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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

 

Jul 212011
 

I had an errand to run on Tuesday. The Monday night grocery shop had missed out on one item. So I ventured out with the Ricoh GRD III attached to my belt. There really is no excuse for not having this camera with me at all times and that is one of the reasons I like the GRD III so much.

I needed to visit the Publix supermarket in Riverside. I tend to avoid its car park. For one thing, it is always crowded; for another thing the parking spaces are tight. When they were marking them out, they obviously didn’t consider people with a Bentley Continental. Just kidding!

Car parks and parking lots are also locations where the normal rules of driving and the concomitant care and attention seem to have no place. Parking on that crowded and small parking lot is asking for trouble in my opinion.

I decided to park on the street a few blocks away. I figured that would give me a better chance of shooting a few photographs of things that caught my eye. And so it proved.

May Street provided me with these two shots.

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

 

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

I snapped this one as I was about to enter the grocery store. It was shot from the hip and the final image is the result of cropping in Photoshop CS3.

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

This final shot was taken as I made my way back to the car, following a different route along Oak Street. Am I the only person who tends to follow two different routes to get from A to B and back to A again?

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

The B&W conversions were performed with Silver Efex Pro.

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

 

Jul 122011
 

At the weekend, every time I brought out my Canon 40D it rained or so it seemed.

On Saturday I planned to take a photograph of a roadside sign that I saw last week when driving back from Camp Milton.

The day started off sunny but the forecast was for rain later, so I faced a balancing act of not going too early in the harsh light but not leaving it too late until the rain came.

At 3:30 pm, the sun was still shining and the fleecy clouds look far from menacing. However that was the view from the back of the house. When I came to set out, the view from the front of the house was a lot different. The sky was slate grey but the clouds were still fairly high. I reckoned the rain could well hold off for half-an hour.

I drove to the location, a journey of 15 minutes, and parked up about 50 yards away. I got out and had only taken two steps when I felt the first spot of rain. I pressed on thinking that if I was quick I could get the shot before the heavens truly opened. I was right but the light was dreadful. I bumped up the ISO on the Canon 40D to ISO 400 and got a shutter speed of 1/6 sec at f/5.6. It was pointless taking a shot. I didn’t want a high ISO or a narrow depth of field.

I could have tried a shot with the Ricoh GRD III but those raindrops were getting more frequent.

On Sunday afternoon, I planned to set off to a different location to reprise a shot I took last Monday. I locked the front door, turned to walk to the car and noticed raindrops hitting the front path. Thwarted again.

The rain eventually eased off and a couple of hours later I was able to get out and take the shot I had in mind but ended up shooting it with the Ricoh GRD III.

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

I did use the Canon for a second take on this shot. Last week, it was taken in bright sunshine.

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

On Sunday, the light was flatter and I lost the heavy shadows.

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

The B&W conversions were made with Silver Efex Pro in Photoshop CS3.

The trouble with digital cameras is that they are not as robust as the film cameras of old, with the exception of the top end DSLRs, which are weather-sealed.

When I worked on newspapers in Britain, I recall photographing a football match at Gigg Lane, the home of Bury FC, one winter’s evening when the rain poured down for several hours. I was situated behind the goal for shots of the goalmouth action, if not a goal. When play was down the other end of the field, I cradled my Minolta XD7 and 70 – 210mm zoom inside my Barbour waxed-cotton jacket. A lens hood fitted permanently to the zoom kept raindrops off the lens.

I got well and truly drenched that night. Unloading the film at home, I noticed water in the back of the camera, enough water that it actually poured out. I left the camera, with the back open, in a warm room. By next morning, it was dry and functioned like it had done before.

In similar circumstances, I fear my Canon 40D, like a great many DSLRs, would have simply packed in and probably been damaged beyond repair.

Let’s face it, cameras these days are really computers with lenses attached and no one would set up their PC outdoors, exposed to the elements.

