I was interviewed by Alexandra Juryte of Revolution 360. I’ve been interviewed by publications for recording engineering and music (I play keyboards and guitar), but this was I believe my first interview as a photographer.
Ken Lee, the creative force behind Eleven Shadows, was born in Frankfurt, Germany, but moved to the U.S early on. Ken is of Chinese ancestry, although it appears that he may have a little Mongolian blood as well!! Ken has 10 years of classical training on piano. He also started recording experimental sounds on cassette, as well as creating recordings of radio stations that didn’t actually exist (these often had commercials for non-existent products and concerts that weren’t actually happening, strange playlists mixing rock, Bollywood and experimental songs, and then playing this for unsuspecting listeners. He creates music in collaboration with a number of talented people from Los Angeles area.
KL. I am seriously considering going to southern Namibia, but if that falls through or I cannot afford it, I may go to India again or visit Viet Nam.
Each year, it’s something different. Last year, I really wanted to be immersed by strange rock formations, geysers, and so forth, so I picked Iceland. Later, a tour I had booked fell through, and I realized that the trip was really too expensive for me, so I instead went to the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, which has the El Tatio geysers, strange rock formations, salt plains, and other things. It’s funny that one would choose Chile in place of Iceland as a similar substitute, but that’s what I did. The experience was fantastic. Not many people travel to Chile just to go to the Atacama Desert, but I had a great time. Lovely people, too.
R. Some of your images reflect the extraordinary faces from varies cultures oftennotseen by many. What attracts you to these subjects and these remote places?
KL. I’m not sure. I haven’t thought about that much, but I think it’s for several reasons.
I’m attracted to certain unique cultures or certain regions of the world, first and foremost, so that probably just reflects my interests. If the people are involved in arts or music, and especially if they have a unique perspective, I’m interested in meeting the people there and experiencing everything. I also often like to avoid large crowds of tourists, so I suppose that increases the likelihood that I go to a more remote place, although I found Salvador in Brazil fascinating due to their deep love of music even thoughthat is the third largest in Brazil.
The next day, Paula left. However, her phone call from Singapore several hours later, in a sort of “code” that we had agreed upon before, left us in cold shock. The airport officials, who had her name on a list, had demanded to search her belongings, confiscating all her film, books, and cassettes. Luckily, she had not been detained. But we thought, “If the Burmese military identified her, surely they’re on to us!”
Nevertheless, I wanted to escape with at least a few rolls of our film. I purchased ten rolls of film, shooting one or two pictures in each before rewinding the film. I then placed these rolls in my lead-lined bag as a decoy. Lisa and I hid the rest of the film in every crevice of our backpacks, including dirty socks, aspirin bottles, shirts, shoes, artwork. I even jammed a roll in each of my shoes, which caused great pain as the day wore on. “What if they get really upset that we’re hiding this?” Lisa asked. But still we did it. We had nothing of value, nothing inflammatory, and felt odd to hide such innocuous photos from the military. I locked my backpack several different ways and hoped for the best.
Still completely dark, we arrived early that morning at the dimly-lit airport, checked our luggage in, and sat nervously in the waiting room for two hours watching Bon Jovi videos. We couldn’t relax until the plane had lifted off the ground, one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard.
“You have no idea how happy we are to be in India!” I exclaimed to the Indian immigration official.
I feel so fortunate to have met her and photographed her. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve befriended and photographed Ronnie James Dio while on the way to India. Well, actually, that’s not true – his wife Wendy took the photo of the two of us together. And I’ve also met and photographed Jimmy Page and Jack White and a few others.
I am also influenced by Kevin Meredith. He is prolific in quite a few areas of photography, including light painting, running your camera up high on a kite and taking photos, Polaroid, and many others, frequently using Lomos, these cool little Russian film cameras that are considered “lo-fi” but often exhibit interesting optical distortions, light leaks, and so forth. There’s a whole movement of Lomography. And Kevin takes many photos with Lomos and cross-processes the film, creating vibrant saturated images that really cannot be done with Photoshop, as well as many other kinds of photography. He has an interesting book called “Photo Op: 52 Inspirational Projects for the Adventurous Image-Maker” that is crammed full of many inspirational ways of taking photos that make your head swim with creativity.
I don’t have a Lomo, but I do have a Fisher Price toy camera, inspired by books like “Photo Op”. It creates these odd fuzzy film-like images, but really lo-fi. I’m a special education teacher, and have students who are severely developmentally delayed. But since the Fisher Price camera is rubberized and virtually indestructible, I taught a couple of students how to use it. They caught on, and after a while, they ran amok, zooming around the school taking photos, having lots of fun. And a lot of the photos are really fantastic, interesting images, interesting perspectives of people, even photos of people’s mouths opening wide and all sorts of things, and some quite gorgeous. The other students and the staff thought it was fun, too.
For music, I am definitely influenced by Brian Eno, not only for his music, but general philosophical approach. I think I’m influenced by Javanese gamelan music, although not overtly. And definitely Jimmy Page in the way he would select different amp and guitar combinations to layer his guitar parts like an orchestra, such as on “Ten Years Gone”. Also, The Cocteau Twins, King Tubby, Nels Cline’s experimental and improvisational live shows, John Frusciante, Sigur Ros, and Radiohead. And of course I’ve been influenced by all the people that I’ve played music with over the years.
