Dec 052013
 

Eli-intro-final

Eli

by Daniel Zvereff - His blog HERE

I didn’t start with any intention to photograph Eli. We would just exchange simple acknowledgments when I passed him by on the steps of my building. He never asked for anything, and I wasn’t sure if he even lived on the street.

When I first photographed him, he said with a big grin, “Now you can show all your friends and say that’s my Puerto Rican homie”. As time passed, I started to bring my camera around the neighborhood so I was always ready to photograph him. Later on, I began having a hard time leaving Stanhope street at all and eventually would just sit on my stoop and hang out all day, shunning most of my daily responsibilities.

When I discovered Eli had been sleeping outside on Stanhope street for the last 4 years, I could only admire his personality and humbleness towards strangers and his incredible ability to endure the harsh elements day in and out. Eli is a survivor. He threw no pity parties and always interacted positively with others, no matter how grim the weather or his situation was. He always had stories to tell and advice to give.

Over the course of three months, Eli never once asked why I photographed him, nor did he ask for anything else. He simply enjoyed the interactions and was creative in his own way.

It’s no secret that gentrification is rapidly segregating  and pushing out the people who struggled for decades to make a name for Brooklyn and its communities.

Through Eli and the residents of Stanhope, I was able to make a small connection to the legitimate roots of this city and gain insight into the real lives of its people. I look forward to continue working on the Stanhope series with them.

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Oct 022013
 

“Down The Drain” 

Down the drain

The Future Is In The Past – The Leica Monochrom and Photogravure

Max Marinucci Photography

Fine Art Photography

Silver Gelatin and Photogravure

South Salem, NY

www.maxmarinucci.com

As a photographer and printer, I’ve always seen the advent of digital photography as a mixed blessing. The gain in speed, convenience, immediacy, offered by digital photography, also meant the gradual loss of film and everything related to it (photographic paper, chemicals) and, more importantly, the loss of learned skills and knowledge that are needed to produce truly hand-made prints. I have, of course, continued to use film for most of my work and honed my skills producing quality silver gelatin prints, in a world when a photographer feels like he is constantly swimming against the digital current. Kodak is no longer a driving force and so many manufacturers have disappeared or stopped making photographic product, with Ilford being the only reliable and consistent source as of today. Over the past year, while still dedicated to film photography and silver gelatin, I’ve rediscovered what is the most venerable, and in my opinion most beautiful of photographic processes: photogravure. A venerable process, and a 19th century invention, it was indeed how photography came to life, on paper, at the dawn of it all. On the camera front, as a devoted Leica user, I’ve continued with my trusty M3 and later film incarnations as the M4, M6, M7 and MP, until finally breaking down and acquiring a Monochrom upon release. There was no denying that the allure of a no fuss, great Leica camera that captures images in black and white only was too much to bear but, as my personality dictates, everything has to have a clear purpose. I am not an inkjet printer and I see no purpose in spending a good chunk of hard-earned cash on a camera to simply post digital snapshots on social networks or photography related websites, in a vacuum, with a purely digital workflow. As a photographer, artist and a printer, how do I justify the investment and, better yet, how do I bring the amazingly detailed images that the Monochrom is able to record, to life, on paper? Marrying our historic photographic past to the latest in technology, in a seamless way, and one that offers the viewer, collector, buyer, a tangible product that is not mass-produced but it is a handmade work of art, seemed the one and only way for me.

The Leica Monochrom and Photogravure: the future is in the past.

“The Old Man By The Window”

Old Man By The Window

Because of technological advances within the printing industry, and pioneers such as Jon Cone of Piezography, Roy Harrington of QTR, and Mark Nelson of Precision Digital Negatives (and few others) today it is possible to print absolutely flawless digital positives to use for the photogravure process. Of course, that doesn’t make this amazing process any easier, as it still involves the same numerous (and full of pitfalls) steps as it did one hundred years ago, but one only needs to admire in person the incredible prints born from Leica Monochrom images and onto fine art papers, hand-made with beautiful inks, to realize how special this is. I firmly believe that for a fine art photographer and printer, who is willing to let go of the constant film versus digital battles and discussions, these can be exciting times, if only one is willing to learn and push the boundaries a bit. For my own work it has now come to a point when shooting film with the ultimate goal of making photogravure plates and prints is almost not worth it. Of course, medium and large format film still offer many possibilities but, at the end of the day, film still has to be scanned and that will always be the weakest link (and probably weaker as we go on, as film scanners are barely in production). While results can be more than acceptable with 35mm, and I will still continue on this path on occasion, the amount of detail and the possibilities available with the Leica Monochrom and photogravure are truly exciting and special.

“Porte, Cassis” 

Porte, Cassis 1

For the novice who may be wondering why go through the trouble of using such a cumbersome and antiquated process to produce a print, I’d like to again outline a few important points: obviously, for as beautiful as the best inkjet prints may be, there are no particular skills required and no “hands on” aspect. If one enjoys actually “making” something, an inkjet print gives no satisfaction. Then there is the aspect of the print itself. With inkjet, we have ink (and a crappy one in most cases), sitting on top of the paper. With photogravure etchings, the image is IN the paper. What does that mean? Well, an etching on copper is basically peaks and valleys. The valleys are the deep crevices, which hold more ink and create the deep shadows and blacks, and the peaks will hold much less and create the highlights in print. Of course, we have everything in between, for a true full range of tones. What this does is actually creating a relief on paper. The images have a structure and depth that one cannot replicate with an inkjet printer, or with any other process.

“Strength and Grace”

Strength and Grace

The Prints:

All prints are in editions of 20, with image size 12×8 for standard 35mm format and 8×8 for square crops. Printed on Magnani Revere or Somerset papers, using Graphic Chemicals, Charbonnelle, and Izote etching inks. Of course archival qualities far exceed those of inkjet prints and even silver gelatin. Every print is hand made by me, and hand pulled using a manual etching press. Aside from the original digital file and the production of a “positive” on clear film, the process is fully analog.

A word about the Photogravure process:

Please do note that when I say photogravure, I mean, “copper-plate photogravure”. There is another printing process that uses pre-sensitized “polymer” plates and a few “artists” have gotten into the habit of calling it simply “photogravure”. It is NOT the same thing! Copper plate photogravure, is an etching process. A gelatin resist that is first sensitized in potassium dichromate is exposed (using first an aquatint screen or rosin dust), then applied to a sheet of mirror finish copper, developed and finally “etched” in a series of ferric chloride acid baths. The Photo-Polymer process is NOT an etching process and it does not require chemicals in any of its steps. It is much easier to master and prints can be absolutely beautiful but…IT IS NOT “PHOTOGRAVURE”.

Feb 132013
 

Beautiful Innocence – Cheetah vs 3.9 FPS

Print

Jake Hefner has released his newest book entitled “Beautiful Innocence” which was shot with one camera, one focal length and 32 beautiful models in natural and quite amazing settings. He has written about his experience below while shooting models with a cheetah..there is nudity here but it is all tastefully done and beautiful.

As Jake has stated: No make-up, no hair stylists, and definitely no retouching of photographs. One camera, one fixed length lens, one photograph at a time. Photographed on two continents with only natural girls, in natural settings, with the help of available light. Real, raw and with imperfect perfection.

Enjoy

“Don’t make any sudden movements. He is a predatory animal.”

Rocket, a hungry cheetah, was about to run past at full speed chasing a target in the form of a stuffed animal rabbit as I knelt at his eye level in some tall grass. “If he senses movement, or fear, he may release from the target and you will become the new target,” Luke, the animal wrangler, calmly reminded me. “Do not move at all when he passes you. He may even brush you during the pursuit.” What was I getting myself into?

jacob-hefner-1

As it turned out, getting eaten alive wasn’t an issue, focusing on a breathtaking animal running straight at you at speeds approaching 60mph was. At the 5D II’s 3.9 FPS, I found the closest approach that resembled success was pre-focusing and then trying to time the moment Rocket would approximately pass the pre-focused spot, a technique that has often worked well with people, but didn’t stand a chance against the world’s fastest land animal.

jacob-hefner-3

Although I wasn’t able to keep up with Rocket, our team did create some images I was very pleased with. As W.C. Fields reportedly once remarked, “Never work with animals or children.” I would agree that animals and children can be challenging, but if I hadn’t taken the chance I wouldn’t have created some of my most memorable images or shared the afternoon with so many unique animals and interesting people.

jacob-hefner-6

Steve, thank your for sharing my story and readers, thank you for reading.

Additional photos I’ve made can be found at www.beautifulinnocence.com and you can preview the book at Amazon HERE.

Jacob

jacob-hefner-4

About Jacob: I like traveling, so much so that I’ve been doing it for the last 1,227 consecutive days as of today, September 26, 2012, without any plans of stopping. What started out as a frequent flyer ticket to Europe and South East Asia has turned into a three year journey spanning nearly 50 countries and conversations with thousands of interesting people. Ambushed in a Cambodian jungle…that was interesting, and the broken arm has healed nicely. Running with cheetahs in South Africa…I kept up for about 1/1000th of a second. Ukrainian police “misunderstandings”…happy to still be alive. Wipeouts in Brazil…beach break on sand bars close out fast. All night parties in Milan…how many 5’10″ fashion models can you fit in a Fiat? It’s all been a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow. 

