quadro #16 snow

Couldn't resist. So here is my snow in Milan. This thing of seeing how it is going in other parts of the world reminded me this nice podcast: "Photography as Transportation" from Jeff Curto.

The picture has been processed in RawTherapee.


quadro #15 balcony

I had the temptation to entitle this: homage to Rodchenko. Certainly he is one of my preferred photographers. He developed a photography based on a strong peculiar and subjective look at things. A very extraordinary time/space location helped a lot. What strikes me more is the level of credibility (trustfulness) his framing confers to his images. By using extreme perspectives he communicates us his own position (and look) in relation to the object. A subjective truth if you want. But don't get fooled, he was a master liar when needed. It is also a rhetorical strategy that to choose a bold point of view (vantage point) to raise a sense of spontaneity, in his propagandist images this becomes evident, and he was well aware of that.

The picture has been processed in RawTherapee.


quadro #14 urbana

Enter rawTherapee

I have to confess that as a Computer Scientist I am devoted to open source software since its first beginnings. I still remember when I ordered, via Byte (the magazine), a tape full of every thing for 10$ (plus 40$ for shipping) directly from the GNU (at the time in person as Richard Stallman: RMS) , it was the 1986. My usual operating system has been Unix, HP/UX and then Linux.

As a photographer I had a split personality, in terms of software. For my pictures I have had to resort to MS Windows and Adobe software. The main reason was the lack of a decent CMS (Color Management System) for Linux. Recently I started to use argyll with my "eye-one display 2". It works pretty nice and given the display architecture of Linux the benefits of a calibrated monitor are available to any software package (even if not color managed).

But a CMS is not itself enough. A photographer needs to process his/her images. For computer graphics I usually work with gimp (for buttons, icons et similia). But I do not like to use it for my pictures. Mainly for its RGB orientation. I got used to work out my pictures in LAB. The separation of the luminosity layer from the color ones is for me a necessity.

Last year several RAW processors become available for Linux as a viable tool. RAW processing is present on linux since a long time with dcraw. Unfortunately when it comes to photography my personal need is to forget that I am an hardcore technician so I need as much as every other photographer something to work with and forget about.

Some weeks ago, having finally calibrated my linux display (i still have some issues with the black point), I decided to give to one of the evaluated programs, RawTherapee, a serious try.

The program has almost averything one needs, almost, cause it lacks some very important ones. I won't write down a list of interesting features. If you are interested have a look by yourself, one of the interesting things in open source is that you can experiment as long as you want without having to pay. Insetead I going to display what is seriously missing.

  • Color samplers. A photo, from a formal point, could be considered as a set of color and luminosity constraints. Colors samplers let you organize the constraints between the parts of the image. The more the better.
  • Curves for colors and a way to set a point onto the curve by means of cliking on a point of the image (command click in PS). Simultaneous curves for diverse color spaces (RGB LAB and CMYK) could be the optimum as in CurveMeister for PS.
  • Channel operations and surgery. As Apply image or Calculations in PS. Channel operations in RGB and LAB mode are very powerful. See Dan Margulis for a good explanation on this.
  • Horizontal and Vertical perspective correction. Distortion, rotaiton and CA correction are in place. Here the ideal solution would be to give the option to interface an external program like PTlens (available on linux) that I like a lot and is well automated for lens distortion correction.
  • Consistency in numbering. If there is a luminosity channel and an A and B channel it is useful to have a corresponding LAB lecture, currently the values displayed are RGB. It is a bit of a guess to find the correct luminance position in the related curve . In PS, do not know in RawTherapee, the LAB luminosity channel is not a linearly derived form the RGB channels hence the difficult projection. By the way a nice thing to have could be to use the same scales as PS in numbering, even if they are not so correct.
  • Masking. At least for sharpening. Scaling is on the rough side.
The nicest thing is the interface for cropping. It is almost ideal for squaring out pictures. I am still trying to figure out a good workflow. Anyway from now on I will point out if an image has been processed with RawTherapee. This one is the first. For the success or less of the experiment I will let you know about any development.


