OUR PARTY GIRL
Can’t believe she’s already six years old…
Can’t believe she’s already six years old…
From my series "Raw Talent" Tania Miller, Music Director at The Victoria Symphony. 8x10 Tintype
© 2014 Quinton Gordon
New Release: Autumn Leaves
Print: Hand Pulled Photopolymer Gravure
Paper: Hahnemühle Copperplate Etching
Size: 5x7 inches
Edition of 9 + 1 AP
Purchases may be made by contacting Diana Millar
©2014 Quinton Gordon
With all the teaching that we do, we don’t get many days to work on our own projects, but every now and then we bolt the door, turn off the phone, roll up our sleeves and get some work done.
Today was just such a day.
We pulled a photograph from my archive, a landscape image made while working on assignment for British Columbia magazine near Cache Creek, BC several years ago, and made a photopolymer gravure print.
This is how I had always envisioned printing this image so with a clear day on the calendar I finally had my chance.
Here’s a little behind the scenes look at the process.
Output the digital positive from the scanned film or digital file.
Diana prepares the ink mix.
Expose the plate in our NuArc UV exposure unit.
Ink the plate to make a test print.
Skillfully remove excess ink and polish the plate.
Inked plate ready for the press.
Prepare the plate and paper on the press bed.
Pull the print on our Canadian made Praga etching press.
Re-ink the plate for the final print.
Final touches on inking the plate.
Finished print, 8x10 Photopolymer Gravure Print.
© 2014 Quinton Gordon
Sony A7 at 3200 ISO, 1/30 sec f/2, Leica 50mm Summicron
With new commissioned documentary projects on rural healthcare on my schedule this spring I decided it was time to re-examine my equipment options.
I have a long history with Leica and I love their cameras. Having worked with both the M9 and the M-240, I know they are on my “A” list of cameras to work with but (and this is a BIG one) their price is quite prohibitive, especially for my working style on documentary projects. My preferred method is to work with two identical camera bodies, one mounted with my 35mm Summicron, the other with my 50mm Summicron. In the bag (usually collecting dust) is my 75mm). I would like to be earning enough to say that I could afford two Leica bodies, but as a working photographer with a family, that is just not realistic for me.
Sony A7 with Leica 35mm Summicron
As I cast my eye around at the current selection of cameras on offer it became obvious that “mirrorless” system cameras had come along way since I had last given them any attention and it was time to once again give them some real consideration.
My only experience to date with electronic viewfinders (EVFs) was based on some early generation cameras and this experience had left me unimpressed and ardently in favour of optical viewfinders (OVFs).
This may be a good time to mention that when it comes to digital cameras I am not the guy to offer a technical review of anything. What I’m interested in, is a camera that works for me, one that behaves as I want it to with minimal fuss, and good results in the conditions that I work in. This short article is about my experience working with the camera, and my opinions of it, nothing more. You won’t find files to enlarge, or targets to look at, it’s just not how I roll, and besides, the only way to judge a camera is to use one for yourself… or at least that’s how I see it, but perhaps these notes are still helpful.
My Top 5 List of Key Features:
1. A bright, clear, responsive viewfinder that allows me to focus manually.
2. Ability to use my prime Leica M lenses, preferably without a crop factor.
3. Excellent low light capability at ISOs up to 3200.
4. Good ergonomics. The camera has to be discreet in size, but have a solid build that fits well in my hand, placing the controls in a functional uncrowded layout.
5. A price point that allows me to own two identical bodies without breaking the bank or taking out a second mortgage.
So how does the Sony A7 stack up for me? Surprisingly well!
When I picked up the camera for the first time it settled unexpectedly well into my hands, although I will admit I would still ask for it to be about 15% larger then it is. Looking through the viewfinder I was greeted by a bright image that did not feel electronically generated. There was no lag, no flicker and best of all (for me) when I mounted my Leica lenses via the M-E mount adapter, there was no distracting focus peaking!
Focus peaking is not, in my opinion, a substitute for a good viewfinder. If the viewfinder has good magnification, is clear, bright and responsive then I don’t see focus assist as beneficial or even necessary. I’m very use to manually focusing lenses and even tracking focus, which is why I love the focus tabs on Leica lenses and don’t want to give them up. I can focus by diction and for the way I work this is a very valuable asset.
Knowing that there was no crop factor with this camera meant I had no issues with converting my lenses over to this body. For as long as I can remember I have used a 35, 50, and 75mm as my core lenses, with easily 80% - 90% of my work being shot on a 35mm Summicron. A crop factor on the sensor would mean two things for me, one, having to purchase another lens to approximate my beloved 35mm, and two, less real estate on the sensor, and despite the significant advancements in sensor technology over the last few years, I’m convinced that there is still no substitute for square area on a good sensor in terms of the benefit to image quality and dynamic range.
