Alright in black & white

Taken with the Nikon P610.

Black & White
Let sleeping dogs lie.
Shoe repair.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Wild dog in snow den.
The forgotten door.

What do you see?

Recently fellow photographer¬†Robin Hogreve posted about how and why he shoots RAW format, which led me to comment on how his pictures look on my computer as opposed to his. This is an issue in the digital age; it’s no longer just a matter of what does a particular person’s eyes see, but what does their viewing screen present them with. Herewith I post four versions of one picture which tackles the difficult business of getting a snow image “right” (by which I mean looking as true to reality as possible).

Original, unprocessed JPEG image shot with the Nikon.
White balance automatically corrected in GIMP.
Brightness +20, contrast +10 to compensate for poor light exposure.
Cyan saturation turned down 100 because snow isn’t blue.

The final image is as close to what the scene actually looked like as I could get. It makes a difference which order the steps are applied too, as the computer uses the image content to judge how to make certain adjustments. Usually a white balance correction should be the first step, as colour temperature varies a lot in Winter.

Now artistically you might want the scene to look blue or darker or lower contrast in order to convey the mood of the time. But really the snow only looks blue around here in bright sun when it reflects our very blue skies (full of UV due to thin atmosphere at this elevation). That doesn’t mean you want it to look that way, though.

The question here is: which one looks best to you?

It would be interesting to look at these on several computers side by side and have several viewers judge the results. Art is in the eye of the beholder, but given the medium here we have to wonder if we’re getting across to the beholder what the creator intended.

By the way that’s a highway truck “winging back” the snow on the road shoulders with a “belly blade” and possibly dropping some sand as well to increase traction. It’s been a very nasty Winter, and it continues: just yesterday we got four more inches (10 cm) of the white stuff.

Misc.

Well it’s raining again. From the looks of the forecast I have showers to put up with off and on for sometime to come. This interferes with the current vital project of harvesting firewood. I don’t like getting wet and I especially don’t like working in a wet forest with the greater potential to slip and have an accident.

New wood stove at work.

Yesterday I ‘saw off’ all the neighbours so when I’m out here now I’m essentially alone. If something goes wrong I could be in big trouble. It has happened before, and I’m not younger or healthier now. Yes I’m too old for this.

It also isn’t any good for photography, all this rain.

Speaking of which, a few notes.

Some of photographers I follow have recently posted items that I am going to comment on in a non-specific way. This is not meant to be mean or insulting to them, just my observations.

Award Winners.

It’s great that you enter contests and win awards. Really. Not my thing but I am happy for you so keep it up and be happy yourself. I just want to say I’m amused by the fact the photos of yours that win prizes are not ones I would select from your efforts as being the best. This is more a comment on judging and competitions than your work. Hey I once won a poetry contest with the most trite piece of rubbish I’d ever penned. When you’re judged by other peoples’ tastes remember they aren’t necessarily any good. It’s fine that you can supply the right kind of photo to win, but the important thing is: are you making photos that you like? Please yourself and you’ll be happy.

Damsel

Film vs. Digital.

I notice some film images recently scanned and posted that were not sharp. I literally grew up taking film shots (insert the tired history: hundreds of cameras, thousands of images). This may be due to the scanning process, but since the same people use the same equipment and achieve different levels of results I can only conclude that sometimes film is not as sharp as digital (duh!). This is a milestone as there was a time when film, any film, had greater resolution. Other than a tendency to ‘blow out’ with overexposure, digital has unquestionably surpassed film in quality. If you know how to use it.

Sunset before the smoke came

Equipment, equipment, equipment.

I like new cameras. I like old cameras. I like digital cameras. I like film cameras.

I can only afford to use the digital ones I have, and fortunately four of them are more than good enough for my ‘professional snapshot’ style.

But I like cameras for their own sake. It’s the engineer in me. So I will read reviews of the latest Sony A7**** whatever, although I won’t necessarily want it. I will want cameras I can’t afford, usually for rather dubious reasons such as “I’d like to try it” or Eric L. Woods’ famous “because I like it” criterion. Mostly I dream about being able to pick up cheap digital to play with, like the Canon PowerShot A70 that I have or the old Kodak V1003 (both of which work, but have limiting defects now so don’t get used). The Fuji EXR is one of the best cameras I’ve ever had, especially for the <$75 price.

The point is that equipment can be a thing in and of itself, intersecting with the end result images. It is troublesome when you buy a lot and never use it, or buy something pricey which doesn’t give results (ahem, Lumix ZS60).

