OlegNovikov.com

What's New 2006

December 25th, 2006

Photographs from December gathering of the Russian Club Shanghai have been temporarily posted here.

Choosing what sequence to place photographs in is an extremely important matter—a particular arrangement can increase (or reduce) the importance, relevance and impact of each individual photograph and that of the overall collection; moreover, it can completely change presentation of how certain events unfolded.

Take, for example, the photographs from the Russian Club gathering. As presented here, they suggest the following sequence of events: official speech –> presents for children –> lottery and contests –> dance performance –> having a few drinks and getting happy. This sequence fluently tells a story of a well–organised event; each photograph, while not a strong shot on its own, is a link in the chain—its strength is increased by inclusion in the coverage; the sequence, on the other hand, attains a purposeful meaning due to inclusion of each particular photograph in the chosen order.

In actuality, however, the photographs were not taken in the order that I have placed them in—for instance, photo 16 was taken at the very beginning of the event and picture 17 is of one of the contests (probably a strange one at that) and has got nothing to do with the preceding image (i.e. drinking—everyone was perfectly sober). If I choose to place the pictures strictly in the order of when they were taken, the collection looses the sense of continuity and direction and each individual photograph becomes more of an "independent player" thus inevitably sliding into the realm of mediocrity.

Now, it is an interesting question whether one should strictly stick to the order in which photographs were taken and preserve "objectivity" at the expense of loosing continuity and fluency, or if one's priority should be creating a story and telling it in a fluent manner. I doubt that there is an unequivocal answer to the question and personally am of the strong opinion that the latter is a more adequate approach. First, a casual social event that involves a big number of people from very different backgrounds rarely possesses such a thing as "objective sequence" in the first place. Second, if one insists on preserving the order in which photographs are taken then, at least in theory, it still is possible to plan shooting in a way so that the event is covered as one wishes or conceives of it. Let me know if you disagree, though.

December 18th, 2006

Hasselblad Sonnar CFi 4/150 vs. Sonnar CFE 4/180—making the choice is now online.

Thom Hogan recently posted a photograph of O'Hare International Airport and, to continue this theme, I am posting photographs of another three major international airports, all taken during the past couple of weeks with essentially the same camera (Panasonic Lumix DSC–LX2 vs. Leica D–Lux 3).


 
 

Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Paris
Panasonic Lumix DSC–LX2 @ 28mm (equivalent)
ISO 100, f/2.8, 0.4 seconds, hand–held with Image Stabilization on

 
 

Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Panasonic Lumix DSC–LX2 @ 28mm (equivalent)
ISO 100, f/2.8, 0.3 seconds, hand–held with Image Stabilization on

 
 

Madrid Barajas International Airport
Panasonic Lumix DSC–LX2 @ 33mm (equivalent)
ISO 100, f/3.2, 1/13 seconds, hand–held with Image Stabilization on

I have to note that I absolutely love the camera's wide angle lens and 16:9 aspect ratio; also, just like any point–and–shoot, it is much more suited for photographing airports—with a small and seemingly unsophisticated camera you simply look like just another (f***ing) tourist. In Madrid I was immediately approached by the police and advised that it was prohibited to photograph in the airport. I seriously suspect that I would not get away with it as easily had I been using a DSLR.

December 7th, 2006

Where to buy photo gear in Shanghai page has been updated with important info—Huanlong Photo Gear Mall is currently under renovation.

December 6th, 2006

Ah ha, with the help of a friend, found it! The name of the river in the picture below is Rio Ebro and the part of it that I photographed is not far from Zaragoza. Here it is shown in Google Earth:


     

December 2nd, 2006

At long last, Mount Putuo (普陀山) Photo Travel Guide has been posted. What's next in the pipeline? Most likely, a Hasselblad CFi 4/150 vs. CFE 4/180 shootout; I have also recently bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC–LX2 and hope to share my impressions of the camera with you in the not too distant future—stay tuned.

November 24th, 2006

AF–S VR DX Zoom–Nikkor 18–200mm f/3.5–5.6G IF–ED lens review has now been posted.

November 20th, 2006

My review of the 18–70DX zoom has been updated with detailed information on light fall–off signature.

