Tunisia: a short travelog of my holidays (Part 1)


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After the terrorist attack in Sousse, my friends and family were intent on dissuading me from travelling to Tunisia. However, the holiday had been booked and the money transferred three weeks earlier, and I was so ready for some time off that I got a headache simply from thinking about cancelling and having to comb through all the offers again.

The 30th of June finally came and we took off towards Monastir from the Nikola Tesla airport in Belgrade. Unfortunately, I had the aisle seat and could not take any pictures during the flight. After the landing the journey to Yasmine Hammamet continued by bus. Once we had arrived, it was clear that there was no need to be afraid. Security forces were everywhere. There was police patrolling on foot, some officers on horses, and some others on bicycles or quads. Some police officers, armed with automatics, were guarding our hotel day and night. They were stationed in front of the hotel and in the lobby. Some Russian tourists had a lot of fun taking selfies with the heavily armed policemen. They did not seem to mind; in fact, they were very obliging. In any case, I was not surprised at all that the Russian ministry of the interior started the “Safe Selfie” campaign a few days later. ;)

The fact that most of the tourists had returned home early, had some advantages as well as disadvantages. On the one hand, the hotel felt oddly empty in the beginning, almost uncannily so. On the other hand, I could really relax since I did not have to worry about neither the beach lounger nor the table in the dining hall. This is what the area around the swimming pool looked like every day shortly before dinner. Also in the mornings and afternoons only every third lounger was taken. ;)

Sigma SD1 Merrill & 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Contemporary (volle Auflösung - full resolution) Continue reading

Sigma News & Rumours: new firmware versions for DP1Q, DP2Q and DP3Q, and first 24-35mm f2 Art sample images published!


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A few days ago, Sigma published firmware updates for the DP Quattro series. As can be seen in the change log below, this time around the focus was on the speed of the auto focus and on the compatibility with Eye-Fi memory cards. Since I was still on holiday when the news where published and only had the combo SD1/18-300 C with me, I could not install the new firmware version 1.06 on my DP2 Quattro to test whether the AF speed had really been improved.

Today I finally got around to doing this and I have to say, my first impression is indeed rather positive. The boost in speed feels much bigger than when the firmware was updated to firmware version 1.02. The DP2 Quattro focuses accurately and sufficiently fast even at f/2.8, ISO3200 and an exposure time of 1/10s or longer. And it does that without the assist light and with the smallest AF area selected. The DP3 Merrill takes more than twice as long under the same light conditions, and even then the camera often runs through the entire focus range before finally giving up. As soon as one goes outside, however, the advantage of the DP2Q lessens somewhat, as can be expected. The Quattro certainly is no Olympus OMD in terms of AF speed, but after all the firmware updates, it is noticeably faster and much more reliable at focusing than the DP3M.

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Animals hitching a ride: a crow riding an eagle


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When I reported about that baby weasel riding along on the back of a green woodpecker in March, I was completely sure that that motif had been a truly singular photo opportunity. As two rather similar photos show, which have been published since then, animals hitching a ride happens more often than one would think. The first photo was taken by Richard Jones at the Oklawaha River mid-June, in central Florida, and shows a racoon “surfing” on the back of an alligator.

However, that one’s got nothing on the second photo which was published a few days ago. The amateur photographer Phoo Chan, who lives in California, managed to take a picture of a crow “hitching a flight” on the back of a bald eagle.

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A three-minute-long video shows the restoration and coloration of a badly damaged photo


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Almost two years ago I wrote about the ColorizedHistory Community on Reddit, whose 85,000 members have devoted themselves to colourising historic black-and-white photographs. In order to give anyone who might be curious an idea of how much work is involved in this, I included a video tutorial by Mads Madsen, who was one of the most active and prominent members of the aforementioned group at that point. However, as interesting as Madsen’s video might be, it only shows the colouring of an albeit not perfect, but still rather well-preserved photo.

In this 3 minute long time laps video by Joaquin Villaverde which I discovered today, the professional Argentinian photographer and retoucher goes one step further. He demonstrates how he colourises as well as retouches a very old and very badly damaged portrait in Photoshop CC 2014 in two hours. The before-after picture is a screenshot I took towards the end of the video. Impressive, right?

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Sigma News & Rumours: DP0 Quattro full resolution sample images


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Two weeks ago Sigma published the MTF graphs, according to which the DP0 Quattro has got the sharpest lens of all DPs. Slowly but surely, full resolution example images are appearing on the internet which seem to consolidate this. Going by a series of sample shots with different apertures ranging from f/4 to f/10, which can be found on the Japanese website yaotomi.co.jp, the 14mm f/4 lens seems to be extremely sharpness even at maximum aperture and in the corners of the picture. Stopping down increases the sharpness only a little, if at all. In another post, also published on Yaotomi, there are three photos that also allow first conclusions regarding the CAs. As can be expected of such a WA lens, there are CAs, however, these are not particularly strong and should be easily with suitable software.

