Excursion to Point Hicks

The Canberra Photographic  Society is planning an excursion to Point Hicks Lighthouse where we can stay in the lighthouse cottages.  Point Hicks is in Victoria at the end of a road from Cann River, about 4½ hours drive from Canberra.  The excursion will be for three full days and the tentative date is for the nights of 11th to 14th November, arriving on the night of Friday 11th November and leaving on the morning of Tuesday 15th November.  Final dates will depend on preferences of participants and what dates are available at time of booking.

The excursion is for financial members of the Canberra Photographic Society only (and their spouses).

Food, drinks and linen are not supplied.  Linen can be supplied for a $15 fee but they prefer not to do this.  There will be no wifi and some phone coverage at a few places.  A washing machine is available at $4 per load though probably no-one will need this.  There are fireplaces and wood in the cottages and bungalow.

Camping is also available at Thurra River, about three kilometres from the lighthouse.

Point Hicks is the tallest lighthouse in Australia, with a tower 150 feet high, and we will be able to enter the lighthouse.  There is a wreck a little way south of the lighthouse, there are large sand dunes nearby and there are two three-man canoes available for hire for use in the Mueller River, about four kilometres from the lighthouse.  If we are lucky we may see dolphins, seals, whales, wombats, goannas and a variety of birds.

Here are some links with more information :

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Looking down Point Hicks stairwell to Keeper on pulley, 17 July 1987
Arca-Swiss 5×4″ monorail camera. 90mm Schneider Super Angulon, Fujichrome 50

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Cost will depend on how many people go and how many dwellings we use.  There are two cottages and a bungalow.  Each cottage has a double bedroom, a twin bedroom and a bunk room with four bunks (each 1.9 metres long).  Cottage #1 also has a second bunk room.  The bungalow has a double room and an outside toilet.  All have cooking facilities and equipment.

That makes a total of 22 people but we will probably limit numbers to two per bunk room for a total of 16.

At up to 16 people, depending on numbers, costs per person for four nights range from $245 to $350 for double room, $200 to $280 for twin room and $127 to $173 for a bunk.  The bungalow is $480.

However, for standard rate December, January and long weekends, costs per person for four nights range from $238 to $390 for double room, $185 to $310 for twin room and $129 to $205 for a bunk.  The bungalow is $560.

The default date is for four nights starting Friday 11th November, for which both cottages and the bungalow are currently available (if the website is accurate).  We have booked Cottage #1 and the Bungalow.  We are still able to book Cottage #2 if we have a couple to take the double room and in that case, berths may be availoable there.

  • Other possible dates with both cottages and the bungalow available are for weekends starting Friday 2 December*, 27 Jan*, 3 Feb, 17 Feb, 24 Feb, 3 March, 17 March and 24 March.
  • Possible dates with Cottage #2 only and the bungalow are weekends starting Friday 15 October, 18 November and 10 March*
  • Possible date with both cottages (but not bungalow) is 20 Jan*
  • Dates with asterisk are at higher “standard” rate.

Beds will be allocated on a first-come first served basis.  Couples will have priority for double and twin rooms.  Bunks will only be available if double and twin rooms are full.  Default order of preference for rooms is as follows:

  • Couples:
    1. Double room
    2. Bungalow (outside toilet)
    3. Twin room
    4. Bunk
  • Singles:
    1. Twin Room
    2. Bunk

Reservations must be final, at least by midnight on the night of Thursday 9th June You commit to paying a 50% deposit in early June and if the default date is available, the remaining 50% in early October.  You must pay the full amount which can be refunded only if someone can take your place.  (Note:  I expect to be travelling between 14th August and 7th October, so I may not be very responsive to emails in that time).

You can record an expression of interest or commit to requesting a berth later than that.  Additional beds may be allocated if available and we might later be able to rent a second cottage or the bungalow if there is sufficient delayed interest and they are still available.

Final payments (in October) will be adjusted for any later participants so the amount may differ from the initial deposit (potentially probably less).

To reserve a place you will need to record the following details in a comment below or send me an email at zenophon@velocitynet.com.au :

  1. Name (singles) or Names (couples)
  2. Definite commitment or expression of interest
  3. Preference and availability for dates and whether that affects commitment
  4. Whether you accept the default order of preference for rooms, or else your preference
  5. Alternatively, whether you intend to be camping (you can arrange that yourself through the Camping link above when dates are finalised)

Even if you send an email, please record your name(s) in a comment below.  This will facilitate group discussions later on.