November 11th, 2006

Gee, I entirely forgot about the photographs that I took in Spain in September. Now, why would that happen? I have been thinking about this today and the conclusion that I lean towards is that, at least to me, it is important to not only take interesting photos but also organise them into meaningful compilations, preferably with essays, to create not just abstract images but, hopefully, complete messages. There are several photographs taken in Spain that I like a lot but the problem is that I do not seem to know what I would want to say with them. The positive aspect of this is that I, naturally and unintentionally, conceive of photography as a creative means of self–expression. In hope that I will be able to form a message with the photos form the trip I am posting one photograph that I like most. If my memory serves me well it was taken while flying from Valencia to Bilbao. If you know the name of the river, please let me know.


 
 

Spanish Lizard
Nikon D70s with the Nikkor 18–70DX lens

November 9th, 2006

Photographs from Mumiy Troll's live concert in Shanghai are now online.

To photograph the concert I borrowed a friend's Nikkor 18–200 VR zoom. It was my first time using the lens and before even considering image quality I have to say that I really, really disliked how the lens, and its zoom ring in particular, handled.

The ring is rather stiff and, moreover, the way it acts is funky at best (and I thought my 18–70DX was pretty bad in this respect!). First, it is impossible to zoom from 18 to 200 mm in one go without taking one's hand off the ring (well, it is possible but you would have to move your shoulder, arm and hand in a very peculiar way), which is a major inconvenience in real shooting. Secondly, zoom ring movement has different degree of looseness/stiffness at different focal lengths and, furthermore, depending on whether you are zooming in or out as well as if you are shooting horizontally or vertically. When shooting horizontally and zooming in from 18 to 200 mm the ring gradually feels tougher with the maximum stiffness being between 70 and 135 mm, which then is followed by an abrupt looseness towards 200mm; when zooming out from 200 to 18 mm, it is somewhat loose at first but then becomes stiffer from 70 mm onwards. When shooting vertically (i.e. when the lens is tilted down), zooming in is very, very loose (practically reaching the point of zoom creep); zooming out, on the other hand, is extremely stiff. All of this is obvious when you casually handle the lens and really gets to you if you use it continuously and intensely for a couple of hours. Now, I appreciate that 18–200 mm is a pretty long focal length range but boy, I did not expect this sort of stuff from a USD900 lens (which is its current market price where I live)!

Another thing that I was not particularly thrilled about is that from about 105 mm on the lens is very slow (f/5.6). This has an impact on shutter speed but can more or less be compensated by the VR (vibration reduction) function and higher ISO settings; what VR and high ISO can not deal with, however, is sluggish and imprecise autofocus in low light and, most importantly to me, insufficiently shallow DOF (depth–of–field).

Anyway, I have an opportunity to use the lens a bit longer and will be posting a brief review in the nearest future.

November 7th, 2006

Lessons @ Bashang Grassland have been posted. This, basically, is a brief analysis of 12 unsuccessful images—an attempt to learn from my own mistakes with a concise overview of what makes successful images. I am posting this temporarily as displaying one's uninspiring work, generally, is not very wise.

November 4th, 2006

Where to buy photo gear in China page has been updated with additional information.

November 1st, 2006

Influence (and cause and effect relation in general) is an unyielding beast. Many a times one fails to impose it when he tries doing so on purpose; at the same time, we spread it around all the time without knowing when, how, or to what extent someone is going to be influenced by us. Likewise, we are constantly influenced by others without more often than not realizing it or, again, knowing who, how and by what means influenced us as well as when and in what form that influence is going to surface.

A while ago a professional Web site designer friend of mine mentioned that she generally liked this site but was not particularly fond of its header (i.e. the top part with the logo and "OlegNovikov" sign)—it was "not polished enough(不够精致)", she said. That was just a casual comment, something said in passing and without any particular implications, leave alone any intentions of convincing me to change it. I knew that I cut a few corners when designing the header but felt that it was adequate enough; ever since I heard that "not polished enough", though, the design became a thorn in my eye and somewhere at the back of my mind I started grudgingly contemplating redesigning it.

Then several days ago I came across several Web sites that somehow, quite unexpectedly, gave me an overall idea as to how I wanted to change and further refine the header (talk about influence again) and the rest was just a matter of implementing my new vision technically. This might sound pretty straightforward but I have to note that it was quite a bit of a process; that said though, I immensely enjoyed every creative bit of it and savoured each aesthetic decision that I had to make.

At any rate, this is how the updated design that you see from today on came to be (in case you have not seen the old one have a look at it here). I think it is a noteworthy improvement and hope you like it too—your comments will be appreciated.

