Saturday, 24 July 2010

Signs of rain

Signs of rain, Manila, July 2010

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Natural lighting

Lightning storm, Manila, July 2010

What did you do on Saturday night?

After the fun and games of Typhoon Conson earlier in the week, we just had a rather long thunderstorm roll through. It was putting on a great show and time and direction were just right for some photos from the back garden.

They don't really stand up to fine scrutiny - focussing in the dead of night against a dark sky proves to be rather tricky.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: and another one

Although I didn't really need to, I felt like putting together a second submission with some of the "rejects" from LineCurveTexture, and so The Other Things was born. I didn't compromise on selecting for editting - these are the images that I would select otherwise but that didn't fit in any way into the original project.

I was also trying to get a background transparency to work with pdf 1.4 but to no avail. The intention was that the background frame would disappear when viewing so that the images would be nicely centred on the screen with a natural border.

I'm pretty sure this should be possible, as per pdf sepcs, but can't for the life of me figure out how to get it to work properly. I think it's maybe a viewer issue (yet I use Adobe's reader) and no amount of settings adjustments seem to work.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: done

I've finally completed my first submission for the year. Find it here.

Some points worth noting about my experience in doing the layout:

I was limited to an all electronic process, not having commissioned a printer since moving house (fully 6 months ago). I normally print the pages on small paper swatches and rearrange the on the floor/table.
This led to problems. Because of the multiple image sizes, I had a 2-dimensional problem as i looked to balance subject and image size across the whole book. equal sized thumbnails are not suited to this. The other major headache is the number of images: about 100. This makes it hard to keep track of them all while scrolling back and forth on the screen.
As a result, the actual layout of the spreads took about twice as long as it should.

I've also realised that the multiple page size idea is better suited to larger page sizes. here it works OK, and I could get a way with a few less than perfect pictures due to the smaller sizes. For a printed version, I think I'd want twice the page size.

Page size is also an interesting challenge. having both portrait and landscape orientation actually makes it trickier to select a page size. Life would be so much easier if I'd picked all the large images in one orientation and all the small ones in the other. Then I could pick a larger size but rectangular page.

I also surprised myself about double-truck (spread across the page fold). With the right subject and composition i think is can work quite well, as it does here. But that's just my opinion.

Please feel free to leave comments on what you think.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sometimes it's all an accident

Manila, June 2010

A case in point. Carefully composed and shot as black and white. The colours are all over the place but that was never the intention. Created with the project in mind.

As I started running through the processing steps, this jumped out at me after only the first couple of moves. Just right, without it ever being the intention. No good like this for the book, but just right as a single image. A complete accident, which I may not have found if I'd run the development steps in a different order.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: the editing process

Manila, June 2010
One of the SoFoBoMo 2010 rejects

As a progress report, I thought it might be useful to some to go through the edit ting process I've been using. I don't do bulk edits in this way very often and so SoFoBoMo is also an opportunity for me to hone my skills in that area, too. here is the step-by-step:

1. Having imported all the photos and catalogued as normal (I had 527 frames taken), I make first cut selections. I'm using Lightroom exclusively for processing and editing as it's a quick and easy one stop shop for the whole workflow. First cut is a fast process - anything that seems like it fits the theme and appears properly composed, exposed and in focus. 226 picked, took about 15 minutes.
2. Work on the first few to develop the visual look, exposure, toning, contrast etc. That takes a few minutes per photo, maybe I spent an hour sorting that out. The key parts of the development got turned into Lightroom presets, especially the toning, which speeds up the rest of the work.
3. Work through the first-cut to pick the ones to edit. Again, pretty fast and I develop a lot, rather than waste time mulling over selection. With the presets developed I spend only a couple of minutes on most photos. A few have local adjustments which take a bit longer but I doubt I spent more than 10 minutes on any one frame. As this is about a fast turn-around, I want good not perfect works of art. And consistency is more important to me than a few individual highlights. 102 edited.
4. I developed a Smart Collection to gather up the edits as they were completed, I'll use the collection for the final sorting and selection. I'm not into the book layout proper yet but I have a few distinct page forms in mind: double-truck, full bleed, single page, multiple per page. The 102 will get ratings based on likely page type and sorted into order of pages in the collection. I may or may not use them all.
5. From there, It'll be new export presets to turn the edits into the final images for the book. Part of that preset will be automated numbering and filing so they're all in order in a separate folder on my computer. Having them sorted that way speeds up entry into the book layout.

