Saturday, November 10, 2012

A bronze propeller (ship's screw) found at the Esquimault Naval Base near Victoria. On each blade, one side had been buffed, the other left corroded. I elected to let the image blur in places and it's a 5 image stitch (as I usually do when making panoramas, hating to crop, even with a 22 megapixel camera. I did use some Akvis Enhancer but toned it back to a maximum of about 45% and then used masking to reduce the effect further as appropriate.  It helped add the third dimension back, while masking prevented loss of the softness of parts of the image.

Friday, November 02, 2012



Agave plant from Butchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C. photographed in the rain with my 5D3 which held up very well over several hours of rain.

Monday, October 08, 2012


Running out of chances to shoot leaves this Fall.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dinosaur Provincial Park 2012

Went down yesterday afternoon to catch the evening light, stayed overnight in Brooks and got up early to be there at dawn. This was a single image. Made with my 17-40 @ 17 mm.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fall Colours

Canon 5D3, Lensbaby Composer, extension tube, and the only editing was to turn down the green a tad, otherwise colour as shot. Be sure to click on it to see in larger size.

Monday, September 10, 2012


The Stream and Pool image I posted last night was shot at ISO 1600. I would have never considered this high an ISO in the past but my new 5D3 handles it with aplomb and 17X22 prints should not be a problem. I did it because I could see that on the LCD screen, the ISO 100 pictures had very blurred out water totally devoid of the lovely reflections I was seeing. Even 800 didn't help but ISO 1600 and 1/8 of a second at f11 solved my problem. My intent was to use the ISO 100 images as a focus blend in Helicon Focus, then use one of the ISO 1600 images for just the water, but in the end simply blended the ISO 1600 images because they looked so good, then used one of those images for the pond water, and another for the further stream (moving water doesn't go well with focus blending).

The times and equipment are great.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Back To Jura Canyon

Shot this evening. I think everything you see here is natural rather than pictogryphs, though I find the image a little mystical.

Sunday, August 26, 2012



These three images were made on a workshop this weekend with William Allard, he of National Geographic fame. It was arranged through The Camera Store here in Calgary (that's what it's called), and we met with Bill Friday night to dicsuss what was going to happen, then met west of Longview and switched to four wheel trucks to head up to a branding camp, used only a couple of times a year.

The local ranchers rode in and gave of their day to pose, and  ride, and pose some more. These are real working cowboys, two grand parents, his brother, and their two grand daughters.

The workshop was a great success and we met this morning for critiques of the images. I found the experience great as others had ideas I'd poo pooed but they'd made it work, or I hadn't even thought of, or they did a better job shooting action (not my forte). Anyway a terrific weekend, Bill is great and sharing and helpful and I hope to see him again.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Drain Pipe Continued

This is the version that was not lightened for making the print - despite best efforts to profile monitor and printer and correct screen brightness, the shadows were too deep in the print and I'd added a lightening curve. This is what it was before and is much closer to what I wanted.

And here is what the image looks like in black and white. Now to decide which I prefer. Not easy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Drain Pipe Cropped

I'm quite pleased with the print I made from the version above. As usual, the thrill of making the image tends to ignore any flaws it may have and it might not hold up over the next few weeks, or I might like it more and more. Sometimes you realize it's just silly, or perhaps clever but absolulely nothing else -  no soul - always a risk with this kind of image. Other times it acquires more meaning or more emotion, or makes you think of connections, contrasts, or similes.

People tend to assume that these relationships that make an image for the artist remain constant, but in fact there are many examples of artists providing alternate explanations for an image's value years later, as their circumstances, experiences and mood change. It isn't a big step further then to imagine that the viewer brings their own circumstances etc. to seeing the print and those experiences may be entirely different from what the photographer had, or planned, or anticipated.

And guess what, that's entirely as it should be.

And below, the original full frame image:

Both are focus blends of half a dozen images, 24-70 L, Canon 5D3, Helicon Focus for the blending, processed in Lightroom 4 and exported to Photoshop for additional work

Bent Drain Pipe

Highway construction dug up and folded this drainpipe. The side I had seen from the road the previous day was good, the view along the bent pipe better, but the far side, that I had not expected anything from and only checked to be complete, revealed this fascinating combination.

As it stands, I think the composition too complex and while I didn't want to throw away anything, I suspect the image might be better without the top. It reminds me of a carnivorous plant. Stay tuned for further developments.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Landscape - the Online Magazine

Tim Parkin who did the work on comparing landscapes shot with 8X10, 4X5, IQ 180 and even the Sony 900 earlier this year continues to publish the online magazine On Landscape.

It's quite expensive and I think many will reject it out of hand without thinking about just what it's giving us.

There have been technical articles like the above - a huge and very useful achievement, as well as quite indepth discussions by real photographers on the art of photography - as well as book reviews and portfolios.

Given the videos alone, and coming every couple of weeks as it does, this makes the sign up cost pretty darn reasonable - $100 approx. for 26 issues - but that's $4 an issue, no advertizing to pile through, useful stuff in every issue - I think well worth the expense.  It's nicely set up so you can see the beginning of many of the articles without signing up - so do check it out, and consider subscribing as I have done.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Michael Reichmann

Sad news today that Michael has been ill with bladder cancer and is now recovering from major surgery. I wish him the speediest recovery and best wishes for his future health.

I've met Michael a couple of times - attending his Algonquin workshop one year and then the very first Podas workshop in Death Valley - a friendly, helpful man, an excellent teacher, and fun. His Luminous Landscape has been the go-to website for information on equipment and technique for years.

