Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Head cold

Myyrmanni, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Meal, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Impaled, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have been suffering from head cold and coughing for five days, which has resulted in feeling tired all the time, because of not sleeping properly. Thus, I haven't been able to go out walking in the usual way, and I haven't felt an interest in photography either. These three photographs may be a bit symptomatic.

Monday, August 30, 2010

On cameraphones and DSLRs

Mirror, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Ceiling, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I remembered the heated discussion generated by Nokia's Anssi Vanjoki saying that camera phones will in a couple of years kill off the DSLRs. This happened in April, 2010. I'm not sure whether is any closer to killing DSLRs. At least my Nokia E90 isn't.

However, here are two photographs taken with the E90. I didn't have the Panasonic LX3 with me, otherwise I wouldn't have resorted to the E90. You did notice that I wasn't using the LX3, didn't you?

In fact, the quality of the 3.2 megapixel camera almost managed to impress me today. (Given how weak it usually is.) However, the usability of the E90 was as awful as it ever was.

It takes several seconds for the camera software to start up. And when you press the shutter button, it takes anything between 1...5 seconds for the photograph to be taken. Sometimes the screen freezes and you think that you have a photograph, only to note that it wasn't so, and you get a photograph of whatever the camera was pointing to when you were moving it. This happens to me in almost half of the attempts.

So, the lesson (if anyone listens): make the camera respond to the user, and the controls such that the user actually gets what he/she expects. But I don't expect much from Nokia or any other mobile phone company in this regard.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cherishing the dark

Spiraea, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yellow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Nettles, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Mark Hobson made several interesting observations in a posting under the term "density", of which I quote here a sentence:

I have always liked subjects / scenes that contained deep dark shadow areas. Relative to that preference, I have always chosen / used picturing techniques and post-picturing processing techniques (film and digital) that favor shadow detail, which, most definitely, create a rich "density" quality in my prints.

It took a while for this to sink in, until I realized this is something I have been striving towards in some of my postings, for example those nominally dealing with topics such as "dynamic range" or "HDR".

I guess it is a bit hard to learn to love the darkness, when here in Finland it is something we have to deal with - and fight against - during several long winter months each year.

But indeed, photographs which contain rich and substantive dark areas do have a presence which is rare in other kinds of photographs. (Although I probably wouldn't want to have such a print hanging on the wall...)

Tip for better photographs: don't take photographs only when it is sunny

Fly, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Autumn garden, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I was browsing a macro photography discussion thread, and all photographs posted there seemed ... bad. And I wondered why it was so. And then I realized almost all of them were taken in direct sunlight, that is very harsh lighting. And thus all were very bright and colorful and not good.

Thus, as a reminder to myself: remember to go out when it is not bright and sunny. Photographs succeed better when the weather is not "nice".

Saturday, August 28, 2010

First blush of autumn colors

Fireweed, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fireweed colors, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Autumn colors, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Autumn is progressing. Nights have been cold enough so that there are very few mosquitoes any more in the forests. Soon we might get even frost. And then ... autumn colors.

This time of the year is a bit of a dilemma. On the other hand, you enjoy the beauty. But you also know that soon the leaves will fall of, turn brown and black, and then it will be dark ... for a long time.


Fungus, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Forest, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Forest edge, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yesterday I discussed "twig photographers" and other such classifications. Later I started to wonder about this.

Then I remembered a research study, where it was studied what people remember about politicians. It turned out that people remember those things which reinforce the stereotype and forget those that are in conflict. So, if a member of a certain party does something "typical" for that party, it is noted and remembered - otherwise, not.

Maybe this applies also to photographers?

Well, here are some photographs which may encourage stereotyping. Hmmm...

Friday, August 27, 2010

The best country in the world

Ship, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

This is another photograph taken yesterday, in a restaurant on a small island in southern Helsinki.

A sad thing is that Paul Butzi is closing his blog. All things take their time, but this is indeed sad. But one can cherish the wisdom received by each of us, the readers and viewers.

