Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Second Chance

A couple of years ago I attempted to photograph this cattle feeder, sitting lonely and decaying in a field, and came away with nothing - the shapes were interesting but the holes in the side exposed bright snow, and I just couldn't come up with anything.

Today, I decided to look up, and with a wide angle lens, was able to make an interesting composition. Not a really good photograph, simply a competent one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An Image From A Collection Is Not Made

Sometimes a group of image elements simply does not come together to make an image. As a postage stamp this looks quite nice but once seen at any reasonable size, there is too much clutter, too much distraction, and too much rust all roughly the same brightness for the image to work.

Various attempts at cropping this conglomeration just make the situation worse. Just possibly it might come together in better lighting, though I wouldn't count on it. Every attempt to simplify  the composition also weakens it.

I spent a couple of hours working on this, as the light was failing and in which by the end I could not keep the exposure to 30 seconds without increasing the iso.

The shapes and textures were so intriguing I was determined to find a away to make a successful image, but in the end failed.

The angled shot below, combined with some dodging and burning, and some local contrast enhancement, was the best I could come up with but I'm not satisfied.

Realistically, not every setup is going to work, and it is well worth trying a few setups in any single shoot, so that you have a reasonable chance of coming home with something pleasing, if not actually wonderful.

Too many unpleasing shoots in the past have made me give up photography for as many at 15 years at a time. Of course, this was in the days of film, and many times a single setup, albeit with several framings and positionings, was about all one could achieve. Some find the change to be outside and puttering or hiking a reward in itself but I confess, for me, that was never enough - I wanted decent images to make the effort wortwhile, and I'm sure a lot happier photographer since switching to digital specifically for the ability to cover a few scenes in an afternoon.

If you are shooting digitally but continue to put all your eggs in one basket ...

Image Quality

Recently Luminous Landscape published a comparison of the IQ180 top of the line digital back from PhaseOne with 8X10 colour film. It seemed odd at the time that the fellow setting this up reasoned that one could scan 8X10 film at 750 pixels per inch and get all the information that was available in the film.

It seemed odd, because if one uses the same emulsion in 35 mm. film, scanning a slide or colour negative at only 750 pixels per inch would be a disaster, showing only a small fraction of the information in the original.

Tim Parker and friends have taken on the daunting task of doing a repeat and extension of this comparison, adding 4X5 film, and the older P45 back (?39 megapixels vs. 80 for the newest), as well as Canon 5D2 (of great interest to me) and the Sony 900.

The results of the studio shots showed a huge advantage to the 8X10 film, and even to 4X5 and the Mamiya 7. A shot out in the wild however tended to even things out. Despite very windy conditions, they continued to show a huge resolution advantage to the 8X10 transparency film, but when it came to looking at the darker areas of the image, a whole other story came out.

You must click on the image above to see it at proper size. As you can see, the amount of detail in the IQ180 on the right is huge, however if one is honest, there is over sharpening and in the areas of the left that are adequately exposed and standing still, there is a lot of detail.

This example above was deliberately selected to show the film results at their worst - in shadowed areas and dealing with more wind than most of us are willing to put up with.
Again, click to see at original size - and the sharpening is the same as in the shadow image. There is a tremendous amount of information in the distant trees and buildings and bridges beyond that is simply gone in the digital image.
A different image of the skyline shows more detail in the film image no matter what sharpening is applied to the digital image, though with a huge amount of sharpening (6 pixels worth) you can see at least some of what the film saw, but that amount of sharpening destroys the rest of the image).

Bottom line is under ideal circumstances, optimal  stop, no wind, rock steady tripod and great lenses, 8X10 still very nicely remains King Of The Hill.

Under real circumstances, it isn't nearly as clear - more of a matter of losing on the straightaways and winning on the corners. This would explain Hans Strand's comment that since switching to a Hasselblad 50 MP camera, he has seen a significant increase in quality of his images - real images in real situations.

For those who carefully select their situations, use a massive tripod and a low contrast lighting situation, and who then use careful unsharp masking in their printing, 8X10 is still capable of the ultimate in quality in 2011. This explains why people like Christopher Burkett are still willing to lug around his 15 lb. Calumet view camera. For those who climb active volcanoes, or fly over river deltas or climb into caves, like Hans, he is simply more successful with digital.

The original Tim Parkin study is available free at On Landscape and I encourage you to read it carefully, and possibly play with the images there for yourself. Although this online magazine leans towards British Landscape Photography, I note the inclusion of more international work since its inception and I'm going to subscribe.

Monday, December 19, 2011

And So It Begins - New Cameras

I'm not surprised to read this morning that a rumoured D800 is coming and the predictions are for a 36 mp sensor, with or without low pass filter. Once an official announcement is made, we can anticipate that Canon won't be far behind with something.

The 5D2 has been notoriously "un" waterproof though I must say I have had no diff. using it in the rain and snow. If Canon is to no longer make a high megapixel 1Ds series camera for the most demanding landscape shooters, one would hope they'd do something to toughen the 5D series.

Of course, there were lots of rumours the 1Dx was going to be 40+ megapixels so who really knows. I'm a little relieved I didn't get the 645D - for a functional lifetime of only a year or so (until a 5D2 replacement not only is announced but released and reviewed and found to be suitable).


a wish list for the 5D2 replacement (this is my list, yours might be different for totally valid reasons).

1) lots of pixels - given that doubling the pixels only increases linear print size by 1.41, at least double is what I'd want.
2) no fuzzy (low pass) filter - I can deal with moire as needed. Interestingly, the colour image I showed in the last blog entry, of Horton Cantracting shows sig. moire in the print but not on screen, due to the lines in the asphalt siding. I once before had this problem photographing some lathed metal objects in which the lines from the cutting tool drove the print driver crazy. A slight blurring of the image solved he problem nicely and didn't affect print quality. Again, there was nothing wrong with the image at 100% mag. on screen.
3) tilting LCD screen - to enable high shots and make low shots more comfortable (no more belly to the ground).

Now, if I really had carte blanche for the design, how about a focus blending  routine that could move focus between two predetermined points, amount a function of the lens and distance and f stop, with enough time between exposures to settle any shutter shake - ok, I know, not likely any time soon, but a guy can dream, can`t he.

Which reminds me. A long time user of Helicon Focus, it hasn`t been working for me for about three months - resulting in double and tripple images in places as it struggles to resize the image properly.

Unfortunately, at the same time, since switching to Photoshop CS5, I keep getting ``can`t find the javascript`` errors for many of my automate routines, and since going to cs5, I have also lost the ability in Bridge to access photomerge etc. - probably the same problem.

I was however able to use the auto align and auto blend features under edit in photoshop to properly focus blend the images. I don`t know why Helicon isn`t working for me any more - presumably one of the many updates has somehow changed things or lost a setting. Im using the default settings and the Lanczos 3X3 processing method as before.

