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It’s been almost 3 decades since I produced serious, large format images using view cameras. Their film sizes ranged from 2 1/4″ x 3 1/4″ to 4″ x 5″ to 8″ x 10″.

The larger the negative, the finer details and higher print resolution it would produce. That opened the door to making larger, more finely detailed prints.

So, with today’s lower resolution digital cameras, it was inevitable that someone would once again push this limit and perhaps surpass it!

My Christmas present this past year was a robot. It’s name is Gigapan. It’s battery powered (6 AA cells), computerized as well as mechanical. It came out of the design of the “PanCam” used on the very successful Mars Rovers from the team that developed their software at Carnegie Mellon University.

Compact, weighing only about three and a half pounds, it fits neatly into my camera bag.

Mount a compact digital camera … in my case, I’m using a 9 megapixel Canon SX110 IS with it’s 360mm equivalent lens (same magnification as most binoculars)  … and it can produce incredibly detailed, panoramic images that contain more than 1,000 megapixel resolution!

In an effort to facilitate cross cultural understanding amongst the peoples on our planet, Carnegie Mellon University, working with the United Nations and Google have joined together to produce Gigapans that can be found on a special layer of GoogleEarth that reveal how we all live.

My primary interest is related to the photography aspect of this project. Most photo printers can attain a print resolution of 300 to 360 points per inch. At the gigapan resolution it is possible to make prints that are 4 feet high and 20 feet wide at the limit of the printer’s resolution!

The process of creating such a huge panorama is much like it was in the days of my large format view camera works. Once again, it is the choice of the location of the tripod that is the key to success. Lighting, composition, etc. are still critical but, first you must setup and level your Gigapan on it’s tripod.

With the old view camera work you were stuck with the view of the lens you had. But with the Gigapan you select the upper left and then the lower right of the frame of your image. It is as if you now own an infinite number of lenses that can cover any angle of view! This greatly extends your ability to capture what your mind’s eye envisions.

The gigapan will then precisely locate and take each of the overlapping exposures (as many as 500 or more of them!)  that will later be stitched by the amazing software that produces the panoramas.

Each 360 degree image can then be uploaded and linked geographically so that it will appear as a sphere, floating over GoogleEarth. Click onto one of these and you will ‘fly’ into it and be able to pan around as well as zoom into all views at that location. You can even take ‘snapshots’ of things you find within these gigapans and share your discoveries with others.

For me, as the photographer, I personally prefer to restrict my photographs to only small segments of a panorama and then use the stitching software’s ability to produce a TIFF or RAW file which I can open and print at ultra high resolution. These partial panoramic images are still the equivalent of hundreds of megapixels, each!

What did it all cost, you ask? Combined cost of the Gigapan robot (beta), including the stitching software plus the Canon compact digital camera was less than $500.

Check out the ultra high resolution panoramic images on GoogleEarth OR at gigapan.org

I believe that you will find it to be a fascinating project worthy of your time and possibly your involvement!

I was reminiscing about all of the software I own that will not run on my 2 GHz Intel MacMini and wondering what I could do to make it useable, once again.

I began using Macs, ‘in the beginning’ … June 1984 … and I’ve been buying software for them, ever since … most of which is from companies that are no longer in business so, they will never make updates that will work with MacOS X.

I’ve also kept some of my favorite Macs from days gone by so that I can still run the old software when I need it.

Specifically, the Powerbook that I am writing this post about is my 1999 400 MHz G3 PowerBook aka bronze keyboard or code named, “Lombard”.

It yields itself to be a wonderful hobby computer to upgrade and bring into the new millennium.

In 1999, it was the state of the art with MacOS 8.6, 128 MB of RAM and a 3 GB hard drive!

But, today this old PowerBook can be updated to Tiger, MacOS 10.4.11 and 512 MB of RAM and a 120 GB hard drive!

