Portrait of a Meaningless Marriage

No matter how much fun folks appear to be having on social media, it is painfully apparent what is going on these days. People are lonely.

Even if those folks are in a seemingly loving relationship, sharing a beer with him or her will usually lead to them telling you that they have no outlet for their true feelings. They are in a secure relationship, rooted in children and marriage, but they are utterly lonely.

These days, relationships are more about marking off life’s checkboxes and social status achievements than the real exchange of feelings and seeking a deeper understanding of what it means to be a loving person. I’m not saying people are decidedly shallow these days (well maybe I am) but I do think people have far too many options and distractions to have meaningful relationships.

Perhaps 200 years ago a couple, with no glowing electrified devices around, actually had to talk to one another while they lay in bed. Back then only one adult had to work per household. There wasn’t an unspoken sense of competition built into the relationship. A young couple, having avoided polio and the Black Death and insane infant mortality rates, we’re not throttled by individual ambition. A disgruntled lover could not pick up a phone and dial her mother to complain about every little thing her man does. Her mother, who lives 100 miles away, can’t tell her grown daughter to “come home then.” … thus dissolving a young relationship before it can be strengthened by overcoming workable conflicts…

People want fairy tales. It’s way deep and too much to get into for this format. I may write a book about it. Who knows?

Exit.

The Slow Death of Instagram and Facebook….

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“IG just ain’t right no more…”

The hunger to be liked is perhaps the most addictive non-chemical phenomenon I’m aware of. Nearly every effort we partake in is in some manner to make someone start to or continue to like us. Who is that someone? For devout Christians or Muslims it’s God who must like us. (There is hell to pay if he doesn’t like us.) While dating, especially when we are young, it is imperative that our lovers…like us. At least it should be. At work we want our bosses or clients to like us. It certainly seems counterproductive when they don’t like us.

Is seeking to be liked wrong? Nah. It’s fine. Being liked is all about congruency. Fitting together with others is fundamental. I mean, truly fundamental. Atoms bond with nearby atoms and form molecules based on how easy it is for them to share resources. They “like” one another, so they bond.

So why am I shorting my stock in Facebook and Instagram? To put it simply, it’s because both platforms have rigged the system to control how many likes a user gets on a particular post. Initially, it was a combination of a meritocracy and a chronological reward system. Post timely, good content and get showered in likes and promotion for you self, your brand, etc…

Now Facebook and Instagram have put an invisible vending machine interface between you and those followers and their precious likes. This after years of letting people exchange likes for free, unfettered.

For me, my instagram posts generated twice and many likes when I had half as many followers…

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Now, after a very recent algorithm tweak (or I might be shadowbanned 🤔) my likes trickle in at a snails pace. Slower even. I have deleted and reinstalled the IG app a few times as I debate abandoning the platform altogether. As for Facebook I still use it but only for messenger and to scroll memes and news. My posts get substantially less likes than they used to on there of course….

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I have a serious glamour photography business developing here, and chasing IG likes seems like something I should let my gorgeous models worry about. Not me. Even they don’t get the engagement I think a typical flawless twenty something should get. I mean, a pretty gal has always been able to trade on her beauty as a commodity. If you try to force pretty girls to pay to execute that commodity trade, then they will eventually evaluate the commissions you charge (for advertising etc) and maybe go elsewhere. Instagram is losing its fundamentals. Facebook has good fundamentals but is starting to feel dated and repetitive. Perhaps some new way of exchanging real time data is around the corner. I say bring it on….

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Exit.

WHAT IVE BEEN DOING ON SUNDAYS II

I haven’t been watching football on Sundays this year.

Why?

Who knows?

I have been shooting aspiring models and friends though.

 

FUJI X100F – 6 Month Review

Enter.

I like this little camera. Model Ana Rivera ain’t bad either.

So it has been 6 months since the Fuji X100F debuted and I of course purchased the first one sold in my city of Baltimore. In fact, I have yet to see another X100F in Baltimore, but I digress. Since I bought the camera I’ve shot ~5000 photos and spent untold lunch breaks going through the menus. I’ve shot sports sidelines, pretty models, and I’ve shot and killed streets. I’ve hooked up an external flash, more on that later, and have fallen in love with using the LCD only to shoot.

