Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon: Blog en-us (C) Homer Shannon [email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) Mon, 28 Dec 2020 17:55:00 GMT Mon, 28 Dec 2020 17:55:00 GMT Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon: Blog 96 120 Using a Panasonic G7 for Video Streaming I’ve only occasionally used services like Zoom for video streaming. The photographic quality of the streams I have been in has not been good. The limitations of an iphone or ipad make presenting a nice image while viewing your conference difficult. Due to the covid pandemic, I knew that this year I would be involved in more Christmas videos. Would it be possible to dig into my collection of camera gear and come up with a better solution for video streaming?

My main camera these days is a  somewhat old Panasonic G7. Released in mid-2015, this camera has many advanced features, but it was released before video streaming features became a standard offering in advanced cameras. I checked online to see what was being said about using Panasonic cameras for video streaming. The GH5, the G9 and the G95 seemed to get good reviews for streaming use, but I could not find any reference to using the G7. One of the main issues for non-streaming ready cameras seemed to be “clean HDMI output”. This term references the ability for the camera to output its monitor display without any of the usual camera information, like exposure, battery level, available shots, etc. You don’t want this information included in the streaming output – you want a “clean” image. Apparently, the newer Panasonic cameras can eliminate all this information. It was not clear if the G7 could do this.

My initial inclination was that I could achieve the clean output I wanted by just changing the display mode of the camera. The camera has five display modes, one of which is a clear screen with just the basic exposure information. The exposure information turns off after 5 seconds, and I figured that this would be sufficiently “clean” for my needs. However, while I was looking around in the menus searching for display functions I might want to use, I came across a setting in the Setup (wrench) menu I had never used. On panel 3 of the Setup section is a feature called TV Connection. That item has a sub-menu with a feature called HDMI Info Display (Rec). This is exactly the feature you need. Set this feature to Off. With this option set to Off, all screen information is deleted from the HDMI output. I suspect that if this had been called the “Clean HDMI Output” feature, a lot more people would be aware of its availability.

I already own a 15’ micro-HDMI to HDMI cable and I have used this to display my camera’s monitor onto an HDMI screen, but this is not the same as getting your HDMI input into a computer for streaming. To stream, you need a device called a video capture card. I was unfamiliar with these and spent some time online researching their use, features, and cost. A leading brand is Elgato. Elgato has a range of cards and they cost upwards of $130, which is more than I wanted to spend just to have a couple of streaming video calls. As I was checking prices for the Elgato products, however, I keep seeing advertisements for small devices that look like a USB thumb drive and cost around $10. The advertisements claimed that the devices would stream 1080P/30, plug and play, from any HDMI output into a USB-2, 3 or C port. Really? Ten bucks for the same basic functionality as devices costing over ten times more? It didn’t seem likely.

One of many brands of cheapo video streaming devices. HDMI in and USB out. No software or drivers required.

I browsed over to YouTube and searched for videos discussing streaming. I found videos that demonstrated the ability of the low-cost alternative capture cards and the reviews were good. As long as you are not looking for a long menu of specialty features, the low-cost devices will work and they are plug-and-play; no drivers or applications need to be added to your computer. I purchasing a model called Foxnova. The devices are also sold under the names Forest Flower, Lepiahong, eggday and axGear. I paid $15 with free Amazon two-day shipping.

Using the Foxnova capture card was, in fact, plug and play. Plug the Foxnova card into any available USB port, connect the big end of the HDMI cable to it, and plug the little end of the HDMI cable into the camera’s HDMI port. To test this, you need something to stream your video output to. If you have a Zoom account, just log in and select Host A Meeting – With Video On and your camera’s output should immediately display. At the bottom of the screen are several tools for testing your video and audio inputs. Alternatively, you can go This site has several streaming tools and is a good resource to bookmark if you plan to work with video seriously.   

The camera displaying to Note all the stuff on the camera’s monitor display, none of which is shown in the streaming image. The battery pack is the 8.4v, 3300mAh Traxxas Power Cell.

Once I had the video output working, I discovered that the battery of the G7 gets used up quickly. I would estimate battery life at about 20 minutes for a standard BLC12 battery. This is a problem. The best solution is to use the optional AC battery adapter and power the camera from an AC outlet. I  don’t have an AC adapter, but I do have a Traxxas Power Cell battery adapted to the camera that has 3300mAh and I used it for a 1 hour, 20 minute video without any problems. It’s not clear to me why streaming video runs down the battery so quickly. I suspect there is something in the HDMI interface that uses a lot of power.

On Christmas day we did have several video calls and the camera worked well. The output was clear and (I was told) that the audio was good. There was some difficulty in managing focus. I had the camera set on 49-point focus, which seems reluctant to re-focus during a video session. Later, I tested using eye-focus and I think this is a better option. You can also go for manual focusing and adjust, as necessary. I tested the cell phone Panasonic Image App with HDMI to control the camera, and it works, but I find the application less then convenient to use. Another option would be to use a wireless remote and just give a half click on the shutter any time refocusing is needed. There are a lot of options; you’ll want to experiment and see what works for your situation.

Overall, I would say that the G7 can do an excellent job of providing a clean video stream. You’ll have access to all your lens options and the features of your other accessories. The Photo Style and Filter settings in the camera display the same on HDMI as they do in the camera. So, if want a black and white video, for example, set it up in the camera and that is what you will stream.

This is certainly a more complicated solution than just using the camera in your phone, laptop or tablet, but it does provide a broader range of photographic options and good photographic quality. And, it’s been fun and educational to find yet another hidden feature in this gem of a camera.

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) camera capture card clean clean output foxnova g7 hdmi lumix menu panasonic photography settings video streaming zoom Sun, 27 Dec 2020 03:14:36 GMT
Sewing Machine Upgrades What does this have to do with photography? Nearly nothing. The only connection I can make is that sometimes a thing you hear about seems like a really good idea and you run out pursue it. I’ve done that with lenses that I thought would be fun to shoot with but I rarely use, or a big custom, external battery I built that I’ve needed exactly once, and lots of little accessories that sit in a drawer. The latest episode of this occurred when I “upgraded” my old Singer 403A sewing machine to add some useful features that I saw in a YouTube video; except that they do not work at all. I’m putting the blog here because it can be found and other owners of these old, but still common, machines might find this useful. As for photography, think about that new gadget, you so dearly want, for a while - you may realize you don't need it at all. 

I’m not a big-time sewer. I’m a sailor. That means that occasionally I need to do some sewing and typically I sew things like Dacron sails and Sunbrella canvas. If I had to do a lot of this work, I’d invest in a proper machine like one of the Sailrite machines. But these cost $800 to $1,300 and that’s a lot of money to do occasional work. So, I’ve settled on an old Singer 403A. For the most part, this machine gets the job done even if a little more power could be used at times; it can’t punch through more than about six layers of Sunbrella or four layers of Dacron.

I’ve often wondered if there was a motor upgrade for this machine that would give it a little boost. Despite looking around for a solution, I never saw any options until I watched the YouTube video How to Upgrade a Singer 401a, 403, or 404 Motor Using a Transplant from a Singer 620. In this video, the presenter tears apart a Singer 620 and puts the motor and high/low speed selector into an earlier Singer 401. The 401 and the 403A are essentially the same machine, so I knew this modification could be done to my machine just as easily as to the 401.

