Two pictures three ways

Once again we are having not-good-for-picture-taking weather, with temperatures so cold the cameras try to reset or shut down completely. Really the best of them are only meant to operate down to -10°C and yesterday it was -18°C. So I’ve been inside thinking about shots and trying some experimental things which may or may not lead to more involved photo shoots. All taken with the Nikon P610.

First we have a picture of the sky where you get to guess which is the original and which were processed:

Next we have the antique inkwell. You get to pick which you like best. They all ‘work’, but I think the original colour version is the best.

Otherwise, I’ve been reading interesting blogs again including one from someone who actually has a new Fujifilm X-Pro3 – and has confirmed my opinion of it: So this happened. Great camera. And a clever bit from Eric L. Woods about being fiscally responsible – and still getting the camera you want (essentially).

Only a couple more posts for the year. Another silly one with silly pictures and a silly one with less silly pictures.

Always have a sense of humour, especially about yourself.

Four views

It hasn’t been good picture-taking weather here lately, so I’ve only just managed to finish this series I started quite some time ago. I wasn’t really sure where it was going or what I would do with it, to tell the truth. It ended up being four random shots from four different cameras. Each has a small story behind it.

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Latest Snow – Kodak P850

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Mr. Downy – Nikon P610

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Fallen Leaf – Canon T100

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Sunrise – Kodak V1003

The first picture, “Latest Snow”, was taken at ISO 80, to fly in the face of the current trend of hyper speed. Also the camera kept freezing because it was -12.

The second, “Mr. Downy”, was shot on a horribly overcast day with the air full of mist which did a real number on the sharpness and exposure. Yet a little post-processing salvaged the image.

The third, “Fallen Leaf”, is the most interesting subject with the way the curled leaf has been caught in a spider’s web. The colour shows how warm our light is at this time of year too.

The fourth image, “Sunrise”, is further testament to how you can take quite decent pictures with an inexpensive camera. Alas I did have to tweak it a bit because the V1003 has lost its ability to render contrast and colour correctly, but the adjustment is still minor.

I’m not sure how many more photos I will take this year. We’re in the stage of Winter where it manages to be miserably cold and also lacking interesting snowfall. Getting out and about will become more difficult, and most of my favourite subjects have gone into hibernation.

I wish I could.

Old glass, part three

In this installment I’m using two different but near identical Kodak Petite cameras from the 1930s. Whereas the Hawk-Eye used 120 film these take 127. The significant part is that one of them is the first camera I ever had (when I was 7), and it had been the first camera my Dad had:

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The other is a nearly identical blue one that I picked up later in life. It works somewhat better than the ‘original’ as alas the green one’s bellows have gotten very stiff over the decades. Still I like the Petites over the Hawk-Eye as they are smaller and thus somewhat easier to manage and the focal length of the lens is more suited to the Canon’s tiny sensor (although there is still some significant change in the focus required).

First let’s look at a shot ‘as-is’ and then with the white balance corrected:

These lenses do not have any colour correcting on them as B&W was pretty much it for film in the 1930s. Marley in the snow shows the natural tendency for a slight magenta cast to everything. Exposure info for these photos is: ISO 200, 1/60, US Stop 4 (about f8). In some cases I had to do some ‘lightening’ post-shoot as the exposure swings wildly depending on the scene variations and adjusting any of the settings gets a bit tricky out in the field as I was trying not to let the camera be open to get dust in it. You soon run out of hands handling two cameras at once!

The wild rose in winter, one with each of the two Petites. There’s little difference between the two, I’d say. You can see some slight colour difference despite both images having been processed the same. Also in these two of the fir trees:

As I said before, whereas this is a fun experiment it is hardly a practical way to make pictures. Without a fixed connection between the two cameras it is awkward to handle and dust gets inside. The lenses are sharp, but not astoundingly so (unlike the Takumars). Exposure is a challenge, as is focusing. And every shot needs colour correction to give accurate tones. I think I’ll stop with this now, unless I find another interesting old lens to try out, and actually clean off the Canon’s sensor.

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The End?

 

Old glass, part two

The weather here isn’t co-operating much with anything, including photography. By the time there was any sunlight to shoot with today it was late afternoon. There was also an inch of snow on the ground. Despite these setbacks I was eager to try out using the Canon with another old camera for its lens. In this case a Kodak Rainbow Hawk-Eye from the early 1930s. This being a folding type camera removes the focusing limitations of having the ‘film plane’ in the wrong place.