To another kind of mood, perhaps "mystified" might be the word. There seems to be a strange kind of meme going around, or perhaps it is just a case of coincidences.

Andreas called me a twig photographer, referring to a term used by Paul Maxim and referring to Mark Hobson. And I pondered why Mark Hobson hasn't been posting his excellent "twig photographs". But then there was the return of the twig photographer, and in addition an appreciation to Andreas.

What else?

Oh yes, Cedric commented that I "live in a beautiful part of the world". Well, you should remember that Finland is the best country in the world.

The original Newsweek article seems to have some legs, as in Germany the biggest newspaper is writing about Finland using the title "Pisa, Lebensqualität, Sicherheit - Darum ist Finnland das beste Land der Welt". Here is a quote: "Doch Finnland ist nicht nur sicher, wohlhabend und bildungsstark – sondern auch wunderschön."

Not bad!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Views of Helsinki

Helsinki, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Helsinki sea view, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

View, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Nest, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here are a couple of familiar yet perhaps a bit untypical views of Helsinki. And yet another change of vehicle, if you want to keep track of such things. This time we have a boat. And as you can see, we had quite a variety of weather today.

Dynamic range - how much you need it?

Red leaf, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

(It seems that I'm unable to stop thinking about HDR and related topics...)

How often is it that the camera can't capture a scene because of dynamic range problems? I used to think that this is a big problem, but then I realized you often can forget about the highlights - the can burn out all right, no need to preserve tonality.

And then you can use the dark for artistic effect, as discussed by TOP: "Any technical property can be exploited... I should mention here, too, that like any other technical property of photography, low DR can be accommodated aesthetically and used to good artistic effect."

So, for me the dynamic range isn't such a problem any more. Of course, thanks to the way the eye operates, a camera can't match it, but it doesn't have to either.

Also, it isn't too often that you get a scene where dynamic range is really a problem for current cameras. You need to have strong direct sunlight and a source of shadow which doesn't allow any scattered light to enter the scene.

Either Luminous Landscape or TOP made a nice posting about the need for dynamic range in photography. This article demonstrated that in many seemingly challenging situations there is plenty of dynamic range for practically all digital cameras. For example, a scene which was of a street partially lighted by the sun, there was so much scattered light from the walls of the building that the dark parts of the scene weren't really dark. Of course, there are extreme (or pathological situations) but they are rare.

Update: I found the article in question, it was at TOP and written by Carl Weese. Here is a quote: "All the dynamic range in the world won’t help unless the exposure makes use of that range intelligently."

So, the real question related to dynamic range is the skill of the photographer on making the correct exposure. And there are endless discoveries to be made.

As a final note, TOP made a posting on the top-selling book on photography, which focuses on the correct exposure. On the cover of the book it is said: "How to shoot great photographs with any camera."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Fields, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Rapids, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Road, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I just felt the need to shoot non-square. (Not using the 1:1 aspect ratio.)

I was test-driving my bicycle today evening and discovered some interesting autumn vistas. To be revisited when the autumn colors start to come out. (The bicycle was fine.)

Change of vehicle (sort of)

Works, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Train, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fence, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Here is a change of vehicle, once again, as regards the subject of photographs. Would you believe that what you see in the first photograph is a construction site of "west metro" in Helsinki. In a few years, I'll be able to go to Helsinki via the metro... Can't wait for it to happen.

Then there is the train - end of line station, in this case. And finally, a self-portrait. You did notice me on the bicycle in the photograph?

Speaking of the bicycle, Dennis asked about the price of the bicycle repair.

Well, the bicycle repair (350 euro) was about half of the price what I paid for the bicycle originally, so he was right that it was expensive. The bicycle was made by Rossano in Finland, simple one but durable.

(One can get bicycles much cheaper, but I didn't want one which breaks easily. I did some additions to the bicycle later, such as lock pedals, odometer etc., but nothing big.)

