Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Image Processing / Minolta Zoom 110 SLR / Santa Cruz D Model

There are many things to learn diving into ‘fine art prints’ after years of web-only images and fewer 4”x6” prints. I sit deep in image processing drudgery preparing suitable enlargements. Along the way some of the the many ‘life’s snapshots’ are being sent off. I usually pass these by to focus on my creative or storytelling photography. It’s nice to see things like this, shot with a borrowed 2004 p&s.
Sunset above Frankport, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©7/10/10
Sunset above Sisters Rocks, Curry County, Oregon. July 10, 2010.

Software bemoaning
Ophir, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/7/11I’ve had to revamp my workflow as my once-snappy macbook is doing what all computers do: slow down over time. I’m splitting duties with my older Vaio machine again. I remain stymied at GoogleChrome’s image display behavior. Part of what makes it seem faster is that it is chewing images down before they get to your screen. After a long trial of Opera on the Mac, it moved to the trash. These things I talk about are a breeze considering my past with geographic information systems (GIS). Life was worse making things happen within the worst software on earth: anything that comes from ESRI. Amazingly powerful GIS package that will give you ulcers.

The Flickr image uploader for mac is a real piece of crap. I’m dealing with the quirks because it is better than using the not-quite-satisfying aforementioned browsers. The flickr world is very stimulating and inspiring; there’s always so much amazing stuff other folks are doing. I most often upload my shots to my flickr account before I assemble the html and writing that make up a blog. I should note that I have used the same text editor since 1998, a little program written by John in the UK, called TextPad in XP. For a number of months, I have used the built-in osx editor, but TextPad is still my favorite for my hand-coded html. It’s been recently updated (1/15/11). I had a boss once plead with me to “stop saying software!”

Bringing images into PS
I’ve been using Adobe Bridge to bring jpg camera images in PS. This seems to be the only way to have ‘Camera Raw’ (ACR) go to work on the file. Using image adjustments in ACR, they arrive in better condition in PS. White Balance and Exposure controls (and others) are adjusted visually, with much attention to the histogram. For NEF files (Nikon dslr RAW files) ACR is launched automatically, and the treatment of the raw file is not the same as the in-camera manipulations or CaptureNX. The primary difference is the sharpening algorithm and color balancing employed by the dslr, which are proprietary and informed considerably by the manufacturers of the CMOS senor itself. CaptureNX appears to be a decent piece of software that will take care of this stuff, but I resent being forced to buy something that should be free after buying a $1,000 camera.

I shoot ‘raw+jpg fine’ if the camera can. The jpg is invariably sharper. I’ve been playing with replacing the NEF ‘lightness’ channel with that from the jpg. Each file has to be converted to lab color. I don’t always do this. Sometimes I run multiple passes of unsharp mask (USM) on NEF files as I downsample them. Lately the USM filter is run only on the lightness channel and the results are much better. However, I do wish to say that my tolerance for ‘not good’ pictures is little. So, I talk about all of this crap, but if the photograph weren’t good in the first place, I wouldn’t waste time on it. These are the things I do to the few photographs I think work, and I post all of them here. I’m learning that only a tiny tiny fraction of these are working as large prints. Hiptamatic images get a lot of slack because that camera helps me find the fun in taking pictures and to remind myself and everyone else that none of this technical stuff makes one bit of difference if you’re just having fun taking pictures!

Ophir cypress through 1.7 tele lens, Andrew D. Barron ©2/7/11I wrote about the Camera Raw plugin to PS. Many professionals are turning to Lightroom. I have bruised my Visa card enough for now. I purchased a package called Neat Image and so far the available noise reduction profiles are helping me. Unfortunately there isn’t one for iPhone cameras. It’s not clear what this software is doing to my images; a similar sensation to my trial of Topaz’s DeNoise. I only choise NI because of the user-contributed camera-specific noise profiles. I suspect I will have to learn to generate my own. Noise reduction filters can make an image more pleasant but they seem to affect sharpness most. On prints 8"x10" or larger, I have not yet determined which will be the lesser evil.

There are only two days left on my SilverEFEX demo. This plugin has become intrinsic to my black and white workflow and I will likely have to plunk down the $140 (available from DSI) to keep it.

Hipstamatic images are mostly straight from the iphone and undergo very little processing. There’s very little one could do.

CMOS noise
To my eyes, Nikon cameras have a very distinct and unpleasant noise. I see this in images taken from an ’04 CoolPix8700, a D5000, and a P6000. The noise in my Sony CCD camera is much more tolerable; I’m sure that each camera out there has noise styles. I recognize that image noise is part of life with digital cameras (like grain in film photography) and I’m not complaining. I’m trying to find ways to optimize/minimize it, either while shooting or with post-processing. Problems are best dealt with at the original capture rather than later; if the ’autobracketing’ feature were more robust, it could help. Dealing with CMOS noise starts to really matter as much higher resolution files are sent to the printers.

