Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another iPhone picture

You may recall that I recently purchased an iPhone 5s, in part because of the nice camera that it contains. Here's a photo of our cat Ty Ty in his never-ending quest for sunshine and warmth, taken with the 5s. It's a jpeg straight from the phone, with no adjustments.

A couple of things are notable about this image, I think. First, in this very contrasty shot, with direct sunlight coming through a window, you still get decent detail in some of the shadows. Look at the painting in the background, for instance.

And the resolution is very good. Here's a crop of the same shot:

The fur and the paint texture hold up nicely in this enlargement. I didn't add any sharpening. Click on the image to view it larger.

The iPhone has some issues. The very-low-light pictures I've taken aren't great but, c'mon, this is a small sensor (4.89 by 3.67 mm, according to AnandTech). I've had one lock-up unrelated to the camera, and the voice dictation--great when it works--mysteriously refuses to be available in the Notes application at times. Overall though, and in particular regarding photos, I'm happy so far.

My previous iPhone photos are in this post.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Greeting Cards: method

I enjoy making photos into greeting cards. Most commercial cards leave me cold, and it's satisfying to create something on your own. My wife Susan encourages this. In fact, she suggested it in the first place.

I started out making cards by pasting 4 by 6 glossy prints onto cards designed for that purpose (Strathmore makes a line of these). It is easy to do, in part because you need no folding or cutting. The cards are ready to send as soon as the print is attached (and your sentiments written inside, of course. I've always made cards that are blank inside). You don't actually paste the photo; you use little squares of double-sided tape. Quick and easy.

But I was never completely happy with that method. The cards look like what they are: two-piece constructions. Over time the photos can warp. There's no control over the paper or border; you get what the manufacturer provides. You are stuck with a 4 by 6 aspect ratio, too. Susan asked a question that led me to a better method: "Could you make a borderless card?"...meaning, cover the entire front of the card with the image.

Objections flooded into my mind. How do I print all the way to the edge of the paper? This isn't a trivial task with the Epson printers I've used: they insert a border if you don't have the settings right. The card printing templates provided by Red River Paper (an otherwise great source of papers and tips) didn't seem to do borderless. All just too fiddly, I thought.

And what about the paper itself? The reverse side of most photo papers isn't designed for handwriting. Some have brand names or other markings on the reverse; some have surfaces that resemble newsprint or feel like plastic. Not the best thing for your jottings.

After fooling around a bit, I settled on a borderless method. First, I use Epson's double-sided Premium Presentation Matte paper. Both sides have a nice surface and most images print attractively on it.  It's heavy enough for a card (48 lb), if not quite as heavy as typical commercial cards. It's not very expensive. I usually print two images per sheet. Second, I don't try to print to the edge. I use a paper cutter to trim each card just where I want it.
Printed images
One wrinkle remains. To ensure that all of the card's edges line up, you need to fold the card before you trim it. If you think that making a straight fold in a card by hand isn't easy, you are right. Don't even try. Instead use two simple tools, one old and one new.  The old tool is a bone folder (marvelous term, isn't it?). It resembles a knife made of ivory or bone, though is typically plastic, and is used to score the paper along the fold line before folding. The new tool, called Scor-Palhelps you make a straight score. It's a flat plastic tray with lots of straight narrow grooves. Put your card on it and run the bone folder along the card above the appropriate groove to create a straight score.  Fold the card, "commit" the crease by pressing along it with the bone folder, trim the edges, and Bob's your uncle.
Scoring printed images
Close-up of score line
Creasing the folded card
Trimming the folded card
More trimming
Add info on the back
This technique isn't for everyone. You can't use it to make glossy photo cards. It's clearly unsuitable for mass production. But it gives you complete control over the aspect ratio and card size--image and card are necessarily the same shape and size. You also control the print quality. If you like, you can print a label, copyright or other info on the back. I like to title and sign the back. All in all, I'm happy with this technique and people seem to like the cards.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Favorite Location

There are places to which I return with my camera because I often find something beautiful and unique. The Lewes and Rehoboth Canal is such a place. Susan and I spent the weekend in Lewes and I spent early Saturday morning at the canal.

The canal is a short piece of the Intracoastal Waterway in Sussex County, Delaware. I return to a spot near its northern end, south of the town of Lewes. Saturday at dawn it was raining and misty. I considered staying indoors at the wonderful John Penrose Virden B&B (which is another location worth returning to) but I set out anyway. The Pentax K-5 is said to be highly weather-resistant and seemed unbothered by the wet and cold. My hands, feet and face were a different matter.

