Jul 302014
 

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My Photo and Camera Journey

By Steven Crichton

The first act: Style and Ergonomics.

I suppose the first time I realised I had a look to my work was when a lecturer watched a group project and exclaimed “That’s a Crichton shot if ever I saw it”. I suppose it was at this point it dawned on me that I’d finally achieved the personal nirvana that so many of us dare not mention to ourselves in our work. I had a style unique to me.

I’ve been involved in photography since about 1996, when a few friends were applying to go to Art School. I looked at their portfolios and said to myself, “I can do that” and that was the point at which I paid £5 for a beaten up Fuji ST501, started to invest my pocket-money and hard-earned cash from a dishwashing job in film. I was abysmal!

I tried every technique. Read every book. I could never stick to one thing and dipped my toe into every known stylistic pattern I could achieve with a 50mm lens and a darkroom. Just the other day I found a bundle of solarised prints, no doubt borne out of a section in a book borrowed from the library on Man Ray, along with a passage in a John Hedgecoe Darkroom Techniques.

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Anyway as time went on I jumped about gear too. As I aged, my credit rating aged, my earning capacity increased and by the end of my initial film use period I was deep into a canon EOS system. With a healthy splattering of M42 adapted lenses. A Russian fisheye and a motor drive meaning I’d achieved 7th heaven for a then aspiring Skateboard photographer. However, around this time I started wearing glasses and this is where the second part of the tale comes in.

I’m left eyed. I wear glasses. Find me any camera designed for eye level use for a left eyed glasses wearing photographer! My right eye had been damaged by spray painting accident as a 5-year-old in helping dad fix the car. An incident where a man underneath a dismantled engine, holding a crankshaft doesn’t sometime have the time to realise he forgot to put the safety cap back on the spray can. I cried yellow and didn’t get the chocolate I was promised. Other than that I became predominantly left eyed and forever the last person the R&D department of every camera manufacturer would think about.

Back to the rest now.. It was about the time of starting university that I gave up taking photos as voraciously as I did before. I stopped carrying a camera and concentrated on playing the Guitar. Also as many camera toting musicians will know if gear is addictive in photography, with electric instruments my word the possibilities are endless to allow your hard-earned money pour from your pockets. Anyway, University ended, I bought a car .. cue next money / energy waste. Then I met a girl! (I had met them before, just not a significant one)

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She was an art student and did a film course. Bang I was back. Starting out with the most beaten up canon F1n you had seen. I alas didn’t get to meet Crocodile Dundee whilst using it ( I later stupidly refused an offer to buy the actual camera from the film ), but I found my love again. This combined with a purchase of a proper film scanner a DSLR and a Seagull TLR camera I dipped my toe back in. Excited as well by the advent of Flickr. A wonderful place where we can all have our backs patted and have a serious amount of paid work time wasted if your then employer doesn’t understand what you really do for a living.

Hasselblads, Contaxes, Leica R’s, Nikons (to which I stayed loyal on the periphery) , Linhof’s. Even a B17 Bomb-door Aero-Ektar mounted into a Graflex to shoot handheld. I jumped about a lot. My nose firmly planted behind the back of each of them. Glasses pressed to the side of my head. Still jumping between a lot of things as formats and my taste changed.

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Then suddenly. Something worked.

It’s that moment I hope all of you will have one day that. The camera comes up and goes down. You don’t look at the screen and you know what you saw you captured as you intended.

It came in the form of a Bessa R3a and a 40mm Nokton. Plus add into the mix Kodak UC 400 and Ilford HP5. I’d bought the hand winder, so no more poking my face winding on. I’d bought the grip to push the winder into my hand that looks like a dildo. Plus I’d actually read and paid attention to the wonderful font of knowledge that Roger Hicks and Frances Schulz bestowed upon us in their book of Exposure. ( for anyone looking at it .. take older sensors as slide film and newer ones a little more like print film)

It’s about this time things became consistent. I found my eye.. I found the lenses that fitted my thoughts. Then got an M2 then an M4-P to use in tandem. Looking back now at work from then it’s almost the same as it is now in the composure, the colour and ways I’ve torn a set of shapes my brain was faced with into a picture to draw someone in or hopefully let them see a little of what I saw in someone.

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The Second Act:

Life sometimes deal’s strange a strange hand to us and I was given the opportunity to study an Imaging masters at Duncan of Jordanstone art school in Scotland. I jumped at the chance, after being so angrily denied previously by my parents.By then video in DSLR’s had hit, I had a D90, I’d wasted countless hours reading about T stops, Focus Pulls, made dubious home-made rigs and all the like. I’d even written my own video editing software as by trade I’m a programmer. I sold almost all my film stuff keeping the M4-P and 2 lenses and hit Nikon hard for a range of lenses, tripods and bags.

The Crunch. No one tells you how much you will hate something when you are forced to do it!

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Creative work for me had been an escape. It now became a battle when I had to justify it with research and abstraction in every way. I wished people would get it ..

“If I think it’s interesting and cool and so do you, why do I need to back reference this to some made up back story or delve into the battle that art has with science”.

As you all can gather in an art school this is like presenting a lecturer with a freshly scraped up piece of roadkill. So I stopped. Completely. I graduated and stopped. 3 years passed and thankfully, the bitter taste of pressure gone, I wanted to enjoy the process of photography again.

Moving to a city such as London, you downsize, rapidly and totally. I went from a 4 bedroom house to a single room, so the loss of equipment was brutal. No more Leica’s, 1 Nikon d300s and an old F3 I had if I wanted to shoot some film. After a year of the city I left, but in the strange hand of fate kept a full-time night job with the Tate gallery, as well as my new full-time position back in Scotland at a Medical School in Dundee.

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I had money!

I mean I had the kind of money you either put a deposit on a house with or you consciously waste on every childhood dream toy you ever wanted. I drove a fast car, toted a Nikon D3s. Had the best zooms, the best primes (according to reviewers) and still had the same style! At last consistency in my work. Alas my nose and my eye hated placing a D3s shaped brick to it, but I went on.

The Final Act:

Then I sold it all. 4 backpacks of lenses bodies, supports, diopters you name it. If there was something in a drawer and it had Nikon or was “compatible” I put it in the camera bags I had and jumped on the train. 8 hours later standing in the North of Scotland I had an M9. Along with it, 4 lenses and the viewfinders needed. I genuinely felt like I had just come back home.

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A bit of time with adjusting the focus to allow for my eye being at an angle to the viewfinder and a soft release to boot I haven’t looked back. Throughout all of this time since getting it my shots look like my shots, I know what to expect and I know how it will all sit together still.

Then all of a sudden I’d expanded this kit a bit. G.A.S struck! Things like the voigt 12mm the summicron v4 etc .. all lenses that are according to the internet “sub par” on an M9. Little do they know .. I don’t shoot test charts and I actually print stuff I like out. I also work to the limits of what they can do. Then came along came Sony!

The crowning glory that Sony have managed, that is ignored by all. Is that the A7 range cameras can use every lens known to god and can nearly accommodate a part Italian Scottish nose when combined with a left eye. People bang on that lens X is awful, and continue to do so. “You need a Leica M240 or if only they had …” I say to you, when you use it does your style show through? Does it fit you? As nothing else matters. (unless it’s a biogon lens then yes they are awful… sorry Zeiss and sorry for the double standards people of the internet these are bad on the A7 ranges even adobe’s DNG light field correction filters can rescue them).

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So what do I grab now? I grab what works. I don’t assume a lens will deal a magic blow and I don’t assume the camera has an automated mode that makes me a grand master selling work for more money than I earn in a year. I grab the M9 or the A7 dependent on weight/laziness/feeling/weather and go out and shoot.
Probably by this time you are all very bored with this and looking for a conclusion. Well it’s in the Title; Style and Ergonomics.

If you can get a style stick with it, keep on working with it. If you can find something that fits you as a human, even if it’s not resolving 100000 lph or has a dash of vignetting and aberration, you will use it more than the 20kg Zeiss Otus that your wrist screams at. For me it’s a badly worn M9 and an A7 with a ragtag bag of lenses and I’ll be keeping it that way for years to come.

http://www.zuikomedia.com/

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Jul 272014
 

Black and White Storytelling

by Ben Miller

Steve and Brandon,

I think that all photographers are searching for the perfect camera and a photographic style that they can call their own.

