Jan 312014
 

Just some Friday Film photos

By Ondřej Caska

Hi Steve and Brandon,

It was a certain time ago, when I was going through your site and saw some film photos. I was amazed by their look and character in comparison to many digital photos, which we see every day around us. Like there was something “magical“. I have tried to simulate a film look on my digital photos in post processing, but the result was not often satisfactory. So I decided to buy a film camera. Firstly it was OM-1 and then Leica M6. Oooo, I really love it! I hope the film will last many following decades :)

The photos, which I am sending you, were shot with Leica M6 and Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 VII.

Best regards,

Ondrej Caska

 

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Jan 312014
 

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Shooting in Cemeteries

By Jim Fisher

Steve’s recent post on Post Mortem Photography got me thinking about one of my favorite photographic subjects: Old graveyards.

’m happy to live in a part of the US with a long settled history, the north east. I’m a short drive away from a few very old burying grounds, including notable ones like Sleepy Hollow in Tarrytown, N.Y. (the resting place of Washington Irving, the author who created the Headless Horseman), and Green-Wood in Brooklyn.

It was stumbling onto Sleepy Hollow that sparked my interest. I had spent an autumn day in 2008 visiting Irving’s estate, and wanted to tap it off with a visit to his grave. I didn’t have a lot of time to explore, light was getting scarce, but I’ve since returned to spend more time looking for interesting monuments and scenes.

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It’s interesting to me to see how the art of carving headstones changed over the years. Modern stones tend to be fairly conservative, squarish, and—to my eye—largely uninteresting. But turning back the clock to the late 1800s shows that large, carved statues were popular (at least for those who could afford them). When you move back to the early part of that century and into the late 1700s you see simple stones, sometimes with inlaid carved illustrations.

Of course, after a few hundred years, details give way to erosion, pieces of sculptures break off, and stones crack. There’s obviously some maintenance done to active graveyards, but for the large part you see what spending scores of years with constant exposure to the elements can do to sculpture and carved stones.

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There’s also a sense of peace. I commute into Manhattan five days a week. It’s a grind, packed into a overcrowded train, and braving the elements over the half-mile from Penn Station to my office (and back again in the evening). After nine hours I get to turn around and do it all over again. There are opportunities for photographs, but they are generally those fleeting moments that present themselves when street shooting.

Among the graves, I get to take my time, look for my shot. If I find an interesting monument I can take my time and think about how I want to approach it. Should I isolate a specific detail? Simply try to capture it in its entirety? Or go a bit wider and try and get a good landscape shot? (That’s an area where my eye struggles at times.)

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My favorite spot is the Deckertown-Union Cemetery in western New Jersey. It’s an old graveyard in a rural area. The grounds are wooded, largely on a huge hill. The terrain is rough, and the burials date back to the Revolutionary War. There aren’t a lot of ornate sculptures there, just more simple, weathered stones. The first time I went there I was working with some Lensbabies, but I’ve since shot it with more traditional lenses.

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As for gear (I couldn’t stop by Steve’s home without bringing that up!), it varies. If I’m shooting for myself, I love taking my Rolleiflex Automat K4, a 1950 TLR with a Zeiss Opton-Tessar 75mm f/3.5 lens. I’ve got a set of Rolleinar close-up filters for macro work, and the shallow depth of field that working close with a medium format camera gets you can create some really unique results.

Primarily I consider myself a rangefinder shooter, and one of the first places I took the M240 was to Green-Wood. But I don’t often use my M3. I’m more likely to take a 35mm SLR, if only for the sake of having depth of field preview available. (A Nikon F3, Pentax KX, or Canon A-1 may make the trip depending on my mood.) In the digital world, the Ricoh GR has become a favorite carry-anywhere camera over the past few months, and I’ve found that its 28mm field of view works quite well for me.

 

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And, if I’m shooting for work, anything goes. I’ve used graveyards as subjects for everything from the Nikon D7100 to the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 to the Lomo Horizon panoramic camera (and others that I’m forgetting.

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

For more Cemetery photography check out Steve’s old Violin Annie post HERE

Jan 312014
 

The Friday Film: The Rolleiflex 3.5F by Ibraar Hussain

This isn’t really a Gear Site, but, if people want to contribute stuff about gear then gear will be featured. To carry on the Gear tradition, I bought myself a precious little Gemstone of a camera.

For those interested in the Leica and rangefinder experience – I suggest you also look to the TLR experience and the Rolleiflex experience as it will give you a completely different feel and vision in your photography. Just owning a classic Rolleiflex is a pleasure in itself, and using one gives a feeling of excitement and productivity and the feel of it all being an event – even if the subject is your cat lounging around the sitting room!

There are many Rolleiflex TLR’s to choose from; Automat’s, Rolleicord’s, 2.8 Planar’s, Tele-Rolleiflexes and many special editions.

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The Rolleiflex is still being made by DHW Photo http://www.dhw-fototechnik.de to this day, and is a work of art, with modern ground glass and super bright image – expensive, but cheaper than a Leica!

I bought myself a mark 1 Rolleiflex 3.5F – a Classic with a capital C and considered by many to be one of the best camera’s ever made.

A camera used by some of The Greats throughout the years and capturing some of the iconic photographs in history such as David Bailey, Richard Avedon, Robert Doisneu, Fritz hence, Eduard Boubat, Lee Miller, Diane Arbus, Robert Capa, Vivian Maie amongst many others.

And a Camera used by iconic movie stars and rock stars over the years .

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Marilyn Monroe with a Rolleiflex (2)

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I’m not saying owning one will make one great or into a celebrity! But it’s apiece of history which is still a joy to use and can yield lovely results on par with The Best. I’m no expert on Rolleiflex TLR’s but I do know there are many user groups and lists of serial numbers. Buying a Rolleiflex of this type is an investment too.

The value will only go up (depending upon the condition of your Rolleiflex) and one can treasure it as one treasures a Rolex or collectors watch. Anyway, I bought mine with a Rollei bayonet II yellow Filter, lens cap and a Rolleinar II close up filter – a two piece filter with lenses for both viewing and taking lenses.

The close up filter is called the Rolleinar and comes in many different strengths. The Rolleinar I will enable you to shoot head shoulder shots with the 75mm f3.5 standard lens.

The Rolleinar II which I have will be face shots – or close-ups of other subjects.

I wanted a Rolleinar I but for some strange reason, the Bay II Rolleinar’s (along with ALL Bay II accessories) are 3 to 4 times as much as anything Bay I or III (Bay I for the Rolleicord Tessar and Bay III for the f2.8 80mm Planar) so I picked up a bargain Rolleinar II.

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If you have never used a TLR before, it’s easy peasy to use. Flip open the waist level finder to look into a big image of the square scene. Focus using the knob on the left, wind the lever forward and then back, and trip the shutter using the release on the bottom right front of the camera.

It is so easy and so straight forward without any settings getting in the way.

Mine is metered, the array of glass bulbs below the Rolleflex logo is where the selenium meter captures the light. I didm;t bother with the inbuilt meter and just used Light Meter App on my iPhone for the one roll I shot with this camera. The dials at the front are for Shutter speed and Aperture.