Michael published my 'Take Your Photography To The Next Level' series of articles that led to me being offered a book deal by Rockynook Publishers.  Michael's review of 'Why Photographs Work' gave huge boost to sales around the world.

Michael's videos have been of tremendous help and are one of my most often recommended tools. His original and then new 'From Camera To Print (and Screen) were fun, entertaining and incredibly helpful.

Truth is, we need Michael, so all the best to you my friend, for the pleasures given, and those anticipated.


Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

Shot this morning with my new 24 ts-e tilt and shift lens, taking advantage of the left and right shift.
I'd arrived before sunrise but by the time I'd photographed for about 30 minutes, the sun was coming over the hill (guess getting up at 5 was a bit late). The only image made before the sun came out that had any real possibilities was spoiled by incorrect use of the tilt. I'm so used to the 90 tilt where a small amount of tilt goes a fair way. With this lens, a small amount of tilt is way too much, and unlike the 90, the 24 is quite hard to focus - clearly it's going to take me some practice with this lens.

And here's the black and white version.

And if any of you have been following my search for the ideal high pixel count camera, you will remember I had placed an order for the D800E a few months ago. No sign of it arriving and in the mean time spent months pouring over what lenses I'd want to use, using,, and to help me pick lenses.

I hated to lose my 70-200 f4 L IS lens - not only was the nikon 2.8 going to be heavier, it tested not quite as sharp at the long end. Then I thought, I'd need to replace my extension tubes, and oh yes, my lensbaby composer. The last straw was realizing all my filters including my very expensive variable neutral density filter weren't going to fit. I came up with a dozen different lens combinations, all of them costing an absolute fortune, easily enough to pay for the Pentax 645D that I'd choked on.

I ended up with a list of 8 things I didn't like, or didn't like the reports of the D800E.

They were:

1) mechanical first shutter curtain in live view - with some reports of image blur because of it - the Canon 5D2 and 3 are pure electronic - absolutely no vibration till the shutter closes.

2) the delay in using live view - sure it was only five seconds between image and probably less with good cards, but when I'm stitching, or focus blending, this is way frustrating.

3) Eye relief for glasses, 17 vs. 21 mm.  - not a lot but things were already tight seeing the entire viewfinder on the 5D2...

4) Cost of lenses, and the fact that at some focal lengths, just not as good as canon. Sure I could get Zeiss glass, but guess what - my new 24 ts-e tests as well or better than the Zeiss 21 - and without the mustache distortion.

5) focus problems - with some of the d800/e - not a huge deal for me

6) quality of live view - even at 100% it isn't as good as canon - and that was something I really liked about moving from the 1DsII to the 5D2.

7) the 3:2 lcd screen on the Canon meant bigger images on the screen - again hardly a deal breaker, but nice.

8) Having to learn to focus a different way, and have entirely different controls - I quite like the Canon way. Sure I could learn, but why should I?

No question, 30% more resolution with the D800E sure was attractive, and two more stops dynamic range was appealing too - though I'd never complained about the 5D2 - and the image from today is a fine example of that, with considerable adjustment to open up the shadows and control the highlights without any difficulty or problem - fact is I shot the two stitches with two different exposures intending to exposure blend then stitch, but in the end it proved unncessary. The Canon is more forgiving at the top end, Nikon a lot more forgiving at the bottom end.

The final factor is that I would be extremely surprised if Canon doesn't come out with a high megapixel camera within the next year. I'm selling my 5D2, have already picked up a 5D3 and it will do me just fine till a better Canon option comes along.

It's been two weeks and so far I haven't regretted the decision.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Photography as Puzzle Solving

There's lots of reasons to be a photographer, the need to create, the enjoyment of being outdoors (and now an excuse to be there instead of at home with the job jar), the love of the fine image and so on.

I wonder though if an important reason doesn't have more to do with the challenge of solving puzzles. In the old days this could be the challenge of producing good images from a wet darkroom - and perhaps explains the obsession of many with ultimate quality, finest grain, best developers etc.  These days with the technical aspects of photography easier, the puzzle is more in the finding and framing of the fine image.

This starts with choosing the subject in general terms, planning where to go and when, and then finding the scene and deciding what you are going to do with it, and then moving into a position that best helps you tell your story or make your point or simply show what you are most interested in about the subject in the best way possible such that the viewer can best appreciate what interested you.

This business of puzzle solving perhaps explains the phenomenon of the lone worker who doesn't share his work, doesn't even put it on the wall, and files away the images. The hunt, the solving of the puzzle is the quest, not the actual final image.

Yes, but so what - how does thinking of photography as puzzle solving help me make better photographs, or enjoy my craft more?

Well, for a start, it may suggest that subject matter isn't nearly as important as you thought. Sure you do landscapes, because that's what you have always done, but if the chase is the thing, the puzzle solving the satisfaction, then might not just about any subject provide the same thrills and satisfactions.  Instead of agonizing over whether photographing someone else's creation is valid, just go out and photograph architecture or even sculpture for the challenge and let the final print be a validation of that challenge successfully met.

I've just signed up for a workshop on photographing cowboys - about as far away from my usual subject matter as one could get (I'm guessing I won't need my tripod). I have no special interest in cowboys but think the challenge will be satisfying - making decisions on the fly, in a split second, and being able to predict the action so as to be in the right place ad the right time. So this is a new puzzle for me to solve.

One can appreciate the puzzle solving involved in photographing, for example a particular sport, even though one has no special interest in that sport - either watching or participating, because we like solving the puzzle of getting the best images.

