Jun 232013
 

Hardly a day goes by without a new review of the Ricoh GR camera appearing, the latest being the one by DPReview. At long last, DPReview has finally acknowledged that Ricoh make superb digital cameras, as anyone with a Ricoh GRD III or GRD IV will attest, and the GR has been duly given a Gold Award.

Ricoh GR camera.

Picture courtesy of erickimphotography.com

Ricoh meisters such as Cristi on One Day, One Picture and Wouter Brandsma have already had the chance to put the new offering from Ricoh through its paces and both are impressed. Check out their websites and you can see why. Street photographer Eric Kim has also thoroughly reviewed the camera, which he annoyingly refers to as the Ricoh GRD V, and gives it a strong recommendation for those photographers wishing to downsize and go for a minimalist approach to street photography. Of course, there is more to the Ricoh GR than just street photography, as Jorge Ledesma so ably points out.

When the Ricoh GR was first announced, it ticked all the boxes for me. Just fractionally larger in size than a Ricoh GRD III but with a 16.2Mp APS-C CMOS sensor with no low-pass filter and a 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens that is already being hailed as a classic, why wouldn’t it? I placed a pre-order at the beginning of May with B&H and hoped that it would arrive before I left for the UK. Sadly, time ran out and I had to cancel my order.

Availability on this side of the Atlantic is also scare. I have checked several UK Ricoh dealers online, some make no mention of the camera, while others have it listed as a pre-order.

The dilemma I face is whether to put in a pre-order. My financial situation following my recent divorce is healthy in the short term but starting a new life in the UK is going to draw heavily on my limited resources. I need to find an apartment and then furnish it. I don’t have a stick of furniture to my name, not even a knife, fork or spoon.

I also don’t have any income, although that situation could and, hopefully, will change in the future. I would like to think that I could possibly find employment that draws on my expertise and experience but my age could work against me.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

I have also discovered that former work colleagues, you know who you are you bastards, have also disowned me and won’t even give me the courtesy of a reply to my emails. As a consequence, my network is not all that I thought it was. Fortunately, some people have a more kindly disposition, strangely enough those who have gone on to higher and better things than those individuals who refuse to acknowledge me could ever dream about, and have agreed to give me a reference should the need arise. People are strange. I guess it takes adversity to remind us all of that fact.

So will the purchase of a Ricoh GR give me a much needed psychological boost or will it be a purchase that I may well regret six months from now if the money runs out and I have to throw myself at the mercy of the state?

I wonder whether I should post this piece on the Leica forum? I would be sure to get a sympathetic ear from Leica owners, don’t you think? The cost of one of the cheaper Leica lenses would keep my head above water for three or four months.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

It’s a tough call knowing what to do. In the meantime, my Ricoh GRD III continues to give me excellent service, as the photographs above show, which makes the purchase of the Ricoh GR all the more appealing. Also one UK dealer is throwing in a free Ricoh GC-5 leather case, which makes the camera even more tempting.

Decisions, decisions…

Apr 012013
 

Unexpected surprises often help to kick-start one’s enthusiasm and motivation and such a surprise came to me last week when I received an e-mail announcing that I was eligible for the entire collection of Nik Software absolutely free. I qualified for this generous offer by virtue of being an existing customer.

My first Nik Software purchase was Silver Efex Pro and I quickly became a convert to the U Point® technology employed. It became a no-brainer to upgrade to Silver Efex Pro 2. Subsequently, I bought Viveza 2 to enhance my colour images.

Four or five months ago, I contemplated the purchase of Define 2, Nik Software’s noise reduction software, as well as Sharpener Pro 3 but was put off by the fact that they were no longer available as hard disks and the two plug-ins would have set me back $210.

The opportunity to obtain these two Nik plug-ins for free made the offer good; it became even better when I was also set to receive Color Efex Pro 4 and HDR Efex Pro 2.

Given my usual skepticism, my first thought was, what is the catch? Why would Nik Software by Google want to give away $499 of plug-ins?  But it doesn’t always do to look a gift horse in the mouth and I have since accepted my good fortune along with this excellent collection of software.