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What do you need for Printing?

Part 2 of a three-part series on printing:

  1. Why Print?
  2. What do you need for Printing?
  3. How to Print

In this post we will cover the following topics:

  • Fume Room
  • Camera
  • Computer
  • Monitor and colorimeter
  • Software
  • Lighting
  • Printer
  • Ink
  • Paper
  • Cost of printing
  • Matting
  • What to do with the prints

 

Fume Room

The chemical darkroom is essentially out of scope for this series, though you could potentially pick up say a second hand Mamiya RB67, compatible enlarger and accessories quite cheaply.  Printing from film in a darkroom is likely to actually work out much cheaper than a digital workflow, even with film costs, but also much more difficult and much more time-consuming.

 

Camera

Printing requires you have an image.  Creating an image usually requires that you have a camera.  So how good a camera do you need?  Do you need say a Nikon D810 with a professional lens for example?  Well, let me answer this at first by example.  The following image is of Selfoss in Iceland and it won a 5 (out of 5) in a monthly competition last year.  It was taken with a good camera – Nikon D3s and a good lens (85mm f1.4) but I discovered later there had been a problem.  I had been grappling with the settings of the camera while it was inside a raincover a week or two earlier in Greenland and hadn’t realised that instead of the usual 16MP RAW files, I had it set to save 2.8MP TIFF files.  After cropping the size of the file was 2.2MP.

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_13S5354 .

Admittedly, my choice of paper helped.  I printed it on a matte paper which has a texture and less resolution.  I don’t think a glossy paper would have worked.   But what this shows if you can have sufficient inspiration and skill and get to the right place at the right time,  the camera doesn’t matter very much, at least as long as you understand the limitations of the camera and operate within them.

 

Computer

I’m not going to say much about computers because I just wrote an article about purchasing one.  You need something with enough RAM to process your files and enough disk space to store them.  It helps if it does something when you turn it on.

 

Monitor and Colorimeter

Having a good monitor makes a big difference and having it well profiled is almost essential for printing.  You can get away without that but you are likely to lose a lot of time in testing, you may find it difficult to achieve accurate colour and it may end up costing you more.  I’m not going to say much about monitors because I covered that in the Computers post.   NEC and Eizo make the best monitors; anything else is a compromise though no doubt a necessary compromise for many.  It is an advantage to have a monitor with an aRBG gamut (Adobe RGB) rather than an sRGB gamut because you will be able to more accurately see the colours of an image for printing.

Profiling the monitor is important because if we are not seeing accurate colour, we will find it difficult to print accurate colour.  Whether a monitor looks good anyway is besides the point.  Our eyes are very good at making lighting sources as different as daylight and tungsten light (old-style lightbulbs) appear normal.  Consequently, we can’t expect our eyes alone to adjust monitors.

To profile your minotaur monitor you need a colorimeter and the best one is the XRite Display Pro (at around $300).  Be wary of cheap options or old colorimeters as they may not be accurate, they may not allow important adjustments and they may not work well if you have a wide gamut monitor.  Some may wish to generate their own paper profiles with say an X-Rite ColorMunki Photo but this is optional; it probably won’t make much difference and profiling your monitor is the really important thing here.

 

Software

There are many software choices for editing images and printing them.  If you have a profiled monitor though, what makes a big difference in printing is using a program you can soft proof with.  That means you can simulate how your print wil appear, on your screen.  It’s not perfect but it can be very helpful.  Photoshop is an option but these days most people use Lightroom which is a very powerful program that is also very easy to use.

These days, you can pay $12 per month for perpetually up-to-date versions of both Lightroom and Photoshop.  This is very good value compared to what prices used to be though the catch is that if you stop paying you can no longer run the programs (though you can still access your files).    There are many instructional videos for Lightroom and Photoshop on the web, such as those of Julianne Kost.  There are also comprehensive sets of videos on Luminous Landscape for both Lightroom and printing if you are willing to pay their subscription of $US12 per year.

 

Lighting

Ideally, the room you process your images in should have dim consistent lighting and be neutral in colour.  If you are in a room with bright purple walls, it will affect your colour perceptions of your images on screen (as well as possibly your state of mind).  Preferably, you should also wear neutral clothing for the same reason.

Once you have generated a print, you need a neutral light source to assess it.  This can be sunlight, although its colour temperature changes throughout the day and may differ between direct sunlight and shadow.  Ordinary lightbulbs of whatever type are problematic, even if they are labelled “daylight”, unless you are printing for that specific light source.

