Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Paper Shuffle - Part Three - The Smooth German Connection

Hahnemühle are historic papermakers from Dassel in Lower Saxony. With a lot of small creeks ( " bachs " ) running through the place and forests nearby, it has proved to be a good location to make woodpulp and paper - they've apparently been doing it since 1584.

Currently there is a wide selection of papers that have been turned to the inkjet printing application from the company. Camera Electronic have had them for years and supplied some very special surfaces in large flat sheets. As well, there are rolls avaiable for the larger inkjet printers.

The Hahnemühle sample books have always been amazing things - exotic surfaces and extremely well-printed images that make you jealous. As well, they produuce a number of sampler packs to let people assess the things for themselves...but therein lies a problem. What are you supposed to be looking for and how will you know it when you see it?

Add to this the artistic question of what image suits which paper and you have a pretty wide field of speculation. I'll admit to buying a pack of Hahnemühle paper a few years ago based upon the name of it and a mistaken assessment of my own printing skills...and disappointing myself. But the story did have a happy ending - I eventually found which of my images would suit the surface and got the last 5 sheets of the packet to print perfectly.

Well, here's the smooth surfaces under the examining lens. Remember that these are all matt and will need the matt ink option - plus they will not quite get to the black of a gloss surface. But they are stylish and marvellously sturdy - a print on the 308 surface has a really impressive feel.

See the lay of the Rice Paper?

The 220gsm and less emphasised texture of this Photo Rag Book & Album means that you will be able to pack more pictures into the album and any text printeed with the image will be easy to read.

Bamboo. It is not necessarily a surface dedicated to Asian images...but the classic look of misty mountains and clouds would be well-suited to this broken surface. The disruption of it would probably suit rural images with natural shapes better than urban ones with man-made straight lines.

Ah, here we go for that technical image. The Photo Rag Ultra Smooth is 305 gsm but does not raise as many irregularities on the surface and would not disrupt fine detail.

The classic Hahnemühle fine art paper, Photo Rag 308 is often seen with the big roll printers. It supports some of the best landscape art in this state as well as commercial portraiture. See how it breaks the light just that little bit more than the Ultra Smooth?

Disregard what your screen or my camera shot might say - this is a noticeably whiter paper than the 308, as wll as picking up a little more weight; 310gsm.

I cannot say what this Daguerre Canvas looks like with an image because I have been told that my printer will not print canvas. I've been told a lot of things in the past few years but gone right ahead and done them anyway. I'll tel you what happens on a future post...

And that is the idea of these sample packs.They're A4 with two sheets of each surface in the parcel at a bargain price. You could do far worse than just getting a pack, going over your pictures for suitable art, and putting them through your printer. Hahnemühle have the profiles on-line, and they will be necessary, but that is easily done.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Paper Shuffle - Part Two - The Ilford Part Of Town

Ilford have had a colourful business history over the last deccade but they have never stopped producing the sort of inkjet paper that is a standard of the industry.

Students, amateurs, and professionals have all been brought into contact with the Galerie series of inkjet papers at some stage of their careers. Whether in cut sheet or rolls, this paper has gone through printers from all the major manufacturers with very little trouble...indeed I think it would be fair to say that the standard Ilford papers are never the cause of printing problems - any difficulties people experience can be put down to printer, ink, or computer instructions. Or operator error...

There have been a number of Ilford options with especial composition - We had the Silk Mono and the various Fine Art surfaces for a while, and there are sample packs right now in the shop with 4 variations of art surface for people to try...but the old stagers on the Inkjet rack have always been Galerie Smooth Gloss and Galerie Smooth Pearl.

Here's the Smooth Gloss under the Tokina macro lens with glancing light from an Elinchrom studio flash:

You can see dust particles but no real texture. Ink flowed onto this surface with the correct profile sets quickly and stays precisely where it is squirted. Ideal for extreme detail.

Here is the Smooth Pearl:

It is a slightly nubbly surface, if that is a permissable word, but note that the thing still has a sealed surface - ink will not spread sideways though there is a little more texture. The effect visually is the reduce the sudden glare of a light illuminating the surface and to slightly lessen the blackness of dark shadows. Subtle, but there.

Now here is a matt surface from the company - Smooth Fine Art paper. It is double sided and makes an ideal substrate for studio-made greeting cards and small handout brochures.

A great deal more breakup on the surface and a noticeable "lay" or grain direction in the paper. You see it running toward you in this view, but the way the sheet was orientated in the test rig means that you are looking across the sheet from the side rather than down from the top. The grain direction is consistent in the packet.

