Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Visiting lake Myllyjärvi (and thinking of filters)

Tracks over lake Myllyjärvi, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sunshine on a dark forest, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Hut, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sunny, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Last summer and autumn our family visited often the nearby forests and lakes. One of the nicest places was lake Myllyjärvi, which is nearby the much larger lake Bodom. (There are several other lakes with the same name, "Mill Lake", here hearby.)

Today we went there again, to see how spring is progressing. It is nice that the light now lasts longer during the evening, thanks to the daylight saving time.

It was very difficult for me to select which images to keep. (Usually I delete 90-95 percent of the images I take.) Also, it was even tougher than usual to select my favorite. Anyway, here is a story in photographs of the visit to Myllyjärvi. Can you guess which of the four images is my favorite? (The answer comes later.)

Today was a day for enjoying the sunshine. The snow made everything really bright, so that occasionally it was difficult to keep the eyes open.

I'm nowadays rather used to taking photographs of snow, usually managing to make a good job of it. The real-time histogram information on the LX3 is useful for this purpose, making it easy to get the exposure you want.

As a sign of spring being nearer, I today modified my basic settings on the LX3 so that it no longer has +2/3 EV exposure compensation as standard. I realized I had to turn down the compensation more often than not, as there is less and less snow in the landscape.

Last week I ordered a ND8 filter to be used with more available light, to be able to do long-exposure photos (and to be able to use larger apertures, all the way to f/2.0, for controlling DOF). Now I'm starting to realize I need two filters to do what I really want (to do motion-blur photograph), or to get a ND64 filter for cutting down the light by a factor of 64. With this filter (or two ND8 filters) I should be able to use exposures at the range of 1/10 to 1 second.

But the ND8 filter will probably be handy anyway, as it allows the use of f/2.0 in most situations. Today I had to use f/4 or even f/5.6 to manage exposure at the fastest shutter speed of 1/2000 s.

Yesterday, when the light was flat, I experimented with post-processing. Today there wasn't much need for that.

And what was my favorite image? It is the second one here, "Sunshine on a dark forest". For some reason this image talks to me in a mysterious voice.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Experiments in post-processing (preparations for SoFoBoMo)

Brown and round, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Red berries, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Brownish plastic bag, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Usually I don't do heavy post-processing to my photographs, trying to maintain a natural look. But recently I have started to do some experiments with more dramatic post-processing. Often I haven't really liked the results, although the images may have had more impact than the original ones.

Today the conditions were such that all images I took were more or less lifeless, so I had to do something. After some experimentation in LightZone, it appeared that increasing the local contrast and selectively brightening the colors made the difference from flat images to moderately lively images.

Here are three such images, all processed approximately the same way, although the final "heaviness" of the processing changes from image to image.

One reason for this experimentation is to explore the limits of what I'm ready to do with my images. In the SoFoBoMo project I think some post-processing is needed to get the impact I want, and thus I need at least a rudimentar grasp on what is possible with the tools I have available (iPhoto, LightZone, Photoshop Elements etc.).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dreaming about SoFoBoMo

Bud, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Three curled, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Drop, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Last night I had a dream about photography, something perhaps connected to my planning for SoFoBoMo '09 during the last few days. In the dream I discovered an idea for a series of photographs, being very satisfied with it, thinking that this will raise a lot of questions and thoughts. But after waking up I had no idea what the photography idea was.

The subject of raising questions is nicely discussed in an essay by Rodger Kingston at The Online Photographer: "By progressing through [...] photography’s Grand Masters, he presented a self-contained universe that answered most of the questions that it raised. [...] I looked for striking images by unknown photographers as alternatives to prints by the masters... From the very beginning these photographs answered far fewer questions than they raised."

This is very interesting to think about, especially these days when we have millions or even billions of images available for browsing on the net. There must be "a long tail" of exceptional images, raising questions in the minds of the viewers, but it also seems improbable that these images will ever get a wider recognition.

If I can be said to have a style (or attitude) in photography, it centers around the everyday and the common, those things which are around me but which are hard to notice despite being worth noticing. I can't help pointing out here to Mark Hobson. He has written about this much more eloquently than I can, starting with "photography that aims at being true, not at being beautiful".

I don't have is the skill to make images as deep as Hobson can, but at least I can try to capture a small corner of this world in my images. Also, what I don't have is the seemingly unstoppable attitude of his, never doubting, never ceasing to produce.

I'm having doubts all the time, and seeminly more the more I take photographs. In fact, some of my earlier writings here at Light Scrape seem embarassingly righteous. But that was the arrogance of beginners.

