Your always humble struggling artist/photographer/blogger has had an epiphany! Indeed the cosmos aligned even without the help of Seth MacFarlane and his new Cosmos series. What pray tell has ripped the blinders away from my clouded eyes?
Pixel peeping is a waste of time. There it is, I said it.
What do most of us do when we test out a new camera or lens? We take a shot and then zoom into 100 percent magnification to see if it is sharp enough. I’ve done my fair share of pixel peeping myself.
Let’s back up a bit and look at history and how things have changed. In the old days if you shot Kodachrome 25 with a Nikkormat FTN or an F5 using the same lens, the image will look identical. The only thing different between the cameras was their feature set. The same could be said in broader terms between a Nikon F2 and a Canon F1 using their respective 50mm f2 prime lenses. Again feature sets and “religion” were the only differences, not image quality. What little differences they did exhibit could be fixed today in PS.
For the most part all of the major manufacturers made very high quality lenses with very minor optical differences. Most system choices were made due to features and system depth if that was important to you. Any pro worth his salt could make a decent living using Nikon, Canon, and Pentax. The choices were more limited in medium format, but again each of the major players made very good cameras and lenses. Features, reliability and system depth were the main deciding factors.
When did all this pixel peeping or bit crawling start. I suggest it started with the advent of CD’s. The first CD players used very crude codecs. Those that considered themselves audiophiles cried and bemoaned the butchering of their favorite LP’s. All that “air” and spatial quality was missing not to mention how sharp and peaky the sound became when played through the leading CD players of the time. A crop of “digital” speakers were flogged to the masses. Sound familiar? A new lexicon had to be added to the audiophiles repertoire; bit encoding. How many samplings were made per second. The higher the bit rate the more accurate the reproduction, or so it would seem. The study of and the acquisition of the best analog to digital, back to analog, converters was now necessary.
We had been sensitized to the axiom that more bits are better. That philosophy was embraced by the camera manufacturers to ensure consumers would be set on a pixel treadmill. So now pixels counted the most with camera features becoming secondary.
My first digital camera was a Kodak DC290. This camera boasted 2.9 mega pixels. This yielded an image 31 inches by 20 inches approximately (according to the Kodak data sheet). I made plenty of 8×10′s from the DC290 and was pleased with the results. The prints from the DC290 were not as good as an optical print from a good 35mm negative, but acceptable. Numerous images were also used in corporate websites. Next I blew through several Nikon and Canon P&S’s. Digital cameras to me were still toys. The real work had to be done with my film cameras.
Pixel count was ever increasing but the features were still limited. My first semi-pro DSLR was the Nikon D70s (6 mega pixels). I have made 11×14 inch prints from this cameras that are stunning and equal anything I could do with my 35mm negatives. I have never tried to do 16×20′s from the D70s only due to a lack of demand. The feature set was more to my liking than comparable pixel count P&S’s. The ability to use my legacy Nikkor lenses sealed the deal. I was now firmly in the digital camp. The Kreonite went into the trash bin. The size of the sensor now became important. A 6 mega pixel APS-C sensor will out perform a 6 mega pixel finger nail sized sensor in a P&S.
I would still be using the D70s if it were not for a row of dead pixels. They don’t always disappear, but for my professional work it just was not acceptable. Yes I could fix it in PS but the time overhead was too costly. I replaced the D70s with a D700. Wonderful camera, does everything I want it to and it replaced my Hasselblad. I could now make prints up to 20×30 if I needed to. Actually bigger if I really needed to but that’s not my market.
I recently bought a Panasonic GX1 from Frank Petronio. It’s 16 mega pixels which is 4 more than my D700. They tell me the technology has improved since the D700 was introduced and I should not see a huge difference between the two cameras under ideal conditions. Micro 4/3rd’s is the new holy grail.
Well you can guess what was the first thing I did once I got the GX1. I shot side by side images, GX1-vs-D700 and pixel peeped. I tried all kinds of things, using the ultra sharp Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens compared to the Nikkor H-C 50mm f2, putting the Nikkor H-C 50mm lens on the Panasonic etc etc. In all cases the D700 won. Not a big surprise as far as I was concerned. Size does matter when it comes to sensors.
Then I had a thought. One of those hit your forehead in the middle of the night kind of thoughts. Really the only thing that matters is what a print looks like. I scaled the images to be identical looking and then sized them for 11×14 prints. Guess what? Both prints looked outstanding. Only the kind of people who pick things apart to an absurd level on photograph forums could tell the difference in the prints. The GX1 doesn’t have the DR (dynamic range) the D700 has but this can be fixed in PS for 95% of what I will be shooting. Check out George Barr’s excellent blog posting on dealing with high key situations.
