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photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Summer in the Arctic

not so grim up north

in Olympus E-System , Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It isn’t trivial, slimming down a selection of 16 photos from 6000 candidates… Not that all 6000 are good, but probably 1000 or so are in the same ballpark as the 16 I chose (not that I’m claiming they’re anything special).

Anyway, hot(-ish) on the heals of my Pyramiden & panorama galleries, here’s another more general set from the wonderful Arctic world of Svalbard.

Svalbard selection

And for those who like to know these things, they were all taken with an Olympus E-3, using Zuiko Digital 12-60SWD, 50-200SWD and 7-14mm lenses.

 

Great British Landscapes

For your reading pleasure

in Recommended web sites , Friday, February 18, 2011

The online magazine Great British Landscapes was launched late last year, and has now reached issue 8. The brainchild of Tim Parkin and Joe Cornish, it is a very interesting hybrid between a traditional photography periodical (albeit at the higher brow end) and a blog. It is interesting that is was launched more or less at the same time as Advanced Photographer, both apparently in reaction to the somewhat mindless level of standard magazine fare - at least in the UK market.

Snapz Pro XScreenSnapz001

Great British Landscapes, Issue 8

The content is part free, part subscription, with several subscription models including an issue by issue one, which is a good way to test the waters (I’d upgrade to an annual subscription if only I could find out how to do it!).

The subject matter is essentially, and obviously, British landscape photography, an area of which both the founders are strong exponents. This style was recently lambasted by some commentators to Mike Johnston’s The Online Photographer, in response to a review of a David Noton book, as (for example) “the padding of a thousand amateur photography magazines” - and worse. Now that’s not very polite, and one could argue that they just don’t get it, or flame back with choice comments about eyeball-searingly dull and witless “art” photography ... but there is a kernel of justification in that viewpoint. So there’s a trap there which needs to be avoided.

I don’t consider myself a landscape photographer - although I’ve got all Joe Cornish’s books, and one of David Noton’s, not to mention Charlie Ward and the rest of the usual suspects - so I’m not unappreciative of it. I also don’t really consider myself British, although nominally I am. And as for “Great”, well…  So I’m not really in the sweet spot of the target audience. But I subscribed anyway, partly out of support for a valiant effort.

Initially it did seem to be playing a bit safe, and there seemed to be a few teething production problems.  Design-wise, however, it was a hit straight out of the box.  The site is very attractively produced and laid out, and highly readable. Extremely impressive work.  The initial subject matter was fairly predictable (you can see all Issue 1 for free), Scotland, Landscape Photographer of the Year, etc, and generally - and understandably - took a somewhat more conservative line than Tim Parkin’s blog.

One thing that in my opinion didn’t work, and still doesn’t, are the videos. Generally following a “masterclass” sort of format, I’m afraid to be blunt they’re pretty tedious. Way too long, and nothing that actually justifies the use of video. But to be fair video - essentially TV production - is a pretty hard nut to crack. I’d recommend they work with a videographer. Or maybe I need to acquire a better attention span.

As the issues started piling up, the content started to really take off, and with the last few issues it has pushed well past the boundaries of “a thousand amateur photography magazines” into something approach Ag territory, in quality terms.  Issue 6 laid into camera clubs with Tim Parkin’s entertaining rant on The Sacred Rule Of Thirds, Issue 7 has a in-depth and excellent article about Fay Godwin, and Issue 8 has a lengthy interview with Chris Tancock, a photographer who is actually well over on the “art” side of the field, and is himself not that enamored with the “Great British Landscape” school.

If anything the title could start to become a limiting factor in the site’s success. I would not want it to abandon its roots, but the editorial team has already clearly demonstrated that it has the intelligence and photographic education to step outside of the genre and examine it through other eyes.

I think I’ve gone on enough about this. If you haven’t already done so, you really should click here and make your mind up. For my part I strongly recommend Great British Landscapes. Well… maybe except the videos :-)

 

Wet mount scanning

squeezing the last drop out

in Film , Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back in October, a blog post by Ctein on The Online Photographer first alerted me to existence of 3rd party fluid mounting kits for many scanners.  Specifically, he mentioned ScanScience‘s kits, based on their Lumina fluid.

I was intrigued enough to check this out, and eventually ordered a kit usable on my Minolta Dimage Scan MultiPro from ScanScience. Since they are in Canada, and the fluid cannot be carried by air, it takes quite a while to arrive, and it’s also better to order a reasonably generous supply.  So there’s quite an element of flying blind here, but my feeling was, well Ctein knows what he’s talking about, what the hell.

Anyway, it arrived a few days ago, and I started playing around with it. Precision scanning is both fiddly and something of a black art. My initial impression of fluid mounting is that it certainly increases fiddlyness, and also adds several more ways in which you can screw up a scan ... or indeed a scanner, in the worst case scenario.

My initial attempts were not too successful, and I had to dismantle a 6x9 glassless holder to fit the fluid mount assembly as recommended. But after a few tries I started to get the hang of it. The main challenges are getting the right amount of fluid onto the various surfaces, and avoiding dust and dirt contamination.

