Dateline 16 December 2015 

 

Photo 365 - 16 November 2015 - Mike Farley LRPS

Report by Peter Flower

© All photographs in this article are copyright of Mike Farley

This was the second talk in relatively recent times that we have had on the subject of a project involving the taking of at least one photograph per day over the course of a year. The previous one was by Ken Scott in April 2011, although it has to be said that at that time he called his talk '1101 Days and Counting' ! In his case the motivation resulted from a very prolonged recuperation period after illness and an inability to undertake the photography that he loved best. In Mike's case the idea originated from a proposal by a photographic company and was further spurred by the challenge of competing with a colleague, to see who could keep going and not fail to complete the course. In the event he did manage to complete the year-long project which started on 1 January 2013. This was a sunny day, which he viewed as a good omen, getting the project off to a good start with his first photograph. Mike experimented with converting the image into monochrome. Both versions are shown below although it was the mono one that he posted on the web.

Day 1 – 1 January - Flight

Mike explained that his photographs had been a mixture of those taken whilst out and about, plus many that were arranged specially in an indoor setting. The fact that his wife is a keen gardener provided him with the opportunity of taking floral images if better ideas did not come to him on a particular day. Very few images were planned in advance and some days were better than others. However, the biggest advantages of the project were the spur to take a greater variety of subjects and to experiment with different techniques. The contrast is shown by the following two images – a monochrome one taken whilst travelling on the underground system and the other as a very colourful table-top set-up.

The fact that the gent on the escalator flapped his coat open at that moment added interest to the image.

Day 15 – 15 January - Down the tube                   Day 43 – 12 February - Missing the point

The Urban Circles shot of the Centrale car park in Croydon was a variation on an image which was placed third in the final round of the 2014 Amateur Photographer of the Year competition (Architecture – Building Blocks). Mike spoke about it in respect of revisiting the location when he was trying out a new camera a year or so later. He made the point that even if you have been somewhere before you have probably not exploited it to its full potential and there is always something more to be had.

Day 59 – 28 February - Urban Circles

A number of the images shown were variations on the use of infrared. The Oast Houses image shows how an infrared modified camera functions surprisingly well as a monochrome model. The Wells Cathedral shot exploits the fact that the sky does not reflect infrared light and turns dark as a result. The image of Nymans is a false colour infrared, which is achieved by swapping the red and blue channels in the Channel Mixer, while Twisted Roots is a more traditional IR shot, but shows how it can bring out the texture in tree bark.

Day 279 – 6 October – Oast Houses                        Day 159 – 8 June – Wells Cathedral

Day 154 – 3 June – Nymans                                  Day 153 – 2 June – Twisted Roots

Mike's shots included some with a degree of humour, as shown by the following two examples. The close-up of car occupants on the VCC event captures the tension of the moment whilst the 'captain' of the narrow boat shows the easy way steer the craft!

Day 307 – 3 November – Back Seat Driver Day     255 – 12 September – Look No Hands (or Bum Steer!)

 Mike's year was terminated with the following images.

Day 364 – 30 December – The Last Thing            Day 365 – 31 December – Crazy Colours

As he said, 'The Last Thing' was so called as the subject is the last thing you want to see after Xmas!

Mike provided some statistics about his 365 project. The least photographs taken in a day, 2 (perhaps on the day when he burnt the midnight oil to beat the deadline?), the most, an amazing 773, with a yearly total of 15,954. He generally used his Canon 7D with an EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 lens, although some were taken with a newly-acquired Olympus OM-D E-M10.

The images that accompany this article, mainly chosen by myself, are just a very small sample of the ones that Mike showed on the evening. There was much more variety in those and no doubt in the very many that had to be omitted from the talk because of the limitations of time. The important message that came through was the value to be had from this sort of project. It forced you into experimenting with aspects of photography that would not necessarily be considered otherwise. Whilst project365 (or even greater challenge in a leap year!) might not be for all of us the concept of setting the task to take a much greater variety of images is one from which we might all benefit. Mike's images and the talk about his experiences during 2013 certainly provided us with an entertaining evening.

More information can be found at the following web addresses -

www.mikefarley.net

http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/apoy/round-10-architecture-building-blocks-41669

www.365project.org/pictor

 

Professional Printing – 30 November 2015 – John Read

Report by Peter Flower

John Read, MD of Marrutt, began by explaining his company's background. It had originally started in the days of film photography. Drying newly-developed films was a problem, especially for busy professional photographers. The company began making drying cabinets to overcome this problem and became one of the leading manufacturers in this market. This activity took place during the period 1980 to 1989, but then the market was decimated by the arrival of digital technology for photography.