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Russian photographer documents the remains of the Soviet space shuttle programme


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Ralph Mirebs is one of the so-called Urban Exploration photographers – i.e. photographers who explore ruins and derelict buildings. During one of his last photographic forays he visited the Baikonur Cosmodrome – close to the city of the same name in Kazakhstan – from where Soviet and, since the end of the Soviet Union, Russian space missions have been taking off since 1957. In one of the run-down hangars he discovered the remains of the Buran Programme, the Soviet version of the Space-Shuttle programme. One of the two Buran space shuttles that he found in the hangar was fully equipped and ready to use. The other was a life-sized model which had allegedly been used for docking and loading simulations. It really is a pity that these space shuttles have been rotting away there for more than twenty years instead of being displayed somewhere where they can be admired by hobby historians, technology lovers and other guests hungry for knowledge.

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© Ralph Mirebs

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Luhu, probably the saddest cat in the world :-)


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Maggie Liu uses Instagram, lives in Beijing, and has three tabby cats – Barher, Bardie and Luhu – of which she regularly uploads photographs and films to the aforementioned photo-platform. Of the three kitty-cats Luhu is especially popular with the visitors. The small, chubby tomcat always looks exceedingly sad, which has made him a hit with the audience. The numerous ‘likes’ and comments which pop up as soon as one clicks on one of the photos leave little doubt that the sad Luhu has already become a little internet star. ;)

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SPP 6.2.1 vs 6.3: is it possible to tease out more sharpness of the X3Fs with the newest version?


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I was curious when Sigma launched SPP 6.3 and the change log claimed that the algorithm had been improved to make the Quattro X3Fs even sharper. Since optimising the RAW converter usually only improves the image quality a tiny bit, I was not expecting to see a huge difference when comparing 6.3 and 6.2.1. I was hoping for a noticeable increase in sharpness, like between 6.2.1 and 6.2. Unfortunately, this is not what happened. Even with a lot of good will, there is barely any recognisable difference between 6.3 and the earlier version – as can be seen rather clearly in the pictures and GIFs below.

But first a few notes on the workflow: I developed the two X3Fs in SPP 6.3 and 6.2.1 respectively, and exported them as 16 bit TIFFs. I used the exact same settings each time. Sharpness was set to -0.8 and the noise reduction for both chroma and luma noise was at the far left – i.e. the noise reduction was turned off. In Lightroom I made 100% crops and exported the TIFFs as full resolution JPGs.

Since the crops are too big for the blog entry, the blog software scales them down, thereby converting them into pixel-pulp – please click on the crops to open them in a new browser window at full resolution. SPP 6.2.1 is on the left side in both cases; SPP 6.3 on the right.

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Stephen McMennamy’s “#ComboPhotos”: intentionally easy to spot photo manips


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As the creative Director of BBDO Atlanta, a branch office of the advertising agency BBDO, Stephen McMennamy is very well versed in image and video editing. After all, the majority of his work consists in designing and editing content to efficiently convey certain sales messages. Of course, as we all know, these must not in any way seem forced – finesse is one of the advertising world’s most priced virtues. Exceptions like the controversial advertising campaign “I’m not stupid!” by Media Markt prove the rule. ;)

Everything but subtle is McMennamy’s plan of attack in his private photo project called #ComboPhotos. He wants the beholder to immediately get the flim-flam, and thereby also the funny allusions. Therefore he doesn’t put any effort into creating a smooth transition between two parts of his photo collages. Personally, I think this is what makes his photo series interesting. Anyway, have a look yourself:

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© Stephen McMennamy

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Sigma News & Rumours: Sigma introduces the 24-35mm f/2 Art lens and launches SPP 6.3!


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The rumours that came up yesterday where true – today Sigma introduced the 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art! For us users of the APS-C format the zoom is less interesting, since the already available 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art already covers a wider zoom range and is faster by 1/3 of an aperture stop. As the abbreviation “DG” makes clear, however, the 24-35/2 has been designed for full frame cameras and can replace as much as three prime lenses (24mm, 28mm and 35mm) on a suitable camera – providing, of course, that an aperture of f/1.4 is not necessary and that the lens performs sufficiently well at wide open aperture; something the first tests will show.

As we have come to expect from Sigma when it comes to the Art lenses, the 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art has been given an elaborate optical construction. This consists of 18 lenses in 13 groups, including one FLD and seven SLD lenses (two SLD lenses are also aspherical). In view of this it is hardly surprising that the lens has a length of 122.7mm and a diameter of 87.6mm, and weighs an impressive 940g. The minimal focusing distance is 28cm, which means the image scale comes to 1:4.4. A diaphragm with 9 rounded blades is supposed to create nicely round Bokeh circles even when the aperture is stopped down.

The lens is supposed to hit the shelfs at the end of July. Sigma has not yet let anything slip as to how much the lens will cost. However, Sigma Rumors claims to know from a reliable source that Sigma is aiming to set the price at €849 here in Europe.

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