The best light source for proofing is Solux bulbs, which are very accurate, and most people prefer a colour temperature around 5,000°K.  The problem is that they are MR16 bulbs – in other words they have two little round prongs like the small round lights that may be in your kitchen ceiling and they take low voltage direct current rather than 240V DC.  Fine if you can get them installed like your kitchen lights.  Alternatively, you could use a Graflite fluorescent desk light which is almost as good though the larger one, more suitable for A3+ prints, costs $300 (at Imagescience).

There is a way around this, if you’re adventurous enough.  From a local store such as Southside Lighting, you get an ordinary lamp and also a small inline transformer that converts from 240volt DC to a small direct current suitable for MR16 bulbs.  You get an electrician to insert the transformer in the lamp’s electrical line before the switch.  Now it’s no good for ordinary bulbs anymore.  Next, you order online a B22 (large bayonet) to MR16 converter or a E27 (large screw) to MR16 converter depending on your lamp fitting.  These are not available in a shop because they don’t meet Australian safety standards since someone might use them with an MR16 bulb without a transformer and effectively cause a short circuit.  When this arrives, you put the Solux bulb on it, insert it in the lamp and you now have a colour accurate light source for printing.

 

Printer

The choice for a photographic printer is likely to come down to different models of Epson inkjet printers.

It’s possible to print a photograph with a laser printer but it won’t handle the range of media that inkjet printers can, the colours and densities won’t be at all accurate unless you profile it yourself and even then it’s not likely to produce the quality of an inkjet printer.

Canon and HP still produce ranges of very large printers for the professional market, but HP has dropped out of the consumer market and Canon has a fairly low profile.  In any case, I’m not familiar with Canon printers and will confine my comments to Epson.

Here are some likely choices:

  • P800 (A2 printer): $1,900+: Excellent quality colour and monochrome images.
  • P600 (A3+ printer): $1,300+: Excellent quality colour and monochrome images.
  • P405 (A3+ printer): $900+:  Excellent quality colour but not as good for monochrome due to smaller ink set.
  • Artisan 1430 (A3+): $350+: Uses dye-based inks rather than pigment-based inks.  Probably excellent quality for colour images on glossy and semigloss paper.  May not be so good on matte and may not be very suitable for monochrome.  Will have higher ink cost due to small cartridges.

 

Ink

If you have an Epson printer, you should definitely use Epson ink.  You can get very cheap third party ink but that doesn’t mean it’s good value.  Such inks can kill your printer.  Also, you may need to get custom paper profiles which otherwise are not really necessary.

 

Paper

These days there is a bewildering variety of papers available.  At least initially, just have one or two and get to understand them.  If two, perhaps a semigloss paper and a matte.  Maybe try a few test packs to help decide.  Glossy and semigloss papers show brighter colours and deeper blacks than matte papers so they are suitable for different kinds of images.  Matte papers can give a subtler effect for lower contrast images.

If you want a first paper to start with on a new printer, perhaps Ilford Smooth Pearl is a good and relatively economical place to start.  It is suitable for both printers that use dye-based and pigment-based inks.  You need to be careful if you have a dye-based printer that you purchase suitable papers, not ones for pigment ink printers only.

 

Cost of Printing

You can of course print A4 prints but for purposes of a cost comparison, let’s say you decide to print for yourself and enter A3+ prints in CPS competitions for a year.  That’s sixteen A3+ prints in monthly competitions, two in Image of the Year, say four for Out There exhibition and five A4 prints for the Hedda Morrison portfolio competition.   That’s 22 A3+ prints and 5 A4, equivalent to around 24.5 A3+ prints.  We will not consider here what other prints you may generate.

An article by Mark Segal suggests ink costs of around $2 for an A3+ print from an Epson 3800 printer.  This should be about the same for a P800 or a P600 (the current models).  Say you’re printing Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, that will cost about $3.30 per A3+ sheet.  Assuming 25% for testing and wastage, that makes about $7.50 per A3+ print. That’s about $180 for printing costs for a competition year.

Getting Harvey Norman to make the same prints would cost $410 but they would have to be on a cheaper paper and lower quality and the paper sizes are slightly smaller.  Next step up, getting Bica to print them would cost $588 for “Premium Prints” and $1,031 for “Custom Prints” (and for A3 rather than A3+).  Next step up, getting Stephen Best to print them will cost $1,005 plus postage, or picking up from PhotoAccess on a Thursday or Friday, or trips to Braidwood.

