Aug 252015
 

Fujifilm’s Professional F2.8 zooms take on nature

By Ben Cherry

About me

My name is Ben Cherry; I am an environmental photojournalist and Fujifilm X-Photographer. I’ve been using the XF16-55mm and XF50-140mm alongside the X-T1 for most of the year now. During that time I’ve spent three months in Borneo and two months in Costa Rica, where I’ll be until mid-December for a conservation research role. It is fair to say that these lenses have been put through a tropical boot camp, pushing them to their humid and heat limits. You can find more of my work via: www.bencherryphotos.com

The Lenses

Both are weather sealed with constant F2.8 apertures, these zooms are built to last with superb image quality, making them up to the ever-increasing standard of photographers that need gear to work everyday, all day. Made to complement each other, this could be a two-lens set up for many photographers who want a lightweight system that covers a wide focal length. Indeed if you’re not after smaller F-Stops, then these offer prime quality optics.

I personally do prefer to use prime lenses as I feel that they encourage me to be creative, the likes of the XF16mm have pushed me to improve my compositions. But when on the move, in hot tropical environments, I couldn’t ignore the convenience of these two lenses. The XF50-140mm is a no-brainer for me as it is the longest F2.8 or faster lens currently available. In the rainforest I’ve found that I’ve craved light more than focal length, so this lens ticked a lot of boxes (not that I’m not waiting on the edge of my seat for the impending super telephoto zoom!..).

XF50-140mm-2.jpg (leaping proboscis monkey), XF50-140mm-5.jpg (play fighting pygmy elephants), XF50-140mm-26.jpg (scarlet macaw portrait), XF50-140mm-27.jpg (scarlet macaw in flight)

Certain things stand out in this 1st picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they’re not eating only have one thing on their mind.

Certain things stand out in this picture.. Male proboscis monkeys have a permanent erection and when they're not eating on have one thing on their mind.

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-5

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-26

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-27

As for the XF16-55mm, this was a lens I took a little more time considering whenever it came to packing the bag light. The reason for that is it covers the same range as the XF16mm, XF23mm and XF56mm, three exceptional prime lenses with faster apertures. But again it comes back to one word, convenience. Stuck in a rather wet part of the world, whenever it does rain, it pours and the last thing I want to do is change lens. So more often than not the XF16-55mm gets the nod. Other than missing the faster apertures of the primes, I have no hesitation to use this zoom instead, especially as it is weather sealed. A lot of people are put off this lens by the lack of OIS, yes it would have been helpful… but at the same time I understand Fujifilm’s explanation, I’d rather have the brilliant image quality than compromise some for OIS.

XF16-55mm-5.jpg (Sunrise at Mt. Kinabalu), XF16-55mm-15.jpg (violet woodnymph pit stop), XF16-55mm-17.jpg (vivid Pacific sunset),  XF16-55mm-18.jpg (released baby turtles using red filtered flash so don’t distract babies.)

Mt. Kinabalu at Sunrise

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-15

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-17

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-18

Benefits

Other than the superb build and image quality, these two lenses have very snappy autofocus, especially when used with the X-T1 (the only camera which makes this a weather resistant system). I’ve captured monkeys leaping through the air, elephants fighting, and birds swooping through the rainforest. None of these were easy autofocus tasks. The X-T1 has been greatly improved by a series of firmware improvements. I am sure these two lenses will see a huge performance boost with the next generation cameras, which will have improved hardware instead of only updated firmware. To put it another way, if I was told I could only have access to two lenses then no doubt it would be these two, with the XF16-55mm just pushing out the superb XF10-24mm – please Fujifilm, make a F2.8 WR version!

What is rarely brought up is the effective focal length of the XF16-55mm, which is 24-85mm, that extra 15mm over the usual 24-70mm range is a big benefit. Expanding the uses of this lens, particular helpful for portrait photographers.

XF16-55mm-10.jpg (inquisitive young elephant)

Ben Cherry XF16-55mm-10

Downsides

Because of all that lovely glass, range and build quality, these aren’t exactly light lenses when compared to the rest of the Fujifilm range. Not to say that they feel out of place though. If using the hand or battery grip with an X-T1 then even the XF50-140mm is nicely balanced. I feel like these lenses have more to give but are waiting for camera upgrades, this isn’t necessarily a bad point just one to think about. I have been in situations where I know the lenses can handle the moment but sometimes the X-T1 gets a little flustered. This occasional occurrence is massively outweighed by the general satisfaction I get from using this system over others I have tried.

XF50-140mm-6.jpg (tactile family members)

Ben Cherry XF50-140mm-6

Conclusion

This system has been baked and soaked more than I’d ever admit to Fujifilm representatives… (awkward because they’ll probably read this… sorry!). But it is still working and producing images that I am very happy with. Certainly the products have more to give than I am currently demanding, this encourages me to push myself so I can reach the standard of these brilliant products. The camera market is incredibly competitive, a good thing as there are basically no bad systems out there. However, for me, this weather resistant X-Series is definitely my preferred choice. For anyone looking at camera system options, no matter your genre, I firmly believe that the X-Series at least warrants consideration, it is certainly producing the goods for me with nature photography.

Ben

Aug 212015
 

Shooting from the Hip

By Mohammed Hakem

My website: http://www.hakemphotography.com
my FB page: facebook.com/hakemphotography

In conservative cultures street photography is an absurd dream. It’s very hard for people who haven’t seen enough tourists to accept being captured. The reason behind this is not related to privacy issues, but a stereotype that everybody with a camera is a journalist who will fake some news and speak badly about them. It actually happens a lot that people take random pictures of poor people and insert them into articles related to drugs and crimes. These people might be poor but they all have dignity that matters more than their lives, that’s the main reason why they become so aggressive.

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To take pictures of these amazing people you either have to build a relationship and let them trust you, or have the balls to shoot candidly. With a DSLR it is impossible to do the second, but with a mirrorless it can be done.

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I am a travel photographer and taking pictures of people naturally is part of what I do. I prefer not to let people notice I am there, I know I may be violating a copyright or bypassing privacy space but this is ART and I am not doing anything with the picture afterwards other than revealing lovely places and people to others. Every once in a while a photographer should get out of his comfort zone and shoot something different to what he is used to. Landscapers should go for streets, Fashion and portrait should go for travel photography and so on, it helps you a lot understanding other aspects.

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The technique here is to shoot from below. I use the tilting screen of my Fuji XT-1, disable the eye-senor and put the camera on top of my shoulder bag in front of me. People see me as a tourist and they are not frightened but still I don’t know their reaction if I pointed the camera directly towards them, especially that I am not the personality who can talk to strangers fluently so I won’t find a way out if someone yelled what are you doing. I adjust the Aperture for the depth of field and let the camera do the rest. I point to the target and quickly compose the picture from the screen.