The world has no use for any more cute cat pictures, but truth is getting good cat pictures can be extremely challenging and success in doing so very satisfying and does it really matter if the world doesn't beat a path to your door to appreciate your images.

This puzzle solving tends to take away from the feeling that we must produce images that others appreciate and frees us to work on what we want or find satisfying.

Perhaps this explains the fascination with Holga cameras and home made lenses and limiting oneself to a single lens or only black and white or learning to solve the puzzle of effective use of the Lensbaby.

Socrates referred to the unexamined life as being 'not worth living' which is perhaps a tad harsh, yet understanding the motives behind what we do can be illuminating (sorry).

As a physician, I work with people who have ADHD, and while helping them with the right combination of medications is satisfying, sometimes the most useful thing I can do is help explain why the patient makes the choices they do - the education path, the job, or even who they are attracted to. That 'Ahah' moment helps them make future decisions.

Why do you photograph?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thinking Out Of the Box Camera Design

Don`t suppose any camera manufacturers are listening, but how about the following:

1) switch to 3:4 ratio image from the current 3X2 - after all this is what has happened in medium format and micro four thirds - if you kept to the same image circle - no problems with current lenses.

2) how about a rotating sensor - surely they can find a way to align it perfectly after turning it 90 degrees - this whole business of turning a camera on its end is just rediculous. It`s faster and safer and simpler for controls to rotate the sensor - sure you`d need a bigger pentaprism (if you stick with that), but 4X4 isn`t much bigger than 4X3 and even 3X3 vs. 3X2is only 33% more.

3) how about solving the expose to the right problem - why should I guess from a tiny screen whether I have overdone the highlights - couldn`t the camera check just how much brighter the highlights are (ie. hopeless or not) and just how big they are and couldn`t I specify how large an area I`m willing to let go pure white in a given photograph - and can`t we assume using raw and have the lcd show the clipping for raw that isn`t retrievable - perhaps flashing highlights in one of three colours depending on whether one, two or three channels are clipped. Surely the technology is there to help us (but not replace us).

4) would it be so difficult to put an infrared receptor on the back of the camera so I can use a simple, small cordless remote - after all point and shoots have had it for years - come on guys!

5) I suspect we are going to see  more and more focus blending in the future so how about making it easier - with automatic multiple images with appropriate focus change between each, based on the near distance and far distance desired, and the f stop. You could even time the exposures based on hand holding (asap) or tripod (how long does it take for vibrations to dampen at a given focal length).

6) how about getting the lcd image to my iPhone or even better iPad simply, painlessly and accurately, no wires, no router. It can be done now with accessories like eyefi but what about building it in?

7) is there really no way to keep noses from LCD screens?
Are we really stuck with the same overall design of slr's present since the 50's? - I loved the tilting viewfinder (not LCD on my Sony 707

8) from using the viewfinder on a Sony Nex-7, are we not ready for electronic viewfinders? Already they are better in low and medium light - we just need to fix the daylight problem - dynamic range, colour etc.  - but we need fast refresh and short blackout times for this to work.

Anyway, just my daydreams. Michael Reichmann has been beating the drum for a mirror lock up button on Canon cameras for at least 7 years and still no action - guess they are waiting for when there are no mirrors in any cameras.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Pansies photographed with the Lensbaby Composer, with a short extension tube.

Lily with the Lensbaby

And lastly the original Pansy with my 90 TS-E

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why So Many Pixels?

One reason for wanting to start with as many pixels as possible is that every time we manipulate the image, we lose a little quality - resize up or down, get rid of barrel or pin cushion distortion, blend images for depth of field, or stitching, or correct perspective distortion and each of those steps degrades the image a little. This all on top of the original raw file conversion and any manipulation the camera does to raw images - raw isn't always as virginal as one might think as the manufacturer does some noise reduction or some sharpening before you get to play with it.

All these changes do add up. If I sharpen an image, I'm playing with the data and losing just a tad of resolution to gain in sharpness. Run my image through Akvis Enhancer or any other programme that adds local contrast or helps shadows and highlights and even more loss.

Dodging and Burning further damage the image - which is why this is the last thing I do. Even all those fancy blending layers and adjustments distort the data even if they don't destroy it.

And all this doesn't even consider cropping. 

Personally, I'll be happy to be have a camera with 36 or more megapixels.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Nikon D800E

No sign of mine arriving yet. Have been studying the various sites and lens tests to see what lenses I should use. Am going to try some of my 645 lenses first to see if any of them hold up.

In the mean time, today DPReview published an update on the D800E. I didn't find anything all that radical, but in the sample pictures section on the 800E, there are a variety of images. I looked at several made with the 70-200 and thought them quite good and was reassured that the corners seemed adequate if not perfect.

I then checked out the image with the boilers on the left, the sea in the middle and a city in the background, with fence and grass in the foreground, shot with the 85 1.4 G, a lens everyone agrees is stellar. Image here.

Wow, now this is what I was hoping for. From 18 inches away, I can't tell this is 100% view, but unlike "sharp" images of the past, there is no evidence of sharpening, even when I move in close to the monitor. Incredible detail and resolution as well as sharpness. And remarkably little moire in all those buildings and roofs - the only sig. spot I saw was between two sections of boat shed.

Digilloyd (pay site) has some interesting comments on focus shift as you stop down with some fast wide angle lenses, and the 14-24 - enough to make focusing stopped down the preferred method - if you can do it.

The D800/E would appear to have some live view focusing issues so I won't know how practical this is until I try it for myself.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Last Iteration


As you know from  yesterday's post, I was photographing a rose. A dead one at that. It had been handed out at Indigo, by the store?, for no obvious reason, no strings attached, and it sat on our dining room table until well past it's best before date.

