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Posts published in “About Photography”

A new tool.

About 13 years ago, I wrote about the purchase of a new camera in a series of posts. That was the last camera I purchased and it has been through hell with me. After untold thousands of photos, a complete replacement of the shutter assembly, dings and scratches, and even more miles, I’ve decided to replace that old 5D Mark 2. She’s been a valuable work horse, but the technology is long in the tooth and I’m feeling a touch impulsive.

I have children now. Taking photos of kids is like taking photos of sports (that line is my dad’s, not mine). The 5D2 is no longer up to the task. Honestly, the 5D2 wasn’t up to the task in 2008. The AF performance is all right for adults who know how to sit still or for landscapes or for tables filled with inanimate objects. The astute reader will recognize that children are none of those things. My kids aren’t even really mobile yet and already trying to get them in focus is a chore. Wiggling newborns are beyond the limits of the 5D2’s antiquated AF system. I got pretty good at the old “focus and recompose”, but it’s not the best method and modern technology has solved the problem.

She also never worked well in low-light. Anything above ISO 1250 and the photos displayed easily discernible noise bands. Some noise is, of course, fine. But horizontal lines of noise through an image are not. Maybe I’m particular, but I don’t like stripes through my photos. So that meant fast lenses and long shutter speeds, both of which come with their own attendant issues. It was a problem I ran into when trying to photograph my little Olive in her hospital room. The natural light was mostly insufficient, the artificial light was hideous, and I couldn’t push the camera past ISO 1250 for fear of ruined images, so I shot wide open and long shutter speeds. But wide open and long shutter speeds means tiny focal ranges and motion blur—there was no IBIS in 2008—which also means bad photos. I missed a lot of photos of Livvy that I shouldn’t have because of technical reasons. That was incredibly frustrating. Beyond frustrating. It was heartbreaking.

Now it is time to retire the 5D2. She will live on in my camera bag as a back-up until I find something better to do with her.

Say hello to my new friend, the Canon R5.

My cell phone, though newer than 2008, still doesn’t take great photos.
So cute.

It should come as a surprise to no one that I went all out. It was a terrifying purchase, but thinking of all the cute baby photos it is going to make helps me feel better about the splurge.

First impressions after having for just a few hours? This thing is slick and surprisingly small compared to the 5D2. It makes sense that it would be smaller since it doesn’t need to make room for all the mechanicals that lived inside the older DSLR, but holding it in my hands I still find its size a little weird. Nice, but weird.

The operation of the thing is amazing. The metric of a good tool for me is that it doesn’t stand in the way of translating thought into action. Let my brain tell you what to do and then do it. Don’t erect a bunch of extra steps for me to climb. The R5 feels like it is going to prove itself to be a good tool. Even the test photos I took around the house to familiarize myself with the camera are beautiful. Not good photos, but technically beautiful.

I’m going to take it out for a walk tomorrow while the babysitter is here and will be back with some sample photos to share.

Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto For Growth

The other day as I was clicking through Tumblr, a network I am finding increasingly strange, I happened upon an image with three points labeled “Incomplete Manifesto for Growth”. After following the tumble trail to its absolute origin, I found this: Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. Man, I love shit like this.

Originally written in 1998 by designer Bruce Mau, the list outlines his design process. But, more importantly, I think the little snippets of advice and guidance can inform any creative process, from writing to design to filmmaking to music. Whatever it is you’re struggling with creatively can benefit from some alternative perspective. You may not always take the advice, but if it causes you to think differently about the problem you’re trying to solve, then it was helpful. As I said yesterday, creativity is problem solving, and anything that helps you solve a problem is good.

And this list is filled with all sorts of good lits bits. If I were forced to pick my favorite five, they would be these.

2. Forget about good.
Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

3. Process is more important than outcome.
When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.

9. Begin anywhere.
John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

11. Harvest ideas.
Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

32. Listen carefully.
Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

40. Avoid fields.
Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

I know, I know. That was six. I tried not to post the whole list. Get over it.

Check out the remainder of the 43 points here: Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.

Number 15 on the list, Ask Stupid Questions, reminds me a lot of Leonardo’s to-do list from the post yesterday. “Ask Benedetto Portinari by what means they go on ice in Flanders”?? That is a stupid ass question. Maybe I’m not asking stupid enough questions.

Creative Projects-September: Dance Dance Dance, or, Barcelona-Vale! Vale!

September was a super strong creative month for me with not one but two dance videos (projects 10 & 11) and what I consider to be a nice return to my photo habit (project 12). You’ve seen the work and, I hope, enjoyed it as well.

The videos were fun little exercises in cranking out projects, the one we did in my apartment especially. The first video really needed to be put out quickly since it was a topical joke on that insipid video that Lanvin put out. So, it was. The edit only took a little while and the grade even less time. Of course, I was not happy with the first color correct, so I did it again the next day at work. The After Effects work to comp the problematic scenes was probably what took the longest, but, still, everything considered, the video was shot Thursday night and posted to the grand old interwebs Friday evening.

