May 102013
 

The Friday Film: How a 51 Year old Leica made me leave the digital world by Rikard Landberg

See his Flickr HERE

Hi! Steve, great and inspiring blog you run!

I just wanted to tell a story about how a 51 year old camera made me leave the digital world. I have been shooting both digital and analog for some time but my film Leica was the only camera that made any sense to me.

Like so many others I started with a SLR film camera in the late 90´s. It was a Canon AE-1 with a 50/1.8 lens. I loved being out on the street trying to catch that golden moment that would turn out to a great picture. Mostly in black and white.

I jumped on the digital SLR camera train and sold all my analog gear in a second without even thinking it through. I went from a Canon 350d (rebel xt) to a Canon 40d to a 5d in a short time.

I never really liked the digital cameras so I bought a cheap film rangefinder and I loved it! I told my self that I was going to save up to buy me a Leica M film and here I am! Proud owner of a Leica M2 and a Summicron 35. For a long time I had a Fuji x100 as a backup since I felt I had to have a digital camera. Going all analog was for crazy people! :P. But in early 2013 I sold my last digital gear and bought a dedicated film scanner and have not looked back!

It was a hard decision but it really felt right! I use my Leica M2 as i would with any digital camera. I shoot what i want to shoot but i think more before hitting the shutter. To make good pictures you need to be one with your camera no matter what camera you use. Buy the one you like and never let it go. Go out and shoot and just love it!

shoeman Empire state rock Valentine Central girls WTC crossroads Central Man Brooklyn Bridge MAn BB 8517196663_1e2170108c_b

May 062013
 

The grail

Holding the holy grail. A Nikon S2. By Daniel Schaefer

Hello Steve

Growing up in LA, there was a camera shop two blocks from my house, I would pass it and it’s blinking flashbulb sign day after day, for years I would duck in every now and then with my father or uncle, both avid photographers to pick up a chip, or a filter or some small accessory, but for years I just tapped my fingers on the counter and waited patiently to be lead to the toy store two doors down.

Everything changed when I was twelve years old. Sitting there one day twiddling my thumbs waiting for my father as he compared one UV filter after another, my eyes wandered around the shop, and finally came to rest on a leather case sitting quietly at the used counter, next to an elderly gentleman who had just sold his equipment and with a satisfied but solemn look, folded his money and waked away, leaving his well worn gear glistening on the counter.

I wandered over and started staring at the glisten of the old silver gear, I had only ever seen my fathers black plastic behemoths with heavy lenses and six point harness straps. I had never before seen the shined chrome of an old camera, used hard, but loved well. My eyes flitted across a few old F bodies, and a well brassed black rangefinder of some unknown origin, but something made me freeze, my eyes widening. Sitting behind the rest of the pile, it’s leather case peeling, it’s rangefinder sporting a sharp scratch, and a deep gouge in it’s steel face, right across the word Nikon, sat an S2. I reached out and picked it up, it was heavy, it felt solid in my hands, I could see where the hands of the old man had worn the leather and steel over time, patina marks where his fingers had gripped the black lens, and rolled the razor toothed focus wheel.

I was in love. I had never held something in my hands that felt like it, it felt solid, it felt like it was meant to be used. At that point my father walked over, I showed him the camera, I begged him for an early birthday gift, I honestly didn’t care if this was every gift for the next three christmahanukwanzika’s combined, I wanted that camera, but when the salesman told my father it was all mine for just barely over a thousand dollars, he took the camera out of my hand, said thank you to the salesman, and walked me over to the toy store and bought me whatever the latest lego was.

I remembered the number, I remembered the name, the Nikon S2 was the first object I ever fell in love with, and i wouldn’t forget it. I did somehow forget about photography for a while though. I would pick up my fathers camera on vacation, task some snapshots of friends, or some selfless in photo booth, but it wasn’t until eleventh grade I picked up a camera with any seriousness again.

 nikon_1

Fast forward to two weeks ago, I’m a part-time student in my sophomore year at parsons in the photography program, working for three different commercial photographers in NYC as an assistant and second camera, repairing and restoring vintage equipment in my free time for a little extra cash. I take a break from color correcting some shots for one of my finals and slide on to Facebook for a while, I check on my friends, make sure my fifteen year old brother hasn’t triggered the apocalypse yet, and make sure my farmville crops aren’t running dry. I suddenly notice a post by my aunt Julie, I recognize the telltale leather case of an old camera, and curiously click the link that declares, Pop Pop’s camera!

The image loads, and my jaw drops, an S2, sitting on my aunt’s kitchen table after being dug out of her closet after who know’s how long. I comment “you have NO idea how beautiful that is” and she replies, “well our resident photographer would be the one to know!”

I suddenly see a message in my inbox, and a few minutes of chatting with aunt Julie, she says “the camera deserves a good home! what’s your address?” my heart is practically beating out of my chest at this point, memories click back to the now abandoned camera shop and the feeling of that steel wheel rolling under my forefinger, watching the twin images line up, back then I had no idea what was in my hands, but now that steel and leather sculpture had gone from a pleasant memory to a Holy grail that I hunted for in every thrift shop and camera store I had ever walked past, and now, it was on its way to my doorstep in a priority mail box straight from Minneapolis.