It became obvious that a switch into a different market was needed. Inkjet printers to cater for the output of digital images were becoming increasingly popular. Drawbacks were the cost of inks, together with their questionable archival quality, and the difficulty of obtaining consistent colour output to match that perceived from the camera or computer monitor. It was these problems that Marrutt sought to address by careful choice of printers to promote (initially Epson models), the sourcing of better inks that were compatible and longer-lasting (as an example Lyson ink lasted 10 to 12 times longer) but that could also be supplied cheaper, quality paper and provision of profiling services. In this endeavour they were highly successful. The company has expanded considerably, having bases both locally and in the United States. Their customer base of both professional and keen enthusiast photographers now exceeds 22,000.

It is not possible within this brief report to cover all of the detailed points that John made during an information-packed evening but some of the most important ones are mentioned below. Additionally, I would point you to the Marrutt web site where you can find an excellent series of videos that cover all aspects of the products and services that his company provides.

The quality of print that can be made depends upon a number of important factors. Choosing a suitable printer and, most importantly, maintaining its performance is one of these. Over time the nozzles might become clogged by dried ink resulting in variable colour output depending on which channels had become blocked. When this was spotted there was a temptation to run the printer through a so-called cleaning cycle. John pointed out that this might be effective, but could waste precious ink in the process. He advocated the use of a product from his company, called Magic Bullet. In the context of using ink he pointed out that the manufacturer's product could cost up to £1,000 per litre and that a typical A4 photo quality colour print could cost £1 for ink alone. In comparison the inks supplied by Marrutt would be 20% of the cost despite being of equal quality. (So-called compatible inks are widely available from many sources but tend to be avoided by many enthusiasts who are suspicious of the the quality achieved with their use)

A confusingly wide range of photo quality print papers is available from many manufacturers and each requires a different profile depending upon printer and paper surface (e.g. gloss, matt, satin, pearl, fine art). Marrutt deliberately limits its range in order to simplify the choice for the photographer. It has 8 different Marrutt Pro Papers all sourced from the finest paper mills in Germany. All papers have been rigorously tested and have a unique coating which enables maximum longevity. John also pointed out that these papers were capable of providing very clean 'whites' (i.e. absence of any colour inks) which gave them an advantage over many competitive products.

One of the most important services that Marrutt provides is their printer profiling facility. They supply a calibrated printed chart that contains a wide mix of images, as illustrated.

They also have a source image which can be downloaded from their web site. If you produce a copy of this on your own printer and visually compare it with with their calibrated print it is easy to establish if the printer profile is incorrect. Marrutt provide a free service to supply an appropriate profile and even an ongoing one to check this at later dates. In summary, John said that the combination of a good and well-maintained printer plus Marrutt papers and inks together with their profiling service could guarantee high quality prints.

At the beginning of the meeting John had said that he wanted to stir up debate. This was certainly achieved by his suggestion that digital workers should model their printing processes on ones that were observed in the days of film. Many digital print-workers were getting tired of work flows which involved too much work in Photoshop / Lightroom etc. He suggested that shots should be taken as if using a film camera, not relying on putting everything right in post-processing, and allowing yourself only adjustments that would be possible in the darkroom. What he called 'Inkjet Printing – Darkroom Style'.

The rules were as follows:

You are NOT allowed to use:

1. Unsharp Mask

2. Cloning

3. Contrast & Brightness control

4. Layers

5. Specific Colour Adjustment

You ARE allowed to use:

1. Crop Tool

2. Levels

3. Desaturate

4. Overall toning

5. Custom Printer Profiling

Excellent advice in principle, but perhaps too restrictive for some of our more visionary members who like to push Photoshop to its limits!

Moving onto a less contentious subject, John also introduced the Marrutt Professional PhotoMount Display System. This is a simple means of block mounting prints. Below are links to two YouTube videos on this subject. The first video introduces the concept and the second one shows the process of mounting a print.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdqLEdb_s0c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkdxFknlEnA

John had brought an Epson SureColor SC-P600 printer in order to demonstrate the ability to produce high-quality prints during the talk. This printer allows the user to be able to print on cut sheet paper up to A3+ or on roll format paper. Another added feature is the ability to switch between photo black and matte colour ink. He discussed its ability, in common with many modern printers, to be driven wirelessly from a phone or other device. In this respect it was ideal for producing small prints of adequate image quality directly from photographs taken on smartphones.

