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Eamon Hickey
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I have mixed feelings about Joe Holmes's photographs. I love how good they are, but they put my own mediocre efforts in too sharp relief. Naturally, I blame him for that. The problem is that Joe covers a lot of the same ground that I do when I'm out and about with a camera (New York City). So when I look at his work, I see lots of places I've been and scenes that I've encountered, or rather could have encountered if I had more gumption, only they look way better in his pictures than in mine. In fact, I've thought about him many times in the past month as I see Christmas Tree vendors all over the city. He did a nice series of portraits of them a few years back. It almost goes without saying that I have never made a good picture of one. I've mentioned it in previous comments, but I wrote a short profile of Joe for Rob Galbraith's now-shuttered web site, if anyone wants to learn a little bit more about Joe (although parts of the piece are a bit dated).
Toggle Commented Dec 25, 2016 on Fruits of the Season at The Online Photographer
Tangentially, as a professional writer, I find that reading your blog is an excellent way to avoid actually writing. When that strategy is exhausted, I resort to composing comments to your posts. See, works like a charm! [Made me laugh. I recently achieved hours of procrastination by researching a new keyboard to buy. Had to remind myself "that's not writing." --Mike]
Photo dawg brain teaser: Although that may be the oldest Nikon known to exist, it is not the oldest existing camera made by the company called Nikon. Say what? Well, "Nikon" was, in those days, simply a brand name created by the company, Nippon Kogaku. And Nippon Kogaku made a variety of aerial reconnaissance cameras for the Imperial Japanese Navy going back to the 1930s. The U.S. Smithsonian Air & Space Museum happens to have one of the relatively few that survived the Second World War:
Toggle Commented Dec 2, 2016 on Ratty Old Nikon at The Online Photographer
The two greatest restrictions on lens designers are 1. intended selling price, and 2. size and weight Although I knew point #2, it's really hit home for me in the past 2-3 years, as more and more lenses come to market designed to perform well on super high-resolution sensors. Many of these new lenses are real monsters. I just received a Leica SL for testing, along with its "kit" 24-90/2.8-4 (long-ish on the tele end, but only f/4 at that zoom position). I never imagined I'd see a mid-range zoom of this, um, generous size, and it's especially disorienting if you grew up thinking of Leica in terms of the M-system, with its wonderful compact lenses. I'm sure that the 24-90's size is necessary for it to meet its performance aim points, but I keep having to check the name on the front to verify that it is indeed a Leica.
re: pitching ideas to companies When I was a Nikon rep, it was a fairly regular occurrence for someone to approach me saying that they had an idea for a product and could I put them in touch with the right folks at Nikon to pitch it to. My bosses had a boilerplate response: the company and its official representatives could not, and would not, speak to anyone about a product idea unless that person held a patent on the idea. I'm sure this policy served several different purposes, but one of them, I think, was to avoid situations where somebody thought the company had stolen their idea without paying for it. Nikon, at least officially, would listen only to outside ideas whose ownership was already legally established and which Nikon would therefore have to pay a license fee to use, if they wanted it. Of course, Nikon has violated patents in the past, and paid dearly for it, so there were holes in the overall system! In fairness, I should note that Nikon has also collected plenty of money from other companies who violated Nikon's patents. And in these ways, they are like nearly all other electronics companies. The dog-eat-dog world of capitalism gobbles on.
Further contrarian addendum: As to the comment about Canon fearing Fuji. I've never known a corporation to formally designate an official Company We Fear Most. To me, this seems very much like the kind of question about which there will be different opinions among the people working within a company like Canon. When I worked at Nikon, if you posed any business question (aside from hard sales and production numbers) to 10 different managers within the company, you'd get at least 3 different answers. Frequently, you'd get 10 different answers. And I often saw my colleagues make up answers out of thin air, based on their own particular hobby horses, in order to seem important or knowledgeable, rather than the glorified flunkies, yes-men, and go-fers that we actually were. So, for my own part, I'd take that comment with a big grain of salt.
