Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lens Resolution

As a landscape photographer, it's important to me that lenses be of good quality, right to the corners. As I use a 16 MP camera, any flaws in the lens tend to show, should I some day go to an even better camera (say the 1Ds4) then it will be an even bigger issue.

That said, 95% of the images I take are shot at f11 or f16, perhaps 0.5% at 5.6 or wider.

For me, looking at resolution figures for wide open are pretty pointless. Looking at peak resolution, often at around f 5.6 isn't really all that much help either.

More practical is looking at f8 to f16 since those are the working f stops.

Other types of photography have different requirements. Someone shooting theatre or sports might well need maximum resolution wide open. They may well however not care much about resolution in the corners where I obcess about it.

Some lenses that perform very poorly in the corners do so because of a focus shift (ie. not a flat field) rather than simple outright low resolution - the 17-40 L Canon lens is known for this, focusing closer in the corners than in the middle. Stopping down and adding depth of field may well bring the corners within the area of decent sharpness.

So, as you can see, it's important to 'read' resolution charts and graphs and tests with your own needs in mind.

You'd think that once you stop down pretty far, all lenses tend to be equal. While there is some truth to this, diffraction being what it is; the reality is that complex lenses don't follow simple rules and diffraction does in fact vary from lens to lens and it can be important to check lens performance stopped well down.

That said, you can sure see what happens to resolution when you really stop down - say f 32 on a full frame camera or even f11 on a thumbnail sized sensor on a point and shoot.

Lens flaws like barrel distortion and even chromatic aberration are getting easier to correct, even with Photoshop and Camera Raw so are less of an issue than they were once. Sometiems though the distortions in a wide angle zoom are complex, featuring both barrel distortion in the middle and pin cushion at the outsides (as the lens designer tries to compensate for the barrel distortion) and these complex distortions require outside help from PTLens or DXO etc..

Long and short, consider your needs before comparing two lenses - if lens A is dramatically better than Lens B but only in ways that aren't useful to you, you may be picking the wrong lens, paying too much or carrying too much weight.

Radiant Vista

I have mentioned Radiant Vista in the past but I think it a good enough resource that it's worth mentioning again. I popped over last night and listened to his comments on a submitted image, two young people sitting in what looks like warm late day light, the fellow taking a picture, the young woman staring into the distance (presumably at what he's photographing. My initial impression was 'nice picture' but Craig was able to find a goodly number of things to improve the image, all of which, in hind site; made sense and improved the image. Sometimes we can't improve an image because we simply haven't seen examples of the kinds of improvements that could be made. My next book is going to address that but in the mean time, Radiant Vista is an excellent resource for pointing out how to improve already good images.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Just how productive are we meant to be?

I had a three day weekend (we take every second Friday off) and could have gone to th3 mountains, visited the badlands or generally done some really productive shooting. Instead I was feeling stressed and not sleeping well (long story - too much on my plate) and had little ambition to do anything. I'm sure this is a relatively common phenomenon and in fact there are lots of other reasons to be less productive than normal - the muse deserts you, family need your time, work is too busy, etc.

This raises the whole question of how many good photographs we are meant to produce. there are some photographers who are really productive. They tend to work in fashion, figure and colour landscape. After a while all their work tends to look the same and I don't envy their productivity.

I suspect that many serious 'fine art' photograhers would be happy to die (but not for a while) with a portfolio of 3 dozen really strong images. Problem is, unless you plan to die very young, this translates into about one image a year. Many of us would be so discouraged by such a poor output that we'd give up.

It's the decent but not wonderful images that keep us out there week after week, trying for the wonderful and not quite getting there. Like the carrot leading the pony, we need to at least get a sniff of glory every once in a while, even if we hardly ever get to eat the whole thing.

In terms of productivity, all any of us really needs is just enough success to keep us going, to give us some confidence that with a bit of effort, wonderful is at least possible. Just how many good but not wonderful images we need to keep us going clearly will vary from person to person, not to mention how good is good.

