Mar 212014
 

‘A Night at the Opera’ with the Leica Monochrom & M2

By John Tuckey

Hi all, here’s another few film shots for you from my last shoot. We have Ilford HP5+ shot on an awesome old Leica M2 body with the Lux 50 ASPH attached and a couple of Contax 645 Medium format shots on PanF. I developed this lot myself so I think the PanF fans will be a little happier with how the PanF looks here ;-)

As usual the ‘real’ shoot for me was digitally shot on the M-Monochrom while the film was shot for fun and side projects. This time I’ve also included a few of the M-Monochrom shots that were taken as I think there’s an interesting contrast between the ISO 400 film and the digital shots also at ISO 400. To me, it’s not a question of better or worse, but as you’d expect they are very different.

For those interested, more from this shoot at: http://500px.com/jrtbloke/sets/carla_march_set

Attachment Captions and suggested running order:

M2 & Summilux 50mm ASPH @ f/1.4, 1/60, ISO 400 (Ilford HP5+)

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M-Monochrom & Noctilux @ f/1, 1/125, ISO 400

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M2 & Summilux 50mm ASPH @ f/1.4, 1/60, ISO 400 (Ilford HP5+)

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 M-Monochrom & Noctilux @ f/1, 1/125, ISO 400

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M2 & Summilux 50mm ASPH @ f/1.4, 1/60, ISO 400 (Ilford HP5+)

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M-Monochrom & Noctilux @ f/1, 1/125, ISO 400

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M2 & Summilux 50mm ASPH @ f/1.4, 1/60, ISO 400 (Ilford HP5+)

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M-Monochrom & Noctilux @ f/1, 1/125, ISO 400

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Contax 645 and 80mm f2, f/2, 1/3000, ISO 50 (ilford PanF+)

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M-Monochrom & Noctilux @ f/1, 1/4000, ISO 400 (and ND grad)

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All images post processed in Lightroom, but all in line with my 10 minute promise… which is for the health of my eyes! I just promise myself to never spend more than 10 minutes on an image in post. My reasoning is that if its crap after 10 it’ll always be crap (crap in, crap out) so then I just chalk it up to go and take another.

All the best

John Tuckey

http://www.jrtvintage.co.uk

http://500px.jrtvintage.co.uk

http://www.facebook.com/jrtvintage/

Mar 212014
 

A study in harsh light and tones

By Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, would just like to share some Pictures (a small selection) of shots I took last summer when I was bored one day.

The sun was hot and the noon light was very harsh.

I thought it’d be interesting to get some nice tones using my nephews and niece as props to try to get some reflection of the heat of the light onto the celluloid. I wanted some very nice tones, and contrast with some feel of the shadow made by the harsh light. I used the white wall to reflect this. it was Tone which I was concentrating on, I wanted a nice balance between Zones 0 and X with the right levels and contrast where it mattered. I chose Rollei Retro 80s as it tends to lean towards the Red giving lovely contrast and that almost IR effect. I decided to use my Yashica 230 AF SLR with the 60mm f2.8 Makro lens – which i suspect is a rebadged Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar, and this 60mm focal length os very interesting for people – it’s an ‘almost’ focal length, too long to be a standard lens, and too short to be a portrait lens, but it’s very nice.

The Yashica 230 AF is a primitive AF SLR so the focus hunts and can miss – but it has a great Viewfinder and some lovely lenses and it’s dirt cheap! Anyway, I’m certainly no expert and I tend to photograph trees and static objects or people while travelling and have absolutely no experience in making people pose, so I focussed on the light and nothing more. I was relatively pleased with the results (by my own standards) – many of which were similar to the ones I am sending you, hence only a small selection of these snaps are included. It was all great fun, and part of my personal goal to try different stuff and to enjoy the experience and to try to play with Tone and attempt to improve on it.

All photo’s, Yashica 230 AF,Yashica AF 60mm Makro f2.8, B+W Yellow Filter, Rollei retro 80s, Rodinal and finished in Photoshop CS4.

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Mar 142014
 

One year with film

By Rikard Landberg

Hi! I would like to share my experience of one year with only film photography with you and your readers. My first rolls I shoot was poster on your blog about a year ago, ”How a 51 Year old Leica made me leave the digital world”.

