Welcome to my Blog.
The polemic voice of photographic reason! The Blog of a Polemic, Aspergic, Depressive, Obsessive Compulsive, Passionate Photographer. I am intensely insular and private, not given to verbiage. I don't expect you to share my thoughts, but, perhaps, give you something about which to think. I will endeavour to update the blog on a regular basis - whenever I have the inclination to communicate.
Very recently another company has entered the film simulation software game with a plug-in for the popular photo editing programmes. Are they worth buying? Should you spend your hard earned cash on them?
The answer is NO!
Let me explain and save you some money. There are too many variables. Do you think that, say Provia looks the same on a Contax 645 with its amazing Carl Zeiss lenses as it does on a Leica M2, pre-war Leica III or an Olympus OM2 SP? No, it won't! There will be slight differences in colour rendition. Also, the processing of each lab will be slightly different again giving slight variations. Another example, Kodak Tri-X looks different in D76, dilute Rodinal, Perceptol, HC-110 and Prescysol. A slightly different result if you push or pull the film or apply zone system technique, under or over develop for contrast control. I get what is considered classic Tri-X tones with D76, but not with Prescysol or Tanol. An inexperienced film photographer will think Tri-X is Tri-X is Tri-X. It's not! Black and white film especially is a very flexible medium. Different developers and developing techniques not only change the tone, albeit slightly, it changes the grain. Rodinal gives sharp gritty grain whilst the solvent in D76 gives a smooth grain. Tri-X in Rodinal is razor sharp and contrasty, Tri-X in D76 isn't. The dynamic range of Tri-X when over exposed and underdeveloped or developed in very dilute Rodinal is huge, in D76 it isn't. Colour film and C-41 black and white isn't quite as flexible. Then, there is the matter of the paper on which the negative or positive is printed! More variation! What enlarger is used? A condensor or diffusion enlarger? More variables! How is the colour processor calibrated? When I used to print colour negatives I had a different result than Boots. Same negative different process different result. If I can remember, I think Boots used Kodak paper and I used Fuji Crystal Archive. The chemistry was probably different as well. So what is accurate? So, you see, how do you make a judgement on what variables you wish to simulate? Where do you benchmark a process? What do you set as 'standard'?
I think all these film simulation plug-ins are a waste of money and don't give a true picture (pardon the pun). The marketing will try to convince you otherwise. If you want to simulate film, why not go one step better and shoot some film. You can get all the kit for well under £100. A decent camera, rolls of film and processing. Do it for real. The medium format Yashica Matt 124G ebays for under £100 and this will give you quality of image that would cost thousands if done digitally. If on a budget, there are hordes of quality film cameras under £50. Check your local charity shops! Often I see autofocus SLRs for under £20. As people are throwing away their film stuff like there is no tomorrow, you can buy film cameras and colour film processors pretty cheap. Have a go! It is fun.
If you want to stay with a purely digital process I would recommend, if you have it, Adobe Lightroom together with a few real life prints from film as a guide and doing it yourself. The grain tool in Lightroom isn't too bad. Certainly as good as these plug-ins. And yes, if you are asking, I have used these film packs. As you know, Lightroom (and Aperture for that matter) will allow you to tweak the colour, contrast, sharpness etc.. and match, or come close to, a film print. If you can't get your hands on a real life film print, look at some classic photos from the ol' net and get going. Its not as easy to do in Photoshop or Elements, but possible with a little effort. You are not afraid of a little effort are you? Then, you can create a preset and apply it to all your photos.
The bottom line...
Film simulation software goes against the grain. Don't waste your money!
As soon as it was announced I downloaded Lightroom 5 and set about working with it. I should say, I downloaded the demo. I certainly wasn't going to pay for an unknown factor. Now-a-days, I ONLY use photoshop for removing spots, dust and scratches from negatives. For this I use the healing brush tool and on occasion the clone tool, just like everyone else. The most exciting thing for me in Lightroom 5 is the new advanced healing brush tool. After giving it a good working session on some quite hard negative problems. You know, some sort of blemish in a tricky area where grain texture meets subject detail. Now, you can't expect to brush over an affected area and BAM! the healing tool does its business. It does need some input and technique from you, especially on complex textures. Once you have learned how to use the tool it is very effective without doubt. On my 2011 Mac Book Pro it works fine. I suppose if I was restoring a really battered negative the machine may complain about it. I can't imagine that this tool is light on CPU usage! But, so far so good. Now, for the first time I can stay 100% within Lightroom instead of Ducking and Diving into Photoshop. Out of the six new features only three interest me. I haven't had time to extensively work hard the upright tool and the radial gradient tool. These latter two are of minor interest.
