A Photoshoot doomed by technology (possibly)

I’ve just sent off for processing a roll of film on which, frankly, I’ll be astounded if there is anything worth looking at. Any failures I shall, justifiably I think, lay directly at the door of the equipment!

First, the film. A while back my son’s girlfriend came to visit the UK (she’s Dutch) and for fun picked up an old Olympus Trip to try out. She’d never shot film in her life, I forget that lots of people have never shot film, when did I get old? Anyway, to cut a long story (and roll of film) short she’d not made sure the film was tight and it had wound itself so loosely round the takup spool it had popped the back off the camera. I took one look at the, by now, fogged mess, took it out of the camera and loaded a fresh roll of film from the fridge. I was just going to bin the damaged roll but thought that by my guestimate there were probably about about twentyish shots left on the roll. Seemed a pity to waste it so I trimmed a new leader and put it in the fridge on the grounds it was going to come in handy one day..maybe…

Now the camera. In 1979 I bought a FED IV, which were of course new and shiny (if the FED was ever ‘new and shiny) in 1979 as a backup camera for my K1000. I shot a roll of film with it to try it out and discovered that the K1000 was so reliable that I never needed a backup camera. The fact that I still shoot the K1000 now and again demonstrates that. The photos from the FED were, well, okay. It’s sat in various cupboards as we’ve moved house ever since and I sort of felt that I’d quite like to give it a spin again. I have a dark suspicion that I might have at some stage checked it was working mechanically and forgot the golden rule of the soviet rangefinder…never set the shutter speed without cocking the shutter first. Whatever, it felt a bit rough.

So I put the two together, the half(ish) roll of possibly slightly fogged film into a camera which hasn’t seen any film in 4 decades – what can possibly go wrong? Well in a few days I’ll let you know when it comes back from A G Photolab.

I decided not to spend the extra on the optional scanning….

Oh, that’s an old copy of Black and White Photography from 2004. Somebody I know donated me a bag of old issues from the loft. You’ve not missed an issue!

Morocco 88 Revisited: Part Two

A while back I decided to go through the photos I took on a trip to Morocco 30 years ago and revisit them (see this post). Scanning has been an intermittent process but I’m getting through it. I’m doing the scanning on a Plustek OpticFilm scanner and using VueScan as the scanning software; generally it’s going well and I’m really impressed with the level of control I’m getting from VueScan on these old negatives which often need more or less of a colour to make them look OK. Some of the images have clearly degraded a fair bit over time as no amount of tweaking in VueScan or Lightroom can make them look great, though the majority are responding well. I’m tending to not mess about with the actual exposure or contrast at the scanning stage, partially because generally it’s near enough okay but mainly because I’m doing that in Lightroom. One thing I’ve discovered is that pretty much any negative, not just the old ones, benefits from a bit of clarity…many of these benefit from quite a lot! I’m also doing some recropping of them if I think there is a more interesting one than the whole negative view. After all I do this with my digital photos ruthlessly so why not these, I’m not a ‘print the full frame, get it right in camera’ snob 🙂

I’m not near the end yet, but I thought I’d share one of the images

Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

This is the Udaya Kasbah at Rabat, where I remember us having a wonderful mint tea in a cafe with gardens of which I do have some photos, Sue and I weren’t as obessed with gardens then otherwise I suspect there would be more…a lot more. I rather wish I could remember more about the trip, it’s now just a set of isolated memories and images.

What is interesting is how different these photos are in the scanned form than they are in the prints, after a bit of tweaking in Lightroom (remember the clarity) there’s a dynamic range and ‘space’ in them which the prints lack. Now clearly the machine processing of the 24 hour service in SuperSnaps wasn’t ever going to be anything other than a very broad estimate of the content of the negative, pretty much like shooting your DSLR on full auto jpg, you have to lose something even though superficially the images look okay. The thing which I’m finding interesting though is this, my memories of the trip are largely linked to the photos, when I look at them I’m revisiting in my head taking them (I tend to have very clear recall of the circumstances around taking photos). However, with some I’m finding there is detail which wasn’t in the prints, and in some cases the lab has actually cropped the negative quite substantially so there are bits missing in the print. So to an extent my memories are significantly faulty! Morocco was clearly in many ways a lot more vibrant and the shadows were less gloomy than I was (aided by the photos) ‘rememembering’ it as being.

