Sunday, August 31, 2008

Busy squirrels

Eaten cones on a roof, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

For some reason I have started to look at the roofs of houses, storage cabins etc., because they often have interesting things there: moss, flaking paint, colorations. I usually don't take photos of them, because I don't have a long tele and also I don't want to disturb the inhabitants' privacy.

However, there are buildings where no-one is living and which I thus consider free game. On this roof there were lots of pieces from eaten pine-cones. The squirrels have been busy this summer. Perhaps this has been an especially good year for them, at least there seems to be a lot of cones in the trees.

A forgotten camera - Canon G-III QL17

The Online Photographer reminded me about this nice camera. We used to have a Canon G-III at home, and I spent quite a few hours trying it out and reading through the manual, and of course taking photos with it. My mother had an ancient 6 x 6 cm camera, which I was not allowed to use, but the Canon G-III was more or less free for me to use.

When I was 15 years old, I got a Minolta XG-1 with a 50 mm f/1.7 lens. I believe that one of the biggest reasons for buying the Minolta SLR (instead of Canon or Pentax) was the f/1.7 aperture on the standard lens.

For some reason, I had completely forgotten about ever using the Canon G-III, but I must have used it for a couple of years in 1970s. When I look at the pictures of the camera, everything comes back together. It would be so familiar to start using it again.

Who knows, perhaps some day I'll get serious about street photography and come back to where I started, a rangefinder.

Update: Browsing the net, I discovered that in 1980, the Canon AE-1 had a 50mm f/1.8 lens, and the Pentax ME had a 50 mm f/1.7 lens, similar to the Minolta XG-1. I must have been the price which made me select the Minolta (both Pentax ME and Minolta XG-1 were aperture-priority, which I very much preferred). I remember looking through lots and lots of camera magazines and brochures before buying my first SLR.

On not having a photographer's eye

Children's hideout, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I took a few photos of a children's hideout in a nearby forest, where there had been eager construction work going on. Later on I regretted not taking photos of the small details - the self-made bow, toys laying on the ground, view from inside of the hideout etc.

There would have been a lot of photographic opporturnities there, and I didn't notice them at all. Instead I took snapshots trying to fit in as much stuff as possible. The novice photographer's world is full of lost opportunities...

Forest play

Children's hideout, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Some children had made quite a construction from wooden boxes in a nearby forest. There were bows and arrows, plastic swords and shields, and leftover from a feast, e.g. potato chips and lemonade.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Colorful or not?

36 favorites, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have always thought that I don't like too much colors in photographs, that I prefer moderate and subdued colors. Probably I was mistaken. Even though my usual subjects are not so colorful - for example the Finnish summer - my favorite photos seem to be.

I looked at a thumbnail gallery of my Flickr photos, and the gallery was quite colorful. So, I seem to have been mistaken. Strong colors are attractive, this can't be denied.

Samsung begins (or joins) the camera revolution

Amateur Photographer reveled Samsung's plans to release in 2010 a new interchangeable lens system compact digital camera system. (There is a long description!) But this is really interesting.

When Olympus and Panasonic introduced the micro four thirds format, it was an important first step towards a new kind of a serious camera system. Now Samsung is making a similar kind of effort.

I hope these announcements will shake up the camera industry, especially in the compact camera market, where things haven't advanced in the last few years except for megapixels. There used to be all kinds of cameras with good optics and serious capabilities, but nowadays everything seems to be dumbed down.

Joining lakes

Bridge, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

At the Liesjärvi national park there is a narrow land bridge which separates two lakes from each other. The rivers are connected through a small channel - you couldn't call it a river, about five meters in length. There is a nice old wooden bridge which crosses the channel between the lakes.

Liesjärvi, here we are!

Love, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we went to Liesjärvi national park for a walk. The weather was excellent, as was the scenery. Many lakes around, and a nice variety of different types of woods. We collected some mushrooms for eating, the young ones were quite good for frying on a pan. However, I wouldn't eat those mushrooms which are in this photo.

Going out there

I wrote at Universal Rule earlier:

During this summer, our family has visited quite a few of the national parks in the Helsinki region: Nuuksio, Vuosaari, Espoonlahti, Pitkäkoski etc. These all have their individual character, and I feeld they show their best side on different times of the year. [...] I strongly feed that human beings need to get familiar with being outside in the nature.

Actually, I should have written more precisely "national parks/nature parks/nature conservation area". (Or how do you write of such things in English?) In any case, these visits have been quite enjoyable, and provided a lot of fun for the whole family.