Jan 222013
 

astrotitle

HOW TO: Wide Field Astrophotography With a Camera and Tripod

Shooting with the Sony RX1 and Olympus OM-D

By Chris Malikoff

Hi Steve, I’ve been enjoying your site now for some time. Your reviews helped me change my mind about my heavy DSLRs, and as a consequence, I’ve bought into the Micro Four Thirds system with an OM-D. I couldn’t be happier. Recently, I’ve gone and taken the plunge and bought a Sony RX1 based on your reviews as well. Perfect!

Having now dropped my Canon 5D Mark-II and 40D, I thought that my astrophotography hobby was probably over. It’s pretty-well accepted within the general astro community that if you don’t use a high-end Canon you should forget it. Astrophotography needs cameras with super-sensitive sensors that display great high ISO performance and very low noise characteristics. None of the mirror less cameras are ready, say the pundits. I say, in response, not true.

1) What We’re After

The secret of taking decent wide field photographs of our night sky is TIME, and lots of it. You need to expose your sensor to very feint light coming in through your lens’ aperture and let the sensor wells soak up as many photons as possible before writing the data out to the processor and on to your memory stick as an image. The only way to do this is by employing bulb mode and letting the camera sit there for up to tens of minutes at a time – depending on your intended object or part of the sky. Throwing a spanner in the works, unfortunately, is this little problem we have with the sky at night. It, and everything it contains, seems to revolve around us as the Earth spins underneath it on its 23 degree axis once every 24 hours. This poses a curious problem to the average photographer – how long can I expose an image for before the stars and my brighter objects, such as “emission” nebulae, start to show blurred trails in the photo instead of presenting a nice clear image? This depends on a number of factors.

2) The Problem

First: The quality of your overhead sky really matters, especially down near the horizon if you want to incorporate a foreground in your shots. By this, I mean that the more light pollution there is in your neck of the woods, and as a consequence your contrast ratio is low. This means that in city areas the night sky is so bright from light reflected off the ground due street and other lights, that you’ll have almost no stars in view let alone the lovely wisps and gaseous tendrils of something as beautiful as the Great Orion Nebula or band of the Milky Way. From a location that suffers from a brightly-lit sky, you can’t expose for long periods of time because you’ll only get a washed-out white mess as a result. The tip is to get into your car and drive away from the city – as far as you can. Typically, I use a 100 kilometre (60 mile) rule that says you should be no closer to a city than this to see an “acceptably darkish” night sky in order to obtain a decent result. The further, the better. I’m lucky here in Australia – we have a lot of room. In the southern hemisphere we also have an advantage over our northern cousins in that our position on Earth lets us look in towards the galactic centre of our Milky Way galaxy, rather than seeing out towards the thinner edge. This means that our Milky Way is generally brighter than that which you get to see in the north.

Second: The moon is your enemy. Depending on what part of its cycle it’s at, it can range from nothing at all because it’s below the horizon, a dim sliver of light to a full-blown angry ball of white light. A full moon simply paints the atmosphere in visible white light that, like the previous point, serves to wash you out. Download a moon calendar app for your mobile device or computer which can show you what nights the moon is at its lowest output – and the best is when it’s not around. This is called the “new moon”. This phase lasts for two or three days every month. You really,really need to try astrophotography on these nights to get a good result. The moon is pretty – but it kills your chances of capturing decent photos of the night sky.

Third: The Earth’s rotation. Herein lies a choice you need to make, as you can take two distinctly different types of image of the same night sky.

3) Type of Image – Your Choice

The first, and most common images taken by astrophotographers, are of star trails. All you need is a statically positioned tripod and a camera fitted with a remote release or intervalometer to give you long (one minute) exposures. Simply point the camera towards either the north or south pole, depending what hemisphere you’re in, and watch as long trails of light start to appear in your images as the Earth rotates. Bright stars literally draw circular lines of coloured light on your sensor or film as they move around your local celestial pole within frame. There is freeware available called “StarTrails” that lets you stack these one minute images together which joins the sixty-second trails together into a circular mass of lines. These are great images, but they’re not what I’m after.

OMD_startrails

I prefer to see a still set of stars that show the bright patches of iridescent gas that burns as nebulae in between. To do this, you need to be able to counter the Earth’s rotation by moving your camera’s lens around the pole at what is termed the “sidereal” rate. By mounting the camera on a device who’s rotating axis is pointed directly at your local celestial pole, and that rotates in the opposite direction to the Earth’s spin at EXACTLY the same rate, you can “hold” the night sky still. This device is known as an “equatorial” mount. Normally, a decent computerised equatorial mount will set you back many hundreds or even tens of thousands of dollars. These are designed to carry a telescope payload that may or may not include a camera mounted at “prime” focus on the telescope. By using an equatorial (EQ) mount to place your camera and lens combination alone on, one can shoot the same patch of sky, literally all night, depending on the quality of the mount and how well it’s been aligned to the celestial pole in your region. There are usually, and necessarily, complex procedures involved in “polar alignment” that would take a few pages to explain. Unless your system is perfectly aligned with the pole, you will never see round stars appear in your long exposure images. Fact of life – nothing you can do except do the work.

Sony RX1 – 518 Seconds – f/4 – ISO 800

RX1_518secs_f4_ISO800_35mm

4) The Equipment

OK – so I don’t have a gazillion dollars to throw at a full-blown telescope EQ mount, but still want to take photos of the night sky without any star trails in evidence. Answer – purchase a portable EQ mount designed to sit on a common tripod. There are several varieties and brands available, and these are a fairly recent addition to the astrophotographer’s tool kit. They range in price from three hundreds-odd dollars to just over a thousand if you buy all the options. The unit I chose is called the Vixen “Polarie” – made in Japan by Vixen – a long-time supplier of premium telescopes and mounts. The Polarie will set you back around the $400-500 mark, depending on where you are. Others are “AstroTrac (UK) for just a little more, and the new iOptron SkyTracker which will cost you a fair bit less. Quality differs, but they’ll all do the same thing in the end – spin your camera around your polar axis.

Vixen: http://www.vixenoptics.com/mounts/polarie.html

AstroTrac: http://www.astrotrac.com

iOptron: http://www.ioptron.com/index.cfm?select=productdetails&phid=0193c9ab-b455-4fb1-9534-ef192192a93f

Olympus OM-D on the Vixen Polarie

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and the RX1…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once you have attached your chosen device to the top of your tripod using a geared head or very solid ball mount, you need to do two things. You must point it in the right direction relative to the horizon, and then you’ll need to point it up into the sky to the right elevation so that the central rotating axis of the unit is pointing as close to either the north or south celestial pole depending where you live. In the north – you have it easy. All you need to do is find the Pole Star, Polaris. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polaris) This star is easy to find and closely marks the north celestial pole. All you need to do, with the Polarie for example, is use the sight tube built into the casing of the unit to sight this star through it. Lock your ball or geared head. Mount the camera and lens to the front of the unit on a second ball mount and point your camera to where you want to start shooting. Fire away. If you live in the south, as I do, then it’s a little more difficult. There is no star handily pointing out your local pole. You can use the optional “polar scope” to fine-tune which way you’re pointing after you use a compass (set to point to true south, not magnetic) and inclinometer (angle meter) to set the square faces of the unit in the right direction. If you’re in the south, then you have to know what your position’s latitude is, and use this to set the inclinometer so that you point high enough off the horizon to see the pole. I live in Sydney, which has a latitude of 34 degrees south. I set my inclinometer to 34 degrees and then set it against the front face of the Polarie so the it tilts back at 34 degrees. Then use the compass to point the front of the unit to true south. To do this you’ll need to know what the offset from magnetic south is for your area – it differs greatly depending on where you are. Use your smart phone and set it to show true, rather than magnetic south and it’ll work it our for you.

Olympus OM-D

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OK – so we’re nearly there. You now have your EQ mount sitting on your tripod and its main axis is pointing at your local pole. You’ve mounted your camera on the rotating front ring and it’s pointed somewhere interesting in the night sky that you’d like to photograph. What next? You need to set up your camera and decide on a field of view. Tip: The shorter the focal length, the wider the image and consequently the less critical your tracking needs to be. The longer the lens, the more critical your tracking is. My ideal length falls in the range 24mm to 50mm. Any longer and it’s starting to be a world of pain. Don’t be tempted to stick a 300mm tele on, because unless you have one of those huge telescope-grade EQ mounts, you’re going to end up with fuzzy, out of round stars. There is a weight limit on these small EQ mounts of around 2.5kg (6-7lb).

Olympus OM-D – 304 Seconds – f/5.6 – ISO 400 – 24mm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

5) Set up your Camera

Deep-sky wide field photos require exposure time. A few seconds simply doesn’t do it. You’ll capture a few of the brighter stars, but that’s all. You need to take exposures of two, three, five and even seven or eight minutes to get the “fluffy” stuff. Set, as a starting point, place your camera in full manual mode.

