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Quick Post on HDR

I wrote this on high dynamic-range photography for this poll, and wanted to share it with my readers here:

I’ve seen good uses of HDR (which is actually compressed dynamic range, just not called that). But I don’t like when the sky looks darker than the land–it’s unnatural; not even what our eyes see.

I had a shot recently (RAW of course) which I turned into this; no HDR needed. You can do plenty a polarizing filter (though I lacked one), curves, dodging, and burning, and it’s easier. What I’d like our budding photographers to think of, is that if you want to make a dark patch of ground bright like the sky, it’s going to look fake and shoddy. There’s a reason your subject is dark. If the scene is so contrasty that your subject goes pitch-black when the sky is a moderate blue, your shooting in the wrong light. Instead of trying HDR, try coming back in the evening.

Though cluttered (scroll down), this is a good article on HDR photography. You take several photos of the same (static) scene at different exposures, then blend them together afterwards. You can save them including the full range of luminance values in some editing software, but only expensive monitors can display the high dynamic range (distance between light and dark). So HDR photography we see is just compressing the range to be displayed on our monitors.

The Return + Film is Pointless

I’m coming back. I mentioned way back on the 7th that I had a sore throat, but was recovering. That turned into a cold; I’d recovered by the 11th, but on Wednesday, March 12, I woke up with an awful sore throat, headache, and fever. Two days later, I noticed the white patch at the back of my throat, so Dad took me to the doctor (it’s expensive without health insurance), who proscribed one gram of amoxicillin (a sister of penicillin), twice per day. He assumed it to be strep throat, skipping the test. My Grandma notes how large the dose is; it’s interesting to read that doctors now proscribe super-doses to everyone because the bacteria has mutated, developing antibiotic resistance from decades of being slaughtered. Obviously, this can’t be a long-term solution, as just like with the Borg, the enemy’s adaptability requires an ever-changing attack strategy.

I’ve been on antibiotics since Friday; I wasn’t well enough to go to school today (Monday), though. The white patch is down to specks, and it hurts less to swallow, so I’m targeting Wednesday to return (no classes on Tuesday, though I’ll miss work). No school missed last week, because it was spring break. But plenty of lost money and grades. Instead of studying, I spent five days suffering on a couch, watching the shameful wart that is network television, sipping from a bottle of dry ginger ale when the pain of dehydration would surpass the pain of swallowing.

I’m thinking I’ll get a B in photography class (there’s no formal feedback, though). I need Monday to develop film and print, but missed today, and my teacher said I was below the standard last week because I developed one roll of film instead of two. Apparently it doesn’t matter that the roll is 36 exposures instead of 20 or 24, or that I put time and/or creativity into each image instead of shooting three dozen images of a tree. I’m so glad I’m not going into photography as a career. Not in the neo-traditional, professionalized sense. Or perhaps, I should trudge through the program, commanding worship and respect for graduating from a community college. Then, I can open a studio, get a little plaque saying I’m a Certified Professional Photographer to hang on the wall, and then print up plain-white business cards saying that I’m a qualified professional photographer and imaging specialist. There will be no images on the cards, of course. That would be unprofessional. There will only be promises of terribly professional conduct.

What I do hate most, is being told that film unlocks my creativity. It’s a lie. It LIMITS my creativity. If you use it, you’re being held back, too. It’s terribly expensive, dust-prone, time-consuming, et cetera. Non-zooming (prime) lenses limit your creativity too. Not doctoring your photos in Photoshop limits your creativity. But we’re fed the same rubbish argument from higher math: “it teaches you how to think.” Would we put up with four years of classes of brain-teasers? If any subject does anything, “teaching you how to think” needs to be secondary, lest the whole thing be a diversion. When Jefferson proscribed reading, writing, and arithmetic, he didn’t mean algebraic theory and calculus.

So how do they say film teaches us to think? First, we’re forced to learn the basics of metering, aperture, shutter speed, etc. Then, we put more time and thought into our compositions, because of the terrible expense of film. This logic is putting the cart before the horse. It’s like trying to first learn the alphabet backwards so you’ll be more prepared to learn it forwards. What we need to do, is to take a ton of photos on a digital camera (even a cheap one), without reading dozens of technical pages from textbooks. If we’re making our photos horribly blurry, or overexposed, or off center, or there’s a trash can in the background, we see it right away and correct it, and from practical experience comes expertise. What could be better for teaching us to think? The professionalized model for “learning” photography is like learning how to drive a car from a year-long technical course. It’s hard to believe that standardized education can make fascinating subjects so boring.

