January 5, 2007


Filed under: Technical posts — Tony Bridge @ 7:47 am

Kia ora tatou:

A trip-and stumble moment.

After years of teaching IT and related skills, I tripped up over a myth, namely that Macs don’t get viruses/worms/nasties.

They do. Oh, boy, they do.

About 2 days ago, I started getting return/undeliverable messages from places I had never even heard of and websites I didn’t know existed. By yesterday the trickle had become a flood, and I was starting to get suspicious ( I am a slow learner!) Now, working on the myth that Macs don’t get this sort of stuff, I hadn’t to date installed any antivirus software ( there isn’t much for the Mac anyway). But it was fairly obvious what was happening, so I went on the Net and did some research.

In the end I found a product called ClamXav, which I duly installed . I then ran a full scan and discovered to my horror….Mytob_IV and the Sober worms….. They have since been dealt with!

I guess the point of all this is the need to be ever-vigilant, no matter what your platform. This means :

  1. Using good-quality antivirus software ( especially necessary for Windows users). I am told AVG and Avast are both good (and free) and don’t clog up your system; Panda and Norton, in my experience are guaranteed to put the brakes on your system. I am currently using NOD32-fast and efficient (but you have to pay for it).
  2. Updating the definitions at least once a week, preferably daily.
  3. Running a full scan of your system at least once a month.

So there you have it(or rather, there I had it). Can’t wait to get back to my Windows machine. At least it is protected (I think).

Stop sniggering, Volker.

Ka kite ano


I got back to Ranfurly yesterday and, following my experience witht the Mac, ran a full scan with NOD32 through my PC. I didn’t expect to find anything, since I have been using Panda antivirus for some 18 months now, and I scan weekly and update daily. Imagine my horror when it found 2 infected files that have been in my system for some 6 months! If you really want to know, it was the Win32/Randon.AY worm – now deleted.

Again the message- be careful and use good-quality antivirus software.



December 26, 2006

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

Filed under: Technical posts, Thinking about Photography and Art — Tony Bridge @ 4:31 pm

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.
-Ansel Adams

Considered logically this concept is not identical with the totality of sense impressions referred to; but it is an arbitrary creation of the human (or animal) mind.
-Albert Einstein

Kia ora tatou:

A number of you have posted, asking if I would share a few of my secrets involved in making my images, or more specifically, what techniques I use.

Well, there aren’t any. Sorry, but it’s true. (more…)

November 18, 2006

Rhythm of the Road

Filed under: Technical posts, Thinking about Photography and Art — Tony Bridge @ 2:13 pm

There’s so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones
-Dire Straits

The most important skill of the photographer is to know how to see. Yes, one sees through one’s eyes, but the same world seen through different eyes is no longer the same world; it’s the world seen through that individual’s eye. With just one click, the lens captures the exterior world at the same time as it captures the photographer’s inner world.
-Germaine Krull (1897-1985)

Sifting through the thoughts that lead you on
Find the door that’s open, now you’re gone
We softly say to our-ourselves
If we could be anybody else..

It had been one of those days. One of those frantically busy days where you have a lot to do, a lot to cram into a short space of time. But it was done and the road home was calling. Three days in Christchurch, three days of catching up with friends, three days of taking care of business. But it was done, and the clamour was behind me. I was looking forward to getting back to the open-armed welcome of the Maniototo.

I stopped for tea with some friends just north of Oamaru. Kathryn asked me which road into the valley I would be taking and naturally assumed I would cross over the Danseys pass. No, I replied, I’m going up the Pig Root. I really enjoy the surprises on that road.

I left just after 7 p.m., and by the time I turned off the main road at Palmerston, the shadows were beginning to claw their way east across the landscape, filling in the hollows in the landscape, putting day on the back foot. Night was on the advance, and the brazen bowl of the day was in full retreat. Changeover is a fascinating time for a photographer, a brief period when night and day seem to be in balance. I think being a Libran really makes me appreciate this time.

The road winds in and out of small river valleys, rising around 2000 feet over the 60 odd kilometres it takes to break into the Maniototo. It begins in the lower section of the Shag River and follows it, keeping a respectful distance and then dropping in from time to time to see what has become of it. The last glimpse, somewhere near the summit, shows a wide expansive trout stream that has shrunk to a nervous jittery creek. Every corner offers a new perspective, a new take, a new angle, a new surprise to be considered. It’s a driver’s road, with sweeping cambered corners that coil, that compress, that slingshot you on to the next, that allow you to dance with and build up a rhythm for the road.

