"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

Stream of Color Consciousness

04:35 Tuesday, 29 December 2020

It's 0435 and I can't sleep, which means it's an ideal time to get up and do this. Whatever "this" is.

Anyway, I've been thinking about and reading about cameras lately, and photographs. That's a real rabbit-hole. I'd advise you to stay well clear of it.

It started a few months ago when I was bored and started reading other forums at Digital Photography Review. The first hole was the Sigma forum, and the Foveon sensor. That led to reading about the DP1 and DP2 cameras, and watching a bunch of YouTube videos.

The "cool" thing about the Foveon sensor is that each pixel on the sensor records a "real" or "true" color (scare quotes intentional - I don't know if it's really "real" or "true," but it does it differently than other sensors). Other sensors create color in software from the data gathered from the sensor's Bayer array, which is a series of red, green and blue filters, one color over each pixel. It works pretty well, but it can lead to some artifacts and less color fidelity. As a practical matter, these are largely imperceptible. Except when they're not, which is when you compare an image taken with a Foveon sensor to the same scene shot with a a Bayer-array sensor.

So I was obsessing for a while about Foveon sensors, and thinking about buying a used DP2, which, apart from having a Foveon sensor, is a horrible camera. One guy suggested that you just regard it as a very slow, very small view camera that you have to set up on a tripod and be very deliberate in your photographic process. (Some people will object to that characterization, and that's fine.)

Then I read about sensor-shift high resolution shooting, which is offered by a number of Olympus cameras I already own. For most of them, you have to have the camera mounted to a tripod and the camera takes a series of eight images, moving the sensor about a half pixel in each direction using the stabilizer mechanism. The processor then combines those images into a higher resolution image with the added benefit of deriving "real" or "true" color because the same part of the scene will fall under each red, green or blue pixel, so there's no interpolation necessary to derive the color at that pixel. There are better explanations on the web.

So, given the requirement for a tripod, it's about as inconvenient as using a DP1 or DP2.

But you can also do high-resolution shooting handheld, which is far more convenient. Olympus offered (Olympus is officially out of the camera business. I don't know what the new brand identity is, but someone is still going to be building and selling OM-D cameras.) two cameras that can do handheld high-res, the E-M1x and the E-M1 Mk3. I recently got the E-M1x, and I've shot the moon in HHHR mode. Not the best subject for assessing color fidelity. I'll be doing some more when spring comes and more flowers are in bloom. (I may do some today, I bought some flowers for Mitzi yesterday).

So high-res imaging kind of diminished my enthusiasm for buying a camera with Foveon sensor. But the color question kept returning. This time in the Fuji forum. Fuji is known for their film simulations in their jpeg engines. Different film stocks responded to color differently, and each offered some kind of characteristic "look" that appealed to different photographers for different reasons. The Olympus PEN-F has a built-in jpeg engine that offers a couple of similar facilities, and many people love the PEN-F for that reason. I enjoyed using it in Ireland. It also has a feature that allows you to build your own custom color profile, and people are trying to replicate the look of other film stocks. I haven't tried that yet.

So I've been looking at used Fuji X20s. I need another camera like I need a hole in my head, but this is one of the flaws in my character, this acquisitive desire. I hesitated and one slipped away from me at KEH.com the other day, which is probably just as well. There are only so many things you can read, images you can look at on Flickr, and YouTube videos you can watch about Fuji jpegs. In the right hands, they are pretty sweet.

Now, the other conversation about color that has come up over and over again is the difference between CCD and CMOS sensors. CCDs are older and more expensive tech, CMOS is newer and cheaper. Which is "better"? CMOS has, to my knowledge, surpassed CCD technology in every way. But many people claim that CCDs had a certain "look" that isn't present in CMOS images. Well, a pixel is a pixel and a color is just numbers, so, at a certain fundamental level, it's kind of a baseless claim. But there were differences, chiefly due, I think, to the less capable nature of CCD sensor. They didn't have the same dynamic range of the later CMOS sensors; that is, they couldn't record the same range of brightness levels that CMOS sensors could. One consequence of that is that images can appear naturally more contrasty. But you can adjust contrast in post, you can effectively reduce dynamic range in software.

Of course, the other difference is the way the image processor in the camera created color and managed the tone curve (the transition from the darkest values to the brightest). And older cameras have different software for managing that than newer ones, and some were better than others. The Olympus E-1 was the first DSLR from Olympus and it used a 5MP CCD sensor from Kodak. There is a lot of affection for those early Kodak CCD sensors. I don't know how much of Kodak color science was used in developing the jpeg engine, but I expect it was a lot. And Olympus is well respected for its jpeg rendering as well, and I think they learned it from Kodak.

