Hurz!

Today is my birthday, and it’s a round one – wow, I’m 60 already. Reminds me of the “Seven years” song we’ve heard during our summer holidays…

The most wonderful present I’ve got – beside a really nice cake – was this new birthday card made by Zuleikha:

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And I’ve got some new gear. This time less photo-related, tho we could use it for some of the videos which Mitchie and Zuleikha make:

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Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 2nd gen audio interface

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Røde NT-1a large diaphragm studio condenser microphone

And no, I don’t intend to become one more of those Youtube video podcasters, or “vloggers” as they sometimes call themselves. But with this I can do some voice-overs for videos and screencasts – also for the company – and I can record the acoustic guitar or Zuleikha when she plays the horn or countless other things. I already recorded a “Hurz!”:

Oh, and the sound quality from that Focusrite interface is really nice. The onboard sound can’t even think of competing. Plus it’s plug & play under Linux, while on Windows you need some drivers (from Focusrite *and* from Avid if you want to use the included cost-free version of Pro Tools. But Ardour on Linux is better than that of course).

Thanks for reading.

Solo piano

Zuleikha had her first solo piano performance today at the Jugend- und Kulturzentrum (JuKuZ) Mörfelden:

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Zuleikha in concert, February 2017

It wasn’t her first gig this year – there was an earlier one where she played the horn in the school’s “Brass & Co” Jazz band, but the first one for this year where she was alone on stage.

And it was a good one. Congratulations again, Schätzchen!

Thanks for reading & viewing.

Another project, and Tuna

Zuleikha has a new project in school. Starting tomorrow, they will produce a short movie, based on a story they have to develop themselves, script, costumes, filming, sound, everything. And the group in which Zuleikha is in decided that she’d be responsible for the technical part (besides of acting and so on).

First, Zuleikha wanted to take her small Panasonic Lumix “Travel Zoom” camera for this, as it’s quite good for videos. But she decided that it would be too noisy for indoor shots, and to take her (my old) Olympus E-PL1 instead:

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Olympus E-PL1

But in the end, I thought that an E-PL5 would be even better, so I gave her mine for the job. That she can use the battery and memory card from her PL1 as backup is also an advantage. Her tripod is in her locker at school already – can’t wait to see with what they’ll come up.

At the moment, both Zuleikha and Mitchie are in Darmstadt, watching “Cabaret” in a theater. So I’m alone with Tuna, and I took a photo of her:

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Tuna the cat, January 2017

That’s processed with the (also in-camera) “pin hole” filter, which adds a strong vignette, and also some funky colours which I reduced a bit again.

Thanks for viewing.

Getting a bit more active with music again

Music was my first love”

sang John Miles back in 1976, when I was just 19. And he was so right (and I even played that song with one of the bands I performed with). And what do you do during long and cold winter days and nights, when you don’t even want to think about going out with a camera? Right – I remembered music.

And so I read a lot; I had a bit of catching up to do since I last dealt with making or even recording some music. I stayed with free and open source software of course, and Linux has a lot of wonderful tools to get creative these days. I ended up with configuring the repositories of KXStudio on my machine, so I can still use Debian. And for Zuleikha, who started composing and writing her own first songs, I installed Ubuntu Studio on Mitchie’s old Lenovo Thinkpad SL500. And there are other guys making cool stuff like for instance AVLinux – their user manual alone is worth a look if you want to get up to this stuff real quick.

Mitchie’s old machine has only a Celeron, and 2GB of main memory – so it’s not the machine for some samples of Grand Pianos I downloaded lately (one Yamaha C5, ca. 2GB, and one Steinway, ca. 5GB). I guess it would struggle hard if you put up some audio and midi tracks in Ardour with it, but for Zuleikha it’s nice to start arranging and composing with MuseScore. So today a USB type AB cable arrived, and I hooked up the machine to Zuleikha’s Yamaha YDP-142R piano:

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Mobile Ubuntu Studio

It all started when Zuleikha got some nice and easy pieces from her piano teacher, like this one:

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Bluestone Alley, by Congfei Wei

I downloaded some free scores and tablatures for the guitar, and let’s see – maybe we’ll get some microphone to even record the small one playing her horn (and/or her friend Yuma, who’s perfect on her recorder)…

Of course I’ll also document this with the camera. Cannot wait. 🙂 So, with a bit of fantasy and dedication, winter is actually good for something.

As always, thanks for reading.

Portraiture, naturally

Happy new year again, everyone.

I’ve been thinking about my (and others’) photography lately, and watched lots of videos, and read lots of other photographers’ blogs. I also looked at my own photos, and identified some favourite ones. Almost all of them are photos of family members (including “our” cat). And that reminded me of my original reasons to get better cameras since late 2009.

It’s this personal photography which is most important to me. Keeping memories about family, friends, colleagues, strangers, simply people I’ve met or with whom I live. Thinking about 2017, I’d say that I have everything I need gear-wise. Ok; I could use some more lights (and/or modifiers for them), or maybe some more lenses. But mostly I have what I need – a very nice and capable little camera with prime (single focal length) lenses, and a telephoto zoom should I need some more reach and/or the perspective you have with these.