Another thing the micro 4/3rd’s cameras don’t have is durability. I fell off a cliff last weekend and my D700 hit a rock ledge pretty hard. If suffered a few dents but beyond that the camera and lens functioned perfectly. If the same thing happened to my GX1 I am sure I would have been picking up pieces. Same goes for the new Sony A7R. Again if I were doing something rough the minute difference in image quality between the D700 and the new full frame Sony A7R would not influence my decision. The tougher D700 would get packed. If I were going on a cruise, the Sony A7R would get packed.
I am going on a trip to Germany and Santorini in a few months. I almost left the GX1 at home due to pixel peeping. Glad I re-evaluated what really mattered, the final output, the print.
I feel we have come full circle. Camera choices today should primarily be made based on features (important to you), system depth and durability. For the most part you will not be able to tell the difference in prints made from micro 4/3rd’s, full frame and APS-C type sensors if printed by a skilled craftsman up to 20×30 inches. The responsibility of proper exposure rests upon the photographer as it always has. Digital sensors are just as fussy to over/under exposure as were transparency films of bygone days.
We can now spend more time putting the craft back into photography and less time pixel peeping. Sensors have matured to a level where we should not waste a lot of time comparing one against the other. At the end of the day whatever difference you “think” you perceive does not amount to a hill of beans once you print your image. Check out the blog posting by Ctein on The Online Photographer. Ctein is a master printer and has made prints from non-FX sensor cameras that would blow your mind. It can be done. There is no hiding sloppy craftsmanship behind sensor size anymore. The one thing that cripples your FX camera is not using a tripod. It does make a difference, even at higher shutter speeds. That and cheap filters. Don’t get me going!!
Will I take the GX1 on pro jobs? You bet I will. Will it do everything, no, but neither will the D700. The trick is to use the right tool for the job. Measure twice, cut once. Put the craft back into photography!
This is a shot of my grandson doing what I did and probably any youth has done at his age, “walk the line”. Growing up I lived very close to railroad tracks. The “gang” and I would spend endless hours walking what we thought was miles on railroad tracks. Shades of “Stand by Me”, a great movie. Unfortunately we never found a body. Or rather fortunately we never found a body.
About the most exciting thing that ever happened was a flasher jumping out wiggling his wiggler. The two gals I was with, Val and Donna noticed him before I did. Their fits of laughter alerted me to this pathetic guy. Naturally we had to whip this up into a near death experience by the time we got home.
The gang was a close knit bunch of guys who all grew up together on our block. Neil, Ian, Tim, Keith, Andy, Gord and myself made up this highly trained cadre of cowboys, army grunts, super heroes, explorers and whatever else it was we were pretending to be at the time. Once we hit Grade 7, Junior High in this neck of the woods, we discovered girls. So much for the close knit buddies, it was ever man for himself.
The day I took this photograph (yes TOOK it, not MADE it) I had ready to go my Nikon D700, Leica M3 and M5 and a Panasonic LX-5. The Panasonic won out. I am totally amazed at the image quality this camera outputs. The Leica optics are razor sharp and contrasty. Dynamic range is tremendous giving me the ability to convert some images to Black and White. I’m not all that fussy about colour imagery beyond accurate colour reproduction. I am use to Kodachrome and it’s limited applications however when it comes to Black and White it better be good or it hits the for sale sites.
It’s hard to show you the detail and excellent tonal range in this image. It seems whatever algorithm WordPress uses really messes things up. In the original image you can see every single eyelash and the background which was at least 7 stops darker than the foreground has plenty of rich luminous detail.
If you are looking for a very pocketable P&S I highly recommend the Panasonic LX-5. I hear the LX-7 is even better. I got my LX-5 new for $250 just before the LX-7 came out. Frankly I was quite prepared to hate this camera. I had already burned through Nikon, Canon, and Olympus P&S’s. Image quality was dismal and most exhibited large amounts of chromatic nastiness. My wife’s Canon G11 is a decent camera but way to heavy to carry in your pocket. Check out what dpreview had to say about the LX-5 when it first was announced by clicking here.
So when I next decide to “walk the line” I will have my trusty Panasonic LX-5 in my pocket and adventure in my heart.
Rodenstock Sironar 150mm – this lens is so sharp and contrasty you could smell the grease when looking at the print.
Mike Johnston has an excellent blog called The Online Photographer. I usually start my day by checking to see what’s new on TOP as the regulars call it. Recently he asked the question: “I’m asking how important the quality of your lenses is to you. That is, when you’re choosing which one(s) to buy.”
My idea of “quality” might be different than the usual consumer definition. This is what I responded to Mike’s question:
The signature of a lens is of utmost importance to my photography. I utilize it as a painter uses different brush strokes to mold the look he/she wants. I have differing photographic styles (portraiture, landscape and still life) that require different lens signatures to fulfill my vision.
A lens I love for landscape probably will not be my first choice for portraiture. All my personal black and white photography is done with film as I find the type of film used and how it is developed just as integral to my vision as the lens signature. Please note I am not saying film is superior, it just works better for what I want to accomplish.