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The results show promise, but were not without problems. For one thing hand-holding two cameras at once is more than a little awkward. You run out of fingers to make adjustments with, and there’s some difficulty with actually getting your eye on the viewfinder. I tried using a tripod to help, but its assistance was minimal. In the fleeting light I took four shots, three of which I had to ‘ramp up’ because a fairly minimal change in scene illumination resulted in a drastic difference in actual light on the sensor.

Exposure was ISO 200, 1/60, US Stop 4 (that’s what the Kodak is equipped with). You will note sharpness is not great, partly because it is impossible to clean the front of the lens on the Hawk-Eye. Partly because there are some issues with getting focus sharp even with the bellows (which don’t slide all that smoothly on the track). Also, post-processing is necessary as the lens is not colour-corrected in anyway (1933 production). The same goes for the Brownie shots I did before.

It’s an amusing experiment, but not really a practical way to take even artistic shots. There is risk to both cameras from their being “used open”, and you can see on the dog shot I still haven’t cleaned the sensor from the last experiment; I expect to do one more series before doing that.

On the other hand it does leave open the possibilities of adapting quite non-standard lenses for artistic purposes. It also reminds me of the silliness of people purposefully spending money on ‘soft’ lenses when the effect is so easy to achieve. You can take the sharpest lens in the world and ‘soften’ it, but you can’t make a bad lens produce sharp images.

Of course now I’m on the lookout for more things to adapt, such as a damage old camera that could be made into a more permanent “accessory” to the Canon. The next experiment, however, will be with another folder; the Kodak Petite (another colour art deco camera).

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The original Kodak Brownie from 1900 used for the first series

 

Shooting with old glass

If you’ve read much of these blogs you’ll know how fond I am of the old Super Takumar lenses. They were one of the driving forces behind selecting the Canon T100; it could, via an adapter, use those lenses in manual mode. The experience has not been disappointing.

Having owned and used literally hundreds of cameras there are things about the old film machines that I’m quite fond of. It’s why I look longingly at the terrific retro styling of the Fujifilm X100; it looks like an old rangefinder 35mm. Looks alone, however, can not justify my spending $1,500 +/- on one. Way out of my budget.

Unfortunately for me I was forced to unload my massive collection of photographica last year, including numerable classic lenses. Had I to do it over again … but that never happens. The few items I was able to keep are not exactly in keeping with adapting to digital photography. Unless you’re crazy. Well, no problem there!

Here are the results:

They are all close-ups due to the nature of the shoot: these were done with the T100, lens off, and the ancient original Kodak Brownie used as the glass. Since this moves the ‘film plane’ about 50mm back from where it should be (hand holding the open back Brownie in front of the lens-less T100) it put the equivalent of a significant amount of extension tube into the formula. Thus, close-ups. The little candlestick and the figurine are about 38mm high.

I did not have sufficient light on this day to do this properly, so the exposure is rather stretched (ISO 400, 1/60 @ whatever f stop the Kodak is). It really needed more light, so I did a little post-processing to bring things up. The first image is a segment of a vase, and the last one the front of a toy Isetta car.

The downside to the experiment is that the Canon took pictures with no lens on and … now I have to clean the sensor. That has put me off the idea of mirrorless cameras, as every time you change a lens you are risking such a fate. With a mirror in front the sensor is safer from dust.

Still this has encouraged me to try this some more, possibly with a less rare ‘front’ camera (the Brownie is basically priceless as there are only 7 of them known now). I’ve got a folder or two which might prove interesting, as the bellows slide on tracks which could compensate for the focus limitations.

Those who know me know I’m an engineer and are probably now thinking “he’s up to something”. Well, you’re right. Following the Zen, if the right circumstances fall into place I am up to something.

Into the deep freeze

It’s been cold here. One morning it was -22°C (-8°F). This is coming early for the area. It curtails a lot of activity, like photography. I mean, have you ever tried working a camera with insulated gloves on? Not that the gloves make much difference against the cold. Well I took them off and made a few shots anyway.

