Friday, September 28, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Why am I interested in the D3? Frankly, I can’t justify the expense. I’m excited because I am interested in the D3’s little brother, the D300. At $1,700 I’ll just have to settle for the DX format. On paper, at least, the two cameras match up quite nicely. Both are 12 plus megapixels and have a top ISO of 6400. Both have the same 3-inch LCD with 920,000-dot (VGA) resolution and 51-point autofocus system. Top speed on the D3 is 9 fps, on the D300 6 fps. Both cameras feature Nikon’s EXPEED digital image processing, Scene Recognition System and Picture Control System. If first impressions of the D3 are any indication, the less expensive D300 could prove to be equally as exciting. Hope you placed your order.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Gelatin silver print © Cornell Capa
International Center of Photography
Capa and Taro
The International Center of Photography in New York City is running parallel exhibitions of the images of Robert Capa and his lover, Gerda Taro. Taro was the first woman to photograph a battle from the front lines and died covering the Spanish Civil War in July of 1937. Despite her death at 26, she remained an influence on Capa for the rest of his career. Many of the images in the exhibition will been seen for the first time.
I recently ran across a product that I’m interested in trying. Moab manufactures a line of several archival fine art and photographic papers. Twenty-five sheets of 13 x 19 sell for around $70.00.
Yet Another Must-Have Gadget
Michael Reichmann of The Luminous Landscape has written a review of the landscape photographer’s and astrophotographer’s watch, the YES Watch. At only $495 this thing is a steal. Christmas is coming, hint, hint.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
The problem is that I now have to consider lenses for the D300. A system is only so good as its weakest link and no body can make up for a bad lens (sorry Ken). I have a wonderful Canon L 24-105mm f/4 that I love. Presently, Nikon does not have a comparable lens at that f stop with that build quality. I originally thought I would keep my 18-200mm and be done with it. When I compared it side-by-side with the Canon, however, I noticed the inferior build quality. In shooting some tests, I also noticed lens creep, both up and down. This is clearly unacceptable for astrophotography since you may have your lens pointed anywhere from 45 to 90 degrees above the horizon. Goodbye 18-200.
So what to do? Stay with the Canon and get a 40D or maybe a 5D? Find something acceptable in the Nikon line? To add to the mix, as noted below, there has been a lot of discussion about full frame DSLRs and a return to using film. Around and around I went. I researched seven different Nikon lenses, reading at least two reviews of each. I looked a Zeiss’s line of excellent F mount lenses. I thought about getting a film camera. All the time I am also thinking about the cost. I got dizzy.
Finally, yesterday afternoon, I went home and picked up my D40x from the dining room table. I went out on the deck and took some pictures for no particular reason at all. Simply because I like to take pictures. My tomato plants are getting really bushy so I took some shots of those. I also took some shots of my deck. Nothing really, but it gave me great pleasure and cleared my head. Later that evening I was sitting on my bed when I saw the setting sun shining on the wall. Pure light. I picked up my M8 and made several images of the resulting still life. Nothing really, but it gave me great pleasure.
After that, I came to a few conclusions. Photography is not about equipment, it’s about the pleasure of taking pictures. Better equipment does not make us better photographers, taking pictures does. Think less about equipment and more about pictures. Pay less attention to reviews and more to technique. Insofar as full frame is concerned, either an FX format or a DX format will make wonderful images. Personally, I do not want to be stuck with a bunch of DX lenses that I can’t use on a full frame camera. Although I do not want to invest in full frame right now, when prices come down I will. Today though, I’m waiting. As for the digital vs. film debate, I have resolved that one in favor of digital. I don’t know if I could live without the instant gratification of seeing that image on the LCD. I am not that good a photographer and I value that feed back immensely. I can see why pros would prefer film though. They probably grew up on film, have formal training and take thousand of pictures every year. They know what result they’re going to get. I don’t feel that comfortable.
As for the upgrade, I have some ideas. On paper the D300 looks fantastic and can't be ignored. I will read the reviews of that one. In addition, I favor the F mount over Canon’s proprietary mount. I gives me more choices and those Zeiss lenses are very appealing. Right now I’m leaning towards the new Zeiss 28mm f/2 and the unreleased, state-of-the-art Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8.