If anyone has any brilliant suggestsions for these three problems, I`m listening.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Well, I Didn't Get the 645D

I was still uncertain as I drove to the store to return the loaned 645D and decided that I needed more certainty.

The issues were the money ($10,000), the lack of live view (I do a lot of focus blending), that with only the eyepiece I compromised flexibility at a time when I could really use a tilting LCD and live view to further flexibility, and a careful analysis of my own images with the camera and those available on the net to compare. I made prints and found I couldn't see a difference until I got up over 20X30 inches.

Today, I went out with the 5D2, and as dusk fell and I couldn't see through the viewfinder and as exposures moved towards 30 seconds and still live view worked well, I realized another advantage of live view.

Below are the images from this afternoon. The first had my 70-200 almost touching a chain link fence and there was a bit of fiddling to remove the hazy image of the wire. This was part of the demolished grain terminal in Calgary I had photographed before as it was being demolished.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Decision Day

I have to finally decide - do I get the Pentax 645D now, or wait for an unknown unannounced camera which may or may not be made, and may or may not be suitable for my needs, and may or may not require a whole new set of higher quality lenses than I currently use on the Canon 5D2.

There have been comments from Canon that with the 1DX only being 18 mp, they are in no rush to produce a higher resolution camera, but it may all come down to what Nikon does. If they do produce the rumoured 36 MP camera, this will push Canon to do something similar.

It occurred to me that Canon may well have a 5D3 or equivalent in the wings, with more than one possible sensor, to be switched in shortly before mass production as needed depending on which way Nikon goes.

Manufacturers never put all their cards into one basket - it doesn't make economic sense, they need to have something in hand to justify the next model round the corner.

Adobe have been leading us on with hints of camera movement removal software in the next or next after Photoshop - just the same. Lightroom 3 doesn't have proofing, even though it's in Photoshop, so it isn't about can't, it's about when, and what will it take to persuade us to fork out money for the next iteration of camera or software.

So, what am I going to do?

Go with the Pentax. I have already ordered the used lenses, and a bird in the hand... and if in a year, or two, there are better cameras than the Pentax and I can't sell the used Pentax and lenses for more than $5000 total, well I will still hopefully have some great images that can make large prints without excuses. if the camera pays for itself in that time (in terms of sales of large images), well so much the better.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Image Quality

In checking into the Pentax 645D, I paid for a subscription to Digilloyd's Advanced Photography and noted his other site on image sharpness.

Below is a list of topics covered. I'm showing you this, not to promote the site (I haven't paid for this section of his site) but simply to point out the many ways an image can be degraded.

  1. Banish Blur, or Blur for Beauty?
  2. Blur by Focus
  3. Blur by Autofocus Error
  4. Blur by Manual Focus Error
  5. Blur by Manual Focus Inconsistency
  6. Blur by Focus Shift
  7. Blur by Focus Lock and Recompose (FLR)
  8. Blur by Subject Movement
  9. Blur by Camera Movement
  10. Blur by Mirror Slap
  11. Blur Caused by System Alignment
  12. Blur Caused by Image Stabilization
  13. Blur from Haze and Refraction
  14. Blur Caused by Lens Optics
  15. Blur and Haze from Spherical Aberration
  16. Blur by Purple Fringing (Axial Chromatic Aberration)
  17. Blur by Red/Cyan Fringes (Lateral Chromatic Aberration)
  18. Blur Caused by the Laws of Optics (Diffraction)
  19. Blur by Depth of Field
  20. Blur from Field Curvature
  21. Resolving to Sensor Resolution
  22. Blur Caused by Anti-Aliasing Filter
  23. Blur Caused by Digital Capture
  24. Blur Caused by Demosaicing
No wonder so many people struggle to get high quality images, and sharpness is only one of several characteristics of a technically good image. Only when you are confident you have satisfactorily controlled every single one of the above issues can you start thinking you need better equipment.

On his site, Lloyd has several examples of commonly used top brand lenses hugely changing focus as one stops down, the difference between focussing on the eyelashes and the tip of the nose or the ears type of difference.

I couldn't get a sharp image with the Phase one camera and P65+ back I borrowed for a workshop - and finally got rid of my centre post, tall ball head and leveling base that stuck up another two inches, and now I get sharp pictures consistently - if there is no wind.

On the 5D2, I have been utterly amazed at how much image blur there is at full magnification live view when the wind is blowing.

Michael Reichmann found that tripods (the best tripods) don't stop shaking for 7 seconds - using mirror lock up and a two second delay doesn't cut it.

With medium format especially, focal plane shutters can add considerably to the instability and I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't a sig. part of my diff. with the phase one camera.

Camera straps blowing in the wind contribute to movement as do cable releases. Let's not even talk about people who press the shutter button and hope the camera stops shaking by the time the self timer activates.

I have been paying attention to what I stand on. Ground isn't ground - ground can be springy, it can be soggy or even squishy, it can be a connection between your feet and a tripod leg and there goes your image.

I`m amazed at how many people are still stopping down their camera to an f stop that is severely diffraction limited. With a full frame sensor (my 5D2) I usually use f11 and focus blend if I have to. Sometimes I will use f16. it isn`t as sharp, though I think I can pretty much compensate with local contrast enhancement.  At f22, I can`t compensate. With an APS-C sensor, I try to stick to f11 at worst, and with point and shoots, even f8 can be problematic.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pentax 645D

Well, some print sales, some commercial photoshop work, an old inheritance that finally got sold (40 years later), and book sales, and I'm considering getting a Pentax 645D.

I have one on loan from The Camera Store for a couple of days, and will give it a bit of a workout. Have the 55 and 120 lenses on loan, have read the detailed review on  (you have to pay but well worth it for pointing out what to watch for), and managed to make a few shots with it this afternoon.

It really is a photographers camera - with all the right controls. It did take a while to find the self timer (via the drive button - so very easily accessed) and I have yet to figure out how to switch from one card to the next (camera holds two SD cards).

The real issue is going to be living without live view, upon which I have come to rely so very much. On the other hand, the viewfinder is great and I had no difficulty using it with my glasses.

Neither is a great shot, but for the amount of time I put into it, about what you'd expect. Now, whether either is any better for being photographed with the 645D is a whole other matter.

Worst case scenario is Canon comes out with an equivalent camera, featuring a cmos sensor and live view, a tilting lcd (or wireless connection to either ipad or iphone) and that allows me to use my current lenses.

I doubt my current lenses (mostly zooms) are going to hold up at this pixel count. That would mean a new series of lenses - almost certainly thousands of dollars each. I'm planning to get some used pentax lenses - I can get a complete set for $2000 (35, 75, 120 macro, 200). Granted they aren't autofocus but I never use autofocus anyway.

Canon having disappointed many with the low pixel count of the 1dX, I figure I'll get a fair part of my money back if I sell within the next two years.

