May 172016
 
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The Fashionable X-Pro 2

by James Conley

Hi Steve and Brandon. I wanted to share a fashion editorial with you, and my experience using the Fujifilm X-Pro2 in the studio.

For a few years now, I’ve relied on Fujifilm’s X-Series as my workhorse system for documentary, street, and travel photography. Originally working with an X100s and an X-E1, I’ve now added the X-Pro2 to the stable. (These days, the X-E1 is a backup body.) However, for studio work I’ve continued to rely on Canon.

Studio work involves different kinds of habits from those of the photojournalism I usually do. The thought process in working with lights, settings, models, and scenes is nearly quite the opposite kind of thinking required to capture unfolding moments on the street. Studio work is slower and more deliberate, and the distractions of the equipment cannot be avoided, with each shot requiring manual adjustments of light stands and strobe settings.

For studio thinking, I always found a Canon DSLR a good match. The studio is about controlling light, and it’s often a dim place to work. Seeing directly through the lens is not only easier in low light, but it also makes me feel more connected to the model. Fleeting expressions are easy to catch, and small framing adjustments are quickly comprehended when looking through an SLR.

The X-E1 was impossible to consider for the task. The slow refresh rate of the EVF is very frustrating in low light. The X100s was too limited with its lens options (even taking into account the WCL and TCL). Its EVF suffers the same problems as the X-E1, and the rangefinder is not an acceptable solution because of parallax issues. So it was Fuji on the streets, and Canon in the studio.

XPRO5459 XPRO5342 XPRO5326 XPRO5518

With time, however, the Canon system has shown its age. Not the least of the frustrations is a limited number of focus points. Especially when shooting with wide apertures, “focus and reframe” can introduce a host of issues. There are also issues with low light performance. Working with an SLR, it is much harder to tell if the focus is correct in low light, and many times it isn’t.

Newer Canon bodies have more focus points and better low light performance, but that necessitates buying a newer body. I have a substantial investment in Canon glass, but unfortunately the technology has left them behind and there are many frustrations with focus speed and lock on. What was a great L-series lens a few years ago is now a slow-focuser with a lot of chromatic aberration.

With the X-Pro2 in hand, I finally had an option. The EVF is fast enough not to be a distraction, and the low light performance is excellent. Faced with the choice of upgrading the Canon system or testing the X-Pro2, it was easy to decide to get the Fuji hooked up to the lights see what would happen.

XPRO5687 XPRO5750 XPRO5594 XPRO5766

My approach to studio light is very simple: one or two Paul Buff lights, with a variety of modifiers. The lights are on radio triggers, with a transceiver on the camera. I shoot the camera in manual, and make adjustments to the lights as needed to achieve the exposure I want.

The first problem came when the radio triggers wouldn’t trip the light. Investigation into the issue led to no satisfying answers. I’ve used Yongnuo 603Cs for years with no issues. My first fear was a hotshoe issue with the X-Pro2. (In the past, I’ve found that Canon studio accessories worked with the Fujis.) Forging ahead, though, I made the assumption that the issue was with the Yongnuos and not the X-Pro2, and purchased a set of RadioPopper receivers and a transmitter. They worked straight out of the box with not a single misfire, so I’ve concluded that the pins on the Yongnuo 603C’s aren’t correct for the X-Pro2.

Although a stressful one, the trigger issue turned out to be the only issue. The X-Pro2 is a delight to use in the studio. The EVF gets out of the way, and there were very few focus issues—and only when there were a lot of shadows. The sensor on the X-Pro2 is fantastic, and gives a very film-like quality to the images, with incredible amounts of latitude.

Getting the X-Pro2 set up for studio use is short work:

set the shutter speed to 1/250th
set the ISO to 200
turn Preview Pic Effect off
turn the flash mode to on

Manually set the aperture, and away I go.

I’m looking forward to continuing to use the X-Pro2 in the studio. Even more, I’m looking forward to not having to buy a new Canon!

More images can be seen on my website: http://f-eleven.com, and on Instagram: @philatawgrapher

May 102016
 
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La Noir Image – If you love fine B&W Imaging, take a look at this…

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Friend, Photographer and Photography Blog owner Chris Gampat of the Phoblographer has started a Kickstarter to help launch a project/e-magazine that he is very passionate about. It all has to do with fine black & white photography, and the art of it, those who have mastered it and ways for us to learn how to improve our own monochrome techniques.

Shooting in Monochrome is a different thing altogether than shooting color, and I am excited to see Chris look to start an E-Magazine based on not only these fine photographers, gorgeous images and featured interviews but it seems much more than that. For me, it seems to be one of those projects that is truly about the art of PHOTOGRAPHY and these kinds of things are important these days in the world of iPhone and smart phone photography. We should never forget there is an art form to this, and I feel a magazine like this would be so cool for the art itself.

Chris is a great guy who has a true passion for photography. I have shot with him over half a dozen times over the past few years and sat down and had talks with him about photography and life in general. Chris is a guy who will be doing great things down the road as he has the drive and motivation to get there. I hope he succeeds with this kickstarter as I would love to see the final product come to life.

If you love B&W,  be sure to check out his Kickstarter HERE. 

 

May 042016
 

Fixing the shakes..Piccure Plus plug in

by Rudiger Wolf

An exciting find to share with readers!

Your website has inspired and helped me to enjoy photography immensely… not to mention all the ideas to acquire new gear. In the recent article “The Pursuit of Perfection”, it articulated the inspirational concept that “I don’t seek to capture the moment perfectly; I simply seek to capture the perfect moment.”

A few weeks ago, we were visiting Lake Tahoe, and I captured this image:

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Upon closer inspection (yes indeed… pixel peeping), I noticed it was not as sharp as I would like, and the search was on to find a sharper lens, change technique, blame Adobe’s X-trans processing and find a new raw processor, etc.

