Author: ollithomson (page 1 of 20)

Vitosha Boulevard

Vitosha Boulevard is a pedestrianised zone in downtown Sofia lined with shops and restaurants which spill out onto the street. On the weekends it’s packed and probably the busiest street in the country. Despite this I find it hard to photograph since visually it is chaotic. On Saturday past while walking down Vitosha I noticed these two plant holders in the shape of stylised human heads.

I had noticed them before without really noticing them, if that makes sense, and thought they might give a little shape to the chaos of the street. The opposite side of the street where I’m shooting from has the same raised flowerbed and lamppost design that you can see here. So I sat down on the edge of the flowerbed where I was slightly hidden by the lamppost and waited for the passing stream of people to walk into my frame. Most of the shots I got were down to luck. It was too bright to see clearly who was coming before they entered the frame, and the slight delay in focus and shutter release with my LX5 makes the timing of shots difficult. Here are a few of the shots I most liked.

Even though this last shot totally overwhelmed the little sensor in my LX5 with the direct sun on those spectacular orange trousers, I liked the way this turned out. The bright colours of the two nearest the camera and that tattooed arm give it a real punch despite the technical flaws.

I think I took about 40 shots in total and deleted most of them, but here are the rest of the ones I kept.

Talk Talk

I’m too eclectic of a photographer to have a style, but there are certain practices that I return to regularly. Probably the most common of these is to find an interesting backdrop and take up a position nearby where I can photograph people as they enter into the frame. This brightly painted complex of electricity distribution boxes, overlaid with graffiti and old posters, worked well with the vivid red wall in the background. I took a few shots and these two were the best of them, making a nice pair – one woman walking into the frame from the left, the other from the right, both on their phones. Perhaps a shade too much motion blur for the woman on the left, and too little for the one on the right, but both close enough.

I took these with my Panasonic Lumix LX5, my current representative of a camera range I’ve always liked ever since I picked up the earlier LX3 in 2009. Using it a lot over the last few days I have begun to wonder if I really need anything bigger. There are some constraints of course. Despite the little sensor performing well most of the time it is limited in difficult lighting situations (though Lightroom can compensate for a lot.) The biggest issue is speed – both the slow autofocus and shutter lag make it very challenging to take this kind of picture if the subject moving into the frame is moving at anything more than walking pace. I tried a few shots against this backdrop with cyclists, trams, and electric scooters moving into the frame but never got the timing right and ended up with the subject either too far into the frame or already leaving the frame.

It’s a shame Panasonic never consistently followed up the small sensor LX range. The LX10/15 looked like a potentially viable update at one point but it seems that Sony owns this market with the RX100. I did have one of the original RX100s but eventually sold it primarily because of the slow lens. I’m occasionally tempted by the RX100 Va but that near $1,000 price tag holds me back.

The Imperial Gastrohub

Like many places Bulgaria has gone through a cycle of shutting down, opening up, shutting down again in response to COVID-19. The restaurants and cafes, after a long period of being shut down, were allowed to reopen at the beginning of March only to be shut down again three weeks later. At the beginning of April they were allowed to reopen outdoor areas. These folks were taking advantage of the fine weather on a weekday evening to have a drink and a snack at the Imperial Gastrohub on Graf Ignatiev Street.

Martenitsi

March 1 is Baba Marta day in Bulgaria – ‘Grandma March’. Baba Marta brings the end of the cold weather and the beginning of spring. On Baba Marta, martenitsi – made of red and white yarn – are given as gifts to family, friends, neigbours, and colleagues and worn on the wrist, or pinned to a coat, until the first sighting of a stork, a swallow or the first blossom on a tree. At that point people tie their martentsi to a tree, usually blossoming trees like these ones. For some reason certain trees are very popular and both of these were covered in dozens of martenitsi, even as other flowering trees nearby had very few.

Seen Better Days

I saw this car a few weeks ago while out for a walk. It sits in the grounds of a small art gallery, ‘Artur’, on Journalist Square in Sofia. I’ve no idea of the story behind it or even if there is one but it is intriguing. A little digging revealed that this is a Vauxhall Velux PA-S. Vauxhall is a long established British car maker and the Velux PA-S was made between 1957 and 1959. How a British made car from the 1950’s ended up in communist Bulgaria is a mystery, as is how it ended up quietly decaying in this garden in Journalist Square.

Worth a Look

Here are a few good online stories I’ve come across in the last few days. From the BBC an article on two women photographers in Somalia trying to break down social prejudices. From Petapixel, striking images from Ghana that reveal the disturbing reality of modern slavery. Another BBC piece looks at the ‘fingerprint’ of your digital sensor, otherwise known as ‘photo response non-uniformity’. Finally, photography lecturer Grant Scott shares his core convictions about photography.