The surface is open, as befits a matt paper, and will absorb more ink - a factor that is taken into account in the dedicated Ilford profile. It also needs, in some printers, ink that is dedicated to the surface. My Epson R3000 uses their MK 157 ink for this and every time I need to print on this sort of matt surface I need to change ink. The Epson Ink Division accountancy department loves this...

Note that though the surface is more absorbent, the paper is extremely dense, and will not show bleed-through to the other printing surface.

Ilford supply the proper profiles for these papers on-line and you can route the information through to your printer easily. The other method - letting the printer deal with the paper on the basis of an internal profile that has been worked out for another proprietary paper - is unofficially successful too. I have let the Epson treat Ilford paper as if it were similar Epson paper and it has worked out well, but you never read that here...

Finally - as a comparison, here is the surface of standard Reflex copier paper - the sort of stuff you print letters and invoices on:

Poorer colour, more absorbent, less ability to render blacks, and floppy texture. You will not make a masterpiece for your club competition on it...

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Paper Shuffle - Part One - Lost In Space

If you are an old-school photographer like me you may occasionally be lost - lost on the back streets of  a new suburb at dusk before they put up the street signs, or lost for words at the latest horrible hipster trend...or just lost when it comes to which inkjet printing paper to use.

In the DOD ( Dear Old Days ) of fibre darkroom paper there was Kodak, Ilford, Fujifilm, and Agfa. There were 3-5 grades ranging from too soft to too hard, and there were imaginatively-named surfaces. Most of these were due to commercial imagination and you only ever printed on them once...but you could always fall back to matt, lustre, and gloss and find something for your film image. Single or double weight was a choice you made mostly on economic grounds.

 The advent of resin-coated paper was either wonderful or horrible, depending on whether you had water and time. The surface choices decreased.

Then the inkjet papers came along - and all of a sudden we had to figure out what gsm meant and what a profile was. Most of us still don't know what this is but we faithfully do what the paper makers say to do and generally things work out. I have adopted the sensible approach of letting the printer decide what it wants to do - the same approach I take to the relatives and the cat - and I am satisfied with the peace of mind.

But there's always that desire for a little more science - for a little more precision in the process. It has driven more people than I mad, so I am not willing to engage in the worst of the geekiness, but I have decided to look closely and see what it is that we are being given. I've no lab facilities but I do have a studio and I've decided to see what studio light can tell me about the printing papers that are on offer.

The methodology will be to to use grazing light to skim the papers while taking a macro picture of the surface. I do not expect to see much variation in the smoothness of a glossy paper, but I am curious to see what the pearl and lustre surfaces look like. The rougher and wilder papers are next after that - right down to the hand-laid ones.

I also want to see what relative amount of reflectance the papers send back, though the measurement may prove difficult. Not interested in percentages or numbers - interested in the look of the thing.

Finally, I want to see whether the gsm rating really does translate into a practical indicator for stiffness in the final product. I have long admired the stock that printers use for business cards  and other signage and have looked in vain for it in the inkjet papers. Home-made business cards, fake drivers licences, and eviction notices just do not have the dignity of the ones made on offset presses if they do not have the same crispness.

And no-one likes counterfeit money when it is soggy. I have had limited success with my line of  $ 7 and $ 8 Australian notes despite the colourful artwork and the choice of Australian Idol contestants as figureheads.

This column will publish results in a forthcoming series.

Uncle Dick

Friday, January 13, 2017

Murray Street Colour

I plan to make it a habit to call in at our Murray Street Store - corner of Queen Street - at least once each week. I've learned not to warn the staff exactly when in case they turn off the lights and hide behind the sofa - my relatives do this a lot.

This week's visit revealed lots of new things; an old industrial turntable in the laneway out the back, the new coffee machine works a treat, and there is now some colour in the store. The new cabinets are  in and are attracting some pretty bright entries:

a. Leica. Well, Leica is pretty much chrome and black, as you might expect from their history. They do shoot off into bright binoculars occasionally but these are the exception.

But you can always count on Leica for red. The design team that evolved the store displays all over the world were brilliant in translating the red Leica dot that we had become used to seeing into a brand reminder. They adopted that same shade of red and repeated it in the cabinet shelves and linings to draw your eye to the display.

You just can not not see it. You might not be able to afford it...but you know it is there waiting in case your fortunes improve.