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

 

Jul 062011
 

Like millions of Americans I spent part of Monday evening watching the Fourth of July fireworks.

In previous years, my wife and I have headed to a vantage point in Riverside, Jacksonville, to watch the display.

This year was different. My stepdaughter and her husband have recently moved into a high-rise apartment across the St Johns River from downtown Jacksonville. The apartment unfortunately does not overlook the river but it is located close to the heart of the action.

We sat on the Riverwalk and watched the barges loaded with the fireworks glide into place.

The barges are positioned about half a mile apart. We sat about a third of the way from the barge to our right.

When the display started, the fireworks burst almost overhead; the loud bangs reverberating off the apartment buildings. It was an awesome spectacle.

What followed after the fireworks display was equally memorable and I had the perfect view from the apartment’s balcony on the 18th floor.

I had heard of the term “gridlock” but never before witnessed it.

The traffic along Riverplace Boulevard was backed up in both directions as far as the eye could see. If Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had a plan to deal with the traffic, it clearly wasn’t working.

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

A police motorbike blocked off access straight ahead along Riverplace Boulevard in order to allow cars to exit the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza. That made sense, although a parking lot to my right did not receive such preferential treatment.

When 75 percent of the cars on the Crowne Plaza parking lot had left, the police officer moved his motorcycle and then proceeded to control traffic at the Flagler Avenue/Riverplace Boulevard intersection. That too made good sense and the traffic started to flow a little more freely.

Five minutes later, the police officer left his position, climbed on his motorcycle and drove away. It could have been that he went to answer an emergency call but surely other police officers were held in reserve for just such an eventuality. It looked to me as if he had come to the end of his shift, simply pulled up sticks and left. The scene at that intersection then resembled chaos, it was everyone for themselves. Turn lanes were used by some drivers to gain a 50-yard advantage over those people stuck in the regular lanes.

This event occurs every year. I should imagine the number of people who turn up is pretty much the same each year – a lot. The roads certainly haven’t changed in the past 12 months, so it kind of baffled me why Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office hadn’t devised a plan to deal with the volume of traffic. Well, it had and it was inadequate.

Among the cars stuck on Riverplace Boulevard was a Mini Cooper with the checkered flag roof, which stood out from the rest of the vehicles, making its progress easy to monitor. It took the Mini Cooper 25 minutes to cover 100 yards.

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

For Jacksonville’s finest, this was not their finest hour.

These shots were all taken at ISO 1600 and then processed in Photoshop CS3, using the noise filter. I did an overall noise reduction and then reduced the noise in each of the three colour channels. The results would probably not stand up to being printed at a size larger than 10 x 8 inches.

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

 

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.

 

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

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.

Jun 132011
 

As an experienced photographer I like to think I have all the bases covered when taking a shot. Most times I do but every now and again, I am prone to a moment of madness, forgetfulness or call it what you will. Senior moment is the phrase I like to use.

On Saturday, I attended a social function at a gated community on Fleming Island, which afforded me access to Doctor’s Lake and the chance to fire off a few shots.  It was a bright sunny day. I lined up my first shot in aperture priority mode  and the camera told me I needed to set  a smaller aperture. I turned the aperture wheel to f/5.6. That wasn’t enough for the conditions. Eventually, the camera was happy with an aperture of f/8.

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

Now in all the time I have owned the Ricoh GRD III, the smallest aperture I have shot with is f/6.3. I just assumed that surrounded by a large area of water on a bright day, light was reflecting off the water to create even brighter conditions than normal.

It is to the credit of the LCD screen of the GRD III that I was still able to frame my compositions with ease. Reading the shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting was a little more difficult. And therein lay my problem.