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Frost on the glass

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Winter wire

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Post top

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Frosted fir

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Waxing crescent

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Picture 2000 Nikon P610

All photos taken with the Nikon P610 except “Frosted fir” which was shot with the Kodak V1003 as I was passing by that tree in the car. The last image is the two thousandth photo taken with the Nikon, meaning all my current cameras have now exceeded that number of exposures – equivalent to 83+ rolls of 35mm film. I guess it’s time to buy a new camera, eh? 😀 Maybe I’ll wait for it to warm up a bit; it’s -20°C this morning.

 

Colour or not colour; that is the question

It won’t surprise anyone who has read even some of my blogs that I have my own views on whether to shoot colour or monochrome. You may have heard me express the sentiment that I generally shoot colour and then desaturate if I think the image would look better in B&W. It gives more choice, I feel. Other people prefer to shoot monochrome in the camera, and that is their choice. I do it myself occasionally, if I think it’s what the picture calls for. I’d love to be rich enough to have a camera “dedicated” to each, but that’s not very likely to happen.

Let’s face it: if the camera makers made it easier to flip between the two we wouldn’t be having the discussion, because a simple flick of a switch would give us either colour or B&W in a moment. Instead we have to paw through menus and push buttons, which rather spoils the fun. I’d like to see a combined ISO/Colour dial with speeds of 50 (please bring that back; the sun does shine sometimes) to 800 (above that doesn’t gain you much but noise) and half in colour half in B&W or maybe even thirds for high colour and low colour and B&W. I don’t know; if someone pays me to work out the details I will, okay?

Anyway the subject today is how and why I choose between the two. To start with, we have the Work Truck:

For me the colour is a distraction here, mainly because of the background blues competing with the subject which is practically monochrome (sepia) all on its own. In B&W the crazing on the panel is more prominent, and you might notice some of the smaller details of the form (such as how it sags on one side) because you’re not looking at the wide tonal range. I tried this in low saturation colour and didn’t like it. Shifting it to sepia (basically the colour of the dirt on the truck) however, works. Possibly the best version:

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The background colours are no longer a distraction, and the monochrome aspect of the road dirt (the main point of the image) is emphasized. Although you could argue that the colour version puts the road dirt into vivid contrast with the rest of the scene.

Now let’s look at a picture which works either way:

In the colour version we see the nice brass of the candlestick as well as the red and green remains of previous candle wax in the base. The blue background complements all of it, including the shapely shadows. In the monochrome version the image becomes one of shape and texture, of which it has a lot. In fact you could say it’s more poetic as the snuffed candle contrasts with the long shadow of the daylight (side note: this is not early or late light, it’s just the very low sun angle we have at this time of year. It stopped me taking it direct-on because it glared back horribly. “Angle of reflection is equal to angle of incidence.”)  Now here’s two more versions, low colour and “sepia” (actually trying to match the brass tone of the holder), both of which “work” in my opinion:

If someone asked me to pick between the four I’d have a hard time of it. Perhaps I should do a large image with the four versions together, like Warhol? *LOL*

Now a picture which could only be in colour. If this were monochrome it would be gray on gray, as there wouldn’t be enough contrast to show the fine details. This basically is a picture of colour contrast:

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Brush Strokes In The Sky

Finally here’s an image that only works in B&W. I thought this when I planned the shot, and so took it in monochrome to begin with which is unusual for me:

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Lonely Bear

If this were in colour you would see the bright blue of the background cloth, the bright red of the bear’s scarf, and the contrasting browns of the bear itself. All of which would remove the sense of melancholy generated by the image of a teddy bear that’s been left behind for some reason.

We have a mixture of images from the two Kodaks in this series: the P850 is responsible for the candlestick and the bear, the V1003 took the truck and the sky (with some post-shoot help for its failing sensor).

The long and winding lens

I have an old Soligor M42 mount 80-205mm f3.5 macro zoom from my Pentax equipment. I tried it on the Canon once, but didn’t like it. Mainly because this lens lacks an Auto/Manual aperture switch, meaning that as-is you can only shoot wide open. I probably don’t have to explain that on a lens that long the depth of field at f3.5 is near nil, never mind that full aperture is rarely the sharpest selection for any lens.

Dan James suggested I glue the stop-down pin in, making it a full manual-only lens. It’s a good idea, but before taking that step I decided to give it another shot on the Canon so I could ask myself that all-important question “would I really use it?” before going ahead with the modification. Herein the results.

