Moving to a new site

Sorry folks, but for several reasons I moved this blog (almost all of it!) to:

Photo Forays

There will be no more updates on this site.

You're welcome to browse all the old post and new ones too at that address! My theme remains teh same: to share the joy of photography, and to whare the doubts of the photographer about ever taking a perfect picture.

In due course, this blog will be shut down.

See you on the other side/site!



Hipstamatic: a toy that needs a different vision

There are just so many apps available for taking pictures on the iPhone that one does not easily know what to choose, althoug a little googling will give you equally lots of lists with peoples' favourites. Hipstamatic is sure to turn up as one of them. So I donwloaded it a whle ago, but I must admit that I have not really often found a good way for using it.

It is a nice toy, but you really have to take a different look at taking pictures. I find that difficult. My vision is more 'traditional', most of the time. I want to take pictures that are sharp (selectively), well-exposed (for the purpose), etc. The creativity is in finding a good perspective, a good compisition--and in knowing what the picture should get across to the viewers.
This Hipstamatic game requires a different type of creativity and vision. It is more about colour, mood, and emotional vehicles to get 'something' across to the viewers. But I guess that it also leaves more freedom to the viewers--requires more involvement of the viewers as well, though: you as a viewer have to think much more about what this picture with these effects says to you. I'm curious to know if this one says anything to you. Reactions are welcome!


Wallpaper Wednesday 2: Lotus flowers

Let's make it a weekly date: Wednesdays will be "Wallpaper Wednesday" from now on. (I may be a bit early this time; in my part of the world it is not yet Wednesday, but I hope you'll forgive that.)

Lotus flowers from a lake in the grounds around Ryoanji temple, in Kyoto.


Beauty is in the photograph, not the gear

"Beauty is in the photograph, not the gear. Lenses matter, but even today’s kit lenses are capable of creating beautiful photographs. ... And if the best thing people say about my work is, “Wow, it sure is sharp,” then I’ve failed and the lens is irrelevant."

Highly quotable statement from David DuChemin in his blog.


It takes a few efforts: Spider lily tamed

A few weeks ago I saw intriguing red flowers by the wayside and took some pictures, but was not very satisfied with the pictures: they were good enough for the memory, but not for a serious photo. This weekend I came across some more and tried again. A simple example of the oft-told lesson about photography: don't let go of a subject until you have caught its essence. I think that this second time, I have tamed these wild flowers--for the moment, anyway.
These flowers are called Spider lilies or Higanbana, and have a practical use to keep pests out of rice paddies as they are supposed to be poisonous. Another story associated with Spider lilies is that because they "usually bloom near cemeteries around the autumnal equinox, they are described in Chinese and Japanese translations of the Lotus Sutra as ominous flowers that grow in [...] Hell [...] and guide the dead into the next reincarnation," says the Wikipedia.

Kodak shares plunge as bankruptcy fears escalate - The Mainichi Daily News

The company that made photography popular looks likely not to survive the demise of analogous photography. Sad for the people, and a 'sign of the times'.

Kodak shares plunge as bankruptcy fears escalate - The Mainichi Daily News


Autumn is coming to Japan

Slowly nature is turning to autumn, here in Japan. Not the time of the vibrant colours yet, but some leaves show that change is coming.

DIY-photos in magazines: authentic or trite?

A weekly had asked its female readers to send in their best pictures of their husband (partner, or whatever politically-correct term you want). Many sent a picture of hubby in bed with a cat. Maybe those were the pictures that made these readers happiest. But if you then make it into a policy of your magazine to use only pictures made by its readers instead of professionally-made photos, will you get 'authentic' content or just trite DIY-pictures?

This discussion I read about in my newspaper got going because a magazine for young parents wants to use only illustrations it gets from its readers. The main argument from the magazine’s editor is that in this way the pictures will be more authentic and ‘de-glamourised’. I can agree with their point, and also with the other point they made, namely that small children are so spontaneous and that parents can capture those moments better in natural situations at home than professional photographers who always intrude into the natural situation.
An old example from my own experience (scanned from an analogous photo): a pro would not have got that relaxed-curious attitude from my daughter.