Now, the big question: Is Lightroom 5 worth the £60 upgrade?
£60 for the convenience of NOT popping into photoshop? £30 yes, I think that would be fair price for this update, but £60 I think is a bit steep. So, the jury is out until I have had time to fully evaluate Lightroom 5 for my needs. This also raises another question. How far can Adobe take this product. Personally, Photoshop itself reached the zenith of use with CS2. Subsequent versions have been irrelevant and the cost, just, way over. Way over Adobe! I find myself using Elements and especially Pixelmator. Over recent years I have had the feeling of Adobe flogging a dead horse when it comes to photoshop upgrades. I surprise my self in that I actually know what that metaphor means. Like you can't have infinite economic growth, you can't have infinite software upgrades. Something has to give.
One of the reasons that I have been quiet here is because I have returned from a recent trip to the Lake District in Cumbria, UK. Two weeks of minimal contact with Homo Sapiens, mountains, walks, mountains, photography, and mountains. Rain and wind in abundance, but that is the Lake District. I took too much gear as always, but ended up using my Hasselblad 500C/M and Fujifilm X100. I mainly used the X100 for casual touristy photos, you know, happy snappy sort of stuff. The Hasselblad was used for the 'serious' picture making LOL. So, 510 jpgs and 12 rolls of film later I intend doing a full write up with selected pictures over the next month or so. Many people love the immediacy of digital. I don't! I think it is counter intuitive and counter productive. One thing I do love about film is I shoot a roll or two and then manage to develop it maybe a week, or month or two later. This means the memory of shooting the original scene has faded and when I examine the negatives, I see them with almost fresh eyes. Some film I develop a year or two later, not by design may I add. In this case, sometimes, I can't even remember making the exposure and when I see the scan of the negative it is fresh and I can make a more open minded assessment of the exposure. Unlike digital which 'forces' you to be impatient and 'forces' you in making an immediate decision. If you like working like this, then, hey, I am happy for you. I don't. I never have.
So, stay tuned and have a laugh at my results after lugging a Hasselblad up a few mountains in the wind and rain. All in the name of photography!
This coming Saturday, my wife and I are on Holiday in the Lake District. I am hoping for some good weather (please don't laugh). Hasselblad 500 CM, Contax G2 and Contax RTS or Fujifilm X100 are coming.
Meanwhile, Saturday just gone, a walk around the Piercefield Manor House. This is one of my projects, to photograph it as it crumbles. One day, this once fine house will probably be a housing estate. Piercefield Manor Estate! How does that sound? No, I don't want it to happen either!
So, from a roll of Ilford Delta 100 here are the chosen few. I used a 1971 Hasselblad 500CM hand held, 80mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Planar and a 150mm f/4 Carl Zeiss Sonnar. This roll was just to use up that last roll of Delta 100, to test the camera prior to our Lake District trip and to test a recently acquired developing tank - the Rondinax 60. Most were exposed using the Sunny 16 'rule'. So nothing serious then!
It has been quiet on the Wye Photography front. The weather has been glum. That is apart from two days where I was unable to get out. Besides that, for the past week I have had tonsillitis combined with a chest and ear infection. So besides the weather being glum, so am I. As a measure of that, I write this at 01:56. Sleep eludes me as I need to cough all the time. I have not had a decent night's sleep for four days. Anymore of this and I will start hallucinating. One week tomorrow I am off to the Lake District. It's all going to pot.
The days are a little longer, there is the occasional and welcome Sun, and a dash of the big blue. It's uplifting, and, on occasion euphoric! It feels so good. This is my favourite time of year, when Winter is broken. The motivation for living returns, and for me, that means picture making. So, I decided to re-commission my Yashica Mat 124G. A couple of weeks ago I dusted it and ran through a test film. The results where shocking. I knew what it must be, so, expectantly, looked through the lens. Behold! A smearing of milky white film. Fungus! Generally, the Yashica Mat 124G is a sub £100 camera. Repair just is not economical and not an option. Many Moons ago I had a similar problem with a 70 year old Rolleiflex Automat, and knew the 124G had a similar lens arrangement. What I did next was either a piece of stupidity or bravery. I removed the rear element to clean it. One hour later said lens was cleaned and installed. The fungus, however, had left it's ugly mark! You could faintly see how the fungus had etched the glass. Largely, I escaped a fate worse than camera death. Now, that brings me up to Saturday the 16th of March. Having the afternoon free, I popped to visit my old friend, the Piercefield Manor. An 18th century Manor in Neo Classical style, now, long since fallen into ruin. I have been photographing it for the last ten years. I find myself wandering the grounds, Yashica 124G in hand, ready to test my lens repair. Loaded with one of my last rolls of Neopan 400, I decided that because the light was flat (yet again) to expose the film at EI400, its box speed. One half hour later the roll was fully exposed and I was heading home when the heavens opened (yet again).