In the video, the presenter claims that the 620 motor is more powerful than the 40x motor. Further, she claims that this motor has a “third phase” that allows the motor to operate at half speed but with full power. In a post-upgrade demonstration, she shows how this modified machine sews through twelve layers of denim and thick leather with ease. I was impressed – gotta find a sacrificial 620 and make these modifications!

In the process of finding a sacrificial 620, I started finding more information about this “hack”, which made me doubtful of how valid this upgrade really was. On the question of the motor upgrade, the stock 40x motor is a model PA9-8, which is rated at 0.70 amps. The motor from a 600 series of machines is a PAJ23-9 and it is rated a 1.00 amps. (A note about these motor numbers: They are all over the map and there does not seem to be any resource that definitively states what the power of the motors are or which machines they were used in. I’m discussing the two I got involved with and they seem pretty standard.) An increase from 0.70 amps to 1.00 amps would be a 42% boost in power. That should result in a significant increase in machine power.

The high/low feature, which the presenter claims is from a special circuit in the 620 motor, is even more puzzling. It is highly unlikely that any of these Singer motors have a “third phase”. All these motors are brush-type, universal electric motors capable of running on AC or DC power. They all have only two brushes – one positive and one negative. In the comments section of the video, a couple of posters commented on the presence of a diode soldered to the back of the high/low switch of a 620 machine. A diode constricts electricity in one direction. Placed on an AC circuit, this has the effect of turning the alternating current into a pulsed DC current. This would result in the machine running more slowly, though not necessarily more powerfully.

Armed with this information and a degree of skepticism, I continued to try and find a sacrificial 620. It quickly became apparent that a 620 was not that easy to find but PAJ23-9 motors, available from many of the 6xx models, are plentiful. I gathered some information on an electronics forum that steered me to a diode, Kyocera FSF05A40, I could use to create the high/low feature of a 620. I also purchased a copy of the 620 service manual, which includes some (very rough) electrical schematics for the 620 machine. 

I studied the 620 service manual and came to some conclusions. There were eleven variants of the 620 machine: 620E1, 620E31, 625E1,E6,E7, 626E1,E6,E7 and 628E1,E6,E7. Only the 620E31 has the high/low switch. You can determine this by the fact that the switch for that machine has four leads: neutral, positive to light, positive to motor and second positive to motor with the diode in line. This explains how the speed reduction is accomplished. The part numbers for the motor of the 620E31 are also different from the other models. There is no top-level motor part number described for any of the machines, so it is impossible to tell which, if any, are the PAJ23-9 motor that I ultimately installed. That the part numbers for these motors is different yields credence to the idea that the 620E31 is special but it is unclear what is different about the 620E31 motor other than their component part numbers. It is readily apparent from the parts diagrams that all these motors are simple two-brush affairs and none of them have a special “third phase” winding. The foot pedal of the 620E31 is also unique. It has its own part number and it has a three-wire power cord. All other models have a two-wire power cord. The electrical schematics are too rough to make any further determination as to what purpose this difference serves.

Before making any changes to my machine, I ran some tests. I don’t have any fancy toque measuring equipment, so I had to resort to gut-call measurements based on performance. Using some new, scrap Sunbrella I increased the number of layers of fabric until the machine could no longer punch through the material. This is subjective as the position of the needle on start makes a big difference as to how much fabric the machine can sew. Also, once the machine has some inertia, it can keep sewing even if it could not initially break through the fabric without assistance on the hand wheel. I use the term “stalling” to mean that the machine won’t turn – just hums - without giving it a nudge to make it go.

Without making any electrical modifications, I installed the PAJ23-9 motor. It fit right in and the only remotely complicated part was swapping the worm gear from the old motor to the new one. (As far as I could tell, they are the same gear but it is prudent to keep the old gears, which have worn together, as a pair.)

Here are the results of the two motors:

Layers                                   PA9-8                                                    PAJ23-9

1                                              perfect                                                 perfect

2                                              perfect                                                 perfect

3                                              perfect                                                 perfect

4                                              perfect                                                 perfect

5                                              perfect                          stall, then punched through without assist

6                                              stall, required assist       stall, then punched through without assist

8                                              stall, struggled after assist      stall, OK after assist        

This imperfect measurement seems to indicate that both motors can easily work with up to four layers of Sunbrella fabric. At five layers they both start to have difficulty, though the PAJ23-9 seemed to do a bit better at eight layers once you assisted it in getting going. If the PAJ23-9 motor is stronger than the PA9-8, it is certainly not 42% stronger. I don’t think the motor swap was a worthwhile upgrade.

The next step was to add a diode and see if it would create the half-speed mode demonstrated in the video. The advantage of this mode is that is allows you work very slowly without having to stomp on the control pedal, which results In the machine “running away” once the needle begins sewing. This would be very useful when sewing heavy material that needs two hands to move around the table.

In my research of this topic I began to realize that the type of foot pedal involved might make a difference in whether this modification would work in my case. The original foot pedals for these old machines is based on a stack of carbon disks. The harder you press the pedal, the tighter the stack becomes and the more electricity the stack can pass – this is a very crude form of rheostat. Because this is a crude rheostat, the difference between off and full power is poorly regulated. This is where the half speed feature becomes useful. However, since the 1950s and 1960s, when these machines were produced, low cost, electronic foot pedals have become available, and these produce a nice, progressive control. I have one of these and discarded the old foot pedal years ago. I realized that it is doubtful that the electronic foot pedal would even work with a diode placed in “front” of it, and if it did work, the effect may not be as dramatic as with the old style pedal. Nevertheless, for about ten bucks I was able secure a few diodes that would perform the speed control. I went ahead and tested this.

The diodes I ordered were a model FSF05A40. These can handle up to 5 amps at 400 volts and should effectively half the power on a 120VAC circuit. When these arrived, I sacrificed an old extension cord and soldered the diode into the power side of the cord. In actuality, it does not matter which side of the cord the diode is on, but it must be orientated correctly to the source of the current. I checked this with an incandescent lamp, and yep, when the light is plugged into the extension cord, it only lights up to about half its normal brightness. The next step was to plug in the sewing machine and test it.

To my surprise, the electronic foot pedal is not bothered by the presence of the diode at all. The machine performs perfectly normally except that it only runs about half as fast. But here’s the issue, it also only has about half of its normal maximum power. With the diode in place, the machine could not start on a piece of test fabric I have been using. Once started with the hand wheel, the machine could barely continue sewing. With the diode removed the machine had enough power to sew the test piece and control with the electronic pedal was good enough that a “run away” was not a problem. The presence of the diode is not a significant benefit when using an electronic foot pedal.

In conclusion, my sewing machine upgrade was a fail. The machine is not more powerful and I am unable to get any significant benefit out of limiting its power by half. It’s kind of like the 200mm Takumar lens I have in a drawer. I thought it would be cool to use on my M4/3 camera where it effectively becomes a 400mm lens, but it really does not work very well - its hard to focus and way too slow. Time to put this stuff on Ebay and unload it.





[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) (high/low) 401 403 403A 620 diode electronic foot pedal machine motor sewing Singer switch test upgrade variable speed vintage Fri, 28 Feb 2020 21:11:35 GMT
Advanced Flash Techniques for Event Photography Heading Photo-1dragging the shutter examplephoto of a couple dancing using the "dragging the shutter" technique to create a sense of movement

As the name of my web site implies, I don’t photograph many weddings. I photographed a wedding for a friend, and I photographed the wedding of my son, Carl. This past weekend was the wedding of my son Brad. Brad’s fiancee is friends with a professional photographer, and she was hired to do the job. I wasn’t hurt – it’s difficult to be the father of the groom and be the official wedding photographer. But there wasn’t going to be a second shooter, so I was asked to shoot the groomsmen preparation and, of course, I wanted a few photos for myself. I brought my gear and planned to do limited photography at the rehearsal and at the reception. As it turned out, there was a second shooter, so I was redundant at the groomsmen event, but I went ahead a got some shots there anyway.

