Monday, March 13, 2006

Busy on an away job

If you think that I have been busy, I have. From Wednesday to Friday I followed Paul on an annual report shoot for Caterpillar. It was a nice, relatively simple set of shots in the towns of Peoria and Decatur. Once we got back, the studio had to prepare for a one-week shoot in New York. Although I am not going, there was a lot to do. I sent Paul, Leasha and Jason to the airport today and finally got some free time. More of that on the next posting.

Jason and the double steak. Jim's Steak House, Peoria.

Paul Elledge, photographer, artist, driver...

Steak and Shake, Peoria

Caterpillar plant, Decatur

Jason Robinette... Industrial strength packer upper...

Zen and the fart of Burger King

If you have ever thought that being a world class photographer is glamorous, forget it. Seeing the amount of work and effort that goes into every project, I know that being on the top of the photographic game is very hard work. I am just the intern and I am already tired. Paul does not say to 'no' to work unless he is already booked. People not in the know do not consider the cost of being a photographer. Now with the digital revolution, a lot of photographers have to start onto the slippery road of buying digital equipment and having to upgrade it every 3 to 5 years. Gone are the days when you can buy one or two film camera systems and keep it for a whole career. If you care about your work, if you want to deliver the best you can, then it takes time and money and effort. As far as I am concerned, I am not willing to deliver jpegs straight off a camera. I will shoot raw and tune images before I deliver. It is essential to maintain quality.

It is almost 2 weeks now in Chicago. It seems more like 2 months. I am tired but happy. Paul's photos do not necessarily look complex, and to a certain extent they are not, but his finesse is incredible. He can perceive and does take into consideration 0.1 of an f-stop difference. At my level, I can only see a difference in a third of an f-stop. He takes many variations of one portrait, looking for that quarter inch difference between a good shot and a great shot. Sometimes it appears that the techniques that I am learning from him are not all that radical. What Paul is about for me is the pursuit and tenacity to refine an inner vision. Jason is now doing digital prints for Paul, and he is getting a wonderful insight to the way Paul sees textures and colors.

When people go to workshops, they try and develop their vision and exercise their artistic judgment. My trip to Chicago is not about developing that vision as much as learning to see 0.1 difference in f-stop. Paul has a reputation for being incredibly demanding, but for a reason. When he picks on something, it does make a difference in the final image. I hope to get an insight on those subtle changes. Paul told me, when I asked to intern at his studio, that there is a fine line between a good and a great photographer.

On a good note, Paul has been happy with my work in the last 2 weeks. He bought me a couple of CDs (KaneYeWest and Illinoise) and is lending me some books to read. He does not usually lend books out. I hope that I can continue to show a positive contribution to the studio through my stay here.


Eric Chan said...

Dear Heng,
I have been reading your blog eversince you were in London recently, hoping to live vicariously through your adventures - and to a certain extent, I have! Your blog has been informative, along with the snapshots along the way.

In Napa Valley yesterday at a Frost & Sullivan Mind Exchange networking function for Medical Device executives, I was having great conversations with the Director of Medical Science & Technology R&D of KODAK. He said that medical imaging/radiology is already entrenched into the digital realm. It is interesting that some algorithms are shared by both the commercial/consumer and medical imaging products. However, the size/type of sensors in medical imaging are not the same as the consumer and even pro-DSLR's. Not only at Kodak but also at other companies like Nikon, there is constantly cross-over between the consumer and medical digital imaging development groups.

We also talked about the end of the pixel wars, and the new, appropriate emphasis on color depth. The latter is not a function of no. of bits of the A/D converter, sensor physics + dynamic range, but all sorts of other complex factors that he only alluded to. Another important factor is noise reduction in low EV situations.

We also echoed your lament on how crazy it is to keep upgrading cameras every few years, esp. for pro's like you who need to be in tune with technology upgrades.

We can count the companies that have given up film cameras in the very recent past:
1. Nikon (last one was the F6!)
2. Konica-Minolta (will also drop digital camera line by March 31, 2006 and transfer certain D-SLR intellectual assets to SONY)

These BIG film manufacturers will no longer be in the film/chemicals business sector:
1. Agfa (no consumer products anymore - only specialty films)
2. Konica-Minolta (phased out by early 2007)

For the present, I still like to scan medium format negatives. I am also keeping a close watch on the 'prosumer' Four Thirds system by Olympus + Panasonic with Leica lenses already in the pipeline.

Keep up the great work!
Cheers from the Bay Area!

Eric Chan said...

Oops, in the 3rd paragraph, I meant:

"The latter is not ONLY a function of no. of bits of the A/D converter, sensor physics + dynamic range................"

Heng said...

Hi Eric,

Thanks for dropping by the blog. Just sharing the journey. A journey where I feel that I am walking in a fog some times. :)

Eric Chan said...

Hi Heng,
Have you considered the Rolleiflex 6008AF with Phase I or Aptus 75 back? Here's another photographer in Chicagoland (847)-912-5384, that you may be able to hook up with while you're there:

He seems to have a lot of good things to say about Rollei, which he says is better than Canon 1DS MkII "at all levels".....a rather subjective endorsement. See

(BTW - he is selling a spare P20 PHASE ONE digital back on eBay in like new condition for, uh...."only" $8,000!)