Jul 192012
 

My photographic productivity tends to ebb when the temperature soars above 90 degrees (32 degrees C) in Northeast Florida, as it has done for the past three weeks. Extreme heat has the same effect on me as extreme cold – I want to stay indoors.

In the absence of any indoor photographic projects or a studio setup, I eventually have to get out and brave the hot and humid conditions. I usually wait until after 4:00 pm and limit myself to an hour, 90 minutes at most, shooting time.

I recently went across the St Johns River and explored the South Riverwalk of Jacksonville. One of the main attractions on the south side of the river is the renovated Friendship Fountain.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

As an indication of how hot I get, when it came to having a cigarette before heading home, my cigarette packet, which is carried in my shirt pocket, was damp to the touch. Luckily, the cigarettes remained dry.

Nik Software’s Viveza 2 has become the latest addition to my photographic software and it brings to my colour photographs the same degree of control and enhancement achieved by Silver Efex Pro 2 in my B&W shots. It doesn’t have quite all the bells and whistles of Silver Efex Pro 2 and I would imagine Viveza 3 is in the pipeline.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I have been extremely pleased with Viveza 2 and have no hesitation in recommending it. I know the Photoshop purists will say similar results can be achieved in Photoshop but not with the same kind of ease and convenience.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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May 292012
 

Memorial Day weekend should have been a time to get out and about with my camera, especially as it coincided with the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Alas, Tropical Storm Beryl partly put paid to my plans. Sunday’s events at the festival were cancelled and I had to content myself with one day of shooting on Saturday.

The Jazz Festival is the one weekend in the year when downtown Jacksonville takes on the appearance of a bustling and vibrant city. For a Jacksonville photographer, it allows the opportunity to do some street photography, an impossibility during the rest of the year when the downtown area looks as though it has been hit by a neutron bomb.

This year, the festival also coincided with a friendly soccer/football match between the USA and Scotland at the Everbank Stadium on Saturday night. The presence of the Tartan Army and USA soccer fans added to the mix of people and choice of subjects.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

On Sunday, I spent an hour watching a Nik Software webinar given by photographer Derrick Story and featuring shots from his B&W Vegas project. Derrick described his workflow in Silver Efex Pro 2 and also talked a little bit about cameras. His “stealth” camera for candid street photography is the Olympus EP-2, soon to be replaced by the Olympus EM-5 OM-D.

I have to agree that a smaller camera is less conspicuous out on the streets and also less threatening for those people being photographed. But it doesn’t automatically follow that larger DSLR cameras are not up to the task.

I think it is safe to say that a DSLR will guarantee you a shot every time and that is the reason why DSLRs are the camera choice of mainstream press photographers.

I don’t think it is the bulk of DSLRs that people find intimidating but the lens that is attached to the camera.

On Saturday, I shot exclusively with my 100mm f/2.8L IS USM lens. It is a recent acquisition and after shooting for more than 30 years with manual focus lenses, I am enjoying the benefits of an autofocus lens.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

The 100mm f/2.8L lens is not large in comparison to say the 70-200m f/2.8L zoom lens but it is still large in the eyes of the public. Several times I was asked if I was taking photographs for The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville’s daily newspaper. That question has never been posed while shooting with my Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/50 lens.

Canon 40D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

A DSLR camera, preferably full-frame, fitted with a prime lens — 24mm, 28mm or 35mm — is still capable of performing as a street photographer’s camera. With those prime lenses, a DSLR camera is certainly far less intimidating. But the best camera of all is the one you have with you.

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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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Sep 132011
 

Saturday night was spent at the Florida Theatre, attending the Delbert McClinton concert.

McClinton hails from Lubbock, Texas, and moved to Fort Worth when he was 11. My wife was born and grew up in Fort Worth, so McClinton is something of a local hero.

I have to confess that prior to moving to Texas in 2000, I had never heard of Delbert. I have since learned the error of my ways and have seen him three times.

