Aug 262011

Esteemed Dutch photographer Wouter Brandsma, a guy who talks a lot of good sense about photography and is the perfect antidote to all the gearheads who seem to gravitate to forums such as DPReview, described himself in his latest blog entry as a stroll photographer.

Wouter explained the use of the term as follows:

I know it doesn’t sound so sexy as street photographer or the even cooler streettog.  I don’t give workshops and don’t use a flash to scare the neighborhood. I have hardly anytime to pay visit to a larger city and practice street photography, but what I can do a lot more is stroll my (mostly empty) streets of my hometown. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like street photography, but it does mean I am proud of being a stroll photographer.

That description struck a chord with me because it sums up my approach to photography. I like to stroll with camera in hand and like Wouter am proud to be a stroll photographer.

Last night was a case in point. I needed to go to Walgreens to buy a card for a friend who is recovering from an emergency operation. She was only given a 50/50 chance of pulling through and thankfully made it. I decided to walk. It was early evening and I reckoned the short walk would be a comfortable stroll. I was wrong. By the time I returned home my shirt was soaked with sweat. Still, it could have been worse. On Monday, Jacksonville was predicted to receive a visit from Hurricane Irene. Irene must have heard that Jacksonville is a bit of a dump and headed to the bright lights of New England. Commiserations to all those who have had to endure, or are going to experience, the wrath of Irene.

Naturally, I set out armed with the Ricoh GRD III. The case straps on my belt and it is the perfect camera for a stroll.

I happened to notice raindrops from an earlier shower on a stand of elephant ears (Colocasia). I fired off a couple of shots.

Processing the shot, I came up with three alternatives — colour; black & white; and a hybrid formed by choosing Overlay in the Silver Efex Pro layer in Photoshop.

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.

The third shot used Overlay on the Silver Efex Pro layer with opacity set at 60 per cent.

Once again, faced by three different versions of the same shot it is hard to settle on my favourite. Does the hybrid shot work?

Please feel free to comment on which of the three versions works best.

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Aug 232011

I set myself an exercise last week and carried it on through Saturday’s shoots. The exercise was to shoot wide open with the Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50 lens. A lot of people with the Leica M9 shoot wide open, with lenses costing $3,500 or more and, as you may expect, the results are pleasing.

The 50mm  Zeiss Planar T* ZE lens however disappoints wide open at f/1.4. It is not as sharp as it could be and people who test lenses in the lab, such as and Photozone, give the detailed analysis behind that assertion. But at f/2, the sharpness kicks in.

Another downside to shooting at f/1,4 is that the bokeh can be a little harsh, with bokeh fringing, and the lens also suffers from Longitudonal Chromatic Abberattions (LoCa). At f/2 these effects disappear. Bearing those shortcomings in mind, f/2 was as wide open as I intended to shoot with this lens.

With a such a wide aperture, the depth of field is incredibly narrow and focusing has to be spot on. The Canon 40D like a great many DSLRS is devoid of any focusing aids in the viewfinder, so manual focusing can present a challenge at the best of times, let alone at f/2.

The general advice for focusing manual lenses is to bracket the focus. I will bring the object into focus, or as in focus as the 40D’s viewfinder shows, and then gently adjust the focus in small increments and firing off another shot with each focus adjustment. I usually end up with between four and six shots of the same subject and then select the best one in Adobe Bridge, making use of the magnifying loupe.

It is time consuming but the results achieved by a Zeiss lens make it all worthwhile. Zeiss glass has its own signature and one that I prefer to almost any other brand of lens. Those with more technical knowledge than me suggest that the micro-contrast of  Zeiss lenses is what gives the subsequent images their distinctive look. I just know that I like and prefer Zeiss lenses.

I shot at two locations on Saturday — Jacksonville Farmers Market and St Marys, Georgia. Yes, it was time for the cigarette run again.

Farmers markets afford great photographic opportunities in terms of the people who visit and those who work on the stalls. The fresh fruit and vegetables on sale also make good subjects.

Here are two shots at f/2.

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


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

At St Marys, I headed for a boat ramp on the North River. I had seen the signpost pointing to it on several previous visits but never got round to checking it out. The road to the boat ramp runs past the site of the Durango paper mill, formerly the Gillman Mill, which went bankrupt in 2002 and was demolished in 2007. The old industrial site also made a good subject.

Here are two more shots at f/2.

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


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


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Aug 162011

Getting out and about taking photographs brings me into contact with some interesting characters.

At the weekend I was about to take some shots of a building that used to be an old filling station on U.S. 90, when two guys, who had been parked in a battered red pickup truck, drove up and asked what I was doing.

