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.

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.

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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Sep 232011

As much as I enjoy following the fortunes of Stoke City, some games fill me with a feeling of dread as to the outcome.

One of those games occurs tomorrow when the Potters take on Manchester United at the Britannia Stadium.

In the course of the past few weeks, I have seen Manchester United several times on the Fox Soccer Channel. At the moment, United seem unplayable. They demolished Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea and routed Bolton Wanderers 5-0 away from home.

In their five Premier League games so far this season, United have scored 21 goals and conceded four.

Now, you can probably understand my feeling of dread.

Factor in Stoke City’s 120 minutes of football in Tuesday night’s third round Carling Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur, and given that many of the same players will take the field against United, and my fears are far from being unfounded.

However, as Jimmy Greaves used to say – It’s a funny old game.

United will start out as favourites to win — bookmakers William Hill has United 8/15 to win; 3/1 for a draw; and 5/1 for a Stoke win – but it is still eleven men against eleven men and a lot can happen out there on the pitch.

One thing is certain. Stoke City will give 100 per cent. The matches against Manchester United are always viewed as a derby game. I think it stems from Stoke City having ex-United player Dennis Viollet when they returned to the old First Division in 1963. A year later they acquired Maurice Setters from United.

The rivalry between the two clubs has always been intense. Older Stoke fans like me will remember those famous victories in 1971 and 1972 in the League Cup and FA Cup respectively, when Stoke knocked out Manchester United boasting players such as Best, Law and Charlton.

So despite the bookmakers’ odds, a Stoke win can be achieved. Here’s hoping.

And to take my mind off it all, here are a few photographs captured last Saturday in downtown Jacksonville.

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 B&W conversions used Silver Efex Pro in Photoshop CS3.

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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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Jul 012011

One of the greatest difficulties I face as a photographer is deciding whether to present an image in colour or black & white when the subject does instantly lend itself to one or the other.

All my images are shot in colour as a matter of course. I well remember chief photographer John Fairclough, on the weekly newspaper I worked on in the 1980s, saying that by shooting in colour, the shot could always be printed in the newspaper as black & white but the reverse was obviously not true.

In those days all news photographs appeared in the newspaper as black & white images. Colour was only used for the occasional fashion feature or a Royal visit.

I think my love of b&w photography stems from growing up with b&w images in newspapers, as well as b&w television. Sometimes I get a surprise on the Turner Classic Movie channel when I discover that an old movie I saw back in the 1970s, and which I automatically assumed was shot in b&w because of its vintage, was in actual fact shot in colour.

I also like working with an image in black & white. With Silver Efex Pro, and the various controls it offers, I can play about with an image, tweaking various parameters to get a black & white image just how I like it.

A good example of the kind of conundrum I often face arose from the trip to Fernandina Beach last weekend.

This shot of the man silhouetted on the jetty and the view across the St Marys River under a marvellous evening sky has an instant appeal in colour.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

But when the image is converted to b&w in Silver Efex Pro, it takes on a totally different quality and one that I think is more personal.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Each version has its own merits and that is where the difficulty arises, deciding whether one outweighs the other sufficiently enough to deseerve its inclusion in a gallery. I suppose an easy way out would be to present both images, as I have done here, and let the viewer decide.

But I feel it is my role as the photographer to decide. In presenting both versions, I would simply be passing the buck at best, lacking in conviction with regard to my artistic vision at worst.

When making choices from a wide selection, be it cameras, cars or whatever, I can usually narrow my choice down to two, leaving me with some agonizing soul searching as to which one I choose.

Now can you understand why I have such difficulty sometimes in choosing between b&w and colour, the choice is already down to two to begin with.

I often think my indecision over making a choice from two things comes down to being a Gemini.

That’s my excuse and I am sticking with it.

Leave a comment to say whether you prefer the b&w or colour version. I would welcome the feedback.

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Jun 202011

A sudden spurt of activity yesterday evening saw me overcome the impasse that dogged me for two days and halted work on the latest gallery for Calvin Palmer Photography.

The photographs that comprise the Canary Wharf gallery had been selected weeks ago and last week, once my birthday was out of the way, I decided it was time the gallery was presented to the public in the hope of generating some sales.

The process of creating a gallery involves resizing the images and then producing the html pages, which includes titles for the images, captions, descriptions and keywords.

One image was tentatively titled but the title was about as exciting as the controls on a washing machine. Oh, it was functional and accurate but hardly inspirational and certainly not befitting a supposed creative mind.

The problematic image. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The more I tried to come up with something more inventive the slower my brain functioned. Of course temperatures of 90 degrees plus do not help when it comes to creativity. Come mid afternoon and I am enveloped in a kind of warmth that speaks to one thing and one thing only – sleep.

Experiencing the summer heat of Florida, I can see the sense of the siesta in Spain and Latin America countries.

In theory, air conditioning should provide the ideal environment for an Anglo-Saxon like me to remain productive but in an old house, it remains very much a theory. The A/C unit upstairs cannot maintain a temperature lower than a couple of degrees of the ambient temperature. It will run and run quite merrily but its impact on the room temperature is zero until the temperature outside begins to drop. And that usually occurs around 9:00 pm.

But being English, I soldier on with a mad dog for company. How else would you describe a Chihuahua?

