photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

getting back into things

, Thursday, August 12, 2004

I really should write more here. I have a lot of thoughts, ideas, impressions that somehow are just too disorganised to write down. Showing my age, when I was a student (and after) I read a lot of Michael Morcock's Jerry Cornelius stories, which frequently revolved around entropy and general disintegration.

Seems familiar now.

ANYWAY, back to photography. I probably shouldn't write what I'm going to, because it isn't terribly constructive, and some people might take it the wrong way. But whatever, since nobody actually reads this stuff it doesn't matter.

Back in June / July, I participated in a photography workshop with a fairly well known leader. It was my first taste of "organised group photography" and probably my last. It was actually great fun from a social perspective - I got well away from the everyday slog, and met some great people, and enjoyed myself. But from a photography point of view it was a disaster. I'm not quite sure why, but basically almost all of my photos are not only dull but also technically flawed - frequently seriously so. I thought that it was because I'm still not as familiar with my Olympus E-1 as I thought I was, but then I looked back at previous stuff and found that, whilst still arguably dull, it was technically ok. So what went wrong ? Well partly I think photography is not a social/group activity. It's an individual thing. A workshop can be good if it focusses on tuition and discussion, but this one basically focussed on travel - a lot of travel. So the net effect was of 16 photographers hurtling around the landscape and stopping off every now and then to line up and take identical photos. Because I was so obsessed with trying to get an original take on things, I lost track of the basics, like making sure the tripod is correctly locked up, and I'm using the appropriate settings.

All in all in has given my self-confidence a big kick (not that it was so high to start with) and has actually ended up with me feeling really fed up with photography - which is a problem because it has been my only creative outlet for some time.

Probably I was just naive to think that working with a "name" photographer would be rewarding: in fact, and inevitably, it just amplifies and highlights one's own failings.


Capture One

in Olympus E-System , Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Well it's finally here: PhaseOne's Capture One SE with Olympus E-1 support (or C1SE for short). I've been watching PhaseOne's web site like a hawk, waiting for this release, which feels long overdue. C1SE is reputed to be the best raw developer on the market, and with the shortcomings of Olympus Studio and of Adobe Camera Raw, I was hoping it would solve the raw workflow problem. I've been using it extensively over the last week - here are my first impressions. c1se.jpg First of all, C1SE is more than a raw developer. It claims to be a full "workflow" tool, and it pretty much lives up to this. When you open a folder of E-1 raw files in C1SE (or more accurately, create a session folder and dump files into the Capture sub-folder), it immediately starts to generate thumbnails, and does so at a velocity which should embarass both Olympus and Adobe. Once it has done this, double-clicking on a thumbnail opens up the file preview in the main part of the application window. From here, you proceed through 4 steps - white balance / colour balance adjustment, image adjustment, focus check and process. All adjustments work in real time and are highly responsive. In C1SE you work on a preview - as in Adobe Camera RAW, but not, I suspect, in Olympus Studio. Two tools that deserve special mention are the arbitrary rotate - which is brilliantly implemented - and the crop tool. Applying these as part of the raw conversion is a real plus. The Process tool allows you to set scaling and image size (a bit confusing at first), as well as output format. You then add the image to the Process queue - and here is the real tour-de-force - C1SE processes the output in the background, leaving you to move on to the next photo. The RAW conversion is much slower than in either of the other two products, but it doesn't matter, because it happens in the background. In C1SE you can queue up to 100 files for processing. There are many other nice features, but the bottom line is of course the results. Well, in general they're very good. C1SE produces nice, slighly warm output at default settings, without any of the lurid colour shifts that plague Camera RAW. But it does have a problem with bright reds, sometimes producing the same weird mosaic effect that Camera RAW did prior to v2.2. This can be alleviated with the slightly mysterious "noise" slider in the Focus Tool. So, apart from this, what are the downsides ? Well first the folder structure that C1SE imposes is a bit annoying. I would rather that it let me decide how to organise my work. In the short term it is ok, but in the longer term the lack of a standard interface to the operating system file browser could become cumbersome. Second, the documentation is a little eccentric, and user support appears, from browsing the support forums, to be rather poor. Third, the support for out-of-camera EXIF data is patchy (but at least it doesn't get thrown away, like it does in Olympus Studio 16bit TIFF). But weigh that against the ease of use, remarkable responsiveness, 100% reliability and excellent tools... C1SE is a little expensive at $299. There is the cheaper C1LE at $99, but that misses some of the unique features in SE. I just received my copy of Bruce Fraser's "Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop", and I'll be reading that in depth to see if I can tame ACR before I decided to buy C1SE. You can download a 15 day fully functional trial from PhaseOne's]">PhaseOne's[/url] web site