My main focus in photography is black and white storytelling. I find that the sum of several photographs which tells a story can be greater than one just one perfect image. I have found the gear that best suits my focus. In my bag is a Leica M9 and an Olympus OM-D E-M5. Both of these systems allow me to get close to people without being obtrusive. I believe in prime lenses and do not own any zooms.

I recently was commissioned to shoot an event with my M9 and E-M5. During the gathering I was pulled away and asked to join a few gentlemen in the parking lot. I wrote the following story to accompany the captures of what occurred:

 

At every party there is a secret party.

One that only few know about and are invited to.

I was lured away from the crowd to one of these clandestine gatherings.

I turned down the smoke as it is not my thing.

I partook in drink instead.

They handed me a big shot of Fireball whiskey.

I gargled the cinnamon spiced liquor and then swished it around in my mouth.

After swallowing I asked if they had handed me water and if there was anything stronger.

As I raised my Leica to my eye I said “document everything”.

I then smiled and said “don’t worry…..

I’ll only capture you from the nose down.”

 

Attached are the images from the photo story.

You can view more of my work on my website and blog:

www.photographsbyben.com

www.photographsbybenmiller.blogspot.com

Thank you Steve and Brandon for having a wonderful website that so many of us look forward to everyday.

Cheers,

Ben Miller

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Jul 172014
 

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Fashion with the Leica M9

By Logan Norton

www.logannortonphotography.org

Hello Steve, Brandon and Readers,

Last year my friend Raine contacted me with ideas about a fashion shoot to introduce a new line of headdresses she had designed. We began discussing concepts for the shoot and I could sense from the start that this would be an ideal project for my Leica M9. Her designs feature vibrant colors, rich textures and exquisite details, characteristics for which the M9’s CCD sensor is magical. A few of the other factors that influenced this decision were the location (outdoor with three different settings spanning a 1+ mile area) and the number of models we would be working with (5). I knew that this would be a long day of shooting and would require a lot of physical movement on my part and I did not want to spend it dragging my Nikon D800e and lenses all over the place. The M9 allowed me greater mobility while still enabling me to capture images of the absolute highest quality. I was able to bring all of my gear in a small Ona Bowery bag with room to spare!

Steve has written extensively about the Leica M9 so I will not go over technical information about it but will instead focus on the shooting experience and how it fit into a fashion driven shoot. There are two things that I see as drawbacks to the Leica M9 as an on-location, fashion photography tool. The first one is easily remedied while the second presents the kind of stress that only photographers know. First is battery life. It isn’t the worst I have ever experienced but it isn’t very good either. As I said, extra batteries solve this issue easily (albeit expensively as this is a Leica after all and nothing comes cheaply…). The second is the single memory card slot. I hate this. A lot. Knock on wood I have never experienced a memory card failure but the possibility exists and the simple fact that no backup images exist causes me great stress.

With those negatives out of the way, let’s talk about what I loved about this experience. Most obvious is the overall size of the system. I shot this entire look with the 35mm and 90mm Summicron lenses on the M9. There was not a single moment I wished for a zoom lens, or for more frames per second, or more megapixels. I simply went about my business and when I was done, I still had enough energy to go to the after-party!

The second thing I noticed was that the models responded positively to the system. They loved the camera, admired its beauty and marveled at how quiet it was. It is impossible to say what affect this had on the way the models behaved or on the final images but it definitely felt like they were able to engage with me a little more than I have experienced when using a DSLR. Some of this may have to do with the smaller system being less intimidating or it may just be they were hypnotized by the undeniable attractiveness of the camera!

At the end of the day, my final assessment of the Leica M9 as a tool for shooting fashion images was very positive. The depth of color and contrast that it produces, along with the incredible freedom that I feel when working with such a manageable system far outweigh the anxiety caused by the single memory card slot. I can highly recommend this camera to anyone for on-location fashion work where mobility and stamina are crucial elements.

Check out more of Raine’s amazing work:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/gatodesigns

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Jul 082014
 

Neko Case

Taming the Nokton 50 1.1

By Manikarnika Kanjilal

My name is Manikarnika Kanjilal. I am a doctoral student and I devote my almost my entire (lately dwindling) free time in pursuit of photography. I was always interested in photography but started being seriously into it for the last couple of years – after I found a Digilux 2 on ebay. It was Steve and Thorsten Overgaard’s reviews that made me acquire the camera and thus start exploring my photographic vision. This post is however not meant to wax poetic about that cult camera but on another “controversial” lens about which the photographic community seems to be divided.

Last summer I acquired a second-hand Nokton 50 1.1 in a moment of insanity and went on to use it in a one-lens-one camera challenge to myself. What was even more insane was that I did this while covering a four-day music festival in my city.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival is quite the religious experience for a huge number of music lovers in this town. People queue up at the gates for a chance to place their tarp as close to the main stage since 3 am or some ghastly time like that. The main stage is at the bottom of a hill and people sit on the hill as a natural amphitheater. For four days tarps and their placements become an extension of the private space and ego for many of the audience members. For someone like me that attends the festival alone and spends most of it standing or walking or crouching to not get in the way of other photographers, tarp politics is fascinating. There are six side stages that hold simultaneous workshops during the day and the main stage performance starts at around 7 in the evening when audience from all these side stages come back to their tarps and settle down for the evening like homing pigeons.

My motivation for choosing a Leica film body and the Nokton f1.1 came from the fact that carrying a backpack full of stuff up and down a hill very soon starts to feel like I am carrying a backpack full of sins from all my past lives. In short, I wanted to travel light and be able to capture decent photos on stage after dark. I did carry my Digilux 2 as a backup but I liked the images from the film set-up way more. It was at times disconcerting because I had no immediate feedback like that in digital. I was being extremely cautious with achieving focus as well as not shooting too much and wasting film. It was quite the lesson in constrained optimization. I had a couple of rolls of Portra 400 in my pocket along with a 4-stop ND filter for when the sun was too strong. This was pretty much it. I ended up using a total of 4 rolls of Portra over four days. I shot everything either wide open or at f1.4. A huge advantage of working with such a constrained/minimalist set up is that this year I had a lot of time to enjoy the music instead of being glued to the camera viewfinder. Often I pre-focused and waited for the musicians to hit the spot instead of trying to track them in their movement. The other advantage of shooting a film rangefinder is that the photographer doesn’t hide behind the camera. With a little practice one shoots with both eyes open and it does wonders when actually connecting with the subject – be it musicians on stage or people on the street.

I ended my nokton-festival challenge with the portrait of a very young music-lover and her mom holding the Forever Folkfest candles in the dark. Nokton 50/1.1 is a beast that needs to be tamed. Using it on a film rangefinder feels almost like writing with a brush pen blindfolded and the challenge could be a source of constant excitement for any photographer.

Cheers!

Manikarnika

Website: http://kanjilalmanikarnika.com/

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chhayanat/

Havana d'Primera

Avett Brothers

Portrait by the candlelight

Neko Case

Neko Case

John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

Forever, Folkfest

Fatoumata Diawara

LP

Delhi to Dublin

Delhi to Dublin

Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones with Vioux Farka Toure and Amos Garrett

Jul 042014
 

Death Valley with the EM1

By Goran Nikolic

WARNING Long intro =)

I am one of those guys that bought a good (canon 1100d) camera when he got kids too make good pictures of them while they are growing up. However, I was not aware of the d@mn possible photography addiction. They should come boxed with a clear warning, WARNING possible photography addiction (stage 1) followed by the more serious G.A.S. (stage 2) hehe :). I really liked taking pictures from the start and took the camera everywhere with me, everything was fine until I hit stage 2 of my addiction…

When I got struck with G.A.S. I told myself that I absolutely had to have a full frame camera, the main reason why my images were simply snapshots was because I did not have a fullframe camera with a 2.8 zoom and an awesome prime… So I saved up and got the Nikon D700 followed by a Nikon D800 (obviously! I mean come on… they were still snapshots I needed more Megapixels! That was the problem off course).

