Tag Archives: History

Could you make an iconic picture?

There are very few iconic pictures created every year world-wide.

Some of the most iconic pictures are taken by journalists. They visit difficult places and see sights to challenge the human spirit. Here are some pictures that tug our heart strings.

The video below shows thirty one iconic pictures from the last century which have a lasting punch. They are mainly taken by journalists and they all have a collective impact. It is a short video, yet in those few minutes I was moved to tears. There is something that smashes your defences in an iconic shot. However, a lot of the pictures in the video would not have the impact without the title text. It is important to have a context even for an iconic picture.

Three Iconic photographs missed in the video

The video also set me thinking about a few pictures that were not in the video that have had a powerful effect on me as a photographer. They are clearly brilliant photographs. I include them here because they also show class, lasting punch and great skill. There are many more, but these spring to mind.
Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry External link - opens new tab/page – (in Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia)
Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans by Michael Appleton; 2005 External link - opens new tab/page

The World’s Most Powerful Photographs…

Published on Aug 1, 2012 by BuzzFeedVideo

Video: What makes a great photograph great?
Music: “Hypnagogia,” By Andrea Rossi

1. Robert Capa
2. No official citation. Army photographer referred to as Major Benjamin
3. Heinrich Hoffman
4. Citation not given
5. John Dominis
6. Jeff Widener
7. Claude P. Dettloff
8. Stan Stearns
9. Aaron Thompson.
10. CFP – Photographer not given
11. Héctor Rondón Lovera
12. Yomiuri Shimbun
13. Mark Pardew
14. Nevine Zaki
15. Marc Riboud
16. No Official citation. Possibly George Mejat
17. KOREA POOL – Photographer not given
18. Goran Tomasevic
19. Cecil Stoughton
20. Vanderlei Almeida
21. Getty – Photographer not given
22. No citation given. Photographs are on English Russia if you’re interested.
23. AP. Photographer not given
24. No official citation
25. Jeff Roberts
26.Str / AFP – Getty – Photographer not given
27. Louie Favorite
28. Getty – Photographer not given
29. Can’t find this one.
30. This has gotten so saturated over the internet, the original is near-impossible to find.
31. William Anders
(many thanks to BOSOX9004 for compiling, http://www.youtube.com/user/BOSOX9004!!)

Shedding Light on Family History

When you take a photograph or video do you think about the use future generations will make of your work?

Photography was one of the first ‘new media’ that enabled people to see a place they had never physically visited. Together with sound recording it enabled barriers of place and time to be broken down.

It also does rather more than that. One of my particular hobby horses is that family history needs to be viewed as more than a list of names, places and occupations. We should also consider the times in which they lived. The photograph, and latterly the video, provide a method to give us this extra information. As camera equipment became cheaper, and more people were able to take photographs, it enabled us to see how all levels of society lived. Before photography, and in its early years, it was the wealthier members of society who were depicted.

By opening a window to the masses the photograph can also show “true” history rather than the popular view of history we tend to take for granted.

Two proud mothers...

Two proud mothers…

Take the picture to the left. At first sight it is nothing special. It shows two women, we assume the proud mothers of the children in the picture. It was obviously taken, like many such photographs are, to show off their children to friends and family. It is little different to the many millions of snaps taken over the years.

To the family historian photographs like this add a little colour to the family. They also show a little of how people lived. I asked a member of the family being researched about this photo. I found out the picture was taken around 1959-60 in Dartford, Kent and that the doors behind the women are actually outside toilets. From the picture we also see the type of everyday fashion worn in the early 1960s. We can also see that despite much work to remove slums and modernise our towns even by the 1960s people still lived in houses without the basic facilities we take for granted today.

The popular view that everyone in the 1960s was a hippy and spent all their time lazing about and listening to Grateful Dead albums in a haze of naughty smoke is a little off the mark. That will certainly shock my eldest niece. She is convinced I must have known The Beatles and met President Kennedy!