I strive to create photographs that are true to my vision, not technically perfect photographs. MTF charts, pixel counts, resolution etc. mean nothing to me. Like Frank DiPerna said, ‘show me the print on the wall.’ That’s all that matters to me when I choose the tools I need to create the image I have in my mind. Today it might be a lens with smooth bokeh, tomorrow a lens that is razor-sharp and contrasty.
While putting my kit together I spent a lot of time viewing as many photographs as possible. If a photograph had a ‘look’ that I resonated with, I would find out what was used to create it if at all possible. My intent was not to copy but to learn which lens and what capture media produced what results. For 35mm I ended up with two systems, Leica and Nikon. Each system had lenses that ‘worked’ for me. Please note they were not always the latest version of a lens but sometimes a golden oldie. I am not saying Leica and Nikon are better lenses than Canon or Olympus etc., just that they gave me a look I wanted. So for me what worked was first determining the lenses I wanted to use, then the capture media.
Not surprisingly I also have a preference for enlarging lenses but that is a whole different story
In addition to this I would like to add. I recognize that many of the qualities of old lenses and film can be replicated using a digital workflow. Bokeh is one such lens signature that is extremely hard to handle in a digital environment if your lens does not have good bokeh to begin with. I used a high end digital camera for a number of years and got quite adept at getting what I wanted from Photoshop. In the end digital is not my first choice for my personal black and white work. For commissioned work digital is the only way to go because these days customers are more interested in getting the finished product quickly than they are in quality. For me it’s not an “us or them” mentality when it comes to choosing film over digital for my own creative personal work, it just works better for me.
So some would say I put the cart a head of the horse. Lens selection drives my choice of camera body. I haven’t found a camera body yet that added to the creative artistic impact of an image. Lenses however contribute the most. Don’t just look for the sharpest, contrasty lens with beautiful MTF curves. Lens choice is part of your artistic tool belt. Not just focal length, but signature as well.
All this is an important part of taking your photography from great snapshots to images that have emotional impact.
Photo by David Hamilton – he used Minolta lenses exclusively due their lower contrast. I started off with Minolta cameras and lenses but got tired of the lower contrast images. I found I could use Nikkor lenses which had better contrast and simulate the Minolta signature with filters. The Minolta lenses were not as sharp as the Nikkors either. You can always reduce the sharpness in the print but if it’s not there to begin with you are out of luck if you are looking for a sharp contrasty image.
Boy holding pet – Coba Mexico. I used a Rolleiflex TLR with Tessar 3.5 lens. I love Tessar’s for their great bokeh.
Schneider 210mm lens wide open and front standard rotation. This lens is not only tack sharp stopped down, it has nice out of focus qualities when shot wide open.
Mexican cemetary – Leica 50mm Summicron shot at f2. Another lens that has great bokeh and is tack sharp and contrasty when stopped down. I have used other 50mm lenses that would render the background in an ugly blotchy manner. Not what I was looking for in this image. Although that might be a quality I want in an image that is meant to cause tension in the viewer.
This Christmas I gave my wife a 40 x 24 print of the above photograph. I made this image probably six years ago at Coos Bay, Oregon. As soon as I saw these two geologic manifestations it looked to me like a mother and baby wrapped up papoose style. It also symbolized to me the rock solid connection a mother has with her child. Sometimes those children do not survive, or vice versa. In any event this mother-child bond is “cemented” in all time. Once both are returned to our maker reunions can be made.
At the time my favorite large format colour negative film was Kodak’s Portra 160. It was as close to the venerable Kodak VPS as I could find. The tonal range of Portra 160 and even 400 is outstanding. Colours are very neutral and images crystal sharp, but don’t take my word for it, check out the great review at Shutterfinger. The above image was made using a Linhof Tecknika IV (see pic below) and a Rodenstock Geronar 210mm lens. As is always the case a lenshade was used even though it was an overcast day.
The Geronar lens has unfortunately suffered a bad rap from the lens queens. I love the image signature of the Geronars. While not technically a Tessar design they exhibit a lot of the same 3D characteristics when used wide open. Colour rendition is accurate and they don’t suffer from flare. Another bonus is that they are small and light weight, great for backpacking and travelling. I have used the 150, 210 and 300mm versions of the Geronar lineup. Quite frankly I cannot pick out prints made from these as opposed to my more expensive large format lenses, especially once the lens is stopped down to f11 or greater. Currently I only have the 300mm version of the Geronar but am on the lookout for a good 210mm.
What many people don’t understand when it comes to print sharpness is that a sturdy, heavy tripod is essential to reduce vibration. I cannot count the number of times I have seen people spend huge amounts of money on lenses for their large format cameras only to cheap out on the tripod. When they produce slightly fuzzy photographs they lament they must have gotten a mis-aligned lens.