Even though I've been working on editing all week, I've actually spent very little time each day. 100 at, say, three minutes each is only 5 hours of work to get to the final cut plus the original hour to get the visual look right, meaning about an hour a night this week.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: contacts part 4

These are the last (I hope) of the frames from this year's shooting. I've also processed most of the previous frames, so I already have 60 first-cut selections. Overall, this is probably the most I've had for a single SoFoBoMo book and will give me plenty of flexibility for the final product.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: contacts part 3

The contacts from today's photography from around the house. My plans for going out this afternoon were rudely interrupted by a thunderstorm.

The work on my book for this year is progressing well. One more trip out for some more photographs should give me plenty to select some good shots and I've got about 3 weeks to work on the layout.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Raising the bar

Manila, June 2010

Some photos I've seen recently and some things I've read had me musing about the nature of the qualities and quality of a photograph.

What is a good photograph? And is a good one today, going to be a good one tomorrow? The thing that set me off have been some observations (mine and others') relating to digital making photography easy. For sure, compared the the days of film, more people can produce photos that are properly focussed, colour balanced and exposed. Objective measures of good. But is that good enough. I think not. now that we expect more from our cameras and sensors, so we (should) expect more from the final product. Not quite right isn't going to be acceptable.

But technical results aren't everything. Photography can be as much about content as execution. Not always but sometimes. Deliberately out of focus, or alternative exposures or grabbed shots without perfect composition can all pass muster. Maybe not as much as before - digital offering the opportunity to take many more exposures means many more chances to get things right. But there is still room for the artistically casual style.

The biggest benefit that I think digital is offering to the masses is a greater ability to precisely execute intent, which is an excellent measure of quality (but by no means the only one). And good photographers are, by inference, those who consistently achieve their intent in the final photographs. Intent is a broad church, and I think digital opens up a wider range of possible outcomes for intent than ever before. That can also make digital more demanding, the auto-everything approach won't cut it, and the ever increasingly complex devices that cameras are becoming can make it harder to find a way through the maze of controls.

Therein is the dilemma of quality photography. While auto cameras make it easier to achieve objectively measurable higher quality, that has placed higher demands, requiring a deeper understanding of the machine and the process to achieve good results on a relative scale - good may no longer be good enough.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

No frame left behind

Manila, June 2010

As I was sorting through the weekend's pictures for selections to include in the SoFoBoMo project, I realised that i was editing out a lot that were actually quite good. Mainly they are being rejected as colour images in a black and white project. However, there are enough that I could put together an entirely separate submission, with an entirely different look and feel. So that is what I'm going to do - shoot for the main project but pick up appropriate rejects for something different.
Maybe it will lead me to some insights about the things unseen when I'm out taking pictures. While the rejects were shot with one thing in mind, they're turning out to be something quite different after the fact.

Monday, 7 June 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010: contacts part 2

The second batch from yesterday's shooting.

SoFoBoMo 2010: contacts part 1

As promised, contact sheets of my raw images for this year's project. Click each set to see it bigger.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

On a SoFoBoMo roll

I started my SoFoBoMo project today, going out and getting in the first batch of photos. Despite a short session, I got 287 frames to get me going. The most I've shot in one go for some time, helped enormously by my forward planning. It's also yielded probably enough to complete the project (although I'll be looking for more and better) which takes the pressure off. As I'm focussing more on the book part than the photo part, I don't need to be so choosy about completing a story or ultimate image quality.

