27 December 2008

Morning magic

A good friend called last night, and challenged me to come with him for a morning session of photography today. To get up at 06:15 AM in the middle of the Christmas holidays is a bit of a challenge all by itself, but once we got started the rest came quite naturally.
It was pretty cool in more than one way, and on one occasion I nearly got my nose stuck to the metal on the vertical part of the L-bracket. From then on I used my left eye with the viewfinder. :)
The sun had a couple of hills to overcome before spilling its rays around us. The above shot was taken at 09:40, and was one of the last I got before we turned back for family duties.
Lovely to be Out There and make some pictures again.

15 December 2008

Busy days

Apologies. Two weeks passed between the two previous posts.
This hiatus match my photographic activities; there's lots to do on other fronts. One night I dreamt I heard an echo of a "ho, ho, ho" down the chimney, despite the fact that Santa has very different manners here in Norway...
There are lots of customs and traditions to hone these days. A particular one in our family is to write extensive Christmas letters and distribute to friends and family; instead of those typical seasons greetings cards with a single photo of the kids forced to pose for the occasion.
Instead, we fill the letters with photos from the past year. The process of selecting images is equal to an Annual Image Archive Clean-out, which is an experience both amusing and frustrating. Every year I swear to myself to document more, to be more agile with the camera around the kids and at family gatherings, and improve my photos to convey the spirit of the moments. Every year I realise I have failed.
On the other hand, every year I find shots of moments I had forgotten. Usually not very good photos, but good enough to survive the first screening at upload to the computer. Usually I'm quite conservative in keeping all the so-so material produced, which inflates my need for disk space substantially, but I would hate myself for discarding good memory-joggers. So, in a way, every year I also realise that I've had some success.
Maybe it's just that yin-yang thing, I dunno.

13 December 2008


Last week-end came the first good skiing opportunity this season. At least if sticking to the prepared tracks. Lots of people out, lots of smiling faces.
Outside the prepared tracks, the forest was completely quiet. The snow on the branches muted all sounds. The snow on the ground was shallow enough to allow normal walking, but thick enough to hide all tracks and old footprints. To be the first down a path was like stepping onto virgin land.
Though very few people saw it, there was a broad smile on my face too. All day.

30 November 2008

First Snow

I was so sure I had backup of everything important.
Then, after reinstalling Windows Vista, I couldn't retrieve my Photoshop actions.
So, I have to remake a matting-and-framing action for presentation here. As you can see from the above, I'm almost there. It took the whole Sunday evening to get this far, so I really need to figure out a good way to make backups of all those little shortcuts in Photoshop.

24 November 2008

nVidia and colour profiles revisited

Just a little heads-up.
A good while ago, I agonised over nVidias video drivers, which tended to override my carefully calibrated colour profiles in Windows Vista.
While the ideal solution would be if nVidia could stay away from the colour calibrations in the first place, a second best could be to fool nVidia into loading its profile first, and then let the calibrated profile override nVidia's.
That's what I've been doing.
I've kept a shortcut on the desktop for the little program that loads my ColorSpyder profile at need.
Then enter a little program called Startup Delayer. It's freeware, and solves this problem very neatly. It takes a look at all the programs that you run whenever you start your PC, and lets you assign delays to each. The sample screenshot below is from my PC, with a small delay to the ColorVision startup. In my previous post I mentioned 30 seconds, I'm currently reinstalling my system on a faster drive, and 15 seconds seems about right this time.
If you're one of those who have a ton of little gadgets running at startup, I bet you can shorten the required time for PC booting by a fair bit too. :-)
Hereby warmly recommended!

22 November 2008

Nerve Cell

More ice.
From the same outing as the previous shot because this week-end I'm grounded by a throat infection. :-(
But winter will be long yet.

18 November 2008

Winter is here

It's been a mild autumn here this year. So mild I wondered if we'd ever get enough frosty nights for the lakes to freeze over before Christmas. But it did happen, eventually. Now I hope for a period of cold, clear nights to strengthen the ice enough to carry my weight.

07 November 2008

inspiration with a twist

I was right.

The Nature Photo Festival in Vårgårda was a place to be humbled and inspired. Mattias Klum with his burning engagement for the environment and pictures to match. His German colleague at National Geographic Klaus Nigge, with his talk on the Philippine Eagle, was definately in the same league in both respects. Hans Strand shared some of his Iceland images, and Jari Peltomäki some of his amazing bird photos from Northern Finland. There were another handful of Swedish presenters, and three Norwegians as well. The latter got much respect for their work, especially when it involved pictures of large mammals or birds of prey.

