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 292014
 

A look at the Lumu iPhone Light Meter

By Brandon Huff

Lumu

Ahhh now here we have it! The Lumu, which is an external iPhone light meter! This little device plugs right into the headphone jack of an iPhone. Once you do this, all you have to do is download the Lumu app which then shows Aperture, Shutter speed then ISO you simply use it like a normal light meter, putting it next to your subject or pointing it in the direction of which you are shooting press measure then it shows all the information needed. Take this information and set your camera using it and you should have a perfect exposure!

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The light meter and app itself are very snappy. Let’s say you want to shoot at ISO 800 and need the shutter speed info for your lighting situation…you simply set the meter app to ISO 800 and then press the”measure” button and it will give you the shutter speed and aperture needed for that scenario. Same goes for if you want to shoot at f/2  - set the app to f/2 and it will tell you what ISO and exposure to use. Simple.

BUT! In use I have encountered one little issue. After you get used to the app and actually take a photo I noticed it was slightly underexposing when using my Nikon V1 to  test it with.  You can calibrate it inside the app although it does not really explain how to do it perfectly, but I was finding my shots slightly underexposed. This is great for preserving highlights but it is not a 100% correct exposure. See the samples below…

Using the Lumu  - Nikon V1

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Using the cameras built in light meter – Nikon V1

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These photos are straight from camera JPGS and there has been no editing of any kind. Yes, the difference is not huge and its nothing too crazy that a little Photoshop can’t fix but it is not perfect.

The price of this Device is $150 US Dollars and you can buy it direct HERE. In my opinion it is worth it if you wish to have a small yet useful light meter. Problem is when your phone dies you have no light meter, other light meters batteries last way longer than an iPhone battery will which makes them more reliable.

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So I decided to try the meter in direct sunlight, F4 with the Nikon 30-110 lens I must say it really underexposed on this one,  now could this be user error? Sure, it could be! I have only used this tiny guy a little bit, but imagine if I was shooting out of an old TLR and I thought all my images were coming out correctly, when all I’m actually doing is wasting film and money for images that may be unusable. I verified I was using the meter correctly and following the directions supplied with the device. It says to bring the phone by your subject and aim the meter towards the camera. This is what I did and you can see the results below:

Direct sun Lumu Metering

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Direct sun aperture priority mode – Nikon V1 meter (overexposed)

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The Lumu always seems to underexpose it and the in camera meters have slightly over exposed this photo, it seems you just have to mess with it a little bit, figure out what you are looking for. In the above situation the Lumu gave me the preferred exposure as I can always lighten that image up but can not really fix the blown highlights in the V1 exposed image.

If you are using strictly analog I recommend getting a proprietary light meter, however if you shoot mostly digital but film sometimes I strongly recommend this Lumu.  Another good feature of this little gizmo is that you can measure light intensity in the room at a constant scan rate. For the price though this product isn’t too bad. IMO it is better than spending $400+  on a light meter if you don’t need or rely on one all the time. It is pocketable and you can even wear it around your neck with the included necklace or carrying case (that will connect to your strap).

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If you are thinking about purchasing one of these Id look to see if it will work with your device if using Amdroid, I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 and it won’t register even though I have the app. Its made for iPhones more than android devices and it works great on my iPhone.

Brandon

Jul 142014
 

Shooting Skateboarders with Micro 4/3

By Tony Zhang

Hello everybody, first of all, I would like to thank Steve and Brandon for providing me with this opportunity to share my thoughts. I am a daily visitor of this site and I really appreciate this opportunity. This is the first time I have written anything remotely formal on the internet so please bear with me and my more than likely boring rant about skateboarding, photography, filmmaking and my gear.

My name is Tony, I am seventeen years old and I live in New Zealand. I discovered photography about two years ago. I am a skateboarder, and about two years ago I wanted to purchase a camera to make videos of my friends and myself skating around and doing tricks. After many hours of internet research later, I decided to shell out my savings on a Canon t4i, kit lens, 50mm f1.8 and a 6.5mm fisheye. My primary interest was video but I inevitably found my way to the world of photography. I eventually sold my kit lens and 50mm and sprung for a Canon 17-55mm f2.8 IS. I was convinced that my setup was good enough(not only in terms of image quality, but also usability, size and weight) for both my video and photo purposes, until I discovered mirrorless and micro 4/3rds.

I feel that skateboarding photography is very different to other forms of photography. For good results, much knowledge about the activity is essential. Knowing exactly what time to press the shutter button, by the millisecond, when shooting a particular trick is essential, a photo early or late by milliseconds is often the difference between a keeper or a throwaway.

Unlike other sports photographers, who are often seen with a behemoth of a DSLR and 100000mm telephoto lens, firing non stop in continuous autofocus mode from the sideline(no offense intended), a skateboard photographer shoots and skates with his friends, he is often down on the ground or up on the roof, in the blazing sun, struggling almost as much as the skateboarder trying to land the trick. The photographer is almost part of the action.

You may notice that for many of my ‘trick’ photos, I use a fisheye lens. The fisheye is a staple in the world of skate photography and it is used to get the camera up close to the spot and skater, to distort the environment, often making the ledge, rail, stair set or other obstacle involved in the trick look much bigger, and hence the stunt more impressive.

Camera rig

Many amateur and professional skate photographers frequently use external strobes and off camera flashes to help freeze the fast-moving action and to light the subject up better. Many amazing skate photos are taken with many external flashes. However, I have never used off camera lighting. Mainly because carrying around so much equipment while cruising around town on a skateboard is a pain, but also because it is a laborious process which somewhat takes the fun out of shooting. (I will also admit that I am a bit intimidated by off camera lighting because it all seems so confusing)

I love skate photography because it captures the life, adventures, talents and efforts of myself and my friends. It is a difficult and special form of photography. I also enjoy the pressures of skate photography, waiting for the skater for hours to land the trick, hoping that the lighting does not change rapidly, getting up high or down low into uncomfortable positions to get the shot, the risk of injury or damaged equipment (my fisheye lens has been hit multiple times by skateboards as a result of being too close), and the chance of getting told of by security, these factors are all parts of skate photography. It is never a controlled environment and I truly enjoy these challenges.