I happened to be reading the Sunday paper and noticed that the nearby window light was falling nicely on the flower - soft but directional - and that the rose might be worth photographing despite it's dried up appearance.

I started with my 90 ts-e lens but couldn't get close enough. I pulled the extension tube off my Lensbaby but that wasn't enough, so went in search of a longer one, and made some images. I then added the smaller tube and moved in a little closer.

Throughout this experimentation I made shots, and every 4 - 8 shots, I'd whip out the card and load the images into the computer to see what could be done with them.

I played with the height of the tripod to look down on the flower more, I rotated the vase while checking live view for the best view. I fiddled with the tilt on both the 90 and the Lensbaby and even experimented with f-stops on the 90 (though wide was best). Four times I made the trip to the computer and each time I learned from my experience and went right back to the rose to have another go.

This business of reassessing the subject and refining the composition and technique was fun and useful, informative and inspiring (to try and improve on the current best shot).

We don't often get such an opportunity to refine a photograph. We are away from the computer, the light is changing too fast, the LCD too small, or we are simply too impatient to move on to the next possible subject matter.

In the real world we can't 'grab the vase and rotate', and we can't bring up the images on 20 - 30 inch monitors to see what really looks best.

That said, we can learn from this experience. How often do we quickly assess the best position to stand, let the tripod choose the height from which to photograph (or simply standing height if we aren't using one) . We take the light we have instead of considering whether it wouldn't be better at a different time, and we don't give enough thought to whether we should attempt sharpness throughout, or a limited focus plane.

I would guess I spend almost three hours with that rose, going back and forth. I have to wonder how many of the subjects I photograph would have made better images had I spent a similar amount of time, refining and considering;  reviewing and re-envisioning.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Dry Rose

To my surprise, these wouldn't print on enhanced matte - out of gamut - and confirmed by printspace proofing. I switched papers to Harman FBAL gloss and had no troubles. Camera was Canon 5D2, lens was lensbaby Composer, wide open, with about one inch of extension tube to get close.

Liveview was invaluable. However did I manage before it came along?

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Photograph some bushes, make a print, tear the print and bend it, then lay it out, and photograph it again.




Darn Right!

The paper was Ultra Premium Epson Matte (ie. the old enhanced matte) and it tore beautifully.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Apples And Oranges

I have been following with great interest the differences between the Nikon D800 and 800e and every few days more information and or examples come out. There are some things that can be said about any comparison of photographic equipment:

1) it's never as easy as you think


2) there are many factors which will result in a less than helpful comparision - ie. apples and oranges.

For example:

Imaging Resource just posted the 800e studio image - so a chance to compare cameras with identical images, same lens, steady lighting, tripod etc. The 800e did not show a huge advantage.  Other 'identical' comparisons had shown a bigger difference. It's essential to consider whether the image is a jpeg straight from the camera or a jpeg that came from the raw file. We also need to consider the lens used. In the case of the Imaging resource comparison, it's the 24-70 mm. Nikon lens - good for a zoom but definitely not up to a good prime lens, even the relatively inexpensive nikon 1.4 G, and certainly not the chart leading Nikon 85 1.4 G.

Today, digilloyd (for a fee) has tested sharpening to see what level of sharpening could possibly result in an 800 image looking just like an 800e image.

at the Nikon forum has a lively discussion going on whether with extra sharpening the 800 images will look (and especially print) just like the 800E images.

For what it's worth, here's my observations after looking at and printing images:

You can only see the difference between the 800 and 800E if you start with a really good lens, optimal aperture and perfect technique - once you have to sharpen the 800E image significantly, it's hard to differentiate from an even more sharpened 800 image.

In prints 20X30 from a top lens I can see a difference between the 800 and 800E - but I doubt that the public could. At prints 49 inches wide (200% or 150 dpi) I think anyone could see the difference, but it's not huge even then - just less sharpening artifact.

Bottom line - you have to look for the diff. in the E, but with good glass and big prints, it is there.

To generalize to other comparisons:

minor change in the position of the sun (especially if it is glancing the subject) can affect apparent resolution and microcontrast and negate any camera differences. Less than stellar lenses won't show subtle differences in pixel count or presence/absence of an AA filter. Where the image is focusesd can make a giant difference - even minor variations can negate an otherwise useful comparison. Curvature of field can really screw up assessments. A number of lenses, many fast lenses and some others (like the 14-24 nikon) have sig. focus shift as you stop down. If focus was obtained wide open, even by live view magnified there can be errors creeping in.  As for auto focus - well there are complaints all over the net about difficulties focusing with the latest cameras. Those who shoot for pictures seem happy, those who shoot for tests not - which should tell us something. Again, focus curvature may have a lot to do with the apparent errors seen with lat. focus spots.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mt. Kidd

Nothing original, I just like photographing this mountain any time I see it.

Rockface Kananaskis

Shot today in Kananaskis country, a 3 image stitch, made with the 5D2, 70-200 L IS f4 lens.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Website UP!

my new website is up and running, and the photographs loaded. I note some duplications and I need to start working on image descriptions but you can inspect the site and let me know what you think. I have not yet moved the blog over yet(as you can see).


Thursday, April 26, 2012


You may notice that the website has changed drastically and isn't complete. I finally broke down and paid for a new website to be set up and only now are they loading all the images. I'll be moving my blog over to the new site too once all the bugs are worked out but the new site should be cleaner, the images bigger and hopefully I'll do a better job keeping the content current.

