Saturday, December 31, 2016

Comparison ~ Sony, Sigma, Nikon 50mm, 60mm, 85mm

I remember a great blog entry from some time back that showed the Sony 50mm f/1.8 SEL OSS to be as sharp wide open as a Leica 50mm f/2 lens.   That link is unfortunately broken.  Searching around I found another site that effectively shows the same thing.

So, I couldn't help myself.  Attracted by the Sony 50mm f/1.8 SEL OSS (I'm getting old and shaky) and interested to see how it stacked up against my "reference" lens, the Sigma 60mm Art DN, I taped le Canard Enchaine to the wall and had a wee-peek at things.

My by now standard comparison setup -
  • Sony A6000, "A" mode, ISO100, 2 second delay trigger, very sturdy tripod
  • Sony 50mm f/1.8 SEL OSS - shot in AF mode
  • Sigma 60mm f/2.8 EX DN E - as my standard reference shot in AF mode
  • Nikon 85mm f/2 Ai - just because, shot obviously as a manual focus lens
Here is the scene -

Sony/Sigma/Nikon Comparison Setup

Here are the comparison results (be sure to look at these at 100% over on Flickr)


My (yet again rather obvious) observations include -

The Sony 50mm f/1.8 SEL OSS appears to be a nice lens.  From wide open it controls aberrations quite nicely (particularly compared to the old Nikkor f/2).  The resolution seems adequate to just about any task.  And yet it simply doesn't match the Sigma in terms of hard resolution at f/1.8 or f/2 (apertures that the Sigma doesn't offer).  By f/2.8 the Sony and Sigma lenses are nearly indistinguishable.

Looking at the luminosity curve of the RAW files straight out of the camera reveals something interesting in the way these two lenses behave.  With the Sony I can see highlight regions spread the luminosity range more broadly than the Sigma.  The Sigma's file shows a distinctive bump toward the highlights and falls off like a cliff.  It's amazing to look at the differences between the two curves and remember how contrast is a very important element to understanding how humans perceive resolution.  And this right here is very likely why the Sigma looks to perform so brilliantly compared to other lenses.  It's how the optic passes contrast to the sensor.

The Nikon 85mm f/2 Ai is outstanding from wide open and corner to corner.  However the contrast is lower than the modern lenses due to spherical aberrations at wide apertures.  You can see the effect in this comparison.  Look carefully at the f/2 center square.  See how sharp the letters are, but how a light "fog" overlays the scene?  That's the effect of spherical aberration.  Things clean up a stop or two down from wide open and is indistinguishable from currently designed optics.

My by now standard disclaimer:
I've learned long ago that I can very nearly match image resolution between just about any lens set by making adjustments to the luminosity curve.  Rarely is a lens so bad that it's resolution would be clearly worse than a high quality modern lens.  So if all a person has or if all a person can afford is something old and manual focus, there's no need to fret.  No one will be able to walk up to a big print and say "well, gosh, you should've used a sharper lens."  Why?  Because no matter what a photographer uses, it's always Always ALWAYS the mind, the creativity, and concepts of a photographer that viewers (even "educated" fellow photographers) will respond to.  There is not a single person on Planet Earth who can tell you what lens made what image (except maybe the photographer).  It simply does not "work" that way.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Comparison ~ Sigma, Nikon, Sony fixed focal length and zoom

Before I sell the Nikon 80-200 f/4.5 N I wanted to see how it compared to my other optics.  Just in case I had a stellar lens on my hands and didn't realize it.

My by now standard comparison setup -
  • Sony A6000, "A" mode, ISO100, 2 second delay trigger, very sturdy tripod
  • Sigma 60mm f/2.8 EX DN E - as the standard reference shot in AF mode
  • Nikon 85mm f/2 Ai - just because, shot obviously as a manual focus lens
  • Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5 N Ai - up for sale, shot obviously as a manual focus lens
  • Sony 55-210 f/4.5-6.3 SEL OSS - the one the focuses correctly, shot in AF mode
Here are a few family photos -

Comparison - Sigma, Sony, Nikon lenses 60mm to 210mm
Comparison - Sigma, Sony, Nikon lenses 60mm to 210mm
Comparison - Sigma, Sony, Nikon lenses 60mm to 210mm

Here are the comparison results (be sure to look at these at 100% over on Flickr)

Comparison - Sigma, Sony, Nikon lenses 60mm to 210mm

My (rather obvious) observations include -

The Sigma 60mm Art DN is incredible from wide open and corner to corner.  This is why it is my reference optic.

The Nikon 85mm f/2 Ai is outstanding from wide open and corner to corner.  However the contrast is lower than the modern lenses due to spherical aberrations at wide apertures.  Things clean up a stop or two down from wide open and is indistinguishable from currently designed optics.  I want to keep one of the three 85mm lenses I own.  All are up for sale, but I can't decide between the f/2 (more modern) and f/1.8 single or multi-coated very slightly software wide open but with nice swirly bokeh early Nikon designed optics.  There's no rush as none of these have interested buyers at this point.

The Sony 55-210 f/4.5-6.3 SEL OSS that focuses correctly looks like it's OK (adequate) at 55mm and 135mm.  It's not going to knock anyone's socks off, but it looks like a decently sharp optic that can get the job done.  My sample looks brilliant at 210mm's, however.  I can't believe it.  But there you have it.  A nice, cheap lens that can do what I expect it to do. This is a "keeper."

The Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5 N Ai used to be a rather expensive optic.  Nikon did a lot of design work on the series and their effort is apparent in the results seen here.  At 80mm and 135mm it's sharper than the new Sony 55-210mm all the way into the corners (where is looks pretty darned fine, actually).  At 200mm, however, there appears to be a bit of spherical aberration (or something) that clouds the image quality.  Still, for 80Euros this isn't a 1/2 bad lens.  Not by a long shot.

I've learned long ago that I can very nearly match image resolution between just about any lens set by making adjustments to the luminosity curve.  Rarely is a lens so bad that it's resolution would be clearly worse than a high quality modern lens.  So if all a person has or if all a person can afford is something old and manual focus, there's no need to fret.  No one will be able to walk up to a big print and say "well, gosh, you should've used a sharper lens."  Why?  Because no matter what a photographer uses, it's always Always ALWAYS the mind, the creativity, and concepts of a photographer that viewers (even "educated" fellow photographers) will respond to.  There is not a single person on Planet Earth who can tell you what lens made what image.  It simply does not "work" that way.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

In the Age of Post-Photography - a few properties

I've written and rewritten this blog entry several times.  Nothing felt right.  Nothing expressed my thoughts clearly enough.  What I wanted was to expand on earlier thoughts of living in the Age of Post-Photography.

"... Post-Photography means having gone beyond traditional photographic image making.  It means the apparatus of photo creation has been subsumed and integrated into technologies in a way that the complexities of its use have been eliminated.  It means that the purpose of images in our lives has evolved to inhabit a new place.  We no longer see "cameras" as tools.  We see image making as part of a much broader, more highly integrated social experience.  We love to see ourselves..."

