Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010 - two books ready and finished!

Bench, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

During the long Midsummer weekend, I did a SoFoBoMo mini-project titled Impressions of Midsummer's Eve, of which I posted a separate note. This photo book is also available in PDF form.

In addition, I have finished my "real" SoFoBoMo project. And what is SoFoBoMo? SoFoBoMo is a group event where photographers all around the world make solo photo books in PDF form, in 31 days, start to finish, and there has to be at least 35 photographs in the book.

Making photo books was greatly helped by the experience from last year, when I put together some instructions for later use.

My other SoFoBoMo project is titled Filling the square: play and dream. All photographs are square format (1:1 aspect ratio), taken between June 5th and 22nd. In all there are 68 pages in the book.

Here is a quote from the introduction: "Picturing the world in a square. Mostly landscape and nature photography, with man-made things thrown in. I have divided the photo book into seven chapters, each of which consists of a few images which together build a bigger picture."

I used the hint from last year to output a 172 megabyte PDF file from Pages, and distilled it into a 6.2 MB final version which is available at the SoFoBoMo site.

It took only a couple of minutes to make a Blurb version of the book, outputting the pages at 300 dpi resolution jpeg files and using a full-bleed layout. I used last year SoFoBoMo photobook as the starting point, otherwise this would have been much harder. Originally I didn't even remember what software you need to use with Blurb, and I needed to download a new version of BookSmart to get it to work.

I ordered one copy from Blurb, to see how it turns out. This time I used thicker paper than last year, to make a better visual impact.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Walk at noon

Tiles, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Boloria selene, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Hay, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Water play, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

These photographs were all taken near noon, yesterday and today. As you can see, it is sunny, and temperature hovers around 24 °C. It isn't too hot for a walk, as there is wind which cools you down (and keeps mosquitoes away).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Impressions of Midsummer's Eve (a SoFoBoMo mini-project)

Midsummer's Eve, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday was Midsummer's Eve here in Finland. I took a couple of hundred photographs and made a photo book out of them, obeying the SoFoBoMo rules. (Make solo photo books in PDF form, in 31 days, start to finish, and there has to be at least 35 photographs in the book.)

The photobook, titled Impressions of Midsummer's Eve, is available in PDF form at the SoFoBoMo site.
There are 52 pages in the photo book, all square format, all straight jpegs from the camera, the Panasonic LX3.

This was a quick job, photographs were taken within a 12 hour period, and the selection and typesetting was done the next day (today) in a couple of hours. There are six chapters, all having a somewhat unifying theme. I used deliberate motion blur in some photographs, otherwise there is nothing too special in them. The book is typeset using two-page spreads, but the pages can be looked individually as well.

Friday, June 25, 2010

After rain beauties

Yellow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

White beauty, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bell, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Modest beauty, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Thanks to Colin for identifying the chive - once again a show of ignorance from me. A useful and beautiful flower, and native to southern Finnish coasts - but often an escapee from gardens as well.

We had rain today, and nature was beautiful afterwards. We run into several unknown flowers - once again a time to pick up a plant guide. The first once is from a garden, the rest natural flowers (or so I think).

When I know the name of the flower I try to name the photographs accordingly, but when I don't, I use names such as 'mystery flower' or 'white beauty'.

Update: The 'white beauty' is Stellaria graminea, a common European flower.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Relaxing at midsummer

Vine, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blue beauty, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Rowan, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We did today some gardening with the wife, planting junipers ('Green carpet'). And went also for a walk. It was a nice evening, temperature at about 24 °C. Tomorrow, some grilling to be done. And I hope there isn't too much rain.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting hotter

Temperature, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Poisonberry, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Silene dioica, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today the day is already one minute shorter than it was on Monday, at 18 hours 58 minutes. So it goes towards Autumn. But temperature is rising, today we will have about 21 °C, tomorrow 23 °C, which is good.

But it is forecasted rain for Midsummer day, when we have a traditional and very popular vacation day in Finland. Typically you grill meat (and even more typically sausages) and vegetables in the garden, and have a nice time - typically there is rain also, or at least it is all too often so.

There are more and more summer flowers appearing. A time to browse the plant guides and try to identify those whose names have been forgotten since last summer.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Square and black-and-white

Ferns, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Maple, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I'm wondering whether going for black-and-white is appropriate today, as we have the longest day of the year, at 18 ours 59 minutes. But on the other hand, I don't quite feel convenient in color today.

Colin suggested trying out black-and-white version of one of my images. I'm no longer (except in very rare cases such as wrong color balance) doing post-processing for my images, so I didn't go back and tweak the image.

Instead, I thought of a new experiment: using the square format (1:1 aspect ratio) together with the "dynamic b&w" setting of the LX3. And I must admit that there are interesting possibilities here to explore. I have found both b&w and the square difficult to understand, so why not to combine the two difficult things?

