Friday, April 20, 2012


When I was a kid in grade school I was able to go to Saturday movie matinees; and that was in the 1940’s. Living in a small city on the Canadian prairie during the Second World War there was nothing else available to me to see what the rest of the world was like. Those memories of matinee films stayed with me and I am sure influenced my work as a photographer some years later.
Being almost all black and white films the lighting of the subjects on-screen was a crucial part of the visual experience. And just by chance I recently became interested in films made before my time and found dozens from the 1930’s are available from NetFlix on DVD, a very affordable media for home entertainment. Even though the ’30’s was still early in motion picture history, the techniques and image quality is often as  fine as you will see in contemporary films. 
In the last couple of weeks I have seen about a dozen films from the 1930’s featuring stars that are still well known for what they accomplished on-screen. Some of the most outstanding include films with Marlene Dietrich directed by Josef von Sternberg beginning in the early 30’s and in 1934 with The Scarlet Empress a story of a young Prussian princess who was married to Peter III of Russia and soon learned the intricacies of Tsarist rule and took advantage to become Catherine II Empress of Russia. The large cast, ornate costuming and sets that replicate the Kremlin were an immense challenge to photograph and each scene is a lesson in masterful lighting as good as anything made today, and is easy to appreciate in black and white without the distraction of color. Plus now in America where women have yet to achieve full equality the story of Catherine II reminds us there have been great women everywhere throughout history.
The distinct style of Marlene Dietrich is unique to film history but there was a great variety of stars and films made also in France and America of course that are in NetFlix list of DVD’s. The American rage of Parisian entertainment, Josephine Baker best known for her dancing in nightclub revues was also a star of films like Zouzou directed by Marc Allegret which featured her superb acting abilities as well as a role as singer, and of course gorgeously exotic for those days. Films with Josephine Baker go back to 1927, although Zouzou was made in 1934.  
We are more likely to think of Cecil B DeMille in terms of big American films about history, but in 1935 The Last Days of Pompeii with Preston Foster and a large cast of Hollywood actors and actresses told the story of the period before and at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius. It is another black and white spectacle on screen with masterful lighting of a demanding and extravagant set and equally varied scenes in the picture. One of the great advantages of these old films now on DVD, you can easily stop the film at any frame and capture a still, so you can study the lighting more acutely. With some setups that still can be saved and you will be surprised how well it will reproduce as a B&W print.
Could a photographer ask for anything more at the low cost of renting a NetFlix classic movie that’s full of lighting lessons that apply just as well as any current instruction for lighting even with digital photography?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Many photographers who have been making pictures for a long time have a collection of images still on film. The advent of digital photography has taught us there are many advantages in having these images in digital format, for preservation to avoid fading colors in films, as well as easier more compact and economic storage among many other conveniences. But unlike me some of you do not find scanning and editing digital images the pleasure I do. But affordable scan services that are all done in America have not been readily available, and having your photos sent to a third world country for scanning is just too scary at any price, or maybe politically offensive.
Now one of the better names in digital photography, Lumier Photo, has announced a new modest cost film and print scanning service that is all done in Rochester, NY. The service they are offering is done by skilled technicians, and your original image remains safe and secure here in the USA.
Both prints scans and film image scans can be saved in either JPEG or TIFF format. The print scan resolution is selectable between 300dpi and 600dpi using a flatbed scanner. And film in 35mm , super 35mm , 126 format as well as 110 slides, even half-frame 35mm slide are scanned at either 4000, 2400 or 2000dpi for storage on CD or DVD discs.
Scan prices start at $.70 or $.80 for prints and $.75 for a slide. Service can be extended to include repair of image damage, as well as restoration via digital editing and processing after the image is scanned. 
Anyone interested in image scan services can contact Lumier Photo at 100 College Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607, or call 585-461-4447; or visit their web site at
Since LCD displays for computers have become popular ColorEyes Display Pro has helped many photographers with display color management support that has both advanced capabilities and is effective and easy to use software. Now with the announcement of Version 1.6 for the Apple Mac ColorEyes capabilities and support for sensor hardware has been extended to the X-Rite i1 Display Pro, the original X-Rite ColorMunki, the new Spyder4 including multiple monitor support, as well as DDC support for NEC PA series displays, Wacom Cintiq tablets and some Dell displays.
Although the Mac Lion 10.7 monitor plugin has not arrived for ColorEyes from Apple, that upgrade will be covered in this Version 1.6 as a free update in the future. Support for all the previous colorimeters and spectrophotometers in the previous version of ColorEyes will remain. The extent of the added support in this new upgrade requires an upgrade fee of $49, as well as a serial number from a current version of ColorEyes.
Additional information about this new Version 1.6 and ColorEyes is available on their web site at:, or call 978-670-1416
Integrated-Color Corp. PO Box 738, Barrington, NH 03825