The basic idea with fluid mounting is to keep the film flat, and to avoid optical path degradation which arises from various factors in dry scanning - I won’t repeat the explanations here, you can find them at ScanScience and various other resources.

The following images show the best result I’ve obtained so far. Comparing a couple of sections of a 4800dpi XPan scan of Ektachrome E100G, wet mounted and dry mounted, shows some advantage, at 100% magnification, for wet mounting.

PhotoshopScreenSnapz001

PhotoshopScreenSnapz002

At the top you can see the wet mount version on the left, dry mount on the right [CORRECTED!]. Colour differences are down to slightly different settings in Silverfast HDR - ignore these. The images have suffered a little in JPG compression, but looking at the rightmost telegraph post, and the background forest, you can see a touch more resolution. But it’s not exactly jaw-dropping.

The next example is a bit more convincing:

PhotoshopScreenSnapz003
PhotoshopScreenSnapz005

Here, the lower scan is wet mounted.  Certainly there is a touch more resolution here. Or maybe I focussed better… who knows ?

ScanScience claim a number of things, including:

- Better edge to edge sharpness: hmm. Probably, but with the “sandwich” mounting technique I’ve evolved over the years, and the relatively deep depth of field of the Minolta, I’m not - so far - seeing any benefit.

- Better contrast and detail: as shown above, yes, but we’re splitting hairs, to be honest.

- Extended dynamic range and saturation: Nope. Well, not for E6 slide film, at least. The Minolta covers the range of E100G and other low(er) contrast films quite happily, and has no issue at all with higher contrast.  However, this benefit may apply more to negative colour and black & white. I’ve yet to try this.

Hides dust & scratches: no. Absolutely not. If anything it makes things worse due to more places for dust to get in, and if dust gets into a fluid layer, it’s pretty much game over, time to remount.

So, in summary, I’m seeing minor improvements which don’t really appear to justify the cost and time.  But it’s not quite as simple as that. First of all, one thing is clear: to get any benefit at all, the image has be well exposed and sharp. Secondly, it seems that the benefits are more towards negative and larger formats.

There’s actually a lot of discussion out there on the interwebs about wet mount scanning, and by & large I’d say the overall impression is of mixed results. In particular, this discussion thread confirms my findings. Pity I didn’t do a bit more research…

At the moment I would tend more to reserving it only for “top picks”, but it’s early days yet.

 

 

Dust Free Scans

We seek the Grail

in Film , Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dust, hair, particles of whatever. They’re the slide scanner’s nightmare. Although fixing all the various blotches in Photoshop can at times be a relaxing activity, it’s still one in all honesty I could do without. And sometimes there’s no real fix.

So the ideal solution would be to get rid of the dust BEFORE it gets scanned. Simple, eh ? Well, not so much. Maybe if you live in a clean room and handle everything with surgical precision, but even then you’d better hope the film was processed in a similar setting.

I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried scanning straight from the box. I’ve tried air blowers in a hundred shapes and sizes. Nothing really works.  Until now. I may have found the solution, or at least something close to one. It isn’t really my idea, I’m sure I read somewhere else that somebody suggested it, but anyway here it is: the Arctic Butterfly digital camera sensor brush.

I actually needed a solution to clean my Olympus E-3’s sensor (yeah, that SSWF, well it does work, but it isn’t infallible), so I decided to take a chance and ordered an Arctic Butterfly 724 from Visible Dust.

And it works.  Both for the intended task, cleaning the sensor, but far better than this, also for putting dust free films into the scanner.

Of course, it isn’t 100% effective: I’m sure there’s plenty of dust swirling about in the scanner itself, and when you’re magnifying a 35mm film strip to 4800dpi, stuff which is totally invisible under the loupe sticks out like a sore thumb in Actual Pixels view in Photoshop.

But it makes a big, big difference, and if you’re having similar problems I strongly recommend giving it a try.

 

Free Nikon F3!!

get ‘em while they’re hot

in Film , Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Want a Nikon F3? For free? Well, Rob Boyer’s giving one away right over there!

Personally, I can’t really say that I want one enough to get in the way of somebody else’s chance, although since it would involve getting back into (stomach lurch) Twitter and even (stomach heeeeeave) Facebook I’d have to want it a LOT.

I’ve got film cameras. I’ve got a Canon A1, the last of several I had, which I’m keeping because I’ve got a Canon FD 50mm f1.2L lens to put on it.  I’ve got a Ricoh GR1v which doesn’t work so well any more but still… and I’ve got a Minox GT something-or-the-other which I bought the Ricoh’s predecessor to replace!

Not so long ago I sold my last medium format film cameras, the Hasselblad ArcBody and the Fuji GW670III (mainly to fund my XPan II).  Here’s a shot off the last roll from the Fuji.  Hmm. That was a gorgeous camera.

F670 171009 lugano 04

I spend an inordinate amount of time scanning XPan transparencies to HDR and then processing them. Would I really want to do that for standard 35mm film ? I don’t think so, really. Somehow 35mm is just a little too small, too fiddly, and 36 of them at a time is just too much. Hell, I’ve got boxes full of unscanned slides even now!

I can certainly see the attraction of a Nikon F3 though…  Now, if he’d been handing out a Canon F1, this post might have turned rather differently.

 
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