Not having the ability to produce 40 inch colour prints in my darkroom I was forced to scan my negative. Having recently purchased an Epson 750 Pro from George Barr I scanned my negative at 3200 dpi, processed in PhotoShop, upsized and saved as a jpg – 300 dpi. A very small amount of sharpening was applied in PhotoShop. The file was ftp’d to a local professional printing service for output. So far I have scanned both medium and large format negatives with the Epson. Results have been stellar! My Nikon 35mm scanner recently packed it in so I am hoping the Epson will do a good job on those negatives as well. I will keep you posted.
I hope to get back to Coos Bay again having been there three times already. It’s one of those magical places. Please check out my website for more Coos Bay photographs. I have images in both the colour and black/white galleries of Coos Bay and area. Most of the colour images were taken with a digital camera.
The solution is at the end of a shovel. Or so I have been told.
Many people are educated but not schooled. What do I mean by that? In my years of hiring and firing employees or sitting on committees there are always those that are very well educated but do not have a clue how things really work. In many instances these honoured individuals arrive with an attitude. It’s easy to pick them out, they are the ones doing all the talking but not actually accomplishing anything. I hate to say it but my many years of dealing with and working with academics has soured me to “higher” education and what is does to some people. These individuals are book smart and people stupid. Too many academics have a bully mentality which is probably derived from many years of being bullied themselves for being the nerds in school. Of course there are some excellent post secondary educators out there. Heck if you’re reading this you’re probably one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of higher learning, just not the attitude some carry with them once they get their masters or phd’s.
I’m a big fan of compulsory military service. Not that I support the war machine, I don’t, but I do support the discipline that is taught and the comraderie that is taught. You soon learn that to achieve your goals you have to work together. Failing military service, high school graduates should be handed a shovel and put to work alongside twenty other know-it-alls building or renewing much needed infrastructure. Pay them a decent wage. At the end of the day they will realize they actually earned their pay. The blisters and aching muscles will remind them of what it takes to make a buck. After a couple of days when the muscles gain strength and the hands harden they will look back on that ditch they dug TOGETHER and feel a sense of accomplishment. A shared accomplishment. After their year of “service” they will have a totally different outlook on and appreciation for post secondary education. They also will not put up with the paper tiger ( 紙老虎) prof’s at the front of the classroom.
If you look back to a blog I did last October 2011 you will see that I help out on a farm during harvest. It’s my two week sanity break each year. This year a historical society asked Eric Goerzen my brother-in-law to leave around 5 acres of wheat standing. We ended up leaving 7.5. The historical society wanted to bring out the machinery used back in the 20′s and 30′s to harvest this patch of wheat.
During my 3 years helping out at this farm and my years helping out at my first wife’s family farm in Saskatchewan I have met some very interesting individuals. The old timers that I met never made it through the end of high school and many did not finish junior high. But a better “schooled” bunch you will never find. The complexity of farming even back in the 20′s and 30′s just blows my mind. To see the equipment these folks brought out to the historical harvest day was truly amazing. Essentially nothing has changed in the basic mechanics which are the same as are being used today. One of the old timers I just love to chat with is George Spooner. He’s 80+ years old and still has a sharp mind and keen eyes. Eric and I (yes my brother-in-law has the same first name as I do) generally start our harvest days by going to George’s for coffee. George has been living on the same patch of dirt most if not all of his life. His home is modest but is lit up by his twinkling eyes and quick wit. George loves telling me stories about harvests past. Generally there was a crew of men numbering 8 to 16 depending on how many threshing machines they had in the field. Teams of horses were used to pull anything needing pulling. These men worked from sunup till sundown. Sometimes paid only .75c an acre. That doesn’t seem like much by today’s standards but it was enough to support a family. Now Eric and I do the work with just the two of us. That’s 14 men that had to find another line of work. Over the years most did, becoming mechanics or moving to the city. The tragedy today is that the jobs are being transferred offshore. Both skilled and unskilled. Who’s transferring these jobs? The educated but unschooled. They are only thinking of themselves and the big bonuses they get. My wife used to work for an oil company where the CEO got over $20 million in pay and bonuses. His bonuses were tied to the bottom line. If they were having a slow quarter, through no fault of the staff, hundreds would get laid off to ensure the quarterly results looked good for the shareholders. Bingo – bonus time.
During our historical harvest day we had at least 40 men and women working. Working together to get the job done. At least 20 kids were running around playing in the haystack or riding the hay wagons. We worked together and worked hard. At the end of the day it was a combined accomplishment. In this case the shovel was replaced by the pitch fork.
Of course the “shovel” I refer to is a symbolic thing. However it’s a concept that can be applied across all fields of work whether blue, white or pink collar. We need people who will pick up the shovel to dig ditches as much as we need people to design computers or perform surgery. We also need people to feel a sense of community and understand that one is not any better than the other. We are our brother’s keeper, or at least we should be. As taught by Paul in Romans – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. I am sure the same sentiment is expressed in all major faiths.
The photography stuff – finally…..