Divided by five years, the costs are not too bad. And it was quite a job. I had to have the back wheel completely replaced (except for the gear hub), as the rim was completely worn out. And so were the tires, chain etc. In fact, the new tires were the biggest individual cost (after work), over 70 euros. Previously I had Continental Contact tires, now I have Schwalbe Marathon Plus. Have to see if there is a difference. Both should be extremely resistant to tire punctures. (I didn't have any with Continental.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Change of vehicle

Helsinki street, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Street, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bike, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Today I didn't use the bicycle or the car. Instead, I commuted by bus and tram, between meetings in Helsinki. Later this week, there may be yet another change of vehicle.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bicycle repairs

Earthworks, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Sunset, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Well, I promised to write about bicycles, didn't I?

I haven't been able to commute by bicycle because the gears started to act up two weeks ago. I brought the bicycle to a repair shop and was told that they might try to fix it, but it might needed a new gear hub.

I had a couple of phone conversations with the mechanics last week, and we decided to try using the old gear hub, although one of the bearings showed signs of wear. It is unsure how long the hub will last, but at least it is now cleaned up and lubricated.

I fetched the bicycle from the shop today - paying 250 euro for parts and 100 euro for work - and made a test ride. Well, I was positively surprised. The bicycle was enjoyable to ride, as it should be, so many parts had been replaced. And the gear hub didn't act up at all, it performed flawlessly.

I have ridden about 12,000 km on the bike so far, and this was the first big service done on it. I have replaced the saddle, brake pads, inner tubes etc., but I had never had the gear hub serviced. It seems that this particular model of the gear hub - Shimano Nexus 8 Premium (or "Red Band") - should last about 10,000-15,000 km until major trouble. I selected a hub instead of derailleur because I wanted to ride in winter time, and cleaning up the bicycle gears during winter is not something I like to do.

In other words, the reason for selecting a gear hub was laziness, once again. In fact - and I think this is something Andreas might find interesting - I wrote a column about my choice of bicycle, praising the gear hub and comparing it to the Mac in ease of use.

Here is a description of the Nexus 8 Premium:

Shimano’s 8 speed Nexus Premium hub sets the standard for easy and hassle-free city biking. With all gearing encased inside, it is largely maintenance free. It has a wide 307% gear ratio and super-light shifting. The Premium edition of the hub is 200 grams lighter than the standard Nexus hub and has lower rolling resistance.
In addition, the hub has better seals for weather protection than the normal hub. I think this has been proven in practise, as I have used the bike through five winters. (Well, last winter was an exception, as we got so much snow that I gave up riding the bike for several months.)

Well, now that the bicycle is back in working condition, I guess I need to find other things to stress about.

On twigs (and other subjects)

Down, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Bicycle, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Andreas Manessinger provided an insight for me when he noticed my choice of subject in a posting from yesterday. This choice of subject applies to several other recent postings as well. I feel - sort of - honored with the title of "Twig Photographer".

This refers to the ongoing play of words between Paul Maxim and Mark Hobson. But might Paul Maxim's comments have had some effect, as I haven't seen many "twig" photographs (which were great in my opinion) at Mark Hobson's site recently.

As an appreciation to Andreas, here is a change of subject. But I guess I haven't really grown into this one yet. In any case, I'm planning to write a posting about bicycles at some point.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Signs of autumn

Bird cherry, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Lingonberry, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Mushroom, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

More and more autumn colors are appearing in trees. And it is lingonberry time. And mushrooms. End of summer, start of autumn.

I haven't yet decided whether I like autumn or not. At this age you would expect to know your preferences, but in this matter I'm undecided. Perhaps it is both.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Spider, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Yellow, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I'm listening to U2 - both old and new albums - and for some reason, I'm feeling extremely tired. It is getting clouded outside, but we did get some sunhine around noon. Here are photographs of some man-made things; at the moment they fit my mood better than "nature" photographs.