For some reason yet unknown to me I could not make a sharp picture with the D800 unless I used a tripod! It obviously was Nikon’s fault… so I switched to the Canon 6D because obviously Canon is far superior… I think by now you can image that I really had a bad case of G.A.S. and that my wallet was shrinking faster then that I could fill it up :). But it did not end here! Oh no… the next problem for my ‘dull’ images was obviously the big and heavy DSLR, so I got a Fuji XE-1 haha, yeah…. I know what you are thinking, dude what the…..?

So you would think thats it! He got the Fuji and this post would be full with Fuji pictures and those awesome fuji colours. Sadly no, I was used to some amazing DSLR’s and that little Fuji frustrated the hell out of me, it was a love/hate relationship because the images it chunked out were amazing! This was the first camera I was actually happy with the JPG images! If I could get the damn thing to focus… even with all the updates (why aren’t all companies like Fuji in this department?).

Luckily for me this was the end of the line and I saw that I was way to focussed on the equipment and not on the actual images that I made with them (or the experience!). I have had some great and amazing keepers from all of them but I went too far and had to stop (……. year right… by now you probably figured out that my wife got fed up with my gear obsession and told me to stop haha :). So I sold everything! I was actually quite amazed by the amount of money I was able to get back when I sold it all (except for the Fuji), the loss was actually limited to a few hundred euro’s (phew!).

I then spend almost three months to find the camera that would suit me best, and eventually ended up with the EM1, after having tried the camera a few times (even had it on loan for a few weeks) I decided to buy it with just one lens (the kit 12-40 zoom, probably should not call this a kit lens?), this report is my first experience with the camera (and next to that it is also the first time I am sharing my pictures outside of my friends and family too!).

Wow, now that was a large intro right? Well sorry for that :) but this was the path to ‘my style’ of photography. Through that process I learned that I was not a pro photographer, and it also is not my goal in life to become one. I just like to take pictures from time to time. So when a friend asked me whether I wanted to go to vegas with him (and leave our wifes at home) I obviously thought about the great pictures I could take with my new OM-D :) haha.

We took a plane from Amsterdam to LA (yes I am from the land of Heineken) and after a flight of almost 11 hours we rented a car to drive to Vegas. Not just any car….no no, a mustang convertable! Now I think that for Americans this is not really that special because they are quite common in the US, however Europeans love the idea of driving on the truly amazing roads (sorry have to exclude LA here….. that was no fun at all) in the US with either a Harley or a Mustang.

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After a rather long drive mostly due to the some brutal LA traffic jams we finally made it to Vegas and checked in at our hotel. And Vegas was …. well yeah I did not make a lot of pictures in Vegas hehe. Man what a place!

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But during the day I really had to buy a baseball cap for myself (I wear glasses and did not have my sunglasses with me) because the sun was really not what I was used to. Here in the Netherlands we are happy if we get 3 weeks of sun per year! It was a Yankees cap by the way which cause everybody to yell go Yankees at me, quite an experience :).

But what I did noticed was that the camera was actually handling itself pretty good! Both during the day was well as by night! That image stabilization is quite magical. The image of the new york new york resort was shot hand-held (1/60th @ 5000 ISO) and still looks pretty clean and sharp! I do not really use a lot of noise reduction because I also quite like the grain structure of the EM1, its pleasant, I think that maybe due to the high pixel density but I am not sure what contributes to the grain structure. Also when printed below A4 you see almost no noise at all.

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This image below I call arty farty, it was a bit of an experiment. We sat down for a moment to enjoy the awesome cars that were passing (camaro, mustang, charger, and more! Wauw!) that I just thought I would try something out, after freezing my brain with a slushy. So I stacked my ND filters (10 stop + 3 stop), set the camera to its lowest native ISO (200) and stopped down as far as I could (F22) and saw that still I only got a 5 second exposure (was hoping for 20+)… thats how bright the sun was that day! It was pretty easy to set the camera up and change all the settings without using any menus. I really love all the various dials and buttons that I can completely setup to my own preference.

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After a few days started passing by we noticed that Vegas was quite EXPENSIVE! Yes you would think that we could have expected that, and we did, but a few ice-cold beers @ twin peaks can do strange things to your brain :). So we decided to do some sight-seeing. One day we decided to go to death valley, so we packed the car with water and were off. Again the roads, it is simply stunning to drive on roads with amazing views for hours with only seeing a few cars pass by. So I could not resist to stop from time to time to take some pictures of the road! Which drove my buddy to insanity since we kept stopping so I could take another picture of the road… again and again … and again haha

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What really impressed me about the EM1 was also how it handled in the desert, and how it handled the images in the harsh sun (this is also dynamic range right?)! Wish I was as resilient as the EM1! When we first arrived in death valley and stopped for the first sight, I saw a small hill and thought ow man that looks amazing (actually that was what I said for the entire route because everything was amazing!). I decided to run up there to take some pics…. yeah people told me death valley was hot…. but damn… hot does not give it credit! I now know how a burger feels on the grill. Anyway, I made it up the hill but I felt like I was baking in an oven! I couldn’t breath and everything in front of me started turning white! So my first priority was to drink drink and get my ass back to the car and turn on the AC. My buddy was actually quite worried and told me afterwards that I really did not look so well haha but after some AC time and one of the best hot dogs I ever had @ Furnace Creek and about 6 or 7 liters of water I luckily felt much better. When we walked back to the car I saw the thermometer outside read 120 degrees! So I took it a bit easier from then on and took my time (and had even more water!) :).

We unfortunately did not have a lot of time in death valley itself, we had to get back in time, so we decided to pick a few points to go to and then drive back to Vegas. We stopped at Rhyolite (ok not really death valley but close enough) to see a real ghost town, and it was pretty cool to see how people in the area lived once. Images were made on a tripod.

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After Rhyolite we stopped @ Beatty (errr did time stop there?) for some gas (GAS! you get it? probably not the best of jokes….) and then drove back through death valley. Up until Zabriskie Point I didn’t make a lot of pictures at all. The scenery was so amazing that I was enjoying every bit of it. It is such an amazing place that I really hope I can go back to one day and spend a bit more time there to see more of it.

By the time we got to Zabriskie Point the sun started to set and I started to walk around in search of different perspectives. At first I thought damn… how can I make some landscape shots without having all those tourist in my pictures! Haha great isn’t it… a tourist that is taking pictures that is saying that about other tourist that are also trying to get the same pictures :). Anyway after a few attempts I got these shots. A small warning though! I like colors! COLORS!!! I like them but I can imagine that some might find it a bit too much :).

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But after making them I felt something was missing. I really liked the pictures even though I still think they did not do the scenery justice because that truly was AMAZING! Wow the colors and the mountains and patterns… just wow nothing more to say! Really have to go back there one day. But back to the pictures :), I felt something was missing, but then I saw a few girls sitting down near where I was taking shot nr. 4. And then I though but what if I include them in my shot? Would that be better?

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And there it was…. my favorite shot of the day :). How such a small element can make such a big difference, I like the fact that one of the girls just made a picture and is showing it to her neighbour. Now most probably not everybody will agree with me here but I really thought that including them in the shot gave a totally new feel to the image. I also tried zooming in a bit and getting a closer shot of the amazing sunset and the four girls enjoying the view but I still thought the first shot worked better for me.

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That was it! Our day in death valley with probably the biggest intro this blog has ever had! Sorry about that :), but I wanted to share my experiences and share that for me having better gear did not increase my joy in photography. I truly love making pictures, but I love doing it because it gives me the opportunity to freeze time. To hold a moment in my live that I wish to remember, to have images that can trigger my memories, that can take me back to the time when I made them and relive the moments I experienced. The gear I used to make the images with will most probably fade from my memory since they are not a real part of my experience (more of a supporting element). So what worked for me is to have a tool that is the most complete package for me. Good image quality, good build (I did not have a single speck of dust on my sensor using that 12-40 zoom lens!) but most importantly that I can operate with joy. I wanted a camera that I did not have to think much about when using it, and for me I found everything that I need in the EM1 and cured my G.A.S. to a certain amount as well. I say to a certain amount because I am looking forward to that 7-14 zoom from Olympus :).