What is the point of being in an artificial environment when there is so much to experience out there in nature? Going out there has several benefits: calming down, getting good exercise etc. And besides, it is an excellent opporturnity to learn a bit more of photography.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wilderness beauty

By a forest lake, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I'm still thinking about the walk in the Nuuksio national park today evening. The area is half an hour away from Helsinki, but it is like wilderness.

There were no other people about besides our family, it being a Friday evening. Most people were probably hurrying into shopping malls.

But this nature, this quiet, this beauty, who could not appreciate it?


Trees by a lake, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a good day, an exceptionally nice summer day in Finland. There was light, there wasn't any rain, and the temperature was excellent for a walk in a forest.

We went to the Nuuksio national park, near Sorlampi, where there is a nice walking route. I took 200 photos, of which some succeeded quite nicely. Suprisingly our youngest daughter didn't get tired and walked all the way through. An excellent change for an otherwise dark and rainy week.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

After rain, photography

Clouds in fire, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I thought that today would be a day with (almost) no photographs taken, a departure from the rate of 50-150 photos per day typical for this summer. But in the end, I took over 176 photos today, thanks to a gap in the rain in the evening. And thanks to the rain, there were lots of interesting cloud formations.

Most of the photos were of our children who played around in a field where there were lots of puddles left by the rain. Over half of the photos were not sharp thanks to motion blur or wrong focusing, but the best photos were quite good, especially the colors - red raincoats made a nice contrast with the gravel, grass and the sky.

Wet in Finland

Rain, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This is one of those days. It has been raining all day, and the rain just got heavier. It will probably continue until tomorrow. This snapshot was taken with a Nokia E90 phone. As for more photography, I don't have much interest for it right now.

Being photographed vs. being the photographer

I had today a portrait taken (in a suit) for an editorial I wrote to a magazine. It was (once again) nice to be photographed by a pro. (Technical note: Canon 5D with a L-series lens.) A couple of minutes and we were done. I trust the result will look nice (as nice as it can the subject being me).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nokia E90 - the most difficult camera to master

I'm still having great difficulties in taking photos with my Nokia E90. The camera phone seems to perform completely unpredictably. Sometimes it takes a nice photo right away, sometimes it stops for a couple of seconds and then continues without taking a photo.

However, some things are becoming clearer. The shutter lag of 0-3 seconds seems to be due to a kind of movement-recognition system. If there are moving objects in view, the camera tries to focus on them, and usually the moment is gone when (if ever) the focus is successful. In low light, taking a photo in a situation like this usually fails.

I have dozens of photos taken of my feet. These photos were taken when I put down the camera to have a look what kind of photo is there.

Taking action photos of people is especially taxing. You press the button, wait for a while, and when nothing happens move the camera to check what is going on. At that moment a picture is taken. Nokia E90 is a sports-photographer's nightmare camera.

Gray but not rain

Borders, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

There were a couple of hours this evening when it was not raining. A possibility to go for a walk outside.

Early morning at harbour

Helsinki view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I had an early morning meeting in Helsinki, this is a view from the east side of the center over the harbour area. Photo taken with a Nokia E90 phone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quiet sunset

Rock in still water, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday we had a quite colorful sunset, but today was different. Hardly any colors, few clouds, completely still air. Not a bad evening for a walk.

Shadow of Canon G10 press release had available a press release on Canon G10 including some specifications, but the document was soon pulled. It still was available at the RSS feed, however. I'm not completely convinced that this is real, but it may well be. Interesting development in any case. I wonder what size the sensor is. If it is 2/3 inch, the noise could be in control. Otherwise, may not be such a hot camera (or, actually, a bit too hot in terms of noise).

See also: the leaked Canon G10 specifications.

Canon G10 specifications leaked?

Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but a discussion at Dpreview claims that released and then pulled Canon G10 press release. The key points were:

  • 14.7 megapixels, Digic 4 processor
  • ISO up to 1600, lower-resolution to 3200
  • 5x wide zoom, 28-140 mm
  • 3-inch 460,000 pixel LCD
  • RAW support

It remains to be seen whether this was the real thing or just a mistake (or misinformation). But if true, certainly an interesting camera.

We have 55 different dragonflies in Finland

Red dragonfly on white rock, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported that a new species of dragonfly has been spotted in Finland. The new one is Southern Migrant Hawker dragonfly (Aeshna affinis). The finder was Asmus Schröter in August, in Vuosaari, Helsinki.

It so happens that we went to Vuosaari a few days ago, and saw quite a few dragonflies. As I'm not an expert, I didn't spot anything of much interest, but I did manage to take a photo of a Vagrant Darter (Sympetrum vulgatum) while it was resting on a rock. Despite only having an Ixus, taking a photo was not hard because the dragonfly was not afraid of the camera getting close (10 cm away).