I thought it would be worth sharing, for those new or struggling with this, the forward planning I did that helped make this first photo expedition easy:
1. Selecting a suitable subject. My book title "LineCurveTexture" is an easy way to encompass numerous forms of abstract image which makes getting the 35 relatively easy. that was important for me this year as I want more time for the book design. In the past, I've focussed more on story and kept the book simple.
2. Selecting a suitable location. Given the subject and way I'd be shooting, I had a good location in mind - in the modern vernacular a target rich environment. There are also 2 other ready locations I can use to gather more.
3. Selecting suitable equipment. In this case I'm hand-holding my 100mm macro lens.Abstract images using a macro lens means from a relatively small area I can gather a large number of different images. I only have to move a few inches in any direction to get whole new views.

Bringing all three of these together - subject, location, equipment - makes the photography part relatively easy. And I put some though into making it so.

Whatever your goal is, putting some thought into these three aspects, keeping it quite simple and choosing them to work together will greatly improve the success rate for gathering up enough photos.

As has been done in the past, I'll be posting my out of camera images as contact sheets so you can see the process as it happens.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Under starter's orders, they're off

The official announcement has gone up for the start of SoFoBoMo 2010. The start time is 00:01 on 1st June wherever you are - local time to give everyone an equal chance. Of course, you don't need to start right away just so long as you finish by the end of July.

If you've not already registered, why not?

Monday, 31 May 2010

24 hours to go

Just 24h until SofoBoMo 2010 officially starts. Expect an official announcement on the SoFoBoMo website when it happens.

Of course you can start any time in the 2 month window, as long as you're finished and submit your entry by the end of 31st July. If you want to get full advantage of the 31 day window, don't start any later than 1st July.

For my part, I'll be starting next Sunday 6th June, I expect. That gets me in early and gives me chance to get in a second book if the opportunity arises (although I'm not expecting it to do so).

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The rocket moon

Moon shot 3, Manila, May 2010
98% waning

A bit of fun with the camera this evening, shooting for the moon. As it's nearly full and I knew it would be rising such that I would have a good shot from the upstairs balcony between the treee branches, I decided to have a go.

I didn't realise how quickly the moon moves until I tried photographing it. 500mm + 1.4 TC gives a narrow field of view, but even so, a series in rapid succession gives noticeable shift across the frame.

I can see this becoming a print for the wall.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Choosing a lens kit

I've been enjoying Mike Johnston's posts on lens kits (part 1 and part 2). It's thinking I've been through many times. I thought I'd share my kit development.

It all started with the basic kit zoom as he describes. My first SLR was purchased in 1996 just after graduation. I bought the basic Canon kit -a lot of camera for relatively little money at the time (now you can get 10x the camera for the same actual money as then). Multi-purpose zoom (35-80, I think). Got the job done, until i got into wildlife photography. So I went long - a 70-300mm being the cheapest way into long reach. With limited means, that proved a nice combination. I did get a wide angle converter for the shorter lens but it's seen precious little action. I just don't see the world in wide angle and these days it's easy enough to stitch panoramas if I want that sort of thing.

However, much like Mike, I think 2 lenses generally suffices but that'll be two different for each scenario. I have many two lens kits:
The walk-around kit (actually a choice between 2 - I carry only the one)
The indoor kit
The rangefinder kit
the LF kit
The sports kit
The travel kit
The landscape kit
The cycling kit
The wildlife kit

You get the picture. I have a trunk full of cameras and lenses. But I mainly carry 2 lenses at a time, sometimes 3, although mostly one of those three is neglected. The selection I have also include a number of primes, some good, some frustrating (e.g. my 50mm f/1.8 is frustrating: all electronic, all plastic, difficult to focus but it was cheap).

So a pair for any given situation and enough choice the cover the lot.

If I was forced into just 2? Tricky. Excluding the wildlife (where the 500mm is invaluable), I reckon my 17-55 and maybe an 85 or 135 would do the job (although I own neither of those primes). Or my 70-200 of the current stock. Force me to go prime? then I'd stick with the rangefinder and the 40mm and 75mm. As nice combo for a wide range of situations.