Recently I have gone over the tipping point with respect to digital photography. Choking computers, large files, hard drive crashes, endless hours staring at a computer screen and file management have taken their toll on me. For the next six months I am only going to shoot film for my personal stuff. Clients insist on digital. Well what they actually insist on is immediate access to finished, PhotoShopped files. Their lack of planning is transferred to me as a looming deadline.
The magic is gone. That anticipation you had waiting for your C41 to be developed and proofed by the lab, gone. That thrill of checking your black and white negs just as they came out of the wash, still dripping, gone. Watching the print come alive in the developer, gone. That special look of Tri-X, gone.
I just had a power spike destroy 3 years worth of digital files. Even my backup drives were toasted. However negatives I shot in the 60′s are still there just as good as they were back then. The management of digital media is just too complex and time consuming. It’s a full time job. One of the many “full time” jobs digital has created for me. There is only one “me” but at least five full time jobs created by digital workflow. I want my life back!
The historical harvest day was a prime candidate for a film shoot. I blew the dust off my trusty Nikon F5, bulk loaded up four rolls of Ilford XP2, took my Nikon D700 from the backpack and threw in the film stuff.
I picked Ilford XP2 for two reasons. The first being my darkroom is having some electrical challenges right now and secondly and more importantly I like the look of XP2 for people stuff. I knew the sky was going to be blank and featureless which was another reason for choosing XP2. With XP2 you get grain in the shadows not in the highlights like traditional silver based black and white films. It’s also wickedly sharp with a great tonal range. Being C41 I can take it into my local drug store and get the negs developed and proofed within 1 hour.
Generally when shooting in the environment I was in; bright sun, no clouds; I just take a meter reading off the northern sky and go with that. God must like photographers because the northern sky is 18% grey. For shadow shots I just open up 1.5 to 2 stops depending on how deep the shadow is. No need for fancy matrix metering. Another thing that I enjoyed was the limit on the number of photographs I could make that day. Four times 36 equals 144. That was it. No changing cards, no chimping and deleting to make more room.
What this did was bring me back into the mode I used to be in while doing PJ work. Anticipate the action, be in the right place at the right time, get that one shot that summarizes the action. I loved it! No spray and pray! The F5 would chew up the entire 36 exposure roll in a matter of seconds if I used that digi mentality. This put me back in the “moment” again. Getting the “shot” was more about skill and timing than just dumb luck and a big CF card.
I used my old AI converted Nikkor 85mm f1.8 and Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lenses for 90 percent of the shoot. The Tokina 16mm came out for some “drama” shots. All lenses have shades on them and no filters were used. I probably could have used a polarizer for some of them but what the heck I can burn down the sky in the darkroom. I find so many people do not recognize the importance of using a properly designed sunshade for their lenses. Why spend big bucks on a great lens and then kill it’s colour and contrast by not using a sunshade? It’s like putting skinny retreads on a Ferrari.
I always set my cameras to aperture priority if they have that feature unless the effects of subject speed become the priority. Using depth of field (DOF) plus out of focus areas in the foreground or background is one of the creative tools missed by so many beginning photographers. For this reason I do not use hyper focal distance techniques very much unless doing street photography.
The following images are scans of the proofs obtained from the drug store. When the snow is flying I plan on getting into my darkroom again. Once that happens I will share some of my favorites from this shoot on my main website. To see full size images click on the thumbnail. This takes you to another page were again click on the image. Kind of dumb but that’s how this gallery system work. Looking at installing a different one in the future.
In the 70′s I was a freelance PJ. Although only local and for the most part unsung I had dreams of covering the “big events”. People like Horst Faas, Larry Burrows, W. Eugene Smith, and of course Alfred Eisenstaedt were my heroes. Latter on David Burnett caught my attention with his images from Tehran during the uprising to overthrow the Shah.
In our busy world, spinning in all directions, we have lost sight of that old tradition – PHOTO JOURNALISM. “I was there” photos and staged scenarios for news media consumption have replaced real journalism done through photography.
I could go on and on about the dumbing down of news reporting both printed and visual. I could say that with the passing of Horst there is yet one less REAL photo journalist out there, but it’s not true. There are hundreds of great PJ’s risking life and limb to bring the news to us. The unfortunate part is that the news media for the most part ignores them. Rather than pay professionals who know how to interpret an event or compile a story, they would rather use free unverified cellphone pics and videos.
We live in a Walmart society. Sadly people seem to want the cheapest, fastest delivery of anything and everything they consume, be damned with quality. Corporate greed has devised a business model that has convinced us that we should have everything we want, NOW. The only way in which the average consumer can attain this ideal lifestyle is through the consumption of ever cheaper products. Nothing has value anymore. In the past we would save up for a new TV or 3 speed bike for Johnny. Today we have been conditioned that it’s our God given right to have everything we want when we want it. Easy credit and cheaper prices make this Utopian world achievable. To insure the consumer mill keeps churning, quality is reduced so products wear out quicker and need to be replaced with the latest and greatest.
