Photography 101: 2019 World Press Photo Contest

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Many photography pundits have declared the DSLR dead or dying. Photojournalists from around the world disagree. Count me among those who disagree. The DSLR might be dead for non pros but it’s still a viable tool for many of us.

These very same pundits will tell you that Canon and Nikon are also dead or dying and Sony is the new big gun on the block. Again, photojournalists would disagree. See their results in the attached Jared Polin video beginning at 00:05:00.

Jared Polin is far from my favorite YouTube personality but he is a good photographer and the statistics cited in the video survey don’t come from him personally but rather they come from the contest organizers themselves. When Canon first released its EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR it was much maligned by the pundits but I bought it anyway because it met my needs. The number one brand and camera used by the professional photojournalist contest winners was the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR. Nikon was number two and Sony didn’t even register a blip on the radar screen. Sony makes great kit but hasn’t arrived yet for pros. No hate mail.

Greek Shepherd – Kefalonia, Greece (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens)

I’m not disparaging Sony—I have many photographer friends who swear by Sony and by extension their mirrorless technology. I am disparaging the pundits (many of whom aren’t particularly good photographers) who don’t seem to know their butt from a hot rock. Photojournalism isn’t the only genre of photography but it’s one of the more demanding genres as is sports and wildlife. I think it says something that the paid professionals are sticking with their Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Amateur photographers, regardless of their skill set, can shoot with any system they want but pros require consistency and reliability.

Do your homework and don’t just rely on the so-called pundits. If I had listened to the YouTube personalities I would never have bought my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR (and it’s an excellent camera system). Decide what kind of photography you will be doing and then buy the photography kit that allows you to do it. Sony may eventually eclipse Nikon and Canon among professional shooters but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. By all accounts mirrorless is a great technology but don’t count out the DSLR quite yet or the old dinosaurs like me who continue to use them. See what I shoot with: What’s in My Bag.

I Dropped Down the Rabbit Hole in 1967

Stephen F. Dennstedt

I dropped down the rabbit hole in 1967. Nineteen years old and on my way to Vietnam as a Marine Corps Corporal. Arriving in-country in early January I was quickly promoted to Sergeant. I served in the Chu Lai TAOR for the next thirteen months.

I climbed out of the rabbit hole in February 1968 (shortly after the Têt Offensive began) and boarded the Freedom Bird back to CONUS. Forever changed and no longer innocent. While in Vietnam life went on in the USA. Here are two videos.


Argostoli on the Greek Island of Kefalonia

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Tomorrow will be the end of our first week on the large Greek island of Kefalonia. We transited from the port city of Patras to Sami (a 3½ hour trip by inter-island ferry) and then over the island’s mountains to our final destination of Argostoli.

Our hotel (Hotel Aggelos) is right at the water’s edge with a good view and is very nice—a little pricey by our cheap-ass standards but the price does include a complimentary breakfast every morning which makes the overall price reasonable.

It rained the entire week we were in Patras and the rain seemed to follow us to Kefalonia. It finally culminated in a dramatic thunder and lightning display (with pouring rain) on Monday. Yesterday and today have been beautiful—clear blue skies, plenty of sunshine, and with a modest daytime high temperature of 16°C or 61°F. Projecting out a week the forecast calls for more of the same. Stripping off our jackets and rolling up our shirtsleeves has been a real pleasure after so many weeks of cold and rain. Regardless of the rain we’ve been getting out on walkabout most mornings after breakfast to explore our new home away from home.

Kefalonia is a big island (with an overall area of 786.6 km² or 303.7 mi²) with many small towns and villages sprinkled over it just begging to be visited—and we will now that the weather has finally cleared up. The island of Kefalonia is located in the Ionian Sea just west of mainland Greece and is volcanic in origin—in fact it reminds me of the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador but much larger and without the prehistoric critters roaming around unfettered. Now that the sun has shown itself it’s all about the water—clear and shimmering blue-green in color. You can’t really appreciate the water until the sun illuminates and warms it—wow.

Photography 101: The Shooting Wide-Open Myth

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Don’t always believe what you’re told. This is especially true when it comes to photography—things are often quite different from what they seem. Shooting portraits at wide-open apertures is one of those things deserving of a closer look.

I’ve snapped shutters for sixty-five years and professionally for ten. After all that time I am still learning new things and thank God for that. I’ve always thought (like so many others) that shooting portraits at wide apertures was cast in stone.

