It’s been a busy week with new arrivals. My Epson 2100 died a few months ago with a clogged magenta channel, no amount of cleaning would restore it so I finally bit the bullet and ordered an R3000. I was sorely tempted by a 3880 but I don’t really do enough printing to justify such a large printer. The R3000 seemed to be what I needed, basically a baby 3880.
Once I managed to get it home, the process of setting it up remained. The old printer went into its box, I vacuumed up half a ton of dust which had gathered around it. I also took the opportunity to install a Blu-ray burner for backing up files, and put away an old PC which I had left lying in backup next to the new one. The new printer was trussed up in travel tape to prevent various parts from flapping around. I installed the 9 ink cartridges and it automatically primed itself in a 10 min performance of Cage’s lesser known work. Drivers were installed and we were ready to go.
Now was the problem of what to print first. The methodical thing to do would be print out something I was familiar with so that I could compare it with a previous print. Of course I didn’t do this but chose something new. I’d been starved of a printer for so long I wanted to see what it could do with one of the images which was piling up. I chose a night scene I took of the Canal du Midi at Homps. The print on Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl was pretty good, the density in the dark areas much better than what I had been getting with the 2100. The colours also seemed to be suitably saturated.
I then tried profiling the printer for Tetenal Duo Print 130gsm using SpyderPrint 4.2.3. The problem is using the right media settings, the plain paper settings didn’t really give a satisfactory result so I may have to experiment. Switching to matte black may also help (but I don’t want to waste ink, not yet).
Doing some large prints of panos will be the next test. I will try the Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl HDR version see if this gives a better result.
The NEX-7 just came into widespread availability this week. I was walking past a local camera store and saw the advert on the window and couldn’t resist popping in to have a play. It proved too much for me to resist and I eneded up buying the NEX-7+18-55mm kit from a nearby store which had one to actually sell (the first shop only had the display copy).
What finally tipped me over the edge? The compactness of the body compared with the A77 is a great selling point. Even if comparable lenses do not differ that much in size between the two systems (E-mount and Alpha respectively), for the short primes I intend to use, the reduction in the size of the body is significant. The EVF is the same as in the A77 which I find to be very usable in most situations I have encountered. The accessory shoe will be useful in the studio for triggers. The inbuilt flash will be useful for the odd fill-flash now and again. I hope to be able to use manual focus lenses with adapters. I still have to get used to the Tri-Navi interface but first impressions are that it is a massive improvement over the NEX-5 which I have used in the past.
I hope to obtain the Rokinon 8mm/2.8 fisheye so that I have a very portable pano rig which leaves the A77 mounted with the 16-50mm/2.8 or large aperture prime ready for street/candid shots. The NEX-7 is small enough that I can bring it along as a backup without too much extra hassle. An LA-EA1 will allow me to mount my Alpha mount lenses when I don’t need fast AF (or any AF for screwdriver lenses).
Pictures below were taken with the NEX-7 fitted with the LA-EA1+35mm/1.8 DT SAM using peaking and magnified view, ISO3200, converted from RAW in Lightroom 4 Beta.
Photography is an interesting blend of the technical and artistic. It lends itself both to gadget geeks and hipsters. We have the gearheads who’ll drool over the latest camera or lens, discuss high ISO performance as if it were the be-all, end-all of camera function, or worship at the altar of megapixels. On the other hand, there are the retro afficionados with their Lomos, Dianas, or Holgas preaching, “Don’t think!” and “Shoot from the Hip”.
In between those two extremes lie a middle ground which takes a balanced view of how to approach and improve one’s photography. For me, I see it terms of four axes which together encapsulates the factors for good photography. There are:
- Equipment. Photography is merely the formation of an image and the means to record it. However, we require the appropriate tools to achieve our photographic goals. Equipment should be seen as a means to an end, and not an end onto itself. Perhaps gear fetishism brings pleasure to some people but it can distract from the main event, taking photographs. A professional photographer does not have top end equipment just to look cool, it’s because they need to utilise their capabilities.
- Technique. Simply having the best tools isn’t enough, you have to know how to use them. But technique in itself can sometimes overshadow content so this needs to be balanced against artistic vision. A professional photographer should have honed their skills through years of practise and a continual process of learning.
- Artistic Vision. Having the latest and greatest gear and the technique to use it should serve the purpose of expressing your artistic vision. Otherwise you might has well just take snaps of your cat. Some people naturally express their vision, others may require work to develop and enact it. Balance your own experimentation against gaining inspiration from others. Looking at the work of others is helpful for discovering possibilities, but conversely don’t let it narrow your own vision. Develop a style, make the photos you take your own.
- Opportunity. This isn’t just a matter of finding the time or funds to take photos, but also involves making opportunities. This could be networking with colleagues or potential clients, scouting out new locations, planning photo trips, being in the right place at the right time, or chasing up that lead. If photography is important to you, give it the chance to grow.
There is an interplay between these, my vision may drive the kind of equipment I need to acquire and the skills I need to learn. New opportunities may lead to a different direction in my vision. My technique may evolve to accommodate the equipment I have. To improve, you could consider what balance is best for you and which area(s) you many need to work on.
I recently returned from Brussels where I was able to take a few panoramas. Brussels is sometimes called a mini-Paris, I found it pleasant enough. The weather was a bit dreary for most of the time I was there so it was best to take photos in the evening where the grey sky does not intrude. The last day was clear and sunny, though very chilly, so I managed to capture a brighter looking Brussels.
The Grand Place is a usual tourist sight so no surprises here. The “square” is 68m by 110m and is dominated on one side by the Town Hall and the Royal House on the other. It dates from the 10th or 11th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Jardin du Monts des Arts lies beyond the Central Station and is colourfully lit up at night. There was a busker who was very pleasantly playing the saxaphone and the flute which made the ordeal of standing around in freezing weather a little bit more tolerable. Here’s a view (360 degree pano) from a little bit further up the hill.
Heading further East, we get to the Place Royal. The church of St Jacques du Coudenburg is on one side of the square. The interior (360 degree pano) is fairly restrained but still beautiful.
On my last day, I was able to catch Brussels in sun. The Royal Palace has a nice garden at its front. There were some bored looking guards standing in huts, probably wondering what this strange person with a funny looking camera/tripod was doing.
Last week was an eventful one. A man created a siege situation by claiming to have a bomb and holing up in a restaurant. The city centre was sealed off and a minor media circus began. Here are a few of the photos from that night.
It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. When the James Weir Building at the University of Strathclyde caught on fire, I was nearby with my camera at hand to document the operation to bring it under control. A chance encounter with an editor of The Journal led me to share my photos with the student newspaper. They appear online illustrating the news stories and also forming a photo essay. A few photos may even end up in the print edition this week.
It’s 2012 already so it’s time to begin things afresh. The old website was becoming a bit unwieldy to update so I thought it was time to move over to WordPress for content management and for putting a pretty face to it all. What really matters are the photos and I will set up dedicated galleries for showcasing my work and also for allowing clients to view their commissions. I will also amalgamate some of the blog posts I have been making at my other site so to bring things all into one place.