I took mine along to my favourite place – Brecon in Wales a few weeks back, and snapped a roll of 10 exposures at the ruins at Tretower Castle. A lovely desolate place in the midst of the Beacons. I shot a roll of Rollei Pan 25. A very slow 25 ISO BW Film which is basically Agfapan 25 rebranded.

I developed the roll in an Agfa Rondinax 60 daylight Tank – great idea, if a bit temperamental, with Rodinal developer. I Scanned using an Epson 4990 flatbed and used Photoshop CS4 to process.

The negatives were lovely with high contrast and rich blacks, and I was pleased with every shot (I wasted 2 by exposing them accidentally in the Rondinax while loading).

I include a selection of snaps here (minus family snaps of me and the Missus).

I have owned a TLR before: MPP Microcord TLR reviewed here on stevehuffphoto.com http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/11/02/the-mpp-microcord-tlr-by-ibraar-hussain/ But this was my first Rolleiflex TLR and it is a keeper and a pleasure to use and to own.

All photo’s of this first test roll.

Rolleiflex 3.5F Mk 1.

Carl Zeiss 75mm f3.5 Planar

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Rollei Pan 25

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Rondinax 60 daylight tank.

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Jan 282014
 

The Contax RTS II Review 

By Ibraar Hussain

The Contax RTS II Snub-nose with 45mm Tessar f2.8

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Dear Steve and Brandon and all stevehuffphoto.com lovers, hope you’re well and a Happy New Year to you!

And those now bored stiff or sick to death of Autumn or Tree’s and Woodland – turn away now! As I had revisited an old haunt to try out this camera/lens/film combination (and for a walk)

I was looking for a camera, something which would not only be equipped with nice lenses, but which would also be extremely well-built, look fantastic, compact, an SLR, and Manual Wind and Manual Focus – the feel of thumbing the winder back and then focussing the Microprism is part and parcel of photography in itself. I spent months looking and pondering; having sold my lovely (yet flawed) West German Rolleiflex SL35 I wanted something else. The camera had to have, as mentioned, a brilliant range of beautifully made lenses, had to me MF and MW, be built like a Tank, with high quality parts and workmanship, ergonomically designed and beautiful to behold, own, use and keep with results to match. I had a look at the legendary range of Leicaflex SLR’s, they’re exceptional, beautifully built but alas, too expensive, too big, and lenses were out of my price range. The advent of adaptors has made lens price ridiculously high – not that these aren’t worth it, but they’re hardly superior to their Zeiss/Schneider counterparts yet they cost many times as much! I considered the Olympus OM3, but it was again too expensive, very rare so I considered the OM4Ti – but I have always looked upon the OM4Ti’s looks with a bit of disdain as the obvious electronic look to it isn’t as pleasing as the mechanical lines of the OM1/2/3 range and besides, I’d had a Olympus OM2n before and wanted something different. Nikon? Canon or Minolta? The Nikon F3 was attractive, as were the other options including the Nikon FE (which the new Nikon Df is modelled on) , the Canon F-1 but Never been too keen on these – or how about the appealing Asahi Pentax LX? No, I wanted German, so I had to look elsewhere.

So it was back to basics, to Contax, a range of SLR’s which offer everything and I don’t know why I ever looked elsewhere. Contax wasn’t quite the pre-War Contax of yore, but Kyocera/Yashica owned and Japanese built, sure they had the Contax German brand name, and the Carl Zeiss lenses – but then again so is the present day Zeiss Ikon – Cosina made but German branded. I have owned a Contax ST and also the Contax Aria – which had the biggest and brightest and most pleasing Viewfinder of any 35mm sized camera – Film or Digital, I have ever used. I cannot remember why I was foolish enough to sell my Aria (with 50mm f1.4 Planar) but I did. So the search was on – which Contax SLR should I choose? I eventually settled on the Contax RTS II. The RTS II is very special SLR, it is special as it is German designed and branded in every way with Japanese electronics, Japanese reliability and the option of a mechanical shutter release which does’t require batteries. It is special because it is a Contax, with the pedigree and lineage dating back from before The War, it had been specially designed by F.A Porsche in West Germany and lenses designed and made by Carl Zeiss in West Germany. The RTS II has the same design as the RTS, but with much improved electronics, reliability, larger brighter finder, a Titanium shutter and a is a camera the original should have been.

The Contax RTS II is a different best to any Contax camera that came after, as it is the only camera designed in Germany, and by F.A Porsche and thus has it’s German pedigree and connection to the Original Contax intact. It also features manual wind, manual focus, a beautiful contrasty Viewfinder, reliable electronics that assist but don’t overwhelm, and when felt and used, it is wonderful to behold. It is dense, heavy, solid and very comfortable to hold. It oozes quality and confidence, and every part of it is precision built and gorgeously damped. The ergonomics are absolutely spot on – everything from the layout and position of the dials, the AE lock switch and the way it handles was revolutionary and I have yet to see many camera’s come close to it. It is battery-powered, a battery which allegedly will last months of use, and can also be used mechanically with no battery at a set speed using a secondary shutter release. The designers at F.A Porsche sure know what aesthetics are, along with usability and performance, it shows in everything they design, and they pulled no punches in birthing this piece. The camera is small, very small for an SLR, in fact side by side with my Contax G2 – it is smaller in every way, and a much more handsome beast. I spent a while choosing the perfect lens to go with this compact 35mm SLR which rivals a modern mirror less in terms of size and compactness and a Leica M in terms of build quality and perfection. I chose the Carl Zeiss T* 45mm f2.8 Tessar, a classically designed 4 element Tessar lens which is extremely small, compact and suits the look, feel and size of the RTS II. I now have a Contax RTS II Snub-Nose and boy does it feel good wielding this and firing off the Ti shutter.

The Carl Zeiss 45mm f2.8 Tessar is different to the usual 50mm Planar’s that are standard on this Camera. The Tessar’s are slower, but more compact, and yield different results. The Tessar photographs have their own unique look, feel and sharpness with an old world charm to them. This particular lens has the more versatile 45mm – and as I hardly ever shoot at anything less than f2.8, the speed wasn’t an issue. The Tessar is, at optimum apertures, stopped down as sharp as anything with lovely contrast because of the T* coating, but wide open is softer than the Planar – and this I think adds to rather than detracts from it’s beauty. Anyway, shooting with this camera is a pleasure; handling it and holding it to the eye is part of the pleasure of this Porsche designed gem, and part of that human soulful and emotional attachment finds its way into the Photographs themselves. This makes the results, created slowly, with intent and thought, far more valuable and precious. Where does the pleasure in Photography lie? The end result? Megapixels? Resolution or Dynamic Range? Or does the pleasure lie in waiting, looking, searching, glancing and seeing -raising the camera, winding, composing, focussing and capturing forever on the organic silver halides of the gelatine based roll tucked away within the inner darkness of the light-proof box? For me the journey is part of the whole quest, and the goal isn’t any more important. The magic for me lies in the use of an instrument lovingly created and lovingly used, and the surprise and warm feeling of pleasure and pride when weeks or even months after the event when once a click and roll of the shutter – an instance in time, one day, forgotten, captured forever a treasure which I then have been able to find and keep as my creation. The Contax is one of many camera’s which, in my opinion, embody this feeling and produce the Magic. It took Contax over 7 years in redesigning the original RTS to bring us the RTS II, how many iterations of a certain DSLR/Mirrorless have been released since 2005 (8 years ago) ? How many Camera manufacturers will wait 8 years to bring out the Mk 2? Camera’s today have become as disposable as Fast food.