What I noticed photographing today was two things - in the past, if my camera was a bit low or a bit high, I could still easily use live view on the Canon 5D2 where today I had to stretch to reach up and look down through the Pentax. This might actually mean keeping a stool in the car. From prior experience, an angle finder doesn't solve the high camera problem.

Mind you, the two best shots I have made in the last couple of months were both within 100 yards of my car - so a step stool would be very practical (hell, I could even sit on it for low shots and give my old knees a rest).

Why "waste" $12,000 on better equipment when the 5D2 is already pretty damn fine?

Well, twice this year, selling images has been compromised by the limitation on print size. There really isn't any other reason to go to such expense, when even a Canon Rebel can make fantastic prints, albeit just not as large.

I still stitch with the 5D2, but stitching, focus blending and doing HDR all at the same time is just mind boggling.

Will I return the Pentax because of missing the live view? Not sure yet. Will head out tomorrow shooting and see if I can resolve the question.

One thing I have thought of to aid focus blending without having live view is to take a couple of small plastic clamps (hardware stores sell them in packs of 20) and modify it so it grips around the lens, and has a pointer on one of the two finger grips. I'll get the framing right (which means right tripod position) then focus the centre spot on the nearest part of the subject. Then I place the lens clamp/pointer so the pointer is aiming straight up. I then move the camera so the furthest position is in focus, and place a second pointer, or a second part of the first pointer vertically.

I reframe the subject, turn the lens so the first pointer is just past vertical (so I am sure I caught the whole range of focus), and shoot a series of images until the second pointer is just past vertical.

In practice, today I just used the bright viewfinder to focus on near and kept checking till the far was in focus I found the near easy to focus manually, the far a bit harder. In neither case did I use the Pentax's built in focus check for manual lenses, and I'll check that out tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ipad 3

There's little doubt that there will be an Ipad 3, and it MAY have 2048X1500 resolution. Even if it doesn't, there likely will be one of that resolution soon. That would put it almost on a par with the wonderful screen of the iphone. As photographers we are going to have to be ready for this. For showing portfolio images this is a non brainer, but it starts to become more of an issue when we need that resolution for ebooks and Ipad versions of Lenswork and optimum display of our images and dealing with people copying that "high res" file.

A little thought though shows that a 2048 pixel file will print optimally at around 7 inches. This barely makes a print (with a generous white border) on 8.5X11 paper. Anyone who would be satisfied with a file this size for printing large wasn't going to pay for a big print anyway.

I have just placed an order with John Wimberley for his new book and am really looking forward to having it. I'm getting the collectors edition which comes with a print (the least I could do after he contributed to my recent book). But what am I to do with the print?

I can certainly frame it and probably will, but wall space is limited, both at home and at work, half our art work isn't on the wall as it is.

If an iPad of this high resolution looks as good as I anticipate it will, we are soon going to see a fundamental change in how images are viewed. How should we charge for a digital file of this size so someone can enjoy our work on their new and improved iPad?

Imagine being able to afford hundreds of fine images and view them on your iPad, able to flag favourites, divide into categories, easily read the text or metadata, then hide it again?

The fundamental block to being published has been the cost of an initial run, and the difficulty in selling enough books to pay for that. Blurb has helped, but as a commercial proposition, the cost of the books with shipping is hardly efficient, and the printing quality not as good as would be seen on the iPad.

Now, anyone can make an e-book. It doesn't have to contain a hundred images. It might just have 15, and cover only a single subject, yet could be incredibly pleasing to the eye.

Even famous photographers often have difficulty getting new books out - and old books go out of print - or the printing isn't optimal - or the time to set up a book is prohibitive when you have to earn a living.

When the cost of a digital portfolio is measured in 10's of dollars almost anyone who enjoys photography can afford to gamble.

I get roughly $3 for each of my books sold. Given the publisher has to set up, print, and promote the book, I don't have issue with this, and there is still something very nice about holding a real book, but if the option is to not enjoy the images at all because the photographer didn't/couldn't make a book, well...

I wonder how much people would be willing to pay for an e-book or digital portfolio (really the same thing other than book implies more images).?

How much would you pay for a single image you especially like?

What if photographs were sold the same way music is. Itunes could sell Ansel Adams, 99 cents for one image. The concept sure has saved the music industry. Could this be the saviour of fine art photographers. In iTunes the price is fixed for a given resolution of sound. Doesn't matter whether you are U2 or Fred Bloggs, the customer pays the same. I have no idea how artists are paid and I dare say it's tiny, but what if there a way to distribute images so that the photographer got 25 cents for each image, and lets further say that there are millions of these high res iPads (or equivalent), and that people got used to buying images like they buy music, is it possible that a really nice image would sell multi thousands of copies and generate more than $100 a year, per great image, per photographer?

There are problems. The puppy images will continue to far outsell fine art work. The number of photographers is so large that there will be an enormous amount of 'ordinary' images, camouflaging the good work. But like with iTunes and Amazon, one will be able to look up recommendations and ratings and not just popularity. There will be even more opportunity to write about photography and blog about great images discovered.

As the music industry has discovered, make it easy enough to access the music you want (and only that music) and a viable market will exist.

Is it time for the 99 cent Edward Weston, or George Barr, or (place your name here)?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hanna Roundhouse and Turntable

From the side of the turntable bridge. Shot with 90 mm. TS-E at its nearest focus - had diff. getting Helicon to blend for depth of field properly (those rivets are half round and so considerably closer to the camera. In the end I chose two of the images, one for the flat, the other for the tops of the rivets, and placed the rivet top image on top of the flat. I then used Transform - scale to adjust the size of the overlying image till they blended very closely. Then I masked the rivet top image black, and painted in white for the nearer parts of each rivet. No more ghosts and double images.

Not really sure what went wrong with Helicon. I had to scale the top image to 98.6% and I would have expected Helicon to handle that. In fact I went back and changed the preferences and retried the blend - even worse. Also tried the default settings - still not great. I'm sure there's a book out there that explains how to use Helicon to best advantage - time to do some reading.

The tilt and shift were irrelevant to the image - it's just a good 90 mm. lens close up - though hardly a macro lens.

And two other images showing the outside and inside - more record shots than fine art.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Another Late Image from Writing On Stone

I worked on the image for quite some time, increasing contrast, darkening the left side, darkening the shadowed areas further, adding more local contrast with Akvis Enhancer, but then reining in the saturation with a black and white layer mostly masked and a reduction in contrast to bring back some of the subtlety of the image.

As it stands, one can hardly see that there is a huge boulder on the right entirely separate from the cliff face on the rest of the image, with a gulch between. The image would have looked more realistic had I adjusted tones to separate them, but I quite like this ambiguity. Whether I'll like it in a week or two of viewing the print remains to be seen.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Joakim Eskildsen

Was checking out some of the work at Photography Now and came across this photographer, Joakim Eskildsen, originally from Denmark. I found several wonderful images.

