I Can Do That! (Does Everyone Have the Creative Gene?)

Carol HIll sewing her quilt square by Sally Wiener Grotta“I just take hundreds of photos and then fix the best one in the computer,” the woman bragged.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard similar statements. But this particular occasion was during my gallery talk at one of my American Hands exhibit. The woman beamed with pride, identifying with my artistic endeavors and wanting to share something of her accomplishments with me.

One of my friends, a highly respected writer, has been known to answer these kinds of statements with the Infinite Monkey Theorem: “If an infinite number of monkeys bang on an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite number of years, eventually they’ll produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Does that make those chimps genius playwrights?”

I have a very different attitude about these accidental artists. I’m delighted when people explore their creativity, and identify with me as a photographer or writer. When someone is inspired by my presentations, pictures or stories, it makes the effort I put into them so very worthwhile. As I explain in my American Hands mission statementRead More

Bill Gates & the Digital Lady (Me)

Sally Wiener Grotta, photographer, by Lori RyanWay back in the day, when most people had never heard of or seen a digital camera, I was on assignment at Comdex (the big daddy of computer trade shows) in Atlanta. And, there, walking through the halls, surrounded by his entourage was Bill Gates. So, I went up to him and asked if I could take his picture without film.

He smiled and said, “That’s okay, I’ll wait until you load.”

Paul Allen who was with Bill leaned over to him and explained what I was holding in my hands (one of the very first Kodak DCS cameras — a 200). They both laughed, and I took my pictures of him. For the rest of the week, whenever Bill saw me, he called me “the Digital Lady.”

Sometime between then and now, he has obviously gotten more skittish about cameras. Here’s a story from our friend Dan Rosenbaum:

“Bill Gates was awarded a patent recently for a device that detects cameras near you and keeps them from taking a clear picture of you. Used to be that only The Shadow has the power to cloud men’s minds.” Please click to read Dan’s piece.

Why I Use a Medium Format Camera

I’ve often spoken about the optical qualities of medium format photography. But hearing about how the size of the individual pixels of my Pentax 645D provides greater dynamic range, or that the lenses are superior than DSLRs and other typical cameras doesn’t mean as much as seeing the difference. (*Please see NOTE at the end of this blog.)

Take, for instance, the photograph of Watson (“W. Dog Reading T. Wolfe”) that accompanied our guest blogging guidelines. In the zoomed in image of his eye, notice the quality of detail. Also, for those of you who know how to read such things, I’ve attached the histogram, so you can see the density of data. If you want to see more detail, click on the caption below the image, to see a larger zoomed-in view. (Remember, it’s only a low resolution screen capture, but it should give you an idea of the level of detail in the photograph.)

No, it isn’t only about having more megapixels, but how those pixels capture light, shadow, color and detail. Of course, it’s overkill if my only purpose were to post pictures on the Internet. But when I create my large exhibition prints (some as large as 40″ x 60″), I need that level of clarity and quality.


*NOTE: A medium format camera is significantly bigger and heavier than the largest of DSLR pro cameras. At its heart is a physically larger image sensor which means that each pixel is larger than those on the DSLRs of the same resolution. Those larger pixels are better able to capture more and better light and color. In addition, the lenses feature superior optics.

When to Use Flash with a Point-and-Shoot Camera

fill_flash versus auto flash_comparison by Daniel GrottaThis past Sunday, when I spoke at the NY Times Travel Show, offering suggestions to travel photographers, I was very gratified at the positive response, and how many folks stayed after the panel, to ask me more questions and advice in the hallway outside the seminar room.

One of my tips was to use Force Flash when shooting outdoors with a point-and-shoot camera. (Force Flash is the lightning bolt icon without the A.)

The flash icon with the A, is for automatic, which means the camera won’t flash if it thinks there’s enough light in the overall scene. (Such as in the picture on the left.)

In the picture on the right, Daniel turned on Force Flash, which illuminated my face, giving it better color, while improving the overall dynamic range and vitality of the picture. The result also balanced for the blue sky as well as both the highlights and shadows in the snow.

Please feel free to leave your questions about photography here in the comments, or send them to me via email or on Facebook.