This description feels a little restrictive and more than a little negative.  Yes, a shocking number of photographs made these days are for narcissistic reasons.  But not all of us are in love with the image of ourselves, are we?  No, for many of us the exercise of image making remains a much broader experience.  I cast around for a way to organize my thoughts and tried to find words for my feelings on the topic.  

Casually reading Sally Mann's "Hold Still" I had to stop.  What was that I just read?  Did she really just say that?  Yes.  There it was.  The very things I failed to find words for.  There they were on page 151 of my hardbound copy.  It was a little over halfway down the page.  Written by someone I deeply admire.

"... How can a sentient person of the modern age mistake photography for reality?..."

Isn't this exactly what some critics of news and reporting photography are fighting over?  Isn't this exactly what has caused such a problem for some people when they learned that Magnum and AP photographers "improved" their images through modification?  Wasn't it exactly this mistake that some people made when they looked at my images of Catwoman?  The wailing and moaning, for what? 

"... All perception is selection, and all photographs - no matter how objectively journalistic the photographer's intent - exclude aspects of the moment's complexity..."

This brilliantly states the case against photography as reality.

If photography is not this, then what is it?  One might need to be careful as asking these kinds of questions feel like an all too slippery slope.  Some of us might end up in a place we didn't expect and certainly might not like.  Photography might no be what we want to believe.

Guy Tal wrote in Lenswork Magazine #127 "On Sacred Cows and Roosting Chickens" about how we have a basic understanding of the differences between fiction and nonfiction writing.  We understand when we read a novel that what we read is not real in the physical, historical sense.  We accept this and still find reading novels pleasurable.  We expect accuracy and truth when we read nonfiction.  We can learn things about reality, truth, and the world around us.  In writing we accept these different styles and are comfortable with various distinctions.  Yet we have no similar understanding for how to engage photographic images.  There is no way of sorting what we see into fiction and nonfiction in a way that we can be comfortable, enjoy, and appreciate both.

I find it easier to think in terms of image making than it is to think about photography.  It's such a "loaded" word, photography.  I find it nearly impossible to use the word without bumping against the wall of assumed reality.  

What if we could acknowledge that the field of image making is a continuum of experience and expression that spans a much greater space than previously agreed to?

What if there is space enough for those who choose "straight" image making?

What if there was room enough for those who modify things in a way that match their vision?

What if there was yet more than enough room to include those who choose to use image making technologies to electronically draw or paint?

What if image making could cast aside it's assumptions of reality and fully embrace photography's true nature as an expression of creativity?

I find the phrase Age of Post-Photography allows me to move beyond this wall of photographic tradition and the trap of thinking something represents reality when very clearly it does not and can not.

Catwoman ~ Paris, France

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

In the Age of Post-Photography - where are we now?

We have entered the age of Post-Photography.

Post-Photography means having gone beyond traditional photographic image making.  It means the apparatus of photo creation has been subsumed and integrated into technologies in a way that the complexities of its use have been eliminated.  It means that the purpose of images in our lives has evolved to inhabit a new place.  We no longer see "cameras" as tools.  We see image making as part of a much broader, more highly integrated social experience.  We love to see ourselves.

A few days after I posted my initial thoughts on finding myself living in the age of post-photography, my wife, Judith, pointed me to a series of articles which feel directly related to the topic.  Following the links and references in the first article led me down an interesting rabbit hole of thought, analysis and critique.

The article that started the descent into the rabbit hole is a review of Sally Mann's book titled "Hold Still" where she writes "... Whatever of my memories hadn’t crumbled into dust must surely by now have been altered by the passage of time..."  I read this in Proust (who is mentioned in the article).  There is a hazy, golden, glowing feeling about the past that very likely does not match the facts of the experiences at the time people lived them.  Time reliably changes what's in our unreliable minds.  Unless, that is, we find something, somewhere that acts as a repository into which we place our memories.

An idea occurred to me that is best illustrated in the form of two examples.  Romans carved statues of their leaders and sent them around their empire so their subjects could see who ruled their lives.  Some of these still exist and we can know with a fair amount of clarity and certainty what someone like Julius Caesar looked like.

Similarly, painters were called upon to make records of important events.  David's Coronation of Napoleon is one rather minor physically enormous example.  In fact, our museums are littered with painted representations of people, places, things, and events.

We tend to call these works, these statues, these paintings art.  For us, culturally, the word "art" is loaded and charged.  It has a certain weight.  So it may be hard to see what I'm talking about, unless I tilt the discussion at just the right angle.  Could it be that what we call "art" started out as little more than repositories of memory?    Aren't museums places filled with memories, or more properly, repositories of memory?  Is "art", therefore, an expression of man's battle against our reliably changing unreliable memory?

It should be obvious that this has been the primary purpose of photographic image making.  Starting in the early to mid-1800's *click* snapped the shutter  *slosh* went the chemicals *et voila!* we had a record, a representation of an actual person, place, or event.  Not unsurprisingly traditional artists were nearly instantly put out of work.  Cameras and photographers took over from paints, brushes, chisels, and artists.

Entering the age of Post-Photography it's easy with the simple gesture of a digit to point a device, capture, and share.  With this simple gesture we can see ourselves.  We can recall our experiences.  We might even sense the ghost of our feelings at the time of making the gesture.  Suddenly photographers, too, have been put out of work.

This has caused all manner of trouble in the public discourse around photography.  The loudest voices have traditionally been the "straight out of the camera" photographers.  They've demanded that "true" photography is an unaltered image.  Anything else, anything even slightly altered, to their way of thinking, could not be considered "true" nor "accurate."  In other words, only the "unaltered" could be a proper and correct repository of memory.  They felt themselves to be guardians of reality unvarnished and to be protectors of untainted truth.

I find this particularly fun and interesting.  The Guardians of True Photography, the creators of our memory repositories, they themselves have been found guilty of the very thing they publicly despised.  The problem was found to be so pervasive that the major image distributors (Magnum, AP, etc) have declared that henceforth the only images they will accept shall be in jpg format "straight out of the camera."

Some of us have always the need to push against something, even if it's a straw man of our own creation.  For this I will never forgive St. Ansel of his diatribes against William Mortensen.  Adam's letter wishing Mortensen dead is particularly foul.  While the self-appointed Guardians of Truth can't/won't see it, the old photography edifice of truth and accuracy has collapsed.  Image making has evolved to serve a different purpose, thus rendering their old arguments about what is true and real quite irrelevant.

Susan Sontag wrote "... Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy..."  Perhaps she uncovered an important truth.  Look at the most common use of images today.  People create themselves, their persona, not as they are (the true, the real), but as they wish to be (the fantastic, the desired).

Narcissus' Mirror is used to engender a strong emotional response to something we want to see.  We want to see and to have the world respond to us.  Social media has revealed a great many humans to be in love with themselves.  Such is the power of the phenomenon of the "selfie."

