My backyard

2009, Photography

These photographs are from places I am so familiar with. I came here as a young child with my grandfather cycling through the country. I loved the farmland, the dairies, the cows, the long lanes with high trees, the ditches, and the twisting roads.
My backyard by Wouter Brandsma
In some ways things have changed since my childhood. Increased traffic, modernized dairies, the cities have grown, and people recreate more. But thankfully some things didn’t change. This place still has that charme I loved. The wide view, the open fields, the smell. I come here to relax, to enjoy, to photograph. And photographing this place has become something like an undetermined task for me. Something I should really see as a project.
My backyard by Wouter Brandsma
I photographed here so often and will probably do so for some time. A kind of James Ravilious project for me. James Ravilious documented the region of Devon in England during a seventeen year quest taking some 80,000 B&W photographs.
My backyard by Wouter Brandsma
He carefully selected his gear to do his photographic work. Wide angle and moderate wide lenses with low contrast, preferrably uncoated. Instead of using more modern Leica M cameras, he still worked with pre-War Leica rangefinders. No SLR cameras, no color film, but just B&W. He remained unknown during his quest, but his work gets a lot of attention nowadays after the BBC broadcasted a documentary (scrolldown this page) about his photography. And for those in the UK and interested in his body of work, there is an exhibition in the National Theatre in London until May 16.
My backyard by Wouter Brandsma
I personally really like his style and how he modified his cameras and lenses to make it work for him. The cameras were simple, but the viewfinder gave him clear site of the composition. I am very much attracted by this simple approach to photograph. Simple cameras, just a view lenses with different focal lengths, and B&W photographs.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

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Some Depictive Photography thoughts

2009, Image editing, Photography

In my last post I mentioned something about the fill light option in Sigma Photo Pro (SPP) to process the RAW photographs from the Sigma DP1. This option is called X3 Fill Light and is unlike anything I have seen in a RAW processor. It not only creates more or less local contrast, like the clarity slider in Lightroom, but also changes the amount of light to be filtered through the depths of your photograph. Now, I don’t always like the effect. It can either be too dark or creates an almost HDR like effect. But sometimes this option in SPP can be very unique and interesting.

See here below three examples of a photograph where I used zero X3 Fill Light, -1.0 and an amount of +1.0. Next I only used some contrast, high light and shadow adjustment to make the photographs look pleasing to me.

The first one is with zero X3 Fill Light.
X3F Fill Light 0
The next one has -1.0 X3 Fill Light.
X3F Fill Light -1
And the last one has +1.0 X3 Fill Light.
X3f Fill Light +1

I personally still favor the original photograph, but I was amazed how much differences the X3 Fill Light can make on a photograph.

Next up was trying the Sigma DP1 with ISO 800 and underexposing to see how it would deal with photographing portraits in dim light. I first tried the autofocus, but it had some difficulties focussing. So I switched to manual focus and used to zoomed view on the LCD screen view to focus on the eyes. After that I used the viewfinder for framing. Accurate focussing wasn’t so easy and the general speed of the camera didn’t help either. While it handles light beautifully I have to get accustomed to the speed of the camera. The following photographs are my first portrait photographs from the DP1.

Things didn’t work out as planned for my son. His autism and failing structure made him angry and a little paniccing.
DP1 portraits by Wouter Brandsma
My daughter and wife were captived by a television program.
DP1 portraits by Wouter Brandsma
Multitasking, reading a newspaper and watching TV.
DP1 portraits by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

I have been very familiair with the 28mm focal length for some long time since I started using the Ricoh GR1 in 1996. But recently I have been using the 35mm focal length more often for most of my photography when I started to get re-interested again in a more classical focal lenght lenses. So returning to 28mm isn’t always easy now. Therefore I think that the new Sigma DP2 can be a very interesting camera with the 41mm lens. For something like a week some examples can be seen here on the Sigma DP2 users gallery, but to be honest I haven’t been impressed by the photographs yet. Of course these cameras will all be preproduction models and their SPP version might still be in beta. I personally do like the photographs from Rick Decker though and he made great usage of this camera. But it probably says more about his photographic capabilities. Since last Friday, April 24, the camera is on sale in Japan and Amazon.com do take the Sigma DP2 on pre-order now.

Respectful and peaceful

2009, Photography

Today’s post is certainly different from all previous posts. Yesterday, a package arrived from Paris with a camera I can use for some time. Not a Ricoh camera, but a Sigma DP1 with the VF-11 optical viewfinder and a spare battery. Last year I tried this camera for just one day, but now I will be able to get a much better understanding of this camera.

