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Welcome! I don't know about you guys, but I plan on having a good time. It's a lot of work putting together each episode, but photography has been in my life — work and play — since I was a strapping sapling simpleton. And that's saying something (especially if you try to say it through thrice).

Connect or comment, please. Each episode will have a conversation, and I'll be glad to strike one up with you, too!

- Mark

Dec 2, 2017

This episode takes us to half as many blackbirds as you'd expect in a podcast pie, but that's what you get when your form of currency is a cereal grain, delivered in a pocket.

And, no, the drugs haven't kicked in, though I might need to use that defense if this goes to court…

First Blackbirds, Now a Fox?

In episodes 2, 7, and 8 we learned about the very earliest attempts at recording a viewable scene onto a permanent medium. First asphalt on pewter (Niépce), then mercury on silvered copper (Daguerre), and silver chloride, then potassium iodide, on paper for a one-off image (Hippolyte Bayard's process, unexplained in that episode).

But whereas these three processes were the inventions of the French, in 1835 an Englishman seems to have predated Daguerre and Bayard with what he came to call the calotype process. William Henry Fox Talbot used paper, salt water, and silver nitrate to create a negative image using a camera obscura — dark where the scene was bright, bright where the scene was dark. So what, you ask? So, put that piece of paper with the negative image onto another piece of prepared paper, with a sheet of glass on top to keep them mushed together, and plop that dainty dish out in the sun. The second piece of paper makes a negative image of the negative image and, voilà, I mean, um, cheerio, you've got a positive image of the scene.

Because the images are made on and through paper — clear, flexible film did not yet exist — they were not super-duper marvels of detail, like the Daguerreotype, but they were a lot easier to make, a lot less expensive to make, and you could make multiple positives from a single negative. Like, hundreds or thousands of positives. At least for a while — the process, though not the inventor, was pretty much dead by the end of the 1850s.

Fox Talbot

William Henry Fox Talbot, English inventor of photography, with a camera and lens in 1864. By this point in history his original process was obsolete, superseded by wet collodion plates, which replaced paper with glass. Photo by John Moffat.

Fox Talbot on Wikipedia

Description of Calotype

I Think They Prefer "Little" Planet?

If you're looking for a tool to make your images sing, and you don't want to spend all day in the counting house, Luminar 2018 from Skylum, née Macphun, just might be the queen of such apps.* Available for Mac and Windows, and for a mere $69, this program is packed with easy-to-use presets and workspaces. Open an image, click on your favorite preset from those they provide — or make your own using the panoply of filters — and directly send the result to social media.

cranberry comparo

The original, on the left, leaves some brightness to be desired. A quick trip through Luminar, invoking the "Fix Dark landscape" preset and you get what's on the right (here, flopped for aesthetic purposes).

Play around, add and subtract filters, swap their order, make a mess or make a masterpiece. It's easy and the program keeps a record of your every tweak. Need to back up? Two clicks and you've reversed time! And get this: save the file and close it. Open it back up and your every tweak, from before you closed it, is still available. How sweet is that? As sweet as bread and honey? I'd say so.

Luminar presets

Here are the preset categories in Luminar 2018. In addition to the provided ones, you can make your own, saved in "User Presets," mark any preset as a "Favorite" so they show up in that set (in addition to whichever set(s) they are already in), and add presets from other users using the "Get More" category.

Use this link to learn more about Luminar and if you buy it I'll get a little of that transaction. So, thanks in advance.

(* Who is the king? Probably Adobe Photoshop, since it has the power to do just about every possible thing — but it costs a king's ransom, has a very steep learning curve, and is more likely to cut off your head. Luminar is sooo much easier to work with and will forgive your almost every impudence.)

What's the Maid Got To Do With It?

Whether you're hanging pictures on your wall or clothes in your garden, you want it done right, right? My guest this episode is Brian Ward, who runs Bill's Custom Frames in Tempe, Arizona. He started with Bill in 2002, when the business was already in its 31st year, learned the trade, joined the owner and a coworker in owning two Volkswagens each (I've owned as many as three at one time!), and now runs the place by himself after Bill passed away earlier this year (2017).

Brian Ward

Here is one photo, three ways, for three topics: product review, episode guest, photo tip (coming up, down below).

Luminar: The top of this troika is as-shot (Sony A6300 camera); the middle is processed with Luminar 2018 to even things out, contrast-wise, more in keeping with my feel for the subject; the bottom as blacked-and-whited in Luminar to take away all those eye-competing colors in the background — so now his face is the most important thing in the image and our eyes are less interested in wandering to the fluorescent-lighted wall, the green houseplant, the red bar. Removing those distractive colors let me push some more contrast back into the image — still keeping in line with Brian's soft manner, but a bit bolder.