I'll post on the blog here once the new system is fully functional.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Focal Lengths I Use

As part of looking for suitable lenses for a D800e, I decided to do a little survey of my recent good images and what lens and focal length was used to make them.

35 were made with the 70-200, at all manner of focal lengths, though 11 were used for stitching purposes and might have been shot in a single image with a wider focal length and possibly a wider lens altogether (though I'd guess prob. still the 70-200 since much of the stitching is done at 150 mm +.

14 were done between 24 and 70 mm., most at the 24 or close, the longest at 58 mm. and the next longest 40 mm. - rather suggesting the top half of the lens is surplus to requirements.

7 were  made at 17-24 mm. with most at 17 mm. suggesting a fixed focal length lens would serve well here.

I would interpret this as suggesting:

1) I need a 70-200 - that using an 85, 100, 135 and 200 would be awkward, slow, and still have significant gaps (135-200). The Nikon 70-200 isn't as good as the new Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS II, but is close, and as good as my 70-200 f4 L IS which serves me very well.

2) I probably don't need zooms at the wider end - something in the 15-18 mm. or the 14-24, then 35 mm. , 50 mm. Only three images were made at focal lengths > 24 mm. and less than or equal to 40 mm. which even sugg. I might reasonably skip the 35 mm. lens and go from 50 to 24 and onto 15 mm.

3) I'm surprised at how many images I'd hate to lose were made at 17 mm. and could probably have been made at even wider without difficulty - it may be the third most common focal length, but still definitely needs to be represented.

Your figures are almost certain to be different as this very much depends on the kind of photography you do, not just subject but the seeing and composing as well. None the less, you might find it helpful to do this analysis to see where you need to beef up your coverage, or how to plan for a new system, in whatever format.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lenswork Monographs

I recently received my first Lenswork Monograph Made Of Steel. First let me comment on the idea and execution of monographs, and then this particular volume.

I had felt a larger size would be nice but in fact when the book arrived, I felt it was just the right size. Quality of the printing is as usual superb. The only thing missing is an option to subscribe to the whole series as I'm sure to want every one of them. I have some reservations about doing an entire book about a single project. My preference would be to lean towards retrospectives of a photographers best work which might well include several projects or genres. I guess it depends on whether you think the subject or the image is paramount. I'm quite sure that others won't feel the same and that's just fine.

That Brooks Jensen is able to produce these monographs as inexpensively by tagging them on to the print run for Lenswork itself is brilliant and Brooks is to be congratulated on a wonderful idea.

I have seen and enjoyed many of the images from Made Of Steel before, from Lenswork and especially from Brooks website but it is a delight to see this as a single publication. Many of the portraits are remarkable. Some of the tool photographs are fine artisitic images while others are more illustrative. That said, as a statement about a disappearing part of modern society, this is an important book and gives a great insight into the places and the people, fast fading from the modern landscape.

I`ll be signing up for the whole series.

Lens Tests

I have placed an order for a Nikon D800e and that raises the question of what lenses to use and where to go for information. I know the quality of what I have (17-40, 24-70, 50 macro, 90 tse, 70-200 and rarely used 300.

My go-to sites for information are:

1) - i find the ISO target images the most useful in understanding about resolution, especially as he has retested most lenses with the Canon 1Ds3 and Nikon D3x so we can make some reasonable predictions about the D800(e).

2) - I don't think we can say much about function on a 36 megapixel camera when testing with a 12 so some of the older tests are of less value (yet a bad lens will remain bad - only worse).

3) - good testing but very limited selection, and again consider the camera with which the testing was done.

4) - helpful but they specifically say you can't compare diff. systems - even within one brand.

5) - not formal lens testing with numbers and graphs but practical testing and comparisons. Yes, you have to pay for access, but paying $100 or so if you are purchasing a $3000 camera and perhaps as much as $7,000 in lenses, information well worth having.

What have my investigations so far shown me? The following are my impressions and remember I have not done any personal testing, not yet having the camera.

Well, the Zeiss 15 is stellar and significantly better in the far corners than the already very good Nikon 14-24 - but at $3000, and as I'm not your typical landscape photographer concentrating on near far compositions - it may not be sensible.

The Nikon 24-70 has a good rep but looking at the images I'm not overly impressed, especially at the 24 end. The Nikon 24 f1.4 G is terrific and as good or better than the Zeiss, and cheaper, faster, and auto focus.

The Nikon 35 1.4 is also terrific, and better than the f2 lens at the apertures I use - f8 and f11.

The Nikon 50 1.4 g tests very well but oddly doesn't seem to have a great reputation - barring evidence to the contrary, it will be part of my collection.

I wish there were more information on the 70-200 on either the D3x or the D800 but it looks to hold up well enough - near perfect at 70-100 and decent if not exceptional  in the corners the rest of the way. As this focal length is by far my most frequently used  lens, and as generally with longer lenses there is less opportunity to move forward or back to frame, I think I will have to at least give it a go. I wish Nikon made a high quality f4 lens for less weight ...

As to the D800 itself and the whole business of switching cameras - I was prepared to spend the money on the Pentax 645D - here I can spend about the same for camera and lenses and gain live view, image stabilization, and more flexibility.  If I find that Canon releases an even better camera within the year, I'm sure my D800e will not depreciate too badly and the lenses can be sold, or adapted for use on the Canon if need be.

Some argue that 36 megapixels isn't really a lot more than 21 since the linear increase in print size possible is the square root of the increase in pixels (about 31%) but that's the difference between 20X30 and 30X40 and for me that's important and may even pay for itself.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Quick Visit To Vancouver

From Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C. Three images, blended, shot with the 70-200 f4 IS L lens on my 5D2, images blended in Helicon Focus. I'd found the tree the previous morning but despite waiting for clouds, never did get the really soft lighting I wanted, so came back at sunset and now the only problem was the light was failing fast. The tree is an ancient cedar, about 10 feet across at the base and this bole reached about 10 feet high.