Here are three images from today, all showing some aspect of late winter and early spring. It has been a warm and wet day. It seems that the fresh snow - over 10 cm of it - which we got yesterday has already almost disappeared.

Update: Earlier this week I was planning to celebrate the 666th posting some way, for example by blogging about EVIL cameras (electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens), or trying to make an image fitting the number. But somehow I forgot all about it, and so we are here, at posting number 666 without ceremonies. Well, perhaps better this way.

Actually, one little evil detail: Blogger apparently miscounts the number of postings, as the number it reports is higher than 666. This is probably due to some deleted postings. No censorship, I just happened to make a couple of duplicate postings which I removed.

Update 2: Thinking about milestones, I realized that there was another which just passed: I got the Panasonic LX3 in September 2008, half a year ago. So far I have taken 36,977 images with the camera, and it has been a great pleasure to use. Some things are a bit difficult, such as coping with high dynamic range situations, but that is the same for all digital cameras.

I'm still pondering the promise of micro 4/3 cameras, the Panasonic G1 and GH1, but I'm not yet quite convinced of their usefulness. But with the 20 mm f/1.7 pancake and the 45 mm f/2.8 macro lens these cameras might be really good.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A lot of new snow

Tunnel under snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pine branches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Wet, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

It started snowing today, and it seems that it will not stop soon. I was quite tired and didn't have a lot of interest for photography, but while walking outside I took some photographs nevertheless.

In the first image there is a long windy tunnel under the snow, some small animal has been active there. (I wonder what animal it is.) In the second image I have once again a tree, this is at least practise for SoFoBoMo. And in the last, and interesting combination of wet and dry. Some snow was falling on top of a pipe, and it was melting there.

Update: Now that spring is (slowly) approaching, I'm starting to realize how very different the winter time was for photography. But I think it was good to go on taking photographs.

A Finnish nature photographer whose blog I like, seemed to almost completely stop taking photographs during the winter. (He has started up again now.) I feel he may have a bit of a problem in starting again. At least I would after such a pause.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Further thinking on Ba for photography

Thorns, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Red and yellow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I read some more information about the Ba concept, of which I posted some preliminary thoughs last Tuesday.

This is a nice posting about Ba, from the software development perspective, but I think it applies to photography as well. The posting offers yet another attempt at defining the concept: "Ba is the place (context) in which (a) the tacit knowledge is converted, and (b) the place (context) that invests the team with the ability to make creative discoveries of new products." (Here is another source for information on Ba.)

I'm thinking that SoFoBoMo '09 might be a Ba, which provides a context (making of photobook) for a team (a huge team in this case) for sharing a wide variety of skills together to make happen something which has not been done previously.

Here are two more images from today. The first combines warm evening sunlight with blue shadows, the other provides a nice dose of color.

Update: I had a look at my recent photographs, and it struck me how bright they are, compared to those just a month or so ago. The spring is really here. There are so much things to take photographs of that it is almost overwhelming. And this is just the start, soon the spring will really start with flowers, leaves, grass - everything growing. The best time of the year for a photographer.

Also, what strikes me is the quality of the LX3 images. It is quite enough for my purposes, especially now that I don't need to use sensitivies above ISO 100. (Up to ISO 400 was quite ok, but still not as good.) And what is still the best thing about the camera: I can take it everywhere and it is always ready. And with well over 36,000 images taken it is still going strong. There are some marks of wear on the body (the black paint is worn away), and occasional hiccups (although none recently), but everything works usually as well as when the camera was brand new. Excellent durability.

Thinking of the bright summer, I today ordered a ND8 filter to be used for some creative purposes. Namely, I got used to doing motion-blur photography during the winter and something like that would be nice to try in summer also. But perhaps I need two ND8 filters to make that possible, have to see how it goes.

Shooting trees as people

Playing, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Tree with character, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bridge shadow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

The spring progresses here in Finland. As snown in the first image, the melting snow makes ground wet, which is something new for the children to explore. The two other images illustrate my practice for SoFoBoMo '09, my "35 Trees" project.

I pondered a related subject at Andreas' blog some time ago: "Would it be possible to [...] photograph people like trees, or trees like people, cars like bicycles, mountains like flowers, etc. Probably not I guess."

In my project I'm testing out whether it is possible to think of trees as characters, the same way as taking photographs of people. This projects feels a bit crazy, but in a good way, making the project not too serious.

