Most have heard of The Manhattan Project — the program lead by J. Robert Oppenheimer to develop the first nuclear weapon — but few have seen what’s left of it. Today I came across Martin Miller’s photo essay — Slouching towards Bethlehem — which gives an inside view of the surprisingly intact facility where the project was based. I was immediately stricken by the aesthetics of this massive nuclear laboratory.
I’ve always wondered how much time and thought is put into the purely aesthetic aspects of military/industrial design. Were the engineers who built this place trying to make it look good? Or am I just appreciating the fruits of design born solely from the pursuit of functionality. At any rate, the photos are excellent and whether intentional or not, the design ethic at work in these facilities is amazing. Link
Some people that you randomly come across like Jason Cawood just go around and collect, take, and share great vintage images that i’ve probably had on my computer for awhile now and I don’t know which images are his or if they’re from someone else, either way these 2 from shopping malls always caught my eye. I feel silly tagging this post “1970s malls” hah! if someone actually searched for that i’d be pretty amazed, now the ISO50 blog has that covered. On a side note, I never remember Fairlane looking soo impressive.
So I picked up some Nikon flashes last week and have been having a lot of fun with them. I got the SB-900 and its little brother, the SB-600. I’ve been running the 900 attached to the camera (D80) and have the 600 as a remote slave using Nikon CLS. Using the multiple flash setup has yielded some really great results (see this post for some examples) but even with just one flash attached directly to the camera I’ve found it’s pretty easy to get great shots.
Just thought I’d post some random shots I got playing around to illustrate how easy it is to get decent stuff using a good flash. I didn’t do all the post-processing stuff I usually do so you could see the raw output (save for the first one which I color filtered inside the camera). These were all shot with NEF RAW in adverse lighting conditions, most in very low incandescent light. As you can see, just the single flash was enough to fully light the scene and balance the color. If memory serves correct they were all taken with the SB-600 attached the camera. Also check out Alex’s post on the SB-600 for some other examples. As I work with the flashes more this week I will post more examples and info.
Recently I purchased a Nikon SB-600 flash for my D40. I have never owned anything in the way of photographic lighting and I figured this would be a good first step. I’ve outfitted my studio with a good continuous lighting set up (for video), but photographic lighting has always intimidated me (in regards to complexity and cost). The SB-600 is a flash attachment that works with the D40 (thankfully) and basically just augments the existing flash. The big difference is the ability to adjust the direction of the flash, allowing you to bounce light off the ceiling etc. It also has more options and allows for more control than the basic flash.
Above I’ve posted two pictures, the first uses the SB-600 (pointed at the ceiling), and the second is just the on-camera flash. Neither has been edited. Given that I have no idea what I’m doing with this flash, I think the results are fairly impressive out of the box. Every time I’ve used the SB-600 indoors, the pictures reflect exactly what I see in real life. None of that blown out flash nonsense. The colors are correct, the light is balanced, and the level of detail is like nothing I’ve seen come out of my D40 previously. Of course, the SB-600 is no substitute for a real studio lighting setup, but it’s a great way to cheaply augment the power and versatility of your on-camera lighting situation.
There are a number of other options for speedlights of this kind. I chose the SB-600 mainly because it seemed to be the best fit for my relatively “low end” D40. It’s not too heavy and didn’t break the bank like some of the other Nikon models (the SB-800 for example costs more than my camera). It’s been very easy to use and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and easy way to improve their indoor photography. If anyone has experience with other models, Nikon or otherwise, I’d love to hear your thoughts or see some examples. I’m still learning how to get the most out of mine, but the potential definitely seems to be there.
My brother Kirk got the new Canon Rebel T1i over the weekend and it looks like it’s working out quite well for him. He used Sigma 70-300 lens in macro for his first video tests (above, wait for the ant!) and as you can see, the detail is incredible (albeit slimy). I’d like to see some more tests in different lighting situations and with different subject matter, but so far the performance looks great. Although, after seeing what Will Calcutt did with the 5D MKII in Detroit I am not sure I could settle for the T1i, but it seems like a close second for the budget-conscious. At any rate, I am pretty close to jumping ship from Nikon. Video Link
Update: Kirk added a short clip of Forrest skimboarding in Sacramento:
ITunes has a decent layout, I mean you can’t do much especially if you end up updating it weekly and the artwork can range from pretty good small album art icons to just awful ones. One way of making the pages on iTunes more appealing is these custom artist pages that iTunes staff picks out, the photos seem to be exclusive which is always a nice addition.
I’ve been following Dan McPharlin’s work for a few years now, ever since his miniature synthesizer models started showing up on Matrixsynth. I fell in love with his perfectly crafted, perfectly photographed (seriously, the photography is almost cooler than the work itself) paper music machines. But after being introduced to his graphic/illustration work he quickly became one of my favorite artists. His illustrations are very reminiscent of another favorite of mine, Roger Dean, and are evocative of that prog-rock driven 70’s sci-fi art scene that, when done right, is just downright incredible.
So it’s been great to see Dan’s work start popping up all over the place, like here, here (Prefuse 73 cover), and here (Jakub, you really should have know better!). Beyond the visual beauty of his work, it’s just great to see someone being creative with such a novel medium. He brings the mind and eye of a designer to a world previously reserved for 60-somethings hiding out in their basements building model railroads. To see him wrap all this up and successfully translate that future-past-that-never-was aesthetic into commercial projects is a good thing indeed.
You can check out more of Dan’s work at his flickr.
On a side note, he’s posted some shots of his home/work-space here. Are you kidding? Amazing. My house looks like it was built of scraps from a 19th-century Troller Boat that ran aground in front of a hippie commune. Seriously, parts of a boat were used in the construction of this house, I am sure of it. Anyways, I am disorganized at best, slovenly at worst and I don’t think I have the skill set to keep such a meticulously minimalist situation like that up for any length of time. If I win the lottery I will get one of those modernist prefabs and put it in front of this house. I’ll then carefully place completely unusable angular furniture and German-designed objects all around it. Finally I will place a single synthesizer with wooden endbells and an analog sequencer on a white table with a molded plywood chair in front of it. When people come over I will tell them that’s where I get all my work done and then I will sit them down at a walnut coffee table with various important looking design books stacked neatly on top of it and expound on typography theory and then chastise them for not understanding the difference between kerning and leading. After they leave I will go back to my real house and eat a sandwich in my basement and watch Adult Swim and then not clean up the plate for a week or so.