Please vote for the Nik collection to be open sourced!

Through an article on Imaging Resource I’ve learnt that Google will no longer maintain or “to update the Collection or add new features over time” of their Nik collection – which is a bit sad because they’re still awesome, and loved by many photographers either as plugins for programs like Photoshop, or stand-alone.

I don’t have Photoshop and/or Lightroom- and don’t plan to buy it – but still I have the Nik collection for some special effects on a Windows partition on my hard drive, so through their help center and forum I found this post from Paul Breslin, who volunteered to maintain it further after his retirement, and for which I “voted” already. And I suggest that you’d do the same; open-sourcing it would be the ‘proper’ way of dropping official support for a product.

And Google may even do it – they’re in some way still the “good guys”, with their initiatives like “Summer of Code” and so on and so forth. So if you also like or (occasionally) use the fine Nik collection, I’d advise that you do the same. If you haven’t heard of the Nik collection but have a Mac or PC with Windows operating systems, I’d suggest to try it out – it’s one of the best “free” (as in “no cost”) software packages there is.

My main interest in this? Well I’m still using real free and open source software on my Debian Linux machine, but who knows, maybe one day the Nik collection could be real free as well – it’s all a question of licensing. And there could even be a port for Linux, which would make that even greater as an artist’s platform as it already is (doing music and recording with it as well). It’s just a vote away, so what is stopping you?

Thanks for reading and/or considering.

P.S.: see also my comments here and here.

Some first impressions

Yesterday we were at the biggest local music store for a while. Zuleikha played some electric and acoustic pianos and bought some scores. And I took some hands-on first impressions of some instruments. What I found nice was:

Yamaha CG192S

Yamaha CG192S Classical Guitar

Ibanez SRH500F Fretless Bass

Ibanez SRH500F Fretless Bass

This one is awesome. Listen to it here, in 4- and 5-string versions:

In the studio department, we saw both my microphone and also my interface for it – but there, the most impressive experience for me was to listen to some active nearfield monitors:

Yamaha HS8 Powered Studio Monitors

Yamaha HS8 Powered Studio Monitor

Interesting – all Japanese products. Oh, and the Kawai and Yamaha acoustic (upright) pianos were also very nice.

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.

Cat cookie

It’s two days before Christmas. Wow, the year was short, at least in retrospective. Today Mitchie and Zuleikha, who’s on holiday already, made some cat cookies, so I took a picture:

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Cat cookie

Taken with the Olympus E-PL5 camera and the 14-42mm zoom lens set to 17mm and f/4. I “muted” the colours with the Olympus Viewer 3 raw converter, and desaturated (-3/100 clicks) a bit further in RawTherapee.

Somehow I love the 17mm focal length, and because I don’t have this and that, I use the “kit zoom” when I want it. That 17mm Olympus lens is recommended together with the successor of my E-M10 camera for kid photos, here. And this whole trip to Europe was also taken with that single focal length, which shows how versatile that can be.

No affiliate links here, just a tip if you need a camera for family and travel photos.

And as always, thanks for reading/viewing.

If your camera…

Yesterday I took some photos of Mitchie who was sitting on our sofa, knitting. The only light was our small LED reading light with approximately 5 Watts or so – and since she was moving, I had to raise the sensor sensitivity (or amplification) to about ISO 6400, or even ISO 8000. With settings like these, I ended up with times like 1/10th to 1/15th of a second at an aperture around f/2.8.

Of course the results were not really optimal, so I started looking and comparing, like here. A Sony A7 Mk2 would be at least a stop better than my camera, a Nikon D750 easily two stops, and a Canon 5D Mk3 (an older model, but I wanted to stay roughly in the same price range) would be somewhere in between.

But while dark things in low (or almost no) light are one thing, I remembered that my camera also had the advantage of having built-in sensor stabilization (which that Sony also has), so I started comparing the Nikon’s and Canon’s ISO 12800 with 6400 on the Sony, and with 3200 on mine – which equals out the field considerably.

But ok, two stops lower also means times x 4, which would be counter-productive, at least for moving subjects. So what to do?

Simple: more light, as Goethe is believed to have said. Tried and true:

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Tuna the cat, December 2016

I took this photo of Tuna some minutes ago, while it is dark outside already. So I used my compact flash at 1/4 power on my computer desk, reflected over the wall, and one of my studio strobes at around 1/10th of its maximum output reflected over the opposite wall (behind me in this photo, you see it reflected in her eyes).

The aperture here is f/2.5, but with the really bright flash light I could use the sync time of 1/160th of a second, at ISO 200. Much better than my efforts from yesterday.

So if your camera isn’t as good as others in low (or almost no) light – simply add some. Better, far easier, faster, and also cheaper than to become envious and to think about other and supposedly better cameras…

As always, thanks for reading.

Some snapshots from today

The guys from “The Camera Store” (in Canada) lately had an interesting video, where they asked several people’s opinions about their preferences of standard jpg outputs of different cameras. Interesting to see, and with a maybe not so much expected “winner”.

Standard jpgs from our Olympus cameras are very nice, tho a short comparison I did last weekend showed me that in certain situations, other colour engines than the one built in (or the similar Olympus Viewer 3 software) gave me a better starting point, especially for portraits under strong and contrasty studio lights – my “winner” for these situations is Darktable under Linux.

But anyhow, I’d like to show a few snapshots from today, and tell you what I did with these, using my standard procedure (“workflow”, except that for me this ain’t work): convert to a 16 bit .tif with Olympus Viewer 3 (on a virtualized Win7 machine), then add metadata using RawTherapee 4.2 on Linux.