KL. “The Dark Ages”. Such a funny term since it is supposed to indicate a period of intellectual darkness in the Middle Ages. But I think there was a lot going on intellectually during this time. If we’re talking about the time between the 6th Century to the start of the Italian Renaissance and my mission is to find and photograph three of the most important figures of the time, I would go to North Africa to photograph Prophet Mohammed, who would be admittedly in the early early part of this time period, would be one. It’d be pretty hard to find someone more influential than him. And then I would also travel across the Mongolian steppes to photograph Genghis Khan and follow Marco Polo as he traveled to China.
If my time capsule goes awry and I can go to more time periods, I would consider following Jesus out to the desert or the Sermon of the Mount, or going to India to find Buddha in Bodh Gaya as he attains Enlightenment, or to travel to photograph Mary, mother of Jesus, at the Annunciation. Or maybe since I would be bringing back photos, I would switch one of those people for Helen of Troy so I could photograph a woman who was so beautiful she launched a thousand ships.
I’ve been receiving some information about the new flagship Nikon camera, the D4. here’s a link to the manufacturer’s website. Every once in a while, I’ll link to something that may be of interest, and today, that’s the D4.
King of Low Light
One of the specs I’m most interested in is its low-light capability, with an ISO Range of100-12,800 (extendable from 50 – 204,800). I’m going to repeat that again. 204,800. One can only hope that light sensitivity like this will eventually filter its way down to more affordable cameras for the rest of us. In my opinion, this is one area where Nikon shines. I think Canon offers more “bang for the buck”, but when Nikon is offering low light sensitivity like this, it’s difficult to look elsewhere for this price range.
Additionally, the D4 offers HDR, combining multiple images in-camera to produce images with increased dynamic range. Obviously, other cameras that are considerably cheaper do this too, but something tells me that this’ll do it really darn well.
The D4 also has a giant new higher-resolution 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, but has also added a 91,000 pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix metering sensor that senses brightness and color, and supposedly interprets this with increased accuracy in color reproduction and balanced exposure. And it adds face recognition, an appealing feature that is on many consumer cameras, but has often been left off cameras designed for professional use.
1080p HD Video
Probably the biggest, most obvious change is that Nikon has no doubt been noticing how well the 5D Mark II has been doing in the professional video market and wants to step it up. Coupled with its fantastic low-light capabilities, The D4 captures HD 1080p video at various frame rates, easily suitable for broadcast quality video, and is capable of streaming the video out its HDMI port.
Field Monitor and Remote Capable Through iPad
Of some interest as well is that Nikon reports that the D4 is also iPhone/iPad compatible. But what does this mean? You can control the D4 via a web browser through your iPhone or iPad. Nikon uses an HTTP protocol, meaning that with a Wifi or other internet connection, you can control the D4 remotely. This could be handy for photographers or filmmakers who, say, have the camera attached to the top of a basketball backboard for sporting events, attached to a moving vehicle, or perched on top of a tree or crane.
The Sucky Part
I’ve seen on several reviews that due to the increased functionality of the camera, the battery life is lower. However, Nikon has said that they are coming out with a new battery that promises better battery life.
Overall, this sure makes me wish I had US$6000.
Equipment: I currently use a Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, and a 50mm f/1.4 lens.
I came across photos of this abandoned leper colony, left to rot on the island of North Brother, just 350 yards from The Bronx. This was a quarantine zone, leper colony, and center for drug addicts, once home to hundreds of patients, now abandoned to nature. As with many abandoned buildings, this is eerie. But the nature of the building makes it perhaps more akin to the photos I’ve posted of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia in some respects.
Link: The short article is by Liz Hazelton on the Daily Mail, with photography by Ian Ference/Barcroft Media. Thanks to Scott for the link!
A couple of photos from my Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum collection of photos that I took during my visit to West Virginia in 2010:
Equipment: Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens
Article by Tim Barribeau.
Thanks to Lee for the link!
Arirang Festival, North Korea, in the world’s largest stadium, with 100,000 people performing. That is not a typo. Photo from Trek Earth.
As I mentioned, every once in a while, I’ll link to something that I think you’ll find fascinating, whether it’s camera equipment or photos. This time, it’s photos of North Korea, the Hermit Kingdom, a place where it’s rather difficult to come by photos because it’s sealed off from the rest of the world. And although their dictator, Kim Jong Il, passed away recently, there’s no reason to believe much will change any time soon.
And in a country where homes have speakers that blare propaganda early each morning and you are thrown in the slammer for sitting on a newspaper that has a photo of their “beloved” dictator or contacting the outside world, maybe we could at the very least wish their citizens well this holiday season.
As I mentioned, every once in a while, I’ll link to something that I think you’ll find fascinating, whether it’s camera equipment or photos. This time, it’s photos. And this feels almost like time travel. Note that I said “almost”; it’s without that slightly nauseous, disorienting feeling one gets from time travel.
These are some amazing hundred year old photos of Russia, all in color, all from the Library of Congress! I know…all of us thought that everything was in black and white a hundred years ago. But the high quality of the photos as well as the vibrant colors make it seem as if these were taken recently, not before World War I or the Russian Revolution.
At this point, you may be asking, “Hey…that was a long time ago, but these look *incredible*! How were they photographed?”
Turns out that photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was a pretty bright apple who figured out how to create images in color by shooting three different negatives, using either a red, green, or blue filter, photographing them in fairly rapid sequence. He then recombined them, showing them in color through a projection system using the same three filters. Read about it in more detail here.