Later that evening I developed the film in my staple developer HC-110. Wash, fix, and hung out to dry. I really wasn't expecting that much and had in mind that I was probably going to throw away the camera. Negatives always look good, they are too small to see critical levels of sharpness and detail. Photographers always obsess about sharpness and resolution, especially digital photographers. Using a Canon 9500f and Vuescan, the scans were made at 2400ppi which is sufficient for an 18inch print. Surprisingly, the scans were very good, the lens is not as sharp as it was, but vastly better than what anything in 35mm could achieve. Three of the twelve frames I quite liked, see what you think...
Above: The old stables Piercefield House. This is what I love, lots of texture, debris, ruin. This must have been a wonderful house in its glory days. I find it sad to see such a place in such a state of neglect and abandonment. I have a love/hate relationship with the place. It is fascinating and intoxicating as much as it is melancholy. I just wonder at who lived and worked here, there would have been the smell of hay and horses, the voices of workers. Now a deathly silence. Dead! A ghost! A shell, an echo, a shadow of its former glory and splendour. Exposed as per meter reading with the focus on the wall at f4. Everything beyond the doorway falls into blur. So the 124G focuses OK.
Above: A little way through the door. Here I wanted to test the accuracy of the focus. 1/60th of a second at f4 focussed on that black angular beam, yep, everything seems OK there. I really like Neopan 400, not as much as Tri-X. Neopan has less grain and a modern punchy look, whilst Tri-X has that traditional tone. in Perceptol, sharpness and resolution would have taken a few steps up. And finally...
I metered on the back wall and placed it on Zone IV. A tree growing within what would have been a roofed out-building. The roof ere long gone and Nature reclaims what is its own. The Manor is a Grade II listed building. I hope it stays that way. One day it probably will be a housing estate. Piercefield Manor avenue indeed! As for the 124G? Hmmm! its not as sharp as it was, but, I can live with that. Neopan 400 in HC-110 is sweet. Try it!
I hate Winter!
I hate it with a passion!
Not only that it profoundly affects my mood, the light is more than often rubbish. It's flat, dull, dark. Hate!
For the first time in simply months I have felt like taking pictures again. The 'vision' is starting to return. It's still weak and flickering, but, for the first time in over a year it is actually there. Many other things have changed. I have shed many cameras, giving most away to my local school. I could have started a small museum! Just KNOWING I had all those damned cameras was a mental burden. I decided to simplify. I have one digital for any professional work that comes my way. One digital for personal shooting. One medium format film camera, one 35mm film camera and one full-frame micro film camera. That's four cameras (I discount the digital camera that is used for professional work)! I have not had this few a camera in over a decade. I feel free! Unburdened! Unfettered! No more agonising over which camera shall I take. I grab and go! No thought! Or, very little. I also decided that I want to shoot film. I am a black and white photographer. I think in black and white. And for black and white nothing beats film. For me, that film is Tri-X. I love its tones, its grain, its feel, the way it responds to light. Although you get those classic Tri-X tones from D76, I prefer using the excellent Kodak HC-110 developer. Its economical and convenient. Once-in-a-while I like to use Rodinal or Prescysol. All three are excellent developers. I prefer sticking to one main developer and then learn to use it well. My intense dislike of Photoshop drives me down this path. I hate all those photoshopped to death images. They are not real! They are fake! Faux! Fraud! I want my photography to be honest, real, there. The biggest problem of photography is to FIND and SHOOT the most amazing photographs, NOT create them on the computer.