Not the case at all. Common sense should have told me otherwise but conventional wisdom won out. Professional photographer Miguel Quiles clearly explains and demonstrates something I should have known years ago—but somehow I got sucked into the conventional wisdom and not the common sense aspect of the problem. As the kids used to say: my bad. If you enjoy shooting portraits and/or want to hone your craft this video is a must-see in my opinion. If an old dinosaur like me can continue to learn so can you. Wide apertures can be very useful but they’re not the be-all-end-all solution when it comes to taking good portraits.

The Muppet Brothers Will Be Leaving Patras Soon

Stephen F. Dennstedt

The Muppet Brothers are finishing up their one-week stay in Patras. We’ll board a ferry on Thursday for our three-week visit to the island of Kefalonia (staying in the town of Argostoli). Will Kefalonia provide the quintessential Greek experience?

We’re hopeful. It’s rained every single day since we arrived in Patras but that’s to be expected during the months of spring. It’s okay because Patras is a port city and not a tourist travel destination—not a lot to see (and few photo opportunities).

However, there is a huge pedestrian-friendly walkway (many city blocks  in circumference) right around the corner from our hotel just chockfull of restaurants, cafes, and shops. We’ve met some really nice people and eaten some good meals here in Patras so it hasn’t been a waste of time at all—plus we’ve caught up on our sleep (plenty of afternoon naps) and computer work. But the Siren’s call beckons to us and we’re anxious to explore Greece (especially island Greece) a bit further. Warmer days, bright sunny days, white sand, and warm waters call to the Muppet Brothers to come hither. More updates to follow soon.

Photography 101: Capturing the Essential Moment

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Whenever I discuss a certain genre of photography I’m quick to distance myself from it. Why is that? Is it a defensive position to avoid possible criticism or is it simply resistance to being labeled and put in a box—who knows.

Here’s a good example: I don’t really consider myself to be a portrait photographer but I’m an inveterate people watcher which often leads me to photograph people. I love photographing people but don’t want to be known simply for that.

I don’t shoot in a studio, with backdrops and sophisticated lighting equipment, both by preference and necessity. Traveling the world full-time (365 days a year) as a photographer and writer doesn’t allow me to carry a ton of equipment much less a fully equipped professional studio: What’s in My Bag. I would characterize my people shots as candid street portraits using natural lighting—real people, doing real things, and expressing real emotions. My shots are usually taken quickly, typically within a few seconds or a few minutes at most. Capturing the essential moment is what it’s all about for me—elusive.

Old Gypsy Woman – Sighișoara, Romania

I’ve included a video from Sean Tucker where he discusses the role of empathy in shooting portraits. It’s all about human connection and the human condition—some photographers spend hours looking for the essential moment while others, like me, try to accomplish the same thing in a matter of minutes (to a greater or lesser extent). Let me go back to my second paragraph for a moment: I don’t really consider myself to be a portrait photographer but I’m an inveterate people watcher which often leads me to photograph people. Here’s an article I wrote for Northrup Photo on the subject: How to Capture Street Portraits.

Photography 101: What Is the Curiosity Gap

Stephen F. Dennstedt

I love Street Photography. But it can be an incredibly challenging genre on many levels. If you want to push yourself as a photographer hit the streets with your camera and let the adventure begin. I also like to study the aesthetics of photography.

A photographer must be technically proficient to produce good work but true artistic vision reveals itself in the aesthetic and not in the technical. The camera is simply a tool where creative expression manifests itself in the photographer’s eyes & heart.

Included is a twenty-minute video from Sean Tucker featuring London-based Street Photographer Joshua K. Jackson. This video doesn’t speak to the technical aspects of photography but rather the artistic aspects. YouTube is full of videos about the latest & greatest gear because that’s how YouTube channels make their money. So it’s refreshing to come across channels that focus on the art and soul (a twist on the cliché heart & soul) of photography. While watching the video stay alert for the title of this post: What Is the Curiosity Gap. I hope this video inspires you to pickup your camera and go out and shoot.

Photography 101: Service After the Sale

Stephen F. Dennstedt

How does your camera and/or lens brand stack up? Or does it? Service after the sale is important and if you shoot professionally it’s critical. Tony Northrup has completed a survey on the subject and I’ve included the results here.