But last night, I ran across a Lightroom plug-in that yielded the results shown below at 1:1. The second comparison shows the difference at 3:1 for real pixel peepers.

1st…

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2nd…

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I am so excited by this difference, I wanted to share it with the readers of this website. I have frequently had some frustration with images that were not as clear/sharp as I would have liked.

Aside from shooting the XT-1, we also enjoy smaller, tougher cameras that tend to be not quite as sharp as I would like. Here is another example, this time from the Olympus TG4 with before / after.

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Many times, to capture the perfect moment (however you define it), we may need to compromise the quality of the image. With this software, I find that perhaps I can recover some of the quality as well, after the fact. The software is piccure+. Find the website at piccureplus.com. Best wishes!

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Rudy

http://digitalwolftracks.smugmug.com

Rudiger Wolf

Apr 192016
 

In this modern world of cameras, sometimes the best one is your iPhone.

By Michael Fratino

Hi Steve, thanks again for your site. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly the last several years and look forward to your continued reviews, stories and posts.

I am currently freelancing as a creative director for a company involved with boxing. Please note that I am NOT a sports photographer, nor a boxing enthusiast. My gear is nothing more than an original Fuji X100. Steve was kind enough to post my original review years ago: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/09/10/my-500-mile-38-day-walk-across-spain-with-my-fuji-x100-by-michael-fratino/. Also, I am not a gear fanatic and believe the best camera is the one you have at the moment. For me, the camera is nothing more than a tool. Pick the best tool for the job.

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With literally no notice, I was tasked with documenting the Friday night fights in downtown Los Angeles from an editorial perspective for upload to the company’s social media site. I was told or at least believed, I would have time to take some shots, edit them and submit days later. I was so wrong about that!

I was given an all access pass to shoot at will. This included the locker room and ringside. My equipment was my trusty X100 and a newly loaned (that day) Sony A7 with an older manual Nikon 55mm 2.8 lens attached (stellar combination)! BTW, I had no idea how to work the A7. I learned on the fly.

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Upon arrival, my very young social media counterpart informed me that I was to shoot as fast as I could and transfer the photos to her immediately with airdrop for post! I thought to myself… What happened to having time to compose, shoot, edit and then post? No dice! Hurry up!

With 7 fights, and very limited time between boxers, everything was done at lighting pace. I tried my trusty X100 but the poor lighting and the uber fast movement of the boxers proved disappointing. I tried the A7 and absolutely loved it but again, not enough to time to edit and transfer shots on the fly. So I pulled out my iPhone 6. (and all images in the post were shot with the iPhone)

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I shot the images without flash in “noir” mode, cropped and then transferred to our social media expert for upload. Fast, fast, fast! Then I was off to the next fighter. Please note… The shots are not perfect! They are not super sharp either! I had to work with what I had at the moment… That’s it. Ultimately, I was impressed with the results and the best part… So was the client!

Best,
Michael Fratino

www.fratinoart.com

Mar 212016
 

Sony A7 Thin Filter Legacy Lens Upgrade by Kolari Vision

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FROM KOLARI VISION WEBSITE about their Conversion for better performance with Leica M mount glass..

INTRODUCING OUR NEW THIN-FILTER CONVERSION

As one of first full frame mirrorless camera, the Sony A7-series (A7, A7r, A7s, A7II, A7RII) holds a lot of promise for users of legacy 35mm lens, thanks to it’s short flange distance and wide range of adapters available. Unfortunately, these cameras have less than optimal performance on many classic lenses owing to the extra glass of the lowpass/IR filter that is attached directly to front of the sensor. When these lenses were originally designed for film cameras, there was nothing between the lens and the film, so adding an element to the optical path causes degradation of the image, particularly toward the edges/corners. Our friend Roger at LensRentals wrote some excellent articles explaining the science behind this that you can find here. The Sony A7 series is particularly problematic since it uses a very thick sensor filter which makes many otherwise excellent lenses unusable at the corners by ‘smearing’ the image – something (unlike vignetting or color shift) that cannot be corrected later.

Michael Demeyer, a photographer in San Francisco, approached us and suggested using our experience in IR modifications, where we replace these sensor filters, to improve the A7-series performance on Leica and other rangefinder lenses by replacing the filter in these cameras with a thinner version. He loaned us a Leica M-mount Voigtlander 21mm Color-Skopar F4.0 lens, widely known as problem because of it’s very short exit pupil distance, to use for development.

We are pleased to announce that, after 4 months of development work, we are able to offer this service – a thin filter replacement for the Sony A7-series that significantly improves corner sharpness of legacy lenses (especially wide-angle rangefinder lenses) compared to the stock cameras. Using the same techniques proven in our successful IR modifications, we install a much thinner filter (of Schott optical glass) and then recalibrate the focus on the camera to compensate for the thinner glass. With continuing developments, we are now installing an even thinner corrosion resistant version of this filter that is durable even in humid regions.

We are also now finally able to support the A7II and A7R II for conversion. We wanted to be sure that our conversion was able to maintain proper IBIS stabilization features and wanted to have it tested independently to eliminate any bias. Jim Kasson has done some extensive quantification on the level of shake reduction the A7II can reach, and he agreed to test our A7 II mod. He went above and beyond and developed a system to accurately shake the camera, and his conclusion was “It’s clear that, in this case, the IBIS operation is in no way impaired by the Kolari modification.”

To see more and to see before and after samples, check out their WEBSITE HERE. 

Mar 192016
 

Some solarizing fun on a Sunday evening

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

Just doodling a bit with some shots I’ve got.

Some thirty years ago, I was fascinated with pseudo solarisation. I exposed and souped hundreds of pieces of paper and went to great lengths to try to standardize the Sabattier effect. I guess just about any photographer did that in those days.