The only downside is learning how to use the new plug-ins. To this end I have been helped by the free video tutorials on the Nik Software site and also found Keith Cooper’s reviews on his Northlight Images web site a good starting point.

I am still in the process of ascending the steep learning curve but have made my first tentative steps in applying Define 2 and Color Efex Pro 4 to my workflow. Below is one of my first attempts employing these two plug-ins.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

I have also experimented using Color Efex Pro 4 on images that I ultimately wanted to present as black & white photographs. In the photograph below, I used the Brilliance/ Warm, Detail Extractor, Graduated Neutral Density and Pro Contrast filters before converting to black & white with Silver Efex Pro 2.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

The acquisition of new software always raises a conundrum. Do I go back and apply the new software/plug-ins to images processed previously or do I let them stand as a testament to the level of processing available to me at that time?  I guess selectivity is the key here, unless I wish to remain stuck in front of my computer screen for the next four months.

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Jan 302012
 

In the days of film photography, I was always more circumspect when it came to deciding when to press the shutter and capture an image.  With the film and developing costing money, I was always strived to try and get value for my money. I didn’t always succeed.

With the advent of digital photography, once a memory card has been bought, whether you shoot 10 frames or 1,000, the operating cost is the same. I am not factoring in the cost of a camera, computer and the software needed to process the images. On a day-to-day basis of shooting photographs, digital photography is essentially free.

The downside to that situation is the tendency to shoot a lot more images, followed by a much longer process of deciding which are keepers and which can be deleted.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Nikon guru and photography sage Thom Hogan, what Thom doesn’t know about Nikon cameras isn’t worth knowing, advocates limiting the number of images shot in an attempt to reduce the processing workflow.

In article about dealing with lots of digital images, Thom even harks back to the days of film and advises photographers to wrap each memory card in a 20-dollar bill to remind themselves that images cost money. He recommends “chimping”, looking at the images just after they have been shot and deleting the failures.

On the computer, Thom advises classifying the images into three categories — winners; keepers; and delete. He then further classifies the first two categories into winners, stock and keepers. Thom rates the winners with five stars; stock images with three stars; and keepers with one star. The three rankings correspond to Galen Rowell’s ABC system of classification: A for winners; B for stock; C for keepers.

Winners — five-stars or A —  are few and far between. Thom writes:

You don’t have very many. Ansel Adams once said that if you shoot a dozen great images a year, you’re doing well. If your A category gets much higher than a 100 images over a few years of shooting, you’re probably not being critical enough.

Three-star or B images are those sold for stock. Thom defines images in this category as “a very publishable and it’s an image that I’m proud to have my name associated with”.

One-star or C images are basically reference photographs. Thom defines them as “images that someone would find publishable, but you wouldn’t care if your name was or wasn’t associated with them.”

Renowned Danish photographer Thorsten Overgaard, a man whose photographs regularly grace some of the most presitigious publications in the world, takes a  somewhat different approach. Thorsten advises never to delete anything and certainly not on the basis of reviewing the image on the camera’s LCD screen. For Thorsten time is more costly than hard drive space.

At the computer, Thorsten recommends reviewing a shoot backwards when trying to determine the merits of the various images shot. By the end of a shoot the creative process is likely in full flow and better images will result than at the beginning. In Thorsten’s words you are “warmed up”. He adopts a binary system of classification. Either an image is one worthy of saving or it is not and even the latter are not deleted, they just become images that he does not spend time on.

Thorsten writes:

Hence you only have yes and no images. You don’t rate images with 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 stars. You either select it as an image or disregard it. You harvest images.

He marks his yes images with three stars. Those are the images he works on and eventually exports as high resolution JPEGs. His “harvest” will consist of “two, five, 10 or 14 images that are in fact professional”.

Thorsten concludes:

You may show your two, five, ten or fourteen images to people. And they will recognize that you have talent, because they have never met anyone who could make ten pictures that were all that perfect!

The emphasis must always be on quality when it comes to selecting images. I know at times that my quality control regarding what I post on various blog sites is not all that it should be. I kind of made a rod for my own back by starting a blog site called Tägliches Foto, which requires me to post a photograph every single day.