But the water, the vegetation and the light combined in interesting ways, and I forgot about the rain for a while.

Lewes and Rehoboth Canal

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Into the garden

I mentioned before that I was considering the purchase of my first smartphone. I read several reviews of smartphone cameras but didn't find them especially helpful. Maybe I'm spoiled by reading camera reviews that are usually quite comprehensive. In contrast, the smartphone camera reviews weren't very systematic and were hard to compare with each other. Many came to dissimilar and unclear conclusions.

Today I bought an iPhone 5s. I was swayed by its popularity among people I know, the decent 5s photos I'd seen (including the one in my previous post) and the pressing need to have a phone, having lost my previous phone a week ago.

I won't write my own inadequate smartphone camera review, but here are initial thoughts and a few shots. First, the photos look good: nice detail, good colors and adequate exposures. Focusing on close objects like these leaves seems to depend on whether there is any motion in the subject. Leaves lying still on the deck came into focus easily, but leaves swaying gently on a branch never got close to being in focus. The tap-to-focus feature didn't help in that case. But I was able to easily shift focus (using tap-to-focus) from foreground to background, as you can see in the last two images, when things weren't moving. All of these are jpegs straight from the phone.

Meanwhile I'm connected to the world again, using the first Apple device I've owned in perhaps 15 years.  Let's see how it goes.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

small wonders opens at Capitol Arts Network

The "small wonders" exhibit opened Friday night to an enthusiastic crowd at Capitol Arts Network. It was a new experience for me, and heartwarming to have so many friends come by. Thank you, friends!

The show has amazing variety.  I enjoyed talking to fellow photographers Stephen Berte and Stephen Borko and seeing their prints. Many other works in several media are there (one advantage of having small works: you can have lots of them in one gallery). Page Turner's small dresses constructed of antique fabrics, bones, and macrame are evocative, representing women of meaning in her life. See these if you're drawn to fabric art.

Capitol Arts Network is co-located with the Washington School of Photography, so while you're there go downstairs to see the stunning photos of Ethiopia by Andarge Asfaw.

At the exasperated urging of my children and friends I've decided to buy a smartphone at last. Naturally I'd like one that takes good images, observing the dictum that the best camera is the one you have with you. Here's a shot of me taken at last night's opening by life-long friend Scott Gunnison on his iPhone 5s. I tweaked it a bit in Lightroom, but even without tweaking it wasn't bad for handheld available-light. I may be tempted to enter the walled garden of Apple.

Photo by Scott Gunnison

Friday, October 25, 2013

small wonders exhibit opens Friday, November 1

Capitol Arts Network's "small wonders" exhibit opens Friday, November 1, 2013. The opening reception is from 6 pm to 9 pm. Follow the link for the announcement and info about the artists, gallery and studios.  My previous posting in this blog contains the four images I'll have on exhibit.  I hope you can stop by Friday evening to see all the works, meet the artists and have a glass of wine. The exhibit runs through November 25.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Four images for "small wonders" exhibit

I will exhibit the four images below at the small wonders exhibit opening November 1, 2013 at Capitol Arts Network.  I'm grateful to the staff of CAN for the chance to be part of this show, which will be my first.  The exhibit closes November 25. If you find yourself in Rockville, please stop in.

Farm near Addison, PA

Off-topic: Newlyweds

I'm not a wedding photographer. It's demanding work with long hours, high expectations and always the fear that "the shot" will be missed. At least that's how it seems to me. Once, a friend requested I take photos at her wedding--she hadn't hired a pro. I spent the afternoon in a near-panic, afraid I'd miss something or someone, and entirely unable to enjoy a lovely event.

So when our son Sam married Angie in October, I was happy they hired a pro (Michael Fletcher of Riverside, CA.) I left my camera in the car during the ceremony. I pulled it out for the reception and took some candids, one of which is below. Technically it's not much: the disco lighting yields some strange skin tones, and noise reduction can only do so much when shot at ISO 12,800. But aren't they just adorable?

Newlyweds Angie Beckon Wight and Sam Wight

C&O Canal Gallery

Over the past decade I've made a lot of images in the C&O Canal Historical Park, a national treasure we are fortunate to have in our vicinity.  It extends along the Potomac River between Washington, DC and Cumberland, MD, encompassing the Great Falls of the Potomac, the remnants of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and so much more.  Here are some of my favorites, taken between Pennyfield Lock and Carderock.

Tree and Roots
Trees above Mather Gorge
Foliage along C&O Canal
Ice Floe and Branches, Potomac River

Plants Gallery

Dalmation Iris
Miniature Iris