So I’ve got another ten negatives to scan and process, then I’m going to decide on a sequence for them. In the original album they’re chronological based on the order in which I took them, but I’m wondering if it might be more interesting to sequence them differently. They’ll probably be an album on my Flickr, but I bit of me is wondering about getting a photobook done so it can sit on the shelf next to the original album…hmm…

New Year: New(ish) Flickr

I’m a very long term Flickr user, going all the way back to when it and Photobucket were about the only games in town for online image hosting. I’ve stuck with it through what can only be called the horror of the Yahoo years (and briefly something called Oath) and now it’s in the SmugMug family I’m still there. Actually I’ve got real hopes for it now as SmugMug do have a background in image management so they at least ought to have some idea of what they’re doing. While there have been a few obvious effects, not least the weekend where they moved the entire content (100 million + accounts and literally billions of images) from Yahoo hosting to AWS – which I’m in awe of as a project, I’ve noticed that using it seems, well, smoother these days. There was, predictably, an uproar when they said that only people who paid for Pro level would get unlimited hosting, but to be fair, unlimited add free photo hosting for nothing just really isn’t going to work these days (and free users still get, I think, a thousand images…). I found a lovely post from one person wondering how it was going to get his, get this, 40,000 photos off Flickr! Who the hell needs to cloud store 40k images, and who realistically wants that for free?

Going along with this, I’m sort of becoming a bit disheartened by Instagram. Okay, I’m a big user and I really enjoy seeing the images from the folks I follow. But the number of ‘sponsored’ posts seems to be going up and the number of people who are now tagging their content as paid in some form or another goes up and that’s detracting from my enjoyment. Okay, I’ve never suffered from InstaEnvy, though I know a lot do and the idea that you can’t be a photographer these days unless you’re on Insta seems to have taken a hold. I’m not giving up on social media in general, or the ‘gram but for me 2020’s photo motto, or one of them, is going to be use more Flickr.

So I’ve spent today, yes, all of it, revamping my Flickr account. When I signed up I used it to share photos with people so there were loads of albums of family holidays and the like. Some of these go back to 2007 when I was using Picasa (which you may remember) for image management according to the data. I was pretty sure I’d got all of the images but to make sure I downloaded all the ones I didn’t want to keep on Flickr and removed them. Currently I’m in the middle of a massive exercise of tagging, re-albuming, and making sure the permissions are what I want as some of the photos on it are still private. But I’m getting there.

So if any of you are Flickr users, or have an historic Flickr account you feel like digging out and trying again, or just feel like signing up, feel free to friend me there. And of course you can always look at my public images without an account, I promise there aren’t 40,000 of them 🙂

This link should take you there..

Lightroom or Capture One – lets look at the workflow and the numbers

Adobe Lightroom or Capture One? A topic which for divisiveness comes close to the dark feud of Vi or Emacs, okay *nothing* really comes close to the dark feud of Vi or Emacs, civilisations have been obliterated after less divisive feuds. However, it’s an ongoing topic on which there can’t actually be as many opinions as their are photographers as there are actually only two options. But you know what I’m saying here. The caveat here is that this is all about me and my workflow and approach, it’s not an attempt to say this is going to be true for anybody else. Also, if you’re looking at this in the future, all these prices might be well out and so my comparisons aren’t going to work.

I’ve been a user of the Adobe workflow for years, and I’m quite happy with it. But it’s important to not just do what you’ve always done and assume you’ll always do it. I believe it was Keynes, but it might not have been, at least in that format, who said that when the evidence changed he changed his mind. So I thought I’d look at the evidence for switching my workflow to Capture One. There was a lot of opinion, most of it being fairly presented as opinion, as to the merits of one or the other in terms of image quality, especially when processing RAW files. At the end of my trip through the Youtube videos on this, I wasn’t any the wiser about if switching would benefit me. So I was on the point of downloading the trial of Capture One and seeing for myself when I decided, before going down that road, to look at the numbers. The difference between the two, and one which I’ve seen as a vote in it’s favour, is that you can actually own Capture One – you can rent it the way you Lightroom, but there is an outright purchase option. I’m pretty happy to rent software, but there are sound financial arguments to ownership too, so a tick to Capture there.

So, currently, I rent Lightroom and Photoshop on the photography plan for which I pay about a tenner a month. If I opted to go the rental route for Capture that would be double that so clearly not a better option for renting it just on the money alone. There is an important note here, the price for Capture One is only £9.95 if you’re only a Fuji or Sony user, but I shoot Canon so can’t take advantage of that discount, and I’m talking about me here. But for you the numbers might be more advantageous.

