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Some good, some bad, and some really ugly

in General Rants , Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Yep, it’s PHOTOKINA WEEK, and since this is some kind of a photography site, I’d better waffle about gear and stuff and all the AWE-SOME things lining up to grab our credit cards.

The good

Well, I hope so anyway. Lasersoft’s Silverfast 8 HDR Studio finally slipped out of Beta a few days ago, presumably in order to get promoted at Photokina, although Lasersoft seem to be being pretty quiet about it. The link to the new version is of course broken, bless ‘em, as it still points to v6.6, but the demo link works and the demo can be serialised. So far I haven’t had time to explore it, but when I do I’ll write a review.

The bad

Not exactly Photokina, but anyway it’s certainly bad news. No, not Fuji killing off movie film, but the acquisition by the disgusting Google of NiK software, which will almost certainly result in the disappearance of excellent products such as DFine and Silver Efx, and the mutating of Snapseed into me-too Instagram to let talentless narcissists like this one (sorry, I know he’s popular, but emperor, clothes etc) upload thousands of photos a day, have them auto-processed and handed over to Google’s scary advertising engine. Well anyway Patrick LaRoque puts it far better than I can.

And the Ugly…

It’s no contest really, is it ? Unbelievable. Aghast doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Hasselblad Lunar wooden grip 550x388

Swedish design meets Italian engineering. Or is the other way around ? I’m sure half of Saudi Arabia is already sending the slaves out to queue up for it. Poor old Victor must be doing about 180rpm.

Posted in category "General Rants" on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 10:24 PM

So many photographs…

in General Rants , Tuesday, September 04, 2012

I don’t really understand how people do it. People who post one - or more - masterpieces a day on Flickr, on their blogs, on their websites. Photos they took the day before, with a camera they bought last week, and will have discarded next month. The pressure to “keep up” gets so overwhelming that sometimes I want to give up on this whole interaction stuff, or give up on photography altogether. I could just stop taking new photographs now, and spend my remaining years reprocessing, fine tuning, giving some of my archive the attention it might deserve.

I’ve got so many different projects, all unfinished, all seemingly endless. For example, I decided to revisit a large folder of slides from my Antarctic years which I’d discarded as no good. Most them are indeed hopeless, but some, in fact quite a lot, have a degree of documentary or personal interest, and a few are potentially hidden gems. I’m maybe half way through the initial “raw” scans. Since my expectations are not that high anyway, and I’m not looking for anything larger than an A4 print, I decided to scan them to 64bit linear (the other 16 bits are the IR channel) on my Canoscan 9000F, rather than my slower film scanner, but even then it takes ages. And then I have to reprocess to “normal” 48 bit in Silverfast HDR, then finally touch up in Photoshop. Probably quite a lot, considering their state.  And then there are the several hundred which I considered “ok” in the past, many of which have never been scanned, or at least not properly. And that’s project 1.

Ant archive 0001

A sample from Project 1: looking over Rothera base, on Adelaide Island”

Then there’s a huge backlog of digital images, many taken this year in Italy and France, especially of the lavender fields in the Var, and of flamingoes in the Camargue, which I’ve hardly touched upon, or which need reworking from scratch due to my reversal out that disaster of a piece of software called “Mountain Lion”. And still from this year, their’s a whole bunch of shots from Iceland in February which remain in limbo. 

I have 38513 photos in my Aperture catalog, going back to December 2003. Many, many of these deserve further attention. And before 2003 ? Well I’ve got two shelves full of slide binders, and a very full MediaPro catalog.

And then… my ongoing obsession with the XPan is all very well, but the workflow of getting an image of film into my archive is heavy going, and there again there are backlogs.  And stuff from the last decade screaming to be rescanned, for example a whole batch from New Zealand over 10 years ago.

And finally, what for ? Almost nobody sees this stuff. I’ve no real idea how may visits this website gets. It’s not zero, but it’s not very high either. Sometimes I get a few comments on Flickr, but for me 10 is a lot. Possibly I don’t do enough networking. Possibly my photos are not interesting, or don’t reach the level now needed to rise above the noise.

And yet every day bloggers like Kirk Tuck or Ming Theing are showing what they did in the last 5 minutes with their new camera, while at the same time regularly delving into their archives, AND writing several feature length blog posts a day.

I mean, what are they ON ?

 

Posted in category "General Rants" on Tuesday, September 04, 2012 at 09:15 AM

An open letter to Lasersoft Imaging

in Silverfast , Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dear Lasersoft Imaging,

Quoting from your website, “on August 17th [2011], scanner software SilverFast 8 has been released”. Today is June 21st, 2012, and recently, Beta 10 of Silverfast HDR was released, with little obvious change, except, apparently, in fiddling around with the infrared channel which has been causing you some issues.

