29 November 2007

A single leaf

A single leaf
of muted strings.
-sek, Nov 2007

About fifteen years ago, playing guitar and muting the strings I heard a leaf fall outside, the sound heard through the open window.

The Falling Rain

The falling rain--
sound comes slowly
into focus.
-sek, 2007

28 November 2007

Isolated Color

Yellow Leaf on Sidewalk

When an element of color is seen against a larger background of neutral color, the effect is called isolated color. This is a useful technique for isolating the subject and creating interest. The eye is drawn to the subject by the isolated element of color in the same way it is drawn to a highlight. On a gray day, white can substitute for color against a subdued color background (white against desaturated color).

Although the image here is an example of isolated color, it is also an example of color harmony, since the browns and tans of the concrete, composed of stone aggregate, harmonizes (shares similar tones) with the leaf. The colorful element should fill a significant percentage of the frame to be effective.

25 November 2007

Printing 4/3 Aspect Ratio Photographs

When it came time for me to move to a DSLR camera, I chose a camera that produces images with an aspect ratio of 4:3, which is the same size as older motion pictures and standard definition televisions. It is also the same aspect ratio offered by most digicams. Having done all my previous photography with a 35mm SLR, which has a 3:2 aspect ratio, the new camera prompted me to think about printing 4:3 aspect ratio photographs.

Before deciding to go with a Four Thirds camera, I considered what moving from 3:2 to 4:3 aspect ratio could mean for my photography. In the last five years I had made some drawings and watercolors sized 9 x 12 inches. I noticed that I preferred this size to 8 x 10. It had a more "open" appearance despite having nearly the same aspect ratio as the ubiquitous 8 x 10. The 8 x 10 size always seemed a bit "claustrophobic." I occasionally had prints made 8 x 12 to preserve the 3:2 scene I had composed in the viewfinder, but the mats and frames were difficult to find, so I generally printed 8 x 10.

After getting the 4:3 camera I had some 9 x 12 prints made. The 9 x 12 inch size fits the 4:3 aspect ratio perfectly. Mats and frames in the size is widely available in the United States from art supply and craft stores. A couple of sources are http://www.matcutter.com/ and http://www.redimat.com/ as well as http://lightimpressionsdirect.com where I last bought some nice wood frames and archival mats.

I recommend you find a mat supplier who uses archival cores. I've had the core yellow in some supposedly archival mats bought at the local craft store, while my mats from Light Impressions have stayed perfectly white over the same time.

I discovered I prefer to print 4:3 format images at 9 x 12" print size over the traditional 8 x 10" size. The mat and frame suppliers are even picking up on the idea this size is useful for prints from digital cameras. You should be able to get prints made in this size from online photo printers like Adorama, Mpix, etc. The situation may be different outside the United States where metric sized papers are the only ones widely available.

24 November 2007

Reading a book

Reading a book
flat cola.
-sek, Nov 2007

(You can purchase a magnet of this original haiku).

20 November 2007

Minolta MD 45mm Comparison to E-510 Kit Zoom

The MD 45mm f/2.0 has an excellent reputation as a sharp prime lens with good bokeh. I wondered how it compared to the "designed for digital" ZD 40-150mm f/3.5 zoom lens that came with the the E-510 two lens kit.

I shot photographs with the 45mm and the zoom at 45mm as close to f/4 as I could. The result is in my picasa album. This was shot with the MD 45mm at f/4 using manual focus and Live View to adjust focus.

And here is the ZD.

Click on the image to get the larger version. This was shot with the ZD 45-150 @ 45mm f/4.1 in manual focus using Live View.

If you look carefully at the lower edge of the MD picture you can see "La Plata" is clearer than in the ZD image. It appears the MD prime has better edge sharpness than the "telecentric" and "designed for digital" kit zoom. This despite the 45mm was designed for a 35mm camera and is probably at least 20 years old, that its image circle is being cropped to 4/3 and probably extraneous light is bouncing around in the lightbox.

I find Live View at 10x magnification to be more accurate than the unaided eye and more accurate than I used to achieve with a viewfinder with split-prism focusing screen.

