Friday, 30 December 2016

take advantage of the future

One of the reasons I like to use RAW mode on my images (and have done for some years now) is to be able to take advantage of advances in image processing.

The same is true with Negatives, which I preferred over slides because I actually wanted prints not projector time. As time went by I was able to get successively better prints from the same negatives and the same is true with RAW digital.

Back in 2007 Anita and I were on a trip to visit my family in NSW in Australia. We stopped at this lookout after some hiking and the light was perfect. However I could see quickly that the JPG produced by my Nikon wasn't doing it justice so I engaged RAW and took another shot.

I tried to get a good image from that RAW file a few times over the years and was always disappointed by the processing tools available, but encouraged as they got better over time. First I was using dcraw then ACR, then Photomatix ... all gave interesting results that I liked, but each was somehow unsatisfactory in other ways.

Just the other day I tried snapseed on the raw file (converted NEF to DNG)

So, as RAW also stores the original JPG too you can actually see the differences between the:

Original Camera JPG

which is very black in the shadows, indeed has the look of a startled squid squirting its escape...

and the RAW that I've processed just the other day with Snapseed:

The clouds were darker and "menacing" as I recall and yet the visibility of the tree (the actual subject) in the foreground is present without being too saturated in colour or too strongly bright.

Despite this being a humble (by todays standards) Prosumer Coolpix 5000 (which was able to make NEF files thanks to a post-manufacture firmware update by Nikon) I was able to finally make a print from my image of nearly ten years ago just the other day.

If I only had the original JPG it would have forever been "well it was nice on the day..."

Images are memories and you can't often know in advance which ones you'll want to come back to as valuable. My trip to these places with Anita is more special to me now than I would have anticipated then. So I'm glad I knew enough to make the right decisions then.

I could say that of so many things ...

Thursday, 29 December 2016


Have you ever noticed that sometimes words get in the way rather than assist? I have come to learn that while convenient words can be both a facilitator and an impediment; its like the old adage: if all you know how to use is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.

Choosing the right words can be tedious and getting it wrong can result in misunderstandings.

Yet somehow children pick up everything around them, from how to behave, through to how others expect them to conform to their roles (even such obtuse roles as gender roles) without you saying anything directly to them?

Perhaps even before they can say many words themselves?

Sometimes this is quite subtle and sometimes its quite surprisingly blatant.

The other day I was talking with a friend who has bought a new "hot" sports car. Her husband was driving it aggressively and pretty much having fun with their 3 year old daughter also squealing and giggling with joy and entertainment. Later on when "mummy" was driving a bit "tight" into some corners her daughter told her that she shouldn't drive like daddy because it wasn't safe.


Their daughter had already learned a lot about many things (including sex roles) without any of it being explained with instructions.

For some time I've been of the view that words are cumbersome things, but are there because they facilitate communication which can not be done any other way (yet), however they do far more than that as they even define our cultures and shape our capacity to think.

Have you had friends who know you well enough that you can say just the beginnings of something and they understand what you mean?

To me this is an indicator that you have moved past the constraints of words in your relationship and have a communication level which is often called rapport.

Which is sort of funny that we've taken a word with a different meaning from an older usage, dusted it off and put it to use in a new (but related) role.

We essentially discharge all of the meanings of what the word stood for and gave it new ones. Interestingly we don't do this with numbers.

Few native English speakers truly ever learn another language, but those who do often regard words differently and even how to express ideas differently.

Anyone who learns to program a computer either fails to do it well or learns to think outside "words" and think in objects, methods and actions ... even if they are using a non Object Oriented language.

Artists often communicate via their art in more complex ways, but of course it being a "language" that's close to the artist its meaning remains obscure to anyone who doesn't know the artist (and thus the language).

Words are powerful tools, but they also are somehow dangerous, as they limit our ability to think outside them. For many people the words they use define not only what they can say, but how they can think about things. Clearly many people have felt this and turned to other expression forms (like music or painting) to express themselves well.

One of the new media for expression and communication is motion picture combined with rich sound and careful scripting and direction. A well made movie can take someone and introduce an idea in such a rich way that multiple watches of the movie reveal multiple dimensions of depth and meaning to them over time (well sure, not many do it well). One of my personal favourites is the scene from Black Sails where John Silver is being taught about himself by Captain Flint. A compelling scene that is well directed and well acted.