This Mac was the first Apple laptop to play commercial movie DVDs (but could not burn DVDs) but, today an inexpensive DVD burner can also replace this internal, removable drive.

It came before the advent of Airport Wifi cards but because it has a 32 bit PCMCIA cardbus slot it will accept a PCMCIA card for the latest 802.11 draft N WiFi wireless networking connections!

Best of all, with such a huge hard drive, it made sense to partition the it into 3 partitions … one with the original MacOS v8.6, one with MacOS 9 and one with Tiger, 10.4.11. So it is ready for any software!

Now packed with all of my favorite old software applications like PageMaker, Canvas, Wingz, Claris CAD, Write Now and my old Photoshop with all of the amazing plugins that no longer work with the current version, this revival has been quite rewarding!

The most fun of all are all of my old games that run once again! Far too many of these to list!

One thing this model excels at is battery life. The normal battery lasts for 5 hours but you can get a high capacity version that will last for 8 hours. Want more? The DVD drive is easily removable and can be replaced in a minute with a second battery … so, you can run this beauty for up to 16 hours using two extended life batteries! Not bad for a 5 pound, 14″ laptop!

By adding 32-bit cardbus cards for reading my camera’s SDHC cards as well as the firewire from my digital video camera and USB2, it is complete!

Not too bad when you consider that this is a 10 year old Macintosh computer!

This upgrade worked out so well that I’ve decided to shoot a ‘how to video’ showing all of the gory details and tricks I’ve used to set it up. I’ve spent many days researching and finding out just what would work and how to set it all up. When completed the video should save you a week or more of sometimes frustrating trial and error and get you to a finished modern Mac as quickly as possible!

When I’ve finished the video, I’ll post a link to it, here.

I recently purchased a Leica V-Lux 1 digital camera and compared it side by side with my Nikon D200.

This camera has a phenomenal 35-420 mm equivalent f/2.8-3.7 macro Leica DC Zoom Elmarit lens.

Although both cameras have 10.1 megapixel sensors, the Leica’s sensor is a smaller 4.7x crop than the Nikon’s 1.55x cropped sensor.

Surprisingly, the Leica’s 13″ x 19″ test prints shot at ISO 100 were indistinguishable from the Nikon’s prints.

Differences become more apparent at higher ISOs where noise begins to reveal the Leica’s smaller sensor sites. Using the new Noise Ninja plugin in Aperture 2.1.1, I was able to remove this noise with only some minor loss of fine details at ISOs up to 400.

Both cameras exhibited noise from ISO 800 and more that was not controllable without significant loss of details.

One area where I was impressed with the Leica was it’s compact size. Slightly smaller than the Nikon, it still maintained a comfortable grip with controls in similar positions to the Nikon but fewer buttons!

This is because the Leica isn’t a DSLR and has no mirror housing. Instead it uses and adequate electronic viewfinder OR a small, articulated live LCD.

The lens is zoomed and when manually focused, by gripping the large lens rings.

BTW When set to manual focus, touching the focusing ring brings up the magnified center rectangle in either viewfinder, making critical focusing simple and effortless. When you stop turning the focusing ring the viewfinder reverts to the normal view.

Several times I found the articulated LCD useful for shooting from odd angles.

But the final prints were so impressive that I sold my Nikon and 37 pounds of it’s ED glass lenses, all of which this under 3 pound Leica kit replaces!

The Mega OIS (optical image stabilization) works well. With it on setting #2, I am able to get sharp images hand held at very slow shutter speeds down to 1/10th of a second.

But the unique part of this camera, which is built by Panasonic for Leica, is it’s incredible jpegs which Leica fine tuned!

Although I shoot in raw, these amazing jpegs become the preview in Aperture 2.1.1. This is a really great place to start from!

But, enough words. Here are some of the photos I shot with it this past week. Note the subtle tonalities and colors. These are due in part to Leica and in part to Aperture!

