The freedom of artistic photographery

Blue Skies.

I feel sorry for professional photographers. Back when we had an accounting business we had several photographers as clients, and even in those days of still mostly film media their ability to eke out a living by catering to the tastes of others was continually tried. Today it could only be worse, as not only is there a dwindling market due to the proliferation of amateur shooting to fulfil the needs of people who still can’t tell the difference between a low-quality snapshot and a top-notch professional image but also because techno-snobbery saturates the minds of client and competitor alike.

Whale Out Of Water.

So on the one hand they make a major investment in equipment and learning only to have their work deemed comparable to shots taken with a smart phone, and on the other they get looked down upon if they don’t have the latest cameras and lenses because everyone knows you can only get the best results with the newest equipment release. Quite the perplexing paradox, no? Even your fellow professionals will deride you if you don’t keep your kit up to date. That over and above the usual ‘brand snobbery’.

Christmas Cracker.

The artistic photographer does not have to fall victim to this charade (which doesn’t mean that they don’t). For them all that matters is the end result which, since it is a work of art and not a visual documentation, is subject only to evaluation on its own merits. Or at least that’s how it should be, and admittedly this does not mean a great work will automatically be seen as such by all (more often quite the opposite). But the artist can take some solace in knowing the art only has to please its creator. Whether or not it has commercial value is a different issue (and to be honest it often doesn’t; no matter how many people praise it they still won’t pay for it). If they leave off the camera description they will not be subjected to ‘brand snobbery’ either. In fact only in the field of artistic photography can one use low-quality equipment to positive results: a Holga lens is acceptable as a tool for artistry, but no one wants their wedding photographed through one.

Some Sunny Day.

Given my deteriorating eyesight I have found extra solace in artistic photography. Since I can’t really see what I’m doing until the finished image is on my computer (if even then), there inevitably is a random component to the outcome. Perhaps a magical one as well. I certainly can no longer claim the ability to make professional-grade images, but I can still create acceptable-level artistic ones (I think so anyway). It certainly is easier not having to remember and make use of all the technical aspects, instead relying on a ‘feel’ for what is being done. It is also cheaper not having to buy ‘bargain’ new lenses, any one of which may cost more on its own than my entire arsenal of “out-of-date” equipment is worth.

Smoke Rising.

For those who are professional photographers I suggest they take the occasional moment to experiment with artistic photography. Not because they should switch, as that inevitably would result in their becoming very poor very rapidly, but because it can provide a respite from the stress of always having to ‘measure up’ to other people’s standards. Which is particularly frustrating when those other people aren’t really qualified to judge your efforts anyway.

Ice and Light.

Leftovers served cold

There’s a kind of tradition where at the end of the old year and/or start of the new one people clean up around the house thoroughly. Everything gone through, all the garbage disposed of. That sort of thing. As close as I come to that is posting these few ‘leftover’ photos from the Pentax tryout of the old lenses. I can’t remember which lenses were used in the photos and can’t find where I made the notes. Maybe I tossed that.

Strange sky.

Thin gold line.

Moon. (I suspect this is with the 200mm Cunor.)

Calendar shot. (Probably the 24mm Vivitar.)

Colour version.

Monochrome version.

There is much other news, but none of it is good and I won’t relate it at this time. There’s already too much bad news all around.

Last of the lake

Here for your enjoyment the last few pictures taken with the Nikon at the lake this year.

Sometimes lens flare adds to the picture.

My favourite photo of this year.

Reflect on this.

Goodbye for now.

Next week I have a medical procedure to undergo, and I don’t know what will be happening other than that.

Red Sky At Night

RSAN #1

RSAN #2

RSAN #3

RSAN #4

Taken one evening with the Nikon P610. We won’t be having sky like that for a while now. In fact the weather is very nasty right now.

I’m trying to get my Winter wood supply in, and nothing is co-operating. Almost done but …

And then there is my upcoming surgery the details for which have not been finalized and it’s already been moved to Nov. 4th.

Other than that … I have a surprise coming up. Hopefully a pleasant one.

Addendum: in a nod to my failing eyesight I have decided to up my usual size format from 640×480/427 to 1280×960/854.

Re-learning curve: Canon PowerShot G11

What re-learning curve?!

Despite a lack of co-operation from the weather and increasing pressure to do things other than photography I managed to fire off a few shots with the G11. To my delight it is still easy to use even with my failing eyesight. For one thing it has an optical viewfinder which remains bright (unlike the Nikon P610’s dimming EVF) even if partially obstructed by the lens barrel at wide focal lengths. Oh yes, the camera has limitations in that department, but few in any other! The CCD sensor renders great tonal range, the ISO goes down to 80, the lens is sharp enough for general purposes, and the exposure is correct (although I prefer -1/3 EV setting).

As the saying goes, the proof is in the photos!

A beautiful day at the lake. We’ll be seeing fewer of these as Autumn rolls in. At least the fire smoke is mostly gone now.

Lakeweed. Nice detail for a point-n-shoot camera!

The great tonal range of the CCD sensor translates into a wide array of gray tones when desaturated!