I recently sold my Epson 3880 printer for $550 (to upgrade to a P800).  I had bought it six years ago for $1900.  My overall printing cost for that period was equivalent to getting prints made by Harvey Norman at much lesser quality and much less convenience.  I saved 60% (or $3,700) over getting custom prints made by Bica or Stephen Best.   So, buying a printer can pay off as long as you’re going to use it.

 

Matting

Prints in CPS competitions are usually matted.  It helps if you print in standard sizes because then you can reuse the matte for other prints.  Unlike prints, there is no particular reason to produce your own mattes; it’s a question of convenience and cost. There are three approaches you can take:

  • You can get some cut. Last time I did this it cost $15 each, but that’s a few years ago and it may be more now.
  • You can take the cheap option and use a Stanley knife for straight edges and a Dexter matte cutter for bevelled edges. Entirely possible but slow and painstaking.
  • If you will be cutting a fair few mattes, you may consider a “proper” matte cutter such as those from FrameCo.

Just briefly, if you are matting a print to permanently mount in a frame, you should use archival matte board and archival tape (from a specialist retailer) and hang the print from the top edge only so it can move in the frame.

 

What to do with the prints

A question some people ask is “what do you do with the prints?”.  Well, to some extent, this may not be the right place to start.  If you want to produce some outstanding prints that are truly yours because you printed them, you have to work at it.  The prints you produce after a few years may be greatly improved and you will have needed to produce the earlier ones to get there.

You can of course hang some on your walls and rotate them.  You may be able to give some away as presents.  In this case you need to be sure it really is your best work (probably no point even holding on to seconds) and also that other people really will appreciate them.  The Society competitions help to give you a good feel for that.  Similarly, you might like to send some prints to people you met while travelling.  You might want to hold an exhibition at some stage, when you feel you really understand your craft and have something to say.  You might even try selling some though that’s easier said than done and certainly extremely difficult to generate a significant income flow from fine art prints.

You can store them in the old boxes that the paper came in (or special boxes for the same purpose) or you can get special transparent envelopes to store them in.  I have also found album folios that can store 48 A3+ prints.  This is a very convenient way to show your prints to guests.

 

A Photoshop Workflow

In response to several requests for more technical information to be provided as part of Canberra Photographic Society activities, we have started a new technical session to be conducted at the start of each Workshop evening. Members will take it in turns to spend 15-20 minutes talking about a technical aspect of photography or image processing. I kicked off the series with a demonstration of a workflow (using Bridge and Photoshop) that I used to process one of my images from Bermagui.

I chose this image because it has some short-comings and I wanted to demonstrate how I could overcome some of these with processing. Obviously it is not possible, nor desirable, to “fix” bad images with processing, but I wanted to illustrate a couple of points. I find the image inherently amusing but the background is a bit distracting as it has a lot of color, structure and light areas. Also, there is a pelican in the foreground that could be seen as a distraction, so I am going to demonstrate how to “clone it out.” I want to draw attention to the main subject – namely the fish in the pelican’s beak.

Below is the original raw file that has been opened in Bridge. I have made some adjustments to the exposure and reduced the contrast. In Bridge I almost always go into the Lens Corrections tab (6th from left) and enable lens profile corrections (in the profile sub-tab) and tick remove chromatic aberration (in the color sub-tab). Most of the other adjustments (such as noise removal) I leave on the default values. 01_Pelican_Raw

Once I am happy with the raw processing in Bridge I click on the “Open Image” button at the bottom and this opens the image in Photoshop. 03_pelican_photoshop

Above you can see what the base layer looks like without all the adjustment layers (only the bottom layer has an eye symbol to its left). To illustrate my workflow I am going to step through turning on each layer so you can see the effect that it has on the image.

04_pelican_photoshop

The first layer (above) corrects the color balance. I used the color picker tool (a pencil with a plus sign) and select an area that should be white or neutral grey. I then use a curves layer and adjust each of the colors so that the values for red, green and blue are the same. If they are 255,255,255 then I have adjusted the spot (and the highlights) to white – if the value is less then the spot is grey and I have adjusted the high mid-tones. You can see that this adjustment has removed a magenta cast from the image.