Baby and book

Baby and book

The photograph on the right demonstrates how a picture can show information on interior decoration. Not to the standard you would see in a Design Magazine, it sheds light on decoration in ordinary homes of the period. If you look a little deeper into the picture you might infer that conditions in this house were a little cramped.

It goes without saying that this process works in reverse. I remember spending a happy hour or two indexing photographs of the building of Basingstoke town centre. They were donated to the library some years ago. Most were helpfully catalogued. A few were not and a rough date could be worked out from looking at surrounding buildings, fashions and other objects like cars. In some cases this took some time and I’m sure my mutterings and wanderings round the reference section in Basingstoke library were a subject of some speculation for staff!

Suburban House in Basingstoke

Suburban House in Basingstoke

The picture on the left illustrates this. It is not one of the photographs I referred to above but shows a house in the suburb of Basingstoke. This picture may be roughly dated by the car in the foreground. This may be done by looking at the date identifier on the registration plate. Alternatively, you can check when this model of car was in production. This would give the date range during which the picture might have been taken.

One final area in which pictures can help is in jogging the memory. When the occasion demands a picture can act as an aide memoir and open up the memory. This is something the family historian finds invaluable when trying to find additional information for a family member.

Remember, your photographs are a record of the people and places that are in them. They are much more than a simple picture.

Have fun with your photographs and researching your family history.

By Terry Firth (contributing author)

Terry lives in Hampshire UK. An experienced reference librarian, he did research for the public, business and the and local authorities. Later Terry managed the Hampshire County reference and local studies services. He was a Board member on the Sense of Place South East External link - opens new tab/page which managed a digitisation/website project for five local authorities including ‘Hantsphere’ External link - opens new tab/page. Terry now runs ‘Terry Firth Research Services’ External link - opens new tab/page using his experience doing family history research for clients worldwide.

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Family History (Genealogy) is for photographers

This picture represents the future of your images

This picture represents the future of your images

Time and Photographs Stand Still For No Man

I recently read an article that gave me a new insight. Shedding Light on Your Life and Times External link - opens new tab/page highlights what a heritage we are building up by taking photographs.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow are concepts that as photographers we sometimes forget to consider. Time, a compositional element, has a longer view than just the moment the photograph was taken. The ordinary photograph above was taken in a time that is long gone. Yet, we recognise it and can relate to it. That’s because everything in it screams of yester-year. Any photograph we take today will become dated in some way, and eventually in every way.

Shedding Light on Your Life and Times External link - opens new tab/page is a reminder that what you photograph today will, one day, become a reminder of the past. Possibly your work will be a subject for research at some time in the future. This is true of everything in your pictures.

Photography already reaches back 150 years. The pictures have chronicled some incredible changes in that time. What will your images say about you in another 150 years? It is possible – even probable – your photographs will be passed down your family for hundreds of years. The next time you take a photograph consider what you are showing to future generations. It might be important to you. It might be history to them!

Google Honors an Early Photographer

Todays Google Doodle honors Eadweard J. Muybridge who is celebrated for his pioneering photography using stop-frames.

Todays Google Doodle honors Eadweard J. Muybridge is celebrated for his pioneering photography using stop-frames.

The Google Doodle today is an animation of a famous study of horses in motion. The photographer, Eadweard J. Muybridge, is best known for this work. Muybridge was engaged by race horse owner and breeder Leland Stanford. Artists had depicted horses running with all four legs off the ground. Stamford, a californian business man and horse breeder, wanted proof of this locomotion. Muybridge deployed 24 cameras to take detailed film sequences capturing the motion of horses legs throughout the galloping cycle. He produced a film strip that showed the whole range of leg positions.

Muybridge did his work for Stamford in 1872. The sequence he produced proved that all four legs did indeed leave the ground at once. Artists had depicted the legs streched out to the front and behind when this happened. Muybridge showed that the legs were all tucked up under the body at the time they were all off the ground. The position is shown in the Google screen capture above in the first column.