I posted previously a panorama view of the Vuosaari harbour area, this is a quite interesting place to go for a walk.

Canons for point-and-shooters (and one for prosumers)

Well, now is the day for Canon announcements, and there were exactly those which had been rumoured:

It may be that the more expensive or more advanced compacts will be announced later. But Tuesday is not yet over, is it?

Monday, August 25, 2008

From gray to color

Little sunlight, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This evening there was a grey cloud cover, but suddenly at sunset the clouds colored. It was quite nice, quiet, still, colorful. A good end for a day.

Harbour life

Center of Helsinki, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I was in a meeting in the center of Helsinki, and when parking the car took a couple of photos of the harbour area with my Nokia E90 phone. It was very difficult to catch moving subjects (seagulls) but this one succeeded.

Suprise announcement - Olympus SP-565uz

Olympus SP-570 has been on the market for only a couple of months, but Olympus already announced a followup, Olympus SP-565uz. The specs are quite similar, but the camera is smaller, and I guess a bit more targeted to the point-and-shoot users. I hope image quality is better than in SP-570, though. Perhaps Panasonic DMC-TZ28 will get a good competitor in SP-565?

Also interesting is the marketing message from Olympus, pointing out especially the small size of the camera. This seems to be a point of pride to Olympus.

Update: It seems that SP-565 is in fact slightly heavier and larger than SP-570. And the specifications haven't much changed. What is different? Image quality?

Update 2: Actually, SP-565 is smaller and lighter that SP-570, but it is bigger and heavier that SP-560. My confusion was caused by Dpreview listing the wrong (SP-560) size and weight specifications for SP-570.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Comments on the review of Panasonic LX3 by Lawrence Ripsher

I have read through the excellent review of Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 by Lawrence Ripsher. Some of his usability preferences are different to mine, but I'm a novice, so there. The point about aperture priority being the best way to use a camera rings true, though. My old Minolta XG-1 doesn't have any other way (except full manual).

But coming back to the review... The detailed high-ISO analysis was extremely helpful. So I'm almost sold on LX3, just need to wait what Canon announces in response (if anything). Thinking of the dark Finnish winters, this is the best compact camera there currently is. But in any case, Panasonic is doing a service to the camera market by thinking different from Canon and Nikon - I hope these follow the example.

Autumn is coming

Hunting season, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

While returning from our walk in the Nuuksio national park today, we noticed some structures built by hunters. Soon is the most active time for hunting, moose beware.


Fallen cage, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

While walking in the Nuuksio national park today, we found a site with an abandoned cabin and other buidings. Moss was growing on the rocks, and there wasn't much signs of activity around the site. It was really quiet.

Beautiful heather

Forest in flower, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

There was a couple of hours not raining today, and we went for a walk in the Nuuksio national park, near Velskola (Espoo, Finland). Heather was in flower and really pretty. When I took this photo we were attacked by a flock (bunch?) of deer louse flies, which were really annoying. Had to pick five of them from our hair afterwards.

Problems with weather forecasts in Finland

Bubbles in rain, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

It has rained since morning here in Vantaa, Finland. However, the weather forecasts (both FMI and Foreca) say that it is half-cloudy, a minimal amount of rain (less than 1 mm) possible.

Today is not the only time during this summer that the forecast have been unreliable. There have been cases of heavy rain when none was promised, and sometimes vice versa. Even looking at several different weather sites hasn't helped, the forecasts have been wrong in different ways.


Blue sky at night, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Time to get some sleep. Today was a day for photography, first I took over 100 shots at Vuosaari, and then about 50 more while walking late in the evening. Some of them even succeeded better than I hoped for. But there was not yet a cure for my camera (buying) sickness.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reading Panasonic DMC-LX3 "Operating Instructions"

I downloaded the user's manual (titled "Operating Instructions") of LX3 from the Panasonic web site. Reading through the first 60 pages or so, I got a feeling that this is a quite nice and friendly camera to use. There is a plenty of features, but I think it would take very little time to learn to use this camera properly. Even the manual modes seem easy to start using.

I'm still debating what camera to buy. A superzoom would be a possibility, namely Panasonic TZ28, but it is a bit big for my taste (although it would fit nicely into a coat pocket). LX3 seems pretty good, and the image samples are looking better and better. An image-stabilized camera with f2.0 and usable ISO 400-800 sensitivity would be a big step forward for me. Compared to my Ixus 400, this would mean 2-4 steps of improvement in low-light capability.