I have one camera with a CCD sensor that I enjoy shooting with a lot, and that's my XZ-1. It's a compact camera with a small sensor, but a very sharp, very bright lens. But even in a compact camera from almost a decade ago, there are five or six different ways of rendering a jpeg, and that's not including the art filters. There's an iAuto mode, Vivid, Natural, Muted, Portrait and Monochrome (and a range of options for that!). I have consistently enjoyed the images that come from the XZ-1, but I couldn't look at an image and tell you what jpeg profile was used to create that jpeg.

"So where is this going, Dave?"

Beats me, I just couldn't sleep.

But in the interest of wrapping this thing up, my current working hypothesis is that all this stuff is subjective to an enormous degree. I've been working in Photos this past week or so, tweaking some images. It doesn't take a lot to make an image more appealing. So I don't think a particular camera or sensor is going to make a great deal of difference in terms of scratching this particular itch. And I'm a bit surprised at how much my own subjective appreciation of an image seems to vary.

Most of the time, any one of my cameras will yield an image that is bright, sharp and colorful. It will look like a faithful rendering of the scene, almost to a clinical degree. (I most like this in bird shots.) It will also lack any emotional valence. (I use this in the chemical sense. It doesn't cause any reaction.) Now, is that a failure in composition? Was it just a boring subject? (Probably.)

But if I adjust a few sliders in Photos, it's no longer just an image of a scene, it's a photograph. And I seem to be appreciating not so much the scene being depicted, but the photograph itself. I think this is often the appeal of the film simulations. For those of us who grew up getting images processed and printed from film, a photograph has a certain look that is emotionally evocative, even if only minimally, in a way that a digital image, that isn't processed in some way to perhaps diminish its fidelity, isn't.

Pretty soon, most of us who grew up in the film era will be dead. I don't think that there are enough hipsters shooting film to keep that sort of perception alive.

I'm still going to pursue this investigation. I've got the HHHR shots to look into for color representation. I bought a Spyder Checkr 24 color chart, just to kind of have some idea of what's going on with various cameras and the different parameters you can vary in the jpeg engines.

It's a fun way to spend my time. And it gives me something to write about when I can't sleep.

Hope you are well. Thanks for stopping by.


10:25 Friday, 18 December 2020

I just deleted my Facebook account.

Of course, they make you wait 30 days before they actually delete anything, in case you change your mind. I hope I don't.

I'd quit FB once before. Thought I'd deleted my account, but logged in one day to find it was all still there. I'd even downloaded an archive of all my stuff. Which I've never looked at since.

I've been thinking about doing it for several weeks now. And today I decided that if I'm thinking about it that much, I should probably just do it. So, talk to me in 30 days I guess.

There are some good things about Facebook, but the bad things are really bad and they significantly outweigh the good.

Now, I know you can "manage" your FB activity, buy why should being "social" be that hard? No, I find that it's just not that helpful to me to be that aware of people's thoughts and activities.

And the campaign experience was awful. IF I ever run again, and that's a huge "if," it'll be without FB.

I'll be here in the woodchuck hole if anyone's looking for me.

December of Darkness

08:48 Monday, 7 December 2020

As we approach what is sometimes called the "season of light," I see darkness.

Sure, there's reason to be hopeful. Vaccines have been developed, and they're about to be administered real soon now. We have new therapeutics, like Remdesivir and monoclonal antibody cocktails, though I don't know if either is in widespread application. Clearly, if you're a rich person or a national politician (often one and the same), you're going to get treated with them. I don't know about anybody else.

So, there's a fairly decent chance that we'll turn the corner on this thing sometime in early summer and we can go back to whatever "normal" was before the pandemic.

Well, no, that's wrong. Things will never be "normal" again.

Several hundred thousand Americans will be dead, tens of thousands in Florida, because we have state and national leaders who didn't do everything they could to protect the health and safety of their citizens.

And there will be no accountability for that.

We will have learned something about ourselves. That we're content to watch hundreds of thousands of people die, many of them utterly needlessly, rather than act to save lives.

In Florida, I often tweet the question, "When does this cease to be mere incompetence and become a crime against humanity?"

We have a Republican governor in this state who rejects public health science, in fact, he openly undermines it. He has embraced a "herd immunity" strategy in everything but name. There is no statewide mask mandate. Nothing is closed, or restricted. He leaves it to "individual choice," for people to wear masks or avoid crowds. Tens of thousands of people have been unwillingly exposed and infected, and thousands have died, because he won't act on mainstream public health guidance.

How is this responsible? How is this acceptable? How is it not murder, when the governor of a state knowingly exhibits a depraved indifference to the health and safety of his citizens?

So, no, it's not the season of light. We're surrounded by darkness here in the "sunshine state," ruled by a political party that is morally untethered, resembling a death cult more and more with each passing day as the number of dead rises.

It's dark in the woodchuck hole today. Look after yourselves. We're on our own.

Happy holidays.