Saturday, 3 October 2009

Hasselblad Masters

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Hasselblad cameras are way beyond the confine of serious compact cameras. But good photos know no boundary. I tumbled into the Hasselblad Masters Award webpage and you may wish to check out the admirable images of the 2009 contesting photographers.

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The webpage writes that the Hasselblad Masters Award is the most prestigious awards in the industry, each year celebrating the best in both established and rising photographic talent. Masters Awards are given in recognition of a photographer’s contribution to the art of photography and are judged on overall photographic ability, encompassing creativity, composition, conceptual strength, and technical skill. Past Masters include both renowned artists of international standing as well as promising newcomers in a wide range of fields and disciplines.

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The complete 2009 entries can be viewed here. Winning entries of 2008 and earlier years are here.

(Photos are screenshots from the webpage and copyrighted to the respective photographers)

Friday, 2 October 2009

An Abstract Idea

We continue Wednesday's discussion of pattern and rhythm in photography with the abstract image for illustration.
 
R0010501 (Large)^ The final shot.  The rhythmic patterns of the secondary triangular structures in the background were attuned to the pyramid shape placed in the middle of the frame, hopefully forming a point of interest. Explanations to follow.

Pattern and rhythm hold important positions in photographic composition. The souls of composition they are. Pattern is the regular repetition of elements, while rhythm is the sentimental kind of pattern. Despite the fundamental difference, both are made up of lines, shapes, the change in shadows and colours.

Making use of the patterns, photographers can apply subjectivity to the composition to create a rhythm to accentuate a meaning, not least in an abstract image. More directly put, patterns can give rise to rhythm; and rhythm is the higher form of patterns.

But all coins have two sides. If unduly employed, patterns can make an image monotonous and boring. A case in point is an image lacking a point of interest among the repetitive patterns. For that matter, the use of secondary subjects, contrastive elements, prominent features and other photographic arrangements may be advisable.

The abstract photos may serve to illustrate the point.

R0010499 (Medium)< The first shot
The triangular masts in the images are the structures of barges for mid-stream operations which are flat-bottom boats to carry containers from offshore cargo liners to the docks. There were several ways and angles to do the composition which was meant to reflect the impression of the scene, trusty partners of the thriving business operations.

Instead of including the activities at the dock in the image, the composition was made to curtail but the triangular elements. These elements are more intriguing because pyramid shapes give a sense of endurance, stability and superiority, befitting the theme. At the same time, the peaceful horizontal lines among them complement the image and the overtones.
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< The second shot
Two shots had been made but the images were unruly and the primary subject not prominent.
 
Finally, the rhythmic patterns of the secondary triangular structures in the background were attuned to the pyramid shape placed in the middle of the frame, hopefully forming a point of interest.  The final image was formatted into a 16:9 ratio to highlight its visual impact.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

LX3: Another Firmware to Correct the Firmware that Corrects?

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Panasonic has issued the following message about the firmware for the camera available a few days ago:

The download for the firmware update program to Ver.2.0 has been temporarily suspended, in order to make sure the reliability of the firmware, more specifically in case of the use of some newly added functions on Custom shooting mode. The download is expected to be available back again around the 20th Oct.

< For the users who have already updated LX3 to Ver.2.0 >
The camera which has been already updated to Ver.2.0, can be used without any problem after the reset of the camera by selecting the [RESET] in Setup menu.

Please note that all settings except the clock setting will be reset to the initial settings. To keep the current settings, please make sure to write down the settings on a note in advance to reset the settings.

Links to GRD III Review

R1149452 (Medium) ^A fishmonger did anatomy to the fish, just as a tester to a camera and me to the GDR III in writing.

In September, a review of the GRD III was done.  I'm still wondering about the possibility of Ricoh producing the next camera with a APS-C size sensor.  If that is to be the case, the pricing is a point to be pondered on.  Judging from the prevailing options, such a camera should sit in a price range between the M4/3 system and the GRD III, which is not wide enough to maintain the appeal of the latter.  Could this be a reason why the price of GRD III in Hong Kong has seen a drop to the level of the GX200 at whose launch?

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The following are the links to the GRD III review:

1) Ground bReaking Deal for 3 (just an introductory post with a photo I like)

2) Hong KonG RhapsoDic Impression3

3) Quintessentially Hong Kong + GRD3 = ?