I also do not really worry about the camera because it is built like a tank. I dropped it a few times (it has a few chips on the bottom), spilled some lemon water over it and banged it into several people while walking the streets. But I’m not really bothered with it because I know it will survive, which gives me piece of mind as well. And it was this blog that got this camera to my attention. Thank you both Steve and all of your readers for that because I found a piece of equipment that gives me a great deal of satisfaction and helped me to focus more on the images then on the gear I use to make them. I even shoot more pics with my phone now, which I never did before because of the ‘inferior’ quality of the photo’s. In the end it’s all about the moment and what that moment captured does for you, what feeling it gives you, and possibly even what memories it relives for you if it is a personal photograph. I got that now :).
I hope you will like (some of) my images, my style of editing and have enjoyed my first ever photography related article! I thought about also adding a few more details about how I processed my images but I think I will not bore you with those details :).

Now obviously while driving back to Vegas…. I still drove my buddy nuts (yes again… sorry mate!) by stopping constantly to take pictures of the road! Amazing roads!!!!

Thanks for reading!

GN.

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Jul 032014
 

From DSLR to Micro 4/3

By Paul Liu

In 2013, when my trusty (and luckily insured) Canon 7D and associated lenses were stolen in Rome, I was fairly devastated. However, taking the positive approach, I saw great opportunity to finally ditch the SLR and replace it with something more to my liking. While the 7D was always reliable and took great photos, it was a hulking, heavy beast of a camera that used hulking, heavy lenses that I simply no longer wanted to carry.

After much deliberation and a lot of help from this website, I picked up an Olympus OMD EM10. For lenses, I chose the Olympus 17mm f1.8 and 45mm f1.8 and a Samyang 7.5mm fisheye as a budget wide-angle. With these, I returned to Europe with new determination, firstly to not get robbed and secondly to learn this new camera system and get some great shots.

My trip was an overland train journey along the old Orient Express, starting in Munich and ending in Istanbul. With so many towns, train stations and exchanges along the way, travelling light was crucial to everything going smoothly and enjoyably and I was always thankful that the whole system was light and fit in a small shoulder pouch rather than taking up half a backpack.

While out shooting, the small size of the camera was a huge liberating. I found that compared to carrying the SLR around, I took far more photos. There were far less instances where I would photo with my smart phone while the big camera sat in the backpack, too large and cumbersome to take out. Instead, I could forget about the smartphone and pull out the OMD, often stashed in a jacket pocket with the compact 17mm attached, and shoot away.

But what surprised me the most was how little of the SLR experience I actually missed. A few small points of anxiety regarding speed and control that I had disappeared as soon as I came to grips with the OMD. When compared to the Canon 7D, the OMD was equally responsive, there was no real discernible difference in focus speed and the EVF was so good that I never missed the optical viewfinder. Finally, any potential pitfalls of have a smaller sensor size were safely negated by the faster lenses I used with the Olympus.

For the first time whilst travelling, my camera was a no longer hindrance that I had to endure to get the shot. Instead, it was something that I truly enjoyed carrying around and shooting with. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that having my camera stolen was the best thing to ever happen for my photography, but as a blessing in disguise, it was certainly a big one. For those still contemplating a switch, my message would be to do it as soon as possible and never look back.

Thank you for allowing me to contribute to your fantastic website. More photos from this and other trips can be found on my Tumblr and website at www.sevenyearsinadvertising.com.

Photo 1 – Parliament in Budapest

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Photo 2 – Carpathian Mountains in Romania

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Photo 3 – Small town pub in Austria

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Photo 4 – Pumakkale calcium deposits in Turkey

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Photo 5 – Fisherman in Istanbul

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Photo 6 – Dancing in the street in Istanbul

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Jun 262014
 

Shimmering Light in Venice with the Fuji X100

By Drew Raitt

Hey Steve!

Maybe your readers would be interested in my recent trip to Venice.  The shimmering light of Venice is extraordinary! I live in North Devon U.K. overlooking the Atlantic ocean and here the sea is normally cool grey or blue. But in Venice, in April, the water is a translucent green, reflected, subsumed and suffused into every nook and cranny of this lovely city.

As a landscape photographer it took a while to adjust to shooting buildings and canals where there is no horizon. Sure I took loads of shots across the lagoon but the inner alleys and waterways are where the best images are found. Here the light works magic, although colours are subdued every building seems to glow , faded paint and pastel shades come alive, in every shadow there is a glimmering, a warmth that feels unique to me. I carried only my brilliant Fuji X100 (purchased thanks to great earlier reviews by Steve and others on this site). I know things have moved on in the Fuji World and now I am hankering for maybe the XT1 with a 56mm lens but for Venice the 23mm on the X100/s is superb.

I shot pretty much in programme mode and even in the deepest dusk managed to grab the image I wanted. I felt I needed to take time over each shot, savour the light and the atmosphere. In the early morning and late evening Venice is subdued, like the light, calm and quiet and around every corner is a painting waiting to be explored. I only use the electronic viewfinder which to me seems clear and precise whatever I throw at it. With the back screen off I avoided the temptation to ‘chimp’. The exposure compensation dial is incredible, easy to access without taking your eye away from the camera and instantly responsive in the viewfinder. So plus or minus two stops enabled me to fine tune the image I wanted to take. Using Astia mode for a more natural look, plus raw mode, I shot 260 images in four days and still had plenty of battery power left. The enclosed shots are all Jpgs with shadows,highlights and tone curve adjusted very slightly in Lightroom 4. I suppose it is obligatory to visit St Mark’s Square where there are a thousand others making their images. I have never seen so much camera gear slung around, it seems, every neck and in every hand a smart phone. I am no street shooter, the concept is alien to a rural photographer, but I felt so inconspicuous with the tiny X100 every thing became possible. In this shot five Policemen walked across the square which seemed to empty for a second, one of them stopped for a moment so I took the opportunity to photograph him. The other images I enclose I believe speak for themselves about the wonderful beauty of this place. many regards and thanks for such a great website.

Drew Raitt

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Jun 252014
 

Still enjoying my Leica M8

By Jochen Utecht

Dear Steve,

It has been a while since you published my latest “inspirational” email (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/01/14/daily-inspiration-494-by-jochen-utecht/). This time I would like to share a few images taken with my Leica M8, which I love and hate at the same time. If I had to decide which camera to keep, it would be the Fujifilm X100s. But the M8 is capable of outstanding quality. It only is a slow and quirky device, which sometimes is a good thing.

You can hardly push the ISO beyond 640. There is too much noise showing up. Focusing often takes too much time for snapshots. But prefocusing can make looking through the viewfinder obsolete. Compared to the X100 it is a heavy piece of metal. But it feels soo good!

I don´t have Leica lenses, because I am by no means rich if money matters. But I could get hold of a few nice lenses second hand:
Voigtländer 21/4, VC 15/4.5, Minolta 28/2.8 and Minolta 40/2.0. The Minolta´s are the same in quality as Leica glass. And the 15/4.5 is fantastic. Very sharp lens. I use the 21 and the 28 most of the time.

Usually I shoot RAW (DNG). The wide-angle lenses from Voigtländer get a treatment with CornerFix first. Then I develop a bit with Photoshop (Camera Raw). After that I go into Picasa and make some adjustments to the jpg´s. (First I try the I´m-feeling-lucky-button) That works well enough for me at least.

VC 21/4, edited in PS (correction of converging lines)

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They don´t earn much money, but are really childloving people.
Minolta 28mm/2.8, prefocused image.

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The forbidden city is always a joy to walk around. I usually hate images taken from behind. They are cowardish and mostly don´t say anything than that the photographer was there and didn´t have the guts to ask for permission. But sometimes you cannot do anything else and the picture still works.
VC 21/4.

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The same goes for this one. This Panorama was also with the 21/4. I stitched it from 6 portait-style images. There is barely any distortion in the VC21/4, so PS didn´t have problems putting it together. I don´t mind that some people appear as doublettes. Next time I might bring a tripod and blur the people.