The point of this post is to discuss flash photography. With the better digital cameras available today, you can now shoot with such high ISO settings that it is possible to shoot using ambient light in all but the darkest settings, but ambient light does not allow you to control the light on your subject, and if you shoot ambient-only lighting indoors you will not get particularly exciting photos. If you want top-shelf event photographs you must learn to use a flash.

There are lots of videos and articles that discuss basic flash photography, so I’m not going to cover it. I’m going to assume you know the basics and dive into a couple of techniques that can improve your results.

Several things I’ve learned about my gear impact my flash work significantly and they are worth considering with your gear. First, because I shoot a micro four thirds (i.e. mirrorless) camera, I get a three second auto review after every shot. This means that I see every image momentarily after I’ve shot it – no need to drop my camera and “chimp” the image. If my lighting is off, I know it immediately and can correct the problem before the next shot. If I’m working with a flash, I may need to change the output setting of the flash. Or, if the ambient part of the image is off, adjust the shutter speed to allow more or less ambient illumination. Note that the auto review feature has a shutter override, so if my images are good, I don’t need to wait three seconds for the next shot. As soon as I touch the shutter, I’m back in viewfinder mode, not stuck reviewing the image. It’s very seamless and easy to use. It helps you keep your exposure right when the conditions are outside of what auto exposure can be expected to handle. Secondly, my flash has “auto” and “TTL-auto” modes. I’ve learned that auto mode is much better than TTL-auto mode.

TTL-auto is a technology that combines light control in the flash and camera and it will provide excellent exposure control, especially when the subject needs lighting much different from the non-subject area. However, TTL-auto come with three problems: there is a pre-flash for calculation that causes a lot of people to blink – just in time for the main flash, TTL-auto adds about a half second delay to every shot – this throws your timing off with moving subjects, and TTL-auto consumes a lot of battery power - the recycle time on my flash in TTL-auto is more than double than when the flash is in auto mode. So, as you might imagine, I do not use TTL-auto mode. I use the standard auto mode, or I switch to manual mode and adjust the flash output as needed.

The last feature of my gear that that is worth mentioning is the auto eye viewfinder/viewing panel switching. As a rule, I prefer to compose using the eye viewfinder. However, when shooting people dancing or sitting at a table, the ability shoot high, shoot low, or zoom by means of arm extension is useful. With the auto switching feature, as soon as I remove the camera from my eye, the camera’s back viewing panel is activated and I can continue to shoot with all the shooting angle options that are allowed by not needing to keep the camera to my eyeball.

Zoom by Hand-1Couples PortraitureUsing the fold-out rear viewing panel of my micro four thirds camera allows me lower my shooting angle and zoom with my arms to improve couples shots.

If you think that these comments are a sales job for “mirrorless” cameras over “DSLR” cameras, you’re wrong. It’s not intended to be that. These are just features available to me and I've learned to take advantage of them. Still, as I watched the professionals at Brad’s wedding, I did feel sorry for them as they worked with their older Canon gear.

So, let’s get on to the flash tricks that I used at Brad’s wedding.

On the morning of the wedding, I was sitting in my hotel room, which was about the same as Brad’s room where the groomsmen preparation event was going to occur. (This was before I knew there was going to be a second shooter, so I was assuming that I was going to be the only photographer.) I noted that nearly all the light in the room was coming from the window, which was at one of the narrow ends of a rectangular room. This meant that I would need to stand at the window end of the room to get any decent light. Any shots towards the window would be heavily backlit. I thought about this for a while and came up with a solution, which I practiced in my hotel room until I got it reasonably perfected.

Here is the trick. I usually shoot with a Peter Gregg Better Bounce Card. This is a bounce card that attaches to the end of the flash head. The flash head, when used with this card, is rotated ninety degrees and aimed straight up. The card uses perhaps a quarter of the flash’s light to illuminate the subject directly, and the rest is thrown into the ceiling to provide better ambient light. It works well with the flash in auto mode though it is usually necessary to tune your settings a bit for the room and conditions you are shooting. What I did differently for this situation was that I re-aimed the flash head so that the flash was aimed behind me and I switched the flash from auto mode to manual mode. None of the flash’s light was headed directly towards the subject. All of the flash’s light would be coming from the ceiling and from the bounce on any wall behind me. Using the technique, the window light remained my primary light source. If was shooting from the window side of the room, most of the flash’s light was lost through the window - the outside light provided the illumination on my subjects. When shooting from the inside of the room, towards the window, the flash provided a huge, soft illumination from the dark side of the room. In some cases this was not enough to balance the window light, but overall it worked well. I shot in aperture-priority mode with the ISO at 800 and the f-stop at 2.8 to 5.6. I put the flash in manual mode and used its lower power ranges; guide numbers roughly 7 to 28. Due to the extreme lighting conditions I did need to adjust frequently and there were a couple of muffs, but I am pleased with the results.  

Groomsmen-1Groomsmen-1Despite an overpowering backlight from the large window, good lighting was achieved using a backwards-facing flash to flood the room with bounced light.

Groomsmen-2Groomsmen-2The flash power was kept low to achieve a balance of ambient light from the window and bounced illumination from the flash. Groomsmen-2Groomsmen-2Using bounced flash to balance the strong window light, good overall lighting could be achieved.

The other trick for flash shooting was used for the dancing at the reception. Since I knew there would be a professional photographer there, I decided to shoot using the technique known as “dragging the shutter” and let the pro take the standard shots. The technique involves using a very slow shutter speed coupled with the nearly instant speed of a modern flash – typically 1/2000th  to 1/4000th of a second. The key to making this work is that you need to get the camera, without the flash, set up to underexpose the room a stop or two at about 1/6th of a second shutter speed. You can go faster or slower than this to change the effect, but you must be under about 1/30th or you lose the effect. Once you have this exposure determined, fix it in the camera in manual mode. Now you need to add your flash. You can use the auto or manual mode, but I find I like auto mode better. In auto mode, the flash will correct for distance, but it will not change the camera’s settings. This will give you a nice balance of a constant background illumination with consistent, correct foreground illumination. You may need to adjust the flash’s output level to get this right, but once set up you can pretty much blast away. The last piece of this technique is camera shake - this is where the back panel viewing comes into play. Holding the camera away from your body (and often slightly lowered), track the subject’s action. As you depress the shutter, give the camera a slight jiggle. Note that for this technique I usually take off the bounce card and use a bare flash aimed straight ahead. One thing I did not explore was what the impact of image stabilization on these images is. I have always left the stabilization on, but perhaps next time I have an opportunity to shoot a similar event, I'll turn off stabilization and see how much difference that makes. 

The effect of this is that the subjects will be focused, well illuminated and fairly well detailed. There will be some motion blur, notably in their hands. The background will be much more blurred and bright background objects will tend to add lots of irregular color. The viewing sensation is quite dramatic. Even though these are still photos, they have a sense of motion - almost like a very short video clip.