Surely that is not all that's left of the old craft of photography.

To find the part that remains less overtly narcissistic I turn to the very area of the craft that the Old Guardians of photographic truth and accuracy hated to the point of wishing it to die.  It is that part of the craft that attempts to connect us, however mysteriously or not, with our hidden worlds, our hidden thoughts, our hidden emotions, our hidden ideals, and our hidden currents of being.  In the Post-Photographic world it is not the taking of an image, it is the creation of one that interests me most.

Catwoman ~ Paris, France

Monday, November 28, 2016

In the Age of Post-Photography...

Much is being made over the hard-right populist shift in First World global politics.  First it was the BREXIT, then it was the Coming of the Donald, and now the planets are lining up for a hard right shift in France, too.  I don't intend to talk about politics here.  Rather, I would like to borrow and adapt a phrase that has some weight and meaning on the matter.

Here is the phrase I'm thinking of:  Post-Truth

When using the phrase Post-Truth we understand what people believe and what influences people is no longer the truth.  What people want is something different from formerly broadly accepted facts, figures, accuracy, and well-educated and (hopefully) deeply knowledgeable authority.  If I understand the overall trend that has lead to Post-Truth, it is at it's most basic a cry for the individual to be seen and acknowledged.  For me, these are the key words - "seen" and "acknowledged."

I wanted to find a phrase that applies to the field of images and photography, and is ideologically linked to Post-Truth.  With this I would like to propose a somewhat parallel phrase.

Here is what I would like to propose:  Post-Photography

I came to this after following a thread on Facebook where an image I created was discussed and criticised.  The image was a shared effort between myself, a model (Mona Longueville), and my wife, Judith Turano.

I posted the finished work to my two (mostly in English) Facebook pages (personal and public) that I manage here in France.  A few days later Mona shared the work to her page and that's when the fun began.  The thread started out with a few positive comments, as such things commonly do.   But then someone piped up and said (I'm paraphrasing here, as the original French was filled with nuances that don't translate well into English) they didn't like it and that they expected more from the creative team.  A reply to the critique came quickly and another person suggested they didn't like the image either and that we could've done better.

Usually before a critique is offered in France there are questions about the intellectual and artistic framework of the art.  There are usually questions about a work's place in art history and the continuation of an art movement.  Typically people try to understand the context of a work of art so they can educate themselves as to the place and purpose of the thing they are viewing.  They want to know the background so they can respond appropriately.  It is one of the (very many) things I like about living here.  Life and civility tend to extend well beyond the individual to spill into the larger commons and shared spaces (both physical and mental).

Being an American and knowing full well things I learned in the States normally don't apply here in France I simply couldn't let things rest.  I replied that it was their turn to share their art so we could have a wee-look and pass along a critique in return.  The smart-ass that I am I suggested I looked forward to telling them their work, too, could've been better.

All Holy Hell broke loose.   People quickly discarded any attempt to understand the background of the image in question, ignored any discussion photography and photographic history, and set aside intellectual curiosity and accuracy in photographic arts criticism.  People defended positions.  Others said they didn't want to hurt the creative team by saying something negative.  Still others suggested that my response was a little thin skinned and that they didn't mean to hurt me.  In short, I needed to "get over it" and take any and all criticism like a man.

In the end, what the criticism came down to was that some people simply did not like heavily photoshopped work.  They preferred "straight" photography.  Furthermore, and this is very revealing and relevant to the proposed application of the phrase, they themselves feel they create and share "unmanipulated" images, and that, therefore, must be the preferred approach.  It was a matter of simple, unabashed personal preference with a strong subtext of shifting rationalizations and responses.  Could it be what the critics were desiring was to be "seen" and "acknowledged?"

Application of the phrase Post-Photography works on many levels.  A person can shoot to share in the classic photographic tradition what they consider to be unmanipulated images.  A person can choose to create heavily manipulated images.  Or, as is now much more common than not, a person can simply ignore the technology and make images and videos of themselves and their surroundings using their mobile phone.  In each of these areas current imaging practices has moved well beyond the traditional tools, approaches, and viewing responses.

Photography is no longer a means nor an end in itself.  For the vast majority of people imaging has become (to put it rather crassly) a tool of narcissistic self promotion.  In this Post-Photography world the tools of imaging are assumed.  They are integrated into our daily lives to the point they have all but disappeared from our thinking.  The primary impetus for making images or talking about them has narrowed to the point of the individual.

The individual is the shared link in my borrowing and rewriting the phrase Post-Truth into Post-Photography.  Where the individual is the most important element of a belief system and cultural structure I have to wonder what are the roles of conversation, sharing, listening, looking, and civility?

Have we fully have entered the age of Post-Photography?  I believe we have.

Catwoman ~ Paris, France

The Facebook critiqued image
that led to this blog entry

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Indeed, there's something not quite right about the way my first Sony SEL 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS lens focuses.  As you may recall, I complained earlier on this blog about fuzzy dogs and racecars.

It took awhile to locate the problem.  First I tried to keep the Wide area AF points lit up over the subject and watched carefully to ensure this was the case when I had continuous AF enabled.  No joy.  My photos were sometimes obviously out of focus.  Then I tried selecting the center AF point only and found the images were no better in focus than with Wide area AF enabled.

I then photographed a static subject and found the areas behind the intended focus point(s) to be sharp, whereas the areas where the AF points lit up were obviously out of focus.  Further, this happened only at focal lengths greater than approximately 135mm.  I could replicate this behaviour on three different vintage Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras.  It was then that I drew the conclusion that the lens was at fault.

A suitable static, not moving, can't go anywhere test subject

I took the offending lens to a local camera shop and they told me what it would cost to have Sony repair open it up just have a look and, well, I was slapped upside the head with massive sticker shock.  Normally repair facilities will give a free estimate of repairs so that you can decide whether to proceed.  At least this is what I experienced when living in the US.  But no!  Not in France.  Well, not at this (Sony) camera shop, at least.  They want 100Euro just to pry the lens open.  I could do that with a sledgehammer for a lot less than that, right?

The camera shop had a new lens they were willing to let go of for 350+Euro.  Ouch!  I wasn't about to suffer Long Lasting Post Traumatic Stress over a second round of sticker-shock, so I walked out.

Taking a quick look around the 'net I could find nothing locally to test before buying.  That left the obvious option of having something shipped to me.  In this case my next Sony SEL 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS came from Japan.  It arrived today so I set about taking a look at it's AF behaviour.  Here is what I found.


The lens that just arrived focuses the way the gods intended.  I call this "Correct AF" performance.  That is, the portion of the subject nearest the camera is accurately in focus.  The "Incorrect AF" performance is still exhibited by the first copy of the Sony lens I have.  It's lack of AF accuracy is, even now, repeatable.