Sure, I’m stuck in the past, and most people have exceeded in terms of quantity and quality anything I could ever achieve with my antiquated equipment and slow processes but so what? I’m no pro – if I was I’d have nothing less than a Canon 5D Mk III with some L lenses and nothing else – making everything else worthless – as the 5D mk III is The Best current all round tool for pro’s, but I’m not a Pro – but someone who enjoys taking pictures as a hobby and only then photographs a roll or two after weeks or even months of idleness. I took a stroll through Epping Forest and Walthamstow Marshes the day the Lens was delivered, the Autumnal Fall colours were abound, and I was lucky that the light was good, the low November Sun was peering through the clouds and lit everything in a golden glow. All 36 exposures were keepers, and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and using the Contax RTS II. The Results, wide open were as expected quite soft with the combination of 45mm Tessar and Rollei CR200 Slide Film – a remake of Agfa RSX 200 but with a Pet plastic base — a grainy, warm Film with loads of character. I love the soft rustic way the Tessar captured the scene, and most of all enjoyed the experience. I think the warm grainy tones give some flavour to the season.

A smoother finer grained film would yield completely different results – I can imagine Rollei Pan 25, or Fujichrome Velvia 50, but that is the beauty of film, different film for a completely different look and feel without having to copy anything or add effects and filters. The metering is a Centre-Weighted type and most pictures were nailed. the sky and low sun and light did make some tricky – coupled with the limited latitude of the Film and some are a tad dark, but in my eye pleasing all the same. The same area has been presented here before when shot with my Rolleiflex, and again I point out that these are snaps (along with most of my stuff) and aren’t ever going to win any prizes for originality or creativity – but are here to give you a flavour of the day I had, my experience and to add to the review. All in all, if you’re looking for a manual Focus SLR and want it to be compact, beautiful and sound to use and own with lovely lenses than this would be an ideal choice.

All photographs: Contax RTS II. Carl Zeiss 45mm f2.8 Tessar. Rollei CR200 (Agfachrome RSX II 200). Scanned with Plustek Optifilm 8100 35mm Scanner. Epping Forest, Essex and Walthamstow Marsh, London., England. November 2013

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Jan 142014
 

Let’s get high with a Leica M7

By Nino

Hey Steve,

I stumbled over to your site a while back and I must say I’m impressed how much effort you put into your site. It’s kind a hard to miss your site if you converted to be a Leica shooter and since sharing is caring, I thought maybe I can contribute some photographs of our latest adventure. a trip to Peru, to the cordillera blanca to be precise. The goal was to climb our first 6000 meter peak all by ourselves. No guide, no donkeys, no nothing. Just the gear we bring from home. Why? Well both of us read a book about an english man who broke a leg in the cordillera blanca and almost died, ever since we knew we would have to go one day. Chris and me haven’t traveled together in quite a while and we had a few too many beer that evening, when we booked the plane tickets.  It was set – we had to go.

Whenever I go climbing it is a no brainer to bring my beloved M7. first of all it’s a joy to shoot with and it’s built like a tank, so I don’t need to worry about breaking it. I usually carry my camera round my neck, instead in a bag. I need to be able to take a picture fast, otherwise I’ll be slowing down my partners. and I can be sure that a picture usually doesn’t present itself when I’m standing comfortable on a ledge. most of the time I stand in the middle of a huge face, and certainly don’t want to fiddle around with my bag, and risking dropping something. Anything I drop is gone for ever and the risk of falling my self gets bigger too. But wearing the camera around the neck is a risk for the camera, one time I was in lead on a wet patch of rock and I fell. It was a fall of about 6 meters sidewise against a wall, not a biggy but the swing gave my camera a spin, it slid of my back and it hit the wall too. So a camera built like a tank comes in very handy.

Just a few weeks before we left to Peru I was able to score a Summicron 90mm in a second-hand shop, to be honest I didn’t even have the time to run a proper test with it before leaving, so I was excited to see how it would handle in the mountains. I took a 28mm and a 50mm too. The 50 is my walk around lens and the 28 usually is in a belt pocket for quick access when I need it. I was surprised how often I would mount the 90 on my camera, even though I had to keep it in my top compartment of my backpack it would just get me so close to the mountains and most of the time gave me a perfect frame as I wanted it. That lens certainly never get’s left behind anymore but as it is if you’re shooting analog, use a lens you never used before, don’t trust the local labs and are on the road for 3 months, I got so nervous one month into the trip that there wouldn’t be any usable pictures. What if the camera was leaking, what if the lens has faults, what if the hood on the 50 is actually getting into the picture (it has a huge ding on it from an other climb). You can’t imagine how relieved I was when I got the pictures back from the lab.

So here is 3 pictures from the trip, a little bit of everything, one from each lens.

 

Summarit 28mm, from one of the hikes up to one of the few base camps. shot with a really dark nd filter. 

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Zeiss 50mm 1.5, a little kid I met on the streets of Huaraz.

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Summicron 90mm, cayesh from one of our acclimatization tours. this one definitely made the hotlist for a future climb!

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hope you enjoy them.

take care and keep up the good work,

Nino

p.s. we made the 6000 meter mark the story can be found on our site, just follow the link http://www.psychos.org/category/lets-get-high/

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Jan 092014
 

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A year with my father’s camera

by Antoine Ringeard-Tordjeman

Hi Steve, and fellow stevehuffphoto.com readers ! This site has been a great inspiration to me for a long time, especially the user-submitted pieces, so I thought I might share my own story. There was a Swiss watchmaker that had an ad saying you can never really own their timepieces, as you are merely borrowing them from your grandchildren. Some cameras are like that too!

My name is Antoine, I am 22 and I got really into photography about 2 years ago when I moved from France to China. I bought a $200 superzoom and I loved it dearly, it has given me great shots (great in my own eyes, admittedly). Still, it had its limitations and I moved on to a Fuji X100, that I still use today, as it is an amazing camera.

And then, on a holiday back home, I pointed at a box in a closet and my mom said “oh that’s your father’s camera, I don’t think I’ve seen him use it in 25 years !”. I opened it like it was a treasure chest, and I was not disappointed. Inside was a pristine 1975 Canon EF film SLR.

The camera was actually bought by my uncle for a small fortune in 1975 (adjusting for inflation, the kit with a 50mm 1.4 cost him close to €2400), when my father was still a teenager, and he must have gotten it from his brother a few years later.

It was Canon’s first try at a pro-level electro-mechanical camera: it has batteries that power the TTL metering, the shutter priority mode and the two slowest shutter speeds. The body is black enamel paint on brass, just gorgeous. Even though the batteries still had power left after 25 years in storage (!!!), I took them out and I use the EF as a fully mechanical camera, metering with the X100 or an iPhone app. It has never been serviced and runs like clockwork.