And since I literally had to walk across the bridge over the road to get back to my car, it just seemed sensible to stop and photograph the Lions Gate Bridge. F16 @30 seconds.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pixel Peeping and Hammer Hammering

O.K., I admit it, I've been checking out all the stuff on the new Nikon D800, and in perusing lots of user forums, mostly getting pretty useless information, I came across the following.  If you have peeked at camera forums, you have to check this out.

Hammerforum at

Priceless. Wicked. Accurate.

Friday, March 23, 2012

More With Lensbaby and Extension Tube

The out of focus chraracteristics of this combination are wonderful, definitely something I'm going to keep working with.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Plane Of Focus

I really haven't made much use of my Lensbaby Composer, but did wonder what it would be like for close up work. I do have a set of the close up lenses they sell. These sit in front of the lens and basically act as a magnifying glass which does two things - it shortens the focal length and allows you to focus closer.

I wasn't entirely happy with the results so I dug out my cheapy third party extension tubes and with the shortest on the camera and the Lensbaby mounted to that, and no close up filter, I narrowed the angle of view while allowing closer focusing.

The net difference is less depth of field with any lens, but what's more important - the Lensbaby no longer has the look of a centrally sharp image with vaseline smeared on glass set in front of the lens - the shift from sharp to blurred (and stretched) with the Lensbaby at normal distances doesn't usually work for me, but here, with the tilting plane of focus and extremely limited depth of field (as opposed to lens blurring, the result is very pleasing to me.

It's possible I could achieve the same thing with a fast lens and extension tube, but it happens I don't own any fast lenses at all. I did think to use the 70-200 because it has IS, but it's big and awkward to hold, and you can't shift the plane of focus. I think this might turn out to be an interesting combination, Lensbaby Composer and extension tube.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Brooks Jensen

I discovered a wonderful image today, by Brooks Jensen, editor of Lenswork and  serious photographer.

This photograph is the first of 10 images of a new folio of prints Brooks has created. Do check out the whole folio and see The Medusa in a larger size, in isolation. It is this image in particular that has me enthralled. The sense of space, the sense of a third dimension is remarkable, the faint markings on the ice looking like distant nebulae. To appreciate its beauty, click on the link above to see it larger and in isolation.

Oops:  This from Brooks: One minor correction that I really hope doesn’t diminish your enjoyment of the image, but it’s not actually ice. It’s a tidal slough down on the Long Beach Peninsula near the mouth of the Columbia. I was mesmerized by the slow rising tide bringing in floating debris and surface guck. Fascinating patterns and surface reflections.

On the contrary, given its mundane source all the more amazing what it can turn into and all the more power for Brooks realizing the potential.

Clearly time to add another folio to my collection, or do I arrange to purchase a larger print to be framed - I don't do that often, partly because of the cost of framing, and considering lack of wall space, but this time...

It's been a while since I have been this excited about an image.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lenswork Monograph

I see that Lenswork has pre-announced a new programme - that of printing an entire paperback book, like the regular Lenswork magazine, but containing the work of a single photographer. The first is Brooks Jensen himself, editor of Lenswork, from his Made of Steel Series. I have seen some of these images and I think this will be a very nice monograph to have, and will report on it when I get it.

I really enjoyed the Paul Caponigro issue of View Camera magazine and given the printing quality of Lenswork - this promises to be even better. I`m hoping that once the series starts, there will be a way to sign up for all the monographs as they come out.

Brooks indicates he`s going to work with photographers who have already been in Lenswork. This gives him plenty of scope.

Ideally it would be great to see some of the top photographers who haven`t got a  series of books out there.Even some famous photographers haven`t got round to making a book in a long time. A monograph gives us a chance to see more than one project or even style of work by a single photographer. We could also possibly see how someone`s style changes over time or to see consistencies in approach to widely varying subjects - from viewpoint to printing style, from lighting to tonality.

I`m as geeky as the next fellow, but I make far more use of my Lenswork magazines than I ever do of Lenswork Extended - I like having a book in hand.

It would be wonderful if these could be a bit larger than the standard Lenswork magazine, but perhaps that`s impractical. I don`t see a size mentioned on the website.

I`m really looking forward to this Lenswork effort.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How Much Is An E-book Worth?

Until now, only a handful of e-books have been made available, and no one has burdened me with their sales information. So, anyone actually know the answer? Is there a 'price point' that makes e-books tempting? How would an e-book differ (offer additional value) compared to a free website? Is there money to be made?

Here's some thoughts though. When one of my books sells, I get about $3 royalty. If I sold an e-book for $5 and it cost me $2 to host the book (that's what Blurb is charging), I could make the same amount of money, and at $5, it could easily be an impulse purchase. Currently there doesn't seem to be a way to find e-books on Blurb and of course the vast majority of the books won't be of 'publishable' quality, but let's say that Ansel were still alive, kicking and photographing, and that for the heck of it, he did an e-book.

Now, lest my publisher read this and have a fit, yes, I know my contract with the publisher gives them the electronic rights to publish, not me, but were I to do a new book..., one of my images (which they have said isn't practical in paper - and I agree)...

How many people would rush out, and how much would they pay, to get hold of an Ansel Adams book on their iPad? After all, Ansel did calendars and posters and Yosemite sold and continues to sell prints of his images, so pretty good chance he'd be up for it.

