The last 6 months have been pretty turbulent on the personal front, and although it remains a constant presence, photography, and especially dedicated photography time, has taken a major step backwards. I think I can count the number of shots I’ve taken on a tripod this year on the fingers of both hands… well, maybe I’d have to include a foot or two. So, although I wasn’t treating my trip to Norway in June as photographic in any shape or form, so far it has turned out to be pretty much the main source of new images for me this year.
This is one of those very few photos which I gave more than a few seconds though to. Even though, it is basically a roadside grab shot. And actually this particular photo isn’t going to make it into the final selection I’m working on, so it’s getting a consolation prize of being featured here.
It’s also quite unusual these days for me to make a straightforward landscape photo, which I guess this is, even if it’s pretty dull.
Norway is a country I’m discovering very slowly, through short chunks here and there. But it’s a pretty fabulous place, even if at times so similar to Switzerland that I wonder if I’m being a bit perverse. After all, why travel 2500km to explore a landscape that’s so reminiscent of the one on my doorstep? Well, Norway is at least less expensive than Switzerland (no, really, it is!).
I’m planning to add a Norway gallery pretty soon, and there are 7 rolls of XPan frames to consider too. So I guess it’s going to be a bit of a theme over the coming weeks and months.
During my daily random wander through the photographic interwebs on my way home on the train, I came across a very nice site, new to me, entitled The Photo Fundamentalist. It’s the work of photography Tom Stanworth, a person with a very interesting background, and plenty of tales to tell. And he certainly can tell them well. This is a site which covers a wide range of topics, not only his own photography (which is excellent), but also reviews of and interviews with other photographers, book reviews, and indeed gear reviews. Seems to be the kind of photographer I’d enjoy spending an evening in a pub with. Very highly recommended.
The only problem with the site is that it is feeding my feelings of gear inadequacy. As somebody who could nominally at least describe himself as a landscape photography, since I sold my Olympus E-5s, I don’t really have anything that quite fits the bill as a landscape camera. Everybody and his dog - Tom Stanworth included - is going on about these Sony A7 things, but having looked at them again yesterday during a stopover in Heathrow airport, I’m really not convinced. The lenses are so big and heavy that I might as well go back to a DSLR, and I really do not want all that weight and clutter anymore. I also tried an Olympus E-M1, and was not all that excited. Given that I’ve been using Olympus digital cameras for well over a decade, I should have been able to switch it from Manual to Auto Focus, but it defeated me. I could get the Live Control Panel up, but I couldn’t change the focus mode. Possibly it was defective. Or possibly somebody had customised it out of existence. But anyway, it’s ok as a camera, and it is the “common sense” choice for me, but fundamentally it doesn’t offer much over my E-P5 apart from improved handling. Really, there’s nothing on the market which gives me much of a buzz right now.
So anyway, great web site, but it’s made my gear paralysis worse!
Back in June 2006, several geological eras ago in Internet years, I wrote a blog post which started out like this:
Following earlier posts about this, today I managed to find time to evaluate Iridient RAW Developer 1.5.1 against CaptureOne Pro 3.7.4, for Olympus E-1 RAWs. The results are clear: RAW Developer is extracting more detail and more neutral colour than CaptureOne
Now over 9 years later, I’m repeating the same loop. In recent months I unhappily emigrated from Aperture, and eventually settled on returning to CaptureOne as the best compromise. I painstakingly exported my Aperture library and watched CaptureOne painfully, sluggishly import it. It didn’t do too bad a job - better than Lightroom anyway - and I was more or less able to recreate my Aperture projects within the approximation of MediaPro which has been bludgeoned into CaptureOne. And I diligently set about getting back up to speed with C1, helped by the ample, free tutorial material on Phase One’s website.
I managed to convince myself I (still) quite liked the default “Film curve”, and I was and am impressed by the exposure controls and the layer adjustments, in particular to apply local white balance. I am a lot less impressed by the total lack of luminosity, or indeed luminance curves/levels. But I guess I can live with that with some help from the saturation sliders.
But more and more I started getting a feeling that things didn’t look quite right when taking a closer look. I’m no pixel peeper, but even so, once I’ve noticed something at 100% magnification I find it hard to ignore. I was seeing a disturbing “plastic” look in low frequency areas, and lack of definition in high frequency detail like foliage. First I thought it was just a limitation of the small sensor in the Olympus camera I mainly use, or maybe the less than top-level lenses. But then I started down the rocky road of comparing Raw developers. Yet again.
The following nondescript postcard shot from Norway provides a good example - shot with an Olympus E-P5 and 17mm f1.8 lens (actually quite a good lens) at f8.0 (which, yes, is a slightly suboptimal aperture if you’re a pixel peeper), handheld. So it’s hardly a technical masterpiece, or indeed an artistic one.
Within this photo, I’ve compared two areas at 100%, one processed with Capture One 8.2, the other with Iridient Developer 3.0.3. The differences, at least to me, are obvious.
For the Iridient images, I have used default settings, including the Iridient Reveal sharpening mode and default noise reduction. On the Capture One side, I have used default settings, but with Pre-sharpening 2, and noise reduction disabled. Leaving camera default noise reduction on is a real disaster. I cannot for the life of me imagine why people say Capture One has good noise reduction. And I have tried very hard to fine tune it, I really wanted to be able live with it. At the same time I briefly tried comparing with Adobe Camera Raw (Photoshop CS6) and Aperture 3. Abobe Camera Raw gave pretty much identical results to Capture One. Aperture was marginally better. But Iridient is miles ahead.
Iridient has one other ace up it’s sleeve, the Lab mode curves. Being able to apply contrast with no colour shift using the luminance curve is very nice. It’s also very good for highlight recovery, which is just as well, as Iridient “Extreme Highlight Recovery” slider is not one of it’s strong points. The sharpening and noise reduction are industry-leading, and the general level of control is outstanding. Of course, there are no layers, no local adjustments, none of that fancy stuff. But that’s what Photoshop is for.
All this really only holds for my personal experience with Olympus micro-four thirds cameras. I daresay Capture One might handle my Ricoh GR better, but that’s out of scope here. I’m sure it does an excellent job with digital backs and high-end DSLRs, but I really don’t think Phase One has much focus on us “little people” - although they’re happy to take our money.
Probably before long I’ll have changed my mind again, but for the time being I’m fully committed to an Iridient-centric workflow.
Just a few stolen shots wandering around the streets of Siena and Asciano. I’m surely no Cartier-Bresson. Although maybe if I convert to black & white, add a black frame, and start banging on about the gorgeously poetic lusciousness of Fuji cameras then maybe I’d get closer. But that sounds like far too much hard work.
Olympus E-P5, 17mm and 75mm lenses.
Following this year’s annual indulgence at our home from home, Casa Bolsinina in Tuscany, my archive of Tuscan photography has grown still further. Having finally managed to put together something a little bit substantial, in the shape of my Blurb book “Primavere Toscane”, I didn’t feel much pressure at all to photograph this year, and spent more time cycling. Well, that and eating and drinking. But one cannot live by food and exercise alone, so some photography had to be done. I had a vague idea of trying to forsake the big picture(s) for detail and abstractionism this time. As a vague idea, it produced vaguely interesting results, but only to the extent of demonstrating that simple isn’t easy.
Anyway, here’s a first set. Maybe there’ll be more. Maybe not.
All taken using an Olympus E-P5 and 75mm f1.8 lens.