Thursday, 12 December 2013

Photo printing test - Epson Claria or compatible inks?

It was back in April of this year that I instigated a test of home photo printing using Epson Claria products against third party compatible inks. I also tested a third party paper, the Permajet 240 gsm Matt Plus photo paper.

And the results are in! Six months of sitting on a window sill soaking up the rays has had a serious impact....

In this first image, at the larger A3 size we have the Permajet paper. At the A4 size we have the print on Epson Glossy paper.

The Permajet paper at bottom right was printed with the uk compatible ink. The fade, and on the monochrome image, discoloration is very evident. There was no discernible degradation on the Claria prints on either the Epson or Permajet papers.

In this second image,the compatible ink on the Epson paper (top right) fared better, but still faded noticeably compared to Epson Claria ink on the same paper. Again the Epson ink on the Permajet paper faded very little, if at all.

The conclusions from all this are:
  • compatible ink with third party paper is a disaster
  • if you want to save money on compatible ink then use Epson paper
  • you should get good long lasting results with Epson Claria ink whether you print on Epson or a quality third part paper

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Free photos, no. Cheap photos, maybe. But please just use the shopping cart!

In dealing with stock photo inquiries, despite frequently smelling rats I have a charitable habit of giving people a chance....

A week or so ago I received an email received regarding this image found in my South Downs image collection.:

"Hello. Are your photos for sale in a book? I want to paint a series of semi-abstract pictures of landscapes. Am I allowed to use them as source material? I do NOT want to print them or reproduce them. They are beautiful ."

As soon as you see compliments like this you just know that there's a fair chance that someone wants something for nothing. But being a bit more charitable on such requests than many photographers, I replied and said "that's fine". I said nothing about downloading, the images on the screen being quite clear and as large as they might be in a book.  In comes another email - obviously the 'customer' assuming it was going to be read by someone else.

"Hi, I have contacted Scott H, and he has contacted me by email and has given his permission for me to download these photos of the south downs."

Smelling rat faeces, my response was curt: "I was merely commenting on use. If you need more detail then you’ll have to use the download mechanism which requires payment."

The reply, not a surprise.....

"I can't afford the download fees. I need prints so I can work from small details."


But the real surprise in all this came within minutes. Another separate inquiry ON THE SAME PHOTO and referencing usage AGAIN of a whole bunch of my South Downs photos.

"We are a marketing agency based in Chichester and we are currently working on an identity project for a new client. They have several offices around the south downs and it is a professional services firm."
Blah, blah, .... "We have a meeting with the client in 2 weeks time and need to present ideas and costs to them at this point. I wonder if you would be kind enough to come back to me with costs and terms of using your work for this purpose." 

Now I still can't be certain of a connection with the other inquiry but nothing remotely as coincidental as this has happened before. Same image out of thousands. Same collection out of hundreds. Almost at the same time.

Nevertheless I employed restraint and dealt with the request just as I might any other. However I pushed them a little harder then most towards the automated delivery to avoid admin and collection issues which frankly I might expect to arise given the suspicious communications.

"All this assumes purchase by debit or credit card through the automated mechanism on the site." ie Use the shopping cart!!! You do that and you save money - and there is the side effect of saving me having to try to figure out whether your intention is to get photos cheaper, free or dishonestly.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The drama of Lewes Bonfire Night 2013

The annual trek from Brighton to Lewes Bonfire Night. The huge queue to get on trains, the sealed off streets from the station dispersing the crowds, the seeking of a vantage point - all part of what is now an annual experience that does not cease to amaze. Thousands in costume in processions, thirty to forty thousand on the narrow streets. How people remember the 5th of November….

But it’s about a lot more than that man Guy Fawkes. The 17 protestant Lewes Martyrs were burned at the stake outside a local inn long before the gunpowder plot came about and now many catholics will stay very distant from this town on the evening of this drama.

The six Lewes bonfire societies remember more than religious upheaval. The diversity of the costume is amazing as is the huge investment in authenticity. This is no amateur costume town parade; this is full on theatre. 