This particular type of camera is best at taking pictures of objects. Dogs are objects. If you object to dogs, get a cat.

Here: one standard-issue cat, in box, with accessory toys.

If you’re willing to put a little effort into it, the G11 is capable of artistic shots as well.

I am so keeping this camera! Best $12 I ever spent! I could probably get pictures out of it without eyesight.

Speaking of which, I see the doctor again on Thursday. I look forward to mentioning the continued pain, blurriness, spots, and weariness. I don’t look forward to hearing what he has to say because I have a pretty good idea what that will be.

Re-learning curve: Canon 1Ds

“Re-learning”? Not with this camera! This is the ‘full frame’ DSLR, and as such has the largest and brightest viewfinder. Seeing what I’m trying to photograph is the biggest problem these days, and with the 1Ds it’s almost not an issue. Likewise the Canon G11 with its optical finder gives similar performance. Only the EVFs and smaller, dimmer optical finders present much difficulty.

Okay this camera still has poorly-thought-out controls, but I know where they are and don’t have to change them often. Also it weighs a lot. But what about the all-important results? Well I took 28 photos and only 6 of them are actually bad. That’s the best post-eye-problem ratio of any camera I’ve got.

All these photos were taken with the 75-300mm Canon EF lens. Some are the full image, some are cropped to varying degrees. This is not the best lens either, but it was cheap and it works.

Landscape view. Or ‘lakescape’ perhaps.

Squirrel!

Shrouded in mystery.

Birds fly in the lake of the sky.

Natural guitar pick. (Stone full of mica.)

Bird in a tree.

First of this year’s wood harvest. (640 x 426 segment of full frame.)

Goodnight.

The success with using this camera reinforces the validity of my revised plan. In fact replacing this camera and the T100 with a 5D Mk II would by viable, but unlikely to happen. At this point I’m aiming for keeping the Fuji F80, Canon G11, Nikon P610 (which needs replacing at a later date), Canon T100, and this Canon 1Ds. Also I will use various adapters to allow the use of classic lenses with either Canon DSLR (the full frame cameras are not quite as good with this due to some lenses getting in the way of the larger mirrors).

To that end I have purchased some new equipment which hasn’t arrived yet but will result in further posts when it does. I’m not doing so well at selling off the superfluous stuff, but then there’s a lot else going on around here now with the start of the annual wood harvest.

“Filmulation”

It’s World Photography Day! What better day for an old fool who doesn’t know anything about anything (me) to palaver on about some of which he does not know?

Or something.

Anyway, today’s pictures are a result of using a digital camera as though it were a film camera. It’s easy with the right equipment. Now for some people the “right equipment” is a Fujifilm X camera which has some pre-set film simulations as well as a host of programming capacity to vary all sorts of settings. Lots of fun, for lots of money.

For me the fun comes from getting film-like results without spending a lot of money or experimenting endlessly with settings. Part of the charm of film is the slightly unpredictable results, and I have achieved that using some sub-par equipment and a little know-how. Or maybe no-how.

The camera is the always dirty Pentax K100D Super. It has the advantage of a CCD sensor which produces better colour tonal range than the CMOS sensors (in my opinion as well as that of several others). Plus the limited 6MP size is something of a bonus here as it is not crazy-sharp. The lens is the very sharp Pentax Super Takumar 35mm f2, whose glass is stained yellow due to the thorium content. This is an all-manual set-up too; no auto exposure or focus.

Settings are the same as with Mini Manual Manual, save the added adjustment of fixing the white balance at daylight. I think leaving off that step is one reason why so many film simulations don’t have that random variation that film gives us. Remember film has fixed sensitivity and colour temperature. On a digital camera these are two more variables. So we set it like film and shoot it like film: ISO 200 (lowest possible on this camera) and Daylight colour balance. Here’s what we get:

Marley on the beach. This looks exactly like a typical colour print from the 1960s.

The yellowing of the lens does show up in the images and needs to be compensated for in the final processing. But here we see the side effect of it enhancing cloud contrast just like a K2 filter would.

The cabin. Rich, saturated colour.

In the woods. My eyesight got me in trouble here on exposure, but not so much that I wasn’t able to ‘save’ it.

This could be the beach at Wakiki.

“You can’t control natural light.” Unless you learn how.

I was going to do some more shots in the same manner only using the T100 as the camera, but I haven’t got to it yet. It’s been a busy and tiring week, and that as of Tuesday.

Meanwhile my redesigned Master Plan continues to take shape and unfold. Slowly.

Re-learning curve: Pentax K100D Super

Things I like about this camera:

1). It was really cheap to buy (although most offerings of it aren’t).

2). CCD sensor. You want “film quality” images? Can’t beat the CCD sensors.

3). Uses standard ‘AA’ penlight batteries. Nothing special or expensive about powering it.

4). Pentax K lens mount. That’s a vast array of available lenses. I also have the M42 – PK adapter so I can use my classic Takumars.

5). Good control arrangements, easy to set up and use.

