Sunday, 23 April 2017

my favourite tree

This little guy is on the side of a road and from the first time I saw it (travelling from Joensuu to Kouvola) I wanted to take a shot. On this occasion (just 2 days ago) I had with me my Panasonic G series (GH1 and GF1) cameras and picked the 20mm f1.7 lens to attempt to get the best background diffusion.


Which is still futile to my mind. That isn't the best shot from the day, I'd pick this one for that:


But as you see its just not standing out from the background. I've tried many lighting situations (well natural lighting) and the combination of its size the required distances make it a tough shot.

I have found that in many ways its the classic photographers conundrum. It looks like its a matter of just getting in there but it really isn't.

On driving past you focus on the tree, but the brain picks it out like a telephoto lens while the fact that you're looking out the window of a moving car makes the background and foreground vanish (thanks to the brain) and you see just the tree.

In practice a telephoto won't work because being in a car on the road is higher than the surrounds (and its a highway) and as well there are many obstacles which your brain filters out (like foreground trees).

I've been back in many seasons and many years to try my luck. So far the hardest work produced the best results. Anita and I skied in from the other side (through the forest behind it) and I waddled around that rocky area (which has parts over 2 meters deep when covered by snow) and found this angle.


For this I took my 4x5 camera and shot with a 180mm lens (which is about normal or equivalent to a 50mm) but having a huge pupil (remember DoF is what puts backgound out of focus and its pupil diameter not simply F stop) was helpful in making the background a bit more out of focus. The film was ADOX 50ISO which is an old formulation emulsion.

I think its the best result when you look at a large print and yields the best detail of anything I've used as well as the best background isolation.

The funny thing is that each time I walk around there I seem to settle on the same location each time without having any record of it with me. This is the first shot I ever took of that tree, with my Nikon Coolpix 5000 camera. I took it using NEF (which is RAW) and just reprocessed this again now with Snapseed ... its not the sharpest but its also not bad.



I pondered this shot for some months after I took it in 2008, and felt that not only was more detail needed (the resolution of the digital was not good enough) but more background isolation too.

So this one of those thing where the only thing which really has improved the image is going back to 1940's technology (and 4x5)

Friday, 17 March 2017

Snapseed on the road

Well having tested Snapseed at home I'm now making good use of it in the road with my phone as my processing tool. Making use of sitting around time I can turn stuff like this


Into this



Without fiddlefarting around with exposure in the church. (Note: the above image looks better on my tablets and phone, yet shadows looks crummy on my laptop on this bottom image ... yet the others in here not ... so it highlights that what you see on your screen may not be what others see)

One more


Into



Of course you can always go at it like a 5 year old with mums make up


But I was never into the eye bleeding.

The trip to Prague is working very well and I'm much more impressed with the reality of the place than I expected I would be.

Truly a beautiful city

Sunday, 12 March 2017

ways to cook up a RAW file

No matter what I've never been happy with being in a monogamous relationship with Out Of Camera JPG's

So to me the only question is "how to process it". Raw processing tools have come a long way in the last dozen years and we've seen a lot of movement in tools. Myself I'm always looking around at what I can use to process things with. While I'm a long time Photoshop user I've been reticent to keep upgrading Photoshop (which isn't cheap) just so that I can keep processing my RAW files?

Clearly that wasn't appealing (or financially justifiable) and so I've always been on the hunt for tools. Over time I've used also dcraw , Photomatix, RawTherapee and of course recently Snapseed (which I've been evaluating here for some few months on my blog here).

I like Snapseed because its fast, its free and it runs on my phone. Considering that I like to travel the phone (which is really a octa core CPU in my pocket) allows me to process stuff out in the field (or in this case at home) in a convenient manner.

But is it any good?

This post really just serves to show how well Snapseed can compare to the "PC" based alternatives.


So today I took a picture which I thought was a nice processing challenge. Black and White with details I could see in the whites and and in the blacks.

So here is the OOC JPG



which isn't bad but a little disappointing.

Good old dcraw has the advantage of being free and allows me to make 16bit TIFFS if I wanted to then process that in a version of Photoshop that won't support my RAW files.



better, but it actually blew the reds making the snow a little discoloured ... so I'd need to fiddle.

So I whacked it into RawTherapee where I needed to play a little with a few bits and adjust levels and I also employed a little bit of ToneMapping (which is exactly what what Snapseed or Photomatix does).



So here I've managed to get some of the tones in the waters but lost a bit of the sense of "blackness" ... I  could fiddle more but

Snapseed


This file took the least work, but that I liked the most. It controlled the levels in the development, I applied a little tone mapping (the HDR tools) where I could also work on enriching the water ripple and sky reflection details. As you can imagine getting it to look "perfect" requires a monitor which is perfect so at the end of the day (across 3 monitors) I prefer this one. The "proof" would be in a print (and getting that right).