05_pelican_photoshop

In this layer (above) I have removed the pelican on the left. I used the lasso tool to draw a rough outline around it and then went to the Edit tab at the top of the page and select Fill then Content-Aware to give a rough fill. I then used the clone tool to tidy up the fill, making sure that there are no repeated structures evident. I also built up the tip of the remaining pelican’s wing.

 

07_pelican_photoshop

I then have several curves layers where I have progressively darkened the background and lightened the birds. I do this in steps so it gives a more subtle result and I use a different mask for each layer. I use a soft brush to make my masks and usually feather each mask also.

08_pelican_photoshop

You can see here (above) the mask that I used to darken the background while not changing the birds. You can visualise the mask by going to the channels tab and clicking on the bottom channel, which is usually the mask. Don’t forget to turn the mask channel off before returning to the layers menu (unless you want to see the mask to make fine adjustments to it).

11_pelican_photoshop

In this layer (above) I am working to give more emphasis to the pelican beaks. I start by changing the color balance and shifting it slightly to the magenta and red (from cyan and green respectively). The rest of the image is masked out so the changes only apply to the beaks. I then apply a hue-saturation layer where I gently increase the saturation in the reds and magentas. I almost always make saturation adjustments selectively and usually avoid increasing the global saturation. I have a second saturation adjustment layer where I have reduced the saturation in the blue and cyan. This often corrects a consequence of darkening (particularly for skies) as Photoshop has the unfortunate tendency to make darkened skies too saturated. Here I am removing color from the water to bring emphasis back to the pelican beaks. Often removing saturation in some colors is a more effective way of emphasising the remaining colors than just increasing those colors’ saturation.

14_pelican_photoshop

In the next few layers I have lightened the black feathers in the wings to bring some structure back there. I also have a few more layers to reduce the contrast in the water even further. I now want to add more contrast and emphasis to the plumage of the birds. Here I am using a technique for adding structure called HiRaLoam. This is basically a sharpening tool, so I need to work on committed pixels. Most of my layers so far (except for the cloning layer) have been adjustment layers that are basically a set of instructions that tell photoshop what to do with the information from the layers below. A useful shortcut that I use when I need a committed layer (a requirement for sharpening) is to hold down the Control-Shift-Alt-E keys simultaneously. You will see a lot of other ways of doing this, but I have found this to be the quickest and simplest.

To perform the HiRaLoam adjustment I go to the Filter tab at the top of the page, select Sharpen, then Unsharp Mask. Then I use a high radius and a low amount (Amount 30, radius 30, threshold 2). There is nothing magical about these numbers and it sometimes takes a bit of trial and error to get the desired effect. Be sparing with this as it can produce halos (as can all sharpening techniques). I usually start with a black mask, and only add the effect sparingly where I want it, taking care to avoid any obvious edges.

Finally I have a couple more curves layers to get the overall brightness and contrast correct – sometimes it is useful just to use the Auto setting on the curves layer to see where photoshop thinks you should be. You can accept or reject or modify this at your discretion.

Obviously you want to be saving your photoshop file frequently as you go along. If you need to produce a small jpg version of your file my last step is to resize the image. Because photoshop doesn’t retain the detail in the masks at high resolution when it resizes, it is desirable to flatten your image before resizing. Note that this will compress all your workings and discard any layers that aren’t visible. You need to be very careful NOT to save this version of the photoshop file as you will then lose all your working. To resize the flattened image go to the Image tab at the top of the page and then Image Size. Enter the desired values and then save your file AS A JPG. When closing the file photoshop will ask if you want to save it – now say NO to avoid ending up with a low resolution, layerless .psd file. Below if the final version of the image (top). It isn’t markedly different from the original (below) as I like to keep a fairly light touch with photoshop work, but I leave you to judge if it is an improvement.

Pelican_W2A8829

ORIGINAL_W2A8829

 

 

 

Why Print?

This is Part 1 of a three-part series on printing:

  1. Why Print?
  2. What do you need for Printing?
  3. How to Print

These days when we are deluged with digital images and creating them is so readily available, why even bother to print?  The short answer is that printing is an important learning tool that will help you to grow as a photographer and an artist.

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Ansel Adams 1902–1984: “The Tetons and the Snake River”,  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942. Vintage signed print. National Archives Unrestricted.

(Click for larger image).

There is a sale record for this print on Christie’s auction site.  There is also a short article on some of their prints for auction and a brief video about Ansell Adams.