Muybridge was born in Kingston on Thames, UK, on 9th April 1830. He later lived in the United States. While recouperating from a serious stage coach accident he became a committed photographer. He initially focused on landscapes establishing his career as a photographer. After his success with the horse film sequences he continued to investigate human and animal movement. His work was associated with academic papers and popular books. He died of a heart attack in 1904.

His work on the film sequences is widely regarded as a precursor to modern videography. Muybridge invented the zoopraxiscope during the course of his work on movement. The moving-sequence invention was one of the earliest attempts to animate film into moving pictures. His early popular insights into movement in film are said to have contributed to the later developments leading to motion pictures and eventually cinema.

Shutter button

The shutter button is an interesting part of the camera. It is the centre of the cameras operation and it works according to the context in which it is used. Today we have another definition for our glossary…
The Shutter Button, Shutter release, or release – a functional control part of the modern DSLR

The humble shutter button has a long history. In early cameras it was actually simply a tab on the shutter itself. The photographer flicked open the shutter and closed it again when the exposure was finished. We are talking a long time ago! You can find out more about the history of the camera and photography here.

The ‘Negative’, What Is It?

In the days of film, a ‘negative’ had a universal meaning for photographers. Over the last decade digital photography has turned that around. The negative has become almost lost into obscurity. However, the term is kept alive in modern post processing. Here is a definition…

Definition: Negative

Definition: Negative | Glossary entry

A negative is a picture that is tonally reversed from the normal arrangement of colours or tones.

A negative is a picture that is tonally reversed from the normal arrangement of colours or tones. In this black and white photograph the image of the boy has been post-processed to create a negative.


 The word ‘Negative’ in modern photography is a noun to describe one of two things.

  1. A tonally reversed image on film used in the process of developing the final picture…
    In the days of film the negative was a transparent, flexible film that was coated with photographic chemicals. These had been developed in a chemical bath and some of the chemicals had been dissolved off the film. What was left was a picture ‘fixed’ to the film. This picture was a ‘negative’. It was so called because the tones had been reversed. When a print was made from the reversed-tone image in the negative it comes out as a correct tonal display, forming a positive image which is normally then printed to photographic paper.
  2. A tonally reversed image created in post-processing of a digital file…
    In digital photography the images are all positive. They are taken from the camera in a file and displayed in normal tonal arrangement on screen as originally imaged. However, a ‘negative’ can be displayed by applying a post-processing filter to the file. The filter mimics the negative by reversing the tonal relationships in the file. This is an artificial change and therefore not a negative in the original sense (1. above). Today this treatment is seen as processing to create a new image in its own right. In previous times the negative was part of the process of creating a photograph and was not normally used as a piece of art in its own right.


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A History of Photography – Part Six

Canon Digital SLR Camera EOS 5D Mark II + EF24-105 Kit

Canon Digital SLR Camera EOS 5D Mark II + EF24-105 Kit

The Digital Age

The digital age of photography began in 1973. The invention of the integrated circuit chip in the late 1950s led to new electronic developments in the 1960s including the first Charge Coupled Device, or CCD chip. Each light-sensitive point on the chip changes the light intensity to an electric charge (in a capacitor). The charge is passed across the chip to an amplifier which creates a voltage. The CCD chip captures a frame at a time by coupling the charges and passed across the array. Fairchild Semiconductor    External link - opens new tab/page released the first large image-forming CCD [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge-coupled_device ] chip of 100 rows and 100 columns in 1973 (black and white only). This was followed in 1975 by a colour CCD. Yet it was over a decade before Kodak invented the first megapixel sensor (one million pixels per sensor – 1986).

The charge coupling method was invented using minimal chip components. As integrated circuit chips improved the Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor chip    External link - opens new tab/page (CMOS) was developed. Used for general integrated circuits the CMOS chip also provided a platform for imaging sensors.

The 1980s saw significant advances in circuit miniaturisation using the CMOS technology. CMOS chips allowed many components to be built into each pixel where light-stimulated charges were created. During the 1980s this saw each light sensitive area of the chips surface become not only a charge generator, but also its own mini-amplifier. These “Active Pixel Sensors” (APS) simplified the building of the chips – making them cheaper than older CCD technology.