Unless we are selling our work on an ongoing assignment driven basis (in which case none of the above applies), productivity really doesn't enter into it. You might be jealous of someone who can come home from a weekend's shooting with 12 good images while you are lucky to do one quarter of that in a month, but really it doesn't matter, so long as you see enough progress, enough success to motivate you to go back out again.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Body Panels

In an industrial part of town, these were stacked next to the road in a large pile and I had fun composing using both shape and colour. It vaguely reminds me of the Union Jack.

My first reaction was that pity I cut off that light coloured panel, top middle, though as it would have spoiled the two corners had I included it and as it doesn't look out of place cropped, it's one of those compromises in which you have to throw away the good to eliminate the bad, and the image has to stand as is.

Just Wandering

WARNING! Rant Ahead

Why is it that photographers and galleries insist on displaying work in tiny on screen images? Is there really such a market for 800 pixel representations of the image that the photographer must fear their theft? Surely it's more likely that all it will do is create advertizing for their work, for free?

I think we hit a new low in the link below. I'd seen the work of this Italian photographer in the latest Black and White. The photographer has no website but there was a gallery for his work, in San Francisco no less - here's their idea of viewing pleasure!

Nile Tuzun Gallery

See, I just gave them some advertizing. Mind you, the images are so small you are lucky if you can even see what it's about.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Slim Pickings

The best I could do yesterday in a walk-about.I did find that using exposure blending worked well, producing undistorted results quite painlessly.

I set up the 40D to shoot three images with +- 2 stops as well as correct. I took the images right from Bridge into Photomatix Pro Standalone for exposure blending, minor adjustments to the blend point and saturation and save the output as 16 bit TIFF.

All that was required then was to edit the images in Photoshop as usual. I think this is the technique to use for sunny day shooting. Will have to try it on landscapes too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

breaking Rules

Over the centuries, artists, writers and composers have broken the current and accepted rules of their art. Most often this engenders howls of outrage, sometimes simple neglect, and occasionally some enthusiastic responses from a limited audience.

In many cases, the lack of response was well deserved and they are never heard from again, some gain momentum and become the leading edge of progress in the art and become famous in their lifetime (Picasso) and other times, their audience isn't ready for them and only years later does their work become appreciated, often after their death - talk about lousy timing).

Most of the really outstanding artists learn to work within the rules before learning to break them and I have written before that I think this is the problem with much of the avant garde work we see published - it's made by people who didn't earn their fame.

That said, what about you and me, about people who have learned to work within the rules, who have mastered the technical and are reasonably competent at the artistic side of image making? Is there a difference between experimentation and outright leading the pack, breaking new ground, actually inventing and creating? Can one lead to the other? Are most of us wasting our time, knowing we aren't Picasso?

I should point out that leading the pack comes with a significant price. Not only may your work not be appreciated for years (if ever or in your lifetime), but you risk downright ridicule, criticism, ostracism and a whole flock of other isms! It's one thing to experiment, while continuing to produce fine images in a style not too far removed from those you have been successful with previously. It's entirely different to completely abandon your previous style, equipment, modes and output for something uncertain, unproven and frankly unwanted. This takes guts, determination, self confidence bordering on megalomania and a large dose of pig headedness.

it's my opinion that experimentation is one thing, a radical alteration of what you do because you feel you need to change is another thing entirely. One might make the case that first you experiment and if it helps you express yourself, then you move to this new technique or style and abandon the old. One sees classic large format landscape photographers who give up on silver prints to go to platinum and when that isn't unique enough, start making albumin and other exotic prints, some of which are frankly bizarre in appearance - cyanotype and so on - they become so wound up with technique that I can't help feeling it has more to do with differentiating themselves from all the other large format photographers than it does with creative expression, but I could be wrong - it just seems that way when you look at their new "improved" images.

With millions of creative photographers across the world (and with the internet, national boundaries mean little these days), the chance to produce really different, new, significant work is pretty minimal. For me, I'd be happy with significant over new and different every day of the week but that's me.

I guess it comes down to whether you have exhausted all you can say with the work you are already doing, whether you need to change to keep yourself stimulated and if you have something to say in a new field or way.

