14 December 2010


When I wrote the previous post I was very emotional. I felt I had to carve an X so deep on the calendar it left marks on the wall. Words that swirled around in my head were "pivotal moment", "paradigma shift", and some of the more juicy swear words my language has to offer. Well, I'm sure you know how it is to have your life take sharp turns.

The actual fallout of my situation is not relevant. Not yet anyway. What I try to ponder is how this kind of situation affects photography. So far, I have noticed that the shutter-finger itch is stronger than it has been for a long while. That's good for volume, if nothing else. But there's something else that bugs me. Or just peaks my curiosity, I'm not even sure which...

Normally when out shooting, I raise my camera to anything that looks interesting, work the angles, consider the light, exercise the shutterfinger and move on. It's not until the pruning process by the computer that I really get the groove for keepers. What happens now is different. There are motifs I shoot with absolute conviction that it is important. Not for anyone by myself, of course, but it just feels so right that reason doesn't even get a foot in the door. Subsequent pruning of these shots just doesn't happen.

It feels really weird to project so much emotional load into an image without letting my "inner critique" have a say. It feels like giving up on creative control. The photography becomes more raw, in a way.

Here's one motif I felt compelled to shoot the other day. Because of the bright area at the top of the slope, that's all. I just had to shoot that.

Pentax K-7, DA 21/3.2
1/30s, f/5.6, ISO 200
(image clickable as usual)

03 December 2010

Working on it

Dear reader,
If you are the typical coincidential visitor, welcome.
If you are the returning reader, I admire your persistence.

And to both of you; thanks for dropping in.

On the 30. November this year, I was confronted with organisational changes at work that implied radical change for my job situation. When I got this message I turned very, very emotional. I took the rest of the day off, took the car and drove for an hour into the countryside. I stopped by one of my favourite photo areas, Mylla. The landscape up there has a soothing effect on me; both for its beauty and its good memories.

After pondering the situation for a couple of hours, I had pretty much realised how to deal with the next couple of days; until the time is ripe for a grander decision. To mark the event, I stepped out of the car and shot the below picture before heading home.

Pentax K-7, DA 14/2.8
f/4, 1/10s, ISO 400

(click image for larger version)

Already that night, when I got it up on my computer screen, I wondered why.

I mean, not that I did what I did, or how management at work arrived at their policies. But why exactly this tree; why exactly this kind of image composition. Because of its strong bond to my emotional state that day, I cannot judge this image objectively. It is just too close. A slice out of time too potent with emotion.

Interesting times, it seems.

09 November 2010

Enjoying nature

Last week-end, I went to a nature photo festival in Sweden; the Vårgårda festival. One of the speakers there was Swedish photographer Stina Deurell. In her talk, she emphasised the importance of the Local Nature. It was kinda zen, but she had a good point; that the good nature experience doesn't always have to involve the spectacular or the exotic.

My Local Nature is the Lillomarka forest. Just in case I haven't told you before. It goes through the season cycles, providing different experiences at different times of year, but it is always there. Never forbidding, never hostile, a bit mystical and ready to shield you from the rest of the world. Or provide a real challenge to the pulse chasers.

Next year is a UN international year of forests. It seems like a good opportunity to bring a camera among the trees.

30 October 2010

A bridge to cross

In the previous article, Times Of Change, I assumed that my blogging frequency would be about one post every second month. As usual in the business of forecasting, I was wrong. In fact, I'm so frequently mistaken in my own predictions that I actually admire meteorologists for their relative accuracy.

But as to blogging, here we go again. Since photography is a hobby, I can take the luxury of letting interest wax and wane. Since I got back from Antarctica, it's been a long period of wane; 2010 has been my least productive year on record. As in numbers of frames collected, that is. The hobby has seen a lot of associated activity, though, and that has been fun in its own right. But not really blogworthy.

These days it seems I've hit a turning point. The desire to pick up the camera is returning. Over the last couple of weeks I've produced a lot of crappy pictures and still enjoyed it. Just last week, for example, we had a good spell of frosty nights, and I goofed around looking for ice to photograph.

While I didn't find what I was looking for, I found this sign that made me giggle. The stream is only an unnamed trickle, the footbridge is proudly labeled the "Upper Kwai, 2002".

Pentax K-7, DA-21 ltd.
f/8, 1/60s, ISO 400
Click image for larger version

On some level of conciousness which I haven't quite reached down to yet, this must be an omen. Think it might be a good one, even.

17 May 2010

Times of change

Today's post is mostly a rumination on what has happened to me photographically this spring. Hope it does not come across as bragging in any way, because the news are of the kind that can lift one's spirit all the way into vanity mode. -Well... my spirit anyway.

