Monday, January 31, 2011

Trouble in Nokialand

Sunrise, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Horizon, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Snow work, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Field, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sunset, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are five photographs taken today, from sunrise to sunset. The first two were taken quite near the Nokia headquarters, though it is not quite visible in the photographs.

Which brings me to the title of the posting, namely that we Finns love to argue about Nokia, and more precisely about who can paint the blackest picture about the future of the company. I guess we love problems...

Anyway, one can summarize all the troubles of Nokia in one word: iPhone. Of course, the situation is more complex, but on the other it is not. There is no longer much room at the top, where Apple is, and definitely no room at the bottom, where the Chinese and Korean are fighting with each other.

A colleague had bought a Chinese touch phone as on "add-on" to his montly mobile data contract, thinking that one wouldn't lose much even if the phone would be crappy. But it was not - in fact, he claimed it was better than any 400-500 euro phone Nokia offers, despite costing only about 100 euro.

So, Nokia is in trouble. The company was doing fine as long as the mobile phone was about engineering - Nokia phones had (and still have) excellent characteristics as a phone. But when software and usability became top selling arguments, Nokia was no longer on a familiar ground. And the big question is whether there is any fresh ground to be found?

Which brings me to cameras, the Panasonic LX3. It is a surprise that an engineer-driven company such as Panasonic can make such a camera, a camera that works. However, I remember being a bit lost when I started with the camera, not realizing that one doesn't need all the options, only a couple of them. After realizing this, using the LX3 was all pleasure.

I suspect that the Olympus XZ-1 may be different, as the reviewers seem to like (and even love) it, despite the camera being quite a complex tool. But it seems to behave simply, just as a good tool should. Yet another argument to try it out...

And speaking about cameras and phones, my Nokia E90 broke just before Christmas, but there was an old one to be had at work as a replacement. It mostly works, despite having some quirks, but it has also confirmed my suspicion that the E90 has the worst camera ever. I thought it might have been just the specimen I had, but this one behaves just as badly and unpredictably. But I have the LX3, so the badness of the E90 doesn't matter much.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Live histogram and other necessities

Blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lamp, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sunny, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Apparently the Olympus XZ-1 does support live histogram display, at least according to the Olympus compacts specification document available on the web (DICompact_specifications_2011.pdf). It lists the histogram as part of displayed live view information. This is good, one of the things I have grown to depend on the LX3, without even much thinking about it.

I think you can guess I'm still debating the merits of the XZ-1. Not yet quite convinced, but on the verge. The lens is impressive, both in brightness (f/1.8-2.5) and the 28-112 mm range. And the sensor seems to be competent, though not perhaps quite as good as on the Canon S95. However, the jpeg engine seems to produce excellent results, and that is what matters for me.

But would the XZ-1 really be a better camera for me than the LX3? That is the question.

Anyway, here are two photographs taken yesterday and one taken today. Feeling tired still.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dance the Night Away

Lamp, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Birch, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pizzeria, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sign, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

View, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I don't feel at all like dancing, but happened to have Dance the Night Away by Cream playing while I was writing this. Anyway, here are some photographs taken today. I'm still feeling tired, I guess it is some kind of flu, causing headache, throat soreness and general fatigue. I hope it goes away soon.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sunset, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sky, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blue, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I planned to write some more thoughts about "intuitive approach to photography", but then I got so tired that the thought just didn't flow. Maybe some of these days.

But in any case, here are some photographs taken today, intuitive or not.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blurred pieces

Road, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Red barn, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Firs, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fir, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Red, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

First, some words about cameras, namely whether a better camera makes you a better photographer. The original posting was by a photographer who had just bought a Leica M9, and this quote is from a response to the claim: "This guy seems to think that the most common technical stumbling block for a photographer is blurry shots, which is ridiculous. Most people, even rank novices, understand that a camera has to be held still, and that less light means it has to be held even more still. That concept, combined with the amazing autofocus algorithms of modern cameras, means that most people can take sharp photos."

Well, my take on this topic is that sometimes you want the blur. See some of the above photographs for some examples, taken today when I was out skiing. And I have never needed (or aspired to) anything like a Leica or a high-end DSLR to satisfy my modest needs.

Another interesting topic is "slow photography", namely a more deliberate shooting style, as pondered in this quote: "Photography is so easy that the camera threatens to replace the eyeball. Our cameras are so advanced that looking at what you are photographing has become strictly optional. [...] What gets lost is the idea that photography might force you to spend time looking at what is in front of you, noticing what you might otherwise ignore. [...] The effort to record everything is vain and soon starts to feel empty."