Watching the movie Lucy the other night I see that I'm not the only one who sees things this way.

One of the things that Lucy does is to identify that thinking in specific languages limits her, but it soon limits her ability to communicate with others who are only actually able to think in words. She becomes able to see things and anticipate things which would be impossible for her to communicate with the constraints of words.

Words not only form our thinking but if we are not careful (and keep our thoughts only as words) slow us down as well as limit us.

Words as knowledge containers and transmission media

We could not teach others many of the things we know as a species if we only used words. One could not train a swimmer or teach the piano from a book, yet somehow we look to words as the codification of our society ... words as laws ... usually leads to arguments about meanings.

Some people are fond of of the idea that "if its in black and white" (meaning words on paper) then its clear ... how false that premise really is.

I believe that what holds us back from further development is the reliance on words for communication. I'm not sure how that will form up, or even if it would require us to become more specialised (like insects) to even achieve it. Perhaps achieving it (like it did for Lucy) would require us leaving our humanity behind us ... well as we have known it for the last few thousand years. Will that be good or bad?

Words essentially are auditory ... although writing makes them visual in a way. We are essentially visual creatures with more of our brains dedicated to vision than to sound. We even use words to express this and our need to "visualise" a problem in order to solve it.

Medicine (among other sciences) has benefited enormously from advances in the ability to see things. Lenses gave us microscopes with which we saw an entirely new world. As soon as we could see it we began learning about it ... but then making mud for ourselves by writing it down in an attempt to allow others to see what we've seen without them seeing it.

... as a photographer I've always been frustrated by the situations of people seeing the images I carefully crafted and then (one day when they go there) saying "wow, its so much more than I saw in the picture"

Learning is experiential, and communication is a learned thing too ... so perhaps its time to extend the boundaries of our learning and teach visual as well as auditory words.

Of course to do that we'd need to construct a visual language ...

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas

As time goes by I find that I have a different understanding of time.

When I was a kid a Christmas holiday period was a lifetime and a year impossible to grasp. Now I still see that a Christmas Holiday can be a lifetime, but strangely I think more in years than I did.

Says it all really ... As you travel around for visiting family stay safe and be here to do it again next year.

Best Wishes

Monday, 19 December 2016

Frosted Glass

People seldom see the real thing

In closer...

Nature is always the inspiration for beauty


Thursday, 15 December 2016

Light Pillars

One of the things about walking around the place all the time is you happen across more things. Lastnight on the way back from the shops I observed that it was starting to sprinkle very lightly delicate ice crystals which would be what I'd call "dew" if it wasn't freezing. Looking around me I could see evidence of light pillar formations.

So I headed for the river and found this as the best shot:

 Sadly I only happened to have my phone not my "proper camera" and thus was only able to get this image. Still, better than none :-)

This is something which I've read about but never (till now) witnessed ... fantastic.

Monday, 5 December 2016

my GF-1 (a rumination on why do I like it?)

I'd like to be clear on why I keep pulling out my GF-1 to use but for the life of me I can't.

I mean it lacks so many things in comparison to my GH-1 (or indeed almost any modern micro43 camera) but for one reason or another when I go out for a walk its the camera I take with me most of the time.

paired with the humble 20mm f1.7 (which it was originally released with and who's release coincided with little GF-1) it makes for a fantastic walk around camera who's simplicity somehow is its strength.

As a photographer who goes into "harsh" climates I am pissed off when tech fails because of temperature. Touch screens shit me to death so much for a number of reasons, as too cameras which I have to take my gloves off to use (like the phone I shot this above picture with).

A look at the specs will not leave you gasping, nor a look at the "feature list" of what modes or whizbang wanking it has. Its just a plain simple camera which you can operate with glove on and take pictures.

Perhaps its because I'm an old guy I grew up with cameras before there were electronic cameras. I prefer being able to set things with a dial rather than dig through a menu or worse try to use a fucking touch screen which 1) can't be used with gloves on 2) can't be relied upon when its cold.

I like being able to pick Av or P (my two main modes of operation) without needing to power up the camera or squint to see what the menu is displaying when its bright.

Yet these are features that my GH-1 also has ... so this does not actually answer my question.

