Friday, 23 September 2011

The joy of print

I've just been given a new printer. It's a HP B9180 A3+ capable. It uses 8 pigment ink cartridges to give professional results.

Installation was easy, Win 7 x64 drivers are on the HP website.

So far I've only run a few B+W  and colour prints through on the Normal setting and I'm really impressed with the quality, its it much better than my Epson C64 Photo even when the Epson is set on Best quality, but then it should be really.

On the downside it is rather large, it is recommended thait beleft swithed on and replacement ink cartridges are around £30 each and only OEM ink is available.
I have seen CIS (continuous ink system) advertised and they certainly look worth investigating. A CIS is around £150, but includes much larger ink reserves, which works out at about £5 per cartridge.

Seeing your images printed on B+ paper really is a little bit special.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Street photography - how trendy am I?

Street photography is currently very popular,The London Festival of Street Photography took place earlier this summer and the recently discovered archive of Vivian Maier have brought it to public attention. The various Apps on the iPhone that turn the already crappy camera into an even crappier camera are popular and the Russian Lumo cameras have suddenly become very trendy (and expensive) but probably not much better. My brother had the TLR Lumo once, it was shit. However I digress.
When my mate and I went down to London to hear McCullin recently, we also tried our hand at street photography. He has chosen it as a module in his OCA Degree whilst I just fancied the idea of walking around looking cool and wearing a hat.

I read a whole load of internet stuff on how to "do" street photography, there are many "experts" on the internet. Some said it had to be done using a 35mm lens (same field of view as human vision) shot from the hip without looking through the viewfinder shooting what you see. Others said no, you must take the decisive moment. Some were of the opinion you use any lens you like.
When it came to displaying the images opinion was again divided. Only ever show the whole frame, no cropping. Definitely no post processing. Others disagreed, crop and post process all you like.

So, somewhat confused, I set out with my Olympus PEN E-PL1, 14-42 and 50-150 lenses in my trendy LowePro Sling bag onto the streets of Kings Cross. Oh, and I had my hat on too.

I decided to be a purist for the first hour, with the E-PL1set to manual focus I set the lens to around 17mm (35mm equiv in full frame) selected Aperture Priority and an aperture of f5.6. This gave a Hyperfocal distance of 3.46m so everything from 1.7m to infinity would be in acceptable focus. Thus set I shot from the hip.
After an hour I got a little bored and started to use my Zuiko 50-150, the results looked like Private Detective "divorce evidence" pics or Police surveillance. I went back to the Zuiko 14-42 and used the VF-1 viewfinder.

Over two days I shot over 170 pics, I was pleased with the performance of the E-PL1, exposures were generally very good and the hyperfocal focussing method worked very well. Here are some of the first images I've worked on.
I think they look best in B/W and I have adjusted then in Photoshop.

Talk by Don McCullin & Barnaby Rogerson 12 Sept 2011

I have long admired the photography of Don McCullin and only recently re-read his 1987 book Open Skies, so when a friend suggested that we go and hear him and Roman expert Barnaby Rogerson talk about McCullin's latest book Southern Frontiers: A Journey Across the Roman Empire at the Royal Geographical Society in London it sounded like a very good idea.

In Southern Frontiers, his latest book,  McCullin has photographed the Roman ruins in coastal North Africa and the Lebanon as well as Hadrian's Wall in Northumbria.

Over 400 people had come to hear the talk, a fair proportion via the Royal Photographical Society, a fact acknowledged when the speakers were introduced.

The evening started with McCullin apologising for the fact the slides were in the wrong order, in fact they were in no particular order, so they would be jumping back and forth speaking about whatever slide appeared next. Added to this the laptop they had running the slides was set to slide show so unless all to be said about that particular slide had been said it was either jumped back to or simply left and onto the next one. There was even a slide that McCullin said had not come out correctly, this was skipped - but why was this included in the slide sequence?
Very little info was provided on how McCullin took the photos, other than mentioning if it was raining or the light was wrong he'd either come back later if possible or move on. Oh, and he used a yellow filter. Rogerson offered little more in his capacity as a Roman expert saying that he simply left Don to the picture taking and went for a swim once he'd shown him the location. This continued for 45 mins, then there were a few questions and it was all over. As the person sitting next but one to me said " Is that it?"