And speaking of repeatable, what you see above was repeatable in Wide area AF, Center, and with the single center "small" AF point enabled.  The new lens is behaving the way I would expect in every AF mode the Sony A6000 has.  I didn't have to spend a ton of money for my next lens, either.  It was separated from an A5000 kit ensemble, if the seller is to be believed, so it was being sold at a steep discount.  In any event, onward.  I have a sharp and properly focusing lens.  Yea!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

That "vision" thing... again... some more...

Something crawled across my Facebook feed and I had to stop and take a look.  Normally I don't click through to see what FB "recommends" for my, no doubt, pleasurable consumption, but...

There was something about the way the photographer lit the subject and the way the artist appeared to have thought through the ideas and details behind the presentation.  The subject is the man's young daughter.  The theme is super hero super power.  The presentation is down right classy (to me, at least).

One of the local creative people I sometimes work with suggested we do a Catwoman shoot.  Casting about for ideas on how to best present the material, I found inspiration on  There seems to be a common image making approach shared between the super hero and catwoman series.

The subject lighting is classic rim light.  Sometimes there are two hard lights.  Sometimes one is hard and the other soft.  In most cases the front of the subject has details that catch the sidelights.  Little to no front fill appears to be used.  Processing is pretty straight forward composite foreground/background work.  The results are spectacular.

I find this kind of work rather fun and certainly inspirational.  I wonder where this might lead in my own imaging efforts?

Paris Passages ~ Mona Longueville

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Perhaps there's a little production issue with my version of the Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS?

The dogs and cars I've been photographing are less than sharp where I think they should be and I was beginning to think Sony had done a terrible job making their 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS E-mount optic, but I wasn't sure the problem was with the resolution.

When I'd taken a recent look at the lens in comparing it with other optics I noticed the edges of the comparison setup were sharper than the center.  This got me to thinking.  Before I could do much about it we went to the US for six weeks to take care of family business and to attend our son's wedding.

Once home I used the "force" (Google) to research back-focus issues with this particular lens.  Over on DPReview I found someone talking about their experience with seemingly the very same issue.  What struck me were the responses where people said the phenomenon was impossible.  The thinking was that since the Sony A6000 has on sensor phase detect that the problem had to be with the user.  Said another way, PDAF supposedly _ensured_ accurate AF and there was no way it could fail.  Evidence led me to believe the problem was not mine, but lay with the lens, PDAF or no.

When I photographed cars and dogs I took to using the center AF point and kept that point right over the thing I wanted in focus.  Yet that part of the scene was seldom (never?) in focus, whereas the area a few feet (about a meter, maybe two meters) behind the intended focus point was always tack sharp.

At that point I decided to investigate the issue further.  I set up a simple test.
  • Sony A6000 with phase detect (PDAF) as well as contrast detect (CDAF) AF enabled
  • Sony NEX-5T with PDAF enabled, and then retested with CDAF only (in case the problem really was with PDAF)
  • Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS SEL at various focal lengths and apertures
  • Test target 1: Trees in front of a brick building at around 30 meters (give or take)
  • Test target 2: Edge of a building with foreground and background sloping away from me
Here is test target 1.  As you can see, the tree has a bit of depth to it -

Sony 55-210 f/4.5-6.3 OSS backfocus issue

Here is test target 2.  This test concentrated on corner of the transition from lighter plaster to rock area on the right -

Sony 55-210 f/4.5-6.3 OSS backfocus issue
Here is the test comparison.  I share the f/8 results here as the f/6.3 and f/11 results are identical.  Open the link and locate the full resolution version of the image to verify differences between the various panels - 

Sony 55-210 f/4.5-6.3 OSS backfocus issue

In each image I ensured that the AF box(es) that lit were directly over the center of the scene.  With this in mind, what I see is that the camera did not matter and neither did the AF mode (PDAF or CDAF), the lens clearly focuses behind the point that the AF system tells me is being selected.  As confirmation of the condition and that I'm not loosing my mind, when I focus manually the intended focus point is achieved and the lens is actually acceptably sharp.  Lastly, the phenomenon is experienced starting around 135mm.  Focal lengths less than 135mm seem to focus accurately and correctly.

My copy of the lens is not behaving the way I think it should (understatement, I know).  So, I've written Sony France to ask if it might be repairable for something less than the cost of a used copy (which I of course would carefully test prior to purchase) off leboncoin.  I was in a little snarky mood when I wrote them so we'll see what they come back with, if anything.  

I'd purchased this lens as a used item at the Bievre camera swap and it's well beyond it's warranty period.  Sony really doesn't owe me anything.  Though I would much prefer a lens that can AF correctly, right?  I might have to go buy another and jeter this one into the recycling bin.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

... and this may be why...

For years I've felt, as many others do, that high end cameras are little more than branding exercised by the companies that sell these kinds of products.  In short: Cameras as Bling.  Toys to impress strangers.  As if I needed any incentive to beat an already dead horse, along comes something interesting.

Frankly I had't thought things had progressed this far, and I don't really know the exact setup used in the following comparison, but... if these results are as they're advertised to be, I have to ask: Why spend MegaBux on a camera when a cell phone will do?  Yes, the devil is still in the details.  But it's hard to argue that cameras really matter anymore.

Just today I received my copies of the Lenswork Magazine "Seeing in Sixes" book project.  I'm very very fortunate to have a small project of mine included.  In talking with Maureen (at Lenswork) I learned that some of the work in the book was made using a cell phone.  I looked long and hard to find the artist's work she talked about and, frankly, I can't see it.  All of the work is of such high technical quality that whichever projects were created using a phone simply doesn't show in the finished results.  What matters not equipment.  What matters is truly something else entirely.

Here is the link to the PetaPixel article comparing an Apple iPhone7 to a Leica M9-P.  You read that correctly.  Maybe it's not the cost of your tools, but how you use them, right?  Is it any wonder that traditional stand alone imaging device manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic) are struggling to compete in a declining market?  Google and Apple are their competition.  So how do conservative companies keep up with game changers?  At this point I see that answer as "not very well."

Read 'um and weep.

Portland ~ with friends
My friend, Vince.  
He's an engineer and fellow photo nut.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

... and then where...?

It's no secret that mobile phones have replaced Point and Shoot cameras.  It's no secret that the market for still cameras is rapidly diminishing.  And it's no secret that consumers will buy whatever appeals to them.

To me it seems Google and Apple are in a race to see who can become king and queen of the consumer imaging market.  This year I've seen Apple iPhone6 imaging ads all over Europe.  When we were in Lisbon I saw a town square filled with tall backlit screens filled with huge enlargements of work made with the mobile device.  Just this week Google announced a new mobile device that DXOMark rates as better than Apple's.  The pace of new product introduction between these two companies reminds me of the days when Canon and Nikon were trying to outcompete one another.

What do the traditional imaging companies try to sell us now that their battle has largely been settled?  Pretty much the same things we've seen for the past decade, or so it appears to me.  The pace of new product introduction has slowed dramatically in recent times.  Other than that, a Canon 5D Mk-whatever is pretty much the same as prior generations.  Even the small companies seem to have slowed their pace of new product introductions.  Sony's APS-C mirrorless product line is very slow to update.  Olympus and Fuji continue to bring incremental improvements to their product offerings.