My method of sorting and selecting images consists of several stages. When shooting with the Canon 40D and the manual focus Zeiss lens, my initial selection is based on the image with the sharpest focus. This step involves using the loupe in Adobe Bridge and comparing several images of the same subject.  The image with the sharpest focus is marked with one star.

I then review all the one-star images and more in keeping with Thorsten’s approach make a selection on yes and no. The former are marked with two stars and these are the images I will spend time working on. During the course of processing the RAW images in Photoshop CS5 and Silver Efex Pro 2, I usually come to the conclusion that some of the two-star images are not really worth spending time on. They remain as two-star images while the processed ones become three-star JPEGs.

With the Ricoh GRD III, I mark all the RAW files with one star. I do wish Ricoh would facilitate the ability to just shoot in RAW rather than providing RAW plus a JPEG image. I then choose those that are worth working on and mark them with two-stars. As with the Canon, the two-star list is not definitive at this stage and some two-star images fail to make it as three-star JPEGs.

When it comes to deleting. When I have processed all the images from a shoot with the Canon, I delete those RAW files that were not quite in focus but i retain all the rest. With the Ricoh GRD III, I eventually delete the in-camera JPEG images.

When it comes to deciding which photographs will eventually appear on Calvin Palmer Photography, the choice is made from the three-star JPEGs and those selected are designated with four-stars.

The important thing to remember is succintly put by Thorsten: “No photographer has a hit rate of 100 per cent.”

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Jan 202012
 

I am a regular visitor to The Online Photographer Web site. I admire the writing style of founder and editor Mike Johnson, and the site provides a valuable  insight into the wide spectrum of photographic subjects. This week saw a piece by guest contributor Ken Tanaka who wrote about January being a time for self-assessment.

Ken posed the question: How do you feel? He went on:

This may seem an odd question but the answer is fundamental to realizing how you can best pursue photography.  How is your health?  How’s your weight, your energy, your mobility, and most importantly your eyesight?  Are you unrealistically pursuing a style of photography that’s become too physically demanding for you?  I don’t mean just arduous treks with heavy kits but also long hours on your feet in a studio or darkroom.

More than ever, photography offers virtually everyone with eyesight the opportunity to participate.  Indeed, today’s small, light, powerful cameras enable you to achieve spectacular success even with rather restrictive physical limitations.  You no longer have to carry heavy camera kits to get good technical-quality imagery. So if you’ve not already done so, now’s a good time to evaluate if your equipment, subjects, and style are really good choices for your age and physical condition as well as for your goals.

Now for you  20-, 30- and 40-year-olds these sentiments probably do not strike a chord and rightly so. Barring misfortune, you are good to go for 20 years at least. But for someone who will be 60 in 18 months time, Ken’s words hit home.

I do have health issues — blood pressure that is kept in check with daily Lisinopril — but that is not going to impinge too much on my photography. I also have  issues with the optic nerve in my right eye as well as the onset of glaucoma. Those issues obviously do concern me as a photographer. Luckily, my left eye is my sighting eye, the one I use to gauge focus when manual focusing my Zeiss lens.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

After reading Ken’s article, the balance once more swung towards the Ricoh GXR with the A12 M-mount. Ricoh, like Sony with the Sony NEX, has incorporated focus peaking to assist in the nailing the focus with manual lenses. That function appeals to me a lot.

In the course of this afternoon, I received an e-mail from a friend in London who had visited the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition at the National Theatre. She said she was disappointed not to see any of my photographs on show. Right!  She did go on to mention that the work of photographer Sandra Bartocha appealed to her greatly.

Checking out Sandra’s portfolio, I can understand why. Sandra’s landscape photography does not go in for sweeping vistas but tends to concentrate on a single element of the landscape, exploring colour and texture. Sandra is a hardy soul, regularly venturing out in the cold and snow to capture exquisite shots. Her portfolio is well worth a view.

Sandra’s work also shows that you do not have to live or visit some great scenic area of the world to produce fantastic landscape photography. Great opportunities are probably right on your doorstep or just a short drive away. It is knowing where to look and seeing the potential for a great photograph. Sandra possesses this talent and an abundance of it.

