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Down by the river

in Photography in Ticino , Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The river cutting through the rocks at the village of Lavertezzo, in the Verzasca Valley in Ticino, Switzerland, is one of my favourite places to photograph. It helps that it’s not very far from where I live, too, a fact I sometimes forget to be grateful enough for.  I can pretty much go there whenever I want, if I can be bothered to get off my a**e.

Last week I was in the valley and couldn’t resist a quick session around sundown.  There are two sets here, taken with different cameras. It’s interesting to see the differences. First up, the Sigma DP2 Merrill, with it’s fixed 50mm equivalent lens.

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Lavertezzo - Sigma DP2M

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Lavertezzo - Sigma DP2M

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Lavertezzo - Sigma DP2M

Then, the Olympus E-5 with the 12-60mm (24-120 equivalent) lens.

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Lavertezzo - Olympus E-5 / Zuiko 12-60mm

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Lavertezzo - Olympus E-5 / Zuiko 12-60mm

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Lavertezzo - Olympus E-5 / Zuiko 12-60mm

When I originally got into the Olympus E-System, part of the attraction was the 4:3 image aspect ratio. It was very much a creative choice, and remains that way. It is close to the Medium Format 645 format which I always liked. Using the Sigma with its “35mm” 3:2 ratio is always a bit of shock. It feels quite constrained. This is of course very contrary of me, because the wider aspect ratio of 3:2 is generally considered to be better for landscape, which is probably my basic niche. But it isn’t so good in vertical orientation, which I do quite a lot of, even though I haven’t shown any examples here.

Otherwise, comparing the output of the two cameras is not so easy at these small sizes, but one interesting point is that, opposite to what might be expected, you can get more useable depth of field out of the Sigma. It is quite comfortable at f/11 or even f/16, where f/11 is on the extreme limit for the Olympus, and at f/16 diffraction is very noticeable, even to me who on the whole doesn’t give much of a damn about pixels.

The colour of the Sigma is different. It is more natural - or at least it can be, on a good day, but also somehow thinner, less saturated. Generally you can’t do that much in post-processing to Sigma files until they start looking distinctly odd. But when they’re good, they’re very good indeed. And the detail is just breathtaking. But the Olympus isn’t that far behind, and the files are much more malleable - which is just as well, because generally they need a bit of a boost.

A lot of people bang on (and on) on the inter webs about “IQ” - image quality, not intellectual quotient - far from the latter, indeed. And the Sigma indisputably has better “IQ”. And it can be fun to use, when all its ducks are nicely aligned.  But the Olympus E-5 is always fun to use. It is a wonderful camera to use on a tripod, with the totally orientable screen, coupled with the best Live View implementation on the market allowing it to pretend to be a view camera, and the abundance of dials and buttons making it easy to use in tricky conditions. It’s as equally at home sitting sedately on a tripod here as rolling around in the bottom of a Zodiac in the Antarctic (which the Sigma most definitely was not!). And the fact that it is as tough as old nails is extremely useful in my case. So for me, the usability, responsiveness and enjoyment I get out of the E-5 trumps the unbelievable shots that the Sigma can produce…just.  If Sigma produce an DSLR with Live View one day, with a few of the rough edges of the SD1 smoothed off I might be tempted, since we’re at the end of the road so far as Olympus DSLRs are concerned.  But, whoa, I’d lose my beloved 4:3 ratio. Not sure I could live with that.

But the most important thing, after all, is to just get out there and use this stuff to pursue whatever vision, obsession or interest you have. Photography for me is as much about blocking out the noise and allowing myself to relax and chill out. Obsessing about cameras is totally counter-productive.

For more background on Lavertezzo, see the article I wrote some time back. And if that’s not enough, I’ve got a gallery you might like to browse through.


after the heat
the tourists have gone … well, mostly
the postcard shop is boarded up
a hush has descended over the valley
the snow will not be long to follow
but old man river
he just keeps rollin’ along

 

Posted in category "Photography in Ticino" on Wednesday, November 06, 2013 at 09:38 PM

Lavertezzo panoramico

in Photography in Ticino , Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And some more Lavertezzo.  XPan this time, (very) early one day in August.  It isn’t an obvious location for the panoramic format, in fact this session is the first that I’ve managed to get some halfway satisfying shots from. Usually, outside of winter it is more or less impossible due to the amount of people swarming around.  In fact, in this case, a couple had actually camped out on the rocks. Fortunately they were still asleep. Or at least lying down.

Anyway, I’ll just let the pictures do the talking…

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Xpan verzasca1108 04 03
Posted in category "Photography in Ticino" on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 10:51 PM

Lavertezzo Summer 2011

in Photography in Ticino , Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This is one place I can’t keep away from. Fortunately, unlike several of my other fetish locations, it is pretty close by and easy to get to. So I go often.  Usually not in summer though, but this year for one reason or another I’ve been 4 or 5 times, including some painfully early dedicated photo-trips.  Let’s just say 9am is well past packing up time.  Here are a few shots which made staggering out of bed at 5am worthwhile, at least for me.

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And of course ... I’ll be back.

 

Posted in category "Photography in Ticino" on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 09:22 PM

Travels in HDR

in Photography , Sunday, August 21, 2011

I’ve always been pretty suspicious of HDR. When Photoshop originally turned up with “merge to HDR” in CS2, I certainly tried it out, but was unable to get anything but the most ghastly results. Certainly nothing that could persuade me that it was a better technique for dealing with high contrast than masking two exposures. Where HDR has been highly and successfully exposed, through sites such as Trey Ratcliffe’s “Stuck in Customs”, all I can say is “de gustibus non est disputandum” - it doesn’t appeal to my tastes, but I can recognise that it can be a valid artistic decision.

However (funny how my second paragraphs often start off with “however”), I have carried on fiddling about with now and again, and have evaluated a fair number of software tools. I finally decided to take the plunge, and buy Nik HDR Efex Pro. Partly because I like Nik software in general, but mainly based on what I could see on Jason Odells, “Luminescence of Nature” web site.  Odell, along with Tony Sweet, shows a series of “natural” HDR landscapes which are far more to my taste than Ratcliffe’s ultravividity, and started to convince me that maybe HDR can be worthwhile.

So, early one morning last week I set off to try it out in practice.  I wanted to see if HDR could provide me with a more satisfying image in a situation where contrast was high, but still just about manageable in a single exposure.

First, here is the single exposure which I find the most acceptable (Olympus E-3, f/11, 0.6s at 1SO 100, +0.3ev):

Lavertezzo, single exposure

Next, an HDR image from HDR Efex Pro, using 5 exposures at 1ev intervals, starting with HDR Efexs’s default setting, and adding a little “structure” and 10 points on the “Method strength” slider:

Lavertezzo, HDR

The differences are not that huge. First of all, I think that the HDR image remains credible, which is the first hurdle.  It also shows more tonal detail in the mid-tones and shadows (the submerged stones, for example). However, it also slightly exaggerates the highlights.  Well, seeing as this was only my second attempt, using a software package with a vast array of adjustments and options, I would say it holds some promise.

The application itself is very nicely done. Easily the best HDR application I’ve tried in terms of ease of use and general workflow. The inclusion of Nik’s U-Point system for targeted local adjustments is a unique selling point, and a very effective tool.

I doubt that I’m going to turn into an HDR maven - although I must confess that I can’t deny a certain cheap thrill sometimes in turning all the sliders up to 11 - but in some circumstances it looks like it can add clear value to the end result.

 

 

Posted in category "Photography" on Sunday, August 21, 2011 at 02:39 PM