Sunday, January 23, 2022

THE BEST OF MY PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE FEMALE FORM




By Heinz Richter

Historically, the human form has fascinated artists probably more than any other subject. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the same fascination has extended to photography as well.  I am no exception in this regard, as a matter of fact, I just received an email that stated:

"… In addition, this man is very impressed by your studio photographs of women.
He says that it is amazing how with a minimalist and very classic approach, without complex lights, you are able to draw the beauty essence and the most significant personality traits of these women in black and white, and he also says something that I also said to you some months ago: it is not easy to get the confidence of so pretty women.
As a matter of fact, he states that your black and white pictures of women are one of the main highlights of Barnack Berek Blog.”

I have been contemplating about a book with the best of my nude work and this email convinced me that maybe it is time to begin work on that.  Therefore I consider this article as one of the first steps to this goal.


While photography has generally been accepted as a valid art form, photography of the nude to this day is struggling with that recognition.  In the view of many, it is still looked upon as sleazy and objectionable, even harmful.  No such objections exist when it comes to paintings and sculptures.  People regularly visit art galleries.  No objections are generally voiced to see nude art there.  Public spaces often display nude sculptures, no objections there either.  Yet nude photographic art is still widely rejected.  Why?


I must emphasize that the key word here is art.  Many of the great photographers have produced fine art nudes like Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Edward Weston, Man Ray, Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz,…,  just to mention a few.  Of course, just as with other art forms, some like Robert Mapplethorpe or Jeff Koonz, for instance, have pushed the envelope by producing images that are questionable to some, but such work should not be generalized and held against other serious photographers.


I often discuss this with my sister who is a successful professional photographer in Germany.  She is often in disbelief of how much more restricted photography of this type is in the US.  Before retiring, she had three different display windows for her work at her studio, one of which was usually dedicated to fine art nude photography.  That is simply unthinkable in the US.


That brings up the question of what constitutes fine art nude photography.  During my 13 years of teaching photography that question regularly came up during class discussions.  Of course the definition of art in general is in the eye of the beholder.  There are no clear cut instructions to be had.


When it comes to fine art nude photography, it is quite easy to take a photograph of a person without any clothes.  That, however, is not art and should not be attempted to be presented as such.  Instead the emphasis should not be so much on nudity but on shape, form, lighting, design and composition.

That adds a considerable amount of difficulty which is further emphasized that in most cases, a similar approach with similar results most likely has been done before.


In an interview, Kim Weston, grandson of Edward Weston, when asked about his photography in comparison to that of his grandfather, said that he generally does not think about him.  He went on to say whatever kind of photograph he might attempt, “Edward has done it.”  He virtually cannot photograph anything without the constant reminder that Edward has done it.


The best approach in my opinion is to carefully plan a fine art nude photography session and then proceed without too much attention to the work of other photographers.  Then careful selection of only the best examples with a healthy dose of self-criticism should give the assurance that the shoot was successful.  And don’t forget, the old adage of practice makes perfect still applies.


Keep in mind that a nude photograph does not necessarily have to show a nude figure.  There are also implied nudes where a model is shown only with the implication of being nude.

Upon close inspection, I have found that many of my nude photographs render almost totally different results when cropped to an implied nude.  This is simply another approach to make any photography session as successful as possible.









Posing and lighting of the model is very important.  For that reason it is advisable to work with experienced models that are able to strike a great variety of poses and do it accurately. I found that it definitely helps for a model to see a sample of what pose I am looking for.  For that reason I always have a number of sample images handy during a shoot.




I have worked with most of the models shown here on several occasions, with some of them even for several years.  That has created a very good working relationship which is also very helpful for this kind of work.

Finally, there is the choice of color or black and white.  For this type of work, I personally much prefer black and white.  I feel it draws the viewer much more to the shape, form and lighting.  Colors can easily become distracting.

Regardless of what approach one chooses to take with these types of photography, none of it will come easy.  Especially for a novice there is a lot to learn and master.  As I said, the adage of ‘practice makes perfect’ definitely applies.

All photographs taken with Leica cameras and lenses.



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Saturday, January 22, 2022

PHOTOGRAPHY WITH AVAILABLE LIGHT

                                 

St. Paul, Minnesota Winter Carnival 1992 Ice Castle
Plaubel Makina, Anticomar 100mm f/2.9
Agfacolor Optima 100, 10 sec, f/2.9


By Heinz Richter

This terminology is self-explanatory; photography with whatever light is available.  During daylight hours, this is no problem.  Difficulties arise when light levels are quite low.  Under such circumstances faster lenses or higher ISO settings often become a necessity.  With film, higher ISO settings generally are accompanied with coarser grain and ISO 3200 is a limit that is hard to overcome.  Here digital technology offers considerable advantages with some cameras offering ISO levels many times higher.

This has created another performance evaluation besides camera resolution in megapixels and dynamic range.  Some individuals are definitely of the opinion that a camera isn’t worth considering unless it excels at super high ISO levels.  There is definitely an advantage to be had, but are levels of 100 thousand ISO or more really necessary or helpful for that matter?

I have been involved in several discussion about this and thus have come across examples where anything less than 10 thousand ISO just doesn’t cut it.  My enthusiasm of this is far more measured, but then I don’t photograph black cats in a coal mine very often.