It’s a beautiful stretch of road at any time of the day, but in the early evening the pointing fingers of shadow give it a mystery, a magic that is quite unique. It’s not one of those roads where you drive for hours and, somewhere near the end, realise you can’t really remember any of it. It’s a road with a vocabulary you have to learn, it’s a road that builds upon itself and offers you something new you every time you drive it.

The road builds and builds and climbs towards the light towards the shadow end of day lying along the horizon, lying above the hills to the West. It rises to a crescendo then, offering another surprise, drifts softly and knowingly away. The Kakanuis off to the right reflect the tail-end of day, basking in the last fading remnants of daylight.

Now the hills, which have held me in for the last 40 minutes, which have made sure I kept my eyes on the road, fall back to either side as I slide down into the wide-open swoop of the plain. The diesel relaxes its shoulders and drops happily into overdrive as we murmur our way across the plain.

The long slow angle of the light is breaking up the landscape around me, disassembling it, showing me a component view of what is around me. I’m itching to make a photograph, because I have a new toy. Hayden, who cleans the sensors on my cameras, has given me a 50 mm Leica Summicron lens machined to fit on my Canon. As he hands it to me, he gives me a quiet smile and says, I’ll be interested to know what you think of this. It’s the end result of a series of discussions we’ve had about the resolving power of the L-series lenses I’ve used since I switched to Canon a few years ago.

One thing I’ve come to realise is that a digital sensor can resolve far more detail than film. At 100%, micro-detail is rendered far more precisely than film ever could. But there is a corollary to this. To get this detail requires rigorous picture-making technique. The old 1/focal length rule, where the slowest speed you should handhold is the next one above the focal length of the lens you’re using, just doesn’t hold true for digital. To get that super fine detail you need when you’re making big enlargements, you should use 1/2x focal length. You need to use a heavy tripod and, where possible, mirror lock-up. Good filters, if you use them, are a must. Because I want to make very large works, I’ve had to get fussier and fussier about my technique.

But there’s still not enough. Shooting in Raw and correcting my pictures, I’ve come to realise that the weak link in the system is the lenses. A 16-megapixel sensor is capable of resolving incredibly fine detail. Once you become aware of that, nothing less will do, but to get it you need the best optics possible. Ordinary optics just mush the microcontrast necessary to bring that detail out. The higher end Canon optics, to my mind, just don’t do the sensor justice.

So call me anal.

For some time I’ve heard rumours about photographers who use Leica optics, generally accepted to be the finest glass in the world, on their higher end Canon DLR’s. I know of one leading New Zealand landscape photographer who does this very thing. And I wanted to find out for myself.

When I began in photography, every camera you bought came with a 50 mm lens. Of course, the first thing you did when you bought your camera was trade in the 50 mm lens for a zoom or a telephoto or a wide-angle. It took me some 25 years to realise that the 50 mm lens is actually one of the most useful focal lengths. You just have to know how to drive it. In the right hands it can look like a tele, or a wide-angle or something in-between. I have heard that it was Henri Cartier-Bresson’s favourite focal length, and a pretty much all the great photographer Ernst Haas ever used. Using a single focal length is also incredibly good discipline and helps you understand the unique personality it can give to your photograph.

Somewhere on the hill between Kyeburn and Ranfurly the opportunity came. The sun was just touching the old man range out to the West in the shadows for as long as they would ever be. If I was going to make some photographs I had little more than a couple of minutes in which to do them. As I came round the corner, off to my right light and shadow played against each other like interlocked fingers. The sky had that serene quality peculiar to this area. I made maybe 20 photographs my final images included the road sign; the very last of the sunlight, skimming the road, had picked up the sign and made it glow against the green fields in the blue sky.

It seemed fitting and somehow iconic end to a magic drive.