He also has a website.

I see some Paul Strand in some of his portraits, but his use of colour is magnificent.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunwapta Falls Wall

From Sunwapta Falls, Jasper National Park, wet rock just above the rapidly flowing water and spray. Two image stitch, 70-200 f4L IS at 200 mm.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another Rockface

Jasper Continued

Interesting rock details from beside the road, a rockcut made by the construction.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Jasper is the lesser known sibling to Banff, further north, further from both Edmonton and Calgary, quieter, more open, a real town and not just a tourist destination.  I'm just back from 6 days in Jasper. Had a lot of fun photographing. Went for details and small scenes rather than the grand landscape (having done that on previous visits).

This image is from the lower part of Maligne Canyon. It works well in both black and white and colour, but I think it makes an especially effective black and white print.

5D2, 24-105 mm. lens, 32 mm., f11 - editing included a combination of various curves, including ones in which the straight line reaches the top (white) before the underlying image does, also about a 2/3 dose of Akvis Enhancer, with the image set to be darker than standard.

The speckles you see on the left side are yellow leaves and you can see they are leaves on a larger print. Try clicking on the image to see it bigger in its own window.

The jpeg above was 'toned' with my beige and then selenium colours, layer sliders adjusted to taste. Having darkened the rocks, I then lightened parts again to add a third dimension.

Maligne is hard to photograph. The dramatic narrow canyons can really only be seen well from the bridges and even there the views are limited. I understand coming up the canyon in winter is especially rewarding and one of these days...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Photographs You Don't Like

I was reading TOP (the online photographer) today, on making snap judgements on whether images are anything from wonderful to crap, and the response from one reader that the best images all were of the same style/subject that he photographs.

This got me thinking. How much can you learn from looking at images similar to yours? You might well improve your composition, tonalities, lighting, or even sharpness, but there is unlikely to be any quantum leap in your abilities as a photographer.

If instead one were to take some images you definitely don't like, but which are consistently recognized as wonderful and spend some considerable time with them, just perhaps that quantum leap in abilities might just happen.

Apropos this, I can't help but read the reviews of my books on Amazon, and of late there have been several extremely negative reviews of both my writing (which is fair enough) and of all the photography in "Why Photographs Work" which is frankly pretty darn stupid. In the end, these kind of negative reviews "I only saw three or four photographs I liked" say far more about the ignorance of the writer of the review than it does about my book, or for that matter, any book.

What they are saying, in essance, is that they don't see any redeeeming worth in the photographs of Ted Turner, Bruce Barnbaum, Michael Kenna, Beth Moon, Elizabeth Opalenik etc.

Given the multipublication of their work, the numerous books they have in print and the general respect  in which they are held, it would behoove the photographer who feels that way to spend some time studying these and other famous images they don't approve of and if over time they still can't see the worth of such images, should sit down with someone of experience who does.

One of the great joys of exploring the world of art is to find new great artists and to learn to appreciate their work.

Since the development of youtube I have 'discovered' the work of Queen, and its leader Freddy Mercury. I'd heard the name, never knew the work. It's been a fantastic trip, and such a tragedy to lose someone of his talent 'before his time'.

Anyway, I was giving a talk on photography last weekend and used a couple of music analogies, including a short clip from Queen, which not one person in the audience of more than 100 was able to identify.

You can look at this as sad, that they have been denied this great music, or alternatively be glad for them that they can come across Queen's work for the first time. Where was I when Queen was at its height. Wasn't I ready for it at the time?

Give yourself a chance to make new discoveries, and should your reaction be negative where many you respect feel otherwise, give yourself a chance to warm to the images.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Skateboard Ramps

For the last year or so I have noted that each Fall, a nearby city storage area becomes cluttered with interesting curved shapes. I guessed that these were temporary skateboard ramps set up in various communities for the kids, but the stacked shapes fascinated me. An attempt to photograph over the chain link fence after wading through waist deep snow last Winter was a complete bust, but today after work I stopped by and got permission to go in and photograph.

Initially the sun was very strong and I had difficulty coming up with suitable and manageable compositions. I switched over the camera to exposure bracketing (Panasonic GH2), and continued to shoot.

I love the ability to quickly set controls on this camera - from single to multiple exposure, from spot reading to average, changing ISO and so on.

I strongly dislike that my right hand almost constantly triggers the menu function while I'm trying to shoot. I may actually have to put something on the back to protect the button more.

I'm not in love with the EVF - in sunlight it really is the pits with glasses on - I understand that those lucky enough not to need glasses are fine with it - and of course in lower light it's wonderful - but I wouldn't choose a similar evf again. I constantly had to use one of my hands to shade the viewfinder and my glasses so I could see the viewfinder at all.

I haven't blended any of the multiple exposures yet - this was simply a pick of the litter so to speak - the exposure which produced recoverable highlights and adequate shadows.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Through Barn Window

Shot last Fall, but couldn't quite find the right crop or editing at the time, and today felt ready to tackle it. Focus blend of course, though I did photograph this with the 5X7 too, lens tilt to adjust focus plane. Am yet to process the negs though.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Andy Nixon Blog And Videos

Just stumbled on the blog of Andy Nixon and he has some very interesting content. I have just finished a short video of Michael Levin out photographing in Japan and when seen full screen, you get to see several of Michael's images at a great size.

Still to be explored are other videos on Paul Caponigro, Charlie Cramer and David Ward. I'll be back.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Tripod Modifications

For a long time I have been using the Gitzo series 3, 4 section tripod, with a centre column and an Acratech ball head. After last weekend's shooting in the wind and watching the magnified image on the lcd waving around, I decided to do something about it and today was my first opportunity to try out the motified rig.

Out went the centre post, Manfrotto leveling head and Acratech ball head, all of which perched the camera a good 8 inches above the top of the tripod.

Instead I now have the Really Right Stuff Leveling head that directly fits the System 3 tripod 75 mm. opening. On top of that I have the BH 55 RRS ball head with lever opening.

I'm impressed with the significant addition to steadiness and the leveling head for the tripod works a treat - one hand on the camera, a twist to the handle that sticks below the tripod, eye on the level and I'm quickly set up for any panos I might make.

It really is a pleasure to use well designed equipment. I should say though, that the Acratech head was lighter, just a bit taller (3/4 inch) and has worked extremely well. It will remain on the centre column for when I still need that.

 Photos from the RRS catalog.

Wire and Fence

Just having fun. The top image was done both wide open and stopped down and I preferred the latter. The bottom image was wide open and would have been a disaster stopped down, 70-200 mm. lens in both cases.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

More On Stone

As usual, you can click on the image to see it larger. Worth it here as you can see the detail in the stone. Image toned with beige first then purple, and the percentages turned way down for a selenium look.