Guest: Brian Ward of Bill's Custom Frames.

Photo Tip: I rolled my camera to the right before I captured this photo of Brian just inside the door to the shop.

He's a laid-back kinda guy, but he knows his framing — he was recommended to me, which is how I came to know him — and he knows people — through him I met Bob Carey, my guest in episode 6. You can check out their Facebook page, with its video of their new location's parlour, and if you're needing framing in the Phoenix area, call Brian at 480-968-1771.

Does The World Seem Lopsided To You?

A photo tip so close to my heart, if it were any closer it would nip my nose off. (There's some strange anatomy at work in that adage…)

What's not strange is how tilting your camera adds some energy to an otherwise fine, but perhaps static, image. It is simple to do, with the toughest part of the technique being remembering to do it. To get into the habit, and give yourself some choices, shoot straight, then crooked, then crooked the other way.

Frame your shot with the horizon level in the frame (even if there is no horizon because you're indoors, or because you're pointing the camera up or down). Compose and press the shutter button. Then before you press the shutter button again, twist the camera so the subject is crooked in the frame. Press the button. Try twisting in the other direction. Press the button.


Do you have one of those dogs that just sits and pants and stares off into space or stares at you with unabashed adoration? My wife doesn't. She has Cowboy, seen here in three quick shots to test which is the better tilt — left, right, or none. I prefer the image in the lower right corner, which has the camera tilting left — the level one is kinda dull, while the one where I tilted right feels like Cowboy is going to slide out of the picture. Why does tilting left work better? Dunno, but it does, at least for me. "Sit, Cowboy! Sit!"

Compare! Not every subject is improved with this lopsided approach, but many are and my imagination doesn't yet allow me to know in advance, though I'm getting better. And, as I wonder in the audio, might human subjects who are facing a camera pointed their way at a jaunty angle feel a little more relaxed, and little more jaunty themselves? I don't know, but try it yourself and see if not only the picture, but the subject, feels more energetic.

A Paparazzo Worth Every Pence (six, at least)?

Julia Margaret Cameron was the granddaughter to a page to Marie Antoinette, born in India and, 63 years later, passing away in Ceylon. In between she lived in France and London and India. Mrs. Cameron received a camera as a gift when she was 48 years old and, in the mere 11 years she practiced her craft, she learned the technology and developed what is considered, now, a great eye for portraiture — and she photographed some of the greats. "(shouted) Hey, Charles Darwin! Look over here!"

Lord Tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson. You may know him, Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland, by such oft-quoted phrases as, "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all." Photo by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Cameron seems to have loved, and possibly never lost, her affection for photography: "From the first moment, I handled my lens with a tender ardour."

A romantic view of the craft, yes? And like a true romantic, a true amateur in the original sense of the word, she was determined in achieving her vision. But she was active in the latter half of the 19th century, when women were a rarity in photography, and despite her talent and the results she achieved, it seems her influence was not felt, her art not truly appreciated, until late in the 20th. And that was a loss for the photographers in the intervening century. Here is another quote: 

"I longed to arrest all beauty that came before me, and at length the longing has been satisfied."

 John Herschel

This man looks a bit scary, deranged maybe, but don't be dissing him — meet John Herschel, an active force in the beginnings of the technology of photography, working with Fox Talbot and others on chemistry and processes, and also the coiner of the term "photography!" Photo by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Julia Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron as photographed by her husband, Henry. You can read more about her on this Wikipedia page.

The Bird Sings?

I've had the pleasure of helping a group of photographers in a monthly workshop at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. One of those photographers surprised me with the following via Facebook, and I include it here to remind you that I'd love to hear from you, too. You don't have to be as fulsome in your praise, though that doesn't hurt… (I did edit this quote for length — it originally had three(!) exclamation points at the end!)

"Many thanks and much appreciation for your awesome interview with professional boudoir photographer Leanna McDonald located in Phoenix, AZ. AND all the other cool tips and tricks for photographers. Loved your quotes and the history/meaning behind them, very informative. Thank you again Mark Bennett!"

I have thanked this kind person, of course, and I'd like to thank you, too, for sharing your thoughts or questions — but you gotta share them before I can thank you, right? So, get your sharing on and leave a comment below, or on iTunes where you can also rate the show.

Okay, fine. I do thank you, right now, even if you haven't (yet) left a comment or question. Thank you for spending some time with me.

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