Canon 5D Canon 5D Mark II 24-105mm lens 16-35mm lens 70-300mm lens 15mm fisheye lens 16 CF cards, 1-8gb ea. Mini-LED light w/ CC gels Sennheiser MKE-400 microphone Blower for sensor dust Gaffer tape Lots of AA and AAA batteries WhiBal card Sunglasses Antacids Pens reading material for plane iPhone Garmin GPS
In the suitcase:
Gitzo tripod light stand umbrella canvas bag for tripod/light stands 2 Firewire hard drives Sennheiser wireless lav mike Extra camera batteries and chargers 2 Lexar CF card readers Bag 'o cables 3 shirts 1 pants 1 shorts 3 underwear 3 socks pile vest toiletries vitamins
As I approach my 500th frame taken on the Canon 5D Mark II, I am starting to have some opinions.
Things are placed just a little differently on the new 5D. Now I have a lot of hard-won unconsious patterning that is going to be upset the first time I go on a job, which will be in a couple weeks. There is an issue with using two not quite identical cameras simultaneously. For example, the position of the exposure compensation scale is just a little different on the new camera. Because it's one of those things I unconsciously register, I can already anticipate the possible errors when that indicator is in a different position depending on which camera I'm glancing at. I really ought to have two new 5D's, but that's a bit out of reach at the moment.
I love that there's a My Menu screen, where I can plant just the functions I use all the time. Like Format. And now RAW file size, as I don't necessarily want to be producing files that are 5616 pixels wide when I'm shooting for the web. Love that.
12800 is the new 3200. Shooting in the extended ISO range is a stretch. Last night I shot at 12800. For web use, no problem. For printed use—well, if it's bigger than a quarter page I'd be hesitant. But it's great that I have the reach when I need it. Just like 3200 on the old camera.
Now, video. This camera is a real hassle if you're trying to make it be one. Focus is the culprit. If your subject is immobile and you can carefully set the focus point, fine. But if your subject is immobile, why are you taking a video of it? The camera shoots wide open, which means your depth of field is about an inch. There is no autofocus when it's running. You have to rack the focus manually, on that screen in the back that you can't see because you're middle-aged and wear progressive trifocals. It just doesn't work folks. I'll need a pair of reading glasses dangling from my neck if I'm going to use this thing as a video camera.
It does, however, auto-expose while you're shooting video, so you get that amateurish bright-to-dark-to-bright thing when your subject changes brightness.
Below are some frame grabs from the video I shot last night. In a day or so I'll to have some footage posted.
It's been 20 days since I placed my order, and the premium, B3 color-managed version of At The Fill arrived today. A premium quality product it is not. On the right is the vanilla version. On the left, that magenta-stained cover, that's the expensive one.
The thicker paper in the premium version is a nice touch. There is no bleed through on double sided pages. It is shipped in bubble wrap in a larger box (so there's the 50% increase in shipping explained), so I don't get the dinged corners I sometimes get with Blurb books. The paper color is brighter and whiter, which pumps up some of the higher key images. But the color management introduces more problems than it solves.
This image is illustrative. In the vanilla output, the shadows have good blacks and pleasing contrast. In the B3 version, the shadows are muddy and weak, and overall the look is flat. It's simply worse. A good third of the images in the color managed version are worse than without it.
I don't think it's my fault. My monitors are calibrated and I know how to soft proof (and I also know that Photoshop soft-proofing has only a weak correlation to final output). In the general public Blurb edition, they're obviously putting in their own controls to “improve” the look. But they appear to work.
I understand that the covers don't go through the color managed workflow at Blurb, but it's alarming how different they look. The cover image, with it's subtle tonal shift, is badly banded in both versions—and it looks worse in the premium one. I have that same shot inside the book. That image is so ruined in this printing process that I will have to replace it.
PS. I dug deeper in the Blurb B3 tutorials and I might have an explanation on why it went so wrong. Blurb recommends in Soft Proof to leave "Simulate Paper Color" unchecked, which I did. But then it adds that you can use "Simulate" if your monitor brightness is reduced to a "print-friendly" 90-120 cd/m2. I keep mine at 100 cd/m2. Even with this setting, the screen images are contrastier, though they do start to approach the muddy look of the printed image.
This week's nostalgia tour in the darkroom generated this portfolio from the University of Chicago. It is the last film I shot, from February, when I flew into Chicago ahead of a snowstorm to capture the campus in white. Flickr set here.
Before I am to take down the darkroom, I wanted one last farewell printing session. It felt odd going into Glazers to buy a packet of Dektol, something I haven't done in years, and may never do again. “Don't sell it. Put it in storage,” my saleperson urged me. “I get guys coming in here now replacing their darkrooms after they've let them go.” Robin keeps asking me, “How does it feel? Is that why you're so weird lately?”
It feels so comfortable, familiar and, yes, joyful to print again. There is a time-apart quality to darkroom work. I like to prepare to spend several days in a row, if I can. You listen to a lot of radio, because you spend much of your time waiting. 50 seconds for the print to expose, another round to burn. Three minutes in the developer. A minute or so in the fix, then you get to see where you are.
I'm a good printer, but not a great one. There are potentials in a negative that a master printer could extract that I never will. I can, however, judge what exposure and contrast filter to use just by looking at the neg, and I'm within shouting distance the first try. It usually takes me about three rounds to get a print I can live with. I've been a darkroom printer since I was six years old.
