A quest for the ultimate, beautiful, meaningful picture

Munching magazines

Lately, I have been looking at different photographic magazines, next to my ‘standard’ (but still highly-valued) Focus. I was looking for a magazine with less stress on the technicalities of hardware and camera testing—I knew what my next camera would be. And one buys a new camera or lens only once in so many years. My wife—and even more importantly my savings account—would not let me more often… In the meantime, what do I care about tests of camera brands I’d never buy? And video! On the contrary, I wanted to know more about how to use my photo gear to greatest effect. How to get the best photos on the wall.

First you need good pictures, and I wanted more guidance on that from magazines. I guess that Outdoor Photograhy, with its double aim of wildlife and landscape photography, will be one of my favourite magazines; I mentioned it before. Many pictures, tips & tricks on composition, lighting, etc. The pictures showed the British publisher, of course: there was an item on ‘the quintessential British landscape’ (field flowers making the foreground way too colourful to suit my taste, but indeed very recognisably British), and it carried stories about pictures made in (between) wind and rain. Never before did I realise how many landscape pictures had moving trees in them—long shutter speeds were quite common (make sure you have a sturdy tripod in your survival pack!). During my trip today, at one of the stations where I had to change trains I found a somewhat similar German magazine, Naturfotografie (oh, the costs of writing a blog that is read by only two people!). I have not read all of it yet, but was struck by the editorial, which asked the eternal question about the reality of photos and especially how much pre- or post-processing is ‘allowed’ in nature and animal photography. The obvious answer was ‘it depends’: in documentary photography none is permissible, while if it is just about the esthetical effect, it is hard t set any limit (apart from normal decency, of course). In another magazine, Digital Pro Photo, I learned that serious photo editors of National Geographic Magazine and the like demand the original memory cards from the photographers, or at least all[!] ‘raw’ picture files, to be certain that the chosen photos are not hoaxed. The other thing one can take from magazines on landscape photography is that large-format cameras (like 4×5 inch) are still popular among serious photographers. Good for keeping in shape, too, carrying such a thing up a mountain…

Sure, the technicalities of post-processing, especially in Photoshop and similar complex programmes remain interesting. Focus, CHIP Foto-Video but also the other magazine I mentioned before, Practical Photographer, give a fair share of that type of stuff. Quite useful, though only as reference material, for I find it impossible to read an article full of ‘click this’, ‘click that’ and ‘set the slider to 27’ when I am not at the computer trying to do a project as is being described in the magazine article.

And finally, the files have to get printed. The close to ideal magazine for me with my predilection for black-and-white photos seems to be Black & White Photography, from the same publisher, incidentally, as Outdoor Photography, and thus equally British, which shows mainly in the advertisements with prices in £, but to some extent also in the civilised tone of the language. It is not too thick for its serious price (over € 10) and still has too much on chemical photography for a digital ‘believer’ like me, but with so many magnificent black and white prints that I can watch them for hours. And with tests of types of printing paper—that’s something I must come back to in a later blog…

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