In a month it has been a year since I sold the last of my digital cameras and went over completely to film photography. The change went surprisingly easy. It was almost as if I ‘ve never photographed with digital cameras at all. I felt the same joy as when I as a teenager switched from film to digital. I rediscovered photography!

What I like shooting with film is the slower pace. It may sound like a cliché but it’s true. Now I focus on the picture and what works, I wait out the right moment. I know I can’t take 10 frames per second (as I could with my digital canon ) which means that I have to learn to see patterns of the objects I photograph and predict what will happen. This way of thinking has not only (according to me) resulted in better pictures , but I have also begun to take in more of what I am experiencing while photographing. With a digital camera, I missed so much since I put a lot of time trying different exposures or retaking an image 100 times for not looking right on the small screen on the back of the camera. With my Leica M5 I do not have that option which allows me to see what’s going on around me instead of wasting time staring into a screen. I’ve learned to trust my eyes and my camera in a whole new way. In short, it’s simply more fun to shoot right now!

The equipment I use is a Leica M5 with a Zeiss 35/2.8 BIOGON. When it ‘s been a year so I will reward myself with a M6, M4-P or a Zeiss Ikon. I will continue using film and rangefinders for a long time!

/ Rikard Landberg , Sweden

My websites

www.rikardlandberg.se

www.flickr.com / Landberg

Some pictures from the past year.

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Brooklyn Bridge MAnTOYP

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Mar 132014
 

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Shooting & Processing Cinema Film in a Still Camera

by Brett Price

Hey Steve,

Thought I’d write up a quick little article on a recent set of photos I took. I’ve submitted several posts before outlining several photography related experiences with different equipment/techniques I’ve been playing around with, a lot of the fun in photography for me is the ongoing discovery of new techniques, equipment or processes. The latest addition would be my experience shooting motion picture film in a still camera. There’s a lot to do with something like this so Its not exactly something someone can just pick up and do but I figure that this article could be a first step to many who might be interested.

**See Brett’s other posts HEREHEREHERE and HERE**

First off, All of the shots below were rolled, shot, developed/processed and scanned in an at home process and were all taken with Kodak Vision 3 500t film. This is a fabulously versatile film that used a great deal in modern cinematography. This is the same film that you can also purchase online, called CINESTILL FILM that has had a special process to make it capable of being developed at a traditional film lab. (more on that later).

One of the reasons I wanted to play around with this film is because well, I still shoot a lot of film, and the choices for films are becoming more and more limited today for still photography. I still feel like cinema film has a place for a while until most of the more seasoned DPs give it up and its relatively more affordable to shoot considering how much more of it you can buy. You mainly just have to have the infrastructure to take it from beginning to end to make that work, something I have developed over the years. Another reason, like I mentioned is the cost. I purchased a 400ft roll of kodak film online for about 100 dollars. That’s enough color film to make over 100 rolls. That is a dollar a roll, not too bad. It’s also a film thats really not available in still format. Most still films are daylight balanced, which can be troublesome if you shoot it under any type of tungsten light. I’ve never really understood why films were made that way, with no high-speed stocks available for that type of light. It’s quite easy to take a high-speed film and add a warming filter to it to shoot outdoors if needed. Its pretty difficult to take a daylight film and shoot indoors, as the filters remove a great deal of light, and then you have to shoot it in a place where typically there isn’t a great deal of light.

But oh well. It’s a fantastic film. All of these shots were taken outdoors or by open windows without a filter so this is the look you can get when you shoot it outside. It’s very blue but able to be balanced nicely in the scanning process. It’s also a very versatile film if it’s all you shoot as all it really needs to shoot outside is a warming filter. I shoot a lot at night and in urban environments so this film really fits my daily Leica carry.

The first step is getting it into shootable cassettes. Bulk loading is pretty common with b&w film, as you can still buy 100ft rolls of it. All you need is to separate out about 100ft from the 400ft roll and load it into a bulk loader and then into the film cassettes. Pretty easy.

