How dark grey black-and-white can be!

Last Sunday was the last day of a large photo exhibition in Leeuwarden. I took this final opportunity to go and see it. The exhibition was part of 'Noorderlicht' which had Central and Eastern Europe as its theme this year. The exhibition 'Behind Walls' was indeed large, with hundreds of photos made during the years of communism. Additionally, another exhibition in the same 'Friese museum', called 'Beyond Walls', showed work from after the fall of the Wall. Of course there were great prints to be seen, but I must admit that the overwhelming feeling with which I came away was a dark grey feeling of oppression, loneliness and hopelessness. It is as if black-and-white photography is only used to document sad situations.

Even the prictures from recent years in 'Beyond Walls' were largely in black and white and were largely about the leftovers from the old regime, rahter than giving an impression of new times starting, now possibilties and a bit of joy in the world. While in my travels to that part of Europe (I have worked on projects with colleagues in Central and Eastern Europe since 1991) I found the situation more balanced. True, the transition was a hard time, but people were happy that they were free to speak their minds, to start new things and generally to 'come back to Europe'. True, too, that the transition left everyone less secure than before, and some groups were sadly left behind (the glue-sniffing boys in Romania I have met myself, not just seen in the pictures this Sunday). But I had hoped for a little less gloom, a lighter shade of grey.


Test, relevance and reputation

The November 2008 issue of Black & White Photography has a column in which Mike Johnston defends his way of testing cameras and lenses. He argues against trying to be completely objective: it is not the figures that matter, but the trial of the gear in dfficult, actual photography circumstances. I completely agree with Mike: too often testers focus on what is measurable rather than on what is relevant--not just in photography but also in my professional field of higher education. There, rankings are made of things that can be measured but whose relation to educational quality are uncertain. Similarly for photo gear: their 'performance' in laboratory circumstances is only a remote indication of what you can do with the thing in practice. In practice, all kinds of circumstances and especially your own needs are much more important than the 'objective' figures. You use different focal lengths, differnt distances, and handheld instead of on a tripod as they did in the test, or you take different types of pictures. For instance, my new standard zooom lens got fairly good test results, but with my preference for architectural pictures, the slight distortion in the wide-angle setting weighed more heavily than what I could read in the mags. Or take the high-quality lens I looked at: it was indeed great from a technical point of view, but way too heavy to be practical on a day-long hike. So let me quote Mike's conclusion: 'The bottom line is that observation is at least as important a method of inquiry as measurement is. It is no less relevant and no less reputable.'


Lightroom update: version 2.1

Adobe have published an update for Lightroom. The latest version is 2.1. They've added support for a number of recent cameras (such as the Sony A900) and fixed some bugs that I had not run into yet (so much the better).

Of course I immediately donwloaded it when LR 2.0 gave a pop-up telling about the update. All I can say until now is that 2.1 functions--and that is good news, I suppose!


Fotobond's "DigiDag"

The national association of amateur photographers, the Fotobond or BNAFV, organised a national Digital Day in Apeldoorn, sporting a studio for model photography, a lecture by a pro photographer (Kees Tabak, which I did not go to, though his website promises very good portraits), and some semi-commercial entries from major photography/camera shop Calumet. They had a few shop things (but I don't need anything new at the moment) and gave some 'teasers' for their workshops in Lightroom and Photoshop. As an enthusiastic Lightroom user, it was good to learn some more tricks with the package--and even better was it to see Wout de Jong's enthusiasm for Lightroom as a pro photographer, too. He said repeatedly that LR saved him about a day's work a week, and the tricks that were new to me mostly were of the time-saving type. First, there were more keyboard shortcuts than I knew of (much faster than all those mouse clicks). Second and even more importantly, he used the sync function to great effect, to in fact copy the whole list of adjustments (if you chose all of them) from one photo to a host of others. Being a simple amateur, I don't often have series of photos, so I won't use this often, but it is a thing to keep in mind!

My Fotoclub pal, Mr. L., and me were surprised that there were not more than around 50 or 60 participants in this national DigiDag--we had half as many on our Club's digital day last Christmas, from just 30 kilometers around us!


Autumn blues

Last weekend I walked the last stretch of the "Overijssels Havezatenpad", the long-distance walking path that made me discover a lot of landscapes near my own home over the last year and a half that I hardly knew. From the "Weerribben" I came back on the "high" land around Steenwijk. The Weerribben were boring and there even were hardly any geese or other birds to enliven the area; I definitely liked the area around Steenwijk much better, because... it looked like Twente. And I was not even born in Twente! Still I prefer the fields with trees around them and the (very) low hills to the flat wetlands. The cows were a nice welcome, as well.

On the other hand, this being the last part of the walk put me in a 'goodbye' mood, strengthened by the beginning autumn. The picture with the completely dried-out corn waiting to be harvested and the skeleton of a small windmill symbolised that autumn feeling. If you'd print it a little darker and with more saturation than the original colours, it might look like a 21st century version of Van Gogh's last painting, the one with the crows. and that association made it even more of a goodbye!


A little late -- Building and handball

Dear folks, sorry for not updating this blog last weekend: work, work, work! The work took place in the Copenhagen Business School, by all accounts one of Europe's top business schools--but that was not my reason for being there and even less was it my reason for mentioning it here. I mention it here, because it offers great opportunities for photography of architecture. Next time when I go there, I'll bring camera (and tripod!). For the moment, I just have an illustration taken from someone else.

Photo activities last week were there, but rather to make a visual memory of my daughter's school activities than as serious search for the ultimate photo. I must admit that for most people, the memories are more important than the photographic quality.
The school activity was a handball tournament among some of the village schools. Sports photography proves to be quite a different discipline: suddenly you miss the 2.8/300 or similar lenses of professionals. The one here was made without flash (not used, because it might disturb the players) at ISO 800, and is better at showing the speed and action (hey, I succeeded in panning precisely with the player's body!) than at portraying the star player of the team: the picture shows his back rather than the front side--why wasn't he a left-hander? ;-)