INDEX

photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Tim Parkin - Still Developing

Well worth a visit!

in Recommended web sites , Friday, October 30, 2009

Several lifetimes ago, I used to go to York, and Yorkshire, quite regularly, and pretty quickly got used to the local’s penchant for, shall we say, blunt speaking. Oh, and Betty’s Tea Rooms. So I’m not particularly surprised to discover that Tim Parkin, an outstanding landscape photographer, and writer of an erudite, informative, and entertainingly blunt blog, is from Yorkshire.

Quite honestly it’s refreshing to find somebody who quite clearly is photographing and writing for his own enjoyment, doesn’t particular mind upsetting any egos, and doesn’t beat about the bush.

I like his photography too. He knows when to apply restraint, goes for natural colour, and doesn’t go overboard with the Velvia stuff. His work reminds of that of David Ward, both in style and approach, but he’s carving out his own visual language.

So, a strong recommendation from me - great photography and a lively blog. Can’t be bad.

ps - oh, and he helped me fix my RSS feeds. Thanks, Tim!

pps - and If they’re not fixed, it’s my fault, not his

 

Føroyar by Marco Paoluzzo

The Faroe Islands in glorious monochrome

in Book Reviews , Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I’ve been a fan of Marco Paoluzzo’s photography since I discovered his “Iceland” book a few years ago. I was very impressed by his uncompromising monochrome approach to exploring the icelandic landscape, and his skill in conveying the feel not just of the landscape, but also the people who inhabit it and contribute to shaping it. I found his style very different both from anglophile, Velvia school as well as the more austere and formal Germanic style. As demonstrated through his wide range of works, and especially the wonderfully melancholic “America Blues”, It is perhaps more accurate to describe Marco Paoluzzo as a travel photographer than “just” a landscapist, and this shows through in the way he has of conveying a sense of place rather than abstracting from the landscape.“Iceland” was followed up a few years later by “North”, which in fact focussed mainly on Iceland itself, but offered a fleeting glimpse of another old North Atlantic Viking dominion, the Faroe Islands.  Now, with his new book “Føroyar”, Paoluzzo gives center stage to these islands.

foroyar.jpg

Føroyar actually reprises most of the Faroes section of “North”, within a collection of 72 photographs of windswept, often fogbound scenes of a land at the edge of the world. Although Paoluzzo favours dark, one could almost say dismal, tones in his landscapes, nevertheless they radiate light, sometimes soft, sometimes brighter, always hinting at something slightly lost, slightly mysterious. The landscape work tends perhaps less towards the abstract than in “North” and “Iceland”, but nevertheless there are some wonderful studies of form and movement. To my mind this book seems to be the work of someone exploring his inner landscape as much as the external world, blending in a touch of a reportage perspective.

It comes as a shock when the sequence of desolate cliffs and mountains descending sharply into the sea is broken up by an overhead shot of a road - a real road, with cars, snaking along a narrow strip between steep slope or sea. Other photographs remind that this is actually an inhabited landscape, sometimes obviously, sometimes more discretely. One wonderful shot shows the bows a ridiculously large cruise liner barely distinguishable just off a fogbound port. Such a ship must be completely out of place in these settings, but finally the fog reclaims it and it just becomes another angular bulk looming up out of nowhere.

But finally, these departures from the “classic landscape” repertoire do not detract at all from the collection. They give it an extra dimension and that sense of place which is often lacking in more formal works.

You can order the book (with text in English, German and French) directly from Marco Paoluzzo. A French edition has also been published, and can be ordered from Amazon.

You can also see a wide selection of Marco’s photography on Flickr.