Yes indeed, just being clear about what you're doing is all that's needed. But, to belabor the obvious a bit, there's a reason why so many people aren't clear about what they're doing. Truth has its own particular power, and a lot of work -- not only photographs but also writing -- is lifeless without that power. For me, the classic example is James Frey's phony memoir, "A Million Little Pieces". He tried to sell that book as a novel, but nobody was interested. It was a bad novel. When you know it's fiction, it's crummy art. Writing good fiction is hard. Frey's publisher suggested that it would sell if it were a memoir, and voila, he called it a memoir. This bad novel now (spuriously) acquired the power of truth -- and sold millions of copies. So, now that we know McCurry's (recent?) work is photo-illustration, is it still good? I dunno. But I know we look at it, and are open to whatever emotional/artistic power it might have, according to a completely different set of criteria.
I don't want to go all point/counterpoint here, but just food for thought for those of you who are saying (in the comments) that the lesson here is "avoid Nikon". We speak loosely of "Nikon" in these discussions. Actually, the specifically harsh anti-gray market repair policies at issue in this discussion are Nikon USA policies. No other Nikon subsidiary that I know of takes the same hard line on this. And Nikon Japan certainly does not. When I worked at Nikon USA, I many times saw Nikon Japan "request" that Nikon USA repair a gray market product as a courtesy for a customer who was savvy enough to write to Japan. Of course, these "requests" were never refused. So if you are not likely to need Nikon USA to do a repair for you -- you don't live in the U.S., for example -- then your worries are about the same as owners of any other brand, as far as I know. Also, remember this is just a gray market policy. If you don't own gray market gear, it's all moot. Hill of beans. Puff of smoke.
@ Hugh Crawford: I never thought I'd miss the way Joe Ehrenreich ran things when he owned Nikon in the USA. Again, just in the interests of trying to paint a full picture: Nikon USA's gray market policies are not driven by the Japanese -- i.e. Nikon Japan, or Nikon Corp, as it is officially known. I don't know for sure that the policies go back to Joe Ehrenreich himself, but I do know for a 100% certainty that they were created by Ehrenreich's people. When I joined Nikon USA in 1989, every senior executive in the company was still an inherited Ehrenreich executive, and the policies were already old by then. Nikon's Japanese parent company was not a big fan of Nikon USA's gray market stance when I was at Nikon USA. The gray market itself was a significant point of contention and conflict between the two entities. Why doesn't Nikon Japan just order Nikon USA to change its policy? They could. But one of the major functions of a regional subsidiary is to handle region-specific decision-making. So there's always a give-and-take -- more so when the parent is a Japanese company that does not like to give explicit orders that it knows will anger the subsidiary and may hurt it financially. All that said (and now I'm stepping into opinion territory), both branches of Nikon have, together, inadvertently danced themselves into a very customer unfriendly corner. It's stupid, and they should find another solution. That they have not, even after 40 years, is a significant black mark against them both. But they are not really alone -- thousands of companies in hundreds of industries have big problems handling gray market issues in a smart and customer-friendly way. If this were a blog about cars, or luxury watches, or even tractors (yes, tractors!), it would have similar gray market discussions from time to time.
I'm just gonna' keep whispering in the wilderness here: @ Wes: It seems Nikon has soften their stance a bit. Their stance and policy has not changed. What changed is that even the authorized repair stations could not get parts or equipment to repair some (not all) of the newest camera models, but now Nikon is supplying the stuff needed to repair those models, as those models get older. As new models continue to roll out, and once-new models become no-longer-new, that cycle will probably continue to play out. @ David Dyer-Bennet> Reminds me why I really need to get out of Nikon, yeah. They've gotten just too evil. Keeping track of receipts for lenses I bought in, say, 1982 is not a reasonable requirement for being allowed to buy service Nikon USA hasn't actually changed; somehow they were managing to conceal their true nature from you. Nikon USA's policy on gray market repairs goes back to the early 1980s, probably longer. You always needed your receipt.
p.s. On a side note: the Authorized Repair Stations can provide in-warranty service on many Nikon products -- i.e. they bill Nikon for your repair, instead of billing you.