One of the reasons everyone hasn’t picked up on this film yet is the fact that it comes rolled with a layer on the film called REMJET. Remjet is a layer on the back of the film that is typically removed in the films native process but the C-41 process does not account for. You can’t just shoot this film and take it to a lab for development. Not only will the film ruin the lab’s chemistry, it will come out with a layer of soft black gook on the back. The CINESTILL film that is available for purchase has this layer pre-removed so the film can be developed in any lab, hence why its caught on with a lot of 35mm film shooters.

All of these shots were home developed and not taken from a lab. I actually used waste lab chemistry because I work at a lab but the same process can be done with any home c-41 kit. The biggest unknown for a lot of people, even me, was how easy or difficult it is to remove the Remjet layer after processing the film. There’s a lot of stuff online that goes into detail about how difficult or easy it is but nothing very specific of helpful. I actually found this to be super easy. The film comes out after processing almost totally opaque, if you touch the back of it you’ll get an inky black residue on your fingers, it comes off quite easily but the issue is you don’t really want to get it on the emulsion side. All I did was wet a microfiber cloth, grab the film from the top, and essentially squeegee it from top to bottom. This took off the rem jet perfectly. All that’s left is to restabilize the film so you don’t get water spots from the wet cloth.

I have access to a lab scanner so these were pretty straight forward to scan in but the process of scanning can be done after development like any other film. Also pretty straightforward.

I really like the characteristics of this film. I’ll probably pick up a roll of Kodak 250D (daylight) as well and then i feel like all my bases would be covered for shooting color 35mm. It’s a super versatile film and the process isn’t nearly as scary as many people make it seem. I would highly suggest checking out the CINESTILL website for side by side examples as to why this film is so nice. They lay it out between some more popular films like Portra and Fuji Pro, and the results are pretty easy to see.

Anyway, I post a great deal to various websites ill list below, please check them out for more shots. Hope you all like my photos with this film and my write-up on it as well. Happy shooting.

Brett Price

Instagram: Brettprice

Tumblr: Brettprice.tumblr.com

Website: www.iambrettprice.com

Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/brettprice

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Mar 072014
 

Respect Bali. Protect Bali.

By Nikko Karki

www.nikkokarki.com

http://blog.nikkokarki.com

The Balinese believe they were given the choice to live in paradise in exchange for supervising the spiritual world – a task requiring constant ceremonies and offerings to appease the Gods. Life goes on as it has for hundreds of years amidst sandy beaches and a turquoise ocean. With some areas suffering from disenfranchisement from cultural traditions, it is evermore important to respect the island and the Balinese people.

Respect Bali. Protect Bali.

Photographer’s note:

I focus on traditional aspects of life on the island that have remained unchanged despite the huge influx of tourism on our beloved island over the past years. In parts, it’s hard to tell the island has changed for hundreds of years, although that is all being constantly threatened by development. If you look hard enough, the island’s soul is still in tact. It’s important for me to address change from a positive standpoint instead of criticizing it. It’s important to focus on the good that we see and embrace it, respect it and protect it.

Hasselblad 500c Carl Zeiss 150mm f/4

Kodak Portra film

Nikko Karki © 2013 Respect Bali 01

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Feb 182014
 

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A Year in “M” Monochrom

By Ashwin Rao

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Hello, my friends, the time has come to reflect upon a year seen primarily in black and white (and many, many shades of gray, which really is life, now, isn’t it ?) through the eye of Leica’s amazing Leica M Monochrom. I have previously written about my experiences with the “MM” after 6 months of use, and following journeys with the camera in Paris, Italy, New York City, and the Palouse. In this world of constant camera turnover, where every M9 is replaced by an M240, with Sony and Olympus seemingly staking their claims to fame in the digital camera world in place of Canon and Nikon, and with Fuji surprising and delighting us with every turn, the MM is now a venerable camera that remains unique as the only current mass-produced camera with a black and white sensor. The camera’s sensor, stripped of any ability to see in color, rid of the capacity to block moire, ends up being a photon eater, proving and incredible tool for capturing light in its many presentations.

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While it has not yet been around long enough to be deemed “legendary”, the MM is already ascending that ladder, and for those whom have had the privilege of using it, you’ll see that glimmer in their eyes of the prize that rests in their hands. So come along with me for my ride, should you choose, in words and images, of this camera that is destined for legend.