Oh yes, the answer to the question I can hear a number of you asking. When I processed the file in Lightroom I was somewhat stunned by the results. Yes, the ability of the Leica lens to resolve microfine detail is to my mind, at this stage, streets ahead of any Canon optics I’ve used so far. Frankly it’s quite staggering-and I didn’t have time to use a tripod. What I found distinctly interesting however, was the way that it renders colour. The processed image doesn’t have anywhere near the saturation and contrast that my other lenses deliver, and I found myself reaching for the vibrancy and saturation controls and tweaking them up. What it does deliver is a smoothness of tonal transition that is quite analogue in its characteristics.

I’m impressed.

September 23, 2006

In the townships

Filed under: Shout out, Technical posts, Thinking about Photography and Art — Tony Bridge @ 5:21 pm

In the townships

Kia ora:

Another African story.

I spent the last week of my stay in Africa in the town of Stellenbosch, about 30 minutes drive outside Cape Town. It is a very beautiful old town, sitting up under the brow of the Helderberg Mountains. The area is famous for its university, the wine grown in the vicinity (yes, I did sample the odd drop…or 20), and the old, old architecture. It is a wealthy district, with quite, tree-lined streets, grand old homes like Vergelegen and Boschendal, and a real sense of history.

The day I made this image, I had spent the early part of the morning photographing the doorways and buildings of Dorpstraat, the oldest street in the town. I was fascinated by the Cape Dutch architecture, which references both Holland and the idiom of the district, the ornateness of the end walls with their early colonial references and the heavy thatched roofs using local materials. Dennis Moss, my host and a significant architect, had taken me on a tour of the town, explaining the buildings and their features. So I made a few (for digital read few hundred) photographs.

Then his partner Geoff took me out to the township of Kayamundi, where they were working on an urban renewal project. Translated this means they were trying to replace all the shacks and lean-to’s with some form of affordable but useful housing. It was a total change of …everything.

We drove round for a bit while he filled me in on the background to the project, then we stopped to talk to a few of the locals. I asked if we could walk for a bit and took my camera with me.

I was struck at first by the nature of the housing: shacks made from bits of tin, corrugated iron, packing crates, timber scrounged from here and there; a woman running a hairdressing business from a shipping container; spaza (shops) set into walls, where people tried to make a living selling a few vegetables and fruit; shimbeni or pubs in people’s front living rooms, selling beer to the locals. And the number of people with mobile phones. Dirt and rubbish littered the streets but the people were all beautifully-dressed and taking pride in their appearance.

As I looked over and above the dwellings, I couldn’t help noticing the mountains and wealthier properties in the distance. Once again the oxymoron that is Africa struck me.

But it was the energy of the place that got to me. There was life and hope and laughter and passion here. It was hard not to be affected by it. And I was. It was the …colour that influenced me. I wanted to reflect the feelings I was having about the place.

When I edited the photographs in Lightroom I used a preset I have created that increases contrast and saturation and gives an image a more punchy and graphic look. It seemed to fit perfectly with what I saw and what I wanted to say.

Or what the place was saying to me.

Ka kite ano

July 19, 2006

Lightroom 1.0 for Windows

Filed under: Technical posts — Tony Bridge @ 7:28 pm

Kia ora tatou:
It has finally happened. Adobe have released the Beta of Lightroom in Win. After listening to me foaming off about it for months, now you can get it here. I suggest you watch the video if you have broadband. It takes a little learning to drive, but once you get your head around it, nothing else will do….. Scott Kelby has released an EBook showing how to use it.
Be advised-theAdobe servers are running flat out, and downloading it may take some time!

July 12, 2006


Filed under: Technical posts, Thinking about Photography and Art — Tony Bridge @ 6:51 pm

Kia ora tatou:

Over the last few months, as I have travelled, I have spent time amongst Maori communities, including Ngati Whakaue, Tuhoe and Taranaki. I have come to realise that for them their treasures are not so much material as historical. Their stories are what they really treasure, for the histories that surround them connect them to Place and Time. They do not give these lightly. Well, why would they? How ready would we be to hand our Ming vases to a stranger? And I began to realise how much the stories of a particular place inform my own picture making. I realised whenever I show my own work, there is a story I want to share. Which means that some memory or story however half-heard has an effect on my workflow and my ideaflow. Case in point:
We were travelling on a particularly inclement day up the Haast River when a slip on the road ahead meant we had to wait. So we took the time to make some photographs at a creek with the curious name of Roaring Swine (I would love to know the story behind that name!). I had been telling the others about Julius von Haast and his adventures exploring the region. Being one for historical trivia, I remembered the story as him and his Maori companion(s) along with a diminishing number of dogs as the food ran out, and how they would light a fire and then stand around naked while their garments dried. I imagined the thoughts they must have had as they made their way up an alien and forbidding landscape. It must have been quite horrifying at times.
As I walked around the area looking at the landscape, I looked at the forbidding and inhospitable environment. The clouds slithered and slunk their way along the ridges. In some way it reminded me of those old photographs from the 19th Century, made using orthochromatic materials, where the skies are white and it looks as if it rained every day, the ones where they print the details into the image and then make sepia prints. You might be interested to know that sepia toning was not a cool artistic thing, but was done for a very practical reason, namely to improve the lifespan of finished images.
Somehow the story and the memory of those old photographs came together. I wanted to show the landscape as a dark, gloomy and forbidding place, and at the same time reference both Haast’s experience and those old historical photographs.
So I made a number of photographs, looking at the cloud as it shambled like an ill-kempt dog along the hillsides.
Later I opened one up in PhotoShop. I converted it to greyscale, using the Custom RGB to Greyscale action in the Productions tab. I made sure I kept the sky values high and the shadows low by adjusting the sliders in each channel. I wanted deep shadows and slightly overbright skies.
I the added a curves adjustment layer. I pinned the shadows and highlight by clicking on those values in the image, noting where they fell on the curve and clicking those points on the curve. I then tweaked the midtones, trending them down. I finally flattened the layer.
The next step was to convert the image to a duotone. I used a Pantone mid-brown and again tweaked the curve to give a non-linear result.
Finally I added a text layer, and added some descriptive text, trying to emulate the effect of a hand-printed label. I lowered the opacity so the background image showed through.
A final flatten and save.
The point I am trying to make here is that there is another way of working. We have all heard of workflow, the process of editing and working to a final result. I would like to suggest that there is another equally important process-ideaflow. To have a satisfying result that informs, you need to spend time thinking through all the parts that inform the whole. Ideaflow comes before and feeds into workflow.
To do otherwise is to be content to place your feet in the footsteps of others and follow their path.
To share the grey joys of plagiarism.

Ka kite ano

June 18, 2006

Do you prefer Manual or Auto, Sir?

Filed under: Technical posts — Tony Bridge @ 1:32 pm

Kia ora tatou:

Those of us old-timers who grew up on film will remember the small trailer-load of filters we use to carry round, especially when we were trying to balance the light or the colour of the light or worse still, work with mixed lighting sources. 80A, 85B, fluoros of different sorts, we used them all. Some of us even carried colour temperature meters so we could get things accurate. I used to look at the video dudes and their ability to do white balance and sigh…if only…

Now that digital is here, most of those are obsolete. After all, we have built-in white balance in our digital cameras. Who needs to even think about it? Just put the camera on AWB (Auto White Balance), and leave the camera to sort it out. It will do a fantastic job. Who wants to drive a manual, when an auto is easier?

I do, frankly.

There are a number of issues at stake here, a number of picture-making concepts to be worked through. Let me explain. But before I start, for those of you who don’t really understand White Balance or colour temperature, here is a good tutorial.

One of the joys of driving a manual car is that the driver has complete control of when gear changes occur. He controls the process of locomotion. Granted the auto gearbox may provide smoother changes, but it works according to the algorithms programmed in at the factory. In other words, it knows best. Or thinks it does.

With AWB, it is the same. The camera reads the temperature of the light and adjusts the colours of the image according to what has been programmed into it. Think about your exposure meter. It is programmed to average the light to a mean middle gray value.This means that it will get most things right most of the time, but not always. AWB is the same. It looks to give you an average reading of the colour temperatures in your scene. Thus it will take the blue out of a shot done in the bush by lowering the temperature. But what if you want to keep the cold blue-green of the forest (which , to my eye is what it is really like)? Then you need to take control, to pick your own gear?
And if you shoot jpegs, you had better have an unwavering faith in your camera (manufacturer) or be able to be happy with whatever you get. Because it is not easy to sort it out afterwards. OK, OK, shooting RAW is a Get-Out-of Jail card. And I shoot RAW 90% of the time.