A) Focus: Set your ISO to 1600 or higher if you can. This is only temporary, and is needed to show you stars as bright as you can possibly see them in live view if you have it. Set your lens to manual focus. If you don’t have live view, set your focus to infinity as a starting point. With live view, you should be able to see these stars with your focus set to infinity. Adjust focus with live view’s zoom feature set to as close in as you can get. Canon gives you 10x, if you run an OM-D it’s 14x. You’ll see the star focus to a sharp point, with it becoming a soft disk either side of proper focus. Take it out of live view. Take a 10 second exposure. You should see sharp stars in your image.

B) Set your aperture to around f/2.8 – either via the lens or from a menu if it’s entirely electronic and fly by wire. Fast lenses are good here, as long as you don’t open them right up as you’ll start to see vignetting and/or spherical aberration creeping in. Stop it down a stop or two and just expose for longer. If you have a slower lens then don’t panic – time will fix it. I have an old f/4.5 tele that I use regularly and it works beautifully.

C) Switch on your EQ mount so that it starts moving at sidereal (star) rate – not lunar or any other rate that you may have on the dial.

C) Take a 30 second exposure. If you see round stars and no obvious trailing, then you’re good to go.

D) Now set your ISO value to around 400. Turn on ICNR (In-Camera Noise Reduction). This will help mitigate thermal noise in your image.

E) Set your exposure to 30 seconds and see what you get. If your camera can expose for longer than 30 seconds, like the OM-D at 60 seconds, try that. The OM-D’s brilliant “LiveTime” feature is phenomenal here. It will let you start exposing and you simply watch the image form on-screen in real-time. Brilliant for this job.

F) Now step up your exposures (if you don’t have LiveTime) to 60 seconds and beyond, with a cable or remote electronic intervalometer or release. I’ve managed 15 minute exposures with this setup, but you need REALLY dark skies to pull this off. Otherwise, you’ll start to get white-outs. Speaking of which, if you start to see this, simply decrease your ISO, step down the aperture another stop or two or reduct the exposure time. You’ll find a balance.

6) Final

Once you have a bunch of successive images of the same area, you can use any number of stacking programs, including Photoshop CS4 or newer, to stack them which results in better signal to noise ratio. This means that, by averaging-out the noise between stacked images, that you can push the levels of the image to increase the dynamic range – and suddenly your images will start to pop. That’s an entirely different subject for a different day.

Sony RX1 – 446 Seconds – f/4 – ISO 800

RX1_446secs_f4_ISO800_35mm

Have fun – and post your images somewhere where we can all see them.

Cheers

Chris Malikoff

Sydney, Australia

Jan 122013
 

12 Months, 12 Lenses and Cameras

by Bjarke Ahlstrand – His website is HERE

Hail and happy new year!

2012 was a very exciting (camera) year for me — I often considered the many new promising cameras, especially when browsing through Steve’s blog, but eventually found out that the smaller sensors and formats are not my thing, even though OM-D, Fuji X-pro etc. look amazing, especially ISO wise. Heck, even the new 5D Mark III which I purchased for “professional” purposes bored me… So in stead my focus, desire for — and collection of old “exotic” glass just grew and grew as did my fascination with the medium format, and lately large format (4×5″) film. I’ve always shot digital, so building my own darkroom and starting to develop my own film was quite a challenge, but fortunately I have quite a few skilled old school friends who helped me along the way.

And now, as 2013 is upon us, I’m trying to “scale down” my 2012 collection of images, which also happens to be quite a challenge, considering the many good times spend with a variety of excellent cameras (some bought, most borrowed from my best friend who works at a camera store). But even though I loved fooling around with the technical Linhofs and Sinar Norma 4×5″, The Zeiss Ikons, Voigtländer Bessa, The Rolleiflex and Yashica TLRs, it always seems like my (camera) heart belongs to my Leicas (M6 + M9-P) and Hasselblads (digital H3D-39 and analogue 500C, SWC and Xpan). And the lenses, those wonderful lenses…

Anyways, here are 12 of my 2012 shots. The first 6 months are in black and white and the last 6 are in color; some shot with wonderful analogue oldies and some with digital razor-sharp aspherical ones, dating from 1939 till today…

JANUARY 2012 · LEICA M9-P & 35 MM SUMMILUX F/1.4 (PRE-ASPH)

My colleague, Claus, from whose father I purchased an excellent 1960′s 50 mm Summicron.

2012_01_leica and 35 summilux_claus the co-worker

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FEBRUARY 2012 · HASSELBLAD SWC & ZEISS BIOGON 38 MM F/4.5 · P45+ DIGITAL BACK

- My youngest clone, Viggo, running uphill while I press the shutter on the wonderful SWC from 1974. The 38 mm Zeiss Biogon (=24 mm in full frame terms) is the sharpest, non-distorting and most excellent wide-angle lens I’ve ever owned and shot. There’s no framing or focus assist when I shoot with the SWC, but I now it so well, so I just point and shoot (and prey :-).

2012_02_hasselblad swc and zeiss 38 biogon_run to the hills

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MARCH 2012 · LEICA M9-P & 50 MM JUPITER-3 F/1.5

- My lens soulmate, Klehmann, knowing my craving for fast lenses, strongly suggested that I tried one of the old russian Jupiters, so I purchased this one eBay. It’s broken, so it only works on 1 meters distance and then it’s 4 cm off, so it took some time to adjust to. But it’s wonderful with its drop-like bokeh, even when something wicked is climbing the trees in Copenhagen (=my oldest clone, Hjalte).

2012_03_leica and 50 jupiter_in the trees

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APRIL 2012 · LEICA M9-P & 90 MM ELMAR F/4

- I often wonder which images old lenses have captured through out their life time. This 1939 portrait lens is no exception. It survived the second World War, the following cold war and eventually ended up in my hands for a mere 100$. It’s rather battered and its resolution is not the highest of my Leica glass, but it does well when it sees a burlesque Australian freak performer. I wonder how many of those it has seen the last the last 73 years…

2012_04_leica and 90 elmar 1939_freakgirl

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MAY 2012 · LEICA M9–P & 50 MM SUMMILUX ASPH F/1.4

- This lens never fails me. Since I departed with my 75 Summicron (I traded it for the 75 Summilux which I like better), it’s definitely the sharpest in my Leica arsenal, even wide open. I really like the 35 mm on the Leicas, but I often find myself automatically bringing this one and my 21 mm Summilux as both are excellent performers and a nice compact travelling kit. The guy on the image recently had a pacemaker inserted which I was quite fascinated with.

2012_05_leica and 50 summilux_pacemaker man

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JUNE 2012 · LEICA M9–P & 100 MM CANON SCREW MOUNT F/2

- My favourite music festival is the annual Copenhell (Copenhagen Hell) as it’s crammed with hard-hitting metal and a cool audience. This year I spotted a Crow-like character and this was actually the first shot I took with my newly purchased 1960′s Canon screw mount lens. 100 mm is an odd size on the Leica, frame wise, but the old Canon lens actually handles very well and I love its f/2 abilities and only shoot it wide open.

2012_06_leica and canon 100 mm_the crow at copenhell

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JULY 2012 · HASSELBLAD H3D-39 & 100 MM HC F/2.2 · Pro-Foto Flash

- My wonderful offspring just before harvest, captured two minutes before the sky cracked, through 39 megapixels of digital Hasselblad magic and the Fuji built HC 35 mm f/3.5 which translates roughly to a 22 mm lens in full frame terms.

2012_07_hasselblad h3d-39 and hc 35 mm_harvester of sons

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AUGUST 2012 · HASSELBLAD 500C & 60 MM ZEISS DISTAGON F/3.5 · KODAK EKTACHROME E200

- Astronaut Neil Armstrong died late August, and the boys and I decided to suit up and pay homage to the space traveling Hasselblad shooter. I found an old, long expired dias film, which I inherited from a retired pro, and we sailed to the Trekroner Island just outside of Copenhagen. Apparantly the 50+ year old film magazine has a marvelous light leak which I absolutely love it. And the colors… those expired dias film produce something truly unique. And with my Imacon Flextight scanner I end up with 50 megapixels resolution, which is not bad at all for a very old camera.

2012_08_hasselblad 500 60 mm zeiss distagon_astronaut armstrong jr

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SEPTEMBER 2012 · LEICA M9-P & 50 MM NOCTILUX ASPH F/0.95

- A self-portrait of myself and my new better half, shot on my roof top during stormy rainbow filled September weather (just before our very first kiss as a matter of fact). That Noctilux is unbeatable, although mine is 2 cm off focus wide. The girl is pretty nice too, I think :-)

2012_09_leica and 50 noctliux_new girl on the block

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OCTOBER 2012 · HASSELBLAD XPAN & 45 MM FUJI F/4 · KODAK EKTACHROME E100

- Ever tried a double full frame rangefinder? Enter the XPan, an interchangeable lens 35mm rangefinder camera system with true panoramic capability. Made by Fuji in Japan, its like a Japanese Leica in Hasselblad styling — only its true panoramic double-width full frame (24 x 65 mm). Despite its small size, the 45 mm is actually a medium format lens, making it a 24 mm in 35 mm terms. And again — those old expired dias film — if you have some in the freezer, please send them to me in Copenhagen!!