The Rubirosa video was slightly more involved on Sarah’s part since it required wrangling the staff of the restaurant, but my contribution was about the same as the prior video. Edit over a couple sittings, tweak this, tweak that, animate a face under a pizza, edit the music, make everything beautiful, and done. Luckily it was very well received by both staff and press, being blogged all over NY’s various foodie blogs. Pretty bad ass.

I might have also included the Ruby Kobo video in this list, but I took money for that so it doesn’t count according to the guidelines I established for this year’s theme. Regardless, I like how that came out too. Nice little video.

As I’ve mentioned before, the photos from Barcelona were the first set of photos I’ve posted to The Black Laser since July of 2010. I’ve taken a few photos in the interim, but nothing worth sharing, nothing I cared about. Honestly, I felt like I was done with photos and considered selling my photo equipment a few times. It would bring me a considerable sum as I’ve invested quite a few dollars into the habit over the years. But, I am glad I haven’t taken that plunge. I’ve just felt no inspiration to take photos, nothing has been popping out at me screaming “CAPTURE ME!!” I almost didn’t even take the camera to Spain since I wanted to pack lightly. Fortunately, I went with the old, “Fuck it, why not?” and took my stuff. I am glad I did and would have bitterly regretted not having my equipment in some of the places we went—Monserrat especially.

Looking back over the photos I took, and then comparing them to older photos, it is very clear to me that my eye is incredibly consistent, but that my technique and taste are getting better and better. Even with my year hiatus, I came back to the process of capturing images with a cleared mind than I remember ever having before. Indeed, I was much more critical of the photos I was taking as I was taking them than I ever remember being. Perhaps the break is exactly what I needed because I am definitely pleased with the quality of the selects. I wish I had taken more photos, but I guess I’ll just have to go back.

And how has the process of slowing my roll gone? Quite well in September, in fact. Besides some wedding-induced over indulgence, September has been quite a moderate month for me. I’ve been very deliberately eating better, too. I am now below 200 pounds for the first time in years and years. Encouraging!

While were were vacationing in Europe (mad bougie, I know), I was talking to JJ about how I really want to get back into shape, but how I just fucking loathe running. He suggested Crossfit which he said would kick my ass. I told him that needed my ass kicked. When i got back to the States (mad bougie phrase), I looked up classes in NY. I found a place close to work, but was intimidated by the cost. When I mention that to JJ, he was like, “Dude, that’s 3 nights of drinking. Shut up,” and I was all, “Yeah, duh. Ok,” and signed up. Though technically in October, I took a free intro class on Saturday and holy shit it kicked my ass. I gave me two things. 1) The clear knowledge that I am magnificently out of shape. 2) The desire not to have my ass kicked again. 7 minutes into the 10 minute workout I was seeing stars. My thighs still kill and it’s Monday. Amazing.

The intro course starts 10/17 and runs for three weeks. I will have more to say about it in my October recap, certainly, so look forward to that.

Let’s also talk for a moment about the amortization of expenses as they relate to drinks. I’ve written here on The Black Laser about how I amortize photographic expenditures, that is, a photo must be taken for every dollar spent on gear with that piece of gear. It’s sensible and it works. However, I’ve also found that a useful way for me to think about spending on things in my life is to measure it against what I would spend at the bar. “Oh jeez, 5 dollars for whatever thingie that would probably be really helpful?” 1 beer. “100 bucks for x, y, or z thing?” 1 Saturday out. “300 bucks for the intro to Crossfit course and two weeks of classes afterwards that will put me on the path to being more healthy?” 3 Saturdays out. Money I wouldn’t even think for a second about spending at the bar becomes incredibly difficult to spend in real life on other things that would be much more beneficial to me than a night of drinking that I might not even remember.

How stupid is that? Really stupid. But, the truth is that it is a useful hack that I’ve been using on myself for a long time. And it works.

Ok, lots of words about September. Hopefully October is just as productive. Oh yeah, 100% on the projects. WHAT WHAT!? Awesome. Everything from here on out is in the triple digit percentages. Healthy. I like it.

Buy some photos from my brother. I command it.

I’ve written about my brother Charlie before here numerous times. Well, he recently started an Etsy store where he’s selling some prints of photos he’s been taking around San Francisco. Go give him some money. The prints are very reasonably priced and he’s a good man.

I particularly like this one:

Cha, do you hear that? I like THAT one. You have my mailing address.

Here’s the link to his Etsy shop: Charlie Dillingham on Etsy.

Announcing JosephDillingham.com! YAY!

I very very rarely talk about what I do for a living here. Most of my work-talk is concerned with the things I’m doing for myself, i.e., writing, photos, music, films, &c. &c. Well, I’ve been talking about it and thinking about it for a long time, but I’ve finally gotten something put up at JosephDillingham.com, which is a huge relief because it makes the business cards I got a year and a half ago valid now. Fun! Click the image below to check it out.

