Feb 152013
 

OK, I’ve finally looked at it and it is not so bad. Here is yesterday’s image, for today I really have none. The image was just taken from our terrace.

What’s going on? I’m working a lot and working is a lot of fun at the moment. It won’t keep me from photographing, but … well, today it did :)

The Song of the Day is Georg Trakl’s poem “Ein Winterabend” set to music by Anton Webern. It’s part four of the “Four songs for soprano and orchestra, opus 13″. Hear it on YouTube, in the video it starts at 4:55.

Dec 192012
 

In the last post I have shown some test shots taken with the new Olympus 17/1.8, and I found its performance definitely acceptable, taken for itself and also compared to its competitors.

I have also mused about why I think that public perception sees this lens in an undeservedly unfavorable light. What I didn’t do was showing any proper pictures taken with that lens.

Here are four of them, three taken on Monday evening, the Image of the Day on Tuesday night.

Ever since I sold the 20/1.4, I somehow missed a lens in that focal range. I bought the Panasonic 25/1.4 because everybody raves about it, and while I love its performance, I sometimes want something wider.

The 17/1.8 is equivalent to 34 mm on full frame. 35 mm is one of the classic focal lengths for street photography, 50 mm is the other, 24 and 28 are frequently too wide, 85 mm and longer may also appeal to some photographers. It’s hard to argue though, that 34 mm is within the core range that most photographers find comfortable for street use.

To me this lens fits like a glove. It is unobtrusive, it makes fine images, it is fast, and otherwise it just works. You put it on your camera and you forget about it. It’s a tool, and as such it is a fine one.

Some people think this lens is too expensive, especially compared to the Panasonic 20/1.7. Is it?

I don’t think so. Its build is much better, its autofocus performance is better, and while the 20/1.7 may be slightly sharper, I always had a problem with purple fringing. Of course this is an especially grave fault for me, because I really like to shoot into the light, but I guess it should be a consideration for everyone. Purple fringing on the 20/1.7 can be excessive, five, seven pixels wide, and when it occurs, it relentlessly eats into high-contrast edges. You can ease the pain by selectively desaturating, but you can’t properly correct it.

If I have to choose between the two, I rather take the Olympus. It is more reliable, it gives me less surprises. I use it and I don’t have to double-check. I always get what I expected.

Of course this is no final judgment. I have yet to see how the lens performs with the sun in or near the frame, if it ghosts or flares. Obviously this is important to me. So far I am satisfied though.

The Song of the Day is “Use Me“, a collaboration of Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz on Jagger’s 1993 solo album “Wandering Spirit”. Hear it on YouTube.

Feb 282012
 

It rains here in Vienna and it will continue to do so tomorrow. It’s not a pleasant kind of rain. It’s not the kind of rain that you simply ignore, take your umbrella and shoot images regardless. There are strong gusts of wind that always threaten to tear your umbrella apart, and the wind makes the rain come at you almost horizontally from unpredictable directions.

I made this image when I left work, still from a dry place. I made it in the last second, just before someone turned off the lights behind the widows on the right side. I made it before I left to buy my new Olympus 45/1.8 :D

The Song of the Day is “Outside Now” from Frank Zappa’s 1979 album “Joe’s Garage”. Hear it on YouTube.

Sep 292011
 

It’s Thursday afternoon, it’s beautiful outside and I’m on my way to Carinthia. The next two weeks I’ll be busy moving, but I hope I’ll find at an hour a day to go swimming, at least as long as it’s sunny and warm.

I did take some images today, but mostly I was in a hurry, thus making them typical examples of non-contemplative photography :)

Here’s someting from Italy instead.

The Song of the Day is “The Precious Jewel” from the 1997 Charlie Haden / Pat Metheny collaboration “Beyond The Missouri Sky”. Hear it on YouTube.