Lighting Is Everything

The above is a rock cut for highway expansion. The bluish gray shale was in afternoon sun and a this angle - was glowing. Other than a focus blend (poorly done, I needed at least one more image and a mid section is out of focus, damn it) the image has had NO manipulation at all. This looks just like the raw file.

The wind was blowing fairly hard and I could see on the magnified live view that the camera continued to shake, even when using my hat to block the wind. That's it for centre posts. I'll carry it in the car, but not use it. I did find that taking the lens hood off the 70-200 reduced shake to some degree. Next time I'll use an umbrella to block the wind.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hornby Island

From a few years ago, two images for stitching, neither on its own looking very good and therefore overlooked, but when combined...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Glenbow Ranch

Signed up for a photographic excursion into the newly opened Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. Located between Calgary (pop. 1 million) and Cochrane (30,000?) on the Bow River, eventually the park will connect the two. it's 32,000 acres of hills, meadows, prairie grassland and working cattle ranch

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Timing Is Everything

I'm driving home from Edmonton and as I drive past the grain terminal, I think to myself I must see if I can photograph it before they start knocking it down this winter - well, a second glance and I see I have NO time to get over there before they start...

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Beginning Of A New Project?

This rather nice image is simply a plastic grocery bag, lit from above and behind with a couple of 4 foot fluorescents, right behind my computer. There might be something here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Canvas Printing

It had been my intention to clean the jets of my old 7600 and load it with some Breathing Color canvas - but clogged jets and issues around stretching, framing and coating the prints, and I concluded that it might just be easier to order them online.

So, I checked out some companies. One seemed very reasonable and offered free shipping - but I noted that they didn't talk colour space or icc profiles and I wondered if this might not be what I was looking for. A few more attempts and I came across Canada On Canvas. They seemed to suit so I processed a file (the cover image from my first book - broken window, and uploaded to their ftp site after appropriate sharpening and converting to Adobe RGB.

Within the week came back a 20X30 canvas print, mirror edges (which they did) on 1 3/8 wood framing. It looked so good my office staff wouldn't let me bring it home and it has engendered a number of very favourable comments.

I happened to owe my sister a print, and wanted a couple of prints for my father, and I was behind in a Christmas present for a friend, so since the first print looked so good, I quickly arranged 3 more canvas prints. Two of the three I have seen and I'm delighted with the results - spot on colour (the joys of a profiled monitor, and at their end good profiles for printing).

Sure I'm losing some profit by not doing my own framing and stretching - frankly - they are welcome to it. I don't even have to leave home. Compared to getting prints done locally, the results are far superior - and I have cancelled any plans for replacing my 7600 with a newer and bigger printer - I just don't see the point.

Now I want some canvas prints for myself. I'd had considerable reservations about printing on canvas - texture, detail, etc. but so far I'm delighted. That the prints are light compared to a glass/matte/frame job on regular paper, not to mention a fraction of the price, and darn, they look nice on the wall. I did get frames for my Dad, thinking he might not appreciate the modern look of unframed canvas with mirrored edges, but the consensus in our office is we sure don't miss those frames and glass that hides the image.

Whether the prints will stand up to time remains to be seen. I am a bit concerned that Canada On Canvas uses a vinyl product for protecting the prints. Sure can't see or smell it which suggests to me that it isn't loaded with damaging and eventually leaving plasticizers. The product they use is well known for protecting canvas prints. If they last 30 years, I'll be well pleased.


Ressurecting An Oldie (but Goody?)

Came across this old image and decided to play with it. Some 30 layers later, each masked and painted, and some careful cloning in a small area, and I'm quite pleased with the result.

In total this adds several hundred subtle changes to colour, tone, or contrast in one area or another, this on top of all the changes I made last time round. Despite this, the final image is very close to the original scene that attracted me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Certainly different from my usual subject/style/equipment - shot with my new Fuji X100 as Ken and I wandered around downtown Calgary no a Sunday morning. A bit lucky with the placement of the young woman, but none the less indicating the camera is fairly responsive. Decent dynamic range too, from sunlit cloud to shaded alleyway.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Casual Shooting

Picked up a Fuji X100 this afternoon and with the small amount of charge in the lithium battery, was able to head out and take a few snaps. Discovered this snow plow round a corner and out of sight. Had fun playing the angles, trying the EVF vs. Optical viewfinder.

Quickly found the evf quite dark, though useable, the Optical finder very nice. At 10X15 image size on print, it's tack sharp, f 11, 1/35 second, EI. 400. Later in the day I found out how to use the auto ISO - very nice - you can specify max. iso and min. shutter speed - prob. should have shot this at 1/60 to be safe and ei. 800 - but I got away with it.

As I played round the plough, I did think I missed my wide angle zoom - I actually had to move in and back to get the right framing - how inconvenient was that. Perhaps the image would have been even more dramatic with a wider lens - but a) I didn't have one with me, and b) the only reason I went shooting was because it didn't take a lot of time and effort. I do think I move around more hand holding - it's so much easier to try low and high angles - not that I don't adjust my tripod height - I always do - but perhaps not as much when you have to stop, and adjust three legs, then get back to the right position again, and make sure the legs aren't on something soft, unstable or perilous.

What I was thinking as I shot was how much better this would have been with a steady platform - but what I have to get into my head is 'the shot you get is ALWAYS better than the shot you didn't take'.

Don't know why they didn't provide the camera with an ISO dial - that really would have been the cream on the cake - but for hand holding, I think I'll take advantage of Auto ISO, setting the f stop and letting the shutter speed go where it will, with exposure compensation as needed (that is a dial on top).

What I'm less certain of is how much I'll like a fixed 35 mm. lens, but I got the camera with the idea of eliminating too many choices, and I'll let you know how it works out.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Up Close And Out Of Focus (mostly)

So, why is it that there is so little depth of field when photographing portraits when photographing mountains and nearby fences is relatively easier?

The formula for Depth of field (at least one of them anyway) is:
\mathrm {DOF} \approx \frac {2 N c f^2 s^2} {f^4 - N^2 c^2 s^2} \,.
where N if the f number, f is the focal length, c is the circle of confusion and s is the distance the camera is focused. Note that in the formula, depth of field varies as the square of the subject distance. That means that if we have 2 feet in front of the subject distance of 10 feet, we'd not have one foot if we were shooting at five feet, we'd have six inches, one quarter - so moving in close hugely affects depth of field. Changing focal length of lenses complicates things, but this explains the typical depth of field scale on an old fashioned prime lens - with almost no useable depth at near focus, and fairly decent depth at the longer distances.

The formula came from Wikipedia

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Further On The Value Of Projects

Another advantage of doing projects is that we tend to get better with time. Not only was Pepper # 30 Edward Weston's thirtieth attempt at a pepper, he'd also been working with a variety of other vegetables and shells. Although his other vegetable images do get included in shows and books, it is the single wonderful image that many consider one of the greatest photographs ever. So it would appear that even though this was part of a project, it's ok to come out the other end with a single iconic image.

