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18 January 2018 » Impressions of the Pacific Ocean

I grew up in a place that, although called "the port of five seas", ironically is very far from any sea. The first time I went to a seaside was well in my twenties. Honestly, I was not impressed: just water, helplessly splashing over the shore in a repetitive fashion. Watching the Pacific Ocean from the east coast of Taiwan in Hualien, however, was something else entirely: I was totally captivated by the patterns on the surface; utterly subtle and ever changing, they were unmistakably perpetuated by immense power underneath. Add to that an equally delicate sky elegantly dancing with the surface of the ocean, and you have a subject matter you just cannot walk away from.

One may naturally be inclined to capture the classic near–middle–far type of landscapes when photographing the ocean, but I was transfixed by the patterns and the accompanying sky to the extent that I did not care for any sort of foreground; irrational as it may sound, I was compelled to photograph them straight on. I observed and photographed the changes in the surface patterns, the clouds and light in the morning, at midday and in the evening for three days. It was one of those rare "I want to have this on large format film" experiences, and luckily I did bring my Ebony camera with me. Below is a selection of images that speak to me most.

 
Image: Hualien, Taiwan
 

Impressions of the Pacific Ocean #1

Ebony 45SU camera, Fujinon C 300mm f/8.5 lens, Fujifilm Provia 100F film

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Image: Hualien, Taiwan
 

Impressions of the Pacific Ocean #2

Ebony 45SU camera, Fujinon C 300mm f/8.5 lens, Fujifilm Provia 100F film

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Image: Hualien, Taiwan
 

Impressions of the Pacific Ocean #3

Ebony 45SU camera, Fujinon C 300mm f/8.5 lens, Fujifilm Provia 100F film

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Image: Hualien, Taiwan
 

Impressions of the Pacific Ocean #4

Ebony 45SU camera, Fujinon C 300mm f/8.5 lens, Fujifilm Provia 100F film

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Image: Hualien, Taiwan
 

Impressions of the Pacific Ocean #5

Ebony 45SU camera, Fujinon C 300mm f/8.5 lens, Fujifilm Provia 100F film

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Image: Hualien, Taiwan
 

Impressions of the Pacific Ocean #6

Ebony 45SU camera, Fujinon C 300mm f/8.5 lens, Fujifilm Provia 100F film

But of course, I could not just leave without taking a classic near–middle–far shot—if anything, just to have a picture with the hotel we stayed in (on top of the mountains on the right) as an alternative perspective to add to the memories of the babymoon trip. Unexpectedly, the image now graces the Web site's Home page.

 
Image: Hualien, Taiwan
 

Impressions of the Pacific Ocean #7

Ebony 45SU camera, Fujinon CM–W 135mm f/5.6 lens, Fujifilm Provia 100F film

You may have noted that the first six images were taken with a 300mm lens, a focal length I absolutely love in Large Format, while only the last one was shot with a "normal", 135mm, lens. The last image was also quite a bit more challenging technically: it involved using shift (to include foreground) and tilt (to increase depth of field) camera movement, as well as two filters (a four–stop Neutral Density filter to increase exposure to blur the water and a Graduated Neutral Density filter to tone down the sky, which otherwise would have been blown out).

P.S. All images were processed in Affinity Photo—thanks to the excellent tutorials, I was able to do pretty much everything I used to do in Photoshop in just a few evenings. Love Affinity Photo—bye bye Photoshop!


2 January 2018 » Computer upgrade

I mentioned in a previous post that 2017 turned out to be a year of significant upgrades. I changed my tripod, ball–head, and a number of other accessories I did not write about. These were not the biggest changes, though—last month I finally upgraded my ageing computer*.

I have used an early–2008 Mac Pro for nearly ten years, upgrading it along the way whenever it felt necessary: changing start–up drive to a PCIe–based SSD, adding bigger capacity drives for data storage and gradually adding memory to eventually use 20GB. Expandability was certainly one of the major advantages of the Mac Pro design before it was ditched in favour of the shiny trash can. Even so, one can stretch computer usability only this far—what was once an expensive state–of–the–art machine has now become a dinosaur looking for space in a museum. Never mind, though—in ten years I have gotten plenty of value from the Mac Pro.