As such I’ve been focusing (pun intended) on the images more than the equipment lately. Mostly because the market for more equipment is not good where I am: poor selection and terrible prices.

Oh Red Cap!

Other notes.

I’m not terribly pleased with the way this WordPress work-around works, as it’s a pain to work with and limits my photo sizes to ‘small’. There’s probably some method of adjusting that, but I haven’t stumbled on it.

Life in general I shall not comment on. The world is a very depressing place right now, with little sign of improvement. Quite the opposite. My opinions on it won’t change anything, so I’ll just remain quiet.

Today I will bring in another load of wood, in the rain, and unload it, in the rain. Tomorrow … well I don’t know. The shed is about half full but I can’t count on the weather so I guess I will play it by ear and keep harvesting.

Sadly it looks like the Mrs. will not get to spend time out here this year. That was the main goal of my efforts too, but events conspire against it.

Try to be happy.

Exercising the Nikon P610

Every camera needs to be picked up and used now and again. It’s just good practice. In the case of this particular one, it also means I get a selection of good shots without even trying hard. No having to¬† post-process to make up for bad exposure here! Truly a fine piece of machinery.

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Cloud Stream
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The sunlight is over there
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Raven in the Aspen
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That is Venus
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Raven silhouette
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Frozen in ice

 

IlLumixated

Some shots from the Panasonic Lumix ZS60.

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Dime Moon
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From Under Snow
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Stalactice
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Snow’s off the high ground
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Random Patterns
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Ice-lens-ic

That last one is, I think, one of the best photos I’ve taken in a long time. It may be hard for some people to make out, as it is quite complex, but that’s actually light coming through a cylinder of ice (icicle segment). This despite the fact the Lumix has the worst lens of any of my cameras. This is the best image I’ve ever taken with it.

 

Elysium Fields

Some more old prints I found. The pictures were taken in Perry, Upstate New York, and are at least 25 years old. Beyond that I don’t know the exact location, date, or what camera and film were used. They had suffered a bit from the passing years, so I cleaned up the worst of the damage after scanning. But not too much because I don’t want to lose the “old film look”.

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Certain this is “the old Mlyniec farm” on Myers Road
field2
Possibly on Page Road
field3
Unknown
field4
Unknown
field5
Probably on Page Road
field6
Could be Simmons Road
field7
Unknown, probably Page Road
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Page Road near Simmons Road

It’s kind of fun finding the old photos, but it emphasizes the overwhelming number that have gone missing and makes me wish all the more that they hadn’t. There may have been some great pictures in there.

I’ve found more prints, slides, and negatives to scan and will be doing so as there’s not much chance of taking new pictures under the current circumstances. I did not find what I was looking for, of course!

 

Film Finis

In one of the unusual circumstances that are so usual in my life, I came across the prints of the last roll of film I ever shot. I know it must be the last because the images start at the old house, ‘visit’ the cabin, and finish at the ‘new’ home, meaning they were taken in the time period of 2009-2010. Yes, the film sat in the camera for almost a year. No doubt something to do with someone having an automobile accident and breaking her back, resulting in a lot of confusion and changes to our lives.

Anyway, I scanned the images such as they were and worked them a bit because the prints had faded in the ensuing 10 years despite being kept in the dark. Possibly not the best photo finishing service either; the prints are a bit grainy. But the camera they were taken with was the Pentax Spotmatic and its Super Takumar lenses shine out.

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Our Friend Peter

Taken at the old house, the kind of picture I don’t usually take: a people shot. He doesn’t look amused, but really he had a great sense of humour. You can see the usual chaos of my over-active life all around him. The vehicle to the left is the gray ’98 4Runner that would end up on its roof in October with Brenda trapped inside.

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The Stony Shore

Here we are at the lake, then. The terror of the future yet to be revealed. This is not the sharpest picture I’ve ever taken of that lake. It might have been hazy that day or … well who knows. No sense speculating about it, really, as it’s past.

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Denim Pine

The pine bark beetle epidemic was in full swing then. This shows the end of a pine log cut, with the characteristic blueish staining cause by the tree trying to defend itself against the beetles. This would have been cabin fire wood, as we didn’t heat our main residence with wood until we bought the ‘new’ place.

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Daisy Bug

Even then I liked to take pictures of bugs on flowers. The newer cameras have better macro ability, I must say. Even so, not a bad effort.

