Incandescent bulbs (uncorrected colour ― 2400-2550K)

The scarcity of blog content the last few weeks is down to the fact that I’ve dived back into renovations put on hold last fall to preserve sanity.

Since then, I’ve put up with terrible lighting in my editing room, consisting of two bare incandescent bulbs on the ceiling, helped by halogen desk and standard lamps.

I never did install decent lights in my last studio (though I miss the picture rail!), carrying prints down to the middle floor for evaluation. I vowed this time things would be different.

Last month I began assembling components for a track lighting system. I’ve installed several configurations before, but this was the first I would need T connectors in order to create a H pattern. Since the electrical box was in the middle of the ceiling, I planned to run one 6 foot track across the (12´ wide) room and then, using T connectors, simply run track either side of those junctions.

That was the first iteration of the plan.

As I began installing the track — I bought five 6´ sections — I realized that the south wall didn’t need a full six foot length nearer the door, while the north wall would benefit from an 8-footer on that side. Laboriously, I took down the already-installed six-foot section and bought an 8-footer.

Lumicrest PAR20 High CRI “Apturi” LED

Now, I could cut the six-footer to zig-zag across to light the nonlinear wall east of the doorway. The remaining 6 foot track, cut down by a foot, was installed after the zig-zag. Of course, I had to buy two L connectors to accomplish that.

In the midst of installing the track, I also changed my mind about the kind of bulb I’d use. That required a change of light fixture to suit. My original choice were GU10 base LED bulbs … until I began to do more serious research into gallery lighting and I came across the high CRI Apturi PAR20 bulbs from Lumicrest Lighting Solutions in Toronto.

A high CRI (colour rendering index) assures accurate colour, a critical consideration when lighting artwork. The Apturi have a CRI of 95, compared to bulbs commonly found in box stores, which will have a CRI of around 80.

Additionally, the Apturi bulbs use a single integrated LED from Cree, considered leaders in LED development, and interchangeable lenses to vary beam angles from 25, to 35, to 60 degrees. The single LED reduces glare. Lumicrest has a handy beam calculator to figure out which lens best suits your space.

So, the Apturi it was. I chose 4000K (Natural White) colour balance. While these aren’t daylight equivalent (5000 degrees kelvin)*, I decided that 4000Ks were a good compromise between the warmer traditional lighting (e.g. 2700K) and the cold blue perceived above 4000K.

The distributors of the other components were good enough to cancel the order for the GU10 heads and order compatible PAR20 units.

Unfortunately, that didn’t solve the real problem I had with installation. Unknowingly, I’d accepted a track style known in the trade as “Lightolier” — the heads, of course, compatible.

I wouldn’t use this product again.

Centre track at box

Unlike “Halo” products, which have two copper contacts running on one side of the track channel and one on the opposite side, the Lightolier has a single copper contact on each side of the track. To my understanding, the one-per-side contact is not necessarily of any great functional disadvantage.

However, when joining the Lightolier-style product, via connectors, pushing the track onto the connector inevitably pushed the internal copper wire, housed in its plastic channel, out of the other end of the track. The only possible solution, discerned after many tries and uncounted expletives, was to pull enough of the contact channel out of the end of the track to be joined, carefully line the contacts along the corresponding copper plates on either side of the connector, then slam the track back over the contacts and onto the connector. If luck is on your side, the track will mesh without pushing contact channels out the other end or breaking anything else.

Try performing this procedure with neck craned to the ceiling, essentially working upside down. A borrowed telescoping support, seen in the photo below, was indispensable.

By comparison, in my experience, Halo tracks slide together without violence or obscene outbursts.

8 foot track (north wall) & T-connection

Once everything was up and bulbs installed — they arrived in the mail on Monday — I was more than satisfied with the results. Beside their practical merits, these LED lamps are a thing of beauty.

I also added a dimmer switch to the system. Good thing. Full power is not needed unless I want to light the whole room. For viewing works hung on the walls, half power from the (ten) 8W bulbs is quite sufficient.

I may even use these lights in the workspace to assess prints (the dimmer will come in handy here). While they are ever so slightly warmer than daylight, which can vary greatly in temperature according to atmospheric conditions, the high CRI rating may be more important than exact colour temperature in judging print quality. Ultimately, I can’t control the lighting conditions under which my prints will be viewed, once they leave my studio. The important point is to calibrate across my workflow.