One note on the site: I out-sourced to FeedBurner for my email newsletter, instead of running software on my server. I’m on shared hosting, so this will be more reliable, and free up computing resources for visitors. Sign up today; it’s the same stuff that’s in the RSS feed, which is the same stuff that’s on my website.

School So Far

I was just telling my friend Marianne, over at her deviantART journal, about what I’m up to at school, so I’m posting it here too:

I’m doing great, though it’s a lot of work this semester. Here are the courses I’m taking (6 this time!). I’m in a learning community that covers three courses, continuing from last semester, which is fun despite the high demands. I’m doing Trigonometry and Internet Research (an easy online course), plus my favorite, Photography. I got my film camera today and had it for the class; they let out early though so I’m writing this from the school computers. I know most of the concepts from digital work, except everything relating to film. :silly:

Trigonometry is the hardest because math takes the most effort for me… need to study this weekend.

Speaking of the photography class: I got my camera, a Canon EOS Elan IIe, just today, and was ready in time with 72 exposures of black-and-white film (Kodak Tri-X 400) and the special battery. Today’s weekly class covered a lot of the basics of shutter speed, aperture, focal length, film speed, etc. which I already know, though everything about film was new to me. We learned how to put the film on a spool, and an overview of using developer, stopping, fixing, and washing (we’ll get to do it ourselves next week). I took a photo of two dandelion clocks against the bright sun, like Two of Us Against the World, but with a lot more contrast. Then I took it with my digital camera, and found that I had to go quite below what the light meter indicated, so I likely over-exposed three pieces of film… I was dumb and forgot about the danger of the sun, but stopped immediately when my eye hurt a bit… didn’t damage my vision, fortunately. Let this be a lesson to all of you! If you’re going to have the bright sun in the viewfinder, do it quickly and without looking, or if you must look, get a point-and-shoot and use the LCD screen, so that you don’t hurt your eyes. If the sun is below the horizon, there is little danger, but otherwise, take caution as normal. I got a really great photo though; will be adding it tomorrow. It’s title will be Two of Us Against the Sun Spores of the Sun.

That’s all for now! Glad to see I’ve gotten fifty visitors in the past day; people must be liking my photos and finding my writings informative. :cool:

Adventures in Film

Started my photography class two days ago (2008-01-18). First thing I see entering the class room is a large-format camera mounted on the most impressive tripod I’ve seen; very nice. Shockingly, we’re expected to buy our own cameras and black-and-white film. I did a quick, thorough search online, and settled on the Canon EOS Elan IIe, a 35mm SLR film camera with no lens. It was $70 used, including shipping (paid $5 extra for expedited shipping, so it ought to be here before next Friday’s class). The MSRP was $720 when it was released in 1995, but we can see that has fallen drastically. I imagine my beloved Canon Rebel XTi will be $70 in 2019, if not less.

My main reason for picking a Canon SLR with an EF mount is so I can use my Canon EF 50mm F1.4 lens (photos). I do use it as my primary on my Canon Rebel XTi, though with the crop factor it is like an 80mm lens, but on a full frame camera; in this case, a film SLR with a 36x24mm film, it’s just peachy. The zoom lenses that come standard are more versatile for their variable focal lengths, but falter in low-light and low depth-of-field photography—if I want to take a photo at 50mm with my XTi’s kit lens, I can’t go below F5.0, but with the non-zooming (prime) 50mm lens, I can open the aperture up all the way to F1.4 (though below F2.2, the depth-of-field is generally too shallow). Plus, prime lenses are lighter, cheaper, have better image quality, and, according to some, cutting your zooming potential forces you to be more creative.

Speaking of creativity, we are in an age where it is harder to be creative than ever, with the tools available to most digital photographers. Too many consumer cameras omit manual mode or give too few controls. I started out working with one where I had no control over aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed (!), only auto-focusing, no manual white balance, and while I did produce many of my best images with it, I could’ve done far more far earlier otherwise; even 5-second exposures, focusing closer than three inches, RAW mode, etc., were not options. While I keep my DSLR in shutter-priority mode with auto-focusing for quick shooting, it falls short often; all auto-exposing systems want to make everything look gray, including snow, a bright sky, or scenes dark with shadows. Cameras do not know where to focus; if I place my subject in anywhere but the center, my friends become a blurry blob while beautiful trees get razor-sharp clarity. Switching to a different focus point is quick and easy, but in digital compacts it is painfully hard, or entirely omitted; then you have to put the subject in the middle, half-click, recompose, and shoot, which takes too long. Don’t even try it on a cell phone camera. It’s good to take a film class cuz they’ll force you to learn all that stuff, and you’ll be using a camera where it’s all available. I’m in it more for film and film processing, as I know nothing about that (good stuff to know so I can sound like an expert, ha ha).