It makes me wonder what the Venice Carnival must be like in comparison. I have not seen it but from the outside it seems pompous and pretentious - I could just imaging some of The Commercial Square Bonfire Society smugglers infiltrating the canal system armed with pockets loaded with their vicious bangers to shake up their catholic foes!  

Monday, 29 July 2013

Brighton buses Smartcard - anything but smart

Q. When does a week have 4 days?
A. When you are travelling on a Brighton bus

The cheery face of Brighton buses - but they seem to be happy to let their systems rip us off
Mistakes happen. People learn from them - usually. But when errors are allowed to recur on a computerised system, it is either because those responsible do not give a damn or they have consciously worked out that the mistake is earning them money so they leave it in place.

Ride on a bus without a ticket and you get a penalty fare. If it can be shown that you did it with intent then you can finish up with a fine and a criminal record that will ruin your life.

Boot on the other foot. Set up a system that takes people's money and then when it does not give what it should, choose to do nothing about it. What's the consequence? Even for repeat offenses. Nothing - the way the law works there is no chance of getting the bus company in the dock.

To allow proper use of Brighton and Hove Bus's Smartcard, weekly, monthly and daily tickets sometimes need to co-exist on the card. But the systems are ill designed and for the third time in the last year my wife has spotted errors that mean she has to spend time getting evidence together and contacting Brighton Buses to get a refund. On this occasion as well as spotting the week lasting only 4 days we have found a 28 day ticket that expired after 25 days. Many people will simply not spot these errors happening.

The online information on the Brighton Smartcard site is not user friendly but here you will see how a weekly ticket started on 15 July but the Smartcard charged a new single fare on 19 July.

Here is some computer code Brighton Buses need to write:

If card has not expired
Then do not charge customer

Yes, it's simple. But someone somewhere within Brighton Buses management has either decided they can't be bothered to deal with the issue or, more likely, it's too much of a money earner so why fix it?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Brighton's Poppy Field

One of these photos is the dead giveaway of where this spectacular annual event sprouts forth on the outskirts of Brighton. The location may be Falmer but the slopes belong to Bevendean Down, my local patch of the South Downs.

Poppy field at Falmer looking towards Bevendean Down

Brighton poppies looking towards Bevendean Dow

Poppy flowers mown down

The Amex Stadium, Brighton - across the poppy field
The final photo is not a toy camera effect, I zoomed the lens while taking the shot, trying to keep the Amex Stadium as sharp as possible, the blur progressively increasing towards the edges.

I should mention more often on this blog that prints of these images can be purchased by following the links - all Brighton poppy field images here in my South Downs gallery oe in my Brighton and Hove Selection.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Take Pride - London and Brighton

I recently stumbled across my photos from Pride 2010 which have been sitting on my computer without getting exposure on my site. I have sorted that out now at my new Gay Pride- London gallery. This sits besides my Brighton Pride gallery in a new Gay Pride collection.

Although I use the words Gay Pride, that is only because that is what many people tend to search for. Make no mistake that these are parades of much more than gay pride, they are annual events that celebrate lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people through a carnival procession which is  colourful noisy and sometimes outrageous.

Pride Parade - London 2010

Pride Parade - Brighton 2012
The London Pride parade takes place on Saturday 29th June 2013 from 1pm in Central London. The Brighton Pride parade is on Saturday 3 August. Sadly I do not think I can be at either this year, but these images will remind me of what I am missing.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

London to Brighton Charity Bike Ride 2013

After last week's naked bike rides in London and Brighton, today I went down to the end of the road to get photos of the annual London to Brighton charity ride aimed at raising money for British Heart Foundation.

So here are a few slightly more conventional cycling images:

I did not spend more than 10 minutes getting images unfortunately, but these are added to my existing collection of London to Brighton Bike Ride photos at my site.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Demo clash - Hairy Armpits v. Naked Cyclists

Recently I loaded photos from the start of the London World Naked Bike Ride to my photo site, a start that took place from Marble Arch in London. As participants were limbering up in preparation for the ride I spotted what looked like another demonstration competing for space on the Marble Arch traffic island....