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More often than not, a print will win Image of the Night in our monthly competitions, even when there are more digital images than prints.  This is because a successful print has a special presence.  It’s a tangible thing, a finished object, something with texture as well as tonality.  In creating it, the process of closely examining an image, fine-tuning it and optimising it for a print will also show you a lot about your work that you might miss in merely preparing digital images.

OK, so you want to enter some prints in Society competitions or just generate some for your own purposes – so the next question is “Should you print them yourself?”.  I believe the answer to that question should be Yes!.  In short, it’s your best route to quality, it will probably work out cheaper and the final print will be all your own work.

You can of course get your images printed and there are many reasons to do this.  It might be more economic if you make few prints, you don’t have a suitable printer, you may want a larger print than your printer can make or your printer may have died.  There are many print competitions for which you submit digital images and then if you are a finalist they will print your work.  Canberra Photographic Society competitions also allow commercially printed entries.

However, if you make your own prints, you should easily be able to get better results than a cheap commercial printer (such as Big W or Harvey Norman) and after a while you should also be able to get better results than a custom printer.  This is because only you can understand your artistic vision and for that matter, making your own prints will help to develop it.  While some prints may pop right out from screen through printer to print in completely satisfactory form, others may require considerable time and effort to optimise.

And I think the most compelling reason to do your own printing is that otherwise it’s not really your own work.

Former President Brian Rope told me a story that illustrates this from a more general perspective.  Ostensibly, all that is required for an image to be yours (including a print) is that you pressed the shutter button on the camera.  Some time ago, a photographic competition in China received a number of identical images from different people. It turns out they had all been to the same workshop.  The convenor of the workshop had set up his camera on a tripod, carefully composed the image and made all the required technical settings.  The attendees of the workshop all went through, put their cards in the camera and pressed the shutter button.  Those entries were all disqualified from the competition of course.  They might have pressed the shutter button but apart from that it was not their work.

In the Canberra Photographic Society we believe in freedom of information, assisting anyone who requests it and working cooperatively.  Even so, ultimately I believe that everyone has to take responsibility for their own work, specifically the technical and artistic aspects that require an exercise of skill.  There’s definitely skill in printing, both technical and artistic, and these skills are definitely worth picking up and exercising.

In summary:

  • Printing is an important part of Photography
  • Learning it and practicing it will help you to grow as a photographer and an artist
  • Printing your own prints should lead to better quality than a commercial print
  • You can probably make prints more cheaply than cheap commercial prints (details next post)
  • If you want it to really be your own work, you should print it yourself.

 

Any value judgements expressed above are entirely my own.  Feel free to discuss any issues or ask any questions in the comments below.

 

Thoughts on judging a photograph

At the Ted’s Hedda Morrison Print Portfolio Trophy night our guest judge David Paterson spoke about what he looks for as a judge in photography competitions. David is experienced as a judge with the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers. He also regularly enters work in State and National AIPP competitions. Here is a summary of David’s thoughts.

Judging a Photograph: What do I look for?

Composition and Image design – is the photo well composed and has thought been applied to the design of the image?

Exposure – is there detail in both the highlights and shadows? Does it have a good tonal range?

Focus – has the focus been placed in the areas and how well has this worked?

Colour/Tones – is the colour and/or tones correct?

Lighting – how well has the photographer used the light?

Posing and Styling – does the posing suit the photo?

Attention to detail – is there anything within the photo that should have been removed or not photographed in the first place?

Post Production – how well has the post production been handled? Sharpening?

Printing – is the print of a professional standard? Right choice of paper?

Presentation – how well has the photo been presented, matting?

Images that are more highly awarded may include…

Communication and Narrative – does the photo tell me a story and/or communicate the authour’s intent?

Imagination – thinking outside the square

Innovation – is this something new that gets me excited?

Visual and emotional impact – does this photo affect me emotionally?

Timing, anticipation – the decisive moment!

Computers for Photography

Unless you are shooting film and printing in a darkroom, you’re likely to need a computer to deal with and process your images.  If you’re looking at purchasing one for photography, there are several things to consider:

  • Monitor
    • Colorimeter for profiling
    • Graphics cards
  • Computer
    • RAM
    • Storage
      • SSD or conventional
    • Chip
    • Software
  • Laptops
    • External drives
  • Backup
    • External hard drive or NAS
    • Software

So let’s consider each of these in turn, both from the point of view of a cheaper alternative and what’s the best you can have.