I managed one 24 inch print about once every six weeks, after many, many hours of work. I even tried Agfacontour and Cibachrome to make color solarisations. That was hellish and expensive like you wouldn’t believe it!!!

Now, look what I did in Photoshop in about five minutes:

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Mar 152016
 

The Magic of Simplicity – An approach to shooting skateboarding

by Philipp Schuster

Skateboarding can be divided into two basic approaches. On the one hand there is park skating: athletes use optimized structures that are especially made for skateboarding on dedicated locations. On the other hand there is street skating: it’s philosophy is to use the “natural“ topography of a city and to interpret urban structures with an individual approach. Skaters get lost in the concrete jungle and cruise from one spot to the other all day long.

Even though there are many stages in between, this rough distinction also works with photographing skateboarding: one approach is to build up a shooting concept where you control the scene and the light. The other is to let things slide, to use the available light and to allow unpredictable conditions to influence your shooting style.

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It’s a difficult task to transport the mood and rawness of the streets to a public of non skaters. But photography is a very endearing media that facilitates that to a broader audience – the possibilities and the variations are endless. There is an authentic match between the lifestyle of street skating and the adaptive shooting style that developed a hundred years ago. The magic happens when the camera captures part of the skate life and brings the beholder of the final image closer to a vibrant urban experience.

The lighter and more accessible a photo bag is the better: stopping at a road gap, grabbing the camera, hitting the trigger (and having the ability to store it within seconds as soon as the police show up), and then keeping on following your nose to the next spot in the area. Flexibility is key and being that flexible helps you to keep on moving and to discover new spots and locations that you wouldn’t ever find whilst lugging 20kg of flash equipment on your back.

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The worst light is always the same light. Changing seasons inspired musicians and poets to create exceptional pieces. Sometimes you cross a boring spot that gets interesting for five minutes only because of an exciting light reflection – and again: skater and photographer are ready within a minute to capture this rare moment. The key is to go with the flow of the session and to keep up with the opportunities the street offers.

Skateboard photography can be a very demanding field: fast action and uncertain shooting conditions ask for high technical standards. Nowadays those standards can be found not only in top of the line equipment, but also in entry-level gear, but because of the breath-taking array of equipment possibilities the most important ingredients of a good photograph sometimes takes a back seat: the soul and the personal signature of the photographer himself and that all important touching story. Something no technical gadget can replace.

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So really, what more do we need to tell exciting stories in the history of urban life, and to be able to freeze those now-or-never-situations. A small camera body, our favorite prime lens, a skateboard, a good session and some soul. What more?

Web: www.trottoir-media.com, www.redbullphotography.com

Instagram: @_philippschuster

Feb 232016
 

What is cinematic?

By Aivaras Sidla

There is a style of photography where picture looks like a still scene taken from movie. I saw such look in other photographers work, managed to make several pictures myself and I’m drawn to learn how to create such pictures on purpose.

This style is usually called “cinematic”.

After reading a half of internet, going trough lot of pictures of several serious photographers, that use this style (would recommend to pay attention to  mr. Matt Osborne work) and experimenting a bit, I learn that there are several important aspects that helps to create this specific look.

I’m going to share a list of observations and some photos (please remember that looks is very personal and things which I see in picture you may see differently). Thing is that I don’t grasp all of important aspects, so this time I’m trying to make interactive post :) – please share your remarks and observations.

Picture1. Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited, Kodak Portra 400

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Picture2. Pentax MZ-3 (panorama mode), SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Kodak Portra 400

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Picture3. Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, CineStill 800 Xpro Tungsten

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Picture4. Pentax MZ-3 (panorama mode), SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, CineStill 800 Xpro Tungsten

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Picture5. Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited, Kodak Portra 400

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Anyway, here is a list:

-Aspect ratio. Wider is better, but I dare to say that it is not dead necessary. 3×2 aspect looks OK to me.

-Its better when subject doesn’t have direct eye contact with camera. Not sure why, maybe we are used that there is no operator in movies, he has to be invisible

-There should be tension in the frame. I try to create it by looks, movement, composition, and emotional aspects.

-Depth of field. Limited depth of field works better for me, but it shouldn’t be just pone detail and a splash of bokeh in the rest of the frame. There should be context in the picture.

-Light. Proper directional good quality light is very important. But here I don’t see that much difference from usual still photography style. So looks like that there is no need to go into specific details.

-Lens flare. I didn’t tried to use it. I know that I have to learn how to crate it in controllable and suitable way. Like long lens flare that goes trough all frame.

So this is what I know. Now it’s your turn, readers; what would be your opinion, observations for creation of cinematic look?

O! Almost forgot, that this is gear site. Yes. I just have to get my hands on Hasselblad X-pan II with 45mm F4 lens and center ND filter. Yes, again. That should answer all my questions. He he he. J
Regards,

Aivaras

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

Feb 082016
 

Editing Fujifilm RAW files with Iridient Developer for more WOW

By Axel Friberg

Dear Brandon and Steve,

It’s been a while since I wrote you last. As of today, I still shoot with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and edit my pictures in Lightroom CC. I might upgrade to the X-T2 when it comes, this summer. The Fuji RAW files are still not fully supported by Adobe, which is a drawback. As I’m sure you are aware, some details like foliage for example, will looked smeared. Inspired by the amazing photographer Olaf Sztaba, I decided to download the trail version of the photo editor Iridient Developer and gave the Fuji RAW files a run for its money. Let me tell you, the difference is real. Like going from 480p to 1080p on Youtube. I used Olaf’s settings in Iridient Developer, choosing the unique sharpening method ‘R-L deconvolusion’ and setting the radius slider to 0.5 and the Iterations slider to 30.