WHAT I LOVE

I started out with this camera thinking I could shoot jpegs using those cute film simulation modes. I really tried to make it work too. My favorite one is ACROS (followed by Classic Chrome). I used ACROS a lot. I knew though, that sometimes I needed to record a scene in color so I quickly started shooting RAW + Jpegs to my card, which slows my Lightroom flow down, but it was manageable. Then, at some point, I downloaded the fuji film simulation plugins from some damn place on the internet and installed it in Lightroom. That way I could change a Fuji (only Fuji) RAW file to the Classic Chrome look if I wanted, or whatever. After a while I figured there really is no fucking difference between the in-camera jpeg film simulations and the Lightroom plugin camera conversions, AND I noticed that Fuji RAW files have a shit ton of dynamic range. I shoot all RAW now. Fuck it. Those in-camera film simulation modes are too cute for me…

I never understood or cared about having a leaf shutter until I started shooting sidelines at sporting events. I normally shoot 1/1000 F5.6 and auto ISO range 200-800 during the day for streets. When I’m shooting events I turn on the built-in fill flash just for shits and giggles. This is when I discovered that I could overpower the sun and create these hauntingly half dark images. I continued this trend later shooting models using an external flash….

The image quality beats the unholy fuck out of my Canon 5d Mark III, even when the DSLR is coupled with the world class 70-200 2.8 IS II lens. This little Fuji point-and-shoot compact beats it handily as far as micro contrast and sharpness is concerned. RAW to RAW the Fuji wins handily when it comes to dynamic range for both shadow pulling AND highlight recovery. Colors are more of a taste thing, but I find Fuji colors to be more accurate than Canon, even though Canon’s colors are warm and lovely.

The face detection works reasonably well, and it will even detect a models eye (left or right depending on your chosen setting) when it feels like it.

 

This is most likely the finest street photography camera ever made.

Models and subjects smile at this camera, as opposed to my big ass Canon which makes folks get all serious or run away.

THINGS I HATE

The afl/ael button is useless and positioned horribly. I have reassigned it to change my focus type.

The control ring concept is so horrid that I try my best to never touch the lens unless I’m changing apertures.

What the fuck is up with Fuji and off camera flash? Nothing works right. I can get my Canon (actually a Pixel Mago) flash to fire in manual using a chord that I have to jiggle and pray to get it to work. When it works the results are good though. I’m getting the X-T2 and some lenses soon as well as this new Godox flash trigger and flash unit that’s supposed to work with Fuji TTL and HSS and do it all wireless. We shall see…

I hate the view mode button. God forbid you ever hit that bitch by accident and spend an hour thinking your camera is malfunctioning. Perhaps I’m just an idiot but still….

FINAL THOUGHTS

This camera is a nice intro into the Fuji universe and also has a leaf shutter. That’s the deal. The jpegs are good but overrated. The RAW files are superb. It’s compact yet made of steel. It’s sharp as fuck. It’s silent. The autofocus is good in single shot mode. If you’re a street photographer this camera is superior to almost any camera you can buy besides a manual focus Leica and maybe my beloved Leica Q. None of those cameras have a fill flash though. This one does….

Exit. Please like and subscribe.

Tee shirt available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073X8L6WS

Model: Ana Rivera @myrlanis_ on Instagram.

Does Image Quality Really Matter?

What matters more: photo content or picture quality? What photo has more intrinsic appeal: a grainy photo of a person getting shot in the head at point blank range or a crisp medium format photo of an apple sitting on a kitchen counter?

People seem to prefer interesting content over visually appealing picture quality. Actually, having both at the same time can be a detriment….

Before I begin I must admit: I’m far more shallow and superficial than I might have hoped….

Let’s take the internet for example, which consists of 3 things: photos, video, and text. That’s it. That’s the internet.

With laptops and PC’s declining in sales and tablet sales becoming stagnant, the main way folks consume the internet these days is by using their phones. Phones have made people highly tolerant of inferior photo quality, especially if the photo features a juicy ass, a nice set of boobs, or a cat, in no particular order. This is because people use their phones to record video and snap photos of the above things, often times in bad lighting or with less than professional level cameras mounted on their phones. Actually, there arguably has never been a professional level camera mounted on a phone…

Come to think of it, amateur porn is the reason this is a debate at all. Every time a chick sends you a photo of her rack and you whack off to it you are taking a side in this debate….

Meanwhile, the internet gives us high quality porn and photographers offer their services for top dollar. Premium porn sites sell content that later gets bootlegged and iPhone photo geeks scoff at paying 5000 USD for a wedding shoot. What the marketplace, both the internet consumer and iPhone shooters are saying is that image quality essentially doesn’t matter.

….and we wonder why our basic friends are simply not impressed by our nice, sharp, well composed DSLR photos, and instead like grainy, drunkly composed iPhone St. Patrick’s Day pictures….

Actually taken with the Fujifilm X100F and ruined in post….

This is why Instagram models are so successful. For every person surfing the web on their phones looking for art there are 2600 men searching the hashtag #tittytuesday. Art is secondary to porn, and in turn, image quality is secondary to content. In fact, many men are suspicious of well lit, professional photos on an Instagram models feed. They suspect a sell is coming, and nobody likes “the sell”. We, ahem, they are more amenable to poorly lit bathroom and bedroom photos where the model is wearing her often worn night clothes…

A nice painting is probably not as desirable as a nice blowjob I suppose, even though the painting normally costs more….

