photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Colorburst RIP


in Product reviews , Sunday, May 29, 2011

Intrigued by a blog post by Bruce Percy about Colorburst RIP, which triggered quite a discussion, I decided to give it a try, since a fully featured 15 day demo is available.

I used to be a happy user of ColorByte’s Imageprint RIP - and what qualifies to be called a “RIP” or not, quite honestly I couldn’t care less. Imageprint basically gives you high quality print output, with minimal fuss (albeit with a somewhat clunky UI), and no wasted time or materials. It is fairly expensive, on the face of it, but when you consider the cost of the alternative DIY profiling route, it’s a bargain. Even for hobbyists. However, at present I don’t use it. I use the much improved Epson driver, with my own profiles built using XRite’s ColorMunki. Also, I have ImagePrint 6 licensed for the Epson 2100, and these days I use an Epson 3800. As and when I can afford to upgrade, I still might, but since I’m pretty settled on a couple of paper types, and having tried the demo I couldn’t see a huge benefit over the modern Epson driver, it’s not a priority.

Back to Colorburst. So, I downloaded it and installed it. First off, it’s quite a different beast to ImagePrint. There’s no layout facility, but the UI is a little more polished. However, Colorburst’s UI offers little more than ImagePrint’s Job Manager. Colorburst provides packaged “environments” for printer / paper / ink combinations. They offer a fairly wide range, but significantly smaller, and much less up to date, than ImagePrint’s. For example, my favorite paper, Hahnemuehle Photo Rag Baryta, didn’t make the cut. However I did have a few sheets of Epson Traditional Photo Paper (aka Exhibition Fibre) lying around, so I tried that.

And I got exactly what I expected: a relatively desaturated print representing a CMYK press proof, which as I understand is what Colorburst RIP is supposed to do - but it does seem that it’s being represented as a full gamut inkjet replacement driver for photographic final prints. Well, maybe there are some settings somewhere, or environments, or other proprietary stuff you can twiddle to fix that, but then one has to ask what the point is ? You may as well invest the time in learning mainstream color management. And it isn’t all the difficult.

Colorburst offers no preview, so for example you can’t know that the option you selected to “auto rotate” doesn’t always work - so you’re wasting paper.

As far as I can tell, Colorburst RIP is a great tool for DTP specialists need to get accurate, contract-rated offset proofs. If you’re working with a printing house on publishing a book, it’s fantastic. And back in the day I used to do that sort of work, I wish I’d had it. But it is absolutely not going to deliver anything approaching the best Adobe RGB color space screen to paper output you can get. And neither is it supposed to.


Blast from the Past

bokeh bliss

in Olympus E-System , Thursday, May 26, 2011

Finally, I did it. I got around to getting a Canon FD lens adaptor for my Olympus E-P2. Back in Ye Olde Days, I was a Canon FD user, and I had some truly awesome lenses for that system. The 135mm f2.0 was probably the best lens I ever used. A pity I gave it away…  However, I have still got the 50mm f1.2L, and the 20-35mm f3.5L.  And they’ve been sitting on my shelf for years, just a whim away from eBay.

So my Novoflex adaptor arrived today. Yes, I know it’s the most expensive, even outrageously so, but it has a pristine reputation for “just working”, unlike many others. I’m tempted by the shift adaptors, but maybe some other time.

It took a while to coax the 50mm in to life.  It was in a strange state, and I couldn’t get the aperture ring to work, even when mounted on my Canon A1. The 20-35 worked straightaway, but the 50mm was the one I was interested in, and it was stuck either at f1.2 (mounted) or f16 (unmounted). Anyway, I eventually got it working. I seem to recall it was always a bit recalcitrant.

So here’s a photo. Of flowers, of course. At f1.2, of course. And the bit we’re all interested in is the out of focus part.  I think we call this “testing”.

Drm 2011 05 26 5261379

Some flowers. At f1.2.

The photo is straight off the card, into Aperture, and out again. Default settings, nothing added, no sharpening, nothing at all.