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Then I exported the RAW file edited in Iridient Developer to Lightroom and compared it with the same Raw file edited in Lightroom only, where I had set the sharpness to 33, radius to 0,8 and detail. to 100. Additionally, I also set both pictures’ contrast to +15 and clarity to +10 in Lightroom and exported the same cropped part of the picture to emphasis the difference in sharpness of the pine tree’s needles. To me there is a massive difference. The pine-needles in the RAW file edited in Iridient Developer are crisp whereas the same pine-needles in the RAW file edited in Lighroom almost look like they have been painted. Hopefully, you will be able to see what I mean in the pictures I’ve sent you!

The photo was taken with the Fuji X-Pro1 and a Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 (via a Metabones adapter) @1/250 s, f/5.6, ISO400.

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Now both crops..

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Feb 022016
 
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A Professional Wedding Photographer’s Perspective on Switching to Sony Mirrorless


by Peter Georges

Excluding short interludes with cameras from Nikon, Fuji and Leica most of my photography life has been centered on Canon DSLRs.

Although it functioned as my workhorse system, I was never completely satisfied with what was on offer from Canon. Issues of sensor technology aside, DSLRs have issues pertaining to focus accuracy once higher megapixels are involved. Issues relating to mirror slap and the lack of image stabilization on prime lenses also become difficult to deal with as the megapixel count rises. As I would later learn, there are other advantages mirrorless systems offer that make it difficult to go back to a DSLR camera.

Read on to find out why I made the switch to Sony Mirrorless, why DSLRs are history for my style of photography and what I think remains to be done to completely seal the deal.

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The Early Steps

Initially it was the Sony A7s that drew me in. Sony became professionally acceptable for video use well before photography. It makes sense doesn’t it? Autofocus does not factor into the equation very much allowing an easy jump into a new camera body while adapting your existing Canon EF lenses with ease.

It stoked my curiosity with regard to the viability of the A7 system for professional photography. I picked up a Sony A7II and the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Lens and after some heavy testing went in to my next wedding with that combo. A Canon 5d Mark III kit was available as backup and tele reach. It worked! Almost…

A7II + 5d Mark III wedding: http://www.petergeorges.com.au/jonathan-monica

Although I delivered some of my best images, the Canon had to come out more often than I’d have liked. Unfortunately the A7II wasn’t completely ready. Poor tracking, no continuous autofocus when using eye detect and poor low light autofocus meant the 5d Mark III had to be used for the bridal entrances and for almost the entirety of the reception. Although the A7s was better at picking up focus in low light conditions, the lack of phase detection meant it was simply too slow to capture people in motion.

A7RII

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The Camera That Changed Everything

Then – almost as if to immediately curb my disappointment in the autofocus performance – the Sony A7rII was announced and I picked up mine on the day of release.

All of a sudden I could use continuous eye detect focus (a revolution in itself), focus in low light and track subjects coming toward me with ease.

A problem with mirrorless cameras is the lack of support for firing IR flash beams to achieve low light autofocus. I believe it’s to do with the autofocus points being on sensor which is behind an IR filter. They need to be many stops better in low light conditions compared to a DSLR to compete. The advantage they do have however – unlike DSLRs – is that the autofocus operates based on the aperture of your lens rather than a fraction of the light being passed by the mirror to a separate autofocus sensor. In all my experiences so far the A7rII with a 35mm f1.4 can achieve focus even in extremely dark club environments.

As high megapixel DSLRs make the job of producing sharp images more and more difficult, the A7rII has the perfect storm of technologies that make it easier than ever:

Image Stabilization which is applied to all lenses including f1.4 primes
• The traditional mirrorless strength of accurate focusing, without the need for per-lens focus tuning
• The lack of mirror slap
• The lack of shutter vibration thanks to an electronic first curtain shutter
• Continuous eye detect autofocus, since getting critical focus on the eye is always key

Add that with a WYSIWYG view on your exposure and it means a staggeringly high hit rate. Allowing you to focus on making great artwork rather than managing the technical aspects of photography.

I happily said good bye to chimping.



Full Sony mirrorless wedding: http://www.petergeorges.com.au/ryan-georgie

A7RII

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I can’t say enough about the joys of having a tilt screen with the same focus capability as the EVF. It has been a mini-revolution. I rarely hold the camera up to my eye and thanks to IBIS I don’t receive a penalty for the slight loss of stabilization. This has allowed me to experiment with creative angles so much quicker than having to move my whole body into position. Once again it is a culmination of features which makes it impossible to go back to a DSLR.

Current Limitations and the Future

It will only take one or two more generations at the rate Sony is going to completely close the gap on the remaining DSLR advantages: speed, durability and native lens selection. There is no technological reason at all why it won’t happen – and quicker than many expect. Mirrorless cameras have the potential to do everything a DSLR can do. The reverse is not true.

Speed is the key. With faster and faster sensor read outs and more advanced onboard image processing the disadvantages of mirrorless melt away.

A7RII

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I do have some issues with the current implementation however, so to Sony I say:

• Give us dual SD slots throughout your A7 model range! This is absolutely critical especially if you want to capture the wedding market. Don’t leave this to the mythical A9, put it in the A7iii. This should be a standard and not a way to get people to buy a camera with features they don’t need. At the moment I’m forced to back up my images multiple times throughout the day because SD cards can and will fail.
• Work out a nice solution for moving the focus point. There are situations where there are no eyes to detect and a simple joystick would do wonders. The current system is an ergonomic nightmare.
• Consider releasing larger and more durable models with better battery life.

As for Canon and Nikon? I predict they will eventually strip the mirror box from future generation 5d’s and D810’s while retaining fast autofocus with EF and F mount lenses. They would be absolutely crazy to get rid of their lens advantage. They won’t have the smallest or lightest cameras, but they will be smaller and lighter than they currently are. More importantly, not a single one of my reasons for moving to mirrorless was size or weight.

I’d like to thank Steve for letting me contribute to the site.