Friday, August 20, 2010

One euro for fixing the car

Field, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Fallen, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Spiderweb, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

While driving to Lappeenranta on Monday, a blinker lamp burned out in my car. This was the first time with this car, so I had to read the manual to find out how to replace it. Fortunately, this was easy, and the new lamp only cost 1 euro.

It is good to have a bit older car, as there are still things you can fix by yourself. I wonder what needs to be done in such a situation in the newest cars - replace (in an authorized repair shop) "a light module with built-in computer" or something like that.

However, when the lamp burned, the yearly vehicle inspection was also approaching, and I was a bit worried. The Toyota Avensis is now ten years old, and thus there might have been all kinds of things wrong in the car.

But today, after work, I managed to get the inspection done even without reserving a time slot in advance. I got my car inspected right away, and 15 minutes later it was done. All was good, and the car was said to be in excellent condition.

(But the price of the inspection had gone up - once again. I remember when they said it would get cheaper when the previous governmental system was put to the open markets. No so, now the inspection cost 80 euro, and probably more next year.)

My trust in the quality of Toyota cars hasn't been misplaced so far. In fact, I have been surprised about the fuss that has been happening in the USA regarding Toyota cars. Might there be a kind of protectionist attitude going on there?

What about the Canon PowerShot S95?

Trees, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Field, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Well, this was a surprise: Canon announced a successor to the S90, only a year after it was introduced. Although the improvements are minor, they do add value to the camera and keep it competitive. The Panasonic LX5 and the Samsung EX1/TL500 are probably the biggest competitors.

The Canon S95 is smaller that the LX5, and has a built-in lens cover. However, the LX5 focal range starts at 24 mm; the S95 starts at 28 mm. And LX5 is f/3.3 at 90 mm; S95 is f/4.9 at 105 mm.

Canon seems to have improved the handling of the S95, especially the dial in back, which turned easily by mistake. And there is a covering on the surface which should make the camera less slippery and harder to drop. The continuous frame rate is doubled, and there is a new hybrid image stabilization system. Also, now the S95 makes it possible to change the aspect ratio in camera - however, the sensor is not multi-aspect natively as is with the LX5.

So, now I have two interesting cameras to look into if the LX3 breaks at some point. And it seems that the longer end of the focal range is getting interesting in my photographs, the wide doesn't dominate some much any more.

The possibility to select the aspect ratio is really good to have. I used to think it pointless to include the 1:1 aspect mode to the LX3. (This mode was added as a firmware update.) Why include an aspect ratio which has no advantage over cropping the image afterwards? With the other aspect ratios you get on the LX3 and LX5 the benefit of extra pixels.

But it is extremely convenient to see the 1:1 image on screen. This helps you compose the photograph while shooting. As you have seen since beginning of the summer, nowadays I shoot mostly square...

So, even though changing the aspect ratio is "just cropping" on the S95, it really is useful addition to the updated camera.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Focal range distribution of photographs taken with the LX3

Roadside, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Field, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Barley, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I have made twice before an analysis of what focal lengths I'm using most often on the LX3, and previously it has been the wide end (24 mm) which dominates.

Interestingly, this is no longer the case. Here is an analysis done with the exiftool program for my "landscape" photographs taken in 2010.

Now the tele end is starting to dominate. And there are relatively few images (compared to before) at 24 mm equiv.

There is a systematic change in the focal lengths which is due to using the square format (1:1 aspect ratio). Namely, the camera reports the focal length as longer in 35 mm equiv. when using the 1:1 aspect ratio. For example, 24 mm becomes 28 mm and 60 mm becomes 70 mm. But this does not much change the overall analysis.

Maybe I don't need the wide lens of the LX3 as much as I thought. And having a longer reach that 60 mm equiv. would certainly be useful. Hmmm...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Signs of autumn

Lythrum salicaria, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Pond, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

Dry, originally uploaded by jiihaa.

I debated whether I should post this or not, but then I noticed that Mark Hobson had made a photograph of the same flower than I did today. So here goes, in the footsteps of the master.

In any case, signs of autumn are strengthening daily. Soon summer will be just a memory.