To the Health Food Shop, with photos

We’re lucky where we live to have a local health food / whole food shop called The Health Box, which not only sells a lot of nice things but also does a lot of bulk refilling of washing up liquid containers etc and does loose dry goods if you bring your own pot to put it in. All of which is so brilliant these days. I however have not actually ever been; normally my significant other stops on her way home from work. But today they moved from their tiny shop to a bigger unit down the road and were having a reopening event, so S.O. thought it would be fun go down, see the new shop and refill some stuff. It’s a lovely shop, and the people are every bit as nice as S.O. says they are. It’s also visually amazing.

Oddly, I found myself taking photographs….. (all shot directly into Lightroom on my iPhone)

Back in the USSR

I’ve been scanning a few more of the frames from the old film / even older Fed photoshoot and I’m wondering if maybe I was a bit harsh on the old comrade because, while some are frankly dire a couple of them are really quite nice once I accept them for what they are. I particularly liked this one of the plants, the muted colours I think really work and the focus is as close to there as it’s reasonable to expect. I possibly could improve things with a bit more lightroom tweaking but I think I like it just as it is

There’s also a bit of me which suspects that my lack of familiarity with the rangefinder focussing might be an issue too here. The nice hard edges to the leaves in this do provide a decent focus target and the light is good (the rangefinder patch on the FED isn’t that big or that bright, especially with my older eyesight). I’ve also given it a really good clean up to see if that improves the focussing possiblities, though of course another solution would be to get to be a better judge of distance against aperture and just trust to that rather than the focussing spot.

This one I thought worked well too, though it’s had more added clarity to bring out the details. One thing I can’t decided is wether the colour shifts are a feature of the way the lens deals with the colour, or if that film was in some way past it’s best. I didn’t buy it and have no idea of it’s provenance prior to my having it. The only other roll I ever shot with the FED, when it was new, was the one this image came from (it featured in a past blog post) which while the colour isn’t perfect lacks the extreme desaturation seen in the one from this year, the trees behind her are definitely a brighter green.

A significant part of me wants to persevere with the FED, or at least try another roll or two through it. Definitely some monochrome, something with some contrast and another roll of my certain colour to satisfy my curiousity about whether it’s the film or the camera. I also want to see if improving my focussing skills with the rangefinder improves the sharpness of the images or if they’re always just going to be a wee bit blurred. But there’s also a bit of me which rather thinks that this product of the former soviet union just deserves to be used..

(Incidentally, while writing this article I discovered for the first time that the name FED are the initials of Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, first head of the Soviet Secret Police – now how’s that for a camera pedigree!)

The Russians are Coming..

Well, the film from my test shoot with my aging FED IV is back from the process lab. On the plus side there is something on every frame…that’s sort of it really. I’ve taken a look at a couple on the scanner and this one is so far the best.

So, being positive, it’s got that vintage feel which many people spend a fortune on presets attempting to achieve and much of it is almost sharp. Straight out of the scanner it was badly lacking contrast and the colour rendition wasn’t great but Lightroom has put some of that back into the image, and actually I kind of like that muted, slightly desaturated pallette. The biggest problem with some of the others is that they’re way off sharp, however I’m not used to a rangefinder, and as some are sharp(ish) that might be me having problems using it. Amazingly, the exposure isn’t far off, which suprises me as I had doubts about that shutter speed accuracy. I’m definitely going to explore some of the other images with the scanner, and I think I’m going to put more film through it; possibly a fairly contrasty monochrome…

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.