In the mean time, and on the basis of a good grounding in standard practices, why not edxperiment with some of your work. There is a photographer who has taken the images of the Bechers(they of mine heads) and reshot them multiple times in different sizes and aligments - lovely.

Andre Gallant has done some very nice work with multiple exposures while rotating the camera slightly between images. I think that slow exposures of people in action has not been fully explored yet and can produce lovely results - it's hardly new but still has potential.

I haven't seen a lot of really nice lens baby work though some of the Holga work is wonderful - not sure why the difference.

Normal photography has at least one thing sharp in the image, but is that really the only way?

We play with infrared looks but really - do colours need to relate at all to the real world - or could we go hog wild and have purple skies and orange grass? Perhaps in the future "straight" colour photography will be discounted as mere snapshots.

The lead image is from a photograph by Lawrence Christmas of me, one I used for my book flap, and which I had fun playing with in Photoshop - clever? not especially. Original? Definitely not. Fun? Sure was. Would I do it again? absolutely!

I'm not much of a rule breaker. How about you - do you burst out every so often, breaking even your own rules for a good image? How? Did it work? Do you let anyone see the result? Might it lead somewhere? Does it matter?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

And In A Diffeerent Vein

Thw weekend was the annual Model Railway Show for the public. Normally I demonstrate scenery making but this year the venue was a soccer facility - a single building holding 4 indoor soccer pitches, on carpet of course. They didn't seem to think that my messing with plaster, paint and water was all that good an idea.

Anyway last night I visited my friend Neil McKay's layout, to photograph it for possible publication. There is no real estate available anywhere in his basement - all full of layout and scenery and buildings. Already a huge steel mill sits on a second level. Neil and Dauna are busy building a model of the Milwaukee Station and where he thinks he's going to put it I have no idea. Unlike most modellers who never seem to get round to finishing their layout, Neil and Dauna have done a great job getting their layout looking very nice.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Staying With An Image

How long should a good image keep your attention?

You go to galleries and some people look at an image for two seconds or less and move on. You feel you should spend more time with an image, but you notice that some images you "get" in the first glance, may even really like them, yet don't offer a whole lot more when you stick around for a few minutes.

Truth is good images vary dramatically in their "staying power". Take for example an image that is all about shapes of colour - there are only three - the background and two shapes one red and the other yellow - and that's basically it - they might be cars or a sign or building, doesn't really matter. It's not difficult to "get" the image very quickly. It may affect you profoundly, yet doesn't require further reading.

An analogy would be a good joke. You read it in two seconds, you may continue to occasionally chuckle as you remember it for a long time after. On the other hand, a novel by a great writer may have you pausing with each sentence to revel in the language, description and feeling. it would appear that the length of the text doesn't relate well to the impact. So it is with photographs. You can have the bold graphic described above or you might have a sophisticated image with not only basic shapes but textures and contrasts and alignments and harmonies which might take you many minutes to appreciate - and in fact may require "rereading" to get the full meaning.

The latter image isn't necessarily better than the first, just different, just as the one liner is different from the novel. Perhaps a better analogy would be a joke and a poem, both with the same number of words, the one having it's impact complete and instant, the other containing subtleties and levels, nuances and depths. The immediate impact of the joke is certainly the more powerful, yet one might keep going back to the poem, re reading it, thinking about the words, their pace and sequence, their meaning and relationships.

Neither the poem or the joke is better, just different. Why shouldn't two photographs be just as different?

Yeh, but what does that mean when I'm out photographing?

Well, quite a lot. If you want the equivalent of the joke, then you need a bold, simple image that grabs you. If on the other hand you want poetry, you'd better be thinking in terms of mutliple levels, more than just pretty or dramatic, you want to offer the big details that grab the viewer but small details that keep them looking. There's the plot, the sub plots, the details and the designs within designs.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Composition and Lectures

We're told that to make a good lecture, you tell the audience what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what it is you told them - ie. introduction, explanation and summary.

In a photograph, think of a bold graphic to start, a more detailed story to be futher explored through the details of the image, but leaving you with that image of the bold graphic as you leave (presumably hopefully enticing you to come back, look at other images by the same photographer, or heavens above, possibly even dropping some money to buy the damn thing.