Given a choice between being known for 20 mediocre images vs. one great one, I think most of us would vote for the one great one, in the hope that having made one, it wasn't a fluke and we can do it again, eventually.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Depth Of Field

Wayne asks for further clarification about depth of field and comments on lenses for APS-C cameras and so on.

Right. Some basic facts.

1) depth of field is proportional to the f stop - an opening half as large doubles the f stop (2 stops) and doubles the depth of field.
2) image magnification is invesely proportional to depth of field - make a print twice as big (in linear dimension) and you have half the depth of field. Start with a smaller sensor and you have to magnify the image more, so less depth of field there too.
3) depth of field is inversely proportional to the SQUARE of the focal length. Double the focal length and you get one quarter the depth of field - ouch.

And believe it or not - that's it, no other factors play a big role in measuring depth of field.

So, in Wayne's example of a 35 mm. lens on a DX sensor Nikon and comparing it to 35 mm. film camera (or a full size sensor camera), you have a sensor 1.5X smaller. The actual focal length is 35 mm., whether designed for a dx camera (APS-C size sensor) or full frame.

Wayne notices that a 35 mm. lens on his film camera seems to have more depth of field than when he has a 35 mm. lens on his Nikon APS-C sensor camera. He's right and here's why.

We have three factors, two of which didn't change - focal length stays 35 mm., and f stop remains, say f 11. All that changes is which camera the lens is on (or which 35 mm. lens you are using, but that's the same thing).

Put the 35 mm. lens on a larger format camera (bigger sensor or bigger film) and you don't have to magnify the image as much to make the same size print - so more depth of field. It has nothing to do with angle of view. It has nothing to do with some magic lens design for DX size cameras. It applies regardless of what 35 mm. lens you use.

Now, if you did want the same angle of view, you'd need to use a wider lens on the small sensor camera, so you would be changing the focal length. Here you would still have the magification issue, but you'd have the square of the change in focal length - essentially 1.5 squared and divided by 1.5 - that is, the lens you'd need for the DX sensor camera, would be (35 divided by 1.5) mm. long - approximately 21 mm. The depth of field would be approximately 1.5 times better with this lens on this camera when compared to the same view, same print size on the full frame camera.

This explains why it is so difficult to get shallow depth of field with a point and shoot camera with a sensor one quarter the diameter of 33 mm. film.

What does twice as much depth of field mean - well a simple way to look at it would be sharpness from infinity to 4 feet instead of infinity to 8 feet, or a range of sharpness of approximately a foot behind and in front of the subject instead of 6 inches.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blending Focus

Pete asks why I felt the need to use blended focus, and Helicon Focus specifically, to process the recently posted image (More From Stanley Park).

Several factors come into play.

1) I'm using a full size sensor camera (5Dii) and the larger the sensor the less the depth of field. It's possible that a small point and shoot with it's tiny half inch sensor might have had enough depth of field. Certainly an APS-C size sensor would not in this situation.

2) the reason this image doesn't have enough depth of field is that it is a close up. The area photographed is about 12 inches across, 18 high, the camera two feet away from the furthest object, six inches from the nearest. There is no f stop which will encompass enough depth of field to handle this kind of range, even allowing for blurring the stump in the bottom left. Check out depth of field tables on the net - you will be horrified at how little depth of field there is with subjects a few feet from the camera.

3) my own testing shows me that f16 is the smallest practical f stop for my camera. Beyond that, the sharp bit get fuzzier and there isn't sufficient gain in depth of field to justify this loss (diffraction).

4) even f 11 is sharper than f 16, so when blending, that's the f stop I use.

Why Helicon Focus instead of Photoshop - simple, it does a better job. Helicon has been doing this kind of blending for about 7 years, Photoshop only the last two versions (ie. about two years). Helicon's whole raison d'etre is blending, Photoshop made this one of many add-ons.

Are there limitations? Yes. Two problems occur and both happened here. First, as you change focus, the image size changes. In normal simple design lenses, as you focus further away, you include more (as if you were zooming out or moving away). Oddly, with my 24-105, the exact opposite happens, as I focus further, the image gets larger, ie it crops. So, if I frame perfectly on the near focus, it crops too tight at the far focus. The second and more serious problem is that with wide angle lenses especially, the software has trouble blending the edges of the image and you start to get double or even tripple exposures along the outside of the image. As this only affects about 10% of the image, cropping takes care of it - if you have room to crop 10%. I don't see problems with my 70-200, so in general I'm talking < 70 mm. focal length.

Other than that it works well. My preference is not to do a lot of sharpening on the image before blending - amount 25 in camera raw, considerably less than I'd use on a single image. I do not use any clarity enhancement (increased local contrast) as this tends to be exaggerated in the blending process.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Stanley Park

just back from a visit to Vancouver, to see our daughter and take a break. Found this partly burned stump on the beach at Stanley Park. Blended focus with Helicon Focus, a little bit of Akvis Enhancer to the centre only and otherwise pretty straight. Canon 5DII.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Travel Tripod

When I was in Victoria last fall, I couldn't find the ideal tripod for travel purposes, and ended up picking up an inexpensive Slik travel tripod, complete with built in ball head and mini-quick release plates. It was adequate and I got some lovely shots thanks to that tripod. The head though was the problem, especially for vertical shots. I normally use an L bracket from Really Right Stuff for my 5D2, so what I've done is order the smallest lever release head from the same company and will place that on this super light tripod. It's aluminum but reasonably sturdy and tall enough for travel purposes.

The big thing with a travel pod is it's nice if it can go on your backpack, which theoretically huge tripods can do, but in practice don't very well. Also, it needs to fit inside luggage when flying, and there are times a tripod that doesn't tie up both hands to carry is very nice.

Some might wonder 'why even bother with a tripod', especially with modern cameras great high ISO Imaging. For me the reasons are:

1) to be able to stop down for max. depth of field
2) shoot under marginal light - often more interesting light
3) to make blended images for incredible depth of field using Helicon Focus
4) blended exposures for HDR without the worry of misalignment of images.

These justify lugging a tripod, and if it can be a small light one without too much compromise, well all the better.

Let you know how the new combo works when I return.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Weathered Plywood

An old billboard, long since devoid of advertizing material. I've been thinking it would be worth photographing for some time, and on the weekend finally stopped in time to do so. Stitched of course. Images processed in Camera Raw and output as TIFF's, then stitched in PTGui Pro, output as a psb file (it's 22,000X5,200 pixels after cropping). Very little in the way of edting (for me - which means only about 30 minutes and two dozen changes - mostly to do with lightening the centre, darkening the left end a bit to balance the right).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturated Colours

There's a world of difference between taking subtle colours and enhancing them to modest saturation, and taking modestly saturated colours and driving them to full saturation; the difference between sketching and cartooning; between drawing attention and screaming; between Satie and Sousa.

