photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

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…




Svalbard panorama gallery

A salvage operation

in Hasselblad XPan , Friday, October 15, 2010

I’ve just added a Svalbard panorama gallery to the photography section.

This includes 16 photos taken from the 8.5 rolls of film I managed to salvage after my XPan disaster. Inevitably there’s a little too much overlap in location, but I thought they were worth sharing.


Looking out of 14th July Bay towards Kross Fjord

There are a few glitches in the layout of the gallery pages. I need to fix these. And some other stuff ... time fades away.


Son of XPan

Another walk on the wide side

in Hasselblad XPan , Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And on the third day…

the postman delivered a large box, which contained a much smaller dark blue box, which contained lots of other boxes of different sizes, which when opened and their contents put together, looked something like this:


An absolutely pristine, practically unused Hasselblad XPan II! And what’s more, acquired at a scarcely believable price from Mifsuds in Devon, England. These cameras go for insane prices on EBay, way more than could ever be justified, but I got it for less than the original RRP.

I’m currently running a quick test roll through it (not that there’s anything quick about film these days), so fingers crossed.

One slightly weird thing: when the power is off, the exposure counter LCD stays on. It didn’t do that on the XPan I. Still, I don’t suppose an LCD drains much power…


XPans don’t float

in Hasselblad XPan , Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It turns out that Hasselblad XPans and salt water don’t mix very well. The following is the result of a major brain fade moment, where I left my XPan outside (in an inflatable dinghy) on the deck of a yacht in force 7 (8?) seas in the Arctic.


It is effectively unrepairable.  Maybe if I’d opened it up and immediately and washed it in fresh water I might have been able to save it, but, well, I didn’t.  Hopefully the insurance will cover it.

Photo credit, along with many thanks for rapid intervention and support, to Marco Baldin at Leica Switzerland.


Any colour you like

it’s all subjective

in Hasselblad XPan , Thursday, July 08, 2010

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently wondering about what type of film to take to Svalbard next month. The arguments about the subjective qualities of different types rage across the internet (yes, still), with no end of “expert”, dogmatic opinions (as well as the odd voice of reason).

I won’t go into the arguments here, but I did remember an interesting experience from a few years back.

During a photographic trip around Iceland in March 2008 with Daniel Bergmann, we were driving towards the town of Vik while a storm front was approaching from the south, making a very dramatic contrast between thick, dense cloud reflect dark sand and sea, and snow covered dunes.

We stopped to take a few photos. I was using my XPan loaded with Fuji Velvia 100F, Daniel was using his Canon EOS 1Ds Mk whatever.

When I got the processed film, it looked like this:


uncorrected scan

Not at ALL what I remembered!  No, I remember a leaden gray sky and pure white snow, so after some fairly drastic Photoshoppery (the slide has very low contrast, which should have given me a clue) I ended up with this:


the Truth ... is out there ?

Daniel meanwhile worked on his RAW file, without any idea or sight of what I had done, and some later mailed me this (cropped by me from his 35mm FF format):


Daniel Bergmann’s view (© Daniel Bergmann)

Interestingly, he’s ended up with much more blue, pretty much as the Velvia 100F slide suggested, and a lot lower contrast: I think he’s believed the camera, as opposed to me trying to recreate whatever I could remember of my impression.

The point of all this is this: with such a range of subjectivity, which can give results which are neither “right” nor “wrong” (even removing a colour cast is subjective), what characteristics of film can really be so important ? In the digital age, the main issue surely is to capture a neutral image which will give as much latitude as possible for subjective interpretation.

Which pretty much rules out Velvia 50, the great favourite of landscape photographers since Noah launched the Ark…


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