The remaining question was how would the camera handle?
I won’t say that I’ve yet exhausted my testing, and in fact have only just started, but out of the box I had this camera set up and functioning to my liking in just a few minutes. Yes it has features that I don’t care about and won’t likely use, but I was able to either get them out of the way or ignore them and get to work making photographs without having to consult the manual.
Once I updated my system to Abobe Lightroom 5.3, I was able to work directly with the RAW files and my first, impressive tests were shot in extreme low light, wide open at f/2, manually focused, at shutter speeds dipping down as low as 1/8 sec. at 3200 ISO… extreme low light even for me, but 1/8 and 1/15 of a second are not uncommon speeds for me to work with as I like the feel they produce. This is another reason that crop sensors are an issue for me as movement is magnified over the smaller area, a lesson I learned with my first digital camera in 2005 as I was continually frustrated by blurred images at speeds I was accustomed to using in film. When I bought my first full frame DSLR (Nikon D3) the issue went away and I was back to working in my comfort zone and this carried over to my experience with the Leica M9 and now the Sony A7.
Is the Sony A7 perfect in my opinion? No, of course it’s not, no camera is, but it does seem to do quite a fine job of satisfying my Top 5 list, and I find that the camera gets out of my way and lets me get on with making photographs in the way that I like to work.
Do I want to move up to the A7r at 36mp? No, I don’t think so. The resolution of the A7 at 24mp is ample for my applications and for my client’s. The file sizes are manageable, and from what I understand the A7r’s shutter is louder and the A7 is already verging on to loud for working in quiet, intimate settings.
Do I have a wish list of changes for the next generation of this camera?
Yes. Although I find the look of the camera generally appealing, I would like the camera to be slightly larger with the softer ergonomic lines of Fuji’s new XT1’s grip. I know manufacturers think that small and light is better, but too small is not good. A camera needs to fit well in a photographer’s hand without cramping, and the buttons need to be well spaced for quick work and minimal opportunity for unintentional function activation. A little heft in a solidly built camera means it will withstand heavy use and is more stable when handheld at low shutter speeds.
A dedicated ISO dial on the top of the camera, again found on the Fuji, would in my mind be a real asset, although it is easy enough to access through the one touch Fn button so it’s not so bad as is. A slightly quieter shutter, not silent, since I do appreciate a positive sound from the shutter which provides audible confirmation that the image has been made, vital feedback since I never use Auto Review function on the LCD.
Battery life on the camera could be improved, but not relying on auto focus makes the current battery tolerable and spare batteries are inexpensive enough that having a few in the bag is not really an issue.
I’m definitely looking forward to taking this camera into the field and putting it to work, and seeing how it holds up under true working conditions, but we are off to a very good start.
Is the Leica M-240 still on my wish list?
Damn right it is, but I can’t make photographs with “wish list” cameras, so for now I’ll get to work with a couple A7s and maybe earn enough to buy an M down the road.
© 2014 Quinton Gordon
After decades of wandering the world on photographic assignments, I found myself walking the streets of the small city in which I live, searching for inspiration, searching for sanity, searching for pictures that would speak to me.
Brought on by the simultaneous arrival of our daughter who was born at the end of February 2008, and the impacts of a deep and extended global economic recession that resulted in a near total collapse of commissioned work for me, I found myself walking with the weight of a six-month old child in a pack on my back, and a Leica M6 around my neck… neither of which was particularly good for my posture.
It did however focus my attention, and the experience retrained my eye and my mind to see the power of what was right in front of me, what I had failed to see previously because I was either to neglectful or all to prepared to write-off my immediate surroundings as unworthy material for serious work.
In 2012 I released my first book, a handmade monograph, Mile Zero: A Place Uncertain, a collection of metaphorical images that explored my relationship to the world and my creative identity. From this first photographic foray into my literal backyard, three years of wandering the streets of my home city, always with my camera, less frequently with a toddler as she grew too heavy to carry but not yet big enough to endure the hours of walking, I came to see the opportunity for personal and professional growth that had been presented to me through circumstance.
As the last six years have passed, I have found that I like being home, that in many ways I prefer it to the strain of world travel, and I have come to believe that I am making the most important work of my career right here, often quite literally in my own backyard.
Our daughter will turn six in less then three weeks and her world has expanded considerably from the confines of a child-carrier on my back. She is adventurous, creative, and engaged in learning about the world and so we are once again expanding our horizons beyond our immediate neighbourhoods, but without losing sight of the valuable lessons learned.