Dragging The Shutter-7Dragging The Shutter ExamplesThese photos show the effect of using a strobe flash with a slow shutter speed and adding in a bit of deliberate camera shake. Dragging The Shutter-7Dragging The Shutter ExamplesThese photos show the effect of using a strobe flash with a slow shutter speed and adding in a bit of deliberate camera shake.

You will need some practice at this to get the technique working for you, and you will find that not every shot is a keeper. Sometimes the blurring is just wrong or a stray hand or body has gotten in the way, but usually at least one in five will come out really well. Adjustments in shutter speed will increase or decrease the amount of blurring. Changes in aperture will increase or decrease the clarity of the background details. Flash adjustments will change the illumination of the subject but will not change the appearance of the background. There are quite a few variable and you can modify any or all of them to your preference. It’s a wonderful technique, and with dancers, I guarantee you will get results that blow away standard frozen-frame photos – even those taken by professionals.

Your camera and all of your accessories are tools. The better you know them, the more you can get out of them. Used to their full abilities, they will assist you in taking better photographs. Dig in and start exploring what your kit can do.



[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) camera shake dragging the shutter dslr exposure eye level viewfinder flash lighting micro four thirds mirrorless panasonic photography rear panel viewfinder TTL TTL-auto wedding window lighting Fri, 05 Jul 2019 23:46:54 GMT
Yosemite Tunnel View Dawn Tunnel View DawnSunrise over "Clouds Rest" in the Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View vista on Wawona Road (CA Rt 41).

OK, I confess it. This is not a “straight” image. This is an image that has been created out of several images and it has been significantly worked on in Photoshop and Lightroom. The base photo is a high dynamic range merge created from a seven shot bracket. (When it’s fairly dark and you are shooting directly into a rising sun, what exposure should you use?) The resulting HDR image was quite pleasing but it had a very boring sky – there were absolutely no clouds on this particular dawn.

I had shot several sky shots with stars in the early morning before sunrise. Although these were not taken from exactly the same position as the main HDR, one image was close enough that I could add it to my image. The foreground was totally black, so adding the stars was a simple matter of putting both images into Photoshop as layers and aligning the mountains, then changing the overlay mode to “lighten”. This allowed the stars to come through to the HDR image but hid all the other dark features of the star image. Some work was also done in Photoshop to reduce a large lens flare and improve the coloration of the sun beams. This created my final image, which I was satisfied with for a while.

I had other images that showed the valley floor with better light and coloration. One of these was from another bracket set taken after the sun had fully risen but before I changed the tripod position. In this image the sky and mountains are completely blown out but the valley has good exposure and rich color. I decided to add this to my final image as well. This image was added as a new layer and a mask was used to “paint” in just a few areas where the forest coloration could be improved. Upon completion in Photoshop, I added a touch of clarity and vibrance in Lightroom and made some minor adjustment brush corrections.

The result of my work is not an honest representation of exactly what I saw on the morning of August 6th, 2016. It is a representation of what I experienced on that morning – the starry sky, the dark mountains, the overwhelming brightness of a rising sun and the shadowy detail of the illuminated forests.

You don’t take this kind of a photo, you make it. I’m pleased with the result. 

Yosemity Gallery 2016

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) dawn hdr lightroom mountains night sky photo manipulation photoshop star trails sunrise tunnel view vista yosemite national park Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:03:38 GMT
She's dead, Jim. I've reached the end of the road with this used Epson 4900 I've been trying to revive. After failing to get more than three colors (out of ten) to print I decided to try and swap the head to the extra head that came with the printer. This other head did not appear to be in great shape, but it could give me some clues as to where my problems are. 

I installed the head easily enough, but after installing it the printer would not power on. This is completely illogical but it happened. I put the old head back in and the printer powered up fine. I tried doing this again following the instructions for entering the code numbers on the head very carefully, but this did not help either. In fact, the software that you use to do this consistently said that the codes I was entering were invalid. I triple checked them, they were correct. It didn't matter - the unit won't power on with the alternate head anyway. 

After reinstalling the original head I went to run a test and got the message "Fatal Error". I powered off the machine and restarted it. I did not get the fatal error, but I am getting an error 1497 - a timing problem in the black in transfer process. 

I don't want to get into this any further. I'm done. Anyone who wants this thing can send me a note and come and pick it up. If no one wants it, it will go to the landfill. 

Too bad. Paul Roark has cooked up a new universal, 100% carbon ink set that will print on glossy and matte papers with fade resistance to over 200 years. That would have been sweet in the 4900.  I will adopt my little Epson 1400 for this ink and be satisfied with prints up to 13" wide. The 1400 does not give me much trouble and with the 4900 gone I'll be getting back a lot of desk space in my "darkroom". 

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) Fri, 08 Apr 2016 19:53:47 GMT
Epson 4900 – More False Progress Just when I thought I was turning the corner and getting ready to put this printer to work, I’ve discovered a failure in my methodology. I now know that all the progress I thought I had made was an illusion. The system is not any better than when I first received it.

Two days ago I removed the print head from the printer. This is actually very easy and only involves removing a dozen or so small Philips head screws. I also removed the selector assembly, which sits on top of the actual print head. The print head was surprisingly clean and passed cleaning fluid through all of the colors except black. The selector assembly still had old ink in many channels, in indication that piezoflush was not getting through from the cartridges (which are filled with piezoflush, not ink).

After cleaning, reassembling, running an ink charge and doing a #3 (strong) head cleaning, I found that I had all ten colors printing when I printed a 10-color purge page. A purge page is an image you print to make the printer exercise all of its colors. It’s basically ten vertical colored stripes with each stripe being exactly the color of one of the channels. As encouraging as this was, I knew I still had a problem. A nozzle test of the printer printed only three colors. The three colors did print perfectly, which is good, but the other seven colors were totally absent. I expected some of the channels to still have clogging, but this should have been indicated by nozzle checks that were partially or mostly present – not missing entirely.

Not knowing the answer to this, I did what I always do – post a question on a forum where knowledgeable people lurk. I posted to both and (Cone Inks). A poster on responded and informed me that the 10-color purge page is not a valid test of the print head. To do a proper test of the channels one needs to run the calibration mode page in the application Quad Tone Rip (QTR). I have QTR – it is what I will use to print with when I get the 4900 running – so I went ahead and printed the calibration page. Oops – the calibration print showed that I only have three channels working. All of the others are out of commission. This validated the nozzle test and proved the 10-color purge page to be erroneous.

So now I know I have a printer with only three functioning colors out of ten. I need seven to do the black and white work I hope to do with the machine. My next step will be to replace the printer head with an alternative that I have. If any of the missing seven colors print, it will indicate that my old head is junk. If only the three current colors print it will indicate that something upstream from the print head, probably the dampers, is out of order. I’ll then need to start swapping the dampers around to see if I can isolate the failed components.

I still have a lot of work to do. The actual parts swapping is not time consuming, but each ink charge takes nearly and hour and #3 cleanings take twenty minutes or so. Add in the time to run test prints and suddenly you have chewed up a good part of the day. Good thing I’m retired!

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) Mon, 04 Apr 2016 01:49:47 GMT
Epson 4900 Day Two - Another Setback No real progress is being made with this printer. I received the new “maintenance box”, AKA waste ink tank and installed it Monday. This cleared the error on the machine and allowed me to resume head cleaning and testing. I got into the Service Program and forced the printer to perform an ink charge, which takes a very long time to run. I ran more nozzle checks and was showing a little improvement. I ran ten purge pages for each color. These are just single pages of JPG images with only one color on them – the exact color of each printer channel. Three color channels, orange, yellow and green will print the purge page properly. All the other colors only print a very faint image or no image at all.