4) Get Raw Dng h3re

5) Go aRounD 3ongkok

6) Further Improving Ergonomics in GRD III

7) Tips on Lesser Noticed but Notable Functions of GR

8) Final Verdicts on GRD III

9) Additional: Comparative shots against other serious compacts

GRD III Firmware to Fight Bugs

R1149276 (Medium)

Ricoh has issued firmware version 1.21 for GRD III, downloadable here, to fight the following bugs (update instructions here):

1. With the combination of the following conditions, it will not properly appear the image in the position display window that is shown when you playback with enlarged.
- [Auto Rotate] ON
- Rotate the camera to the lengthwise direction
- Playback the picture that was captured in the lengthwise direction and with [3:2] or [1:1] in the image size

2. Set the focus to [MF] (Manual focus) and turn the power off, and then turn the power on again, the focus distance will become infinity.

3. In Manual focus, if you enlarge the centre part of the image in the screen, the enlarged part may become black-out rarely.

4. With attaching the GW-2 (wide conversion lens), there may be rare occasions that information on the focus distance in Exif will not be recorded correctly (Correctly, which should be recorded as 21mm; 35 mm filmcameras equivalent).

5. In taking pictures by switching between macro mode and normal mode, the resolution in surrounding parts (four corners) may change.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Pattern and Rhythm

R0010519 (Medium)
 
Photography is a two dimensional medium.  With creativity at play in the composition, however, an image can look vibrant in rhythm and motions. Photographers can train themselves to be observant about the lines, shapes, points and colour patches of similar quality in a scene. At the right shooting angle, these similar elements can accumulate into a rhythmic factor to guide the viewers' eyesight to the primary subject of the image. If done handsomely, the image in the limited space can succeed in revealing the idea only in the end, much as the effect of an ending climax in a movie which is however in the space of hours.
 
Here, an attempt is made to create a visual guidance in the photo by way of the seemingly reducing size of the masonry rocks.  Hopefully, this leads the viewers to focus on the homeless man who is the primary subject.  The busy street in the background serves to accentuate the sorrowful situation of the man and his companions not far away from him lying on worn mattresses.  The diagonal lines radiating from the left bottom counters the right-to-left reading habit, giving a sense of force or hardship to befit the theme.
 
I left the scene with a saddened feeling for the poor men deep down in me.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

LX3 New Functions by Firmware 2.0

IMG_3271 (Small)

The newest firmware version 2.0 for LX3 will be available for download in a day here.  The last one was version 1.3.

Panasonic is very generous with this version with which new functions are added to the camera and some performance improved.  The description of the firmware is as follows:

  1. Improved auto white balance performance.
  2. Auto Focus speed-up.
  3. Recording function with an aspect ratio of 1:1 has been added.
  4. A white balance (WB) bracket function has been added.
  5. [HIGH DYNAMIC] has been added to scene mode.
  6. [LENS RESUME] has been added to the [SETUP] menu.
  7. [MENU RESUME] has been added to the [SETUP] menu.
  8. The exposure compensation and the auto bracket compensation can now be set up to ±3EV.
  9. Position of the guide line can now be set.
  10. It is now possible to display the highlights in playback mode.
  11. It is now possible to record the user’s name in the picture.
  12. Digital red-eye removal has been modified.
  13. Items saved in the custom set have changed.

LX3 users are reminded to fully charge the battery before the updating the firmware, and format the SD Memory Card used for the firmware update before taking photos.   A non-formatted SD Card so used may cause your LX3 to malfunction and/or decrease the number of pictures that can be taken.  For details instructions, read here.

Heung, Aromatic Stuff

P1010761 (Medium) ^Coiled incense used inside a temple for the Northern King, a Chinese folk deity.

Chinese temples make for a good destination on a leisure, educational and, all the more so, photographic trip. Apart from the effigies depicting the divine celebrities, incense is an intriguing photographic subject.

As for all other photographic assignments, GX GARNERINGS suggests coming up with a theme before going on a photographic trip to the Chinese temple. Learning about the place before setting off also stands you in good stead; take for example, the incense so that you may have an idea about your unique perspective of photographing it.

The Chinese word for incense is pronounced as Heung in Cantonese or Xiang in Putonghua. Heung literally means "aromatic stuff" and comes in various sizes and shapes. The use of incense was recorded as early as in biblical times. In the Paraonic Egypt, incense were made from gums and resins of aromatic trees were imported from the coasts of Arabia and the present-day pirate-infested Somalia which is believed to be the Occident origin of incense. The Pharaohs used incense for religious ceremonies and to dispel unpleasant odours. The extensive use of incense was seen in the Babylonian times when people offered prayers to divining oracles.