Air(g6)

Backside heelflip(g6)

For the first few months, I was very satisfied with my camera setup. However, after learning more, filming and shooting more, I developed the feeling that something was missing, the ergonomics of a DSLR was not ideal for shooting video, mainly due to the lack of an electronic viewfinder, I had to use a large and cumbersome stick on viewfinder when shooting video. A video mode with 60 frames per second is essential for skating due to the need for slow motion at times, and Canon DSLRs only have 60fps in a softened 720p mode, filled with moire and aliasing artifacts. Despite being an excellent all round lens, the size, weight and front/back focusing issues of the 17-55mm f2.8, was irritating. I longed for a smaller camera with an electronic viewfinder and clean 1080p video in 60 frames per second.

There are few mirrorless cameras with aspc sized sensors that provided clean 1080p 60fps video, good video and stills ergonomics, a good, wide enough fisheye lens option, and an external 3.5mm mic input. Enter micro 4/3rds, after months and months of internet lurking. I decided that the Panasonic g6 would be the best all round camera for my purposes at a good price point. At the start of 2014, I sold my entire camera setup but kept my external microphone and homemade handle which I use for filming ‘lines’ (a video clip in which I am on my skateboard, following a skater with my camera and fisheye lens low to the ground and close to the skater, filming him do several tricks in a sequence.) I purchased the Panasonic g6, the Bower 7.5mm f3.5 fisheye, the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 and the Panasonic 14-140mm f3.5-5.6 zoom lens. For me, this was the best all round compromise for stills and video that I could afford. I chose the g6 over the gx7 due to the external mic jack and overall ergonomics, and the gh3 due to the price difference. I find the difference in stills quality between the g6 sensor and my past Canon DSLR sensor to be negligible, and in fact I find contrast detect autofocus to be more reliable. However the difference in video quality and ergonomics between the two setups is worlds apart. I prefer the electronic viewfinder for both stills and video. The touch pad AF function on the g6 is perfect for my style of shooting, this, along with the accurate contrast based autofocus and the 25mm f1.4 makes shooting much more enjoyable than it was on my Canon. I do not require lightning fast tracking autofocus because when shooting tricks, I prefocus on a spot and lock the focus. Nothing else I shoot moves at a fast pace, and contrast detect autofocus works perfectly for my needs. The 7fps burst rate is very useful and I have the camera set to burst mode almost all the time.

Chill(g6)

Frontside noseblunt(g6)

Kickflip(g6)

I love the Panasonic 25mm f1.4, I try to use it as much as I can. The depth of field is shallow enough for me and I love the rendering and micro contrast of the lens. I often shoot wide open, and the 25mm is very sharp wide open. I also purchased a polaroid variable ND filter for about $30 USD so I can shoot video wide open during the day, the quality of the filter is excellent for video, there is a slight compromise for stills but I am not at all bothered by the incremental reduction in sharpness. The fisheye lens is compact, sharp and solid, however I do wish that it had a slightly wider field of view and increased barrel distortion. It is noticeably less wide than its aps-c DSLR counterpart which I had. I purchased the 14-140mm zoom planning to just use it for video, but its stills capability is also very decent, I find depth of field at the long end to be very adequate for portraits given that there is enough working distance. The OIS works amazingly, I can sometimes shoot fairly steady handheld video at the very telephoto end. I use it mostly for zooming video shots (unlike in usual filmmaking, many traditional skateboarding clips have some sort of zooming action in them, so video nerds please don’t rip me to shreds), however, I still wish I had a typical camcorder style zoom rocker.

Mum(g6)

Nollie crooked grind(g6)

With my birthday money, Chinese New Years red bag money(haha many of you will know what I am talking about), and addition chip ins from my parents for doing surprisingly well in my SATs first try, I purchased a Ricoh GR. I originally had my eye on the Fuji x100s, but it was not pocketable and cost too much. I wanted the GR because of it’s tiny size, ergonomics and it looked fun to use. It is a camera that fits in my pocket, I take it with me almost everywhere in the weekends, often without the intent of taking photos at all. The GR is the camera that allows me to get candid photos of my friends and out skateboarding adventures without me having to take out my big(ger) camera(and often removing it from my homemade handle.) I was originally worried I may not have been able to adjust to a 28mm prime lens and expected myself to frequently use the 35mm crop mode(which by the way is excellent), but I quickly found it to be the perfect ‘storytelling’ lens, wide enough to include many elements in the photo putting the shot into precise context. I also find the 28mm equivalent perspective very dynamic and lively, unlike many telephoto focal lengths which appear distant, compressed and flat(but this is good for many things). I usually shoot in TAV mode with the aperture wide open or at f5.6, and use it typically up to ISO 3200. Much to my surprise, I found the in camera raw developer to be very useful and fun to use, I especially like the positive film effect. The low light performance of the GR is great, the handling and interface are amazing, the sharpness is incredible throughout the aperture range., it is built well and most of all, it is fun to use. The 28mm and 50mm prime combo I have is great for most of my purposes when it comes to stills.

Ollie(trick) - Wynyard quarter(g6)

Portrait(g6)

However, nothing is perfect. Despite all the benefits of my new camera setup, I can still find some noticeable flaws, no deal breakers though. Firstly, the build quality of the Panasonic g6 is questionable. Being part of the entry-level range, the buttons feel slightly flimsy and often have a slight delay, this is especially noticeable when I want to scroll through photos, or quickly change the aperture or shutter speed. It is not a big deal however, just takes some getting used to. I wish there was a flatter picture style for video so I could squeeze out some more dynamic range when filming. When in manual mode, there is no constant exposure preview in the viewfinder and screen, the viewfinder always displays a correctly exposed image, this is frustrating as one of the main benefits of an electronic viewfinder is to have a constant preview of the exact exposure. The eyecup of the viewfinder is also very hard and uncomfortable, and I am unable to tightly press it against my eye for stability, much better than nothing though. The 25mm f1.4 is almost perfect, but I do wish it were a bit smaller and had a reversible lens hood, with the hood attached it is quite big. Chromatic aberration is also a concern, however this is easily removed in Lightroom. When filming with the 14-140mm, I sometimes notice slight shifts out of focus for milliseconds before coming back to focus while zooming, even when in manual mode, meaning that it is not a true parfocal lens. This is usually not an issue, but frustrating at times.

