|Volume 14, Number 13||29 June 2012|
Welcome to the 335th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. We take a look at the St. Lawrence River with a new ebook before Mike Tomkins evaluates that artsy new Pentax. Then we show you how (and why) to build a step wedge before recommending an overlooked technique for appreciating a photograph.
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(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/ARTS/one-in-a-thousand/index.htm on the Web site.)
The news that Oracle's Larry Ellison was buying an island in Hawaii brought a grin to our face. He must have outgrown his 10-acre Japanese rock garden. We do know one other guy who bought an island. Ian Coristine. A long-time subscriber to this publication, he emailed us about it recently:
"Several years ago when I was in the aircraft business (distributing Challenger ultralight aircraft across Canada), I went on a random flight with a couple of friends that changed my life. I happened to trip across a relatively unknown place (the Thousand Islands) that wrapped around my soul. The short version is that I fell in love, found an island (the only one that could safely protect my floatplane from storms), and began a new life," he wrote.
After publishing five books of aerial photos of the Thousand Islands in the Saint Lawrence River near Lake Ontario, Ian realized that Sept. 11, 2001 changed things for guys in small aircraft with cameras.
So "I began writing eight years ago, and two and a half years ago partnered with a deeply gifted co-author, Donna Walsh Inglehart. She convinced me this was more than a travelogue, that it should become a memoir and steered it in that direction."
The result is a unusually well-realized multimedia ebook titled One in a Thousand (http://OneinaThousand.ca), available at $8.99 for the iPad via the iTunes Store (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/one-in-a-thousand/id518088485?ls=1&mt=8).
Set aside a while for the download. And look for it on your iPad as if it were an app rather than a book. "Only an app can support what it does," Ian explained.
Ian gave us a code to redeem a copy so we downloaded it over dinner. Then we sat down with it that evening and forgot all about going to bed.
A 'WORLD' STORY
We have to confess that we were a little lost at first. There's a nice opening video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VUrMHCaPj4), which you access by swiping over the cover photo. In the introductory video Ian flies you over the St. Lawrence River to his one island in a thousand, Raleigh. You know right away this is no ordinary ebook.
The video leads to a short video guide to navigation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GhMK3wNLTI), some elegant maps, the bios and the text. The guide makes clear very quickly how this ebook is different and just how easy it is to enjoy all that it has to offer.
We settled in, got our bearings and swiped away, transported across the continent to a place we'd never been. A chapter or three into it we thought we were done. But no, there are 24 chapters, we discovered to our delight.
Each chapter opens with a page you can have Ian read out loud to you. As you swipe your way through the chapter, you encounter slide shows, images you can enlarge and find on a map, a very nice little progress indicator taken from the iPad's own multiscreen indicator itself and more audio clips.
In an unusual twist, we must say, none of these interactive elements are disruptive. Instead, as you read along and wish you could hear the night sounds Ian describes, you find an audio link to them. Or as you wish you could see the images he describes taking, you find a link to them. And when you're done listening or viewing, you go right back to where you were in the text because these extras dismiss themselves politely.
The book includes over 450 photographs (both film and digital originals, some of which have never before been published), 20 minutes of video, slideshows, an interactive map of the archipelago, a soundtrack composed by Great Lake Swimmers and the text.
It's quite an entertaining text too without being, what's the word, made for TV. Ian tells his remarkable story simply. You won't get bored reading as he tells you about his career driving race cars, several brushes with the Grim Reaper, a few dogs, a bunch of bugs who became his buddies, small craft advisories, restoring an ancient cabin without the help of This Old House, an adventure in prepress and, well, more.
It took us three days to go through the whole experience (skipping a meal or two in our enthusiasm to continue) and, at the end, we wanted more. Which is just the way it should be.
You want, as Marvin Mudrick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvin_Mudrick) used to say, a good book to last.
So we were alarmed the other night to hear in a Frontline piece called "Digital Nation" (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/view/) that college English professors no longer felt they could assign a book over 200 pages. No student today has the time to read a longer book. They're too distracted by social media, which eats up at least 50 hours a week even for children.