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

They were rough and ready in their appearance and looked like extras from the film Deliverance but my English accent seemed to diffuse any suspicions they may have had and we got talking.

You could have knocked me down with a feather when the driver, who later introduced himself as Tom, started waxing lyrical about the BBC series Doctor Who and said Tom Baker was his favourite Doctor Who of all time. I don’t know whether the shared forename might have influenced his choice. The conversation then turned to the comedy series Coupling. Tom it turned out was a great fan of the BBC and British comedy in the mould of people like Ricky Gervais.

He much prefers the cleverness and dry wit of British humour to its American counterpart, although he conceded that not everybody in America gets the British style of comedy.

I said that American humour places a greater emphasis on visual gags, while British humour’s strength is its subtlety and the clever use of words.

He and Raymond, the other guy in the cab, were originally from Indianapolis and moved to Jacksonville about a year ago. They are engaged in the scrap car business.

The mention of Indianapolis quickly brought the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning into the conversation, a subject more in keeping with a couple of average American Joes. Needless to say both Tom and Raymond were big fans of the Colts.

Tom told me he had bought his wife an Indianapolis blanket that he was going to attach to a frame and hang on the wall. Raymond jokingly said he might spray Jacksonville Jaguars all over it.

I said to Raymond: “You like hospital food then?”

Tom laughed, turned to Raymond and said: “That’s British humour.”

After about an hour we shook hands, parted company and I got down to the business of taking photographs of the building and U.S. 90.

The encounter with Tom and Raymond proved once again that outward appearances can so often be deceptive. You should never judge a book by its cover.

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Aug 102011

It is hot once again in Jacksonville today. For the past couple of weeks the temperature as hovered between 93 degrees F and 96 degrees F. I was rebuked by an English friend for still talking in terms of Fahrenheit rather than the Celsius or Centigrade that has been adopted by Britain as part of its integration with the European Union.

America of course will have no truck with what the rest of the world does. It has to be different, often to the point of being contrary.

But for Europeans, the temperature has been between 33.8 degrees C and 35.5 degrees C for the past couple of weeks. Tomorrow it was supposed to hit 99 degrees F (37.2 degrees C) but the forecast has since been revised to 97 degrees F ( 36.1 degrees C).

When I lived in Texas and the temperature this time of year was at least 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) or higher, people used to ask me about the heat. I said that coming from Britain I was not going to complain. The heat in Texas was a dry heat and I could cope with it better. In Jacksonville it is the heat combined with the humidity that is the killer. It gets to the point where you don’t really want to step outside and consequently my photographic output has suffered of late.

The weather is really suited for lounging around in the sun, hence this image of sunloungers.

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

And another one just for good measure.

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

And after a session in the Florida sun, you need some of this to cool off.

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

All these images used the high contrast B&W scenic mode on the GRD III and were taken at the Marriott World Center Resort, Orlando, Florida. I did a little bit of post-processing Photoshop CS3, essentially a bit of dodging and burning.

What does strike me in all this heat is that the tarmac on roads in both Florida and Texas does not melt. In Britain when temperatures rose above 80 degrees F (26 degrees C) the tar would melt. I remember as a kid using lolly sticks to dip into the liquid tar at the side of the road and write my initials on the kerbstone (curbstone for US readers). Such were the simple pleasures of my childhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But woe betide you if you brought tar into the house on your shoes. or got it on your clothes.

If anyone with a civil engineering background can explain why tar melts in Britain and doesn’t seem to melt in Texas and Florida, please let me know.

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Aug 062011

My stepdaughter graduated from the University of North Florida yesterday and my wife and I attended the graduation ceremony.

In the 11 years that I have been in the United States, I have come to learn that things are done a lot differently over here and not always for the better.

The atmosphere of the ceremony was more like one normally encountered at a sporting event. Perhaps that is why it was held in the basketball arena.

The audience whistled, clapped, cheered, yelled and sounded horns as if they were supporting their sporting heroes.

The only true pomp and circumstance came from Elgar’s march of that name, as the graduands filed in to take their seats.

When the president of the university appealed to the audience not to cheer in order that the names of the students could be heard by their family members, his plea naturally fell on deaf ears. The dignity and decorum during my graduation more than 30 years ago, at the University of Manchester, were conspicuous by their absence.

One thing is for certain, graduation is definitely not a spectator sport. It is purely for the participants.

After the ceremony was over I wandered among the crowds outside the arena.

I happened across members of a black fraternity performing a stomp routine.

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

This young lady sporting a bowler hat caught my eye.

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

My stepdaughter is a cancer survivor. The memories of taking her for chemo sessions at Forth Worth Children’s Hospital are still fresh in my mind. My wife and I are terribly proud of her success. She deserves it.

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