photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

12 views of Kerlingarfjöll

12px at 500px

in Photography , Tuesday, January 31, 2012

For quite a while I’ve wanted to try the 500px photo sharing site.  I’m pretty bored with Flickr, although I’ve got some friends over there, because I don’t think it presents photos very well, it’s become very cluttered, and it is very, very focused on the now. I don’t think the date I took a particular photo has much bearing on what I set out to do. 

So I’ve gone back a bit and assembled a specific 12 photo portfolio looking at one specific place, Kerlingarfjöll in Iceland.


All of the photos in this set were taken with “ancient” technology, the Olympus E-1, a camera limited to 5Mpx output. And they were taken before I’d really got a grip on digital, and generally the apertures are way beyond the diffraction limit. So they’re not going to be exhibition prints.

But as an exercise in revisiting the past through a completely new portal, it’s quite interesting.

Seems a little less trivial than Flickr, somehow, and more worth putting some effort into.


Adobe TimeWaster Pro CS Whatever

World’s worst software company

in General Rants , Sunday, January 29, 2012

The last 5 weeks or so have been pure hell. Essentially non-stop 12 hour working days, with hectic weekends in between. No time for photography. No time for life. This weekend was supposed to be the start of some sort of recovery period. I spent most of Saturday comatose, but today, Sunday, after shovelling last night’s snow fall, I thought I’d spend some quality time printing out a few images. Relaxing, enjoyable, right ? Yeah, sure. So come 5:30pm I’m ready to kill somebody. In fact if I saw somebody, anybody, with an Adobe corporate t-shirt on, I’d whack them hard with the snow shovel.

Having been deceitfully tricked by Adobe into upgrading to a Photoshop CS5 I neither needed nor wanted before Christmas, I finally got around to trying to print from it today, to my Epson 3800.

I had read, ages ago, that Adobe, principally, but with Apple and Epson’s help, had managed to screw up printing (nothing important, just printing) and that there was some issue with v2 ColorSync profiles.

Some issue. Right: like print absolutely F*CK ALL except a pale cyan background.  I’d heard about this, vaguely, but I though it had to do with white areas having a cast, not the whole print.  I tried everything. Reinstalled the 3800 driver, re-started, etc etc, eventually dug into ColorSync and found that the profile (built with ColorMunki and carefully optimised) was indeed a v4 (naturally, since that’s up to date, and worked fine with Photoshop CS3 on the same OS - 10.6.8 - and the same printer). Trying a v2 profile, for a different paper, gave me a print.

So now I’ve got to rebuild all my profiles. Wasting stacks of paper. Until the next time I fall for one of Adobe’s useless, eye-wateringly expensive, bug-ridden pieces of crap they call “upgrades”.

Please, somebody, anybody, out us out of our misery and create a realistic Photoshop alternative. PLEASE!!!


11 photos from 2011

More a “sort of ok of” than a “best of”

in Photography , Sunday, January 08, 2012

Although the whole end-of-year list thing makes me a bit nauseous, I’ve seen so many “Top 10”, “Best of 2011” etc lists of photos that I felt I should do my own.  Actually it wasn’t very easy. I didn’t think I’d taken 10 good photos on 2011. I’m still not sure I have, but anyway, here are 11 I like. And it’s quite a diverse set.

2011 was probably not a classic year for me so far as photography is concerned. Work, and especially commuting, really eats into my time and destroys inspiration.  Nevertheless, according to my Aperture library I took 3915 photos, and that doesn’t include film. In 2011 I completely avoided high latitudes. The highlight was 10 days in the Aeolian Islands in March. I didn’t quite get the shots of Stromboli erupting in winter light that I envisaged, but I got closer than before. I also greatly expanded my library of Ticino mountain streams / rivers, especially Verzasca and its tributaries, and Calanca. I should probably do something with those one day. The rest largely come from various short breaks and holidays.

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January: Plaine Morte glacier, Valais, Switzerland. Olympus E-PL2.

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February: Rome at night, near the Trevi fountain. Olympus E-PL2.

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March: Stromboli eruption, from outlook on the old summit trail. Olympus E-3.

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May: Tuscany, the standard shot. Olympus E-PL2.

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May: Tuscany, Abbazia di Sant’Antimo. Olympus E-PL2.

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August: Ticino, Val d’Osura. Olympus E-3.