So I looked at the purchase option, outright ownership, £299.99 and it’s mine for life. Which works out at two and a half years of Adobe rental. Well, I thought, okay but I’ve hopefully got decades of snapping ahead of me so once I own it I own it. But of course with Adobe I’ll be getting all my updates and upgrades in the price while with Capture One there is probably going to be an update along in a couple of years which will be chargeable so maybe not a good deal? That would depend if the version I bought kept doing everything I wanted with it and so I didn’t need the upgrade, which is a significant possibility and so I could consider that.

But

And this is the fly in the ointment now and has been every time I’ve thought of this migration and remains the thing which stops me jumping to Capture. With Capture One, I get Capture One. With the Adobe Plan I get Photoshop as well as Lightroom, which I use for more significant edits and which I know well. Okay I could shift to something like Affinity Photo which I know and like, but which would put another £50 on the migration cost, or something like Luminar which I know is mega popular at another £70, neither of which are huge sums but I’d lose the seamless integration I get and like from Lightroom and Photoshop. They’re both good products, are only going to get better, and I could probably deliver using them, but the right-click >> edit in photoshop and then have the edits come back into Lightroom for further work is something I like.

For me the migration killer is that I get both Lightroom Classic for my desktops and Lightroom for mobile for my phone and tablet, with the ability to synchronise folders between the two using the 40Gb of cloud storage I get. That’s the big thing Capture One lacks, though to be fair it’s never claimed to want to go down this route. It’s heritage, the place it lives and thrives, is for photographers who want to get their photoshoots processed back in the office. People say it’s quick and good and if you’re a modern wedding photographer who needs to deliver 2000 photos to the happy couple asap that’s a sales point. But I like to be able to take an image from a photoshoot, export it to Lightroom in the cloud, then when I’m ready load it on my tablet or phone and put it onto Instagram. Or to shoot a file on my mobile device into Lightroom and finish it on the desktop.

So for me, the reason I’m not even going to try the free download of Capture One too see what the fuss is about mainly has nothing to do with the relative merits of the two packages, which is what most comparisons seem to make their focus. It’s the effect on my overall workflow. I could possibly, if I forgo the updates and subsequent updates to the Apple OS allow the older versions to function adequately, make it financially a better option. But for me the Capture One based workflow just wouldn’t work.

South Bank Spraypaint

Some more of my photos from the London trip, this time of the grafitti around the South Bank (if you look you can see the blurred skaters). Nothing ‘special’ about these, I just loved the colours which I think look better on film than they would have on digital, something about the way film captures images just, well, works…I think anyway!

Shot on Ultramax 400, Pentax MX with (probably) the Hoya 28mm lens

Five Photos of a Woman Drummer

A few weeks ago I was walking down Oxford St, heading towards Paddington, when I heard amazing drumming; on getting closer it became apparent that it was a young woman seriously getting her groove on. I headed over for a closer look and then realised that not only was it great drumming, it was a great photo opportunity. Check out her Instagram @ladybananamusic

I was shooting Kodak Ultramax 400 on my old Pentax MX, but it was a really sunny day so I managed to shoot at 1/500 or 1/1000 to freeze (more or less) the action. I really like the way these turned out, and while I didn’t see the bystanders when I was shooting, but they make a couple of these images.

Norwich on Expired Delta 3200

A while ago a friend was clearing out his film fridge and said did I want anything, well that would be a yes so I said ‘surprise me’. Among the stuff were some rolls of Delta 3200 which expired in 2004, so significantly out of date but I knew he’d have looked after it. We were going away to Norwich (‘A Fine City’) for the weekend and I knew that while I was taking my 6d digital it’s not a great camera to carry for popping into the city, especially as the forecast was for a bit of rain…well in the end…a lot of rain! So I loaded it into my Pentax MX and as I was in experiment territory put the Hoya (remember them?) 2.8 28mm lens on the front. I thought that would be a good nightime city scape lens, and also practically it goes to infinity at 3m and I don’t manually focus so good in low light these days. Given the age of the film I shot it at 1600, which is also the fastest film speed the MX can deal with, and decided that as it was largely sacrificial film which cost me nothing and was only going to cost me a shot of developer and some time to process I’d just shoot it for shit and giggles.

There were 5 or 6 on the roll I thought were quite nice, and after I scanned them decided that a blue split tone gave them a nice effect. Pulled the contrast up a bit and left it at that.

I definitely want to get some in date 3200 and try some more city at night photography with it, though I’ll have to take a light meter or guess the exposure on the MX…