What if someone were becoming a serious fine art photographer, and for $5 each, they could pick up some 50 images, with some interesting text, by a well respected photographer, and further more, could do so from dozens of famous photographers. $100 would see you well on the way to making a wonderful library of images, all happily fitting on your iPad, and ready to learn from.

I see that William Neil now sells his e-books for $10. Landscapes Of The Spirit is a real book I own, and enjoy, and paid considerably more for. I note on his website that the price was $15, and I'm not sure that it wasn't more than that when he first made his publication available in electronic form. Keep in mind, this is a real book, of 120 pages and 79 images, not some hashed together portfolio with a few words that someone with delusions of grandeur decides to call a book.

Does that make the 'right price' $10, or does the price reflect the reputation of the photographer. Is Ansel's e-book worth more than that of one of his accolytes? Or does popularity and therefore number of sales determine success. After all, that's how it is in music. The price for a Feist song is the same as one by Fred Blogs, and only the number of sales determines the difference. Is that the way it should be?

Occasionally I splurge and pick up a Blurb book from someone I know or think might have interesting images - but by the time I pay frieght (it comes from downtown right here in Calgary), it adds $10 to the cost of a $37.00 book, which means I don't do it that often. Once Blurb starts promoting their e-books I might well pick up more, and if reasonably priced (ie. iTunes equivalent) for lots of famous photographers, well, I know I'd be buying left right and centre.

Since the publication of my first book, I have had a standing offer of any four prints, 8.5X11, $100 including shipping. I get a request every couple of months - hardly a money maker, and probably more trouble than it's worth. Perhaps and especially with the next generation high res iPad, purchasing small prints will be unnecessary and only large prints will be purchased, at prices that compensate the photographer for the shipping and handling, so that he or she can turn a reasonable profit margin. However, don't forget that all of this article is discussing electronic books, not portfolios - though the same arguments apply.

Will I give up the printed book, or the printed image for that matter? Very unlikely. But is the e-book in our future, as photographers as well as purchasers. Damn right!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Fish Creek

Finally, a chance to get out and photograph. Mostly I was working on the ice of the creek, while under an overpass. Late in the shoot the sun moved round far enough and low enough to strike this ice formation, warming the tones. This is mostly a colour image, though in a few places, the colour wasn't there for some reason. I sampled the colour from where it was present, then added a fill layer of that colour, then set layer blending to colour. Now the entire image was this colour, which hadn't been my intention, so Command I to invert the mask of this new fill layer, then painted in where I wanted this additional colour.

Focus blending was used, with the water as a single layer (Helicon Focus does odd things to running water that is focus blended). Shot with the 5d2, 70-200 mm. f4 L IS lens, a total of 10 images for the blend. It wasn't perfect and required a fair bit of manual editing to get right along the water edge and some of the openings in the ice.

I don't think I have the colour saturation quite right yet - but this is where it makes sense to stop for the evening and pick up another day, with a fresh eye.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


None of us wants to be a copycat, or even worse, to be thought of as one, but how to avoid it. If it's true that by now everything has been done before, even the most original ideas are likely exist already, somewhere, sometime, even if you didn't know about it. Coming up with what is for you original because you didn't know of someone elses work does not relieve you of being seen as unoriginal - exactly what you strived to be.

So how do we say something interesting as photographers?

It is argued that no one else will bring to your subject your life experiences, your biases, and the accumulation of the things that interest you, catch your attention, or the way in which you like things arranged or presented. The problem with this is that unless all of what is unique to your viewpoint comes with a considerable dollop of skill (notice I didn't say talent), little is likely to come of it.

It doesn't take long to realize that as a novice photographer, your images are typically crap, either technically or aesthetically, and likely both. So you start reading, and you discover a photographer you like. For me it was Ansel Adams. I tried to emulate him, to near complete failure. I expanded my book collection to include other landscape photographers of the same ilk - Bruce Barnbaum, John Sexton, even Edward Weston, but because their approach to the landscape was similar, I didn't learn as much as I hoped.

Then I came across the work of David Plowden - medium format, not grand landscape, often industrial or small town America - and here was something different - the technical quality was there, but the subject, the closer presentation, and the introduction of a whole range of other subject matter really opened my eyes.

I went back to the work of Brett Weston and instead of concentrating on his landscape work this time round, studied his close work and especially his abstracts.

I acquired a book of Arnold Newman portraits and learned a lot about design.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. The path you take will almost certainly be different based on what you like and what motivates you, but the point is that by expanding your horizons, even if you do come across a style of photographs you like, say those of Michael Kenna, if you then see a scene that reminds you of his images and want to photograph it, you do so with the entire path of your experiences and image education behind you. If you then combine that with your own personality and experiences, there is a good chance of producing interesting original work.

When I wrote the third book, I included Michael Kenna and then Michael Levin. In the essay i wrote on Levin, I made a point of discussing the differences between the two Michaels. Not surprisingly, Leven had been through this all too many times and asked if I could eliminate the comparison and I could see his viewpoint and so respected his wishes.

In a way that was a pity, because I don't see Levin's images as copying Kenna - sure they pick some similar subjects, and photograph with long exposures and use the square format at times, but there are huge differences in the vast majority of their images. Kenna's images are dark. He favours burning in the edges, and isn't afraid of grain. This gives his images a dark moody atmosphere.

Levin comes from an 8X10 background and his huge prints are creamy smooth and speak of the infinite and are much more meditative than moody. I don't think Michael Levin should be in the least uncomfortable with comparisons.