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Beijing, China – Kodak TMax 400

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In the box were a 35-70mm 3.5 plastic zoom and a 135mm 3.5 tele, in FD mount. Upon returning to Beijing I quickly bought a mint 50mm 1.4 for a whopping $60 and haven’t taken it off the camera since. All the pictures in this article were taken with that lens.

Bokeh! in Beijing, China – Ilford HP5+

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Fenghuang, China – Kodak Portra 400

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I have been doing my own B&W processing since the first roll, it seemed like a fun thing to do (it is) and it’s cheaper. I also have a small darkroom now and I do wet prints. Most of the scans here were done by the Lomography store in Beijing. I’m not really into their aesthetic but as a lab they’re affordable, sell good B&W film (repackaged TMax 400 and Fomapan 100), do an OK job with the processing and the store assistant was really really knowledgeable and a genuine film lover.

Beijing, China – Ilford HP5+

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Beijing, China – Kodak TMax 400

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After I caught the film photography bug my GAS syndrome mutated. I was perfectly happy with my X100 and used it alongside the Canon, or by itself when I needed the high ISO and the possibility to miss half the shots without financial repercussion. While I completely stopped lusting after newer, better digital cameras, I became obsessed with film cameras, especially Soviet ones. I have since bought a Zorki rangefinder and a Flexaret TLR. Oh and a DIY plastic 35mm TLR, because of course I did, it was $12.

If the Sony A7R sold for $100, and I had $100, I’d buy a Moskva 5 :).

Moscow, Russia – Kodak Portra 400

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Moscow, Russia – Kodak Portra 400

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As for the photography itself, it’s still mostly snapshots. I try to go everywhere with a camera and shoot whatever looks good. I seem to always come back to night scenes of neon lights and dimly-lit bars. I have never been to NYC, so for me Beijing is the cuty that never sleeps.

Beijing, China – Kodak Portra 400

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Beijing, China – Kodak Portra 400

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This camera is now one of my most prized possessions, even though I’m not sure it’s technically mine.

The point of this rather lengthy article is not to say film has made me a better photographer – it probably hasn’t. I won’t argue that film photography is better in essence or in quality – it’s just different.

I get why people who started photography when film was the only option don’t miss it, it can be a hassle, especially if you’re shooting on a professional scale. And I can understand why people who are getting back into film are dismissed as hipsters. For me, at a time when every disposable gadget takes pictures, film retains that little bit of magic that keeps me excited about photography.

Unlike digital cameras, film cameras are not getting any more obsolete than they are now, most of them will still be perfectly capable of taking pictures 40 years from now. Hold on to yours, a well-loved film camera might go from garage sale junk to priceless heirloom just by being passed on to the next generation !

Beijing, China – Kodak TMax 400

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Fenghuang, China – Kodak Portra 400

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Beijing, China – Ilford HP5+

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Beijing, China – Kodak Portra 400

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Jan 082014
 

Precious Memories from Two Generations of Rolleiflex Shooters

By Brad Husick

My mother and father met when she was 13 years old. Using his Rolleiflex twin-reflex camera, my grandfather took lots of photos of her as she grew and eventually married my dad, whereupon my dad kept photographing her with his Rollei.

My father passed away three years ago. I inherited his collection of eleven-thousand 2.25×2.25 negatives, along with his father’s negatives. My mom is now almost 79 and I just selected the 100 best photos of her and created a book of them for her. Many of them she had never seen.

She says she looks at it three times a day and shows it to everyone who visits her.

Here is the entire book to browse:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/3603396/f2ab6a3cf43107fc3349c64513eeb14e583c9551

The negatives were expertly scanned at 4000dpi by GoPhoto.com in California.

-Brad Husick

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Jan 072014
 

It’s all about Inspiration!

By Sebastien Chort

Hi Steve

First I’d like to deliver a huge THANK YOU

I’ve been working for a long time in the so-called “graphic/animation/movie industry” therefore I’ve been dealing with picture composition, lighting, framing for years. But I mainly spent my time behind my computer creating images in 3D for animation studio or VFX companies. I always had an interest for photography but when digital cameras appeared my envy to snap pictures kind of vanished (IQ was disappointing) and I gave most of my energy toward my pro activity.

Eventually I started to feel frustrated with the long process it takes to create Computer Graphic images and I started to lurk again toward photography with the high expectation to create spontaneous pictures. Then while I was looking for a decent digital camera 2 years ago, I stumbled across your blog and it opened the Pandora box. The flow of great pictures and great reviews you share helped me a lot to find inspiration and to renew my interest toward photography.

I bought a GH2 which caught my interest for its movie capacities and later on I couldn’t resist the OMD EM5. I loved using the GH2 but the OMD is such a great tool I can’t thank you enough for advising it so loudly. I started to go mental with photography gear to be honest and bought a lot of lenses (C-Mount, Canon’s FD, and pretty much everything I could on Panasonic and Olympus MFT).

Finally I started to look back to some film camera as well and I’m the happy owner of a Hasselblad CM with 3 lenses, a Rolleiflex from 1928 and recently I acquired a Leica M3. This might sound like a G.A.S. issue, but I don’t feel that way. I’m experimenting a lot with all my cameras, I love to carry them, to shoot with them, those are just symptoms of an ongoing passionate story with a great medium to create pictures.

I mainly do portraits of my relatives or street photography, but I feel like I’m barely starting to discover how much fun I can get with photography, so it’s a permanent excitement to know I still have to learn about landscape, sport or studio photography.

So I think you have a large responsibility in my renewed passion for photography and I can’t thank you enough for that. I hope you’ll like the few pictures I’m sending and I wish you the best for the years to come

Thanks for reading me ;)

Sebastien Chort

WebSite : http://sebastienchort.com

Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebchort/

From Steve: Thanks so much Sebastien! I am glad that reading my site has inspired you but I must say that it is readers just like you that inspire ME in a day to day basis. Seeing so many great photographs helps to push me to get out there and shoot every week. So thank YOU! 

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Jan 062014
 

Strange Past: Post Mortem Photography

by Steve Huff

NOTE: WOW, this post has been viewed over 250,000 times in just 36 hours which is insane and more than any other post ever in the history of this website! Out of almost 240 comments there were 3 or 4 attacking me for posting this, which is about 100 less than I thought :) Yes, this is a part of history and a part of OUR history as human beings. It is not wrong, it is not disturbing and it is absolutely in no way wrong to post about this part of photography that many of us either did not even know about or ignored. So if viewing images of deceased people bother you, then DO NOT look. There are images of adults and children but remember, this was a normal part of life in the early 1800′s. View at your own risk and if you do view and decide it bothered you then do not attack me in a comment, Personal attacks in comments are never and will never be tolerated. Two comments out of over 200 had to be removed for personal name calling attacks. That has never been tolerated here and never will. 

Over the last 20 years I have taken probably close to 400,000 photographs. Many of them just for this blog in reviews and my various travels and others that were snapped over the years of my family, vacations, and life in general. But over these years I have also read many books, browsed the works of others and have also researched the history of photography. One subject that I was always amazed by (although it used to creep me out) is “Post-Mortem Photography”.