Saturday, April 14, 2012


One of the bad jokes of April was that a Java enabled malware had attacked millions of Apple Mac users. It’s not unpredictable considering Apple since the introduction of the iPhone and iPad has become one of the most popular and active technology companies in the world. So of course it will attract the disaffected and discontent who will launch attacks on Apple systems. Sadly I am afraid the protection we had from Apple being a niche player in a much larger world is gone and disappeared in the bright light of popular high tech toys.
Today MacWorld published an analysis of how Apple has responded to the attack. Since the infection was noticed Apple has sent Mac users three new Java upgrades. The latest apparently contains a “tool to remove the flashback malware from infected systems”. I can’t say if this will be continued by Apple vigilance and equally effective and timely responses in the future. But in the personal computer world in the past user were pretty much on their own and had to spend money and effort to protect their computers from the risk of attackers infecting and damaging personal computer resources.
It seems maybe a bit paternalistic on Apple’s part. But personally I would like having expert eyes behind me that will step in with upgrades and fixes to make using a computer and the internet less risky. It is inhumanely technical and almost alien to those of us who are not part of corporate consumerism, so it is welcome that Apple identifies so readily with its customers the people who have become a part of the community. I felt this somewhat over a decade ago when I moved from the PC world to Apple, and even though I had problems that were addressed in a way that supported my loyalty, I was not fully convinced being a part of the press and known to be outspoken. Was Apple just helping me because I have a voice and might write critically of them?  But this very different public role Apple has taken in defense of users to protect them from external attacks and the subterfuge of hackers, has put Apple on the side of people, its customers. The Apple stores, now in ever more communities is a symbol unlike their competitors they do not hide from the people who depend on them.
This recent flashback malware is the first significant general attack on Mac users and Apple with its latest Java upgrade assumes responsibility in its protection strategy. So let’s hope the enemy takes a lesson from the Apple response and unlike others Apple will not put its customers out on their own in the position of dealing with security and at the mercy of dubious outside companies that make a profit from the fears of people who are at risk, encouraging the attackers to do even more damage. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Some choices are an advantage. You can select a digital camera from many that suit your needs and are within your budget, and likely get good quality image results. Almost as many choices are available for computer applications that support editing and processing digital camera image files for both Windows PC’s and Apple Macs, and they will get the job done effectively for most users. But when it comes to how to manage, and adjust a computer display screen for photography using an application like Adobe Elements or Lightroom and how to do it, the internet is full of imagined options and short on reliable facts.
If you run a Google search on a workspace profile name like Adobe RGB (1998), which is a pretty well known term now because advanced digital cameras can be set to save in Adobe RGB, you might expect an understandable explanation in an Acrobat .PDF document published by Adobe. I doubt you will get past the first couple of pages before giving up. If you don’t have an understanding of advanced physics the formulae are a mystery that explains nothing to most ordinary photographers, might as well open a text on trigonometry for entertainment.
But then if you get into some of the internet forum discussions about color management and display calibration and profiling, you might find questions from many users whether they should set their display to Adobe RGB (1998). The simple answer is no, and the reason is Adobe RGB (1998) is a workspace profile for Photoshop and many other Adobe applications to use internally, it’s not a display profile. But in an hour of reading I only found this information by chance, deep into a lot of extraneous discussions.
Some of the readers who are aware of color management as it applies to displays, ask what color temperature (white point) to use, and what gamma setting, realizing there are a lot of options. But are there really, even though some users employ various different settings? Today these are false and misleading choices for most photographers using a computer. Present computer systems like Windows and Apple have conformed to one standard gamma of 2.2 and a color temperature of D65 or 6500K. So lets just look at these basic settings as they are applied to todays LCD displays for computers. 
Even though some computer users still select the old Apple standard of D50 or 5000K, and gamma 1.8 they have their reasons, maybe that the display color temperature should match the color of the working environment. Many have installed D50 work area lighting. So I have to ask if D65 on a display looks too blue in D50 environment light, maybe it would be less costly and difficult today to replace the environment lighting, in the old days there weren’t any options, but today there are. But I am afraid people are inclined to hang onto what they are used to and resist change.
However technology changes, and one standard that applies to LCD displays now is that the backlight for the screen is 6500K. So if a user wants 5000K or D50 instead that shift has to be made in most cases by the resources in the computer’s video card. (Eizo Coloredge displays excepted, as are NEC Spectraview models.) Maybe that capability for the rest should be kept free for more important functions. Personally I changed the room lighting in my lab to LED lamps that last a very long time and use little electricity while producing an even amount of light of a color temperature that closely matches my LCD display’s backlight. It was easy to do and the price was a very small fraction of what an LCD display costs.
The other specification some insist they have to modify is gamma. The standard 2.2 some argue does not reveal enough detail in dark areas of subjects. Well there is an option in most display management software aim points, and that is to raise the black luminance to a slightly higher value than minimum. That will then be a part of your display profile and set the reproduction of the darkest black in an image a bit higher on the physical range of values the display reproduces. This will make what is in shadow more easily seen on screen.
Yes I am arguing for conformity to standards, a bit regimental for some Americans comfort likely. But there are good reasons. One is that many photographers will use an Adobe or another application from Corel or Lasersoft SilverFast that are color managed. And adobe, the most popular, in its Color Setting asks you to select a working-space profile for RGB editing like Adobe RGB (1998) or sRGB, which are used by many of us. Working space profiles impose their built-in settings on the display of images on screen. On launching the application whether Elements or CS5 Photoshop, the application references the default display profile so it can adjust images to the working space profile’s dictates, and in the case of sRGB and Adobe RGB the gamma is 2.2 and the color temperature (whitepoint) is 6500K. So If you have chosen a different white point and gamma it is essential that you select a working space profile that coincides with your gamma and white point choices if you want to work with Adobe applications and have your images accurately reproduced.
With Apple Macs their applications like iPhoto and Aperture work in display space, and if you save a TIFF file the display profile will be embedded in the file. This doesn’t help anyone else who receives the TIFF file because it is unlikely they can duplicate your display and its profile. So with Apple you have the ability with the Colorsync utility to convert the image to Adobe RGB (1998) and then it will be the image’s embedded profile. In other words color management is designed by Adobe’s implementation, and Apple’s to share image files with others computers, and they can reference the embedded profile and display the image as you saw it with your system to the extent hardware differences allow.
There are good and broad beneficial reasons to adopt standards, besides making life a bit easier on yourself,