The worst thing we can do as photographers is to wear blinders, to avoid anything unfamiliar, uncomfortable, different.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More On Meidum Format

OK, so perhaps this is a way to show the difference. Here are two huge enlargements of a tiny section of image. SO enlarged that virtually no detail is visible in either image, but what you are seeing is each square is a pixel, and look at the difference in tonal variation, even both images had similar overall contrast, highlights and shadows. This isn't noise you are looking at - it is genuine detail as confirmed by careful inspection of lower magnification views of the images show.

The first is the Canon 1Ds3

and the second is the Pentax 645D

This implies it isn't the number of pixels that counts, it is the quality of the pixels. Is it possible that removal of the fuzzy filter will so improve the quality of the dslr pixels as to make up the difference - I simply don't know. But what you are seeing here at 1500% magnfication is why you can see the difference in ordinary size prints.

This even has implications for stitching - I can easily equal the pixel count of the Pentax by stitching two or three overlapping Canon 5D2 images, but the inability to resolve low contrast areas will remain.

And I haven't even begun to look at shadow areas in which the differences between the two cameras is far greater. That Pentax, with all its limitations (no live view, shallow depth of field) may just be what I'm looking for.

Below are 100% crops of the same area, Canon first, Pentax second.

Medium Format Vs. 24X36

As you know, I have been struggling with whether to go to the Pentax 645D. There is a controversial article by Mark Dubovoy on Luminous Landscape at the moment - to the effect that 'real photographers shoot medium format'. Of course, that isn't what Mark said, but it is what he implied - that no matter what the print size, one could see the difference between medium format and smaller formats.

The example he used showed distortion with the dslr image, and greater contrast and thus less well controlled highlights, and better shadows.

Of course, much of this is a function of the particular lens and f stop he chose to use, and I dare say the two images could have been made to look MUCH closer to each other with a bit of care.

My immediate reaction was 'what a load of bull', but then I calmed down and decided to look at far better comparisons made in some of the reviews of the Pentax 645D, in which images are compared to the  Canon 1Ds3.

I made prints of reasonable size, 24 inches in the long dimension - something that both cameras should be capable of making. I then looked at the images at 100%.

I have poured over the images, and here is what I have found. If one looks at the finest details, branches on the horizon miles away, there is nothing to separate the Pentax from the Canon at this size of print.  The same applies to railings and bricks and anywhere the contrast in tones is significant. Where I can see a difference between prints is in the low contrast areas, branches against bushes or downed leaves. Here there is a noticeable difference in the Pentax images - it's as if large areas (up to 1/4 inch of the print) were smeared, the colour blended, a complete absense of texture and detail and even simple variation in tone, on the Canon image. it isn't about greater resolution (which doesn't really show up until you make very large prints), but if the Canon can smear details over 1/4 inch at this size, it can still do that over 1/8 of an inch in a 12 inch print - that is definitely visible.

I don't know what the difference is - whether there is a lot more manipulation of data to squeeze every bit of accutance (edge sharpness) and low noise out of the Canon at base ISO, or whether this loss is the fuzzy filter, or due to the number of bits per pixel in the pipeline, or what - all I know is that for all I think Mark picked a poor example, he is fundamentally right that there is something different about medium format.

Whether this will still be true when there are 36 megapixel full frame dslrs without fuzzy filters remains to be seen.

It reminds me though of the days of film when people using Technical Pan and special compensating developers could show extremely sharp prints, albeit terrible ones, lacking in the tonalities that were readily visible in an 8 inch print when comparing 6X6 with 35 mm.

Careful examination of the two digital images at 200% clearly shows that no amount of sharpening or local contrast enhancement is going to bring back the missing texture in the smaller camera images - for whatever reason.

I wish I knew the reason. It would help me decide whether to fork out $10,000 for the Pentax, or spend almost 2/3 less for the next generation Canon or Nikon with 36 megapixels. Those cameras will have sensors 3 years newer than the Pentax, but their pixels will be considerably smaller than the Canon 1Ds3 has now - does this mean even more loss of subtle contrast detail?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Electronic Viewfinders

Someone showed my their new Canon ?5100 dslr and I couldn't believe how small the image was in the viewfinder - having been used to a 1ds2, 5d2 and recently trying the pentax645D.

Last weekend a friend let me play with his new Nex 7. The sun was low and bright, snow on the ground, and I could look at the viewfinder and see the image just fine, with the sun visible off to the left side - utterly amazing, and far better than my own Panasonic GH2. I much prefer the controls on the GH2 (exc. for the fact that I always press the menu when I grip the camera), but the viewfinder on the sony really was excellent.
The image was smooth and seemed to refresh a lot faster than my GH2.

I think the time of the slr with electronic viewfinger, a la the Sony A series cameras, has arrived, and it is only time before Canon and Nikon abandon bouncing mirrors.

Whether mirrors will be needed at all (as per the A series for focusing) or will focusing on the sensor become faster as processors get more powerful, I suspect the latter and we will have rapid focus, live view, tilting viewfinders etc..

Monday, January 09, 2012

Bow River

As usual, if you click on the image, you can see this larger. This is a 7 image stitch with the 5D2. One of the few times I have used the 1.4 teleconverter to get in close. The end is a 97 megapixel image, 21X51 inches at 300 dpi.

The ice is covered in needles, sticks, and unspecified black spots, which are taking some considerable time to remove.

I used the magic brush to select the white areas that weren't completed by the stitch, deleting and filling with content aware fill, but I should have expanded the selected area by at least a pixel to avoid lines not filled - easily fixed but only if you look at the image very large on screen.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Three image stitch, some desaturation of colour all over - the branches were already almost monochrome.