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 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.

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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.

Jun 062011

I am less of a man than I was yesterday. A little piece of me is missing, gone forever. I may even be a little less wise. This morning I had a wisdom tooth taken out, something I had put off for several months.

I paid for my tardiness. On Friday, a small piece of the tooth broke off. The next day what seemed like eight ounces of filling dropped out. That was a blessing in some way because the jagged edge was rubbing against the inside of my cheek.

Pain did not automatically set in but I knew that I was living on a knife edge. Better to act than wait for excruciating pain to occur.

Why did not I get it tended to sooner? My logic goes like this — booking an appointment for an extraction is like standing in front of a firing squad and then giving the order to fire. Who in their right mind would do that?

I called an oral surgeon in Riverside this morning and was told that I could be seen at 11 o’clock and to arrive at 10:45 to complete the paper work.

I duly arrived at the appointed time but the oral surgeon did not keep his side of the bargain. It was 11:40 before my name was called. Appointment times certainly aren’t what they used to be.

I notice a lot of things in America are posted as starting at some particular time or other but they seldom do. A concert by Jacksonville Ballet a few weeks back was supposed to start at 7:00 pm. Well that is what was written on the programme. At 7:15 the proceedings got under way. When I expressed my frustration that nothing had started at the designated time, and that nothing in America starts at the designated time, a woman sitting in front of me burst out laughing, turned round and said: “Ain’t that the truth.”

The dental assistant was a bouncy kind of a woman, bright and cheerful — just the kind of person to put you at ease as you walk into the torture chamber.  Sorry, I meant surgery.

She applied the pina colada flavoured numbing cream. It’s a pity it didn’t contain a generous tot of rum. Moments later the oral surgeon appeared — a thick set jovial man originally from New York. He asked me how long I had been in the United States and was surprised that I had retained my English accent. An English accent is not something that fades after 11 years — it is there for life.

He administered the anaesthetic and left the room.  The  roof of my mouth eventually became dry, to the point where I could feel every ridge and groove with my tongue.

The oral surgeon reappeared. I was rather glad he was well-built because I figured it would take a fair bit of strength to dislodge the tooth. He approached, I opened wide. He gave one short tug; re-affixed the forceps and gave another tug and it was all over.

The dental assistant placed a piece of gauze into the gaping hole and told me to bite down. She then reamed the various dos and don’ts that I had to follow in the course of the next few hours and days.

“No smoking for 24 hours,” she said.

Like a poor ventriloquist, minus a dummy, I replied through clenched teeth, “No guckin’ chance.”

The dental assistant laughed out loud. I told you she was a good sport. I probably made her day and became the subject of lunchtime conversation with the rest of the staff.

So now I have the aftercare to contend with. As yet I have not had to resort to the painkillers. I have taken the first of the course of antibiotics. My cups of coffee have been drunk cold but then again I make a cup of coffee last two hours so that is no great imposition. And true to my word, cigarettes have been consumed.

I know, I am incorrigible.

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Mar 072011

As much as I enjoy using the high contrast B&W scenic mode of the Ricoh GRD III, there are times when it doesn’t quite deliver the goods. I happened across an American classic car the other day parked in King Street, Riverside. It looked such a mean machine that I was drawn to it instantly.

My first shot was captured in RAW and converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro in Photoshop CS3. The red filter was applied to preserve details in the sky.

Ford Fairlane. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The second shot was taken in the high contrast B&W mode.

Ford Fairlane. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I was surprised at the way the sky and background was blown out in the high contrast mode, which I feel lessens the overall ambience of the shot, although the car looks good.

The car had no badges or marques and it was thanks to people on Blipfoto and my brother-in-law that I finally managed to find out the make and model of this car.

It is a 1957 customized Ford Fairlane and these types of cars are often referred to as “lead sleds”. Lead sleds have all  side mouldings shaved off and filled, as well as having the suspension lowered. They are built for style rather than speed.

Feb 082011

Yesterday, it rained continuously in Jacksonville and so restricted me getting out of the house with the camera. I undertake a photographic safari, as I call them, each day when I go out for a walk in my neighbourhood, Riverside.

While smoking a cigarette out on the back deck, I happened to notice the rain hitting the wooden decking and forming concentric ripples. I grabbed the Ricoh and fired off several shots. The one I posted on another of my web sites — Tägliches Foto — received two favourable comments, which is quite a rarity. Seeing as the shot was well received, I thought I would post it on here as well.

Riverside, Jacksonville. ©Calvin Palmer 2010. All Rights Reserved.