So I started the new year with what I like the most: take some portraits, naturally. Like this one:

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Zuleikha, January 2017

A propos the title of this short article, “Portraiture, naturally” – got that one from a video of British photographer David Thorpe on Youtube. David is a very interesting photographer, and both his Youtube channel as well as his blog are very worthy of having a look and read. Like us, he has discovered the Micro Four Thirds system as pretty much ideal for his needs, and this after a life-long career as a photojournalist. I’m always glad when I discover people like him, and some of his writings are just so funny – take for instance his description of a “gentleman” from his article about “The Gentleman’s Lens“:

“The gentleman has always held an emblematic status in England. A gentleman is good at what he does but not superb. That would involve too much effort, which is ungentlemanly. A gentleman is superior but without effort. Effort would imply that he is concerned about what others think. That would be pandering and decidedly ungentlemanly. The essence of a gentleman is summed up by the old English aristocracy’s mode of dress. For example, an expensive, but not too expensive jacket which has been allowed to become a bit ratty, with leather patches on the elbows and frayed – but not too frayed – lapels. The message of the jacket is that the wearer has enough money but not too much (vulgar!), though almost certainly more than you because he allows a good quality jacket to become scruffy whereas you, not being a gentleman, would probably have had it repaired or – horror! – bought a new one. The message is that so superior are you that you do not even deign to compete.”

Time- and priceless, just as his discovery why gorgeous women in glamorous bars never give him a second look (that’s in another of his articles, but I’ll leave that discovery for yourself). The man surely can make you laugh. And he has world-class photos.

Ok, enough for now. As always, thanks for reading.

The dark side of piano practice

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The dark side of piano practice

From today. Zuleikha’s hands on her piano, in opposite light from a studio strobe with gridded normal reflector. Cropped square, with black & white conversion from Olympus Viewer 3 (so, like done in-camera). Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 45mm/1.8 lens at f/5.6.

Thanks for viewing.

Don’t underestimate the “kit zoom”

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Zuleikha, December 2016

A few minutes ago, I took this photo of Zuleikha. And I used the lens which came with the Olympus E-PL5, which is the 14-42mm R (Mark 2) “kit zoom” at its longest focal length of 42mm, and wide open at an aperture of f/5.6.

Of course this isn’t as “bitingly” sharp as for instance my 45mm/1.8 would have been when used at these settings. But for portraiture, sharpness isn’t exactly the point. Quite the opposite is true when you’re photographing people who are older than our daughter, and who don’t have as nice and smooth skin as she does have. “Have mercy on me!” was what one of Yousuf Karsh’s clients asked him (forgot which one, but it wasn’t Queen Elizabeth I think. Maybe some American actress).

Still this photo, watched on my full screen size (1200 pixels high) even shows moirée. But that is because the monitor’s dpi interfere with the pixels I caught (4608), and watched 1:1 that moirée is gone.

What’s much more important than which lens you use is that the light is ok – in this case, I used my Yongnuo YN-460II flash off-camera, and bounced over the wall to my right on 1/4 of its maximum power. My exposure was within half a stop, which I had to add in “post production” (in RawTherapee). I also desaturated both the whole image (3 of 100 clicks), and selectively the colour of her shirt (a bit more). Using flash or very high quality permanent light sources help with the colours, and the short exposure times with flash keep the camera’s ISO low. It also helps with the perceived sharpness.

As always, thanks for reading.

A week in photos

Wow; it’s a week already since I’ve posted some photos, and a rather busy and fast one it was. So I didn’t take and upload as many pictures as usual, and most of them (in fact all except one) are in black & white.

Like this one here, of Tuna our cat. Tried some Ilford HP5+ film emulation on her, but without the grain:

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The only colour photo I took and actually uploaded to Flickr was taken during a short cigarette break on the company’s roof garden. I was there with my colleague Arno and saw some other colleague (never seen him before), reading a book in the already setting sun. Looked like this:

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Then, two days ago, this:

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Zuleikha was just finishing her homework in normal room light, and from a comparison of more or less standard outputs of different raw converters which I did last weekend, I decided that for black & white, Olympus Viewer 3 gave the best results.

Also in black & white, and taken yesterday during a concert at Zuleikha’s school, Herr Koch on his Flügelhorn (they played “Feels so good” from Chuck Mangione, and indeed that felt and sounded very nice!):

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I also tried to take some of Zuleikha’s friend Yuma who was excellent like always, but my photos weren’t. Guess I’ll have to ask and to invite them for a photo session in good light and in a controlled environment.

And finally, a few moments ago I took another cat portrait of Tuna, this time with bounced flash and guessed exposure (which was a bit too high this time, but I could correct it in post):

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I cropped this one, and set the aspect ratio to 3:2 to get closer to a 135 “small” film (Kleinbildfilm) look. My aperture was f/2 here, so it’s about the same as a picture taken on 135 film with an aperture of f/4, concerning the depth of field.

As always, thanks for reading.

Beautiful light

I changed back my lighting modifiers, so I have a gridded white beauty dish over our dining table again. And with a silver reflector lying on the table, I profiled my setup:

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Then I asked Zuleikha if she would sit for me for a short moment (danke nochmal, Schätzchen!). Zuleikha has dark brown hair which wouldn’t contrast enough with a black background, so I added another studio strobe on lowest setting from a bit further away, just for a tiny bit of hair light. With these lights, I took her portrait:

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Zuleikha, November 2016

Thanks for viewing.