#+TITLE: Photographing through 2017
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A year (and a bit) ago I picked up my first real camera: a Fuji XT10
and started taking photographs — since then I've shot more than
30,000 photos, mainly inspired by New York and have been working
towards getting better photographs.

Year-ends, particularly blisteringly cold ones, are a fine time to
review and try to understand what precisely I've been doing.
Frantically walking around cities across the world — particularly New
York — trying to make good photographs while dealing with life doesn't
really lend itself to significant introspection.

** Contact Sheets
I indulged in Chicken Scheme wrapped around ImageMagick to generate
PDFs with small thumbnails of all photographs I've taken over the past
year: they're surprisingly satisfying, both as an automatic diary and
a way to observe general patterns in my approach to photography.

I realize that I tend to underexpose a lot, relying a bit too much on
the brightness of underlying LCD screens; I must focus on pushing the
histograms to the right and not relying on tweaking photographs in
Lightroom till they show some detail.

The other obvious flaw is significantly over-shooting: I take multiple
exposures of the same shot, slightly moving my perspective till I get
it just right. This generally makes editing extremely painful and
doesn't really add much benefit. Waiting to align perfectly before
pressing the shutter instead of going click-click-click is something I
need to train myself to do.

#+CAPTION: A contact sheet from Twin Peaks, San Francisco.
../static/images/samplesheet.jpg

** Books
My approach to far too many projects is to constantly keep reading
everything I can lay my hands on. I've bought, borrowed, browsed
several books and wandered into several photo exhibitions.

As satisfying as looking at lovely collections of photographs is, I
find books that provide context about the photograph much more
interesting and valuable.

Some of the books I really enjoyed —

*** The Photographer's Eye, John Szarkowski
Perhaps my favourite of all books this year: it talks through the
limitations of classic photography and has a lovely collection of
pictures dating back to the 19th century.

I bought my copy at the Strand, from their rare books section (without
also going bankrupt — it was very reasonably priced) and it appears to
be from the original printing and the paper and photograph prints are
delightful.

***  Magnum Contact Sheets
An extraordinarily fascinating — and large — book. Seeing the pictures
reknowned magnum photographers took before and after their best shots
and the context in which they took them.

*** The Nature of Photographs, Stephen Shore
A modern photographer's eye — with more depth, and far more
contemporary photographs.

*** Kertesz on Kertesz: A self Portrait, Andre Kertesz
I really really enjoyed looking at pictures by Kertesz, particularly
because he frequenly photographed Washington Square Park which I
personally gravitate to a lot.

*** Ansel Adams: An Autobiography
It's fairly fascinating to read through the life of a renowned
photographer — particularly one trying to get photography accepted as
an art form.

I also found out that some of Ansel Adams' work is in the public
domain: particularly The Tetons and the Snake River.

** Classes, workshops, meetups, etc.
I also attended an ICP class, several instagram meetups and a few
photo critiques and workshops at Adorama. All were valuable in their
own ways —

*** ICP
I took Harvey Stein's class on photographing New York: this was the
first time I'd officially learned anything about photography, and came
away with some experience walking up to strangers and asking if I
could take a portrait. I haven't applied this skill anywhere near as
much as I would have liked to.

*** Adorama
I attended a few photo critiques at Adorama as well as a workshop on
shaping light but Seth Miranda: they post these on Meetup and are
easily worth the time.

*** Fujifilm Instagram Meetups & others
Fujifilm posts about events on their blog: I attended two of these
meetups, received useful tips from Ruddy Roy and Kara Mercer and got
the chance to try out the X-T20 and X-T2 (they give out cameras to
test) and met several interesting people.

** Instagram
Of course, as a budding photographer I constantly posted to instagram.
I started by incessantly posting to my personal account, @kunalb_#+BEGIN_EXPORT html
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— but then decided to give my friends who'd been following me since
before I picked up a camera a break, and started posting to @kny_2017
instead.

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For 2018, I'll be posting to @knl.2018, at a more relaxed schedule of
once a week. Every week, I'll choose my strongest — or a series of my
strongest — photographs from the past month to post. I'm hoping this
helps with my editing skills and lets me build a stronger set of work.

** Tiny Data
The other bit of programming I indulged in was to record all the exif
data from the photographs into sqlite ­ and make a few plots to get a
sense of the photographs.

*** Consistency
To start with, I was most curious about just how many photos I had
been taking through the year: it's interesting to see the flurry of
activity every month.

November seems a bit off, but then again I accidentally deleted a
day's shoot — before copying the photos to my hard disk, losing around
200 photos, so I'm not that surprised. This was particularly
embarassing because I'd also promised some of those photos to a
stranger I'd met at Washington Square Park.

#+CAPTION: Photos every month
../static/images/months.svg

*** Focal Lengths
Of all my lenses I've really enjoyed shooting with my 23mm and 35mm
primes ­ and I was curious which one I'd shot more with and the 35mm
was the clear winner.

Note that this is a cropped sensor camera; the 35mm film equivalent
focal lengths are 35mm and 53mm respectively ­ classic street
lenses. I bought the 23mm lens a few months after the 35mm lens, so
the results here are probably biased.

#+CAPTION: Focal Lengths
../static/images/focallength.svg

*** Apertures
Unsurprisingly, I most often shot at f/2.0, with quite a few shots at
f/16.0 and f/22.0 ­ the extreme ends supported by my lenses. I was
somewhat suprised to find a high ~f/7.0 value.

#+CAPTION: Aperture
../static/images/fnumbers.svg

*** Shutter speeds
Nothing much to see here; I tend to stick to 1/60s or so, except when
using the telephoto lens; there are a few long exposures in there
around times involving fireworks, rooftops, or in some cases standing
in the freezing cold taking a picture of the brooklyn bridge because I
was young and enthusiastic and had a shiny new tripod.

Note that -x actually implies a speed of 1/x: I parsed the exif values
into negative integers to make them easier to handle.

#+CAPTION: Shutter Speeds
../static/images/shutterspeeds.svg

*** Further Exploration
Having all this data at my finger tips means I can also plot more
interesting charts for sanity checks and observations:

It's pretty cool to observe patterns like the white spot on the
bottom-right while considering f number vs ISO:  maxed out ISO and f
numbers to capture low light.

#+CAPTION: Exploration
../static/images/exploration.png

And just for the heck of it...

#+CAPTION: 3 dimensional plot
../static/images/3d.png

** Tech Stack
This post — as all the others — was generated with emacs org-mode,
with graphs generated using GnuPlot. For contact sheets, I wrapped
chicken scheme around shell commands to Montage which let me fully
parallelize the work without having to deal with multithreading.

** What it's been like
Taking several thousand photographs and posting several hundred over
the past year has been an interesting experience: I have far stronger
memories and at the same time I feel surprised that certain events
were so long ago.

With my photographs I also have many more reasons to explore and to
look around and engage with the world; and there are now several spots
around New York I identify with just because I've photographed them
and claimed them.

That said, constantly trying to observe pictures can get extremely
exhausting, and I still haven't quitem managed to figure out why I
take photographs. It is satisfying to be able to capture a moment, and
to be able to share it with those close to me.

I hope you have a great 2018!