Peter Georges

http://www.petergeorges.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/petergeorgesphotography

Feb 012016
 

The Vulnerability Of Self

by Greg Turner – His website is HERE

Over dinner with some friends recently I was introduced to someone who, while having a successful business career, also described herself as ‘an artist’. The deliberate use of that moniker was interesting and I asked at what point in her creative journey she had finally felt comfortable using that title. She acknowledged the validity of the question and explained that it had taken her completion of an under graduate degree in Fine Art before she finally felt justified in calling herself an artist. Ironically for me as an observer, all it took was a look at her work (she’s a sculptor and an incredibly talented one) to see the artist and not just the person.

Self-doubt has long been a feature of the creative process and of artists in general. For sure I don’t consider myself an artist and until recently the word ‘just’ was quite deliberately used before the self-description of ‘amateur photographer’ on the front page of my website. When asked why by a friend, I explained it was deliberately self-deprecating; I didn’t consider myself good enough to call myself an amateur photographer just yet. That term, to my reading at least, connotes some degree of proficiency and talent I wasn’t sure I possessed. We agreed I would remove after her reassurance that I was more than talented enough. As a graphic designer, she routinely works with and appraises various photographers work so she should know, and yet the doubts still linger…..

‘Tina’

‘Tina’

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I started this project as a way of examining the concept of the person and the three manifestations of any individual. The more photographs I take though, the more I realise that I am exploring that concept from the perspective of self as much as anything else and that process is similarly tinged with self-doubt and vulnerability. I guess I’m exercising my own demons such as they are; the little boy at Catholic primary school who while not subject to physical abuse, was exposed to prolonged and painful emotional abuse. It has an effect that is carried through to adulthood and at various stages in life is processed through different lenses, if you will excuse the pun. The current lens I am using is both metaphorical and literal.

There is a certain irony with using the camera lens to explore that vulnerability and self-doubt. Traditionally, it is the subject that is more nervous of the lens because it’s their vulnerability or self-doubt that is being observed if not exposed. For me, the fear and doubt is as equal behind the lens as in front of it, it’s that mirror phase again with the subject looking back at me, being me.

‘The Film Producer’

‘The Film Producer’

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The three portraits on this blog say a lot on this subject. In the first, ‘Tina’,  it was her tattoos that immediately caught my eye and why I asked if I could take her picture. Her immediate response was to ask for posed quite freely but her pose is at once both vulnerable and defiant. The way she holds her head shows strength, you can see the muscular structure of her neck suggesting that physical strength, the look in her eyes and of course, the obvious hand gesture, which I confess I did not see at the moment I took the picture and initially cropped out. And yet she is intensely vulnerable, after all she has just asked for money because of her situation.

The next picture is the polar opposite. ‘The Film Producer’ shows a man consummately at ease with himself. He knows who he is, he knows what he likes and he is very comfortable with that. There is not the slightest hint of vulnerability here or at least, any vulnerability or self-doubt that may have once been has long since been forgotten.

The last image, ‘The Bike Messenger’, the pose is relaxed but the cigarette and the off camera look show tension; he’s relaxed but not completely. The tension is probably the reflection that he’s just agreed to have his picture taken by some random stranger in Soho. I imagine he’s having second thoughts but isn’t sure how to get out of it. This is self-doubt brought about by the sudden vulnerability of the situation.

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Of course, all this could just be complete nonsense. The pictures could well be no better than something you’d have developed at Happy Snaps and my reflecting on them over intellectualized nonsense (actually that part probably is true; I hope the pictures are a little better than snaps though).

Greg

Dec 082015
 
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Leica Q – Impressions from a Sony RX1 Shooter

By Chad Wadsworth – Visit his website HERE

Over the past few years Sony has disrupted the DSLR industry with their full frame a7 mirrorless line, but the camera that started it all was the original RX1. Since its release in 2012, the RX1 has been labeled a modern classic – a full frame compact that you could use as your main tool without compromise. But technology moves fast and today there is competition in the space from both the Leica Q and the just released update to the RX1, the RX1RII.

The Leica has received praise from the online community so I was curious about how it would compare to my beloved RX1. The 28mm Summilux presents a wider fov compared to the classic 35mm of the RX1 – a positive to some, negative to others. The Q has a touch screen, built-in high-resolution EVF and Leica claims one of the fastest AF systems on the market. It was all certainly enough to have me interested. At the same time, I hoped the RX1 replacement would be announced soon and sure enough, Sony revealed the RX1RII in October, sporting the potent 42mp sensor of the a7RII, 399 phase detect autofocus points, a new pop-up EVF, tilt screen and the worlds first variable optical low pass filter – quite a feature set.

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Finding a Leica Q to play with proved difficult but a couple of weeks ago a good friend purchased Ashwin Rao’s camera and allowed me to use it to shoot the Fun Fun Fun Festival in Austin, TX. Two days of intense shooting with the Q definitely informed my opinion on the camera.

No denying it, the Q is lovely. In comparison to the bulky, Bauhaus on steroids design of the new SL, the Q pays closer homage to the M line with classic rangefinder sensibilities. It looks and feels as if it was carved out of a solid block of aluminum with fine workmanship throughout the build. I particularly like how the thumb grip is inset into the back of the body. I received many compliments on the camera and even ran into one other shooter backstage.

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Comparatively, the RX1RII hews to the same retro aesthetic but with a more modern twist. Build quality is similar but the design adds a unique pop-up EVF and a tilt screen for a more stealthy experience on the street. There is also a direct control dial on the front for focus settings – including a continuous mode with advanced features like AF Lock (tracking) and Eye AF (eye tracking). Even with these modern features an RX1RII shooter is going to field regular questions from strangers on whether the RX is an “old film camera”.