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First of all I asked for permission to take a picture of these beauties. After a posing picture was taken they immediately went back to watching their smartphones and I could capture the scene I had been seeing before.
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Sometimes you get nice results if you hand the M8 to a stranger to have your picture taken. This was on the first of May. I even had to tell that chinese fellow which button to press, but made the settings prior to handing the camera over. It would have been a fun pic if my face had been replacing Mao. I will try that next time. That might not be possible with a rangefinder camera though.
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I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if you don´t want to show all 6 pictures, feel free to choose three of them.

Thanks, Jochen
5intheworld.de

Jun 252014
 

marlonco2

An Evolution Through Passion

By Marlon Co

Thank you so much! Your site and its contributors are truly an inspiration to me. I check the site everyday and the combination of technical information and passionate art-makers make this site a place where anyone can feel welcome, which is why I write to you today. I am a young 25 (soon to be 26) year old based out of Westchester, New York. I am a graphic designer by trade and a photographer by passion.

My interest in photography began in my freshman year in high school. I remember my girlfriend at the time asking me what I wanted for Christmas and I said without hesitation: a digital camera. What I had pictured in my mind was a DSLR, but I knew that was a lofty request. Instead I received a Sony point-and-shoot that was interesting but didn’t provide me the control I was seeking. Plus it was almost unusable given the fact that it devoured AA-batteries, burning through a pair after about 20 shots or so…insane. Nonetheless this was still a blessing to me as it prompted me to do some more research into the tools I needed to achieve what I wanted to in photography. In a sense it gave me passion and G.A.S. This is of course a good thing at the beginning of one’s photographic life. Experimentation with techniques and equipment is paramount to finding out what works for you. But as we all know, once you figure out what does work, G.A.S. does not easily go away. You still have the urge to try more stuff, especially given the current leaps technology is making.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school; I dropped photography for a while in those in between years, but still did research online. I explored different styles of photography to see what I was attracted to and more importantly what I enjoyed—initially this was street like many others before me. While this stimulated my interests, I still did not have a camera to work with. Naïve as I was, I had not considered film at all; a much cheaper alternative to buying digital for high school student at the time. Desiring to get what I wanted, I set out looking for work. After a year of working at a chocolate shop after school I had saved enough to purchase a Canon Digital Rebel XT. It was with this camera that I first began exploring the world and light.

Follow Your Own Direction, Leica M9, 50mm

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I practiced throughout my college career and while my shots were OK in my eyes, they never reached the level I wanted to accomplish. I blame a lot of that on the fact that I was just blindly shooting things, not shooting RAW, and not knowing enough about the photographic workflow; especially in processing. I was still snap-shooting but not CRAFTING shots with purpose, care, and intent. Slightly discouraged by my perceived lack of skill, photography took the back seat while I played with graphic design in college.

It was four years later in my last year in college that I had the opportunity to rediscover my love of photography. I have the darkroom to thank for that. Most importantly I am thankful for my professor who taught the only two classes in photography at my university; the only classes I ever took. It was in his first class that I went back to the roots of photography and learned the beauty of film and the darkroom, shooting with the standard AE-1. In the second class we developed our styles and each decided on a series to individually produce for a final show at the end of the semester. These classes truly shaped and solidified my passion.

It’s been four years since I graduated…I pursued graphic design as my career path but photography remained (and so did G.A.S). Since then, I’ve been continuously shooting with a variety of cameras. I eventually landed on an M9-P last year when I found out I loved the small size and awesome little lenses of rangefinders after shooting a Zorki-4 (now broken) and an R-D1s. My next investment will be the M (or next incarnation), but that’s down the line…

Follow Your Own Direction, Leica M9, 50mm

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This time last year, at the close of a long-term design project, I decided to give-in to my passion and I started looking for work in photography with the simple desire to learn more and to grow. I never got any “real” jobs, but I still kept shooting. My subject matter and style was as eccentric as I was. A few months later, I was hired by a friend from high school and got to shoot my first paid gig as a photographer; a wedding of all things! While this was not my first time shooting at a wedding—I had previously snapped at two weddings for fun— this was the first time it meant anything because now it wasn’t just for me, it was for someone else; I had to produce. The couple trusted in my ability and style. At the end of the day I think I did a pretty good job for my first time. The bride mentioned that she cried while looking at the shots I had taken, rest assured they were tears of joy, so I think the newly weds enjoyed them as well!

Woodland Dance, Leica M9, 50mm
They were a truly fun couple to photograph.

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Laughing During the Ceremony, Leica M9, Voigtlander 75mm

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That event further changed me. It proved to me that someone out there thinks I am good at this and instilled in me a confidence that I could pursue photography. However, as we all know working in art is extremely difficult and is easier said than done. The term “starving artist” doesn’t exist merely by random chance, it describes the struggle that we as artists have to go through to be “successful.” Most times, especially in our formative years, that means doing a lot of work for essentially no pay–but if we really cared about cash, we would’ve done something else right?

Around the same time, another friend offered me the chance of a lifetime. He is a comedian who wanted to travel the United States to do shows and pursue his own art. Fortunately for me, he wanted someone to document the adventure. Being a photographer, he thought I would be a natural fit to film the entire journey. So on October 8th, 2013 we set out in a 31ft RV and traveled the United States. We left from New York and moved down the East coast to Miami, zig-zagging through the Southern states until we reached the Pacific, then headed up the West coast to Vancouver, B.C. Eventually we made our way back through the middle states until we arrived home in New York. Frequent stops allowed us the time to really see the land and meet its people.

Raheem the Jewler, Leica M9, Canon 50mm 1.2 LTM
He tried to sell me various lenses after seeing my M9 while I was walking around a flea market in Florida. While he did not have any M lenses, he had a kind heart and was eager to have his picture taken, something I find quite rare in people.

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Abby and Nick, Leica M9, Voigtlander 35mm 1.4

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Fast forward to now, nine months later—yes, you read that correctly—I emerge from that experience tired, but ultimately more whole. Leaving your comfort zone so entirely and spending that much time away from all that you love reveals a lot about person. It provides you with a whole new perspective and I wouldn’t have given up this experience for anything. Photography is about perspective after all; it is a point of view on the world.

Now what’s the point of all this? Especially that title at the top that has, so far, had nothing to do with anything other than being a mini biography of my photographic life? Well I’m about to get to that. The common thread that is meandering through these various phases of my young life is this: passion. Not once in all those years did I ever lose interest completely. While there were times of self-doubt, as there always will be, my passion for this craft kept me wanting to learn and now it inspires me to produce.

Last year, I foolishly thought that the only thing I needed to become a fully realized photographer was a job in photography. I felt that if I worked in any field that involved photography I would be recognized as more “professional.” In a sense I was looking for validation from those already in the field that I was good enough. At times I still feel this way, but I now realize that it really doesn’t matter as long as you produce and do what you love. Who cares what other people think? If you like your work, you like your work, and that’s what matters. As long as you produce (practice) you’re succeeding as an artist; and hopefully simultaneously promoting your own happiness.

The trip around the US provided me with the realization that my dreams are as real as I make them. If I want to be a photojournalist (arguably my favorite type of photography, and one of the hardest fields to get into), I simply have to create my own stories. Just because I haven’t gotten a job as a photojournalist doesn’t mean I’m not one. I am as much a photojournalist as I make myself to be and now that I am home I have taken a retrospective look at my work to find common themes and stories in my photography. In parallel to this I am also diving into the stories I want to start to work on. In a nutshell, I just want to DO. I want to stop waiting around, talking, and thinking; I want to produce and do so with purpose.

Exhale, Canon Digital Rebel XT, 50mm 1.4
Probably one of the first chances at photojournalism. My brother called me at 3AM telling me I needed to pick him up on I-287 in Westchester. He narrowly avoided the car wreck on the right coming home from work, but got a flat from the debris. This police office walks slowly back towards the scene, his breath visible in the February night.

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So this is my philosophy now: to just produce, produce, PRODUCE! To chase the stories, images, and ideas that interest me with abandon, but without losing clarity and focus. If the art gets noticed, it gets noticed, but that’s not the important part. It’s giving yourself to your passions fully. If you’re not producing, you’re not practicing, and if you’re not practicing, then you’re not evolving/growing. Simple as that.