October 29th, 2006

My take on the film vs. digital issue has been updated with comments from a reader.

October 23rd, 2006

Once again on the subject of flatbed scanners and in relation to my Epson 4990 review, I recently received the following comments from another user of the HP4890:

Although I know the issue with dedicated scanners I have bought the HP4890. (...) I have put the unit to the test with the following results...

– I fully agree to your commentary on flatbeds on max. usable resolution of 1200dpi

– On hard underexposed slides that were a disaster (...) I managed to recover their detail by putting them directly on scanner bed. Day and night difference but avoid multi–scanning—for some reason successive scans do not overlap properly causing blur.

– I got much faster results of better or equal quality than the HP bundle with the VUESCAN.

M. Manetas

October 21st, 2006

Autumn @ Bashang Grassland has now been posted.

October 13th, 2006

I am in the process of sorting through the photographs from Bashang trips. I started out with about 20 pictures shot in October 2005 (now reduced to 13) and 25 scanned photos from the recent trip. I have to say that choosing the best photographs is a long and painful process—it is easy to throw away obvious losers and retain apparent keepers; however, there are always pictures that you like a lot yet feel somewhat uncomfortable about putting them together with the winners. The only way out is sleeping on it—I simply look at them for a long, long time and sooner or later there comes a moment when all of a sudden you know which side of the fence a picture is on. I am also trying to analyze what common traits strong images have as well as why the images that had me looking at them for such a long time failed to be kept. I will be sharing this experience with you soon—bear with me. Meanwhile, here is a photo that about a couple dozens other photographers took at the same time. It is somewhat mediocre but probably represents what those living in big buzzing cities might long for every once in a while.


 
 

Hasselblad 503cw, CFE 2.8/80 lens and Fuji Velvia 100F slide film

October 9th, 2006

Homepage photograph has been updated with another photograph from Bashang Grassland that speaks to me.

October 7th, 2006

As expected, the trip to Bashang Grassland was an absolutely brilliant endeavour full of photographic opportunities, intensive cultural learning (I was the only laowai/gaijin among several dozens of Chinese photographers) and physical exercise (lagging 15 kilos of equipment from 4:30 a.m. for hours everyday is not what one normally does on a daily basis). Homepage photograph has been updated with one of the pictures from the trip that I like and, naturally, more photographs will be posted as soon as I finish sorting through the 18 rolls of 120 slide film shot during the trip.

September 30th, 2006

Winter is approaching. While in some parts of the world there is no such concept whatsoever in others it is a welcome variation and anticipated turn of events—for the positively–minded, it is a pleasant change from sipping cold beer in the summer heat to savouring hot coffee while watching morning frost outside the window and listening to, say, the first movement of Brahms' first piano concerto (the reason I am mentioning it here is that, at 24 minutes, the piece should be long enough for a serious cup of coffee ). For those who are going to miss summer, though, I am posting the following photograph:


 
 

Nikon D70s with the 18–70 zoom lens

Tomorrow I am off to photograph Bashang Grassland and The Great Wall. Bashang Grassland sunrise is going to come in below–zero temperatures and I am sure that I am going to relish it even without the coffee and the music. The Great Wall daybreak is likely to be a bit warmer and I am looking forward to witnessing it again—the last time I stayed overnight at The Great Wall in 1998 it was superb. Anyway, wish me good luck!

September 23rd, 2006

Recently I was asked to provide a photograph of Shanghai that would be representative of the city and I came up with the following picture from my archives:


 
Shanghai - The Bund
 

Hasselblad 503cw, CFE 2.8/80 lens and Fuji Velvia 100F slide film

I then was asked if I had the same picture at daytime which I, unfortunately, did not. Why? Because the photo above suits my perception of Shanghai as a city of rain, jazz and sex best. Do not ask me what I mean by that, though .

September 19th, 2006

My take on the film vs. digital issue, together with the rest of the photographs from Mount Putuo, is now online.

September 1st, 2006

"Alternative approaches in photography—Zhouzhuang (周庄), take three" has been posted. I am currently in Spain (no, not to photograph—even though my D70s is with me I have no time to take pictures whatsoever) listening to Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" and (or 'yet'?) practicing saying "Jamon, vino, tias... la vida es buena!" .

August 25th, 2006

Have you seen Woody Allen's "Match Point"? Whatever critics have to say, I have seen it four times—so far. The movie starts with the following monolog: "The man who said, "I'd rather be lucky than good," saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you loose."

