Monthly Archives: November 2011

Candid Cameraman

Henri Cartier-Bresson with his Leica

Henri Cartier-Bresson (August 22, 1908 – August 3, 2004) gained fame wandering the world photographing people.  A Frenchman by birth, his first love was painting, but after several years of study and little success, he turned to photography.  In the 1930’s he was one of the first to use the new 35 mm film and a rangefinder camera.   With his Leica and 50 mm lens, the camera and lens he worked with for most of his life, Cartier-Bresson took quick photos of people along the streets of Paris and other cities of Europe.  He called his photography “real life reportage” and over the years, his style of street photography influenced thousands of photographers.

“I suddenly understood that a photograph could fix eternity in an instant.” Cartier-Bresson said.  The small rangefinder camera he used, as opposed to the large format cameras more common at the time, allowed him to take photos often before people were aware they were being photographed.  New possibilities opened to him as he photographed people not in the formal studio setting, but where they worked and lived.

A quiet man with the knack of blending into the crowd, Cartier-Bresson’s goal was to take a complete photos at the time he snapped the shutter.  “When you hit the target there is no need to crop the picture.” He stated in the 2003 film Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Impassioned Eye.

Cartier-Bresson’s most famous photos captured what he called “the decisive moment.”  His ability to show both ordinary and famous people at unique moments gave his photos a significance that touched most everyone who viewed his work.  Keep in mind, he didn’t shoot eight digital shots a second at the “almost decisive moment.”  He shot 35mm film, one frame at a time.  He manually focused the lens, set shutter speed and sized the aperture while pre-visualizing the shot through the camera viewfinder.  Many of the images he photographed really did exist for only a moment.

“When a photographer raises his camera at something,” he said, “there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance.  Photography must seize upon this moment.”  Henri Cartier-Bresson’s body of work exemplifies not only his ability to seize the moment, but also a keen understanding of human nature that enabled him to anticipate what might happen next.

And what photographer doesn’t strive to see that decisive moment, with camera ready, just before it comes along.

To learn more about the life and works Henri Cartier-Bresson I recommend Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Biography by Pierre Assouline .  There is also the 2003 documentary film, Henri Cartier-Bresson:  The Impassioned Eye.  It is available on Netflix.

If you would like to know more about street photography, I suggest  Street Photography: From Atget to Cartier-Bresson by Clive Scott and Vivian Maier: Street Photographer by Vivian Maier, John Maloof and Geoff Dyer.

To follow a current day street photographer take a look at Eric Kim’s work.  You can find him at:

November 29, 2011


Glossary of Digital Photography Terms: G – H – I – J

This Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms (A through Z) was originally compiled as a handout for the basic digital photography class I teach.  As posted in this photo blog it is a “living document” laid out in six blog postings.  The definitions will be expanded, updated and upgraded as needed.  Feel free to suggest additional terms for the list.  Email me at: .

Gray Card  A card that reflects back 18% of the light hitting the card surface.  Digital camera light meters are calculated for 18% reflectance.

Histogram  A visual representation of the exposure values of a digital image. Histograms are shown in graph form and display the light values of the image’s shadows, mid-tones, and highlights as vertical peaks and valleys along a horizontal plane.

Hot Shoe  The device on a camera that holds an external flash or provides the cable connection from flash to the camera.


Image Sensor  A digital camera’s solid-state capture device, made up of a grid-like arrangement of red-, green-, and blue-sensitive elements.

Image Stabilization  An optical or digital system for removing or reducing camera movement.

Intellectual property  Any product of a creative mind that is fixed in a tangible form of expression and, thus, is thereafter protected by patent, copyright, or trademark laws.

ISO (International Standards Organization)  The ISO setting on a camera determines how sensitive the camera sensor is to light.  A low setting such as 100 is used in a bright situation where the camera needs to be less sensitive to light.  In contrast, a high ISO such as 800 or higher 1600 is low-light situations to make the camera more sensitive to the available light.  ISO is equivalent to ASA.

AUTO ISO – digital camera automatically sets the ISO speed according the brightness of the scene, increasing or decreasing the sensitivity.  Photographer has no control over which ISO number is used.

