Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.

— George Eastman.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

What is Education?

Someone asked recently what photographers, noted for their work, were self-taught. The list is long, Daguerre, Matthew Brady, William Henry Jackson, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Arnold Newman, Margaret Bourke-White, Ilse Bing, Philippe Halsman, Irving Penn and the list goes on and on.

Then I wondered, "Do I count?" I got my first camera, a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, when I was five. No one "taught" me photography but I grew up in a household where a new Life and Look magazine arrived weekly and National Geographic came every month. I was always trying to figure out how they got those photos. It did not occur to me for years that they weren't using Brownies as well. As I got older, I studied Ansel Adams' books and Minor White's book on the Zone System and Aaron Sussman's "The Amateur Photographer's Handbook. Then I knew that those photographers were not using Brownies and I began saving to buy a Nikon. Although I was photo editor and a photographer for my college yearbook, I majored in economics. Now, without the formal training or degree in photography, art, fine art, etc., I am teaching photography at a local college.

Personally, I don't think of myself as "self-taught", but maybe self-educated. I learned photography from the great photographers of Look, Life, and National Geographic. I was "taught" by masters of photography, Steichen, Stieglitz, Adams, Minor White, Margaret Bourke-White, and master photography educator Aaron Sussman and the chemists and engineers at Kodak. What do you think; do I count as "self-taught"? Or, are we all indebted to those photographers that we have had contact with that came before us, regardless of our "education"

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I saw it reported today in that Duke University has built a camera that takes 1 gigapixel images. What? Gigapixel? For someone who has been longing for the 36 megapixel Nikon D800 I had to stop and think a moment. Yep, 1 gigapixel. That is 1,000 megapixels. Talk about large format digital. The article then went on to say that they are now in the manufacturing phase of a 10 gigapixel camera. That is more than 275 times the image size of the Nikon D800 and almost 420 times the image size of the new Nikon D3200.

Duke University's One Gigapixel Camera
So, out of curiosity, I decided to Google  "gigapixel camera" and was really surprised. has a picture of a 4 gigapixel camera that is described as being able to "shoot 4 football fields and capture every blade of grass". Then I see where Microsoft Research in Beijing has a 1.6 gigapixel camera that looks very much like a conventional view camera.

David Brady of Duke University is quoted in the journal Nature as saying that the camera "records a one gigapixel image in less than a 10th of a second", capturing details invisible to the human eye. The article then goes on to say that as the electronics improve, the price should become affordable for professional and serious amature photographers within about 5 years.

So, there it is, not one but several gigapixle-plus cameras that today cost a $100,000 to $250,000 dollars and in 5 years I should be longing for Nikon's latest gigapixel DLSR.

I am saddened by several things around this story, however. I've posted about my experiences with digital photography previously. I mourn the condition of Kodak, which as much as anything or anyone helped shape my photography. Remember that digital photography was invented by Kodak—here, in the United States. As recently as 2005 Kodak was number one in digital camera sales in the United States. Now, not only is Kodak in bankruptcy, it is trying to sell its patents for digital photography and, most recently, has sued Apple to keep them from interfering with the sale of those patents. So, what do I have to look forward to in my dreams of a gigapixel Nikon?
I'm concerned that not only is Microsoft building gigapixel cameras, but they are doing it in China! I would be much happier buying my gigapixel Nikon if it said "MADE IN USA". Why is it that Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes build cars in the US and make a profit and GM couldn't. How did Kodak, the inventor of digital photography, not only let their previous business (film) get away from them, but so badly fumbled on digital photography? I guess the best I can hope for is some American company buying Kodak's patents. I'm just afraid that if that buyer is Apple or Microsoft they will have no problem figuring out how to monetize those patents at the expense of all photographers.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, KY

Shaker House Seen Through Gate
There is a new gallery on my website Shaker Village features six images from the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, KY, which was an active Shaker religious community from 1805 to 1910. This 3000 acre National Historic Landmark is America's largest restored Shaker community and features 34 restored buildings. 

These six images are from the earliest days of digital photography. Shot in August of 1994 on Kodak TRI-X Pan film with a Nikon F3, Kodak, the inventor of digital photography, processed these images in a format called “Photo CD”. These 6.3 megapixel images measured 21⅓ x 32 inches at their native resolution. Characteristically, the images feature the high contrast and rich detail of TRI-X Pan. Printed full frame, the only instance of noticeable grain is in the sky of Shaker House Seen Through Gate, where it lends a painterly, impressionistic quality to the image.

Previously existing only as monoprints in my private collection, I now offer them in limited edition, signed and numbered prints in sizes from 13 x 19 inches to 40 x 60 inches. Featuring historic subjects, I created these images with an historic, and now obsolete, digital process.

Tags: Kodak, Kodak Photo CD, Kodak DCS 460, Kodak History, Kodak 1990-1999, Shaker Village, Pleasant Hill, KY