the light.  This Nikon camera has energized me about the images I hope to capture in the near future!


14Jul

Fuji’s 3D camera coming soon

Too busy to write much this week, but do check out Fuji’s potential 3D camera to launch this September – story on Engadget.com (a great tech blog I love to read): http://www.engadget.com/2009/07/12/fuljfilms-finepix-real-3d-camera-to-launch-in-september-cost-a/



27Apr

What’s in a digital camera name?


Okay, I have to address this – can’t keep quiet anymore- need to blow a stack- alright, maybe just vent a tiny little bit on a completely useless photo topic that’s filling my mental database.


As a pro photographer knee-deep in gear, I must say it is impossible to keep up with camera names these days. I’ve included photos here of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Nikon D5000, FujiFilm FinePix s8000fd, Sony’s Cybershot DSC-T2 (sah-weet Lime color by the way Sony, and cool sleek look), and the Olympus Evolt E-410. What’s in a digital camera name? Confusion I say! Name insanity. Insane in the name brain.

When are camera manufacturers going to make it easier to understand their line of camera systems? “Hey, that’s a nice camera ya got, what’s the model?” “Oh it’s the Casio 54-XYZ-Mark 8 DMC-Fx 9000. You should look it up and get one”. “Ya gotta notepad I could jot that down on?”.

I get the “D” part – The 5D, the D300, etc. I assume it’s for “digital” (although you’d think as film fades, so would the “F” and “D” designation- plus, Nikon, from what I can remember, is the only company that uses the “F” in the name – Nikon F100, F3, and my original 35mm camera, the FE – just to give some examples). But even I, the PhotoGuru expert that I am, can’t think quickly when I see DMC – does it mean Digital Media Camera? One camera made by Fuji, puts “F” and “D” into the name- that can’t mean film and digital (although that would be jammin’ huh?).

Even the file names I see every day in my computers, which start with DSC, elude me right off the back. Again, I assume it stands for Digital Still Camera, but who knows…and who cares. It took me two weeks before I realized that my point-and-shoot digital image files, which start with “PANA_” stood for Panasonic. I know, I’m slow. But ya have to give it to me – there’s panorama, Pana Illinois, the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists….okay, bad example.

Today, with cameras coming out every month and a mix of manufacturers from Canon to Sony, Fuji to Nikon, Panasonic to Olympus, Casio to GoPro, who can keep up with the medley of letters and numbers? Why not just describe the product in the name? Where am I goin’ with this? I’ll expand on my thoughts. Get ready to get your brain on.

Canon has the EOS 5D Mark II– tight camera too – 21 megapixel, full frame image sensor packed into a well-made system. I assume EOS means “Electronic Operating System”, could refer to the Greek Goddess of Dawn- I could be wrong, I have no idea, I’m not Googlin’ it! But the name?? There’s a five in there, then a two, and Mark and an Eos – does the Mark II mean it’s the next versions of the Mark systems? And what is the Mark system anyway? Does 5D mean it’s the best in their line or the lower amateur model? I personally know it’s one of their top cameras, but there’s one high that’s the 1D (what will happen when they make a better one than that?) and below the 5D is the 50D – so you’d think the numbers are getting higher as the quality and price goes down. But then below the 50D is the 40D. Ugh squared.

Let me solve this. Let’s make a name system based on the year, the camera’s quality, and it’s details. How ’bout….blblblblblb….that’s a blogger drum roll……blblblblblbbblblb….are ya ready? The:

Canon 2009 P21
Olympus 2008 A12
Sony 2007 N8

Wait. Don’t judge. Let’s me explain.

First the name of the company. Easy-peasy.

Then the year it was made (tough titties camera companies, if car companies can do it, so can you- plus, yer makin’ new cameras so often, it’s not going to hurt any on the marketing side).

Then if it’s a camera for a Pro (P), an amateur (A), or a Novice (N). Three easy levels – everyone would get it over time.

Then the Megapixel (I know I know, megapixel isn’t everything so many say, but ya gotta pick one feature and I’m picking it! Describe the rest in the top features section).

If camera manufacturers wants to add some pizzazz (nice 70s bedazzled term huh), then they can put in the “Rebel” name or the “Cybershot” or the “FinePix” in front of that. But that’s it! Year Who it’s forFeature….done dealio.

Canon Rebel 2009 A12 (a 12 megapixel for the amateur market- did you get it fast?)
Fuji FinePix 2007 P15 (a 15 megapixel for the pro, made in 2007- pretty easy huh?)
Sony Cybershot 2010 N20 (that’s next year’s model, a 20 megapixel point-and-shoot for the Novice – sweet name if I do say so myself)

Whaddaya think Sony? Come on Canon. Nikon, well Nikon never listens to anything I say anyway. Cool system huh? If “yes all mighty PhotoGuru, you’ve done it again!”, then that’s all I need. If “Mr. PG, you are out-choh-mind!” then come up with a better system.

But I like mine…thought of it in 5 minutes…yes, I graduated college. Will it be implemented? Who knows if anyone will read this and react. Maybe technology is just moving too fast. Besides, my head hurts now (and maybe your too). I’m out – it’s Sunday, I’ve got the flu, allergies, and I’m hungry. Off to watch Quantum of Solace on the 47″.

yours truly,
Sean “TGP P-40M II” Arbabi

(that’s “TPG” for The PhotoGuru, “P” for Photographer, 40 being my age, and M for Male, and II for two eyes…duh)