Women raising awareness of Armpits 4 August in London

Women jealous of the guys getting hairy for Movember now have their own outlet for follicular liberalism. Armpits 4 August is a month long charity event for women who will grow underarm hair for one month and get friends and family to sponsor them to raise money for Verity, the charity for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) sufferers.

It turned out that this group did not get much bigger so they were not a threat to the naked bikers dominance of Marble Arch that day. They were last seen heading off to walk down Oxford Street.

More detail at the Armpits 4 August website.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

World Naked Bike Ride - London

Photos as the first group of riders in the London World Naked Bike Ride approach Buckingham Palace along London's Mall. More  at

World Naked Bike Ride _ London 2013
 Today it's Brighton and I will be closer to the action! :)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Bristol Fashion

On the weekend I went to Bristol, although primarily a family social trip, I took a some photos around the Old City which included these two gems from outside All Bar One.....

Stags on the loose in Bristol

Cheeky boy

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Castle Hill National Nature Reserve

Yesterday I took a local walk around an area of the South Downs National Park on the outskirts of Brighton, just East of Woodingdean. The 9km walk included a stroll through the valley of Castle Hill National Nature Reserve...

Castle Hill National Nature Reserve

.... and then up onto the Downs proper taking in fields of rape.....

South Downs landscape of rape
..... before returning on the path of the South Downs Way. Breezy and cool, but a real feeling thta this sun is at last here to stay!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Transparencies - Through a scanner darkly

It was a by-product of testing out a 30 year old slide projector, to see if it still worked. It needed a little knock to shake it into action but it is fine. There in front of me were about 160 35mm slides from the late 70s and early 80s just waiting to be brought into the digital age.

So while trying to do other things, not very productively, these slides have been fed through my Epson V500 scanner four at a time......

What they had in common was a certain darkness about them, but easy to tweak in scanning just to leave some final adjustments in Lightroom. Taken so long ago, with many of these transparencies in their plain mounts, it was difficult to tell right from left and often memory was not going to help. This image was on Kodachrome, which because of the markings on the cardboard slide holders I consistently scanned the wrong way around, but then all were easily mirrored because of that.

Bourdeilles on the River Dronne, Perigord, France

The other trick that memory plays is forgetting where this is! To identify the town as Bourdeilles, the river as the Dronne and the region as the Dordogne, I had to view this and 4 other images from the same location closely before identifying a faint hotel sign "les Griffons" and everything else led from a Google search on that.

In an age when vintage film effects are sought after by instagrammers and the like, there just may be a market for the real thing. What I guess I have to do is avoid making things too perfect - there is not much danger of that with my less than top-end scanner. But it's good enough.

Here's another from the same town. Again presented more or less as is, the cars age the image. This is 1981. You'll find more in my Rural France gallery.

Bourdeilles, Perigord, France - 1981

I have also started a new gallery that I shall call "Vintage Film". There are only images from France at the time I post this but that will change.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Photo printing decision - Epson Claria or compatible inks?

Last week I picked up my new A3 printer - an Epson 1500W - and today I used it seriously for the first time. With its Claria inks apparently tested to 98 years light permanence if used with Epson paper and framed under glass all seems fine on the print permanence front. In terms of the actual results I should expect, I am a little concerned about black and white printing but for colour work I should get output up there with the very best.

But.... with a full ink set retailing at £85 or more and a desire to print on papers other than Epson's own (for instance, I like a heavier matt paper than Epson produce), which would mean that the permanence may suffer, I chose to invest in some rather cheaper compatible ink and paper and carry out some tests to see just how things work out in practice.

The compatible ink: For a while I have bought Epson Claria compatible ink from the snappily titled uk (I believe previously known as Abitech). I've used them in the past with an A4 printer and results have seemed fine and now apparently Which? magazine have given these specific Claria compatible inks a 5 star rating.