Aug 152011
 

It’s past midnight, I’m in may hotel room in Františkovy Lázne in the Czech Republic. This is an old spa that, among many others, the great German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe used to visit. I have no idea how it fared through the days of Communism, but today it has regained a splendor that I did not expect to find. A beautiful place and you can be certain to see more of it and its surroundings in the next week.

“Twilight” is the Song of the Day. It’s the last song of Melody Gardot’s 2008 album “Worrisome Heart”.

It starts off as an instrumental, followed by a ghost song after a long pause. Oh dear, it was really funny that first time so many years ago, but can we stop that nonsense now? The song is nice though. Hear it on YouTube.

Jan 122010
 

Really, it does. It’s more or less the same image as in “1182 – Where Do The Children Play II“. The point of view is not exactly the same, for once because I couldn’t remember exactly, but more important, I had to avoid some bright lights that would have been at the edge of the frame. It’s a different game when the lights come up.

Other than that, I was there 48 minutes later than last time, and it makes quite a difference.

The Song of the Day is “Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference” from Morrissey’s 1990 album “Bona Drag”. See a 2005 live performance on YouTube.

Dec 082009
 

Follow your instincts, huh? This post is named “Twilight”, because the image of the light on the chair in front of a shop in Vienna was destined to be Image of the Day, but when I looked at this uncertain, wavering path between all obstacles, I felt again why I had taken the image in the first place, and I just couldn’t reduce it to a thumbnail.

This is probably more about me or about life than everything else. This is the Image of the Day.

The second image is another one that I took this morning while walking through Villach’s outskirts, on my way to the train. I suppose these old houses will be gone by next year, replaced by a modern apartment block like those behind.

I took more images like this. It’s hard for me to tell what the point is. It is simply that I walk and look and see, and suddenly an inner voice tells me to “photograph this”. It reminds me of Paul Butzi’s recent post “Fuzzy“.

Read it if you haven’t yet. It’s about rationalizing the photographic process after the fact. It strikes a chord for me. Seeing is not analytic. It’s Go, not Chess.

When I changed the Image of the Day, the Song of the Day, “Twilight” from Vanessa Carlton’s 2002 album “Be Not Nobody” should probably have been changed as well, along with the title, but then, I like it, and thus we go on with the incongruity :)

Hear it on YouTube.

Nov 272009
 

It’s Friday, I’m on the train to Carinthia and here is another post, this time a morning image.

In the morning I take the tramway line #5 when I am in a hurry, when it rains, or when I want to be at work extra early. Today it was the latter, and whenever I am on the train, I try to take some images, either out of the window or in the train. I really like the colors here, and when I look at it, the bokeh of this new Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC is not bad either.

The Song of the Day is once again Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train“, but this time it is Anita O’Day on her 1963 album “Anita O’Day Sings the Winners”. Hear it on YouTube.

Feb 272009
 



This is an interesting little image. I shot it late Thursday afternoon at about 6:30pm. Weather was gloomy, it rained a little, I had no really usable picture so far, and in my desparation I began to take images of this fence corner that juts out a little into the street. It’s hard to tell what made me begin. There is something in the rhythm of light and dark, of entrance and wall, pillars and fence, trees and figures on the pillars, something that caught my eye.

The problem with these shots is, that they need something to balance them on the other, here the left side. Normally I try to use the vanishing point of the street, but this was impossible here. This view goes slightly downhill, and there was too much sky visible, sky that at that time of the day was very much brighter than the buildings. OK, I could have overexposed the sky, it didn’t have much detail anyway, but even then the view along the street was cluttered and did not lend itself at all to my purpose.

The next strategy that I often fall back to, is to use a wild tilt. Not a little bit off level, no, a wild angle that makes some people sea-sick.

Just as I was working in that mindset, I saw this couple come along. I had already focused on the corner of the fence, thus I only had to wait for them to get into the right position.

Now, you don’t have much choice in such a situation. You do what you do and it works or it doesn’t. There is no second chance. In this case it did not work. Not at all.