Ian's book would bend that curve the other way, we think. They'd suddenly be inexplicably absent from their social media whirl, failing to tweet for days and neglecting to update their Facebook pages as they swiped through Ian's life story to see what happens next.
It's that engaging.
"We believe this is a 'world' story," Ian explained, "reinventing how stories can be told as the publishing world reinvents itself in a more powerful way. I believe and McLellan Group does too, that this is an even bigger revolution than digital music and digital photography, because publishing is an even bigger industry than those and far more deeply flawed."
INVENTING A NEW EBOOK
Doug McLellan of The McLellan Group (http://www.mclellangroup.com), which produced the multimedia title, told us a little about the task that confronted them.
The approach was inspired by Al Gore's Our Choice ebook, which has been produced by Push Pop Press using software they'd developed over two years but planned to make available for others to self publish. Before that could happen, though, "Mark Zuckerberg came along and purchased Push Pop's software for the exclusive use of Facebook. He immediately shut it down," Doug said.
Ian eventually partnered with The McLellan Group to put all the pieces of his story together in a compelling package.
"For us this was an exercise in concept over function," Doug said. "We had a vision before the first line of code was ever conceived and the challenge was to find a set of tools that would allow us to move forward without sacrificing design and the user experience."
The tools they found were the digital publishing suite crafted by Aquafadas (http://www.aquafadas.com), which they used with InDesign (http://www.adobe.com/products/indesign.html).
"Even though Aquafadas was a relatively new and immature toolset," Doug explained, "it was the one we best felt could be manipulated to perform to our vision. We repurposed code to perform and act in ways it was never intended to, going well above and beyond what was available out of the box. We engineered solutions that expanded on what we had available.
"For example, in Aquafadas a slideshow can't popup in full screen and play back automatically. We wrote new code that in the end, gave us a slideshow that contains many moving parts, hidden layers and buttons that allowed us to display Ian's photography in a manner we felt best showcased his work. No other slideshow built within the Aquafadas toolkit, could function the way ours did.
And then Apple introduced the New iPad, which presented new problems with "how the new processor and screen processed data." Doug's team had to completely revamp the opening cover animation so it worked across all iPads. "In the end we were very happy," he said. "The result is a seamless experience for the end user and the reviews from purchasers, magazines, radio stations and book reviewers have all been first rate."
DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) also played a role in Ian's work. As Ian explains in a behind-the-scenes video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpQ8VfCO5kU), "The thing I appreciate most about using DxO is this lighting engine. And suddenly the images that were throw-aways before just blossomed."
He fell in love with Optics Pro after his second book of photos was published. "If you could magically have some way of eliminating all the flaws in your camera and in your lenses," he wonders, "and instantly correct for all of that so the starting point of your pictures is 15 to 50 percent better before you do any kind of editing to them at all, why would you not do that?"
CLEAR TO LAND
If there's a theme that recurs in Ian's story, it's his appreciation for the way things have of accidentally just working out. As the hotelier in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1412386/) puts it, "Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end."
And when it does work out, it always seems to work out much better than you might have hoped (which certainly keeps you swiping pages).
"Whether this finds a world audience or not, it has been a wonderful adventure and I feel incredibly fortunate to have met all these incredibly talented and motivated people who have done so much to help bring this vision to life," Ian told us. "I hope this doesn't sound like an exaggeration because it is not. This was an entirely accidental project that became the culmination of a lifetime's experience and effort."
And that's what makes it the kind of book you'd take with you if, say, you had just bought a desert island and could only take along an ebook on an iPad to inform and inspire you.
By MICHAEL R. TOMKINS, NEWS EDITOR(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/pentax-k01/pentax-k01A.HTM on the Web site.)
I'd be remiss if I didn't start my thoughts on the Pentax K-01 with a discussion of its Mark Newson-designed body. Pentax has gone to great lengths to emphasise his involvement. The unusual styling is, of course, the first thing you notice when you take the camera out of the box. Newson's signature is right next to the compartment door when you flip the K-01 over to insert the battery. Switching the camera on, you're reminded once more with the Newson-autographed boot screen. The company's marketing materials also highlight his connection to the project.
