January 2013

Film: Jagten

I went with a friend to see Jagten last night at, surprise surprise, Øst for Paradis. For some strange reason they’ve waited this long before releasing it in the cinemas — and besides a more recent memory in which to reflect on how lonely christmas must be without a family, the film itself didn’t give any new glues vivid enough for me to notice. But now it’s here, and while I’m not too surprised that it didn’t win the Palme d’Or at Cannes, it’s still a great movie that comes highly recommend (and Mads Mikkelsen winning Best Actor seems fully justified). Continue reading

Searching for Sugar Man + Sixto Rodriguez

A month ago just before christmas I went with a friend to see Searching for Sugar Man at Øst for Paradis and I’ve been recommending it ever since. It was a bit slow in the beginning and at I was even preparing myself for the worst, however when it took off I was entirely captivated. The humbleness and general character of Sixto Rodriguez was very attractive, and add to that an incredible story and an amazing soundtrack!

Afterwards I’ve bought his two albums, Cold Fact and Coming From Reality, and it’s really a puzzle why he never made it until now — try Crucify Your Mind, Wonder, or Like Janis from the first album for instance. It’s not Dylan, but if you like him then I reckon there’s a good change you’ll like Rodriguez as well.

To make matters even better, it turns out that he’s giving a concert at La Cigale in June! Several in fact. My ticket is booked and definitely looking forward to this one.

Polarising Filter

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Years back I wanted to get an UV filter for my digital camera and ended up getting a 3-pack that also contained a polarising filter (and a macro filter). However, until recently it stayed home most of the time: I knew that it is useful for darkening the sky and making colours more vivid, but hadn’t really found it that useful.

Then last spring I was playing around with it again and finally noticed where it really shines: controlling the highlights in a photo to look more into the shadows. To illustrate what this means here’s a short series of shots with and without the filter. All of them are straight off the camera with no post-processing.

First two shots of a tower. Even if the difference is not that big here I do prefer the one with the filter (it’s more vivid and well-balanced between the sky and the grass), yet I’m not sure I would bother putting on and adjusting the filter for a photo like this: much of this effect could also be done in post-processing and sometimes you actually overshoot the colour.

However things start to change with the next two shots of a summer sky where the effect of the filter is more pronounced: to me there’s quite a difference between the two shots, not least in how the clouds stand out. While this could still be done in post-processing, it is starting to get more involved — and my end result would probably be pretty close to the shot with the filter.

As a final example have a look at these two shots of my girlfriend by a lake. While the one without the filter is flat and boring, the filter reveals an interesting play in the shadows and gives a very different photo. Of course this could still be fixed in post-processing but at this point it definitely makes sense for me to put on the filter and get a way better offset.

Note that it also becomes clear what the filter does: by taking away the reflections from the water it allows the camera to get a better overall exposure, as the light is now more evenly distributed through-out the frame. In this particular case the light coming from the lake is reduced so much that the shutter speed goes from 1/500 to 1/200 of a second, and hence more light from the darker areas (the trees and my girlfriend) is captured.

In summary, the polarising filter allows one to capture more details from the sky and from the shadow areas. On top of that it makes colours more vivid.

New Battery for Olympus OM-2

A few months ago I borrowed two old analogue Olympus cameras from my father, an OM-1 and a slightly younger OM-2. My guess is that they haven’t been used since sometime in the 80s, yet surprisingly enough the old battery in the OM-1 has now allowed me to shoot a film with what seemed like a working light meter (developing the film next week will be the final test). Granted, it is not a complex camera — and love it for that — requiring a lot of power, but I had suspected that twenty years would drain any battery the size of a fingernail.

By the looks of it, the more complex OM-2 has been used a lot more than the OM-1, but at any rate the batteries in this camera were dead and I had feared that finding replacements would not be all that easy. Having not really had any luck with the local photo store when it comes to analogue cameras (they practically laugh at me) I gave the local watchmaker a try instead. He didn’t have the same SR44 type batteries as were in the camera and said that he had long ago switched to the equivalent LR44 type.