Things I don’t like about this camera:

1). It was used in an archaeological dig. As a shovel. This explains the price, and why I am continually cleaning it. The lens has significant coating damage on the front and I keep getting shadows on the images because more dirt is rattling around inside. It’s easier to re-touch the photos.

2). CCD sensor is only 6MP, making digital zooming an impossible dream.

3). Uses standard ‘AA’ penlight batteries which are more expensive to continually replace than just recharging a lithium set. I could buy rechargeable penlights, but that would be substantial capital outlay.

4). Pentax K lens mount limits adapting of other lenses because it is small. Fitting the M42 lenses is even tricky because the K mount is just a bayonet incarnation of the screw mount so the adapter is thin, fragile, and not always easy to get in place.

5). The shutter button focus has failed, causing some significant problems for me because I can’t tell if the image is focused and forget to push the ‘wrong’ button.

6). In addition to the internal and external dirt problems, some of the silver has come off the pentamirror so the viewfinder presents black splotches. My eyes have their own black splotches now, thank you, and I don’t need to see any more.

The ultimate question is: how well does this camera fit with my current photographic plans? This we evaluate on a basis of two criteria: usage and results. Usage … well you’ve seen the clues above. The viewfinder issue is more than a little vexing, and the back-button focus requirement has resulted in far too many out-of-focus images. Add to that the lack of digital zooming ability due to the low resolution sensor and subtract the fact I can adapt the Takumars to one of the Canons (and more easily) and you see it fails for usage.

Now what about results? As with all the equipment under my “new” eyesight, the percentage of “good” to “bad” pictures is disappointing. For the other cameras this has been a matter of me re-learning. In the case of the Pentax the camera itself presents faults which can not be overcome. It would be better if this were an excellent example of a K100D (without the silver loss and focus problem), but it isn’t. I could replace the lens, but should I bother?

Let’s look at the pictures:

Rusty rhubarb.

Lavender weed.

Typical sky shot.

Suddenly a raven. I fired off half a dozen shots trying to get this bird in frame and in focus!

Pale moth. (Notice the lack of sharpness due to the lens.)

A look at the lake.

Over-all I’d say the results are good, maybe only fair. Changing the lens helps (I have another series coming re that), but nothing can be done about the 6MP limitation on getting closer after the shot was made.

This is a camera I should sell. The question mark hanging over that is: would anyone buy it? If not, I have no problem keeping it. It doesn’t take up much space and is unlikely to get any worse from sitting unused.

Re-learning curve: Canon T100

Four weeks since having my retina welded. If there’s any further improvement it will be minor and slow, so I’ve got to work with how I see things now.

Last week, before the smoke filled the valley here and I started choking on every breath, I got a chance to try using the Canon T100 APS-C DSLR. This included some experiments with the manual Pentax Super Takumar lenses, not a one of which produced an acceptable picture. Curiously my ability to judge exposure has been affected, in that bright scenes seem darker and dark scenes seem brighter than either actually is. O-kay, going to need a light meter to do that now I guess. I mean I was off a good 2 stops on every shot regardless of lighting. That’s really bad for me. I can’t have an instant “do over” because I can’t see the camera’s LCD well either.

On to automatic lenses, exposure, and focus! I paid for those functions so I’m going to use them. In theory this eliminates many issues and leaves me dealing only with composition matters. In theory.

Sky before the smoke moved in. A ‘general’ picture that came out fine.

Then we started getting some weird clouds. Picture is still okay, though.

“Silver and Gold”. The smoke begins to affect the light.

“Bugsy sent me!” Experiment with close-up focus (mud wasps).

How to drive the autofocus nuts. It had a helluva time latching on to that web! The difference here was sufficient that even I could see if it had worked before pressing the shutter.

Artistic image achieved.

The issues with this camera are that its EF-S lenses are not the sharpest (and I need all the sharpness I can get now) and the ‘focal points’ are little black dots in the viewfinder; my eyes now have their own little black dots and I kept getting confused about which dot was which for trying to fix focus. In short the extra effort I need to go to now in order to get an acceptable image has slowed down my photography, whether I want to take my time or not. This is a problem for any rapid ‘grab shots’ of wildlife, for example. The lowered resolution of my vision makes spotting birds in trees extremely difficult, and even affects my ability to recognize a potential scene. ‘Obvious objects’ are much easier to pick out. They just aren’t always the thing I want to photograph.

I have my Olympus E-410 here as well. I’ve yet to buy the longest lens for it (70-300mm zoom) because they are always 3X as much as I paid for the camera and the two shorter zooms. However if the smoke would like to go away I can evaluate that for use with “my new eyesight”. The Pentax K100D Super should get a check too, although that camera had issues even without vision problems factored in. It is because of the changes and the fact I have four different DSLRs with five (or six if you count the classic glass) different lens systems that I’m rethinking how I do photography.

The two bright spots are the Canon G11 and Fuji F80, which are just point-and-shoot basically and not a concern. Likewise the Nikon is hanging in there, but its failings of focus and exposure are now exacerbated by my own. Thinning the herd to where I have fewer cameras which I can more easily use and that produce results I want is what I’m contemplating now.