Coming back to the LX3, Tsarli suggested that 'instead of getting another LX3, why not save it (i.e., baby it) and get a "beater" camera'.

Getting a different camera doesn't tempt, although I admit having some curiousity towards the Samsung TL500/EX1. Getting it would mean learning new ways of operating the camera, and that would take a couple of months. I very much prefer taking photographs with a well-known tool. But I guess there is no hurry to make a decision about getting another LX3 as it seems to be very much in demand still.

But I'm getting some competition, as the youngest daughter wants to use the LX3 as well, shooting a hundred images in one go. Have to watch her.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Nordic Day of Wild Flowers

Myosotis arvensis, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Ants and aphids, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Flower, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This Sunday we have the Nordic Day of Wild Flowers, which aims "to introduce the local flora, promote botanical leisure activities and offer common nature experiences free of charge to all interested in plants".

We went for a walk in a nearby park, and although there were quite a lot of wild flowers, I didn't manage to catch them properly in photographs. You may call a wild one the flower in the first photograph (although it is an old import), but the last one definitely isn't wild. And it was indeed that colorful in the sunshine.

I was asked what settings I'm using with the LX3, and when looking into the camera I realized I had been using "wrong" settings for some time. Namely, saturation was at +1 instead of 0, and i.exposure wasn't off.

Well, today I started using the settings I thought I was using: film mode standard (NR at -2 and saturation at 0), ISO 100, i.exposure off, AWB white balance without tweaking. But looking at the photographs from today, it seems that there isn't that much difference between 0 and +1 saturation. I probably switched to the "wrong" settings by mistake when setting on the 1:1 aspect ratio.

I looked up how many LX3 photographs I have uploaded to Flickr, and there were 7,648 photographs tagged with LX3. So, my estimate of deleting 90-95 percent of photographs seems to be true. (Of course, I don't upload all photographs to Flickr, family photographs for example.)

Help on identification - butterfly and white stuff on alders

Butterfly, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Alder, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I'm rather bad at recognizing species and natural phenomena. Here are two examples of my ignorance, a beautiful little butterfly, 2-3 cm in length, and some white stuff which is appearing on the branches of alders. Help very much appreciated.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dangerous fugitives? - Aquilegia and lupin

Aquilegia and buttercup, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Aquilegia, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lupin, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Thanks to John and Markus for the help on identifying the aquilegia flower, much appreciated. Today I found out some more escapees from gardens, not far away from home. These were differently colored than the first ones.

What we are wondering with the wife is whether, if you collect and plant the seeds, the next generation will have similar or different flowers than the original ones?

Here in Finland we have quite a lot of plants which have escaped from gardens to nature. Some are beautiful, such as aquilegia and lupin shown here, but some are quite harmful - invasive alien species - replacing native plants and destroying parts of the environment. Some say that lupin is such a species, but I like it.

About workflow - or, how to process 100,000 photographs

Road, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lychnis viscaria, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Wild strawberry, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

As I wrote here on Friday, I have taken over 100,000 photographs with the LX3 which I bought in September, 2008, just after it became available in shops.

I was asked about the workflow: how I process hundreds of images daily (well, on the average about 150 images per day). Simplicity, that is the recipe.

In the beginning I was doing quite a lot of post-processing to the images, but I have more or less stopped that since the last few months. Occasionally I correct the color balance (this is often necessary with artificial light), but that is rare. Every once in a while I may change exposure or contrast a little bit afterwards, like in the first image here, where I slightly decreased the exposure to make the image better match the actual situation. But I don't do it often, I try to get the photograph right in the camera.

When I look at some of my older photographs, for example some from 2008, I tend to dislike the heavy post-processing. (There are some exceptions, though.)

Nowadays I transfer the images to iPhoto on my iMac using an usb card reader, and then I go fast through the images deleting about 90-95 percent of them. Then I go through the remaining images once again and delete some more. Then I upload the images to Flickr and name them there.

Below you see how it looks in the beginning of the process. Yesterday I had 244 images, and of the 28 shown here I deleted all but two.

Although I haven't been buying new cameras all the time, I have had quite a few cameras before the LX3. As I have previously discussed, I'm serious about buying cameras, and do a lot of work beforehand.

My first own camera was a Minolta XG-1, an aperture-priority SLR, but before that I was allowed to use a family camera, a Canon Canonet QL 17 GIII. And afterwards I have used numerous small film cameras, even an APS format camera (does anyone remember that still).

Before the LX3 I had a Canon Digital Ixus 400 for several years, but the lens got stuck, and thus I started to look for another camera. And after checking out the LX3 in a shop, I bought it, even though no "serious" reviews of the camera had been published yet.