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Initially I was surprised at how large the Q is, but it fits the hand well and isn’t so big that I wouldn’t use it in the same capacity as the RX1. The Sony is smaller and lighter (507g vs 640g), more of a jacket pocket camera. The size of the Rx1 is a major positive if you are looking to travel as light as possible with a full frame sensor. The Q actually weighs more than the original a7 with the FE 28/2 lens mounted (only 604g for that combo).

The 28mm Summilux f/1.7 permanently mounted in front of the Q’s sensor is wonderful. The highest praise I can give it is that when I first loaded images into Lightroom I thought, “wow, they look like they came from an RX1.” Of course the RX1 sports a Zeiss Sonnar 35/2 – the fifth highest rated autofocus lens in the DXO Mark database – and many feel it to be one of the finest 35mm lenses made, but I have no doubt that if scored, the Summilux would do very well. So pick your poison, 28mm or 35mm, both are truly excellent. I prefer 35mm so my choice is clear, but the Q does have a nifty digital zoom feature that lets you auto crop your images (even in RAW) to either a 35mm or 50mm fov. In typical Leica fashion, this digital zoom doesn’t result in a true magnification within the viewfinder, instead digital frame lines are overlaid in a quasi rangefinder effect. A novel implementation, but composing at 50mm with just a small portion of the scene within the frame lines was not ideal. I would at least prefer a menu option to select whether the frame lines or a full screen zoom were activated. Keep in mind that with the plentiful pixels of the RX1RII (42mp), that camera also shares the ability to crop into longer fovs (50mm or even a 75mm), greatly expanding the usability of the fixed 35mm prime lens.

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FFF 2015 - Peaches

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FFF 2015 - Omar Rodriguez-Lopez

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The EVF in the Q is high resolution and comfortable to view, with little to no visible lag. There is some smearing deep in the corners but it isn’t too bad. I personally find the EVF too flat and with poor color balance compared to the Sony EVFs, which tend to have more contrast and very accurate color. I noticed that shadows often had a blue tint while highlights were yellowish. When I had a chance to try out the Leica SL with its huge EVF I noticed the very same color and contrast characteristics.

Where I was more impressed with the Q was in the autofocus performance category. One of my first shots of the day at Fun Fun Fun Fest was this image of a skateboarder flying up a ramp. He was traveling at a high rate of speed with only a fraction of a second to capture the moment. The Q’s AF was very quick and nailed the focus perfectly. My original RX1 could not have done the same. The a7RII with the FE 28/2 felt like it came close to matching the speed of the Q, but I at the time of this article I don’t yet know if the RX1RII is blessed with all the same AF capabilities of its big brother. I did get a chance to try the RX1RII at Photo+ and the AF seemed very speedy inside the Expo but I couldn’t test it in a wide variety of environments. As long as your subject has good contrast you can count on the Q to grab focus very quickly and accurately – we are talking faster than SLR speed in many circumstances. Having a contrast detect system, the Q will struggle a bit in low contrast scenes, but overall the focusing experience with the Q in the field was a non-issue and that is a very good thing.

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So we have established that the Q is a handsome camera with great build quality, a stellar lens, a nice EVF and exceptional autofocus capabilities. The original RX1 had only three of those five characteristics, lacking a built-in EVF and excellent autofocus, and the new RX1RII looks to have all five. A camera is worth more than the sum of its parts though and the most critical aspect of any comparison is image quality.

I’m not going to be subtle about this, the Leica Q produced files that disappointed compared to the output from my Sonys. Specifically, dynamic range was relatively anemic (Ming Thein quotes 12.5-13 stops in his detailed review of the Q) and color balance was erratic in cloudy weather. With over 14 stops of dynamic range, the Sony RX1 and a7 bodies dominate when it comes to shooting in challenging light conditions where one would desire to recover highlights or pull detail from shadows. With the Q files I simply could not recover to the same effect and it wasn’t really close. Working with the files felt like I was a generation behind – I don’t like going backwards. Was I happy with many of the Q images? Absolutely, but the overall experience of editing Q RAW files and the number of images rejected due to a lack of depth in the data was dispiriting.

I also witnessed an alarming problem with banding in some Q files. In the image below, note the horizontal banding at the top of the image over the black tarp of the stage. This photo was taken at a moderate ISO and I did not heavily edit the shadow or black levels so I can only surmise that the banding may be due to the electronic shutter feature of the Q. Using silent shutter on the Sony a7 cameras will result in similar banding but with the Sonys you have the option to turn the feature on or off. On the Q, whenever your shutter speed exceeds 1/2000th of a second, the camera automatically activates the electronic shutter which enables faster speeds. There is no option to turn off this feature so if it is indeed responsible for the banding, you are stuck with it. On the RX1 and RX1RII there is no electronic shutter feature and the cameras are limited to 1/2000 when shooting wide open (1/4000 when stopped down).

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Compared to the a7RII

On day two of the festival the weather was particularly nasty so I left the Q home and packed the a7RII and the little Sony FE 28/2. That lens is sensationally sharp with great bokeh for a 28mm so I was curious to see how it would stack up against the brilliant Summilux on the Q. I have to say that I see little difference in sharpness between the two which is impressive considering the $450 price point of the Sony lens. The mix of photos below are from both Q and a7RII, you should have a hard time discerning which camera they came from.

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After shooting over a thousand frames with the Q in a challenging environment, even with the more limited dynamic range and banding problems, I was still impressed with many of the images that the camera produced; but at the end of the day I still prefer the Sony RX1 files with their rich depth and malleability. Given the killer 35mm Zeiss Sonnar lens, the smaller size and weight, the increased resolution, more advanced AF, class leading dynamic range and lower cost, my RX1RII order is safe.

See below for more samples from the Q.