When the camera arrived, opening the box felt as if i was opening the suitcase from pulp fiction, gold rays of light emanating from the silver machine surrounded by packing peanuts with its 50mm 1.4 eye staring back at me.

I wasted no time, I went to load the camera, only to find the rewind rolled when I took a shot, it was still loaded! I developed the roll the next day, only to find a picture of a pudgy little baby, later identified by my aunt, as my uncle! With the camera now empty, I locked a roll of Tri-X in, and stepped out into the big apple with my holy grail hanging around my neck.

pub_nikon_S2

I spent the next three days shooting anything I could, I always have a camera around my neck, it’s been a long time since I left the house without a lens around my neck, and the S2 with the 50mm 1.4 in all its hefty glory felt like the right kind of weight.

I’m a night owl, so I rode the 2 train down to canal street, and spent the night walking from the south street seaport, all the way home to ninety seventh street, zig zagging 14.5 miles across new york, shooting slowly and carefully, feeling the solid click of the release, the hollow thunk of the shutter,and feeling the smooth roll of the advance as I spent the roll carefully as I could.

I shot the roll both as a technical test, and as a photographer, I wanted to push the cameras limits but also take pictures that meant something to me. The camera was smooth, the rangefinder bright, the settings were accurate across the range, and aside from some slight blooming in the highlights at 1.4 the lens was so sharp it spit razors. It’s a rare privilege to hold something in your hand that you are truly in love with, to have a camera that truly feels like it’s simply a spare set of eyes, to be able to raise it to your eye and not have to think about anything aside from what to place in your frame.

For me, the Nikon S2 is my perfect camera, it is that extension that we all hunt for, it falls into my palm and I see everything i walk past during the day in frame lines. If you’re ever lucky enough to find your holy grail, I hoe you’re lucky enough to be able to sling it at your side and take it for a long, productive walk.

Cheers

-Daniel Sawyer Schaefer.

-Outlierimagery.com-

1- Mug

2- Plot

3- Rub

4- Sizzle

5- heavy

6- hush

7- woof

My uncle!

Self portrait

Apr 242013
 

All Black & White to me……..

By Jason Howe

Hey Steve

Hope your well, I’m sure many will agree with me when I say your site continues to be an amazing source of inspiration and information and is the first website I browse each day.

Some of your readers may be familiar with my photography but for those who aren’t, every now and then I throw something Steve’s way from down here in Middle Earth!!! New Zealand is such a beautiful country and landscapes make up a large part of my photography, however……….

At the start of the year I made a decision to try my hand at a few things I had not previously attempted, one of them was to arrange shoots with models. It’s very early days in this process but I thought I would share some of my initial images with you. I’m always looking to put posts together for my blog so I had several combinations of camera and lens in mind to shoot on this occasion, specifically these were –

Leica M9 and Canon 50/1.4 – I’m of the opinion that this lens is one of the best you can buy in the “inexpensive” ltm lens bracket and particularly suited to images of this nature. Leica MM and Konica Hexanon 60/1.2 – I was fortunate enough to acquire this lens just before Christmas, I’ve messed around with it but this was essentially the first time I’d used it at length. Contax 645 and Zeiss T Planar 90/2 – A recent addition, I’m still getting to know this camera but I wanted to at least shoot a roll or two through it, film of choice Fuji Pro 400H.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of B&W, it accounts for most of what I shoot, I am pushing myself to shoot more color this year though, honestly!! I had a specific look in mind for these images before I shot them, you can see those versions HERE. The truth is though, no matter what I do or how I attempt to view my subject matter it almost invariable looks better to me in B&W.

Here are a few of those images taken on the Leica M9 with Canon 50/1.4 this time converted in Silver Efex Pro 2 and LR4. I have always been happy with the B&W conversions I was able to achieve with the M9 files and they definitely are not inferior to the MM files when shot in these conditions, the MM for me is really about shooting at higher ISO’s, that is when it comes in to its own.

Model – Alicia Sim

Image 2

Image 1

Image 3

Image 5

In the next couple of weeks I’m going to be posting a full set of images taken on the Leica M Monochrom with the Konica Hexanon 60/1.2, here are a small selection of those. Again these images are converted in Silver Efex Pro 2 and LR4. The Hex is incredibly sharp at f/1.4 and equally superb in these conditions at f/1.2 with the edge just taken off the sharpness. I’m delighted with it for sure although I would never defend the purchase price I took the decision to buy this lens over the Noctilux because quite simply I will always be able to get hold of one of those.

Image 9

Image 7

Image 10

Image 8

Image 6

I did get the chance to use my Contax but despite liking the images shot on the Fuji Pro 400H I still could not help myself converting them to B&W, this may be sacrilege……..

Image 12

Image 11

 

Things really are “All Black & White to me” when it comes to processing, well mostly……..