His mix of blues and country is infectious. It is impossible to walk away from a McClinton concert not feeling that you have had a good time. That was certainly true again on Saturday.

With second row seats, the Ricoh GRD III was not out of its depth for a few stage shots.

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

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

I find in these situations, it is best to set the camera on Program mode and let the camera’s processor figure out the best exposure. That is why some people term the P mode, the professional mode. A camera joke there, I doubt it will be appreciated by “serious” photographers.

Believe me, a lot of people out there take themselves far too seriously when it comes to the business of taking photographs or even talking about photography. An essential ingredient for any photographer, in my opinion, is a well-developed sense of humour.

After the show, 70-year-old Delbert was at the stage door signing autographs. Lighting conditions were not the best but I fired off a couple of shots.

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

Someone doing a Master’s degree in Photography could probably write a dissertation on the technical flaws contained in the image. For one thing, flash should have been used. But I detest using flash photography and knew that the GRD III, with a little help from Photoshop, would provide an image.

Despite its flaws, after conversion to B&W in Silver Efex Pro, the image has a certain appeal for me. It captures the essence of McClinton. He is something of a rough and ready character, the image is likewise.

Feel free to comment as to whether the Delbert McClinton shot works.

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Sep 072011
 

I met the law on my last photographic safari, in the shape of an attractive and pleasant female police officer. I had ventured into Mixon Town, an old industrial and business area. Many of the premises are abandoned and consequently the area affords plenty of photographic opportunities.

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

The site of my car parked in front of one of these vacant buildings naturally aroused the suspicion of the police officer. When I saw the police car parked by my car, I thought it only right to abandon my photography and make my presence known.

Satisfied that everything was as it should be, the police officer and I engaged in a lengthy conversation about Jacksonville and its crime problems. At the end, I asked if I could take a photograph.

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

Sad to say, after our lengthy chat, I had switched off from photography mode. I should have done better in terms of the composition but my priority was to get the focus spot on and composition went out of the window. Oh well, better luck next time.

In our discussion about crime and the area I was in, I was told that it was not the place to venture into after dark. I was also made aware that as the owner of an Infiniti G35, I made a good target for carjackers. That possibility had never crossed my mind. I felt like the proverbial innocent abroad, which I suppose I am in some respects.

The officer also suggested, seeing as I was a person beyond reproach, I should sign up for the program whereby members of the public can go on patrol with a police officer. Funnily enough, I was aware of the scheme and it had crossed my mind to find out the details just a few days earlier.

I asked the obvious question regarding what would happen if a major and deadly incident occurred. The police officer replied that we would probably stay a little further back than other responding officers. She also said that all police officers carry a second weapon and that she would make that available to me in case she got shot and I needed to defend myself. That was kind of a chilling thought. I guess it really is a jungle out there.

B&W conversions in Silver Efex Pro.

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Sep 012011
 

I seldom get the chance to photograph people. On Saturday afternoon, I was out with my camera and stopped to take a shot of a building with a slogan painted on the walls.

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

Within a minute, the owner of the building was out, asking what I was doing. After explaining my business, we got talking and boy could he talk. I listened to a 40-minutes diatribe on the subject of corruption among Jacksonville’s police, city government, the FBI and the federal government.

I nodded politely at such assertions that the FBI was withholding a vaccine against AIDS and dealing in drugs. He seemed to know all the inside knowledge on a recent corruption trial regarding the director of Jacksonville Port Authority.

The guy’s name was Stefan. He was originally from Romania but spent some time in Italy before coming to the United States. He was convinced that the spirit of the Lord would protect him from those who wished to do him harm.

Having allowed him to spout forth for such a length of time, I was determined to get something for my trouble. So as I made to get him to wind up his monologue, I asked if I could take his photograph. Stefan agreed.

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

Although the focus is not tack sharp – an aperture of f/2 was always going to be a stiff challenge to my manual focusing skills – I am quite pleased with the image. And I think you can well understand why I asked to photograph Stefan.

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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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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.

 

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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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