On the other hand, there is still the question of what Canon will announce this autumn. It is said that August 26th is a day for Canon announcements, and I hope there will be some answers. But it is difficult to wait for several days more. I would like to go and get a new camera right now.

Night and quiet

Blue sky over church, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we had an interesting evening sky. While walking I took some photos, most of which failed due to too long exposure for handheld photography. If my Ixus had image stabilization, the photos would probably have succeeded. But I digress. In any case, I had a chance to practise taking photos, and some of them turned out rather nice. Not bad for an old camera and novice photographer.

Searching for meaning in photos

Paul Butzi is writing interesting commentary at Sources of Meaning:

[...] what I’ve discovered is that the meaning that emerges as I take a long series of photographs and print them and hang them on the wall and look at them over time - that meaning is not something that I knew, and put in the photos in some subconscious way, and later rediscovered through the photos. It’s new stuff - stuff I’ve never understood or noticed before.

I have similar experiences, although (being a novice photographer) I have ample examples of photos that never quite achieve a level of meaningfulness. These photos are (at best) documentary and no more.

At some point I was quite taken with the ideas of Daniel Dennett, for example the book “Consciousness Explained”, where (loosely recollected and paraphrased) the key idea is that the person “I” does not really exist, it is just an illusion produced by certain parts of the brain to explain things which happen in our mind.

Thus, from this viewpoint, the person who shoots a photo and the person who views the photo later on, are not really the same, they are only connected by a history of biological tissue and synaptical connections but not much more than that. From this biological viewpoint the discussion about “conscious” vs. “unconscious” decisions is irrelevant, because consciusness is an illusion produced in the theater of our mind to make us keep our sanity.

But coming back to the relation of reality to photographs, one of the key points is that there are many kinds of photographers. I commented an earlier posting by Paul Butzi as follows:

I feel that there is a type of photographer who has a preconceived notion of the pictures they want to take, and they view the world as a theater stage, and use lighting, elaborate costumes, make-up etc. to produce pictures which create a reality of their liking. But I guess there must be some kind of discovery there also.

I feel this kind of photography is more and more popular. Perhaps this is due to the example set by the media personalities and paparazzi - a way of posturing to the world. On the other hand, the reason may be that much (most?) of the photos people see are in advertisements, and thus the commercial use of photos starts to dominate other areas as well.

1 or 100 photos per day?

During the summer, I have been shooting 50-150 photos per day. But I feel it is unreasonable to sustain this rate, especially as during the darker months here in Finland there aren't so many opportunities for photography. (However, I'll definitively invest soon in a new camera which has good low-light capabilities.)

But is it better to aim for quality, not quantity? Somehow I feel that the massive amount of camera use during the summer has not been wasted, but I also suspect that it is much harder to develop the camera skills from now on. I was so bad with the camera when I started early this summer that it was easy to improve, but now it will be much more difficult. Thus, now might be the time for targeting quality.

On the other hand, when I walk around with a camera I often spot a possibility to take a photo and don't shoot, later regretting. The use of the camera is not yet fully automatic and I tend to get self-conscious when operating the camera. So, perhaps shooting a great quantity of photos is also needed for development.


Grass by harbour, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

There is quite a contrast between the nature park by the sea and the Vuosaari harbour area (which is under construction). On the nearby hill there grows a lot of different plants, and many kinds of butterflies and dragonflies flew there. We spotted also an adder (Vipera berus) on the path, but it went quickly away.

View over the Vuosaari harbour in Helsinki

Harbour panorama, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We went for a walk today, as the weather was excellent. There is a nice nature park by the sea in eastern Helsinki (part of it belongs to Vantaa), and there are hills from where you can have a look at the Vuosaari harbour area which is being constructed. There were a couple of other people there also, mostly bird watchers. But no other families with children.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Enough water

Ducks, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Despite the cloudy and cool weather in Finland this summer, I have managed to shoot about 4500 photos so far. In fact, I almost doubled the number of photos taken with my Ixus 400, and in addition I shot over 100 photos with my Nokia E90 phone. Quite a change compared to the usual rate. In any case, I have enjoyed photography a lot. And there is also a silver lining to the rainy weather - there has been a lot of nice clouds to photograph.

Now, it remains to seen whether I'll invest in a new camera. Previously I was undecided between Panasonic LX3 and the mythical Canon G10, but I just read a review of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28, which made me really interested. A superzoom has not been on my list of cameras, but perhaps I should consider such a one. And FZ28 seems to be the best there is, especially as the noise issue has improved compared to FZ18.