One might agree with this or not but luck most certainly plays a major role in outdoor photography. For one thing, I took more decent pictures in two days casually photographing in Mount Putuo than when traveling and photographing all around Western Sichuan Province in May for eight days. Moreover, I happened to retake one of my favorite images, "Sunset—Moonrise" (with the only difference that this time it was "sunrise—moonset"; the new picture is below). What are the chances of retaking this kind of photograph?

 
Sunrise - Moonset
 

Hasselblad 503cw, CFE 2.8/80 lens and Fuji Velvia 100F slide film

By the way, have you noticed the small white spot under the moon? That actually is one of the planets (I am not sure which one, though)!

August 24th, 2006

This photograph, also taken during the last trip to Mount Putuo, is dedicated to Tom Gleave, who is one of my best mates and whose ultimate hobby and self–expression is fishing. Guess what—expect a couple more nice photographs to be posted .

 
Tom Gleave and Putuoshan
 

Hasselblad 503cw, CFi 4/50 lens and Fuji Velvia 100F slide film


August 23rd, 2006

Things have been a bit hectic and I am still trying to finish post–processing black–and–white photographs from Zhouzhuang. Nevertheless and meanwhile, I went photographing for two days to Mount Putuo(普陀山)and one of the pictures from the trip now graces the Home Page. It was one of those classic examples when you witness a mediocre sunrise but have to wait until the end—you never know what colours might appear.

P.S. Hey—have you noticed that CFE 2.8/80 shows not distortion whatsoever ?

August 14th, 2006

I spent last weekend photographing in Zhouzhuang (周庄, a small water town two hours away from Shanghai). I actually planned going to Putuo Mountain(普陀山)but it, unfortunately, was not in the cards—a typhoon was coming in the direction of the island and all transportation to it was temporarily stopped. I could not go to my usual backup shooting location (The Yellow Mountain) either as all possible accommodation was booked out. And so I ended up going to Zhouzhuang—for the third time.

Call me crazy but this time I was photographing with my Hasselblad 503cw and black–and–white film. To be honest, as new digital cameras get more pixels, bigger screens, better processing engines, etc., I find myself less and less interested in it all. Granted, I enjoy watching the rapid development of digital imaging—but only as an outside observer; as a photographer, I seem to be naturally moving towards simpler equipment and more fundamental processes—i.e. into the domain where images depend not on the knowledge of how to use state–of–the–art technology but on understanding of underlying principles of photography, personal vision and perception. This also explains why I have been re–reading Ansel Adam's trilogy and thinking about printing black–and–white photographs myself again.

Oh do I not also use a Nikon D70s? Sure, but only as a point–and–shoot and in situations where the choice is between shooting with the D70s or not shooting at all. On this trip to Zhouzhuang I lugged the camera for two days and did not use it even once.

In the end I shot seven rolls of Kodak Tmax 100; processing the film is likely to take a bit of time but I expect to post some of the images later this month. For now, though, I am posting one of the only two photos taken with slide film—in each case colours begged to be retained and I could not say "no" .


 
Zhouzhuang, China
 

Zhouzhuang(周庄)at dusk
Hasselblad 503cw, CFE 2.8/80 lens and Fuji Velvia 100F slide film


August 10th, 2006

Current prices of some photo gear in China have been updated. It is interesting to observe how prices of some DSLRs plummet over time and I reckon the new D80 is bound to follow suit... about a year and a half from now .

August 9th, 2006

Nikon D80 has finally been unveiled. First and foremost, it was quite interesting to see how through the official teaser and subsequent "unintentional" leaks (i.e. pictures of the camera) Nikon revealed just enough information so that, by and large, various discussion forums could pin down main characteristics of the camera quite precisely.

Although it has been suggested that the D80 is quite close to the D200, I am of the opinion that it is a replacement of the D70s and much closer to its predecessor. While the D80 certainly has valuable improvements over its forerunner such as more megapixels, better viewfinder, metering and image processing, bigger display and buffer, etc., in the end of the day the camera essentially remains a mid–level prosumer DSLR with scene modes, switching between single or continuous AF via a menu, no direct ISO indication and mirror lock–up, 3 fps (frames per second) and SD cards only—all packed into a light plastic body. Quite interestingly, the venerable D70s still holds its own in a couple of aspects—namely, maximum shutter and flash sync speeds (1/8000 vs. 1/4000 and 1/500 vs. 1/200 respectively).