Think of Pepper # 30 - as you approach the print, or first see it on screen, you see the sensuous curves of this wonderful shape. As you spend more time with the image, first you realize it's only a pepper, then you notice how wonderfully the image glows and how light interacts with the Pepper. Eventually you notice the curving lines of the tin funnel in which he photographed it, but you leave thinking of the sensuous curves.

Composition As Composition

We can learn from music when it comes time to setting out the composition of our images. Think of the symphony. Either it starts out slowly, building tension quite quickly to an exclamation point, or it actually starts with a bang. The composer knows that he has a limited time to get our attention - get too tricky and the audience is lost in the first few bars, make a clear statement, provide a simple melody, capture the interest and often you can develop the theme all you want after.

Symphony compositions seem to tell a story - starting out happily enough, then sadness and depression, followed by struggle and sucess, finally to finish with an even bigger bang than was at the beginning. Mind you, the latter may not be necessary in a photograph since the end is dictated by the viewer wandering off and we hardly need to provide a visual bang to tell them when it's time to cough, clap or get up.

A piece of music that is complex, sophisticated and tricky right from the beginning isn't good at grabbing attention. Pieces like this tend to be appreciated by people who already recognize the genious of the composer and don't need a showy and simple start to lead them in and people who don't need to be able to hum the tune after the show.

Since these people tend to be in the tiny minority, pieces like this tend to be fillers between big bang music to satisfy the masses. So it is with photography, you can get away with the occasional complex subtle less readable photograph if you lead people to it and if you have no great expections of universal approval.

So, an image needs to be easy to understand right from the beginning. It can offer sophistication in it's subtle details and it wouldn't hurt if it told a bit of a story - in the sense of the classic tragedies and comedies going back to ancient Greece.

The Finer Points Of Composition

On the weekend one of the talks I gave was on composition and it was clear that there is interest in learning more so given that composition is a big issue with me, here goes:

I have talked about simplicity in design as being desirable in good images, but it might actually be better to describe it as clarity - the implication being that the important elements of the image stand out somehow so that sense can be made of them, they can be seen in relationship and elements of the image which aren't critical to its design are down played.

If an element is overlapped by 3 other things which don't need to be overlapped, the element in question is not going to be as clear as if it were to stand out against a plain background. On the other hand, if the objects it overlaps are in fact related to it and part of a sequence or series, well that's different, isn't it?

Clarity comes from the relative brightness of the element - in general if it is significantly lighter than surrounding elements it is going to be better noticed - so burning in the surround or lightening the element itself may be important.

If the pattern of elements makes your eyes look left then right, back to the left then up to the top, down to the bottom and finally back to the middle, that isn't clear. If you expect the eyes to follow a pattern, keep it a simple one and make it so there is a flow of the way you want the eye to follow rather than looking like one of those old computer games Pong.

Clarity can come from blurring the background. One of the tricks with Helicon Focus is you can get great depth of field within a complex object yet because you used a wide f stop and didn't keep shooting the sequence into the background, it remains blurred while the object itself has full depth - much more clear than simply stopping down to f22 and hoping for the best.

Clarity is very much about moving around until the main elements of the subject do fall on a simple background. As a rule, unless it is an important relationship, straight lines like power lines and tree trunks and so on should not sprout from the tips or corners of compositional elements (like girl friends heads). Nor do you usually want to divide the element in half with a background line - an unequal fraction is usually better unless you have a specific purpose. Remember that for the purposes of composition, the horizon is an object or element that must be considered. All things being equal, an element will look better if either mostly above or below the horizon and not with the horizon going right through the centre of the element.

Clarity comes from not having too many elements in the image, unless they all relate in the same way (say through shape or tone). It's so very tempting when composing a landscape for example to want to include that lovely curve on the right - that fantastic shape on the left and the terrific cross in the foreground - but all being different, it really doesn't matter how good each is, if they don't strongly tie in, one or more has to go.