Colored flower, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Someone had used a spray can for coloring flowers in a field. First I thought this is an interesting variation of a common flower.

Making a panorama of Nokia E90 photos

South-view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This view southwards from Espoo succeeded quite nicely, photos were taken with a Nokia E90 phone and joined in DoubleTake. Not a typical Finnish day this summer, as the sun was shining. As an exercise to the viewer, please indicate where the Nokia headquarters are in the photo.


Sea view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This is a view from Espoo (Finland) towards Estonia over the sea. This day started cloudy and wet, but now things are looking a lot brighter. The photo was taken with my Nokia E90 phone.

Is photography a form of theater (performance) art?

Looking at some current photographers' art, I feel very strange and awkward. Their photos are based on, for example, light setups, dresses, makeup and extensive post-processing of images. This is a way of changing reality or making up a reality which does not really exist.

My attitude towards photography has always been documentary. I shoot things I see (or family members) while walking around with a camera. I don't change things, I just move around a bit to find a good point of view, and sometimes I wait for the clouds or sunlight to be nice in a photographic sense.

But it seems to me that the biggest trend in photography right now is performance art, or a kind of exhibitionism, where the point of photography is to create a popularly interesting version of reality.

And I suspect that in this kind of photography there is a connection to the paparazzi photos of Paris Hilton etc., but I'm right now unable to put that in writing. A way of posing to the public, perhaps?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pixel-peepers and tech enthusiasts

I read through two excellent essays on reviewing cameras at Luminous Landscape: The Case of the Nit Picking Pixel Peepers and Digital Bridge Cameras and Cognitive Dissonance. This is a quote from the latter essay:

Here’s the thing: of much greater importance to photographers than whether one there’s a few lines per millimeter difference in resolution between one lens and other, or if there’s a bit more chromatic aberration on a particular digicam than in another model, is how well the product performs its overall job, and why and why not.

I believe I have looked at these essays previously, but not really thought about the message. Maybe I'm now a bit more experienced, and I feel there is deep truth there.

As an aside, when I bought five years ago my Ixus 400, I looked at lots of reviews, but what finally decided me was the convenient size and easy handling plus reasonable good performance and image quality. And it was not a bad decision, although the camera is a compromise in many ways. But it is a good compromise.

Coming back to camera reviews, I'm quite eagerly browsing through them, hoping for a camera which would be a similar good compromise, with a slightly more advanced feature set, better noise characteristics, and the same or better durability and handling as Ixus 400.

The current best compromises seem to be Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. But I'm still waiting to see what Canon has to offer this autumn. I have been a happy user of my Ixus, and thus I'm reluctant to switch to a different interface and handling, with all its familiar quirks.

A gift of color

Sunflowers, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We got some sunflowers as a gift, in addition to lots of apples, potatoes, carrots etc., thanks to a fruitful summer. I took a photo of the sunflowers, they were so pretty.

Walk around the neighbourhood

Park view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a nice day, no rain (so far) even though the weather forecast promised some. It has also dried up a bit outside, so walking is much more pleasant than usually during the last few weeks. Didn't have much luck or stamina with photography. This photo didn't have much else than shades of green, so it works better in black and white.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Walking late in the evening

Light, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday we went for a walk late in the evening. I was hoping for a nice sunset and colors to photograph, but no such luck. Also, the limitations of Ixus 400 became quite apparent when I tried to capture the reflection of the moon from a lake.

Not a productive walk in terms of photos, but a nice walk in terms of walking outside in nice weather. There was no rain, a welcome change to the usual weather this summer in Finland.

A bit of (nano)science fiction about cameras and photography

After the previous posting about sensors vs. lens resolution I continued thinking about where the camera sensor technology is headed. We are not yet in nanoscience-level technology here, but I think nanoscience will soon have an impact in cameras.

In contrast to film, current sensors use a deterministic grid-type structure, usually a regular two-dimensional grid of square elements, but in some cases also hexagonal geometry. Does this need to be so?

In film, the photoactive grains are distributed evenly on the large scale, but more or less randomly in smaller scale. In high-ISO films there are both big grains (very sensitive) and small grains (less sensitive), which provides the attractive appearance of the images. This is missing from most high-ISO sensors, making digital high-ISO photos less attractive in the artistic sense.

Would a similar non-deterministic process be feasible for constructing camera sensors? With current state-of-the-art nanotechnology this is not too farfetched. Using chemical and biological processes plus self-organization and such fancy innovations it might be possible to "grow" camera sensors, each one similar at the large scale but different in the small scale (details). Such a sensor could have differentiation (several different types and sizes on sensors), 3D structure, and perhaps reduncancy so that if one element fails it can easily be replaced.