Last whine
I entered a contest, submitting nearly every day while it ran. The promotion was tip-top in presentation at the front, but their follow through is not great. The contest ended the other day and the promised ’winners list’ has not surfaced. So I wrote to ePrize about it. Perhaps you can decipher this message:
From:ePrize Customer Service
Thank you for your email. We will respond to your request 8-10 weeks after the conclusion of the promotion. A copy of the Win List will be sent to the email address that this request was sent from. We will only respond to requests received within 3 months after the conclusion of the promotion.
Sincerely, Prize Fulfillment Services

ePrize could use help composing form letters. There are few loose ends from my blogs lately that I will close with images. The bees feeding at crimps in the bottlecaps. These bottlecaps are from a favorite porter known as Black Butte that my good friend Mr. Denoncourt celebrate with at bluegrass festivals.
Honey bees with a drinking problem, Andrew D. Barron ©2/7/11

Shooting film cameras
The Konica’s mirror is scratched badly, but I’m becoming optimistic it can be replaced (anyone?):
Konica Autoreflex T mirror, Andrew D. Barron ©2/7/11
For the film cameras I’m experimenting with, my plan is to use a dslr’s metering functions until I get ahold of a light meter, like a Gossen Luna Pro F or similar (thanks Mike!). Speaking of experimenting, I was very impressed with the 1978 Minolta 440E. After I hearing of a single lens reflector (slr) 110 camera, I knew what I wanted! I lost an auction for an Pentax Auto110 in late January. I recommitted to Minolta and today a rather dirty but exquisitely complete Minolta Zoom 110 arrived. I spent the early part of the morning going over this camera and it shines like a diamond now! I love it. Thank you Rechelle! I had to sell four rolls of 110 film to raise funds to pay for it. I sincerely hope Agfa gets black and white 110 stock to market this year so this cool little camera can have a new exciting life once my remaining three rolls of Kodak 400 are gone.
Minolta 110 Zoom, Andrew D. Barron ©2/8/11
Minolta 110 Zoom, Andrew D. Barron ©2/8/11
Minolta 110 Zoom, Andrew D. Barron ©2/8/11
Mid day beach walk and rainbow, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/8/11
Music stuff
Hubert Sumlin will be 80 this year. The blues master has been inspiring me since I got my first Howlin’ Wolf album about 20 years ago. All night long. Thank you Mr. Sumlin!

I’m back to rehearsing nightly and will likely make it to Wintergrass for the first time, coming up in a few weeks. The resurrected Santa Cruz is much easier to play than my Martin and sounds great. I wish it were more reliable. The top moves so much over the season that the guitar goes from nearly perfect to untunable and unplayable. Not a travel worthy guitar. Before I knew it had these problems, I installed a ’dream’ rig I now never use. This guitar was used on Hellbound Glory's first (and out of print) album. I still have 67 original CD pressings for sale, $12 shipped. In contrast to the fun and pride I had with my time in Hellbound Glory, I also played this guitar for a different band's lame album mentioned elsewhere.

It is a great sounding stereo system made and installed by Trance Audio in 2005. I was trying to copy Michael Hedges ’FRAP’ system. I also have a Sunrise pickup for the sound hole (also used by Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke, and Lyle Lovett among many others). Michael’s live sound was a surreal, 3-dimensional experience unlike anything I’ve heard before or since. For live acoustic guitar, it is decades ahead of his time and will be for many years. Get ahold of Live on the Double Planet and see. I was turned onto Michael in a chance encounter taking my my last ‘hard’ physics class, appropriately, Heat, Light and Sound. A labmate named David put on the album while we warped our gourds in preparation for the exam. The venerable Dr. Louis Buchholz wrote difficult but brilliant tests.

You’re missed, Mr. Hedges!

resurrected Santa Cruz D model, Andrew D. Barron ©1/30/11Santa Cruz D model #2987, Andrew D. Barron ©1/30/11
Trance Audio stereo piezo pickups in Santa Cruz D model, Andrew D. Barron ©1/30/11Trance Audio stereo piezo pickups in Santa Cruz D model, Andrew D. Barron ©1/30/11

Live on the Double Planet was a turning point in my life, so thank you David.

All musicians complain about soundmen because soundmen are always bad, especially when you show up with a (huh??) stereo piezo system that is prone to feedback if not eq’d well. Okay, so I’m exaggerating, sorry to the soundmen of the world; it ain’t easy. In my efforts to simplify this problem, a microphone became enough. Better yet are intimate, unplugged performances. With the crowds I’ve played for in this country, tone and sound quality matter much less than beer and shouting to each other. C’est la vie of the troubador. And besides, with my bass rig, I was the loudest thing in the room. Sorry about that Leroy.

I wish to thank my readers and my food-bringing friends and neighbors. Staving artists definitely need support in the cruelAmerica2011, and I feel most fortunate. If only I could get that Joe Walsh song out of my head!

A ‘bad camera’ sunset is just as much fun!
Sunset, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/8/11
Sunset, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/8/11
Sunset, Curry County, OR, Andrew D. Barron ©2/8/11

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