Of course what often happens in real life when looking for interesting images, is that when you get tough and eliminate the great stuff that doesn't relate, you are left with a weak image - damned if you do and damned if you don't. All you can do at that point is pack the equipment away, recognize this particular setup as another 'might have been, almost was' and move on.

The more you think about things like this though, the fewer images that get you really excited on the shoot only to look like total crap when you get home - that is so discouraging to ones continued enthusiasm for photography.

Workshop 3

Monday, April 14, 2008


I would never normally think to include the plastic lid of a garbage can, but this image is about shapes and colour and hey, the colour was right.

Workshop Images 2

This lovely older E type Jaguar was also on our walk. It was challenging to find a position which did not result in chain link fence reflections but at least in this view it isn't especially prominent. Odd that the reflection of the building in the windshield turns out to be an important element of the composition.

Workshop Images

this is the first pair of images from the workshop - on our walkabout on Saturday. It's interesting to compare the colour and black and white images - I like both so choosing one would be difficult.


Flew back last night from our San Francisco workshop. 9 participants, great group, some very interesting images made by the participants on our "walk abouts". It was certainly a different kind of photography for me. Uwe strongly encouraged me to leave home my tripod and so I was shooting hand held. I tried out a new camera bag - the Tamrac Velocity 8X. It was compact and easy to use - it was marginal for my 70-200 L IS lens simply because the shape of the back is circular on the bottom and the side pockets aren't quite as wide or deep. I could easily place the lens upside down with the lens hood at the top but that way means sometimes as you bring the lens out it detaches from the lens hood and falls back, hopefully into the camera bag so I prefer putting it in front first. It just fits, especially if you place the camera so the short side of the camera is towards the long lens. Why don't I put the big lens in the middle? Because then I can't put the camera in the bag. The sling system worked great, no diff. sliding the bag round to the front to access items or push it back round again to over the right hip or entirely round to the back which is better. They do make a 9X and if you have a big zoom, I'd recommend that.

I have been very impressed with the sharpness of my new 18-55 IS - this kit lens from Canon is a real departure from previous inexpensive lenses - it's darn good - sure it feels like a toy with it's plastic lens mount and less than brick like build but it works - sharp corner to corner at most apertures and entirely useable wide open.

I have been very impressed with the 40D - it handles very well. I love the my menu which does my formating and mirror lock for me. When hand holding I used ei. 400 to 640 and in one case really opened up the shadows in editing - sure there was noise but it was fine, sharp, looked like tri-x grain (well processed) and sure didn't bother me. Unlike consumer cameras which when pushed to higher ISO's result in a great loss of detail - there was no problem at all from noise suppression - very impressive.

Would I do more hand holding - sure - though I do find that when hand holding, exact framing is more challenging - you look at one corner and get it right, then look at the other corner and oops - I found myself zooming out a little just to make sure I got both corners adequately. Sure makes photography more fun and spontaneous. I might well start doing more walk abouts (but I mmight just take a light tripod too).

I'll post my walk about images when I catch up on my sleep.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


found this message on in a series of comments about the most reliable drive for backup. It really puts things in perspective.

What is the most reliable TIRE? . I am planning a cross country trip and dont want to carry a spare.

What is the most reliable Parachute? . I am planning on jumping off a plane and dont want to carry a spare.

What is the most reliable camera? . I am planning wedding shoot for a mafia boss thats also a snipper dont want to carry a spare.

What is the most reliable jet engine? . I am planning a jetliner and want to make the design simple

What is the most reliable camera flash? . I am planning a wddding shoot and dont want to carry a spare.

What is the most reliable drill bit? . I am planning to build a house on a remote island and dont want to buy a spare.

What is the most reliable flash card? . I am planning a world trip and dont want to carry a spare.

What is the most reliable battery? . I am planning a world cruise and dont want to carry a spare.

What is the most reliable football? . I am hosting the superbowl and dont want to buy a spare.

What is the most reliable flash cord? . I am planning a wedding shoot and dont want to carry a spare.

ie. no single drive backup system is reliable.