On the notion of more megapixels I think it is not a big deal. On the one hand, 6MP is entirely sufficient for what I use my D70s for and if I ever happen to completely move to digital it is highly unlikely to be in 35mm format only. On the other hand, while my current computer system is quite adequate to deal with 6MP RAW files I feel that bigger file sizes might cause it chronic indigestion.

All in all, while I am sure that the D80 will prove to be a great camera, it is rather evolutionary than revolutionary; nor does it reach the pinnacle of refinement. From this perspective the teaser and succeeding speculations turn out to be a bit of a storm in a teacup and I am really eager to see what Canon and Fuji are going to unveil in Cologne in September .

One thing that should also be noted is that a certain pattern seems to have emerged—Nikon appear to use the same chip in three camera models (to, obviously, obtain the economy of scale)—the 6MP chip used in the D100 apparently was also utilized in the D70/D70s and D50. Now we see the chip used in the D200 also appearing in the D80 and deductive logic would suggest that we should reasonably expect a D60 with the same 10.2MP chip later this year.

To cool this digital talk down a bit, today, preparing for a short photo trip, I bought one more film back for my Hasselblad 503cw and a dozen rolls of Kodak Tmax 100 .

August 8th, 2006

 

I recently bought "Rankings of the most beautiful places in China"(中国最美丽的地方排行榜)published by Chinese National Geography Magazine. It is a 512–page book that lists ten most beautiful mountains, five most gorgeous lakes, six most striking waterfalls and so on and so forth (16 categories altogether). Each place has a brief introduction and mostly beautiful photographs as illustrations. Judging by the articles as well as seeing how the best specialists in related fields were involved in choosing and ranking the places, I tend to fully trust the publication. It certainly is going to be one of my most reliable references for choosing new photographic destinations in the future.

I find this compilation absolutely indispensable for anyone more or less seriously photographing in China. As far as I know this is the only book that ranks travel destinations in China from a perspective which pretty much gets as close to the standpoint of landscape and partly cultural photography as possible. Furthermore, it is essential to those interested in particular types of landscapes (e.g., deserts, glaciers, prairies, you name it). Most Chinese photo travel guides do not even get close to this. Highly recommended!

One interesting thing about the book, though, is that all photographs of K2 (Mount Godwin–Austen) were taken by... Galen Rowell. Does this mean that in the whole of China there is not a single photographer who has gone there and produced decent photographs? Or that there is not a single mountaineer who is also a good enough photographer? I find this rather curious.

I am not sure if there is an English version of this publication (I seriously doubt it). Drop me a line if you do not read Chinese and would like to see any of the rankings by categories—I will be happy to post a brief translation here.

On another note, Sony Alfa DSLR–A100 (body only) is only USD800 (RMB6400) at the moment in China—let's see tomorrow how the new Nikon D80 is priced .

August 7th, 2006

China Photo Expedition—full details are now available.

July 31st, 2006

A reader has written to let me know that, as expected, prices of some Nikon gear in Shanghai have dropped—Nikon D200 can now be bought for USD1400 (RMB11200) whereas Nikon D70s is only USD600 (RMB4800) now. It will be interesting to see if introduction of the Nikon D80 (or whatever it will be called) on 9 August as well as gradual popularisation of the Sony Alfa DSLR–A100 will bring prices of Nikon DSLRs further down. I will be updating photo gear prices in Shanghai in the nearest future—drop me a line if you would like to know current price of any particular item.

Details of the China Photo Expedition 2007 have now been finalised and sent to those who expressed an interest early on. They will be published here and on CameraHobby.com and NikonLinks.com on Monday 7 August.

July 25th, 2006

 

I have always liked the photograph on the left yet been quite unhappy about its technical quality—it was originally taken on a 35mm negative colour film. Several days ago when the weather seemed appropriate I retook it with my Hasselblad and the result can be found on the home page (update: the new photograph can now be found here). The picture has now got not only a much better print quality but also a considerably more dramatic look, which I really like. Those participating in the China Expedition mentioned above will have an opportunity to photograph similar cityscapes .

July 14th, 2006


 
 

Sipping a beer at the edge of a road (or on a curb) is an attitude.
Attach your favourite tune to the picture. You do contain the infinity.