For today’s first picture, I was in for a surprise:

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Cat, with (rainbow) lens flare

I took three photos of Tuna at that place, and my rear display on the camera is normally turned off – no “chimping” and instant reviews. So when I sat down on our sofa to show one to Mitchie, I wondered why these had such a low contrast. Only later on my computer I saw the reason: strong lens flare in rainbow colours (I didn’t have the hood on my lens, that’s why). Interesting. Here I added lots of contrast from my usual in-camera settings of -1 for both contrast and saturation.

This one is much stronger:

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The last remaining leaves

This was again taken with my custom picture setting, which is the same as natural but with both contrast and saturation on -1. The only thing I’ve changed here in Olympus Viewer 3 was to also reduce the sharpness to -2 to avoid halos on the small branches against the darker sky. This is – for my taste at least – a very nice standard output of an Olympus camera.

Then, a bit later:

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Sometimes, there’s just good – in this case mirrored – light

I saw this mirrored light, partly on the bird feeder and also on the background, and took the photo with a -0.7EV compensation. To which I added -0.3EV in Olympus Viewer 3, and -0.05EV in RawTherapee, maikng it 1.05 stops darker than what my camera measured (on center-weighted, my standard setting). No other manipulations, and white balance was on auto.

Then I took the last day of light like this:

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Restlicht (including a reflection of the photographer)

This was taken with -2.7 stops set in the camera, even before taking it. Which is one of the reasons I wouldn’t like to go back to optical viewfinders – they won’t show you any overexposure until after the shot. So these small mirrorless cameras let me “work” way faster than any big bad DSLR… 😉 No further manipulations to this as well.

But to this one:

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Tuna the cat, in-camera black & white with simulated red filter

The title says it already, and I’ve done that conversion with Olympus Viewer 3, so the same could have been done in-camera (except of course to add a title like that, or any tags).

I don’t know about you, but I can live with outputs such as these. And I’m not alone – read Gordon Laing’s opinion about these cameras. Of the Mk2 successor of mine this is what he wrote:

“The Olympus OMD EM10 Mark II is in many ways the perfect mid-range camera.”

and/or:

“But for general day-to-day photography, the OMD EM10 Mark II is hard to beat.”

To which I have nothing to add, except maybe: see a video comparison of mine (the Mk1 version) against a Nikon D810 here

Thanks for reading, as always. As a small reward for making it until here, here’s some music for you. And it contains a much nicer photo than my blog pictures here as well. Snowy White – Midnight Blues.

Using my compact flash

It’s definitely getting dark earlier, and getting bright later already here in the Northern hemisphere. No wonder in the middle of autumn, and with winter approaching soon.

That leaves you with a problem when photographing indoors – either accept very bad light (and thus, quality) in your “available light” photos, or make some light when and where you need it.

Setting up the studio strobe(s) is quite a long process tho, and we don’t own any compact TTL flashes – only inexpensive but very nice and reliable Yongnuo YN460-II models. And because even measuring the light is an additional step which takes some time and action, I wanted to get used to guessing the right exposure again. Turns out that I’m not that bad, I’m usually correct within 1 stop or so.

To try it out, I took two:

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Tuna the cat, October 2016, bounced flash (f/2, flash on 1/8th power) and

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Remarkable – Zuleikha reading, October 2016 (f/2.2, flash on 1/4 power from across the room)

I’ll continue to do that, and maybe get some more of these flashes. The experience and the knowledge always pay off when using them somewhere else as well.

As always, thanks for reading/viewing.

My free week is half over…

I have a week off of work, but since we don’t visit anybody and the weather isn’t that nice, I spend most of it at home.

So since our last Sunday walk, most of the photos I took so far were also from our home. At least I used all of my cameras, several different lenses, and even the polarizer filter which you still can’t emulate after taking your pictures. Here are some taken since Sunday, just for the reference:

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You are next… (E-PL5 with the 14mm/2.5 lens)

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While photographing a plant, I was watched… (E-M10 with the 25mm/1.4 lens and a polarizer)

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Tuna the cat, looking out (E-M10 with the 25mm/1.4 lens and a polarizer)

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Pegs (Clothespins) – “shooting” the DSLR (E-520 with the 40-150mm/4-5.6 lens at 150mm, 1/40th of a second, hand-held)

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Occupation: box tester (E-M10 with the 25mm/1.4 lens)

I also filled the remaining few photos on an ISO200 colour negative film; a cheap one from the grocery, and I brought away that film for development already. With this I used my OM Zuiko 50mm/1.4 lens wide open for these last shots – I wanted to see its quality again. But as always when using film, that has to wait a bit. After I have these photos back, I’ll decide what to do with the three black & white Kodak 400TX (Tri-X) films which are still waiting to be used.

Anyway, thanks for reading/viewing, as always.

“Selfies”

This week I’ve got my first “smart” mobile phone ever. I’m still not sure if I need such a device (who would?), but since I have it, I could as well try to take some advantage of it.

The newer one of my two cameras has WLAN and can act as an access point for such a phone or tablet device, so you can share photos vie these mobile gadgets or use them the other way ’round to act as a remote control for the camera. Which is exactly what I did yesterday, first in the office:

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and later at home:

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These look a bit different than your usual “selfie”, because you don’t grab the imaging device itself, only the remote. Plus you can of course use all the controls of such a better camera, and like in the second photo, even studio strobes (camera-external flashes).

Such an “external viewfinder” – in my case with a 5″ screen diagonale – is fun, and much better than the infrared remote which I have for my DSLR. Like on the touchscreen of the camera itself, you just poke yourself in the eye (or tip onto any other point you want to have sharp) to select both the autofocus point, and to trigger the camera (and flash and whatever). This could also be used for shy animals, who would possibly approach a camera, but only if there’s no human behind it.

Real fun.

Thanks for reading.