About Claudio Beffa

I'm an Italian photographer and designer with a great passion for the discovery of amazing places and their history and soul. With phoclab.com, I'll tell you every step of my journey and I'll show you my best travel & landscape shots.

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Featured in Dodho Magazine, online photography magazine

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been featured in Dodho Magazine. The last month Màximo Panés, the founder and director of Dodho.com, sent me an email in which he expressed his interest in my works and asked me if it was ok to publish my profile on the magazine.

Personal photo exhibition – Yabusame

I’m happy to announce that Thursday 11th December, I’ll inaugurate my first personal photo exhibition about Japan.

This special event will take place in Rome city centre at Sabatini store, that’s one of the main points of reference for professional and amateur photographers of the capital. It’s located in Via Germanico 168/A (see the map below), the opening will be at 17:30 and you’ll be able to see my works in the reserved space for an entire month.

PX3 Prix de la Photographie International Award ’14

I’m thrilled and happy to announce that I’ve been awarded with a Bronze Medal in the 2014 international photography competition “PX3 Prix de la Photographie International Award – Paris”.

This is my first international award and I’m honored to share with you the result of my efforts: I achieved the Third Prize in the “Press – Performirg Arts” category with my series about the art of “Yabusame”, that’s the Japanese traditional art of mounted archery. It’s an exclusive and really interesting event, quite difficult to document to say the truth, due to limited reserved access.

Google Plus and Photography

If you are passionate about photography and you’d like to exhibit and share your shots to the public, one of the best social network to dive into is undoubtedly Google Plus. Since the debut of this social network, the functionalities and potentialities given to the photographic section have been greatly improved; for this reason more and more photographers (amateur and pro ones) started to use it regularly.

Macro photography and manual focus

In this article, I’ll talk about some basic tips in Macro photography. This field is quite special because, thanks to the specific gear, it’s possible to take suggestive pictures: a Macro lens, that has a 1:1 magnification ratio, allows to capture tiny details, making them appear giant; the same goes with insects, flowers and tiny objects.

Darwin enlightenment

In this second post of the category “Behind the shot”, I want to describe what led me to shoot the photo “Darwin enlightenment”. In Semptember 2011 I spent some days in London and, in the short time I had available, I tried to view as many things as possibile. In my “Classic tourist” trip I’ve included the Natural History Museum, in Kensington.

IT and photography, which PC for photo editing

The modern digital photography has brought a lot of significant innovations, not only in photographic equipment in itself, but also in every other instrument that belongs to the image creation’s process. In this article I’ll cover a topic of prime importance: setting up a PC for photo editing.

As in film photography the dark room is the place in which the shots take tangible shape, the same is the computer in digital photography.
If the use of a computer allows creativity freedom and unmatched flexibility, on the other hand it’s important to be able to use softwares and to be conscious about the system’s potential and its limits. To reach maximum efficiency from the photo editing workflow, a computer specifically set up for this is recommended: just one inadequate or unbalanced component and the system will slow down dramatically. So, the most important hardware to do photo editing are processor, RAM and mass storage.



The processor

Currently the most balanced choice between parallelism of the computation units and per core raw performance is a quad core processor: taking into account that every software takes advantage of the processor’s architecture in different ways, it’s possible that in some cases many cores are useless and in other cases they are essential. So everyone should read up about the software that will use. Anyway, a quad core processor is a perfectly balanced choice. Moreover the market offers many choices about preferring a powerful integrated graphic card (like the latest AMD A10 of “trinity” generation) or power-efficient units (such as Intel i5 and i7 of Ivy Bridge generation).



RAM, the system memory

Talking about RAM, luckily nowadays it’s possible to provide the system with large quantity of memory without breaking the bank, so the more you use the better it is. In the case of a PC for photo editing, a starting point of 8Gb lets you to work without issues but, if you intend to make use of many software at the same time (like RAW pictures manipulation, photo editing suite with plug-ins, 16bit type heavy files with many layers), using 16Gb of RAM prevents slow downs caused by swapping of virtual memory on hard drive.

It’s important to use Dual-Channel certified memory, because otherwise the bandwidth between CPU and RAM would be halved. Generally, kits of two or four DDR3-1600 / DDR3-1866 memory modules are the best choice. It’s useless to choose a low latency kit, because modern processors take advantage of high frequency instead of aggressive timings. Moreover preferring modules with nominal voltage of 1,5V instead of 1,65V allows to limit overall heating and power usage. In my opinion the most reliable memory kits are the ones of Corsair, Crucial, G.Skill, Kingston brands (just pay attention to avoid the low end “value select”, “value ram” or “value plus” series).



Hard Drive and SSD, the mass memory

The choice of mass memory is the most thorny matter, especially in the field of content creation machines, like the PC for photo editing: in computer performance chain, it is the weakest link, so it’s important to find the fastest and most reliable solution.
In my opinion the best configuration consists in setting an SSD (Solid State Drive) as a system drive in which install the Operating System and every other software, storing the whole personal files and works (like photo catalog and other “static” files) into classic mechanical drives.

