Tuesday, February 28, 2012

D3 with Sigma 12-24 revisited

Now i feel stupid .. What did i overlook when i initially tested the D3 with the Sigma 12-24 ? Why didn’t i test properly the Sigma to rule it out as a dud ? Why didn’t i treat with some more respect the possibly greatest FF DSLR ever created  ?

Im not going to beat it to death - here is my new take : 

Im now very impressed with the D3 and the Sigma in the front of it ! I guess my revisit was largely triggered by the (unreal) geometrical, CA , and resolution (centre at least) performance of the Sigma. Add in the mix a lingering suspicion that i’ve done something wrong in my original tests - especially when looking at the very first shots with the Sigma (inside the house), taken at the "bad" f5.6 (wide open) - images, which even then made me sit back and take note .. Subsequently i've shot patterns and lines enough to confirm that stopping down the Sigma to f8 - f11 changes things in sharpness (and vignette) sufficiently to call the Sigma a one very sharp lens, corner to corner

I can only imagine what stopped down Nikkor 50mm 1.8D or 35mm f2 could bring to the table - for portrait and “non-portrait”  photography - I was very tempted to order myself one of these just because of this camera, which is not even mine and might decide to grow legs and leave me - to go back where it came from hopefully ..

OK .. What did change this time around  :

1. ISO limited to 5000. Was it 6400 before ? I guess so
2. Speed set to a minimum of 1/30th. Was 1/10th or less before
3. A revisit of the Aperture preset for the D3 raws - a critical review and adjustments
4. The outside images were shot at EV −0.33 .. Cannot yet decide if it's better with compensation dialed in or without and for what conditions - see my end comments

This is it .. the rest is as in the first time around : handheld, Auto WB, Spot AF, blah blah blah ..

You be the judge - i think i like much what comes out now.  Processing : batch Aperture followed by batch Filmpack, but i can safely leave out the Filmpack - that is how good the images came out - if not for the magenta cast issues mentioned further, which im too lazy to resolve still in Aperture at this point.. Very tired from the darkroom, very ..

I could also easily and very effectively lift the shadows / dark areas where needed, without affecting the mid-high band, but don’t see this as necessary - me and HDR / deep shadow detail are not the greatest of friends ..

Here we go  - a walk around this place again, which, as with the D3 - was initially questioned, to only become a fetish of form and light later. However, please remember when viewing the samples below, that i have a problem with pronounced green channel luminance (something i find often with Nikon) - accordingly corrected. I also cannot tolerate very well even the slightest magenta/blue/cyan cast which is removed too in the images below as part of the processing above.

Finally, one question still remains after “this 2nd trip” and that is : metering with very bright frames as well as in very low light, and the appropriate exposure compensation for either. As of the past day or two, i might be looking for the answer to this completely elsewhere - like in the new Nikon V1 ..


Monday, February 20, 2012

Pinise Saul & Bheki Khoza at the Bean

Here are few images from another night of pure elevation at the Lucky Bean.. Not only for the great performance (if slightly short), but also for the great and different, with a twist of Thai - kinglip partnered with the "liquid strawberries" Springfield Wild Yeast Chardonnay .. 

Thanking once again the great hosts of the Lucky Bean - Conway and team.

Another night there to be remembered and recalled with a smile - especially when shot with the new and magnificent so far ISO 1600 Kodachrome 64, and here - behind a Leica piece of glass ;-)


Rollei Retro 80s is also an option, yet it felt color yesterday, and it felt Afro rich with some (slowly getting to your bones) jazz in the mix ..

But lets have few more Kodachromes ..

I'm sure Mr Lynch (and a rabbit) will enjoy few drinks in this bar..


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Paul Blackmore

A new discovery - Paul Blackmore .. The Australian David Goldblatt ?!

Bought his book today - "Australians - Responses to the land" - some of the most magnificently executed B&W prints and rewarding  documentary / street photography i've seen to date ! Photo paper of some sort, heavy as it comes, and looking 0.3 mm ..

Here is a link to this book with much smaller images of course : http://www.paulblackmore.com/ - click on Stories - Australians ..

My style of B&W photography - light, contrast, grain, even subject - everything - all images (in book and on his site) looking so much like Rollei Retro 80s film pushed a notch or the way i've seen it processed in Rodinal ..


Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The LC1 replacement arrived !

Have been looking for this replacement for years .. The L1 with the Zuiko 25mm almost did it .. Now this beauty below is what i'll be getting very soon for all my efforts in cities and spaces when the sun is absent ..

No way out of you

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My iPhone loves the golden hour !

The story of "the best camera is the one with you" continuous .. It is now the case for the imperfect, uncolorful and underexposed photograph !


Visiting Rosebank and Parktown late yesterday and decidedly leaving the Leica in the car, and then processing the few images form the iPhone - now somewhat recalls my permanent audiophile nirvana with my valve amplifiers : so analogue, addictive, and "there", and yet never enough detail in the low and in the high band .. 

Check these below out and see if you agree with this analogy ..

During the last war, strange things happened ..


Twilight will happen again today
This child ..


Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Between your absences and yesterday 
I go down to the sea
and stay with you there, for a while

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Analogue in the Digital


I'm finally in the state of peace and elevation after many months of pursue for the analogue in the digital imaging. Im scared to think of how many hours and late nights went into this, but today, i feel finally satisfied with my ultimate goal and the results thereof : achieving the qualities of film in the end result of digital.