Frankly, I'm the kind of photographer who values function over form. A lot of cameras cross my desk and while I favor the styling of some more than others -- the Pentax K-01 falling squarely in the latter camp -- I am most certainly not going to choose a camera based on its looks. Even if I mightn't be the target customer for the K-01's chunky design ethic, I'd gravitate toward it naturally were the shooting experience great.
The problem is that the design places the cart before the horse. To achieve its blocky aesthetic, function has taken a very distant back seat. The Pentax K-01 is not a camera that feels comfortable in my hands for any length of time. That's in part due to its greater mass than is typical for a mirrorless camera. More than that, though, it's because of its sharp angles, its extremely shallow hand grip compared to the body thickness and the fact that even with only the incredibly light 40mm XS lens mounted, it doesn't feel well balanced. Nor are some of the controls well placed. Pentax's ubiquitous (and oh-so-useful) Green button is hard to reach without adjusting my grip and that's even with my larger-than-average hands. It's also far too close to the rear of the camera, as are the Exposure Compensation and Video buttons. I found the latter near-impossible to press without jostling the camera at the start and end of every video clip, unless shooting two-handed.
Perhaps even more annoying, though, was the rubber flap over the card compartment and most of the connectors. (A second, smaller flash card door beneath is required to ensure the camera stops writing before you pull the card out.) It's too easily opened by mistake, easily catching on a shirt button if you have the camera around your neck, for example. Worse, it's far, far too fiddly to close when you're done. Even using index fingers and thumbs of both hands to press it back in place, you generally have to go back and adjust the flap at a couple of points to get it to sit true. Pentax doesn't officially claim Eye-Fi card support for the K-01, but if I ever saw a design that was an argument for sticking one of these WiFi-capable cards in the body and then gluing the compartment shut, this would be the one.
The form factor of the Pentax K-01 doesn't entirely make sense to me, either. While it does offer the unique ability to mount a huge selection of historic Pentax glass without an adapter or feature limitations, it keeps most of the bulk of a dSLR in the process. That negates the main advantage of a mirrorless camera, which is the ability to reduce size and weight of both camera and lenses. Other than the addition of a small viewfinder hump, I see no reason why Pentax couldn't offer a dSLR camera of almost the exact same size as the K-01 and indeed they've actually come close in the past. And that dSLR could be made to offer literally every feature of the K-01, simply by lifting the mirror.
In removing that mirror, though, you throw away some really useful features. For a modest increase in size, the optical viewfinder can provide you with a great view of the scene you're framing, without using any battery power at all. In contrast, the K-01 is sucking up power the whole time you're even considering shooting an image. Switch it off and you've no way to consider framing beyond using your imagination. Like most polarized LCDs, the K-01's display also turns dark the minute you try and frame a portrait shot, if you're wearing polarized sunglasses. (I lost count of the number of times I went to take a portrait shot on a sunny day and double-checked that the camera was switched on, before the "Eureka" moment. And of course, you lose the phase detection autofocus sensor. That means you must rely on slower contrast-detection AF.
The Pentax K-01's contrast-detection autofocus isn't just slower than phase detection, either. I also found it to be significantly less reliable, both with the 40mm XS kit lens and with my own stock of lenses, including a 21mm f3.2 Limited pancake, an 18-55mm kit zoom and a 50-200mm telephoto zoom. On far too many shots, the K-01 indicated a focus lock, took the picture, but actually missed focus entirely. Sometimes it was by a significant margin and I could reshoot immediately. Other shots looked fine on the camera's LCD, but were visibly out of focus on my PC. The 50-200mm lens also had an annoying tendency to rack through the entire focus range before even attempting to focus for a shot, adding a second or two of waiting around and causing me to miss spontaneous exposures. All of these lenses work just fine on my own K-5 and K-7 camera bodies, both using phase detection and contrast detection autofocus modes.
The Pentax K-01's unsatisfying autofocus actually made me want to use manual focus more often, something that was made significantly more enjoyable by the new focus peaking function. In fact, I'd very much like to see the same function on my K-5 body. I'm definitely going to miss having a peaking function on hand....