A professional photographer made the counterargument of triteness, using the anecdote of the hubby & cat pictures. Amateur photographers simply lack the imagination and the vision that a professional photographer brings to the scene.

Looking at (too many of!) my own pictures, I must agree with the counterargument, too: my pictures may be too conventional, not surprising enough. Or just made too lazily, as when I do not want to take the trouble of getting down on my knees to get a better perspective, or when I do not want to set up a tripod to get better sharpness.

And I also agree that getting the imagination and vision is largely a matter of training. But I don’t agree that only professionally-schooled photographers have that training. A lot of advanced amateur photographers have that too. Sometimes my own pictures are not too bad, and I see others’ which are much better, also among my internet friends—no professional would be ashamed of them!
Finally, there is more to photographic vision than training; maybe there is such a thing as talent. I’m thinking, for instance, of my own daughter, who without any training sometimes went out with her simple compact camera and then shot really good pictures. But she too has her share of conventional, boring pictures—a bit more training or experience would help! She has her own DSLR now... Still, here comes a little example of what she made from an inspired day in a museum.


Lightroom ready for Sony A77: time to update!

My favourite photo software, Lightroom, is ready for the camera that is on top of my wish list, the Sony SLT-A77. And for other camera types like the Nikon Coolpix P7100 and the Olympus E-PL3. Time for me to download version 3.5!

Meanwhile back home ... World Press Photo exhibition in "my" office building

The World Press Photo exhibition tours around and comes to "my" office building just while I'm away. It's not fair! Still, you readers might be able to go there. Info in Dutch: De World Press Photo tentoonstelling vindt plaats op de campus van de Universiteit Twente in het atrium van gebouw Ravelijn. Entreeprijs voor bezoekers: € 7,50 en voor medewerkers en studenten van de UT € 5,-. Openingstijden: ma t/m vr 10:00 – 18:00 en za & zo 10:00 – 17:00. Kaarten zijn verkrijgbaar aan de kassa in Ravelijn.

Erwin Olaf shoots (or paints?) like Rembrandt

Dutch star photographer Erwin Olaf produced (for want of a better word) a series of pictures inspired on the Relief of Leiden, a defining moment in Dutch 17th century history. His pictures are inspired by paintings from that time. I see a mix of Vermeer and Rembrandt: the baroque atmosphere of Rembrandt, with a more serene light like Vermeer's.

The photo series Erwin Olaf schildert Leids Ontzet :: nrc.nl shows some of those pictures and 'making of' shots. Olaf and his team are shooting individual portraits which will be integrated into huge compositions.

Olaf's pictures are exhibited in Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden, in the festivities around Leiden's Relief, celebrated with all kinds of events in 5 days around October 3. Starting today!


Information on "De Dag van de Fotografie"

For my Dutch and/or Dutch-speaking readers: Er komt op 21 oktober een Dag van de fotografie. Uiteraard in Amsterdam. Deze Dag van de Fotografie belooft veel evenementen rond fotografie en wordt georganiseerd door fotobureau Hollandse Hoogte. Veel van de activiteiten zijn voor foto-professionals, maar ook voor amateurs is er van alles: een fotoboekenmarkt, een fotoquiz, workshops, enzovoorts.

Ik ben dan nog eventjes heel ver van Nederland. Wie laat me weten hoe het was?

Desktop wallpaper: Himeji castle

On my trip through the southern/western part of Japan, one set of pictures that I have been taking were not meant as photos to exhibit, but rather as desktop backgrounds. By and by, I'll post some here. they are generally of tranquil spots of nature, but I also have become fascinated with the huge boulders, some inthe rough, others neatly shaped, used in castle walls. Such as the this one from Himeji castle. At the moment, I only have it in a format close to 1680x1050. I'm not so tech-savvy as Jeffrey Friedl, who apparently makes his desktop backgrounds in umpteen formats at a single mouse click, so if you would like to have it in a different format, please let me know--there's a reaction button under this post!

Obviously, you're welcome to download!

Stairs and shadows: irrestistible

No comment or explanation needed, as far as I am concerned.