This week's adventure happened last wednesday. I managed to pop out and shoot a roll of Fuji ACROS. Mainly as a test. I do this before I shoot a brand seriously. That way you get to know a film before you do any serious shooting. Anyway, the conditions were not good. Very misty, very dull. I arrived a top Wyntour's Leap near Chepstow. It's one of the best views of the Wye valley, but, not this day. It was ugly! As it was sooo flat, I shot the roll at its box speed, EI100. I used my Contax RTS II with the Carl Zeiss 35mm f2.8 Distagon, Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Planar and Carl Zeiss 135mm f2.8 Sonnar lenses. All are super T* lenses. The best you can use for the small 35mm format.
So, 1hour and 15 minutes later I had shot the roll and the film was in the development tank. The following day I developed the film in HC-110 according to established development times and scanned using a Nikon Coolscan V ED. Right, cut to the chase, the negs are a little too dense for scanning, grain and sharpness excellent, had to push the contrast in Lightroom (which increased the grain). ACROS doesn't have the latitude of Tri-X. I should have exposed at EI50 and cut development to give the shadows more exposure. Actually, a coiuple of them I like, anyway, here is the selection...
I can't believe it's not butter. No, it's not. It's photography, and it's almost a year since my last blog. It's doesn't help when you are immensely insular and taciturn. Communication just isn't my forte.
I have spent the good part of the last year thinking whether I want to continue with photography. I have been thinking about quitting. I still have those feelings. My mind about photoshop has not changed. I hate it. I have not used it in over a year. I think Photoshop has done untold damage to photography. I will not use it again. The world is now awash with images so manipulated they absolutely defy reality. I hate all that digital fakery. It's FRAUD.
Still struggling with where I want to go photographically, I feel that honesty, truth, and as-it-is imagery is my natural leading. So, that means I won't be winning any competitions then, eh! Charlie. I feel that I need to be close to the image making process instead of relying too heavily on software writers and programmers.
I have also limited myself to two main cameras, the Contax RTS and Fujifilm X100. From time to time I will also use my Yashica 124G. Pure monochrome images are my main interest, it's still what I want to do. I sum it up in the three words TEXTURE, TONE, TENOR. The latter word, in this context, means mood or overall feel. To me, it is what monochrome is all about. There often is no story, it is almost irrelevant. No semi-mystical psycho babble either. No! None of that! What you see is what you get.
Until next time (whenever that is) May you always find the light...
In my last post I reported that photographically I am at a very low ebb, well, in the intervening two weeks nothing has changed much. In late February/early March my iPhone 3GS contract came up for renewal. So naturally I upgraded to the 4S, especially after a couple of work colleagues bought one. I was impressed at that rather beautiful Retina display. So, when I had acquired mine I just had to try out and compare that whopping 8 megapixel camera. It wasn't long before I became really impressed with the quality of the thing. It is really very good. Especially pleasing was the accuracy of the exposure, detail, sharpness, colour and dynamic range. The white balance is weak at times, but, hey, can you have it all?
So, off I went on a visit or two, a walk or two armed only with the iPhone 4S. I did not have the mental inclination to carry around any DSLR gear. The very thought intensely depressed me. For the first time in years I felt free, really free. Unencumbered. I almost enjoyed photography again.
Now when it came to processing the images I used a few apps on the iPhone and then decided to acquire an iPad 2 (which I think is fantastic and just love it). It didn't take me long to work out a plan of shooting with the iPhone and then transferring the images over to the iPad for some treatment. It was a relief not to use the Mac and Photoshop. I'm just so tired of being tied to Photoshop and I am just sick to death of all those fake photoshop images. They are just all just crap. Unrealistic crap. But that IS another story and I'll have to post some examples to demonstrate what I mean so that no one misunderstands. Another story as I've said.
OK, I just use the iPhone and iPad and then upload. That's it. I LOVE it. Its feels free. My imagery with the iPhone is different, it's in colour, it can be rather dark, there are scratches, scuffs, texture and colour. It came about while I was in Hay on Wye and looking through some old postcards, you know the type, late 1800's early 1900's sepia or hand tinted, scuffed, scratched, abused and rough. But they have a wonderful charm. I'm looking at one now. It's of Hay-on-Wye clock tower, circa 1910. Wonderful tones. I do particularly like the hand tinted postcards, the muted colour, the wear, the character. That is the sort of feel I am trying to achieve. As a result I have an iPhone gallery on this site and if I have the motivation, I need to sort, prune and discard the pix already here.
Will I pick up the DSLR again, well, probably. Will I pick up my Pen FT again, well, almost certainly. I think this rather dark mood will slowly dissipate and light and enthusiasm will make a very welcome return, I hope.
All the Best.