But there are reasons I do not use AWB and times when I do.
The latter first.
When I am faced with a mixed lighting situation, where there may be tungsten, fluorescent and daylight in the shot, I will use AWB, or perform a Custom White Balance using a calibrated grey card, and fine-tune later in my RAW converter. My Canons to a great job of that as a rule.

For my personal work I set my camera to the daylight setting and pretty much leave it there. Here is why.

I grew up on film. I shot daylight film, balanced for 5500K. So I learned how an image would look when shot in the trees (excessive green), late in the day (low temperature-9000K, giving blue casts). Over time I became able to predict what the film would do, and how to adjust its response to the colour of the light reaching it. In other words, I could choose to the vocabulary I need to make the statement I wanted. I also liked film because it reproduced what was there in colour and temperature terms, not what my mind thought it saw. Over time I came to enjoy learning to see again. Colour slide film (manufacturer’s inbuilt bias aside) gave me a vision of the world rather more realistic than my learned awareness. Just to reiterate: your brain tells the eye what to see, not the other way around.

There is another reason I like using this setting. My aim is to photograph what is in my mind’s eye, rather than accurately duplicating what is in front of me. If I want to do that I will go and study the science of photography or join the Air Force, where they teach those things brilliantly. Thus if the dawn I watched had (to me) a particularly roseate glow, I want to bring that out in my image. If the trees or bushes I photographed by the Maungapohue Natural Bridge had a curiously cold green quality, I want that to show in my images.

Now I use a digital camera I can do that. Chimping (reviewing an image on the camera LCD) is a necessary part of my workflow. By leaving the WB setting on Daylight setting, I can see immediately what if any colour balance issues I may have, and note it for future adjustment when I am processing. It enhances my previsualisation of the final image, and gives me a vital tool for realising my vision.

There is a lot to be said for manual gearboxes.

Ka kite ano

May 27, 2006

Making an image Part I

Filed under: Technical posts — Tony Bridge @ 4:53 pm

Kia ora tatou:

A number of you sent in comments pointing out how you like looking at the images I make with one or two suggestions that I talk about how I go about doing so.
Blush. Gulp. Well OK.
Assuming that, I will put up a few of my own and talk about what went on in my head. If that enlightens, wonderful. If I get recommendations of how to contact a suitable psychologist, so be it.

As a number of you know, I like to photograph the street at night, to walk around shooting what comes to me or reflects what my picture-making concerns happen to be at the time.
I did a body of work (what a pompous description) on the Christchurch streets about 4 years ago for my PSNZ fellowship. Actually I did it for me- the fellow thing came to me only later. I was fascinated by a number of things;

  • How close I could get to the action without affecting it ( a variation on Heisenberg’s Law)
  • The effect on film of artificial lighting and the idea of recording what the eye sees before the brain filters it
  • Life as it happened
  • Social mores and interactions

I beavered away at it for about a year, until one night, I shot an image of some women on a Girls’-Night-Out. As I pressed the shutter, I knew that series was done. I rattled off the film and sent it in for processing. It sometimes happens that way. I remember David Hurn telling us that it was important to know when a project was over.
The issues I had worked with were settled to my own satisfaction. However unlikely it might appear in the finished image, it is impossible not to affect the image in some way. Heisenberg was right. Observation of an event changes both observer and observed.
And then I walked away.

But I kept going back. I was still drawn by the colours, the noise (music, traffic, voices) and the way in which Christchurch, a staid Jekyll by day, turns into an amoral Hyde by night. I became interested in how my digital cameras would see the scene.
And then I started looking in the shop windows. I noticed the mannequins looking out the windows, and the way in which the reflections enabled me to look simultaneously into and out of the scene. I began to imagine that they might be alive, constrained witnesses to the arcane ritual of the street, thinking their own thoughts, participants without a voice.
And the layers of light that spattered them, sometimes leading my eye away, sometimes adding extra chapters to a surreal story. A kind of metaphor for Life and all its apparently disparate threads.

To this image then.

Fast forward to one Friday night, around 10 pm. These 2 girls were in the window of J. Ballantyne & Co., a wonderfully blue-rinse shop in central Christchurch. I made the image almost subconsciously, along with about 20 variations. It was only when I was later editing it that began to nudge me. The supplicant positions of the mannequins somehow suggest a ritual or conversation.
What it is about I have no idea. But there is room in it for me to invent all sorts of stories, all manner of possibilities.
Its open-endedness makes me keep coming back to it.