Sony A77: great but not the best when light is low

On camerageek website DPReview they always do very serious tests, and the Web community reacts very seriously. Verdict on studio pictures made with the Sony A77: the experts do not all agree (otherwise they would not be experts), but there seems to be a majority opinion that the Sony A77 has great performance for a camera of its size and price. In fact, it can hold out with the best cameras at any price, give or take a pixel here or there. Except when it gets dark: then the loss of light through the new semi-translucent mirror results in more noise, less sharpness.

Sadly, the (excellent!) comparison tool on the DPReview site does not include samples made with my current camera, because that is of course the real question: I am not considering buying a whole new system from any camera brand, I am just considering if it is worthwhile to upgrade from my current Sony A700. And then even without direct comparisons there is little doubt: this is going to be a huge improvement! When can I get it....?


Night photography

Photography is playing with light. The play evolves to a next level if there is very little light, that is to say: when it is dark. But as long as it is not completely dark, you can get light onto your camera's sensor. Just give it time!
One of the interesting effects of exposing for a long time, is that streetlights and the like turn into stars--no trick filter needed! Other effects include that moving elements such as clouds and water, turn into milky flows.

And finally, it is much more of a suprise what will come out of the camera, once you see it on your computer screen: how much have clouds moved? Which light reflections appear where? The effects of moving clouds and water are present but not very strong in my picture that goes with this post. The streetlights are conspicuous stars, though.

The picture is of 'Spectacles Bridge', the oldest stone bridge in Japan, in Nagasaki.


Would have made great photos: And Through The Alps on Vimeo

A beautiful video, an "avalanche of images" as the maker calls it, of riding a motorbike through the Alps. Would have been even better as photos, this photographer thinks, for instance so you can choose you own speed of viewing. In fact, many of the video shots are much like photos in which nothing much is moving. Just great stills :-)

Second thought of any viewer (I hope, and certainly it was my second thought): I want to do that too!
Moreover, in my case: I want to do that soon, before my little nice Ford Puma gets too old for such an expedition. As it said in the newspaper where I found this: full screen viewing is advised!

And Through The Alps from Gerard Kevorkian on Vimeo.

Binary binocular: Sony introduces digital binoculars

What do you get when camera engineers, used to photo and video, take binoculars apart and re-assemble them using their digital technology? Sony shows what that looks like: binoculars of amazing specifications! Electronic viewing (it really seems the way of the future!); close-up (from 1 cm?!) and far away; a kind of camcorder (3D, if you like that, though with limited magnification), using the same sensors and chips that you'll find in your camera. Quite a neat innovation!

Not really affordable for casual bird spotters and they look a bit bulky in the hands of the guy holding them in one of the last pictures in the link below. Those are the downsides, at first sigth. Yet it seems an exciting new take at a forgotten part of optical technology. Swarovski, Leica and other top bincular brands will have to gear up!

The link is to a Dutch preview: dSLR.nl : Sony introduceert de DEV-3 en DEV-5 digitale verrekijkers

Now what if you'd make a link to a good computer screen, or your 3D tv set (tethering, like with DSLRs), instead of the mini electronic-viewfinders built into these binoculars? It's not quite as portable as binoculars--which is of course the main raison d'ĂȘtre of binoculars--but might it not make a great family (3D) view of the birds feeding in your garden in the winter? Beats boring tv series during Christmas holidays if you ask me.


Truth, devastation and beauty: Japan Earthquake: Six Months Later - Alan Taylor - In Focus - The Atlantic

This is a hard one: the link below leads to pictures of sadness and grief, disaster and devastation, but also of how much has already been done to overcome the earthquake and tsunami in North-East Japan in the past six months. Gripping pictures, yet beautiful photographs. Which emotion should reign, when looking at such a pitcure: compassion with the victims, or admiration of the beauty and intensity of the picture? Why would we have to choose between those emotions? I for one feel both at the same time.
Japan Earthquake: Six Months Later - Alan Taylor - In Focus - The Atlantic

Do not forget to click on many of the pictures, because they give exact 'replicas' of photos taken immediately after the great earthquake and in September 2011, half a year later.


Preview of Sony A77

Why did they announce this while I was on vacation? The review in the link below is on a pre-production camera, but a few days later it was announced officially: the Sony A77 SLT.