ISO 80 – When taking photos in bright light; excellent for close-ups, landscape, and portraits. Produces fine detail and image quality.

ISO 100 – Extra sensitivity with little, if any, reduced image quality.

ISO 200 – Acceptable image quality, with some visible noise.  Good for cloudy and overcast days.

ISO 400 – suitable for indoor photography whether or not a flash is used. Useful for “stop-action” and sports photographs.

ISO 800, 1600 and above – useful in very low light, or outside in good light when increased shutter speeds are required. Results can be disappointing when shooting at these high numbers with compact digital cameras, so take test photos before photographing an important event.


JPEG (Pronounced jay-peg)   Joint Photographic Experts Group :  The primary file format used by digital cameras; also the leading format for online and Web pictures.

JPEG+Raw  A camera setting that creates both a Camera Raw file and a JPEG file of a picture.

November 17, 2011

Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms D – E – F

This Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms (A through Z) was originally compiled as a handout for the basic digital photography class I teach.  As posted in this photo blog it is a “living document” laid out in six blog postings.  The definitions will be expanded, updated and upgraded as needed.  Feel free to suggest additional terms for the list.  Email me at: .

Glossary of Digital Photography Terms:  D – E – F

Depth of Field (DOF)  The distance between the nearest and farthest points that appears in focus in a photograph.  DOF varies with lens aperture, focal length, and camera-to-subject distance.

Diaphragm  The adjustable aperture of a lens is called a diaphragm and it controls the amount of light passing into the camera.  The diaphragm may be in front of, within or behind the lens.

Digital Zoom  Digital magnification of the center of an image that increases the apparent image size by interpolation.  Interpolation enlarges individual pixels often making a blurry picture and out-of-focus image.  Many photographers turn the digital zoom function off.  You will get the same or better quality image by cropping the image in post production.

Download  Transfer data from a device to a computer using a cable connection.

DSLR  A digital single lens reflex camera.

Diopter adjustment: A viewfinder feature that corrects for common eyeglass prescriptions so eyeglass wearers can use the viewfinder without wearing their glasses.


EXIF: Exchangeable Image File Format. Developed to standardize the exchange of image data between hardware devices and software.

Exposure: The amount of light allowed reaching the sensor, determined by the intensity of the light, the amount admitted by the iris of the lens, and the length of time determined by the shutter speed.

Exposure Value (EV): EV settings are a way of adding or decreasing exposure without the need to reference f-stops or shutter speeds. For example, if you tell your camera to add +1EV, it will provide as much exposure by using a larger f-stop, slower shutter speed, or both.


f numbers – A numerical designation (f/2, f 2.8, f3 etc.) indicating the size of the aperture.

F-stop – A term used to describe the aperture, or opening of a lens. F-stops are defined numerically – f1/4, f5.6, f22, etc. Larger, or wider apertures, allow more light to enter the lens, which results in faster shutter speeds. Faster apertures also allow for selective focus (narrow depth-of-field), while smaller (slower) apertures allow for greater depth-of-field. Wider apertures are preferred for portraits, while smaller apertures are preferred for landscapes.

Flash: A flash supplies additional light to compensate for low lighting, back-lighting and other lighting issues.

Focal Length The distance from the optical center of the lens to the image sensor when the lens is focused on infinity, usually expressed in millimeters.

Focus The process of bringing one plane of the scene into sharp focus on the image sensor.

File Format: A way of storing image data in a file.

Fill Flash: Also called forced flash. A camera setting that causes the electronic flash to always fire, which produces the effect of filling in shadows in brightly illuminated images.

Focal Length: The distance between the film and the optical center of the lens when the lens is focused on infinity, usually measured in millimeters.

Focus: To adjust the lens to produce a sharp image.

Framing: 1. In photography, composing your image in the viewfinder or LCD. 2. In composition, using elements of an image to form a sort of picture frame around an important subject.

Front Curtain Sync: The default electronic flash synchronization technique. The flash fires at the beginning of the exposure — in the instant that the first curtain of the focal plane shutter finishes its movement across the film or sensor plane.