 "Boltergasse" Barntrup, Germany
Linhof Technica 70, Schneider Symmar 100mm f/5.6
Ilford FP-3 10 minute exposure
Digitized with Leica Digilux 2

 Lou Bellami, Penumbra Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota
Leica M6, 135mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M
Ilford XP-2 Super, ISO 800

The beginning of my photographic education is solidly anchored in the film days.  Over the years I have certainly done my share of available light photography, yet rarely did that necessitate ISO levels higher than 800 or 1600.  As a matter of fact, I am hard pressed to imagine a photographic situation where anything substantially higher is necessary, although I should add that the coarse grain of very fast films is often used as an artistic element.

 
Children's Day Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 400, 1/20 sec f/2.1

 Newton Fork Ranch, Hill City, South Dakota
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 100, 1/2 sec f/2

 
Lake City Marina, Lake Pepin, Minnesota
Leica M8, 15mm f.4.5 VoigtlƤnder Super Wide Heliar
ISO 160, 1/362 sec f/8

Weilburg, Germany
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 400, 1/4 sec f/2.1

 
Leica M5, 50mm Noctilux f/1
Kodachrome 25, 1/30 sec f/1

I have always tried to keep film grain as small as possible which is the very reason why I used to shoot quite regularly with film speeds of ISO 25.  Obviously, that is quite limiting.  Combining small grain with a variety of film speeds led me to chromogenic films, mainly Ilford XP-2 and its successor, the XP-2 Super.  Unlike other black and white films, these have the advantage of offering a relatively wide range of ISO settings without the need of developing adjustments.  I regularly used the XP-2 and XP-2 Super at ISO ranges from 100 to 800. This would be of no consequence if there were no apparent difference.  However, at lower sensitivity setting these films display a noticeably finer grain.  Since no development adjustments are necessary, there is the advantage of being able to change the film sensitivity as needed and take advantage of the finer grain at the lower speeds, all on the same roll of film.


Office Building Minneapolis, Minnesota
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 100, 2 sec f/11

Minneapolis
Sinar 4x5, 
Kodak Ektachrome
Digitized with Leica Digilux 2

 
Brentwood Estate, Alexandria, Minnesota
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 100, 1/8 sec f/2

 
Private Japanese Garden, Plymouth, Minnesota
Leica Digilux 2
ISO 100, 1/2 sec f/2

 
"Tecco"
former principal violinist St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, St. Paul, Minnesota
Leica R4. 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R
Ilford XP-2 Super, ISO 800

Of course such considerations are of not much consequence with digital cameras.  Here we can change sensitivity setting at will, although the greater noise at relatively high settings, which does look very much like film grain, is something to consider.  Thus I still follow my old habit of using relatively low ISO settings in order to get the most out of my cameras and lenses.  With my digital cameras that generally is ISO 100 or 200, although modern digital cameras are capable to work with much higher ISO settings without any noticeable image degradation.

Available light photography is considered by most as photography under relatively low light levels.  This naturally can result in fairly slow shutter speeds unless higher sensitivity settings are utilized.  Of course a tripod can be of great help when slow shutter speeds are necessary, although no tripod can overcome the need for faster shutter speeds with fast moving subjects.  I also consider a tripod very restrictive in the way I can use a camera.  I much prefer to use my cameras hand held.

Cindy Hillger, Don Shelby
Live Newscast WCCO TV Minneapolis, Minnesota
Leica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M
Ilford XP-2 Super, ISO 800

Venice
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit
ISO 2500, 1/2 sec f/2.8

 
Venice
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit
ISO 1250, 1/15 sec f/2.8

 
Venice
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit
ISO 1250, 1/11sec f/2.8

For that reason I still employ the old formula that I learned in the film days, to use, as the slowest shutter speed, a setting which is the equivalent of the focal length of the lens.  With other words, the slowest shutter speed that the average person can safely hand hold with a 50mm lens is 1/50 (1/60) sec.  Subsequently, 1/250 sec would be the slowest with a 250mm lens, 1/30 sec with a 28mm etc.  This approach has served me well over the years.  Obviously there are times when this would lead to underexposure.  In those cases, bracing on a solid object will allow handholding the camera at lower shutter speeds.

Would higher ISO settings be of an advantage?  Of course!  As long as the image quality does not substantially deteriorate, why not?  But I would not make high ISO capabilities a major factor when deciding on a camera.  As long as my camera equipment offers good performance at ISO 1600 or 3200, I feel unrestricted.

Finally, I must comment on another advantage of digital cameras.  With relatively long exposure times, they don’t display reciprocity failure.  This is a definite problem with most films and, unfortunately, it differs from film to film.  As a rule of thumb, we can safely assume that reciprocity failure is of no consequence with exposure times up to one second.  After that the exposure response is not linear anymore and films require an increase in exposure.  Unfortunately, there is little choice than to consult the reciprocity information that should accompany the film.

Don Stolz
Old Log Theater, Excelsior, Minnesota
Leica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron
Ilford XP-2 Super, ISO 800

All in all, photography in low light is no problem, as long as we take the necessary measures to overcome the problems associated with this.  Digital photography has the added advantage of allowing to experiment without adding to the cost of film and processing.  The results can be outstanding photographs, much beyond the usual daylight. 



                                                   For other articles on this blog please click on Blog Archive in the column to the right

To comment or to read comments please scroll past the ads below.

All ads present items of interest to Leica owners.

_______________________________________________________________________

EDDYCAM - the first and only ergonomic elk-skin camera strap     
 www.eddycam.com        

      


Click on image to enlar
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
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