Push(g6)

Squat(g6)

The Ricoh GR, for what it is, is close to perfect, however there is a risk of sensor dust attraction. After about a month, I noticed a slight speck of dust on the sensor, it is noticeable when I shoot a picture of a white wall, however it cannot be seen in most situations. It is annoying but usually not an issue. I also wish that there was a manual video mode, I know it is a camera completely designed for stills but some sort of control in video would be nice. A slightly faster maximum aperture would have been nice, I really like the surreal look of wide-angle photos with shallow depth of field, however I understand that the size of the GR would have been compromised. A pop up EVF would be amazing, I have gotten used to shooting with the screen and it is fine, even in sunny conditions, but after seeing the Sony Rx100 iii, I really wish my GR also had one. Perhaps I am asking for a bit too much here.

Backside smith grind(gr)

Lastly, for those who care, here is my homemade camera rig/handle I have mentioned a few times. It allows me to shoot much steadier video due to the extra weight, as well as to film ‘lines’ due to the top handle. Prior to this, I had the Opteka X-grip, but it felt flimsy, was too big and wasn’t really efficient. I drew a few sketches of what I wanted on paper, then purchased various parts off eBay to put it together. The camera slides in and is connected by the hotshoe screw at the top as well as the quick release plate at the bottom. The height is adjustable and the frame can extend enough to fit some entry level full frame cameras. There is no frame on the left side so my LCD screen can flip out, and I mounted my external microphone(sony ms908c) upside down on the side so the rig fits in my bag without me having to take it apart. The quick release plate is a recent addition. With the plate added, it takes about 3 seconds to take the camera on or off the rig, without it, that time lengthens to about twenty seconds. If anyone is interested in the pieces. required, I am more than happy to send you a list of parts and how to put it together. By the way, the photo of the rig itself was taken on my Ricoh GR, wide open at ISO 1600 in raw and then processed in camera with the positive film effect.

Here is my Flickr- https://www.flickr.com/photos/87200229@N04/

Instagram- http://instagram.com/t_zhangg

Youtube channel- https://www.youtube.com/user/TonyZhangsChannel

I would really appreciate it if you could view my photos follow me on instagram and flickr, I know I don’t have much content, in fact, hardly any, most of my work is kept to myself. But rest assured that I have been steadily uploading more and will continue to put out more content.

Most of you will probably have little to no interest in skateboarding, but it would mean a lot to me if you could click on my channel and watch a few videos, it would really help me out, even better if you subscribe!

Once again, many thanks to Steve and Brandon for this opportunity, as well as to all of you who have taken time out of your day to read my article. I apologise for my rambling and heavy digression into video. I really enjoyed writing up this user report, it has allowed me to thoroughly rant about my thoughts. I hope that this report has been informative or useful to some of you who may be considering the Panasonic g6 or Ricoh GR, despite all the flaws I pointed out, they are excellent cameras(Trust me, I could tear any camera to pieces). Being able to carry around so much camera gear but still have the overall weight and size of it all being fairly minimal is amazing, especially when I skate around town with everything in my backpack. However, in the end, it is not about the equipment you have, but how you use it and your creative vision. No matter how good your gear is, there is always room for its improvement. People have create amazing images with mediocre gear, so try not to be like me and go crazy about gear, instead focus on the actual process of taking photos and your final product. But let’s be honest, talking about gear is pretty fun :)

Cheers,
Tony

Filming(gr)

Frontside bluntslide(gr)

Lurk(gr)

Sunset(gr)

Jul 092014
 

An Introduction to Light Painting

by Olympus Trailblazer Jamie MacDonald

As photographers, we know that our craft is all about light. We chase the golden hours of morning and evening, and the blue hour of twilight, and we spend hours in the studio with strobes and Speedlights. But there is another genre of photography you can explore where light isn’t used only to enhance the scene; rather, it BECOMES the scene.

This is what happens when light becomes the scene:

©2013 Jamie A. MacDonald

What does it take to start light painting? Nothing more than your camera, a source of light and your imagination. Here is a basic list of tools to get you started in light painting:

• A camera capable of shooting in manual mode. If you’re an extreme beginner, don’t worry – shooting in manual is easy for this!
• A tripod or some other way to stabilize your camera during the exposure.
• A cable release or remote for your camera. If you do NOT have one, don’t worry! I explain a technique below for shooting without one!
• A light source. What kind? Pretty much anything that produces light can be used! Some examples of things I’ve used are LED flashlights, an iPhone, sparklers, glow sticks and bracelets, and one of my favorites is a set of battery-powered holiday lights!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that we have the gear ready, let’s go shoot!

Step 1: The first thing we need to do is find a good location, preferably away from any other light sources. The reason we prefer a location without too much ambient light is that, during our long exposure, this ambient light may overexpose our scene. If possible, I also suggest using a location that will add interest to your image.

Step 2: Let’s start by putting our camera on the tripod and setting the camera to manual mode. I will give you some settings to start with and offer some suggestions on adjustments you can make if need be. You will also need to set your camera to manual focus. This is important because autofocus in the dark just isn’t going to cut it.

Step 3: With the camera in manual mode, we can set the ISO to 100–200, aperture to f/8, and you can control your exposure time by using your camera’s bulb mode. If your camera doesn’t have a bulb mode, I suggest setting the exposure to 30 or 60 seconds and using the camera’s timer function to trigger the shutter. The length of the exposure will depend on how much time is needed to perform the painting. Some images I’ve created took 15 minutes, others only 30 seconds or so.

Step 4: Another thing we need to do is make sure we turn off any type of anti-vibration system your camera or lens may have. If left on when mounted to a tripod, it can produce some not-so-sharp results.

Step 5: Finally, the last thing we have to do is focus our camera on the location where the light painting will take place. The easiest way to do this is to have a friend stand in the location you’ll be photographing and have them shine a flashlight on themselves. When they are illuminated, you can then easily fine-tune your focus on them.

Step 6: Get the person who is going to be doing the light painting out in position with their tools and tell them to start moving on a count of three, waving around their flashlight, LED light or whatever you are using. One…Two…THREE! Now trigger your shutter and let the long exposure begin.