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To be Honest I am amazed by Fuji’s V.4 auto focus system, it’s like a totally new camera. To those who don’t know, firmware upgrades in the mirrorless world is a real Firmware! not just solving bug issues that will affect 0.01% of your shooting the firmware introduces exciting features and upgrades the autofocus as if it’s a new camera!. Most of the pictures are shot with the 56 F1.2 lens on F1.2 in Egypt, the country I’m proud to be born in its culture. please make sure to like my FB page and take a look on the website :)

Aug 202015
 
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From Canon to Fuji

by Stuart Cripps

Hi Steve,

Firstly can I congratulate you on your fantastic website. I love and appreciate your honesty and passion when telling us about the latest greatest stuff in the wonderful world of photography.
Real, honest hands on is so much more valuable than lab tests and pictures of book cases :)

Secondly, can I scold you for doing nothing to quell my longing for a Leica! (lol) I know I don’t ‘need’ one but I still romanticized about creating my work with one, and your site doesn’t help.

A bit about me. I’m a graphic designer by trade but my passion is photography, something that gives me a true sense of creativity and satisfaction. I started out with a Canon G9 but then made the ridiculous upgrade to a 5DmkIII about 3 years ago with the intention of improving my craft and trying to make it my career. Unfortunately 3 years later I am just getting to that point as I am held back by the most crippling of diseases… complete lack of self-confidence and belief.

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I learned a lot of my 5DmkIII but along the way my recreational/hobby work seemed to lose something. It could have been the way I approached shots, too critical on nailed focus etc, maybe it was the fact the camera drew too much attention? Who knows? Either way it really felt like although my photos technically improved they lost some of their personality along the way. Which leads me to my short user review of sorts below…

Back in June I had 3 weeks before I was due to shoot my first wedding, in Paris – a real baptism of fire for me, my first paid wedding, my first time flying alone and my first time in France. It was make or break time! For peace of mind I needed a sidekick camera to accompany my Canon 5DmkIII (you never know when the gremlins may strike). I needed something that would suit my documentary/reportage style that i could easily master within my short 21 day prep window.

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After much research and hair pulling I decided to avoid a second bulky DSLR or the risk (and expense) of buying into another lens system. Based on all the reviews and sample images the Fujifilm X100T seemed like the way to go. I have been following Fuji’s progress for some time and it seemed they had nailed it with this tiny bit or drool worthy retro skinned hardware.

Well what can I say, I was not disappointed. From the looks, to the handling to the image quality I think I may be falling in love with this new addition to my kit bag. This may be in part because it fills the gap I will never afford to fill (or indeed justify) with the holy grail of documentary, a Leica. Mainly though it’s because it is such a wonderful tool to work with.

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Stop

As much as I love my 5DmkIII I felt my photography lost a little of what pulled me in to begin with, the size, the attention it drew when I tried to shoot covert etc. The X100T rectifies all of that, it takes me back to when I started out with my trusty Canon G9. It allows me to be covert, creative and spontaneous with little to no impact on my surroundings. In essence it has brought some of the fun and magic back into the process of capturing life around me.

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Is it perfect? No, certainly not. Battery life is shocking especially next to the 5DmkIII. The focus can be hit and miss, especially in lower light and the menus take some getting used to, expect a few head scratching moments as you try to squeeze the best from this little gem. But with a little practice and effort you are soon rewarded and forgive the X100T it’s shortcomings and once more begin to fall in love with its raw retro charm.

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I have only just started my journey and I am looking forward to see what images this new partnership helps me to create. The magic is back.

If you like what you see then please feel free to visit me online to see my ongoing photographic journey:

FLICKR: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stumacher/albums
INSTAGRAM: https://instagram.com/nero.creative/
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/nero_creative

I hope this is of some use to you/your readers – and if it makes the cut I hope you enjoy my images.

Yours Sincerely,

Stu

Aug 112015
 

The Olympus E-M5II goes to Israel

by Rob Willliams

I wanted to give back to the site because this is the #1 place I respect for reviews of new & innovative cameras and lenses. Your site helped me narrow down my camera search to the A7II and EM5II at the start of 2015. There are other great cameras out there, but I became hooked by in-body stabilization. After renting both and giving them a good run, I finally settled on the Olympus because of the ergonomics and controls. I felt like I could operate and switch my settings easier in the heat of the moment. Plus, I really appreciated the lens availability and compact size.

Photo 1: Tel Aviv Beach. 1/200 at f/10, ISO 200, EM5II with 12-40mm @ 40mm

Tel Aviv Mediterranean Coast

I would recommend anyone trying to choose a new camera go out and rent a few – there’s no substitute for having it in your hands in real situations. I have to admit I really wanted full frame, but at the end of the day I chose the camera that I knew I would carry around with me. I’m happy to say I always have it with me, and I’ve been able to capture some nice moments because of that.

Many day trips and two long foreign trips into the new camera, and I can say I love it. I don’t find it limiting in any scenario. If it’s dark, I feel fine pushing to 3200 or even 5000 ISO and can hand-hold down to 1/4 second — and if that’s not enough, I have my 25mm/1.8 in the bag. If it’s super bright outside, the 1/16000 electronic shutter helps. If I’m in a sensitive area, that same electronic shutter can shoot silently. If I want shallow DOF, shooting up close with a telephoto gives me all I need. If there’s some cool moving visuals, I can capture some 60 fps 1080p video – not really my thing, but I like that I can.

Photo 2: Tel Aviv Residence. 1/1250 at f/4.0, ISO 200, EM5II with 12-40mm @ 32mm

Tel Aviv Residence

Photo 3: Cows in Megiddo. 1/640 at f/5.6, ISO 200, EM5II with 40-150mm @ 150mm

Megiddo Cows

Photo 4: Sea of Galilee. 1/1000 at f/4.5, ISO 1600, EM5II with 12-40mm @ 40mm

All around the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus spent 95% of his life.

I originally gravitated toward the excellent primes, but after trying the Olympus 12-40mm pro zoom, I can’t put it down. It has the exact range I want in almost every situation, and is sharp through the range when shot wide open at f/2.8. The weight is pretty hefty, but the camera body is light so it makes up for it. The combo is light enough where I don’t even have aches after 8+ hour days of shooting, when using the Black Rapid Metro strap system.

My kit is the Olympus EM5II, primary lens being the 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom. For longer reach, I carry the lightweight and ridiculously cheap Olympus 40-150 f/4.0-5.6 – it’s like $99 so an unbelievable deal. At night, after a long day, I usually switch over to the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 prime because it’s lightweight and has spectacular low light performance.

Photo 5: Jericho. 1/640 at f/8.0, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 40mm

Jericho View from Roof of Restaurant

Photo 6: Masada Fortress by the Dead Sea. 1/1600 at f/5.6, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 24mm

Masada Landscape

Today I wanted to share a few photos I captured in Israel last month. This is a great destination for travel or street photographers, and I highly recommend it. The Old City of Jerusalem alone is worth the plane ticket — never have I seen so many interesting sights within 1 square km. Everywhere is very photo friendly, and if you are concerned about safety, don’t be. I felt comfortable the entire trip, even in the “bad” areas. Tel Aviv is a modern metropolis with a lot of great places to eat, and in addition to the holy sites there is a surprising amount of history to see, like some of the largest remaining Roman bath houses and theaters. This wasn’t primarily a photo trip for me, but I was able to get a few decent shots. I hope you enjoy the photos below!