So how does Snapseed actually stack up with the details if you were then wanting to actually use this to make a full sized print from the the files:

So in the same order:

OOC JPG


dcraw


RawTherapee


Snapseed



The astute will observe that these are all 50% magnification because its my experience that what you observe on a screen at 50% is about what you end up seeing on a well made print at large sizes.

So, in summary all really good ... so essentially there is no penalty for sharpness in using Snapseed and indeed even if you didn't like the specific tonals I pulled, well then that is something you could simply adjust.

That it folks ... your call ... but I'm super happy with using Snapseed. Its free, fast and convenient. My only grips is that I need to use raw2dng converter to convert my RW2 files (although the maker claims the latest version works on RAW on android devices it doesn't an any of mine and not on some others either given the support forum).

People on various internet forum seem to obsess about expensive methods of how to back up their images when travelling and have ways to process them too. Well if you ask me you can get a bunch of SD cards for the trip for next to nothing. They don't need to be large (unless you're doing a ton of video) and to be honest SD cards are at least as reliable as the hard disks in those expensive "media back up" tools.

You can use your Android phone to back up your SD card to another SD card (if you're really that paranoid) via the reader (especially if you stick to smaller cards like 8 or 16GB (which are bloody cheap and take thousands of pictures).

I personally can't imagine filling up even on 8GB card with images on a holiday and then being able to ever find time to look at them ... but then I suspect for some people photography is about using the camera "like a pro" and never really doing much with the 12,000 images they took.

Anyway, I'm off to Prague in the next few days and I'll be able to simply take my phone (which I would) and my camera and a USB OTG cable + card reader.

Then I can either:

  • use the OOC JPG
  • process with Snapseed
then post to here, email, post to social media ... or even just keep to print later

Enjoy this revolution of free tools and powerful transportable processing in phones - I am.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Another Trip Round the Sun (and a return to a special place)

Well I find myself at the date of our Anniversary and wondered what to do this year.

Back in 2006 Anita took me to a part of Koivusuo which was an excellent trip, and was about my first trip skiing. I'd had about 12 days ski experience at  that time and so I was not required to pull a sled or carry much ... just cope and keep up. Suffice to say it was one of the most memorable ski trips I've had. Click the image below to take you to an old post on an old website for more on that story...



That particular day was substantially colder than this day (about a week after that date on the calendar).

The road in wasn't cleared all the way, so I had to ski the last few Km along the road leaving the car at a maintenance administration point off the side of the road (nobody was there)



So I put on my skis and headed down the road. Some snow mobile rider had been down there (probably from in that shed there and probably to check firewood at Hanhikoski) and so that made the trip a lot easier to ski (than the deep soft snow).

Today was just under freezing, about -3°C or something like that. There was little breeze and I quickly got down to just my fleece and shirt.


Ahead of me was this view:


and up at the top of the road there is pretty much were we parked the car on my first trip. Its about 4km to here from where I left my car this time.

The track entrance was far more "over grown" since last time but the heavy snow had bowed down trees and left a most amazing scene for me.

A quick (and shakey) look around



This picture is at that lump of snow bowing down a small pine that ended the above video ... more detail in this picture, but the video above provides context not had in a picture.


That snowmobile rider was really keen as this was quite tight going but I'm glad he "cut a trail" for me. So at the place where the forest got thicker (and the trail more or less got tougher) I decided to call it quits and head back. This is looking back at where I'd come (and yes those are only my ski marks).



Besides I knew that the weather was going to get "bad" meaning warm ... and snow sticks to skis like shit to a blanket in those conditions ... yes I know cos last weekend I had to walk home carrying my fucking skis.

Anyway the ski (well, pick and hunt a path) through that was beautiful and breath taking ...

On the way back I had my lunch beside this hut ... just staggeringly deep snow ... my skis are 2.1 meters long and I was still sinking about a foot deep with every step,



This "storage" of lumber had so much snow on the cover roof that if I got close enough to see down the crack to the bottom I couldn't capture the top but far enough back and it just looked like a mushroom ...



I'd previously checked the weather and knew that it was due to get rain (god help me, rain on soft snow in -1°C, what a shitfight) So it was about time to head back. Indeed knowing this is why I didn't press on the last 1.4Km from where I gave up to get to the destination.

So as I left my lunch spot it indeed (as predicted) started drizzeling on me ... you know, that annoying tiny stuff that just wets you after an hour or so in it. I wasn't getting "wet" without my Goretex coat on so I just stayed with the fleece (which is a little water repellent) but my pack got a nice layer of ice on it.


nice ...

So I packed my skis onto the roof, got in the car and came home to have a glass of wine and some cheese.

This is now my 5th Anniversary without Anita ... in a couple of years it will be longer without her than the time I had with her.

I find that its getting easier to actually deal with living, its either that I'm getting stronger at carrying it or the clarity of memory is fading. I can't be sure which. I would say that its now at the point where I can do most things and just have a background sadness at times.

Today I laughed at many lovely things and the simple joy of being out in such a beautiful place. Peaceful and alone. I skied well enough that I'm sure she'd be proud of me.

I hope you enjoyed the trip too.