In twenty years, 35 millimeter film will be a relic of the past for still photography. Medium and large format film will stick around much longer, as they will continue to outstrip digital cameras in clarity and resolution. Perhaps the megapixel war will be over (it ain’t yet), and we’ll be junking our silly rasterized cameras for infinitely scalable, automated vector photography. We’ll have flying cars too.

Speaking on my website: if you haven’t been here in a week, you’ll notice that the author line below each post has spiffy formatting. It’s now a dynamically-compiled sentence with the author (I’m richardxthripp), time of posting, categories, and tags. Had to change my WordPress theme to use ISO 8601 date formatting. Get used to it; we’ll all be writing our dates like this, soon as we switch over to metric and start using Oxford spelling. All the times are UTC, which is five hours ahead of local time (North American Eastern Time), and four hours ahead during that pesky Daylight time. I do show the local time that each of my photos was taken at; look for the data line below the sales pitch.

The same fancy line appears on the printable view of each page (which has been moved to a gray-text link at the bottom of each entry). I use WP-Print for those pages; I could use a special style-sheet for print, but it’s more work, and I wouldn’t get that pretty list of links at the bottom. By default, it likes to append a trailing slash to every link: “/print” is instead “/print/”. I don’t understand everyone’s love for trailing slashes on every URI (“URL” is obsolete); I know they’re supposed to represent directories, but all pages are not directories. So, to get it to do what I wanted, I had to edit the source code (there is no option in the user interface). Unfortunate, but not hard to do through trial-and-error.

If you like to read this blog on the LiveJournal or Xanga mirror, all the “add to your shopping cart” links now work from there! I hard-coded my blog’s URI into the YAK source code (the WordPress plugin I use), because before, it was relative, so the buttons would try to take you to the add to cart page at livejournal.com or xanga.com, which obviously won’t work. Other bugs have also been squished. The Printable, ShareThis, similar, next, and last entries links have all been moved to the footer of entries instead of being displayed inline with the text; this makes them clearly separated, gives focus to the content, and saves a lot of space.

There is also a brilliantly simple hit counter on the sidebar, below the ads; it says “You are visitor # 1,190 at thripp.com” right now. You are two visitors if you browser for over an hour, or come back later. This is all thanks to StatCounter; I’m not putting the load on my server. Dedicated WordPress plugins write stats to the database for every visitor; this is awful if you get really popular.

That’s all! I hope everyone is looking forward to the Martin Luther King holiday, which we’re celebrating six days after his birthday, for some reason.

Back to School

My winter break ends tomorrow, when I begin my second semester at Daytona Beach College. I’ll be taking six courses (sixteen credit hours), but three of them are with the same wonderful teachers, and one of them is Photography I, so this will be my most fun semester.

The photography course is in-class for four hours weekly, so I won’t be there till Friday. While I do some black-and-white photography, this course will be mostly black-and-white film. I haven’t worked with film before (only digital and digital editing), so this will be a useful learning experience.

The courses I’ll be in: English II, Humanities II, American Political & Economic Issues, Trigonometry, Photography I, and a one-credit course on Internet research, which is good for my intended majors (computer science, and library science as my master’s degree).

Photography Shop

2008-06-18 Update: There is no more photography shop, so I took away the broken links. Read about why I removed it: Everything Old is New Again.

2008-08-17 Update:: The photography shop is back, reincarnated.

I’ve set up a photography shop here. Took me a lot of time to hash out the technical issues (I’m using yak and WordPress), so I’ve only posted one photo for sale so far. I’m selling 4*6’s only (you’d be surprised how artful they can look), matted on white card-stock. This is different from my deviantART shop, because I oversee the entire production and shipping process (my standards are high), keep more of the profits, and can offer my art at affordable prices. The prints are 95¢ each, plus $1 shipping in the USA, $3 shipping to Canada and Mexico, and $5 to Australia and the UK (no other countries yet). Shipping is flat-rate, encouraging my customers to purchase more of my work.

The shop integrates well with my blog too—I can post an “Add to cart” button right in the text of my entries, as I will be doing for most upcoming photos.

All the payments go through PayPal since that’s simple and easy to set up, though they take a chunk off the top (30¢ + 3% per transaction). Check it out and buy something sometime so I can have more money for photographic equipment. :big-grin:

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