Having survived Module 2 of 5 of my MA Photography course, it’s now time to reflect on my practice and work so far and begin to take on new ideas and try not to let my project drift into some never-ending cycle of the same work I produced in the last module.
My tutor’s comments and suggestions about what I need to do with my work so far are really about mostly applying myself to do more visual and literature research to better inform my work. I have been looking at a number of photographers who I was advised search. In particular, photographers that produce low light or night time photographs such as the works of Rut Blees Luxemburg (Hans, 2017) whose photography is primarily night time photography of urban areas, such as her work with the streets of London in 1995.
Her images appear to be very amber or orange color casts and although the work she did in 1995(the Guardian, 2009) is very detailed and quite gritty, but I don’t like the distraction of the overly amber colors and I would have liked to see a finer grain in the medium format images as it looks very much like digital noise which can look creative in some ways , but I find this type of photography makes me want to turn away rather than enquire. She describes how she felt about her street work images of London “I was drawn to these sites because they represented tensions but also potential. There was a dynamic presence in these places: of transformation, possible events and encounters. I used euphoric titles, such as ‘Meet me in Arcadia’ or ‘Vertiginous Exhilaration’, to amplify my sense of this London“.
The style is almost deadpan but with the colour cast and grainy or distracting artefacts in the image. Perhaps at that time, this was quite a radical image making process. Perhaps I have become desensitised to the original tension that was present in London there in 1995 or perhaps we need to be there in person to appreciate those events and encounters.
As barber shops are the main subject of my project so far, I have got hold of a few Barbershop visual references books, one being the barber book, which is an ok general reference to men’s hairstyles and also some background to barbering in general and two other good books on Barbershop History and Antiques & BarberShop Collectibles, more on those in a later blog.
I have also started to look at more of my own work and to try to better evaluate its context. One of the things I have noticed is the type of photography I am doing with respect to my Barbershops images in Hong Kong project is that it’s really a kind of hipster photography (Bohr, 2013) or in normal photographic terms lifestyle photography. Perhaps I can describe it as a barbershop lifestyle in focus. I feel it can be quite surreal at times and I need something to lift it up to a new level.
Well, it has been an eventful break. In case anyone thought I was not willing to try different things, I was asked to do some acting for a travel commercial working for an independent filmmaker here in Hong Kong, and I have been asked (if all goes to plan) to do some photography later in the year to document them filming some of their locations.
I’m the Angry boss right at the beginning of the video commercial lol
Here is the link https://www.facebook.com/egltours/videos/10154355243271644/
One of the things that I was thinking about during the break is how heavy my camera equipment is on some of my photo shoots, so in some cases, I only need a jack of all trades camera for the smaller assignments and activities, so I began looking at the mirrorless smaller profile cameras and as I started to research from the 100’s of internet searches and articles I started to realise that one camera kept coming up as a choice for my needs. From a creative point of view this may seem a little pointless, but when I’m walking the streets of Hong Kong in 30-34c temperatures the last thing on your mind is thinking about all of the creative plans you had before. Taxis and even driving to these locations is often not practical, so I usually take the MTR underground train system as my mode of transport then try to locate the address of my list of barber shops I am searching.
So, I needed a lightweight camera that was not too in your face when I was shooting some of the typical locations of Barbershops here in Hong Kong. I also wanted a camera that would give me the option to be able to use all kinds of different vintage and manual lenses to broaden the scope of my creative style and slow the process down more as I was starting to feel that some of my lenses were giving a clinical view of the world, as often is the case with digital fast focus lenses they can appear a little sterile and be lacking form and character unlike the lenses we see in many film camera lenses. Focus peaking is not an option on my Canon cameras and I also needed something that could give me the option to print larger should the need arise. So I chose the (FUJIFILM CORPORATION, 2017) FUJIFILM XT2.
I knew after years of using my Canon brand of cameras It may take a while for me to adapt to the size and controls and functionality of this camera, so as part of the Ed Ruscha’s mini project we were given to do I took it out to Sai Kung harbor front in the New Territories in Hong Kong to take some test shots of boats mainly, more on this in my next blog.
I just wanted to inform people about the choices of software that we use to render our RAW images (Anderson, 2015) and in particular the Fuji RAF raw format. It struck me when reading some of the many articles about professional editing software that it was mostly about the pros and cons of using one piece of software over the other and that a lot of photographers spend a lot of time and money on gear and lenses, but then not really consider that much (if at all) how software renders their RAW images into some kind of recipe of RGB Data or commonly known as Tiff or JPG.
So here’s the thing, RAW files from whatever camera system you have is a digital dump of all of what your camera sensor has captured and then each RAW file is converted into many different interpretations of RGB color data from each software vendor, so that’s why there’s always these endless debates about which RAW editor is the best and so on.
Not all sensors are the same of course, but as is the case with Fuji’s mirrorless cropped and medium format cameras have a slightly different trick up its sleeve. Fuji’s sensor does not use the traditional Bayer filter array but instead uses something that is called an X-Trans sensor that does not use the low pass filter as other vendors do. You may be thinking so what! But what Fuji does is render images more close to film grain so the patterns of grain are more random as is in traditional film.