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FFF 2015 - Peaches

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Dec 042015
 

The Importance of candid shooting

by Dirk De Paepe

Social Media (Loxia 2/50 Planar: f/13, 1/500, ISO400)

01. Social media

Street shooting is without any doubt one of our most compelling disciplines, because it represents the pinnacle of photography’s greatest forte: catching and copying moment’s out of real life and freezing them into lasting images. Only photography can perform this and it does it in a way that our first impression automatically is, that we’re looking at a faithful scene out of reality (although we all know about so many possible tricks – which BTW are not performed in the pictures that go with this article). Every experienced street photographer knows that there are moments and viewpoints where so many things fall into place, that they become special and/or typical. That’s why timing is a crucial factor in this creative process.

(Of course, as always, I express my personal vision in this article, but I believe that it’s only in the exchange of different visions that we can further develop. So you are very welcome to comment from a different point of view.)

Sharing (Loxia 2/35 Biogon: f/13, 1/320s, ISO1600)

02. Sharing

The most important subject in street shooting is people. And thus the comparison with portraiture, both posed and unposed, is obvious. I believe a posed portrait mainly must show a person in the way that he/she wants to be shown. The acting skills of the portrayed person play a big role herein, as well as the communicating skills of the photographer. The key idea is: “this is the image of myself that I want to show”. Because such a picture is all about this one person’s specific personality (or the personality that one wants to show), he/she should be in control of the impression he/she makes on the spectator, or the photographer needs to put him/her that much at easy that he/she acts natural. (Of course this domain is bigger, but this is the essence of it. Working with a professional model for instance won’t necessarily have the model’s personality as the subject of the picture.) I’d like to make a comparison with colors now. One could say that this kind of portraiture (posed portraiture, that is) represents one color of the spectrum, say green. Of course there’s an infinite amount of nuances in green and green is a very interesting color indeed, but still, they are all green and there are still so many other colors! That’s why I believe that unposed shooting of people can show so many more aspects of humanity, of typical human behavior, and therefore I believe it to be much more interesting than posed portraiture.

City traffic (Loxia 2/35 Biogon: f/13, 1/200sec, ISO 1600)

03. City traffic

The importance of unposed shooting, which can only be done candid, doesn’t lie in showing the true being and the true character of one specific person, as many still believe. Because the candid photographer (generally) doesn’t know his target person, there’s no question of portraying this specific person’s identity. Instead he’s rather holding up a mirror and makes us, as spectators, reflect about how we all, as people in general, can act/react in different circumstances. With his candid shots, he’s creating a pallet, as diverse as possible, of the different aspects of humanity. The portrayed persons merely act as representatives of mankind, not as particular individuals. This is the more so, because we only picture one moment out of their whole life, without any added context. The weakness of photography is, that it’s very difficult to tell the whole story in one picture. Therefore documentary photography requires a series of pictures to do the job. But in street shooting, registering those isolated moment also involves a great forte: it stimulates our imagination, having us create our own story around the picture, giving birth to so many interpretations of the same scene. It makes the picture to transcend from this one person and represent mankind.

Lonely (Loxia 2/35 Biogon: f/13 1/1600sec, ISO1600)

04. Lonely

We start to realize (subconsciously) that everybody, ourselves included!, could show that same kind of behavior as the pictured person, in specific circumstances. The more we recognize this behavior within ourselves, the more we realize that all humans are pretty much alike. When we realize that everybody can pass through typical or strange or weak or even embarrassing moments, we will more easily accept our own weaknesses and failures and as such also accept other’s imperfections. It can help in being less embarressed about certain defaults we think we have, realizing that everybody has his own defaults. As such this can work liberating, since we’ll be more in peace with ourselves. Once we realize this true purpose of candid shooting – portraying mankind – we will be able to see that it’s not at all about intruding into one specific person’s identity. This is impossible anyway, because the photographer doesn’t know the “model” and both the photographer and spectator don’t know the circumstances that lead to this registered momentarily situation. So the picture can’t possibly show this one person’s true nature. A good street photographer realizes that. He doesn’t want to intrude in one’s soul. Instead his photography is all about revealing the true nature of humanity in general, as said, by exposing how we all can act, given the right circumstances. As such, street photography is a means to increase tolerance amongst people. Candid street shooting is not at all about violating once privacy. Think about it. We take those pictures in plain public, which means that every image has been fully exposed anyhow to all bystanders. No photographer is expected to think that anybody is showing behavior in plain public that he doesn’t want to be shown. Also think about the thousands of safety camera’s that film us and register our behavior on a constant basis – sometimes to be used for much less honorable purposes.

Because of all of this, I believe candid pictures to be the most interesting, when people don’t look into the lens and are not aware that they are being photographed. Looking towards the camera/photographer almost always results in an image, in which the person seams to think: “I’m being photographed!”. I believe that from that moment on, the picture looses his real candid character, almost always withdrawing the portrayed person from his natural behavior, resulting in cramped and uninteresting images. In exceptional cases, it càn deliver beautiful shots though. A minority of people immediately reacts to the camera in an open, welcoming way. Those pictures can really show something valuable of this person’s true nature. They can result in very beautiful “personality portraits”. One could call those shots “Unposed, yet aware portraits”.

Beautiful people (Loxia 2/50 Planar: f/13, 1/800, ISO400)

06. Beautiful people

But no matter how beautiful they can be, it’s still like they all are different shades of blue. Blue is a very beautiful color, with many nuances, and I absolutely wanna use all those blues, but still I prefer to see the whole color spectrum! The situation, and therefore the expression of face and body, is (in average) much more interesting, much more representing the whole of mankind, when there’s no photographer disturbing it. Candid shots show so much clearer all different aspects of human life and behavior. The majority of people only look natural, when the shot was taken fully candid. That’s why the great street photographers often preferred a Leica M camera over a big SLR, so they could shoot in a more discrete way. Today we see a lot of Sony A7x bodies go along the Leica’s, together with a range of Micro 4/3’s and APSC’s. I like to pair my A7r with the Zeiss Loxia lenses, that I find simply perfect for street shooting, regarding size, performance and IQ. From time to time, I will add the Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 or Jupiter 9 (85mm as well) to the lot. (I’m really looking forward to the Loxia 85 or 90mm to come, for that matter.)