A lot of those old 3 speed bikes are still very functional. Why? Because they had “value”. Work went into saving for them. Sometimes sacrifices were made in some areas to achieve financial goals. Once Johnny got his bike it was a big deal and he knew it. Johnny took care of his new or new to him bike because he knew what his parents had to go through to get it for him. It had value.
Why a photograph of a bridge you might ask. I first photographed this bridge in the late 60′s. It’s still standing and in use every day. This photograph and the next one were taken May 26th, 2012. I wonder if our make it cheaper and faster mentality will produce bridges today that will still be around and fully functional in 52+ years. The lens I used for the above shot is my beloved Nikkor AI modified 85mm f1.8. An oldie but goodie. To show I don’t scorn all things modern, the camera body is the Nikon D700. I am sure it will not last as long as my still working Nikkormat FTn or my Nikon F5, but for now I am holding pack with the digital Devil. The following image is made with the same body and a Tokina AT-X pro 17mm lens. Very minimal post was inflicted on the RAW files. Unfortunately the compression algorithm WordPress uses diminishes the colour somewhat. In the first shot the green leaves are vibrant having only revealed themselves to the sun mere days ago.
Read David’s blog. Do a photo search on the photographers mentioned. Experience what we have lost or at least allowed to be taken away from us. Demand better quality and after purchase support. Save for things. Take your life back from the banks and CEO’s who’s only concern is the bulge in their wallets.
Yesterday I saw an announcement for Nokia’s latest cellphone. What makes this important to me was the claim it sported a 41 megapixel camera. Should be interesting to see just what the image quality will be. Being the contrarian that I am, I have decided to do an in depth review of a 64 megapixel pocketable point and shoot camera, sans phone. This little modern wonder is the Olympus 35RD, produced in the 1970′s. To get 64 megapixels requires one further step, you must scan the 35mm film it uses. I found this little beauty in an antique store here in Calgary. It was just sitting there looking very lonely and forlorn so I just had to buy it and take it home. Cost me all of $10. Yes my parents had problems with me bringing home puppies and kittens too.
Once home I fished out a roll of 35mm Fuji color negative film from the refrigerator and loaded this baby up. The meter proved to be operational but the battery was leaking so I replaced it. The shutter sounded good, no oil on the aperture blades and the foam seal around the back door looked soft and light tight. Time to put it through it’s paces.
I am use to rangefinders as I have both a Leica M3 and M5 so focusing this camera was not a problem. The patch could have been a little brighter but it sure beats the focusing patch in my Olympus XA. The XA seems to have a cult following but it certainly does not have anything over this camera.
The features I immediately recognized as nifty were the flash settings. On the main aperture rotating ring there is a green thunderbolt. If you are using a fully manual flash set the camera to this setting. Then look under the lens and you will see a little tab where you can set the Guide Number (GN) of your flash. From then on just focus and the camera will set the proper aperture (f-stop). Heck we had to wait until the mid 2000′s to get this kind of functionality on digital SLR’s! Another feature I appreciate is the ability to meter through filters that are added to the taking lens. Many small rangefinders have the light sensor on the body rather than in the lenses light path. If this is the case in my opinion it renders the camera useless. For those of us that love to take manual control of a camera this little baby allows us that freedom as well. Just move the aperture ring off of A for automatic, set your shutter speed and the camera’s meter will suggest the f-stop you should use. Makes it easy to bias your exposures plus or minus for tricky lighting conditions.
The lens on the Olympus 35RC is a razor sharp 42mm f1.7. Something or a rarity these days. Fast lenses are not being produced by point and shoot manufacturers due to cost and the new digital sensors being able to shoot in low light with ever better performance. However I like the ability to use fast lenses for their wide open shallow depth of field look. Something that is impossible to get with the newer cameras unless you spend mega bucks. Many have said that the only way you can tell the difference between images taken with this lens and a Leica 35mm f 1.4 ASPH Summilux-M is through a microscope.
The proof is in the pudding so to speak. My usual method of testing any camera or lens is to take a bunch of real world photographs that will highlight any strengths or weaknesses of the test equipment. I am not really all that interested in laboratory measurements and voodoo speak. My main test criteria is for a camera and lens to be able to handle low contrast, high contrast, straight lines, edge to edge sharpness, focus accuracy and exposure accuracy. Ergonomics, sound and just general vibe are also important. One thing I must say is that this camera is so quiet sometimes I couldn’t tell if it actually took the picture. If this is something that is important to you then definitely seek out one of these little gems.
On the downside I found it hard to focus with my glasses on. It was possible, but worked better if I took my glasses off. I didn’t have to worry about scratching my $1200 pair of specks as the viewfinder has a plastic guard around it. Hey Leica, learn something. Maybe the later Leica’s have plastic guards now but my M3 and M5 sure don’t.