I read up a bit more about Sandra and discovered that she shoots with a Nikon D700 and her favourite lens is the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 VR.

You can probably see where I am heading and you are absolutely right. The balance has swung back to the acquisition of a full-frame DSLR and my case it would be a Canon, preferably the still-to-be-announced Canon 5D Mark III, rather than a Nikon.

But by this time next week, I will probably have found another article and good reason to swing back to the Ricoh GXR M-mount again. Like the old joke goes: I used to be indecisive, now I am not so sure.

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Dec 302011
 

I have spent quite a bit of this week researching lenses for possible use with the Ricoh A12 M-mount. With my penchant for Zeiss lenses, and the qualities they bring to photographic images, those were an obvious target.

With the A12 M-mount one has to remember that there is a 1.5 crop factor, which means a really wide-angle lens is needed to achieve the 35mm equivalent of a moderate 28mm wide-angle lense.

With Zeiss, the choice is the Distagon T* 18mm f/4, not the fastest of lenses but its rendition is quite wonderful and it would certainly enhance any landscape shots. The only drawback is that it is somewhat pricey.

I also looked at the Biogon T* 35mm f/2, a lens famed for its sharpness at the corners. While looking at the 35mm focal length I came across the Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical 35mm f/1.2. A second version of this lens is due in the stores in January. It is slightly lighter than the original version, which is highly sought after in the second-hand market for the qualities so eloquently admired by a Canadian photographer, known to the world only as Peter, who posts under the nom de plume of Prosophos and has a web site of the same name.

Peter aka Prosophos is a talented photographer. His people shots are something quite special. He has the knack of capturing the perfect expression in his subjects.

His field report on the original version of the Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical 35mm f/1.2  is well worth checking out.

A third focal length I have been looking at is 50mm, which would translate into a 35mm equivalent of 75mm on the GXR A12 M-mount and ideally suited to portraits. Zeiss offers two 50mm ZM lenses – the C Sonnar T* 50mm f/1.5, the ‘C’ denotes compact and classic, and the Planar T* 50mm f/2 .

The C Sonnar T* does have issues with focus shift, which Zeiss acknowledges, and involves a little more care and attention when focusing but the results can be quite sublime, as Mikael Törnwall attests on Luminous Landscape.

Törnwall reports that Zeiss recommends the C Sonnar T* is best used for “emotional, artistic, narrative images, portraits or atmospheric landscapes. For documentation or technical subjects, Zeiss recommends to stop down the lens at least to f/5.6 or to use the Planar T* 2/50 ZM lens”.

Those three focal lengths – 15mm; 35mm and 50mm – would make for an ideal three-lens outfit for the GXR A12 Mount. If I were to add one more it would be the Biogon T* 28mm f/2.8 to give me the 35mm equivalent of a 40mm lens. Remember the classic Minolta CLE film camera had a three-lens kit comprising 28mm, 40mm and 90mm lenses. The Biogon T* 28mm would help fit in with that tradition.

In doing my research, I was thankful that I am not in a position to buy at the moment. Why? None of the above mentioned lenses are in stock anywhere. They seemingly cannot be had for love nor money. The same goes for Leica M-mount lenses. With the advent of the Sony NEX cameras and the A12 M-mount is it a case of the demand for these lenses has grown to where it outstrips supply? Previously the only market for these lenses was people owning Leica, Zeiss or Voigtlander rangefinder cameras and out of those three brands, only Leica offers a digital version.

As much as the Ricoh GXR camera with the A12 M-mount holds considerable appeal in terms of size and weight — the three Zeiss lenses in my proposed three-lens kit have a combined weight just 18g heavier than my Canon 40D body – I still have reservations about using an electronic viewfinder.

I am old school and for me a camera is all about lining up a shot staring through an optical viewfinder. It is what I have been used to for more than 30 years and old habits die hard.

It may be that I am worrying unnecessarily about the EVF. If people would like to share their experiences of using a camera that relies on an EVF, I would be most grateful.