But I was wrong too. Just like in my photo above, there's a twist to the tale.

Some of the presented stuff was outright boring, poorly presented, or both. However, as it failed to humble or inspire, it delivered a challenge. If there's room for "borers", then maybe for me? Would I be able to deal with presenting my stuff for an audience of fellow photographers; in an arena as prestigious as that? On one hand it scares the willies out of me, on the other hand I'm attracted to the challenge. Moth to the flame, maybe. The thought is seeded, though. We'll see if it sprouts.

In case you wondered, the photo above is a twisting crack in ice. Shot in November two years ago, on a nearby lake. The ice sheet was only an inch and a half thick, and sometimes I could hear the twang of new cracks forming. It was not dramatic, though. The twangs and cracks come because of tensions caused by small changes in water level under the ice. When the cracks open by just a few micrometers, it allows water to seep in and form a film that splits light. Much like an oil spill, but not usually visible to the unaided eye. A polarising filter makes the difference.

30 October 2008

In an open place

Still ruminating on pictures from that trip to the mountains a month ago. It's a kind of place that makes you feel very, very small as a human being. Humbling and awe-inspiring at the same time.

This week-end I'm in for a top-up on the Humbling and Awe-Inspiring, btw. Off to a Swedish nature photo festival first thing tomorrow. Looking immensely forward to that. It's a festival arranged by Vårgårda photo club, attracting big names to their programme every year. This time Matthias Klum is coming, among others.

24 October 2008

Memories of green

I was just listening to Vangelis tune "memories of green" from the album "see you later". It's one of my favourite tunes because there is a kind of tension in it which resonates with my experience of autumn. The tune came on (random pick playlist in Windows Media Player) while I was working this picture out from its raw file, so I simply couldn't resist the title. A bit cliché, but heck, everyone have some sentimental moments, right? :-)

19 October 2008

A night shot

This is a really long exposure, about fifteen minutes. I was curious to see how the Pentax K20D handled this kind of thing. I think the result is quite OK, but oh, the patience... After the exposure, the camera needs exactly the same amount of time again to apply its noise reduction. Foreground is lit by "brushing" with a small LED flashlight, by the way.

16 October 2008

Autumn tree

Inspired by Cog

04 October 2008

BIOS relief

Here's part two in my BIOS upgrade saga.

After getting some cheers from a Norwegian discussion forum on Hardware matters, I boldly went and bought myself a new motherboard. Unfortunately, I couldn't get hold of same model as the one with amnesia, and not even one with the same RAID controller. But I placed my bet on the devil I best knew, and stuck to an Asus motherboard with a RAID controller made by Intel. I also shot off an email to support at Intel, in the offshot chance that they would bother to reply a single guy like me <g>.
By the time my new motherboard arrived, I was fully prepared to install Vista and all the apps from scratch. No mail had arrived from Intel, so I just had to give it my best shot. Since this could potentially go very wrong, the pulse was in bit of a rush when I pushed the power button.
And I swear that's why I fumbled with the keyboard and missed the timeframe for pushing <ctrl-i> to enter the RAID setup. My heart didn't sink as much as it dropped. Or maybe just skipped a couple of beats. The only thing that went through my head, in large flashing letters, was "uh-oh".
When my heart picked up is vital task again, I cursed myself for being such a sluggish guy and tormented myself by envisioning a full week of installing apps, recovering backups, reconstructing photoshop actions and image database keywords. All the while my eyes were following a yellowish progress bar from left to right on the screen...

It finally sunk in. Lo and behold, the bloody 'puter booted up straight! I was so shocked I turned it off without logging on. Then, from my older PC I found something in the spam-filter. A mail from Support at Intel. In a friendly way they told me that if I found an identical motherboard it would not be a problem. If I had to buy a newer motherboard, I should be able to read the RAID but was advised against booting from it. With no reason stated.

Time to worry again. What would happen at the next boot? With the wrong RAID drivers, the wrong soundcard, the wrong network card, and even the wrong Southbridge chipset! But I supposed whatever damage, I would probably already have caused it. So I pushed the button again, and the PC booted. I logged in, and noticed that the machine was quite slow. A look at the Device Manager explained why. The list was peppered with warning signs for "unknown device". But as I watched, the warning on a couple of entries disappeared. Vista was looking them up and replacing the drivers without any intervention.

In the end, the SMB-driver remained the only unknown entity, and Vista demanded a reboot. Before allowing that, I installed the SMB-driver from the CD that came with the new motherboard. On the next boot, the machine was back to its snappy self.