Photo 7: Old City Jerusalem Jewish Quarter. 1/640 at f/5.6, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 40mm

Old City Jerusalem Jewish Quarter

Photo 8: Man at museum. 1/15 at f/2.8, ISO 200, EM5ii with 12-40mm @ 32mm.

Israel Museum

I’m just an amateur photography who does this for fun, but some day I may try to dip my toes into food and restaurant photography. You can check out some of my other recent work on my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rwilliz/albums.

Thanks, and any feedback is welcome,

Rob Williams

Aug 052015
 
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Day 3 With the Sony A7RII. Just some quick Samples..

So day three with the A7RII here in Portland just ended, and I am tired. So tired that I am now in my pajamas laying in bed and dozing off as I write this. Because I am so beat, I will keep the text short and let the images speak for themselves.

Also, for those who have been asking, I will post full res files in my full review in 2-3 weeks. I will test certain Leica lenses on the camera as well. So stay tuned for that.

For now, just a few more images from today. Myself and almost everyone here is loving this camera. Was speaking with some well known camera reviewer names today and they agree that this is a phenomenal camera. From its snappy AF, to excellent tracking C-AF to it much better build, quieter shutter, superb high ISO performance and great video it is so much different than the 1st gen A7 bodies…AND THIS IS GOOD.

Stay tuned for my full review soon.

For now, take a look at some images from today and yesterday afternoon with various lenses.

You can order the A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo. They just started shipping today!

 All EXIF is embedded. Lenses used were the Zeiss Batis 25 and 85, Sony Zeiss 35 1.4, Zeiss Loxia 50 f/2, Zeiss 16-35

TO SEE THESE CORRECTLY YOU MUST CLICK ON THEM TO SEE THEM LARGER!! IF YOU DO NOT THEY WILL NOT LOOK AS INTENDED. Thank You!

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Jul 272015
 
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Bali with the Leica Safari kit and the Noctilux

by Aditya Agarwal

Hi Steve,

This is my third post to your excellent and very useful website. I am submitting todays report not just to show my work but also as a thanks for all the reviews and articles which benefited me a lot. (THANK YOU Aditya! – Steve)

I visited Bali in June 2015 with my family. While packing for the vacation, I came around the idea to carry just my Leica Safari along with the 35/Summicron and 50/Noctilux. I have the Sony A7II on which I use the Leica lenses regularly, but I wanted this trip to be a test. A test for finding out if the Leica can be my only travel camera against the Sony with all its bells and whistles. I feared that I will miss out on the more advanced technical features of the Sony. It was a tough choice, but I kept to it. After 7 days in Bali, the results were nothing short of fantastic and moreover strengthened my faith in the Leica system.

Mount Batur – The active Volcao at Bali – Shot from the flight.
Leica Safari, 50mm Noctilux, f/8, ISO 200, 1/1000

1

The Egg painter. Shot at an art gallery at Ubud, Bali
Leica Safari, 50mm Noctilux, f/0.95, ISO 200, 1/500

2

Uluwatu, Bali. the other side of the temple. HDR
Leica Safari, 35mm Summicron, f/13, ISO 200, 5 Shot HDR

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I am taking the liberty of including a fourth picture. This was shot at the Uluwatu Temple where a Kecak Dance is held every evening. I was worried that I won’t get any shots in focus as the dance is quite fast paced. Not only did I nail the focus, I took shot at f1.8 with the Nocti. It was a awesome feeling.

Kecak Dance at the Uluwatu Temple
Leica Safari, 50mm Noctilux, f/1.8, ISO 1250, 1/90

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I am now pretty convinced that this is my go to camera setup for almost every shoot. I do plan to upgrade to the Sony A7RII mainly for landscape photography.

Once again, thank you for igniting my interest in mirrorless cameras through your wonderful site. My work is viewable on www.adityaagarwal.me

Regards

Aditya Agarwal

 

Jul 152015
 

Leica Tri-Elmar 28/35/50 Ver 1.0 on a Sony a7

By Sunil Mehta

Hi Brandon and Steve,

In the past I have used the Leica Tri-Elmar Lens on a Leica M6 body. With the arrival of digital technology and due to less and less availability of films and also Leica digital bodies being expensive this lens was not in use for many years. I also moved to Nikon/ Fuji etc… When Sony dropped its a7 price to $998, I bought one just to put back this lens in use. With this lens and the Sony A7 I recently visited “Mission San Juan Capistrano” in Orange County, CA. It’s an interesting place, I attached a few photos of the Mission and the streets around it. Hope your readers will like it.

Technical detail:

Lens: Leica Tri-Elmar-M 28-35-50mm F4 ASPH – Silver / v1 / E55
Camera: Sony a7 with Metabones M-E Mount.
RAW conversion in LR and Silver Efex for BW.
In situation like this, on a bright day I focus using Zone Focusing, aperture always at f8 or f11, ISO 200 and let camera decide shutter speed, for Indoor shots I change ISO.

I regret not carrying a Tripod and ND filters.

Thanks and best regards,

Sunil Mehta

https://500px.com/mehtasunil/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mehtasunil/
https://instagram.com/mehtasunil/

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Jun 302015
 
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Visiting CHERNOBYL. A Photo Diary

by Gary Mather

 

Here is some brief history –

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a disaster occurred which has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power in the world. The accident occurred when the fourth reactor suffered a huge power increase. This led to the core of the reactor exploding. Due to this explosion, large amounts of radioactive materials and fuel were released into the atmosphere. This lit the combustable graphite moderator on fire. This fire greatened the release of radioactive material, which was carried by the smoke of the fire, into the environment and atmosphere.

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Radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the UK, and the eastern United States. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. About 350,000 people needed to be evacuated and moved to other places where they could live after the accident.

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Once the seriousness of the situation was known, Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the USSR at the time, quickly gathered the top physicists and nuclear experts at his disposal to assess the situation. Thirty-six hours after the initial explosion, these experts decided the residents of Pripyat must evacuate. Residents were given two hours to gather their belongings. The evacuation of Pripyat’s 43,000 residents took 3.5 hours, using 1,100 buses from Kiev. Residents remember that everyone was in a hurry, but nobody was panicking.

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The residents of Pripyat were initially told they would be evacuated only for three days. However, to this day, the town is uninhabitable. Pripyat city was founded in the 1970s, when the nuclear power plant opened. The site today is practically a museum showing the late Soviet era. With entirely abandoned buildings, including abandoned apartment buildings (four of which were yet to be used), swimming pools and hospitals, everything inside remains, from records to papers to children’s toys and clothing. Prypiat and the surrounding area will not be safe for people to live there for several centuries. Scientists think that the most dangerous radioactive elements will take up to nine hundred years to decay sufficiently to render the area safe.
We were there for a total of 2 days and I can feel we only scratched the surface of what happened on that fateful day.

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I was 13 when this disaster accoured and my only fleeting memory was seeing clips on the news as a child. To me it was something that happened a long way away in a place I could not even pronounce. I have wanted to visit this site for quite some time now, and I was, for want of a better word, lucky to have had that privilage just a few months ago.

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It is only when you are actually there can you understand the impact of such a huge global disaster, the heroism of the firefighters and the people first on the scene. It will be a memory that will stay with me for a very long time, It’s just a shame our time here was so fleeting.