In most cases, the standard packages such as Lightroom CC do a fine Job generally providing you update the software, but from my own testing and reading many articles on this topic it appears that there are quite big differences in the outcome of one method of rendering to another. I won’t go through all the test results of one app over another there are so many videos and articles about Lightroom vs Capture one Pro, DXO Optics Pro vs Lightroom vs Photoshop. You get the idea, so I will mainly focus on Fuji RAF RAW files as these have been less documented regarding which RAW converters works best over another. I may do a dedicated blog on this topic with test pics another day, but for, now I will just give you what I know from my own research. Remember all of these software packages are free to test if you would like to try them out.
For FUJI RAW files there are 3 main packages that do a fine job in rendering Fuji RAF RAW files into either TIFF or DNG or JPG format, but you need to factor in and consider the lens correction aspect (if you want that) as well as the flexibility or inflexibility of being able to recover details in over or underexposed images in post editing in your own workflow and in addition to managing colour tones. Iridient Developer, Capture one Pro and Lightroom CC 2017 all are ok with some differences. Silkypix 4.2 is just ok, it does a better job than some of the other applications at rendering Fuji RAF RAW files I have not mentioned on here and its free to use also.
Generally, If you want fine detail in your image for landscape photography, as mentioned in (Kingham, 2017a) article, Iridient Developer Version 3.1.4 seems to be less mushy than Lightroom (Kingham, 2017b) and has less strange looking artifacts and some very good unique features, such as a fill light adjustments and some fine black and white output options for your work. It can also give you the options of customising the output and can be used as a plugin for Lightroom cc, but be aware you will need to set up a way of creating a workflow so that Lightroom does not re-render the image in any way other than final edits and exporting. The reference below has some free documentation as well as some informative blogs that are quite useful (Fitzgerald, 2017).
Capture One Pro does a very decent Job of rendering RAF (Fuji RAW) files also and is very good in retaining details and less noise and is probably at the time of writing the overall better package for Fuji Camera users given that you can do most of the adjustments and it has a build in picture management system like Adobe Lightroom cc has. I use all of these packages and many others to produce certain looks or improve on what is already there in the photograph. If you are just producing images for the web or for small prints then it probably not worth investing in the cost of all of these packages.
For professional purposes and if you edit tiffs and Raw files then it is worth trying these software applications out. I personally don’t like to use DNG format for a few reasons, not many plugins, and photographic applications render them very well or don’t support this format and also it can takes quite a while to convert to DNG and also those applications that do convert don’t always render in the same way and can have some issues with color or details. And you lose some of the metadata, so you still have to keep a copy of your original raw file.
At the end of the day, software used for Photographic editing is a major player in helping photographers create something more unique and dynamic in whatever genre of photography, but it can not replace the creative process of producing a great photograph, but I do think software packages can give the photographer a view of something which can aid his or her work to produce a more polished piece of creative work.
Below is a list of software packages that you may want to try out and I have mentioned.
Iridient Developer http://www.iridientdigital.com/
Lightroom cc https://lightroom.adobe.com/
Other Photo editing software you may like to try that work ok with Fuji RAF RAW files
ON1 PHOTO RAW
Anderson, R. (2015). Raw vs. Rendered | dpBestflow. [online] Dpbestflow.org. Available at: http://www.dpbestflow.org/camera/raw-vs-rendered [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Bohr, M. (2013). What is hipster photography? | Visual Culture Blog. [online] Visualcultureblog.com. Available at: http://visualcultureblog.com/2013/10/what-is-hipster-photography/ [Accessed 25 May 2017].
Fitzgerald, T. (2017). Free Archives – Thomas Fitzgerald Photography Store. [online] Thomas Fitzgerald Photography Store. Available at: https://store.thomasfitzgeraldphotography.com/product-category/lightroom-presets/free/ [Accessed 8 Jun. 2017].
FUJIFILM CORPORATION, F. (2017). FUJIFILM X-T2. [online] Fujifilm Global. Available at: http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_x_t2/ [Accessed 8 Jun. 2017].
Kingham, D. (2017a). Review – Fujifilm X-T2 For Landscape Photography. [online] Nature & Landscape Photography – Exploring Exposure. Available at: https://www.exploringexposure.com/blog/2016/11/7/review-fujifilm-x-t2-for-landscape-photography [Accessed 2 Jun. 2017].
Kingham, D. (2017b). Sharpening Fujifilm RAW Files Without Worms. [online] Nature & Landscape Photography – Exploring Exposure. Available at: https://www.exploringexposure.com/blog/2017/1/20/sharpening-fujifilm-raw-files [Accessed 2 Jun. 2017].
Moss, R. (2017). “Photography is a powerful tool”: Artist Rut Blees Luxemburg on her works acquired by the Museum of London – Museum Crush. [online] Museumcrush.org. Available at: http://museumcrush.org/1411-2/ [Accessed 24 May 2017].
the Guardian. (2009). Photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg explores the public spaces of cities. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/gallery/2009/mar/09/rut-blees-luxemburg-photography [Accessed 24 May 2017].