I decided to run another ink charge to see if this would help. However, I got an error stating that the maintenance box was full again and the machine would not run the charge. The maintenance box is not full – I weighed it and it is the same as when it was empty, nine ounces. Some counter in the printer has decided that I need to purchase a new one. I don’t think there is actually any sensor in the tank itself that can determine whether it is full or not. The Epson 4900 Service Program, that was provided with the printer, will allow you to reset a dozen or so function counters. Alas, the maintenance box counter is not one of them.

I’ll have to obtain a waste tank resetting tool so that I can reset and reuse these tanks. I had assumed that a new tank would last a year or two, but apparently not. So, I’m waiting on parts again and spending money on items I did not think I would need to purchase. And, I still don’t know if this printer is going to be able to print with enough working channels to do the work I intend for it. Not good. 

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) Wed, 23 Mar 2016 18:15:40 GMT
Epson 4900 Day One – One Step Up, One Step Back Today I finally got some time to begin working with my new, used Epson 4900 printer. I have a lot to learn about this rather complex piece of equipment and my initial goal was to get the printer printing as well as it did for the former owner. This meant that it would print properly out of five color positions, badly in three color positions and not at all in two positions.

I began by inserting the eleven cartridges that the printer uses. These are currently filled with piezoflush, a cleaning agent developed by Inkjet Mall, AKA Vermont PhotoInkjet. The cartridges are also from Inkjet Mall and I followed their instructions for resetting the level indication chip in each cartridge. Despite this, three of the cartridges would not register with the printer correctly. Reading further on the Inkjet Mall website, I discovered that the chips have a small battery. If the battery does not have a charge the cartridge chip will not register properly with the printer.

Using a voltmeter I was able to determine that there was some correlation between the failed cartridges and the battery levels. The correlation was not 100% however. I tried moving the batteries between some of the good cartridges and the bad ones. This did not fix the problem but one of the cartridges did start to register properly. I tried swapping the cartridge positons - there is a tab on each cartridge that can be swapped allowing any cartridge to go into any color position - but this actually made things worse with the failed position remaining failed and the position next to it coming up failed as well. I then tried swapping the two bad positions, changing only position tabs, and then both cartridges worked! There is no explanation for this unless the chips are unique for each color position, but there is no word on Inkjet Mall’s web site indicating that this is the case. It's a mystery. 

At this point I printed a nozzle check page. The printer ran the test OK, but none of the positions printed. With the piezoflush in the cartridges I should have had a faint orange test image in any working color channel. I ran a full head cleaning, which takes about twenty minutes, and ran the nozzle check again. Again, nothing printed. I was planning to shut the machine down and reload all the cartridges, which forces an “ink charge”, when the alarm for a full waste tank came on. The warning for a nearly full waste tank had been on all along, but with the completely full condition alarming, the machine is effectively shut down until tank is replaced. I ordered a new tank from B&H Photo – it costs about $20.00 with shipping. I’ll have it in a few days. In the meantime, all progress is on hold.

One step up, one step back. As I’ve noted before, this project is going to be a long process and I’m just getting started.


[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) Tue, 15 Mar 2016 18:57:20 GMT
Epson Stylus Pro 4900 - Free! I follow several web forums online and recently I saw this post; Epson Stylus Pro 4900 - free. Needs some work. Must pickup in Connecticut. If you are not familiar with Epson printers, the x900 series is their current top of the line family. The 4900 is the "desktop" version - it pretty much takes over an entire desk - that prints roll or sheet paper up to seventeen inches wide. The x900 series is renown for its ability to produce nearly the entire visible light gamut with an impressive eleven color cartridge array. They are also renown for terrible head clogging problems if they are not used regularly and kept in carefully humidity-controlled environments. 

Connecticut is not that far from New Hampshire, so I reached out to the owner and inquired about the machine. Mark Savoia at Still River Editions, quickly got back to me. He explained that the printer has clogs in at least five of the eleven colors and that since they are now typically printing larger than seventeen inches, they do not want to invest in repairing the machine. The clogged head pretty much rules out color printing unless I want to invest more than the original cost of the machine for a new head and a full set of color inks. No - I don't want to do that. However, six channels is more than enough for high quality black and white printing. 

I have been printing black and white images using a six channel Epson 1400 for many years. The results are very good and I have developed processes that work well on gloss and matte papers. I don't have a big need to print larger than the thirteen inches that the Epson 1400 can produce, but a seventeen inch capable machine would allow me print full size sixteen by twenty prints. Additionally, roll paper is quite a bit less expensive that cut sheet paper. Therefore, last Monday I made the roughly 150 mile drive down to Still River's shop in Danbury, Connecticut and picked up the machine. 

The machine is in very good condition and came with all the original accessories - even a hard copy of the user's manual. Over the next few weeks I'll get it fired up and see how bad the head issues really are. Once I have the necessary number of colors working properly, I'll begin working on adapting my black and white ink sets to the new machine. From there I may want to look at some other ink options that would further enhance my prints. It's going to be a bit of a journey and at this point I have no idea how well this is really going to work out. 

I'll keep you posted. This could be a ball or it could be a disaster. Either way, it's going to be educational and hey, life's for learning. 

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) Thu, 03 Mar 2016 02:00:55 GMT
It's Live!

You have no doubt noticed that my website has changed. I knew my site needed a refreshing, but I did not know how badly until I spent a few hours training with the Zenfolio team in Boston. Evan Chung and Justin Miller spent over six hours with around 75 Zenfolio users explaining all the new features Zenfolio has added. They provided tips on how to optimize one’s site. It was a worthwhile presentation.

Now that the new site has launched, I’ll still need to fix up a few areas and I want to start offering large, canvas prints for photos in the collections section. Watch for updates. In addition to what you see now, I expect to enhance things further. 


[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) Sun, 01 Nov 2015 00:53:22 GMT
Rebuilding My Computer – Again My home desktop computer is an important tool for me. I use it for photography, printing, communications, publishing, research, storage and a hundred other things. At times, like when working with multi-layered Photoshop projects, I put a significant load on it. Fortunately for me, my day job involves building computers, so I have always been able maintain an up-to-date and high performance system.


Recently I’ve started to have some issues creep in. First the sleep mode failed and nothing I could do would make the system wake from sleep properly. I began getting occasional “blue screen” crashes. Then I started having a condition where the system would freeze for up to twenty minutes after it began to launch Windows.


I dug into this on the internet and gathered as much information as I could, trying to find a root cause. It seems that my motherboard, an Intel DZ68BC, does not play well with Intel 3rd generation, Ivy Bridge CPUs, which is what I installed about six months ago. Before then the system ran well but was underperforming with a 2nd generation, Sandy Bridge i5 CPU. The DZ68BC is qualified for both the 2nd and 3rd generation of Core-i CPUs, but it seems to be a well known secret that with Ivy Bridge CPUs there are issues. Further searching lead me to the understanding that to really get the best out of an Ivy Bridge CPU I should migrate to a new motherboard with a Z77 chipset.


I watched NewEgg’s sales for a while and by and by an Asus P8Z77_V-LX motherboard turned up at the very reasonable price of $50. This was not Asus’ top of the line board in this family, but I did not need all the overclocking features that the top boards offer anyway. I wanted to run my system at stock speeds and this board would serve my purposes well. I ordered the board and waited until I had the time to convert my system to the new board.