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Over the past year plus, I have taken over 15,000 shots with the Leica MM. I can truly and honestly say that the camera has delivered me the most joy of any camera that I have owned. The camera’s incredible CCD sensor that seems capable of coaxing the very best out of nearly any lens that you could put on it. In particular, the sensor seems to play particularly well with older rangefinder lenses, which in some cases were designed and coated for black and white photography. It provides a rich modern look with today’s aspherical glass, almost providing “shockingly real” views of the world, which I have yet to see from any camera. For me, the look of the MM with most modern glass is almost surreal, and I have thus primarily stuck with using older, “cheap” rangefinder lenses with the camera to great satisfaction. What’s interesting to me, and what I have heard increasingly from users of the camera, is that the camera’s sensor itself seems capable of coaxing something special out of these lenses, even when the M9 and M240 may not be able to coax the same look, clarity, or detail.

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Seeing in Monochrome

First and foremost, the Leica MM is a tool for image capture, as is really any other camera that the photographer may use. However, the sensor’s capacities and limitations have forced me to change my creative perspective. As I began my journey with the MM, I had to accept the challenge of only “seeing” the world around me in black and white. Color was no longer an option, and could not be used as a crutch or a tool ton lean upon. Having converted many of my M9 images to black and white, I initially did not see an issue with the process of only seeing in black and white, but after using the M monochrome a few times, I suddenly realized at what I had given up. Shooting in color offers its own creative possibilities and limitations, and when I suddenly forced out of this option, I found myself jarred. I decided to re-calibrate and try my best to see the world around me in black and white, before I even composed or took the shot. In a sense, I began to focus on light and dark, highlight and shadow, essentially in luminosity. I began to “ignore color” to the best of my abilities and focus instead on the remaining elements of any scene that I wished to capture Over a few months, what first was a challenge soon became inspiration and motivation. I was starting to see the world in monochrome. Just as switching from the AF-10FPS SLR’s to rangefinders is freeing to many photographers who are stuck in a rut, shooting with the M Monochrom re-invigorated me to explore the world around me in new ways. I called it “Going back to finishing school.”

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Monochrom magic?

There is just something about the MM’s sensor that seems magical to me. I know that this may come off as overly dramatic, but for me and for others out there with whom I have discussed the camera, it is true. The images that I have been able to capture seem to defy my own meager skills as a photographer. Lenses that were forgotten or passed aside on the M8 and M9 suddenly took center stage in the manner of how they interacted with the MM’s sensor. Let me say a few more words about this (The following is entirely theoretical, so feel free to disregard)

I have said in many instances that the MM seems to play particularly well with older lenses. Many vintage lenses from Leitz, Canon, and Nippon Kogaku were designed and used in an area of black and white photography, where color options were rare, limited, or non-existent. Thus, such lenses utilized coatings and design that was suited to capturing monochrome images, or so I have gathered. Whereas some of these older lenses’ coatings provide poor color reproduction on digital cameras, they seem to offer subtleties in tonal capture that modern lenses of aspherical design, aimed at gathering maximal contrast and detail across the frame, seem to miss. I have noted than many modern aspherical designs seem to limit the M Monochrom’s abilities to capture shadow detail, in particular, while older lenses, which tend to capture much lower macrocontrast, save these shadows, and instances, highlights as well.

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Second, I suspect that some of the MM’s magic in interacting with old lenses actually may have come from within. When I consider photographers that have inspired me, I have tended to prefer the “look” of the works of the early Magnum photographers, Sebastio Salgado, and others who shot in an era where my “vintage” lenses was their modern options. In a sense, I learned to prefer a way of seeing in black and white in the manner that was reflective of their gear…i.e. older lenses.