Continuing in this direction, it might be needed to "train" the sensor for observations, in the same way as biological systems learn by adapting to the environment. In fact, it might be possible to continue this learning process while the photographer uses the camera. The sensor would adapt to the photographer, so that it develops a distinct style of its own.

Perhaps there would arise especially advanced and distinguished cameras and photographers which would co-evolve towards a unique peak artistic expression. Like a violin and a master violinist, there would be a photographer and his/her camera.

Well, as promised, this was a science fiction type posting. But perhaps we will see something like this in the future.

Photography - being precise about the unprecise

I feel I have been somewhat limited in my understanding of the how the sensor size and pixel count in a digital camera is related to the properties of the lens. As an example, the statement "6-8 megapixels is optimal for a compact digital camera" is not self-evident, perhaps it is not true at all. Perhaps 10-15 megapixel sensors are the way to go.

First of all, there is an excellent article about sensors vs. lenses at Luminous Landscape. The article is quite technical but rather rewarding, if you are interested in the physics/optics side of photography.

Secondly, at Dpreview there is a long-winded, fascinating and really, really technical discussion on this resolution topic related to the micro 4/3 format of Olympus/Panasonic.

I learned a lot from the discussion, and then noticed that I understood it all wrong - several times.

Especially interesting were ideas about re-invention of the digital camera. Do we really need a mechanical shutter? Why not use an electronic one? Then you could provide a speed of 30 FPS at full resolution. A complete rethinking of a (serious) digital camera is possible, and probably unavaidable, once the new technology gathers speed.

But let us return to the resolution question. What I learned is that the interaction between an imaging element consisting of discrete elements (binning the light into pixels) and the resolving capacity of a lens is a far from self-evident question. There is room for creative/artistic decisions.

An good example of this is the "bokeh" of a lens, that is the patterns of light produced by a lens from subject elements which are not within the focus region. Here you could say that you don't need a big resolution to solve the details, because they are blurry in any case. But the point of a photograph may well be to capture precisely the non-sharp part of the picture.

Thus, photography is not only about capturing a precise image, it is about the relation between the precise and the unprecise. This topic merits some further thinking, I feel.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Not a great advertisement

A little bit broken!, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

In a shop today, they had available a children's drawing toy for testing. But perhaps the toy is not so durable. The text (in Finnish) says "A little bit broken!"

The photo was taken with a Nokia E90 phone. For this kind of observations, a camera phone is convenient.

What should a hobbyist photographer think about Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III? (Or Nikon D3.)

There is an extensive review of the Canon top model at Dpreview. (Already earlier they reviewed Nikon D3.) These cameras are packed so full of features, that for a hobbyist with a point-and-shoot camera (and an old SLR) it is difficult to even think about them.

But when it comes to photography, almost all of those features are irrelevant. When I have observed pros at work, they don't much fiddle with the camera. When the correct settings are in effect, what is there to do than shoot good photos?

Would it be possible for the camera manufacturers to release cameras with less features but good image quality? Perhaps not, because then you would not be able the split your market into segments when you can use the features for differentation.

Could the iPhone effect work in cameras? I mean, would someone release just one camera model with a restricted feature set but top usability where it matters? This company wouldn't need to compete with all the other models in the portfolio, just to develop one model to be as good as possible. Wishful thinking, probably.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A bit of color

Beside a fence, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

The best time of summer flowers is gone here in Finland, and there are less and less bright things outside in nature. But a red fence around a park provided some refreshing color to the scenery.

Rainy day - again

Snail climbing up, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

It is still wet in Finland. This handsome snail was on the way upwards in a nearby grassy meadow. We are getting used to the wetness, but I hope it dries up at some point.

Earning money out of photography

Within a month, I have written two columns about photography. The first appreared (in Finnish) two weeks ago, and the next one is scheduled to appear in two weeks or so. The publication in question is a professional IT magazine, not a photography or hobbyist journal.

So, if you think about earning money in photography, perhaps the best way is not by taking photos but by writing about taking photos.

Well, the above was more of a joke than serious thinking. In any case, my obsession with photography has not diminished since my summer vacation ended, so there may be something longer-lasting in it. In fact, I have already drafted a couple of more columns on photography, perhaps there will be possibilities to publish also them in a magazine.

On the other hand, I haven't yet decided on buying a new camera, although a couple of times it has been close (Panasonic LX3 and Sony W300 are tempting). I'm still waiting for the ultimate compact camera with serious image quality.