Uwe Steinmuller has written about DROBO a non RAID backup device which looks interesting but in reality a single lightning strike within blocks of your house could destroy your computer, your hard drives and your RAID or DROBO so an off site backup is also necessary and has to be updated on a regular basis - in the end, no system is perfect but the question you have to ask yourself is how much data can I afford to lose, not whether you can afford it. Sooner or later you will lose drives, popssibly entire devices and in rare cases entire systems located in a single building.

I have a good system for backup including unplugged external drives (I risk drive failure but not power surges) and offsite (protecting me against fire). What I don't do is do it often enough. Time to invest in reliable backup - including either a raid system or something like DROBO. I look forward to Uwe's articles on backup as they appear at OutbackPhoto in the next few weeks

Thursday, April 10, 2008


One of the problems with shooting into trees is depth of field - not enough to keep all the trees you want sharp, yet too much to blur the background. Helcon Focus to the rescue, blending all the images except the last which had the background sharp. I quite like this soft look.


April in Alberta - supposed to be 22 C (70 F) on Sunday but today we woke to a huge dump of snow, my flight to San Francisco for the workshop first delayed then cancelled outright. I fly out tomorrow night in time for the workshop but my day wandering around San Francisco is shot. This was taken last weekend. There was no snow and above freezing temperatures in Calgary but 35 minutes west...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A better Composition?

I think I like this vertical better.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

My wife and daughter are into horses and we have a 1992 Suburban for pulling a horse trailer. It uses enough gas that we could affor a small car plus gas on what it was costing us to use it as a regular vehicle, so it sits in the back lane, waiting to be used to haul a horse.

Anyway, my wife needed the truck to work and knew the vehicle wouldn't start in the cold weather. A boost and new battery were called for and when the fellow from AMA came by and I popped the hood for him, I noticed the nicely weathered insides and thought it might make a picture.

Normally I'd have everything in focus using focus blending but in fact I quite like this hand held shallower depth of field image with the depths of the motor nicely blurred.

I see my neighbour has an old car in the back garden - I'm going to pop over and check under the hood.

In terms of coming up with ideas for an image or even a series or a project, one never really knows when an idea might pop up or from where. One needs to be always aware of patterns, shapes, tones, light, as well as interesting subject matter. They certainly aren't limited to when you are thinking photography. Few interesting things make good photographs but few photographs of uninteresting things make good images, even if the thing that was interesting is nothing more than a curious shadow.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hand Holding

No, this isn't a poor man's alternative to sex, though come to think of it I guess it is, but anyway, I'm obviously talking about the non use of a tripod. Now I'm clearly talking through my hat here as I haven't taken a serious shot without my trusty tripod since age 18. Even my recent portrait work I used the tripod, even if I didn't lock down the ball head!

So, what possible insights could I offer. In many ways, I'm simply thinking in keystrokes, making you suffer for my deliberations, but perhaps you, like me, haven't cut loose yet and you might want to think about the same issues.

Tripods serve one basic function (unless you are big into self portraits). They allow slower shutter speeds than you can hand hold. Oh, and they make stitching a lot more accurate especially for near subjects and for wide angles. That's about it.

So, in order to free myself from the tripod, I have to accept blurry images - generally not on), or use a higher shutter speed, or sometimes simplly not try to photograph (eg. after dark) because there isn't enough light.

Now, two reasons to need slow shutter speeds are wanting to use the lowest ISO for highest quality images, and to use a small f stop for maximum depth of field. So I have to wonder what would life and imaging be like if I didn't insist on front to back sharpness? Could I accept some "graininess" of an image by using higher ISO's? Often wide apertures means sharpness in the centre of the image but not at the edges. Could we live with that - do edges even need to be sharp?

What if I combined a wider aperture than I ever use in normal circumstances - just how much would I gain?

What if instead of considering the lack of depth of field a compromise, I actually sought it out, taking advantage of selective focus to reduce distracting backgrounds and to focus attention on the important part of the image? What if instead of accepting moderate depth of field, I deliberately shoot wide open (or at most a stop down for sharapness)?

