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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Jan 132012
 

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

Over the holiday period I seemed to accumulate a lot of images that are still awaiting processing. The backlog is partly explained by the acquisition of new software — Photoshop CS5 and Silver Efex Pro 2 — and the learning curve associated with them.

On Wednesday, I happened to notice this American Sycamore leaf on the back deck and it struck a chord. I think it was a mixture of the angle of the leaf against the legs of a wooden table and the muted brown colour from Nature’s wonderful palette. I went back inside to fetch the Canon 40D and so record my first image of 2012.

I posted a B&W version on another of my Web sites — Tägliches Foto.

I am still wrestling with the issue of where I move next with regard to upgrading my photographic gear. At the moment I am sticking with the Canon 40D and hoping for an announcement in March regarding the Canon 5D Mk III. I remember being in the same position this time last year when those “in the know” — don’t make me laugh — were predicting an announcement in March 2011. Well, it didn’t happen and I am not holding my breath on the Canon 5D Mark III.

As the saying goes — All things come to he who waits.

I like the idea of the Ricoh GXR and an assortment of M-mount lenses. In fact, I tracked down two secondhand lenses — an M-Rokkor Minolta 28mm f/2.8 and Leica Summicron 40mm f/2 — at a fraction of the cost ZM lenses would cost, if you could get hold of them. But I still have my doubts about working with an EVF and one that is attached to the camera rather than being an integral part of the camera body. Besides, like Zeiss ZM lenses, the GXR A12 M-mount is also hard to come by. Ah the joys of supply and demand.

Checking out the specifications of hoped for photographic acquisitions is all very well — it would be foolish to embark on expenditure of a couple of thousand dollars without doing research — but photography is not about lens availability and camera specifications. It is about photographs and too many people seem to forget this fundamental fact.

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Jan 062012
 

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the fairest camera of them all?”

If the various photography fora and photography pundits are to be believed then it is the mirrorless Sony NEX camera, either the NEX-5 or NEX-7 versions.

But wait, Fujifilm is believed to be about to announce a follow up to its retro-styled X100 with the X1 Pro that features interchangeable lenses to give the 35 mm equivalent of 28mm, 52.5mm and 90mm. Already it is being compared to the Contax G2 film rangefinder but without Zeiss lenses.

One thing is clear even after just a few days into the New Year, 2012 seems likely to be an interesting year in terms of new cameras.

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

The year 2012 may also mark a sea change. I know of two photography enthusiasts who are contemplating ditching their high-end Nikon and Canon DSLRs for the Sony NEX. I too have been giving serious thought to making the Ricoh GXR with the A12 M-mount my main camera.

The main sticking point for me is the electronic viewfinder (EVF). They may well be the viewfinder of choice in cameras to come but I am an optical viewfinder (OVF) person. To me a camera isn’t really a camera unless it has an OVF. I know I am living in the past and fearful of embracing the brave new world of EVF mirrorless cameras.

If EVFs are the way of the future, why have Canon and Nikon announced new flagship cameras, the 1DX and D4 respectively, featuring OVFs? Do professional photographers have different demands than those of photography enthusiasts?

I tend to regard the equipment used by press photographers as a yardstick for the kind of camera I would want to use. I worked in newspaper journalism for 14 years, including a spell as a sports/news photographer, and that probably influences my judgment with regard to cameras and lenses.

Back in November, Reuters posted its 100 top pictures of 2011. Each picture was accompanied by a statement by the photographer including the camera and lens used for the shot, as well as the exposure.

Earlier this week, I went through all 100 photographs, noting down the camera and lens used. The list I compiled contained quite a surprise.

Back in my journalism days, the press photographer’s camera of choice was always a Nikon – F3, F4 and F5. Imagine my surprise when Nikon cameras accounted for only eight of the Reuters Top 100 photographs.

Canon DSLR cameras accounted for 84 of the photographs, with the Canon 5D Mk II used in 38 of the shots; the Canon 1D Mk IV accounting for another 16 and the Canon 1D Mk III a further nine, the same number as the Canon 5D. So these four Canon cameras accounted for 72 of the photographs.

For all the talk of the advantages of Micro Four-Thirds and Mirrorless cameras, these types of cameras did not feature, save for the one shot taken with a Leica M9.

I think the camera market is likely to divide into three distinct sectors – professionals, enthusiasts and consumers. The former will continue with the high-end DSLRS, as will many of the enthusiasts but the consumer may well give up on DSLRS in favour of the more compact and convenient mirrorless cameras.

The DSLR has a tremendous hold over me and I will likely wait and see what Canon offers in the shape of its replacement for the Canon 5D Mark II. Rumour has it that the Canon 5D Mark III will be announced in March. However, I recall a similar forecast being made this time last year and nothing materialized.

If I am considered a technological dinosaur then so be it. For me photography is all about lining up a shot by gazing through an OVF. It is what I have been used to for more than 30 years and I am reaching the age where I like my comfort zone.

But at the end of the day, the type of camera matters little in the great scheme of photography. It is what lies behind the camera that is the most important factor in creating photographs of merit and impact.

I can never understand why some people get terribly upset when their camera of choice is criticized – Leica users are notorious for going on the defensive in this regard. And the battle of supremacy between Canon and Nikon will rage for eternity among some of their respective users just as long as photographic fora exist on the Internet. What would these people do if Canon and Nikon ever merged as companies or one took over the other? Methinks lots of tears before bedtime.

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