Oh yes, the gory details:
Canon EOS 1Ds Mk II, 16-35/2.8 lens, RAW, ISO @ 1600, WB set to Daylight (I leave it there all the time since I shoot RAW and I want to see things as they are), Program mode (‘Cause I want to make photographs, not fiddle around with my controls).

Ka kite ano

May 15, 2006

It’s a Lensbaby, Baby

Filed under: Technical posts — Tony Bridge @ 8:55 pm

Kia ora tatou:
Somewhere back in the pile of posts in this blog is one about the importance of play, of being willing to step outside the square and just try stuff. Easy to do with digital. There is no cost to speak of. It certainly worked for people like Picasso and Braques.
But sometimes as a photographer you need a bit of a helping hand. It is really easy to get inside the square and become walled up in it, and keep on churning out the same old, same old. Sometimes you need to be willing to have a play at something that is really challenging or just plain silly, to have fun (no, the two can be synonymous).
Enter the Lensbaby.

How to describe it? Well, it is a superb piece of ….um… design.. It flops all over the place; it looks ridiculous attached to the front of a 1-series Canon or high-end Nikon; it requires a certain prehensil-ity of technique to operate…

And it is fun. Essentially it is an infinitely flexible PC ( Perspective Correction) lens. You push it in and out to focus, and tilt/twist/tweak/ it to shift the point of focus. If you want to change apertures, you slip out the ring and pop in the one of your choice, up to f/8. The lens comes with instructions on how to use it, and a guide to calculating exposure,which requires a little experimentation to get the exposure right if you are using film. If you are digital, then it is easy. Shoot a test, read the histogram, then adjust accordingly.
Using a Lensbaby will attract instant ridicule from all your 400/2.8L-toting mates, until curiosity overcomes them, and they get their hands on it. Then they will go nuts, and laugh a lot while they play. You will probably not see it for days.

And be warned: getting it back WILL be difficult. Be prepared to have to prise it from their cold dead fingers.

As for price? Better than you would think. Around $NZ230 for the deluxe f2.0 version. It is well-made, and quite complete.

Many thanks to Mark Cosgrove for the image at the top of this post. Believe it or not, it is a shot of vegetables in his basket.
And yes, his fingers are warm and fully-functional.

Ka kite ano

Volker Speaks!

Filed under: Technical posts — Tony Bridge @ 8:27 pm

Kia ora tatou:
I love it when people send in comments. ( Have confidence-make your comment attached to a post). I received this one from Volker, who has forgotten more about IT than I will ever know. There is only one thing about him I find quite insufferable-he is always right! So when he sent me this email, I thought it worth posting.

Had a look at your blog again – always good reading. Some technical issues need updating though: formatting a memory card will most definitely not wipe everything off it. It will only mark the directories empty. It’s equivalent to a quick format on your hard drive – wipes nothing, only puts an empty directory on. To really wipe the card, you have to overwrite each block with zeros. A one-liner in Linux, no fancy Lexar Image Rescue(TM) needed. Verbatim CDs are indeed among the best quality one can buy (unfortunately the better stuff went off-market years ago), and the cost is them, but if you go to the Warehouse, it’s your own fault. (I like When naming files, it’s a good idea to use the date (though I put it into the directories above). It is however essential to use a Japanese date format – YYYYMMDD. Why? When sorted alphabetically, bingo – sorted by time. I’ve been using Bibble heavily the last 2 weeks, doing up a wedding, our West Coast holiday, and a few things afterwards. Great program, a bit buggy in places though. And that “Perfectly Clear(TM)” is an absolut w*&k, as well as doing everything to destroy my images (Bibble 4.7). I’d buy it, but pity they don’t want to talk to me – no contact email address, no bug reporting-Hey those wallies don’t even collect suggestions. Well, nowhere to send them to. D’OH!
He went on to ask which RAW convereters I recommend. Well, ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) is excellent. Pixmantec RawShooter is outstanding. But Adobe Lightroom kicks them all into a cocked hat. I am itching to get the PC version when it is released!
Ka kite ano

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