While this is all just the rambling thoughts of a 25-year-old who has tried to pursue a path less traveled; I think the lesson applies to everyone who may have doubts about their own passions. At times I felt defeated, but that defeat came from within. Similarly, success also comes from within, so if you love what you do: DO IT! At all costs, through all challenges and doubt. Indulge in your passion and you will get better, you will evolve, you will grow, and you will become more yourself. No person or job title can take that personal success from you, much less define it; you have to define yourself on your terms.

Now that you’ve gotten to know me and my (possibly) not so eccentric ideas, I’d like to show how I’ve started to put these ideas into practice, in pictures now! Don’t worry not so much reading left!

The first set is an incomplete series that I “discovered” while looking at old photos and have decided to expand upon into the future. My brother and I have always traveled around NY when it experiences harsh weather conditions. For the New York Tri-State area, this typically means hurricanes and big snow storms. Protected by my brother’s jeep, he calls it the Mongoose, and believe me this thing growls, we carefully navigate our hometown and occasionally venture into NYC to witness the power of nature. I always have a camera during these bonding moments between us, and often find a moment of calm in these storms.

Golf Course, Hurricane Irene 2011, Nikon D90, Voigtlander 40mm
A golf course near my old home in Larchmont, NY transformed by Irene into a lake.

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Random Snowstorm, Canon 50mm 1.4
I left the shelter of my friends home to find these tracks in the empty street and untouched snow.

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Along the Edge, Hurricane Sandy, Leica M9, Canon 50mm 1.2
Literally just an hour before Sandy made landfall, my brother and I were driving around Mamaroneck, NY to find these people taking a walk, despite the rising water and inpending storm. The hulls of the boats are usually not visible from this angle and the next day four of these trees were gone.

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Going Home, winter storm Nemo, Leica M9, 35mm 1.4
During a late night drive in this storm, my brother was wiping off the accumulating frost on his windshield wipers when this brave soul was slowly biking home in the snow.

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This next series is what I’ve titled “Colorful Patchwork” and it represents my experience of the vast North American landscape as I traveled on the RV road trip. These photos came out of my internal need to produce a photographic project while on the road trip. I never expected it to turn out this way, as I mainly shoot with some human element present, but the images are simply half-memories of what I thought was beautiful at that moment as the world passed by the RV window or when I stood still long enough to really see. For this series, I put a general constraint on the composition of the photos and what I noticed is that, while somewhat repetitive, the set as a whole is stronger because of those guidelines. Another important lesson I learned: create with intent and purpose, focus.

Chesapeak Bay Bridge, Canon 5D MKII, 75mm
A really amazing bridge, but somewhat discomforting when in the fog and you can’t see the end 23 miles later.

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South Beach, Miami, Leica M9, 50mm

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Atlanta, Leica M9, 50mm

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Waking-up to the Pacific, Leica M9, 50mm
After 3.5 months of driving and reaching California at night, waking up to this sight in Malibu nearly brought tears to the eyes.

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So you start producing, great, but what happens now? Well, you keep going thats for sure, but you also put yourself out there if that’s part of your goals. So here at the beginning of my newest adventure (the first time I’ve ever submitted to a major blog such as this one), I am beginning a process of bringing my work to a larger audience to see what happens. I’m jumping in head first and running with it.

You’ve seen quite a random selection of what I do as a photographer, like I said my style and subject matter is eclectic. You’ve also gotten a glimpse of how I evolved with my photography. That whole process is now propelling me into the future of my work with a new motivation and even stronger passion.

So here I am. My name is Marlon and I love photography. The world—this life—is beautiful if you choose to see it that way. I hope my photos remind people of that.

If you liked my work feel free to check out my links below. If you didn’t like it at all, well you’re entitled to that, no hard feelings! I have plenty of years ahead to get better and maybe change your mind!

www.co-graphic.com

www.facebook.com/mc0photography

A few more shots:

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Jun 182014
 

My story with Leica so far, Part 2

By William Bichara

A month or two ago, Mr. Huff was kind enough to post a Leica-themed piece I had sent him as a note of appreciation of his informative blog and a recount of a personal experience I had with a recent Leica purchase from Ken Hansen ([email protected]). As with many stories, opinions and other notes posted to this forum, my piece drew some commentary, some kind and appreciative, some pointed and critical, and a few that I dismiss as bitter and inconsequential. Because of the suggestive nature of some of the critical feedback, today I feel compelled to respond, while at same time aiming for a second shot at properly representing my work.

To the folks who pointed out flaws in the pictures posted with my initial blog piece, those images were included only for their sentimental value – being the first few shots I took with the new M. They were test pictures posted as-shot while just playing around with my new Leica, and are by no means a final product meant to showcase my professional work – that wasn’t at all the point from my post. It was a heartfelt expression of great enthusiasm towards a camera meant to be shared with an audience with similar passions. To the rest of the commentators with kind and appreciative remarks, thank you for seeing the post for what it is and for taking the time to write your thoughts. To those of you who went the extra mile to visit my website and critique my work, your reviews are highly appreciated. I enjoyed your commentary and I view the few perceived shortcomings as mere creative differences.

Now that my very first post at stevehuffphoto.com is out and with it my nagging urge to share my enthusiasm about Leica in general, I’m ready to share other photography-related topics with followers of this blog and I would like to start with an overview of my background and my passion for photography, albeit with the same sentimental tendencies as before. I’m also sharing a set pictures from a recent personal photography trip that I feel may find interest among those of you who can appreciate the rawness of some of the images in this selection.

Growing up in the war-torn neighborhoods of Beirut, Lebanon, I was unsurprisingly absorbed into the harsh realities of everyday life, and haunted by images of the people touched by warfare, and the once happy and lively streets transformed into piles of rubble and skeletons of buildings. Coupled with my passion for photography from a very young age, these conditions have shaped my vision and style throughout my career path and made me consistently seeking to photograph the real and the raw. With a mind constantly swarming with deeply moving pictures, I found in photography the perfect medium to express my thoughts the way I experience them – mostly unrefined and evocative images.

My awareness of my preferred photography style started by a fascination with Leica cameras when I was a little boy. From the first images of Leica street photography I saw in the french PHOTO magazine spreads, to the time I bought my first Leica M system 30 years later, my pictures have always sought to speak the Leica language regardless which camera they were shot with.

One of my most recent photography destinations was Mexico, and as you may have already guessed, it was not the resorts and the touristic spots that I was after. One key location I was anxious to see and cover was the “Island of the Dolls”. Described as one of the creepiest spots in the world, this location is like a nightmare come to life, yet it was somebody’s superstition-filled reality at some point – a deserted shrine of countless forlorn dolls. This place was once a stage to a very different kind of human misery – a lonesome struggle with a supernatural enemy. I could not be more drawn to a less refined and more evocative subject.

Another destination was the University of Mexico “UNAM” where I photographed some of Mexico’s most treasured monuments – O’Gorman and Alfaro Siqueiros mosaic murals, and the Sculptural Space Park. For a reason I can’t really explain, these locations had a very special appeal to my passion for rugged imagery.

The rest of the photo selection is some other highlights reflecting random street pictures that captured my eye throughout my little excursion.

Sincerely,

William Bichara

www.williambichara.com | www.weddingsbybichara.com | www.williambicharasblog.tumblr.com

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Jun 162014
 

TwoPlaid

The New Jersey State Fair with film and digital

By Jim Fisher – His blog is HERE

For the past few years I’ve been visiting and photographing at the New Jersey State Fair, held each August in Sussex County. It ís a true rural affair, complete with 4H and FFA kids showing off the animals they’ve raised, lots of fried food, and carnival rides.

This year was the first that I came armed with a press pass, which made it possible to get some close access to livestock judging and the Queen of the Fair pageant. I concentrated on these events for this trip, skipping over the carnival side of things mainly because my feet were worn out by the time enough darkness fell to make the rides really visually striking.