Choosing a new computer was fairly straightforward. I wanted to stay with the Apple Macintosh computer line, and there are not that many options that suit my needs in it. Essentially, a well–specced 27–inch iMac 2017 was the only—and actually perfect—match for what I envisioned for future use. Strategically, I always buy the newest and best I can afford and use it as long as I can. So here is what I got in my new iMac:

  • 3.8GHz quad–core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz) processor. I could have gone for the 4.2GHz quad–core Intel Core i7 option, but I did not see clear benefits and it would have pushed the total cost out of my comfort zone.

  • 32GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory. I have been keeping an eye on memory use for a while, and while 16GB is enough most of the time, there are periods when it is insufficient. At the same time, I really need to go out of my way to make 32GB a limiting factor. Apple memory is far from cheap and one is usually advised to buy the minimum from Apple and then add as much as necessary from a third party; I, however, ordered 32GB directly from Apple as buying memory from, say, OWC and then paying international courier service fee and import tax would have cost roughly the same. Living in China, buying directly from Apple also saves a lot in case of any warranty issues.

  • 3TB Fusion drive—this was the most difficult decision to make. I know that, ideally, data should not be kept on the OS drive, and that a larger SSD–only drive is likely faster than the 128GB SSD of the Fusion drive (not to mention that a large, pure SSD drive overall is much, much faster than a Fusion drive). However, a 2TB SSD costs an arm and a leg (I have just over 1TB of data), and I did not want to mess around with too many external drives. Further, my rationale was that if I am to have two backup drives, then I'd rather have two backups of one Master drive—one rotated regularly and stored in a different location—than only one backup of each of the OS and the Data drive. I realise that I have taken a performance hit here, but I do not expect it to be significant in my use. Cost and convenience are of more importance to me in this equation.

  • Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB of VRAM. Plentiful as it is, not much to add here.

  • Last but far from the least, the beautiful 5K P3–colour Retina display needs to be mentioned. Some say that the iMac is a beautiful display that comes with a free computer, and I have to agree. Switching from a 72dpi 20–inch Apple Cinema Display to this beauty was akin to jumping from iPhone I to iPhone X Pro (I know it does not exist, but you know what I mean), or from a small studio apartment to a six–bedroom house with swimming pool and garage. With this being said, the high pixel density of the 5K display (~220ppi) has its issues and I need to figure out how to effectively evaluate image sharpness at pixel–level and perform image sharpening in post–processing. I may end up keeping the Apple Cinema Display and using dual–monitor setup just for this purpose.

On the software side, I have decided to gradually move away from Adobe. On the one hand, I despise the milking subscription model just as so many aspiring photographers do. If you extrapolate the notion, it is essentially a life–time unrepayable mortgage without a corresponding cash inflow to set it off (unless you photograph professionally). I have already ditched Dreamweaver in favour of Aptana Studio 3** and replaced Photoshop with Affinity Photo. On the other hand, Lightroom 6.14 is laggy even on this new, powerful computer, not to mention that the standalone version has been orphaned by Adobe. Getting rid of Lightroom may take a few months, though, as I need to get up to speed with Affinity Photo first.

I look forward to getting a lot of mileage out of the iMac—to the day it becomes a dinosaur looking for space in a museum. How long will that take? Another ten years? Or will it be sooner, and in five or six years there will be new and fundamentally different technologies that will make the iMac irrelevant? Will we all move to the Cloud for good no longer caring about local storage while having 8K image viewing in our sunglasses with sharpening, color management, you name it becoming strange, incomprehensible issues of unrefined past? Surely we will progress, but we will likely have to leave some of the sci-fi developments to our children.

*This being a photography–related Web site, I am going to mention two far more momentous "upgrades" only in passing: home renovation and a new family member!

**In the longer run, I plan to move from hand–coding HTML to something less messy and more elegant, e.g. WordPress.

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