I'm impressed by Windows Vista's resilience to hardware changes. It kept working, and reconfigured itself quite well when faced with new hardware. Admittedly, I had to reactivate my license by phone, but that's just five minutes of hassle. Compared to installing the whole fleet of apps it's nothing.
And Intel must have done something very right with their ICH-series of RAID controllers. The new motherboard with its ICH10R controller booted fine with a driver in the OS that was made for a much older controller, the ICH8R. Given the warnings from Intel support, I may have been a bit lucky, but according to a test done by "Tom's Hardware" forum, compatibility is more of a rule than exception with the ICH drivers (article here).

So my image archive is back on line, thank goodness! It is just SO nice when such things turn out much better than expected.

For a change. :-)

Edit 06. october:
Intel Support mailed me back and advised cautious optimism. No clear-cut answer on compatibility between drivers and chipset versions, but I guess it's hard to generalise across the myriad of combinations possible of disks, motherboards, driver versions and operating systems. Neither could they know I had used the week-end to move on, of course, so I really appreciate them taking time to respond to a dimwitted customer who goes off and screws up his own PC like I did. Well done Intel, and well done Otto JK. who answered my mails. Dimwitted my PC handling may have been this time, but professional customer service is certainly not lost on me!

02 October 2008

BIOS woes

Secure storage of my photos have become more and more important since going digital five years ago. So when building a new computer last summer, I took the bother to set up a fault-tolerant disk solution (RAID-5), and make sure that I had a backup device large enough to accomodate as much data as the computer. I also forced myself to do backup regularly, and have kept at it. More or less. :-)
Last week-end's outing was not yet fully backed up. Nor would it be, until all the keepers were extracted from the raw files, and jpegs for web produced.
And if you suspect a disaster coming now, you're quite right. Last night I installed a new CPU in the machine, which made an upgrade of the BIOS necessary. I downloaded the latest version from Asus, along with the proper tool to upgrade it, and began the process. What the tool did was to erase whatever trace there was of BIOS inside the machine, as it should, to make room for the new version. But guess what it did NOT.
So last week-end's few fabulous, and loads of not-so-fabulous, photos of reindeer and landscapes are now in limbo on an array of RAID-5 disks inside a dead computer.
Did I sigh? Well, I'll do it again.
It looks like the way out is to buy a new motherboard with a RAID-controller in the same family as the one I have, and then carefully set up the disks exactly as they are in the current config, down to plugging the disks into the same SATA ports on the controller. Then, the magic trick should be to tell the new controller NOT to write any changes to the disks, just make use of the parameters I give it to access the disks. A new motherboard is ordered, so if this method works there's only one more joker. Will Windows Vista accept the changes in hardware? My fingers are crossed... :-)
A fall-back solution would be to install Windows Vista anew on a different disk, and then access the RAID-5 as a second disk. Alternatively, if the BIOS cannot take a new configuration without overwriting the disk data, I will purchase a Raid Recovery tool like Runtime or DiskInternals, hook up the disks as individual entities and scavenge the files that way.
Not the end of the world, but a lot of extra work. Updating a BIOS shouldn't have to be this risky.
I will permit myself a third sigh, I think.

29 September 2008

Human element

Have a look at this empty landscape. It's boring, isn't it? Not a thing that seize your attention and holds it. As some people tote like a mantra; "landscapes like this needs a human element for scale".


This must be something about how our brain works. Probably even something basal, inherited from those of our ancestors who could only say "ook" and were awfully good at climbing trees. By including a reference feature one could easily gauge distance. And thereby determine how far away the next meal, mate or predator may be.

Speaking of predators, there's always something special about closeup pictures of those large predatory mammals, isn't it? Lions, polar bears, wolves... All of them comes with a recommended minimum distance for approach. Deep inside our brain there's probably something hard-wired to crave our full attention if a large animal suddenly presents itself within our field of view. Generally, the further away the better. So when presented with a super-telephoto portrait of our animal foes, that craving function in our brain goes on red alert. Fortunately, that function is quickly moderated by the comfy-ness of your sofa and your firm grip on the TV remote control, but the attention level is raised nonetheless.

But I digress. My point is that the human element of a landscape is always there, even if it doesn't communicate to the viewer. Because, as a photographer, you have to be there. Sensing the world, and gauging distance and scale relative to your own body. The total absence of other human elements is often the most awe-inspiring of all.

That said, there is in fact a human element. A reindeer hunter with his dog.