No one seems able nor willing to keep up with Google and Apple.  There is nothing earth-shattering nor market-attention-grabbing coming from the old companies.  "Sizzle sells" and nobody has the "sizzle" like the two giant electronics network integration social platform foundation companies.

I like what Tony Northrup has to say about the death of the traditional imaging market.  His video seems to accurately describe the present state of things.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Front Ends of Old Cars - a two part image distribution

Following on the heels of the good news from Lenswork Magazine and my inclusion in their "Seeing in Sixes" book project, I thought it could be fun celebration to release another mini-project or two.

With this post I'm releasing "Front Ends of Old Cars" parts one and two.  As you will see, I'm somewhat taken with the six image approach to project sharing.  It hones my mind and forces me to say what I really want to say in a concise manner.

I love automobiles and have ever since my uncle used to give me his Road and Track after he'd read them back in the 1960's and 1970's.  Many of the vintage vehicles I've encountered in Paris are examples of the very cars I used to read about.  The experience of reliving my youth is a powerful one.  Every chance I get I head out the door with cameras in hand to watch my early dreams come true.

Here is "Front Ends of Old Cars" part one.

Here is "Front Ends of Old Cars" part two.

If you have any feedback for me, please feel free to drop me a line.  I'd enjoy hearing from you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Good News... le deuxieme part

As I mentioned in a post from a couple days ago, one of my submissions to Lenswork "Seeing in Sixes" has been picked up and will be published. Here's what one of their editors had to say.

"Hello Christopher… Congratulations (again!) on having your work selected for “Seeing In Sixes.” This is a HUGE accomplishment, as we received nearly 1,900 entries. It was very difficult to whittle down from the 125 finalists; the caliber of work was that good. In the end, less than 3% of the entries – with a tremendous amount of photographic vision and diversity -- will make up the book."

 You can only imagine how thrilled I am to be published alongside 49 other photographic artists.  This is an honor and I can't wait to see everyone's work in print.

Medieval Armor ~ Musée de l'Armée

Monday, August 08, 2016

An interesting bit of history...

I came across this video on Nikon Rumors today.  It's a wartime film made late in the conflict from January to April, 1944.  Setting aside the film's script, I find it interesting to see how lenses are (or were) ground.  According to the comments under the video the factory was destroyed in 1945 when the Allies bombed the area.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Good news...

Finally, something to celebrate.

This morning I received news that Lenswork Magazine selected my Medieval Steel entry to be published as part of their "Seeing in Sixes" book.  50 photographer's work has been selected and of course I'm thrilled to be included.  It's always a pleasure to work with Brooks Jensen and his fine staff.

Medieval Armor ~ Musée de l'Armée

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

How things are changing... deuxieme part

Is there trouble in River City?

In my last post I looked at the changing environment of photography from the perspective of camera equipment as it meets changing consumer demands and imaging habits.  For this post, I'd like to comment on the changing environment of photography from the perspective of what people actually produce with their imaging gear.

There was a time when photography strived to imitate accepted standards of art.  For example and as part of a global art "secessionist movement" in the late 1800's photographers strove to create "painterly" works of a specific style.  Early issues of Camera Work magazine were filled with photo secessionist "art".

Not long after, one of the leading proponents who was, in fact, the editor himself of Camera Work magazine declared the "photo secessionist" movement to be dead.  It was declared that henceforth good and proper photography would no longer re-interpret the world through heavy image manipulation post shutter click.  Rather, photography would now be the domain of capturing and interpreting the "real".

Photo-realism became the norm.  Yet it was an all too often overlooked fact that photo-realism was completely dependant on imaging materials that themselves selectively interpreted the world _for_ the photographer.  Imaging materials, for example, were limited to certain spectrums of light.  Later when color films became widely available, there were certain color shifts that, well, narrowly interpreted the world based on the manufacturers film production formulas.

Increasingly, the materials we used to create images became more sophisticated.  Dry plate replaced wet plate materials.  Celluloid backed "film" replaced glass backed dry plate.  Synthetic backed film replaced celluloid film.  Smaller cameras joined old large format cameras as potential tools of choice for an artist.  Small cameras added exposure reading capabilities, followed by automated application of these readings, followed by automatic focusing of lenses, followed by the replacement of film with digital sensors, followed by the integration of all these automated imaging capabilities into, of all things, telephones.  Et voila!  How's that for a compressed history of photography?

Yet none of these things prevented imaging artists from interpreting the world around them and presenting ideas with skill and training that was based on or in response to classic art concepts.  Lighting and composition in photography were always serious topics.  I strongly suspect there was a reason for this.

When I look at what this marvelous automation has brought, I expected to see serious artists freed from the constraints of learning distracting imaging technologies and and camera control techniques.  I expected that the freedom to create would lead to a large number of talented serious working artists producing amazing images to the delight and wonderment of the rest of us.

Much to my disappointment I'm not sure that's how things turned out.

Instead, I'm shocked by the award winning drivel and dreck that passes for photography these days.  Just look at your Facebook feed or Instagram stream or (and this really hurts as these folks should really know better) your updated daily Flickr "Explore."

If you're an Old Fart like me, you might soon be depressed at the current State of Things.  To (sadly and terribly) drive the point home, have a look at what passes for winners in the British Journal of Photography.  Mind you, this is supposedly "breakthrough" work.  What does any of it mean?  What does any of it say?  To me it says some people have not the faintest clue that composition and lighting can, and dare I say should, be controlled.

If I didn't know artists like Ted Mashima and Ray Bidegain or know of Sally de Witt, Tim Rudman, Beth Moon, Kerik Kouklis, John Wimberly and Sandy King I would think photography was incapable of any and all artistic expression.  If I didn't read Lenswork Magazine on a regular basis I'd think all photographers were lazy "selfie" snapping slobs or expensive camera carrying posers who had no sense of what was possible and what was theirs to compose, manage and create.

Riddle me this, Batman: Where are we as viewers and where, exactly, is photography headed?

Seriously.  I'd like to know.

Carambolages ~ Grand Palais

Monday, June 06, 2016

How things are changing...

For several years I've written about how important I felt the integration of imaging is into the broader range of electronic networked capabilities and applications.  After seeing the following video, I realize I hadn't gone far enough.

While it was easy for anyone who pays attention to such things to see the rise of cell phones as the death of traditional snapshot cameras, and while it was easy to see how pervasive real-time image sharing would become, I missed/completely overlooked the possibilities of real-time video distribution as _the_ way of sharing the intimate details of one's life.

Which seriously and deeply begs the question about future value of stand-alone stills for, well, nearly anything and everything.

For years there has been the question of where to hang all these great prints a person could make quickly, easily, and with wonderful color accuracy.  Simply, there isn't enough wall space in our homes and, perhaps more importantly for those who used to make their livings this way, not enough photographic image buyers.  Where is the demand?