Yes, taking portraits of the recently deceased. Back in the Victorian ages it was common to have a family portrait taken when someone in the family died. The invention of the daguerreotype in 1839 made it more affordable to families who wanted to remember their loved ones after they have passed.

It was not common for families back then to be able to take a snapshot of their families as not many could afford to hire out someone on a regular basis to take shots/portraits, so for most, this was reserved for death. Cameras as we know them today were not invented yet so having a photo of a loved one was a special gift that was treasured and the only way for someone to really remember the physical person they once knew and loved. You can read the Wiki on this subject HERE.

When you look back at this early practice today it seems morbid, creepy and for some..it will seem just plain wrong. When I sit back, close my eyes and transport my mind back to the early 1800′s I can picture how people lived, worked and died. If I lived back then I would probably want a photo of my deceased family member or pet as well. Remember, memories in print were just not common so having even one photo would mean so much.

Today we take the power of a camera, a digital sensor or a roll of film for granted. Because technology is everywhere and is getting more and more crazy by the day we have everything at our fingertips and can access any information at any given time, no matter where we are. Many of us forget what photography really is all about.

Back in the 1800′s there was virtually no type of conveniences to be found, not even something as simple as taking a photo so what we may perceive as creepy today, was very normal back in the 1800′s.

But do not think that this practice is 100% gone from todays society. In fact, when I was a teen I remember going to a funeral of a relative of mine and his family was taking photos of him in his coffin. Entire family portraits as well as they gathered around him. Even today there are some who do this though they do not talk about it so much. I think for the most part it is no longer done because we have the ability to take photos of our loved ones every day if we so desire, so remembering them as they were in life is always better than remembering them after death.

As for death, I personally do not fear death in any way, shape or form as I know it is coming eventually, but that is another story for another day. As for post-mortem photography, take a look at some classic examples below and let me know how YOU feel about these photos that were so normal back in the early 1800′s. What was seen as something beautiful back then..well..today many will see it as grotesque or wrong. Either way, it is part of photographic history, like it or not.

But beware, some of these are disturbing and may upset some of you who are very sensitive. So take a peek at your own risk.

Supposedly, this is A Post-Mortem photo session from the 1800′s

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and now some photos that are all said to be post-mortem portraits…

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Jan 042014
 

dragan

USER REPORT: 9 Photos, 9 Places, 9 Cameras

By Dragan Arrigler

Recently posted Paris photo by Gianmaria Veronese here reminded me of my own photograph I made from almost the same spot in March 1985. It was my 35 mm b&w film era and 16 years later, in 2001 I started to work with digital cameras. I would like to present a short user report and briefly describe the 9 cameras I used to make 9 very different photos of 9 different places from 1985 to 2013.

1. In 1985 I was a photojournalist and I always carried around a lot of cameras, lenses, etc. Still, my favorite combination was Canon F, 24 mm lens, and Kodak TRI X, while the vast array of other lenses and accessories in my bag waited there “just in case”. In those days I used 24 mm lens for almost everything – landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, etc. It gave me such a broad and dynamic view at the world around me. I preferred contrasty, grainy photos and as a rule my b&w films were slightly underexposed and slightly overdeveloped. I still have one Canon F from 1980. In has been regularly serviced (three times in 33 years) and it works like new.

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2. I made the picture of Pontevecchio in Florence in 2001 with Olympus Mju (Stylus) Zoom Wide 80 (I have always loved Olympus cameras for their size and weight). It was automatic 35 mm compact camera with 28-80 mm lens, considered very wide for late ’90, when it was designed. It had autofocus, small LCD frame counter and was waterproof. A perfect travel companion. The camera even displayed some sort of metadata, as can be seen on the lower right side of the photo. The kids on the picture didn’t seem to be interested in the magnificent renaissance architecture around them, and neither was I.

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3. My first digital camera was Olympus E-20P, purchased in autumn 2001. Soon after that, in February 2002 I had to do a job on Bonaire, a amall island in the Dutch Caribbean. Digital photography being sort of unexplored territory at the time, I didn’t risk and packed my trusted analog cameras as well. Most of the work was indeed done on 35 mm color slides, but with my new toy I made some charming pictures, too. One of them was a photo of windsurfers in beautiful Jibe City on the eastern coast of the island, where constant trade winds and shallow turquoise Caribbean sea waters make ideal windsurfing spot. I sold E-20P the next year after purchasing my first Canon DSLR, but I still remember its perfect zoom lens 35-140mm f 2,0-2,4 with certain nostalgia.

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4. Canon PowerShot S30 was a terrible camera by today’s standards, but was a precious pocket compact in 2003. I took it along on my trip to Provence that summer. It is fun and more or less safe to make photos with such a small and unobtrusive camera – without using flash, nobody takes you seriously, especially when you work in relatively dark interiors or at night. Café de Nuit in Arles, once beloved Vincent Van Gogh’s motif, was a perfect place to prove this. In postproduction, inspired by master’s paintings, I slightly exaggerated the colors, just like he did in 1888.

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5. I was presented Holga for my birthday in 2006. Yes, it is a rickety, cheap plastic Chinese camera. It leaks light, the lens is terrible (60 mm f 8,0 – somewhere between normal and wide-angle lens for 120 film) and it incorporates only one shutter speed which is not defined precisely – it’s probably around 1/60. And B, of course. Exposure demands a lot of guesswork. But it gives you the basic thrill of photography: you can never really tell what you will get. If the predictability of digital photography has begun to bore you, get a Holga. For best results use very old films, expired long ago. And there is more: you will never again feel the urge to invest in digital filters which imitate corny emulsions, cross processing, picture frames, over saturated or washed-out colors, vignetting, as well as dust & scratches. Nothing of this was applied to the photo of the romantic old house in Vrhnika, Slovenia.

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6. Another Canon PowerShot, the A640 was used to photograph silhouettes in a small beach bar on Caribbean island Antigua in 2008. This camera had almost limitless autonomy, because it was powered by four AA batteries and I purchased it prior to a sailing trip where I didn’t expect to have any AC outlets at hand. AA are the most common batteries – you can buy them anywhere in the world. You just have to buy a large (and heavy) stock. Being so dependent on energy is digital cameras’ big disadvantage in comparison to analog ones. For instance, I replaced the battery of my 1980 Canon F maybe three or four times in more than 30 years.

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7. Yet, it’s a digital era and small cameras are so expendable. I only had the A640 two years and then I replaced it with the third Canon PowerShot, S90. It is even smaller than A640 and claimed to be better, a great third camera for professionals, with a lot of manual controls. But in terms of picture quality I never really saw a big difference – except that it has very usable wide aperture of f 2,0 at 28 mm (equivalent) zoom setting. The other side of zoom, 105 mm (equivalent) f 4,9 is much sadder story, though. Anyway, this camera was used to make the picture of the biker (luckily dressed in red) sweating uphill on endless winding road in literally and metaphorically breathtaking, exotic, hot, humid, Avatar-like island Reunion in Indian ocean. One final remark on this tiny device: it incorporates optical stabilizer, but being so small and light (just 175 g), it just can not match the stability of big and heavy DSLR cameras with big and heavy lenses.