Silverfast HDR 8 has no features that are not present in Silverfast 6 HDR. It does, however, miss a few. Zooming doesn’t work. You can see an image at a size which fits the window (about 4% in my scans), or, if you discover the hidden workaround, 100%. That’s it. At least you can pan the 100% view. From playing around, it seems that headline features such as GANE simply don’t work, although the controls are there. There is no way to batch process, a key feature of all previous versions.  There is no equivalent to version 6’s flawed, but useful, Virtual Light Table.

You do have a completely new GUI, which is long overdue. It is an improvement, at least, but hardly earth-shaking. And, crucially, it works on Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), unlike version 6. Your company’s total refusal to follow any sort of UI standard is baffling though, as well as financially counter-productive. But Lion, and Silverfast 8, were released a long time ago. In fact, OS X 10.8 is imminent, even if we allow that it is little more than a marketing wrapper for a service pack for 10.7.  And Silverfast HDR 8 is still in Beta.

I’m not holding out any hope for a Silverfast AI 8 for my Minolta Scan Multi Pro. It seems that this is just too hard for your engineers, even though it didn’t seem to be a big deal for Ed Hamrick. Anyway, I have now dedicated a semi-retired MacBook Pro to running Silverfast 6.6 AI, but I would like to reprocess the HDR output on my main machine.

I suspect that you are paying the price for years upon years of neglect of a very old, undocumented and labyrinthine code base, and quite possibly the engineers who knew how it worked are gone. For many years you watched the money roll in, and bolted on fairly useless new feature after fairly useless new feature to get the upgrade income. Of course the foundation was - and is - a very good scanning engine, but that’s no longer enough.

I bought into your Archive concept - in both senses of the word -  but it seems that your idea of “archival” is very strange. Your customers now have archive files which can only be processed on current computers with a half-baked Beta. This is a poor reward for the trust your customers have shown.

Personally, I don’t feel any need to join the rush to upgrade to OS X 10.8 - but perhaps I should consider 10.7, as 10.6 is beginning to lock me out of interesting developments. In fact, I have test 10.7.4, and of all the applications I use, including tricky things like monitor calibration and printer drivers, only Silverfast is holding me back.

I challenge to provide a roadmap to a commercial release of Silverfast HDR 8. And to also publish a list of features you intend to include on release, and a list of those which are not currently working in Beta 10 (although you have released Beta 8.0.1r12, the latest update notice on your Silverfast HDR 8 main page is for 8.0.1r4). No gloss, no half-truths, just the facts. This is part of what an open Beta entails, but you seem not to get that.

Yours, in hope of a positive response

David Mantripp

Posted in category "Silverfast" on Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 09:17 PM

Admin Notes

in General Rants , Friday, July 22, 2011

Just a quick note about some changes and fixes I’ve recently made here.  First of all, I finally noticed that the links in my RSS feeds were broken. That means that my faithful subscribers (yes, all 4 of you) couldn’t click through to the articles on the site. Brilliant, no ? Anyway, it’s fixed now. Sorry.

Second, you’ll probably notice I’ve added little bubbles showing how many comments there are on the articles listed on the home page. I haven’t bothered with handling the case that there are more than 99 comments. That will be a nice problem to have.

Finally, I am going to try to get around to making commenting easier, especially for frequent visitors (that’s, er, Tim. And maybe RB, sometimes).

Have a wonderful weekend
David

Posted in category "General Rants" on Friday, July 22, 2011 at 06:14 PM

Ethical quandry

in Film , Saturday, May 21, 2011

I recently spent some time on the Eolian Islands, out of season, avoiding the (extreme) heat and the tourists. While I was there I visited one of my favourite locations, the main crater of Vulcano, a couple of times.

I was to find that since my last visit, the crater floor had been adorned by some “urban art” in the form of stones spelling out various declarations.

Vulcano crater scan

Straight from the scanner: the crater floor

I don’t really want to start a rant about this. Some people will find it unacceptable, to the point of wanting the perpetrators skinned alive (and they’ll likely as not have British or German passports), others will just take it as part of the scenery, others will find it amusing. The question is, should I include it in my photograph ? Certainly the last I time I visited, it wasn’t there, or at least if it was I didn’t notice, so it wasn’t in my pre-conceived photo either.

Vulcano crater scan zoom

Not quite what I had in mind

So should I edit it out ? It’s not a very challenging task in Photoshop CS3. Possibly even less so in CS5. But is it “cheating” or “wrong” ? It is after all a fairly major part of the scene, and there’s a very long tradition of graffiti in the Mediterranean area. Pompeii, for example, has plenty. So in fact it could be considered to augment the interest.

To start off with, I didn’t think too much of it. I’d decided right from the outset that first I was going to edit it out, and second, most probably, it was going to be converted to black and white. Like this:

Xpan vulcano11 2 07

What I had in mind

Apart from any ethical issues, am I actually playing it safe and traditional here, and churning out yet another boring, bland photo with nothing to say for itself ? Justified, worthwhile edit - or lost opportunity ?

I’m really not so sure…

 

 

Posted in category "Film" on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 05:23 PM

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