Sunday, November 29, 2009

PDF portfolios

Reflections, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Socks, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Paul Butzi has generated an interesting set of PDF portfolios. I liked especially the Pacific Coast portfolios, for example Patterns.

I have started to think that perhaps it would be good to do something similar, to learn more about photography. So I went today through about 3/4 of my landscape photographs taken this year, selecting those which I thought could form a theme and be developed into a photography portfolio. I have half a dozen tentative themes, for example about water, show/ice etc. These selections currently contain 160 photographs which I thought were good enough.

As a sidenote: I think I have developed a bit as a photographer, as I noticed problems with some images I previously thought were good. Perhaps this has nothing to do with improving skills, instead it is an example of having a clearer judgement after some time has lapsed since taking the photographs.

I haven't yet thought about how to generate a PDF portfolio, but I think the same process I used for SoFoBoMo '09 would work here. The format would be a little different, not so much book-like, which would make this even simpler.

Here are two images from today, different subject, similar theme.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Don't buy anything" day

Two red leaves, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Plants, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Leaves, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday we had in Finland the yearly "don't buy anything day" (info in Finnish). Crime: we got a new cabinet for our living room. Punishment: it took over two hours to assemble the cabinet from the parts.

Now that the don't buy anything day is safely behind, I feel somewhat safe in posting a link to Shawn's Selections: Cameras I would buy or recommend. Panasonic LX3 is on the list, as are both Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic GF1. (Compare with the worst cameras.)

Here are three photographs taken today. Yesterday I didn't take any photos as I was busy after the workday. First, I assembled a cabined. Later in the evening we had the Christmas party of our company. Crime: I used all of the free drink coupons. Punishment: feeling extremely tired today. (By the way, also last year I wrote a posting about the Christmas party.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

No end to the darkness

Birches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Invariant weather: rainy and cloudy, wet and dark. Bought a new microwave oven today. Tired.

If nothing else, the list of worst cameras of 2009 is entertaining and worthwhile.

Note to myself: never to buy any of these cameras. A known brand does not quarante quality: Nikon, Pentax, Olympus...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is photography poetry or prose?

Reflect 2, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Quote from H. L. Mencken:

Poetry can never be concocted by any purely intellectual process. It has nothing to do with the intellect: it is, in fact, a violent and irreconcilable enemy of the intellect. Its purpose is not to establish facts, but to evade or deny them. What it essays to do is to make life more bearable in an intolerable world by concealing and obliterating all the harsher realities. Its message is that all will be well tomorrow, or, at the latest, next Tuesday: that the grave is not cold and damp but steam-heated and lined with roses; that a girl is not a viviparous mammal, full of pathogenic organisms and enlightened self-interest, but an angel with bobbed wings and a heart of gold.
I have a feeling that most photography attempts to do what Mencken wrote about poetry. In his opinion, poetry was much below prose as an art form. (A bit surprising as Mencken was a great lover of music.)

Is there any prose in photography, or is it all just poetry, that is: lying about the realities of life. Is the situation in photography like it is with poetry: it you try to include intellect in the process, art dies.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Slide, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Shorter and shorter they get - the days. Still three weeks or so to the shortest day of they year. And we keep on having rainy and clouded weather.

By the way, I wrote a short piece about the best camera for learning photography. (In Finnish, MikroPC magazine, Mikä kamera valokuvauksen opiskeluun?.)

Edit: Something to ponder, a book about our ecological footprint: Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living. But what about children? (We have three.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Length of day: 6 hours 54 minutes

Light reflections, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was a dark day. It was dark already before 3 pm, thanks to a thick rainy cloud cover. Fortunately the rain stopped at some point, but it didn't do much for the darkness. Some light reflected down from the clouds, that was all. But the camera can capture light even where the eye struggles, as shown in the photograph.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Two types of photographers

Mossy forest, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have thought about photography, a topic which seems to continue to interest me.

One way to classify photographers is to divide them into 1) those for whom the visual elements, structures and relations are the key factor, and 2) those to whom the subject matter comes first. This is of course an artificial division, and really good photographers manage both aspects.

For a beginner like me it is often hard to know whether a particular scene can contain a photograph or not. For masters - like Mark Hobson - this seeing part seems to be instictive, effortless, whatever the subject.