After testing the Nikon D200 and the Leica V-Lux 1, side by side for a month, I sold the Nikon D200 and all of my lenses.

It was a good camera but for my needs, the Leica works just as well and in many ways is easier to make it do what I want it to.

Aperture 2.1.1 simplified my post processing and now Leica has simplified my camera!

I look forward to seeing the upcoming Leica D-Lux 4 camera with it’s Summicron f/2 24 mm equivalent lens!

White flower

 

©2008 Marty German

©2008 Marty German

 

 

 

In Nature, nothing is pure white.

 

My photograph, titled white flower shows this flower in it’s multitude of subtle hues.

 

I noticed this flower at our local post office, beneath our flag.

 

The Sun was high but slightly behind the flower so that it’s front was in shade and the light came through it’s translucent petals.

 

Some of the light was reflected from the green foliage beside it and some had a bluish cast which came from the clear blue northern sky light, opposite our yellow sun.

 

The red central part of the flower both diffused and reflected magenta light onto it’s petals, too.

 

The resulting photo shows all of these colors subtly mixed together on it’s different petals.

 

Blues mixed with magenta and greens mixed with yellows all combine together.

 

In addition the textures and fractal shapes provide a marvelous canvas for these amazing colors.

 

It was a fleeting shot. This light lasted only for an instant. Only one photo out of a few dozen shots captured it. I was very lucky!

 

I’ve returned there many times looking for another chance to shoot it with a ‘better’ camera with a larger sensor but have never seen it, again!

 

Now the flowers are gone until next summer.

 

This is the nature of photography. It is both honest and unforgiving!

 

I feel privileged to be there to see and capture this image.

 

There were perhaps 50 people at the post office when I shot this and nobody else noticed the flowers.

 

I shot this with my wife’s Panasonic FZ8 digital camera in raw and later processed it using Aperture 2.1.1.

 

It is now one of my favorite 13″ x 19″ prints on my living room wall.

 

I hope you will enjoy it, too!

 

 

©2008 Marty German

©2008 Marty German

NOTE: most inkjet printers expect RGB inputs so, be sure that you are printing from an RGB Mode file. Otherwise the printer will convert it to RGB and you may not like the results!

For my HP Printer, when I am using printing profiles as I am below, I shoot and print in the ProPhoto RGB color space.

Should your prints come out dull and lifeless you may also try converting your image to sRGB color space which is smaller than ProPhoto RGB and may work better on your make and model of printer.

For a more detailed discussion of this subject, I recommend the book, Easy Color Management in Digital Photography by Brad Hinkel. Here is his website where you can read a sample chapter and don’t miss downloading the free test image!

If you are already having problems printing from Photoshop CS3 and want a ‘fresh’ start, hold down the shift, option, and command keys while you launch Photoshop and say yes when it asks if you’d like to “Delete the Photoshop Settings File”. 


In CS3 goto the print dialog box [command-P]

Select your printer from the Printer: popup menu, i.e. Photosmart Pro B9100 series

Click the Page Setup button

again, next to Format For: select your printer, i.e. Photosmart Pro B9100 series

also, select the appropriate paper size (there may also be another sub menu for borderless, etc.) and orientation

click OK to save these Page Setup options.

Now you will be back in the CS3 pint dialog box …

From it’s top right – Output/Color Management popup menu select Color Management

Assuming your are making a final print click the Document radio button.

From the Color Handling popup menu select: Photoshop Manages Color.

For the Printer Profile, pick the one that is appropriate for your printer/paper combination.

I’ve had good results using profiles for many papers for the HP B9180 printer which are available from the HP at:

http://h30267.www3.hp.com/country/us/en/support/photosmart-b9180-icc.html

Note this HP website explains exactly how and where to add custom profiles to your Mac. Follow their directions, carefully.