Pentax K20D, DA* 16-50/2.8 at 50mm,
f/11 and 1/320s at ISO 200

23 September 2008

12 September 2008


This is a photo from just behind our house. An attempt to photograph how I remember the forest from my younger days, so different from how I perceive it today.

Power hungry photography

Granted, this is not really about photography.
Some would claim it's not about environmentalism either.
It is about fuel cells. Methanol fuel cells.

This summer, a company called PolyFuel showed a laptop prototype running on electricity generated by combustion of methanol. It has been touted as a "green" breakthrough, and frowned upon because methanol is mostly made from natural gas; which means it's fossil fuel.

However, methanol can be made from many sources, including atmospheric CO2. I don't know how the final equation will balance "green-ness" between methanol fuel cells and conventional batteries, but I do know one thing. I would love to have a laptop with an energy source lasting 10 hours or more, and to have spare energy cartridges that weighs less than a brick. If it could be adapted to my camera as well, then all the better.

01 September 2008

Out of silent planet

It's been a month.
More than a month.

Holidays and subsequent return to regular worklife has consumed most of my resources for a good while. Now I look forward to start writing here again. :-)

More soon.

25 July 2008

A wilderness?

When I began this blog, I referred to my immediate boreal surroundings as a wilderness. That statement harks back to when I grew up, when the forest seemed more unyielding, mysterious, and of course also much larger, than it seems now. Its appeal had much to do with those factors. A trip into its shades was always loaded with anticipation. Would I come across any animals? Any plant species I hadn't seen before? Any path would do for exploration.

Today, the paths seem only well trodden. And not only by me. While the perceived size of the forest is reduced to the adult mind, the paths are wider than remembered. No wonder, perhaps, because there seems to be more people about. The human presence must have done something to the forest.

The attitude of the people I meet is different now. Thirty years ago was before the jogging wave, and fellow wanderers were more into relaxation through natural experience than into pure exercise. Fellow wanderers were always greeted with a smile.

Today I see only self-absorbed faces, some glistening with perspiration. Nobody says hello anymore, except me. I refuse to let go of that silly old courteousness, even to off-road bikers obviously detached from here and now by their MP3 players.

The geology in the area makes for interesting challenges to the bikers, but also limits the plant selection to hardy species not expecting much out of their soil. However, the species range seems smaller than it should be. I cannot recall the diversity from thirty years ago, of course, but I can compare to other areas of similar geology and climate. What's left in my local forest today are species enduring the frequent mechanical stress of humans stomping around. The more fragile ones are gone.

And even more pertinent, the forest is littered with empty soda bottles, plastic bags, and other human remnants. People use it like they would an urban public park. Maybe they're expecting gardeners to clean up after them, or just abandoning their stuff in want of a litter box. I just don't believe the joggers to run so fast they don't notice what they drop.

What's happened to the concept of responsability, I wonder. Probably evaporated along with the custom of greeting one another on the paths.

It's a sorry way to rediscover the places of childhood mystique.

21 July 2008

Another gross index

While on yet another business trip a short while ago, the international edition of Newsweek caught my attention. The cover story was about the 2008 Environment Performance Index (EPI), ranking nations according to environment-friendliness of their policy makers. Kinda like a Gross Domestic Product index for green-ness.

For a graphic overview of what EPI is designed to measure, have a look at the dedicated site from Yale university. The project is run by Yale and Columbia universities, by the way, and Columbia also has a site devoted to it.

The top ranked country is Switzerland. Then follows three of the Nordic countries, before Costa Rica. A lot of countries team up closely behind these, all achieving a EPI score above 80 on a scale from 0 to 100.

Newsweek's take on the EPI was interesting. There was first an editorial, then they picked 10 countries from various parts of the list, and presented them more thoroughly. There were quotes from interviews with the scientists behind the study, and sensible, level language describing how the different factors had contributed to this or that score in the overall index.

The index itself is quite interesting too. There are so many factors involved, and so many ways to weigh the factors into the total. Rather than compiling a set of hard facts, the EPI provides a perspective for discussion. Not among scientists, though I'm sure they will debate the methodology fiercely; just like they did two years ago when Yale/Columbia released a pilot EPI. For example, some Norwegian scientists protested loudly about the way to measure the impact of fisheries on the marine food chain. The main target group, though, is policy makers. The politicians and economists who really need such quantifications to make sense of anything environmental. Hopefully, this index will contribute to a better understanding among them.