First, there's been the relative success of my Antarcica photos. I've compiled them into three "products"; a one-hour photo talk with slide show presentations, a 58 page book combining blog texts and images as suggested here by Paul Stenquist, and some exhibiton prints. One of the photos, first posted here, has been particularly successful. One week ago (7-8. May) it finished 4. place in BioFoto's competition Nature Photo of the Year. At the same time it went on display at an exhibition in Chicago, and sold on the opening night. Special thanks to Mark Roberts for making the print; it was outstanding.

Secondly, a Norwegian group of Pentax enthusiasts is taking form, and it looks like a lot of fun. I would hate to abandon the international virtual villages of Pentax, but when pressed for time I will have to give my natives the priority. Unfortunately I already look set to become pressed for time because of taking on another responsibility.

One week ago (things kinda peaked that week-end) I was elected leader of BioFoto for two years. BioFoto is an organisation for nature photographers. It has around 1400 members from Norway, Sweden and Finland. Most of the activity goes on in local "branches"; resembling ordinary photo clubs. The central organisation issues the quarterly member journal "Naturfotografen", represents BioFoto at larger events, and promotes nature photography on a broader level in the Nordic countries. But before you get the wrong impression, there was no voting contest going on. I was the only persuaded candidate for the job. Doing this service feels like a great opportunity to pay back for some of the inspiration from seeing a lot of fantastic images and meeting so many nice BioFotographers.

So blogging has, unfortunately, been pushed way down on the priority list. Again. And if my crystal ball is worth what I paid for it, the time between the previous post and this one will become the normal update frequency.

17 March 2010

A practical look at K-7 autofocus

When I bought the K-7 last summer, the first thing I did was to compare Autofocus performance to its older sibling K20D. Under relatively controlled and predictable conditions, I found the K-7 to be a significant improvement both in speed and precision (blog article here).

Then I went to the South Atlantic, and to situations demanding more of the AF systems than did my initial testing. My experiences from this trip is a bit more nuanced than the first impression, and so I felt it would be natural to share here on the blog. It has been very long in the coming, however. Too long, maybe. Hope someone will find it interesting nonetheless.

I will take a practical approach, and present you with a few scenarios which made me think about AF performance in particular.

First, there was the case of the ordinary Bird-in-Flight (BiF) shots. In one respect the K-7 performed admirably; it is adequately fast at achieving a focus lock. However, when shooting from a ship, the background will be water in a large number of your shots. Water with a varying degree of froth and wavecrests. I found those white patches of foam to be very deceptive to the AF. If a bright spot appeared in the background, the AF would lock onto that even if the closer subject was many times the area in the viewfinder. Especially if the foreground bird had bland or darkish colours. In this situation, I really wish the AF would have more affinity for proximity and less for brightness. Compared to the other brands present on one occasion (Canon 7D, 1Ds MkIII and 5D, Sony A850 and A900, Nikon D300), the K-7 was definately lagging behind in AF performance/accuracy.

Pentax K-7, DA* 300/4
1/500s, f/8, ISO 400
The Cape Petrel with its checkered pattern was a good target for autofocus.
My AF hit rate was maybe 70-80% with this species.

Pentax K-7, DA* 300/4
1/500s, f/8, ISO 400
The Giant Petrel was a real PITA to keep in focus.
My AF hit rate was an abysmal 15-20%.

Then I would like to mention some not-so-ordinary BiF shots; obtained with fill-flash in low light. Made hand-held with the DA* 300/4. The flash was a Metz AF-58 flash set to -1.5 stops compensation, and a BetterBeamer flash condenser. On one occasion, I was on deck with 3 Canon shooters who all gave up, complaining their cameras wouldn't lock focus on the birds in the twilight. I kept going for nearly an hour afterwards, the K-7 remaining sure-footed as long as the background was not brighter than the bird. In fact, I kept going much longer than I had expected was possible. And for the record, I did not use the focus-assist lamp. So kudos to Pentax for low-light AF performance from me.

Pentax K-7, DA* 300/4, Metz AF-58 flash
1/180s, f/9, ISO 400, -1.5 flash comp.
My hitrate here was pretty low,
but then again I was the only one getting anything at all.

The next challenge for AF was blizzards. Technically speaking, however, this is a variant of the same issue as above; brightness affinity. When snowcrystals cluster together in big flakes, the AF tries to lock on them as they pass the sensor area. The net result is an awful lot of focus-zipping back and forth, and never locking onto the subject beyond the falling snow. A couple of Canon shooters confirmed the same thing, and our Sony guy just sighed and shook his head. Both he and I switched to manual focus only, and worked that way throughout the blizzard. I don't know how the Nikon guys fared under these conditions, and some Canonites seemed to be doing okay. However Pentax was certainly not the only struggler.