My Nikon D70s further taken to Moscow suburbs .

July 13th, 2006

My Nikon D70s and I get not only close to water but also as high as the average human being can possibly get (pun intended )—the camera is always with me whenever I am on a long enough flight. Most of the time there is not much to photograph but every once in a while, especially when flying through a sunrise or a sunset, you get to see stunning colours which are rarely attainable on the surface of the earth—see the photo below.


 
 

Sunrise colours at 10,000 meters above ground (no, they have not been PS'ed)


Another interesting thing about this photograph is that as far as images of this sort (i.e. where there is no fine detail) are concerned digital capture (vs. film) wins hands down—the picture can be uprezzed to practically any size without obvious image quality degradation.

June 20th, 2006

   

Do you know that joke about Budweiser beer the answer to which is "two/too f*cking close to water"? Well, "too close to water" is also where I took my Nikon D70s last weekend at one of my mates' birthday party in search for an interesting shooting perspective (at one point the camera with an SB–800 attached to it was with me in the pull literally inches above water!). The rest of the photographs can temporarily be found here.

   

June 16th, 2006

For the umpteenth time reread one of Murakami Haruki's novels. Savouring the well acquainted twists and turns as well as mulling over the familiar angle on life pleasantly put me into a similar disposition—a bit of a break from your standard portfolio of day–to–day moods and perceptions. There also were several passages which I was looking forward to re–reading and lingering over once again—one of them has been added to the Quotes and Thoughts page.

June 12th, 2006

Hasselblad Tessar CB 4.8/160 vs. Sonnar CFE 4/180—the ultimate shootout has now been posted.

June 11th, 2006

Last night went to a typical night club in Shanghai where you can meet anyone from a young German guy trying to touch ground in the city to a pretty wasted local lesbian telling you all about her recent misfortunes and using your mobile phone to break up with her girlfriend—a truly sophisticated flow of characters and overlapping circumstances which makes you wonder where all of this leaves you.

June 6th, 2006

I almost never comment on announcements of new cameras and lenses; however, the introduction of the new Sony Alfa DSLR–A100 had me so impressed that I thought I would share my first impressions. First and foremost, the camera apparently uses the same 10.2MP CCD chip as the one found in the Nikon D200. Given Sony's previous record in the department of image quality I reckon that there is not going to be a huge difference between the two cameras in this respect. Secondly, I was really impressed to see how neatly Sony have positioned the camera against the competition—whereas the Alfa DSLR–A100 apparently is not as fast (3 fps vs. 5 fps), rugged or slick ergonomically as the D200, it offers a number of very valuable features that are not found in corresponding Nikon or Canon camera bodies. In particular, in–camera image stabilization ("Super SteadyShot"), CCD anti–dust coating and vibration as well as hardware–based Dynamic Range Optimizer will certainly appeal to many a photographer (presuming that all these features work as promised by Sony, of course, but I have no reason to think otherwise). In other words, Alfa DSLR–A100 competes against the D200 (and I would even go so far as to say, to a certain extent, against the Canon 5D, too) in a very smart way—it is very likely to boast a comparable image quality yet has a combination of unique features which soundly separate it from the competition. Some people will prefer the speed and ruggedness of the D200 but others will opt for lack of dust on their sensors, not having to pay several times for image stabilization (as we do when we buy VR Nikkors) as well as potentially increased dynamic range; some will also be tempted by the nice Carl Zeiss lenses.

Sony's offer looks almost irresistible once you further look at the camera's price—USD899 (body only, the D200 currently sells for USD1650)—I am sure this is going to have quite a few photographers scratching their heads. This also puts Nikon into a bit of an awkward position—they obviously will have to further lower prices of their DSLRs (which, of course, is good for us consumers) but how far can they go given the fact that their sensors are currently produced by Sony?

June 1st, 2006

清华大学经济管理学院经42班同学信息栏 (an information board for my university classmates) has been updated.

May 31st, 2006

I have to say that reviewing most Hasselblad lenses is an absolute bore as it basically boils down to the following: very sharp, a tiny bit softer wide–open and at f/32, very gradual (i.e. unnoticeable in real–life prints) light fall–off, no distortion in real–world photographs and a beautiful bokeh. At any rate, have a look at a slightly more detailed review of the Hasselblad Sonnar CFE 4/180. I am also working on a CB 4.8/160 vs. CFE 4/180 comparison.