2012_10_Hasselblad Xpan and 45 rodenstock_ruth at fence

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NOVEMBER 2012 · HASSELBLAD H3D-39 & HC 100 MM F/2.2

- A razor-sharp Yoda-like-orc shot at f/2.2 medium format which equals something like f/1 in 35 terms (check the sharpness in his eyes, it’s unbelievable). The HC 100 mm is my favorite medium format portrait lens. It renders out of focus smoothly and is one of the sharpest lenses, even wide open, I’ve ever tried.

2012_11_hasselblad h3d-39 and hc 100 mm_orc yoda

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DECEMBER 2012 · LEICA M9-P & 21 MM SUMMILUX ASPH F/1.4

- I shoot a lot of concerts. So do a lot of other photographers, but the Canon & Nikon shooters always stare, when I pick up my manual focus only camera and try to nail the performing artist at f/1.4, hehe. This was also the case when Rob Zombie recently played in Denmark together with Marilyn Manson. I recently brought along the 5D Mark II and the new 24-70 zoom, but it just wasn’t me anymore, I guess I love the manual framing and focus hassles too much :-)

2012_12_leica and 21 summilux_rob zombie

 

Nov 262012
 

Fuji X100 Magic Flares..how to create them. By Simon Peckham

One of the special things about the Fuji X100 that I have learnt and still learning while using the camera is the way the photographer can “play” with the light and the resulting image. I will try to explain how I use the camera to control the light in a little more detail. It’s only possible to be able to control the camera this way using the EVF, it is not possible with the live view or the OVF. Take a look at the lens flare in this image.

You can clearly see the wonderful “star” effect from the suns rays. This is due to the blades at smaller apertures. You can’t see these at wide aperture. Then it’s a question of just trying to get the correct camera angle. Taking care using the EVF set the camera to f11 or f16 it works better at these apertures. It’s ok at f8 but since your pointing the camera directly at the sun it’s better using the smaller. Take care doing this looming directly at the sun is not something any wine should be advising or advocating but to get the shot then we need to take some risk. You also need some subject that can be use as a gobo.

The sun is a giant studio or speed light after all so you need a gobo, this can be a tree, leave,car,building it can be all most anything. Now you need to start to frame the shot by looking at the sun and moving the camera to just get the sun to peep around the gobo, this starts the flare, using the EVF you will be able to “see” the flare now you just need to choose you image. It’s amazing to see the effects that can be created this way, I a, often looking to take shots into the sun, I normally choose to shoot towards the sun at the end of the day it seems a little easier to control. Here is another similar shot.

You can see the above shot has creatures a beautiful flare with a partial halo. I love this type of control that I believe can only be controlled using an EVF. I have not been able to do this on any other camera, I am not sure if it is because it is EVF or the fixed fujinion lens. I am really hoping I will still be able to use this technique with either the Fuji X-pro 1 or the new Fuji X-E1. I would certainly like to hear from any Fuji X-pro1 or Fuji X-e1 owners that can try this method and confirm if is works particularly on other lens’s. it would be a real shame to lose this ability to play with e flaring. Take a look at the next shot.

This halo is really fun to play with. I really cannot explain what this is I don’t really know how it is formed but I do know its a similar technique to get it as the 16 point flares, the halo seems to be best created with the wider apertures but it’s created over all the range if you GE the camera angle right. Again use the EVF to do this and not look directly at the sun using the OVF. The full halo takes a little bit of practice to get the right angle. It’s also very sensitive to getting the right angle, pointing the camera at the sun slowly tilt the camera vertically and you will find you can get the complete halo to appear.

Now it’s just up to you to frame this image compose the shot make the halo appear and click away. I will be playing more with this in the future and hope to be playing with the same either on the new Fuji X-E1 or the Fuji X-Pro1 what ever I end up getting and with what ever range of lens I have I really hope I will still be able to create these type of really cool reflective artifacts and flares. We shall see. Go out and have some fun with this and see if you GE the same or similar results as me.

Simon Peckham – His Blog is HERE

Nov 052012
 

A Film Legacy by Jason Howe

Hi Steve

I’d really like to share a recent discovery with you, I am posting the full version on my blog HERE but I know this will reach far more people if you show it so thanks so much for helping me achieve this.

I’ve featured my own work on your site several times before but on this occasion I’d like to present the work of a deceased doctor and amateur photographer from New Zealand called Roland G Phillips-Turner who in the 1950′s and 60′s travelled around remote regions of New Zealand’s North Island doing medical research and documenting his travels with his Leica M5 and Hasselblad 500c.

A Film Legacy

I clicked on the email attachment, whilst the image of assorted camera equipment wasn’t the best the list was clear enough….. Leica M5, 35mm Summicron f/2, 90mm Elmarit f/2.8 all caught my eye, words that meant nothing to me only a couple of years ago were now very much etched in to my photographic brain. Other lenses in both M & R mount were listed amongst a myriad of Leica equipment. The email arrived via the father of a friend, word of mouth regarding my fondness for all things Leica had ensured it found its way to me, good fortune indeed. I phoned the contact number and made arrangements to view the items at the earliest opportunity and in doing so acquired not only a wonderful collection of vintage Leica equipment but also the opportunity to show the world the photography of Roland G Phillips-Turner, his film legacy so to speak.

As I carefully packed away the equipment, the daughter and I began to chat about her late father and his photographic exploits, as I listened intently my connection to this newly inherited equipment grew stronger with each spoken word. All vintage equipment comes to you with a history, more often than not it’s imagined on the part of the new owner, to actually know the story behind it makes it very special indeed. With this history comes what I would almost describe as a sense of duty, one I would come take very seriously, lenses have since been serviced and as I write this the M5 is at DAG in the US receiving the attention it deserves. Indeed, upon its return from CLA the 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 made its debut for me HERE.

I’d describe myself as a rational person, I don’t believe in such things as fate and destiny, but I have to admit it has crossed my mind when it comes to this equipment. From opposite sides of the world, separated by two generations and via a huge slice of good fortune this equipment has landed in my possession, the survival and continued use of this Leica equipment is now ensured.

In addition to the equipment I was also entrusted with his slides, these have only been seen by the family prior to this post.

 

Image 1 – Hasselblad 500c – KODAK EKTACHROME

I was so pleased to find this amongst the negatives, after some research I’ve been able to establish that it was taken at Marokopa Falls in the Waikato, New Zealand. It was also fascinating to discover that the photographer used the Hasselblad 500c for the medium format work. I had also purchased a 500c from the USA a month or so before coming across the slides, just another wonderful coincidence.

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Image 2 – Hasselblad 500c – AGFACOLOR DIA

Kuia with a moko – “Kuia” being an elderly woman, grandmother or female elder and the “Moko” is the Maori facial tattoo.

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Image 3 – Leica M5 – KODAK KODACHROME

Image taken with the Leica M5 and most likely with the VISOFLEX that was also included within the set of equipment.

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Image 4 – Hasselblad 500c – KODAK EKTACHROME

Deer Hunters in the Urawera’s, a rural scene that is no doubt still repeated in the present day.

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Image 5 – Hasselblad 500c – AGFACOLOR DIA

In this image Mount Ngauruhoe appears to be active. You may recognise this volcano as Mt Doom from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

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Image 6 – Hasselblad 500c – AGFACOLOR DIA

Traveling amongst the indigenous people in these rural areas whilst doing his research must have been the most incredibly rewarding experience. Add to that the opportunity and ability to photograph them and it really must have been a joy on many levels.

Final Thoughts

In years to come will people have similar experiences to the one I have just shared with you? What is the likelihood of my photographs being rediscovered 40 or 50 years from now? You would have to say, highly unlikely! Film has made this discovery possible, it has preserved these images beautifully and ensured their survival to date.

Boxes of slides, stored in an attic, a garage, who knows where, you open it, hold it to the light and instantly you can see the magic, will people recover digital images from old hard drives in this way? I can’t see it myself……..only film can make this possible. I already had an affinity with film, this experience has strengthened that bond still further, I never say shoot film over digital, I always say shoot both. There is true value in both media.

The images posted here are indicative of the collection I have been entrusted with and I will continue to share them over the coming weeks and months, I hope you’ll join me and follow these posts with interest.

Cheers

Jason.

Nov 012012
 

From Long Island, NY – Documenting Hurricane Sandy by Amy Medina

So, here I sit with my laptop, tethered to my iPhone getting spotty internet service after Hurricane Sandy has hit. We’ve had no power since Monday afternoon (along with nearly a million more people on Long Island, and many more across the tri-state area). It’s forty-five degrees tonight and I’m curled under the blankets staying warm as I write this.

While we lost some shingles from our roof and saw our chimney suffer a bit of damage, for the most part we are just fine. So many people got hit so much worse than us, with severe flooding to our south and many more trees down to the north. The trains have only started to come back into service, keeping my husband home from work and my daughter’s college is being used as a shelter, so no school for her either. Unlike some of the major catastrophes such as Breezy Point, NY, we are very lucky.