Early 1990’s experiments with CMOS/APS technology showed advantages over CCD sensors. They compared well, but as the CMOS technology developed it proved to be more advantageous.

Advantages of the CMOS Vs. CCD

CMOS – cheaper to build

  • ‘Blooming effect’ minimised (strong light does not bleed-over electric charge to the next pixel)
  • Easy integration of light sensor and camera management into one chip
  • Lower power consumption
  • Faster image data processing

Disadvantages of the CMOS Vs. CCD

  • CMOS sensor captures data a row at a time from the sensor array. This may cause image skew (tilt depending on the direction of camera or subject is moving). Stationary objects will not skew, but something moving would be gradually captured at a row-a-time leading to some distortion as the movement changes between row captures. This does not happen when the whole frame is captured at once (CCD).
  • Relatively high noise levels compared to CCD requiring noise reduction technologies.

By the late 1990s CMOS technology had largely displaced the pure CCD chip. This was mainly because CMOS chips were easily developed into Active Pixel Sensors (APS) – a type of architecture for the image sensor chip. This should not be confused with the ‘Advanced Photo System Type-C’ sensor format used in many SLRS. An APS is a chip developed for a specific job, like imaging and camera management. Other application specific chips might be built for running a car, or being the processor in a desk-top computer. These types are not interchangeable.

Application specific chips enabled manufacturers to develop specialised chips for digital cameras. These systems captured the light intensity and colour. They also, processed the data, reduced noise, managed data storage and did camera management. Such chips is the Canon Digic system    External link - opens new tab/page processor range performs many powerful tasks beyond imaging. Its main function is the image exposure. It also provides ‘presets’ – selections the user can make. These allow use of sophisticated photography techniques with little photographic knowledge. The “night preset” sets the shot for very dark conditions and still produces a good image. The same applies to the portrait preset, landscape preset and so on. The camera program runs these ‘typical’ picture situations on behalf of the photographer. The latest version of the Digic processor can do some interesting new tasks. For example it can recognise 12 faces per picture and index them according to data given in advance. The user can upload pictures to social networking sites and the camera reports who is in the picture without user intervention. The Digic processor can also carry out ‘landscape recognition’ setting the camera up appropriately. These advances are computing tasks integrated into the imaging chip system.

Today most amateurs and professionals consider digital imaging systems in modern cameras to be at least equivalent to film in flexibility if not quality. It is fair to say that film still has a place in high end photography, particularly large format film. There are also some environmental conditions under which digital technology has not performed well – especially wet or extreme cold conditions. Late version high end professional range cameras have recently addressed this with improved environmental sealing.

Digital has surpassed film in many ways impacting the market to the extent that several big film companies have changed direction or gone out of business. Kodak recently filed for bankruptcy in the United States. While the brand may survive, it is unlikely that film production will ever start again. Digital has, for the moment at least, won the day.

It is difficult to see what the next stage in digital imaging will be. As with many industries, we may see a late resurgence of legacy-style systems in an unusual way. Many old recordings on records have moved onto CD. So, ‘film’ systems may in the future see a resurgence as an interesting hobby, supported by a renewed industry springing up. It is doubtful this will ever be more than a hobby market.

The human eye can see about 15 to 18 stops of light – a digital camera about 10 stops, film about 8 stops. This leads to loss of depth and contrast in digital (and film) images. High Dynamic Range photography (HDR) enhances this contrast-distinction by integrating images from different dynamic ranges into an image range similar to the eyes’ own range. While HDR images have a deeper tonal richness, the enhancement is artificial. Most HDR is detectable and artificial in appearance. However, greater sensor capability is developing. In time digital imaging will mimic the dynamic range of the eye, rendering dynamic ranges the eye cannot detect from real.

Stereoscopic three-dimensional photography is already advanced. However, the possibilities for still images are limited at present. So there are potential developments likely in that for the near future.

Innovation has always driven the passion in photography. So bring on the new inventions!

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.