The compatible paper: Again previous experience with Permajet papers has been good so I bought a box of 50 sheets of their A3 240 gsm Matt Plus photo paper.

On the Epson front I have the cartridges that came with the printer (I hope they are full!) and I have some Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper to help with the testing.

I am printing direct from Lightroom using ICC profiles for Epson Premium Glossy and Permajet Matt Plus, both with Epson Claria ink. I can get a custom profile made up by Permajet for the compatible inks but for this test I stuck with the Claria profile. After all, if the compatible inks really are compatible then should they not give equivalent results?

The questions I am interested in answering are:

1. How do the results from compatible ink compare to those from the Epson Claria inks?

2. Can I get neutral monochrome results, even on glossy paper?

3. How good is the print permanence of these paper and ink combinations, Claria and compatible?

Let's take a look at the output, colour then monochrome.

Left Epson Claria ink; right compatible ink,  both on Epson Premium Glossy paper

Left Epson Claria ink; right compatible ink,  both on Permajet paper

The main thing that I picked up in the colour output is that the compatible ink produced a cooler, lighter result. To be honest it it difficult to say which had the colour which most accurately reflected what I saw on screen, but the compatible ink is definately too light.

Now, as long as this happens consistently, this is easily corrected in Lightroom by making a consistent adjustment to darken prints slightly. Also if I had a custom profile for the compatible ink created I would assume that would fix the problem.

If the colours you see here appear off, don't worry about it! This is more about the match of what I see on the print to what I see on the screen.
Top compatible ink, bottom Epson ink, both on Epson Premium Glossy Paper

Left compatible ink, right Epson ink, both on Permajet Matt paper

The monochrome output is more interesting to me. It is not as pronounced in reality as you see here, but there is a definate colour shift to green or blue on the compatible ink output and red on the Epson premium Glossy output. The shift is less on the Permajet Matt paper than the Epson Glossy paper. The better result on matt paper was something that I anticipated from researching other online articles about the way that dye inks work when printing black and white.

With white balance set to daylight to reflect shooting conditions, I tested the greys using the dropper in Lightroom.

On the Glossy paper, the compatible ink tinted to green while lacking a lot in blue, the Claria tinted towards red while also lacking blue. 

On the Matt paper, the compatible ink tinted blue, the Claria tinted towards red.

Looked at in isolation these tints tend to be acceptable to me, but if placed side by side they become obvious, though not as obvious as you see on your screen.

So on to some conclusions from this not completely scientific test....

1. How do the results from compatible ink compare to those from the Epson Claria inks?

In colour the most concerning aspect is the lighter image. But that should be able to be readily fixed with a proper custom ICC profile which Permajet will provide. If permanence is not an issue then I would have no problem going with the compatible inks.

2. Can I get neutral monochrome results, even on glossy paper?

No! Not even on matte paper!  But personally unless the tint is extreme and unpredictable this would not worry me. I like the steely blue/green tint and as long as a series of prints have the same tint this would not worry me. Greater variations can be introduced by viewing images in an artificial light environment.

3. How good is the print permanence of these paper and ink combinations, Claria and compatible?

We will have to wait and see. The prints are sitting on the window ledge and so are going to be dosed with air and UV rather more than any put behind glass on a wall and I have a control print stuck away in the dark to compare what happens over the coming weeks and months. From what I have read if there is a longevity issue then we will see evidence soon.....

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Boring announcement. But hey, at least it's activity!

This is unlikely to set the world on fire, but it is a post, and the first post for about 18 months!

In that 18 months I became pretty active on Google+ at the expense of regular blogging. Then I became active on Facebook at the expense of Google+. But now I return here and find some blurb about a link to Google+. I said yes. And when I post this first post for 18 months I will find out what difference it makes, here and on G+. I expect it to appear on G+, maybe looking just like it does on the blog. We'll see.

I should add a photo. This is me in Madrid about a week ago. I've already added a few images from last week to the great number I added from my first visit a year ago.

I'm not the guy smoking by the way. But I am there.

(Click through to see my Madrid photos. Many more to come.)