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Sun on the Water

A decidedly artistic shot. The vignetting is on purpose, the rampant chroma is not. Therein lies one of the faults with film: you don’t really know what you’ve got until the prints are done. With digital, I could look at this in a second and try a different approach – or even afford to take the shot several different ways right off the bat.

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The Clearing

This is one side of the property of the ‘new’ place as it appeared in the Spring after we bought it. The stumps everywhere were infected pine trees that had been cut down and sliced up for firewood. Yes, the house came with the first two years’ heating free, so to speak. I would reproduce the shot as it appears now, only I’d have to trudge through 10″ of hard packed snow and I don’t fancy breaking an ankle.

As I glance over these I wonder about the thousands of images I have taken which have simply disappeared to who-knows-where, never to be seen again. I also wonder about how well digital images might be preserved in their magnetic form. I know I’ve already lost a few to hard drive failure, and since have taken extra measures to back up anything I feel is really worthwhile.

Even so, I will stick with digital. It’s certainly cheaper than film these days, and easier to manipulate. Plus there is the added advantage of not being ‘stuck with one type of film for a whole roll’. If you load your camera with Kodachrome 64, you must shoot the whole roll before changing film types – or spring for numerous cameras to handle different films. With digital, you can alter ISO, colour intensity, even ratio and resolution from one shot to the next if you so desire. Personally I try to go for a “base universal setting” which not only produces the kind of results I like right out of the camera most of the time, but also allows me a lot of latitude to post-process into different forms if I feel a particular shot needs the change.

PowerShot in black & white

Our ever-unpredictable weather has made photography a gamble lately. One day we have bright sunshine, the next thick overcast. Temperatures go above freezing in the day, then plummet well below at night. Tuesday a big wind blew in and changed the atmosphere from dry and warm to cold and snow and now the sun is out. It’s ridiculous!

Anyway in the past couple of weeks I have been ‘lugging’ the Canon PowerShot A70 around, set to monochrome, in hopes of trying out its in-camera B&W abilities. I would be trying the other settings, but the indicators on the LCD are so small that I can’t make out what they are. This means setting aperture and/or shutter speed is too difficult for me. So right now it will do colour on “Auto” and B&W on “Program” and at that I’m not sure I know what the ‘fine tuning’ is at; I need reading glasses and a magnifier to see the tiny symbols! There are newer versions of this camera which retain the nifty eye-level optical zoom finder but have a larger LCD for seeing the settings (and images). Maybe one day I’ll come across one. Until then …

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Marley, of course

This is a crop from the full-size image, so it isn’t reduced. Not bad for a 3MP camera, eh? I did have to fix the exposure as the gray day was giving very flat light to work with. Still an acceptable “snap shot quality” image.

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Rounds winding down

Taken in a rare moment of actual sunshine, I was surprised that the camera got the exposure right on this one. Considering the shot consists of bright light and deep shadow, the dynamic range is pretty good with just some washout in the highlights. There’s no editing been done to this, just size adjustment.

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Cloudy

Full image reduced in size. You can see the ‘sensor streak’ at the top, although it is less intrusive in monochrome. This is the kind of sky I was dealing with for most of these shots! Here the contrast has been turned up a little as it was just too flat.

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The Red Coach Inn

Monochrome doing the old building a favour, as it looks far worse in colour. Seriously this historic landmark needs millions in renovation and repair, and it is unlikely to get it. One of the few structures in town that isn’t some pre-fab quick-build utilitarian monster. It still isn’t very interesting.

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O Canada!

This would look better in colour. In fact it would look better in ‘red only’ colour, higher resolution, and closer zoom. This is a segment of the full frame. Quite grainy and gray despite contrast tweaking, looking like some ‘pushed’ Tri-X. I don’t like the effect.

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Raven

Cropped out of a full view, not shrunk. Contrast increased slightly to make up for the flat light. This is at full zoom, panning to follow the bird as it flew because the shutter activation on the A70 is slow. Same ‘feel’ as the flag picture, but perhaps it works better here? Perhaps not. This kind of picture is what the Nikon P610 is for: that camera would not give us fuzzy feathers.

Although the PowerShot A70 is a capable performer for such a cheap camera, I don’t think I’ll be keeping it because it’s difficult for me to use it to its full advantage. This is a fault with eyes in their seventh decade, not the camera. I’ll probably donate it back to the thrift store I bought it from.