 

 

Silverfast Multisampling revisited

but unfortunately little has changed…

in General Rants , Friday, October 09, 2009

UPDATE, July 8 2010

In the past month I’ve been using Silverfast multi-exposure almost every day, in a re-archiving project, and it has worked flawlessly.  I also have to admit that my sometimes harsh comments about Lasersoft I always regret later. Sometimes they can be infuriating, but often as not I suspect that it is mainly language issues. They’re actually a great bunch of people doing a great job of keeping film scanning alive for mere mortals who can’t afford Hasselblad’s luxury good price tags.  Oh, and my comments about excessive pricing ? I’m wrong.

So for the sake of consistency, I’ll leave this article up, but take it with a VERY large pinch of salt


Lasersoft’s Silverfast has long been considered the best scanning software around, although fans of Ed Hamrick’s VueScan would disagree. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it for about a decade. I love the results it is able to deliver (once you’ve got over the learning curve) but I really dislike the user interface, and I have little time for the company itself, with its cranky staff and very exaggerated prices. I don’t believe I’m alone in this.On the positive side I have to recognise their continued support for a large range of scanners, many obsolete and/or orphaned by their makers. They play an important role in keeping film alive. I also realise that it must be getting harder and harder to maintain their business, especially sales of their higher range products such as Silverfast AI Studio. Which leads me to the point of this article, revisiting a topic discussed some time back.Around about version 6.0 Silverfast was pretty much complete. There wasn’t really much to add, which is a problem for a software company. Nevertheless things were added, often hyped to the heavens but actually delivering very little. For example, the “Studio” version of 6.5 added things with clever sounding acronyms (e.g AACO, Auto Adaptive Contrast Optimisation) which actually didn’t seem to do anything useful, although they spent a long time doing it. Ever desperate for upgrade revenue, a more recent attempt was Multi Exposure. As opposed to Auto Adaptive Contrast Optimisation, Multi Exposure is supposed to, er, optimise contrast, auto-adaptively. It does this by making two scans, the first at normal exposure, and the second deliberately over exposing to pull out shadow detail. It then combines the two into a final image. Initially I seem to recall there was an option to make 4 exposures, but this seems to have been quietly dropped.

Some film scanners, like my Minolta Scan Dual Pro, have the ability to multisample, taking a number (between 2 and 16 in the Minolta’s case) of samples at each point and averaging them out to improve the signal to noise ratio, especially in the shadows. Many Silverfast users were puzzled about the difference between “Multi Exposure” and “Multi Sampling”, especially as they are mutually exclusive in Silverfast, even for scanners like the Minolta where the film doesn’t move. An interesting discussion took place here. The drawback of Multi Sampling is that scan times are increased by the same factor as the sample count. Lasersoft promised that Multi Exposure would not only be faster, but would deliver better results.

Well, Multi Exposure went through a few iterations, and the 4x option vanished.  My experience is that it does not offer any significant dynamic range advantage over multi-sampling, at least as far as scanning slides is concerned. It is quicker, slightly faster than 4x multisampling. However, it has a serious flaw, which others have noted: the results are considerably softer than standard or multi-sampling. This may be due to misalignment, or due to flare or bloom in the over-exposed scan. The result can clearly be seen in the 100% crops below:

silverfast_multiexp.jpg

Top: 4x Multi Sampling - Bottom: Multi Exposure

Sometimes Multi Exposure works fine, but it is just too unreliable to use routinely. In most cases I find that 4x multisampling gives excellent results, with diminishing improvements (if any) at 8x and 16x. And in extreme cases, you can make two multisample scans and different exposures and blend them in Photoshop. So, in conclusion, another pointless feature.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if Lasersoft really feel there is a future in this product, then they should concentrate on repackaging the technology in a completely new, modern user interface. Unfortunately, I would guess that the codebase is ancient, and I’ve never seen any evidence that Lasersoft have any interest in genuinely improving the Silverfast user experience. Since the competition is at best no better, and in general considerably worse, I suppose there’s little commercial incentive in doing anything.