We photographers spend thousands on our cameras and even more on an array of sharp lenses and we only have 900 followers on Instagram and 300 on twitter while some chick in her moms basement using a Galaxy Note has 200k followers on IG and a respectable 24k on twitter, even though she never does more than post photos….

Everything here works besides the Black 4k, which is crap…

Why the fuck are we buying all this gear? Are the camera companies mind fucking us? If you shoot weddings or funerals or school photos I get it, but most of us don’t shoot shit besides street photos and our reluctant family members who we are afraid to tell how much we paid for our gear….

This is a micro-struggle. The debate over image quality vs. image content will not determine whether or not your city legalizes prostitution. This is small shit in the scheme of things. Still, think about how much grainy amateur porn you whack off too compared to over-produced West Hollywood porn…..

Exit.

When You Have No Control…

Let me just state for the record that control is an illusion. We never have control over much of anything in our lives. We have responsibility and we have authority, but we seldom, if ever, have control. This applies to street photography as much as it applies to day-to-day life.

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I’m not a handsome dude. It’s a shame because my mother and my youngest sister (my mom’s daughter, I have 2 other sisters besides) are drop dead gorgeous. As for me however, I’m unattractive, and this is made painfully clear by the number of failed dates with women I have had in my life. I’m just not impressive I suppose. I used to be a skinny guy and I thought that women didn’t like me because I was skinny, so I started hitting the gym 5 days a week and still do to this day. Now I’m pretty buff but I get the same results: I get passed over like the glasses-wearing fat chick at a sophomore ring dance. Currently I’m thinking I need to be rich and famous and maybe then women will flock to me. Hmmmm…..Familiar logic. I sense that life has laid out a an obviuos pattern for me….

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As for being rich and famous as a photographer and internet personality I still wouldn’t have any control. In that circumstance I’d be an easy target for ridicule over my looks or my lack of formal education (I never finished at Morehouse college). I’d be roasted on twitter every time I misspoke or posted a poorly composed photograph. This was once a scary prospect until I realized that the control I fear I’d lack then is the same control I lack NOW. The only difference is at this point I have no support. No fans. No one is in my corner and everyone thinks I’m just some uneducated nigger with a big mouth and an expensive camera. Perhaps they are right. I’m beginning to realize that what people think about me, and what I think about myself largely does not matter. Only my actions matter.

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There will come a day that I will have authority. I will be the best at what I do, perhaps the finest ever. I will have the power to help others and the discretion to obliterate any enemies that may emerge. Until then I’ll keep grinding, day by day, and try my best to keep things under control….

Exit.

 

Street Photography Should Not Be Televised

YouTube is ubiquitous, and you can learn damn near anything by watching a video there. Want to know how to replace the starter on a 2004 Honda Accord: YouTube. With that being said, some deeds are best left unseen. Some processes are so personally customized, yet at the same time so stunningly basic, that it is objectionable to watch the deconstruction of these processes onscreen. Some curtains should never be pulled back. Such is the case with street photography.

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There are a lot of photography gear reviews on Youtube. Many of them are useful and informative, and even the ones that aren’t particularly useful still have value from a “gear porn” perspective. I watch reviews frequently, even of gear I’d never use, on various channels I follow such as this one, and in general I don’t find fault with what the reviewer is saying, especially if the presenter is pretty, funny or knowledgable (or all three  like Cherry Wong). It would be hard for me to find fault with the bulk content of many reviews, even if I wanted to, because I’ve never shot test charts. I don’t do high ISO comparisons between camera brands or calibrate lenses. I hardly pay attention to vignetting or pin cushion distortion unless it is horribly pronounced in a photograph. I don’t use entire menu categories on my camera. They are just somethingannoying  I have to skip over while I navigate to the menu options I use frequently. Unless I’m gear prospecting or Leica lusting, I watch these review videos just to see whats new and popping out there, and to gauge how people feel about whats new and popping out there, even if I don’t care much about what they are discussing. In summary I suppose I’m saying it’s generally all good when I watch reviews on youtube.

One thing makes me cringe however. Sometimes it happens during the image quality portion of the review, but I want to slap reviewers when they say the following, more or less:

Now lets go and test out this (insert gear) shooting some street photography!

You just told us you was a wedding shooter. Why don’t you make a video testing the gear at a wedding? Is it because you look DOWN on street photography and feel like there is no penalty for you posting horrible street photographs on the internet? These same reviewers will say as an aside: “I shot with this camera at a wedding recently and found that the dynamic range was just not as good as my Sony” or whatever. Well where is the footage of that shit, of you shooting the camera in your genre of expertise? Why do you instead have footage of you walking around your hometown shooting gargoyle statues and elderly people and calling it street photography? Get the fuck out of here with that. I need to start pulling up on shooters and checking them, gangland style, but I digress….