Perhaps such a one will never appear, though. Well, in that case I'll continue using my Ixus 400 for five more years, I guess.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Missed opporturnity

Wasp meal, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This photo shows an apple tree (in a park) where wasp were eagerly visiting half-eaten apples. I took a dozen or so shots until the wasps got the best of me and I decided to leave. But the autofocus (and the tiny 1.5 inch LCD) of my Ixus let me down. Only this photo was somewhat in focus, but it was far from the best in terms of content. Well, perhaps it is possible to try again.

Goat moth

Nice to meet again! This butterfly is known as the goat moth and carpenterworm moth. (Goat is a reference to the smell of it.) I have seen a caterpillar on three separate occasions, and each time I have taken a photo. This is a long-lived butterfly, as the larvae often live for up to five years before pupating. I was thinking about putting my finger in the picture to show the scale (it was about the size of the little finger), but decided not to because the caterpillar can bite quite hard.

Repelling droplets

Peeking under, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This seems to be one of those days when there is not much energy left for photography. The weather continues cloudy and rainy. I went outside for a short while, but of the couple of dozen photos only one was more or less ok.

The new (Photoshop) reality

NYT has an article titled "I Was There. Just Ask Photoshop." about manipulating personal photographs to define your own reality: "As image-editing software grows in sophistication and ubiquity, alterations go far beyond removing red-eye and whitening teeth. They include substituting head shots to achieve the best combination of smiles, deleting problematic personalities or adding family members who were unable to attend important events, performing virtual liposuction or hair restoration, even reanimating the dead. Revisionist history, it seems, can be practiced by just about anyone."

I haven't yet done anything like this, except for cropping, adjusting the color balance and/or brightness, and cropping photos. But there is a temptation, I admit, of using photos as a flexible medium, where you can create a reality as you would like it to be.

Rainy day

Dripping, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday was so wet that every place outside was dripping and covered in waterdrops. The rain was not heavy but it was steady, small waterdrops falling all the time, a bit like inside a cloud, grey and moist.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Reaching, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Cows eat almost anything, not only plants. This one was reaching into trees to get a snack.

What is the value (meaning) of a photo?

Most of my photos fall into two categories: family photos and landscape/nature photos. (There is a third, much smaller category, photos of various things.)

These two categories have been constant as long as I have made photos. (Since being 15 years old or so.) All in all I have shot about 11,000 photos, of which 9,000 are recent, taken with my Ixus digital camera.

When I still used film, shooting a photo was a much more deliberate thing. Often I decided not to take a photo at the last second. Nowadays it is the other way around: taking a photo just in case.

The family photos are personal, taken because of personal reasons. Of the other photos I don't really know how they will survive time. Perhaps I'll decide to get rid of them at some point. Of perhaps I'll save them because of documentary reasons.

In any case, there probably isn't much artistic value in the non-personal photos, at least not so much as to make them worth saving for a longer time. They are more like the practise of writing - scratch pieces which are best forgotten afterwards.

What about other types of non-personal photographs, such as street photography or abstract photography. Would these survive better than amateur landscape/nature photos? Well, I think it mostly depends on the skill of the photographer.

But perhaps photos which have people in them survice time best. In not else, they at least have a documentary function.


Cows in rain, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a rainy day. We went for a short walk at the Espoonlahti nature park, in Espoo by the sea. There were some Finnish cows inside a fence, waiting for the rain to stop.

Do you miss film (cameras)? has a long and sentimental discussion on film cameras titled Film is making me depressed. Is digital technology destroying the skill of photography?

Well, I don't miss film in any way. I like the immediate feedback from the LCD display, and the ability to take hundreds of photos and only use the best ones. In the 5+ years I have been using my Canon Digital Ixus 400, I have taken over 9000 photos, much much more than when I was using film cameras. (At least five times more photos.)

I like the convenience of a pocket-sized compact digital camera, with which I can do a lot, even reasonably good macro photography. And the long depth-of-field is in fact a bonus in most situations, as is the possibility to change the sensitivity when needed. When using film cameras, I mostly used ISO 100 or 200 films, shooting ISO 400 only once or twice (and then getting quite grainy results).

Even though I wish for an even better pocket-sized digital camera, I must admit to being quite satisfied. Thus I no longer want to use the old Minolta SLR.

I miss a bit the manual controls of a SLR. My Minolta XG-1 doesn't have autofocus, only manual, and the aperture-priority exposure needs some skill also. There is some nostalgic feeling in these manual skills. But the pocketability and flexibility of a compact digital camera is a great thing, and I would not like to return to the old.