The Nikon parts issue is another one where the details are maddeningly thorny, and it's easy to come to grief with seemingly simple language. It is not true that Nikon USA has stopped selling parts to all independent repair shops. What is true is that Nikon USA will now only sell parts to Nikon Authorized Repair Stations. There are about 19 of these, last time I counted. They are all independent repair shops -- i.e. they are not owned or operated by Nikon. They are independent businesses. But they have spent the money (on Nikon-provided repair equipment) and time (on Nikon-provided training) to gain status as official Nikon Authorized Repair Stations. As far as I know, they are free to repair any product they want to. I have never heard anyone claim that Nikon USA tries to discourage them from repairing gray products or products of unknown provenance. And I don't think Nikon USA could do that legally, anyway, even if they wanted to. You can find a list of these shops on Nikon USA's web site here:
@ Mark Walker: On balance Nikon are taking quite a bashing here. (Rightly so) They seem to offer their goods in a particularly labyrinthine supply chain. Actually, Nikon's global supply chain is not very unusual. It distributes through wholly-owned subsidiaries in all major markets (just like everyone else) and uses independent import/export companies in some smaller markets (just like lots of other manufacturers). Its structure in Europe -- where I believe you said you are -- is identical to nearly every other major Japanese exporter, as far as I can tell (an umbrella EU supervisory company based in the Netherlands, with individual physical distributors in each EU country [the Italian distributor is an independent company]). As far as gray market products hurting authorized retailers, that depends on local laws and practices. In the U.S., for example, any retailer can choose to sell gray market products alongside the authorized products they also sell (as B&H does with lenses). So they can compete with anyone, authorized or gray, if they so choose. Many of my old dealers in San Francisco did just that when I was a Nikon rep. I often sold to them standing side-by-side with their gray market supplier (a man named Simon from a company in New York nobody here has ever heard of.) Nikon USA takes quite a bashing because of its historically aggressive anti-gray market policies, but those policies, which go back four decades or more, are primarily a product of the combative personality of its original incarnation (what is now Nikon USA started out as an independent importer called Ehrenreich Photo Optical, a legendary entity in the mid-century American camera business that was not always keen on compromise.)
Just to give the background -- I've been involved in both the official importation of Nikon products into the U.S. (as a Nikon sales rep) and in gray market importation of Nikon products into the U.S. (don't ask; won't tell). Some quickie answers (please note that my purpose here is just to fill in facts, not to advocate a point-of-view about the rightness or wrongness of any person or company's practices or policies): @ Robert Roaldi: ... If you live overseas for a while and buy camera equipment there, then bring it home, can you get that equipment repaired back home? Typically, yes. This situation is not a gray market purchase. (What gray market actually is can be a little tricky to understand.) In the case of Nikon USA (and all other companies that I'm aware of), all you have to do is show them a receipt that proves you bought the camera outside the U.S., and they will gladly repair it. @ David Dyer-Bennett: ... Given that people travel, and that people move (including across international borders), and that used equipment gets sold, that's totally unacceptable. See above. Buying a camera in one country and moving or traveling to another country is not gray market and no company that I know of will refuse to repair gear purchased that way. But you may have to show your receipt. (You're proving that you did not buy a Chinese-market camera in Brooklyn, which IS gray market.) @ Ryan Cousineau: Surely the better question is why do gray imports offer a cost saving? There's no single answer. In the camera industry, however, the biggest reason (not the only reason, but the biggest) is that the products leak from regional distributors who sell them to folks they aren't supposed to, for prices that would not be possible if the distributor had to cover warranty and marketing costs for those products (they declaim those responsibilities to the customers they sell them to). @ Neal Styles: ... How exactly does a camera become a 'gray market' camera? See above. Ultimately, at all but the smallest scales, they come from regional distributors who have excess inventory they are willing to sell sideways (sometimes through a front man). Global distribution networks are very complex and can include regional distributors, regional sub-distributors, multiple sub-distributors etc., and these entities rarely have identical financial interests with parent manufacturers or distributors from other regions. Few manufacturers can completely control these networks. None of the camera companies can. @ Ken: ... which is rumored to often dump excess inventory into the gray market I've seen this stated, but it's an odd phrase to my ears. I'm sure that Nikon Japan does not intentionally feed gray market channels as an official company-wide sales policy. But some factions within the company's overseas sales division (let's say the Asia group, as opposed to the European group) may exhibit extreme incuriosity about the behavior of the particular regional distributors they sell to, when they are under pressure to make quarterly sales numbers etc. I guess you can decide how you would phrase that.
Cameras, schmameras. Ned, if you read this, say hi to Tony Rose for me! Eons ago, when he made a short sojourn to wine country (Sonoma), he and I worked in the same camera store for awhile. I still use a phrase he taught me, a synonym for manufacturer's suggested retail price: "Full pop boogie", as in "I wanted that thing so bad I paid full pop boogie."
I was just thinking a lot about this. I'm in the early stages of a review of the Fuji X-Pro2 and I've already shot 2600 pictures with it. I've marked about 22 of them as maybe -- not definitely, just maybe -- decent enough to publish with the review. Only one of them is really good. (This dubious percentage is not the camera's fault!) I went out walking with it the other day and in 2.5 hours, I shot 400 pictures. That's more than two pictures a minute. Now doing a review is a bit of a production effort -- I'm slower and choosier when I shoot purely for myself. But not all that much choosier. I've been generally a fan of the way that digital lets you shoot freely with essentially no cost. I hardly pay any attention to exposure anymore, for example. I just shoot a 3-shot bracketed sequence of nearly everything. Almost any modern camera can rip that sequence off in less than half a second. But when I got home with my 400 pictures the other day, and only one of them was really good, it gave me pause. Of course, I'll never show the 399 bad ones -- shoot more and show less, as your pro acquaintance said. But still, I'm wondering what would have happened if I'd slowed the pace down to, say, a glacial one picture per minute. Maybe I would have got home with two good ones.
In the past year or so, I've turned sharply (ahem) away from sharpness as a value in my pictures. I don't mean that I've learned that sharpness doesn't have much influence on whether a picture is good (I learned that long ago), but rather I'm explicitly preferring a not-that-sharp look. So I'm very relaxed about lenses now; I'm not sharpening very much if at all in Lightroom/Photoshop; and I'm often finding myself adding grain effects to muddy things up a bit. As a digital-era, internet-fueled meme, "pop" is the sidekick to sharpness. It seems to mean highly saturated colors and gonzo contrast. Those things, too, are not pleasing my eye lately. The saturation slider also moves to the left, I discovered. Of course, I have no beef with photographers who want their pictures sharp as a tack with pop galore. But I'm having fun making mine soft and pale.
Toggle Commented Feb 12, 2016 on Does Sharpness Matter? at The Online Photographer
[Begging forgiveness for the solipsistic comment:] In the years when I wrote feature stories for Rob Galbraith's web site, one of my favorite pieces to report and write was a story I did on the NC2000 and some of the photojournalists who began using it in 1994. I've done a few pieces on news photographers, and I always enjoy their salty take on the world and their work. As a bonus, this story also pleased my inner historian. I've probably mentioned it in earlier comments, but for anyone interested, it's still available here:
@"Did you know that a company is properly referred to as "it" in standard copyediting?" While this is certainly true in American English, I have a notion it's not necessarily true in that strange variant of English that the English speak. I can't swear to it, but I believe the plural "they" might be the proper pronoun for a company when speaking/writing British English. Someone will know the answer ... [And yet the British often use the singular when talking about companies or teams, whereas we use plural. --Mike]
Sven, thank you for the link to Austin Granger's work -- he has many beautiful pictures of that magical place. Pt. Reyes/Tomales Bay is one of the touchstones of my photographic life, such as it is. I spent many, many days photographing there in the early 1990s. I could justify it as work -- I was a recently hired Nikon technical rep then, fairly bristling with every Nikon gadget imaginable and responsible for creating educational slide shows -- but I was really going there for the lonesome, quiet beauty, which Granger's work really captures. (Like Mike's lovely picture of the leaning tree and hut, as well.) I was in a wildlife phase then. A couple of examples, taken in 1991 at Heart's Desire Beach on Tomales Bay. (Almost certainly with that stone age tool known as Fuji Velvia.) It was possible then, on a weekday, to spend a whole day by yourself in the fields and on the beaches of Pt. Reyes. I hope it still is.