Actually Brandy, the name comes from her previous owners, is a lot smarter than the breed is usually given credit for. I think it took a certain degree of intelligence on her part to unwrap several Hershey Kisses left in a bowl at Christmas to get to the chocolate. Although it was the pieces of silver paper left on the carpet that gave her away.

Perhaps I should have given the task of coming up with an interesting title for the photograph to the dog; on second thoughts, perhaps not.

As usual it took the heady combination of coffee and a cigarette to deliver the goods. I had just stepped outside on the back deck with a mug of coffee in hand and a Winston in my mouth and before I could light the cigarette, the title came to me in a flash.

Once I had smoked the cigarette, I dashed to my Mac Pro and completed the html page for that particular image. I then worked steadily for the next hour or so finishing off the titles and captions for the remaining images in the gallery and it was ready for posting for worldwide viewing.


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Jun 162011

Returning to the theme of the inferiority of LCD screens, as compared to a viewfinder of a DSLR when it comes to the ease of viewing camera settings, I picked up my Leica D-Lux 3 yesterday to take a shot of the haze hanging over Jacksonville.

Wildfires in Florida and Georgia have filled the air with the acrid smell of wood smoke for the past three days. Yesterday the smoke formed a haze that reduced visibility at street level.

I decided to use the little Leica, thinking that I would probably need its zoom capability to frame the shot. Indeed, I ended up shooting at the equivalent of 42 mm.

I set the camera to Aperture Priority and framed the shot. I could tell from the image on the LCD screen that it looked somewhat overexposed. I looked at the f-stop and it was almost impossible to read. I eventually managed to discern it was f/4.0, which should have given a decent exposure.

I took a second shot and once again the image looked washed out. There was only one thing for it – set the camera to Program AE mode and let it work out the aperture and shutter speed for a perfect exposure. Success!

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved. B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro.

While there is a lot I admire about the Leica D-Lux 3, the problem with reading information on the LCD has plagued me from the start. And the 207,000 dots LCD screen doesn’t cut it in the bright sunshine of Florida. Many a time, I have virtually shot blind, being unable to compose my shot on the screen because of the reflection from the sun.

Using the D-Lux 3 yesterday did remind me, however, of what a superb camera the Ricoh GRD III is. Its 920,000 dot LCD screen really does stand up to bright conditions and the choice of an amber colour to depict aperture, EV compensation and ISO also helps to make the information easily readable 98 percent of the time.

The strengths of the compact Leica are its lens, image processing engine – Leica seems to handle blue skies like no other camera – and optical image stabilization rather than sensor shift.

But with its larger sensor, fantastic user interface, and customized settings, the Ricoh GRD III leaves the D-Lux 3 standing. The improved D-Lux 4 and D-Lux 5, both boasting large sensors, might equal the GRD III in terms of image quality but would still be hard pressed to match Ricoh’s handling.

May 182011

A strange kind of inertia has set in this week, hence no posts until today. I don’t know whether it is some kind of fall-out from all the excitement leading up to the FA Cup Final last weekend and then the disappointment of not only Stoke City losing but also the manner in which they lost.

The truth is that I have found it hard to get motivated this week.

The creative muse did descend in the early hours of Tuesday morning whilst having a cigarette out on the back deck. I noticed a clump of pecan tree leaves lit by one of the spotlights that illuminates the deck. I think it was something about the light that had me racing into the house for the Ricoh GRD III.

Even with the bright tungsten light of the spotlight, I still had to ramp up the ISO to ISO 800 but the Ricoh’s sensor could cope. Photoshop allows the presence of noise to be reduced in images and their is also proprietary software out there that also cleans up noisy images. I am thinking of Topaz DeNoise™. But with this image, I processed it as I would a shot taken in daylight.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

You don’t always have to be in exotic and glamorous locations to find good images; sometimes they can be right under your nose in the back yard.

I have also been revisiting shots I took on a trip to Savannah, one of the few city’s close at hand where people walk the streets and provide good subjects for street photography. Savannah is a vibrant place that puts the much larger city of Jacksonville to shame. Of course, the city does benefit from a heritage that Jacksonville sadly lacks, which attracts tourists in large numbers, and it also has the Savannah College of Art & Design, which means plenty of students milling around the place and living in the historic downtown area. In fact, it is hard not to fall over some art student sketching something.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved

And people also walk their dogs along Savannah’s historic streets.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

These two street shots were captured with the Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50 and Canon 40D. B&W conversion in Silver Efex Pro.

That’s all folks!

Feb 262011

I have been trying to catch up on some of my processing of images taken with the Canon 40D. I am one of those people who likes to process the RAW images as soon as possible, otherwise they tend to remain unprocessed for weeks and sometimes months.

As my Photoshop skills have increased, the task has become a little more onerous, although the finished images are vastly superior to what I was producing when I first started out. But the more one learns in Photoshop, the longer it takes to process an image. I guess the secret is to keep the post-processing fairly simple for run-of-the-mill shots and then really go to town on the better images, where the law of diminishing returns does not set in.

Here are a couple from St Marys, Georgia. Whether they are run-of-the-mill or something a little better, I will let you decide. B&W conversion with Silver Efex Pro in Photoshop CS3.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.


©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.