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We explored hospitals, schools and the fairground where stands the almost iconic ferris wheel still waiting to be ridden to this very day. The piano still standing in the music hall and the 3 empty seats left in the burn out lecture room. In the hospital maternity dept room full of empty cots sit silent. Of the whole trip the most poignant moment was seeing the childrens gas masks littered all over the floor of the elementry school in the town of Pripyat.

Gary Mather

Jun 182015
 
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The Mitakon Speedmaster 85 1.2 Sony FE Version Review

By Steve Huff

(all images here shot on a Sony A7II)

I have never been a 85 or 90mm lens kind of guy. While there are some GORGEOUS lenses in this focal length (Leica 90 Summicron APO, Leica 75 Summilux, Zeiss 85 Sonnar, Sony 90 Macro) I just always prefer a 35mm or 50mm, and sometimes a good 21mm focal length. When I shoot, my preference is to shoot people, and for people, I like to get in close to talk with them before I take their picture.

But even so, a nice 85mm lens has its place in my bag on occasion. Maybe I want to isolate a subject more, or get a little more reach than I am used to. Either way, two of my favorite 75-85 lenses have been the Canon 85 1.2 L lens, which is a beauty in all kinds of ways. When that lens is shot on a nice Canon full frame camera, the color, sharpness and Bokeh are outstanding, and unique. If I were rich, I’d have a 5D style camera and the 85L here just for those few occasions when I wanted that Canon 85L look.

The other lens I love is the Leica 75 Summilux. Not an 85mm of course but still a wonderful and beautiful lens capable of ethereal and organic renderings. The Leica 75 Summilux has been long discontinued and is one of those lenses that went from un popular to VERY popular after they released the M9. During the Leica M8 days, the 75 Lux could be found for $1200 all day long as no one wanted it on a crop sensor. After the M9 was released the prices went through the roof, and now a 75 Summilux will set yo back $3500+.

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So why am I mentioning a Leica 75 Summilux in a review meant for a Sony mount lens? Well, because this Mitakon 85 f/1.2 Speedmaster lens reminds me more of the Leica 75 Lux than anything. I am not saying it is just like the Leica, as it is not, but the rendering has that out there ethereal kind of vibe, and it’s way more Leica Lux than Canon or your typical Sony lens.

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEW AND TO SEE IT CORRECTLY!

Here is a shot taken in NYC in the morning. I was walking and saw this stylish woman taking some shots of everything with her phone. She had style, spunk and personality so after this shot I asked her if I could take her portrait. See those below… But this one was at f/1.2 with the Sony A7II

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The Mitakon Speedmaster 50 Came first..which is better?

A while ago I reviewed the other amazing Speedmaster lens, the 50 f/0.95. You can read that review here as it is loaded with samples that show the character of that lens (and PopFlash.com sell them HERE). While not a competitor to the Leica 50 Noctilux, the 50 Speedmaster is a pretty damn fine lens for  the money. To see some amazing shots with it, click HERE.  So the first lens, the 50, for the money was stunning and comes in at about 11X less than the Leica Noctilux. $1k vs $11k.

This new 85 1.2 has grown on me the more I use it. First, I thought it was a tad dull as the contrast is low with this lens, and needs a boost in post processing to get that WOW POP we all love. Second, the color is a tad duller than I am used to with the mega lenses but again, easily fixed in post. After I figured out the signature of the lens, I realized just how good it was, again, for the money (it can’t be beat).

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As to which one is better, well, neither. Both have the same sort of signature and style, which as you can see in this review and the 50 review, that style is very “Bokehlicious” lol. The best thing to do if trying to decide between this 85 and the 50 is decide what focal length you prefer. That is all. Both lenses are built like a tank, literally. Both lenses are heavy and unruly, both lenses are manual focus and both lenses ship in a lovely hard shell case.

I prefer the 50 as it is my focal length but some may prefer the 85 and many may choose to have both, the 50 for normal shooting and the 85 for isolation or head shots.

1st shot was stopped down a bit to f/2.8 I believe..2nd shot was a close up of some red blood like water in the streets of NY and the last shot is wide open at 1.2 in my hotel room to show how well this lens is with subject isolation. All Sony A7II.

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Construction…

See my video below with the Mitakon 85 1.2 – It’s a dual video with a Sony lens but I also showcase the Mitakon so you can see how big it is and what I feel about it. 

Construction is quite good on the Speedmaster lenses. They are built SOLID and they are all metal, so yes, they are heavy and large. When I hold a lens built like this I think “QUALITY” as somehow, a heavy feeling just gives you that impression. SO yes, it FEELS amazingly well made like most Leica M lenses do. The focus ring leans more to the stiff side than loose, which I like and it has a long focus throw which is helpful for fine tuning the AF. The Aperture dial is solid but is clickless so no click stops. Many prefer this, especially for video work.

So for build it is top notch, and usability is nice a it gets for a lens of this type. As I said, it reminds me of my old 75 Summilux, just larger. :)

The three below, all wide open at f/1.2 on the Sony A7II – you must click them for larger. 

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DETAILS? With this lens? Sure!

Of course a lens like this will not give you corner to corner sharpness wide open, just not going to happen. This is one reason why Leica glass is so damn expensive..it is just about perfect. This lens, being a “fast budget lens” will not give you crisp sharp corner to corner goodness wide open at f/1.2. BUT!!! Stop it down a bit and wow, it sharpens up NICELY. The shot below is at f/4 and is VERY sharp.

CLICK FOR LARGER AND FULL 100% CROP TO SEE THE DETAIL AT F/4

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The CONS of the 85 1.2

Well, there will always be at lest one con, no matter how perfect a product is. Nothing made on earth is for everyone, so it comes down to personal preferences, needs vs wants and of course, cost. For me, the things I did not like about this lens was the WEIGHT and SIZE. I love small high quality glass, and this is a LARGE high quality glass. ;) It is heavy, it is BIG. So remember that. I also feel it could use a tad more contrast out of the box but this takes a few seconds to fix i post. Out of camera JPEG shooters may wish for deeper blacks and an image with more pop. Also, the color needs to be boosted IMO to give it that WOW pizazz.

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We can not expect perfection in a $799 lens but for the $799 that it costs, it is just about perfect. If it were $2000 I would have said no way, but at $799 it is a steal and a deal for anyone who wants an optic like this for their Sony, Canon or Nikon system.

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My time with the Speedmaster lens…

I have had this lens here for a while now and have used it sparingly, here and there as even when I review items, I tend to review what I like, and what I enjoy. What fun is writing about something you do not even like? The more I used the 85 f/1.2, the more I liked it..and today I love it. After quite a few shots under my belt I feel this is one of those lenses that are actually a deal. Fast glass is NEVER cheap, but when you get something built special like this, that is designed for full frame, and can be used on my Sony makes it a win win IMO.

This lens is called “The Dream Lens” by the maker, and is available on Sony FE, Canon EF and Nikon F mounts. AWESOME. The best part is? The cost is $799. Not $999, but $799, and to me, this is a bargain for what you get here as it will give you renderings much like a classic Leica lens for a FRACTION of the cost. While not up to Leica standards, it is 75% there and MUCH cheaper for the wallet.