On my walk today at -15°C I just carried it along with me and took a couple of shots I liked:


the quality and sharpness of these images is exemplary, for instance lets look at a 100% crop of the above image and you can see the ice crystal shape of the snow flakes sitting on the cap of the grass

you just can't ask for more hand held ... so if you're thinking the images you get with your 20mm f1.7 are poor then go to the bathroom and look in the mirror to see your problem. (and no, I didn't take a bajillion shots and picked the keepers, I took one of each and they both worked)

When the GF-1 was first mooted (before they were more than a substantial rumour) I was interested in this camera, this was back in 2009 and at that time I already had a G1 (it being released first, then the GF-1 then the GH-1). From the day I picked one up in a shop I was somehow even more attracted to it, but somehow I just couldn't really justify it. I mean
  • it wasn't much smaller than my G1
  • it wasn't cheap
  • I already had the G1
  • it had no OIS in the 20mm nor sensor shift
One day however I stumbled across one on eBay that was priced at under $100 and ... well I just had to buy it. Naturally I immediately started looking for a 20mm f1.7 as the logical lens to have with this camera.

Soon I bought the 14mm f2.5 and then soon after that the GWC-1 adapter (to make the 14mm a 11mm) and then soon after that the small Olympus 45mm f1.8

Somehow this outfit despite all my ability to rationalise otherwise has become one of my favourite walk about outfits. I've taken it everywhere from parties to trecking and just love it.

Because its somehow an unassuming camera, with a simple interface I can take it to a party and comfortably hand it to people (who often forget to zoom cameras now being used to phones) and get reliable well focused shots. In party situations OIS makes less significance than does simply shutter. Sure the high ISO performance isn't great, but with face detect selected I know I'll get keepers even if I'm in front of the camera.

Given that my GH-1 produces "better RAW files" and has numerous benefits (the pivoting and tilting rear screen, an excellent EVF, works well with telephoto lenses, feels better to use with the 14-45 lens...) but that I still reach for the GF-1 makes it clear to me that I don't actually crave that. Thus I believe that none of the newer cameras will offer much more for me (oh, and having tested against other cameras and having access to the GH-4 at work too).

Of course when I do tripod work or know I'll be in a situation where I really need OIS (such as on a 2009 trip to Rome where I was amazed with the ability of OIS) which is only in my "larger" lenses, then suddenly the GH-1 is my go to. As well, having either the EVF or the articulated screen really helps when the camera is held by a tripod (not my hands). This image was hand held at 1/5th of a second ... and is just as sharp as could be expected.

So I'll reach for the GH-1 where the more "SLR" feature set comes in handy. That the GF-1 and GH-1 share the same battery is of course a great bonus (and another reason why I've not upgraded). I need only shove the GF in the pack too, take a battery in each body and a single spare and I'm usually good for a few weeks on a trip.

If I was the sort of photographer that spend more time measurbating about specs I'd probably have ditched it by now, but somehow I'm more into taking photographs. Somehow its not about having a camera with better specs ... its about having a camera I like to work with. 

For reasons I don't fully understand even myself ... its clear to me that that's the GF-1

Thursday, 1 December 2016

down by the lake

I was out visiting relatives yesterday to see how their new house by the lake is going. While there I wandered down to the shore to see what it looked like. I knew that we had not had enough low temperatures yet to allow skiing on the lake yet, but wanted to see the progress. The house is looking fantastic, but the scale of what they are doing is enormous.

We have had some heavy snow falls. Normally lots of snow slows down the process of freezing the water (acting as an insulator) and its interesting to see how rocks can act to break the water stratification layers and bring warmth from lower up to the surface (preventing freezing).

I took that with my GF and the 20f1.7 lens (as RAW) ... moved it over to the phone to have a go with Snapseed. I kind of like this "brash" retune of the image, and like the way its emphasised textures in the hills on the other shore and exaggerated the clouds.

Snapseed has a much more "rough and tumble" approach to its HDR, and so that can go for or against it in specific situations and outcome wishes. For instance below is the image I made using my old favourite Photomatix (a far more delicate tool)

far more photographic in appearance and without the brightness artifacts around the grasses. Still better than the Out Of Camera JPG though

I guess it depends on what you're seeking ... myself I think that the above image would get more comments when printed by my desk than the lower one.

After all ... people love Rock and Roll ;-)