Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I just received one of many statements from photographers that the current digital technology is complex and confusing, so it’s hard to understand. I could assume from that many think digital follows what analog film photography established. But that also assumes that the photographic process was understood as it has been for over a century, but sadly both assumptions are mixed up by many mythical and fantastic ideas and beliefs that have confused many if not most for as long as the 50 some years I’ve been a photographer. And it has not been helped by an industry and technology that now uses terms like resolution, which on film meant how fine the detail was resolved sharply, to its digital meaning that defines the size of an image in pixels. 

So let me start at my own beginning. I had an accident my first year in the military (Korea) and asked for a different job, as a photographer. I got it, but no training for it, and was assigned as the only photographer in a large unit, with an office, darkroom and a camera. I had no choice, I had to learn how to do the job on my own. I had been reading a lot about photography as there was little else to do where I was stationed if you didn’t drink or gamble, and I found both boring. And fortunately all of the instruction books that came with the equipment in my office and photo lab were neatly filed, so I had a guide. And I was there to do records of accidents, so for long periods I had nothing else to do but practice photography. My camera was a 4x5, so it was easy to make exposure brackets of all of my test shots, and to develop each sheet individually for different times. So trial and error taught me how to get the results I needed. It worked as I recently scanned some B&W film from my service days and they fit into an article I published in Shutterbug nicely. 

After 4 years of service and practicing how to photograph I was discharged and went home with the GI Bill to go to school to study photography and everything associated. My first year was as at a local university  so I could spend some time with my mother. But then I came down to California and a photography school where I learned I would just continue to do what I had been up to, learning photography by doing it. But, now I had instructors and expert evaluations of what I was doing, plus new instruments to measure my results, a densitometer. Later on densitometry became popular as the Ansel Adams Zone System, but I never understood why the Zone System was popular and densitometry was thought to be so difficult.  Anyway, my training confirmed what I had begun with. You obtain control of how to photograph by learning the process and how the tools like lenses, shutter/aperture, light meters and densitometers provide an understanding of how a subject is reproduced in an image on film and then paper.

You have to experiment with variations, and record what you did, and it will be the errors that will tell you what method to use. As I got to use all kinds of cameras, lenses and films as well as processes as a photo magazine staffer, I learned the tools that really make a difference are those that measure the subject and the film result. So I acquired the best densitometer I could get and also the best light meter, which at the time was the first Minolta 1 degree spot meter. I also learned from a great fine art photographer, Oliver Galliani, that a test reference step-tablet made with precise filters and illuminated from behind provided a longer range of values and more precise test results. So I experienced ever better control over what I was doing, and whether with camera X, Y, or Z, I could obtain  pretty much the same predictable results. In other words, if you know the photographic process, know and have control of what the tools do, you have what is needed to get the images you make with just about any camera. 

With film there were always unpredictable variables, like one emulsion batch differed from the next, each processing differed some from another because of replenishment and age of the chemistry. This is what I refer to as sideways variation. It can be limited by buying very large quantities of film and keeping the supply in cold storage until used. Processing variation can also be limited I found by using a chemical concentrate, diluting it for use, and then discarding it afterwards. With digital you have the advantage that sideways variation is almost eliminated. The ups and downs of exposure control to match it with subject variation is within what the camera records by varying the range that is recorded with internal camera controls. And all this can be further refined with software after the image is recorded in a file. Although the cameras and lenses look like those used with film, there is nothing comparable between a digital image, which is just pure information that can be changed easily and a film image which is locked into a prison of physical existence. 

Monday, November 15, 2010


Usually I do not write about things I read in others writing I receive in RSS feeds. But a blooming new creativity interest using flatbed scanners is something I could not resist. It is called scanography, using a flatbed scanner as if it were a digital camera to take digital pictures of 3D objects. So considering a lot of photographers have flatbed scanners these days, how about getting more use out of it to create photographs when it is too cold and nasty to go and shoot your camera outdoors? You can easily take a look at what others are doing with their scanners by visiting a web site all about it at: http://www.scannography.org. In this new web site you will find there is a Scannography.org .PDF file you can download that provides a detailed look at the work of many people using scanners as cameras with lots of fascinating examples of their images. 

Besides being an attractive use of a flatbed scanner to get more out of the hardware than the usual, of course I had to try scanography myself. I searched around my place for likely stuff to scan with my Epson Perfection V500, and then sat down with the scanner and began to make some scans of 3D objects. Previewing and then adjusting the scan was about the same as it would be for flat prints, so I made some scans. Technically they were OK, but creatively just scanning objects doesn’t produce an interesting picture. Later that day while out shopping I noticed the store was already selling Christmas decorations and lighting, so I bought a set of multi-colored LED lights. Back in my lab with the scanner I bunched the LED lights up in a tight package  and then moved them back and forth from one side of the scan platen to the other as the scanner progressed to make a scan. The result was encouraging, and after a little Photoshopping it was an abstract worth pursuing if I had the time to experiment more.