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Third, the MM’s sensor seems to be unique in being able to hold incredible detail with post-processing. This seems to be due to the dynamic range that MM images seem to possess in the mid tones. The MM has been roundly criticized for its tendency to clip highlights, and this is absolutely a reasonable criticism. What is often not discussed, however, is the incredible detail and flexibility of tone that preserved in the midtones captured by the camera, as well as the shadow detail that the camera preserves. When I first used the MM, I was enamored by the near infinite shades of gray captured within the RAW file, and as a result, my initial images with the camera tended to look generally grey. Over time, I found myself exploring these greys more and more, and using Adobe LR and other post processing tools to extract the contrast and detail that I desired from this more “boring” grey. One can push and pull the images in any number of ways, and MM files will not fall part, especially those captured at ISO 3200 or less. When used in “decent light”, the camera does just fine at ISO’s as high as 5000, capturing fine detail and suppressing noise appropriately (not really like film, though, but still pleasing).

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Finally, there may also be something to the M Monochrom’s naked sensor that coaxes the most out of vintage lenses. Lenses such as the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM, which seem soft and washed out on color rangefinders, simply sparkle on the MM, both in detail and tonal rendition. I was surprised in particular, by the amount of detail and resolution that some lenses, over 50 years old, are capable of capturing when paired to the MM. I theorize that the lack of the low pass filter and Bayer array allows for optimal capture of unfiltered detail. No blur or image loss is imparted upon the captured image, as light does not have to pass through any barriers.

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The journey from new to old

So here I am, a year later, a year older and hopefully a year wiser, and my journey with the MM continues. The MM continues to be my favorite camera and my preferred way to see the world around me. My aspherical lenses continue to be relegated to my M9, while the MM continues to be mated to classic rangefinder lenses. I feel that for me, what was a casual experiment with vintage lenses has turned into a serious enterprise in how I prefer to see the world around me. It mates the rangefinder experience with a unique way of seeing the world around me and brings me closer to my own idols in the photographic world.

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Onward and Upward

The journey continues, and I hope to report back to you as I gain even more experience with this wonderful camera. Obviously, I can no longer wow you with reports of impressive specs, more megapixels, and quieter shutters. I hope to bring you more images, as my explorations with the camera, its files, and my use of processing, continues. These are exciting times for many of us, as photographers. Gear these days is so excellent that it’s really up to you to choose what tool suits you best. For some of you, it may be the camera phone that is always on your person. For others, it’s the latest greatest offering, with ever improving dynamic range, color reproduction, detail capture, and camera performance. For some, it’ll be the increasing capacity of cameras to deliver images and an experience that can be instantaneously shared. For me, it’s the simplicity of a camera that’s not capable of any of this, not even capable of seeing in color, that will continue to inspire and challenge me to grow my photography in new directions and to new summits. All the best to you all in your own journeys, and I’ll be sure to check in again soon!

Yours truly,

Ashwin Rao

February, 2014

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Feb 172014
 

Myanmar in Transition

By Nikko Karki © 2013

www.nikkokarki.com

http://blog.nikkokarki.com

Adorned with thousands of temples, nestled in the Mandalay region of northern Myanmar, Bagan’s arid landscape has been preserved as if in a time capsule for the past 1,000 years. After remaining closed to the outside world, Myanmar is now open for business, bolstering Bagan as its flagship tourist destination. The children growing up in Bagan will witness unprecedented changes in their local economy and social landscape in the upcoming years.

How will tourism development in Bagan mirror Myanmar as a whole?

Now that the floodgates are open to flocking tourist populations, how will the region and its people react to an infusion of social and economic influences?

Hasselblad 500c  – Carl Zeiss 120mm f/4 – Kodak Portra film

Nikko Karki © 2013 Myanmar Transition 01

Photographer’s note:

I went to Myanmar with an old film Hasselblad, a digital Canon DSLR and an open mind. I had heard warnings about the political past and chose to ignore the history as it’s clear the country is on the brink of a new era. During my trip, I felt a strong connection with the people who welcomed me with open arms. Traveling with only a small pack containing all my gear, I was free to roam around the countryside on foot, taking time to talk with people, observe and feel the strength and beauty of this incredible country. I’m so grateful to the people of Myanmar for this experience and hope to return again one day soon.

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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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Celebrities with Their Vintage Cameras (32)

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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

Rollei Yellow Filter

Rollei Pan 25

Rodinal.

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/

http://somewheresomewhen.tumblr.com

http://psychos.org

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.

Moscow, Russia – Ilford Delta 400

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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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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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