I’ve been out and about with my family seeing the toll the storm took around the Suffolk County area, and taking photos with my Fuji XE1 and iPhone. I thought I’d share them. The video is above, which is mostly a slideshow of the iPhone snapshots, just to record damage. I know they aren’t quite as exciting as the ones from New York City, but none-the-less, I thought I’d share them.

From Steve: Stay safe Amy, my prayers are with you and everyone who has been affected by this storm.

In the wake of the storm, my web server might still be down, but you can reach me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ too.
Twitter: www. twitter.com/DangRabbit
Dec 132011
 

Wow! – Must see photos – Russia in color, a century ago

Someone posted this link to my Facebook wall and after I checked it out I knew I had to share it here. It is a collection of amazing photographs taken between 1909 and 1912 by Sergei Mikhalovic Prokudin-Gorskii (died in 1944). As I viewed the images I was awestruck at not only the content of the photos themselves but the quality of the photos. It appears he used a specialized camera that shot three black and white images in quick succession, using color filters that would later allow viewing in true color.

This is a must check out set of images and to see them click over to the article on boston.com HERE.

What I find amazing is that the quality of most of these images pretty much destroy any camera that is sold today, 100 years later. Almost hard to believe how old these shots are.

Worlds first full length feature film shot entirely on a smart phone – AMAZING

Wow…imagine. Shooting a full length QUALITY film on a PHONE and getting that film distributed across the USA to thousands of theaters. Totally independent, no studios involved but take a look at the trailer below. Remember, this was shot entirely on a PHONE.

Impressive. You can check out more details at the official website HERE. This is the kind of stuff I LOVE to see. Creativity and being different.

Nov 292011
 

The LYTRO Camera, 11 megarays of fun – What are YOUR thoughts?

So this little Lytro camera is now available to pre-order on Lytro.com. This square tube like device made big news a few months back mainly for its ability to take a picture and give you the ability to focus your shot AFTER you take it. It was getting all kinds of press..big press. It was hailed as the next big thing and the future of photography, and it very well may be… one day. This little device can be taken with you everywhere. Aim and shoot. No shutter, no lag, no AF to wait for. Just aim it like a gun and fire away. Sounds like the perfect snapshot camera doesn’t it?

After you shoot and when you get home to check out your images you download what you shot to your mac (not available for windows at this time) and using the software provided you can change your focus point and even create shallow depth of field. It’s a crazy concept but one that has been around for a long time. It’s just that now it is available in your pocket.

The cameras are not cheap so to those who were complaining that the Nikon V1 was expensive at $850 better steer clear, lol. The little Lytro 8GB (hold 350 images) will run you $399 plus shipping. So $409 for a little cylinder that will give you square format low res images. If it was not for its ability to refocus your shot, this thing would be dead in the water. The main draw is this feature but is it something that is merely a gimmick? I think it kind of is, FOR NOW. BUT one day down the road if this technology makes it in to a more serious camera then maybe we will have something.

I am toying with the idea of ordering one in Electric Blue so I can review it. Lytro says it is shipping in April-May of 2012 so it will be a while it seems. From what I have seen so far, and the sample images it is sort of like a high tech toy but at the same time it is pretty hip and cool. A real camera? Naaa, but something for the select crowd who are obsessed with cool factor. I can see this thing being a huge hit at the Apple store.

When searching for details  all I can see is that it has 11 megarays of “light field resolution”, internal storage, and 8X optical zoom and a constant f/2 lens. All they say is that it produces “HD Living Pictures”.  When I browse their samples I see low res square images that you can refocus anywhere in the frame. Nothing blowing me away and it makes me as why I would pay $400 for this when I can slip a real camera in my pocket when I go out. When I take a shot with a real camera I CHOOSE the focus at the moment of the capture. Do I really need a device that lets me change that? One that gives me low res images? No, I do not but I admit it is pretty cool.

After thinking more about it just sitting here at my desk I do not think I will be ordering a Lytro as it is just not something I can see myself seriously using. Like I said though, this will be a hit with the hip crowd, the tech crowd who will soon get bored with it and yes, even the social networking crowd. I can see it now…It will be great for all of those teen girls taking 10 self portraits a day for their Facebook profile. They can focus on their face OR their cleavage, how convenient. :)

Jun 062011
 

The Death of Brick & Mortar Photo Shops

This morning I awoke, planned on posting a guest article, and then head out to shoot the Sony NEX mount 28 2.8 from SLR Magic so I can get the review started. I checked my e-mail, and as I sat and read them I found one in particular that caught my attention. Some of you may remember that for a while I used to do “Question & Answer Wednesday”, and I have been thinking about bringing it back as I get so many comments and questions every day. I thought this e-mail would make for a good post this morning as it always seems like a highly debated topic when I see it on forums, sites, etc.

The e-mail that got me this morning was not so much a question though, it was about physical Photography Stores that are going out of business due to the mass amounts of online sales these days.

Here is the e-mail…

“I just read your post about the Think Tank roller bag. And something

caught my attention after listening to a recent story on the radio

about photographic retailers.

 

Quote: “I did just order a new camera flight bag from Think Tank.” “I

checked it out in a shop and the quality was fantastic.”

 

I’m sure we’re all guilty, and this is in no way meant to be an

attack. (Which is why I didn’t post it in the comments.) But just food

for thought and interesting piece regarding the competition

traditional retailers are facing online. As I’m sure they will all

need to think about changing their strategy in order to survive.

 

Have a listen to this radio interview with a photographic business

that’s had to close its doors after 46 years in business.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00zf9gh/You_and_Yours_14_03_2011/

Fast forward to 25.50 to get to the interview.

 

Anyway, if you decide to post anything about it. No need to quote /

reference me. Rather stay anonymous. Just thought you might find the

story interesting.”

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and here is my response/thoughts on this topic:

I agree about this as my local camera shop just went out of business. The oldest photo store in Pheonix. But, IMO, they deserved to go out of business! Why? I used to shop there religiously. Then about 3 years ago they started jacking up prices as they were losing money to online shops. I would go in and a camera would be $200-$500 more than online shops such as B&H Photo. When I asked if they would match the price, they said “No, and if you order from B&H you will get grey market goods“. That was a lie (and I knew it but many would take that as fact)  as B&H does not ship out grey market unless you specifically order grey market (and they tell you this, for example with their Canon and Nikon lenses).

Last year I went in to the shop to buy a Domke bag as they were a Domke dealer. I figured I would pay the extra $50 to get it now, and support the shop. I went in to buy an F-803, which they usually had on hand, and they had not a one. Their reason was that “No one buys Domke anymore” and then they tried to sell me some cheap overpriced off brand. That was an early sign of their troubles as I noticed they were stocking less and less of the good stuff.

Then there was the time they were selling the Nikon D3x at full retail, plus tax of course. I said if they cut off $200 I would buy from them (online I would have saved hundreds of dollars). Their reply was “Sorry, we can sell these all day at full price”. I kindly declined.

The store NEVER tried to compete with any kind of online shop/site, so I knew it was only a matter of time before they would be out of business. There are shops that managed to thrive by creating an online presence and are doing well, but those who did not were lazy and did not prepare for what was obviously the future of shopping. If I owned a long standing shop, I would have hired some guru to create a killer website where I could sell online at competitive prices. I would have taken a small loss the first two years to be competitive with the big guys and offer amazing personal service. That would have been the only chance to survive.

One guy that comes to mind when I think of this is Ken Hansen (email here). He used to have a huge store in New York and he felt the Squeeze years ago from B&H. Today he is semi-retired and works from his home selling only Leica and used gear, and he does quite well. He has amazing service, and stays competitive with pricing even though his profit margins are small. He has a reputation online and off. He does not have a website, but does have an online presence.

Then there are shops like Dale Photo. They created a great online website presence, and David Farkas who is the goto guy at Dale, runs a blog where he talks about gear. He created an online presence and seems to do well. Of course you have the huge B&H Photo which EVERYONE knows about! Why is this exactly? They were smart from the get go with creating their online mega site and it’s the best in the business as far as I am concerned. I’ve been buying online from them for YEARS.

Yes, I have seen many small shops change their future doom by creating a great online site and online buzz. Those who did not were lazy IMO and basically hoped things would get better, when the future is indeed online shopping.

With devices like the ipad, iphone, etc…online is the future. Period.

Also, I have to mention this… when I checked out the Think Tank bag at another local shop, it was $319 plus tax. Online I can get it for $279 and free shipping. Saving over $50. I’m not rich, nor can I afford to throw money away. The shop would not budge on the price so I ordered online. I predict they will be the next shop to go down, maybe not this year but soon.

So I can not feel sorry for the owners of long standing shops who failed to recognize the importance of creating an online presence as THIS IS the future, like it or not. Another thing I dislike about local shops was if I had to return something they acted like you were a bad person and gave you grief about it. Online is simple. Print a form and ship it back. No hassles or guilt. No restock fee (which is another problem with physical shops).