Now that the prints are on the drying rack I'm scanning some of the same negs to see what decisions I'll make in a digital print. One thing I'm noticing is how much slower the process is, and how less focussed is my attention. While the scanner preview loads I go off and check my email, or write a blog entry. It is less mindful. I'm not in my body in near the same way—darkroom work is physical work. Computer work is anything but.
I may be delaying the inevitable, but maybe I'm not quite ready to let go.
“Just think! The filing cabinets could go here, the washing machine could go there and there'd be all this room opened up in your studio!”
Robin is way too upbeat.
I broke down my print drying rack this week, the first volley of the inexorable trajectory of the dismantling of my darkroom. This is a huge moment, and one I am having trouble emotionally incorporating. Never in my lifetime have I have been without access to a darkroom. Even during my transient twenties (I lived in over a dozen states) I managed to finagle access to or build rudimentary darkrooms in basements or bathrooms of rental houses. At age 53, I am contemplating, no, actually dismantling, a significant infrastructure of my professional and artistic life. Of my soul.
This was my dream darkroom. I have two handmade sinks, capable of holding a line of 20”x24” trays. I have a custom table that holds the print washers. I have two Omega DII enlargers, one of which is my father's the one on which I grew up printing. I have a honking, heavy, huge dry mount press. I have separate light switches for the safelights and the room lights.
On Ebay this equipment worth nearly nothing. The space is going to become (no, it already is) a storage room.
I am having a long, self-indulgent, grief process.
What gives me perspective is Paul Butzi's experience. He has no regrets, as far as I can discern. He avers that digital printmaking is now superior in every respect to a wet process. I haven't his digital printmaking skills, but then, I haven't had a good, multi-day darkroom session in a couple of years, so those archaic skills have grown some serious rust. It is time. When I have a need to learn how to make spectacular prints again, it will be at a computer screen.
I just finished my archiving for the previous month, whereupon I burn my cr2 files onto DVD, convert everything to dng format, and load those onto the appropriate hard drives and off-site hard drives. The conventional wisdom is, data that you don't have in three places is data that you don't mind losing. In my case, I like the security of having my backups in more than one format, hence my commitment to optical disks.
This was a big shooting month: several out of town assignments, a wedding, a couple magazine jobs, and my daily personal work. I shot a massive 114 gigabytes of images, almost 9000 pictures. Actually, I kept 9000 pictures. I throw out the bad ones, probably one in five, every day when I go over the day's take. I burned 30 dvds to store them all.
When archived as dng, this expands to a 292 gigabyte hit on my storage capacity. For one month.
What's going to happen when I get a 5D MkII, which captures at 21 megapixels?
Remember how I mentioned that Bridge has problems writing metadata? Here is a serious consequence of that bug.
I needed to change the captions on 700 images in a folder. I got the infamous error message, above, and forced quit Bridge. When I opened up the folder again, all my corrections to every image had disappeared. The .xml file to every image appears to have been corrupted. Several hours of work had disappeared.
Pessimism is a useful life strategy. I expect things to go wrong, and so I am obsessive about backing up. I had a mirror of the folder, pre-crash, in my Daily Backup drive from last night's copy operation.
PS. I think I've found the fix to this issue. Under Bridge Preferences, go to Advanced, and check the "Use Software Rendering" box. The default setting (unchecked) apparently makes Bridge talk to the hardware to accelerate the rendering, hence the potential conflict. Now I can append metadata with impunity, even when the thumbnails are still loading.
This may be the only post today in the blogosphere not about the election.
I've been using Photoshop CS4 for a couple weeks now, and I have opinions. I've processed several thousand images through Bridge and Camera Raw, and prepped a few images for publication through Photoshop itself. I've found bugs and crashed it, and I've also found some new raw adjustment features that I now can't live without.
One of the selling points of the upgrade was a promised faster speed in Bridge. It depends how you parse it as to whether that's true. I took a folder with 700 images and opened it in each version of Bridge. V.3 took 2:43 for the spinning top to settle down. V.4 took one minute for the thumbnails to load, but took an additional 5 minutes for the previews to process and for the spinning icon to go away. Every time you adjust a number of images in Raw, the thumbnails have to be rebuilt, and Bridge is unavailable during that interval. But the preview image does pop up right away, and you don't have that excruciating wait that often occurred in CS3 with a big folder.
Metadata in Bridge is broken. I frequently get “There was an error writing metadata to image xxx” notices. On my laptop (but not the desktop) I cannot write metadata in Bridge at all if I try and apply a metadata template (like my copyright info). I even recreated that template in CS4, but no go. The error message pops up for every single image that fails to write. If you've applied metadata to 700 images, you have 700 error messages. Your only option is to force quit the application.
I haven't delved into the new tools in Photoshop (though I turned off the tabbing option for multiple images, which I found annoying and of no redeeming value). Printing appears to be broken, or I just haven't identified the new secret handshake you always need to learn with a Photoshop upgrade. What happens is that the image as printed comes out a couple stops darker than the monitor display.
Now, what's good about the upgrade? More raw adjustment options. In particular, the adjustment brush. There's an interface that allows you to use a brush to paint in any adjustment available in the basic tab: exposure, brightness, contrast, sat, clarity, sharpness. And Color. What makes this so great? You can brighten up a face in shadow, or use the Color to correct a portion of the image (like when there's daylight on part of a scene that's largely lit by flourescent). It's fast, and intuitive, and now it's an essential part of my workflow. These are alterations I often make in a final file with complicated masks and adjustment layers, but now I just swab it on in my raw processing.
There are so many options in raw processing now that you hardly need Photoshop. Maybe all you need is Lightroom, which I assume has all the same options.