Certainly, with this new lighting arrangement, existing prints exhibit a luminosity not quite seen before.

Mixed light: 4000K gallery lights, warm halogen (approx 2700K), blue dusk from window

*While the film industry often works at 5600/5500K, the graphics and photography industry has settled on 5000K as its default temperature. When editing, monitors are calibrated to the corresponding D50. A CRI rating of 90 or greater is recommended. For the technically inclined, the ISO standard 3664:2009 (pdf) is recommended as the colour viewing standard for the graphic arts.

Raymond Parker

This month marks the first anniversary of my relationship with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 mirrorless camera.

On the whole, it has been a happy affair.

Fuji’s frequent firmware updates, to both cameras and lenses, have been part of its success story — listening to photographers and responding with new and improved functions.

Accordingly, Fuji has just released the latest firmware update (3.0), adding such functions as:

  • Copyright information in EXIF data,
  • Voice memo function.
  • “Eye Sensor + LCD Image Display” option in the View Mode allowing you to shoot through the viewfinder and check images on the LCD, just like a DSLR.
  • Extended ISO 125 and 160 selectable.
  • Shooting RAW in bracketing and advanced filters

Also improving functions, such as:

  • Faster “Face Detection AF”
  • Extended AE bracketing from 3 frames +/-2EV to up to 9 frames +/-3EV.
  • Programmable long exposure of up to 15 minutes
  • Improved in-focus indication in the AF-C mode

Full list of firmware changes here.

Prior to my visit to England, last September, I acquired two zoom lenses to add to the 23mm 1.4 prime I bought with the camera: the XF10-24mmF4 R OIS and XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR. Both are superb lenses. The 23mm (equivalent to 35mm on full frame sensor) is one of the finest lenses I’ve ever owned.

However, I was disappointed to discover on my return, examining photos from the 10-24, that there was a rather large area of softness in the top right corner, especially in images made at the longer end of the lens’s zoom range — caused by a misaligned element, I’m guessing.

Fuji made everything right under warrantee, but I was without the lens for nearly a month.

The ergonomics of the camera are not perfect — a larger finger grip would have been nice. An add-on is available from Fuji, but I use the Really Right Stuff L-plate for tripod mounting. This issue don’t interfere with my attention to the job at hand: making photographs.

Battery life is not outstanding, particularly if shooting video or using stabilized lenses, like the two zooms mentioned above. I now carry 3 batteries, which see me through a long day of shooting.

I must also mention this aggravation, which has occurred a few times: advanced filter mode, starting with “Toy Camera,” is easily triggered via the Drive button, as described here.

Fuji, who needs this? Maybe a suggestion for a future firmware update will add a way to disable this menu.

Aside from these minor complaints, the love affair endures. When user error is absent and lens elements aligned both the X-Pro2 and Fujinon glass produce great results.

Unlike many Fuji “converts” who have gone on to ditch their DSLRs, I’m not ready to sell my Nikon gear, as explained in a recent post. But the X-Pro 2 kit, carried in the Billingham Hadley Pro bag, has lightened my load immensely and encourages me to visit street or park more often, which is a very good thing indeed!

All in all, the X-Pro 2 has exceeded my expectations.

I won’t repeat my initial impressions. I’ll leave the gallery below to illustrate some of the results from the last year.

Raymond Parker

“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough — that we should try again.” ~Julia Cameron

I’m prone to perfectionism.

I don’t mean that animating spirit of creation that inspires one to do one’s best … that fuels ambition, say, to make fine prints; I mean that demon that has me burn through a box of expensive paper only to abandon the job as “not good enough,” or halts a project before it is even started because, according to the demon, I’m not up for the challenge.

When I’m painting — I don’t mean on canvas; I mean ordinary house painting — I’m reminded that it’s best to keep looking ahead, rather than second-guessing. You don’t want to concentrate on where the brush has been, but where it’s going, in order to cut a straight line. Thinking where it has been or tarrying on the last flaw will only lead further astray.

Mistakes happen. Even Nature leaves room for imperfection.

Not to say that some ideas don’t end in cul-de-sacs and are better left where they expire. But the perfectionist, like the indecisive painter, has a hard time letting go and moving on. He sees failure as a catastrophic dead end, rather than as a lesson to be applied to the next job.