I o see the attraction of micro four-thirds, however. Small cameras and small lenses for the longer reach I like. If a decent camera comes along, I'd snap it up with a couple of lenses to cover most of my going about, travelling applications.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Picking a project

Normally I've got a bunch of project ideas and I already have several long-term projects on the go but this year I've been struggling for ideas for SoFoBoMo. Finally I've hit on a good idea that will be easy to photograph so that I can focus on the book making bit. It also should mean I can avoid too much time outside as right now the weather is far too hot to be wandering around for hours.

I'm not going to reveal the project details just yet - I'll save that for when I get started. Looks like just the one submission this year, too (compared to the 2 in 2008 and 4 last year, that makes it seem like I'm slacking).

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Recently on TOP was one of the "Random Excellence" posts, highlighting a series of Vietnam war shots published by the Boston Globe. looking through them I realised that this shot

From Boston Globe's "The Big Picture"
South Vietnamese marines line beaches and swim out to ships, fleeing from the northern port city of Da Nang on March 29, 1975 before its fall to the Viet Cong and north Vietnamese. This picture was taken as some marines successfully fled, abandoning scores of weapons, vehicles and even a helicopter. In the foreground, men on LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) prepare to throw rope to marines coming up on inner tubes. Only a fraction of the city's 100,000 defenders were evacuated before its fall. (AP Photo)

was taken on the same day as this one:

The latter being me, taken a few hours later and half way around the world.

Rather sobering.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Sounding off topic

Nothing to do with photography, I've a new blog as a place for me to air stuff that I've been thinking about. Rantings and ramblings, stuff I might debate down the pub etc. saves it getting all pent up in my brain. But it would also be good if some conversation/debate/argument came of it. You won't agree with most stuff I write - I think in a different way to other people. And if you want to stick to photography, no need to go anywhere.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The challenge of ambition

Recently I was thinking back to one of my favourite authors from around the time I left college, Piers Anthony (this will become relevant, promise). nothing to do with his writing (which I find a bit basic these days) or the stories (not for those of strong moral principles) but more of the pieces he used to write for the back of the books. Kind of like blog posts, or extended letters to his fans: stuff on story development, creative process, correspondence etc.

One of the things that stuck (and I would look it up if the books weren't buried in a box) was a piece he wrote about the marks of a successful author. He set them thus: moving from selling what one writes to writing what one sells (the idea of the advance on synopsis) and moving from title dominating the cover to author's name doing so (where one's name is enough to sell the book).

This came from thinking of motivations for continuing SoFoBoMo and producing many photobooks. It answered my question to self: where can a create a challenge? Two years in and I've done 6 books for SoFoBoMo (yep, I went a bit mad last year). But I can challenge myself in the following ways:

  • Improving the photographic content
  • Improving the layout and design
  • More cohesive projects
  • Creating physical books (although I've done one)
  • Creating something others will buy
  • Getting properly published (we've already had a SoFoBoMoer jump that hurdle)
  • Creating a book as a synopsis for a bigger project
  • etc etc
I'm not saying the goal is to become commercially successful (but if I sold one or two, that would be a nice boon) but it shows a line of progression, challenge that is ever present. And over time I'm sure electronic delivery will develop in ways tht will create new challenges.

There is enough scope there to keep me going for many years to come. so if you've done it before and are wondering where the challenge lies, think a little more - it's there if you look for it.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Irving Penn: Portraits

Cecil Beaton with Nude, New York, 1946
The Irving Penn Foundation © The Irving Penn Foundation
(from the National Portrait Gallery website)

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day in London and took the time to visit the Irving Penn exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It's a fairly wide-ranging collection of work, covering the entire span of Penn's career and displays a variety of print types from early vintage silver prints, through his later reprints and includes a number of his Pt/Pd prints as well.

The space is divided chronologically from the earliest works as you enter, working through a series of sections dedicated to periods largely grouped by photogrpahic style as Penn moved from full-length portraits to more and more intimate and close-up work as time progressed. Overall it's a pretty impressive collection of work.

One thing I think could have been included is a small section showing the development of Penn's printing technique. Something was made of this in the exhibition, as Penn turned to platinum printing to try and create his idea of the perfect print. Showing a small selection side-by-side highlighting this development would have been good. As it was, I had to move back and forth between the prints to study the differences and development.

It is clear that his prints became better over time, both as materials and technique developed. The early prints (such as the one of Cecil Beaton pictured her) are quite flat in coparison to later prints. Reprints are also better than the vintages. Much has been made of the higher value of his Platinum prints, both due to the method and the fact that they demonstrate a great depth and subtlety of tone. One thing that is clear, howeer, is that thePlatinum prints influenced the later silver prints, as those show tonal work dveloping over time to mirror the platinum prints. Personally, I prefer the later silver prints.

One large problem I have with the exhibition is the lighting. I can accept that they wish to kep the lighting subdued to preserve the prints (and there was a note posted to that effect) but more could have been done. Not only was the lightling low (read; dim) but it varied in intensity and coour throughout the exhibition and was far too warm 9read: yellow0 for my tastes. so much so, that it was near impossible to spot the difference in toning between the platinum and silver prints. with modern lighting technology, I expect more from a world-class gallery, especially when they're charging decent money to get into the exhibition.

And then there is the subject matter itself. A wide range of the great and good from the Forties to very recent (Penn was photographing almost up to his death in 2009). almost all are presented in distinctive style even though the posing of the subjects changed over time. The early works feel a little distant, maybe even impassionate, largly due to the stood-back, full length nature of the work. through the middle section, from maybe the late 1950s through to the early 1980s, the connection with subject grows. The portraits are deeper and deeper studies of character. What was then surprising was that the very latest works, maybe the last 15-20 years of work, appeared to be very flattering of the subjects. Well know faces, whose images have been seen thousands of times in recent years, all appear very much younger than their ages at sitting might suggest. Does this represent a softening of Penn's attitude to his subjects in his later years?

Saying that the work represents a distinctive style, three woks stood out as different. the first was the portrait of Beaton shown above, which is a pose and style more becoming the subject and quite unlike Penn's other work work of the time. the second was a portrait of Grace Kelly from 1954, shown in the classic Hollywood style that seems to be a feature of portraits of her at that time. The third is of Richard Avedon from 1993, which looks mre like an Avedon print (although against a dar background) than one of Penn's others.

A slight aside: there is a book that has been published to accompany the exhibition. You might have seen a review of tha here, too, if I'd been inclined to buy it. At £25 it's pretty reasonable but Istill didn't think it was quite worth it. the main reason being the print quality. Despite being tri-tone and capturing a good sense of the tonal range of the originals, they were all printed far too light for my taste - deep blacks becoming a little too grey and the darker tones a bit washy. Not the best reflection of the originals nor a great example of book-printing, IMO.

Overall, a high-quality, interesting exhibition (despite the crumby lighting) that is well worth a visit.

SoFoBoMo: don't forget to pledge

If you've signed up for SoFoBoMo, either new this year or in previous years, then you'll need to pledge to get yourself in the list and add to the number on the home page. To pledge; log-in to SoFoBoMo, go to "Your Account", hit the pledge link.

There's a good reason for this 2-step process. It means people need to pledge each year, which also means if you sign up one year and don't want to take part the next, that's also OK. We'll only count those that tell us they want to participate by pledging.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

What he said

Paul Butzi just posted about his (lack of) SoFoBoMo blogging this year. Same goes for me, more or less. Most of my efforts in that direction are going into the SoFoBoMo website. There's more stuff going up daily, so keep going back.

Here, I'll be posting just some progress stuff about my project thoughts and progress as time goes on. Most of that will probably also turn up on the forums, too.

If you've not signed up, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The camera everywhen

Trowbridge, April 2010

I'm always amazed by photographers who seem to have a camera with them whereever they go - from breakfast in the morning until retiring for the night. Inside, outside, running errands, meeting friends.

I can't quite bring myself to those levels, especially with other people around. My camera always seem to detatch me slightly from things. while it improves my observation, it doesn't necessarily improve my engagement. And if I'm in a social situation, that's not much fun.

And then there are the times i don't quite feel like taking photos. For example, the two weeks away I've just had. I took just over 40 frames during a couple of walks around the neighbourhood. (I would have taken quite a few while I had a day in London, but I was carrying stuff that really didn't make camera wielding a practical prospect.)

I admire their dedication and the tolerance of those around them.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Other people's photos

I'm away on vacation at the moment, visiting the area I grew up. Weather's been wet and cold so not much for taking photos. I have, however, been out a couple of times with a camera and not returned with a single picture. Trouble is, I keep seeing photo opportunities that I know look like other people's photographs and have resisted making pictures lest it feel like I'm copying.

The other side of this dilemma is a few years ago I wouldn't have even seen these opportunities, not having recognised them as the sorts of subjects I photograph. It took seeing other work to open my view of potential subjects.

A real dilemma. Do I just shoot it anyway, regardless of whether it looks like other work, or keep ploughing on looking for original (whatever that may mean) subjects, reducing the number of shots I take?

It may take a couple more outings before I get my head around this one.

Friday, 26 March 2010

New SoFoBoMo site is live

After quite some effort behind the scenes, the new Solo Photo Book Month (SoFoBoMo) website is live. Still some design tweaking going on and quite a lot of content to develop (hopefully with your help). New design, new logo, lots of new features added and planned.

Go check it out, go register, get involved.

Past participants are already in the system, you just need to go through a simple password reset process to get your account active on the new system.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Art of books, books of art

It has been occurring to me that there are possibly conflicting goals in the creation of a book of art, namely the function of serving up the art as the subject and the nature of a well-designed book as an object of appreciation in itself. At some point, one has to yield to serving the other.

As SoFoBoMo approaches, it's a conflict playing out in my thoughts about how to design a book. Until now, I've kept mine pretty simple, directed at serving up photographs in a simple manner: the old-fashioned one to a page, white border approach. But I've been toying with the idea of putting more effort into the design of a book as part of the work itself: spreads, bleeds, multiple images on a page etc. Something that might be more engaging to a viewer. Might that detract from the photography? Or might the photography serve as content to support a wider book experience? And can some fancy graphic and typographic design further enhance that experience?

My own collection of photobooks doesn't help in this regard. They're all pretty much traditional art books - all about the pictures, not the book as product. So they're all simple. And that's good, if you're serving up a collection of art photographs. One exception is the "History of Japanese Photography" which is as much an art history book as a book of art. It has all kinds of chnages in layout, white space around text, insert images, spread, bleeds, different background colours for images. But the overall experience sometimes feels a little forced - design for the sake of it, getting in the way of viewing the pictures. But not by much, I don't feel like I want the wh0le thing as simple text pages followed by simple pages of pictures. A balance to be drawn.

Difficult stuff, this, once you're past the basic mechanics. If I get the right idea, (one of) my SoFoBoMo contribution might be rather more novel than before, something of an experiment.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Hyporeality learning

Hyporeality 87, Manila, March 2010

As I take more pictures for this series I'm learning some useful things about my photography:
  • This is turning out to be some of my favourite work.
  • It is making me think clearly about the relationship between forms and colours in a way sharp photos don't.
  • It makes me more reactive to the things around me. Better results seem to come from a looser shooting style.
  • I expect this work to continue for quite some time - it is a method and style easily translated to other places and subjects.
  • It's fun to do, which keeps me wanting to do it.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

It's not real...

...but it's fun.

Picked up via The Daily Telegraph come Thad & Sarah Lawrence. The 365 sets (Flikr - here and here) brought an instant smile to my face. Worth checking out their personal gallery on the commercial website, too.