Of course scanners make exposures differently than the single shots of a digital camera, so with this in mind what you can do knowing a moving subject will distort as its being scanned is just one of the options you can employ to obtain differing image affects. In a way I wish I had the leisure to play with scanography more to see what else I could come up with creatively. But all I can do is suggest it has great potential and the many images on the scenography.org web site should be encouraging. I would have liked to try the scanner’s transparent mode, but there is an interlock that prevents the scanner running without the lid in place, so that possibility was not investigated. Maybe other model flatbeds with film scanning options may be more flexible. It would be interesting what could be done with small LED lights with some objects scanned using the transparent scan mode.

If looking at the scannography web site, as well as reading their PDF document,  is as fascinating as I found it, and you try this and get some results, let me know. This could become another interesting facet of digital photography. e-mail me at goofotografx@gmail.com

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Up until now software products have been dominated by elephantine applications like Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe Photoshop. Software companies have made them huge, full of functions and features one individual may never need or want; but to get the essential core you need you have to buy an expensive package. I need some of both of these huge applications but never use more than a fraction of what they contain, and of course have to buy the whole to get just the part I need. This is an advantage to the companies that own these monopolies, but not to the individual users.

At the most recent  public Apple event Steve Jobs spoke of the next major Apple Operating System “Lion” upgrade and that it will integrate some of their computer OS 10.X and iPhone/iPad iOS 4.2 functions. That makes obvious practical sense, but what he added to it that the Apple App Store would become open to developers to offer applications for the OS 10.6 computer operating system within the next 90 days is a revolutionary change of the business model for software. Reactions to this news were both welcoming and fearful – what will this new sales structure bring to the future? One place where you can shop for all independent software applications? The iPhone and its competitors as well as the iPad have attracted a huge variety of small modular Apps and has surely been a significant business success for users, developers and Apple of course. 

Just recently Apparent Software (http://www.apparentsoft.com/) partnered with other small developers and has offered a bundle of graphics applications, the MacGraPhoto 2 bundle  (http://www.macgraphoto.com/) for a fraction of the total cost of all nine applications. Of course my curiosity got the best of me, so I purchased the bundle at $40. It includes:
• Sandvox by Karelia Software - Apple Design Award Winner Website building application
• AtomicView by AntZero - Digital content management
• Posterino 2 - a new release by Zykloid Software - Compose posters from multiple photos
• Sketch - A new vector drawing application by Apple Design Award winner Bohemian Coding
• Swift Publisher by BeLight Software - Page layout application for designing fliers, newsletters, brochures etc.
• Layers by Wuonm - Capture screen as a PSD Layered Image
• Snapshot by LateNiteSoft - Photo-lab on a Mac: Image editing and printing
• ImageFramer 3 by Apparent Software - A brand new re-design of a popular image and photo framing application
• Hydra by Creaceed - Easily create HDR images
• DVD-Library by iSkysoft: Bonus application for building a photographic DVD Library

I immediately downloaded all of the applications, licensed and registered them, but that was just the other day so of course I have not used them all enough to get more than an idea of what I purchased. But already some of these applications have been helpful, and I am sure most will be over time. So I am glad I took advantage of this bundle offer that only lasts until the end of November. But more important, whether intended or not, maybe it is a look into a better future for computer users tomorrow if what Steve Jobs description of what is coming is the reality in the immediate future. Will the new expanded App Store be just for Apple users or will it include applications for all platforms? We will just have to wait and see, but if this is a breakthrough in the establishment model of the past and it becomes popular, anything is possible.

As a precedent for a possible future there is presently a lack of a module application that could be used as the home of different application pieces, plug-ins. There is a standard for plug-ins already and there is little reason many of the small, specialized applications could not be programmed to be plug-ins, So where is the module to plug them into, it sure isn’t the too big, too expensive Photoshop CS5. I have an idea the modular software may be coming, but this not anything I really know, so you’ll have to wait along with me to see if it develops and becomes real. In the meantime you might be amused by the Macalope:

Sunday, November 7, 2010


For too long there have been few LCD displays available that fully support a digital photographic color managed workflow. Now LaCie has added another, their 324i with desirable specifications in a P-IPS 10-bit 24 inch LCD display. The screen image should be sharp and detailed too with a 1920x1200 pixel resolution. Most important of course is its color range that is specified at 98% of Adobe RGB. But these days with ultra-lite and flimsy un-adjustable home-office LCD displays in the box stores, the LaCie 324i has a solid, full-featured stand and supports portrait orientation. Like any good, current LCD display the LaCie has a wide range of input connector options like Display Port, DVI and HDMI.

Other important advantages include the display’s support for on-board calibration adjustment, and as La  Cie has done in the past, professional options include a hood made and designed for the display as well as La Cie’s own Blue Eye calibration and profiling software and colorimeter. Unlike some professional LCD displays, the LaCie displays are not limited to their own software and colorimeter, either X-Rite, DataColor or ColorEyes Display Pro will work effectively if a buyer already has them. But with such a wide color gamut the La Cie will need a current type-2 colorimeter that can accurately read a wide color range.