Anyway, sorry if I got on a small rant! Just feel strongly on this and when others tell me to buy in the shop, believe me, I try! The shops that are hurting just cant seem to give any deals or breaks, and paying extra so they can stay in business a few months or year longer doesn’t seem like a smart strategy. They need the strategy with an online website and if they failed to do that then it is only a matter of time. Running any business is tough, and you have to stay up with the times if you want to future proof. To those who do, it can save their business. To those who don’t then sadly they stand no chance. The shops who have yet to create an online presence, it may be too late. Sad but true.

Steve

May 062011
 

Is the Yashica Electro the best deal in rangefinder photography?

by Ricky Opaterny

 

Eight years ago, I shot with a Leica for the first time and immediately found the experience to be photographically unparalleled. Although I longed for an M7, my budget at the time could only accommodate a used R body, an old 50mm Summicron-R lens, and an even older 28mm Elmarit. Nearly seven years later in 2010, my budget still was not really a match for an M7, but I decided to get one, anyway, along with a 50mm Summicron-M in a deal that was too good to pass up.

Oftentimes, online discussion of camera gear frames the equipment as a tool to accomplish an objective, the instrument used to realize a vision. And while that is true, I find that much of photography for me is about the experience of taking photos, and the gear you use can make that experience more or less enjoyable‚ more or less inspired, more or less memorable. There are few regular experiences in life that I find more enjoyable than that of looking through the viewfinder of my M7 and hearing the kiss of the shutter release.

So, why would I ever bother with another camera, especially one made with a darker viewfinder and focusing patch, a comparatively inferior fixed lens, and an aperture priority system that doesn’t even let you know what shutter speed you’re using without full manual controls that requires a battery no longer produced? Why would I get a camera from a seller who couldn’t even tell me if it worked? Why, in short, would I bother buying a Yashica Electro 35?

There are two reasons: 1) I found the sample images I saw online be excellent for a $20 camera and 2) How can you possibly go wrong on a $20 camera with a 45mm f/1.7 lens that isn’t completely awful? Yes, f/1.7 in Leica terms is halfway between a Summnicron and a Summilux. A Summicrux, perhaps?

(I should note that there are several old, film rangefinders available with nice, fast, prime lenses. These include, among several others, the Canon Canonet QL17, the Konica Auto S2, and the Yashica IC Lynx 14E.)

 

 

The Yashica Electro 35 rangefinder comes in four different variations: the GS, the GSN, the GT, and the GTN. The differences between these cameras, produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s include color‚ black vs. chrome‚ and hot shoe vs. without hot shoe. But with an f/1.7 lens, you shouldn’t worry about having a flash, and the differences between the variations are negligible.

Obtaining a Yashica Electro seems to be no problem; there are several available on eBay at all times. Finding one that works, however, is slightly, but not much, more difficult. Because the Yashica takes a mercury battery that is no longer made, most sellers are unable to test the function of the meters on these cameras. Fortunately, my friends and I have purchased five of these cameras and three of them had meters that worked out of the box. Two of them required minor repairs.

To test a camera, you first need a six-volt battery, because the original battery was longer than this six-volt battery, you’ll need something to conduct electricity from the battery to the contacts. An elegant solution is this battery adapter. You get two for $9.49. If you want to spend next to nothing, make a cylinder out of aluminum foil and use it to connect the battery to the contact.

The most common problem with these cameras is corrosion on the contacts. Use a Q-Tip with vinegar to clean them. The other problem we encountered involved a wire from the battery compartment whose connection to the circuit board had broken‚ nothing a little soldering couldn’t fix.

Once you have the meter working, even if it requires no work, you may want to remove the top plate, anyway, to clean out the viewfinder windows. Removing the top plate is also the first step to any wiring repairs that the camera may need. The Yashica Guy site contains for this procedure and several other common repairs.

I said this camera was cheap, not easy. However, based on our small sample, the odds are that your camera won’t require any work at all. So, let’s move on to the features.

I mentioned the 45mm f/1.7 Yashinon lens, which is excellent for the cost. It has an aperture ring that goes from f/1.7 to f/2.0 and then in full stops to f/16. Of course, there is a focusing ring and depth of field scale. The minimum focusing distance is 0.8 meters, or about 2.6 feet. There’s also a mode dial to switch between automatic aperture priority mode, bulb mode, and flash sync mode.

There is no manual mode. Most of your time will be spent in aperture priority mode. You set the aperture on the lens and the camera picks the shutter speed automatically based on the aperture, meter reading, and ISO setting. You can set the ISO from 25 to 1000, and the ISO dial also provides a way, albeit an inelegant one, to compensate for the meter reading.

The shutter is a wonderful, stepless, quiet leaf shutter whose sound some of you might even prefer to those on your fancier cameras. It maxes out at 1/500 second at the fast end and can deliver shutter speeds up to four minutes long at f/16 at the slow end.

 

 

On the top of the camera, you’ll find two lights that correspond to two equivalent lights in the viewfinder. One is labeled “slow,” which means that the lighting conditions require a shutter speed below 1/30 of a second. It’s just a warning for you, if you’re handholding the camera. The other light is labeled “over,” which, predictably means the metered shutter speed is faster than 1/500 second. You can still shoot at 1/500 second, but the camera is warning you that you may be overexposing the shot.

SLR users are used to being able to see metering information in the LCD displays on the top of their camera bodies, but this is a foreign concept to users of M-mount rangefinders, who bring their cameras to their eyes to get a meter reading. That is, unless you’re using an external or hotshoe-mounted meter, such as the Leica Meter MR.

This is a feature I thought useless at first but now find convenient. I can check to make sure I’m within the correct aperture range for a given lighting condition without raising the camera to my eye. So, when I see a scene that I want to capture and bring my camera to my eye, all I need to do is focus, frame, and release the shutter.

As for the rangefinder, it’s not as bright as one on a Leica, but it’s also not too bad. Focusing is very easy in a yellow diamond, split-image focusing patch in the center of the viewfinder. Out of all the Yashicas I’ve tried, not one had a misaligned focusing patch. The 45mm bright lines are bright and the viewfinder’s magnification, I would guess, is around 0.8x.

I tried to take a photo through the viewfinder. It did not work out so well, but you can see that the frame lines are bright.

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Film loads normally and easily after you open the back door and rewinds via a release on the bottom and a standard rewind knob on the top of the body. This all sounds fine, but the real questions are: What is it like to use this camera? And what kind of results does it produce?

It took a while to get used to the limited shutter speed range. I always seem to want to shoot at f/4 or f/5.6, but I often found myself having to shoot at f/11 with this camera, especially at ISO 400.

The first roll I shot was Kodak Ektar 100, which requires fairly precise metering, close to that required by a slide film. I’m happy to report that the Yashica’s meter did an excellent job. Sure, there were some backlit situations that it misread, but that’s a mistake that almost any meter would make‚Äîcertainly any simple, reflective non-TTL meter like the one in the Yashica.

Headlands Center for the Arts

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Headlands Center for the Arts

Framing with the viewfinder is accurate‚ it’s parallax corrected and focusing poses no problems for anyone who is used to handling a rangefinder camera. Coincidence is not difficult to spot. Even at f/1.7 and close distances, I found the rangefinder alignment to be accurate. If I missed focus on any of the shots, it was my own error that caused it. Have I mentioned how quiet the shutter is? I have. Nonetheless, it is very, very quiet. My only complaint is that it’s too easy to accidentally fire the shutter when you’re just trying to activate the meter.

 

Bokeh at f/1.7

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Bokeh at f/1.7. The lens becomes noticeably sharper at f/2.8.

 

The lens, which was the main attraction of this camera, performs quite well. It vignettes slightly but not unattractively at all apertures. Wide open, it produces some nice bokeh. However, if you want to shoot wide open outdoors, you should probably invest in a neutral density filter. (It takes 55mm filters.) You may also want to get a hood because this lens flares easily. Unlike the vignetting, I can’t say that the flare is attractive. It often takes on the pentagon shape of the aperture. It looks as if someone drew a semi-transparent pentagon on your photo. In other words, the transition from flare to no flare is not, in any way, gradual.

 

One of the few times the lens flare didn’t look hideous

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However, under most conditions, the lens gives a nice vintage look and a pleasing bokeh. I can’t say that the Yashica will replace my M7, but it’s certainly a fun little camera. And I’ve never carried a camera that elicited more comments from passers-by. Many people asked me what kind of a camera I was carrying. One man told me he had just bought one for himself. A woman at one of the trendiest restaurants in the city asked me, “Is that a Yashica? My father gave me one of those. It takes great pictures!”

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Even if it’s not a conversation starter, changing equipment for a day can be inspiring or at least compel you to just go out shoot. I don’t know of a camera with a better quality to price ratio than the Yashica Electro with which to do so.

Ricky Opaterny is a writer who dabbles in photography in Paris, San Francisco, and New York. He occasionally maintains a bloga photo blog, and a collection of things he likes, many of which are related to photography. He collected some photos from France in a book.

Apr 212011
 

Uh oh! It’s been a while since I posted some deep heavy personal thoughts on this blog but hey, I’m in a mood tonight, what can I say. Here I am, a single divorced man, 41 years old, living in a house by myself..just me and my 13 year old dog, Scrubby.