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8. If you like red color, Denmark is one of the countries to travel to. Red is a dominant color in their flag and elsewhere. With a bit of luck and good weather you can make nice geometric pictures like I did in the small port of Struer in north-west part of the country. I used Canon EOS 5D, bought in 2005 (can you imagine that it has already been called “vintage”?) and good old zoom 24-85 mm f 3,5-4,5, designed in 1996. In spite of being almost ancient by today’s standards, it is still one of the best and most durable combinations if you want to travel light.

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9. Finally, I would like to share some observations regarding Voigtländer Nokton 25 mm f 0,95. Read some tests of this product, e. g. here or here and let me just add this: it’s a fantastic toy, a sheer pleasure, but not in the least easy to use. And more than just a toy, of course. It’s solidly built, it’s big and heavy, heavier than my Olympus E-P3, including EVF and strap. Now just think: a heavy lens plus f 0,95 plus in-camera image stabilisation – a photographer with steady arm and some experience can work in almost total darkness without even having to use high ASA setting. The twilight picture of exotic Lisbon funicular was made handheld with 1/25 s at f 1,4 and ASA 320. And there is even more: it can focus down to approximately 8 centimetres or 3,15 inches which almost makes it a macro lens, too. Unfortunately, it has two drawbacks: manual focus and manual aperture ring. It is difficult to focus it in darkness owing to its extremely shallow depth of field (probably this problem will be solved with the newer cameras incorporating focus peaking). In bright daylight, where circumstances call for smaller f-stop, it’s even more complicated; remember, the aperture is manual and you have to focus at working f-stop. This is not easy even at f 4, and nearly impossible at f 8 or f 11. Of course, it’s 25 mm lens and everything in finder appears to be sharp. Not so later, when you critically observe your masterpiece at 100% magnification on the computer monitor. In short, this lens needs some patience and a lot of practice. If you have no patience or not enough time to practice, go and buy Panasonic’s 20 mm f 1,7 lens. It’s a very good solution, too.

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Conclusion: the point of this user report (and hopefully the pictures) is to inspire the readers to grab whatever camera they have, go out and do with it the best they can. There is absolutely no guarantee that they will make good photos with the best camera and the sharpest lens in the world. But there is a fair chance that their pictures will be widely admired even if they were made with cheap, plastic, outdated three megapixel devices. Just consider: would the photo of Café de Nuit be better, had it been photographed with a good, 36 megapixel camera, like Nikon D800E or even 60 megapixel Hasselblad H5D? Perhaps tehnically; it would be sharper, with more details, the resolution would be substantially bigger. But would it match the atmosphere of Van Gogh’s painting? I don’t think so. Sometimes the photos are about mood, not tehnical quality. Buy any camera, get used to it, then just forget it and focus on the pictures. To quote Don McCullin, the famous war photographer of the 1960s and 1970s: “I only use the camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job.”

Dragan Arrigler

www.arrigler.com

Dec 302013
 

brettprice501

User Report: Shooting Portraits with the Hasselblad 501cm

By Brett Price

Hey Steve,

I thought I’d write up an article after somewhat rediscovering a camera that I’ve always had but not necessarily always shot with, the Hasselblad 501cm.

I started shooting medium format after purchasing a 500cm several years ago and the format has always been one of my favorites. I’ve owned almost every single medium format camera that exists minus a few but the Hasselblad has always stayed in my setup due to its versatility and the excellent images it can produce. It has always been the one camera I return to after experimenting with other formats and negative sizes. 6×6 has always been my favorite shooting ratio although I know it’s not the best for every situation. I’ve always found 645 to be too close to 35mm to be worth it and 6×7 cameras are typically too large and heavy to carry around for on-the-go usage. (Minus the Mamiya 7, which is fabulous but a little clinical for portrait work).

I primarily shoot people. I love the reactions and images this camera can produce for portraits as the Zeiss lenses are fantastically sharp but also offer a 3D look and separation for OOF backgrounds that looks extremely pleasing. Its a relatively small camera in a basic setup and without a prism it is relatively lightweight meaning you can take it with you just about anywhere if you’d like. I think the only camera that comes close in category would be a Rolleiflex, which is much smaller and lighter but not nearly as versatile as it has a fixed lens and no film backs which means no switching lenses or films mid roll if you’d like to, which can come in handy if you like shooting a mixture of B&W films along with Color Negative (or even chromes).

I quite like the sound of it too. People usually crack up when I fire a shot off. It’s a big shotgun cocking of a sound, which usually comes up in conversation. I think the reason I’ve settled on this camera and the Leica system I have is because out of all cameras out there, people react very differently when being shot with them. With a Leica its so small and unobtrusive that they rarely change their attitude to it or pay attention, with the Hasselblad its so loud they have to make mention of it somehow which starts a conversation and ultimately leads to some excellent fun and good shooting.

I used to own 7 or so systems but recently narrowed down and sold everything except my Leica M7, my Leica M typ 240, and my Hasselblad 501cm with a couple of lenses for both. I’m probably in the market soon for some sort of backup system for the Hasselblad, probably a Mamiya 7 or Rollei depending on what I ultimately decide. It can be frustrating because there really is no perfect system out there for this format. I think the Mamiya 7 would be it if the lenses were faster but alas, they are not. I think the experimentation with different systems and different formats, ultimately buying and selling them over the years and finally filtering them down to my dream setup really makes this camera special to me. Its how I first learned medium format, its what I’m most comfortable with, what I’ve found most reliable. It excellent for almost any situation and full mechanical, needs no batteries and rarely needs service due to the fantastic build quality. Hasselblad’s have barely changed over the years so you can find them at extremely low costs nowadays. If you’ve ever wanted to shoot film and medium format I would highly recommend them to anyone.

I don’t think ill ever part with this camera. It’s easily my favorite. It’s my desert island camera, the one I could use and grow bored with and then rediscover over and over again.

Anyways, I hope you like my photos!

Technical details for the gear heads:

All images shot with a Hasselblad 501cm w/ Zeiss planar 80mm f2.8CB and Zeiss 60mm f3.5CB

On Kodak Portra 400/800 & Kodak Tri-x 400 (developed in Rodinal 1+25)

Scanned on a Fuji Frontier Scanner.

 

I also post regularly to my website:

www.iambrettprice.com

 

As well as my tumblr account:

brettprice.tumblr.com

 

And not to forget flickr:

www.flickr.com/photos/brettprice

 

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Dec 272013
 

Mama, don’t take my Ektachrome away 

By: Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, I hope you’re well and enjoyed Christmas. To kick off the New year 2014 I thought I’d send you an article and some pictures I hope you may find interesting and publish. This is especially for those looking to try some Film and to go traveling this 2014 to some exotic places in the world.

I do adore E6 Slide Film, and especially Kodak Ektachrome; released as a modern alternative to Kodachrome, it outlasted it’s ancient sibling by not even two years! So much for being modern, well Digital killed them both off.