I don’t plan to test and do a full report on this new La Cie 324i LCD display, but I have tested and found La Cie displays are exceptional, and bought one for my own use five or six years ago and it is still providing fine performance. My only reason for just doing this brief report is the La Cie is on the high side of the price range at $1249. A very complete description and all specification for the 324i is on the La Cie web site at: http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?pid=11570

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Many of you have mentioned printer profiles as a part of your digital photo workflow.   Sometimes it is a problem that you find you have to work around. And most of you have a computer with a calibrated and profiled display, as well as often one of the many flatbed scanners I have reported on in recent years. You may even have Lasersoft Silverfast software to run your scanner. That’s all to the positive side towards getting a way to profile your printer, you are part way there already. That includes the Epson Perfection photo scanners, the Canon Canoscan photo scanners and all the recent Microtek photo scanners as well as the Artixscan M1. 

That’s right Lasersoft SilverFast scanner software for all kinds of flatbed scanners can be upgraded to a SilverFast Ai IT8 version with Printer Calibration. I covered this briefly as part of my test and report on the Epson Perfection V500 flatbed scanner. I purchased that scanner, so now I upgraded the SilverFast Ai IT8 Printer Calibration software to the latest version and did some more printer (Epson R1900) calibrations and profiled with Premier Watercolor and Hot Press Fine Art papers - and then lots of prints to test the results.  The Pinter Calibration is really quick and easy to do as the instructions in a Acrobat .PDF file on the SilverFast web site are simple to follow. And you get a lot more than just printer profiling with the software, as the IT8 version provides the ability to custom profile your scanner, which you can extend to film scanning by getting a 35mm IT8 target slide. 

Because I really don’t have the room to detail and explain all the instructions, and Lasersoft’s are very good, I’ll just list the web site addresses below: 

For basic information about Printer Calibration:

For Instructions on how to use Printer Calibration:

For the full details on Printer Calibration:

If you do not have any Lasersoft SilverFast software for your scanner, the Silverfast Ai IT8 Printer Calibration  version will provide the best and most effective scanner driver for your flatbed supporting both reflective and if the scanner has it, film scanning control and scan editing, with IT8 scanner calibration and profiling as well as Printer Calibration. For most of the scanners I have reviewed and some others too, the list cost of the software is $317.00 to get all the capabilities in a new package. For those who have a version of SilverFast for your flatbed scanner, the upgrade cost varies, so you will have to check into it. Many readers have remarked the silverfast.com web site is complicated. Yes there is a lot on it, but once you log on, just goto the “Products” tab and then to Scanners. To get the specifics for any make and model flatbed scanner, click on the brand and the model and a box of all the details will appear at the bottom of the page, including features, versions of SilverFast and their cost for a new purchase or an upgrade.

It is not cheap, but SilverFast is good and much easier to use and more efficient than Photoshop. So don’t be afraid to learn new software. Once you have you will appreciate the advantages. Personally, I just wish Adobe would learn something from Lasersoft or better still SilverFast would become a full replacement of Photoshop. For me proof of that is something from Lasersoft that is worth adding to the package. Lasersoft has a SilverFast Print Tao printing utility that’s so much easier and efficient to make color managed prints with compared to Photoshop. On silverfast.com just go to the Printer Software tab, there is all the information you’ll need to be convinced at $49 SilverFast Print Tao is a wonder.

Monday, November 1, 2010


When I am not doing something for a column, article or testing equipment and software, I relax at night watching movies and some occasional TV dramas. The most recent I found fascinating because it was about photographs, but thankfully there was not a badly cast photographer role in the piece. Nothing like the famous Michelangelo Antonioni blow-up with David Hemmings, Sarah Miles and Vanessa Redgrave, which I am sure inspired many to become photographers, sadly. This is another British drama that is about photographs, not people who make photographs or who model for photographs. It is a 3 part BBC Masterpiece Drama called Shooting The Past. And it s really about a huge collection of photographs whose future is in doubt and the mystery of the story.
Like so many great British dramas it is cast with characters that are anything but stereotypes and play out a fascinating story about a library of photographs housed in an old mansion that is threatened by a "corporate" takeover. It’s entertaining and kept me interested and involved for three enjoyable hours. But Shooting The Past also made me think you and the many photographers who read Shutterbug may be doing more than entertaining yourselves with a fascinating hobby. What you produce may become important to history. It makes me think how many things I have photographed no longer exist or have been changed significantly during my lifetime. Will they become important to history? You can't predict that or the future, but you can add something more than self-interest as a reason for every time you press the shutter button of your camera. If for no other reason, experiencing Shooting The Past will provide a good ploy to answer anyone questioning your interest and activity as a photographer - maybe you’re contributing to the documentation of our history.
Shooting The Past is available to purchase from BBC America at this web URL:
http://www.bbcamericashop.com/dvd/shooting-the-past-13840.html?gclid=CLHL1_nJgKUCFRBzgwodxWG4ig  I rented the DVD's from NetFlix, and I am sure other sources for obtaining video programming also have this BBC production on DVD or for a download.