Note to the well-heeled: January is a good time to come in and get a couple of dozen cartons of Leica SL cameras for summer parties. Guests appreciate something to do between courses of luncheon and taking pictures is always popular.

b. Olympus. Okay, I defy you to be glum looking at these colourful Olympus binoculars. They are not the largest sizes that Olympus make - it is a firm that can supply quite a variety of optics in various grades - but these small binocs are perfect for pocket or purse.

The colour is the icing on the cake.

c. Fujifilm XP camera. The shape is dictated by the need to make this camera water and shock proof but the colour is just pure art.

Well, no...

On second thought it may also be function. This is an underwater camera and the effect of depth is to make objects look dark blue. The orange may be to counteract this tendency and to make it show up better under the sea. Fujifilm also make a yellow version - this would intensify the effect.

Whatever, it is a camera that can accompany you nearly everywhere and with that bright shell you will be able to find it in you pocket or purse...or glove compartment...easily.

In any case, come into the new store as soon as you can and look for more colour. It's a very nice place to be.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Game's Nearly Afoot, Watson - With The Olympus Long Lens



Well nearly a foot. 11.81 inches to be precise...

That's the focal length of this Olympus 300mm f:4 IS PRO lens - I didn't actually measure the thing from front to back. It is one of the longer choices that one can make for the Micro 4/3 system. Olympus and Panasonic users with a desire to pull in long distance images are the market.


You? Do you shoot sports? Cars? Surfing? Aircraft? Large wildlife? Birds? Well step up to professional qaulity and take this lens away.


But wait - there's more. As I found out a week ago in the dim reaches of the Fly By Night theatre in Fremantle, theatre shooting can also be done with this sort of camer and lens. Boost your ISO, put the thing on a monopod, and blaze away. The 300mm is more than long enough for most theatres.


But wait - there's more. As I discovered when I pulled the focusing ring backwards on the mount, this is a long lens with a rearkably short minimum focuss distance - just under 1.4 metres. Any object seen at this close distance under the magnification that his focal length gives will be pretty large on the sensor. Remember that in terms of the old 35mm film geometry, this is a 600mm lens!

Depth of field will be shallow under these criteria, but that is optics.

The heading image is just bcause it is a lovely piece of glass to look at. The lens hood is attached to the lens and just slides forward into position.

Note the feature of a " industry-standard " profiled mount on the tripod support foot. I used a similar idea for mounting a zoom lens on a monopod and it is the height of convenience and elegance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Planning Ahead For Your New Camera Outfit - A Checklist

Those of you who followed the news from Photokina in 2016 - sent back in part by the management team of Camera Electronic and in part by the press departments of major manufacturers - will have been attracted to the new cameras and lenses shown. Lots of you will have zeroed in on new offerings and are starting to make vague plans to get something fresh...

Well, before the new cameras came onto the sales floor - in some cases this can be months - you could do some good for yourself by making a detailed plan of what to what order. We've prepared a checklist for you. Please feel free to copy it and print it out.


1. Sell your old camera at the markets, pawnshop, or Gumtree. Hide the cash from the rest of the family. Do this first so that you cannot renege on the idea later. You can occupy your spare time by cleaning out the hard drive and finally editing those 5000 files of the dog chasing a tennis ball.

2. Decide which lenses you wish to keep. This list should also include the lenses that you bought at the camera market, the lenses that have been sitting in the shed for two decades, the lenses that fit the camera system you had two camera systems ago, the lens that your mate gave you, and the lens that you haven't actually told the wife about yet. If none of these match the new camera system you are lusting after...err.. considering...then you are morally justified in selling the lot. Morals play a lot in lens sales.

3. Lift up the bottom of the camera bag or Pelican case and see if anything has slipped down there. It is the photographic equivalent of taking the sofa cushions off and looking for small change but it can yield some surprising finds. Expect old filters and lint.

4. Analyse your photo patterns scientifically. If you have been taking pictures of orchids for 30 years, you probably will not need to invest in a 500mm f:1.8 lens. You can apply the money you save to the purchase of a 78-Kilo tripod and a focus stacking program.

5. Measure the boot of the car. Is it big enough to accommodate the new camera system? Is it big enough to fit all the boxes in if you have to store them in there to prevent the wife from finding them? If she does find them, is it big enough to accommodate you?

6. Check the specifications of your computer system. Does it have enough central memory to run the files from the new camera? If it does, will it overheat? If it overheats, can you make cheese toasties on the outer casing? Note: with some examples of computer from a very well-known manufacture, you can. Kraft Cheddar slices are particularly good for this.