I feel this was a missed opportunity. A bit more preparation by the speakers to structure the talk drawing on their expertise and knowledge, especially given the audience (who had paid up to £20 to attend) and their interests could have made a thoroughly entertaining and educational evening.

According to his publishers website McCullin used a large format camera but the photographs shown were extremely grainy some exhibiting blown highlights, and some having no detail whatsoever in the skies, looking as if they were in fact shot on 35mm. I don't know if some were and McCullin was certainly not telling. 

Regarding the actual photographs. I don't think this is McCullin's strongest work, partly down the subject, one set of Roman remains looks pretty much like another Roman remains, at least to me anyway. And where his previous work provided something that few photographers could have achieved if they had shot the same subjects, I don't think this is the case here. I am of the opinion that a competent photographer tasked with photographing these remains would produce a similar result. Especially if you print the negs with high contrast and very dark shadow details.
The exception were possibly the Hadrian's Wall images, which did exhibit some of McCullin's brooding style reminiscent of Open Skies. It is a great shame we did not see more of them.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Price per litre

I went for a quick blast on my bike the other evening and rode past a long closed petrol station, not as old as the one featured previously, but the petrol is priced at 47p/litre, it its been closed quite a while!
A bit further on was another building, it looks to me like an old bus garage. Anyway I thought they might photograph well, so I went back this evening and took some pics.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Pump it up

I recently had the opportunity to shoot his abandoned filling station again in different light. Harsher shadows this time and I took some close up views. Biggest problem was it was going home from work time so I had a terrible time keeping vehicles out of the frame and avoiding getting run over!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

My First Digital

Looking though some old photos I came across this set of three I took on my first digital camera, an Olympus CZ3040z, a magnificent 3.3mp. I still have it and it still performs well, although a little slowly compared to modern cameras, thanks to the excellent lens.

Again taken on the 3040z in the same session but with more manipulation.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Past cameras

One of my first posts was on the different cameras I've had over the last 30yrs or so.
Recently I found the film scanner component for my flatbed scanner.

To test if it still worked I dug out some old negs. The photos below were taken on Ilford HP5 which I exposed at 400ASA. The scanner has really brought out the grain.

This was taken on my Rollei B35 before the back started to leak light.

These two are from my Praktica with 50mm Zeiss Jena lens. Lighting is from a 35mm projector which is why its a bit harsh, although the shadow is intentional.

By Royal Appointment

I'm not normally one for royal patronage, honours and all that guff. However I recently put my politics aside and joined the Royal Photographic Society.  The reason I have done this is to work toward one of the society's distinctions.
These start with LRPS, then ARPS and finally FRPS. The support and guidance supplied by the society to those working towards a distinction is impressive. I've decided to postpone the OCA degree and use the LRPS to get myself ready for it.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Here we go...

I'm going to register for a degree in Photography by Distance.  I've been taking photographs for over 20 years, occasionally on  a semi-pro basis, and having looked at the course I'm pretty much of the opinion that the first year of modules cover the parts of photography which I'm confident with. It is possible to gain credits for prior learning/experience. so in order to do this I have to submit 7-10 images, if these are deemed of sufficient quality then I have to submit a further portfolio and credits will be awarded on this.
I've started selecting images for the initial submission. these are the digital ones, I've yet to go though the 1000's of negs and slides and choose the best of those.
I'm more confident with some types of photography than others, but I've attempted to present a broad selection of  the different types of photos I've taken over the years.
The fact that I'm about to search through the 1000's of negs and slides I have. 
I've ask a couple of photographer friends of mine to look at the photos I put put. One is an experienced editorial/commercial photographer the other a photographic artist/lecturer.
Their choice was remarkably similar, both saying that the strongest photos were the B/W Landscapes and Nudes, in other words the more abstract ones. the Photographic Artist said he could tell that the ones he chose were taken by the same photographer due to the composition and style and that they worked together as a group, he said that the others, while OK could have been taken by any technically competent photographer. I've shown the photos to a friend of mine, a keen and experienced photographer, and he favoured the same photos as the others so it looks like my choice has been made for me. Which was the whole point.