This is a “Character Lens”  – full of those qualities that make people look at the results and say “WOW, how did you do that”?!?

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Where to Buy?

You can buy the lens direct from Mitakon HERE or check with PopFlash.com (not sure they have the 85 yet) as they are a dealer and sell the 50 0.95 all day long.  B&H sells the 50 as well HERE though its $100 more than PopFlash. Again, to see my 50 0.95 review, click HERE.

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

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May 182015
 

The Aesthetic of Lostness: Inside Iran with the Fuji X100s

 

By James Conley

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Iran. Although home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, (dating back more than 5,000 years), since 1979 Iran is most commonly known for the Islamic Revolution that toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took 66 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days. Iran is daily in the news, with its military activities in Syria and Yemen, its support of Hezbollah, endless negotiations over its nuclear program, and its detention of reporters like the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. “Death to America” is a chant heard in televised demonstrations in Tehran, setting the outside view of Iran as a hostile one to the West.

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In contrast to this public view, I’ve been fortunate to know many Iranians who live in the United States, as well as abroad. Without exception, they love the United States and the common theme among them is a love of life and all it has to offer. With these contrasting experiences in mind, I determined to make a trip to Iran.

Getting into Iran as an American is no easy task. Reams of paperwork, multiple passport photographs, and multiple visits to the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, D.C., are required. Iranians work on a different time scale, and waiting (and waiting, and waiting) are part of the process. The government of Iran is suspicious of one’s prior travel, and does a thorough investigation into who you are. (It’s possible to go with a tour group, but tours are heavily monitored by the government and I wanted freedom of movement.) In the end, it took me over a year to obtain permission to visit Iran.

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Visa in hand, I scheduled a flight. Since 1979, Iran has been subject to a range of economic sanctions, including ones which eliminated direct flights from the United States. Iran is not a close destination. My flight took me through Istanbul, Turkey—with a 7 hour layover. Layover included, total travel time from Dulles to Tehran was 20 hours.

Arriving in Iran was a bit of an emotional let down. Based on my experiences with Iranian officials in the United States, I had expected a high degree of security and curiosity about an American’s arrival. At the airport, I found only a single disinterested official at Passport Control. A glance at my visa, a scan into the computer, and I was on my way without even eye contact or a single question about the purpose of my visit. (I have reason to believe that the arrival experience is highly variable, and your visit may go a very different way!)

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My first experience of the country was an extremely long drive from the airport to my host’s house in northern Tehran. Tehran is one of the biggest cities in the world, with more than 17 million people. It is spread out over more than 200 square miles, and the airport is more than 30 miles south of the city. It was an appropriate introduction to a city and country that are impossible to pigeon-hole, with variety and diversity which are difficult to comprehend.

 

Being inside Iran is much different from hearing about it from the outside. While not an easy country to absorb or function in, the people are warm and welcoming, and there is a vast range of poverty and wealth among a people who have been isolated from much of the West for more than a generation. (Although only the United States and Canada have official sanctions against Iran, the complexity of those sections affects travel, banking, postal services, and foreign businesses who also do business with the United States.) Despite all the international conflict concerning Iran’s political role and its present history, the people within Iran continue to flourish in an environment that’s all their own.

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Working as a photographer in Iran is beset with challenges. I was based in the northern part of Tehran, making day trips to other parts of the country. Each place presented unique difficulties and opportunities.

The primary challenge I try to address in any place is blending in. As a street photographer, my goal is to be an observer. This means being as unobtrusive as possible while maintaining enough involvement to understand and appreciate unfolding events so that I can time decisive moments. In most western countries, these needs are solved by being mindful of one’s dress and manners, and generally taking the “when in Rome” approach is enough that I can fade into the background. Not so in Iran. One can’t blend bone structure and skin color. Although there is a fair bit of ethnic diversity in Iran, it’s all diversity from within the region and, unsurprisingly, I was immediately identifiable as a foreigner no matter where I went, simply because of the color of my skin, hair, and the structure of my facial bones. No matter my efforts to adapt, I was regularly approached by strangers who started every conversation in broken English. Being mistaken for a local wasn’t going to happen. While this interfered with my ability to blend, it also led to some opportunities for interaction which otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.

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Photography inside Iran is not common. I occasionally saw some Iranians at famous places making images with cell phone cameras, but I didn’t see any DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, or film cameras, except a camera carried by a German tourist. Carrying a camera definitely singles you out.

I work as unobtrusively and quickly as possible, and make it habit to have only one camera out at a time. I try to carry only a single camera with lenses in my pockets, or at most carry only a small courier bag. I use Fuji X-Series cameras, which are smaller and quieter than a Leica, and to the uninitiated appear to be amateur pocket cameras. I wouldn’t advise carrying a large DSLR with a zoom lens because you’ll appear to be a journalist (read: spy). That said, most Iranians had little to no reaction if they saw the camera.

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The images here were made with the X100s and its Wide and Tele companions. This set up of 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm (equivalents) allowed me to do 90% of my work while remaining extremely unobtrusive. The Wide converter stays on my camera most of the time, so I was able to carry just one lens, a spare battery, and a spare memory card. In a place where you want to stand out the least amount possible, this was a great kit. It is also relatively fast to change lenses without attracting attention.

 

A few shots required pulling out the X-E1, however. Architecture in Iran is immense, and even the 8mm Rokinon ultra wide angle (12mm equivalent) that I carry struggled to pull in the details. (None of those shots are included in this post—these are all X100s. Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran)

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Traveling to places where one doesn’t speak or read the language is not uncommon. Traveling to places where one has little chance of grasping the culture, however, is rare. It’s extremely stressful and overwhelming, taxing one’s creativity as well as one’s emotions. But it’s also liberating to be lost. Removed from even absentminded awareness of so much of what’s going on, the mind has little choice but to double its efforts to observe and make sense of things. Lost, it’s easier to perceive humanistic patterns. Lost, it’s easier to put attention on the gestalt. Lost, it’s easier to let your deeper self emerge.

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The aesthetics of lostness have a quality of their own. The feeling on many levels is one of isolation and disconnectedness. Like any state of mind, these aspects are revealed in the work. My interpretation of the images I made in Iran reflect this: isolated moments; overwhelming scale; and a puzzlement of things. I endeavored to embrace the lostness, however, because the alternative was to find a false narrative which would devolve into stereotype. In the lostness, I sought the commonality of humanity instead of looking for the superficiality of difference.

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Iran is a country, and not a political entity. Whatever its government’s present role on the world stage, Iran’s people and the country itself are magical. I look forward to returning again.

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Additional images can be seen here: http://fjamesconley.com/iran

Here’s my contact info:
website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

Apr 272015
 

Destination Tokyo

By Paul Perton

Several weeks of Web research, making notes on Evernote to share between my Mac, Mac notebook and iPad accompanied by what felt like an endless round of reading and image gazing and I was just about ready to head for the airport.

Destination Tokyo.

In my bag an almost brand new Fuji X100T, my trusty NEX-7 and several Leica M mount lenses – just in case.