Before converting the system I planned the conversion and took a couple of steps that I thought would smooth the process. All of my data is on drives other than the C drive, which meant that I would not have to worry about corrupting them or making any backups other than what I normally do. The C drive would be more problematic as there would clearly be new drivers required for the new motherboard and a fresh load of Windows 7 would be a good idea.


Reloading Window is a big deal. If you just take the Windows installation disk and run it, it will install Windows and wipe out all of your application and user data at the same time. I have dozens of applications installed, each with custom settings, and I did not want to have to recreate them. Fortunately, there is a little known way of tricking Windows into performing a system upgrade instead of an installation, and in an upgrade all the applications and user data are left intact. More information o this process is available at Using an extra hard drive I had, I cloned my C drive, installed it as my operating C drive and ran the upgrade as a test of the process. It worked - though the fresh Windows load did not solve all of the DZ68BC issues. I reinstalled my real C drive and set the clone aside for future use.


Over Labor Day weekend I found the time to actually do the conversion to the new motherboard. After physically installing the board I connected the cloned C drive just to see if it would boot up and run. It did, albeit with some display and network issues that were expected because the proper drivers were not yet installed. Heartened by this, I swapped the C drive back to the original one and restarted the system. It hiccupped a few times but got going without much difficulty. With the correct network and display drivers installed, the system was running quite well. I moved on to the Windows reload, which took about four hours to run, but did not present any problems. I did have to contact Microsoft to resolve an expected issue with my license validity – new boards on old licenses will have license key issues.


The new motherboard is working well. For the most part it works just like the old one, but the sleep function is working perfectly and the system will cold boot consistently in about six seconds. I’ve not seen any blue screen crashed yet but as they say in science, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” - the jury is still out. But, all applications are running and all my data is where I expect it to be. I think this is going to work out just fine. 

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) dz68bc i5 i7 intel ivy bridge non destructive load p8z77 sandy bridge windows 7 Wed, 03 Sep 2014 19:25:22 GMT
Epson 1400 Ink Alternatives I do my own printing on an Epson 1400, wide format, color printer. While I am generally very happy with this machine, the cost of Epson inks has always been a source of irritation. The cartridges (there are six) cost $20 each and contain 10ml of ink. If you do the math this works out to about $7,000 a gallon!


The cartridges do last pretty well and you can probably print thirty 11x14 prints on a set, which works out to only a few dollars per print. But the printer wastes a lot of ink with unnecessary head cleanings and there is always the muffed print that has to be re-done. Add these factors in and suddenly you are looking a four to five dollars in ink for every print. This is kind of expensive.


The alternative is to use third party, refillable ink cartridges. I do this and the cost is about one fortieth – yes, ONE FORTIETH – the cost of Epson ink. Using refillable cartridges, in fact, is so cheap that you really stop worrying about ink costs altogether. There is a downside, however.


My preferred ink has been D2 ink from MIS Associates, Unfortunately, I discovered that this ink fades rather quickly. Left in bright room, images will turn nearly completely blue in about two years. Epson ink does not do this. It is very light-fast ink.


I was very pleased, then, when Jon Cone,, announced his new, long-life, dye ink – InkThrift CL. This ink is somewhat more expensive than MIS but it still a fraction of the cost of Epson ink. But how good is it?

Working with Mark McCormick-Goodhart at Aardenburg Imaging,, I had been able to get the MIS ink tested using Aardenburg's highly scientific fade test process. The results proved what I already knew – MIS ink does not last well. The full report on this ink is available at


I contacted Mark about running the same tests on the new Cone ink. Unfortunately, Mark has stopped offering this service. I decided to run my own unscientific test on the Cone ink and see how it fared compared to Epson and MIS. My methodology was simple: print two copies of a test image using the same ink and paper. Put one copy in drawer and hang the other copy in an east facing window that receives direct sunlight for about two hours a day plus indirect light for the rest of the day.

I hung test prints for MIS, Cone and Epson on March 6, 2014 and took them down on June 28, 2014. I scanned the stored copy beside the exposed copy and you can see the results here, I am disappointed to say that the Cone InkThrift CL looks about the same as the MIS. The Epson Claria, which Aardenburg also tested and proved to be excellent, looks good.


This goes to show that you get what you pay for. Purchase expensive inks and you get good longevity. Purchase cheap inks and you will be disappointed with their light fastness. This is not to say that you shouldn't use these inks – I still do. But, you shouldn't use these inks if you are offering your prints for sale unless you are letting your buyers know that is what you are doing and price your product appropriately. For fine art quality prints you have to use Epson ink.


Still, I can't quite get past that $7,000 a gallon price... people think gasoline is expensive at $3.75!

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) 1400 aardenburg digital printing dye dye ink epson fading inkjet printing inkthrift cl jon cone mark mccormack-goodhart mis associates printer fading printer ink red river Sat, 28 Jun 2014 12:17:59 GMT
Where's Waldo? far focus


On my daily drive to work I pass Alvirne High School in Hudson, NH. Across from the school is forest, in which I have often noticed interesting lighting due to the angle of the sun and the shadows of the trees. This is most pronounced in the spring time when the morning sun is strong and the canopy of leaves has not filled in yet.  


Recently on a clear morning, I took my photography gear and stopped to scout the area for possible photographs. I made a few images. They were not exceptional but I recognized some potential in the location. My enthusiasm for the spot resulted from three components: interesting patterns in the shadows and light coming through the trees, backlight illumination of the early-growth forest floor plants, and the detail of all the natural forest litter.  


 I realized that capturing the scene would require more than a single image. The depth of field from the nearest subject to the most distant, a range of about 2’ to 50’, could be captured if I shot with my widest lens and used an f22 aperture, but my second objective was to capture the detail in the forest floor with as much clarity as possible. Using a single wide angle image would not provide this detail and a camera lens loses some of its sharpness at f22 due an optical condition known as diffraction. I wanted to take the image at a more desirable f-stop.  


The solution was to use multiple photographs to capture the scene. Using a focal length of 25mm (with a Micro 4/3 camera this equates to 50mm), I shot three, four image panoramas with the camera in the vertical position. Each panorama used a different focus point; one for the very close objects, one for the objects in the 3’ to 5’ range and one for 5’ and beyond. I shot these at f11, which provides good depth of field within each sequence. I also elevated the camera slightly in each panorama as the height of the frame, even with the camera held vertically, did not quite cover the subject.  The shots were taken on a tripod that is equipped with panorama head.  


I used Photoshop to merge the twelve images. First I merged the four images from each panorama into three composite panoramas. Then, without making any adjustments, I put the three panoramas into layers in a single image and aligned them. I then painted out any out of focus areas using masks in each layer. When this was completed, I merged the layers into a new layer and corrected any distortion using the Photoshop perspective warp tool. This created a very large file - when I went to save the unflattened .tif file, I received an error message stating that I had exceeded the maximum .tif file size of 4GB! I flattened the image and then saved it – it was still a 500MB file. 


After merging the images, I moved back into Lightroom to complete any further adjustments that the image required. Then, going back into Photoshop, I prepared the image for printing. This consists of adjusting the final output size – the image is large enough that I can make a 10" x 18" print at 720dpi – and adding an output sharpening layer.  