Step 7: When the shutter closes, the light painter can stop dancing around and come see what was created. If you are using a cable release or remote, you can end the exposure at any time. But what if you’re alone? Or what if you don’t have a remote or cable release? No problem! Trigger the shutter and run out into position to paint. I have used this technique many times myself with great, if not tiring, results.

©2013 Jamie A. MacDonald

Now if all that waving the lights around seems a little random and abstract, it is. But when you see the results of the random movements, you may find that they are exactly what you wanted. If random isn’t what you’re after and you’d prefer a more controlled use of light painting, an easy way to start is by using a flashlight to “paint” an object during your long exposure.

The best advice I can give you is to pass on that given to me by the gentleman who got me started in light painting. He told me the best thing I could do once I had the basic settings figured out was to ask myself, “What if?” Almost all of my light-painting images started out with me asking myself those very words.

So go out into the night, have fun, and, most importantly, ask yourself, “What if?”

Jamie MacDonald

Jul 042014
 

RX1 / Spiders in Australia

By Matthias Wäckerlin

Hello!

Shooting proper Macro with the Sony RX1 with the superb Carl Zeiss Sonnar 2/35? YES, you can!

My name is Matthias Waeckerlin (Switzerland) and I have been living now for 2 years with my family in Camden near Sydney.
I’m a “stay at home dad” looking after our little children. Previously, I was working as a professional photographer.
My HEAVY Nikon gear, about 8kg, did not pass the check-in at the Zurich airport, too heavy, was the answer of the lady behind the counter! So, I had just my Sony RX1 around my neck and I never regret it since today. I never missed my Nikon. The RX1 is the best camera I ever had: small – light – solid – outstanding full frame quality – quiet (no shutter sound). The only drawback is the autofocus. I hope it will be better in the new model.

I did many pictures for all kinds of settings. And I never had an issue with this little monster.
As you can see high quality macro shooting is also possible with the RX1. Sometimes it needs a bit of patience, some spiders are very fast. The best method to get these little monsters into focus is using the manual focus with focus peaking and then moving the camera slightly forward and backward until the spiders get sharp. I set the macro mode to the closest distance. The challenge was to catch the spider when they had a short rest. Some spiders were sitting in their web, then the wind was the challenge. I set the camera to the M and A mode for all of my pictures, used JPG option and did the editing in Lightroom. Most of the pictures have ISO between 50 and 400. Just one has ISO 1600. No tripod and no flash.

The amazing quality of the 24MP C-MOS sensor allows to crop the images to a little piece.
This is still big enough to view it in the Web and in Lightroom. I won’t print a poster…

Best regards

Matthias

www.matthiaswaeckerlin.ch

AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Macarthur Park, SPINNE

AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Nepean Lodge Unit 8A - 335 Werombi Road, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Redback, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Huntsman, SPINNE

17 Broughton Street, AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, SPINNE

AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Macarthur Park, SPINNE

AUSTRALIEN, SPINNE

AUSTRALIEN, CAMDEN, Nepean Lodge Unit 8A - 335 Werombi Road, SPINNE

Jul 022014
 

Shooting The Palouse with the Fuji X-T1 & X100S

By Olaf Sztaba

Brandon and Steve,

Thank you for sharing our previous submission with your readers. It is a truly great experience to be a part of your growing community of passionate photographers. Recently, Kasia (my wife) and I travelled to the Palouse.

The Palouse is an agricultural region in southeastern Washington, which produces mostly wheat and legumes. We couldn’t find the origin of the name “Palouse.” Some sources claim that the name comes from the Palus tribe, only later converted to Palouse by the French-Canadian fur traders, which means “land with short thick grass.” Later the name was changed to the current Palouse.

It is a land like no other. The abundance of shapes, patterns and colours produces dream-like visuals, which might overwhelm your senses at first. However, if you cut yourself off from the noise of your everyday life, turn off your cellphone, disconnect from the Internet and let your senses wander, you will find yourself in awe. Rolling yellow fields against the blue sky, whirling patterns of cut hay and huge expanses of sand dune-like hills are all a feast for the eyes. While well-known parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone have their own mega-popular spots, the Palouse offers you the unknown. Every dirt road hides a visual gem for you to discover and this is what makes this place so special. We photographed this visual paradise with the Fuji X-T1, Fuji X100S, XF 14mm F2.8, XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 OIS lenses.

Here are a few images, mostly JPEGs (Velvia film simulation) straight from the camera (only minor contrast adjustments). We have also included some photos using the new Fuji film profiles in Lightroom 5. They are identical to what the X-series cameras produce, but offer some extra room for adjustment.

Regards,

Olaf Sztaba

www.olafphotoblog.com
www.olafphoto.squarespace.com

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Jun 302014
 

An Indian Wedding – one body, one lens, no flash pictures

By Arindam Pal

Hi Brandon and Steve,

How have you been doing? I have been quite busy settling down in a city in my home country for a while. Fortunately, I found some respite from the humdrum when I attended one of my brother-in-law’s wedding in New Delhi. Then I thought, why not take this golden opportunity and challenge myself to a strict rule – shoot the wedding with one body, one lens and no flash. Wedding photography without artificial light – was it even possible? Wedding photography in India is yet to take off for the masses – barring a few, most of the photographers are underpaid for the amount of effort they put in and the shots are mostly about the thousand or so people who attend, the various religious ceremonies and so on. No emphasis on smaller stories and the quintessential mood of a vibrant Indian wedding. But they do carry strobes and monos that I could leverage if I position myself correctly. Instead of trying to shoot what they would capture, I chose to pursue a different PoV. So, out came the trusty Fuji X-E2 and the outstanding 35 mm f/1.4. Many folks complain about missed focus on the X bodies. Even when shooting at night at higher than average ISOs, I never had a problem. I left the OM-D E-M1 back home because I knew I needed the Fuji’s insane sensor to allow for 99% night shots. The E-M1 is great but I wanted to minimize noise as much as possible. Ever since I heard about the Sony A7S, I have been waiting for your detailed review to come out. Maybe, that has the prowess to fill every gap that I find lacking. Here are some of the stories that I wanted to highlight:

1. The groom was sweating profusely in the intense Delhi summer. The photographer wanted a picture of the two brothers without the sweat showing up – so, the groom’s brother (my other brother-in-law) quickly takes out his own kerchief and wipes the sweat off his brother’s face. I thought this would be the best position for me to show the real camaraderie between two brothers. It was a challenging shot because I was looking straight at the bright light on the left. But the ISO 2500 DR from the X-E2 was good enough to retain some details even in harsh lighting conditions. EXIF: f/1.8 1/500 @ISO 2500

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2. Leading lines and symmetric split? And I knew no one was going to shoot the decor, the thousands of dollars’ worth of real flowers. I could have shot at a smaller aperture but the idea of one rose bouquet fading into another was just appealing. EXIF: f/2.8 1/420 @ISO 2000

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3. The bride and groom’s first dance together. I would normally focus on the couple as they venture into a new life together. However, the story here is not about the couple alone but on all the others around, showering blessings and cheering for them. So, I chose it be out of focus – critics will surely disagree. EXIF: f/1.4 1/420 @ISO 800

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4. An archetypal wedding portrait. My sister in law was all decked up and I wanted to see how well the 35 mm would hold up in the ambient magenta cast light. I opened up the door just a wee little bit to let the natural outdoor light seep through. At ISO 1600, there was hardly any noise creep. EXIF: f/2 1/70 @ISO 1600 EV -0.7

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5. And what Indian wedding is complete without showing some application of Henna tattoo? I got a small one made for meJ. This one shows one of my sisters-in-law waiting patiently as the Henna dries out and becomes permanent for a week or so. In the intense heat, 30 minutes was enough. EXIF: f/2 1/45 @ISO 2500

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6. The final one tells the story of the bride leaving her parents’ home to be with her partner for life. While everyone was focused on her, I was thinking of how my bro-in-law was feeling. He surely did not know how to react to his newly wed wife all in tears in her mother’s arms. A pinkish magenta light distorts the WB but according to me, the vivid color shows nothing but the confusion in his eyes! EXIF: f/1.8 1/70 @ISO 800

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Follow me on Flickr@

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ap_works/sets/

Thanks,

Arindam

Jun 272014
 

Shooting expired film with a Rolleiflex

By Huss Hardan

Many of us die-hard film shooters have been there. Browsing the classifieds looking for film bargains. Which means looking for expired film. Expired film can last for years as long as it has been in cold storage, and I’ve had some pretty good luck using it.
But this last time, the seller DID say that he did not know how it was stored. A bit of a red flag, no? It was cheap though…

So, I got a bunch of Kodak Portra NC 160 in 120 format for my Rolleiflex 2.8E. What could possibly go wrong?

#1 – apparently Kodak produced sample short rolls (for trade shows). While I merrily rattled off 12 exposures, there was only actually film for 6 shots on the roll! The way the Rolleiflex advances film, you cannot tell that you have got to the end of the roll until the film counter hits 12. Then it allows the advance mechanism to free wheel. Those last six shots, that could have been, could have been the best work I’ve ever done.
;)

#2 – the film was trashed,done, really expired. When I got the negatives back they were really soft, really low in contrast, really low in colour.
A bit of a bummer to be sure.

Normally that would have been that, and the only way to remedy the situation would have been to mess with development times to see if that would help. But we do not live in normal times my friends! We live in the future and have tools at our disposal like computers and editing programs. Lightroom to the rescue!
All the attached images were from the same roll. All edited in Lightroom by doing two things – adding maximum saturation and maximum contrast.
The shot of the beach also had clarity added. Colours are as they came out, green skies and all!

Peace out
Huss

husshardan.com

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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 242014
 

Gran Canaria, a great place for photographers

By Dirk De Paepe

After writing three articles for your great website, in which the gear had a central place, I really wanted to post a contribution which is all about the pictures. After all, we do it for the image, don’t we…

Recently, my wife and I spend a short vacation on Gran Canaria. It’s a place that we wanted to visit for many years, but until now, it just never happened. We chose it, because it’s located pretty southward (at 28°N, while we live in Belgium at 51°N, more than 3000 km/2000 mi further north), because we have a time difference of only one hour (which prevents jet lag), because politically it’s part of Spain (which helps with language and, being part of Europe, offers all kinds of amenities) and – of course – because of it’s completely different nature and climate (which helps for having a good vacation).

Gran Canaria is one of the bigger of the Canary Islands (“The Canaries” for short), which are one of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain and as such one of the outermost regions of the European Union territory. Gran Canaria is the third biggest island of the Canaries, surpassed in size only by Tenerife and Fuerteventura and followed by Lanzarote, La Palma and 8 other smaller islands. It’s the southernmost island of this archipelago, that is situated in the Atlantic Ocean at not more than 100 km (60 mi) west of Africa, roughly where the south of Morocco borders the Western Sahara. Although the Canaries are situated very close to Africa, as I said, politically speaking, they are part of the EU, which shows in the way the infrastructure is developed – very convenient for when you want a quick vacation without having to prepare to much. Still, living in Central or northern Europe, at the Canaries we can benefit from a pretty exotic climate and nature.

The islands have a subtropical climate, with long warm summers (around 26°C/79°F) and moderately warm winters (around 20°C/68°F). All the islands of the archipelago are volcanic in origin. The Teide volcano on Tenerife is the highest mountain on Spanish territory, and the third tallest volcano on Earth on a volcanic ocean island. The Canary Islands is the only place on Spanish soil where volcanic eruptions have been recorded during the Modern Era, with some volcanoes still active. The last was the El Hierro in 2011. The islands rise from Jurassic ocean crust associated with the opening of the Atlantic.

Due to the north-east trade winds the climate can be mild and wet as well as very dry. The individual islands in the canary archipelago tend to have distinct microclimates. Gran Canaria in particular is said to be a “continent in miniature” for its diverse landscapes with desert dunes and arid areas (more in the south) as well as pastures, forests, and an amazing floral display (central and in the north). This makes the island very interesting for photographers, due to its constant variation of landscapes and vegetation. And if you’re (like us) living more northly, the light, being so much more dense, results in extra ordinary colors. I found the light often to be flat-out stunning – which I tried to catch in some of the pictures.