Together, with our daughter, my partner Diana and I have embarked on a new project to photograph Vancouver Island. We are drawn, both visually, and personally to the more rugged, remote and rural aspects of the island and we are well aware of the fragile state of this island’s ecology and the struggle it faces to support a changing demographic of people.
Our responses will be photographic, and although Molly does use and enjoy the camera, I suspect that her contribution to this project will more likely come in the form of drawings and paintings, which seem to be her mediums of choice.
© 2014 Molly B. Gordon
This project is driven by our own need to simplify our lives, return to core values and to reconnect with nature. With the prospects of petroleum pipeline projects to the coast and proposed coal mines on the island, it is definitely time to get out and investigate what is happening over the backyard fence.
The lesson I learned was not about limiting ones geography, but rather it was to open my eyes to what is around me, to refresh my point of view and to work in the communities in which we have a personally invested interest.
Okay people… it’s time for a little colour in my world!
I’ve had a lot of questions from people wondering what can they expect from a workshop held in Las Vegas? Before Quinton left for LA last weekend, I asked him this very question….
There must be something about sitting in airports that inspires him. He came up with more than just a few words! He wrote this beautiful essay…
(I think this is just a small sampling of what you can expect from Keeping it Real in Las Vegas with Quinton AND also his co-instructor; the equally engaging Craig Semetko)
© Quinton Gordon
If you’re asking yourself “what should I photograph”, then you’re asking the wrong question. The real question is “why do I make photographs.” It’s time to recalibrate the question and find some better answers.
Most photographers, at some point, lose their sense of identity as the reasons they picked up a camera in the first place disappear into a fog of uncertainty about “what they should be working on” in a sea of contemporary images produced by a rising tide of new photographers.
The problem with asking your self “what”, is that as far as I can determine there are really only four answers: people, places, things, and animals. If you come up with a fifth category please let me know, or better still produce a complete body of photographic works that will take the world by storm. If we accept for a moment that photographically, our world is limited to these four principal subject areas then you are left with only two things to distinguish your work from others, technique, and You, the photographer.
Lets state right now, for the record, that “technique” alone never makes good work, and most – not all – new techniques have short life-spans before being exposed as gimmicks, so in fact we are left with You as the critical element that sets your work apart. I realize that this is a frightening prospect because it opens you to attack and leaves you vulnerable, unable to shield yourself behind an armour of equipment and technology. But on the other hand, what if this simple realization actually sets you free to rediscover your love of photography?
The insecurity that leads us to this confusion about “what” to photograph, and steers us away from “why”, is pretty common, really common in fact. Most creative people suffer the wrath of their own insecurities even when they are working to expand themselves creatively and often professionally and as with economic uncertainty, creative uncertainty is driven by market forces and pressures that motivate us towards success tainted with fears of failure.
Before I stray to far from photography let me bring this back to you. As a photographer working in an environment where the camera is ubiquitous and the flow of imagery into popular cultural is almost immeasurable, how do you continue to make good work that fulfills and sustains your passion for it?
Authenticity, that’s how.
What the heck is authenticity? In simple terns it means being honest about the pictures you make, why you make them, and owning what you make without heed to what others think, need, or want from your photographs.
If you are a working professional, relying on the income generated by making photographs, this is much more difficult to navigate, but if you do not derive you living from pictures, then you have no excuse. From my own experience I know that it is all to easy to lose “your vision” and to effectively start making other peoples pictures as you buckle to the aesthetic of the day choosing to photograph subjects that you think will be well received, in styles that reflect contemporary visual language. This is not to say that you should not be literate and aware of the state of contemporary photography, but the key is not to mimic what you see, but rather to be informed about your own tastes and ideas.
Getting back to that place of creative freedom that you experienced the first time you picked up a camera and were “hooked” is simple, but not necessarily easy, so a little constructive help from a trusted and savvy mentor will go a long way, but in the end only you will know what photographs are authentically yours.
Knowing “why” you make photographs means knowing yourself, knowing what you’re curious about, what attracts your attention. It’s less about a type of subject, and more about ideas. Frequently we think that we have to define our work by subject “landscape, portrait etc.” but the strongest work by the best photographers transcend subject and reflect an intellectual sensibility regardless of what their camera is aimed at.
Join Quinton Gordon and Craig Semetko in Las Vegas this spring for a three-day workshop that poses the question “why” and strives to stoke the flame of passion for your photography by rediscovering and expanding your individual approach to making photographs.
….And what happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas!
Click here for complete details and registration.
The new “Apple” at The Grove Farmer’s Market, LA…