The camera arrived just five minutes before I had to leave for an appointment in the city of Nijmegen. After the meeting I went to the small town of Groesbeek near the German border.

This area was an important strategic location during the end campaign of the Allied forces in 1944 and 1945 of World War II. It was a drop and landing zone in September 1944 for the eventually failed Operation Market Garden. And from here the Allied started the Battle on the Rhineland on February 8, 1945, the so-called  and took nearly a month before victory was declared.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Just outside the town is a Canadian War Cemetery located on a hill top with a view over the valley to the North and East into Germany. This cemetery was established in February 1945 and officially unveilled in November 1946.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
In total 2,617 soldiers are burried here including 2,338 Canadians. These soldiers didn’t die in the Netherlands, but died in nearby Germany during battles in the Rhineland. It is said that all fallen Canadian soldiers were burried outside Germany.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Most of these soldiers were young men in their twenties. Still boys when they left home and became men in just a few day’s. They never saw their loved ones again.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Young men like private soldier R.F. Pringlemeir, age 21, from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada who died on the 15th of March 1945. A photograph of him and a soldier friend in front of his grave keeps the lost memories alive.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
There are more Commonwealth cemeteries in the Netherlands, but no other contains so many Canadian war dead. The location is peaceful and all graves are treated very well.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Beautiful oak trees with with lovely red colored maple leaves as a remembrance of their homeland.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma

Their name liveth for evermore

Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
Their name liveth for evermore“, a phrase by English writer Rudyard Kipling whose son died in 1915 in World War I. Partly in response to this tragedry he joined Sir Fabian Ware’s Imperial War Graves Commission that we know now as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This group is responsible for the war graves were Commonwealth troops lie burried.
Canadian War Cemetery by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

For those interested in my impressions of the Sigma DP1 I will continuously make notes and write about my learning process with this camera. Yesterday was a very interesting experience photographing with this camera and using the optical viewfinder. Unlike with my Ricoh camera I didn’t use the LCD screen for framing or judging the exposure. I only used it to set the exposure and that was it. I would suggest Sigma to update the firmware and give the camera a screen view just like with a dSLR, since it is a joy using the viewfinder. I am not going to judge the speed of the camera and the writing times. It felt all very appropriate yesterday for the scene and type of photographing.

And some quick notes with regard to the post processing. I used both Sigma Photo Pro by Sigma and Adobe Lightroom for editing the RAW photographs. And Lightroom just doesn’t handle the photographs in the same way as SPP.  The highlight and shadow recovery is impressive in SPP, and the fill light option can be very intriguing. For the photograph of the maple leaves I could get so many different and beautiful looking photographs with just changing the fill light amount. I think I will use this photograph in a later post to give some examples of this option in SPP.

And many have mentioned the sharpness of the photographs from the DP1. but man, these photographs are so incredibly sharp and I am glad that they added negative sharpness in SPP. I often went as far as minus 1 to desharpen the photographs and they still looked good.

I leave my first thoughts of the DP1 here. Last year I was very much in doubt about this camera and I now really want to dig into this. From last day it felt like a very organic photographing experiece.

The Valley

2009, Photography

I live in an area named the “Gelderse Vallei”, a valley between a major hillside in the province of Utrecht to the west and hills of the Veluwe on the east in West-Gelderland. These hills, just ripples of some 40 to 60 meters high, are reminants of the Glacial Ice Age. The beauty of this land for me is the valley bog, the man digged river Valleikanaal, and the farm land.
The Valley by Wouter Brandsma
This area is surrounded by some larger cities including my hometown. Thankfully many efforts are being done to save this area from further urbanization.
The Valley by Wouter Brandsma
For a few hundred years this land served as agricultural land, but since the last few years more land is being returned to nature. It gives home to more birds, insects and plants.
The Valley by Wouter Brandsma
The area also has a recreational purpose for the people like fishing, hiking and biking.
The Valley by Wouter Brandsma
And some of the dairies and pig farms are so beautifully located.
The Valley by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

“To do, or not to do?”,

2009, Image editing, Photography

After my previous post, and the comment from my friend Ronald Bunnik, I went through some photographs and wanted you to show some unprocessed and processed photographs (all in-camera jpegs by the way). All processed photographs were edited in Photoshop with some minor color and contrast adjustments. And these photographs also got some unsharp masking for some additional local contrast. I could use an action for this processing in Photoshop.

What do you prefer? The unprocessed or processed photographs? I personally like the processed photographs, because they have just that extra byte.

unprocessed
unprocessed
processed
processed

unprocessed
unprocessed
processed
processed

unprocessed
unprocessed
processed
processed

unprocessed
unprocessed
processed
processed
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma