Street portrait: Shannon Moloney

Shannon Moloney, a student at Ithaca College, poses for a photo.

Shannon Moloney is a friend and fellow student here at Ithaca College. We spent some time together and while there was still some daylight shining in through the window I asked to get one quick shot of her. Here it is.

Shannon Moloney, a student at Ithaca College, poses for a photo.
Shannon Moloney, a student at Ithaca College, poses for a photo.
Shawn Steiner/In focus

Photojournalism: Election night in Ithaca, N.Y.

Election Night at the Democratic Headquarters in Ithaca, N.Y.

Election night is always emotional, no matter who you are backing. Here in Ithaca, NY people were able to celebrate President Barack Obama’s re-election. With triumphant and emotional cheers.

Election Night at the Democratic Headquarters in Ithaca, N.Y.
Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 — Olayinka Omotosho, a Humphrey Fellow at Cornell University, celebrates in response to hearing CNN predict President Barack Obama’s re-election while at the Tompkins County Democratic Party headquarters at the Holiday Inn in Ithaca, N.Y.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan

Did the “one hour photo” speed the death of film?

One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo
The film and prints received from the local shop that still is able to send out film.
Shawn Steiner/In Focus

Recently, I had a roll of 35mm Kodak Ektar 100 processed at a local drug store. I was satisfied. There were 38 developed images (yes, it was a 36 exposure roll, I’m that good) and a set of prints along with a CD. The darkroom chromogenic prints, while appreciated, are atrocious. The scans were better, but still not good enough for my applications. Now, this was expected for my project.

My workflow was always planned to involve taking the negatives and producing my own scans and inkjet prints. The everyday person, however, may have a different reaction. I would image tit to be along the lines of, “This looks terrible!” or “My friend’s new point and shoot looks amazing compared to this!” Basically the person will come to the conclusion that it is time to move to digital.

Amelia Marino
My friend Amelia posing for a shot with some Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film.
Shawn Steiner/In Focus

The prevalence of these one hour photo shops proliferated a change in a desire for quality for the necessity of speed. Digital allows for the best mixture of each for the average consumer. They don’t have access to personal darkrooms to process their film in a timely manner, and they most likely don’t realize the capabilities of their film negatives.

So did these workflows lead to an increasing disappointment with the quality of film?

If I were to imagine being a normal consumer I feel like I would make the change to digital much faster if I thought that the cost of processing film was no longer worth it.

These prints are good enough for being a quick reference, but otherwise I can see this as part of why consumers moved so quickly into the digital realm.

The right place

The Ink Shop
The Ink Shop
The Ink Shop doubles as a workshop and a gallery on East State Street in downtown Ithaca.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan

So, after my recent Instagram post I’m going to start this with a little clarification. I am not opposed to cell phone photography, I simply find that utilizing it in some ways is unnecessary. But, I believe in the right tool for the job and there are instances where an iPhone happens to be it. Onto the rest of the post.

A couple issues ago I was shooting for a story on a local screen printing business called The Ink Shop. On that shoot the designer and I felt that a wide shot of the entire workspace would be fitting top art. Well, being a Tuesday afternoon with less than a day to work meant speed was paramount. First, I took a series of shots with my SLR and prepared for a process of stitching a panorama together. But, then I realized the new feature iOS6 granted to iPhone users, panoramas.

I pulled out my phone and quickly moved across the scene. A bit of editing in the office led to a usable top image for a front story. Best tool for the job.

Members of the Ithaca Police Department and Fire Department stand outside The Commons at the intersection of South Aurora Street and East State Street. The Commons was evacuated Thursday, Oct. 11 due to a suspicious package.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan

This was then followed last Thursday with an odd shoot. Driving back to campus with a fellow editor we saw a swarm of emergency vehicles downtown. I pulled out my phone and took a couple shots as we drove by.

Once we were back on campus the phone calls began. We needed to get a photographer downtown for an investigation into a suspicious package. Fortunately, I already had a photo and we were able to put a story with art up online very quickly. The photograph and story even got picked up by a news station in Syracuse.

Cell phone photography is an incredible advancement in photo technology. We have a high quality camera in our pockets at all times. Use it when the need is there or the aesthetic is desired and serves a purpose. It is something to be utilized.

Editorial portrait: David Maley

Dave Maley, associate director of media relations, will be facilitating communication between student media and college administrators.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan
Dave Maley, associate director of media relations, will be facilitating communication between student media and college administrators. 
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan

This is part of a new policy implemented by Ithaca College president Tom Rochon. All student media must contact Maley to set up interviews with upper level faculty and administrators. The campus community has responded very strongly to this new policy, including a letter urging repeal from about 70 faculty members as of Friday, Oct. 5, 2012.

Find the story here at theithacan.org/25742.

Photojournalism: Fire at the State Street Diner

Fire at The State Street Diner

Selections of my photojournalism will also appear from time to time. This is how I am introducing this new section on this site. Hope you enjoy! Here is the first image, a personal favorite.

Fire at The State Street Diner
Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 — Stuart Prineas, an electrical contractor, examines the damage from a fire Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 at the State Street Diner. The diner caught fire at about 4:30 p.m. from what local authorities believe to have been faulty wiring, however the investigation is still ongoing.
Shawn Steiner/The Ithacan

The fear of digital noise

Ithaca College senior Erik Caron, center, belts out “Devil’s Coming” and plays guitar for the Erik Caron Connection alongside bassist sophomore Gabe Lefferts, left, and drummer Alex Cano ’12, right.
This photograph was taken at ISO 25600, f/2.8 and 1/125 second at 20mm.
Ithaca College senior Erik Caron, center, belts out “Devil’s Coming” and plays guitar for the Erik Caron Connection alongside bassist sophomore Gabe Lefferts, left, and drummer Alex Cano ’12, right.
This photograph was taken at ISO 25600, f/2.8 and 1/125 second at 20mm.

Noise was never a good thing. But, everyone still seems to want to emulate the grain of film.

Pushing film two stops so that you can get a usable image was more important than the amount of grain that you may see. It was the norm to have to deal with grain. Now that we have moved to digital sensors it seems that we are afraid to see anything besides a perfectly clean image on the camera’s LCD screen. The immediacy of digital has let us know how we can change things to “fix” the image in camera, and see when we take unusable photos.

Why should we be afraid to push the boundaries of our cameras technology?

I support the ability of modern day cameras to reach these absurd ISOs. Years ago I never would have imagined being able to shoot outside at night and have a perfectly exposed image. Independent filmmaking would also still require a lot of startup money. Now, we can shoot for bare minimum and produce something of quality.

In the realm of photojournalism it means we can go new places with less equipment and get the shots we need. The other day I was shooting at ISO 25600 in a pub late at night. I took photos. That is awesome. No flash, no unnecessary lights, just capturing the mood as it was set up for the show.

At first glance I have heard shock at the ISO speeds I was shooting at. But then when I have shot video on the same SLR I have heard that it is too clean and sharp. Where are we going to finally accept the world of digital and accept it on its own, without thinking about it in the context of celluloid.

Many companies are even trying to produce the ability to add grain to digital footage.As much as I appreciate the nostalgia for film, I respect the advancement is technology that allows our industry to advance to incredible heights. Accept the look of noise and forget the look of grain. It is a part of the digital image making process and we should see it as such.

Moving back to black and white

Junior Jeff Chilton plays trombone with Samuel B. Lupowitz and The Ego Band during their record release show Saturday at The Nines.
Junior Jeff Chilton plays trombone with Samuel B. Lupowitz and The Ego Band during their record release show Saturday at The Nines.

RED Digital Cinema recently announced a monochrome version of their EPIC camera. Surprised?

Monochrome cameras seem to be a new trend with high-end camera manufacturers. Leica released their own M Monochrom weeks ago and while not much has really been heard about these cameras they seem to be doing well. A huge part is the price tag of these cameras. Still out of reach for most consumers.

What is their purpose?

Technically, these cameras offer significantly improved performance in areas like resolution, dynamic range and sensitivity. The removal of the debayering process found with color digital imaging means that every pixel of the sensor records raw luminance data. This means that it is a true image without processing and manipulation by the sensor to create a color image.

If you look at my sample image above it shows how simply converting an image at a high ISO can seemingly improve the look of a previously unusable image. And it shows just how far imaging technology has come.

It will be interesting to see how these cameras begin to take off. RED is boasting that David Fincher’s new film is being shot entirely on their new monochrome camera. So hopefully we will see some clips soon.

On a different level, this is the more obvious side to the current trend in digital camera development to create better images as opposed to simply add more resolution (although I’m sure RED would say that they can do both). It shows that companies are no longer just bumping the resolution.

For example, the recently released Canon 5D MKIII features an increase of only one megapixel. However, it features significantly better low-light abilities along with more dynamic range than previous iterations.

I’m glad to see this shift from a numbers game to a question of quality. I think that 20 megapixels is plenty, if we really want to replace film we need more than simply super large image files.

Instagram and its issues for the photojournalist

Not-Instagram-Bon-Iver-Concert-Cooperstown

You may have read about Ben Lowy. He’s an award winning photojournalist. However, that is not what makes him important. He became famous for his use of the Hipstamatic app while shooting images on his iPhone. Should we really allow this type of photography in a journalistic manner?

I will concede the earlier point by Rachel Woolf that Instagram and other apps provide social networking opportunities that are wonderful for the world of photography. But I will say that this type of editing should not be used in journalism. One thing to look at is that Ben Lowy himself even helped developed a “lens” for the Hipstamatic app that was more suited to journalistic work. Why would that be necessary if what he was doing was already ethically okay?

Cell phone photography is an amazing thing for journalism. We can produced technically usable images at a moment’s notice without the need for professional equipment. That is great. We see it has had a huge impact in the world of citizen journalism. The reportage of the Arab Spring revolutions would not have been as well covered or followed if it wasn’t for cell phone and citizen journalism, it even started to be funded by the United Nations.

Let’s take a look at some recent cell phone photos I took.
Above is the same image both Instagrammed, left, and put through standard editing in Photoshop, right. Is it a spectacular image? I wouldn’t say so, but it does work well for our discussion. Especially since it was a situation where professional cameras weren’t permitted and I was forced to use my iPhone.

Here we see Jon Samuels making a phone call in the parking area of the event. That is the very basic first look at the image. Now, if we look at simply the square crop of Instagram we can see some information lost. The main thing I notice is the lighting. In the original image we can see that it is a high placed spotlight set up for the event. In the Instagram photo we can’t tell if it is a light, a car or even the scale of the event. Just from that quick analysis we should be starting to question whether or not this is appropriate for journalistic work.

Next, the color is just off and unrealistically edited. If I were to be editing for a news organization I would feel uncomfortable doing that amount of color manipulation in Photoshop. So why do we allow it be done for us quickly using an app? It seems like just an excuse in lieu of an argument that would be completely unfounded.

I don’t see the point of Instagram beyond a social networking tool for the everyday cell phone photographer. Photojournalism is a field involving skill, thought and ethics, that is what keeps photojournalists relevant, and as such we should analyze these trends with as much diligence as everything else in the field, not just let it slip on through. Evolution of technology is great, but not when it hampers our journalistic integrity.

Photo shoot: Editorial Portraiture

Sam Reed: The Orienteer
Sam Reed: The Orienteer
Andreas Jonathan: The Architect
Kristofer Stensland: The Computer Scientist
Scott Owsley: The Editor
Canon Brownell: The Actor
Will Gelder: The Artist