Caption: Kodak Portra 800, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

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The Gear

I took a few cameras with me this year, a mix of film and digital. I was carrying the full-frame digital Canon EOS 6D along with Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM and Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO lenses, and a Canon EOS ELAN 7NE 35mm film body. The 120-300mm is a huge beast of a lens, but delivers a solid telephoto zoom range and is absurdly sharp. I also brought my trust Nikon F3 along with Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-s and 50mm f/1.4 AI lenses, and a pair of compact digital cameras: The Ricoh GR and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II.

Caption: A young girl answers questions about her chicken during judging. Ricoh GR.

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Chickens and Sheep

My first stop was to the pavilion that houses the chickens, rabbits, and other small animals. Cages line the walls and center of the building, each a temporary home to the animal awaiting judgement. I stumbled in just in time to come across some of the judging of chickens.

Caption: Sheep judging. Kodak Portra 400, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

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A middle-aged man called the 4H and FFA kids who had raised the birds up one by one, asking them questions about each, and taking down some notes that will determine the best in show. I moved outside and to one of the larger judging rings. There was a really bizarre sheep event going on. The sheep themselves were normal, but the handlers pair of humans ranging in age from teenagers through adults were all wearing matching plaid shirts. An older gentleman with a cowboy hat and a huge, huge belt buckle oversaw the judging and chose a winner.

Caption: Twin sheep handlers. Kodak Portra 400, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

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Queen of the Fair

Each year a Queen of the Fair is crowned: a local teenage girl who is paraded around the grounds in a tiara and serves as an honorary representative at various events throughout Sussex County over the next year. Iíd not yet seen the pageant that crowns the winner, but my wife (who was familiar with the event from her time as a reporter for the local paper) assured me that it was long and boring.

 Caption: Looking in at the Queen of the Fair pageant. Canon EOS 6D, Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM.

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But I still wanted to attend, just for the sake of curiosity. To me, pageants are just weird. Parading women around, choosing one above all the others, and crowning them just seems like something that’s out of step with today’s society. On the other hand, the winner gets some money for college, so there’s that.

 Caption: Miss Lafayette (T). Canon EOS 6D, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

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I tried to shoot the pageant as darkly as possible, with grainy black and white film (Ilford HP5 400 pushed rated at ISO 800), and a grainy conversion to monochrome for any digital images. Basically, I was going for the antithesis of how typical coverage would be done, and when I saw that the pageant was being held in a dimly lit tent and that all the girls had armbands identifying them by letter (odd if you ask me), I knew that I wanted at least a few shots that isolated that visual.

 Caption: At the mic. Ilford HP5, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

AtTheMic

I used the Sigma 120-300mm and 50mm prime, with a mix of film and digital. A monopod was employed to steady the telephoto lens; the 120-300mm is too heavy to use practically without one, and it helped me get a steady enough shot at the shutter speeds I was limited to at ISO 800 and f/2.8. I’m glad I had it, because my wife was not exaggerating about the length of the pageant. I shot the first portion, which involved each of the two dozen contestants walking slowly to the stage and giving a prepared speech, and I called it a night.

 Caption: The Queenís Carriage. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II.

Carriage

And that was it for another year at the fair. I skipped the carnival portion this year and some of the other usual goings-on. But since it took me so long to put this post together, the 2014 fair isn’t too far off.

You can look at my 2011 and 2012 reports for images from those years. For more images from 2013, check out my Smugmug Gallery.

Jim Fisher is the Senior Digital Camera Analyst at PCMag.com. He also posts photos, an occasionally finds time to write, at his personal blog, daguerreotyping.com.

Jun 132014
 

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(From Steve: So I received this email the other day from Allan and really enjoyed the article and the photos. Allan has submitted a daily inspiration before that you can see HERE but this post really struck a chord with me as I get this question constantly! “What camera should I buy”. I was asked about 18 times last week and 11 out of those 18 times I said “Sony RX100″, and there are many reasons for this. First, price. At $500 it is a GREAT buy. Second, it is very versatile and does so much so right. THIRD, it shoots decent video. It fits in your pocket, looks nice, feels nice and does good even in lower light. For most who are looking for an every day camera..those who are not complete photo nerds and enthusiasts and those who want a great all around family or vacation or even semi serious camera, the RX100 is fantastic. Yes, the RX100 III is out any day now and you get even more but it also comes in at $300 more. Then you have the Stellar, which is a pimped out RX100 V1 for $2k. ;) Any way you slice it, the RX100 is a great little camera and Allan’s shots below are some of my fave I have seen from this camera. Enjoy his article and be sure to visit his blog HERE or his Flickr HERE to see more from him!)

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What camera should I buy? Why, the RX100 of course!

by Allan Mcleod Roney – His website is HERE

A question I receive regularly, and one I always give a dishonest answer to.

It’s not that it’s my intention to obfuscate. It’s just that the right answer is invariably the one the requestor doesn’t want to hear. A good example of this was one of the more recent “what camera should I buy” questions I received.

“Hi Al, I love your Flickr (always a good start), and I was wondering, should I get a Nikon DXXX or a Canon XXXD?”

“Well, what are you wanting to do with the new camera?”

“I’m wanting to shoot pictures of my pals on holiday, maybe take it hillwalking etc. And if I like that, maybe teach myself photography”

So usually at this point, I will go into my usual spiel about “well, you know, these cameras are ‘much of a muchness’, it’s really based on preferences”. Those preferences usually relate to functionalities of the type a novice really won’t understand. Essentially, they’re the same. This time, I thought I’d try giving them my honest answer;

“You know, there’s another option. Buy yourself a quality compact. Not one of those ‘useless after a hot day’ compacts, but one of the top quality ‘premium’ compacts”

“yeah, but I want a DSLR”

I could regale you of a myriad of people who have taken my advice to buy a Nikon or Canon DSLR, who subsequently had a honeymoon period with said camera, then left it on a shelf to gather dust. The problem is that DSLR’s are big cameras. They’re not made to keep on your person. They only tend to be taken anywhere when your primary motive is to take photos, and given that most times we leave the house is for reasons other than photography, it gets left on the shelf.

I suggest a compact for a very simple reason – it will go most places with you. You don’t need a reason to take it. You just stick it in a bag or pocket, and it’s there with you wherever you go. Of course there’s a natural counter argument that is “I have an 8MP phone”. Yes, you do. But it doesn’t have an optical zoom, it doesn’t quite have the picture quality if you’re ‘thinking of taking it seriously’, and you can’t take photos in less than ideal light.

So for the price of a cheap DSLR kit, you can get yourself a quality compact. My favourite (and most used) camera is my wee compact, a Sony RX100 (now available for about £300 or $500 US) – I’ve added photos below taken with this camera where I wouldn’t have got the shot if I had a DSLR – it simply would not have been on me at the time. You’ll take on your holidays, you’ll take it on your hill walks and if you’re serious about taking photos as a hobby, you’ll concentrate on the basics of light & composition with a camera that will serve you better that a DSLR will. And that’s my honest advice.

As always, click-through for larger pictures:

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Jun 132014
 

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Friday Film: Hunza And Gojal

By Ibraar Hussain

Part 2: NAGAR, HUNZA AND GOJAL – See Part 1 HERE

The farther north one goes, the more magnificent the Karakoram scenery becomes. Leaving Shina speaking Chilas and Gilgit and the green Alpine Himalayas behind, with only backward glances revealing Nanga Parbat dominating the southern horizon and the line of the Himalaya.

North from Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway one follows the Hunza River, flanked on either side by the Hunza and Nagar Valleys. These valleys are absolutely gorgeous, full of tall graceful Poplars, Cherry, Walnut, Mulberry and especially Apricot trees.

The way is dominated by Rakaposhi, a 25,551 foot snow Giant, and flanked by His peaks, including Spantik or Golden peak, Diran, Ultar and Lady Finger Peak. The people of these valleys speak Burushuski along with the lingua franca of the North – Shina.

Hunza is famous for it’s Apricots, longevity and lifespan of it’s people and the astounding beauty of it’s country. just as Vigne described Nanga Parbat 150 years ago as ‘the most awful and most magnificent sight to be met with in the Himalayas.’ The Greats Eric Shipton, HW Tilman and Francis Younghusband along with Lord Curzon all acknowledged (amongst other explorers) that Hunza was probably the most beautiful country in the world.