18 November 2007

LightZone "Smooth Contrast" Experiment

I've been experimenting with LightZone to duplicate the effect available through a Photoshop action, which I am told employs layers of sharpening and Gaussian blur to achieve a heightened but smooth contrast. The effect is really attractive, beautiful and heightens the sense of form in a color photograph, to give it some of the essence of a black and white photograph. I have a strong affinity for this look.

This is my first try, with two pairs of sharpen and blur effects, one for shadow and one for highlight, stacked this way: SH Zone Shadow, GB Zone Shadow and SH Zone Highlight, GB Zone Highlight. The result is a good first approximation to the effect I'm looking for.

The sharpening is set to enhance local contrast and the blur layer above it smooths out any graininess and blends the tones together.

The action I am trying to duplicate is Midnight Black available from Action Central. I have not downloaded or examined this action to reverse engineer it, because I wanted to see if I could unlock its secrets without anything but the results. I doubt I could apply much I could learn from the action to LightZone, other than the tools and stacks in LightZone provide much of the masking and selectivity that PhotoShop does in a much more intuitive way. I believe it has all I need to eventually duplicate this look. I do not have PhotoShop only Elements.

I hate to lengthen this post by waxing philosophically, but use of this action raises the question of how much of the resulting image is the photographer and how much is "Photoshop?" Putting aside the issue of legitimacy of manipulating an image to this degree so easily using a predefined action, I will take a stab at an answer. I give Photoshop credit for half the creative energy in such an image. "What percentage of what makes the image compelling is from Photoshop?" is the question I am forced to ask myself. About half is a conclusion I cannot escape. The other half is the traditional elements of camera and photographer approaching the subject. Without the effect, the image would lose much of its effect.

When I say "image" I mean the original image that inspired me to explore the effect, not necessarily the one in this post, although the same principle applies. You can see the original where this all started on Bootstrap's site (http://www.bootstrapimages.com/Web1107/PB085980-02a%20copyR.jpg), but I won't link to it individually, or guarantee it will be there when you look. Bill Turner also has a blog on Blogger, Eschew Obfuscation.

16 November 2007

Minolta Lenses on a Four Thirds Camera

During the summer, I bought an Olympus E-510 digital single lens reflex camera. The 510 is a FourThirds camera and because of the of shallow flange of the 4/3 lens mount it is one of the most flexible cameras on the market when it comes to mounting legacy optics (lenses from traditional film SLRs). A 4/3 camera can mount "legacy optics" or lenses from several other manufacturers made before the DSLR era. Although unintended, this makes FourThirds a revolutionary mount. For the first time not only can a photographer mount lenses from different manufacturers who produce lenses to the "open" FourThirds standard, with inexpensive Chinese-made adapters lenses from nearly any manufacturer from the golden age of SLRs can be mounted as well.

Third party adapters can be found for Olympus OM, Nikon, Pentax, Zeiss and Contax. The only one missing from the party was Minolta.

I purchased an inexpensive OM to 4/3 adapter from ebay and mounted several OM lenses, a 50mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4, 135mm f/2.8 and the 35mm f/2.8 with success. But I wanted a very light, compact lens. The OM 35mm f/2.8 is very small and light as well as the 50mm f/1.8, but I wanted a "pancake" lens. Like the Hexanon 40mm f/1.8, which can be mounted on 4/3 cameras with some modification. I also wanted a lens in the 40mm range because it gives a similar field of view to a 90mm portrait lens on the 4/3 camera.

I had a Minolta MD Rokkor-X 45mm f/2.0 I used on my Minolta X-700. I hoped to fit it to my E-510 but there was no adapter (other than a very expensive one made a while back). A member of the dpreview forums helped to get a manufacturer in China to make a MD to 4/3 adapter, not as easy task given how thin the mount must be. The manufacturer came through and I bought one of the first adapters they day they went on sale on ebay.

Here is a picture of the lens and adapter a few minutes after the postal person delivered it (We have a wonderful postal delivery person).

This is the MD 45mm f/2.0 mounted to the Olympus E-510 using the adapter purchased from jinfinance on ebay and in the background the donor camera, a mint condition Minolta X-700 purchased from Henry's.

And one of the first test photos I made of a persimmon tree.

I think the lens performs very well.

You can see more examples from the MD 45mm f/2.0 on my flickr album.