photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Off Sick

in General Rants , Thursday, September 29, 2005

Well, I'm sitting at home with my right forearm in plaster, after emergency surgery on Monday night to an infected cut on my right thumb. My fault for not going to the doctor earlier, but a remarkable piece of incompetence by a bunch of morons in a hospital in a certain southern Swiss city didn't help. Fortunately their colleagues in Zürich are somewhat more skilled. Anyway, once I'd figured out how to type with my left hand only, I used some of my enforced downtime to (slowly) fix a few things on this site. First, I've started to cull the photo galleries, which were getting too big. I'll try to improve the quality / quantity ratio. Next, I revised the photo links page to bring it up to date. It is now database driven and hopefully more interesting. A few other changes are sprinkled about...I hope they work!

RAW deal (again)

in Olympus E-System , Saturday, September 17, 2005

Following the never ending, evolving debates on various web fora about E-1 RAW conversion, I've decided to not stick my head in the sand but to have another look at my choices. As far as I know, the major options are: Olympus Studio Adobe Camera RAW PhaseOne CaptureOne Bibble RAW Shooter Essentials Silkypix Developer DcRaw Silverfast DC And a few others. My choice is from the first 3, for various reasons, none of which imply that the others are no good (for example, Raw Shooter is PC only). At the moment I'm using CaptureOne Pro 3.7 (C1) as default. But I'm going to take another look at Studio. Although as far as workflow is concerned, C1 seems by far the best (although, to be fair, it takes some getting used to), in outright image quality Studio may be better. The problem is that the level of adjustment that can be done in Studio is lower than C1, which means that some processing I do in C1 will have to be moved to Photoshop. Not a showstopper. Many, many "tests" of RAW developers use the in-camera JPEG as a benchmark. This is silly, for several reasons. Perhaps the most important one is that through using RAW, you can - and often should - take "wrong" photos. For example, if you want to maximise dynamic range by deliberately over exposing ("expose to the right"), you do so in the clear knowledge that you will correct this in RAW development. The camera doesn't know this: the JPEG it produces assumes that the exposure is "correct". Following on from this, the quality of information and the degree of control that the RAW software provides is very significant to extracting the optimal image. I strongly believe that most, if not all RAW converters can be adjusted to produce similar results, at least in terms of contrast, saturation and white balance (read "colour"). Many so-called comparative tests mainly reveal that the tester doesn't really understand the software and/or the underlying principles, and I include myself in that. However, it is inarguable that each program has it's own unique default settings, and these, since they establish the "starting point", both give a string initial impression of the software's value, and influence the way in which the user interprets the RAW data to produce a final image. Working on a purely subjective basis, the image characteristics as opened by the software ("a bit dark", "a bit blue", etc) have a strong influence on the corrections the user applies. Well, that sets the background. If I get any conclusive results I'll report back...

David Ward - Landscape Within

in Book Reviews , Thursday, September 15, 2005

david ward - landscape within - book cover I don't quite know how I missed this book. I am an avid reader of landscape and nature photography books, and I had a passing, chance encounter with the author, David Ward, last year, but I missed it. Clearly Amazon's "you might like this" algorithm needs some tuning. I was actually sent it by a friend, Icelandic landscape photographer Daniel Bergmann, how himself had discovered it apparently because I mentioned David Ward to him. My brain clearly needs some offline maintenance.

Anyway, let me say it up front. "Landscape Within - insights and inspiration for photographers" is the best book on landscape photography I have ever read, including classic stuff like Ansell Adams "Making of Forty Photographs". What is special about this book is that the author places landscape photography in an extremely convincing artistic and critical context. David Ward is a gifted photographer, but is also a highly erudite and skillful writer and communicator. Whilst his enthusiasm for his subject is clear, he remains objective, and manages to fit a remarkably complete and cohesive story into relatively few words. It's a fairly short book, but not too short.

Although he quotes many sources, his own voice comes through, and what you end up with is a strikingly well argued manifesto for the artistic and social importance of landscape photography. The final section on semiotics is worth the price of the book alone, and here as well he adds his own twist.

The icing on the cake is the inclusion of a set of simply fabulous photographs, which, rather than carry heavy captions labouring some point or the other, are largely left to tell their own story - following the philosophy which devolves from the text.

I just hope that David Ward's skill as a writer and educator does not eclipse his work as a photographer. The few words I exchanged with him when our paths crossed last year, when he was very busy giving his full attention to a workshop group, indicated to me that on top of all this he is a thoroughly nice human being.

You can see some of his photos here, but to be honest, they deserve a far better web site. Whatever, buy the book. If you are at all interested in the real meaning of landscape photography, you will not regret it.