Scrubby has been faithful since the day I brought him home. He lays here beside me now in this empty and quiet house and I couldnt help but sit back and reflect on my 41 years on this planet. Long time readers know about how I’m not afraid to get personal here, its just how I am. :) This IS a photography blog, but it is also MY blog, and I feel like I can occasionally write about non photo related subjects. Besides, posts can always be skipped if desired :)

A bit about me…

I was born in Chicago, IL unexpectedly on November 20th, 1969 in a basement of an apartment building. A bit premature, but I made it and survived the ordeal. My parents were actually pretty poor in regards to finances but my Father always worked his ass of doing construction jobs to pay the rent, and there was always food on the table for me and my sister (she is 2 years older than me). We were always well taken care of, and we came first before any needs of theirs. At least thats is how it seemed  to me as a kid.

Growing up in Chicago was amazing and I have many fond memories of my days and nights with close friends, my family and just the overall vibe of that era. I’m sure many of you who are around the same age as me remember growing up in various cities in America in the 70′s, and I assume most were the same. Stress free and fun. That was my childhood.

We had our neighborhoods filled with friends and it was safe to ride bikes until dawn. It was safe to take walks around the block and it was OK to sleep over a few houses down the street on the weekends. It was a lovely time to be growing up in the 70′s on my block. Our parents didn’t even question where we were or our safety back then. I remember just having to be in at 5:30 for dinner, and then it was right back out for more playtime. Summertime on Altgeld St in Chicago was a magical time for me. Worry free, no stress..ahhh, the joys of being a kid.

I did have some close calls though, like being hit in the head full force with an Aluminum baseball bat while playing with friends (was a total accident) and my head being so split my skull was visible just by looking at me head on. Ouch. Or the time when an abscess tooth was pulled and I was hospitalized for 10 days, again, almost dying. The time my Dad rushed home from work when he heard I fell on some glass and my hand split wide open and needed stitches. Every time  I was in some sort of danger my Mom and Dad were there right with me, making sure I made it through.

Ahhh, memories :)

The 80′s..

When the teen years hit my parents decided to buy their 1st house so we  moved to the South Side of Chicago. I was the new kid at School and it was a bit tough, but eventually I made some great friends in High School. The 1980′s, well, they ROCKED for me. My 1st girlfriend, teen dance clubs, drinking, fake ID’s, spring breaks, parties, and again, no stress, just fun and good times. What I didn’t realize then was how much responsibility my parents had. The house, the kids, the bills, keeping themselves together through fights and the rough times. When I got into some trouble by doing something stupid, that only a 19 year old could do I also realized once again that my parents would do ANYTHING for me.

The person I am today is because of them, and I love them dearly for it. My Father passed away in 2000 due to prostate cancer at 61 and that was tough. I still miss him. He was the iron fist of the household but it was his values that were instilled in me. I remember him always giving me little tips about life and the challenges I may face as I grew older. Back then I didn’t really listen but as I grew older, without him, I realized how right he was.

The 90′s…

The 90′s and 2000′s came and I found myself married, with a son, and having to be that responsible parent and husband that MY father was. Wow, what a challenge but double wow, was it so worth it. Today I have a son whom I adore and I see him shaping up to be a great young man with good values. Will he do stupid shit when he is in hits 19-20? Im sure he will but when he does, I will make sure I remember the silly things I did, and of course I will always be there for him and help him through his struggles. He will be 15 in June and already started shaving. CRAZY!

My 2010 Challenge

Fifteen years into my marriage, last year, I went through a divorce (which was VERY hard at the time) and  have been single for close to a year already. WOW. A year?!?!? Time flies. Of course when this happened I blogged about it and all of you guys gave me AMAZING support through your words, emails and even a few donations when I was in an AWFUL spot. It was amazing  to have that support because god knows, I never felt more alone at that time and it was the  readers here, and my great friend ~6 who really pulled me through.

Single life at 41

I’m single at 41. I feel old.

One thing I learned as I grew older is  DO NOT SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF! I am one of the most laid back guys in the freaking world, especially these days. I do not let myself get stressed, worried, or uptight over silly things that really do not matter. If someone irritates me I just brush it off. If someone yells at me, I try to calm them down. If a challenge arises, I take it on with a positive attitude.

As far as I am concerned, all that matters in this world is YOU, your family, loved ones, friends, and of course your passions. I strongly believe passion is important in life. Most of us have a passion of some sort but do all of us go for and take control of those passions? If not, YOU SHOULD. Life is too short not to. Want to be a pro photographer? YOU CAN do it. Want to start your own blog? GO FOR IT! To say is one thing, to do is another. Life is short, so do all you can, while you can. Thats my quick tip of the week :)

I sit here in this dark room and think of the people I have met in the past year and I have to say that I am a better man for meeting each and every one of them. I’m not naming names, but you know who you are :) Being single again has led to dating, relationships, and juggling time with my son, work and friends. It’s funny being a 40-ish guy back in the dating world..such a different world then when we were in our teens…lol. Sometimes fun, sometimes not. Always an adventure. Plus, who knows. Maybe the next time around will be, in the words of Olivia Newton John…MAGIC :) Update July 2012 – Yes, I found that Magic :)

Peace..love…happiness

So here I am and at 41 I finally feel “at peace” with myself, my “career” which also happens to be my life passion, and my future friendships and opportunities. Yep, I am a happy guy right now at this moment. Me, my faithful Dog Scrubby at my side, my Leica of course, and without question, this blog which I have a huge passion for and I still look forward to writing for it on a daily basis.

It has been amazing bringing together a group of individuals who have such passion for photography. I’ve met many of you already and hope to meet many more of  you. I thank you all for coming here, reading my articles, the guest articles, and also participating via comments and photo submissions. Without you guys, this blog would not even be here. Thank you!

SO what is the point of this?

My point, if I even have one, is that life is short. LIVE IT. LOVE IT. ROCK IT. Love your friends, family, and those close to you and be the best you can be. Life is comprised of experiences that turn in to memories. Memories are magic…they are golden. Wether they are in your brain or even via an image, treasure them and have no regrets in life. Life is good..it CAN be good. Make it better than that, make it INCREDIBLE. Also, it is the nature of this life and world…any day could be your last. Always remember that.

I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life and will do my best to remain kind, stress free, and to always give it all no matter what I am doing or who I am with.

With that said, thanks for reading my silly non photography, 1500 word related rant :) Don’t worry, It will probably be a year until my next one, Lol.

Steve

Jan 192011
 

A Better Camera, by Randall Kelley

I just want to take a little time here to respectfully disagree with what a lot of professional photographers like to say about this camera (or any high end camera for that matter). “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer.” Or some version of that statement. Here’s my take, and I decided that I do disagree.

If you are a “photographer” there are two parts to everything you do Art and Craft. There is a reason people have been referring to “Arts and Crafts” forEVER. They are inextricably linked. People get into huge debates over what medium is Art and what is Craft. Easy end of that debate, all expressive medium is BOTH. The MARKET for PRODUCT may make distinction, but the person doing any expressive work is practicing both.

This is why I disagree with those who say a better camera, or a better tool of any sort in any medium, won’t make you better. Talent can be expressed on the cheap, craft as well, but you can radically improve your craft by working with better tools.

If you don’t think so, find the professional photographer making his living shooting a Holga. You might find some, but show me one and I’ll show you someone NOT shooting ad campaigns and weddings. Shoot someone’s wedding with a Holga and tell them it’s OK cause the “Style” is more important than the quality. I don’t care if you MAY get an award winning picture of the Vice President with one, you can’t count on consistent quality images from something that can’t replicate the same shot twice.

And go shoot Ansel Adams’ same landscape with a point and shoot and enlarge it to 20 inches or so and do a quick side by side. I’m betting you and any non expert in the room will be able to distinguish the two. Can you get a good landscape? Depends on your talent. But just HOW good it can be depends not only on your talent but on your skill, and your materials, and your tools. Or do you want a Balsa wood house built with a sledge hammer?

If you take the most talented carpenter doing finishing work and ask him if he can do as well with a sledge hammer, he’ll think you’re crazy. Could he get it done? Probably. Would it be as good? Doubt it. A GOOD tool allows finer more precise work. That’s an element of craft.

So the question becomes, will a better tool make you a better craftsman? Most jump on the art angle and answer no. And I would rather have talent and a poor tool rather than no talent and a good one. But what if you have the opportunity to have both? Do you eschew the better tool because it won’t improve your talent? I hope you don’t buy that, because it can, and here’s how.

If I am cutting framing boards with a chain saw, chances are I’m not really hairline accurate. If I only have a chainsaw, will I get better? Yes, but only to a point. After that point I need a more accurate tool to keep getting better. Should I skip the upgrade because it won’t help. I hope not, or at least I hope I don’t live in that house.

If I get a blurry shot from my point and shoot, or even my nice zoom lens DSLR, how blurry is it? Is it movement? The focus? A limit of the lens? When you get a camera and lens that produces radically improved images, you WILL see your errors much more distinctly. Can you learn from mistakes that are obvious faster than you can from ones that are obfuscated by lower quality equipment and materials? I say yes. I hope you are able to see my point.