The following photographs are scans of drug store 4×6 prints. No Photoshop wizardry has been added beyond making them look like the original prints. You can see for yourself that this camera performs very well. The detail in the shadows was exceptional while not blowing out the bright areas. The glint on the bright silver tubing on the chairs was well controlled with nice little stars. The camera’s meter handled complex meter situations well too. You can also see in the shot of the fence that there is no perceivable distortion or fuzziness at the edges. Most shots were taken between f8 and f16.
This camera really has a “vibe” factor of 4 out of 5. The Olympus XA has a full house 5 but it harder to use and the image fall off in the corners is bothersome unless that is the look you are going for. This little camera will find a place in my computer bag for daily film shooting. Those poor Leica’s are going to whine and moan I know it.
As I write this, snow is swirling outside my office window. Anyone who knows me well knows I hate winter. Winter in Canada anyway. October to May in the Caribbean, Thailand, Bali to name a few places would be infinitely more bearable. Life is what it is and I am firmly planted here in Calgary Alberta, Canada for the foreseeable future.
Today my thoughts turned to a right of spring I participated in for at least 30 years. It was the search for the perfect crocus photograph. According to Wikipedia: “Crocus (plural: crocuses, croci) is a genus in the iris family comprising about 80 species of perennials growing from corms. Many are cultivated for their flowers appearing in autumn, winter, or spring. Crocuses are native to woodland, scrub and meadows from sea level to alpine tundra in central and southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, on the islands of the Aegean, and across Central Asia to western China. The name of the genus is derived from the Greek krokos (κρόκος). This in turn is probably a loan word from a Semitic language, related to Hebrew כרכום karkōm, Aramaic ܟܟܘܪܟܟܡܡܐ kurkama, Persian and Arabic كركم kurkum, which mean saffron or saffron yellow. The name ultimately comes from Sanskrit कुङ्कुमं kunkumam, unless the Sanskrit word is from the Semitic one.”
As the weather warms and the snow recedes I keep an eye out for a faint burst of purple peaking through the native grasslands around Calgary. I inherited this crocus fascination from my mother. I think deep down she was just as depressed about winter as I am. As a child I would tag along with her as she hiked through local grasslands looking for that “perfect” crocus. Many years later and several hundred photographs of crocuses printed my mother rewarded my efforts by purchasing a crocus photograph from one of my photographic students. This picture was prominently displayed on our living room. In all fairness it was a very nice photograph (grumble grumble).
My quest continued, now with a heightened sense of urgency, I had to replace that photograph in the living room with one of my own. It was a pride thing. The gauntlet had been thrown down.
It never happened. My mother died from cancer but at least she had a crocus photograph that gave her pleasure and reminded her of the great times we had together. However my quest continued unabated.
Jump forward a bunch of years to an afternoon spent in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park with a group of photographers from my Large Format Users Group. I started this group around 2006 to promote the use of large format film cameras in Calgary. Naturally a side benefit was meeting and becoming friends with a great bunch of photographers. On this day however I had my Nikon D70s equipped with a razor sharp Nikkor 60mm macro lens by my side. No pretty large format landscapes for me today, it was crocus day!
After two hours of climbing hills, sliding down into steep gullies just to climb up the other side I finally found my crocus. There were no trumpets. Charlton Heston did not appear as Moses and point to this perfect flower with his God given staff. Nor was the light right. Urgh! After several moments of disgust I thought I might as well take the shot and see if I could do something with it in Photoshop. Heck if you can make ugly people look like runway models in Photoshop I should be able to fix the lighting.
My tripod would not allow me to get down to the level I wanted so my LowePro pack was pressed into service. A few errant sprigs of grass were removed (yes I am one of those, get over it) focus was adjusted and I was ready to make my photograph. Then a miracle happened, a cloud covered the sun. Thanks mom, I am sure you were watching me. Hopefully you find this shot worthy of your mantel in heaven.
The photo may not be perfect in your eyes and maybe you have better ones yourself. Personally I am happy with this one and have ended my quest. I have not taken another crocus picture since. Mission accomplished.
Innocence (or guiltlessness) is a term used to indicate a lack of guilt, with respect to any kind of crime, sin, or wrongdoing. In a legal context, innocence refers to the lack of legal guilt of an individual, with respect to a crime.
The lamb is a commonly used symbol of innocence’s nature. In Christianity, for example, Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb of God”, thus emphasizing his sinless nature. Other symbols of innocence include children, virgins, acacia branches (especially in Freemasonry), non-sexual nudity, and the color white.
The photo above was taken with a Nikon F2 and probably my old trusty Nikkor 43-86 zoom on Kodachrome 64 film. This is my oldest daughter who just recently turned 30. She still exhibits the same wonderment and zest for life as she did 28 years ago, but now tempered with life experience. Is the innocence still there? Sure it is. It will always be there even if it has to work it’s way to the surface every once in awhile. She has the strength to insure no one will ever take that part away from her. Whether she believes in God or not, her spirit was given to her by the Creator and will be welcomed home when that time comes. Hopefully not for many years to come as she has so much spirit to share with those around her.