quadro #13 urbana

We usually associate the idea of unordered growth as a property of natural things. The cities, the gardens and the landscape are usually associated with a somewhat imposed order among things. In reading various cheap considerations on landscape photography among the first presented rules is the one to impose order in the view. Culture however is something that grows in not ordered ways itself to the point that Hegel called it a second nature.


quadro #12 urbana

As a landscape photography avid student I have always visited the area of theoretic Architecture. Starting from the seventies of the last century, landscape (and its representations, or recursive landscape) has been taken into focus by several transversal disciplines. Here (PDF document) is an interesting point that recently inspired me a lot. The idea of the Stalker as a modern (and a bit dark) insider of the landscape is intriguing.


quadro #11 urbana

Starting with this one I am going to publish a small series realized on the "Alzaia Naviglio Grande" near home. I followed the usual routine to take a walk along a prefixed path trying to see what everybody else could see looking west. This area is constantly changing since the heavy second world war bombing. Here is the Google Maps location.


quadro #9

In Milan, as in all the cities in this world, there is a lot of life in the rooftops. This could be a theme for a nice project in ordinary landscape photography. There are some problems, the first being the light along with the accessibility of the place. I am still looking for a way to get organized. However if some of you in Milan lives (or has access to) on a floor higher than the third I would be very grateful to be invited to take an overview.


quadro #8

I took this one while thinking about the "equivalents" from Alfred Stieglitz.


quadro #7

Yet an other "no intended mean". When taking pictures from my balconies I usually do not focus on the word meaning the things I am seeing have. More or less I follow Klee's didactics that you can find in his diaries regarding the time he was teaching at the Bauhaus. The idea (very simplified) is to abstract from the substance of the things using simple vectorial schemes. A very simple example is the one of the basic abstraction of arrows from a pine tree, more complex is the case of the human skeleton and its equilibrium/movement vectors.

Since my interests are in photography what I am looking for are basic form conglomerates to extract from "reality".


quadro #6

After a brief stop here we go again with squared out exercises. I am still working on a "more nature than urban" section. The pictures from the balconies are more on the formalistic side. The content has no intended mean.


Plato's theory of vision.

And so in the vessel of the head, they first of all put a face in which they inserted organs to minister in all things to the providence of the soul, and they appointed this part, which has authority, to be by nature the part which is in front. And of the organs they first contrived the eyes to give light, and the principle according to which they were inserted was as follows: So much of fire as would not burn, but gave a gentle light, they formed into a substance akin to the light of every-day life; and the pure fire which is within us and related thereto they made to flow through the eyes in a stream smooth and dense, compressing the whole eye, and especially the centre part, so that it kept out everything of a coarser nature, and allowed to pass only this pure element. When the light of day surrounds the stream of vision, then like falls upon like, and they coalesce, and one body is formed by natural affinity in the line of vision, wherever the light that falls from within meets with an external object. And the whole stream of vision, being similarly affected in virtue of similarity, diffuses the motions of what it touches or what touches it over the whole body, until they reach the soul, causing that perception which we call sight. But when night comes on and the external and kindred fire departs, then the stream of vision is cut off; for going forth to an unlike element it is changed and extinguished, being no longer of one nature with the surrounding atmosphere which is now deprived of fire: and so the eye no longer sees, and we feel disposed to sleep. For when the eyelids, which the gods invented for the preservation of sight, are closed, they keep in the internal fire; and the power of the fire diffuses and equalizes the inward motions; when they are equalized, there is rest, and when the rest is profound, sleep comes over us scarce disturbed by dreams; but where the greater motions still remain, of whatever nature and in whatever locality, they engender corresponding visions in dreams, which are remembered by us when we are awake and in the external world. And now there is no longer any difficulty in understanding the creation of images in mirrors and all smooth and bright surfaces. For from the communion of the internal and external fires, and again from the union of them and their numerous transformations when they meet in the mirror, all these appearances of necessity arise, when the fire from the face coalesces with the fire from the eye on the bright and smooth surface. And right appears left and left right, because the visual rays come into contact with the rays emitted by the object in a manner contrary to the usual mode of meeting; but the right appears right, and the left left, when the position of one of the two concurring lights is reversed; and this happens when the mirror is concave and its smooth surface repels the right stream of vision to the left side, and the left to the right (He is speaking of two kinds of mirrors, first the plane, secondly the concave; and the latter is supposed to be placed, first horizontally, and then vertically.). Or if the mirror be turned vertically, then the concavity makes the countenance appear to be all upside down, and the lower rays are driven upwards and the upper downwards.