November 12, 2011

The Tourist

Not long ago my wife, Joanne, and I watched “The Tourist” (2010) on Blu-Ray.  The movie stars Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and the city of Venice, Italy.  This well-paced action/drama was directed by German,  Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

The movie begins with Jolie’s character, Elise, in Paris and under surveillance by Scotland Yard.  Elise is the former paramour of Alexander Pearce, who embezzled 2.3 billion pounds from a British mobster.  Scotland Yard doesn’t care so much about the theft, but does want 774 million pounds that Pearce owes in back taxes.  The embezzler has disappeared and following Elise is the Yard’s only lead.

Early on, Elise receives a letter from Pearce with instructions to take the 8:22 train from Paris to Venice.  On the train Elise, who is sophisticated and savvy, meets soft-spoken math teacher from Wisconsin, Frank Tupelo, (Depp).  Scotland Yard at first thinks Tupelo is Pearce, but soon identifies Tupelo as a tourist.  With the help of an informant in Scotland Yard, the mob boss receives the first report that Tupelo may be Pearce in disguise, but does not get the correction.  And the adventure begins.

There is a chase scene through narrow canals with high-powered boats that will have you looking for a life jacket.  During another scene Depp’s character is chased out of his hotel room window onto a precarious ledge and then runs rooftop to rooftop with Italian mobsters in hot pursuit.  Of course bullets fly, no one get seriously hurt and the action shows off Venice by night and day.

We felt the movie was a throwback to the Hitchcock thrillers of the fifties with a twist of James Bond action and style of the sixties.  Johnny Depp is funny and self-deprecating as the overwhelmed American tourist plucked from one perilous situation after another by the very capable Elise.

During an elegant ballroom scene Jolie’s character takes over the room with her entrance.  I said to Joanne “Do you think they filled the room with plain-looking actresses or is Angelina Jolie really that stunning?”

Then or course, there is Venice.  Australian cinematographer John Seale showcases the canals and ancient buildings of the city and films it all looking at its best.  If you have ever thought of a trip to Venice to photograph the canals, the architecture and the people, this movie shows what you are missing.

The movie is rated PG-13 and runs for 103 minutes.  We thought it was time well spent and fun to watch.  And when the movie ended Joanne agreed with me…  Angelina Jolie really is that stunning.

To see Venice in other movies, take a look at “Summertime” (1955) with Katherine Hepburn as another wide-eyed tourist.  For a brief look at the city with more boat chases watch “The Italian Job” (2003).  You can also catch two very different James Bonds in Venice.  Roger Moore lounges in a gondola in Moonraker (1979) and Daniel Craig survives a building collapse as a much improved Bond in Casino Royale (2006).


November 9, 2011

Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms: A – B – C

This Glossary of Digital Photographic Terms (A through Z) was originally compiled as a handout for the basic digital photography class I teach.  As shown in this photo blog it is a “living document” laid out in six blog postings.  The definitions will be expanded, updated and upgraded as needed.  Feel free to suggest additional terms for the list.  Email me at: .

Angle of View  The amount of a scene that can be recorded by a particular lens. This is determined by the focal length of the lens.

Aperture  The aperture is an adjustable opening in the lens that allows light to enter the camera.  Most digital cameras have an automatic mode that adjusts the camera’s aperture depending on light levels.  The size of the opening is calibrated in f-stop numbers.  The smaller the number the bigger the aperture; the higher the number, the smaller the aperture.

Aperture-Priority Auto-Exposure  A Semi-automatic exposure mode; the photographer sets the aperture, and the camera selects the appropriate shutter speed to produce a good exposure.

Automatic Exposure  A feature where the camera automatically adjusts the aperture or shutter speed or both for the proper exposure.

Automatic Flash  A flash unit with a light-sensitive cell that determines the length of the flash for proper exposure by measuring the light reflected back from the subject.

Auto Focus  A system that automatically focuses the camera lens.

Auto Mode  A digital camera mode where both the aperture and shutter speed are set automatically.

AVCHD  (Advanced Video Coding High Definition)  A format for recording and playing back high-definition video and used in many HD camcorders.
Average Metering – Average metering takes all of the light values for a given scene – highlights, shadows, and mid-tones – and averages them together to establish a good overall exposure. Average metering is best used for front-lit subjects.  Back lit subjects tend to be silhouetted when metered in Average mode.