It just remains for me to wish everyone a Happy New Year and all the best for 2012.

Happy trails!

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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Dec 232011
 

One of the photography blogs I visit regularly is One Day, One Picture run by Cristian Sorega.

Cristian is a fabulous photographer, especially his street photography work, and is also knowledgeable about Ricoh cameras. What Cristian doesn’t know about a Ricoh camera both from the technical and hands-on perspectives is probably not worth knowing.

It has been my good fortune to have made his acquaintance in terms of his technical expertise and the wonderful images he creates.

Cristian has been shooting exclusively with the Ricoh GXR and A12 M-mount of late, to which he attaches a variety of legacy lenses and rangefinder lenses.

Rangefinder lenses usually mean either outrageously expensive Leica lenses or the more moderately-priced, but still quite expensive, Zeiss lenses. The quality of both goes without saying.

Recent shots by Cristian with the GXR A12 M-mount have featured Voigtlander lenses and I was impressed by the results so much that I did some research into them. The quality across the range may not match that of Leica and Zeiss lenses but it is certainly good enough for any serious photographer. The great advantage is their price.

Out of the extensive Voigtlander M-mount range, from a focal length of 12mm up to 75mm, only two lenses are priced at above $1,000 – the Nokton 50mm f/1.1 and the soon-to-be-released Nokton Aspherical 35mm f/1.2. The other lenses are within a $409 to $849 range.

Sean Reid on the Luminous Landscape Web site compared several of the Voigtlander lenses with their Zeiss, Leica and Canon FD counterparts and his analysis is both comprehensive and thorough. We would expect nothing less from Sean. One of the Voigtlander lenses impressed him so much that he ended up buying it. The others he reviewed also received favourable comments.

I have to say that through Cristian Sorega’s images, the favourable reviews of Voiglander lenses and their affordability, I am being tempted more and more by the GXR with the A12 M-mount.

I would still prefer an in-built EVF, such as the one featured on the Sony NEX-7, but I like Ricoh cameras and am familiar with their UIF, probably the best of any camera produced.

I will certainly be looking at the GXR with serious intent in the New Year and with a view to acquiring probably a mix of Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses, depending on the availability of funds.

The GXR with the A12 M-mount appears to be the nearest thing in this digital age to the legendary Minolta CLE. Many’s the time I rue not buying the Minolta camera with its three Rokkor lenses — 28mm, 40mm and 90mm — to complement my Minolta XD-7 SLR back in the days of film. For one thing, I would not have to go out and buy lenses for the GXR and in the Rokkor 40mm f/2 I would have a gem of a lens. But there is no use dwelling on what might have been.

In the meantime, I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I will leave you with a picture of Christmas lights adorning houses in my neighbourhood.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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Dec 162011
 

The Sony NEX-7 received its review from Digital Photography Review, the place where loud obnoxious people like to pretend they are professional photographers, without offering a shred of evidence to support their claim, and pour scorn on the images submitted by enthusiasts, particularly those owning Leica M9 cameras. I doubt a true professional photographer, certainly not the ones I have known, would conduct themselves in such a manner.

This week, dpreview gave the Sony NEX-7, the latest offering in the new breed of mirrorless cameras, a huge thumbs up. The reviews by dpreview provide a useful yardstick in assessing a camera, although the fan-boys of various camera manufactures regard its words as gospel.

The review by dpreview is a good source of reference and an instant port of call for anyone wishing to know the specifications of the 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor Sony NEX-7.

I found an article by working professional photographer Peter Sills far greater benefit along with the hands-on experience of esteemed photographer and photoblogger, Michael Reichmann at his Luminous Landscape Web site.

Sills took his copy of the NEX-7 with him on a trip to Cuba. He also took along his trusty workhorse, the Canon 5D Mk II. Sills shot with both cameras but increasingly favoured the smaller Sony over the Canon.

The Sony came into its own for taking candid photographs in situations where the larger Canon would become too noticeable and kill the moment.

Sills concludes:

I am now totally convinced that the future of digital photography will incorporate high-quality EVF in almost all cameras. This is just the beginning of this technology. Also, the need for the large SLR may also be starting to end. Given the capabilities of the new mirror less cameras, I see no reason for overly large bodies (except that they can currently support much larger batteries).