Severe facades (Loxia 2/50 Planar: f/11, 1/250sec, ISO400)

07. Severe facades

All pictures posted here, were shot in Antwerp, my favorite city, in a span of a few hours time. I chose to post only shots from that particular shoot, just show that there is a lot to notice in a short time. Although most street photographers shoot or publish in B&W, I decided to keep all shots in color. It’s how I think at this moment. I agree, B&W emphasizes on the essence of the act, still I believe that the colors can really contribute to the street feeling and to the atmosphere of a country, a region, a city. Where I live, in Belgium, real life colors are more grey and murky than for instance in Spain, let alone in Africa. They are less brilliant and saturated. So in the color balance I pursued grays to be really gray and not to overdo the colors, although with the modern cameras and post production software, it’s so very easy and tempting to do so. Still, I’m not proclaiming to produce perfectly faithful colors. Instead I tried to make them contribute to the general feeling that I got from the place, as such contributing to feeling that I got when observing the pictured people.

Pedestrian zone (Loxia 2/35 Biogon: f/13, 1/800sec, ISO1600)

08. Pedestrian zone

But more than the color treatment, it’s the people themselves that play the central role in those pics. Some absolutely didn’t know that I was shooting and act absolutely natural. Some noticed me but didn’t change their expression a single bit. Some reacted enthusiastic and opened up. A single one showed a bit of an annoyance. But after all, I experienced no real reluctance with any of them. And in all of them I noticed enough typical human behavior to show those pictures to you.

Hasty (Loxia 2/35 Biogon: f/13, 1/800sec, ISO1600)

09. Hasty

Finally, aside the catching of the moment, I also try to take care of the composition. That means that I try to integrate the surroundings in a meaningful way. I have my personal insights on arranging the subjects and objects in a picture, but this would take me too far to elaborate about this in this article. But I can say that, while shooting, this is done with a sense of balance and a “load of rules” that have become more or less natural to me. The fine tuning is done in post of course. Often I think in square images when shooting, which shows. Integrating the surroundings in the composition requires a larger depth of field, which I achieve by zone focusing. The Loxia’s are fantastic lenses for that kind of work. Like I wrote in my reviews about them, published on this site, they can produce tremendous detail on all plans, even when hyperfocusing. And zone focusing is a fantastic technique for street shooting, since there is zero focusing time required, thus offering the fastest way to react to any situation, faster than any AF system. Finally, using a hi-res sensor together with those state-of-the-art lenses, gives you quite some cropping power, which sometimes can be interesting when you caught an interesting moment’s event at some distance.

Wretched (Loxia 2/35 Biogon: f/13, 1/400sec, ISO1600)

10. Wretched

Please, as always, click on the pictures to see them in bigger format with better IQ, and go to my flickr page to see them in full size, with the Exif data included. You’ll find them, and more, in a dedicated album, named “In the streets of Antwerp” .

I hope you enjoyed the images. Thanks for reading and watching and, as always, special thanks to Steve and Brandon for keeping on publishing this great site.

Oct 192015
 

The Palouse – The Elysian Fields of Visuals

By Olaf Sztaba

The last time we visited the Palouse region lush greens dominated the scenery. This time was different. Greens and yellows blended into browns and sand dune-like hills spread across the horizon as if a painter had replaced all the colours with just one. Despite this change, the placid beauty of the land captivated us once again.

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The rising sun revealed an abundance of shapes and patterns, creating dream-like visuals. The lack of colours simplified the visuals and emphasized the beauty of the lines. The Palouse in the fall was very different from the loud and colourful Palouse of the spring but somehow equally beautiful, equally captivating.

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Our initial plan was to welcome the rising sun at Steptoe Butte – the usual place for sunrise photography. But we got up late and instead captured the beauty of the place from random dirt roads. We were glad we did.

While well-known parks such as Yosemite or Grand Teton National Park have their own mega-popular spots, the Palouse offers you the unknown. Every dirt road hides a visual gem and it is up to you to discover it, which is what makes this place so special.

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This is why Kasia and I believe that the Palouse is the best place in North America to learn composition. Sure, you can go to Steptoe Butte and the morning light will provide you with beautiful vistas without much effort on your part. No question, you will end up with one more photograph of the same. However, if you would like to see and feel YOUR WAY, take any dirt road around Palouse, think creatively, put in some effort and you will be rewarded with a creation like no other. That’s the beauty of the Palouse. That’s why the Palouse is a photographer’s Elysian Fields. Indeed, it’s a place like no other.

All images were taken with the Fuji X-T1 & XF 50-140mm F2.8 lens, processed in LR6.

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

Oct 162015
 

Some fun with solarizing.

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

Thirty years ago I spent a great deal of time in the wet darkroom. I finished one print about every six weeks, and I was fascinated by the Sabattier affect. I exposed hundreds of sheets of paper trying to control the effect and making interesting images. I also got out there a great deal to get suitable negatives. Photoshop can also solarize.

The next photos are solarized and those with a white background are made negative.  It’s an extremely simple process, taking no more than a minute. The shots I did it on, however, are my very best flower shots, I put a great deal of time in them, shooting and simplifying. Only extremely simple images work. Amongst my collection of flower shots, only about ten lent themselves to the process. Is this kitsch? I don’t know. I’d very much value your opinions on that. I personally think, that, if I did only this, it’d be kitsch. My work is so diverse, however, that I think I can get away with it. Well, enjoy! And, don’t be alarmed, I did this just for the fun!

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Oh, yes, images taken with a digital Olympus PEN and a 200mm macro lens and a Canon F1, with 85mm f/1.2 and some extension tubes.

And, yes, I’m getting them printed!

Dirk.

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