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Twelve days to see a city that’s been on my must-do list forever. Twelve days to collect enough photographs and information to compile InSight: Tokyo, the latest photographer’s DIY city manual.

As soon as your feet hit Tokyo’s pavements you know this is a special place. Everything works, the subterranean pedestrian malls keep you from the worst of the weather, buses are everywhere and the Metro is brilliant, if confusing at first.

Based on my reading, I’d elected to stay in Shinjuku – an excellent choice as it really is the heart of modern Tokyo. From here, there are few places can’t be reached directly by foot, Metro or bus. Around the centre of Shinjuku are shops, night clubs, a gay area and a red light district. A couple of blocks away is the unique Golden Gai – 200 of the tiniest bars you’ll find anywhere on the planet – most only seat 5 or 6 patrons.

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A kilometre away is the Shinjuku Gyoen Park – here you’ll find falling leaves and spectacular colours in late autumn. Next door is Yoyogi, Harajuku (Tokyo’s Carnaby Street) and so much more that I could have spent my entire twelve days just exploring here.

I didn’t. On my list were Ueno and it’s temples, Asakusa’s seemingly endless shopping market, Akihabara, home of the bizarre Maidcafe and electronics central for Tokyo’s gamers, manga fans and electronics enthusiasts.

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In between, the Ginza beckoned, the Imperial Palace demanded attention as did the city’s myriad of historical temples and museums, street food stalls, izakayas (chicken on a skewer yakitori bars), pubs, bars and restaurants. The more I discovered, the more I realised that I’d need to return to this extraordinary city and re-visit and experience anew.

For the photographer, it’s an absolute must. The Japanese themselves are polite, helpful and largely disinterested in a photographer in their midst. In a city where everyone has a smart phone in their hands with most using their camera as much as anything else, that’s hardly surprising.

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Many of the airlines of the world are offering once-in-a-lifetime fares to far away places just now. If you can find a return flight to Tokyo in amongst their offerings, don’t hesitate…

InSight: Tokyo is finished and joins four other city Guides; London, Copenhagen, Istanbul and Cape Town and is available from the DearSusan Web site (http://www.dearsusan.net/insight-tokyo-photo-walk-ebook-capture-mother-city/). All InSight Guides are US$7.99 and downloadable in PDF format, specifically for use on iPad and other tablets.

For further details contact Paul Perton – [email protected]

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Apr 242015
 

Street Photography in Dublin Ireland with Film

By Fergus Fitzgerald

Hi All,
I hope I am familiar to most of the regulars here as I post a lot as a commentator but never before as a contributor. I suppose you could call me a street photographer in as much as most of my photography seems to take place on the streets. My interests in photography these days is in street photography and those photographers who are regarded as being talented in this genre.

I do not take myself too seriously. I think street photography is valuable in the sense that it is entirely without an agenda which is its strength.

I realise this is a gear orientated site and I am definitely not a gear head though most photographers who say that are actually not telling the truth ! How can I explain this ? You see we all start out with an ambition to produce a great image -the image that is in our heads – if we do not succeed we will try again and again always seeking that elusive image. If you have experienced this feeling and know the frustration and remain faithful to that image in your head -then you are a photographer simple as that.

We can try all kinds of ways to achieve our goal -most of us (myself included ) at some time or other will succumb to the allure of the apparatus. If only we could get that new piece of equipment -that would make the transformation for us . In time we learn that the secret is to just keep shooting with what you have and try to become enthused more by the images you are creating and not the apparatus used. Mind you, I am more than willing to concede that gear can and does inspire people. So once you don’t go too crazy, what’s the harm in enjoying a new Nikon Canon Sony or even a Leica ? Not all at once of course !

I have used many cameras in my day and finally settled for Leica for many reasons -firstly they are beautiful and minimalist in the extreme and have superb optics. Secondly I like the European heritage -not to mention a desire to be a bit different.

I think of my images as being snaps for the thinking snapper. I hope anybody who recognises himself or herself in one of my photos will have the sense of humour to just have a laugh as I would never take an image to show a person in a bad way -though I will not allow my photography to become anodyne either.

These images are mostly from my M6 with 35 and 50 Summicron lenses on Ilford XP2 film scanned on my Nikon Coolscan V ED .  The images are just incidents I happened upon as I walked around where I live which is Dublin Ireland . For example the girl walking in costume reading the book was an actress rehearsing her lines during a break at the Samuel Beckett Theatre festival.

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I tend to shoot mostly with the 50mm lens and do not get too up close. Despite what Capa said I feel you can still produce good pictures from a slight distance. I cannot for example imagine myself ever using a 28mm or wider for street -though many do this magnificently.

I traded my M6 for an M8 seven or more years ago and occasionally I get a Lumix G1 on loan from a friend .I used this to get the image of the old lady bemused by the two guys reaction to whatever was on the laptop screen. I actually like the G1 a lot as it is nice and compact and produces good colour images -though I’m not a big fan of EVF’s Actually none other than Saul Leiter used one at the latter part of his career!

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The photo below was taken in Moore St Dublin where traditional traders still sell from stalls and many have family roots going back generations:

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The old gent looking through the view window is in Temple bar which has nice bars and restaurants and is a great spot for street photography. My favourite haunt there is “The Gallery of Photography “where I have seen such wonderful exhibitions as Genesis by Salgado. Keen eyed photographers will see this is not a film scan -it’s actually from the M8.

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Luck and happenstance play a big part in street photography. One day I was in the old Animal Museum in Dublin known to the kids of Dublin as the “Dead Zoo” with my nephew when I snapped a photo of him looking in wonder at a Moose. When the film was processed it turned out to be a different kid altogether as my nephew had wandered off to view something else! Years later myself and friends would visit “Yellowstone Park” in the US and I would have a very similar reaction to a live Moose -Wow they are big!

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When I got the M8 I shot almost exclusively in colour but now I mostly shoot in black and white . I love the way Leica M digital cameras render black and white. I have not seen better. Strangely I now seem to be shooting Black and White on digital and colour on film which is the reverse of a lot of photographers I know. Kodak Portra film has a lot to do with this as I love it‘s subtle pastel like colours. I have now resurrected my ancient Pentax K1000 and a few Takumar lenses for colour.

Hope you like the images.

Rgds Fergus Fitzgerald

PS might post a few colour street photos from the M8 in the future…….? Thanks Steve and Brandon.

Apr 222015
 

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Uluru: Photographing an Icon

When you first hear of Uluru, you most likely imagine desert, Indigenous Australians, tourists and a very big rock. Conceptually you know that this is a spiritual place and that there is some pretty deep cultural significance when it comes to the land here. You may even realise that The Rock is one of Australia’s biggest (literally!) draw cards, hosting more than a quarter of a million people each year (amazing, considering how isolated it is).

What you may not be able to truly comprehend is the fact that big doesn’t even begin to describe this thing. Nor the fact that its spirituality will affect you, even if you are not a religious person – it is just that kind of place. So come on a walk with me as I share my (regrettably too short) visit to this magical, mysterious marvel.

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At nearly 350m high and almost 10km in circumference, this truly is a big rock!

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The Red Centre is just that – red and right at the geographical heart of Australia.