From "The Project Gutenberg Etext of Timaeus, by Plato"

Certainly Plato had a somewhat twisted theory of vision that did not work for optics. But to get to what is of interest here we must consider this as a theory of knowledge (based on introspection and not on some kind of  metrics applied to facts).  The idea that the object exists as a mere projection has as a consequence the rise of a highly subjective idea of truth. Straight photography, lost the aura of truth of the mechanical objectivity, has to rely on both the viewer and the photographer. For sure the color in photography is decided by the subjective look of the viewer. And it is subjective even for physiology given the many genetic or at large accidental variations.


Film scans. A last one from lipari

I am posting this last one from the batch I scanned for a series in my upcoming site. Taken on Agfa Portrait in 1998 as study for using low contrast film in landscape. Lipari's lights have great contrast even early in the morning.



From the statistics I see that a lot of you are from USA and I suppose that some are Obama voters.

Regarding the recent poor performance of our Prime Minister (Mr. Berlusconi) I have to say that I am ashamed for the words he recently used mentioning your new President.

Hope you can understand that his party represents only a part or us Italians and certainly not me. He is, anyway, the President of the Government of my Country so here are my sincere apologies.


Film scans

The debate over film versus digital is, as usual, high in a lot of forums. I think that most of the debate is based on a misleading question: Resolution. The problem, I suspect, is not of major or minor resolution instead it is a matter of "chaos".

In some ways a film is itself a discrete sensible support as much as a digital sensor array (the grains of the emulsion are in finite quantity) but the atomic information is scattered along a more random distribution compared to a digital sensor. In digital you can correct the excessive order by using an unsharp mask. I am not meaning the Photoshop (or what else tool) but a traditional unsharp mask like the one used for film printing.

Digital is neither better nor worse than film. It is one of the different sensible devices we have to take pictures . As usual when you have a choice there is something you loose something you gain. But a thing that I really miss was the freedom of choice in film makers.

You still have the choice in digital but you have to build up a duplicated set of camera and lenses.

I stopped to take pictures on film when Agfa shut down its production. I really loved the way Agfa rendered the greens. What I really do not miss are the film labs with their absurd prices and bad practices.

I have a huge archive sitting there waiting to be scanned. The time it will take to scan is gigantic, and I am using one of the fastest scanners you can find on the market.

I took this photo in Lipari in 1998 while I was out with my daughter. She always gets bored in assisting me. So we ended up in a play.


Tools for better images (guaranteed)

"The contrast between man's ideological capacity to move at random through material and metaphysical spaces and his physical limitations, is the origin of all human tragedy ... Half winged -- half imprisoned, this is the man ..."
from Paul Klee Moholy-Nagy "Pedagogical Sketchbook".

I have already pointed to an other of Klee's small sized, and low cost, pearls in a previous post.

In times of economic struggle as the ones we are in it could be nice to start thinking about the price we are paying for our needed (more or less) tools. And a good book is a tool as much a lens or a camera is for landscape photography and image making in general.

Paid this one 7$ plus 12$ for delivery. You can still find it used at amazon's. Even for a bit more it won't require a mortgage.