Jun 022014
 

I recently upgraded my Mac OSX to the 10.9 Mavericks version. About time, I hear you say but my guiding principle tends to be: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

I still vividly remember an update to Mac OSX Panther that crashed my system and that of many other Mac users worldwide. My days of being an early adopter ceased from that time on. I now prefer to wait a few months to let the initial bugs get ironed out.

Keith Cooper, who runs the Northlight Images website — a valuable source of photography information and excellent reviews – happened to mention he had experienced a problem with the Google Nik Collection after he had upgraded to Mavericks. I checked out the Google Nik Collection website to see if Keith’s problem was widespread. I discovered it wasn’t and also became aware of the existence of Analog Efex Pro 2.

The original Analog Efex Pro had appeared as an icon in the folder when I downloaded the Google Nik Collection in March 2013 but the actual plug-in failed to materialize. Bearing in mind that Google at that time had offered me the entire collection as a free download, I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth and let the absence of Analog Efex Pro ride.

Analog Efex Pro 2 was a different matter. I now felt like I was missing out on something and so duly downloaded the Nik Collection again and the plug-in arrived in full working order.

I watched the Analog Efex Pro 2 tutorials and put the software to work. The software offers an array of filters to recreate vintage cameras, classic cameras, black & white, toy lenses to name but a few. Within those filters it is possible to control parameters such as bokeh, vignetting, dirt and scratches, and light leaks. And, of course, Nik Software’s control points are available to fine tune the effects.

I find a certain irony in this age of digital photography that we now wish to recreate photographic technology from as far back as the late 19th century, with the Wet Plate option, but such is the human condition. In the age of digital sound — CDs and mp3s – some people still prefer the sound obtained from vinyl. It is not hard to see the origins of the English expression: There’s nowt so queer as folk!

Here is my first attempt using Analog Efex Pro 2 with a vintage camera filter on a color shot.

HSC Mananna heads for Liverpool past Crosby Beach, Merseyside.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

The same shot with my usual color workflow of Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

HSC Mananna heads for Liverpool past Crosby Beach, Merseyside, England.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I enjoyed playing about with Analog Efex Pro 2 and without a doubt it does tend to provide a dramatic impact to color photographs. I must confess to mixed feelings, as part of me cannot help preferring the greater integrity of my usual color workflow using Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4. I use “integrity” in a loose sense since any image is manipulated if subjected to Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

I found my “integrity” was not so compromised using the Wet Plate option to convert a color shot to B&W.

Couple on Crosby Beach, Merseyside, England.

My usual processing (left) using Viveza 2 and Silver Efex Pro 2, with the Analog Efex Pro 2 version (right). Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

It may be that I overstepped the mark a little with my attempts on color images. Subtlety is often the key when it comes to applying effects to images. Sadly, I am not renowned for my subtlety.

I would be interested to hear which versions of these shots readers prefer.

Here is a final shot I processed straight from the RAW dng file in Analog Efex Pro 2, completely bypassing my normal workflow just to see how it fares as a standalone.

New Brighton Beach and Perch Rock Lighthouse, New Brighton, Merseyside, England.

Ricoh GR ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I am undecided whether Analog Efex Pro 2 will become a regular feature of my workflow. The jury is still out at the moment. I think it is more likely to be applied to certain shots when the mood takes me. Your feedback could well change my mind.

Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.

Feb 222014
 
Wave ripples on Southport Beach at low tide.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2014. All Rights Reserved.

I am still coming to terms with being the victim of a gray divorce. To borrow from The Ballad of John and Yoko:

Christ you know it ain’t easy,
You know how hard it can be.

Very hard!

I find myself listening to a lot of Blues these days – Buddy Guy and BB King mostly – and the lyrics are often like barbs striking into my  being. I take some comfort from what has happened to me has also happened to countless others before and countless more to come.

Christ you know it ain’t easy,
You know how hard it can be.

My emotional pain is compounded by trying to find a job to secure my future. I fire off application after application but never hear back.  I even get the silent treatment for survival jobs. It would seem I am too old to resume a career and overqualified for jobs just to get by.

Christ you know it ain’t easy,
You know how hard it can be.

With no family, all alone in the world and struggling to find a job, my thoughts often turn to the empty and unfulfilled life that in all probability lies ahead. It is no fun being cut adrift at my time of life.

Christ you know it ain’t easy,
You know how hard it can be.

A couple of days ago, a sweet girl from the Midwest commented on a photograph on one of my other websites. When anyone pays me the courtesy of commenting, I always check out their blogs.  This twenty-something had posted a blog featuring a graphic that stated:

If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.

That got me thinking. Having no family ties does give me a huge advantage. I am not, in theory, tied to one particular place and could live anywhere in the world – in theory! The stumbling block is accommodation, my modest and limited funds and no guarantee of an income.

Christ you know it ain’t easy,
You know how hard it can be.

The place where I really want to be is back in the United States. The past 13 years living in Texas and Florida have left their mark. I may be British but I am no longer part of the British scene. America is my home. I have become Americanized and miss so many features of American life, the friendliness of American people is perhaps the greatest one. I still have my US Permanent Resident status.

I got to thinking some more.  What if I were to trade my labor for accommodation, a roof over my head? A great many US professional photographers could probably make use of an assistant but would be hard pressed to pay a wage. I would be happy to work for free — loading gear; setting up studio lighting and props; doing the grunt work of image editing in Photoshop; uploading images to websites; proofreading and managing website content. All I ask in return is decent accommodation. I will even help with chores around the house.

I just need some breathing space to get back on my feet, find my direction and start to feel good again about the future.

Anyone who may be able to help can check me out at http://www.linkedin.com/in/calvinpalmer and get in touch at info@calvinpalmerphotos.com.

I openly admit to feeling kind of lost and would be grateful for any advice. I am running on empty at the moment. Sing me back home.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhYpAjHdMEE

Sep 242013
 

I threw caution to the winds and bought a Ricoh GR. I figured that after all I have been through, I deserved a treat and the only person who is going to treat me these days is me!

I have had the camera nearly two months, sufficient time to put it through its paces. All I can say is that it is a gem of a camera and not difficult to understand why they are so hard to get hold of.

The scarcity of the Ricoh GR is another reason why I decided to take the plunge and buy one. It seems as soon as retailer takes delivery of a new order, the cameras are gone within a matter of days and that happens on both sides of the Atlantic.

I took to the Ricoh GR instantly but I was lucky enough to be familiar with the Ricoh user interface through my work with the GRD III. Someone coming to Ricoh cameras for the first time may be a little overawed initially but Ricoh’s interface is highly intuitive and they will quickly be up and running.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

With Ricoh cameras, one always gets the feeling that the people who design them are themselves keen photographers as well as camera or electronics engineers. Everything is to hand, so much so that it is possible to operate the Ricoh GR with one hand, useful for when taking candid street photography shots.

The absence of an anti-aliasing filter combined with the incredibly sharp 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens provides stunning high-resolution images. The removal of the anti-aliasing filter can cause problems with moiré. I experienced that for first time on Saturday when photographing some oil storage tanks at the docks in Bootle, Merseyside. I have yet to process the DNG file and am hopeful that Photoshop CS6 will be up to the task.

When the Ricoh GR first hit the streets, some people – probably owners of Sony NEX or Fujifilm XP-1 cameras – suggested it had problems handling reds. Whether that is a problem with the internal processing of JPEGs I don’t know because I shoot exclusively in RAW. I would be happy for the naysayers to tell me just exactly how the Ricoh GR isn’t handling reds correctly in the shot below.

Gate with Chevrons and No Entry sign at Langton Dock, Bootle

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Where the Ricoh GR has come into its own for me is in stealth street photography. The Snap Mode on the Ricoh GRD III helped in this area but the Snap Mode on Ricoh GR seems so much quicker and precise than the GRD III. It could just be my imagination but I had a greater ratio of keepers using the Snap Mode function on the GR than I did on the GRD III.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

My only criticism of the Ricoh GR concerns the holster-style case. Quite simply I don’t like it. The case is too open for my comfort, allowing easy access for dust. The case will not accommodate the Ricoh GR with an optical viewfinder attached. The case for the GRD III did.

Fortunately, the GRD III case will take the Ricoh GR with viewfinder attached. It will not close completely but at least I don’t have to carry the viewfinder separately and attach it and remove it every time I use the camera.

I have to admit that I rarely use the optical viewfinder but I like to have it in place for those occasions when bright sunlight can make viewing the LCD screen difficult. The optical viewfinder was always attached to my GRD III and I am a creature of habit.

On a couple of occasions with back-lit scenes, the multi metering has resulted in darker than usual images. In those kinds of situations, it is probably best to switch to center-weighted metering. By and large, the metering has been spot on. In the normal course of my photography I do not use the EV compensation function as I do with the GRD III and my Canon 40D. I would say the greater dynamic range is down to the state-of-the-art APS-C sensor of the GR.

On a trip to Liverpool, my photographic stroll was unexpectedly cut short when the battery became exhausted. It was the spare battery I carried with me and it could be that it was not as fully charged as I thought. I have since activated more of the power-saving settings on the GR to place less strain on the battery. My advice, not only for the Ricoh GR but also any compact mirrorless camera, is to always carry a spare battery.

As yet I have not pushed the GR above ISO 800 but the results I have obtained at that setting suggest that ISO 1600 and even ISO 3200 should provide images that can be worked with, especially in B&W where any noise will be reflected as grain. I am not sure I would go as far as ISO 25600 in the ordinary course of my photography but if it was a question of being in a situation where a photograph of the scene before me would go viral and earn me a six-figure sum. it is comforting to know that capability exists.

Ricoh GR at ISO 800. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR at ISO 800. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

The Ricoh GR has become my camera of choice. It is unobtrusive on the streets, making street photography just that little bit easier. It is certainly a lot lighter to carry than a DSLR and my urban strolls tend to cover upwards of three miles on any given occasion. Best of all is the quality of the images it produces. It is small wonder that it is a camera in such high demand and is already being hailed as a classic.

Ricoh is once again to be applauded for designing and producing such a superb photographic tool. I have no regrets about my purchase, only a smile of satisfaction at the great results the Ricoh GR provides.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GR. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.