On the other hand, it seems odd to rank the most-consuming economies in the world at a top of a list measuring environmental friendliness. It feels like there must be something important missing from EPI, allowing this to happen.

18 July 2008

Trip to Runde, day 3

This is the third and last post about Runde for now.

On our final day, fellow Pentaxian Tim Øsleby suggested we made a stand on one of the outermost rocks by the lighthouse at Runde, to capture in-flight shots of birds in transit between feeding grounds and nesting colonies.

This turned out to be a very good suggestion, and emboldened by a good night's sleep I decided to have a go at using the FA*600/4 for the purpose. I repressed the memory of previous failures with the FA*400/5.6, and convinced myself that yesterday's practice with the fulmars was all I needed to pull it off.

As if a gesture to that thought, a fulmar came slowly gliding past as if conciously posing as model. We didn't see any more fulmars after this one, but plenty of gannets, shags and kittiwakes. The latter were too swift for capture with the 600, but the gannets held just the right speed to allow some decent shots.

The shags, however, turned out to be a very interesting challenge. While not really much faster than the gannets, they flew very low over the waves, and the autofocus missed them most of the time. With white foam on the wavecrests, the camera constantly latched on to the background rather than the dark brown birds. However, persistance paid off, and I got a couple I was happy with.

Just like the first time I was there, it was hard to leave the lighthouse. It's such a beautiful spot, and such a hard uphill to mount when turning back. At any rate, I'd love to go back as soon as I can.

Pentax K20D, FA* 600/4, tripod

Pentax K20D, FA* 600/4, tripod

Pentax K20D, FA* 600/4, tripod

Pentax K20D, FA* 600/4, tripod

This is where the lighthouse keeper lived until 2001, when the light became automatic.
The light itself is just outside the frame on the left hand side.
The rusty stump is the fundament of an old light, decommissioned around 1930.
The occupying Nazi forces nicked most of the steel for their own purposes during WW2.
Pentax K20D, DA*300/4, ISO 200

06 July 2008

Trip to Runde, day 2

On the first day we were late back from the puffin colony. Then we spent half the night chimping, chaffing over canned beer, and enjoying an over-late dinner. Those activities put a bit of a clamp of the next day's activities, but the weather was against us anyway. We took it easy and had a long, noon-ish breakfast before strolling over to one of the fulmar colonies. Fulmars are very charming birds, displaying various kinds of both benign and hostile social behaviour. Curiously, I was not always able to decide which was what. Fulmars are also, relatively speaking, predictable in their flight paths. So they are excellent subjects for practicing birds-in-flight shots.

I ended up shooting most of the social interaction with the FA* 600/4, and flight shots with the DA*300/4. The autofocus of both cameras (K10D and K20D) performed very well, and my success rate was higher than I had ever hoped for with the flight shots.

After the fulmars, we proceeded over to the lighthouse to spend the night there. A good night, as far as sleep is concerned.

Here are some of the fulmar shots:

04 July 2008

Trip to Runde, day 1

This is the first in a series of 3 posts.

Reverting to old sins, AlunFoto has traveled far to photograph.

Runde is about 10 hours drive from Oslo, and yet the nearest seabird colony. Which was the first reason for going there. Second, it is almost in the backyard (relative to Oslo, at least) of fellow Pentax photographers Tim Øsleby and Øyvind Hopland. And third, I needed some real-life experience of lugging the FA*600/4 around, to get the full appreciation of its size.

As it turned out, I've come to appreciate both its weight and its optical properties, but the week-end started off with and adventure without it. The first thing we did was to take a guided boat trip around the island. The 600mm was just too large for wielding in a small boat packed with birding tourists. So instead, I opted for the DA*300/4, which also turned out to be a stretch on my capabilities for hand-holding long lenses. The constantly rocking boat confused both the "predictive" autofocus and my balance organs, and peering through the viewfinder all the time didn't make things any better... Fortunately, the birds were quite unafraid and studied us as much as we did them. Without their cooperation I don't think I'd have any successful shots at all. Here are a few pics from the boat trip:

Pentax K20D, DA*300/4
f/8, 1/250, ISO 400

Pentax K20D, DA*300/4
f/8, 1/250, ISO 400

Pentax K20D, DA*300/4
f/8, 1/180s, ISO 400

Pentax K20D, DA*300/4
f/8, 1/250s, ISO 400

After a late lunch we headed for the puffin colony. The ascent from the camping grounds were about 1,5 km long and 250 m up from sea level, and provided the first real appreciation of the weight of the 600mm. But bringing it turned out to be very worthwhile. We had a good time while waiting for the furballs, who didn't find time to return to their nests until sundown at around 10:00 PM. A fog came rolling in from behind the cliffs at that point, and made us some spectacular light for a short while.

Pentax ruled the grounds that night. :-)
Pentax K10D, DA*16-50/2.8

Pentax K20D, FA*600/4
f/5.6, 1/180s, ISO 400

Some people challenging their fear of heights on a
neighbouring outcrop, with the sunset fog rolling over
the cliffs behind them.
Pentax K10D, Sigma EX 70-200/2.8

The fog acted like a huge softbox, giving extremely warm
tones to the highlights. This one seemed to enjoy the last
rays of light as much as we did.
Pentax K10D, DA*300/4
f/8, 1/500s, ISO 400

25 June 2008

Urban birds

Because of what Alunfoto does for a living, I sometimes find myself between meetings in the Docklands district of London, UK. With nothing better to do, I sometimes bring my cameras along for a stroll along the river banks, or wherever my feet points me to in the Docklands district. Sometimes on the Isle of Dogs, but mostly on the Southwark side.

One interesting place I've stumbled onto (but fortunately not into) is the Greenland Dock area. Bombed out by the Germans during WWII and redeveloped in the 1980s into a luxurious residential area, the dock itself has become an arena for recreational watersports.

Watersports in the Greenland Dock
Pentax K10D, DA*16-50/2.8
f/8, 1/750s, ISO 200

The waters seems to be very productive. Grebes, Cormorants and Terns all hunt for fish here, and on the vegetarian side you find plenty of coots and mallards. There's apparently a project going on to create suitable nesting spots for the birds, in the shape of rafts with vegetation on them, imitating the wetlands they would naturally inhabit.

Nesting platforms and other urban dwellings
Pentax K10D, DA*16-50/2.8
f/8, 1/500s, ISO 200

While waiting for the platforms to become naturally looking, the coots seem to be content with what they find lying around. I can't help but feeling a bit sorry for her, throning on a pile of trash. However she seems well off compared to her neighbor, a Great Crested Grebe trying to brood on the bare wooden platform. It's a bit late in the year too, I think, for the grebe to be still brooding after summer solstice. Perhaps it is her second attempt.

I'd prefer to build my own nest, thank you!
Pentax K20D, DA*300/4
f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 400

Great Crested Grebe rearranging her eggs
Pentax K20D, DA*300/4
f/11, 1/750, ISO 400

Back home in Norway, the Grebes are considered shy and reserved birds that don't easily tolerate human presence. How different the London Grebes are...

21 June 2008

Pentax Raw File Support

Since Pentax is a smallish player in the SLR market, some software vendors are correspondingly slow at implementing support for the raw files of new Pentax cameras. So I figured it could be worthwhile to keep abreast of the extent to which the PEFs are supported in various software.

I've published my gatherings as a Google-Doc here.

The list surely contains many omissions, but I'll do my best to keep it updated and include suggestions from readers. Updates to this document will be announced on the dpReview.com Pentax SLR forum, at the Pentax Discussion Mailing List, and at Foto.no.

Thanks to all who have already contributed, you know who you are... :-)

The PentaxForums website is omitted for no particular reason other than that I have never visited there yet.

15 June 2008

600mm early attempts

A 600mm f/4 lens is one heck of a monster, all six and a half kiloes of it. However, once onto the tripod and well-balanced on the Wimberley Sidekick, it's fairly easy to operate. The only times I'm reminded of its physical size are when taking the eye away from the viewfinder, and when the AF occasionally start hunting. It doesn't do that often, though.

Here's one result from yesterday afternoon:

Pentax K10D, FA* 600mm f/4, sturdy tripod with ballhead and Sidekick.
1/3000s, f/9.5, ISO 800.


09 June 2008

Shaking the dust off my...

...brain cells. :-)

A friend asked me the other day: "Why is it, that dust specs on the sensor become more visible when you stop down?"

Below is my explanation, but I'm not entirely sure about it. Please leave a comment to correct me if I'm wrong.

- The dust is not really on the sensor, but on a glass filter just in front of the sensor. What you see in the photo is a shadow cast by the dust spec onto the sensor.

The shape of a shadow depend on many things, but in this case there's only one thing that change; the diametre of the light source, which is the opening of the aperture in the lens.

When the light source is very large compared to the object, the object's shadow will have very fuzzy edges, or may not appear at all. As the light source shrinks, the shadow becomes less fuzzy, and darker in the middle. I've personally tried to draw this in photoshop, so please forgive the naivistic style... :-)

05 June 2008

Eating my own words

I've bought a lens.