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One of the first things you will most likely do (assuming you arrive later in the day, as we did) is to run up to the nearest lookout so you can get your first glimpse of Uluru – and a selfie, of course!

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When you arrive at the visitor centre, you will get a shadowed view of the rock face – if it’s morning – and the amazing colour will not yet be apparent. It is when you finally see the surface bathed in sunlight that you first understand how vibrant this rock really is. Red doesn’t quite describe it, but orange is too lurid a word. These pictures come close but, like the Grand Canyon, different light makes for different experiences.

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One of the next things you will notice will affect you in one of three ways. Seeing people climbing the face of Uluru can make you hunger for the thrill of bagging another unique peak. The sight may mean nothing to you – people can do what they want. Or you may feel a form of anger at people who so willingly decline to accede to the wishes of the traditional custodians of the land. As photographers we are asked not to record images showing this activity, however I feel that the image shows that individuals will always make their own decisions.

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For me and my wife the walk around the base was a revelation. As you start the circumnavigation, you are blown away by the height, more than anything else. At 348m at its highest point, Uluru is more than double the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza and even just pips the Eiffel Tower. Once you get over the height (you never really do) you begin to notice the textures and colours. Weathering from wind and rain and sand have left patterns in the surface – some of which are just pretty, but many of which are considered to be a form of scripture to the Anangu People who have lived in this region of Australia for at least 30 000 years. The patterns act as visual aids in the oral traditions of the Anangu and photography of many of the eroded areas of the rock is prohibited. Signage lets you know what you can and cannot shoot, but erring on the side of caution is recommended.

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One of the next things you may notice is how still and quiet the air is around Uluru. Yes, I do mean the atmosphere in more than one sense – on the day we were there it was perfectly windless (I am unsure how normal this is) but mostly I refer to the sense of peace and solitude that exists. We were there just before the peak tourism period begins and maybe that had something to do with it, but I doubt that was the only reason. Standing before this chunk of weather-beaten arkose, it is easy to understand why it is held sacred by the Indigenous people. There is an eerie sense that you are both alone and at the same time, not alone. Again, like the colours, it is more easily experienced than described.

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Finally, the light and the way it interacts with the rock and trees. As photographers we are always chasing light and you will not be disappointed on your visit to Uluru. Be it harsh midday sun or soft pastel light and the edge of the day, Uluru’s grandeur absorbs the light and throws it back at you in myriad ways.

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5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f16; 1/15sec; iso 125; 17mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f10; 1/30sec; iso 400; 40mm

This iconic landmark was on my wishlist for many years before my wife and I finally visited. We always wondered whether the reality would live up to the hype. Now we know that reality’s shadow leaves the hype’s glitter just a little dull. The only thing left to do now is to visit again. And again…

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A short list of things to remember:

May is a great time to go – fine weather and less tourists. Rent a 4×4 – you’ll see more places at your own pace. If you plan on using any of your images for commercial purposes (if you want to sell the images) you will need a permit. It’s a pain, but worth it – and you get park entry included for yourself and an assistant (my wife was my assistant!) so cost works out similar to if you just visited.
Some sites and viewpoints are restricted for cultural and religious reasons – respect these rules. Driving in the outback after dark is hazardous – hitting a kangaroo or cow at speed is potentially deadly. Be careful! Put the camera away for a least part of your trip – really experience this amazingly spiritual place for its own sake.

By Wesley Walker

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I am an Amateur photographer who dabbles in stock photography. Mostly I take images while hiking (particularly on holidays!) but I do occasionally set out to make specific images – still working on that!

SmugMug: http://walkerpodimages.smugmug.com/

Blog: https://walkerpodimages.wordpress.com/

Apr 082015
 

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Kathmandu, Nepal with the Sony A7s and the Mitakon 50mm f.95

by Judd Weiss

These Nepal photos probably would not exist if not for this site. Steve Huff’s blog and wider sharing community has been the single largest influence on my photography. I don’t connect with the approach of most photography communities online. But this community of mirrorless enthusiasts has continued to inspire me and push me to keep going further with this photography obsession. I’m still relatively new to photography, starting about 4.5 years ago when I picked up the first Sony NEX-3. For about a year I treated it more like a higher quality point and shoot for parties. Since I’ve discovered Steve’s site, I’ve become a daily addict, pouring over the daily inspirations and user reports, trying to understand new perspectives, obsessively studying how you impressive bastards pull it off. I’ve never taken a real course in photography, this blog has been my photography school. It’s possible I might still be shooting glorified point and shoot style photos without it. And all the beautiful photos in my life that I cherish might never have been if not for the influence of the community here. So thank you Steve and everyone else who has contributed inspiring photos in guest posts here. I’m honored to offer my small contribution to the mix.

Despite all of my public statements at the beginning of 2015 that I’m going to tone down this photography obsession and focus more on business, I just can’t help it. I want to do everything at once. When you’re doing something you’re proud of and excited about, it feels like a crime to restrain yourself. And there was just no way I could turn down this trip to Nepal. I didn’t know anything about Nepal except that it’s north of India and that some very different world awaits.

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I didn’t Google or Wikipedia anything about Nepal. Nothing. I didn’t want any movie spoilers, I just wanted the experience to be fresh. I was brought to Nepal to shoot a conference. I’m not a career photographer, I don’t market myself as a photographer or even have a proper portfolio site online at the moment. I’m not a professional, this is not my profession. I’m an enthusiast, I’m always obsessively trying to create beautiful compelling photos to the best of my ability. And that’s exactly what the conference organizers wanted. It’s a crazy expense to bring someone from the other side of the planet out to photograph your event in a 3rd world nation, so I knew I had some huge pressure to make sure I deliver.

The photos in this post are an album separate from the conference, purely the scenic photos of Nepal I captured outside of the conference.

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I am hopelessly in love with my Sony A7s. The lowlight ability is not a leap in technology, this is some kind of magic voodoo shit. I don’t know what dark forces Sony has negotiated with to let us finally see clearly in the dark, but I’m not going to ask too many question. It’s amazing, and 12MP is actually still overkill when most of my images appear online and are seen at less than 2MP. I’m not limited by that sensor. On the contrary, the limits of light are pretty much gone. I only shoot with manual lenses. Most photographers don’t believe me when I tell them that using manual lenses is tremendously FASTER than autofocus but it’s the truth. Unless you’re center focusing ever shot, autofocus slows you down and limits your ability to compose a scene where the point of focus is anywhere but the dead center. Believe it or not, 1/3 of the photos in this post were shot from the front seat of a moving car. Autofocus would have slowed me down and outright prevented me from composing the shots the way I wanted while everything is literally speeding by me. Focus peaking, I can’t live without it.

I only brought 2 lenses, and almost exclusively used only 1, the Mitakon 50mm f.95. I suppose there may be snobs that don’t like that it’s not an $11,000 Leica, but what I do know is that this lens helps me produce images that make my heart skip a beat. I also use the Voigtlander 21mm f1.8, but rarely. I love the wide Voigtlander, and I plan to keep it even though I rarely use it. I suppose the way I often think about the lens combo is that I like to take a couple 21mm wide shots to establish the entirety of the scene. And then I go through with the 50mm and focus in on the details. I’ve taken many critical photos with the 21mm, but the Mitakon 50mm is my new baby virtually permanently attached to my camera (replacing the status previously held by my Voigtlander 35mm f1.2).

