Feb 242012
 

I seem to be going through something of a stressful period at the moment and one thing I have learned in life is that too much stress and worry curbs creativity, at least when it comes to writing. It also makes you forgetful.

Two days ago, I suddenly thought back to my last trip to St Marys, Georgia, on February 4, and wondered why I hadn’t posted any of the photographs. Simple answer — I had never gotten round to processing them.

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

On the camera front, the Canon 5D Mark III or 5DX will be announced in four days time if the rumours are to be believed. I think it is fairly clear Canon does have a replacement for its 5D Mark II in the pipeline but I will only believe it when I see it or details of it. Fingers crossed that it is next Tuesday.

Olympus has answered the plea I made in my last post by announcing the OM-D EM-5 camera and it has been well received by digital photography pundits and photographers. Based on the film camera classic, the OM-4 SLR, it is naturally small and compact but like its predecessor has a system of lenses built around it. That system is also destined to grow in the future. And of course, it can avail itself of the lenses produced by Panasonic for its Micro Four Thirds cameras.

I could easily be tempted by the M.Zuiko ED 12mm f/2,  M.Zuiko ED 45mm f/1.8 and Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH Micro Four Thirds lenses, which would give a kit comprising the equivalent of 24mm, 50mm and 90mm focal lengths in 35mm format.

A lot of people have been waxing lyrical about the Olympus OM-D, saying it is the future of photography and people will be abandoning their DSLR cameras in droves. However, with a lot of those camera sages, it seems to be a question of do as I say and not do as I do. For some strange and inexplicable reason, they all hang on to their full-frame DSLRs. I wonder why?

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

Tempted as I am by the size, capability and lenses of the OM-D, I am afraid I have reservations about the Micro Four Thirds format and size of sensor. I know the sensors of the latest cameras are head and shoulders above those of the early variants of this system but I am old school and firmly believe that sensor size does matter. Yes, APS-C sensors of today can match the full-frame sensors of a camera introduced three years ago in terms of picture quality, at least that is the boast of the Sony NEX.

But isn’t it logical that the latest incarnation of the older camera — the Canon 5D Mark III or Canon 5DX — is likely to show similar improvements in image quality and raise the bar again?

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

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.

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

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 SLRGear.com 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.

 

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

Jul 282011
 

The past few weeks have seen me glued to the PBS channel watching a rerun of Ken Burns The Civil War to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the conflict. I remember first watching the documentary back in Britain.

Burns made full use of contemporary photographs to illustrate the carnage of war and of how life was lived in America from 1861 to 1865. And apparently during the conflict, photographers and photography businesses made a good living. However, when the war ended, the bottom dropped out of the market.

Thousands of the glass negatives were never printed but sold off to become the glass panels in conservatories and greenhouses, the images eventually fading from the glass due to the continued exposure to sunlight.

I have had my own problems preserving images this week. On Monday, I was working on processing images shot on a visit to St Marys, Georgia, on Saturday. I had just finished a B&W conversion and hit Save. A dialog box sprang out informing me that the image could not be saved because there was insufficient space on the hard drive.

Sure enough, the drive devoted to photographs was showing just 45MB of free space.

Since then I have been working through my folders in Adobe Bridge culling those images that have never been processed, for obvious reasons, or those that do not quite come up to standard.

Of late, I have gotten into the habit of deleting all superfluous images at the end of processing. It is a great pity I didn’t start that practice back in 2009. It is a chore and imagine many of know exactly what I mean.

Work has ceased on processing the images from St Marys, which featured the town’s Oak Grove Cemetery, which dates from 1778. I have managed to process a few.

Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

In keeping with my interest in The Civil War, I happened across the grave of a Confederate soldier who had served with the 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry.

Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

James Wilson was in D Company, also known as the Camden Chasseurs. St Marys is located in Camden County.

A fascinating account of the history of the 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry, also known as Clinch’s Regiment and The Wiregrass Fourth, can be found at Amy Hedrick’s Web site GlynnGen.com.

Oak Grove Cemetery also contains the graves of a number of Acadians. Forced to flee in 1755 from their native provinces of Novia Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in Canada by the British, the French eventually found them a new home on the island of Saint Domingue. But they were forced to flee the island in 1790 when the native Haitians rebelled against the French.

Canon 40D. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Many Acadians found a new home in Lousiana but a few made their way to Georgia and St Marys, which became their final resting place.

More information on the Acadians in St Marys can be found at a Web site called The Crypt, set up Camden County.

Please feel free to comment.

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

 

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.