I have several other ideas for a SoFoBoMo project, and in fact when taking photographs I'm starting to think of the images as a beginning to a series. This is new for me - I have taken single images, not been thinking about a collection of them. However, the tree project feels like a natural for me although it remains to be seen whether something suprising happens.

Yesterday I tried making a photobook template in Pages. It turned out that it is straightforward to generate a high-quality PDF file from the program. But there was no apparent easy way of generating bitmap images of the pages for including as full-bleed images to the Blurb (or similar) POD system. Some other software is needed for this conversion.

I'm debating what would be the best size for the photobook. Previously, I made a 7x7 inch photobook with Blurb, and it turned out well. Perhaps this would be a good size here as well. On the other hand, most trees are tall, so a portrait-type book would be perhaps best. 8x10 inches?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

About printed and PDF photobooks

A hole in snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Ducks in water, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I wasn't much interested in photography, but took some photographs nevertheless. Here are two images, showing that spring is progressing little by little.

There has been discussion about photobooks on various forums related to SoFoBoMo '09, especially concerning the prind-on-demand (POD) publishers and their problems in handling PDF files. I'm interested in making both a PDF version of my SoFOBoMo book, and a printed one. And I don't much like the idea of doing the same thing twice, first for PDF and then for POD.

Markus Spring wrote a good comment on this: "So using any page layout software seems the way to go: Checking for the dimensions of the intended book-to-be-printed, doing the layout and exporting the pdf, and later on decide about physical printing."

I'm still hesitating between Scibus and Pages as my typesetting program. Pages is simpler, but Scribus has already proven (in SoFoBoMo '08) to handle both the PDF and printed photobook. For the POD publisher, I'll almost certain use Blurb, having had good experiences of their quality. (However, that was done using their own software for typesetting.)

Update: The column I wrote about photography in public places appeared today (in Finnish, Valokuvaaminen sallittu, kiitos!). It remains to be seen whether that generates any discussion on the topic.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

506 photographs - and an idea for a SoFoBoMo '09 project

Trees and snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Open fire, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Big stones, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Once again, we had a bright spring day, a lot of sunshine, and a blue sky with occasional white clouds. There is plenty of snow still left.

We went for a short excursion to lake Kaitalampi, which looks now quite different than during the summer and autumn. But it is a beautiful place also in winter, perhaps even more beautiful than in summer.

Here are three photographs which I took at Kaitalampi, each of them illustrating some aspect of the day. All in all, I took today 506 photographs, which is a lot for me, but I didn't get too tired from this. Apparently I'm back to normal after the flu - a week ago I was not able to such much outdoor activities as today.

Also, I started to think about Solo Photo Book Month '09 (SoFoBoMo). My original idea for the project was to take photographs by the nearby lake, which combines both natural and man-made environments.

The idea was to explore the relation of humans and nature, especially related to different time scales: days, months, years, decades, centuries. How the landscape is shaped by humans and by natural processes, and how humans leave short-term marks on the lake.

However, currently I feet that this project is becoming a bit too serious for me, a thing which may not be fun any more. So, I decided to invent an easy and fun project, which could be a warm-up exercise for SoFoBoMo, or perhaps the project itself.

I have an strong interest in trees, which manifests especially when I have a camera in my hands. So, my idea is to make a photobook of trees, a sort of family album of trees.

To explore a relaxed type of photography, I'll strive towards a snapshot-type esthetics, shooting fast, on the hip if needed, and thinking later if at all. Also, I'm not aiming for a uniform style in the images, but instead towards a family album type feeling, a photo album of trees consisting of occasional snapshots.

I'm not yet sure whether I'll try to take the photographs during one day in one place, or perhaps combine several different environments and weather conditions.

In any case, I'll try to set up some rules of my own which help to keep up snapshot style shooting. As an example, I might set up the maximum time for shooting one "subject" to 60 seconds, or something of that kind.

I have some further ideas concerning this project, for example taking ideas from one of my favorite (fiction) books, a book which affected me deeply in my teens. It gave a voice to silent people, and I'm trying to do the same to trees. But I'm not going to get too serious about this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Photography and ba - is there a shared space for emerging relationships?

Treetops, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Rocks in snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Three icicles, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

First, about these images. Today was mostly sunny, but during the night and morning we got a bit of fresh snow, which covered the ground in places where the old snow had melted away. But the sunshine started the melting process again during the day.

I took a lot of photographs today, about 300, but only a dozen were any good. And most of those were of the children playing outside.