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August: Sea cave, Marettimo, Aegadian Islands. Olympus E-PL2.

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September: Cefalu, Sicily. Olympus E-PL2.

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October: Val Calanca, Graubunden. Olympus E-3.

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November: Val Verzasca, Ticino. Olympus E-3.

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December: Val Bedretto, Ticino. Olympus E-PL2.

Do you detect any kind of personal style in this motley collection ? I don’t!




The Art of Adventure - 40 Photographic Examples

A review of Bruce Percy’s first book

in Book Reviews , Tuesday, January 03, 2012

According to my email archive I “met” Bruce Percy online about 4 years ago, although it seems longer. I’d discovered his website some time before, and eventually got in touch, and we’ve had a low key conversation ever since. Over that time, Bruce’s progress has been meteoric. If ever there’s someone who has followed a dream with grim determination, it’s him. On the other hand, my own photographic progress curve has at the very best been flat…

Anyway, this isn’t about me, it’s about Bruce Percy’s first physical book, entitled “The Art of Adventure - 40 Photographic Examples”, a very clear, and explicit reference to Ansell Adams’ “Examples - The making of 40 photographs”. A bit of a cheek, you might think ? Or perhaps more a question of setting the bar very high.

The quality of the book as an object is striking. Despite his protestations to the contrary on his blog, Bruce clearly has a perfectionist streak, or at the very least a very fine attention to detail. The layout, the typefaces, the print quality, the feel and heft of the book strongly belie the fact that it is his first “real” publication.

So what about the content ? Well, there’s a surprise awaiting the casual browser, because alongside his very characteristic landscapes featured on the dust cover, a equal amount of space is given to his travel photography and especially portraiture. While Bruce admits to Michael Kenna - who wrote the preface - as a key influence, there’s more than a touch of Steve McCurry in there too. Pretty heady stuff. Funnily enough, Adams’ book also surprises with its wide range of content, moving far beyond his famous landscapes, and including portraiture.

Following the Adams model, each photo is accompanied by descriptive text which discusses motivation and thoughts on the shot, along with brief technical details. It’s far less wordy than Adams’ book, and in a way this might be the book’s weakness.

Adams’ book is clearly very didactic on nature. The photos serve to illustrate the text. It’s a textbook, in fact. In Bruce’s book, on the other hand, I’m tempted to say that the text distracts attention and detracts from the photos.  In presentation, the book is a monograph, but once you get inside it, it gets a bit confusing. In fact it ends up feeling like a extended mix of one of the author’s eBooks.

In the spirit of Constructive Criticism, personally I don’t think this part of the project works that well. It would have been better to give the photos the space to breathe that they so much deserve, and perhaps bookended them with a set of essays. Because in fact Bruce is also an excellent and engaging writer (not to mention a gifted musician, dammit) and one could say that the photos in turn distract attention from the text. There are of course plenty of photography books that use a similar photo / text mixed layout - but they tend to be “how to” books to one extent or the other, not principally art. And this feels like it should be an art book.

So what about the art then ? Well, Bruce Percy has carved out a very distinctive landscape photography style. A lazy characterisation would be to describe it as sort of Michael Kenna in colour, but actually that’s much too easy an analogy. Kenna is clearly an influence and in some cases a starting point, but Bruce is quite obviously his own man and no copyist. His style is quite removed from the general UK Landscape community. It can verge on abstract, but always retains detail, depth and strong composition. It’s often very much about movement and silence. It’s very, very dark blue violet. It’s very romantic. It’s a touch nordic. And I would imagine it polarises opinion. Although his photos are almost always exceptionally beautiful, they’re never gratuitously pretty, and I doubt he’ll get far in the picture postcard market. Sometimes he pushes his style to extremes, and he’s clearly got a streak of bloody-mindedness about him, because the photo he chose as the front cover is one of his most extreme. I have to confess I’m sometimes in two minds about actually liking his style, but I have no doubt that I admire it.

His portraits are perhaps more conventional, but only to the extent that Steve McCurry, or John Isaac, are conventional. They speak of a strong empathy and sense of communication with the subjects, which given that the average landscape photographer is a withdrawn sociopath is all the more remarkable.

But you know what ? You need to get a copy for yourself. “The Art of Adventure - 40 Photographic Examples” isn’t perfect, but there can’t be many more impressive first publications out there.