I particularly loved the central and northern part of the island. To me it was a lucky coincidence that there the climate, being a few degrees cooler, resulted in much less tourists and a much more beautiful and greener scenery. Also, away from the southern coastline, we met a lot more local people, who were more friendly and authentic then the (mostly) newcomers and seasonal workers that run the tourist industry in the south. (Well, that was our impression anyway.)

Gran Canaria has about 850,000 inhabitants. The capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the most populous city, with its 375,000 inhabitants and shares the status of capital of the Canaries with Santa Cruz de Tenerife. But, I have to say, it’s more the smaller villages and towns that we’re attracted to.

Gran Canaria’s surface area is 1560 km2 (602.32 sq mi). It pretty much has a circular shape with a diameter of approximately 50km (30 mi) In center of the island lie the Roque Nublo 1813 metres (5948 ft) and Pico de las Nieves (“Peak of Snow”) 1949 metres (6394 ft). Exploring those mountains results in spectacular landscapes and views, with interesting photographically spots, wherever you look (figuratively speaking). Driving the roads of the inland is one of the main attractions to me: just take all the time you want to stop and shoot. I was so blessed having Krista reading and crocheting in the car and never complaining, while I was “quickly going to take that picture” but ended up with a whole series an hour or so later.

In this post, I just want to give you an idea of the beauty and variety on this island, as I just shot whatever impressed me while exploring it. We didn’t really have the time to prepare specific tours or visits, we just kind of let faith decide. But we didn’t regret for a second, because of the potential surprise around every corner and the friendliness and helpfulness of the local people.

I took my “compact travelling kit” with me for this trip and shot all pictures out of hand. In my belt bag I have my A7r (without vertical grip) with three batteries and 5 lenses: 135 and 85mm Jupiter (-9 and -11), 50mm Zeiss ZM Planar, 35mm Voigtländer Nokton Classic 1.4, and 24mm Canon FD 2.8. All together this makes for a weight of some 2,5kg (under 6lb), which I find no problem to carrie with me the whole day.

Well, I hope you will enjoy the pictures. Maybe they can inspire you to plan a trip to the Canaries too – a nice place to visit.

If you want, you can see more pictures from this trip in a dedicated album on my flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/sets/72157644837616198/

Of course, you can also visit my complete flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/

Thanks for watching!

Dirk

01. Rough volcanic coastline

02. Evening chair

03. Maspalomas dunes

04. Avenue

05. Tenerife behind the clouds

06. Pathway to heaven

07. Adios Amigos

08. Gate

09. Looking down

10. Under sunlight BW

11. Pico de las Nieves 1949m

12. San Bartolomé  outskirts

13. San Bartolomé square

14. Passage in San Bartolomé

15. Above the clouds

16. Lovely Pastures

17. Santa Lucia Alley

18. Stairs for daredevils

19. Shots on the wall

20. Lo diré una vez

Jun 202014
 

Novoflex Leica M 240 Macro Extension Tube Visoflex III Adapter

viso

The Novoflex Visoflex III close up adapter for Leica M is a unique product. It is the 1st of its kind that is portable and allows macro photography with a Leica M 240 camera. Basically it is a series of screw on rings that allow focusing with almost any M lens in the macro range. I tested it with a 50 Summicron and even a 100mm Canon vintage lens and it did great. Many of you may know that Leica has a new Macro adapter out and it comes in at $600+. The Novoflex is made in Germany and fits the M camera like a glove with the usual Novoflex build, finish and fit.

See my video below:

I am not a macro kind of guy but Ken Hansen sent me one to try out and I am pleased that there is finally a solution for Macro shooting on an M camera! This will work only on the M 240 as you need Live View to use it (lens will not focus with the RF).

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Here is what Novoflex says about their product:

“Thanks to its variable design the new LEM/VIS-II adapter set adds several new applications for Leica M240 photographers. It’s adapter and extension tube in one.
The following options are available:

Visoflex II/III-lenses can be used at the Leica M240 camera without reflex housing (focusing up to infinity).
LTM-lenses can be used with all Leica M-mount cameras.
Leica M-mount lenses can be used for close-up and macro images. Variable extension is possible (3 inner rings, 10mm extension each).
Depending on the use of the 3 inner rings magnifications between 0,28:1 – 0,84:1 can be achieved (50mm Leica M lens)”

At $370 the adapter is very unique, versatile and allows you to get very up close and personal with your M. When the adapter is attached you can not use the lens as normal, so it is strictly limited for Macro duty. If you want one, email Ken Hansen at [email protected]

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Jun 162014
 

A classic! A Leica X1 review article

By Adam Grayson

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Greetings!

As long time follower of your site, I am excited at my first opportunity to contribute. I have written an article about the Leica X1, titled “Yesterday’s News: The Leica X1 Review”. Below is the review for your, um, review.  Yesterday’s news: The Leica X1 review!

Released 09/09/09, the Leica X1 is certainly not today’s hot topic (the T is the current title holder now) and has likely been forgotten about as yesterday’s news by most of the photographic community. Heralding in a new era of the digital camera world with its fixed focal length, APS-C sensor in a small body, retro look and manual controls, it was considered to be the first of its kind that started a trend continuing through today. As the Leica T system ushers in a new kind of interface to the photographic world, I thought it would be relevant to share my experiences with this quirky but still very capable camera that was the talk of the town in 2009.

My experience with the X1 started in late 2010, well after its initial release. Not being able to financially justify the hefty price tag of a new X1, I patiently waited until the price in the used market came down to what I considered to be reasonable enough to make the jump. At that time, the camera brought me mixed feelings. The image quality was outstanding when everything came together, but most other times it was maddeningly frustrating. Maybe because I expected it to be as quick and versatile as my trusty old DLUX 4, or as reliable as my M8, but my initial experience left me wanting. After a few months of dedicated use, I decided to sell the X1 and chase photographic glory elsewhere.

So began my search for the ultimate APS-C fixed focal length camera. This journey took me through almost every form of the genre released on the market; from the retro-rific Fuji X100, to the uber-compact powerhouse Ricoh GR. Even the X1′s replacement model the Leica X2 passed through my hands at one point. All of the cameras had their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them really grabbed me, not even the X2 (a whole other story).