Going deeper in details, using an SSD for Operating System and programs makes the whole system extremely reactive because of the very low latency timings and high read/write speed: apart from the sequential r/w speed (which can reach up to 550Mb/s, that is 4 times faster than a traditional HDD drive), the most notable differencies can be found in 4K cluster management and access time latency to them. In this area an SSD can be orders of magnitude faster than a mechanical hard drive, a dramatic improvement.

But be careful in choosing the right SSD: a lot of them make use of controllers not 100% reliable, such as not so convenient and long-lasting NAND modules (such as the TLC NAND). I think that the best and most reliable units in consumer market so far are the Samsung 840 Pro, the OCZ Vector, the Crucial M4 and the Plextor M5 Pro Extreme, to say only a few. Their price is quite high (about 20% more than the others) but performance and data safety in particular are crucial factors in this case.

Talking about mechanical hard drive, to store static and voluminous data, I can’t refrain from suggesting the use of reliable units (not the “green” or “value” ones) in RAID1 or RAID5 mode. Losing years’ work is an incalculable damage so, relying on cheap drives without redundancy is the same as playing at Russian roulette.
Remember to check if the motherboard supports the SATA 6Gbit standard with RAID modes. Moreover keep in mind that in a RAID setup a certain amount of disk space is reserved for parity. For example: RAID1 with two hard drives of 1Tb each, makes available only 1Tb because all data written on a drive are simultaneously cloned on the other one. RAID5 with three drives (the minimum required) of 1Tb each, makes available the 66% of the whole disks capacity, that is 2Tb.

There are also differencies in speed: the RAID1 mode is as fast as single drive, while the RAID5 mode is nearly double compared to a single drive.
The most important feature of these RAID modes is the high reliability: in both cases, if a drive fails the whole user data is still safe. Replacing the broken drive with an identical one, the array will be automatically restored and resynchronised.
I think that the most reliable units in consumer market are the Western Digital RE (RAID Edition) or Velociraptor (for higher performance). In both cases the outlay will be quite high compared to cheap “green/value” drives, but reliability and performance will be on a much higher level.

About data safety: it’s best practice to do a backup of all your data on an external drive (such as an USB hard disk or a NAS unit) to connect to computer only in this case. Having a copy of all your work is an important insurance.



Other parts to consider

Amongst other internal PC components, in my opinion the graphic card has not an important role yet: just a few softwares take advantage of GPGPU acceleration and not even in all their features.

The power supply and the CPU heat sink, instead, are as important as ignored: the first one grants long life and operational stability to every system component, if it’s a high quality unit. Some PSUs which surely deserve to be mentioned are Seasonic X series, Corsair AX series and Enermax Modu 87+ or Platimax series. Be careful not to confuse the Watt output with the quality itself: with the abovementioned unit an output value higher than 650W will hardly be necessary; so don’t look for 50$ 1000W PSUs but rather look for 150$ 550W units.

The CPU heat sink is a component that allows the processor to work at low temperature even during long stressing calculation sessions. The stock one is the bare minimum required, but it’s usually quite noisy and not so efficient. The choice of a dedicated quality heat sink let’s the system to work at lower temperature and in silence: to reach maximum levels of efficience, all the best heat sink make use of heatpipes, high number of fins, solid copper base and big fans which operate at low speed. Brands like Noctua, Thermalright and Prolimatech, for example, have in their catalogues some of the best existing cooling units.


Wrapping up

In summary, when you choose the components of your PC for photo editing, be careful to find the most efficient and reliable ones, so to rely on a balanced and stable system which lets you to work without hassles.
I hope that this article may be a good overview about an essential instrument in modern digital photography.

Obviously, I intentionally omitted an element absolutely crucial for digital photography: the monitor. Since it requires a thorough discussion about technical informations, notions about color and other techniques, I’ll discuss this topic in one of the next articles: “monitor, color and calibration”.

How to prevent condensation, mould and fungi inside camera and lenses

It’s January and in Italy it’s midwinter: there are just a few hours of light, the days are cold, humid, rainy and especially in the North it’s snowy. The comeback from a photographic excursion can set aside some unpleasant surprises if you are not prepared, the more so if your gear is not weather sealed.

The last guardian of Moni Arkadi

In this article I want to comment one of the photos of the gallery and tell the story behind it. It’s “Arkadi Monastery” or “Moni Arkadi”.

The picture was shot in July 2008, during a trip in the beautiful Greece and it depicts a view of the 16th century’s church, “guarded” by an old woman, surely a widow (judging from the black dress) who bring with her the signs of a long and hard life: the amputated arm make me think about a tragic event. I wanted to take that woman as an icon of the fatal events that took place in this monastery/fortress during the second half of 1800: a sort of last guardian of Cretan resistance.

Welcome to the new phoclab.com

Welcome to the new phoclab.com!

At a year and a half since the birth of the site, I decided to start a radical transformation process, both in its aesthetic and in its functional characteristics. The old version was too static and it was affected by some little interface problems. In this upgrade I tried to give to the site a more modern and captivating look, to make it more dynamic and to turn it also in a mean of personal experiences sharing, through the “photoblog” section.

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