On to point two. Does learning about all the elements that go into creating an image make you better? I think so. You can grab a really good DSLR, set it on auto and crank out really good photos. But I’ll bet you that if you fully understand every element of the process, you could do even better.

Switch off auto everything and you WILL learn. If you learn, you WILL get better. Will you get more talented? No. But if you have talent you will get better at your craft. Why practice a craft if you have no desire to get better?

So I put it to you that when the statement is made, “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer.”, it is either meant to talk ONLY about your talent… and perhaps to make you feel a bit better about not being able to swing “high end” equipment, but it is inaccurate, or incomplete at best. Good equipment, and especially equipment that pushes you to make more of your own decisions, will improve your results if you are willing to learn and if you persist.

When you see the sharpness of some lenses, you will suddenly know what part of the blur was YOURS and what was the equipment. If you use that to find a solution you will get better. If your equipment is low end enough to never be that sharp, then you just learn how to make blur work. That skill will still come in handy when your camera and lens stops doing it for you and you want to induce it yourself. So pay attention to when you like it and when you don’t. But don’t be misled into thinking that not having the ability to produce a sharp image is not limiting, and that you can do just as well with any piece of equipment. That is just not the case.

The other way this type of equipment will improve your photography is (and this crosses the line into talent and I’m saying it) it WILL make you see differently. And that can improve your talent. When you look at images and the detail is not highly resolved, it is easy to see composition, shading, light, etc. A lot of critical artistic elements are NOT limited by the resolving power of your equipment. But DETAIL is. And when you start to suddenly see a lot of detail in you images that you didn’t even notice when taking the picture, you then start to look before you shoot for those same kinds of detail.

It’s like getting a new prescription for eyeglasses after years with a bad one. You can really notice things you missed. And IF you choose to take that to heart and start looking, you will observe better. Photography is a lot like acting, in that a good observer picks up detail to add to their work that is missing in someone who is not as observant.

This is really a big deal, and was the last straw in motivating me to write this down. I always suspected the statement, “A better camera won’t make you a better photographer.” was off on craft, but walking around the other day, seeing things I wouldn’t have even noticed before, I thought, “This really is making me better at seeing.” Now if I can get that into my work, I’ll be thrilled.

Don’t spend money on better equipment thinking it is going to make you some other photographer. But DO get it if you want the chance to push yourself beyond where you are. Equipment this good, and this demanding, will make a difference.

I’ve never said “WOW!” so much looking at my own images as since I made this purchase. And I’ve never said, “Crap!” so much either. This stuff is so different. I have not thought, “This is nice. Should I print this one?” very often in the past, but it is constantly on my mind now. Until everyone has thirty inch or larger monitors and endless bandwidth, there is a level of quality you can’t share digitally.

If you can’t afford something great, don’t feel bad, do whatever you can with what you have. But, I feel about the M9, and Leica in general, like Ferris Buhler did about driving a Ferrari, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

Randall Kelley

———-Addendum and some photos——

Steve mentioned photos to go with this article. My original post of this had none, and that was basically because I don’t think there is any dispute of the fact that some high end gear makes technically better images. This addendum is really an after thought and a response to thinking about what images might represent the article. I have loads of shots from the new camera that I love, but I don’t think any few can really represent what I am talking about. The kind of changes it has fostered in my shooting can only be seen by looking back at lots of before and after shots. And I can honestly find “before the M9″ shots I love as just much as “after the M9″. But I don’t think any handful convey the profound way my point of view has changed nor would they convey the much higher percentage I now get of what I call “keepers”. And when I do enlarge those older ones now, I am always thinking to myself, “Man, I wish I could have shot this same shot on my M9.”

While the point of my post was how technically better gear can help you refine and improve you craft and even your “vision”. I have thought about it for a long while and decided I could add these three images and an additional word of encouragement.

The first image is from the very first digital camera I got for myself, after tiring of only seeing pictures of me from the one I got my wife. Taken in 2001, this is of my wife, Rita (who is a way better photographer than she knows), along with her Nikon Coolpix 990. The Canon Elph with 2 megapixels resolution used to take it, and me using it, are in the shot. If this were taken with my new camera, I could do a crop of her glasses and show you me and the camera, but as it is you will have to take my word for it that I’m there.

The second is a less than one pixel resolution shot I recently did of our niece’s daughter. It’s a less than one pixel shot but it was, however, cropped from an 18 megapixel shot taken from some distance with a 50mm lens. I liked the whole shot but wanted a close up portrait for the girls grandmother, my wife’s sister.

The third is the original 18 megapixel shot reduced to just under 2 megapixels (to keep framing intact) illustrating what would have been the approximate starting point had the Elph had a super sharp lens, fantastic sensor, and excellent color rendition (it did have one of the three).

The point I want to make with these photos is this:

A) For those that can’t yet afford their dream camera (whatever that may be)… use what you have, you can get good images from anything.

B) For those thinking about better gear, but mulling the argument that better gear won’t improve your work… I would have had an adequate distance shot had I shot our niece’s daughter with the canon point and shoot, but probably only the relatives would have been sure what she looked like. Having 9 times the pixels and a way sharper lens on the M9 made it possible to get that close up portrait shot out of that shot. While in this case I liked the full frame shot, and just made the crop for her family, in many cases a shot ruined by something that moved into the frame at the last moment can be saved with a crop. A multitude of sharper pixels is a luxury that actually affords you a lot of liberty in the EDITING stage that are denied you if you don’t have them. Being able to get a useable crop from about 1/10th of a frame gives a LOT more lee way. If you want more opportunities, there are few other areas where you can buy them. Better photography equipment is one such area. Don’t scrimp if you don’t have to.

Thanks for listening to my ranting. I love all the stuff I’m seeing on Steve’s site and hope to meet some of you at one of his meet ups soon.

Randall Kelley

Bonus shots. A typical “Rita” shot of my wife’s from 2001 on her Nikon Coolpix 990 (3 megapixel):

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Dec 242010
 

It’s Christmas Eve and it’s that time of year that makes me smile. I will be taking the next two days off from posting but wanted to post some fun Friday links for the weekend anyway :) I wish everyone a GREAT Christmas. If any of you end up with some cool photo gear for Xmas, take a pic of it and send it over to me. Would be cool to make a post out of it. Anyway, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

BTW, next week I hope to publish my Pentax K5 review along with a cool comparison between the NEX-5 and Leica M8 with a Leica 50 Summarit and 90 Summarit. Many people ask me…should I buy an M8 or a NEX-5 and adapter? I can state now that there is a substantial quality difference between the two when using the same lens. Which one wins? Find out next week :)

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Something silly I posted last year :)

T’was the night before Christmas, camera gear on your mind.

A Leica nut, you were hoping for a shiny M9.

The wife in her checkbook, and that look on your face,

Just hoping she won’t notice that lens you bought at B&H.

When from outside the door, there arose such a sound,

you sprang from your seat to see if FedEx was around!

You opened the door, with cheer and with glee,

Oh Joy! It’s your neighbor’s dog and she’s squatting to pee!

Oh M9, Oh M9, won’t you come here to me?

It’s all I will need, ever, oh dear can’t you see?

When what to your wondering eyes should appear?

Your wife with a smile as you gulp down your beer.

She hands you a box, oh what could it be?

The M9 or new Noctilux, well who knows? Lets See!

“It’s just what you hoped for,” she says by the tree.

The tingles then start, from your head to your feet.

You give it a shake, thoughts go through your brain…

“Hmmm, yes!! This could be it!” you boldly proclaim!

As you open the box, you are filled with delight!

Your wife, kids, and dog watch…oh what a sight!

You pull out the gift through the peanuts and fluff,

What the hell? The new Vivitar your wife saw on Steve Huff!

“Is that the M9 you wanted, oh dear husband of mine”?

“I saw it online, what a deal, what a find!”

You look at her with love and say, “Why yes dear, it is!”

A hug and a kiss and she’s soon filled with bliss!

You pull out her gift with a smile on your face,

You were no fool, your backup plan was in place!

Her face is confused when she sees what’s inside.

My oh my, its a brand new Leica M9!

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*Links*

Powerful Short Film Captures the Toll of Wartime Photojournalism

For those who have requested some info/review on the Olympus E-5, this guy did a write up with some samples :)

Speaking of Christmas, I hear LeicaImages.com is having a contest and giving away an X1! Wow.

Don’t forget about the contest here to win the cool Timbuk2 all weather camera bag. Submit your winter/holiday images!

A 5 year journey with Apple Aperture

Amy Medina made a VERY cool video with the Olympus E-P2 and the old (but fantastic) Leica 50 Summitar lens

Cool image – A window on the past…

Some street photography with the Sony NEX-5

An amazing collection.archive of old photos by Nick DeWolf..

KILLER Rainbow photo!

USED DEAL – A TITANIUM Leica M7 and 50 Lux ASPH for $7999 at photo village!

A genius idea! The C-Loop!

What is one of Oprah’s favorite things? It’s a camera but guess which one? Would not have been my pick!

Make your own $7 Beauty Dish

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