Friday, June 18, 2010

100,000 photographs taken with the Panasonic LX3 in 21 months

Buses in Helsinki, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Ladybug, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Red barn, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

My LX3 has now passed the milestone of 100,000 photographs taken. I have taken most of the photographs (well, 99 percent), but the family members have also used it. Our youngest daughter seems to have adapted my way of shooting, "take as many photographs as possible", taking 150 photographs in half an hour a couple of days ago.

I have had the camera since September, 2008, and it has served well. Once in a while I may have been looking at other cameras, especially the mirrorless 4/3 system, but I have realized the LX3 works better for me, when factoring in the pocketability and versatility.

With the LX3, I can take closeups, landscapes, family portraits, whatever is needed. Well, the zoom range of 24-60 mm does limit a bit at the long end, but I have found out that I'm using 24 mm most of the time, so it is better this way.

And even though the noise levels do go up after ISO 200, I can use ISO 400 if absolutely needed. And the f/2.0 lens means that with most other cameras I would need to use a much higher ISO to get similar low-light performance. Even at ISO 100 the camera can do miracles, especially as the image stabilization works so well. (I have managed to catch 1/2 second exposures handheld.)

What I have been thinking recently is getting another LX3 just in case. The price hasn't gone down any, it is the same as when I bought mine. But as there are no better cameras (for me), it would be good to have a spare just in case the current one breaks at some point.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Help to identify a flower?

Mystery flower, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

We found this flower in Helsinki, on the Malminkartano hill, and have no idea what it is. Anyone have ideas? Maybe it has escaped from a nearby garden.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Preparations for SoFoBoMo (making a photobook in one month)

Rowan, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have continued to think about a SoFoBoMo project, shooting square. But I need to find something else than just the 1:1 aspect ratio to provide a unifying theme.

I have currently 206 square format photographs, taken between June 5th and 14th, so there is plenty of material for a SoFoBoMo book. But I'm not yet sure whether this material provides a basis for a book of photographs. It may be enough.

I have been reading Milan Kundera's essay collection L'Art du Roman, which discusses the art of writing novels. This little book contained some thoughts which seem to apply also to photography, at least in an indirect manner. This crossing of disciplines may not be so surprising as Kundera was a composer before turning to writing. Perhaps I may even be able to use in the SoFoBoMo book some of Kundera's number-based principles of composing. Have to see.

In any case, it is now much easier to do such a book than last year. Then I didn't have any experience of using Pages as a typesetting tool, and there were all kinds of problems in post-processing to get the right kind of PDF output (small file, good quality). I even managed to make a printed Blurb book out of the project with relatively little extra work, which is useful to know in advance in case the book turns out ok (or turns out at all).

Well, this may be of use to someone else as well, so here is a collection of links to various hints on making photobooks:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Walking at Tremanskärr marsh

Ferns, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Geranium, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a wet day once again, and a cold one, but we went for a walk anyway, to the Tremanskärr marsh area nearby. Here are two photographs taken there, showing both the lack of bright light, and the deep colors due to the wetness. There were a lot of mosquitoes, and thanks to the wetness, we will probably get even more of them.

Update: Dpreview has made their evaluation of the Sony NEX-5, recommended reading. My previous doubts about the camera seems to be confirmed: "... its small, sleek, well built body contains one of the strangest interfaces we've encountered in a long time. The images are up with the best in its class but the user experience is disappointing."

On the other hand, Luminous Landscape gives the Samsung EX1 (TL500) a quite positive review. (They misspell the name as EX-1 occasionally, though.) It seems that this is a camera worth checking out. Maybe not an LX3 killer, however.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Fence, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Wall, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

As you can see, I'm continuing with the square format when taking photographs. I have a feeling I'm starting to do a little bit better than previously, but can't be sure. But looking at the world using a square has some freshness, so this seems to be a worthwhile experiment. Perhaps even a SoFoBoMo project, but I hesitate to commit fully yet.


Frog, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Wet, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I rained quite a lot yesterday, and it was so dark I had problems getting sharp exposures. Should have taken the mini-tripod with me when going for a walk in the rain. In any case, I managed to catch the frog with 0.5 second handheld exposure. Are you able to spot him/her in the photograph? The second photograph was easier, 1/6 second exposure, no problem with the LX3. Because of the dense cloud cover, there was an strange coloring in the landscape.

Happy birthday, Helsinki!

Helsinki, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Helsinki, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today is 460th birthday of Helsinki, celebrated in rainy, cold and windy weather. Here are two images from earlier this week, providing somewhat more sunny view of the city.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More squares

Lobby, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Rowan and oak, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Beauty, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Continuing the square SoFoBoMo theme...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Going square for SoFoBoMo 2010

Boards, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Calla, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Geranium, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have been complaining about how difficult the square format is, so perhaps it is time to do something about it. I decided to try taking photographs for one month using squares, and if all goes well, perhaps even making a SoFoBoMo project out of it. It is very different to crop afterwards that to compose directly in the square format. Or so I think.