Also, Ilford offers more profiles for their pro papers for this printer here:

http://www.ilford.com/profiles

i.e. For this example, I’ll use the commonly available paper – HP PSPro B9100 – Advanced Photo Glossy for the popup menu, 

Rendering Intent: set this to Perceptual (best for photos)

Check the Black Point Compensation check box 

On the bottom of the center of this CS3 Print dialog box …


Check the match print colors check box

Also, you can select to Center Your Image, and/or Scale to Fit the media, and/or setup your dimensions here.

Now click the Print button to go to the Mac OS printer dialog box. 

If you only see two pop-up menus, click the down pointing triangle

Set the printer popup to the same one you choose in the Photoshop dialog, i.e. Printer: Photosmart Pro B9100 series

It is VERY IMPORTANT to set the popup menu to Paper Type/Quality!

Here you need to pick the same ICC Profile that you did in Photoshop’s print dialog , i.e. Paper Type: HP Advanced Photo Paper, Glossy

Set the Quality popup menu to: Maximum DPI

Set the Source popup menu to either the Main Tray or Specialty Media Tray.

Much of this can be recorded the first time for each paper type …

Click on the Presets: popup menu and Save As, naming this preset for all of these settings for that paper, i.e. Advanced Photo Paper, Glossy

Then after this, at least in the Mac OS printer dialog you can select the correct preset and all of the rest will be OK. Unfortunately, you will still need to make the appropriate changes (ICC Profile, etc.) in the Photoshop print dialog.

Now, go ahead and click the Print button!

BTW Once you get used to the above settings, although they appear in slightly different places, the same settings work well in all of my other Mac programs including: Nikon Capture NX, LightZone, iPhoto ’08, etc. 

Just remember that you want the Application to manage color and NOT the printer.

It took me many trials (and errors) to figure these settings out so, give them a try and if you find a better setting, please let me know! 

Many years ago, I was fortunate to have been given a number of ancient photographs of family members from the mid 1800’s by my great aunt Lyle Bodenstein when I was 10 years old in 1964.

This began my interest in my family genealogy. I have currently traced it back to 1521.

I don’t want to hoard these treasures so, I am digitizing them and posting the digital versions onto a website that I’ve created for family members to access.

My preferred method for digitizing positives is to create RAW copies using my Nikon D200 camera and 50 mm f/1.8 lens with extension tubes.

Subsequently, I inherited thousands of my grandfather Caldwell’s black and white 35 mm negatives of family taken from the 40’s through the 70’s. And also, many slides from my father’s side of the family from the 30’s through the mid sixties.

My preferred method for digitizing negatives is to create RAW copies using my Nikon D200 camera and 50 mm f/1.8 lens with extension tubes and a slide duplicator.

Once digitized, I create ‘improved’ versions using Nikon’s CaptureNX software. This way the original raw data is also preserved in the same file along with the edited version. These are backed up, cataloged and archived.

Then a compressed jpeg is produced for uploading to my genealogy web site.

Already, I am planning a reorganization of all of this material so that it is easier to search.

One thing I’ve learned from this process is that many of the negatives that may have not been good enough for printing years ago, can now make wonderful prints thanks to CaptureNX!

Some are so ‘thin’ that they don’t even seem to have any image left until they are photographed and enhanced. Then they pop out!

Many of the color slides are rapidly fading away. So, a sense of urgency is required!

In addition, to the still images, our family movies were transferred to video tape which I’ve since digitized and uploaded in h.264 format.

And finally, my modern camcorder recordings and DV tapes are also getting converted to digital and uploaded to my website.

One complaint is that the current genealogy software isn’t designed for preserving all of this rich media.

I may switch to using a relational database system, FileMaker Pro, for it’s flexibility and to consolidate all of this material in one place on the web using FileMaker’s superb search capability.

One thing that most digital photographers need is redundant backup of their images.

This isn’t cheap but the, TWIP (This Week In Photography) podcast currently have a contest that offers a Drobo system as it’s prize!

Check out the details of the contest at their web site, here.