7. While you are puzzling at the figures on the computer, look up the version of RAW converter that the new camera will require - and then look at what your current editing program will do. Of course it will not be adequate, but I just put this in to make you feel sad and alone. A new editing program will bring you joy again, until the next time you change systems...

8. No need the throw out all your old memory cards - they can be used to prop up small flower pots to promote drainage. The new ones that you will need to buy will be faster and have more capacity. You can always ask whether the new camera comes with a free card in the box, if you are not worried by indelicate language.

9. Will you want black or silver? Or silver with tan facings? Or an overall wrap of the national flag?
Or all four? If you sold the car you could buy all four. You can sell cars on Gumtree...

10. Do you need the new camera to be water-proof, water-resistant, or highly-absorbent? Decide now before you go down to the beach.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Canon Lab - Eyebrows Up - Part Two

Back on the YouTube channel again today and two more of the Canon videos that explore the idea of laboratory experiments with photographers. By all means go to the site and dial up:



Watch the first one first.

When I did I was highly amused to see the rules - three simple objects to be photographed with Canon cameras and lenses by a series of photographers, but no-one was allowed to take the same photo twice. Essentially, as the props were used, they were used up. The items provided were:

A banana.
Some flowers.
An egg.

Bananas get peeled, flowers get trashed, and an egg - eventually - gets broken. And each person confronted with the history of what ever was in front of them had to make something visually interesting out of it. Most succeeded.

Those of us who have worked with materials in a studio know pretty much how this works - certainly the still life and food shooters know all about time limitations on their subjects. Portraitists do too, even if they do not recognise the fact that people can rise to an occasion, but eventually peak and then decline. The cruelest of us treasure the images taken just before the sitter bursts into tears and falls off the posing stool. They don't get ordered a lot by the client but if the sitter ever becomes famous they are the sort of files that sell very well to gossip magazines...

And now to THE LAB: DECOY...

The premise of this exercise was to have 6 photographers do a small portrait session with a man who was presented to each one of them separately - with a different persona and history. To one he was a millionaire and to another an ex-convict. One met him as a fisherman and one as a psychic...

They all took different portraits during their sessions and they were all surprised at the end to discover that the personae they were asked to " flesh-out "...a term used in the video...were false. The chap who acted as the subject was none of the things they were told, though he was a pretty good actor.

The purpose of the video was to show that the end result of an image is often coloured by the pre-conceived perceptions of the photographer. Yes, indeed, and that also applies to whether they are looking at a skyscraper or a seascape. Or at someone who has lied to them. I should be interested to see what photograph they would take of the subject - or of the director of the video - now that they know they have been deceived.

In the case of the producer of this impromptu social experiment perhaps the kindest thing would be to  oversharpen a JPEG in the hope of producing a halo...

Uncle Dick

Monday, January 9, 2017

Extra Post today - A Timely Reminder

Folks, the camera makers have been offering cashbacks for the last few months to boost Christmas sales.

Some have already finished, and congratulations to those customers who benefitted thereby...but some are still going for a very short period of time.

Those interested in Nikon, Canon, Panasonic and Instax should make time today to place an order to take advantage of these last few days of grace.

And you might also keep a screen eye peeled for the main Camera Electronic notices - we're due to have a Friday the 13th sale here at the end of this current week. I'm a little uncertain what they intend to list out but if you go to our main page or if you are a Facebook or email reader you should get some idea.

I don't think that that the management went with my suggestion of a free curse with every purchase but I shall be making up little parcels of them and taking them round to my friend's doorsteps on the day. I am a sucker for tradition...

Uncle Dick

The Canon Lab - A You Tube Entertainment - Part One

I recently asked for some information from a number of different sources - amongst them were manufacturer's representatives, wholesale representatives, and industry leaders. In most cases I was treated very well, and have been given promises of insights into what is here in our shop and what might be coming.

Oh, no industry secrets - nothing like that. I would not recognise them if I saw them and really would not know what to do with them. I asked for current details and that is what I am getting - and I am loving what I see.

In the case of Canon Australia I have been directed to some of their productions on YouTube - in particular a series of short videos under the overall title of " The Lab ". I've watched four so far and have really found them interesting...and in one case got hopping mad.

Let's start you out by dialing up and asking for The Lab: Blank under the Canon Australia banner.

They set out the premise that 6 photographers will use Canon equipment in a bare infinity scoop studio setting with fixed lighting but be given no subject, model, props, or help. No selfies allowed. They just have to construct visual bricks without straw and they have to gather their own clay...and we all know who used that as a business model...

