Friday, 19 September 2014

Wining and Dining in the Cape

South Africa is famous for its wine growing heritage.  As an Australian even I know that. So, with a free day I organised transport first to visit one of the oldest wine makers in Cape town, Groot Constantia followed by a trip 70kms north to Boschendal and Backsberg estates.  Interestingly no one in the group really liked any of the wines at Constantia so with the rain coming down hard we headed out to check out the wines at Backsberg estate. These we found to be far more palatable, especially the shiraz.  Backsberg estate is part way between the Stellenbosch and Franshoek wine growing areas, and is surrounded by impressively jagged peaks - which were for the most part completely shrouded in mist. Still it was a beautiful location - Boschendal, another classic Cape Dutch winery with a beautiful manor house dating back to 1812 was both under renovation and inundation - there was both hail and rain coming down at the same time. We managed a few snaps before moving on to Franshoek, the tidiest wine town in the Cape.  And possibly the most expensive.  Like many tourist towns this place has a staggering range of small shops selling every possible kind of handicraft, food product and, yes, even wine. It's the place to come for a nice weekend away from Cape Town and, apart from the original Cape Dutch architecture and the mountain ranges behind the town, looks just like Leura or Morpeth! Still, it's a good place to visit as you are spoilt for choice on so many levels.

Before the storm: Groot Constantia homestead shot using infra-red
Classic Cape Dutch architecture at the Groot Constantia winery.
Another part of the old buildings and duck pond at Groot Constantia
Red wine barrels made from imported French oak
Fermenters at Backberg's winery. This place lacked the usual stainless steel vats preferring to use the ore traditional oak bins.
Much of the wine is stored in carefully designed rooms like caves with thick walls.
One of Backsberg's wine maturing rooms
Boschendal manor house after the rain. Canon EOS 5D MkIII, HDR.
This was the Dutch church in the main street of Franshoek highlighted perfectly against a stormy sky.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Robben Island

A photo tour starting in Cape Town is not complete without a short trip out to Robben Island, the infamous Apartheid-era gaol designed to hold the nation's most dangerous political prisoners.

Mandiba's cell in the maximum security block of Robben Island gaol. No bed, no heating, no water, no toilet.

One of the many ex-political prisoners who now guide tourists through the nightmare that must have been Robben Island during Apartheid

Prisoners were allowed visitors - usually two visits per year providing you applied at least 6 months ahead for permission. This was the room where Robert Sabukwe's four kids were allowed to stay on the occasions they came to visit
A curious symbol of Christianity in a place with no humanity...
Spartan prison wing that housed Mandela and many other 'politicals'...
Everyone knows this is where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years, but it was also home to many others including Joseph Zuma, Michael Matsobane and  Robert Sobukwe.

The inner razor wire at Robben Island looking very much like the fencing round an extermination camp.

Sobukwe was imprisoned for 'incitement'.  In 1960 he rallied against South Africa's much hated pass laws in Orlando, Soweto and consequently spent nine years on Robben Island, mostly in isolation.  It was at this time that similar demonstrations were held in the Transvaal resulting in the death of 69 unarmed protesters at Sharpeville. I remember reading about this massacre when I was at college - the student union at the time was doing its best to boycott any English company that had business in the republic (particularly Barclays Bank).

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Book Printing and Colour Management

One crucial aspect of creative photography is colour control, also described as colour workflow or colour calibration.  Whatever the term, it concerns anyone in the business of printing requiring you to develop at least a basic understanding of colour management and a consistent edit workflow.  

We all know that it's a tricky process to get perfect what-you-see-onscreen-is-the-same-as-what-you-see-in-print results.  Colour management is full of complex terms and concepts, small wonder most photographers I deal with glaze over and shake their heads when I mention the word colour

I recently produced a photo book of my two trips to Africa in 2013 using Momento, a Sydney-based digital book printing service.  Now, I've used Momento before and have been impressed with its effective (free) book making software, as well as its friendly and helpful troubleshooting service.

This book was bigger than anything I had done before with Momento, producing an A3 book via its MomentoPro service which offers professionals a discount plus a wide range of paper surfaces and finishing options.  However, what's important here is that MomentoPro offers a thing called a soft proofing colour service. How does this work? 

The main reason for colour/brightness print shortcomings is that:
- We rarely choose the best colour space 
- We don't soft proof our files correctly. 
- And we don't anticipate the characteristics of the media (paper)

Here's what you have to do:
- Calibrate your monitor (so what you see onscreen is close to 100% accurate)
- Shoot in Adobe RGB for best colour repro
- Download and use Momento's own paper profiles
- Soft proof the files and adjust for the best colour, brightness and contrast results using Photoshop

Colour Spaces
All cameras shoot in either Adobe RGB or sRGB colour spaces.  Adobe RGB contains more colour tones than sRGB.  If you output using a typical (sRGB) printer, the smaller sRGB space is fine because the printer (which has a limited colour range) can match the spread of colours in the file. 
Momento's presses operate best using Adobe RGB so the camera is best set accordingly. 

Soft Proofing
MomentoPro supplies registered users a colour profile that, when loaded into Adobe Photoshop, changes the onscreen colour to look closer to how its presses reproduce colour. This is a process called soft proofing.
The idea is for the image files going into the book to be edited in Adobe Photoshop and previewed (soft proofed) using the supplied paper profile (Once this is loaded into Photoshop, you can switch the preview on and off using the shortcut Ctrl/Cmd + Y).

This is how the Color Settings (Edit>Color Settings) recommended by
MomentoPro, appear in Adobe Photoshop(Edit>Color Settings)
Every printing paper produces a quite different looking results.
Papers are ice-white, warm, ivory with a wide range of different surfaces,
like watercolour papers, textured, smooth, semi-matte, gloss and more
Here are the supplied MomentoPro paper profiles

In Photoshop's View menu I have chosen satin paper

So to soft proof satin finish paper, choose View>Proof Setup
and Momento Proofing. Toggle on and off using the shortcut: Ctrl/Cmd + Y

Thursday, 4 September 2014

DSLR Video Class Results

My August DSLR Video class has just wrapped up - these are the resulting videos (several of the students missed the last day through sickness). The class, held at the Centre for Continuing Education at Sydney Uni involves one day learning the absolute basics: settings, lenses, resolution, frame rates, stabilisation, shooting techniques and more. 
On the second day each student was asked to write five sentences describing their worst job ever.  Time is then spent making a storyboard from this concept and, essentially, writing a short script for a film.  This is then used as a basis for the shooting schedule.  Each student takes it in turn to either narrate their script, record/monitor the sound levels and operate the camera. 
The third day is essentially all about editing with Adobe Premiere Pro.  We run through the basics of using Premiere Pro and then import the clips and sound bytes for assembly into the final videos you see here. 
Quite awesome results when you consider this was the first time any of the students had shot a cohesive video and used Premiere Pro...