I’d say the results are promising :-)


George Barr: Why Photographs Work

A review and a bit of a rant about film

in Book Reviews , Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I’ve recently finished reading George Barr’s book, “Why Photographs Work”. It features 52 photographs selected by the author, along with an essay on what makes that particular photo tick, in the author’s opinion, as well as an explanation from the photographer, and biographical and technical details. It’s a good format, and the book is well laid laid out and printed, and enjoyable to read. Good value for money, and highly recommended (and you don’t just need to take my word for it).


The book emphasizes photographs over photographers, and this is sometimes evident in the selection of the photos. The cross-section of photographers represented is wide, from well-known to so far unknown artists discovered through recommendation and web browsing. The choice of works from photographers I’m familiar with - Michael Kenna, David Ward, Charlie Waite, Joe Cornish, for example - is far from obvious, and not necessarily representative of their general oeuvre. The point is not to introduce the photographer, as such, and this approach adds to the general attractiveness of the book. The range covers pretty much all of the thematic areas of photography, with maybe a slight bias towards landscape.

You can find a sample of the book here.

And now for a bit of digression…

One thing that really stands out for me though is the number of photos taken with film: some 37 out of 52. This can be explained to an extent by the fact that a good proportion either pre-date digital, or come from the in between period of the first part of the last decade, but then again as far as I know the date of the photo was not a criteria. Within these 37, the overwhelming majority are taken with large or medium format cameras, with very little 35mm in evidence. So, is the reason for their selection the fact that George Barr responds to a particular look characteristic of larger film formats? Or is it something about film, and film cameras and processes which appeals to the photographers he likes? Or is it evidence that film is far from dead? Certainly there seems to be a discernible growth in interest in film photography these days: the latest issue of Amateur Photographer is just one piece of evidence.

Maybe it’s down to economics. Maybe there is no way on Earth that most large format photographers could afford an equivalent switch to digital. Or perhaps some aspects of digital discourage creativity, leading to a lack of inspirational photography produced on these devices? For example, what happens to the mysteries and delights in the balance of light and shadow when you have the enormous dynamic range of the latest Phase One back? You get some very impressive technical feats of recording extreme scenes, but at the cost of substituting reproduction for interpretation. It is in danger of becoming aesthetically uninteresting.

Then again, in these days of digital processing, it is very difficult for me at least to look at a photo on the web or printed in a book and say that it is film or digital. And frankly I think most people who say they can tell are talking rubbish. The clues do exist, but they’re subtle, and require a trained eye and a lot of patience.

So perhaps it comes down to process. Perhaps, fundamentally, film is more fun and more rewarding.



Ethical quandry

to edit, or not to edit ?

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…




Media Pro becomes Media Pro

Same again, please

in General Rants , Friday, May 20, 2011

So. It’s finally happened. (Microsoft) Expression Media, ex iView Media Pro, is no more, and PhaseOne MediaPro 1 is with us. And in theory - or it least, in marketingspeak - the integration of Media Pro and CaptureOne, which I wished for at least as far back as 2005, is here to.

Well sort of.  This is what we actually have:



Expression Media ... or is it MediaPro ?



MediaPro ... or is it Expression Media ?

So the difference is… the panels are dark grey instead of light grey, the colours are a taste to be acquired, to be polite, and the icons are nearly invisible. Excellent.

The much trumpeted CaptureOne “integration” is at lipstick-on-a-pig level, and apart from that very little has changed, although if you take a look at the product forum, you might conclude that an impressive range of exciting new bugs has been inserted.

In itself this is hugely disappointing, but on the plus side, the product is at least being developed, and by a focused and far more appropriate owner than Microsoft. I think we’ll have to wait and see what Phase One manage to do over the coming months. If release 1 is a stable (cough) baseline which they will then build on with frequent updates and bug fixes, including some significant new features, fine. If on the other hand they think they’re done here, and can sit back for two years and then release another facelift, well then it’s RIP.

As far as I’m concerned, I would like these features:

- reworked and easily application-interchangeable hierarchical keywording

- proper integration with Capture One, not whitewash

- support for versions, stacks, whatever you call variations on a master image. ANY master image, including scans (this then helps with proper C1 integration

- options for UI colour scheme

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