Well, this rang a bell, namely the title of the my posting from yesterday, Take photographs of everything. I think slow photography does have something in it, something which I appreciate very much. On the other hand, I'm trying to develop a kind of intuitive approach which does not rely on deliberate thinking. There is too much of that kind of thinking needed at work, so to balance that I need to have something else.

So, I didn't really mean that you should take photographs of everything, only that everything can be a thing which looks interesting in a photograph.

Finally, I must note the review of the Olympus XZ-1 at Dpreview. There are some reservations about usability, which only hands-on experience can solve, but the XZ-1 is really something. I haven't yet studied the review in detail, though. And of course this camera won't make anyone a better photographer - but it can be used to learn about photography, of that I'm sure.

One further matter, a response to Sven W's comment about "surprise" in photographs, about which he wrote: "Perhaps because a lot of your images are taken in twilight with artificial light present (how it appears to my eyes) or you are using unpredictable techniques like motion blur, that the photo becomes a surprise?"

Indeed, artificial light or motion blur are sources of surprise, but this is not all. Often the little details matter, for example how a certain texture shows up in a photograph, how a thing is cut at the border of the photograph, and the overall relations of the elements in the final photograph. Often there was something of which I was not consciously aware when I took the photograph.

I tend to shoot intuitively, trying not to think too much, reacting before the brain has time to catch up, so there is often a revelation when looking at the photograph: is this the reason why I was moved to take a photograph?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Take photographs of everything

View, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Houses, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Three, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Winter, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Aspen, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blur, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

School, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lamps, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

It seems the discussion which started with "worst photograph" isn't stopping, or at least I can't stop thinking about this.

I was going to write about the topic of "photographs which are your usual style", but then the sentence "You can't photograph everything!" hit me, and I had just to write about this. And in fact, these things are related.

I think (but maybe I'm mistaken) that I take photographs to see how a thing looks like in a photograph. One thing which supports this claim is that I'm regularly surprised by how the photographs look like. Some are very bad, some are not bad, some may be even passable or good, but they seldom are what you expected.

So, my approach is more like "take photographs of everything". And if the subject is everyday and familiar, take a photograph even if you have already take one before. You can be surprised. At least I am, quite often. As evidence I offer these photographs taken today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When it doesn't go on and on and on...

View, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Flowers, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Glass, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Myyrmanni, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Now that I have one good new battery for the LX3, all is not good. Namely, the asymmetry. Today I had one of the old batteries in the camera, and of course it was good for only a couple of dozen photographs. Well, one learns all the time. Maybe I need to get another new one and get rid of the old ones - or try to be more careful about the batteries.

As you can see from the photographs, I didn't get much out today. Well, I hope tomorrow will be better.

I have been pondering - this has now been going on for several days - the comment by Sven W which made me go "yuck" yesterday. It was this bit: "If I believe I've already taken a similar photo and this one is going to be no better than I don't press the shutter."

I haven't been thinking about this at all, but now that I think, I must admit that sometimes I feel that this is a scene I have seen too many times already. But then I take a photograph anyway, thinking that there is always something different, something to learn, especially when something is familiar. One has to be able to learn to see known things new.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Where does the yuck come from?

Wire, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Roadside, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fallen, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lamps, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pole, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

House, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Red, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here is one photograph from yesterday and six from today. We went for a walk with the wife. It was a snowy day, once again, and the blue moment after sunset was once again quite special.

I got comments to the "worst photograph" posting, here is a quote from Sven W's: 'Post-process your photos to improve them (minor changes, don't attempt a "rescue mission"). The process of thinking through the edits should improve subsequent photos.'

I don't know why but I got a shuddering feeling when reading this - "yäk" is the word in Finnish, I guess "yuck" in English. And then I started thinking why it is so? Maybe it is that I just have too little skills of using iPhoto, Photoshop, LightZone, and the like. But I have spent some time with these programs, during the years, and can do stuff - I just don't want to.

Maybe the explanation is that I have fun when taking photographs, and I don't have fun when doing stuff to them on the computer. One reason for this is the exercise: I go for a walk (or skiing or ...) and take photographs on the go. And this you can't do while using the computer. I guess I just need to get out and get physical.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black woodpecker and other activities

Black woodpecker, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Star, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Birches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fence, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Branches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Twigs, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Blurred, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

When going for a walk we heard quite a racket, and it didn't take long to find the reason: a black woodpecker was eagerly searching for food. And there were signs of her work visible elsewhere as well, for example in the second photograph.

I have been exploring motion blur quite a lot recently, and not only because the dimness makes sharp photographs hard to take these days. Here are some specimens - the last two are a bit different from the usual, having much more blur. I'm not sure whether I like the painterly effect, but this may be worth exploring as well.