RAW VS. JPEG
When I'm shooting for myself, I'm exclusively a Raw shooter. I typically shoot Raw+JPEG when I'm shooting galleries for our camera reviews, so you can see both Raw and out-of-camera JPEG shots as your own preferences dictate. Unfortunately, the K-01's Raw performance is disappointing. There is effectively no buffer at all: the K-01 will shoot Raws at the same speed until the cows come home (or your flash card is filled), but it will do so at barely one frame per second. If you're a JPEG shooter, things aren't so dire. The JPEG burst depth is admittedly rather limited, but burst performance doesn't trail too far behind Pentax's best dSLRs.
One situation in which I found even JPEG shooting to be less than fun, however, was capturing bracketed exposures with a digital filter enabled. With bracketing active, the K-01 captures all three frames with a single press of the shutter button and doesn't return to live view between frames. That's fine for both Raw and JPEG shooting -- the one situation in which the K-01 does seem to be able to hold more than one Raw image in its buffer -- but if you enable a digital filter, the processing is done between frames. The filters typically take around a second to apply, so by the time the third frame is captured, you've been trying to hold the camera steady for over two seconds without any way to see your framing. If you're using filters, you're better off bracketing your shots manually, rather than using the exposure bracketing function.
JPEG burst performance also wasn't great if using focus tracking, thanks to the rather sedate contrast detection autofocus and the time it takes to tweak focus between frames. For subjects moving toward or away from me at any significant speed, burst shooting slowed to a crawl and the Pentax K-01 struggled to achieve a focus lock even more than usual. This is not a camera for sports shooters, sorry to say. That's not to say you can't get sports shots with it: on the contrary, as my jet ski shot above demonstrates. You'll just need to rely either on focusing manually, pre-focusing or on shooting only subjects whose motion is predominantly lateral across your field of view. And of course, you'll need to disable Raw mode.
It may seem that I'm being a bit unkind to the K-01, but I must admit, I can forgive many of its quirks for its imager. It's closely-related to the much-praised sensor in the Pentax K-5 and that is definitely a good thing. While the tweaks that have been made -- I believe to achieve a higher live view refresh rate and more capable video capture -- do seem to have brought about a slight reduction in image quality when compared to the K-5, the Pentax K-01 is still capable of some mighty pleasing images. And I do see the advantage of shooting with my existing glass, rather than needing to buy (and learn the foibles of) an entirely new stock of lenses.
In particular, the Pentax K-01 shines for low, available light shooting, something I've also greatly enjoyed with my K-5. Even dim street lighting is plenty to get handheld shots you can be pleased with, without resorting to ugly on-camera flash or bulky, ungainly external strobes. The profusion of in-camera filter effects are also a lot of fun, as are the more unusual functions like multiple exposure and interval shooting, in-camera HDR and the like. Perhaps having been trained by the HDR function that hides in the menu of my K-5, I did tend to forget the dedicated HDR mode on the Mode dial. You can't control the exposure step size from the menu's HDR mode, though, something I'd like to see change. While the dedicated HDR mode allows the step size to be changed, it simultaneously prevents you dialing in your chosen aperture for the HDR series, preventing any depth-of-field effects.
The changes that Pentax has made to the video mode of the K-01 are also welcome. I'm the first to admit that I'm not much of a videographer, mind you. I simply don't have the mindset to plan and capture a story across multiple shots, then stitch everything together in an editor when I get back home. Instead, I tend to shoot single clips documenting a specific moment I'm interested in and let them stand alone. Even I could appreciate the ability to manually control all three main exposure variables, though. I also found manual focus during video capture with the new 40mm XS lens to be a joy, providing for some fun effects. I'd wager that a talented videographer could do quite a lot with this camera and if I owned one the video functionality would probably get quite a bit more use than does that of my K-5.
The shame is that with the same processor and imager, Pentax could have offered these same advantages in an SLR body not much larger than that of the K-01, without the sacrifices that are made, essentially, just to remove the viewfinder. Such an SLR wouldn't be much bigger than the K-01 and I doubt it would be that much more expensive either. With the mirror locked up, the SLR would be able to provide the same feature set as the K-01 and with it dropped it would retain the much more usable phase detection AF and a proper viewfinder.