The day before I had been shooting indoors and ramped the ISO setting up to ISO 400. Usually, when I get the camera ready for my next shoot, I first delete the previous files and check the camera settings. On this occasion, I did the former but forgot about the latter. I was shooting in bright sun with ISO 400. Small wonder that I was having to use f/8. It was only when I came to work on the RAW images that I discovered my oversight.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

This kind of scenario sums up why I much prefer to shoot with a camera with a viewfinder. On my Canon 40D, I would have noticed the high ISO setting instantly and made the necessary change. But the small numerals on the LCD of the Ricoh don’t always register, especially following cataract surgery. And I refuse to wear reading glasses because I would be constantly putting them on and taking them off for each shot. My distance vision is good.

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

In a nutshell, that is many a photographer’s dilemma. We don’t always want to carry the weight of a DSLR with us, particularly at a social function, and so resort to compact cameras where we are reliant on the LCD screen. Like I say, the Ricoh GRD III LCD does an excellent job 98 percent of the time and is a thousand-fold better than the LCD on my Leica D-Lux 3 where both settings and composition are in the lap of the gods on a bright sunny day.

Ricoh’s GXR camera comes with an EVF, at a price, which does contain the same kind of information visible in the viewfinder of a DSLR. Maybe that is a compromise worth making to avoid my kind of senior moments, although I have my doubts whether I would take to an electonric viewfinder. My only experience of using one was with a Panasonic LC1 camera in a pawn shop. It was better than nothing but I didn’t like it. Of course EVFs have made rapid strides since Panasonic’s early model and Ricoh’s EVF has the second highest resolution after the EVF for the Olympus PEN cameras. Maybe it is time to check out EVFs again.

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

May 202011
 

The death of an aunt back in the UK has brought a sad end to an activity I have engaged in for nearly 50 years, namely letter writing.

My first written letters as a child were to distant relatives, of which my aunt was one, thanking them for Christmas and birthday presents.

I grew up with handwriting. It wasn’t until I reached the age of 21 that I first used a mechanical device to record the written word – an Olivetti portable typewriter. I later graduated to a Brother electronic typewriter with a word processor facility.

In 1994, I bought my first Apple Mac computer, a G3, and handwritten letters became few and far between. And then came the Internet and e-mail.

Since moving to America, the only handwritten letters I wrote were to my father and my aunt. Both were too elderly to embrace the technology of computers.

I corresponded every three weeks or so with my father; twice a year with my aunt – birthday and Christmas time. It was an arduous task, not in terms of finding things to write about, just the sheer mechanical act of writing. After 30 minutes or so my fingers would begin to ache, necessitating a break that sometimes interrupted the flow of the letter. I would then spend time trying to pick up the thread of my thoughts.

Another problem was that my brain always seemed to be about three words ahead of my hand, which often resulted in illegible words or a word in the wrong place. Not one for sending letters with words crossed out, I would start that page again on a fresh piece of paper.

Basically, what I could have effortlessly accomplished on the computer, writing an e-mail, took me three or four times as long in a handwritten letter.

People used to say to me, “Why not write the letter on the computer and print it off?” For me a typewritten letter is the kind of thing one receives from the bank or some other business entity. These letters were personal and I liked to retain the personal touch.

My father died in March and, with the passing of my aunt, I can now hang up my 30-year-old Sheaffer fountain pen for good. Writing with a ball-point pen, or Biro as we British would say, was never an option — my handwriting turns into an unreadable scrawl. The fountain pen enabled me to cling on to the last vestiges of legibility. There is no point in spending all that time and effort on writing a letter if the person receiving it cannot make out what is written.

Handwriting will now be relegated to jotting the odd note or two on the notepad I keep in front of the computer screen, usually the price of some camera that I cannot afford or its specifications as compared to a similar camera. But in the days of cut and paste, even these notes are becoming fewer.

I suppose I can say that I am doing my bit to protect the environment by reducing the need for paper.

Have a good weekend, y’all! I hope it contains the sentiments of this message I saw this morning on an object outside a junk antique shop on Park Street, Riverside, Jacksonville. The image was captured with my Ricoh GRD III.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.