03 July 2010
First Swim of 2010
It's been a week of hard, not too successful work. But thanks to some friends with a car, finally this morning we made it to the beach and I had my first swim in 2010. It's kind of late in the year. Thinking of it, I can't say what kept me. Always there seemed to have been some reason or other. Of course around Athens the beaches are not so nice, etc. etc.
Well, there I am, in the water. First moment was a bit cold, as usual. Then that great feeling of splashing in and being carried. The old camera is still watertight, even after its repair. I'll hopefully make a lot more underwater pictures this year, some of them nice, most of them boring, but who cares, it's summer!
08 July 2010
Second Week of Work on Naxos
...drawing to an end
My second week on Naxos is slowly coming to an end. I've managed to go for a swim three times (twice on the weekend, once on an evening). I've worked 8 hours every working day. Not too succesful... I think I could have done better. But I've slowly overcome some obstacles in the code, which is something too. Now further changes will be a tiny bit slicker and with every step they get easier.
Most evenings I was out taking pictures with the Arca. Not as persistent or productive as I was in spring. A bit more relaxed and lazy and very happy. When I was taking that picture in the little church yard there, I was so happy and relaxed, I thought I wouldn't care much if I didn't get to take the picture. It was such a nice moment in itself. In the end I found a good angle for a picture I think - and even though I took some time maybe I didn't totally miss the best light.
I still can't manage to go and take pictures in the morning too. Sleeping in the country side is just too sweet and relaxing. Makes it hard to get up. During the daytime it's too hot to go photo walking in the landscape. It's OK to take the occasional picture in a village, but with the midday hours I'm more productive working on the computer in the coolth of the house.
15 July 2010
Yes, I'm Back in Athens
Since Sunday actually
Last Sunday I returned from Naxos. On a boat filled to the last place. Lots of tourists too, so I guess the tourism industry can't complain that there are no tourists at all. It was good to leave in a place that's easy to get to from the port in Pireus. After traveling by boat it's nice to get home fast and take a break.
On Monday I went to the National Garden (next to Syntagma square) with the Arca and took lots and lots of (well, for the standard of working with the Arca... about 27) pictures of Vana Xenou's sculptures there. I got the films developed and (rough, low quality) scanned on Tuesday. I think I did a good job, except for the last few one's, when I was too tired after a day out in the dust and the heat. The main point was to be at each sculpture at the right time when the sun would peep through the large trees around everything... and then get a good point of view and don't f* up the composition. Maybe I'll post some pictures somewhere.
The duration of the exhibition was extended to somewhere in September. Plenty of time for a pleasant stroll through the park to see some sculptures!
21 July 2010
Προφήτη Ηλία και Παγωτό στο Ιντερνέτι
Χτες ήταν η γιορτή του προφήτη Ηλία. Όπως είναι το έθιμο, ανεβήκαμε με τα πόδια σ' ένα εκκλησάκι πάνω στον Υμηττό. Είχαν φωτίσει το μονοπάτι, το ξέρω και πολύ καλά, γιατί πάω συχνά για φωτογραφίες εκεί. Κανένα πρόβλημα δηλαδή. Πέρα από αυτό είχε και ωραία δροσούλα.
Στην δουλειά είχαμε μια ωραία έκπληξη χτες: Ένα site που φτιάξαμε επί πολύ καιρό μπήκε online. Δεν το είχα φτιάξει εγώ, αλλά στην τελική φάση ανέλαβα κάτι σαν το τεχνικό project management. Έκανα βεβαίως και κάτι bug fixes στων κώδικα. Το site είναι σε flash, κάτι που δεν είναι ακριβώς η πρώτη επιλογή μου... αλλά παίζει τώρα. Οπότε αν ψάχνουμε την Häagen-Dazs στην Ελλάδα με τα παγωτά τους, μπορούμε τώρα να την βρούμε στο haagen-dazs.gr. Ένα πολύ μεγάλο ευχαριστώ σ' αυτήν την φάση πρέπει να πω και στον φίλο μου τον Javier, a.k.a. graffic που μου βοήθησε με κάποια απίστευτα τεχνικά προβλήματα.
24 July 2010
So I bought a Scanner
Another first for me
For quite some time now I had been contemplating to buy a scanner. The thing is, where they develop my films (Tόλης / Tolis in Μπενάκη street), they scan them. But those scans are below the possible resolution with 6x9cm negatives and quite often, shadows and highlights are clipped. Whenever I had taken a night picture, that scanners automatic setting got way off too.