I've also written about how image making has transitioned to the mode of experience sharing.  The value of an individual image quickly is lost in a sea of billions of uploaded images and videos each and every day.  Fundamentally, _how_ we as humans consume images and their relative "importance" in our lives has changed.

We seem to have changed from looking at the works of others as a form of pleasure to looking at people looking at us.  In short: I believe we are witnessing an incredible rise in narcissism.  People seem to be saying "Look! Here I am in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Look!  Here I am next some famous person.  Look!  Look!  Look at _me_!!  I'm wonderful!!!"

It seems natural, then, that if we want to see ourselves and have the world around us respond/react to who we project ourselves to be, that products will be built and sold that fill this demand.  From this perspective I agree with Mr. and Mrs Tony N and their predictions of the future.

What this means for camera manufacturers is that demand for weighty stand-alone non-networkable photography equipment will continue to decline, or dare I say collapse.  If there is sufficient demand for "professional" image making tools (for things like old-style advertising) a few of the current manufacturers may survive, though in a greatly diminished state.  

The on-line fan-boy wars over mirrorless vs DLSR will quickly become irrelevant.  The nit-picking pixel-peeping discussions over lens quality of Canon vs Nikon vs Fuji vs Sony vs Olympus will go away.

To me these are the "easy calls" on the present and near-future state of the photography markets.

What's much harder to predict is what, if any, value there will be for beautiful works of "art" in our lives.  Will there remain enough people who appreciate wonderfully crafted wet-plate collodion, or platinum palladium, or carefully crafted composited photographs that there will be a demand for such things?

I can't even imagine where we're headed.  What do you think?

Passages ~ Paris

Sunday, May 29, 2016

... while awaiting an update, here is something rather good...

This interested me very much and I think it's well worth a look, particularly for those who consider themselves to be "gearheads" or people adamantly interested in camera equipment...

... and if this isn't inspirational, I don't know what would be.  :-)

... au niveau du premier etage...

Sunday, May 08, 2016

60 to 300mm lens comparison ~ 2 Nikkors with Zhongyi Lens Turbo II, 1 Sigma, 1 Sony, 1 Tamron

I'm still in a creative funk.  I'm not inspired by much.  Maybe it's the fact I'm embroiled in trying to gain a new drivers license and it's eating all my time and all my mental space.  So, I hauled out another pair of magazine pages, taped them to a wall and compared another bunch of lenses.

Here is the (by now standard) comparison setup -
  • Sony A6000, 100 ISO, AWR converted in Sony's software
  • Big Beefy Manfrotto tripod
  • Sigma 60mm f/2.8 EX DN E as the control optic - it's sharp sharp sharp
  • Old Nikon manual focus lenses with Zhongyi Lens Turbo II
    • 135mm f/2.8 pre-Ai
    • 300mm f/4.5 pre-Ai
  • Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS E-mount
  • Tamron 150-600mm f/4.5-6.3 at 257mm (according to the EXIF data)
Here are the lenses mounted on a Sony A6000:

Sony A6000 + Sigma 60mm f/2.8 EX DN ~ Lens Comparison Sony A6000 + Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS ~ Lens Comparison Sony A6000 + Nikon 135mm f/2.8 pre-Ai ~ Lens Comparison Sony A6000 + Nikon 300mm f/4.5 pre-Ai ~ Lens Comparison Sony A6000 + Nikon 300mm f/4.5 pre-Ai ~ Lens Comparison The Gang ~ Lens Comparison
The goal was to see under normal contrast conditions how the new and old lenses compared.  Here is the scene:

Test Subject ~ Lens Comparison

 Here are the comparison results (look at this image at full resolution to inspect the various subtle differences):
Lens Comparison ~ Long Lenses + Sony A6000

 The Sony 55-210mm lens did not focus correctly.  I used the camera's AF and something is not correct.  Look at the edges of the frame.  They're sharper than the center.  That is very typical of a lens that's mis-focused.

I did a little digging on the 'net and see other people can experience similar issues with this lens/camera combination.  I'm not sure what's going on here as the phase detection system of the A6000 supposedly operates straight off the sensor.  Furthermore, in my case at least, this condition is not persistent.  Many times when I turn on the camera the AF system works correctly with this combination (see earlier comparisons that I've performed).

All things being equal, the lenses compared here show subtle differences.  The Nikkors shot wide open aren't quite as "tack sharp" as the modern Sigma and Tamron.  In the case of the 135mm f/2.8 Nikkor, the edges of the scene are down-right fuzzy.  However, by f/5.6 it's really very difficult to tell any difference between any of them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

30 to 85mm lens comparison ~ with and without Zhongyi Lens Turbo II

After returning from Lisbon I found I've not be inspired by much.  So, I hauled out another page of newsprint, taped it a wall and compared another bunch of lenses.

The setup -
  • Sony A6000, 100ISO, AWR converted in Sony's software
  • Big Beefy Manfrotto tripod
  • Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN E as the control optic - it's sharp sharp sharp
  • Old Nikon manual focus lenses
    • 35mm f/2 Ai
    • 50mm f/1.8 E-series
    • 50mm f/1.4 pre-Ai (Ai adapted)
    • 55mm Micro-Nikkor f/3.5
    • 85mm f/1.8 K Ai (multi-coated)
    • 85mm f/1.8 H pre-Ai (Ai adapted)
    • 85mm f/2 Ai
  • Zhongyi Lens Turbo II focal reducer
The goal is to see under normal contrast conditions what effect the Lens Turbo II had on optical performance.  I'd shot a comparison along similar lines about a year ago, but that was in a low contrast situation and I was at that time really just looking at the rendition of out of focus areas.

Look at the following at 100 percent to see the differences in performance.  The rows surrounded by red fuzzy bands are the lenses shot without the Zhongyi Lens Turbo II (even though the wording next to these rows says Zhongyi) - the Zhongyi row is the one above the red fuzzy outlined row.  The distance to the target was adjusted by 1.5x to keep the image size equal to those shot with the focal reducer.

Zhongyi LensTurbo II compared to native optics
Observations -
The Zhongyi Lens Turbo II neither improves nor degrades the optical performance of the Nikkor lenses I compared.  If a lens suffers from spherical aberrations when shot wide open, then images made with and without the focal reducer appear equally soft.  Similarly, once an image becomes sharp, both images are equally sharp.

There's one thing that is underscored by performing this comparison and that is that by f/4 every lens performs equally well.  Said another way, my super sharp Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN E is really no better than any of the old, and in some cases very old, Nikon manual focus lenses after f/4.

Friday, April 01, 2016

... so... you spend a month in Lisbon...

I take photography perhaps a little too seriously.

Sintra ~ Palácio Nacional da Pena

It's a non-paying gig. I have no Big Name "clients."  I'm not all over YouTube promoting the latest equipment review.  No journal lists me on their masthead.  By all accepted measures of "success", I must be an abject failure.

Or so it would seem.

But this begs the obvious answer, which is I take this craft and art very seriously because it gives me pleasure.

