Kunstrai 2014

Things to take away from a visit to the Kunstrai 2014…

I am reluctant to become commercial. The bigger public that could be buying art again in the coming years has a distinct idea about how “art” should “look”. With that look there are two problems: 1) It is not imaginative, and only slightly creative. 2) I do not have it.

It is a good thing that I am moving towards setting up my photographs more, relying less on what is and more on what can be.

The reason I wanted to talk to some gallery owners (my friend Bas Stubert took some photographs of me trying to network, a unique sight for sure) is that I need to sell some of my work to be able to produce the work. I can finish maybe 30 big prints mounted and all now but I can not store them, let alone display them for people to see. During my recent testprinting it became clear that the photographs only reach their potential when printed (large). This is my dilemma.

Kunstrai 2014

Kunstrai 2014 – photographs by Bas Stubert

However, to obtain this freedom (of space) I am not prepared to inject artsyness into my work for the sake of being recognized by the art-buying public, because I would be faking it. My double-exposures are probably the closest it will come to that (and their raison d’être is entirely different). I am sure that once an artist starts getting famous (in general) the art-critics and blogsters will find stories for the work even if it does not look artsy.

A mini version of Jeff Koons’ balloon dog? Some 2d representation of the diamond covered skull by Damien Hirst? Give me a break. Gallery owners as hardworking drugstore proprietors. Salespeople with a story. This is not how I imagined it. I know marketing and connections are important but maybe exposure can be reached from a different angle. Try to find a crowd consisting of artists and organise shows ourselves. The Kunstrai also excited me to concentrate on the work more (I have tons of ideas but because the execution is lagging I could not show them) and not be influenced by what is considered art nowadays.

Even if it leads to obscurity.

Photowalk

The Pentax has proven to be a great catalyst for photography, I have gone on quite a few photowalks lately with friends. A photowalk is perfect to learn to see better, try out things and maybe even get inspired by locations. But they are even more perfect for having fun with photography and your camera, and your friends. Of course there is talks over coffee and beer (later in the day most of the time) involved with these walks.

All the time my main story (or subject) lives at the back of my head, about the situation of human kind, more specifically the organised individuals living in the whole. While I hope to develop in this regard, finding better metaphors, I now concentrate on nature versus culture in images, chaos versus order, entropy. This can be a landscape of nature (trees, mountains) or a landscape of culture portrayed in the same way. Nature / chaos may show the submissive role of the individual (as we see ourselves, our influence, civilization), while culture / order may show our society (I like to stress that I do not mean our current society but the final way man will exist as a group, next to and amongst everything else).

Not forgetting that for a photograph to be appealing there has to be some aesthetic pleasantness (rythm, surface distribution… difficult). It is the shiny layer of beauty (beauty by hideousness is allowed, the sublime as destruction living next to perfection) that draws the attention of the viewer who has to be immediately led into his or her own imagination, so he / she can invest in the work. You can do this by adding or stressing foreign or puzzling elements, the viewer will put this into a framework of his / her own. Everything you leave out from now on will be thought up better by the viewer than you could have ever imagined (because it will fit the framework better). When I say adding something foreign or puzzling I also mean leaving out something expected. This sounds very shallow and maybe it is, but necessary.

Here are some of the photographs from the previous weeks, enjoy!

Veluwe:

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Delft:

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Naarden Vesting:

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Vianen / Lek:

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

SMC Pentax 645 LS 1:4 135mm

- Attach the SMC Pentax 645 LS 1:4 135mm the usual way to your Pentax 645D.
- When selecting the shutterspeed on the lens (front ring) leaf shutter operation is automatically engaged on the body, it displays “LS” on the screen.
- Available shutterspeeds: 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and 1/500.
- The lens also has a setting of “0”, which doesn’t use the leaf shutter (it becomes a normal 135mm f/4 for the Pentax 645 system).
- Attach your flash (trigger) to the standard PC connector on the LS 1:4 135mm.
- Aperture is automatic, like with all Pentax-A lenses (no stop down metering necessary).
- Remember to cock (wind-up) the shutter after each photo, you do this by turning the ring just behind the shutterspeed ring on the lens.
- The shutter is cocked when you can see through the viewfinder. After you take a photo the viewfinder remains dark indicating that the shutter has fired and has to be cocked again.
- There is some delay after pressing the shutter-release button before the Pentax takes the photograph.
- Mirror lockup doesn’t work with leaf shutter operation (no biggie).