The closest camera that came close to staying in my stable was the Ricoh GR; what an amazing camera! It bests the X1 in many ways but it still did not have that feeling; the tactility in my hands, the manual controls, the desire to go out and take pictures with it. Something was always missing with the other cameras. You know, that elusive feeling that comes every so often when you really connect with a camera.

So what brought me back to the X1? It took an epiphany while shooting with the venerable Contax T2 (a fixed lens compact film camera) to see what I have been missing all along; stop trying to use the camera like a modern digital and shoot it like a film camera. Use a slower, more deliberate style of shooting. After coming to this realization, I had only one camera in mind to test my theory out. The X1.

Fast forward to February 2014. Found a great deal on a black X1 and went into the experience with a new mindset; don’t treat the camera like an automatic small-sensor point and shoot, treat it as a film camera like the Contax T2. Guess what? Yep, things went much better. Where blood pressure raising frustration used to kick in, now the zen calm of measured photography took place. Is the camera perfect? No. Will it hit the 100% “keeper” zone, especially with my ever-moving two-year-old? Certainly not. That being said, I find my keeper ratio close to that of my film cameras, even with the toddler in questionable light. I only use a 2 or 4GB card to ensure that I do not get in the digital “shoot, chimp, dump and repeat” mindset.

For those that may want to look at the X1, here are a few tips to get you on your way. First, keep your shutter speed above 1/60. Although you may think that 1/30 would work (as it does for me with Leica rangefinders), it tends to let the image get blurry quick, especially if the light is less than optimal.

Second, shot in DNG, all the time. No, really, all the time. Unfortunately the camera only takes DNG+JPG, and not just DNG (something about the camera’s software that cannot preview DNG files, so it grabs a stinky JPG). Delete the JPG and keep the DNG, even for black and white conversions. The latitude that the X1 DNG files give is pretty amazing. I have taken some photos in the unforgiving Florida sun and have been able to recover most of the blown highlights or deep shadows from most areas. The X1 can be frustrating, and a lot of shots can be missed if the camera is not understood. Used properly the X1 will reward you with some amazing photographs. My first time with the X1 stands testament to that, which is a good part of the reason why I came back.

The hype and fervor surrounding the Leica T is reminiscent of what the X1 went through in 2009. As a photographer, I look for cameras that create a connection with me. While the Leica T will one day end up in my hands, the X1 will still be in my bag bringing me exceptional photos that will last a lifetime for me and my family.

my photo blog can be found at www.uninspired.me

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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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Jun 022014
 

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Nikon V3 and AW1 and Floating Lanterns

By Joe Marquez - www.thesmokingcamera.com 

I took a Nikon V3 and 32mm f1.2 lens and Nikon AW1 to the Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu. This event has become a Memorial Day fixture in Hawaii and is attended by nearly 50,000 people.

The ceremony is quite beautiful and culminates at sunset with the placing of approximately 6,000 candlelit floating lanterns in the calm water along the beach. Each lantern contains a handwritten personal message to deceased loved ones from family and friends. This is a very emotional event – and a beautiful one to photograph.

Photographically, the ceremony presents several challenges. First of all, some of the best photo ops are in the water so one has to be quite careful with expensive camera equipment. Secondly, the wind direction determines whether lanterns congregate near shore or float away toward the ocean – so some years longer reach is quite useful. One year I used a Nikon 200mm f2 lens as the wind whisked the lanterns away. Finally, over the years more and more serious photographers attend the event – and along with the improved low light capability of all cameras and even cell phones, many more casual photographers and attendees are in the water jostling for position to get the very best angles. For this last reason I stopped attending years ago.

However, this year at the very last moment I decided to photograph the event. Unfortunately, the forecast was 50% chance of rain and I didn’t want to risk a DLSR (D4, Df, D800), so I thought this might be an opportunity to test my newly acquired Nikon AW1 and 11-27.5mm lens. Unfortunately, the waterproof 11-27.5 (30-74mm equivalent full frame FOV) is only f3.5 wide open so I wanted something faster and longer. I decided to take my V3 and 32 f1.2 (85mm equivalent full frame FOV) as well.

In my Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20 bag – which is absolutely superb – I carried the V3/32 combo and extra batteries in waterproof pouches and the AW1. Fortunately the V3 and AW1 use the same battery. How did that happen Nikon? My plan was if it rained I would only shoot with the AW1, if it didn’t rain I would carry the V3 around my neck and the AW1 with a wrist strap.

I arrived quite late, just as it began raining so out came the AW1. The menu is quirky and the ergonomics are poor, but it was wet and this is why I bought the camera. I struggled with the menu but eventually found the right settings. Took a few photos then the rain stopped. Turns out no more rain the rest of the evening. I took out the V3/32 combo and snapped away. This combo is blazing fast and at the beginning of the ceremony there was plenty of light.

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I worked my way through the crowd, into the main staging area where people were writing words, drawing pictures and decorating their lanterns and eventually arrived at the shore. Conditions changed quickly as bright sun turned to dark cloud cover.

As quickly as light conditions changed so did the mood of the crowd. When I arrived, most people were enjoying Memorial Day cooking, eating, swimming, playing sports, listening to music and talking story. However, as the sun went down and the ceremony began, the mood changed to quiet somber reflection and lots of flowing tears.

At sunset, the lanterns are placed in the water in one of two ways: by individuals at the shore or by volunteers on a fleet of outrigger canoes which each carry hundreds of lanterns. Each lantern has a personal hand written message – all of which are quite heartfelt. My wife cried when she read some of the messages in my photos. Very powerful, very emotional.

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Throughout the fast-moving ceremony I continued taking photographs at the shore, pretty much using the AW1 for wide and the V3/32 for reach. With my Nikon DSLRs I would shoot manual knowing I had lots of leeway in post processing if my settings were off. However, I know the V3 and AW1 do not have anywhere near the same leeway as a full frame DSLR so I was hoping the camera would properly expose as I was shooting in all directions under rapidly changing light. I set both cameras to aperture priority and auto iso. This turned out be a mistake because quite often the camera would drop shutter speed too low instead of increasing iso. Furthermore I had max iso at 800 instead of 3200 for much too long. Consequently, I ended up with lots of blurry images. My bad.