Sintra ~ Palácio Nacional da Pena

So it is from this perspective and this perspective only that I look back at the month my wife and I spent in Lisbon.

I would like to share a few observations.

Prior to heading south to escape the typically cold, gray, wet winters of Paris for a bit of sun and warmth in Portugal I added Phase One's Capture One to my toolkit.  The Sony only version of the application was cheap enough that I bought it to see what could be done.

Sintra ~ Palácio Nacional da Pena

Two things came with the addition of the new software.  The First was the instant realization that the Capture One RAW engine is visibly superior to Sony's and anyone else's.  The workflow allows me to crunch a vast number of files while using the exact same recipe settings.  Gone are the days of subtle file to file variations in cases where I'm looking for more consistency.

The second is the disappointing application instability in versions 9.0.3 and 9.1.  These versions of Capture One suffers from serious memory leaks.  I worked with their support staff to gain a modicum of stability where I can process perhaps 20 or 30 files before the system runs out of memory or crashes CP1.

Sintra ~ Palácio Nacional da Pena

While we were in Lisbon CP1 released an update to their software.  The signature text size no longer changes, but the memory leaks persist.  My love/hate experiences with paid-for software is renewed.  I came to hate Microsoft for their bug-ridden OS and avoid Apple products at all cost because they're trendy and now world dominating with no clear advantage to me, a lone simple consumer.

Artistically, our time away from Paris allowed me to generate and share 1103 images from our Lisbon experience.  No, not all of this would be considered "art."  Yes, I've started sharing more of the "experience."

Yet in terms of "pure art" I was able to realize and share three complete mini-projects.  The first two projects are devoted to what I saw and felt about the Prazeres Cemetery.

Here is my Prazeres project number one.

Here is my Prazeres project number two.

Sintra ~ Palácio Nacional da Pena

The third project is, for me, something completely new.  After stumbling on the work of Cyril Berthault-Jacquier I was moved to create another work, this one titled "Fractured Spaces - Organized N x 3 - Where N= [1,2,3]"  Cyril's influence on me should be obvious, but already I can see where I've made this approach my own.  Just as importantly to me, I can see where the style can lead and I'm very excited to see what I can do over the next couple months.

Looked at from a short distant this is a massive amount of work generated in just 31 days.  To what end?  For what purpose?  Fame?  Fortune?  What???

The effort came simply from the inspiration I found by unexpectedly living a series of experiences in a warm sunny place.  It gives me true deep contentment to create and share these images.  Every single one of them.  For me there is no other goal than to recreate this feeling.

That's it.

All of it.

Sintra ~ Palácio Nacional da Pena

Friday, March 25, 2016

If you're in Lille...

Arthur Morgan is a strong champion of Steampunk here in France.  This month in Lille they've declared it Steampunk Month.  And at the local library, photographs we created for the Fiction journal are being shown.

Check it out.  Some of the photographs are seen starting at 1:03 into the video.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mini Projects ~ troisieme part

Making our escape out from under the gray, damp, cold Paris weather, my wife and I installed ourselves in Lisbon.  It's a new city to us and we're enchanted.  It's an utterly charming place.

The Lisboans are warm, open hearted, and happy.  The food is extremely reasonably priced and quite good (it's certainly better than the common twice to three times more expensive Parisian faire).  The sights are outstanding.  There are over 40 museums here, numerous parks, and interesting shops.

And, of course, where there's a cemetery, that's where you'll find me.  I love haunting such places, camera in hand.

The Lisbon Prazeres Cemetery simply knocked my socks off.  What better reason do I need to release two new mini-projects containing 6 images in each?

I'm sure after looking at these you'll know immediately why I am so attracted to this place.

Here is mini-project Cemitério dos Prazeres.

Here is mini-project Cemitério dos Prazeres II.

Lisbon ~ Cemitério dos Prazeres

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mini Projects ~ part deux...

For myself I feel I can not share a theme or an idea in a single image.  I simply can't.  It's not in my nature.  My nature is more rococo and baroque.  I am attracted to large, complex stories and project.  Therein lay a small problem.  I all too often want to share a lot of material and I tend to struggle in guiding viewers.

In my posting about creating mini-projects in a style proposed by Lenswork Magazine I complained about the size of three projects that have been in limbo for months.  Two projects involve street-art and the third has to do with alchemy and it's place in the medieval Catholic framework of belief.  There are simply too many images to select from and I wasn't sure how to "say" what I wanted to "say."  I was feeling overwhelmed.

By contrast, the Medieval Steel and Avion III projects were small and quick to implement.  They "said" what I wanted to "say" and that was that.  I see that paring down the number of images in a project to just the core things I have to share concentrates me, concentrates the theme, and concentrates the viewer in a laser beam like manner.  The approach might now work well for everything I do, but in these cases it worked the treat.

The Lenswork idea of Seeing in 6's has a certain simplicity to it, a certain directness.  This seems to be what I currently need to "get off the dime" and complete a few more projects.

It's in this spirit that I release three mini-projects on Paris street-art.  The idea was to pay a visit to two locations, photograph the areas in the states they were found on just that day, and to record for posterity some of the things that attracted me the most.  It's in the nature of street-art to disappear after a short period of time and to be forever lost under future layers of paint or to the wash wands of city cleaning crews.

As in many places, it is illegal to create graffiti here.  If an artist is caught the fines can be steep and the legal actions harsh.  I understand the desire to limit the amount of graffiti.  I would be rather upset if, for instance, someone tagged la tour Eiffel or the exterior of the Louvre.

Yet there are spaces that seem to have little social or cultural value.  I've found two places in Paris where street-artists seem to congregate and work.  Les Frigos is a huge old cold storage meat locker.  It's been converted into expensive artists "lofts."  Art creation spills out into the surrounding parking lot.  Les Frigos is surrounded by new glass and steel high-rises and I like the idea of a bit of "grittiness" standing off against ugly modernity.

The second location is rue Denoyez.  For many years it was an important center of street-art in this city.  Last year the authorities reclaimed the street by refurbishing the buildings starting on the south end of the street.  New businesses have started to come in and I'm affraid that the entire street will be "cleaned up" and handed over to businesses.  Street artists have been evicted and their art galleries have all been closed.

My Street-Art mini-project series is currently organized in two ways.  The first is by location and the second is by color palette.

Here is les Frigos (viewed on a tablet as you would a book)

Here is rue Denoyez (viewed on a tablet as you would a book)

Here is rue Denoyez 2 (viewed by laying it flat and spinning the tablet horizontally)

Les Frigos ~ Paris

Friday, February 26, 2016


LensWork Magazine is sponsoring a short image essay challenge.  It's something they call Seeing in Sixes.

After a few Full Strength Belgium Quadruples I sat and thought a bit about the approach of setting the size of a project to 6 images.  I have three projects that have yet to be completed.  Two are related to street art and the third is devoted to the role of Alchemy in Catholicism.  Alas, these are rather large efforts and I just don't seem to find the time to concentrate on them to bring them completion.