The worst thing about the perfectionist is that not only do they torture themselves with their pursuit of the unobtainable, but they often submit those around them to the frustrations and unreasonable demands of their harrowing quest, whether simply by proximity to the wailing of disappointment or, worse, that they are also held to impossible ideals.

I don’t mean this confession to be a rationalization for sloppy work. Nor is it an excuse for the use of digital filters that ape the “imperfections” of analog photography, as used in the feature image above. Film photographers worth their salt … or silver, or platinum, went to great pains to reduce such artifacts.

What I do mean is that we should give ourselves a bit of space, a bit of self-compassion as the Buddhists would have it, to be human — particularly when it comes to work that, presumably, we have taken on for the love of it.

Even so, that bannister I’ve been painting, I think needs a second coat.

Do you battle the demon of “Not Good Enough?” If so, how do you deal with it?

Photo Technical: Camera: Fujifilm X-Pro2 | Lens: Fujinon 23mm f1.4 | Post production: JPEG adjustments in Lightroom | filtered in Nik Analog Pro 2 | Sized and saved for web in Photoshop
Raymond Parker

Muse Uncovered

There is no such thing as pouring stream of unedited writing that comes out sparkling and perfect. Those who say that are liars or just don’t care about the quality of their writing. Read any meta-writing by writers and they’ll all tell you that writing is basically rewriting.”  ~ Annabelle Bernard Fournier, freelance writer and editor

A few years back, I wrote a post on my other blog, VeloWebLog, titled “writing undressed” — a lament about the fickleness of the muse, on whose mercy, I claimed, I was completely dependent for my creative output.

In that post, I referenced my first post on that blog where I quoted a Canadian writer who claimed his writing spilled fully-formed and perfect onto the page, pre-edited.

An impressive skill, if true.

But freelance writer Annabelle Bernard Fournier was having none of it. She left a comment on the post expressing her doubt. She might have also disagreed with my excuse that irregular output could be laid at the slender feet of the mercurial muse.

I am still beset by creative block from time to time, whether the malady holds up production of blog posts like this, or the photography that underpins most content on raymondparkerphotodotcom. But now I’m not so quick to blame it all on the betrayal of the mythical Mistress of Motivation.

I’m more likely today to cleave to the advice of experts who have “been there, done that,” including my own more experienced self — seeing as I’ve been here and there and done much more, and my own observations often agree with productivity pundits.

“A blog post that’s published that’s not perfect is a lot more effective than a blog post that’s never published.” ~ Michael Hyatt

Creating a space for inspiration

Here are some of the things I’ve learned by trial and many errors:

  • Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination. Edit, yes, but at some point you need to publish and move on.
  • Learn from mistakes. You’ll get better as you go (see above)
  • Sit down and get to work, or pick up your camera. Do it. Now. Even if uninspired, get something started. It might be a sentence or two, an outline of a planned blog post or preliminary “sketch” of a photographic project.
  • Keep at it. Don’t give up. Practice might not make perfect (what is perfect, after all?) but it will definitely keep skills honed for the rare occasion when the muse does decide to bless you with material for a masterpiece.
  • Turn off distractions. Social media and email won’t disappear while you’re working. The latest episode of the Donald Trump alt-Reality Show will still be in rerun tomorrow (perhaps for eternity). Try some inspiring music instead. Or enjoy the sound of rain on the skylight, as I am now.
  • Don’t bother with editing until you’ve got your mind-dump down on the page. Unless you are the aforementioned genius Canadian author, you will need to dress up your creation in better clothes. Photographers will have endeavoured to previsualize their picture and will express their polished vision in post-production.

“Every once in a while I make the effort to put creativity, technique and thought into my writing. I’ll slave over several days, proofread, ask those close to me for suggestions & tweaks, and… nobody ever comments, retweets, or links to my masterpiece. More engagement seems to happen with the most random, short, off-the-cuff comments. I envy those who remain relevant AND quick with their writing.” ~ Richard Masoner, bike blogger

Working what works

This is by no means a comprehensive list of creativity hacks, nor should they be taken as recipes for success. What works one month or year may change the next.

For example, when it comes to writing, longer posts seem to be working better these days. Google likes them and so do readers looking for detailed information — but only if they are well-crafted and “authoritative,” meaning they are well written and illustrated.