Admitting this publically is a bit embarrasing since I've now joined the ranks of a certain type of nature photographer that I've been bashing twice before in this blog ("Furs & Feathers Galore" and "Pentax and TelePhoto"). The lens in question is a Pentax FA* 600mm f/4. The very largest of the old "dinosaurs", as I called them half a year ago.

Maybe my previous blog posts were just attempts to convince myself that such a lens wasn't worth buying. And maybe I was right. Time will tell. Right now, the feeling of "enablement" prevails. As if the purchase is a key to getting shots I've missed before.

The lens itself is huge. It weighs almost as much as the rest of my photo gear combined, and is certainly not anyone's choice for a casual walk-around lens. My trusty old FA* 400mm f/5.6 fits that bill much better, and has been with me for many a trip. The 600mm is the sort of tool to bring for a well-staged, well-planned event. For hunting rather than gathering. For situations where you're fairly sure the motif will come to you rather than the other way around.

That may imply staying inside hides for prolonged times. I still loathe that thought. I will have to consider my way of using this lens very carefully. It tickles my curiosity, but may not be the right kind of tool for my work.

And there's only one way to find out. I'll have to pray that my back does not come undone in the process... :-)

27 May 2008

An Ally for nature experiences

On Sunday morning I woke up to see lake Aklangen like this. No sounds of human activity, not even a distant roar of a jet plane. Notice the absence of vapour trails in the sky, btw.

Lake Aklangen is part of a long watershed in Nordmarka, a large forested area North of Oslo. It is continuous with my "local" wilderness Lillomarka, just separated by a railroad track. However this is quite far from home.

I was there to test out my recent acquisition, an Ally canoe. It is a collapsible, stored in a backpack in my garage when not in use. The backpack is waterproof, and will hold all my luggage when the canoe is mounted. I have always wanted one of these. Ever since one of my best friends bought one more than 20 years ago.

It is an ingenious little thing. Easy to paddle even solo, and lightweight enough to carry for one person as well. The pun about an Ally becoming an ally is pretty lame, but it feels right. I think I'll get many more great experiences with this canoe.

One advantage of canoeing is getting to places otherwise unreachable. While resting on a small island in lake Katnosa, two fishing birds came closer. A closer look through the FA* 400mm f/5.6 revealed a pair of Black-Throated Divers. It is the first time in my life I've been close enough to this kind of bird to get a picture.

Photographing birds with white plumage is a real challenge in the middle of the day because of the high contrast, and this pic isn't exactly world class, but it's at least a small personal trophy.

All the bright specs on the water surface are blobs of birch pollen. It had been raining for a couple of days before this beautiful Sunday, and in many places the pollen lay in thick layers along the lake edges, like here at Finntjern:

The birch (Betula pubescens) spreads its pollen before popping the leaves in spring, so its abundance tells you a great deal of how far spring has advanced. As it was last Sunday, I think the birch pollen season is coming to an end now, as the hills were putting on a light green in the sun. Here's from Pershusvatnet, late in the day:

The whole day was so nice that the previous day is almost forgotten. Saturday saw just rain. I didn't even exercise the camera. However it was a nice way to test the rest of my equipment and clothing for waterproofing. I now have a list of things to improve for the next trip. High up on that list is a waterproof camera bag. For good measure it should probably be a floating one.

All shots made with Pentax K10D, and one of three lenses; Pentax DA*16-50/2.8, Sigma EX 70-200/2.8 or Pentax FA* 400/5.6. I used a tripod for the first three shots.

17 May 2008

I hate keywording

Fellow blogger Bruce Robbins recently posted about his experiences with microstock agencies. It hit me like a slap in the face because I thought reading his blog would be a nice escape from the tedious work looming over me; namely putting keywords on my own photos for the FotoFil.no stock agency.

As Bruce notes, keywording "is as much of an art as taking the bloody photographs in the first place!".

For myself, it's an artform thrust upon a most unwilling performer. Not much chance of inspired creativity here.

Perhaps I ought to spend some time reading about the stock photographers' tribal secrets? Bruce contracted a comment from another blogger dedicated to the very subject of stock photography; Lee Torrens. In case you're interested, you'll find him at: microstockdiaries.com.

But ach... Writing this post is just another displacement activity, steering clear of the real task at hand. Guess I better get back to work.

