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One year with Sony Alpha cameras and ZEISS E-mount lenses. Developing my own photographic eye in a in a scratch book manner. Hunting the stream of inspiration and sharing it through a popular blog platform.
This is what 'Days of Zeiss' is all about.




Neverending colors

Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Loxia 2/35 – f/8, 1/250sec, ISO100, raw Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Loxia 2/35 – f/8, 1/250sec, ISO100, raw
Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

If you have followed my blog at all you have certainly noticed that one specific aspect in my pictures is connected to colors. For some unknown reason I've always been very drawn to colors when dealing with photography (I cannot do b&w stuff). I could even say that because of this preference my early experiences with digital cameras were mostly disappointing: I couldn't stand the standard look of the early digital cameras because colors were so different and flat compared to golden era of film photography. And because of this disappointment 'getting good colors' became the thing that I kept of chasing for years.

It's one thing to recognize that the flat look and 'the standard and objective' colors, which most of the current digital cameras provide out of the box, doesn't actually carry any resemblance to the visual legacy that was left from the era of film photography. Just take a look, for example, old Kodachrome slides and compare them to your JPEGs and you should see two very different interpretations of colors and also become aware that these differences are not only about 'technological advancement' but also artistic choices. Behind the Kodachrome (and other films) there is a artistic interpretation of 'what looks good' and how the colors should be reproduced. JPEG on the other hand is much more 'objective' (read: flat) with some minor contrast and skin color correction thrown in. No wonder why standard JPEGs from the camera look so boring (though they have really been getting better with time).

While it's easy to point JPEGs with your finger, it's entirely different thing to determine what are 'good colors'. For example, while I like film era colors, I don't think we should concentrate to reduplicate them as they were – instead I think we should bring in some influences from that visual era there but then continue to define what are good colors at 21th century photography. Rather than ready-made-Lightroom-presets this calls for a cultivated taste regarding colors, which is much harder. I would love to transfer something from the film era legacy to today's photography, but at the same time I don't want photographs to look like they were taken 20 or 30 years ago (read: faded look) as I think it is intellectually dishonest to add a feeling of nostalgia to a picture from a digital filter. Like I said, it's a difficult question.

So how I have I solved this 'getting good colors' so far? I believe everyone has to develop their own 'theory of good colors' and 'methodology' to get there eventually. For me it's a three part response: Zeiss glass, VSCO-presets as a starting point and editing. I used to search for clear and bright colors and ultimately found my answer from Zeiss lenses. I'll be first one to admit that there are also other manufacturers out there who deliver great equipment color wise, but for some reason I found Zeiss to provide those small nuances which made difference to me (from my current setup I think the Batis 2/25 is the best followed by the Touit 2.8/50M). Then I use VSCO-presets as a starting point. They give me an easy way to explore whole bunch of different looks which I would never come across without them. Do they look like film? In some cases yes, but I usually erase the vintage look by editing. If I would recommend some of their film packs I would say that the Film Pack 04 is great and Film Pack 07 provides pretty nice starting points for general explorations as well – other ones are way too much vintage for my taste. But even with Zeiss glass and VSCO-presets it comes down to editing. Sometimes it's easy to see what the picture asks for, but sometimes it takes much longer to realize what is wrong with colors or how I should adjust them. It looks like I will never get rid of this task as much as I would like to. Like I said, colors are complicated thing once you step outside of the supposition of objective colors.

Ps. For this particular picture I used Provia 100F emulation from the VSCO Film pack 04. One of my favorites, but most often provides way too much contrast which is frustrating with some images. It also shifts the white balance in a nonlinear way that it's difficult to edit. I've also noticed that one cannot just slap on slide film preset to any picture as the end result would look just bad. Slide film emulations, such as the Provia 100F, works as a good starting point when used with conditions that would be similar to real world use of that particular film - in this case it means a lot of sunlight.