Right now it only has my editorial reel on it, but I’ve built it so that I can later add sections for my other creative work. I hope to one day have photos, music, and writing on there as well as editorial. Maybe a director’s reel? Who knows! The possibilities are limitless. Getting this up is a huge weight off my head. I’ve been stressing out about it for a while and I am glad to have it done.

Also, if you are my friend and you have a professional site that I haven’t included in my “Friends” section, hit me up with a link and I’ll gladly add you. I like pimping my friends out. It’s good business.

The Theme for 2011

After the unmitigated disaster that was my Theme for 2010, it’s time to reevaluate the way I intend to approach 2011. But first, let’s explore what I set out to do for 2010 and where I think everything went wrong because, without exaggeration, everything went wrong.

The thing you’ll notice first when looking over at the tally for the year in the right hand column is that I accomplished basically nothing of what I intended at this time last year. My grand plans to write something substantial every single month AND make three music videos fell right through the floor. Whose fault is that? Mine, of course. But, the other question is am I upset about it? Nope. Not at all.

Where was all the work? It was there, but not in the places I intended. 2010 was a very busy year for me professionally and with other personal projects. As it turned out, I engaged in a ton of projects through the year.

What the hell did I spend all year doing? Well, I cut a film, 6 other videos, a bunch of commercials, I took the whole summer off, I moved out of my old apartment and adjusted to life as a single man, I traveled around the country, I reconnected with old friends, I made new friends, I made music, I partied way too much, and who knows what else. The bottom line is that I was busy busy busy and I enjoyed (almost) every moment of it.

So, I didn’t get the things done I wanted to get done this year, but in the face of a major shift in my life, I was able to accomplish a number of other things. I feel good about how 2010 turned out overall and have no complaints. Sure, in retrospect I could have slowed my roll a little bit and gotten more done, but I needed to get it out of my system too. I also think that the important part about the theme is not that I make something specific, but that I make something no matter what it is. The idea is to be creatively active, engaged, making things.

The theme for 2011 will be…

The Year of 12 Projects (and Slowing My Roll)

What does this entail? Simple. For each month of the year I will do something creative that requires more than one sitting. It’s not going to be one-per-month to allow for me to do 2 at once or skip a month if needed, but as there are 12 months in the year, so will I walk into 2012 with 12 projects finished. What the scope or nature of these projects will be I cannot say. The only requirement is that they are creative. It could be anything. Right off the bat, I am thinking of redesigning The Black Laser, getting josephdillingham.com up and running, a short story set in OUTER SPACE!!!!, some music, a music video for my friend Mandy, and whatever the hell else my brain comes up with. Make make make.

The other half of the theme is to slow my roll. If you don’t understand what I mean, it can be boiled down to two words: party less. I’ve gone a little nuts this year and it’s taking its toll on me. It’s been the default mode for me this year. When I don’t have anything to do, I go out. Bad news. I need to figure out ways to entertain myself that don’t end with an empty wallet and a scarred liver. Common sense, I think. Besides, I have some trips planned for later this year and it would be nice to be able to afford them.

There it is. Look out for posts tagged “The Year of 12 Projects”. When the first one is done, I will make a new box on the right. Or I won’t. Wouldn’t you like to know?!?!

Things that inspire me.

While browsing the Apedogs the other day, I came across a thread where folks were filling out these influence maps. I thought it was pretty cool so I did my own. See if you can identify all my sources. I almost definitely could fill out an entirely different second one of these.

After thinking about it a little bit more, I realized that I failed the Bechdel Test SO HARD. Terrible! It doesn’t change what my influences are, but it sure makes me look like a misogynist. Oops!

If you want to do your own, download the PSD here.

And, if you head over to Apedogs, check out the speed paint thread. Amaaaaaaaaaazing.

Arian’s “Atmospheres” featured in Juxtapoz Magazine Online

I’m sure you all remember the ink drop videos I posted a while back. Well, just a few days ago the mastermind behind the project, Arian Camilleri, was featured in Juxtapoz magazine. Pretty cool bit of press, I think. Here’s what they say about the project.

Arian Camilleri is a Brooklyn based photographer who aims to address and explore the concepts of creation and infinity in his photographs. Expanding and collapsing in an almost infinitely hypnotic manner, his new series is mesmerizing.

The fluid seems to rush towards you, then almost off the page; the unknown substances are perplexing and exciting. This is free movement captured.

The ethereal quality of these images could land one’s mind anywhere from underwater to a landscape horizon, and even outer space. Like cloud formations in the sky, the choice and destination is ever-changing, left to the viewer to decide.

You can check out the whole article here: Infinite Collapse as Explored by Arian Camilleri

Here’s Arian’s fine art site: Arian Camilleri

Click the link. Check the site.