I love Ektachrome, I wasn’t enthusiastic enough in days gone by to shoot Kodachrome – I only managed to shoot 3 rolls of K25 – and had those developed as part of one of the last batches from Dwayne’s. But I managed to shoot a lot of Ektachrome, and Ektachrome e100vs in particular.

I don’t think there is another Film or medium in existence and available today which can match Ektachrome e100vs (Vivid Saturation) as a medium to capture warm, exotic travel images which really pop. I still have quite a few rolls in the freezer saved (120 and 35mm) for future trips abroad to Asia and Africa where this Film can really shine.

It is great as an all round Travel Film – and works well with shots of sun-kissed dusty streets, railways, platforms, people and bright colours and flavours, and especially portraiture.

It’s portraiture I’d like to concentrate on, coupled with the Contax G2 which is The Best camera I have ever used or experienced, especially for Travel. The 45mm lens in particular is superb, versatile and renders each subject beautifully, along with the 21mm Biogon makes for a killer combo.

I’ve written and submitted a couple of articles before to Steve (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/02/21/the-contax-g2-travel-companion-by-ibraar-hussain/) (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/02/17/daily-inspiration-317-by-ibraar-hussain/) which feature this combination but those were more about the Contax G2 and featured other Film including Fujichrome Velvia. Sure Velvia has finer grain, and is unrivalled as a Landscape and Nature capture medium, but Ektachrome e100vs has different strengths entirely.

I tend to photograph static subjects, people I manage to talk to and build some rapport with – before asking them if I can take a picture. I think taking picture’s without permission is rude and insulting, I do not speak of candid street shots where the person doesn’t realise, but of more obvious in-yer-face pointing the lens kind of thing – whether at random people on the street, countryside or villages.

The best approach is if you already know someone – that way you can access and capture an intimacy which would be impossible for an outsider.

Children and women in particular can be tricky, so some rapport, friendliness and genuine willingness to talk and interest goes a long way.

I find that lady travellers have far more luck, as they are invited into house holds and given more freedom than men. As a man, I suppose I needed to try harder – but bear in mind, a mission to capture a frame wasn’t my priority – I have always been genuinely interested in people and of by the by I manage some picture’s than that’s a bonus.

 

Portraits with a black background and front lighting

 The following picture’s are of Elf like daughters of a friend of a friend who invited me round for Tea and I was fortunate enough to be able to photograph his family.(Contax G2. 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Chak 11, Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan)

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I have noticed that a person standing on the threshold of a room or house, where it is dark or with the lights off inside, and full front light sunshine means the subject is beautifully lit and stands out from the background which usually fades to black. This is a technique I often use and take full advantage of as I find it works.

I had to watch out for harsher light which tends to darken parts of the face leaving the eyes in shadow. The eyes of course are the priority, that catch light in the eyes is the key here and if I manage to catch them then the photograph is a success. I shot at f2.8 on the 45mm f2 for some of that 3D effect you get from the G Planar – and of course to make sure camera shake was at a minimum. f2.8 I feel is better than wide open, as a too shallow depth of field also means parts of a face lacking focus which looks rubbish.

The 45 is wider than a Portrait lens, so I had to make sure I wasn’t too close; as that would mean a strange perspective and possible defects like nose out of focus (because of the wide aperture).

The Kalash family and friends were great, again I was introduced by a friend who knew them and this way taking pictures was natural and great fun and a novelty for them to be involved rather than as curiosities. The little girl sitting on a bed wa stamen just at the doorway so the same lighting was pretty effective. the slow speed meant the picture is softer and slightly out of focus.

(Contax G2. 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Balanguru, Rumbur valley, Hindu Kush mountains).

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Standard shallow depth of field with diffused front lighting Portraits

The other type is obviously the normal shallow depth portrait, taken no matter where (rather than in a doorway for a black background) with some front lighting for some catch lights in the eyes.

Again, f2.8 for some shallow depth to help the person stand out enough from a distracting background. Slightly diffused light due to clouds makes for a softer light which illuminates everything is excellent for face detail, and catch lights in the eyes. The less light the less illumination (hence the final one is darker).

A young Kalash girl, a Kalash school boy in Uniform and Mr Munir Kalash proprietor of The Kalash Guest House Hotel. Here is one example of the 90mm f2.8 Sonnar T* .

The 90mm Sonnar is a superb lens, more natural for portraits in particular, but I seldom use it as I find the 45mm is so versatile and changing lenses is such a chore.

 

(Contax G2. 90mm Sonnar T* @ f2.8 (first one). 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8 Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Balanguru, Rumbur valley, Hindu Kush mountains)

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Harsher midday sun light and group portrait

Front lighting can be harsh, so a reflective item helping to illuminate the face and provide catch lights is good. A reflective item could be a white car, wall or even a white shirt worn by oneself to act as a reflector or anything which acts as such. Photography books tend to advising avoidance of harsh midday sun which gives too much shadows on the face, and I agree, though some reflective light illuminating the face helps combat this. If you’re keen you could try using a reflector, or even fill flash, but I don’t use fill flash as I don’t know how to as haven’t the skill. Another option would be to increase exposure compensation, but I find that spoils the background as it over exposes it.

Sometimes an f8 aperture is great if the background permits, the beauty of f8 is that everything is sharp and this is the setting I use for group portraits, f8 all the way to get all of them in focus – here’s an example of three brothers – there light was harsh midday sun and it was hot! The best light I think is on the chap in the centre – the other’s eyes are too dark.

(Contax G2. 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Chak 11, Sargodha, Punjab)

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Ektachrome gives the skin tones, and the colours a warmth and soft evocative feel, sure, it’s not Kodachrome, but it almost gives a feeling of looking through a Nat geographic or Time or The Sunday Times magazine of the 60ies, 70ies and 80ies look and feel which is missing from the clinical drab super sharp digital images usually seen these days. Ektachrome e100vs also gives me a sense of smelling and feeling the place.

 The shadows some may feel are blocked up, and the colours somewhat fake – but this is the beauty. And for a real feel of actually being there, there is absolutely nothing like seeing a real projected slide show of Ektachrome in a dark room in a huge wall size.

Environmental Portraits with a Wide Angle

I also enjoy taking a wide-angle Environmental portrait, the 21mm Biogon shot at f2.8 gives a shallow depth of field and a wide-angle.

The depth isn’t too shallow, but slight enough not to distract but focussed enough to appreciate the background and environment and home the person belongs to or the job they do.

I think the 21mm Biogon is brilliant for this and I recommend a wide-angle portrait to be tried by everyone.

Mr Noor at his garden in Ayun near Chitral along with Police Constable Khadim of the frontier Police and his issue Kalashnikov patrolling the valley’s.

 

(Contax G2. 21mm Biogon T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Balanguru, Rumbur valley, Hindu Kush mountains)

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A Kalash boy posing with his pet Kid Goat in his village and a Kalash mother and daughters weaving cloth by her home.

All these show the Environment, which i suppose gives the viewer a general idea of the person’s home or situation.

(Contax G2. 21mm Biogon T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Rumbur Valley and Birmorgh Lasht – Chitral Gol National Park, Hindu Kush mountains)

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Cutting legs off is a pet hate of mine, and I tend to focus on having the usual head and shoulders, or torso and up shots if not a full body one. But sometimes when needs must or when it’s appropriate I don’t mind trying one where the legs have been cut off – depending on background or composition.