This Sony A77 promises to be veeerrry attractive to the likes of me who still think of Sony as 'the new Minolta', yet want state-of-the-art technology. The idea of replacing the good old mechanical mirror flipflopping up and down with a fixed, semitransparent construction has great potential, I think. And I'm glad that after the A55 mid-range camera with which this "SLT" technology was introduced, they are now moving up. There was already an A65 and now the A77.

Another strong point is said to be its electronic viewfinder. I was of the conservative opinion that an optical viewfinder has better resolution and less electronic colour distortion/interpretation, but this one promises to be real good, with 2.3 M pixels (there were times when 2M pixels made a decent camera!).

One of the package options, moreover, is the camera body with a "kit lens" of truly interesting specs: 2.8/16-50mm. That is not a kit lens, but could be a really good one! I have grown very fond of my 2.8 telezoom, and am already looking forward to a standard zoom with the same large opening.

Only two questions remain. First, can I afford it? Sub-question: any reader making an offer on my Sony A700 (used but good-looking!)?
And second, should I go for it, or wait for the full-frame A99?

Sony SLT-A77 Preview: 1. Introduction: Digital Photography Review


Eagle Owl Attacking Camera at 1000fps

I alsways thought that it was video was never going to be my thing, but this footage almost convinces me... Amazing detail and sharpness, and you would be extremely hard-pressed to capture an owl "attacking" your phot camrea at exactly the right moment. With a slomo video like this, you can have your choice of "right moments"!

From the same website as the dog portraits.

Eagle Owl Attacking Camera at 1000fps

Portraits of Dogs as They Shake Off Water

Great dog portraits in the link! Funny pictures. But there's no dignity left for a dog. Well, they'd better become cats anyway when it comes to maintaining dignity.

Portraits of Dogs as They Shake Off Water


Picasa back in favour

Picasa is back on my list of popular (and free!) photo web services, now that I (finally?) discovered that they have done away with the 5-pictures-at-a-time limit for uploading. My pictures of the archery 3D-tournament of last weekend found a happy home there.


Traces of thirst

The picture is not great at all, but I find the story irresistible: a carrier pigeon crash landed on our terrace. Hearing its wings thump and scrape on the stones was the first thing I noticed. The pigeon got on it's feet and tried to drink from the pond that borders the terrace. But with the drought, the water level was too low and try as it might, the pigeon could not bend deep enough to get it's beak into the water. After a few tries it made a desperate decision and dived right into the pond. Its head was drowned completely, wings spread out made sure it swam. After five long seconds of gulping water to quench its thirst, the pigeon got its head out of the water, flapped it's wings a few times and flew off again, on its way--no doubt--to race home. Only the traces of the dust of its feathers was left on the water. And that's when I finally got my phone's camera out to document this story of a dry spring.

Posted from Blogium for iPhone


Lightroom 3.4

A minor update, it seems, of Lightroom. As the Adobe website says it:

"The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 3.4 update includes these enhancements:

• Additional camera support for several new camera models including the Canon Rebel T3i, Nikon D5100 and Fuji FinePix X100
• Corrections for issues introduced in previous versions of Lightroom 3 "

While it's downloading, I thought some of my web-friend might like to know...


New spring, new lens

Treated myself to a new telezoom, a 2.8/70-200, especially because I wanted the large aperture. And boy, does it make a difference in the viewfinder! With such a clear view, you can use manual focus much better. However, this is also my first lens with HSM focusing and that is impressive too: smooth, silent and fast; so you don't really need manual focus.

But the main reason for wanting the 2.8 opening is that it reduces the depth-of-field so you can have very selective focus. Hope to make use of that in the coming days--and coming years!

The disadvantage of a big opening is that it is a big and heavy lens. Yet even here I was pleasantly surprised: the 1.3 kg have a very good handling, nice balance with the camera and you can use it very well 'shooting from the hand', without a monopod/tripod.

For the moment then, just a little example of what may be done with such a lens: a random insect on a random flower in a random place (the backyard of my house). The lens has a good bokeh, I think. I am pleased with this new toy!