One could speculate that if you have that talent then you may not work so hard at the subject level, and thus your photographs might be a bit empty below the surface.

However, I also feel that good photographs work on multiple levels. The visual information in a photograph works on a level beyond words, and thus it is very difficult to predict how a given photo will affect a particular viewer.

For me the visual information in a scene is hard to grasp. I don't have that talent and thus I need to take a lot of photographs to get some reasonably good ones.

A walk in a forest

Pieces, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bush in water, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lake Sultingsträsk, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we went for a walk in the Pirttimäki forests, near the Nuuksio nature park. It was really nice to be out in the nature walking with the family.

It was somewhat foggy, there was a thick cloud cover, and everything was wet. Because of the wetness the landscape contained a lot of green tones. Here are three photographs taken today.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More about learning photography

View to a school, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Wet forest, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Wet mushrooms, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday I posted a short note about learning photography. I have continued thinking about this. One interesting aspect is of course equipment. What kind of camera you need to learn photography?

I started to take photographs when all we had were more or less manual cameras, with simple exposure automatics but manual focusing. My first camera was a Minolta XG-1 SLR, which had aperture priority automatics. It was an excellent learning tool.

Nowadays even the cheapest cameras have automatics much beyond the simple SLRs of the past. But this is a hindrance to learning and experimentation. Here you find a nice article about this. It is indeed hard to find a cheap enough camera with manual controls.

What is not mentioned in the article is the availability of CHDK software for Canon compacts, which helps in using manual controls. On the other hand, if the camera is not designed for manual operations, a clever software is not much use.

In summary, megapixels don't matter much in learning, but good manual controls are essential. An slightly older (or used) camera may be the best purchase, whether it is a high-end compact or a low-end DSLR.

In getting reasonably good images, learning to use exposure compensation is essential. In short, you need experimentation to know what to do in a given situation. This should become almost instictive with enough practice. Another topic is the white balance, but here I must admit to being a lazy learner, and I'm far from mastery.

Finally, the most important espects of learning to take photographs: having fun. In fact, I'm no longer waiting to learn photography. The learning process is in itself the thing for me. I don't expect to be an expert any time soon. In fact, learning and experimentation is the fun in photography.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How did you learn photography?

Rock, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Parking lot, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Path, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

At work during lunch a colleague asked a surprising question. "How did you learn photography? Just by yourself or did you study it?"

As often in these situations, I couldn't give a good answer, just saying that anyone can sometimes take a good photograph or two, but then there are some people who take them consistently. I just shoot. Sometimes I'm lucky.

Later I thought about this a bit more. I can't say that I have learned photography, but I'm trying to learn. And the good thing about this is that I have started to understand photographs better, and also learned to enjoy visual beauty better than previously, even without a camera.

My favorite photographer is Sam Abell, to whose photography I return again and again. And then there are many excellent photographers on the net who each are producing an impressive body of work. I'm lucky to be able to learn from their example.

But I need to stop now, it has been a heavy week. Lots of hard thinking had to be done at work, one of the most demanding weeks in a long time. Now, weekend ahead.

Here are three photographs taken during the last few days. It has been clouded, foggy and rainy, not much sunshine these days I'm afraid.

So far I have been lucky, the flu hasn't hit me yet. I even commuted by bicycle to work yesterday even though I felt a little bit weak. It was rather nice, and no bad aftereffects.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Head ache

Lights, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Rocks, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bench, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have had a continuous headache since noon yesterday. It has diminished a bit occasionally but never went totally away. At work a colleague said he had suffered from a headache for five days already, so I'm apparently not alone with this. And at home the flu (most probably the influenza) is making its effects felt, three of us are now in fever.

I managed to go for a walk outside and took a few photographs. Feeling blue, still.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Last berries

Poisonberries, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lily of the valley, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

There is flu in the family, though I'm not sure whether it is the swine one or some milder version. In any case, it is quieter than usual, except for the coughing. With my typical luck I'll have a dose of the same within a few days.

Also, here are two photographs taken today. The second one doesn't look so good in this smaller size, bigger is better.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Feeling blue

Blue moment, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Street, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

End of a very heavy week. Need more to be said?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My LX3 is eating memory cards (but still takes photographs)

Street, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Street, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Crossing, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Powerplant, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are four photographs taken today, within about 200 meters of each other. As seen, we had some fresh (and wet) snow, which clings to the trees. It was forecasted that we would get 20-30 cm of snow today, but we only got 1-5 cm. Still, the landscape looks nice.