As for photography, I’m still trying to figure out what works in these days of photo saturation on Instagram, Tumblr and 500 pixels. Perhaps great images depend upon a visit from the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne.

“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth … that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.” ~ W.H. Murray

Waiting for Bardot

Coincidentally, I’ve recently been coaching a new blogger who has expressed some of the same apprehensions I did in the 5-year-old blog linked above. Besides cutting teeth on the technical trials of the blogging platform, he rejects the idea of it becoming a “job.”

I understand the concern, which I expressed in the old post. At first, the pressure to produce can feel laborious (see point one above). Though it would be misleading to say that creating good content doesn’t require hard work and a consistent process, as one becomes familiar with tools and evolves beyond the burdens of perfectionism, then work becomes more of a calling than a chore.

No need to wait for the perfect subject, the skills of a Goethe or Ansel Adams, the ultimate scene, or god rays spilling from golden clouds. Work with what you have. Look for the sacred in the mundane.

If I can offer any advice beyond the dry technical tips of blogging blogs, professional mentors, and content creation coaches, it would be this: follow your beautiful vision where ere that may lead.

Do you have a preferred method to coax the nymphs out of hiding? Share it with us in the comments below.

Raymond Parker
  • March 9, 2017 - 11:17 am

    Rob Campbell - Frankly, I believe the muse is a fake: she pretends to live in the soul but doesn’t; she lives in the mood. And that’s where you’ve got her: you can make mood.

    Insofar as photography goes, you simply need to consider the situation of the pro. He can’t afford to await the call, and has to come up with the right solutions every time, and he usually does, to the best of his ability so to do. That ability, measured over time, marks him as either good or not good at his job.

    Remove the financial imperative and, as they say, what do you got? No pressure that matters, just the option to laze or not to laze, as Shakespeare might have said. Awaiting the muse, as amateur, is nothing more and nothing less than the reality of can’t be bothered making itself felt if not heard. Because in the grander scheme of things, it just makes no damned difference if one gets that snap or not, scribbles that paragraph with or without indignation, or just yawns and makes a cup of java.

    To make a difference, it has to matter; if it doesn’t matter, why expend the energy?

    On the other hand, there is the question of therapy, in which case it does matter. For those of us with fractured lives photography can certainly provide moments of freedom from thought, periods where conscious thought can be suspended and the demons driven behind a temporary wall. In such cases, or at least in the hunt for relief if only from self, I’d recommend going out into the street, looking at the things around one, and taking note of the common absurdities and juxtapositions that can excite the eye. They are everywhere, and half-an-hour spent on one’s feet can easily result in half a week at the computer which, of course, gives rise to yet another set of situations one might prefer to avoid. Nobody said life was perfect.

    Mention is often made of planning, of starting everything off with a plan, a preconception. To me, that’s part of the problem: there are already too many plans, both of our own and of others on our behalf. Get out of the grip of plans; use the freedom from them as you take that stroll down the street. Open your heart and mind and be random. Life happens, even if nothing’s happening in a town near you because you can’t see it.

    Just don’t sit at home waiting for bulbs to illuminate. They only do that in cheap Internet adverts.ReplyCancel

    • March 9, 2017 - 12:29 pm

      Raymond Parker - Thanks you very much for writing this comment, Rob. I agree. Would that I had written such concise and compelling arguments in the paragraphs above.

      I also agree wholeheartedly that photography, unencumbered by expectation, has great therapeutic value. I’m reminded every time I lift my camera how completely I am in the moment.

      I also concur with commercial photographers like the late Brian Duffy, who spurned the affectations of the “fine art” crowd (please ignore my own conceit in the header above) ― though he managed to create some of the finest images of his time, simply by attending to his craft.

      But what of the numinous? Is there a place for “Provenance,” as W.H. Murray put it in the quote above? What did I see lurking under the iridescent platinum emulsion of Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s Xipetotec, 1979? How was it that a friend, unaware of my experience, later saw the same spine-tingling ancient Aztec spirit animating the image?

      And what about synchronicity? How coincidental that I used the subheading “Waiting for Bardot” in this post … and you have, it appears, photographed the famous French muse.

      I have no answer to such mysteries. But I do believe, as Richard Avedon put it, that it’s the photographer’s job to attend to surfaces (I presume he meant honing the craft) and the rest will take care of itself.ReplyCancel

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