Happy mistakes

Unexpected mistake, Manila, March 2010

Sometimes getting it wrong yields interesting results.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Hyporeality continues

Hyporeality 77, Manila, March 2010

Hyporeality 78, Manila, March 2010

I went out at the weekend and took some more of my Hyporeality shots. I'm enjoying taking these, they're quite a challenge to look at and are helping me figure out a whole bunch about my photography along the way.

Expect more here, so much so that I've given them their own label.

Now showing

Picked up via Harvey Benge's blog, comes Stephan Zaubiter's "Cinema" series. Some interesting stuff. I immediately saw this work as a sort of "where are they now?" update to Sugimoto's "Theater" series.

On comparisons

So the latest from Luminous Landscape is this short piece on making comparisons, in response to the minor debacle that was the comment on dynamic range comparisons. I'm kind of glad the later response went up, gives some balance and avoids me posting a rant against the original.

I agree that in print there are likely (I've not seen so can't say from experience) visible, visceral differences in output from DLSRs and Digital Medium Format (DMF). Large prints are almost certain to make that more apparent. Just as I can clearly see differences in the formats I shoot regularly once print size passes some threshold. All well and good.

Thing is, that goes no way to dispelling the myth propounded in the first piece that DMF has a larger dynamic range than DSLR. Unfortunately for LL, this is a measurable quantity and it doesn't matter what constraints you put on the range (such as the base signal to noise ratio), it is still directly measurable. And as comparisons over at DXOMark will show, there is precious little difference in modern DSLRs and DMF.

Another problem I had is that LL was using DR as a proxy for usable detail, although it is nothing of the sort. DXOMark has a separate measure for this (and the merits of that could be argued) in its tonal range measure. Again, objectively measurable. The one problem here is that when doing print comparisons, they re-base to a shrunk print - the lowest common denominator. It would be useful to see that also done for larger size (but then that would mean up-scaling lower resolutions, with attendant problems).

The biggest problem I had with the LL position is that they are using the subjective stuff, and ropey assessment of measurable values, to debunk the science as it doesn't agree with their conclusion. Unfortunately it doesn't work like that. Just because you don't agree with the measurements doesn't make them wrong. But likewise (to the chagrin of the measurebators) the numbers don't make the subjective preferences (opinions) wrong either.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Harvey Benge on editting

From a few days ago come these words of wisdom from Harvey Benge on editting for a photobook. Worth reading, especially with SoFoBoMo 2010 (Solo Photo Book Month) on the way.

Monday, 1 March 2010

A garden is a novelty

Green web


Sticky blanket
All: Manila, February 2010

This is the fist time I've had a place with a garden, and with the warm, dry weather, I can see me having fun photographing the bugs.

An interesting challenge

Floating leaves 2, Manila, February 2010

After my initial efforts picturing the floating leaves in digital, I reckoned it would make an interesting subject for a short series using the large format camera with the goal of producing some nice prints for the wall. And so, at he weekend, I decided to start on that effort, while the idea was fresh.

turns out it's quite a challenge for a few reasons. For a start, I've not done any close up work like this with the LF camera. there is the difficulty of working with the camera pointed at the ground, mounted low. Not too easy. Especially when it's suspended out over the water.

I also didn't realise how much the leaves move in the wind. In the course of the 45 minutes or so of fiddling around, they did 2 complete laps of the pool. With the narrow field of view I'm working with they traverse the ground glass in about 5 seconds. This will be a challenge of weather and shutter speed, too.

Needless to say, I didn't get a single exposure in. Instead i decided to bring it indoors and spend some time in the evening practising the set-up required. Below is a shot of part of my experimenting.

Staring at the floor, Manila, February 2010

With a 210mm lens mounted and working at about 2-3 feet above ground I'm getting out close to full bellows extension, hence the front standard hinged forward.

Another thing I've learnt from the digital trials is the difficulty of the white balance for these shots. It looks like I might have to get a grey card to help.