Sometimes bad things happen to even the most innocent. Think of the souls lost in Syria right now. Babies and mothers blown to bits by a mad man. When people lose their innocence it is usually at the hands of the guilty, if you can call the opposite of innocent – guilt. However these unfortunate victims of murder in Syria have not really lost their innocence, just their worldly projection of it. Innocence is within the spirit, which now rests with God.
Those that have that special ability to make others feels special, whether it’s their own child, extended family or close friends are special in themselves. They are a rarity in today’s “me” world. These special people are selfless and work long hours, many over looked, to insure the quality of life for those around them is the best.
I want to talk now about someone in our family who is one of these very special people. I have only known her for around ten years but in that short time have learned to love her. Every time we visit she goes out of her way to make us feel special even though at the same time she is working a very demanding job and running a very active household. Juanita is her name, not that would mean anything to many of you, but this is one person that should not remain nameless in a world of sensory clutter. Nothing she has done will make the evening news. She won’t appear as a trending item on Twitter. Nor will she have hours and hours of coverage devoted to her by CNN as she fights the biggest battle of her life. This person who could have done anything in her life devoted all her waking energy to the well being of others. Juanita worked in an old folks home for most of her adult life. She choose to work in a position that gave her a very hands on relationship with those in her care. Her spirit and innocent light infused those around her. Juanita is the ultimate “mother hen” even taking on the job as head contract negotiator for the care workers at her place of work.
Juanita and her husband Gerald brought up three lovely, caring and equally “innocent” children into adulthood. Each of their children have been infused with the spirit of their mother.
Juanita has been struck with a inoperable case of cancer. Bad things happen to good people. Just as they happen to bad people. There is an equality there that doesn’t seem fair. Why would God allow that? Why would God allow a child to lose his or her little life as in Syria? From God’s perspective, that life is not lost. God is able to restore to that child their life, so no loss is suffered on the part of the child. Life is not lost to the One who can restore it.
What about the grief that parents and family experience? In our loss, the presence of God is available for us to experience His strength, His comfort, His sustaining love and assurance in the face of the evil that exists. God sustains those who grieve for those He calls to Himself.
Juanita’s brothers, sisters and parents have flown to Abbotsford, BC where she lives to offer support and encouragement. This is one very close family. In the pictures my wife brought back Juanita still has that special smile.
I’m not writing a eulogy here, Juanita is still with us. I can feel the warmth of her smile as I think of her. Juanita is a unique person who deserves all the blessing, prayers or positive vibes any of you reading this can send her. She deserves it. Juanita has the fight of her life ahead of her. She has spent her entire life helping others. Now it our turn to help this very special person in any way we can.
Juanita has that special innocence. She still has that special ability to get excited about clover flowers just as my daughter did 28 years ago, even though her world around her is anything but easy.
I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Wildrose Brewery a couple of years ago. I had spotted this place about a year before while at a farmers’ market. The brewery is housed in an old decommissioned Canadian Army base . What was more than likely a storage building for machinery now housed these gleaming vats full of God’s special nectar.
I lugged my backpack full of large format lenses, loaded film packs and a Linhof Technica IV past the patrons in the front, through those special swinging doors that separated reality from a Willy Wonka-esk sudsy utopia. The Wildrose Brewery is a relatively low tech facility. Since they are a micro brewery the output is small when compared to the big operators like Molsons or Labatts. Here the staff are very hands on with every facet of production. They actually care about the product they produce and it shows in the taste. Years ago I had dealings with one of the chemists that work for a once large beer “manufacturer” here in Canada. I asked him what was his favorite brand. His answer surprised me, he said he didn’t drink beer, he knew what was in it. Interesting to say the least.
Here at the Wildrose Brewery they coax out several very distinctive brews from their specially picked ingredients. “Manufacturing” suds is so far from their reality you have to wonder how some of the swill produced by the big manufacturers can be called beer. Wildrose beer has become popular here in Calgary due to its taste, not through juvenile commercials.
This particular shot wasn’t easy. There was a door open on the left that was bathing the kegs in direct sunlight. The vertical vats were in shade with the background almost dark. The scene brightness ratio (SBR) was approaching 10 or 11. Fortunately I use PyroCat-HD as my primary developer utilizing a semi-stand regime. I adjusted my ASA (ya I’m an old fart and still call it ASA) to the appropriate value, placed my zones where I wanted them and let’r rip. As it turns out the neg is fairly easy to print, only a little dodging and burning here and there. The film I am using is Efke PL100 also known as ADOX 100. I would really like to make a digital neg about 11×14 and use it to produce a carbon print as I have seen Sandy King do. Carbon prints have such a 3D look to them.
Once finished my shooting for the day the Brewmaster took me around and we spent at least an hour sampling various beers straight out of the vats. Before I left I did a crew portrait which was dropped off to them the following week. One copy for each of them.