Later, incense spread to Israel and from there to Greece, Rome and India. The Bible writes that one of the wise men from the East offer incense to the infant Jesus as a gift.

P1010757 (Medium)

^Incense coils seemingly ascending to the heavens

In the Oriental world, Buddhist monks brought incense with them to Japan in the 6th century which they used for purification rites. In the imperial China, incense was first used in the grand days of the Wu (literally, Military) Emperor of the Han Dynasty datd back to 156 B.C.

Nothwithstanding the nuances of differences among Buddists, Taoists and folk religions of whichever denomination in China, incense is a burnt offering to gratify the deities and mitigate one's sins. Burning incense is thought to bring the offerers a wealth of auspicious returns.

Now how about taking on a theme of bribery to the gods?

P1010760 (Medium)

You may as well be a wee bit disrepecting with your photographic theme.

Having followed up over 61,000 Chinese-Singaporeans for up to 12 years on a survey, researchers conclude that burning incense produces a sweet aroma which could lead to tracteal cancer risks if inhaled. Now figure out how to put the gods, worshippers and incense into an amusing perspective in the images.

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As for me, I am thinking of an unconventional theme on cheating the gods after seeing how the quantum leaps in the digital and electronic development in the mortal world impact the immortals. Incense offering now comes with an electronic option.

(Photos are by courtesy of Christopher Guy. Thank you, Chris)

Monday, 28 September 2009

The Choice

R1149355 (Medium)^The E-P1 on a Sigma 300-800mm f5.6.  On a 4/3 camera, this Sigma lens covers an equivalent field of view to 600 to 1600mm.  I have not done the arithmetic to figure out what it will be on a M4/3 E-P1 or GF-1. 

If you have some legendary regular lenses from your film cameras, and provided that the right converter is available, should you invest in a full-frame DSLR or shift allegiance to an interchangeable-lens serious compact?

The question lingers over my mind after I checked out the full-framed A850 last week.

Deterioration of Optical Quality

For some technical reason of the imaging sensor, full-frame DSLRs demand harder from regular lenses than the SLRs do.  The top-rate regular lenses perform less good optically on full-frame DSLRs than on SLRs.  No wonder that since the advent of the fuller-sized digital cameras, digital-specific lenses have been launched.

Simply put, these full-frame DSLRs exaggerate the optical weaknesses of lenses in relation to sharpness, chromatic aberration, distortion and falloff especially along the edges.

In the case of serious compact cameras,  the smaller sensors make use of the central area of a regular lens.  That is to say, on these serious compacts, the regular lenses will see much milder optical defects along the edges.  It follows that, unlike on full-frame digital cameras, the widest aperture in the case of these compact cameras is still desirable.

Insignificant Image Quality Difference

In addition, unless you make large prints regularly, the extra image quality afforded by a full-frame DSLR is not actually visible.  Fact is, some professional photographers have noted that even for 20 by 20 inches prints, the full-frame sensor doesn't have an obvious advantage over the APS-C sensor.

Less Shaking

In other words, you will be better off with a smaller-sensor camera on a regular lens.  This applies to all APS-C sized sensors.  But now we have the better option of M4/3 cameras.

Theoretically, M4/3 cameras boast an additional benefit. In taking photos, a larger quantity of blurry images are caused by the operating reflex mirror and shutter.  Since the M4/3 cameras do away with the reflex mirror (another one if Samsung's NX camera), the camera probably suffers a lower failure rate due to the vibration.

Conclusive Remarks

Back to the question: Investing in a M4/3, or any interchangeable-lens serious compact for that matter, is more preferable than in a full-frame or even a APS-C sensor DSLR.  On second thought, this conclusion still makes sense even if the old regular lenses cannot operate on the serious compacts.  Well, portability counts.  I could sell my old Minolta lenses if I have to make the choice.

The serious compact cameras are gradually taking the throne of the popular camera market.  The juggernaut this trend is.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

I Respect Your Choice, Ma'am

R1149342 (Medium)

But those are strings made of cotton, mark you, not spaghetti. Get something proper to eat.

This is Sunday. Enjoy the day with your family. Kiss someone you love.