I call this the de-digitalization of digital photography.

Where did it all start .. A number of things in digital have been bothering me over the years, as im sure you too. Eventually i put down a set of key objectives (following the original writeup on the subject here), which were to attempt to bring back the honesty, imperfection, and beauty of a well shot film with a good camera and lens.

So there you have i : What processing can get me closest to selected film emulsions, lens rendering or at the very minimum - derive as much analogue from the digital as possible. Any or all of these ..

Back to film

When talking cameras, i must clearly state the the beauty in the images of the old Leicas with either Leica or CZ lenses was a major inspiration and driving force here, as well as a barometer of where i was heading and how close to the target i was getting.

These above were / are mostly concerned with small chip cameras irrespective (to a large extent) of what lens is sitting in front. I could not afford then and don't want to do it now - the cost of a FF and associated glass, neither was i prepared then or am prepared now - to carry the weight of same with me for fun street or non-action (eg sports) shooting. I am absences and twilight shooter or at least i like to think i am one ..

I wanted to extend this to both color and B&W, with one color emulsion instantly a favorite and a desire - the Kodachrome 64, and with the B&W emulsions going through iterations - something like : Tri-X 400 pushed (Rodinal, D76) > Ilford XP2+ (HC110H/B) > Agfa APX25 Pushed > Rollei Retro 80s pushed 0.5 - 1 stop (Rodinal) .. Eventually i settled for the Rollei look, after many images in HP5+ which, both in the end seemed very close if processed in a particular way and pushed - some evidence can be found here - not sure which one is which really, yet this is my ultimate B&W look. These, together with the Kodachrome 64 can be seen in posts here.

Four cameras got special attention, maybe because i own 3 of them today - the g11 got legs and left me one early morning with the "new owners". I am having a near fetish obsession with each of them.. The efforts to de-digitalize them eventually resulted in :

1. Individually tuned / dedicated presets for the raw treatment in the input stage
2. A single color and a single B&W simulation - for all 3 cameras in the second, post-Aperture batch

For further details go to The Darkroom below.

These cameras are : Lumix L1 (with the 14-50 Leica and the 25mm Zuiko), Lumix LX5, Canon G11, iPhone 4. There was one more camera which provided much excitement, and which has much less of all the issues mentioned above - the machine gun D3 .. It got it's own custom treatment and a writeup - a comparison with the Leicas which can be found here.

Finally, i did a lot of research of what was available in the film simulation space, evaluated the leading tools in the field and tried all fitting presets from presetpond.com for example. Some were getting very close, especially in the Kodachrome 64 simulation, almost none in the B&W simulations (although SEP can achieve pretty much any look) and almost none managed to produce the K64 black and whites, nor the red-infested greens and blues - not that this is much desired .. So i decided to develop my own Kodachrome 64 and high contrast B&W and not rely on off the shelf presets - this eventually required a very radical modification of the provided / stock standard film looks in the tool used in the last stage of processing.

To further illustrate this, here is a random LX5 image taken in a overcast day - 5 stockstandard and looking very good on presetpond.com presets were used - those that resembled film and Kodachrome mostly. My preset is with the bottom right image - you see which one you like best

NB This is only in the first (batch) stage of processing, before the "Leica / film lift" as in Kodachrome 64 in flow below

Here is one more comparison : On the left - a final Kodachrome 64, directly in Aperture, no further processing, on the right - a version for Kodachrome 64 simulation elsewhere. In the end, i like both results, yet, the typical (as in image on left) K64 was containing all which this film "was hated for" by some - the red channel present everywhere .. So i tend to prefer the warmer, cleaner modern look which follows the workflow outlined below

The Darkroom

For one or rather reason i turned out to be someone who would refuse to develop each image separately, twist it and adjust it until it is "perfect and here to stay" - the case of PS processing i guess. I recall to be like this from day one, even if then (circa 1999), we were exploring with whatever tools were available in the early days and were having some fun and WOW with the first digitals such as the unforgettable Lumix FZ20 and Fuji 6900. Thus, i am much more in favor of the traditional processing where a film goes into a drum and all frames get processed at once - then those frames which are bad simply get discarded, and the rest get a specific treatment, some but rarely - get individual treatment, mostly for shadows lift and WB corrections.

Note the color key (legend) for batch and individual below - this is the final workflow and something which brings me the desired results, saves me one big chunk of time, which can go to shooting for example, simplifies the whole process by putting mundane tasks in the background, and gets me quickly to final result composition and presentation, eg the posts on this blog :

As you see in flow above, batch takes the large part of the workflows, and individual crop and level for example, are done at the very end, on the end result. Initial sorting and short list can take place before any processing, in camera, or at the very end - i found a very detailed  selection process to be of no specific value in the actual shoot processing and that can be applied continuously or at any point until the 100 images shoot goes down to the 10 keepers per se.

The results

Below i've provided few links to results using above flow and presets, they are by film and cover few favorite emulsions. The Kodachrome and Rollei are the 2 winners which i process everything in as of recent, but discard B&W if it does not fit a particular shoot and vise versa 

Kodachrome 64
Rollei Retro 80s

Tri-X Pushed
Ilford XP2+ and also here
Agfa APX25 Pushed


This effort would have had a different result and possibly going stale if not for the continuos encouragement, insight, and critics by Mark Schaffer & Christian Delbert, as well as the comments of other photographers on DPR's forums.

To be continued in every shoot ..