I am already planning my return trip to Cuba. The country is a photographer’s dream. My Canon gear will be staying at home.

Over at Luminous Landscape, Reichmann has just concluded a rolling review of the Sony NEX-7, even to the extent of comparing its resolution with the Leica M9.

Reichmann concludes:

The NEX-7 is the most exciting camera that I’ve had the pleasure of using in the past five years.

Praise indeed and Reichmann then goes on to list the NEX-7 features that impressed him the most.

I have to admit the NEX-7 has aroused my interest, partly because of its size but more importantly because of the link between Sony and Carl Zeiss lenses. Zeiss has already produced one E-mount lens for the NEX range of cameras, a 24mm/f/1.8, which is the equivalent of the 36mm lens in 35 mm format because of the Sony’s 1.5 crop factor. I expect other Zeiss lenses will follow. The NEX-7/Zeiss 24mm lens combination will set you back $2199.98 and is not expected to be readily available until January.

Interestingly enough, B&H has the Canon EOS 5D Mk II body on offer for $1995.99. The price also includes a 16GB Sandisk Extremem Pro CF card, Lowepro Adventura 170 Shoulder Bag & Red Giant B&H Video Production Software Bundle ($719.85 Total Value) .

Until the NEX-7, the only mirrorless camera that appealed to me was the Ricoh GXR, mainly because I am familiar with Ricoh cameras and also Ricoh boasts the one of the best UIF for photographers.

The NEX-7, however, has one distinct advantage over Ricoh’s GXR, the in-built EVF. I find the thought of having to attach an electronic viewfinder to the hot-shoe of the GXR offputting and, besides, the NEX viewfinder far surpasses the Ricoh one in terms of image quality.

My great hope is that Ricoh responds to the NEX by producing a GXR II with a comparable in-built EVF. I would much prefer a Ricoh offering and the A12 m-mount affords the opportunity to mount manual Zeiss lenses. Ricoh also trumps the Sony camera when it comes to the customization of camera settings. The NEX at present allows no customized settings.

At the moment it is all academic to me but I like to keep my eye on future camera options.

I am not sure I would agree with Sills’ assertion that the DSLR is about to become extinct. I can see how people who own a DSLR for family snaps may find the compact and lighter mirrorless cameras more to their liking. I can see professional photographers whose genre is street photography favouring something like the NEX-7 but in terms of press, sports and fashion photography, a high-end DSLR will always reign supreme.

Reports of the death of the DSLR are greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain.

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Dec 092011
 

I took advantage of Adobe’s generous Black Friday deal and upgraded to Photoshop CS5 I was perfectly happy with Photoshop CS3 until I heard about an announcement from Adobe that it was ceasing its upgrade policy when CS6 comes into existence and intends to follow a monthly subscription approach regarding future upgrades.

Moving to CS5 also meant I had to upgrade my Mac OSX.

In terms of delivery, both orders were placed on the same day, Adobe trounced Apple. I opted for ground shipping to keep costs down and the CS5 upgrade arrived four days before the Mac OSX. Apple’s effort was not helped by the United States Postal Service who contrived to deliver it initially to the wrong address. Technically, Adobe’s winning margin was only three days.

It took most of Wednesday to install the OSX. The upgrade of the OSX was straightforward enough, it was updating the myriad of other applications on my Mac Pro, notably music software, which took time.

Yesterday, it was the turn of CS5. Again it took most of the day, largely due to adjusting preferences and the like, particularly getting the appearance of Adobe Bridge CS5to resemble the CS3 version.

The emphasis these days seems to be to make Bridge resemble a lightbox or virtual contact sheet from which to make selections of the best images.

I shoot with manual lenses and it is important for me to select not only the best shots but also those that are spot on in terms of focus. To this end, I much prefer the file strip of RAW images running down the right-hand side of the Bridge window.

The new features in Photoshop CS5 are impressive. The technology employed is simply amazing and I doff my cap to the computer wizards who create this software.