I'm getting good in knowing when to take a photograph [of children] and capture the moment. Of course, having a fast-responding camera (the LX3) also helps.

The images here continue on the same tracks I have been following the last few weeks: black and white, strong contrast, plenty of color (naturally not in the same image).

Now, let us return to the title of this posting. For quite a few years I have been interested in knowledge transfer and knowledge management, for example in the SECI model. I have organized a lot of training event during my work career, and I have a dozen years of experience in management.

Yesterday I started to pay attention to a concept called ba. This is of course not a new thing, but not something I have found relevant previously, until pointed out in a MBA thesis by a colleague.

Here is an attempt at a definition of ba: "Ba can be thought of as a shared space for emerging relationships. This space can be physical (eg. office, dispersed business space), virtual (e.g., email, teleconference), mental (eg. shared experiences, ideas, ideals) or any combination of them. Ba provides a platform for advancing individual and/or collective knowledge."

The ba concept arises from the Japanese work culture, which is much less individualistic than the western one. However, here in Finland we tend to be a bit more "eastern" than in many other European countries, and thus the concept isn't too far away from the reality of workplaces here.

But what is the connection of ba with photography? Well, the acquisition and transfer of skills, especially those skills (tacit knowledge) which are hard to put into words but which can be transferred by observing a skilled practioner in action. "We can know more than we can tell" (M Polanyi).

Ba is a way of overcoming the obstacle of not being able to put into words the things you know. So, in a way it is an attempt at overcoming the claim of Wittgenstein, "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen."

Today I realized that perhaps photography bloggers are building a ba of their own - either to acquire skills which are hard to transfer verbally but which can be approached by practice and feedback, or to transfer tacit knowledge to others and perhaps understand the unknown by themselves at the same time.

I have a great many candidates for such photography bas: Mark Hobson, Andreas Manessinger, Paul Lester, and a multitude of others. Each of them has taught me a great deal of things I didn't even realize can exist before noticing them happening in practice.

Have I completely misunderstood the ba concept when applying it to a loosely coupled community of individual photography bloggers? In blogging there is not necessarily a feeling of "here and now", as the ba concept seems to imply. But still, I have a feeling that blogs can support the creation of new knowledge.

An interesting thing to speculate is whether the following concepts linked to ba have a relevance here: love, care, trust and commitment.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Practice in black and white (and some color)

Duck in water, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Seven birches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Hinge, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a clouded day later in the afternoon, although not too dark. But as there was no nice spring sunshine to take photographs of, I decided to practice in black and white.

Here are two such images, using a tailored setting in LightZone for doing the conversion. It is based on the high-key portrait setting with image-specific changes to how the middle tones are rendered. But I couldn't help posting a third image, a colorful one, to maintain some kind of balance.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More sunshine

Clouds and trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow slope, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Walled, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Spring sunshine on snow, it can't get much brighter than this. Once again we had below 0 °C temperature at night, and warmer during the day. Thus the snow melts during the day and then freezes at night. I took once again a lot of photographs, although we spent less time outside than yesterday.

Here are three favorite image from today, all of which are very familiar subjects for me, but treated a bit differently this time around. I'm slowly starting to understand how to take photographs of snow, and also getting familiar with the bright light. But it has been difficult to adapt to these conditions after the long winter, when there was so little light that I struggled in trying to capture enough of it.

Switching the subject a bit, there has been interesting discussion going on at The Online Photographer about how to earn living as a photographer, for example through a print subscription offer as suggested by Ctein. New there appeared an excellent essay on the topic by John Camp, titled A Life in Art. This was written from the perspective of a professional writer of thriller novels, that is one who earns his living by practising his craft.

It is interesting to look at photography as a professional activity, although I don't have any interest in starting on that path. I understand to some degree the kind of compulsion needed to develop the skills of an artist. The big question is, how can artists and writers earn a living in the drastically changing society of today. How much marketing skills do you need in addition to your art skills?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Goodbye, darkness!

Red barn, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Cage in spring light, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Balloons, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

For sure it is no more the darkest time of the year. Today it was so bright that it was almost painful to be outside, but it was a good pain, and the eyes adapted to the light after a while. We were outside for well over two hours, playing and walking. Here are three photographs from today. I had no interest in black and white photography, today it was all about colors and light.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Post-processing (even though I don't like doing it)

Mark, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bush and reeds, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Reeds and blue sky, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Walkway and forest, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was another bright day, despite the clouds. I took some photographs at Elfvik, by the Laajalahti bay. It turned out that most of the images were flat and lifeless, so I had to resort to post-processing to restore some of the vibrancy and the quality of the light pouring through the thin clouds.