I sent my APEL pre-submission to the OCA this week, so the process has been started.
I've ring-fenced money to pay for three modules of my degree
I also bought a Canon EOS 5D2 DSLR with EF-L 24-70 f2.8 lens. I got a good deal at my local Jessops, they beat both Warehouse Express and Park Cameras on a package deal, and it arrived within a week.
Recently I've been reading Open Skies by Don McCullin. Inspired by his dark and brooding landscapes I made use of the rainy weather and took the 5D2 out to see what it was like.
I'm pleased to report that it is joy to use and being back on Full-Frame after all these years is really nice. I hadn't realised how much I'd missed the DoF control FF gives you. So far I've only used the camera in Aperture Priority and even used manual focus at times as the lens does this so well.

Above is my attempt at a Mc Cullin style grumpy landscapes.

Getting all cut up about it

My mother tells a story about me as a child of about five years old in primary school being asked by my teacher what my painting was of. The story goes that I replied "its an abstract, you wouldn't understand..."
How true this is I don't know, but it does go some way to explaining the interest I've always had in abstract shape and form.
When I've taken photography night classes I always ended up making "joiners" as they are now known. Then I had to  make individual prints of each piece and physically join them together. Now Photoshop makes this much easier.
This is one I put together recently. I took the original pic on my iPhone camera.

How many cameras?

My recent purchase of A Canon 5D2 got me thinking about all the different cameras I’ve had over the years.
I started to seriously take photos in around 1982 when I was loaned a Zenit E SLR with the standard 50mm and a telephoto of around 300mm IIRC. It was a clonky bit of kit but it got me started. I had to return the camera when I moved away for work, but then bought a Praktika SLR, which was much better than the Zenit. I later got hold of a Halina 28mm lens to compliment the Zeiss Jena 50mm and a rather nice Slik tripod.
I suddenly decided that this kit was too bulky and sold it all to buy a Rollei B35, this was a lovely little camera but very unreliable. I also dabbled with 21/4 square format in the form of a Yashica TLR. Then it was back to the 35mm SLR with a Contax with Zeiss T* 50mm and Yashica 28mm lenses. I much preferred the images from the Yashica lens over the T* even though it was single coated, the T* was very boring.
I kept the Contax for a good few years then sold it and had an Olympus OM2 with 50mm, 21mm and 150mm lenses on a long loan, this was a superb camera and my favourite 35mm SLR. When they were returned I bought a Nikon301 with a 35-70 Nikkor zoom. I then added a Nikon FM with 50mm f1.8 Nikkor and 90mm f2 Tamron. The 301 was sold when a brand new Nikon D90x with Nikon 24-120 zoom arrived. Then in 1997 I’d had enough of film and sold the lot and went digital with an Olympus 3040Z.
I still have the 3.3mp 3040z and it takes a good photo, but in 2007 I went DSLR with an Olympus E330 with D-Zuiko14-42mm zoom, later adding a Sigma 55-200mm zoom and D-Zuiko 11-22mm zoom. This year I again felt the need for smaller kit and bought an Olympus PEN E-PL1 with the 14-42 kit lens and 40-150mm zoom.
As it said at the top of the post I’ve been at it again, this time going Full-frame digital for the first time with a Canon EOS 5D2 and a Canon EL 24 – 70 f2.8. This combination is by far the biggest heaviest camera I’ve ever had, weighing in just shy of 1.9Kg. It is an absolute joy to handle though.

When the wells run dry

Recent talk on radio and TV news programs regarding the economic woes of various countries in Europe and of course the USA suddenly made this image I took on Saturday all the more relevant. The dilapidated forecourt and pumps expressed how the US economy must feel at present.

Enough of the politics, I have recently been reading Michael Freeman’s book on Black & White Digital Photography and found it by and large informative and I learned some new things. when I processed this image I tried to get good peak white a nice dense black and retain some shadow detail. I largely think I’ve achieved this and am pretty pleased with the image.
Comments welcome as always.