Well, they study the place and then start to photograph their wristwatches, shadows, clothing, etc in an effort to find something of interest. One dude shucks himself down to his underwear and throws the rest of his clothes in the air while shooting it.  The crew doing the video and the Canon executive who was authorising the thing may have had a nervous moment there, but in the end they all got some sort of results - proving that you don't need lots of props to make a picture.

And haven't we all done something similar when it has been either 45º outside or we have finally realised that we have no friends...and are forced to make art out of the contents of the kitchen drawers. I cannot remember anyone I know becoming a superstar icon mentor ambassador on the results, but there is always the thought that if Irving Penn could sell platinum prints of cigarette butts, we should be able to get something for JPEGs of juicers...


The next one I watched involved 6 photographers being told that they were going to be briefed by a client about a picture they wanted and they were to provide it. The video is entitled The Lab: Imagination. The clients turned out to be small children. And the photographers were given no help in their interviews...they had to elicit the information they needed from the child's imagination.

They then went out for a week and tried to make scenes that matched what had been described...and when these were revealed to the kids they apparently thought that it had been very well done. Both clients and shooters seem to have been able to exercise enough imagination to succeed.

Okay - in my cynical experience, a client's ideas are wonderful in about the same proportion that a stick grenade is wonderful. It fizzes for about five seconds and then becomes a painful experience.

The photographers in the video presumably did not have the kids hanging over them in the studio for a week telling them what to do, nor did they bring in other advisers to stir the pot - the shooters could go out there and do the biz. They also did not have the kid's accountants hanging over the invoice and vetoing expensive things. And they did not have to make a profit.

Art was served, and the photographers did get to show that they could react well, communicate well, and eventually produce well, but there were a number of real-world factors in there that were thankfully glossed over.

Next post: Two clever Canon videos - one of them honest...

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Long-Awaited Fujifilm Flash Gun

As an honest weblog columnist I can do no better than to send you off googling for a YouTube clip made by the Fujifilm Guys. It features our own Warrewyk and Will - Australian photographers and Fujifilm demonstrators - putting the new Fujifilm EF-X500 speed light through some of its paces.

I'll wait here until you go see it and then come back. You'll probably want to search up the official Fujifilm Australia site as well to check out the technical specifications of the new gun.

Okay, if you're back you'll have seen how easy it is to use the EF-X500 to do fill flash with the new Fujifilm X-T2 camera in broad daylight - making use of the supplied diffusion box to soft the result. No longer should anyone have to struggle with fill-flash ratios and get either black or blasted results.

The simplest drive - that of TTL - should work flawlessly with all hot shoe-equipped Fujifilm X series cameras. The other modes require some learning but the estimation of power should be pretty straightforward if you are going to use Manual. Unless you know you are going to need all the power of the full dump, you are probably best trying a first exposure at 1/4 power and then going up or down from there.

People who are familiar with the previous Fujifilm EF-42 flash will be pleased with a number of improvements:

1. More flash power. GN is now 50. Illumination even with direct flash is remarkably even. 5 Metres away from the backdrop muslin.

2. Metal foot to the hot-shoe mount. There is also a locking lever rather than a plastic wheel to keep it fastened to the camera.

3. Manual power levels down to 1/512 of full power in 1/3 EV steps. Macro work particularly catered for. The Chevy and the Airstream trailer are 1/64 scale and that's done with one on-camera flash + diffuser

4. Master and remote modes available with optical command. Regular TTL and Commander are indicated by green panel and Slave mode is indicated by the amber panel.

5. LED video boost light available on front of unit.

6. Locking flash head tilting and stiff detent swivelling of flash head.

7. Up to + or - 5 EV in 1/3 EV steps. And Glory Be, it is done with a simple rotating thumb wheel rather than a series of button presses!

8. Socket for EF-BP external battery pack. ( YES! )

9. Up to 3 separate lighting groups in the master/slave relationship.

It is the unit all we Fujifilm users have been waiting for. For myself, the stiff detent and the locking tilt mechanism are wonderful, as they allow better control of the flash head when a heavy diffuser like a Gary Fong or Mag Mod unit is fitted. An event shooter can mount the flash, turn the head 90º to the right, and then just raise and lower it from portrait to landscape orientation to perfectly match the light angle to the camera. The EF-42 can do this too, but is weaker and allows the head to flop out of place as you move around.

The battery pack, when available, should also take some burden of waiting for recharge in the middle of a fast-developing event.