Straightening a horizon takes seconds as opposed to the old method of messing about with a crop box and aligning it to the horizon.

Content aware fill is an amazing tool and will result in tidier images from me in the future.

Today, I tried my usual workflow and was proceeding apace until I hit my one major disappointment. The original version of Silver Efex Pro will not work in Photoshop CS5 if the more efficient 64-bit architecture of latter is used, which it is by default

In order to use Silver Efex Pro, I would have to go back to 32-bit architecture. A bit of research on Google found a way, rather convoluted and time consuming, to still use the older version of Silver Efex Pro. It entails quitting CS5, clicking on the folder and selecting Info. This action brings up a dialogue box where 32-bit can be selected. Sure enough, Silver Efex Pro duly appeared but when the processing was done I needed to repeat those initial steps to get back to 64-bit.

The only work around I can think of is to process all my images from a shoot as colour files and then have a session on the computer where I convert them all to B&W images in Silver Efex Pro.

It looks like an upgrade to Silver Efex Pro 2 is on the cards.

Reading the box in which Silver Efex Pro came did reveal this shortfall. But who reads boxes?

Faced by this setback, I decided to see what Photoshop CS5 offered in terms of B&W conversion and was quite impressed by the results. I had to work on the image a little longer than I would in Silver Efex Pro but the result was pleasing, as can be seen below.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

To compare with Silver Efex Pro, I did switch to 32-bit in CS5. The conversion and adjustments were a lot quicker and I had greater control, particularly in lightening the foreground In Silver Efex Pro.Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Putting both images side by side in Bridge CS5 Preview, I found myself liking the Photoshop CS5 version better than the one produced by Silver Efex Pro.

The two images had minimal processing in PhotoshopCS5, as a test exercise I was more interested in the B&W conversion.

I would be interested hear from others as to which version they prefer.

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Dec 032011
 

Dark Entry Creek, St Marys, Georgia. Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The photograph above serves as an allegory of the early part of my week. I had a sunny disposition but it was under threat from the looming clouds.

The clouds in my case were my Mac Pro dying, a credit card transaction being refused and the temporary loss of my Internet access just as I was about to upload my entries for a photo contest.

My Mac Pro will be five years old next week, with a PC I would be braced for things to start going wrong but not with a Mac. You can imagine my shock, not to say disbelief, when it died. It would begin to power up but then stopped and the screen remained black.

A few procedures aimed at restoring an ailing Mac all failed. The Mac message boards provided no instant solutions, in fact they compounded my concern with mention of logic board failure. Logic boards do not come cheap and it looked as if I was facing a bill in excess of $1,000.

The one ray of sunshine amidst all this gloom was the presence of an authorized Apple repair shop only four miles from my home. I called Mac + PC Tech Pro and was told to bring my Mac in. I figured I would not only be facing a large bill but also the loss of the computer for several days.

The deadline for the photo contest was Wednesday. Sorting through all my photographs for suitable images and getting them ready for submission looked to have been a wasted effort. It probably was a wasted effort in terms of actually winning but that is a totally different issue.

In the middle of the afternoon, Jake at Mac + PC Tech Pro called back to say that testing of my Mac had revealed that the memory boards were shot and one stick of memory had failed. He said he had everything in stock and I could pick my computer up in 30 minutes. The total bill was going to be several hundred dollars but a long way short of the $1,000 I thought it would cost.

Anyone in the Jacksonville area who has a problem with their Mac should contact Mac + PC Tech Pro. You are treated like a customer rather than a number by the helpful staff. I highly recommend the company and the service it provides.

The return of my Mac also meant I would be able to submit my photographs a day before the closing date.

On Tuesday, I found that AOL had decided to change the inbox of my e-mail. They call it a unified inbox. I call it a disaster. My inbox had e-mails going back to 2009. I much preferred the old system of new mail and old mail being kept in separate inboxes.

My first attempt to switch back didn’t work and I contacted the online help service. I was being given instructions on what to do when the phone rang. It was the fraud protection unit of my credit card company, asking about a couple of recent transactions. They kept referring to today (Wednesday) when the transactions had taken place the day before.