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Study-2

 

Monitors

It’s better to have at least a reasonable quality monitor.  If your monitor is too cheap or too old, it may not be capable of showing accurate colour.  The main monitor types are TN and IPS.  It is better to go for an IPS rather than a TN monitor because the appearance of TN monitors changes according to viewing angle and therefore may not show you an accurate picture of your image.

Another choice is “normal” gamut (sRGB) or “wide” gamut (aRGB).  Wide gamut monitors are especially valuable for printing bceause you can fairly accurately simulate on screen the colours and densities of a printed image.

Another level of choice is resolution.  The ultra high resolution 4K monitors have a resolution of something like 3840×2160 instead of 1900×1200.  Photographic quality ones can be very expensive.  You will also need an expensive graphics card to drive it.  You will get amazing resolution and excellent colour but you may have problems with some software.  For example, the Nik software suite may not work well on 4K because Google is not maintaining or updating it.  You also need good eyesight or the extra resolution may be wasted.

Use them if you have to, but cheap monitors will not give you accurate colour and tonality.  The best monitors are NEC and Eizo.  NEC is pretty much as good as Eizo at a much lower price. However, NEC monitors are now unfortunately out of contention because NEC Australia has a new policy that it won’t replace monitors with up to 8 dead pixels (2 bright, 6 dark).  So this leaves only Eizo for the highest quality monitors.

Fortunately there is a new player on the field -BenQ.  While not as good as the Eizos they are still photographic quality at a much lower price.

Prices from Image Science are as followed, wide gamut unless otherwise indicated (you may be able to get a bit cheaper on the web):

  • 24″: $1,400 (Eizo CS2420) or $760 (Eizo EV2455, standard gamut)
  • 27″: $1,900 (Eizo CS2730) or $1,300 (BenQ PV270) or $1,000 (BenQ SW2700PT, previous model, uniformity not as good)
  • 31″ 4K: $7,500 (Eizo CG318) or $2,000 (BenQ SW320) or $1,900 (BenQ PV3200PT, previous model)

Here is an article from ImageScience on buying monitors.

If your budget is more limited, the choices are more complex because it is a question of how much you are willing to pay and how far you are willing to compromise and there is a multitude of choices out there.

Articles from Image Science:

 

Colorimeters

A good colorimeter is almost essential, especially for printing.  Your eyes can adjust to see both daylight and tungsten light as normal so they are not good tools to adjust monitors, so you should use a good colorimeter to calibrate and profile your monitor.  The best colorimeter is the X-Rite i1 Display Pro.  (Online prices start from just under $300).

 

Computers

If you have an old computer and it works for you then it works for you.  You might get more life out of it with more RAM but then new computers are cheaper than they used to be.  If you are considering a new one:

  • Generally you would want at least 16GB RAM though you may get away with less.
  • The CPU is not so critical as long as it’s not too old and slow. You don’t really need a state of the art gaming chip.
  • These days, it’s better (and faster) to boot up off an SSD rather than a spinning drive. (An SSD or Solid State Drive is like a larger version of a flash drive or an SD card).  SSDs are getting cheaper and you might even choose to go for a second SSD for your Photoshop scratch file and Lightroom catalogue.
  • Your graphics card can also be relevant as with many graphics cards you can enable GPU processing to speed up the display and transformation of an image on the screen.
  • Your motherboard is relevant as it will determine what generation of chip your system can support and whet you can plug in. For example, the newer M.2 generation of SSDs is much faster provided you have a board that supports them.  The current generation of architecture is based on the Kaby Lake chip.

For ultimate performance, you may want a custom PC.  You could either build this yourself or get someone to build it for you.  In Canberra, this might be MSY (don’t expect salesmanship and demonstration from them; you need to know what you want first).

Here are some guides to a custom PC:

And here is a couple of guides if you are in the market for a Mac:

Another thing to consider is storage.  It depends partly on how many images you delete and how large the image files are from your camera, but it is common in the digital age to need lots of space for image storage.  SSDs may take over in due course because they are faster and probably more reliable but that’s still some way off so for most storage we still rely on spinning disks.

Larger spinning disks are now available.  You would want a 7200rpm drive rather than the 5400rpm ones which are more suited to backup and Western Digital Black drives now go up to 6TB.  If that is not enough storage you could combine several drives in a RAID array. This can both speed up operations and give some protection against disk failure.  Your motherboard and operating system would need to support the size of drive or type of RAID you might want.