Ah, home. I was born in San Francisco and lived the first 37 years of my life in the Bay Area -- a book I'm slowly writing is partly about being raised in the 1960s and 70s by a hippie mom in the hazy golden dream of that enchanted land. For reasons no sane person can explain, I moved to New York a dozen years ago, but a few winters back I "made a film", using a rudimentary smartphone, about arriving in San Francisco on a plane from the east, for anyone with 1 minute to waste:
Toggle Commented Jun 11, 2015 on Travel Break at The Online Photographer
re: the problem of AF systems wasting your time by focusing on the wrong thing Echoing others on this thread, I'll get back on the "back-button autofocus" hobby horse for the umpteenth time. It's a simple idea (invented by Canon more than 20 years ago) that makes autofocus work for you, instead of agin' you. When implemented well -- only Canon and Nikon, on selected cameras, do it exactly right -- it's a ludicrously happy marriage of the strengths of autofocus and manual focus. It will make you sing with the joy of living, maybe. Even when implemented with dumb limitations -- everyone else's cameras, including my Sony NEX-7 -- it's still a big boon, IMHO. It takes a little practice to get used to it, but I wouldn't think of using autofocus any other way.
@ Geoff Wittig I don't want to get into a debate about the CC model in Mike's wonderful house, but just a couple of small thoughts. How much it costs any specific person to have a CC subscription vs. the previous perpetual licenses depends a lot on the angle from which you're viewing it. For example, if you do not own a perpetual app that you can upgrade, and must invest the full perpetual license price up front ($700 for many of the CS6 apps), the math changes dramatically from your example, which was for a person who already qualifies for upgrade pricing (and already paid $700 at some point in the past). On the much more important question of monopolies: It doesn't seem to me that photographers have much to worry about re: monopoly behavior at the moment. There's plenty of active competition in software for photographers, especially amateurs. I know Photoshop well and like it a lot, so I continue to rely on it, but I'm not required to. I don't have to deliver and collaborate on files in PSD format (and I even make a portion of my living shooting and publishing pictures). Professional graphic designers are in a different boat with Photoshop and especially with InDesign, both of which are pretty much required for them to make any money at their craft.
Toggle Commented Apr 2, 2015 on What Photoshop CC Costs at The Online Photographer
I may be misunderstanding you, Mike, but ... Your CS6 license allows you to activate Photoshop on two computers, so you can use it on both your home desktop and your travel laptop. But perhaps you're saying that you did not deactivate it from a previous computer? If you still have the previous computer, just turn it on and deactivate CS6 on that computer, then activate it on your newer laptop. If you don't have the old computer anymore, call Adobe customer service -- they should be able to sort you out. Also, you can subscribe to Photoshop CC and Lightroom together for $10/month -- it's called the Creative Cloud Photography Plan.
Toggle Commented Mar 30, 2015 on Photoshop Breaks at The Online Photographer
Late to this thread, but: I'd say that these days if you don't have a way of watching TV (Internet streaming is fine), you're not so much missing out on culture as you are on storytelling art. A lot of the best storytelling around is on TV now (vastly more than in studio movies), and many of the novelists I know, including some bestselling ones, are feverishly trying to figure out how to get into TV. The 4th season of The Wire is one of the top 5 most moving works of art I've ever experienced.