 

Book review: Spazio Greina

At last, a photography book from Ticino worthy of the name.

in Book Reviews , Wednesday, October 07, 2009

in the ten years which I. have been living in Ticino, I have tried to make sense of it photographically. it shouldn’t be all that difficult, after all there is no lack of source material, all year round. Ticino is a land defined by its steep, twisting alpine valleys, each liberally sprinkled with fascinating traces of a not so distant tough rural past, and an endless sequence of spectacular and inspiring scenery. And that’s just the valleys: higher up are the alpine meadows, lakes of all shapes and sizes, glaciers and towering peaks. And let’s not forget the whole other world of Italianate culture and architecture nestling around Lakes Maggiore and Lugano. Add to this a literate, well-off population and a healthy tourist trade, and you might expect that bookshops would be spilling over with gorgeous coffee table photo books.

But in fact, with a few honourable exceptions, all you find is are endless series of formulaic books about different regions, which work ok as documentary and guide books, but are usually full of bland, poorly executed and (especially) dreadfully printed photographs. The whole market seems to be tied up by a small clique of so-so photographers and publishers. Clearly actually getting to the locations of some of the photos in these books was an epic in itself, but unfortunately, this does not automatically translate to good photography. Good landscape photography requires some attention to light, to composition, and technique, not to mention good printing. And this is hard to get right in Ticino: the light is often harsh, contrast is a big problem, and getting to a lot of locations at the right time (which might only exist a few times a year) require a lot of planning, a lot of hard work and effort, and a degree of luck. Not to mention talent.

All this serves to explain why I was so surprised and delighted to discover the book “Spazio Greina” (Desertina Verlag, Chur) last weekend, especially as it is an area I’ve recently started exploring.

greina.jpg

Spazio Greina is a book about 5 photographers’ personal visions of the Greina plateau, a region of upper Ticino bordering on Canton Graubunden and classified by Switzerland as a natural monument of national importance. It’s a fascinating blend of wide open stony valley, jagged peaks, glaciers and lakes. The photographers - Roberto Buzzini, Sergio Luban, Tamara Lanfranchini, Giosanna Crivelli, and Marco Volken each have a distinct take on this “space”, but what they all share is that they have taken the time to absorb the landscape and to find their own way to express it. They’ve come up with quite different approaches: Buzzini contributes a beautiful selection of wide-screen panoramics. Crivelli takes a abstractionist approach, finding surprising contrasts in the detail of the land. Lafranchini’s perspective as a film maker clearly shows through in her subtle use of flat light and discrete forms. Sergio Luban shows a wonderful eye for composition with elements of the landscape and capturing beautiful contrasts of light and shadow. Marco Volken has chosen to use black and white, a departure from his usual practice of colour photography, to great effect. It really is impossible for me to say that any of these are my favourite: it is the overall effect that dominates. You can see a nice slide show of some of the featured photos on the swissinfo site.

Although there are 5 distinct visions, the editing and layout by Roberto Grizzi brings them together for a coherent narrative. And speaking of narrative, the text by Leo Tuor (only in Italian, German and Rumantsch, I’m afraid) contrasting the “touristic” ideal of Greina with the lives of shepherds and hunters who call it home is the icing on the cake.

The print quality is excellent, and altogether this is a must-have photography book - perhaps the only one so far from this corner of the world.

NOTE: unfortunately I cannot find a link for ordering the book. If I do, I’ll update this post. It does appear to available from Amazon Germany.

 

Minolta Dimage Scan and Snow Leopard

it just works

in Product reviews , Thursday, October 01, 2009

It works.

That’s it really. Despite strong fears to the contrary, the venerable Minolta Dimage Scan Multi Pro (I always have to look at the faceplate to make sure I got that right) works fine under Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard”, with Rosetta installed.

Tested configuration:

MacBook Pro 2.5Ghz, OS X 10.6.1
Dimage Scan Utility v1.0.0 (Dimage Scan Installer v7.4, 5 Oct 2005)
Silverfast AI Studio v6.6.0r5

No noticeable issues of any kind with either application.

That’s a relief….