While I think it was mighty bold of Pentax to offer two completely separate mirrorless camera systems, I feel they've missed the mark with the K-01. Unless you absolutely cannot stand shooting with an optical viewfinder or you need the smallest possible body with a K-mount on the front, I would recommend looking at one of the company's other SLR models instead. The flagship Pentax K-5 is mighty tempting at its current street price and the early signs are that the upcoming Pentax K-30 will be offering a a lot of camera for the price, as well.
You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/pentax-k01/pentax-k01A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/pentax-k01/pentax-k01GALLERY.HTM.
With the Pentax K-01, the company treads new ground. It's a bold move, making Pentax the only manufacturer to offer two distinct mirrorless product lines and the only one to offer a way to use existing SLR glass on mirrorless without an adapter. We can't help thinking that there's a reason other manufacturers haven't been down this road, however. In retaining support for existing K-mount lenses, Pentax has presented a camera that still has most of the size of an SLR, but loses its most important advantages over mirrorless cameras: the fast phase-detect autofocus and the optical viewfinder. In their place, the Pentax K-01 has slow and too-often unreliable contrast detection autofocus and offers no viewfinder at all -- not even an external accessory. The lack of a viewfinder is a shame, but to some extent made up for by above-average battery life thanks to a full-sized battery the same as in Pentax's SLRs. The autofocus issues, though, are very disappointing indeed and lead to entirely too many missed shots.
That's a great shame, because the best feature of the Pentax K-01 has to be its image quality. The sensor used is closely-related to that much-lauded in the company's flagship K-5 SLR and it shows. While the K-01 doesn't quite match that camera for image quality, it comes fairly close. Images shot with the K-01 are pleasing indeed, when they're in focus and the low-light / high ISO performance is excellent. Add in a great mix of creative features and an updated movie mode that now allows fully manual exposure control and you have a camera that could've provided a lot of fun, along with some great photographic results. Of course, you can focus manually and the new focus peaking function makes light work of this.
As we conclude this review, we're left wondering what niche, exactly, that the Pentax K-01 is supposed to fill. Its chunky body seems to couple the main disadvantages of a mirrorless camera with the main disadvantage of an SLR. It doesn't help that the Marc Newson-designed body places form before function. It's simply too uncomfortable in-hand and design choices like poorly-placed controls and the clumsy rubber compartment cover subtract still further from the enjoyment of shooting with the K-01. For a relatively slight increase in size and weight, we'd much rather shoot with one of the company's well-designed dSLR cameras than the Pentax K-01.
At http://www.imaging-resource.com/new-on-ir you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:
- Reviewed: Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED M.Zuiko Digital (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1521/cat/14)
- Reviewed: Pentax K-01 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/pentax-k01/pentax-k01A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Panasonic Lumix TS4 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/TS4/TS4A.HTM). The big question is whether it turns out pictures good enough to serve as an all-purpose camera as well as a rugged dynamo. (Uh, no.)
- Test & Gallery Images: Pentax K-30 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/pentax-k30/pentax-k30A.HTM)
- Reviewed: Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS (http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1451/cat/82)
- Test Images: Canon T4i (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/canon-t4i/canon-t4iA7.HTM)
- Reviewed: Fujifilm X10 (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/X10/X10A.HTM)
We were rummaging around in our tool box the other day, marveling at all the strange little devices we've inherited from generations of tinkerers in the family.
But there's one tool you can't inherit. That's the scrap material you use to test an idea. It could be what's left of a 1x4 or some laminate or just some wire. You won't ever use it in a project, but you keep it around to test some construction idea.
So what, we wondered, is the photographic equivalent?
A step wedge.
A step wedge is a great tool for learning exactly what all your image editor's adjustment tools actually do to the tonal scale of an image. And in just a minute or two you can make your own for free.
Here's the basic procedure in Photoshop:
OK, the real value isn't in making one of these but in having it. So here it is: http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS/archive/v14/wedge.20.jpg
- Create a new RGB file with about a 6:1 ratio of width to height. We like 500 pixels wide to work with our Web images, so we set the height at 80 pixels.
- Select the Gradient tool and turn Dithering off. You want it nice and smooth.
- Constrain the Gradient tool with the Shift key (so you can draw a nice horizontal line) and drag it left to right, staying inside the image area but completely traversing it.
- Use Image, Adjustments, Equalize to make steps of the same width.