I still had that angle. Not very wild, but when I later looked at the image, I found that I wanted the fence slightly hanging to the left, and about the middle between door and first fence post to be vertical. Instead of hanging, the fence was rising to the left.

Normally that’s no problem. You just have to rotate the image. On the right side this was absolutely OK, but on the left side, the couple was too near the edge of the frame, and the corner of the door was also very near the top edge. Cropping the image would have meant to cut away the woman and the corner of the door frame. This would have been completely counter-productive, thus I grudgingly accepted the only alternative: major surgery.

Basically I had to fill up a narrow triangle along the lower left edge and a big triangle along the left upper edge. The small triangle was only sidewalk, thus I selected a rectangle, copied it to a separate layer, streched it out to cover the triangle, applied a mask, and in seconds I was done with it.

The problem was the bigger triangle along the upper edge. Stretching over such a big gap would have meant to lose much detail, the perspective would be wrong and making a smooth transition with a mask would be impossible because in the transition area the original detail and the stretched detail would awkwardly overlap. Cloning, on the other hand, was impossible either, because in order to clone, you need material to clone from, and that was simply not there.

I decided for stretching, and consequently this pretty much forced me to use a strong, blurred vignette.

Next came the distribution of light. There was a very strong falloff from right to left, because the nearest light, the fixture inside of the door frame, was by far the brightest light around. And then there were the colors with their equal falloff from very warm on the right side to very cool on the left, in other words, though there was a balance in content, lights and colors were completely unbalanced.

I tried to light the area around the couple and to increase contrast there, to add some warmth in that part, at least in the lighter areas, and to balance that warmth in the highlights with cooler shadows, but whatever I did, it looked unnatural. And then it finally dawned at me: If that image was going to get any good, it would have to do so in B&W!

And really: suddenly all my problems fell away. Black and white is much more forgiving when it comes to drastic contrast changes, and with a combination of different “B&W Layer” adjustments and some masks I could tame the light on the right side, lighten the left, increase contrast along the edges of the fence posts and the fence’s base, making the edges that originally caught my interest come forward. Some added grain evened out the noise and increased subjective sharpness, a high-pass layer added real sharpness, and the tri-toning finally completed the image.

What’s so interesting in that, you ask? Well, it still fascinates me that I could get from an image that I did not like at all, to an image that I deem to be one of my better ones, and that all by working in Potoshop.

This works completely against common wisdom, you know, that kind of “If an image is no good without Photoshop, you can’t improve it there” attitude. This image was no good at all. This was not on the edge of not being a keeper, it was a clear and positive reject. And now, well, your judgement, but I sure like it.

The Song of the Day is “The Perfect Couple” from Paul Heaton’s first solo album, the 2002 release “Fat Chance”. See the video on YouTube.

Feb 242009
 



Oh dear! Sunday night the train had arrived 45 minutes late, thus I missed the last Underground and had to take a taxi.

When I wrote yesterday’s entry, I already knew that Vienna had had a lot of snowfall over the weekend. What I didn’t know though, was that it had been followed by relatively warm rain. Thus in the middle of the night I was presented with enormous amounts of slush.

In the morning there was still some rain, though most of the slush was gone, probably more due to busy hands than due to the rain. For part of the afternoon we had heavy rain again, but thankfully it stopped, just as I left work.

The Image of the Day is a window of Palais Auersperg, a baroque palace that is now used for all kinds of events, balls and exhibitions, and part of it houses a safe rental service.

In a way the image is a lie like all images are lies. Would you have guessed that this window looks out onto one of the most busy streets in Vienna? Would you have associated traffic noise? Well, lets pretend it were not there. Let’s pretend we stood in a palace garden outside of this window, longing for the warmth of the room behind.

The Song of the Day is “In The Warm Room” from Kate Bush’s 1978 album “Lionheart”. Hear it on YouTube.