A mini-project, on the other hand, would allow me to select a few images that fit a theme and for me to quickly complete a work and make it available for distribution.

If I read between the lines, the folks at LensWork Magazine are attracted by the quiet, reclusive, spiritual aspects of the Japanese culture.  Perhaps this is why the idea of a shorter, more succinct imaging effort appeals to them.  The approach seems to offer: Cut out all the fluff and get down to the very core of what you want to say.

Recently my wife and I visited two museums in Paris that don't usually get Top Billing on anyone's Must See list.  These kinds of places attract me for the lack of crowds, poor light, yet potentially interesting subjects.

At the Musee des Arts et Metiers we paid close attention to their exhibits of pre-1900's aircraft.  One example seemed to lend itself to setting the basis of a short image essay.  Clement Ader's 1897 steam-powered Avion III is an engineering marvel.

Here is my short image essay of Avion III

Avion III ~ Clement Ader

The very next day we visited la musee de l'Armee at Invalides.  The light was low and indirect, and the exhibits felt old and musty.  And yet... and... yet... the way the light bounced, shimmered, wriggled, and slide off ancient steel... there had to be short story in there, too.

Here is my short image essay on Medieval Steel

Medieval Armor ~ Musée de l'Armée

I was able to process, collate, edit, and distribute these in less than four days.  While the approach might not be appropriate for everything I do, I'm happy to have read LensWork to pick up on an interesting idea.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Beast of Turin

I wrote an entry to one of my other blogs about the Beast of Turin.  It was quite the adventure.  What I didn't stress was how much my father and I wanted to see it run at Goodwood in 2015.  He was sick and my wife and I were hunkered down trying to get our state-sponsored health insurance.  Needless to say, I was pretty happy to get to see the 1911 Fiat S76 right here in my hometown.

My encounter with the Beast yielded some interesting images, so I collected a few of them into a short visual story.

Readers can download the Beast of Turin image essay.  I hope this pleases others half as much as it does me.

Beast of Turin ~ 1911 Fiat S76

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Getting to satisfied...

I know I'm not "marketable", in the traditional photographic sense.  No gallery would ever have me.  My work is simply far too varied.

I enjoy working with creative costumers, dancers, and circus performers.  Some of my most pleasing work has been with other creative people.  Yet other subjects call to me.  For instance, if I see a steam locomotive, out comes the camera.  Or when early Spring arrives and I know the birds are nesting, I'll haul out the Big Bird lens and head to a pond, river, or lake.

Recently, one of my favorite subjects has been to photograph old automobiles.  Paris seems to bring them and their drivers out in droves.  Early in January it was la traversee de Paris (hivernal).  This week it's the annual Retromobile show down at la porte de Versailles.

I enjoy visiting the Retromobile venue before the show opens.  It's fun to watch as the back door of a large transport drops open to reveal something tasty inside.  This year was no different and I found myself nearly jumping up and down in anticipation of what might be revealed next.

After running out of trailers to spy on, I went inside to watch as everyone was busy working to set the show up.  Cars littered the display area while waiting to be lined up properly on their stands.

Working in natural light under cloudy skies is wonderful.  Few specular highlights form on a car's bodywork.  The beautiful even light shows the car in all it's glory.  Inside an exposition building the light is nothing but one lamp after another.  Cars reflect dots of lamp "highlights" all over the surface.  I find this can be more than a little annoying, particularly when I find a wonderful automobile and want to show it's shape and color and not be distracted by irregularly placed dots.

The following Ferrari (a 330 GT Spyder? - perhaps someone can set me straight if I'm wrong) is a good example.

I worked the image as best I could in Sony's AWR to JPG conversion program, then I opened it in the Gimp.  The above is as Gimp first saw it.

Working carefully with the heal tool I removed as many highlights as I could.  Sometimes I needed to use the clone tool with a larger brush to cover certain problem areas.  I left the sides of the car as were, for the most part.  I liked the line of lights along the edge of the body as they help accentuate the Ferrari's lovely shape.

The work took perhaps 30 minutes of careful attention.

I like how many of the distractions are removed.  And I particularly like how the Ferrari is now just a beautiful Ferrari.  It's no longer a car sitting in the middle of a show hall.

As a final step I wanted to remove the overly yellow cast.  While there are a number of ways of doing this, the smoothest I found when using the Gimp is to find a nice film emulation in G'Mic.  I could do the corrections by hand (selecting channels and colors, etc), but sometimes the transitions between colors are a little harsh.  Hence my sometimes use of G'Mic film emulations.

Here is the final result.

Happiness ensues.  Out comes the Belgium beer.  Or something like happiness.  I just remembered I wanted to try a light LAB color-space correction, too.  OK.  The Belgium beer will have to wait another 30 minutes...

Monday, January 04, 2016

Technology Integration

As with many people, I've watched as electronics companies have moved into the product spaces traditionally held by film-era camera and lens manufacturers.  I'm excited by the possibilities this move presents.

Long gone are the days when artistic vision was distanced from sharing by film, processing, and printing.  I used to work in photo labs where we could turn high quality prints around from film hand-off at the front counter to final paper-based print dry in something just under an hour.  If quality wasn't as much a concern, we could get an RC print out in as little as 15 minutes starting from un-processed dry film.

Being freed up from formerly important details such as camera format, film speed, developer type, aperture setting, lighting, and paper type means, I believe, that an artist can pay much more attention to the desired outcome.  When I consider the product offerings of Canon, Nikon, and to some degree even Fuji, I see traditional cameras in traditional camera shapes and sizes, with traditional camera limitations.  These products are not well integrated into our networked world.

I feel that electronics companies have successfully replaced traditional camera and lens manufacturers with highly integrated imaging tools.  Yes, Nikon and Canon still sell millions of cameras a year.  But market conditions have changed.  Apple's, Google's (with the Android OS), Sony's and, Samsung's total market share in imaging have already begun to eclipse that of Canon and Nikon.

As with film camera systems, the desire for DSLR technologies may never fully die off.  Someone somewhere will be able to use the technologies to good effect.  The pace of change in these products has already slowed to the point that Canon didn't update it's 18mpixel APS-C sensor products for four or five years, and only recently added a 20mpixel sensor to the line-up.  There is, at best, weak WiFi integration and Canon offers no in-camera applications.  They remain stuck on using ASIC hosted very very difficult to extend and integrate VxWorks based firmware.

I use Sony A5000 and A6000 cameras (and started that move with an original NEX5 - of which I still have one).  Their integration with networked devices thru WiFi and NFC interfaces is impressive.  I can take a very high quality photo, transfer it to a mobile phone or tablet, process the image using something like Snapseed, and share the image to Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and any place else I might hold an account.  The entire process from shutter click to sharing across the 'net with millions upon millions of potential viewers can take place in as little as 10 seconds.

What the integration of technologies tells me is that the minor differences between traditional imaging systems are much less important than how well imaging is embedded into the overall creative process.  The following should adequately illustrate the point -