Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fuzzy Filters

Much is made of image quality when no low pass filter is used in front of a digital sensor - as per Leica, medium format backs, and Foveon sensors. It's always been assumed that once pixel counts got high enough, the fuzzy filter which blurs the image so patterns like cloth don't create moire patterns in the Bayer algorithm interpretation of the sensor data would no longer be necessary. Despite this the Nikon D3X has one at 24.5 megapixels, the Canon 5D2 at 21.5 megapixels has one, so it isn't clear when we are going to be able to drop it. People talk about better software solutions for removing moire but the reality is it is darn hard to know what is a repetitive pattern and what is an artificial effect of the interpolation.

In reality, the problem isn't in the math, it is in the regular rows and colums of colour filters that sits in front of the sensor. The printing industry found that stochastic printing, in which the dots that make up half tone images was the way to produce a jump in print quality. If we could somehow produce a colour filter array in which the red blue and green filters for each pixel were placed randomly, or at least in a pattern that appears random but is known, then we might see the end of the filters.

Myself, the easier solution would be to make the rgb filter removable - what about creating it with an lcd screen in front of the sensor - you could have your option of three shot green then red then blue exposures for full colour pixels - or no colour so we are doing a black and white sensor, or random but known pattern as needed. Wonder if that is possible. After all, the 7D has an lcd filter in the viewfinder for displaying focus points and leveling.

Who knows where this will lead.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Harald Mante

Let me highly recommend Harald Mante's Photography Unplugged. This is a beautiful book superbly printed, 193 photographs on their own page, or occasionally a group of four photographs. All the work is in colour and the book is a celebration of colour.

I met Harald at Photokina 2008 - he was still running around with his ancient film Minolta and Kodachrome. You can see from his photographs that he was trained in the graphic arts, that he came out of the Bauhaus tradition of Germany and was both taught and influenced by Kandinsky.

This book can teach a lot about design to all photographers and even black and white photographers will find his colour enjoyable.

You can see many of the images at his website
although the images are unfortunately watermarked - still, it will whet your appetite to have the book.

The price is an incredible $50 list - a huge bargain.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Elbow Canyon - Self Critique

Don't forget to click on it to see it in a decent size.

The subject matter is good, the areas of snow contrasting with the colourful rocks. There isn't any overall pattern however and particularly the far left is a bit weak, kept from cropping it only to preserve the arc of the water's edge across the bottom of the image.

Arguably, cropping it tighter on both left and right would help, though I still have a sense that it isn't quite right. The most obvious flaw is that there is nothing in the composition to balance the huge rock on the right.

It isn't necessary for objects to literally balance - size for size. For example,

in which the small object works with the large. The issues are that the background is plain so the relationship is easy to see, and there are not dozens of other shapes to confuse the relationship, as is happening in my image.

It might be possible to help, there is a blue almost horizontal slab on the left which is already a little lighter than the rocks around it - lightening it further would make it more prominent and reinforce its relationship to the right hand rock - but one is almost round, so perhaps I'm kidding myself.

That's one of the problems in editing - you think you can fix things, but the fixes are iffy at best and sometimes you have to recognize when to quit and find another image.

I like the image, I like the crop better, it just isn't a great image. I'd be willing to display it, sell it, but I probably wouldn't submit it to an editor - just not quite strong enough.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Shot this afternoon near Elbow Falls, west of Calgary. Helicon Focus used for depth of field (the tunnel entrance is sloped so I could not keep all of the tunnel entrance in focus at f16. Canon 5DII, 70-200 f4IS lens, tripod, live view.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I was in Banff for an office function but had the morning to photograph. Headed for Bow Falls. The falls themselves are more of a rapids than a fall, but in Winter, the ice can be interesting, especially if not too cold. I did manage to find some open water and ice edges to photograph but actually found more interesting material further upstream, back towards town.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Is Crap Still Crap, Even When It's Important?

I have had the dubious privilege of looking at some thousands of bad images as I work to select images for "Why Photographs Work". I had a look at Review Santa Fe as you can go to their website and look at previous accepted photographers - I was horrified at the quality of the images. There seems to be the idea in fine art circles that if an idea is sufficiently original, or if the subject is sufficiently important, that image quality matters not at all. The result is an incredible number of very banal, very ordinary, very boring images.

It is true that good composition and proper lighting and care to emphasize the important within the image are simply tools, and not goals of themselves. These tools exist however to help us get the most out of images, to understand the message as clearly as possible, to find hidden depths in images and to pick up the emotion created.

In many of the images I saw, of poverty and violence, of pollution and of life in genera, there has been no attempt to make the message clearer, to help the viewer understand what's going on or what's implied.

It is helpful to use other creative endevours to illustrate the point.

It is possible to write a novel about poor people in which the boring ordinary daily details of the characters lives overwhelms any message. There is no plot, we don't care about the characters because they have not been properly developed. Books like these rarely get read beyond the first chapter because they are boring. The worst don't even get published because the publisher knows they don't have a hope.

Oddly, in photography, there is no one who filters work, who says "thank you for your submission but your work is unsuited to our needs".

In selecting images for this book, I have found some wonderful images and some are far removed from the kind of thing I normally like. There is a manipulated SX-70 image that is wonderful, a Holga image, some composite exposures. There are HDR images in which the HDR serves to help instead of make the image look peculiar. There are images in which nothing is sharp, or where trickery has been used to great effect.

But people, there is so much bad photography out there, that has been promoted, celebrated, awarded, and admired. it is very sad.

Another analogy would be music. I don't especially like jazz, but I can recognize the skill involved in creating it. Rap music is 21st century poetry, I can admire the linguistic skills, but with all this crappy photography, I can't see the skill. The deficiency might be mine, but I suspect not. The emperor wears no clothes.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to all.