In the latest issue of Lenswork the excellent images by Larry Blackwood of grain elevators were, shock of shocks, hand held, with a moderately priced digital camera - and they were damn nice. Larry broke other rules too by the looks of it - not correcting perspective, shooting in the middle of the day in bright sunlight and not waiting for dramatic skies. Spend some time looking at the images if you find yourself short on subject matter and ideas.

Anyway, stay with me over the next few months as I take advantage of my new 40D to have some fun with my camera, to liberate myself from f16 and rock solid tripods.

Note that I have updated Larry's web link above since he has redone his website.

San Francisco

I have given myself one day in San Francisco (this coming Thursday) and am definitely soliciting advice on how to best make use of the day photographically. Ideally I'd like to do a quite a bit of shooting, but am also open to visiting photographic galleries. Does anyone have any experience and therefore suggestions?

New Camera

Not wanting to lug my 1Ds2 around San Francisco, I elected to purchase a 40D. I traded off the extra pixels of the new Xsi for the extra waterproofing, speed and handling of the 40D. Sure do love that big LCD.

I had great difficulty deciding on lenses for the camera. In the end I elected to try the new 18-55 IS as it had had good to excellent reports. Everyone recommended the 24-105 but my reading and looking at resolution indicated it was pretty weak at the long end, even on a reduced sensor camera.

I decided to purchase the newish 70-200 L IS lens on the grounds that I can't think of a single situation in which I have taken advantage of shooting at f2.8 - even the very shallow depth of field pipe image was shot at f5. If this lives up to standard, I'll sell the 2.8 to someone who does theatre or sports or music and who can really use that extra stop. This will go some ways towards lightening my camera bag.

Despite ogling the rather cool looking Crumpler bags, I elected to go with the Tamrac Velocity 9 bag. I liked the fact that it is top opening yet isn't likely to spill things, seems to turn round for access easily - time will tell if that's still true when fully loaded. It should easily handle my two new lenses.

The image above is decently sharp, hand held, 18-55, shot at 8 PM with the sun already well down, ei. 400 - despite reports of a noiseless 400, there is definitely "grain" but it certainly isn't objectionable.

My second battery is charging and I think this will work just fine for wandering around San Francisco.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Good Vs. Great

I guess I tend to assume that we all aspire to greatness, if not in ourselves then at least with a few images. In a conversation with a friend last night, he stated that he doesn't aim for greatness, good would be just fine with him. He doesn't aspire to a masterpiece, an image which is interesting or illuminating or fun will be just great.

it makes you wonder just what we should be concentrating on - do you put all your effort into something which is rarely achieved (a truly great photograph, or at least one way better than all your others), knowing that you are working on something that not only is very unlikely to happen with any one photograph, in fact experience tells us that we rarely know at the time of the shutter release which images are going to be our best.

Mind you sometimes we know, I had written to Chuck to comment on his lovely new window and gauze photograph gracing his lead page of his site and he commented in return that he just knew it was going to be really good. Actually what he really said was he was so excited he was practically shaking and had difficulty getting the image recorded he was so excited. That sometimes happens but far more often we don't know ahead of time that an image is going to turn out far better than 99% of our work. You'd think a little bell would go off, in the camera if not in your head - but no.

The linke below will take you to his site, and at least for now to that particular image.

Anyway, my point is whether it's better to be looking for the truly great images or whether we'd actually be better served looking for the merely interesting and letting the laws of chance make some of those exceptional and the rest just what we were looking for.

My own style is to look for the interesting since I very definitely cannot predict the great shots, frequently not even recognizing them in the proofs, sometimes for months.

So, it's ok to aspire to be great, but to be on the lookout for the merely good, interesting, illuminating and or entertaining.

Whether someone who never aspired to greatness in the first place is any less likely to achieve it I don't know - I suspect there is a drive do do better, try harder which may separate those who are happy with good from those who desperately strive for greatness.

The other issue is whether it is very egotistical to even think that you might someday be one of the greats but if you think of how many of us wanted to be Ansel Adams 40 years ago and a teenager, well, most of us would be wearing tar and feathers if it were a big problem. It's one thing to strive for greatness, another to think you have arrived, especially with plenty of evidence to the contrary. Perhaps this is a discussion for another day.