Since the D300 won’t be out until November though, I’m going to take some pictures right now with the stuff I’ve got. For the simple pleasure of it.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The New York Times has an article here about a recently discovered cache of 116 pictures depicting the daily lives of Auschwitz’s senior SS officers. The album was maintained by Karl Höcker, the adjutant to the camp commandant. Included in the collection are eight photographs of Josef Mengele which are the first authenticated pictures of him at Auschwitz. The juxtaposition of these images with the known history of the place makes the Holocaust even more horrifying, if that is possible. Although the curators at the Holocaust Memorial Museum have no plans to exhibit the Höcker album photos, they have created an online display of them on the museum’s Web site, ushmm.org, that will be available this week.
The Cult of Leica
A critic for the New Yorker, Anthony Lane (no relation), has written a lengthy article for the magazine about Leica. Read it here. It’s a fine piece of work by a great critic and must reading for any Leica fan.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Finding Just The Right Mac
I knew the MacBook was unsuitable for my needs. The 15” MacBook Pro would work just fine, but it was too expensive. I then decided that I didn’t need a lap top anyway since mine had never left its desk, so I looked at the new iMac. I was knocked out. The redesigned iMac is a all-in-one brushed aluminum and glass unit. The basic model has a brilliant 20” screen, just perfect for photo editing. The base machine is very well spec’d out with 1GB of RAM and a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. There are five (!) 2.0 USB ports and two different firewire ports along with a 250GB hard drive and ATI graphics. All this for $1299 complete. I was smitten.
One huge problem though. Software. All my current software was written for the Windows platform, including my version of CS3 (the 300 pound gorilla of digital imaging). So, I made a list of all my current software and started checking it off. Breeze Downloader Pro is Win only so that would have to go. I will truly miss that program. Breeze, please make a Mac version! To switch Photomatix to the Mac platform, simply download and install the Mac version and enter the correct code. Focus Magic works the same way, however it does not run natively on the Mac Intel processors. It does run under Rosetta though. A native version is planned for later this year. Neat Image users can switch to a Mac Photoshop plug-in for a $10 charge. Lightroom ships with both Windows and Mac versions and the 1.1 update is available in either flavor. That leaves CS3. To my amazement and delight, Adobe offers a one-time platform move for free. Simply call customer service, refer to your customer ID and provide them your CS2 or CS3 registration numbers. They will send you a full Mac version and all you pay is shipping. I ordered my Mac after hearing that.
Another thing you need to check are your peripherals. Not all printers are compatible with a Mac, so check the specs carefully. Fortunately, my new HP 9180 pig printer ships with both Windows and Mac software. I use Spyder2express to calibrate my display and that also ships with both Mac and Windows versions.
Macs Do Windows
What about that other Windows software you use that simply is not available for the Mac? For example, I use The Sky 6 astronomy software and Outlook 2007. No Mac versions for those. No problem. Don’t forget that a Mac will now run Windows software. With Apple’s own Boot Camp you make a Windows partition that you can select at start-up. If you want something more seamless, check out Parallels Desktop.
Macs Are Not Overpriced
You will often hear people argue that a Mac is overpriced when compared to a PC. I strongly disagree. Before I ordered my iMac, I priced out a comparable Dell Inspiron 530s. Even with my employee discount it came to $904.00. That’s only $300 less for a machine that will ONLY run Windows. Add in the cost of anti-virus and spy ware software not needed with a Mac and the gap gets narrower still. Finally, if you’re really cheap, get a Mac mini and use your existing keyboard, mouse and monitor. A 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo goes for $599.00.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Let’s face it, with the advent of digital imaging your computer has become an integral part of the photographic process. Can you shoot digitally and not own a computer? Sure, a friend of mine does it. These printers all have card slots and don’t need to be connected to anything else, other than the camera, to make prints. You can also take your cards to the local photo processor and have prints back in an hour if you like. The fact is though, without a computer you are severely limited in your ability to control the outcome of the process. No Lightroom, no CS3, no nothing. What you see is what you’ll get. Therefore, if you are serious about this you need a computer. End of story.
I got my first DOS/Windows machine (an IBM PS2) in 1987, just as I was entering law school. Since then I have lost track of the number of PCs that I have owned. Whether IBM, Dell or No-Name, they always had some version of Windows in common. From Windows 3.1 to Vista, I have seen them all. And it never ceases to amaze me what a pain they all are. Despite promises from Redmond that the next generation will better, the location of the pain just changes.