Both have their place, but they're hardly interchangeable. Photoshop gives us powerful tools. Skill is in knowing when not to use them, or even more, how to use them subtly.

In the days of the wet darkroom, novice and even experienced printers would struggle with how dark is too dark, how contrasty is too contrasty. Even Ansel struggled with this, though at a higher plane than most everyone else.

One problem with sneaking up on just the right contrast or saturation or tone, is that the increments are each of them small enough not to be all that noticeable, the but the accumulated changes end up taking us way past the point we might have gone, had we done it in one step.

I find it very helpful to save the image a few times under diff. names during long editing sessions, coming back the next day, with fresh eyes to revisit just how far to go. often the next day I'm horrified at just how far I took something the previous evening without recognizing just how far beyond optimal I'd gone. Often it's simpler to start over.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Do We Need To Do Projects?

Brooks Jensen has written about the importance of projects, especially from the point of view of a publisher. Sandy Wilson commented on my last blognote to the effect that projects are an artificial idea largely promulgated by teachers, critics and publishers, the implication being that at the very least projects are not needed, and implying they might not even be a good idea, or perhaps 'might not be good for you'.

I think the truth is somewhere between. Some photographers seem to do nothing but projects. They don't carry a camera unless they are on a project. Others simply carry a camera when they have the time, photographing whatever appears before them that might photograph well. Others do a bit of both.

Elliot Erwitt is famous for his dog pictures, but he photographs amusing and insightful relationships all over and often without featuring dogs. Edward Weston would go on trips, but then photograph whatever happened on hand while there, from dead pelicans to nudes, pottery to friends.

It's true that Edward Weston made a project of Armco Steel, but only insofar as he visited it and got a few photographs - certainly not enough to make a real 'project' of it, not enough to submit a portfolio of the images so he could get them in Lenswork. Yet one of those images was certainly considered a milestone in his work. Did he then go around a whole whack of other industrial sites - no he didn't.

In selecting images for "Why Photographs Work", I selected an industrial image from a photographer famous for his landscapes, and he quite reasonably asked if we could select a different image that was more typical of his work In another case, a photographer had 'moved on' since doing the image I selected and didn't want to be included if it meant going with an old project. He felt obliged to support his galleries which were all showing his new and diff. work.

Some subjects are best explored thoroughly and only over a long period do the best images develop. Other times, there simply isn't enough material to make repeated visits worth while - before long you simply make variations of the shots you made last time.

Of course, you also have the problem of defining what constitutes a project - wouild you call landscape in general a project - hardly. What if you limited it to mountain photography? Or a specific mountain - but what if you then find you don't have enough great images of that one mountain, so you have to travel and build mountain photographs over many years - still a project?

No matter what topic/subject/project you come up with, you can generalize it enough so it doesn't look like a project, or narrow it so much its unlikely you will get a whole portfolio of images from it.

You'd think that photographers who shoot almost at random and with no real plan or project in mind, would eventually shoot enough images they'd get lucky and over 20+ years produce a portfolio of really interesting, yet entirely unrelated images. Interestingly, I don't think this happens very often. Typically the people who can produce a sig. number of 'random' images of great power or beauty are the same ones who also gravitate to projects.

I suspect that projects are a natural side effect of being curious and interested - why wouldn't you want to explore more situations that have given you pleasure, challenge or success in the past.

What does happen is that lots of photographers simply don't have enough depth in any one subject to make a show or please a publisher and they don't because they like to spread themselves thin, which is just fine. They do need to be aware though, that this may mean they aren't going to get published or acquire fame until late in life by which time the apparent randomness of their work coalesces into a series of subjects of enough depth.

Of course, this raises the subject of how you define success in photography and that's a topic for another day.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ideas For Projects

Where do ideas for projects come from? How do we know if an idea is a good one, or is it us trying too hard or getting desperate or doing it because we think we should?

Here's some things to think about.

1) of all the great artists there have ever been, only a tiny fraction were revolutionary - most were evolutionary - that is, taking an idea and modifying it to make it their own. Why should we expect any more of ourselves? So, take a cool idea by someone else and modify it to make it your own.

Ryuijie photographed flowers in blocks of ice. So you come up with something besides flowers to photograph in ice, or a different way/veiewpoint to photograph the ice, or something besides ice (fine sand or flour?). What about photographing faces in water - you'd need either a fish tank or a waterproof camera and a pool. What if the water were coloured, unevenly? What if you used oil? How about using coloured lights shining through the ice to make interesting effects?

Get the idea?

2) Never underestimate the value of doing something for fun. Cleaning out my Dad's house the other day I came across his original leather encased folding SX-70 - and with film being made for it again, this is a great opportunity. Can't see the point of doing landscapes with it, but what about nudes, flowers, mechanical close ups?

3) I guarantee that no matter how clever you are at coming up with an original idea, someone else will point out that you weren't the first after all - so why all the angst over the struggle to find original ideas. How about instead finding a good idea by someone else ans asking yourself, "how can I use this idea around something that is important/interesting/exciting/puzzling to me?"

4) follow up on those fleeting observations. I have noticed that often large trucks have interesting patterns of mud or snow on their back doors. There's never time to photograph them on the highway, but what about going to a truck stop and spending a day photographing trucks - forecast is for snow this weekend, so might be my last chance this year.

The other day I was crossing a bridge and noted the interesting shapes of the light rail structure as I passed. I might just start a project on recording the city's rail system - think about it - you can photograph at sunrise or sunset, in the rain, at night, in a snow storm or after one. You can photograph the tracks, bridges, wiring, stations, and don't forget the travellers. You can go on the trains and photograph the people (good use for a small non threatening camera like a point and shoot). There's more chance that your efforts to record part of your city as it is now will have lasting impact than any project photographing delapidated buildings.

5) no point in pinning all your hopes on a project you are unlikely to pull off any time soon - sure it would be interesting to go to Namibia but I can't afford it, don't have the time, and it's a long way. Work instead with what you have available. Don't bemoan lack of mountains if what you have is prairie. Come up with a way to make what you have work for you.

Don't underrate the idea of a project as simple as "the people I know".

Good luck and great ideas.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Michael Reichmann

Just have to comment on Michael's latest image of a ladder on his site. Not sure if this link will survive new content on his site but do check it out. he comments that it was taken with the Fuji X-100 and that he's managed 4 portfolio quality images in one shoot. One can't help wondering if a fixed lens no zoom camera like this perhaps lets you concentrate more on the seeing instead of the fiddling - will look forward to his comments in the next few weeks.