One note about the Mitakon 50mm, I’ve been chasing wider and wider aperture lenses since I got started a few years ago, and now I’ve finally gone too far. f.95 is ridiculous. I usually don’t go beyond f1.4 as f.95 is just too insane, and not the kind of shot I usually want. I suppose I like the luxury of knowing that I can totally abandon reality and push completely into a dream world by going to f.95, but I would also be totally fine constrained to a maximum aperture of f1.4. The wide aperture chase is now over for me.

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Most of these photos were taken in a single day devoted to exploring Kathmandu. I knew I wouldn’t have much chance to explore the city while I was at the conference, so I gave myself 2 extra days in Kathmandu to see and capture whatever I could. Unfortunately, due to some serious incompetence and dishonesty from a tour guide, an early morning hike out in the rural mountains surrounding Kathmandu turned into an all day affair that caused me to cancel my packed schedule of sights I planned to see in my precious remaining few hours on my last day in the country. Stuck all day in the middle of nowhere, I was furious to waste most of one of my only 2 sightseeing days, but it’s a lesson in relying on your common sense over and above the assurances of strangers who act like they know what they’re talking about when it doesn’t make sense. Even when you’re in a totally foreign land. But I digress. I did manage to get good shots of the rural mountain villages and some groups of cute kids after they got out of school for the day. I have no shame, I just go up to groups of random school kids and ask who wants to be famous. They get ecstatic when I show them nice shots of themselves and their friends in my camera. No one asked for my info to get the photos, they seemed happy just that these photos of them would be seen by people in America.

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One thing I totally didn’t expect was the weather. I knew I was going to the Himalayas. In January. I packed for very cold weather (I remember surviving the coldest winter on record in Romania), but it wasn’t that cold in Kathmandu. Once I was there I was told that Kathmandu is the valley surrounded by the mountains, and that it’s relatively warm. No snow ever falls in Kathmandu. It felt more desert like, maybe a little chilly at night, but no big deal. I had full body thermal underwear packed, but I wish I brought sandals instead.

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I didn’t have time to check out any other city, though I’m told there are some real treasures throughout Nepal. Kathmandu was both beautiful and gritty. The poverty is pretty extreme, people often live on $80 a month. There is trash everywhere. Los Angeles is not exactly a clean city, but it feels like a sterile sanitary clean room by comparison. I’ve seen plenty of stray dogs and cats in other countries, but all the stray cows was actually pretty cool. The warmth of the Nepali people was striking. Everyone was extremely friendly and graciously greeted me with a Namaste and a bow. I’m talking about the random strangers I approached with my camera. I learned to reply back “Thank you friend” in their language, which people enjoyed.

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The temples swarming with monkeys was a highlight. They’re really cute until you get up close. I was warned repeatedly not to get too close, but I didn’t listen, and one angry monkey tried to grab my camera from me. I was ready to fight him to the death, he’s not taking that (I did get a powerful angry picture of him, see below). The monkeys are rude. They are all unfriendly little shits actually. I can see why our society has so many problems, if we evolved from these bastards. Adorable as they are.

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I took a $200 sight seeing flight to Mount Everest with a few friends. I regretted it immediately afterwards. We didn’t get that close, I’ve seen mountains from a plane window before, I wasn’t that impressed, and I really could have used the sleep instead of waking up so early for a delayed and pointless flight. But when I got back to Los Angeles and saw the photos I took of these majestic mountain ridges, I’m glad I did it. I shot those mountains totally sleep deprived, wishing I was back in a bed instead of a freezing cold plane to nowhere, but I managed to still capture a few shots that are priceless to me.

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One night some of the conference attendees went out to a bar that had a local metal band playing. We were out on the patio where we could talk, which was my intention so that we weren’t drowned out by whatever crappy local band was set to play. But I was surprised and impressed with how good the local band actually was. I picked up my camera and started taking some shots of them, and damn did that amazing low light combo came in handy. They reminded me of some sort of a Nepalese Deftones. A throwback to 90s Numetal when it was still artistic, but driving and aggressive. And the guys were actually talented, the music was great, and fans were in a trance and pumped. I really didn’t expect that when I heard a local metal band was playing that night. I found the guitarist after the show and showed him a few shots I took, and he flipped out, immediately bringing me over to the singer to show him my camera screen. I promised they would eventually get these, and they invited me to share a joint with them. I got a picture of that too ;)

Pretty cool the places a little device in your hand will take you.

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One of the craziest things I saw was a citywide protest that shut down all major streets on my last morning there, while I was rushing to get to the airport. Fortunately they were letting tourists through (the protesters don’t want to look like they’re cutting off vital income to the country). The protests were orchestrated by Maoists. Not Socialists, not Communists, but Maoists. With flags and banners of Mao. I’m just going out on a limb here, but it felt like it had to be China’s influence to me. Nepal is safe from out right occupation since it’s so closely linked to the massive India, but that doesn’t mean China isn’t going to meddle. Purely my speculation, but seeing very poor people that live off less than $100 a month carry around printed flags and banners of China’s Chairman Mao leads me to assume who’s funding this…

I WISH I had walked around and captured some compelling shots of the protests, but I was rushing to the airport, worried about catching my flight, and could only get a few imperfect shots as my taxi sped by.

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Anyway, these pictures are worth more than any of my words. This is a landmark album for me, and easily the most exotic photos I’ve ever taken. I hope they help you get a better idea of the experience of this different world.

Full album and original post can be found on my blog here:

http://hustlebear.com/2015/03/12/kathmandu-nepal-january-2015/

You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/juddweiss

I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss

[All the rest of the images in order (excluding those already used and excluding nepal-2015-1029.jpg):

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This final shot was a defocused cityscape take-off from my connecting flight in Guangzhou, China.

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Mar 272015
 

One Camera, One Lens and One Faraway Destination

By Fahad A

Hey Brandon,

Thank you for featuring my previous post I shared earlier this year.

Last summer I decided to go on a quick vacation somewhere far, somewhere I have never been before or even thought about visiting. Looked up the map, found Korea to be distant, far, interesting and not top of mind destination for someone who wants to roam around and take pictures.

Without any preconceptions about South Korea, I took a plane to Seoul, accompanied with a small suitcase that barely carries a couple of shirts, and a backpack that for my laptop and camera.

Few hours before the flight, I had a quick debate with myself about which gear should I take along with my Leica M + Summicron 50mm (V4), should i take the tiny Fuji 100s ? or should I take along the Nokton 35mm 1.2.

I decided to keep both Fuji and Nokton lens at home. went to Seoul with only one camera, and one lens! which means I’m stuck with 50mm focal length for the entire trip.

Did I regret it? I don’t think so. I enjoyed the limitation of only one lens. and how I should adapt with the focal length rather than replacing it or take out another camera with a different lens whenever I need to.

I might have missed few shots that were easier with a wider lens, however I’d sacrifice them anytime for the experience I got from limiting myself to 50mm.

Fahad A

For the full set, please take a look here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/sets/72157648593556971/

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© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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