And about the memory cards: yesterday my 8 GB Kingston SDHC memory card broke, a piece of plastic fell away from the edge and the card no longer works in the camera. This was second time within one year - and this card was in fact a warranty replacement for the first that broke.

So, next time I'll try some other brand. (Kingston seems to be among the cheapest, I wonder why?)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Melting snow

Reflect, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Maple, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Last green, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today the snow is melting, temperature being above zero all day. A wet and overcast day. Here are three photographs taken today.

Update: Luminous Landscape provides an interesting review of the Canon PowerShot S90, including a comparison to the Panasonic LX3. It seems that the image quality compares to the LX3 (and excels at high ISO), and the handling of the camera is excellent. And of course the S90 is even smaller than the LX3.

If I would be buying a camera right now, the S90 would be the one the check out first. However, I'm not going to buy a replacement to my LX3, as the differences between these two seem to be minor. And I'm very much used to the quirks and capabilities of the LX3.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Red sauna, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Two birches, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today we got some more snow, but it was rather wet so it may not stay long. We went for a walk while it was snowing, and there were almost nobody else outside except cars and one person on a bicycle.

Here are two photographs taken during the walk. It was nice to see how the landscape is changing towards winter.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Snow in Finland

Fresh snow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

The landscape changed when we got 5-10 cm of fresh snow. Even though we should know about snow in Finland, there were accidents in traffic, one which I saw when I came home from work.

The photograph shown here depicts the same view as a photograph taken some days ago, today there was a generous coating of snow added to the landscape.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dark days and nights

Finnish spirit, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today was once again a clouded day. Because of a multitude of meetings, I have a long list of tasks left undone at work. Need to catch up, but I have meetings coming up also tomorrow. And the next day. Doesn't look good.

One thing I haven't resorted to (at least not yet) is pictured here, a bottle of "Finnish spirit". That is the exact translation into English of the name of the (emptied) product shown here. Apparently someone is trying to solve the mental problems caused by darkness in a typical Finnish manner.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Playground, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I wasn't able to go out until at children's bedtime. I had meetings one after another and some of them lasted so long that I managed to get to the next meeting only when it was already closing down. And others I had to leave in the middle to get to the next one. Not so nice.

But I'm feeling good nevertheless. The iMac which had disk troubles last weeked is doing well, no symptoms of breakage so far. And the computer is in fact significantly faster in disk operations compared to before, so it may be that there were some indications of failure already apparent before the filesystem corruption.

But lesson learned: backup, backup, backup. And test that it actually works. I'm currently in the process of thinking how to improve my system from the current one. I'm using one external Time Machine backup disk plus another (smaller) disk where I copy all media files a couple of times each year, and then I have some backups on the net. In addition, a bootable backup disk would be nice to have.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Filesystem corrupted - the bad news and the good

Stream, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Leaf carpet, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Roadside, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Do you have a current backup of your photographs and software? Luckily I had.

During the weekend I lost all files on the iMac at home, due to filesystem corruption. This happened when I needed to move the computer to another room, and it didn't start up any more. Before that the iMac had been running over 38 days in succession without problems.

Luckily I had a backup, which was less than one hour old, on the Time Machine backup disk. Long story short, after initializing the disk, installing Mac OS X from scratch and copying all data (over 500 GB of it) from the Time Machine backup disk, we are back to normal. (This took over four hours.)

Now everything works. All settings are the way they were and all software and files were preserved as they were.

But a small worry is nagging: perhaps the problem will reappear?

On the other hand, the computer seems faster, which may be due to a "fresh" Mac OS X installation. The previous system was upgraded from 10.4 to 10.5 to 10.6, always on top of the previous one. Than may have been one reason for the problem.

So, now that I have been warned, I'll be even more diligent about backups.

Here are three photographs taken today, when the sun had set. A clouded night as has been so often lately.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Spiraling towards darkness

Spiral, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fallen, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Apples, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I'm feeling tired, have been doing some renovation at home. But I guess some of the tiredness is caused by the shortening days, as it is increasingly hard to get a good amount of sunshine each day.

Here are three recent photographs, showing a bit of sunshine, a bit of the approaching darkness.