Somalia Photography

‘I want it to be normal for women to take photos’

Somalia often conjures up images of violence and destruction but a photography exhibition in the capital, Mogadishu, sets out not only to challenge that perception but also to recast who is defining those images in the first place, as the BBC’s Mary Harper reports.

FISHERBOYS

Photographer Shoots Dark Portraits of Boys Fishing on Ghana’s Lake Volta

Brooklyn-based photographer and cinematographer Jeremy Snell has created a documentary of the life of young “fisherboys,” who are forced to work on fishing boats on Lake Volta in Ghana.

THE HIDDEN FINGERPRINT

Much like snowflakes, no two imaging sensors are alike

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Actually, there’s a great deal more hidden inside the modern digital image, says researcher Jerone Andrews.

PHotographer’s Manifesto

Photography looks easy, it is not

I talk a lot about photography, write about it and teach it. Therefore, I often find myself answering the same questions, saying the same things and explaining the same beliefs. So, I decided to compile a manifesto based on those beliefs and conversations.


There are more photographs by Fardowsa Hussein and Hana Mire from the Somalia exhibition on the site of the Somalia Arts Foundation. Jeremy Snell’s pictures from Lake Volta and his other projects are on his website and a book of images from the project is available from Setanta.

Backblaze to iDrive

I’ve been using Backblaze to backup my images (and everything else) for around three years now. For $60 a year I get unlimited backup via an app that runs quietly in the background with a relatively light footprint. Unfortunately, in the last week to ten days Backblaze started acting up. I contacted support – who got back to me within one day as promised – but despite following their suggested fixes it is still not working.

Out of curiosity I did a little online searching for alternatives and came across iDrive which is not only highly recommended by multiple reputable reviewers, but has a great offer for users of competing products. Simply provide proof that you have a current paid account with a competitor and you get the first year on iDrive for $6.95! The only downside is that there is an upper storage limit of 5 TB, though at the moment I’m only at 4TB so should be good for a while. After the first year the subscription reverts to the normal price of around $70 – slightly more than Backblaze, but close enough.

One advantage of iDrive is that you control whether files deleted from your drives are also deleted from the backup. With Backblaze, delete a file on your drive and it is automatically deleted on the back up, though these are recoverable for 30 days, or longer if you pay a little extra. With iDrive deleted files on your drives remain in your backup until you decide to remove them. You can do so with one click of the ‘Archive Cleanup’ button. Unfortunately, this does not work for external drives so these have to be tidied up manually. Since almost all my data is on external drives this is a little annoying. Another advantage is that the iDrive account allows you to back up from multiple computers and mobile devices, while the Backblaze account is restricted to one computer. Right now I only use it with one computer but I can see the benefit of this for people who use more than one computer or do a lot of work on mobile.

Switching means that all your data has to be uploaded to the new provider which, depending on how much data you have to backup and the speed of your connection, could end up taking weeks. iDrive offers a one-time free service allowing you to send your data to them on a drive which they then upload for you. This would certainly be convenient but I’m not clear how this affects the security of your data. Any additional uploads this way carry a fee.

I’m still working with Backblaze to see if I can solve the current problems and if I can, I plan to keep it and run both in parallel since my current Backblaze subscription is good until September. At that point I’ll decide which I prefer.

Adobe Super Resolution And Film

Given how well Adobe’s Super Resolution feature worked on digital images I was curious if it would deliver the same results on scanned film negatives, so I tried it with two photos – one shot on Ilford Delta 100 and another on Ilford HP5+. While I normally scan my own images I used scans done by the local store where I get my film developed. I believe they use Noritsu scanners.

Below are the original and enhanced images from the scanned TIFF of the Delta 100 negative. The original is 3999 x 2666, while the enhanced is 7998 x 5332. As with previously enhanced images I think the outcome is excellent and the larger jpeg is essentially indistinguishable from the original. In particular I don’t see any negative impact from the detail enhancer on the grain.

Original 3999 x 2666
Enhanced 9828 x 6552

The next shot is with the grainier Ilford HP5+, but despite the grain I got the same excellent outcome. The original scan is 4917 x 3276, while the enhanced image is 9828 x 6552. As well as being able to print bigger an additional benefit specific to film scans is that instead of trying to stretch my scanner to the limit on resolution, I can now scan at a slightly lower resolution and then upres using Super Resolution. As with previous posts you can download the images and make your own comparison. Right click on the image and select ‘open file in new tab’ to get around WordPress’s image scaling.

Original – 4914 x 3276
Enhanced – 9828 x 6552