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Pine

Something there is probably in focus somewhere, but I don’t see it. What I notice most is the colours are interestingly rich. This is due partly to the characteristics of the lens and partly due to the fact some idiot forgot he had the 2X Pentax extender on as well and didn’t compensate the exposure for it. Well if you’re going to screw up a digital exposure, go under with it. Going over just gives you washed out areas with zero data to work with.

This combination also brings up another issue with the lens: it is big, long, and heavy. 205mm of classical glass is 328mm on the crop sensor Canon, or 656mm with the extender. We’re talking Hubble Telescope neighbourhood here. No Image Stabilizer on this old lens! Almost impossible to handhold steady even for a normal person, never mind some old guy with permanent shakes. Crank up the ISO, turn the shutter speed to max, and you can still get nothing but a blur due to the practically non-existent DOF.

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Glacier

Now here is a picture which brings up another issue, albeit one not the fault of camera or photographer. At this time of year our sun angle is really low in the sky. This means the light is coming through a lot of atmosphere even at noon, making for very warm lighting. Also long shadows. Also lots of glare. We’re talking windshield-laser-of-death kind of thing.

I tried some processing on this shot and kept going back to the out-of-camera original as best for lighting and colour. It’s not a spectacular image by any means, but I like the light. I’d like it more if it were even remotely sharp. Even my eyes can see that it isn’t. Pretty sure I had it focused, but a lot can change when you push the button.

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Dew drop

I often take this shot as a lens test. The wire is slightly diagonal to the ‘film plane’, yet we don’t see any particular point of sharp focus. Or at least I don’t. I have to conclude that there was a focal point, but the image simply isn’t sharp anywhere. How much of that is the wide-open aperture and how much is the glass? Good question.

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Broken

This is a failure. It seemed like it would be a good shot, but in the end it’s pretty dull and yes it’s fuzzy. Since these pictures are done at different distances you’d think one of them would turn out sharp, but it isn’t looking good for the ol’ Soligor.

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Macro

Ah, who are we kidding? There was no chance of a macro shot coming out sharp. But I had to try it because it’s one of the lens functions. Kind of silly to hand-hold it too.

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Searchin’ in the sun for another overload

This shot started out as blah. One aspect of telephotos is how they look through the haze, and pick it all up. That’s one difference between getting close with a lens and getting close with your feet. Really this started out as a mass of bluish-gray dullness, so I decided to ‘cook’ it with brightness and contrast adjustments. Now it’s an artistic rendering of scorching desert heat on the wires. And you hardly notice it isn’t sharp. Heat blur. Or something.

What conclusions do we draw? The Soligor is not a sharp lens. It is heavy and hard to handhold. The fact is I can get similar results with the 55-250mm Canon lens with fewer exposure/focus issues. What’s more, for really long shots the Nikon P610’s 1440mm equivalent blows the Soligor to pieces in every respect.

I may yet go ahead and glue that pin down, just to see if the lens is any better when stopped-down. Of all my old Pentax mount lenses, this one clearly is the worst. I’m not sure I noticed it at the time.

Walkin’ Blues

Woke up this mornin’, feel ’round for my shoes

You know ’bout that baby? Got them ol’ walkin’ blues!

Woke up this mornin’, … an’ feel ’round for my shoes.*

Or “the camera as artist”.

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Canon T100

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Nikon P610

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Kodak P850

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Kodak V1003

Four shots taken with four different cameras. Each set to shoot monochrome (not colour desaturated later) and on automatic to let the camera choose exposure. I tried to frame them all as close as possible with their widely different focal lengths, and shoot as quickly as possible to prevent severe light changes (natural lighting). The only processing was reducing image size from native (not the same on any of them) to 640 pixels wide.

Which do you think gives the best rendering?

Of course I could take any one of them and tweak the contrast, brightness, et cetera – but that isn’t the point of the exercise. I think one of the major failings of digital photography is too much reliance on processing and not enough concentrating on getting it right out of the camera. The manufacturers don’t help there, with the way they design the controls and bury things in menus. As it was none of these cameras has a simple switch for going between colour and monochrome; it’s in the menus for all of them. I understand Fuji makes several models with such a ‘film switch’ but they are pricey beyond reason for me.

Here’s what happens when you get “artsy” with it:

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Lithography version

*”Walkin’ Blues” by Son House circa 1930.