Fortunately there is no time limit on this - I can shoot almost any day while I'm living here, so plenty of opportunity to try things out. And I won't be exposing a single sheet of film until I'm happy I've got the technique sorted.

Monday, 22 February 2010

A blatant plug

My friend Caroline le Barbier is having a photo exhibition in London of some of her photos from Nepal and Ecuador. Below is the flyer. A bit of self-interest in this one as I helped prep the originals for print (so if the prints are rubbish, it's probably my fault).

Prints are for sale, too, in aid of Medecins sans Frontieres.

Caroline ran an interesting process for the edit - she invited a large group of her friends from around the world to vote on their favourites, and so the resulting collection is something of a group selection. Only a couple of my picks made it (and I voted for all black and white). But it's a pretty good selection, nonetheless.

There will also be a couple of more opportunities to see the pictures later in the year.

So, if you're in London, drop by and take a look.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Floating leaves

Floating leaves 1, Manila, February 2010

This is a subject that is likely to become a regular feature of my picture making in the Philippines. There is an endlessly fascinating selection of leaves floating on the pool which, due to the forces of wind and surface tension, form interesting clusters around the edges. And as they get cleared away and replaced on a constant basis, there is a continual replenishment and variation in the subject matter.

Some of the pictures might actually turn out quite good, too, with some practice.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

On film cameras

I'm sure you read the recent TOP post from Ctein and Mike J himself. interesting how so many comments flooded in about film being the real thing, digital's not all that etc etc. Phooey. And I'm still a film shooter.

I've never done any darkroom work and quite frankly don't really want to try. Too much faffing with chemicals in the dark for me and I'm perfectly happy with digital printing. but i do use a couple of film cameras regularly purely for the camera-ness of them. The large format does the movements that are not readily (or cheaply) achieved with a digital solution, and the rangefinder is a great camera for fast, light shooting (I'm still dismayed by the short battery life of the M9). If I felt I could get the same function out of a digital camera, I'd switch in a heartbeat.

Finally back online

So the cable guy called this week and I'm back on the interweb. Woohoo. Interestingly, I've not been missing the TV, found a decent local radio station in the meantime, but I seem completely isolated from the world without an Internet connection at home. My how times change, I remember when etc etc etc.

Expect a bunch more posting, more pics and my photo a day will catch up, too.

Monday, 15 February 2010

All about books

For those of you who are into the whole photobook thing, as I am, or have been contemplating putting one together, there comes this from the excellent Idiotic Hat. If you've been contemplating the notion of what a book is, go read that post.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Other side of the lens

Things have been slow here of late as I'm still not online after moving into my new house, as evidence: this coming to you from my lunch hour. Neither has the camera been out of the bag. At least I'm 90% through unpacking.

Yesterday, however, I had an interesting photo experience being on the subject side of things - for it was giant coporate photo-shoot day. Mug shots of all, cheesy coroporate poses, pubilicity shots, groups shots etc etc. A large team set up shop: couple of photogs, couple of assistants, make-up and others. Must have been a team of about 8. Three studio sets. Piles of gear. So much, so typical, I suppose. (They seem to like their photographers here - the weddings I saw going on at the hotel all seemed to have large teams for the photography.)

The interesting thing for me, hoever, were the skills demonstrated by the photographer doing our team. Kathy, judging from the name on her shirt. A very engaging young lady - chatty, lively but professional. And she had an ability to remember names - first time out and then it was personal address from there on in. Even remembered all the names from the last time (which was a couple of years ago, I gather). A little thing that seemed to make things go so much smoother and a nice touch of personal engagement to keep us unwilling victims in the right frame of mind.

Continues to reinforce how little the skills of photography are about cameras.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Hyporeality: skies

Hyporeality 10, Manila, January 2010

Hyproreality 56, Manila, January 2010

Hyppreality 65, Manila, January 2010

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Ceiling shapes, Manila, January 2010

Is shape sufficient to be the subject of a photography and it still be interesting?