Thursday, May 28, 2009

What a difference a lab makes!

Earlier this week I had a roll of Fuji Superia 400 ASA film developed. It was shot with my 53 year-old Kodak Retina SLR. You can read the background story behind the camera here.
To put it mildly, I was absolutely blown away. The f2 Schneider-Kreuznach lens did a phenomenal job of extracting detail in the images. In my initial article I said I was somewhat disappointed and that the lens could not hold a candle to my Nikon glass. It seemed a bit soft.
I have now completely changed my opinion. What has changed? Why the sudden improvement? I believe the reason for my initial view was largely the result of the output of the lab I used to process and scan the film.
This week's roll of film was processed by a different lab and the improved quality is astounding. The two images displayed here are a fair representation of the other pictures on the roll. Exposure for all images was set manually, using the camera's built-in selenium exposure meter, with the white incident disk clipped in place.

This allowed me to measure the light falling onto the subject, rather than the light being reflected by it. It is, without doubt, the most accurate way of determining exposure. Click here to read about taking incident meter readings.
I am loving this old camera. I would imagine I'd get the same feeling driving a '54 Gull Wing Mercedes!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

About to dump M$ WindoZe once and for all!

A few years ago I dumped Windows and loaded Linux on my PC. I was sick of the hassles that accompany a Micro$oft WindoZe system -- the blue screen of death, pouring money into an endless pit called anti-virus software and its updates and the once a year (in a good year that is) obligatory computer crash, hard disk reformat and complete reinstall.
I loved Linux. It just worked. Plain and simple. I used it and spent my time accomplishing what I wanted rather than fart-arsing with crappy software. There were some programmes I missed, primarily Photoshop, but I managed with the earlier versions with Gimp and, in any case, only needed to do a bit of tweaking of my images.
Then I replaced my PC with a laptop and signed up for a data package with a mobile phone provider. The laptop came loaded with Windows XP and my new provider emphatically told me I would not be able to use Linux to connect to the internet on their network.
I sighed, shrugged my shoulders and accepted I'd once again have to make do with an inferior system.
Two years later, after much frustration, the removal of countless viruses -- despite having two, up-to-date anti-virus packages installed -- I'd had enough. In spades.
I wanted the freedom of Linux again but at the same time was afaraid, if I dumped Windows, I would not be able to access the Internet and may have problems getting my computer recognise my camera, printers and other peripherals.

Burning bridges

I wanted to dip my toes in the Linux waters again, without completely burning my bridges.
The solution was remarkably simple. I bought a Linux magazine that came with a free DVD containing a new version of Mint Linux. I believe it is based on Ubuntu which in turn is built on Debian. The beauty was, I could run it off the DVD without having to install it on my computer. That way I could test it completely before making any drastic changes.
To cut a long story short, running off the DVD, Mint Linux recognised all my hardware and seamlessly connected to my service provider's mobile network. I could even read files created in WindoZe!
There was no doubt. It was going to be installed but I still wanted a safety net, (is that not an oxymoron when talking about Windows?) so I decided to set up a dual-boot system where I could choose to run either Linux or Windows.
My new Linux distribution was up and running in about 20 minutes and was a completely automatic, painless and simple procedure that anyone can do.
For those who are not familiar with Linux, the beauty of it is it's not just an operating system but comes with thousands of absolutely free software packages. If you want an office suite, for example, there are three or four different suites to choose from and, because they are all free and available at the click of a mouse, you can try them all and see which you prefer.
Along with all the other bundled software, my Linux distro, included GIMP 2.6, Linux's equivalent of Photoshop. It's a wonderful programme that, as far as I am concerned, is the equal of Adobe's product -- with one major exception, the price! (Search my blog for a GIMP photographic tutorial.)
It's now been almost a month since I installed Mint Linux. I have since not booted Windows once, nor have I missed it. I also have not had a single crash, frozen screen or forced reboot. And, in addition, I have used 50% less data, by not having to download Windows updates, security patches or anti-virus updates.
I think the time has come to dump Microsoft once and for all!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What an amazing weekend it was!

The Delegates and our hostess, Rina (front row,3rd from the left)

Pic by Dani

It's been a while since my last blog entry mainly because I've been busy with work that pays (some of!) the bills and also because Joy and I were feverishly getting the first photographic breakaway weekend organised.
And what a rousing success it turned out to be!
Delegates arrived at Fountain Villa in Klerksdorp at around 17h00 on Friday evening.

Pic by Freek

After settling in and enjoying a gin and tonic, we commenced proceedings in the Gallery where we sat on genuine oriental hand-knotted rugs and antique Balinese furniture. It was a time to get acquainted and I gave the delegates a lesson on the "Golden Pyramid of Exposure". (Search this blog for a post about that.) It was new to all of them. These were all "auto" shooters who'd never heard of "aperture", "shutter speed" or "ISO".
Dinner was in the restaurant, the oldest building in what was once the old Transvaal and one of the original 12 Voortrekker houses built in 1837. Our hostess, Rina, prepared a meal few will soon forget -- four legs of lamb roasted at a low heat for 24 hours.
Much wine was consumed and it turned out to be a late night. Fortunately no one
wanted to get up to photograph the rising sun so, after breakfast and a lecture on composition and other photographic tricks of the trade, I issued each person with an assignment-sheet containing ten subjects, of which five had to be chosen and interpreted in whatever way the delegate chose. Topics included, portraiture, photo-journalism, lines, textures, nostalgia, natural beauty and self-portraits.

Pic by Douw


Then we set off for the old Boer War and concentration camp cemetery.
The place is run down and the graves vandalised but it makes for creating haunting and disturbing images.
It was interesting to see how people saw and photographed things differently, despite all being in the same environment. We spent a fair bit of time there then returned to Fountain Villa where delegates were free to wander around and photograph both inside and outside the 104 year-old house.
It was incredible to see how many were now manually setting their cameras and by doing so able to achieve the results they visualised. They were "making" rather than "taking" pictures!

Pic by Maggie

Judging and prize-giving took place in the gallery before dinner and proved to be more difficult than I'd anticipated. Each photographer had to choose and submit their five best images which were loaded onto a laptop for general display.
The standard of images was truly amazing and it was hard to get my head around the fact that, just 24 hours ago, all many of the delegates knew, was how to turn the camera on.
Photographs were judged and scored by other members of the group.
Over a chicken curry dinner that had some returning for three helpings -- you know who you are!-- prizes were handed out and another late, wine-filled evening ensued.
It was a blast and we're already busy planning the next photographic breakaway. Interest has been shown in a trip to Namibia and that is something definitely being considered.
I've posted examples of some of the images made during the breakaway and will load the rest on my website just as soon as I get the chance. Once done I will add a link here.


Pic by Marcelle

If you are interested in joining a photographic breakaway please click the link on the side panel.

Pic by Marieta

Pic by Nicolette

Pic by Ria