This was an evening full of useful information, presented by someone whose years of experience enable him to provide valuable advice in a way that is easily understandable. There was so much more that could have been told but unfortunately time ran out and John Fisher, who was chairing the evening, had to call a halt when we had already run 10 minutes over our allowed time! Summing up, an informative and entertaining evening.

This report has only been able to mention a little of the information from John's talk, but fortunately a series of videos by him are available and can be selected from the Marrutt web site, as follows -

http://www.marrutt.com/

 

Sony/Toshiba

Techman

In October Sony announced its intention to buy out Toshiba's sensor business. This deal has now been confirmed. It will involve the transfer of semiconductor fabrication facilities, equipment and related assets of Toshiba's 300mm wafer production line, mainly located at its Oita Operations facility, to Sony Semiconductor.

This potentially affects every camera manufacturer that has used Sony and/or Toshiba APS-C (and smaller) sensors in the past, which is to say virtually all of them. With the exception of Canon and Samsung, both of which manufacture their own APS-C and larger sensors, every other camera manufacturer, including Nikon, will almost certainly have to rely on Sony. However, the rumours reported in the following article offer the possibility that Samsung might become a sensor supplier in its own right, providing an alternative to Sony.

 

Samsung

Techman

In recent times Samsung introduced a number of models that were aimed at the enthusiast photographer. These included the flagship NX1 (released in September 2014) and the NX500 (released in February 2015). Both have received excellent reviews, in particular the NX1 which was seen as a viable challenger to Nikon and Canon models. Surprisingly, after such a short time since its introduction, Samsung has now announced that the NX1 will no longer be sold in the UK and Germany (and possibly other European markets). Market commentators were puzzled by this decision.

Rumours have been circulating that Nikon intended to buy Samsung's technology in order to break into the mirrorless market. Samsung has already demonstrated its ability to provide an excellent APS-C sensor for the NX1 and NX500 so it is likely that a full-frame sensor could be made available. An informed industry observer has reported seeing a such a sensor at the Samsung German facility at Schwalbach.

Samsung has issued a statement saying “Media reports that Nikon is allegedly buying our NX technology are not true.” Meanwhile, a Nikon spokesperson said that the company did not comment on rumours.

Some of the speculation appears far-fetched but it is not difficult see how the option of an alternative sensor supplier (as opposed to total reliance on Sony) would appeal to Nikon, or any of the other manufacturers in a similar situation.

Whatever the truth of this matter it will be interesting to see what announcements are made at the CES 2016 show taking place at Las Vegas in January. Samsung reportedly has a major press announcement planned for this show.

 

Further Comments

Techman

The facts and rumour reported in the previous two articles need to be read within the context of the overall camera market. These are difficult times for the industry, with generally declining unit sales. This is to a large extent because of the competition at the lower end from smartphones which offer increasing convenience and photographic capabilities. It might not seem that the losses of compact sales for DSLR producers like Canon and Nikon should impact on sales of their higher-end products. However, the fact is that basic components may be shared across the range and development costs fall on lower overall numbers.

The Samsung decision to cease distribution of its NX1 flagship model came as a surprise. It has heavily promoted this with advertising in recent times. It can only be assumed that sales were disappointing. The fact is that 'Samsung' is not a name that tended to resonate with the enthusiast photographer. It is likely that this company, which has irons in so many different fires, decided that the uphill battle to gain acceptance with a high-end camera was not worth so much effort. It could concentrate on sales of its highly successful smartphone and tablet ranges, plus television and so many of its products in the home appliances market. Since the original announcement about the NX1 withdrawal it seems that Samsung will cease marketing of all its cameras here at some point.

Nikon is not alone in suffering falling sales but the fact that it relies predominantly on camera sales makes it vulnerable. (It was reported in October 2013 that the company made 78% of its profit from camera sales). It relies heavily on bought-in components, including Sony sensors. It has also been reported that one or more lenses in its range are in effect badged versions from other manufacturers. In contrast, Canon's camera division is just a part of a company with much wider interests. Products include printers (including those for offices and production printing), projectors, document scanners, professional video equipment, calculators, medical imaging, radiography and healthcare IT solutions. For cameras it produces its own sensors, processors and lenses, so is in a much stronger position.

Sony and Panasonic are examples of other companies that are not purely reliant on camera sales. Sony, as already mentioned, is a leading supplier of sensors and this position will be further strengthened by their takeover of the Toshiba sensor division. Additionally, they supply such products as video equipment, television sets and video recording equipment, smartphones and tablets, PlayStations and audio equipment. Panasonic has an even wider range of products ranging through televisions, professional video equipment, home phones, home appliances, hi-fi, audio and video players/recorders and even razors.