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First of all the game is to be sold and not told, but thats another topic altogether. Secondly, there is that moment where we see video of the photographer taking a “street photo” and then hear the obligatory artificial shutter sound. Next they show the actual processed photo and it’s usually horrible or at the very best it’s average. Street photography cannot be forced for the purpose of some full frame DSLR or 35mm lens review. Street photography should not be what this is called. What you are doing, reviewers, is taking shots of people and things on the street. Call it test shots. Please don’t call that weak shit street photography. I’ve seen your work, many of you, and a good bit of you actually can shoot. A better approach, instead of the video-fake-shutter-crappy-photo approach, is when savvy photographers pause the review video and show a short montage of street photos they actually worked to get. They do not show random, forced, crappy shots used just because it syncs up well with the video footage, editing wise. The photo montage, no matter how good it is,  should not be segmented by those annoying fake shutter sounds though.

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These are my first-world microstruggles brothers and sisters. While the political left is popping Xanax at the idea of Trump for 4 years, I’m skipping past entire segments of a YouTube photo gear review because the reviewer said he was about to shoot some “street photography”. You don’t go out and “shoot some street photography” asshole. Street photography is a mindset. You’re either street or you’re not. Bresson was a goddamn war correspondent, for fucks sake. Bruce Gilden was a gangster. This isn’t a genre for pussies. Street photography is rooted in hostility and danger. It is looked down upon and thought to be simple by many photographers, most of them wedding and portrait shooters, but street photography is in fact the hardest genre to master. I’d tell you more, but then I’d have to charge you. Stay low and keep shooting. 

 

The Fabric of Place and Time in Street Photography

I recently ended a longtime friendship when I discovered this particular friend had no idea what Cartesian coordinates were. I’m not being petty here.

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He probably does indeed know what Cartesian coordinates are, though not by that name, as I believe every student is taught how to plot points on a simple X/Y axis-graph at some point in high school. The reality is he doesn’t care what Cartesian coordinates are, as many do not care about the vast majority of things they learned about in high school or even in college. Conversely, I do care about Cartesian coordinates :), particularly when it comes to my style of photography. As much as attitude and skill and an understanding of light plays a role in photography, luck has a huge role to play in whether a shot is good or not. By luck I mean being in the right place at the right time.

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Opportunities emerge around us all on a regular basis. In general, the only thing preventing us from seizing some or any of these opportunities is that we are not physically around to take advantage of them. To be fair, there is something to be said for ones level of readiness if he or she is present at an opportunistic event, and thats why, particularly in photography, it is commonly understood that one must be ever-ready to shoot. Being ready wont make a bit of difference if one is absent, however. This isn’t a thing that can always be controlled. In event and action photography the moments happen where and when they happen. There is no environmental or temporal control available to the shooter. This is totally unlike studio photgraphy, where a shooter is working via appointments and gets to play God with every aspect of the photographic process. If you are say…shooting soccer and are on one side of the field, you may miss a key sequence that happens on the other side of the field, despite having a fast and long telephoto lens at your disposal. This is the nature of the profession. You can’t shoot every angle of a dance recital or catch every dancer in mid-air when he or she leaps, and you cant cover every meaningful moment of a wedding ceremony, even with four cameras, ten lenses to choose from, and two shooters. Something will always be missed, though hopefully not key moments you were prepared for.

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That’s why I call it luck. Every now and then even the laziest shooter, who happens to have his or her camera at the ready, will shoot a sequence of events and do so extraordinarily. Ninety-nine percent of the time that shooter may snap uninspiring photos at an event. After nearly falling asleep while waiting, holding his or her camera at an otherwise boring student protest for instance, that shooter may be right there, front and center, when the counter-protesters reveal themselves and somebody gets punched in the face. All he or she has to do at that moment is shoot. It is the fabric of time and space. It is the luck of the draw. There is no reliable way to position yourself to more often than not get that magical shot. You can try to read into body language and use your innate photographic wisdom to make guesses as to what will happen next, but you can easily guess wrongly and be out of position while the next guy, who has been fumbling through his camera menus and chimping all day, might luck up and get the shot of a lifetime.

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Bottom line is: You cant control what you cant control, so say a little serenity prayer and keep it moving. I wish I could divine some way to always be at the right coordinates to get those magical shots that will make me rich. I wont hold my breath until it happens, however. I will continue to hold my camera as steadily as I can, select my position on the X/Y/Z axis of the universe, and shoot what I see. There are many obstacles and distractions which emerge before me but through it all, I stay low and I keep shooting!