The lanterns floated out to sea fairly quickly so there was only a brief opportunity to get some angles I wanted. I was forced to wade out belly-button deep in order to get the shots. I tightened the camera bag close to my neck, held the V3 high in my left hand secured by a neck strap and the AW1 in my right hand secured by a wrist strap. I alternated between the EVF and tilting LCD of the V3 and dipped the AW1 in the ocean as needed. I don’t think I would be so audacious with my D4.

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Other than my auto iso mistake how did the cameras do? Well, I’ve included images for you to examine and here are some thoughts.

The AW1 was surprisingly effective. I was able to shoot in the rain at the beginning and dip the camera into the ocean to get some unique low angle shots. If it had rained at the event I may have been one of the few photographers (other than those with GoPros) capable of taking decent photos. The menu and ergonomics are quirky and frustrating but ultimately the AW1 was able to get the job done. Overall it kind of reminds me of the V1 in that you set up the camera and trust it to get the shot.

I’m a big fan of Nikon’s 32 lens and love shooting wide open at 1.2. The lens is small, fast, sharp and renders well. It will never replace my Nikon 85 f1.4 but it can certainly produce gorgeous images with surprisingly shallow DOF on Nikon’s tiny CX sensors. It did not let me down at the ceremony.

Obviously this is not a V3 review. However, I’ve been using the V3 for over a month and for me it is a worthy upgrade to the V1 (never owned the V2). More pixels, tiltable rear LCD, assignable function buttons are improvements I wanted and got. There are things I don’t like such as the switch to microSD and the limitation of 40 shots when shooting at high fps. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with the V3 because of its speed, accuracy and reach in a small, lightweight, silent package (can’t wait for surf season on the northshore). The V3, just like the V1 (and V2, I presume) is simply the best mirrorless camera I’ve ever used to capture a fleeting moment. This may be true in good light, but what about bad light?

This ceremony turned out to be an opportunity to test the V3/32 combo and AW1 in poor light. As darkness fell, both were able to focus well enough, however the V3 produced images much noisier than I expected and noisier than the AW1. Could it be the denser pixel count of the V3 18MP sensor or the result of Lightroom 5’s current lack of support for the V3? As of today LR5 uses a beta profile for the V3. I really don’t have an answer. I know these cameras with their tiny sensors are weakest in poor light, but sometimes out of necessity capabilities are pushed to and beyond the limit.

In summary, the image quality of the V3/32 combo and AW1 will never match that of a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a larger sensor – particularly in poor light. But how important is image quality and what is good enough? I tried to capture the mood and feel of the ceremony along with a few special moments. I certainly did not have the ideal setup and I made some mistakes. I leave it to viewers of my images to decide if I succeeded or not.

Beyond the technical aspects of the shoot what I remember most was the ceremony concluding and the sky having that last glimmer of light. As I stood waist deep in water, I looked out at thousands of beautiful lanterns in the ocean, took in a deep breath – and simply savored the moment.

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May 312014
 

Making Time for photography

By D.J. De La Vega

Making Time…

In between running around getting a bunch of nothing sorted out, doing chores and running errands, I decided to take two minutes out and grab a cup of coffee and take a well-earned break. There I sat upon the sea front on a bleak summer’s day, watching the increasingly ferocious waves crashing upon the gnarly and charismatic rocks through the windscreen of my car. I could see many a potential shot unfolding but as my camera was currently rattling around in the boot, I was not too worried about realising any of the potential photographs. Being as blessed as I am with the current location of my humble abode, I have endless number of similar attempts clogging up my hard drive as it stands.

All of a sudden a little car pulled up next to me and out popped a fragile but cheery old man, suitable wrapped up for the inclement weather conditions. He leant back into the open door of the ageing hatchback, gave his smiling wife a quick peck on the cheek and threw around his neck an unremarkable superzoom bridge type camera. Off he then toddled along the promenade, disappearing across the harbour to take some photos of the waves now excitedly assaulting the pier and lighthouse. Meanwhile his better half waited patiently in the car reading a book quietly listening to the talk radio.

I was in awe of just how fantastic this little scene that unfolded before me really was. This chap was deliberately and diligently carrying out his preferred past time regardless of the unfavourable conditions, fully supported and seeming actively encouraged by his long-suffering spouse. I could not even make time to get my camera from the boot of my car to take one shot. This is when I had the epiphany; although I consider photography to be integral in my life, cementing all aspects of my day. I realised 99% of the time that is what my photography was… cement. I struggle so much to make the most of my time, between all the essential building blocks of what it is that makes me be: wife, kids, family, friends, work etc. Photography encompasses all of these things while never really taking president.

That is when I decided I needed to start trying to find a way to squeeze more time into my hectic schedule… to put my photography first, if even just at least once in a while. I am always shooting while out doing something else; taking the dog for a walk, walking to the shops or taking pictures of my kids on days out. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these occasions for photography, but I felt I needed time to concentrate wholeheartedly and immerse myself into a shoot.

A couple of days passed and with a bit of organising I found myself alone with my camera in one of my favourite cities in the (currently) United Kingdom, Edinburgh. I had suitably cleared my day and found I nothing but time to dedicate toward submerging myself in the culture and atmosphere of the impressive Capital. Just like the inspirational old man with his superzoom in his chosen location, it was just me, my D7000 and a 50mm F1.8 D floating around the city streets like a wisp on the breeze. I found I could concentrate more and explore locations and subjects in much greater depths than my usual style of candidly shooting on the move, trying to capture that one “decisive moment” whilst simultaneously trying to stop my dog mauling/mounting a passerby as my attention was shifted. I hovered, lingered and simply relaxed, breathing it all in.

For over five hours non-stop I walked, explored and shot and even with a conservative haul of less than the equivalent of two rolls of film I was happy with what I had achieved. I really wanted to share this set as I feel there must also be a lot of people out there who cannot find the time of day to fully realise their passion for photography. Please do not mistake my satisfaction for superciliousness, I am not claiming that any of these pictures have broken the mould or that I have crafted anything close to a masterpiece, but I do feel on a personal level that have I have accomplished something by making time to put my photography first.

If we all spend more time taking photos than we do about talking and thinking about them, making time will surely reap rewards.

D.J. De La Vega

@DJ_De

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/djdelavega/

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