Since I switched to digital technology and turned professional (2009) I’ve been a Canon shooter. Back in my film days I shot mostly with Nikon, Leica, and Rolleiflex equipment with a few other brands thrown in for good measure.

A lot of factors went into my final decision to choose Canon as my photography platform and a key element in that decision was factory service after the sale. I travel the world full-time, 365 days a year, as a photographer and writer so reliable worldwide customer service is important to me. By way of complete disclosure I was a paid contributing writer with Northrup Photo in 2016 but I no longer receive any compensation from them whatsoever. With over 1-million followers worldwide Tony & Chelsea Northrup continue to produce excellent free content on their YouTube channel—like the attached video I am now sharing.

One Month in Greece with Two Months Remaining

Stephen F. Dennstedt

In my last blog post from Greece I said of the Muppet Brothers: We’re Still Looking for Quintessential Greece. I think that’s still the case—I suspect most people associate Greece with its many islands, sunny blue skies, and clear blue waters.

So far our experiences have been on the Greek mainland, having entered eastern Greece through Bulgaria. As you may recall we reluctantly decided to give Turkey a temporary pass because of their political situation and views on Syria.

You can read more about the why of our decision if you’re interested: Rethinking Turkey—the Country Not the Bird. After a two-week stay in the big city of Thessaloniki (which wasn’t to our liking) we traveled to the smaller coastal town of Néa Moudhaniá—traveling from a big city of over 1-million residents we escaped to a town of less than 10,000 residents. Much more to our liking but still not the quintessential Greece we were looking for. However, after two weeks in the big city, we did enjoy our restful and relaxing visit to Néa Moudhaniá. We left Néa Moudhaniá Thursday morning for the lakeside community of Ioánnina (113,000).

Morning Rowers on Lake Pamvotida (or Pamvotis) aka Lake of Ioannina

Here are some housekeeping tidbits for you: the taxi fare from our hotel to the bus terminal in Néa Moudhaniá was €5 and our bus tickets from Néa Moudhaniá back to Thessaloniki were €7 pp; our taxi fare from where we were dropped off in Thessaloniki to the main bus terminal across town (remember Thessaloniki is a big city of over 1-million residents) was an additional €23. Once we arrived at the main bus terminal in Thessaloniki we purchased our tickets for the three-hour bus ride to Ioánnina for €30 pp; €5 more got us from the bus terminal in Ioánnina to our hotel—a convoluted travel day for sure but it turned out okay.

Castle of Ioannina

So we’ve been in Ioánnina since late last Thursday afternoon (today is Monday) and we are leaving again after a one-week stay this coming Thursday morning. Our next stop is a one-week stay in Patras before boarding a ferry to the island of Kefalonia and our three-week stay in the town of Argostoli. Finally the island experience is in our future. The three-hour bus trip from Ioánnina to Patras is €25 pp. All of this travel and pricing information might bore the hell out of the average reader but some folks (fellow travelers) who’ve stumbled across this blog have mentioned they find the information useful—just pick and choose what you like.

My preconceived expectations for Greece evolved primarily from the movie Zorba the Greek, USA Greek salads, and Greek gyros sandwiches. My first actual impressions of Greece include the facts that mainland Greece has a lot of mountains (we’ve traveled through and over a number of mountain ranges with snow) with cold winter months, that Greek food tends to be much greasier than expectation (this would be a good place for a well placed pun about Greece versus grease), and that it’s a large and diverse country. I suspect our three-week island experience will be more stereotypical—sunshine, blue skies, warm water.

Field Notes: Please don’t come away with the impression that we’re not enjoying Greece because that’s not the case at all. It just seems to be so different from our expectations that we’re having a hard time reconciling our preconceived expectations with Greece’s actual realities. This is most certainly our problem and should not reflect on Greece at all—again, I suspect our island experience will shift our perceptions yet once again. I captured the B&W images include in this post with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom—a favorite walkabout combination. SFD

Photography 101: Your Gear Isn’t the Problem

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Your photography “kit” is probably not the problem. One of my favorite landscape photographers and YouTube personalities, Thomas Heaton, gets reals about the ups & downs of photography in this recently released video I’ve included.

I think all Creatives, regardless of chosen discipline, suffer from ups & downs in their creative workflow from time to time. Thomas is half my age so I’ve probably experienced them more often than he has to date but maybe not. Checkout his video.