One last thing that may be worth considering is a UPS or Universal Power Supply that will protect your PC against power spikes and enable you to save your work in the event of a loss of power.

(I will consider printers in a separate article).

 

Laptops

There is a huge variety of laptops available in all sorts of different configurations.  For most photographers the main purpose of laptops is for travelling.  For some, the sole purpose is storing images in which case RAM and screen resolution are not so important.  Others want a machine they can process images on in available time while they travel.  RAM and screen resolution then become much more important.  In either case, USB 3 inputs will make a big difference in speed of importing images.  So will SSD hard drives.  It is possible these days to purchase a laptop with a 4K screen, 32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD hard drive though such machines are not yet readily available in Australian retail outlets and will not be cheap.

The alternative to a travel laptop is lots of SD or CF cards but this may not be practical on a longer trip.

This page from Puget Systems shows what might be possible with a very highly specified custom laptop though at 3.4kg this is a desktop replacement unit rather than one for travel.  (Click the [Customise] button for specification options).

 

Backup

It is common for people to be sanguine about backup until the first time their computer goes down and they lose lots of files.  Ideally you should have two or three backups and one should be stored offsite in case of fire or other disaster.  These could be single external drives or you could use a NAS, which combines multiple hard drives in a RAID array and which you may specify for access from a home network.

If you rely on SD cards or CF cards while travelling, you may not have your images backed up and would therefore be at risk of losing them.  If using a laptop while travelling, you should also be backing up to external disks.  External SSDs are a much lighter option than conventional drives and can readily fit in a pocket.  They are still more expensive but becoming more affordable.

To backup files you need backup software which can be Windows (which I admit I haven’t tried for this purpose), a third party product such as Acronis, or possibly software that comes with your hard drive.

It can also happen that your C Drive crashes or gets a virus.  To cover for such an event you should make a system rescue disk so you can still boot up your PC from it, and save a system image so you can quickly get back your C Drive in a functional state.

Sharing and Learning: a worthy goal

Last night Steven Shaw won the Ted’s Hedda Morrison Portfolio competition with a magnificent set of portraits of mountain gorillas. Julie Garran was awarded a Highly Commended for her portfolio of Indian men and Matt James received a Highly Commended for his portfolio of textures from Uluru. Congratulations to the winners and to all the entrants for the high standard of entry. We thank judge David Paterson for his considered and insightful comments on all the work and we thank Ted’s in Petrie Plaza for sponsoring the competition and providing the prizes.

Last night I asked the audience present for feedback and suggestions regarding CPS programs and services. I asked for suggestions as to what our goals are and for ideas for activities, themes and set topics. I asked people to identify what they liked and what they didn’t like. Eleven people responded – many thanks to those who took the time to write a note.

One response identified the first meeting of the month as a favorite activity because of all the discussion. Another member liked the local excursions best followed by competition nights and then talks by specialists. A third liked the combination of training and competitions and liked having a Set Topic each month. Printing and Portraits were mentioned as topics of interest.

There were four requests for more technical workshops on post processing and printing.

One member suggested that we hold an orientation evening once or twice a year for new members unfamiliar with the club structure.

There was a request for something more in April for those not going on the Weekend Workshop (which was aimed at new members and less experienced photographers). There was also a request for more weekends away.

There was a suggestion that we publish a list of good locations for photography in Canberra for animals, architecture, landscapes etc. so that visitors and new photographers have some ideas about where to go.

One person suggested that we use the hearing loop for those with poor hearing.

One response requested that we not mess with the Competition scoring.

Sharing and learning was identified by one respondent as their goal. Given that our currently stated mission is to “help members achieve their photographic potential” I hope that means that we are on the right track, although there is always room for improvements.

If you would like to add something or comment on these suggestions please reply to this post, talk to one of the committee members or drop me an email (president[at]cpsaus.org).

All suggestions are welcomed and the CPS committee will follow up on each one. In response to the requests for more technical workshops talking about processing images we will introduce a “Processing Demo” at the beginning of each Workshop night. A member will choose one of their own images and demonstrate the steps that they employed to go from an initial capture (most likely a RAW file) to a final image. I will start off the series at the upcoming workshop on 17th May. I expect the demo to last about 15 minutes, after which members will show and share their own images. The theme this month is Photojournalism and workshop attendees are asked to bring a favorite news image and some of their own “images that changed your world”. This topic aims to encourage people to think about the impact of photographs as an agent for change both globally and personally.