From Karimabad and it’s Baltit and Altit forts one crosses the KKH until it joins the ancient Silk Route and they merge into one through Upper Hunza or Gojal where the people speak Wakhi, and onto Gulmit and Passu where one has to ford the Atabad Lake by boat. (This is a new lake caused by earth quakes, as the mountain sides collapsed damming th e Hunza river, and destroying the KKH and villages in the process).

This area is dominated by the Passu Cathedrals; a line of unclimbed jagged peaks which are a thing of exquisite beauty. Photographs cannot do this area any justice at all.

 

Faces from Hunza, Nagar and Gojal
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektachrome e100vs
Rolleiflex 3.5F 75mm Planar Agfa Ultra 50

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The Atabad Lake and River Hunza, Gojal
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The Passu Cathedrals, Passu, Gojal, Upper Hunza by the Karakoram Highway/ Silk Road
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The Altit Fort and The Hunza Valley from The Baltit Fort at Karimabad.
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The Hunza Valley and Rakaposhi
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The Baltit Fort and Ultar Peak Hunza
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Atabad lake, Gojal, Upper Hunza. Rolleiflex 3.5F Agfa Ultra 50. lab Scan

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Jun 112014
 

Take or Make

by David Lykes Keenan

Are you a taker or a maker? 

25_150_Parade, New York City, 2011

I had the pleasure of meeting photographer Robert Herman recently in my new home of NYC. We were meeting to compare notes about self-published vs. artist-funded photography books. These are probably the best two (the only two?) ways for artists not-already-famous to publish books of their work these days.

Robert, by the way, has self-published his book The New Yorkers to much success and acclaim. It’s been a ton of work for him but he’s now into a second printing which is almost unheard of for a self-published photography book.

During our talk, Robert suggested I find a book that has long been out-of-print. “You can probably find it on Amazon,” he said. He was right. My copy was either legally or illegally lifted from the University of South Carolina Museum of Art library and sold to me for $1. Only the library pull card was missing. The book is Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960 with an introductory essay by John Szarkowski, an untouchable if there ever was one, in the world of photography.

I usually just look at the pictures in a photo book, I call this the National Geographic Effect, but in this case, I read every word. My first impression was how timely to 2014 it felt even though it was written in 1978.

The first part of the Szarkowski essay focused on the impact that Robert Frank (and The Americans) and Minor White (and Aperture magazine) had on American photography after the 1950s.

The point of the essay (and the theme of the book) was to demonstrate how photography could be divided into two camps that Szarkowski referred to as “straight” (Frank) and “synthetic” (White). He was very careful not to draw to firm of a dividing line, leaving that open to artistic interpretation, but went onto discuss the new generation of photographers who emerged in the 1960s and how they were influenced by Frank and/or White to find themselves representatives of either straight or synthetic photography.

The photographs in the book are divided into two sections with many examples of each form. The names associated with this collection of photographs, we now recognize as a Who’s Who of iconic photographers. Erwitt, Winogrand, Friedlander, and Meyerowitz on the straight side; Capanigro, Uelsmann, Warhol, and Hass on the synthetic side. Among many others.

By the time I was nearing the end of the essay, the title of the book had completely slipped from my mind. In the closing paragraph, Szarkowski tapped his seemingly endless knowledge of the history of photography when he looked even further back than the 1950s and suggested that the father of straight school to have been Eugene Atget, and the synthetic to have been Alfred Stieglitz.

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Then everything about the book, about mirrors and windows, came completely into focus (pun intended) with the final sentence of the essay. “The distance between them (Atget and Stieglitz) is to be measured not in terms of the relative force or originality of their work, but in terms of their conceptions of what a photograph is: is it a mirror, reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or a window, through which one might better know the world?”

As I wrote earlier, change some of the names, add about 30 years to the dates, and Szarkowski could have been writing about photography of the 21st century, the essay would have a very contemporary feel. These two camps of photography haven’t gone anywhere.

I certainly have experienced this is my own photography and I strongly identify with my camp. I think this is why I found the Mirrors and Windows essay compelling enough to not give it the NatGeo treatment. I just never thought about it using the terminology adopted by Szarkowski, that is “straight” and “synthetic”, which does have a rather dated feeling in 2014.

I’ve always thought of this photographic divide to be between photographers who “take” pictures and those who “make” pictures.

As a street photographer, I definitely take pictures. Landscape photographers take pictures. A fashion photographer or a commercial photographer make pictures.

Of course, as Szarkowski was careful to point out, overlap is allowed. That, pardon my editorializing, ridiculous $7 million photograph of the Rhine River by Andreas Gursky was a made landscape.

Try as I might, any personal attempt at crossing over in the make camp has, well, not been pretty. My mind and/or photographic eye just doesn’t work that way. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, I remind myself, it just is.

So, do you take photographs or do you make photographs? Are your photographs windows or mirrors?

David has been photographing seriously since 2006 when he left his software company in capable hands and has not set down his camera since. Presently he is managing a Kickstarter campaign to publish his book of street photography entitled FAIR WITNESS. You are encouraged to check the campaign and make an investment to assist in bringing FAIR WITNESS to the bookshelves.

From Steve: Please DO check out David’s Kickstarter and if you like what you see feel free to help get him to his goal. These things are tough and I applaud and respect those who go out there and make efforts to get it done. You can see his video below, great and passionate guy:

Jun 102014
 

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Yogyakarta Black Valentine with Ricoh GR

by William Christiansen

I’ve been using Ricoh GR for almost a year and the camera has always been in my bag. There’s no reason to not bringing the camera because it’s so small yet very capable. I use it alternately with the Leica M9 especially when the condition is so dark which requires me to bump up the ISO or use the flash.

On 14th of February 2014, which was supposed to be Valentine Day, Mount Kelud erupted. The mountain sent its ash and grit to nearby cities including Yogyakarta, my hometown. Coincidentally, it’s also the last day of Chinese New Year celebration which supposedly to be the biggest event as it’s the closing ceremony. It’s really a special day of the year.

Usually I will bring Leica M9 with 35mm Summicron ASPH with me when I go to the street or travelling, but this time I felt that the camera was not suitable for the current condition, so I brought my Ricoh GR to the street.

Ergonomically, the camera is so right on my hand and with the condition, dusty and gritty, because I need to hold the camera by using only one hand while the other hand mostly covering my eye to prevent the grit coming to my eyes.

I set the three customisable user slots to these settings:

Setting1 – For taking picture during the bright light – Aperture priority, F/8, ISO1600, Auto-focus.
Setting2 – For taking picture indoor or relatively dark condition – Aperture priority, F/2.8 ISO3200, Auto-focus.
Setting3 – For taking picture using flash or when the there’s almost no light – F11 , 1/10, ISO1600, Zone focusing set to around 1.5 meter.

For me, these three settings have already covered all possible lighting condition I might encounter. In the morning until afternoon, I will use Setting1, and then afternoon and night-time, I will use either Setting2 or Setting3. The auto-focus of the Ricoh GR is quite good especially when taking photo in the bright light but when the light is lacking, sometimes it will focus on the background rather than the object. It is the reason why I use the Setting3, to take photo quickly in the dark condition without relying on its auto-focus at all. I will surely miss the photo opportunity of the hungry cat if I had been using the Setting2 because there’s almost no light when I took the photo.

I always shoot in raw and process later in Lightroom. I am quite surprised seeing the files from this little camera because it’s really sharp. I converted all the images to black and white in Lightroom and even added some grain to bring more emotion to the images because at ISO3200 the file is relatively clean.

In conclusion, the Ricoh GR is a great camera if you are used to stick to the 28mm focal length. The flash metering is really great, the ISO capability is more than enough and it tooks a really sharp image. It is a really great secondary camera considering it is so small and quite light (you have no reason to not bringing it) and even as a primary camera (highly printable, sharp and great manual settings).

If you want to see more photos from my travelling and street photography, you can visit my website at http://www.touristwith.camera

Thanks, Steve!

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