Friday, April 6, 2012


That is what Scott Kelby has suggested. What is it? An adjustment in the print output module of Lightroom 4.1 that supports luminance adjustment or “matching”. From what I have read from users in web forums it can obtain a corrected print brightness if the image file otherwise produces a color-managed print that is too dark.
Some may think this new tool corrects the problem. But no, it may compensate for the dark print but the cause of prints too dark remains because the LCD display hardware is still too bright. This causes the user to miss-edit the brightness of the file with his software. And even if the user has calibrated and profiled the display, dark prints are only part of the error that results. If the luminance range of the display caused poor imaging editing adjustment with software, calibrating and profiling a too bright display will also produce a display profile that is skewed and will not result in either seeing accurate color reproduction on-screen but also skewed color in resulting prints even if the brightness is adjusted with Lightroom to an acceptable level.
One of the more frequent commentators on color management, the Digital Dog (Andrew Rodney) posted a concluding comment on the discussion of the luminance matching adjustment in Lightroom 4.1, “Title: Re: Luminance matching: Soft Proof vs. Print Adjustment sliders - Post by: digitaldog on April 05, 2012, 08:58:55 AM
Quote from: jeremyrh on Today at 02:44:18 AM
One could argue that using the brightness slider is no more a "hack" than turning down the brightness of the screen  ;D
I could argue it easily (want to go there?). 
A print is either too dark or it isn’t. Got nothing to do with the screen. A print might match the screen, might not. Different story. One slider affects the output (and only in a single application while leaving the RGB values alone). The other slider affects the display and leaves all files in all applications alone and consistently. So yup, I think the sliders that affect a document that is too dark, solely for a print, in a single application is a hack. People can use it (they can use a preset or adjustment layer in say Photoshop). As long as they understand the causes and effect of the problem, fine with me. Now if you want a print that isn’t too dark and you want it to match the display, the hack isn’t going to help one bit.”
One might ask why, even though Lightroom 4.1 is in public beta, would the company, Adobe, include a fix for “prints too dark” that avoids the basic hardware cause that LCD displays are too bright? Is it because user printing has been adversely affected by photographers just giving up because of frustration with poor printing results? Has the photographer discouragement reduced Lightroom software sales recently? And if the application has a print output luminance fix correcting for dark prints, maybe it will encourage more users to upgrade to Lightroom 4? I really wonder because this fix that does not correct for the LCD display hardware cause, surely could come back on everyone with a sharp sting. The fix has a high price even if it works to obtain better brightness print output, but at what cost to color and image quality?
I don’t have any answer other than to use an LCD display that will adjust to photographic color management requirements. Although there is not a lot to choose from and most pro-graphic displays are costly, a software work-around seems to just delay the inevitable. But in the five years the prints too dark problem has plagued many, many photographers, I have not seen any industry support to encourage people to avoid the cause and use good color-management solutions. For many of us prints too dark is not a problem, and it doesn’t need to be for anyone serious about doing digital photography.