Pentax 645D with SMC 645 LS 135mm

Pentax 645D with SMC 645 LS 1:4 135mm (shot with iPhone)

Using a leaf shutter lens has been a long-time wish of mine because it enables you to use flash on all speeds, so you can use faster shutterspeeds (usually up to 1/500 to 1/800) than the x-sync speed of your camera, blocking out daylight and / or freezing action or even slight movements better. For the Canon system I owned before there are no leaf shutter lenses. To this day I don’t understand why Canon won’t make a couple, for example a 40 f/4 and 80 f/4 with leaf shutter operation up to 1/800 second or even 1/1000. Or maybe a 35 f/4, 75 f/4 and 150 f/5.6. Even Pentax doesn’t make them anymore, but they used to and when I decided to get the 645D (even before I actually got it) I managed to scare up an SMC 645 LS f/4 135mm in mint condition on Ebay. I had some doubts as to whether it would work perfectly on the 645D but fortunately it does, just attach it and everything works automatically.

To test it I set up a couple of shots with my favorite model Annette (read her post: Editorial shoot) in a beautiful apartment in Rotterdam, where the 1/500 flash synchronisation the leafshutter in it provides would be somewhat benificial, to block most of the natural light and create the mood with flash only. I used my Aurora Fusion studio flashlight, connected with an extended pc-sync cord to the LS 135 f/4. I fear my triggers aren’t fast enough for 1/500 second so I didn’t use them. I will test that later.

Of course the SMC Pentax 645 LS 1:4 135mm is manual focus only but since I always use MF anyway that isn’t a problem for me. The sharpness and overall quality (lack of artifacts) is excellent, even compared to the 90 f/2.8 macro I own. Maybe it’s slightly less sharp (it better be, considering the price of the 90 f/2.8) but I’m sure that will go completely unnoticed under normal circumstances. This will be my preferred fashion-lens for sure. I’m already setting up another shoot because I want to use it so bad.

Semi-finished product

Lately, out and about shooting with my Pentax, I have been thinking about the photograph as a semi-finished product. You take a photograph of a location because it is a cool location, you see something in it. But there are often elements missing. With such a photograph as starting point you could stage something that makes the image more compelling, or you paint the photograph to legitimize it (investing more, small changes that make it more your own work maybe).

Two freight trains and an empty track

Two freight trains and an empty track – photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Meedenertol

Meedenertol – photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Overpass

Overpass – photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Weird closet

Weird closet – photo Joeri van Veen 2014

645D: ISO 100 vs ISO 200

Today was my second day shooting with the Pentax 645D. We’re still getting to know eachother. I found out the electronic level is not level (as I suspected the first day already). Since I’m not the only Pentax user experiencing this it probably is behaviour by design, I’ll just put my bubble level in my back pack.

After these few extra hours of usage I’m thinking that the Pentax might actually be a bit easier to focus than my old Canon 1Ds II. When focusing quite close the big viewfinder helps, the few portraits I shot were all tack sharp on the closest eye (@ f/2.8). With greater distances or flat surfaces that are harder to focus some detail that is there seems to “pop” in and out of focus more clearly than I was used to with the Canon.

But what I really wanted to find out was this ISO 100 versus ISO 200 business, so I shot three series of four test shots: first a correct exposure at ISO 200, then I set the camera to ISO 100 and halved the shutterspeed for the second photo (shutter stays open twice as long, should yield the same exposure). Then I shot two more on ISO 100 increasing the shutterspeed by 1/3rd stop each, trying to find out whether it actually was ISO 125 or ISO 160. Here’s one, all four photos taken at f/10:

ISO 200 1/100

ISO 200 1/100

ISO 100 1/50

ISO 100 1/50

ISO 100 1/60

ISO 100 1/60

ISO 100 1/80

ISO 100 1/80

In my book a shutterspeed of 1/100 on ISO 200 is the same as 1/50 on ISO 100 exposure wise, all else being equal. This is clearly not the case, in stead the exposures look about the same with 1/60 for the ISO 100, which indicates it is actually ISO 125. All three series pointed to ISO 125. Good to know.

I couldn’t find any obvious evidence of reduced dynamic range in ISO 100. It might be there but with my eyes using photoshop at 200% inspecting the lightest and the darkest parts I couldn’t see it. Looking at noise: ISO 200 seems to have slightly more (I had thought there would be no difference for ISO 100 is part of the extended range).

It is an absolute pleasure to take photographs with the Pentax and to review them at home on the computer. The sharpness is stunning. This is hard to show. I have looked at countless photographs with some detail shown bigger and still didn’t think the photographs would be _this_ sharp. But here’s mine.

Gazelle

Gazelle - detail

My new camera

The past nine years I have been shooting with Canon gear. Starting with a 350D, then two of them, building a business, until shooting weddings with a pair of 5D’s (the then current model) in 2008. After that, I decided I wanted to take a different turn and got rid of most of my gear, leaving just one 1Ds II (bought second hand) and four lenses. Over the following years I grew very accustomed to the 1Ds II and its quirks, trying to get the best possible image quality from it. Last monday I sold it.

Today was my first day out and about with my new camera: the Pentax 645D. I wanted to concentrate on handling the machine and experimenting with ISO 100 and 200 (100 is part of the “extended” range).