Kalash child by her front door and Mr Fayzullah a large chappie who is the Chowkidar (caretaker) of the Summer palace at the Chitral Gol National park in the Hindu Kush

(Contax G2. 21mm Biogon T* @ f2.8 and 45mm Planar T* @ f2.8. Kodak Ektachrome e100vs. Balanguru, Rumbur valley, Hindu Kush mountains)

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Anyway, I have a limited skill set, and limited technique, but what I have I use and I think I manage to use effectively, and when out in wild climes travelling, and especially when using Film and Ektachrome e100vs in particular, the last thing I want to do is waste precious frames or not capture the photo – to get home and see it’s blurry or dark or just crap, hence I think my simple technique’s help and I thought I’d share them with you.

Other’s are far more experienced and talented than I, so I welcome any advice and chat about the subject, and about using such exotic looking Slide film such as Ektachrome e100vs which I don’t think Digital can match in what it manages to achieve.

Anyway, Ektachrome e100vs is gone, but I hope one day Ektachrome is revived, and I also wish one day Kodachrome will be revived, until then I have my frozen stock of e100vs and am always sourcing more.

Happy snapping!

Dec 102013
 

USER REPORT: Light & Shadow in San Francisco w/ Zeiss 21mm & TMAX 3200 

By Ryan Melideo

First off, I’d like to give a big thanks to Steve for developing this site and providing so many examples and reviews of new gear in the industry. His insight is definitely appreciated and I think we all feel the same way. I also would like to thank him for allowing me to contribute to the content on the site. This is my first guest posting, but second attempt at one. I didn’t get a response to my first idea submission. What’s up with that Steve?? j/k

I have been doing photography for about 2.5 years. What got me started was when I purchased a Canon 7D to shoot video. Over time, I noticed myself using the camera for more photo than video. I have worked with models and actors in the Los Angeles area for the most part, however over the past year, I have been gravitating to photojournalism and documentary photography and also have been experimenting with composited scenes. I currently shoot with a Nikon D800e as my main camera. I also have a Nikon F100 and F5 that I have been able to pick up dirt cheap used, but in impeccable condition. In addition to 35mm,

I have used a Mamiya 7ii (which I am ever so close to purchasing). I really enjoy using film and like the feeling of actually creating something you can touch when shooting on the medium.

The examples I provided here were taken one morning on a recent trip to San Francisco and were shot in the Mission district. I had brought along my Nikon F100 and a Zeiss 21mm f2.8 with the intension of using some Fuji Velvia as I walked around the city. The first morning, when I went to load the Velvia, I noticed that I still had a mostly unused roll of TMAX 3200 loaded inside the camera! I had put it in the camera weeks before when I was going to be doing some indoor shots of a band’s performance. I ended up not going to the performance so the TMAX was left inside to wait. I decided to head out and burn through the roll so I could get my Velvia loaded for the day. I wasn’t used to seeing a high iso film used in the broad daylight. I thought to myself that it might turn out interesting or it might not, but what the hell I’ll try it anyway! I decided to expose mostly for the highlights and fire away. I was using an aperture of f13 or f16 and a shutter speed of 6400 for most of the shots. I quickly shot through the roll in about 45 minutes to an hour.

When I returned from San Francisco I immediately packed up the film rolls to be shipped off for development and scanning. I usually get my film scanned at www.thedarkroom.com. Their turn times are fast and they have a new scanning resolution they refer to as “super scans” which are scanned at a resolution of 4492×6774. While anticipating the scans, I had really not even thought about the roll of TMAX. I was only thinking about the Velvia shots I had taken. It turns out I was much more interested in the TMAX upon review. I thought that they had an interesting and gritty quality to them.

I processed all of the image files in Lightroom 5 and only made adjustments to further enhance exposure (overall exposure, highlight, shadow) and contrast. No sharpening or other effects were applied. By reducing the overall exposure and painting in exposure in certain areas with the adjustment brush I was able to enhance the eerie feel and make the shots that were taken during the bright morning to appear that they were taken at night or dusk.

Please feel free to take a look at my website for samples of my photo and video work if you would like www.ryanmelideo.com

Feel free to drop me a line anytime!

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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”.

Oct 012013
 

Japan 1979

by John Shingleton

In the last couple of years Steve has kindly published a number of my contributions on his blog the most recent two were on the XVario Leica and most recently an opinion piece on the curse of digital photography. Sadly that last story although it was intended to provoke serious thought and reflection generated many what I consider very unfair comments and a level of unnecessary personal abuse and although I pride myself on having a reasonably thick skin the overall experience left me proclaiming that it would be the last time that I ever put my head above the trench with an opinion piece or indeed any other story on Steve’s blog! And yet here I am again.Well this time hopefully noses will not be put out of joint. I originally posted these pics on my personal blog but a number of friends have urged me to give them wider exposure as they are a unique glimpse into another era so here’s the story and the photos.

Back in 1979 I went to Japan on a business trip. Japan was an exotic and mysterious destination then. In Tokyo only the main central metro stations had the station names in western script so navigating the metro unaided was a challenge. Westerners were still very much an oddity outside the main centres. Very few people even in Tokyo spoke any English at all. Taxi drivers spoke none. They could not read western script so unless you had your destination written down in Japanese you could not travel by taxi.

Since 1979 I have visited Japan many times most recently a couple of years ago and it has always been an extraordinary experience. In 1985 I even drove my family without a guide and of course without GPS in a big left hand drive car (Japan is a RHD country) extensively on the north island over the Christmas/New Year period when it was snowing. I must have been very brave or just crazy.

I had my Olympus OM2 SLR with me on that first trip all those years ago. The yen was very weak then against the Aussie dollar so camera gear was a real bargain in Tokyo and I bought a 28mm Zuiko lens for the Olympus. I took photographs in the Kawasaki small motor and motorcycle factories and Tohatsu outboard motor factory I visited. As the light was very poor I used a very fast film, Ilford HPS-which was harsh and grainy . I developed it at home in a very fine grain developer. The photographs were taken on the run as I was on business factory visits -not sightseeing.Focussing was very difficult in the low light and even with the fast film the shutter speeds were slow. Camera shake ruined quite a few of them.

The factories were very noisy, hot, dirty and very crowded. They smelt of hot oil and hot metal. As you can see the working conditions were harsh. OH&S was not a consideration -note the lack of ear and eye protection. It would be so different today.I am sure much of the small engine production is now highly automated or has moved offshore most likely to China and other asian countries.

Today they would be much less willing to allow you to take photographs on security grounds and just imagine trying to focus manually if I had been wearing plastic lenses safety glasses. I was fortunate to record quite literally another time.

Only a couple of these photos were printed at the time. I was too busy with work and a young family to spend hours in the darkroom and in any case they needed printing skills which were beyond me. I found them last weekend in a big box full of thousands of negatives in my garage. With a scanner and Lightroom I have been able to give them their first visibility.

I hope that you appreciate this record of an extraordinary place.

John
http://therollingroad.blogspot.com/be

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