AWB (Auto White Balance)  An in-camera function that automatically adjusts the white balance of the scene to a neutral setting regardless of the ambient light source.


Back Lit  The subject is heavily lit from behind which generally causes it to be underexposed.

Back Lighting  A lighting effect produced when the main light source is located behind the subject. Backlighting is also a technology for illuminating an LCD display from the rear, making it easier to view under high ambient lighting conditions.

Blinkies  Flashes on the camera LCD screen that indicates over or under exposed areas in the captured image.


Capture  A term used in digital imaging meaning “to photograph”. The term is used to differentiate the method by which the image is made. As the word “photograph” is closely associated to film photography, “capturing” is applied to specify a digital sensor is used.”

Card Reader  See: Memory card reader

CCD (Charge-coupled device) An image sensor that reads the charges from the sensor’s photo sites one row at a time.

Center Weighted  An auto exposure system that uses the center portion of the image to adjust the overall exposure value.

Compact Flash (CF)  A common type of digital camera flash memory storage. There are three types:  CF Type I: the original 5mm high card, CF Type II: cards and devices that are 9mm high and CF Type III: used in double-height slots only.

Continuous Auto Focus  An always-on auto focus system.

Continuous Shooting   A mode available on many digital cameras that allows a burst of shots by holding down the camera shutter button.  Continuous shooting is often used to capture fast-action sporting events and kids running around the yard.

Contrast  A measure of rate of change of brightness in an image.

Copyright  A form of protection provided by the laws of the United States that gives creators exclusive rights to ownership and use of their “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations. Copyright is also protected by international agreements.

Copyright infringement The unauthorized copying or use of a work that is protected by copyright.

Copyright notice The copyright notice consists of three elements: the “c” in a circle (©) or the word “copyright”, the year of first publication, and the name of the copyright owner.

Camera Raw  A file format offered by some digital cameras.  Records the image without applying any in-camera processing that is usually done automatically when saving photos in JPEG or other formats. Also known as Raw.

Center-Weighted Metering  Metering mode that reads the entire scene but gives more emphasis to the subject in the center of the frame.

Chimping  A digital photography term used to describe the “Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!” sound made by photographers when checking the camera LCD just after a photo is taken.

Choices  A photographer makes choices more than just the subject when taking a digital photo, they include:

Light – Quantity, Quality, Type;

Point of View – Where to stand;

Field of View – What to include, what to exclude

Camera Configuration – horizontal, vertical or on occasion diagonal.

Circular Polarizer  See” Polarizer

Close Focus Mode   A point and shoot camera mode that allows close focus of objects close to the lens.  It is designated on the back cameras with a flower icon.  Close Focus is not a true macro focus, but is often called “macro.”

CMOS  (Pronounced see-moss, Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)  A type of Imaging Sensor. CMOS chips are less energy-consuming than CCD Type sensors and are becoming increasingly common in pro DSLRs.

Composition  The arrangement of the main subject, other objects in a scene, and/or the foreground and background.

Contrast  The range of difference in the light to dark areas of a photo.

Crop  To trim an image or page by adjusting its boundaries.

November 11, 2011

Tales From the Dark Side

Halloween 2007, East Lansing, Michigan

So how was your Halloween trick-or-treating?  Did you bag lots of candy for yourself?  Or did you follow the kids around the neighborhood.  Maybe you went to a festive Halloween costume party.  No matter how you celebrated, what has become the second most popular holiday after Christmas, did you remember to take some pictures?

Grand Rapids, Michigan professional photographer Tyler Card ( remembered his camera and took plenty of photos too.  It was easy.  His dressed up as a working, fully functional Nikon D3.  He even hooked up a laptop computer screen as the cameras LCD screen to display his photos.  From what I could see online, Card was the hit of the party.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Go to: check it out for yourself.

Quote for Today!

The first image you take is never the only one you can make.  Take the time to slow down and really see the light interacting with the subject of your photograph.  Let the light be your guide.

– Ibarionex Perello from Chasing the Light Improving Your Photography with Available Light

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