I printed the image on Red River San Gabriel Baryta paper and it is quite stunning. The composition is good and the detail is fantastic. With your nose to the glass, you can see the veins in individual leaves and see detail on single pine cone seeds. It seems there is no end to the detail.  


Of course, none of the exceptional detail can be seen in the image presented here in a small, monitor representation of the picture. So, to help you enjoy this image, I have placed a full size copy online and you can download it from here: linktoimage. To make this more fun, I’ve added three tiny Waldos to the image. Each Waldo is about ¼ the size of one of the bright green leaves, which by the way, are the leaves of Maianthemum canadense, also know as the Canada mayflower or false lily of the valley.  


Have fun; go find Waldo!  


[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) 12-35mm canada england false focus forests lily mayflower new of panasonic panorama pine shadows springtime stack the trees valley Mon, 19 May 2014 18:19:53 GMT
Getting Back to Black and White Printing I’ve spent some time over the past few weeks improving my techniques for black and white printing.  The main push was to use the QuadTone RIP,  Create RGB-ICC, tool to generate ICCs that would incorporate a Photoshop curve (ACV file) into an ICC file that could be used with any printing application without having to add the curve manually to the image in Photoshop.


Let me back up a bit and explain. I’m printing with an ink set known as UT14. The set has five black tones and a gloss optimizer in the 6th cartridge position. The five black tones consist of Ebony, 100% carbon black ink, two toned (warm and cool) black inks and two light shades of toned black ink. When you are printing on mat paper, you can use any of the inks to achieve a desired tone. With glossy ink, you need to limit the amount of Ebony carbon ink used as it does not absorb into a glossy surface. With the UT14 ink set, the Ebony ink and the gloss optimizer are controlled by the blue channel. The warm toned inks are controlled by the red channel. And, the cool tone inks are controlled by the green channel.


The trick to getting a good tonal result, or to control the Ebony ink so that you can print on glossy surfaces, is to go into the Photoshop adjustments panel and make changes in the three color curves. These curves can be saved and called up in Photoshop, so once you have a perfected a set of curves for a certain paper, you can call it up and apply it to the image before printing. When the image is finally printed, you print with the printer settings for printer controls and gamma 2.2 color space.


Using the curves in this manner is not terribly difficult – if you have and know Photoshop. You can’t add curves from within LightRoom and you can’t do it from a simple photo editor such as Picasa. If the curves were embedded into an ICC file, it would be an easy thing to change the printer settings to print with photo application controls and use the necessary ICC.  This would allow printing out of any photo application since the application of an ICC file to a print is a function of the printer driver, not the photo application.


Alas, try as I might, the Create RGB-ICC tool just does not work correctly. I read and re-read the instructions for creating and embedding the necessary files, but every time, the resulting ICC does not create a print that looks anything like what the print with the added Photoshop curves looks like. So, for the time being, if you want to print on glossy paper with the UT14 ink set, you will need to use a Photoshop curve.


The curves do work very well. The tone ramps are essentially perfect and there are no surface blemishes whatsoever. If you would like to try them out, I have posted them at At this link are three curves, (.acv files), scans of test prints on several Red River papers and a set of instructions for using the curves – with Photoshop.


If you are using the UT14 ink set, these will give you really impressive glossy black and white prints. 

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) UT14 black and white paul roark Tue, 18 Mar 2014 19:42:30 GMT
Lone Tree in Snowfall - Shooting in Heavy Snow Cambridge In Colour is one of the sites I like to follow. Occasionally, I like to submit photos to their photo competitions. Last week I won the Monochrome Mini-Comp # 908 with my entry, Lone Tee in Snowfall. The shot, which was taken in heavy falling snow has a couple of tricks in it that are worth sharing. 
When I went out to take pictures that day, I used an umbrella to shield myself and the camera from the snow. This also helps to keep falling snow from being right in front of the lens, which is very noticeable in the resulting photos. The umbrella is a bit awkward to handle but it helps.
Even with the umbrella, snowflakes  close to the camera are going to cause blobs and smuggy spots in your images. The resolution for this is put your camera in multi-shot mode and take two to four images. You can use a tripod but this is not necessary if you can hold the camera reasonably steady. Do not bracket. All the images should have the same exposure and focus.
Take the shots into Photoshop and open them all. Go to edit>automate>photomerge with the merge settings for auto, blend - off, and add open files. This will put all the images into one image with the individual images as layers. The bottom layer is the merged image. Turn that layer off. 
Now add a mask to each of the images excepting the merged layer and the layer above. Enlarge the image to 100% so that you can see the detail well. Using a soft, black brush of about 100 pixels at an opacity of about 80% and flow of 100%, start painting out all the visible snow blobs and fuzzy spots. If another blob shows up under the layer you are working in, just go down another layer and paint out the spot there as well. In most cases the blobs are easily painted out in one layer. This image has four layers and I did not need the fourth. 
When you are done, merge the layers discarding the unused layers and you have a snowfall image with no blobby and fuzzy spots in the foreground. 
BeforeA typical layer without any removal of the close-focused snow. Notice the large fuzzy spot in the lower right hand corner. AfterThe near-focus snowflakes are gone. Notice how the area in the lower right hand corner has sharpened up. Final ImageThe softness of falling snow is still there, but the distracting blobs and fuzzy spots are gone, leaving a gentle but sharp photograph.
[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) blending layers photoshop post processing snow technique winter Sun, 26 Jan 2014 14:59:42 GMT
But is it art? …is it photography? A popular topic on photography forums that I like to follow is the question, “Is it art?” I’ve avoided getting into these discussions because I think photography is art, but I don’t think it is art in the same way as a great painting. In other words, I have kind a of wish-washy attitude that does not really answer the question – if in fact it is answerable. Lately, the question I’ve begun to ask myself is, “Is it photography?”


I have to refer back to an earlier discussion about a person who made the claim, “This picture is exactly how it looked – I didn’t change it all.”, as if this proves that the image is a great photograph and the person is a great photographer. Without dwelling on whether or not this proves the photographer’s skill, if the image is a very exact representation of what was photographed, than the image is inarguably a photograph.  


But in the digital world, nothing is captured exactly as it was. Even if the photographer does nothing other than remove the image from the camera as a JPG file and present it on a screen, the camera has already done several processes that enhance the image and make it better than what the image sensor actually detected.


In my case, I do it differently. I don’t let the camera do anything except capture the image – this is known as shooting RAW. When taking the photograph, all I am concerned with is composition, general exposure and focus. Light balance, sharpening, saturation, noise reduction, and other enhancement are for later – in Lightroom, Photoshop, Silver Efex and other software packages that I run on my computer.


In the post-process work, I adjust contrast, saturation, sharpening and brightness. I’ll crop and align, and occasionally change the vertical perspective. Individual tones will be adjusted for both brightness and intensity. Defects and undesirable components (litter for example) are removed.


Increasingly, I find myself using techniques like HDR and focus stacking to achieve images that are not possible using traditional single-image photography: HDR uses multiple exposures, both over and under the “correct” exposure to extend the exposure latitude of a scene beyond what the camera can capture in a single frame.  Focus stacking enhances depth of field by combining several images where the focus point has been moved to create an image with sharp focus across a deeper than normal range.


When all of this is done, I’ll prepare my presentation image. If the image is for screen viewing, the image size and sharpening are adjusted accordingly. If the image is going to be printed, it is further adjusted so that the resulting image will closely match the image shown on my computer monitor.