Pentax K-7, DA* 60-250/4
1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 200, manual focus

On the whole, I would say that the K-7 stands its ground pretty well. It is certainly the best-performing AF system ever produced by Pentax, it runs circles around eg. the *istD and easily outpaces the K10D and K20D. In comparison with the other brands, however, it's not leading the pack in any way. I found better performance than some Canons in low-light conditions, but I can't recall exactly which models those guys had. A comparison with non-contemporary models would be unfair and misleading.

It's still the Big Two that have the most advanced AF systems, and Pentax will probably forever be at least one camera-generation behind with regards to performance. That's a fact of life.

For myself, I find that I can either enjoy the advances Pentax has made with K-7, or continue to look longingly at other brands and say "Pentax makes too little, too late". I also find the latter attitude to be very counterproductive in terms of what kind of images one attempts, and succeeds, making.

15 March 2010

The Lure of the Laptop

When I got home today and had a look at the previously posted picture from Goksøyr, I realised just how much I had pulled the levers in Lightroom to produce what was posted. On my desktop monitor it looked completely over the top, with unreal saturation and a warm tone that did not exist as far as I can remember the scene.

So what happened? I think I was deceived by the laptop screen. Though calibrated, it renders the colours very differently from the desktop screen. It is also very sensitive to viewing angle, and the shadows will go either black or a blocked-up kind of grey depending on how I hold my head.

To save you the trouble of looking at the previous post, here's the laptop rendering too:

13 March 2010

Goksøyr, Runde

Another pic from our week-end foray.

Pentax K-7, DA* 16-50/2.8
1/250s, f/8, ISO 400

Shielded from the westerly and North-westerly winds by the island of Runde, the houses at Goksøyr are sheltered from most winter storms.

12 March 2010

Old Fence

Pentax K-7, DA* 16-50/2.8, tripod
20s, f/9.5, ISO 200

Observed at Runde tonight. If the highlights look a bit odd, it's probably because I got it full of sleet and tried to wipe it off with the sleeve of my almost clean fleece jacket.

I think it doesn't look too bad, all things considered. :-)

26 February 2010

City lights

I've passed this motif many times this winter without a tripod with me. Tonight I saddled up and went straight there. :-)

Pentax K-7, DA 21/3.2 ltd, tripod
30s, f/5.6, ISO 100

The place is the Northern end of Lake Alunsjøen where the skiing track comes down to cross over the ice. The city, and my house, is behind the low hill at the far end. When the sky is overcast like tonight, there's more light in the forest than by the light of the full moon.

12 February 2010

Slide shows and music

I find fiddling slide shows to be great fun, except for one task. To select music to go with the slide shows. The clearer the vision of what I want, the harder it is to find. Fortunately, Magnatune exists. They let you listen to music without commiting your money, and let you buy a license to use a piece of music in your own creative projects. All directly from the website; and at a very reasonable price. I think this is important. If we, as photographers, want others to respect the difference between hanging our picture on their wall and using our picture in their own publications/creations, we should honour the same for composers/musicians. Obtaining such rights, however, tend to be either prohibitively expensive or bureaucratically difficult.

One argument against Magnatune is that they are the microstock of music, underselling the true value of the music.

Personally I feel caught in the middle. I think it's great to have the possibility to buy music licenses within my modest budget. On the other hand I think microstock is underselling images.

10 February 2010


So I had this trip of a lifetime. Coming back to the daily routine didn't feel good at all. I think, in fact, that there are both psychological and purely biological reasons for that. An example of the latter is the abrupt change in daylength. We went from 17-18 to 6-7 hours of daylight, and got 4 hours of timezone difference between Argentina and Europe free in the bargain. It wreaked havoc on my circadian rhythm.

But now I'm sipping my coffee, thinking about how the solstice is behind us and light is returning to the Northern hemisphere. Literally brighter times ahead for me. And the mountain of images to be sorted, tagged, described by keywords, and finally developed, is reduced to a more manageable size. Not through yet, but sort of glimpsing the end of it ahead.

The promised article on K-7 AF performance is still in the pipelines, but will materialise. Eventually.

Meanwhile K-7 is becoming sort of old news, as the rumors of new releases in March are already floating on the forums. And the long anticipated medium format digital, of course, which was foreseen by Pentax to materialise in June this year.