I had decided to take up Adobe’s generous Black Friday deal on upgrading Photoshop to CS5 but my credit card company had refused to authorize the transaction. When I pointed out that I had made the transaction and made it in good faith, I was told I would have to reorder from Adobe.

“Just a minute,” I said, “yesterday was the last day of the special discount. You can telephone Adobe and put it straight.”

Moments later, I had Eric from Adobe on the line informing me that they had no record of my order placed on Nov 29.

“Excuse me, Eric,” I said,” but how is it that I have record of the order in My Adobe.” I read out the details including the order number and ended, “If I have a record of the order and you do not, I think something must be dreadfully wrong with your computer system.”

“I am going to transfer you to someone else,” Eric said sheepishly.

I was put through to a sales associate who could not have been more helpful. I got the Black Friday deal discount during which he happened to mention that the billing address on the initial order was an address in Morrisville, North Carolina and different from my shipping address in Jacksonville.

Now I could understand why my credit card company had refused to the let the order go through.

A Google search revealed the Morrisville address was vacant office premises. I contacted my credit card company with this information and also Adobe. The former assured me everything was all right with my account, the latter were not the slightest bit concerned that a bogus address had been attached to my credit card while placing an order.

With that problem sorted, I turned my attention to uploading the competition photographs, a task I had intended to start some two hours earlier.

I clicked the computer mouse and noticed that all my e-mails were grey, gray for American readers. I clicked the mouse again and nothing happened. Glancing across at the modem, I saw that all the lights were out save for the power light. Great! It was beginning to look as if I was destined not to enter this competition. I unplugged all the leads to the modem and waited for a minute, plugged them back in again but the modem remained dead. I tried a second time and got the same result. I had no recourse other than to call AT&T – that paragon of timeliness and efficiency.

I gathered together the information in order to contact AT&T, knowing full well it would be at least a day before anyone could come round to investigate the problem. With that thought in mind, I decided I needed a cup of coffee and a cigarette to calm me down.

With a heavy heart, I climbed the stairs back to my office. I was in a state of disbelief at the events that had befallen me. Then at last, a piece of good fortune struck. From the top of the stairs I could see the modem and all its lights were lit up.

“You shall go to the ball, Cinders!”

I spent the next hour uploading my photographs. I am officially an entrant in the contest. The blue skies came back.

My upgrade to Photoshop CS5 should arrive next week along with a Mac OSX upgrade to Snow Leopard. I hope the learning curve is not a steep one and I can quickly get back into my workflow and make use of the new features the upgrade brings.

I am back on track.

St Marys, Georgia. Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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Oct 042011
 

The Jacksonville Jaguars took on the New Orleans Saints at EverBank Field on Sunday. I attended the game thanks to free tickets courtesy of my wife’s firm.

The Jaguars are a team in transition. That is a polite way of saying they are poor.

If the action on the field left a lot to be desired from a Jaguars fan’s point of view, at least the occasion provided a good opportunity for photographs.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

A large number of Saints fans also attended the game, complete with painted faces and the obligatory Mardi Gras beads. Who Dat?

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

With no smoking allowed in the seating area of EverBank Field, I eventually had to make my way to one of the designated smoking areas. From my lofty vantage point I was able to fire off several overhead shots.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

This female Jaguars fan outfit caught the eye, although I was unable to get into just the right position. A football stadium also presents quite a challenge in terms of lighting.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The game itself ended in a 28-10 defeat for the Jaguars. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw one good throw for a touchdown but it was very much a learning experience for him. Fingers crossed that he steadily improves, which I think he will, otherwise it is going to be a long season.

Still, looking on the bright side, if the season ends 4-12 for the Jaguars, if they are lucky, fans can at least look forward to the prospect of a new coach. Failure to reach the play-offs this season will see the end of Jack Del Rio’s tenure and most Jaguars fans will not be sorry to see him go. Of course, it remains to be seen if owner Wayne Weaver is as good as his word.

Mike Johnson over on The Online Photographer web site presents a similar photographic essay following on from his visit to Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. At least he had the pleasure of seeing his team, the Packers, win.

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