The result is an image that probably does not really look very much like “how it looked”, but somehow feels even more like “how it looked”. The final product is beautiful. It gets framed and hangs on a wall. It is art. But is it still photography?



[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) art or photography focus stacking hdr photographic technique printing raw Tue, 14 Jan 2014 21:35:01 GMT
Shooting Walt Disney Some time ago I caught an interview with Frank Gehry on Tom Ashbook’s NPR show, On Point. At the time I knew nothing of Frank Gehry, but architecture is a subject of interest to me and Frank gave an engaging and informative interview. After hearing the show I took the time to do a little more research on Frank and his buildings.
One of Frank Gehry’s most famous projects is the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, CA. The structure is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and in additions to being an outrageous and glorious visual design, the auditorium is considered to be among best acoustical rooms in the world.
Paul Roark is a photographer I follow on line. Paul specializes in black and white photography and is one of the leading lights in the technology of using mono-tone, gray and black inks in multi-cartridge inkjet printers. Paul has several photographs of the Walt Disney Concert Hall posted on his web site, I had seen these and thought, that should I ever get to Los Angeles, this would be a subject worth spending some time with.
As luck would have it, this year the annual Intel Partner Solutions Summit, which I have to attend for my day job, would be held at the J W Marriott hotel in the western end of downtown Los Angeles, about two miles from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Following the Intel meetings, I was able to spend a day in downtown Los Angeles viewing the city and taking photographs. Downtown Los Angeles is actually very nice. It is far nicer than what most people think of when they think of LA; sprawl. Excellent architecture abounds. There are parks and public spaces. There are fountains and flowers. Given LA’s general reputation, the downtown area is amazingly pedestrian friendly; it is an outstanding city for walking around.
 The Walt Disney Concert Hall is a breathtaking structure. It is clad in large stainless steel sheets, laid on like shingles that give the entire center a shimmering, mirror-like quality. It reflects the colors from the sky and the streets making its coloring perfectly matched to its surroundings. Its whimsical, multi-faceted shape seems a bit cartoonish; not inappropriate for a design tied to the name Disney. From every viewpoint, the structure is interesting, balanced and beautiful.
 I approached the building from West 2nd Street and walked all the way around and through the building going counter-clockwise. I say ‘through the building’ because there are a number of walkways that go between sections of the building and through gardens that have been incorporated into the design. You don’t see all these galley ways from the street; you have to be walking to find them. Each of these areas is a delight in its own right. Every angle is unique. Every view is new. It is an incredibly complex structure that incorporates dozens of unique facades and hundreds of odd angles and surface planes.
Frank Gehry certainly has a fine imagination. This example of his work is simply spectacular. The level of detail and apparent consideration for every possibly viewing angle is amazing. Should you find yourself in downtown Los Angeles with a couple of hours to kill, visit this building. Don’t drive by. Walk through it. Walk slowly. Take it in. Bring a camera. You’ll love it.
[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) black and white fran gehry los angeles paul roark photography walt disney Thu, 26 Dec 2013 13:54:12 GMT
Takumar 50mm, Forty Years and I'm Still In Love My neice and her friend, best friends for forever, shot with the Takumar f1.4/50 lens. With the micro four-thirds 2x crop factor, the old 50mm lens makes a very nice 100mm portrait lens. In the fall of 1970 I met a girl named Connie at Colorado State University. She had a Asahi Spotmatic camera along with a 28mm and a 135mm Takumar lens. I worshiped the ground that girl walked on; she was pretty, she lived in Aspen, she knew photograpy. But she didn't have much interest in me. A year passed. We had no relationship but I did purchase an Asahi Spotmatic along with a 28mm and a 135mm lens from Sundry Trading Company in Tokyo, Japan. "Very pleased sir to receive your esteemed order. We are mailing you by air..." I had no better reason for the selection than, this was the camera and lens kit Connie had. 


Years passed. I didn't get far at CSU but the camera was a good one and I used it for two decades. I cursed the 135mm lens. It was a useless length. 100mm? Nice portrait lens. 200mm? Good telephoto. But the 135 was a dog. The 28mm, on the other hand was a good lens and the f1.4/50mm was excellent. 


Fast forward forty years. Just a few months ago I finally threw away the old, moldy, broken Spotmatic. But, I was wise enough to keep the lenses, which I can use on my micro-four-thirds camera using an adapter. The 135mm has serious fungus. It can't be sold so it languishes in a drawer. The 28mm is in good condition though I rarely use it as I don't need a manual lens in its length. But, the f1.4/50mm - this is a lens to cherish. 


Moldy around the edges of the front lens, cranky aperture ring and paint missing all over, I love this lens. It's hard to explain. I've picked up half a dozen lenses on eBay that are the equal of the old Takumar but they just aren't the same. There is a certain richness to this lens. A velvet feeling when you focus in on something. A creamy bokeh that just isn't matched. A memory of a relationship - even a life - that never happened; in the Rockies with a beautiful girl and fine photographic equipment. Sigh. 


So the old f1.4/50mm lens keeps on going. I've found it kind of fuzzy wide open for low light use, but stopped down a bit it's still as sharp as ever. Used as a semi-macro, it's clarity, richness and colors are unequaled. I love it. It goes all the way back to my first SLR and every time I use it, I dip into the memories of over forty years. Every camera, every photograph, every girl. It's just love.

The old Takumar makes a nice short-macro lens for flowers or other near subjects. Joe Lewis Walker performing at the Palace Theater in Manchester, New HampshireFocus can be a challenge, as these old lenses are manual focus only, but their low light capability and 2x forcal length can be useful.

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) adapt adapted conversion f-stop GH2 lens manual focus mft micro four-thirds mould panasonic pentax takumar Fri, 22 Nov 2013 19:22:40 GMT
Getting Lucky Any time you go out intentionally seeking interesting photographs, you need some luck. This past July I was on our boat for nearly two weeks and took fewer than ten photographs that I thought had real merit. Then in August, while anchored in Sandy Bay, Rockport, MA, I accidentally woke up at 5:30 and noticed a crimson dawn breaking. I hustled into some clothes, grabbed my gear and headed off in the dinghy. The sunrise was superb and I got half a dozen keepers in just a few minutes.


After the sunrise I headed towards Rockport harbor so see if there were any interesting early morning shots there. On the way over I changed my mind and decided to go out to Straitsmouth Island and see if the the lighthouse there would yield any good photos. I got a few decent shots from the dinghy but nothing spectacular. While heading back to the boat, I noticed a mooring ball on the north side of the island. The island has no anchorage—the shore is all boulders and rough surf—getting ashore wasn't in my plans. But, a mooring ball would only have one purpose—provide a place to anchor a boat while someone went ashore. I looked around to see if there was a usable landing, and there was. It was only a rope hanging down into a small opening in the rocks with a ledge you could scramble onto, but it was enough to tie my small inflatable dinghy to. I was able to get onto the island without soaking anything more important than my shoes.


Once ashore, the lighthouse, the keeper's house and a kerosene storage building all provided interesting subjects and the early morning light was still sublime. I was able to get at least another half-dozen keepers and couple of truly outstanding shots.


Considering that I took fewer than a hundred shots in all and was back aboard our cruising boat in less than two hours, the number of keepers was impressive. Sometimes you just need to get lucky.


Rockport and Straitsmouth Collection

[email protected] (Anything But A Wedding! Photography by Homer Shannon) Tue, 24 Sep 2013 00:54:06 GMT