Initial findings:
1) The 645D is a joy to work with, after a slight (inevitable) learning curve (I read the manual before going to sleep yesterday). Buttons are very well placed, the whole interface makes sense.
2) The mirror up switch is a godsend (goodbye fiddling with the menu).
3) Manual focusing with the Pentax is not harder than with the Canon. At first I thought it was easier, but because it is more critical, even at f/4 and f/5.6 (hello big sensor), I had about the same amount of keepers due to focus as I would have had with the 1Ds II.
4) There’s obvious chromatic aberration, both with the 55 and the 90 mm, in high contrast areas. This was a slight dissapointment.
5) The 55 has some very noticeable barrel distortion which I hoped it hadn’t.
6) ISO 100 seems more like 125 or 160 and / or has less headroom / dynamic range. This needs to be investigated further but for now I think ISO 200 will do fine.
7) ISO can be changed without taking your eye from the viewfinder, like I was used to with the 5D’s. Really happy with that, this is a must for fast paced environments like weddings.

Sharpness and image quality will be judged with large high quality prints, which I don’t have yet. So I will refrain from going into that, but on the screen it looks very promising.

I made some changes to the default setup of the 645D:
1) Moved AF from half-press of the shutter button to only the AF button on the back. Since I mostly MF and the 55 and 90 are FTM I can now MF without the focus changing when I press the shutter and still AF with one push of a button.
2) Turned the level indicator in the viewfinder on, this moves the under / overexposure indicator to the right where normally the ISO is. The ISO can still be changed (and seen in the viewfinder) when pushing the ISO button.
3) Expanded ISO on (pending investigation).
4) All noise reduction off (pending investigation).
5) Auto image rotation off, I can rotate the camera myself, thank you. (It still saves the orientation of the image to be picked up by ACR.)

Here’s some shots from the day (unedited, except the last one is a slight crop). Note the fringing in the first one (this is the 90 mm), and the barrel distortion in the last (55 mm).

20140305_IGP0050

20140305_IGP0084

20140305_IGP0088

It’s the new blog

Some of you may have noticed that I started taking photographs for a fashion blog: It‘s the new blog. My good friend Annette wanted to start this blog about her outfits and how to dress fashionably when you’re not twenty anymore without overdoing it. Would I take the photographs?

Because this is right up my alley regarding portraying women as humans rather than objects I said yes. What I also like about fashion photography is that there is “purpose”: conveying the clothes or mood. Also, the directing, working with a person rather than a tree. These are the first couple of photographs, for both of us this takes a bit of getting used to. I look forward to honing my skills in this department.

Holding a Stelton coffee mug

Holding a Stelton coffee mug – Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Dog walking outfit

Dog walking outfit – Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Stadsschouwburg Antwerp

Stadsschouwburg Antwerp – photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Kalverstraat Amsterdam

Kalverstraat Amsterdam – photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Valentine's

Valentine’s – photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Veluwe – one year later

The previous nights I have been thinking about things and have jotted down some ideas but today I had a headache. To clear my head I wanted to go out and take some photographs. What better location than the soothing woods of the Veluwe, where I had not been for a year.

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

Photo Joeri van Veen 2014

To play or not to play

Play - city of stones

Play – city of stones – photo Joeri van Veen 2014

There are people who play and people who watch (people who live life and people who wait). I am clearly a watcher but I am working on my playful side.

Today I went to a Phase One dealer, the representative demonstrated a couple of backs and the camera, thank you. Some findings (there is nothing better than handling the equipment yourself, not even following the brand for years and downloading sample photographs):

1) The photographs are even sharpen than I thought.
2) Sharpness fades away sooner than I thought.
3) There is _no_ noise at ISO 50 (native) and ISO 100.
4) The Phase One is very stable, releasing the shutter is relatively silent and does not cause vibration in the machine that I noticed.
5) The center of gravity of the Phase One is a bit far back (with 80 mm and 55 mm lenses), together with the angular shape of the body handholding will need a bit of getting used to.
6) The thumbwheel is in the wrong spot (for my small hand), to operate it I have to let go of the grip almost entirely.

The prices are pretty high, so the verdict is still out.

Good photograph from 2013

This year I tried to make something that would have the potential to be appreciated by the public, without denying my own motives and themes, namely the mountain landscapes. But I still think my best photograph from 2013 is one I made at the beginning of the year, mainly concerned with removing elements and reaching emptiness as a subject.

Terschelling

Terschelling – photo Joeri van Veen 2013

All my photographs, including the mountain landscapes, are not very spectacular or overwhelming. There is no sunset, old man or naked woman on them, they are not black and white. In stead they are subtle, clear and valid only on second sight. Next year I will be buying a new camera that will enable me to print bigger, show more detail, and start a new series with people. Yes, it will be a radical departure from my peopleless world. While remaining subtle there will be some mystery introduced.

Meanwhile I hope the world will continue to move towards reason, justice and equality. Away with intolerance, dictators and poverty. I wish you all a very good 2014.