Oh, wait... It's lunchtime! :-)

15 May 2008


The cat is out of the bag, the long awaited DA*200/2.8 has hit the market. The german test site Photozone was quick to test it, and delivered a report of mixed feelings. To sum it up, Photozone reports it to be sharp, with nice bokeh and nicely built.

But Adam didn't stay long in Paradise, did he? Photozone complains about Longitudinal Chromatic Aberrations (LoCA) and Purple Fringing (PF). These issues make me shudder. I once owned a Pentax SMC-K 500/4.5 which caused me some frustration in this respect. What makes me shudder, however, is all the trouble I caused the photographer who bought that lens from me. He has serious ambitions as a bird photographer and has had far more than a fair share of frustration over this lens. But any comparison to modern lenses is unfair. The K 500/4.5 is ancient. The way modern lenses manage such distortions is a good sign of progress in lens design. Testers like Photozone paying attention to it is also a good sign. These parameters were not considered in the tests of comparable Nikon and Canon lenses. I wish they were, for the sake of Photozone's credibility and brand-neutrality.

So what's the fuss?

The DA*200/2.8 will render bare twigs, air-strung power lines, flagpoles and other narrow picture elements in a purple colour instead of dark, almost black gray when shot against a bright background. The problem is most pronounced at f/2.8, and diminish quickly when stopping down. It's all gone at f/5.6.

So, one pertinent question remains. Who, in their right minds, run around shooting backlit twigs at f/2.8?

I know I don't.


05 May 2008

Virtual vs. traditional life

The author Terry Pratchett, (in)famous for his humoristic fantasy books about Discworld, describes himself as not wanting "to get a life, because it feels as though he's trying to lead three already".

As a man of modest capacities, I'll gladly settle for two. Virtual and Traditional. The latter is, of course, the most demanding, and tends to displace the Virtual into the realm of subconciousness or some other unpleasant and possibly Freudian place.

Such as in the past month since my last blogpost. So perhaps I ought to settle for one life? Or even none, in the nerd-ish sense?



For now, I'll just make a promise to myself to keep the Virtual closer to the threshold of conciousness. Because there's no shortage of material for writing.

But I have to dash off now. Monday morning duty calls. Sigh.

10 April 2008


Another water abstract.

Pentax K10D, DA* 200/2.8
1/8s, f/16 at ISO 100

05 April 2008

Water dragon

A couple of weeks ago I had a very productive day on a stony beach, despite cold winds, salt spray and occasional rain. The K10D and the DA* lens performed flawlessly, and I spent hours playing with the surf over the rocks. I took many abstract shots like the below, but they need a lot of time to grow on me before I can decide which ones to go on with. This is one I like a lot at the moment.

Pentax K10D, DA* 16-50/2.8
f/13, 1/15s at ISO 100

30 March 2008

Pleasant surprise

As a photographer wannabe, one is always looking for the occasional sale. So all the more delightful when it comes unexpected.

I've spent this week-end at a trade fair called Villmarksmessen, catering for all kinds of outdoor activities. Biofoto had a stand to man. Those of us who volunteered, got the opportunity to decorate the stand with our own pics. Just for show.

We've rallied some new members, had a great time, those few of us who rose to the task. Many people came by our stand to look at the pics, and being a junior in the scrambled company, I noted with some satisfaction that my pics got a fair amount of attention. Which eventually resulted in a sale, an enlargement of the below pic.

Camera: Pentax 645
Lens: 645A-45/2.8
Film: Kodak E100VS
Exposure: ca. 2 minutes at f/3.5

27 March 2008

A Snowfall To Save The Season

This winter has been exceptionally mild around here.

All the snow we've got have come at temperatures just below freezing and with no proper crystals. Just mashed up needles or grains of puff.

The Snowfall To Save The Season came last Monday. -5°C and nice, elaborate crystals. So here's a sample of this year's catch.

The optical setup was a Pentax 645-A* 300/4 with 645-FA 75/2.8 reversed, a #1 extension tube and 645-K adapter, mounted on a K10D and fastened to a stationary homemade rig.

23 March 2008

Sporty service

I had a business trip to London on Wednesday before Easter. Today I realised I still had British pounds in my wallet. The moment of realisation came while trying to pay for lunch at Lilloseter, a so-called Sports Cafeteria. The forests around Oslo have a number of these cafés, and they offer "refreshments to the weary traveller". At horrendous prices, of course, but that's a different story.

Today I stood there, my tray full of lunch, and no valid cash.

The lady behind the counter smiled and handed me the receipt. "You're not the first one in that situation. Just pay the next time you come by, that's OK."

Bless 'em!