So, finally I searched for a shop that had an Epson V700 on short notice, called for the order and received the box on Wednesday. It was 30€ cheaper than the quoted price, nice surprise. Only thing missing was the power cord, but I found a spare one at home.
Since then I have been fighting with the beast in my spare time. I went several times through highs and downs, praising and cursing me for my decision to buy my first own scanner ever.
On the upside, the machine produces huge scans from my negs (e.g. 80 megapixel are no problem). Even better is that I have no more clipped highlights, I get files with 16 bit per channel. The end of banding and washed out skies.
The downside is that this machine needs some awkward checking and setting of the focus distance - and even with that you have to check and double check each scan for focus, due to the film holder, it being a flatbed scanner, the negative's tendency to curl and flap - all that. The scans from Tolis are much sharper. Still good scans are done for the Epson's money, if I had the cash, I'd have gone for a dedicated film scanner.
For scanning software I forked out some more money for Vuescan, a 3rd party software that works with almost all scanners and does a great job.
So, here I am, happy with my new toy and ready to learn a lot more and ready to fill up some hard disks with huge files - a 6400 ppi TIFF in 48 bit RGB fills up a meager 1.7 gig on disk (never mind that 6400 bit is really beyond the scanner's true resolution).
28 July 2010
The owners of gas transport trucks are on strike. It's happened before (e.g. 2008). Today is the third day with long lines in front of gas stations. Their problem is the "economic measures" the government puts on them. The tourist season does not seem really much of their concern - or rather, they may counting on it leading to maximum annoyance of everybody.
The streets are much quieter then they usually are. People use their cars as little as possible. There doesn't seem to be much understanding for the truckers, given that the economic stuff they will now have to put up with is not at all much worse than what everybody else is facing (and some people got it really a lot harder).
29 July 2010
Setting the Focus Distance on the Epson V700 Scanner
... and see what you're doing
The biggest problem with the otherwise quite splendid scanner Epson
"Perfection" V700 (pretentious little product name there) is hitting the
right focus distance... and keeping the film flat. Here are some little
hints to solve part 1 of that riddle, to find the right focus distance.
The usual procedure is to make a series of test scans, setting your film
carrier to each of its three possible heights (or, if you bought the
Betterscanning holder, an binary search through a lot of different
The problem with that is, assuming you're using large format (or even "baby
large format" 6x9cm, like me), that you won't really be able to see any
grain to focus on. So you'd have to rely on having a sharp negative. But
how sharp is sharp? When I tried it at first, I didn't know if I'd hit
the edge of what's possible with the scanner or if my negative was
really not that 100% sharp. So here is what I've learned.
First, switch off any ICE (or in VueScan "infrared") dust removal. It
will give you a slightly reduced sharpness, which makes your job to find
the right focus hard. It will also speed your tests up a bit, since the
scan head doesn't have to make two passes.
Second, use a large resolution, even if it's more than you usually would
need. 3200 spi (samples per inch, also called "pixel per inch"
sometimes) is probably safe. To save some time, I set the output
format to JPEG and only 24bit RGB. I learned to resist the temptation to
try to do something that you can later use at the same time.
Third, the real secret: Use a color negative with some parts that are
underexposed (e.g. stuff that is in the shadows). You will get big, fat
grain in those parts. See how the grain looks in the "ghosts" of these
people there? You can see that you have the right focus distance, even though that part of the image is not technically "sharp".
This is a small piece of that big picture, some people looking at the sunset. The scan is done at 1600 spi, you'd see it even a bit better
at 3200 spi. (The small sample pictures are at 100% of the 1600spi scan resolution and not sharpened.)
Here is the same piece of the image, with proper color correction and
"curves" adjustment layer applied. The grain has disappeared, because
well, it's in the shadows anyway.
Fourth, for once, dust is your friend. As much as we hate dust on our
scans usually, here it helped me quite a bit. Because dust has 100%
sharp outlines most all the time. So when you see a little spec of dust
that is sharp... well, you're quite close to the optimal film focus
height. The difference of the height of the dust spec probably won't
As for the 2nd part, getting the negative flat, I can't be of much help
there yet, still fighting with that!