Here are four images, all post-processed differently. For the first image I adjusted the levels in LightZone, nothing fancy, trying to keep the branches dark and lighting up the snow a little bit.

For the second one I once again experimented with black and white, doing the conversion in LightZone. I'm starting to like the software more and more, there are endless ways of finetuning the result, but you don't need to do too much manual work. And I'm slowly starting to get some appreciation for black and white photography as well.

For the third image I increased the blueness and contrast of the sky, and brightened the foreground, once again in LightZone, and increased the overall brighteness a bit also.

And the last image? Here I did quite big and visible manipulation, much more than I'm usually interested in doing. I don't really like images of this type, but for some reason I like this particular image nevertheless.

Update: For some reason I started to think about the arrogance of photographers. Those (us) who take photographs and present them for others to see have a kind of arrogance, pointing out: "I saw this, this is important!" It is a kind of boasting about seeing and capturing - preserving a moment of time for eternity.

However, I don't really feel that I have the skill to see better than someone else. Why I take photographs is for myself: by capturing images I'm able to study what the camera saw, and that way understand reality a bit better. And there is of course the hope that by studying these images someone else might also benefit, not because of some special skill of mine for taking photographs, but because each human being finds value differently in different things, and as there as so many of us, some of my images might actually be valuable to someone.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trees and snow

Clumps of trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Crossing, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a nice spring day, with some clouds on a blue sky. We went for a walk in a nearby park, up a hill where we have never previously gone. During the night the temperature went below freezing, so the snow was quite hard, even after a day of sunshine. I took a lot of photographs, but few turned out any good. But here are, once again, some trees, and also shadow patterns created by the evening sun on the snow.

I have been extremely busy this week, thinking about work even during the evenings. Perhaps I should take even more photographs to escape from work-related thoughts. On the other hand, some things just can't wait.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Melting sea and bright snow

Pieces of ice, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Red and white, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Winter plant, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I had a meeting in Helsinki, and parked the car near Eteläsatama (South Harbor). While there, I took a couple of quick snapshots of the scenery. It was bright, and the sun occasionally peeked between the clouds.

Later today we went for a walk in the nearby fields and parks. It was still bright, and I took quite a lot of photographs of the landscape. Here are two images. In post-processing I intentionally increased the brightness so that the snow became overexposed. I sort of like the result despite in not being "realistic".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Colors or not

Laajalahti view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Framed trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Three birches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have a keen interest in black and white photography, but not skills to speak of. It may be that some essential aptitude is missing, that I don't have an eye for seeing the world - or at least photography subject matter - in terms of black and white images. But colors, that is another matter, I'm usually spotting colors first and only then see the shapes and relations of objects.

Today I once again returned (for a short while) to the Laajalahti bay, where I every so often take photographs. Today was a gray day, and the cloud cover was thick, so the colors were flat and lifeless.

But here are three images in any case, all a bit different from the any previous ones I have taken at Laajalahti. It seems that I'm seeing things a bit differently nowadays. I'm not sure it is a development for the better, but at least there is some change happening.

For the black-and-white image I did the conversion in LightZone, originally I was not planning this, but in post-processing it seemed that black-and-white is the way to go.

Update: Paul Maxim posted a nice tight piece on an important topic, "reality", an how you are not able to claim to represent reality with a photograph. However, I very much dislike the idea that truth (or reality) is relative and that any two claims could be of equal value.

Although philosophically there is no single commonly accepted definition of reality (or truth), I very much believe that some claims have a stronger grasp on reality than others. And conversely, that there are claims whose touch on reality is nonexistent or at least close to nonexistent.

So, returning to photography, I don’t think that any image or a series or images can represent reality (or truth), but I think some photographs convey a little bit of evidence towards an approximation of truth. And collectively these photographs can help us to get a grip on “reality” (however you want to define it) and help us to understand some little part of our own existence.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Slush time

Two chairs, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bus, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Underpass, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a clouded but warm day, and the snow continued to melt. I had a little bit of time for walking around in Myyrmäki, a suburb of Vantaa, Finland.

The day and the place was gray, flat, non-inspiring, but there were some spots of color which I tried to capture with the camera. The two colorful benches in the middle of snow were interesting, but I'm not sure if I was able to capture them well. And then there were buses, it seemed that always when I was near a bigger street a bus was going by. And most of them had at least a little bit of color on them.