Industry commentators, both in the press and on the web, have been expressing concern at the lack of innovative new products from the current leaders, Canon and Nikon. Their current dominating position is not guaranteed. The message of history needs to be remembered. Kodak, once the dominating force in photography, is now just a footnote in the history books. It is ironic that this company which was a leader in the introduction of digital photography was also killed by it. Kodak failed to relinquish its hold on the film market and enthusiastically adapt to the digital one.

In a different business there is another example. In the 1990s and beyond Nokia became the mobile phone of choice. In 1998 the company sold 41 million cellular phones, surpassing Motorola to become the world's top cellular phone maker. Net sales increased over 50% year-on-year. In 2003, the company launched the Nokia 1100, a budget-friendly phone that sold around an amazing 250 million units, making it the best selling phone as well as the best selling consumer electronics product in the world. Incidentally, it was also the company’s billionth phone sold later in 2005. In 2007 Apple launched the first iPhone. This alone did not result in Nokia's virtual demise in the cellphone market. There were other problems, but the company did not react quickly enough to the new smart phone technology. Their predominant position in this market was over within a very short time.

 

Tabletop photography with Darren Pullman – 5 December

Report by Stephen Hewes

Darren Pullman’s talk earlier in the season on ‘how to take bad photographs’ had included shots taken on his tabletop of amongst other things, olive oil cascading into and out of a spoon. This prompted Clare to arrange a session to experience at first hand more about the techniques used.

On 5 December, six members met up with Darren for a Saturday afternoon session at my house; we were joined by Jan, Kelly, Colin and Modesto. The first challenge was to actually see the tabletop – between the seven of us there was that much paraphernalia. The eclectic mix of objects included Jan’s Bugle, Clare’s flowers, Colin’s figurines, what was perhaps best described as a musical bowl belonging to Modesto and an old circuit board my wife has been threatening to throw out for about the last 18 months! Fortunately Darren has a very methodical approach, and order was soon created out of chaos. Cameras were put to one side until a setting for the shot had been created, securely held together with a combination of sellotape and clothes pegs (white to avoid colour reflections).

The first experiment was a record shot of the figurine, with various positioning of the lighting from two spotlamps brought by Darren. From there we moved onto backlighting, a white Savoie bottle proving to be a good subject. Jan’s bugle was much admired for its patina (dents) and recent polish (we could all see our faces in it, oddly distorted), as were the difficulties it threw up as a photographic subject if strange reflections were to be avoided.

We moved rapidly on to the circuit board from a broken down TV, for which the action moved from tabletop to floor. Darren had the idea to lighting the board from underneath, which would have meant that the photographer would have been on the table with head bumping the ceiling! At this point Colin’s tripod with a stem reconfigurable as a horizontal arm came into its own (why didn’t I buy one like that?). Attempts were made to compensate for the uneven surface of my old floor using a natty spirit level cube. Incidentally this also gave a good indication of whether there was any wobbling, including the effect of pressing the shutter without a cable release. Lo and behold the green arteries of the circuit board shone through.

Our final object was one of Clare’s blooms. Clare’s objective was to illuminate the flower-head from behind. A combination of lighting approaches were attempted; diffused lighting each side, and light-painting of the centre from the side using a mini torch. Perhaps not quite what Clare had in mind, the results were still quite pleasing, though all of us agreed that viewed through a macro lens the flower head appeared more as sperm and eggs!

All in all the session covered a lot of ground in a very practical style. Darren was an excellent coach, explaining concepts in a very clear manner. Darren will be back to judge next season, and has set a clear expectation of the standard required to achieve a ‘10’ in any tabletop shots!

Four of the images from this session are shown below.

 

Chatham Challenge – 14 December 2015 – Set by Jose Vazquez

Presented by Modesto Vega

PF

 

Although the Challenge had been set by Jose he was unable to attend on the evening to announce his judgment on the entries. This task fell to Modesto who read out Jose's comments and announced the marks awarded for each image. The process was further complicated by the fact that certain competitors had forgotten their identity letters. Jose had allocated random identity letters to these which meant that the identity of the contestants was in doubt! Fortunately, the winning trio had remembered their letters correctly so there was no doubt about who had actually won!

The overall winner was Mark Thomas who has the honour of organising next years event. The marks of the winning trio are shown below.

G 1 Mark Thomas 114

S 2 Grahame Singleton 112.5

P 3 Stephen Hewes 106

The following is a collage of the winning pictures.

 

The evening was rounded off with the traditional pre-Christmas social.

 

And finally . . . . . .