Good night

Night clouds, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

It is after midnight on Friday - actually, Saturday - and a busy week is behind, the first work week after summer vacation. The walk outside this evening was very nice, because of the nice sunset. Summer is soon ending, but so it goes.

Here is a nice comment about photographers: "Most famous photographers built their reputation photographing near by, what makes you think you should do differently."

Friday, August 15, 2008

One camera - so many different opinions (Sony DSC-W300)

It seems that the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 may be one of the under-appreciated miracles in point-and-shoot cameras. Or then there is something wrong with those who test cameras.

Browsing through the list of camera reviews at Digital Camera Tracker, it seems that every reviewer has reviewed a completely different camera.

Of course, a camera which has a 13.6 megapixel sensor may sound like a sure recipe for bad image quality, but in this case we may have an exception. The camera has a 1/1.7 inch sensor, which explains somewhat the good image quality, but still this is a suprise.

Some reviewers complain about the average or below average picture quality, while others say that this is the best compact camera in terms of low-light (high ISO) capabilities, up to ISO 400-800 and even ISO 1600.

My theory is that this camera separated those reviewers who actually know about photography from those who just point and shoot. For example, Luminous Landscape, dpexpert and Imaging Resource note the excellent picture quality. I find hard not to trust these reviewers.

On the other hand, when a reviewer complains of "darker that average" pictures and gives a grade of 7/10, I very much think that the problem may be in the reviewer, not in the camera.

Even though the W300 has only a standard 35-105 mm equivalent 3x zoom and slow startup and shutdown, these are minor blemishes. Focusing, shutter lag and shot-to-shot speed seem to be excellent. In fact, I must say that this camera got me really interested. The camera seems to be also extremely durable, so it could be a good replacement to my Canon Ixus 400.

Last light

Night feeling, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Another photo from the evening walk today, a macro shot against the night sky. Not bad for a snapshot.


Evening by a pond, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We went for a walk late this evening, and it turned rather nice in terms of photography. Although I once again wished for better low-light performance of my camera, the good thing about Canon Ixus 400 is that it is small and light, and thus easy to take with you on even longer walks.

A shirt-pocket sized point-and-shoot camera is in many ways excellent, especially if it has a fast startup time. With such a camera you can get the photo in most situations, such cameras being versatile from macro to short tele.

A cameraphone may unfortunately be not speedy enough - at least in my Nokia E90 the camera function takes quite a while to start up, and there is a terrible focus lag (can be several seconds).

Nokia E90 photos are good in good light

Walking bridge, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This photo shows that in a good light, photos made with the Nokia E90 phone are quite good, at the 3.2 megapixel level. Despite usability problems (focusing takes time etc.) the camera can actually replace a point-and-shoot camera in some situations.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bright vs. dark

After rain, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We had quite heavy rain and wind today in the Helsinki region. There were also a lot of impressive cloud formations.


Storm coming, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This photo was taken with a Nokia E90 phone. The light was challenging, and the result is not altogether satisfactory, but not impossibly bad either. The different shades of blue are show quite nicely in any case.

However, compared to a real camera, many more photos fail due to technical mistakes when using a E90. Perhaps this is due to lack of practise, but mainly due to the bad handling of the cameraphone.

Panorama of Laajalahti bay

Laajalahti-panoraama, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I took five photos with my Nokia E90 phone of the Laajalahti bay in Helsinki. The photos were joined together in DoubleTake, because Photoshop Elements 6 didn't manage to make a panorama of the photos automatically.

Considering the typical photo quality of E90, the result is quite nice, which was a surprise.

Waiting for Canon

If Canon obeys the same schedule as last year, they should announce a bunch of compact cameras within 1-2 weeks. Last year the Canon announcement was August 20th. So far Canon has only announced printers and camcorders, so we'll have to see what is coming.

Perhaps thre will be a G10, perhaps something completely new.

The recent Nikon push in the high-end doesn't challenge Canon in the advanced compacts category, and LX3 is a bit marginal from this perspective also. Micro four thirds (4/3) may generate some challenge, but not until some products are announced, and perhaps not even then.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Evening light

Treeline, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

There wasn't much time for photography today, but while walking this evening I took a few shots.

Nokia E90 - so many ways to fail to take a photo

E90-night, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This is the results of merging four Nokia E90 night shots in GraphicConverter and using Auto levels.

It was a surprise in how many ways the Nokia camera could fail in low light, completely unpredictably. Focusing could take ages (and still fail), the ISO sensitivity, exposure length etc. could change randomly without any logic. Etc. Etc.