This is a lovely image, almost abstract, simple, strong, wonderful colour. Makes you think, want to look again, ask questions or simply admire the beauty in something not inherently beautiful.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Image Editing Videos Now Fully Uploaded

There are now seven videos uploaded to youtube, labeled athabasca edit 1 through 7, for about an hour of real time editing with commentary. You may learn a few tricks but the more important message is the process of analysing the image to see where improvements could and should be made, about decisions on cropping and taking things too far and backing up, of trying things and seeing what works.

Just do a youtube search for George Barr

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Are The Best Photographs Ever?

I'd like you to name your all time favourite photographs by someone else - the top of the top, the supreme, the wonderful, the magic.

Here's why. I want to see if we can learn anything from these images - are there threads of consistency - about subject or approach, project vs. one off, obvious message or not, etc..

I think a number of us would list Edward Weston's Pepper #30 as one of those top ten photographs, despite its mundane subject and lack of political message, but you can't infer much from a single image, so bring em on, what are your top 10 outstanding choices.

Why not open it to images of yours? Simple. You might think it's because I don't think you can make an image that good but you'd be wrong - it's just that we have emotional attachments to images of our own which may not be apparent to others and that is going to confuse and analysis of common threads.

If you can supply a url that will take us to each image, even better, we can look them up.

Come on, enlighten us, surprise us, shock us with your all time favourite photographs.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Image Editing Video

The second image editing video is up, showing the use of Selective Color Adjustment Layer to fix a specific problem without creating more problems than I'm fixing.

Athabasca Edit 2

I should have Edit 3 up later tonight as I fix the water.


Monday, February 14, 2011


There are now a total of four videos on youtube

1) is a brief description of the three books I have written, to a background of me out shooting.
2) is a slideshow of images selected from those I made in 2010.
3) is a more detailed description of "Why Photographs Work" and includes 8 of the images from the book.
4) is my first editing video - this takes my athabasca falls image and shows the adjustments I make in camera raw, then an analysis of the image on what needs to be fixed or improved. Subsequent videos (not yet made) will take you through the changes I make, from cropping to colour adjustment, contrast enhancement, fixing highlights and shadows, and fine tuning an image.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Second Edition of Take Your Photography...

My publisher has asked me to do a second edition of Take Your Photography To The Next Level. I have made it clear that I'm not prepared to label it a second edition without substantially improving the book - at least a couple of new chapters, expanded text, more pointers and better resources. My challenge now is to deliver on this stand before the end of July.

I have some sense of where I'm going with this but am definitely open to suggestions from those who have read the book and liked it and more especially found it useful.

You can either comment on this blog entry or email me directly through the contact on my website. The latter allows for more detailed suggestions and also some privacy, as well as giving me your email address so that I can respond to you, perhaps with some questions or discussion on your suggestions.



Thursday, February 03, 2011

Lightroom For Editing?

Frank Field commented on my use of Lightroom, saying he's gone the opposite way - using Photoshop for his editing.

Let me make it clear - I was referring to the use of Lightroom for organizing my images, not editing them. More specifically, after watching the Luminous Landscape tutorial, I am even more convinced that the point of Lightroom is to make editing easier, not better, and as I've said many times, fine art photography is always about better. Easier is a distant second.

I do pay attention to easier - the whole digital workflow is what has made me sufficiently productive to get published and write books and for someone who has to edit a lot of images, Lightroom may be exactly what they need.

For example, they show editing of an image of a nearby hillside and distant hills. They want to balance the brightness of the two and use two different gradients, and it gets close, but you can still see that the blend is not perfect. Then they use local adjustments and fancy masking, and still don't fix all of the problems that the gradients caused. I could have fixed the whole thing in seconds with a curves adjustment layer and skip the gradients. OK, I have some skill in using gradients, but I argue in my second book, From Camera To Computer, that it is better to use a few tools really well, than dozens with less skill - especially when working on one image as opposed to dozens or even hundreds. It's the difference between getting a single image fantastic and getting a whole wedding shoot really good.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


After procrastinating for years, I'm determined to start using Lightroom to catalogue my images properly. A new computer and even more hard drives has pretty much forced me into this.

I'm almost finished the superb Lightroom 3 Tutorial Videos from Luminous Landscape, more than 8 hours of invaluable information. I'm starting with the importing of all my raw files (some I haven't seen in years) and most importantly, adding keywords to them so all the images from each imported folder can be found, then more keywords for smaller groups of images.

I'm also looking into using Lightroom and an add-on website publisher from Photographers-toolbox to link to my Rapidweaver website - to automate updating my web images through lightroom and to better control the size of images on various sizes of screen.

Video On Youtube

I've just uploaded my first video to youtube. It's short and simply describes the three books I have written, but it shows me out photographing at one of my favourite local spots. You might be slightly entertained.

Can't sort out the link from the office but if you do a youtube search for George Barr Fine Art Photography, you'll find it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Heating Plant Reflection

I tried blocking the reflection with my hat but liked the version with the reflection. The dark circle bottom centre is not my head - it's the front of the 17-40 mm. lens and camera body. The lens was touching the window.

Snow Plow

You may know that I like trains, both model and full size. Was in Banff with our office staff and had a couple of hours free time. Not art, just interesting to me.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Sales

Sales of "Why Photographs Work" have been very good with only 780 of the books left at the distributor. I sent off the proofs for the second printing, different printer.

For about half a day, the book was # 430 at and # 4 photography book and in Canada, amazon had it at # 76 overall for a day., all this without any major online promotion other than the amazon reviews, which have been excellent, 6 fives, 1 four, and one 3 (he thought too simple).

I think I got it just about right - pleasant to read rather than work, yet informative. Sure the best read photographers are probably only going to pick up a few points in the whole book, but hopefully even they will enjoy reading it.

Remember that the book is meant to be enjoyed by non photographers too, and that also seems to be the case.

Happy New Year

Getting Some Exercise

While the obvious thing to do is hike with a large backpack, it is -20 C and I work for a living and can't always be out photographing - this business of writing books consumes a lot of time, which reminds me, the publisher wants me to do a second edition of "Take Your Photography To The Next Level".

I refuse to do that if there isn't significant new content, more images, new and useful text and improvements well beyond fixing the odd typo - so many hours of work.

Anyway, I thought I'd tell you of my latest purchase, an eliptical. I spent a bit more than I wanted to and a lot less than I could have, but it's solid, went together beautifully, and I'm wiped and sweaty after my first workout. Actually it was really the third workout - the first being getting the thing into the basement, the second assembling it.

It's a Horizon CE 9.2 - which comes from Canadian Tire - and is roughly equivalent to the Horizon EX-79, albeit with a heavier flywheel (23 lb. instead of 17).

The real test will be to use it regularly - a treadmill I purchased years ago quickly became a clotheshorse and progressively a cause of marital friction.

Wish me luck, and check in a month for a report card on both machine and progress - that should motivate me.