A general thought on marketing hype while I am at this. Recently I have been quite often passing by this huge advertisement in downtown Shanghai:


 
 

It basically boasts that ViewSonics' LCD monitors can last as long as 50,000 hours. At first glance it appeared quite impressive but then I thought, hold on, 50,000 hours??? That is about five and a half years if you use your monitor 24/7 and a staggering seventeen years if you stare into it every single day for eight hours (most sane people do not even come close to this). Considering the average lifespan of consumer electronics I reckon that most of us will be upgrading our monitors a long, long time before they actually die off. This goes to say that making a buying decision based on this number alone would not be entirely wise. And the same holds for extra megapixels (how big do you usually print?), additional number of shutter cycles (have you ever worn out a shutter?) and a whole lot of other things we often unnecessarily pay for.

Beware of leaning towards the opposite, though, as some things tend to be always deficient. Take for instance beer or rubber johnnies—no matter how strategic your thinking might be many a times you run out of them at the wrong moment and have to rush out to buy some more .

Knowing what you actually need is a simple yet often unattainable undertaking .

May 18th, 2006

As things get very hectic from tomorrow on I am hastily posting the rest of the photographs from the trip to Western Sichuan Province here. Sorry for all the possible mistakes—I will be correcting them and probably adding a bit more info once things slow down a bit.

May 14th, 2006

The first series of photographs from the recent trip to Western Sichuan Province that I am posting is actually of people—have a look at the People of Western Sichuan Province—a gallery.

Home page photograph has been updated with another photo from the trip that I like. More pictures to come later—stay tuned!

May 11th, 2006

I am now back from the trip to western Sichuan province. It was an absolutely brilliant endeavor blended with all sorts of uncomfortable circumstances yet the photographic opportunities were well worth long hours on buses, hiking in the rain, pretty rough accommodation and rather basic food. Sorting through twenty nine rolls of film and several hundred digital files is likely to take me some time but I will be posting photographs from the journey as well as a couple of lens reviews later this month. Meanwhile, home page photograph has been updated with one of the pictures from the voyage (I have the same picture on film but am posting the shot from my D70s as I have not had the time to scan film yet).

April 28th, 2006

At long last I can have a bit of a break and am off to Western Sichuan Province, China photographing for eight days. The places I am scheduled to visit are as follows: Balang Mountain (saw it from a bus before and am looking forward to spending some quality time there), Siguniangshan Mountain (yes, for the third time), Danba (named "The most beautiful mountain village" by China National Geographic), Mugecuo (have no idea—will see) and Hailuogou Valley (very promising!). I am taking my Hasselblad 503cw with "only" three lenses (CFi 4/50, CFE 2.8/80 and CFE 4/180), Nikon D70s with the 18–70 zoom, all sorts of accessories and, of course, a lot of film. After jiggling with different brands and formats for a few years I find that this combination works best for me on this kind of trips.

A look at the iPod Video as a digital wallet has been posted; home page photograph has been updated with another picture taken in Taipei (update: the picture is now below). I know that it is a pretty mediocre shot but I love the colours; also, the man and his child in the right corner of the photograph give a very good sense of scale (this may be not very obvious at this magnification but is quite noticeable in a print), so I thought I would let the picture preside until I bring better photographs from Sichuan Province .

 
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Taipei
 

Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall, Taipei


April 12th, 2006

Had an absolutely terrifying experience a couple of days ago... Flying back to Taipei from Kaohsiung (yes, the interesting place I mentioned earlier was Taiwan) we hit a big storm—turbulence was entirely dreadful and the plane felt like a plastic toy in the hands of The Nature. The engines of the small aircraft (FK–100) appeared to be running at full power and listening to them at times I had a similar feeling as when shooting action at 3 fps (frames–per–second) when you know you need at least 5 fps... Now, I have flown at least a hundred times by now and seen my share of turbulence but this was the worst time ever by far. The major part of my mind was regretting not having brought some Pampers; the braver part of it was regretting not having brought my camera as I had a window seat and the scene outside was absolutely spectacular (at the times when I could firmly feel the seat underneath me and did not have to impulsively grasp my seat's armrests, that it). In the end the pilot failed to land in Taipei and we had to fly back to Kaohsiung...

The photograph below was taken in Taipei. Was I lucky in terms of ambient light? Yes, but—and it is a huge but—chance favours the prepared mind .