- Use Image, Adjustments, Posterize to actually make the steps, setting the value to 20 for 20 steps, which makes increments in tonal value of five percent.
- Save the image.
So why is it an RGB image when it's just grayscale? There's no real savings in image size (it's small even as an RGB) and it's more useful as an RGB because that's what your image files are. So it's a convenience for using it on another layer to experiment with layer modes in a color image. But as an RGB it's also useful for seeing just how white balance tools affect the tonal range.
How do you use it?
Well, there are a number of things you can do with it:
In fact, you can try anything on the wedge that you'd do to an image to see just what happens to the tones. Duplicate the file to keep a reference open, too.
- Just look at it. It may seem obvious but this is one way to judge how well you've calibrated your monitor. If you don't see 20 different tones in the image, stop the presses and calibrate your monitor.
- Print it. This will give you some idea of how many tones your printer, ink and paper combination are able to produce. Pay attention to how you set up the printer dialog (is the printer managing color or your image editing software?).
- Edit it. Use the Levels command and watch what happens as you use the eye-droppers or triangles to adjust the tones. Use the Curves command, trying out different presets to see what happens to the tones. Use the Image Adjustments options like Exposure to see how the sliders affect tonal distribution. You can even use the White Balance tools to see how they affect the tones in your image. For extra credit try to predict the effect a tool or setting has on the scale.
- You can do that in Camera Raw, too. Just open it with the format set to Camera Raw in the Open dialog box and you can try all its tools on your wedge, too.
The version we've built is an 8-bit JPEG with values running from black to white. But if your editor can build 16-bit or even 32-bit gradients, you can create a wedge even more suitable for Raw and HDR images.
You won't actually use it in any final image, but like that scrap wood lying around in the basement, it's a great tool to test out an idea and get more familiar with the tools in your tool box.
Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:
Read the Nikon 'Friends of the 8800' discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a
Read about the Canon Pro-1 Printer at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eeb680a
Read about Nikon lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=5
Visit the General Q&A Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee718ec
He was peculiar. It was his thing. He taught high school English during the school year and took a VW van-load of awkward but not peculiar kids to Europe every summer. And he would advise them all to stand in front of Michelangelo's Moses for three hours. Like he did.
We gave it a try.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We overheard about 30 tour groups buzz in, circle the statue, wonder about the horns and pass on. Once in a while, we were distracted by something far more fetching than Michelangelo's old man. But mainly, we just stared at it.
For three hours.
Nobody even looks at themselves in the mirror for three hours. How can you really look at something for three hours? Unless, say, you're Michelangelo working on Moses's ear?
So we wasted a couple of good hours we might have spent hunting down a gelato but we did learn a valuable lesson. To appreciate something you have to look at it a while.
In a recent New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/arts/design/caravaggio-denial-of-st-peter-met-museum-of-art.html), Randy Kennedy noted that curators (who know about these things) "lamented how little time museum patrons spend in front of works." In 2001, the Met did a little study that found the median viewing time to be only 17 seconds.
It usually takes us that long to read the placard. In fact, we often silently chide ourselves for spending more time studying the placard than the work of art. And if we don't immediately correct ourselves (usually by skipping the placard), we start counting the seconds for each, as if we were brushing our teeth.
Sometimes, when we really need some background information on the exhibit and know we'll be spending a lot of time craning over the shoulders or around the elbows of fellow visitors, we spring for the audio tour. That's actually a great solution. You can drink in the image with your eyes and enrich your understanding with your ears. The only problem is that once the audio ends, you really feel you should move on to the next item, skipping all the non-audio items in between.
At San Francisco's Pier 24 (http://www.pier24.org/information/concept.html), Andrew Pilara has solved these problems for visitors to his exhibits. No placards at all. No audio tours. In fact, you have to have an appointment online to get in. And only about 20 people at a time are admitted.
We think he's got the right idea for photography. The more years between us and the art, the more information you need to appreciate it. You need a program to tell the players. But photography is such a young art, you don't need no stinkin' placards. Just look.
Which is probably something you hardly do with your own snapshots, come to think of it. You flip through them like they were playing cards. As prints or on screen. One after another. As if you can instantly appreciate them. Because, well, you were there.
When you do that, you skip all the detail. You ignore anything amusing in the background. You concentrate on smiling eyes and laughing faces. You look for the "good ones."
Try this some time. Lay them out on a table, the piano, a bulletin board and leave them there a week. Don't pile anything on them. When you walk by, take a look. Just glance at first.
You may find yourself avoiding a few of them after three or four glances. You may find yourself drawn to one. You may on the fifth or sixth time, linger on it.
Promote them, hide them. Shuffle them. See if you fall in love.
You can do this at your friendly neighborhood museum, too. Pick one painting or photo and visit it each time you go (and do go). No, don't spend three hours looking at it. It annoys the guards and the rushed tour groups who expect you to yield the space because it's their turn now. Just spend a minute to say hello, take it in and wave good-bye. Each time you go.
We did that with a Whistler we just fell in love with when we figured out what it was. Painted on a small wooden board, it was a seascape (scroll down: http://legionofhonor.famsf.org/blog/love-and-maiden-harmony-hues). In his genius, Whistler let the grain of the board become the waves washing ashore. He stretched a long gray pier out into the water and near the end, it breaks apart. The Pier: A Grey Note, he titled it. He painted it in 1884, though, that's the clue. When he was turning 50. He was, himself, that pier. And not real happy about turning 50.
We'd look for that birthday card every time we visited the Legion of Honor and were heart-broken when it was taken down for its own good, no doubt. When it resurfaced at the de Young, we nearly threw a party, we were so happy.
Kennedy, in talking about a Caravaggio he fell in love with, had a similar experience. "When I rushed into the gallery the other day and found it missing, it was as if a close friend had disappeared into the witness protection program."
Now this might not be entirely appropriate for snapshots, but it's a great way to appreciate those rare images you occasionally capture that are a bit more than that.
The question it answers is the one to ask of everything you are smitten with: can you live with it? And if the answer is yes, three hours is nothing, baby.
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RE: Epson R3000
That was one of the best reviews I've seen (both here and elsewhere). Big thanks!
I especially appreciated your comparisons between the two competitors in the 13x19 category. I've been pondering which one I should choose. I have always been a Canon man, since all my cameras and lenses are Canons but after reading this article, I think I will go with the Epson R3000. And I think it should've been obvious for me that Epson makes better printers. After all, that's their main business, unlike Canon's.
Of course, the black-and-white printing made a sell, but you deserve a fat commission from Epson.
I would like to encourage you to take similar approach in all your future reviews (I mean, comparing two or more main rivals in the same review). That is most helpful and I am sure I am not the only one who thinks so.
-- Rob(Thanks, Rob, much appreciated. We'll be publishing the long-promised update to the Pro-1 review shortly. Both printers are still staring at each other right here.... They're both excellent machines but there are differences worth considering. And the biggest failing of the Pro-1, its uncoated black-and-white lay down, can probably be addressed by reformulating the matte black ink. -- Editor)
One thing you don't seem to address in your printer reviews is the economic impact of ink replacement. Since this could be more significant than the purchase cost of the printer, it would seem useful to know those with larger capacity cartridges and/or less waste when changing inks.
-- Lynn Maniscalco(We do list the price of consumables, Lynn. But because the images vary widely in their ink consumption, particularly depending on the kind of paper used, it isn't really possible to promise a certain number of prints per set of inks.... With tanks you are gaining some efficiencies over cartridges. Beyond that, we really can't measure usage in any way that would matter for someone else.... So while we do notice how often we have to replace cartridges or tanks, we can't really say this printer or that is more efficient. -- Editor)
I've owned the Epson R800 for many years now and I'm happy with the print quality on glossy papers (color mode). Nice detailed prints with vibrant and saturated colors. But I'm not sure which printer to buy after my R800 goes.
The R3000 is nice but everywhere I read that this printer is excellent for matte and fine art papers but not for glossy media. For glossy media they suggest the Epson R2000. And now there is the Canon Pro-1 with Chroma Optimizer for glossy media.
You reviewed the latest Epson and Canon Photo Printers so you know how they Print on glossy media. Hope you can help.
-- Jimmy Duney(As we said in the review, Jimmy, you can't tell whether the Pro-1 or the R3000 printed our color images on glossy media. And with the K3 ink set, which does not use a gloss optimizer, you save a tank of ink, too, with the R3000. We reviewed the R2000 as well, if you'd like to compare our notes on that printer. But we have no problem recommending the R3000 for color images on glossy papers. We will point out, however, that images like the dahlias (in the review) and sunsets are more saturated with dye inks rather than pigments. -- Editor)
Canon (http://www.usa.canon.com/eos7dfirmwareupgrade) has announced a 7D firmware update increasing the maximum number of Raw burst images from 15 to 25 frames, the ability to process Raw files in the camera and the option to set a maximum ISO setting in ISO Auto mode. The firmware also adds the ability to adjust up to 64 audio levels manually prior to recording video, supports custom file naming and allows for compatibility with CanonŐs newly introduced, optional GPS Receiver GP-E2.
As News Editor Mike Tomkins put it, "Without doubt, this is the most comprehensive firmware update we can remember. It's all the more surprising when one notes that the 7D is the second-oldest camera in Canon's current SLR stable, having been announced way back in September 2009. (Among current Canon models, only the 5D Mark II is older, launched in September 2008.)"
NASA has a unique perspective on the recent fires (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/fires/main/index.html) in the western U.S.
Apple has updated Aperture to v3.3.1 (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1553?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US) to fix a hang when upgrading libraries and has released a 7.9-MB Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.14 (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1552?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US) with support for the Canon EOS Rebel T4i and Sony Alpha SLT-A37.
ACDSee (http://www.acdsee.com) has released its $79.99 Pro 2 [M] with 64-bit processing and a "more intuitive" interface, among other enhancements.
DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released Optics Pro v7.5.1 [MW] with support for the Nikon D800E (Elite Edition only) and the D3200, Sony SLT A35/A57 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC GX1. The Remove Color Moire tool has been fine-tuned for the D800E, which lacks an antialiasing filter.
Datacolor (http://www.datacolor.com) has updated its SpyderCheckr color reference and gray card system to support Hasselblad Phocus in addition to Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and Camera Raw. The bundle SpyderCheckr Pro includes both the SpyderCheckr and the SpyderCube for $139.
Arcade Publishing (http://skyhorsepublishing.com) has published When They Came to Take My Father: Voices of the Holocaust by Mark Seliger with 50 portraits of Holocaust survivors and essays by Abe Foxman, Yaffa Eliach, Anne Roiphe, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, Eva Fogelman and others. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 34 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1611455022/?tag=theimagingres-20).
Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has added Lightroom 4 to the Creative Cloud membership.
Ilford (http://futurenow.ilford.com) has introduced two new Galerie Prestige papers, Smooth Gloss 310gsm and Smooth Pearl 310gsm, and a new line below Prestige in quality called Galerie Premium with Gloss 270gsm and Lustre 270gsm. We've been testing the 310gsm papers using Ilford's free ICC profiles with pleasing results so far.
Fraenkel Gallery (http://www.artbook.com/9781881337324.html) has published the $49.95 Mannequin by Lee Friedlander. Over the past three years, Friedlander has roamed the sidewalks of New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, focusing his 35mm camera on storefront windows and reflections for the book.
Datacolor has announced a series of free monthly webinars on color calibration. Registration (http://spyder.datacolor.com/webinars/) includes a chance to win a Datacolor Spyder product.
LevelUp for Photoshop (http://success.adobe.com/microsites/levelup/index.html) is a game of missions that teach you basic Photoshop CS5 and CS6 software skills.
Fat Cat Software (http://www.fatcatsoftware.com) has released iPhoto Library Manager with support for iPhoto 9.3, including the ability to have iPhoto 9.3 open Aperture libraries.
Julieanne Kost (http://tv.adobe.com/watch/the-complete-picture-with-julieanne-kost/quick-tip-creating-32bit-hdr-images-in-lr-41/) show how to create a 32-bit image from multiple exposures in Photoshop and then use the Lightroom Develop module to refine them (still in 32-bit).
Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) has released VueScan 9.1.06 with improved DNG features. The prior version added auto rotation of text images.
For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).
Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com
Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc
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