Fortunately I checked on the Internet before buying them as it turns out that the newer LR44 will work with the camera but may also give wrong light measurements meaning that it can’t be trusted to give correct exposures over time. The difference between the two types can be understood by the SR44 type retaining full power until it suddenly dies whereas the LR44 type gradually looses power and dies a slow death. In other words: the camera is tightly connected with the physical properties of the SR44 type batteries.

I love these things! Today so many things are based on abstracts that hide the nature of the physical objects that they are built from. On top up that we spent so much time in the virtual world that the physical objects sometimes seem just to be in the way (ever wished that ink and paper had an undo function?). However, this camera, working with the physical world, can be grasped!

I have the same feeling about film photography and darkroom development: instead of sitting with you head inside the virtual world of edition software such as Lightroom or Photoshop you actually have a physical medium where you understand how it works and can be held and processed in your hands.

Same feeling when I was driving the motorcycle last summer: in modern cars you feel detached from the road and a computer not only interprets what you mean when you step on the throttle but also what gear you should be driving in. On the motorcycle you decide everything and must work and feel with it to drive.

My final example is music. I changed my guitar strings the other day because I had worn them down, changing their physical properties so that they no longer vibrated the way they should. Contrast that to today’s electronic music which is made and played through a laptop. Sure they get worn down as well, but at such an abstract level that we can only describe it as “old”.

Abstractions are not all bad though as a memory reminded me of today. When I played games on our first computer back in the 90s, one game (I believe it was Warcraft II) was using the CPU speed of the computer as a clock, ie. one second was defined by a certain number of computations. This worked fine at that point, but when we got our next computer the game ran way too fast because the new and more powerful computer took less than one second to do this number of computations. The game was impossible to play since everything happened at several times the normal speed and I had to get an updated version where they had made an abstraction of time and no longer used the physical properties of the CPU direct.

Oh, and I did manage to find the right SR44 type batteries — at my local photo store.

Film: Amour

I went with my girlfriend to see Amour (winner of the 2012 Palme d’Or) tonight at our favourite cinema in Aarhus, Øst for Paradis. This is truly one of the pearls in Aarhus.

First off, it’s a great movie. You follow an old couple in the aftermath of the woman having a stroke and progressively getting worse through-out the film. It is very realistic — to the point of being almost a documentary — and in this setting it makes for a powerful story that is perhaps a bit too close. As such it is not necessarily an easy film to watch. It’s worth it, but you do not walk away feeling any less horrified about the idea of getting old.

It also illustrated yet again that going to the cinema is the superior way of watching films: had we seen it at home I would most likely not have stayed till the end, yet at the cinema one becomes captivated and remain focused. It’s the dark room, the big screen, the nice chairs, and the absence of distractions.

The Sad Evolution of Apple?

I bought my first Apple product in the summer of 2010, a 13″ MacBook Pro, after years of encouragement from friends. At that point I was already pretty fed up about Windows (XP at the time) so my hesitations were due to the somewhat high price tag of the beast, at least compared to other laptops of the time such as ASUS and Dell, and even IBM. However one day I ended up spending some time in front of one, and magic happened: Windows all of a sudden seemed square and stuck, and only my old IBM ThinkPad could match the solid quality feel the MacBook offered.

A special offer meant I also got an iPod Touch with the laptop: unlike my little Logitech MP3 player (partially bought a few years earlier to rebel against the fact that everyone else was buying Apple) the iPod was ready for advanced applications such as Spotify. Later I’ve been long-time borrowing an old iPhone and have acquired an iPod Mini and an iPad.

I don’t think I have blindly invested in so many Apple: every item has been compared to the competition with a willingness to choose the best product. The Apple products simply won because they by far seemed the best, and whatever small gap they may have had in terms of cutting edge technology was plenty made up for in overall quality feel.

Unfortunately it seems that those days might be over; gone, some speculate, with Steve Jobs. Continue reading