 
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Taipei
 

Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall, Taipei


April 4th, 2006

Had to stop in Hong Kong for a couple of days recently. One might like the city or not but it most certainly is quite an impressive place which is also absolutely brilliant for cityscape photography. Below are several casual photographs to illustrate the point:


  Hong Kong - cityscape Hong Kong - cityscape  
  Hong Kong - cityscape Hong Kong - cityscape  

If you happen to be in Hong Kong make sure you have at least some sort of a tripod—I did not have one and quite regretted it. The pictures above were taken with my Nikon D70s and the 18–70 kit lens hand–held and one of them is actually blurred to the extent that it is unprintable. It looks very sharp at this magnification, though, which, on the one hand, suffices for the illustration and, on the other hand, once again goes to say that sharpness is a function of scale .

March 28th, 2006

I am now off for about two weeks to what I expect to be a rather interesting place and, although it is not a photographic trip, I am taking my camera with me and will keep my eye open to any photographic opportunities—more on this when I return. Meanwhile, a review of ColorVision Spyder2 has been posted.

March 9th, 2006

A short essay called Landscape photography and Chinese philosophy—scito te ipsum has been posted; Epson Perfection 4990 PHOTO scanner review has been updated with a comment from another reader.

March 4th, 2006

Just a short message to let you know that I have been on a massively hectic business trip for the last three weeks and although I have been occasionally able to check my email I have not had a chance to reply in a proper manner. I am now scheduled to return to Shanghai in mid–March and will reply to all the email at that point—please bear with me. Cheers!

February 8th, 2006

Scrutinizing digital files at 100% magnification and viewing actual prints is not entirely the same—read about Nikon D70s' noise performance from this perspective here.

February 6th, 2006

The Yellow Mountain Photo Travel Guide has been posted.

February 5th, 2006

Information on the best places in China to photograph autumn colours has been added to my China Photo Travel Guide.

January 24th, 2006

Talking about the capricious nature of The Yellow Mountain in particular and the importance of luck in outdoor photography in general, I only brought back four decent photographs from my last trip to the mountain. I should consider myself lucky even at this rate, though—Michael Chen, a New York based photographer whom I met on the trip, was there on an assignment to specifically photograph The Yellow Mountain in snow yet after ten days of heavy rain he had no choice but to temporarily return to Shanghai...

January 17th, 2006

Home page photograph has been updated with yet another—this time quite psychedelic —picture from my last trip to The Yellow Mountain(黄山). In relation to it I have also posted star trails photography tips.

January 13th, 2006

Talking about flatbed scanners in general, I received the following message from a reader in Spain:

I´ve just read your comments about the Epson 4990. I have bought a flatbed scanner (HP 4980) to scan some negatives and I ended up with the same conclusion as you. It´s no way 4800 dpi. I was searching for some reviews about Epson scanners, since I was considering returning the HP and buying the Epson 3950, but after reading your review I guess I´m not buying that. Maybe you want to include a small note in your review about this scanner. I think people should be warned about this. I can send you a couple of scans, but I still don't have anything to compare with. The speed is not a problem with this scanner, though, it takes less than a minute to scan a negative at "4800 dpi".

Daniel.

January 11th, 2006

I have further tested Epson 4990 on my new Mac—scroll down the scanner review to read my new findings. Home page photograph has been updated with another photograph from my recent trip to The Yellow Mountain(黄山).

 
 


It is rather curious that so many people suggest that Mac OS X is very different and difficult to switch to from Windows—I personally find it very intuitive to use and, as expected, it is much more elegant, refined and stable. In just about two days which I spent mostly moving stuff from my old PC, re–arranging things and just playing around I have learned to do pretty much most of the things that I need to do on a day–to–day basis. Of course, there still is a lot to learn but the learning curve is not as steep as some imply.

January 9th, 2006

I find it quite fascinating that exactly one day before Adobe announced the new digital workflow/processing software Lightroom I switched from PC to Apple—a free beta version of the software is currently available for Mac OS X only. Of course, switching to Apple was a plan from long ago and I knew nothing about Adobe's upcoming announcement. Now, though, as a bonus, I get to play with a program which promises to be the next big thing in the area of photo software :)

January 5th, 2006

A bit more of street photography—this time from the parts of Beijing which disappear rapidly in the city's galloping development (all taken with my Nikon D70s and the 18–70 zoom lens).


 
 

 
 

 
 

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