I recently transitioned to Vista when I had to buy a full operating system and my initial reaction was positive. The interface is much like Apple’s OSX, which is to say gorgeous. It seemed plenty fast on my 2 GHz Core Duo, 1 GB Dell laptop. Then I started to run into problems. Some software simply will not run under Vista. Some hardware simply will not work with Vista. I was forced to buy Outlook 2007 and a new laser jet printer because my old versions were no longer supported. All right, I guess that’s the price us early adopters pay. Then some of Vista’s features began to annoy me. In a effort to beef up security, the user is constantly having to answer questions and provide permissions. It gets pretty irritating to have to go through three of four windows to get a simple chore done.
So, all was not well in Vistaville when a power surge destroyed my Dell desktop’s mother board. I will not repeat the details of my ensuing ordeal as I have already made note of them here. I will add that in my haste to swap out my DVD-ROM drive for a DVD-RW drive, I placed an additional parts order with Dell. Since I have already returned the machine, this resulted in another 45 minute telephone call to Dell support simply to get a RMA number for the drive.
As you might imagine I was pretty fed up with the whole Windows/Dell thing by the end of the week. I was originally introduced to the Mac during the 1984 Super Bowl, just like everybody else. Within the last couple of years Ken Rockwell’s article “Why Professionals (and Everyone Should) Use Mac” had lead me to revisit Apple. I was particularly struck by this observation:
“Your office and big business use Windows because many IT departments who choose the computers protect their jobs by selecting Windows precisely because Windows requires so much upkeep. This keeps them employed.”
Now I don’t know if that’s true, but it made me realize that Windows required a lot of IT support. Frankly, I am tired of being the IT Department around my house. Based on this, I purchased a MacBook which I used for a bit before I decided that it was unsuitable for digital imaging because of it’s small screen. I gave it to my daughter and got a Dell 15” laptop. Nevertheless, I remained impressed with the Mac’s elegance and ease of use. Even more so given my recent troubles. So I decided to look at Apple's offerings again.
Friday, September 7, 2007
I apologize for the lack of new material over the last couple of weeks. I was on a trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior and then tied up in telephone support hell. Frankly, in terms of photo news, it seemed to be fairly slow anyway. Here’s a few short items to catch up.
After my mention below, Stan was kind enough to contact me. Turns out, like so many wildlife photographers, he is a Canon guy. He uses an EOS 1D Mark III and an EOS 1D Mark II N and “too many lenses to list”. His main lens is a EF 600mm f/4L IS USM, but he also uses a EF 500mm f/4L IS USM. My thanks to Stan for providing this information.
Location, Location, Location
The main reason for my trip to Northern Minnesota was to get dark skies and a picturesque setting for the lunar eclipse the morning of August 28th. Unfortunately, when 4:00 a.m. rolled around my cabin was enveloped in fog so thick you could cut it with a knife. So, no eclipse for me. Sky and Telescope has started a gallery of eclipse images here.
Spirit of Service??
The leaders for my “Holly Stake Through the Heart” end of the year, “worst of” awards are currently Dell Inc. and Qwest. Both organizations make a big deal about customer service, but in my case it was more like the “Spirit of Disservice”.
Recently, the motherboard on the Dell desktop that my wife was using got fried by some very strong thunderstorms. I subsequently ordered a new one which arrived shortly before I went out of town. The day we set it up everything went fine until we tried to connect to the Internet. No luck, despite my best efforts. Now, I have been using computers since 1987 so I am no rookie at this, but I still couldn’t figure it out. Given the current state of the technology if you cannot connect to the Web you are SOL, dead in the water.
That day, my wife spent an hour on the telephone with Qwest, our DSL provider, to no avail. When I got back I tried to get it up and running for two days. During that time I spent over six hours on the telephone with both Dell and Qwest, each pointing fingers at the other. I had long conversations with several Indians with stage names like “Andy” and “Sue”, all of which were punctuated by long silences or my saying "what", "I can't understand you", "pardon", "could you repeat that" or something similar. My ears have apparently not "gone global".
Finally, after two days of this BS and myself reduced to a weeping, trembling mess, I decided to end the misery and send the Dell back. I arranged the return with a very nice American at Dell named Maureen, who actually spoke intelligible English and was very apologetic. My thanks to her.
In the meantime, I am transitioning my daughter from our old IBM to a new Apple MacBook. So far it has gone without a hitch. I do admit, I like that Apple a lot.