Cheers

Jason

 

You can keep up with my photographic journey down under here -www.aperturepriority.co.nz

 

Mar 182013
 

Visiting with My Father – Do You Print Your Photos?

by Amy Medina

Saint Patricks Day makes me think of my dad. Though auto parts and cars were his trade, he was into photography, and enjoyed taking photos. He unfortunately passed away in 2001, prior to my passion for photography taking full bloom, and I often wonder how he would view my love for it, especially in the digital realm.

Of course, like many kids who grew up in the 70’s, I have faux leather-bound photo albums of the family photos, showing their age and faded, filled with the silly shots and the out-of-focus posed family shots, where my dad handed his camera to someone and our heads are partially cut off. There are photos taken by him, by my mom I’m sure, and by other people with cameras who gave us their doubles. Many of us have these albums laying around or tucked into a cabinet… and I’ve only really come to appreciate their existence as I’ve gotten older.

And then, a couple of years ago, my brother discovered a box of my father’s slides in the bottom of a closet. I knew of them, but years ago; I remember curiously looking through them as child and teenager, squinting through the plastic magnifying loop and holding them up to a window. But I had forgotten about them over the years, in the back of my mind assuming they got lost when my father sold the house I grew up in, or even thrown away just to save space. When my brother found them again after decades of not seeing them, and years after my father had passed, it was like digging up buried treasure.

We sat on my living room floor looking through the mysterious photos that focus in mostly on my father’s time in the service, stationed in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. There are also early family photos, from before I was born and into my toddler years. What pops up are faces of family members long gone, and faces of dear family friends we’ve since rekindled relationships with, and photos of beaches and towns all the way around the world, during a very different era. There are only a few, but there are even photos of my dad himself, where his fellow soldiers and friends seemingly grabbed his camera a stole a shot, like the one of of him sleeping.

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It was a renewed glimpse into my dad’s life, and something my brother and I could experience together, being reintroduced to the man he was — the one we knew and the side of him we knew less about. We talked about our memories and the shots that reminded us of his unique character. We made jokes about some of the things he focused in on. This experience itself created our own new memories, some of which will now always be jokes between us, and something quite special.
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sexynudeshow
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And we shared the photos. I went on EBay and for $15 bought a working slide projector. We were blessed last Memorial Day with spending time with old family friends — friends of my mother and father from “back in the day” who I called Aunt and Uncle and cousins… and we had an evening slide show, projecting the old images and memories across the room onto a screen that brought us thoughtful moments, melancholy feelings and laughter. It was a weekend of unique bonding and closeness, filled with new experiences, and refreshed memories brought to us through stories and my father’s photos.
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stoponred
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All of this gets me thinking: what happens to all of our photos that are sitting on hard drives decades from now? How will our memories be relived by our children and grandchildren? Are we to leave instructions behind on how to access our achives, and is that experience the same as finding an old box of photos in the attic? If a hard drive is disconnected and stored away, reducing our stories to zeros and ones, will our children and grandchildren be able to just plug them in and enjoy them if discovered years later?

There is a tangibility to printing out photos, or leaving behind slides and negatives. It’s something we are losing as a society. I don’t pretend to not enjoy technology… quite the contrary, I’m about as geeky as they come, appreciating all that computers and electronics have to offer, and I take full advantage of the advances. I also think several generations from now, a lot of this will have been worked out somehow by our great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; the dilemma of common formats and how to access our deceased relatives’ digital footprint. Or at least I have great hopes it will be all worked out. But what happens in the meantime?

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twoboys
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At the end of every year now I print all my photos. I know that may seem excessive and I suppose many of you take a whole lot more photos than I do. There may be a different process you have to take in self-editing first, though be careful not to edit out that blurry photo of grandma because years later you will appreciate it as one of the shots that exist of her. The point is, I want to leave behind boxes of actual photos for my loved-ones to discover and savor… instantly. And I want you to do the same. We should leave behind something tangible that takes no effort to enjoy.

Of course, I’m not talking here about the artistic prints or the gallery canvas, or even the occasional photo book. I do all those myself, but it’s not the same thing. My coffee table books are always there to be browsed through, with the best chosen photos inside them. The prints I hang can always be seen. The people who buys prints, they enjoy them as they do in the room of their choice. What I am talking about is the undiscovered treasure that the rest of your photos will be to your family members and the people who love you: The ones you didn’t share. The ones you shared online that got a zillion “likes” but were forgotten about 3 days later. The shots you thought were mistakes and the ones you took of other family members that they don’t even remember you taking. The photos of places you loved and sights you enjoyed and that picture you took of your feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

At 12¢ per print (more or less) it’s a no-brainer to just take stock at the end of each year and have some 4×6’s made to throw in a box and put in the back of closet or drawer, the same way our parents and grandparents did back in the day after having rolls of film developed. Think of it as your analogue backup. And one that your children and grandchildren may one day appreciate.-

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And my dad (white shirt) with his army buddies in Okinawa in 1966
dad
Mar 042013
 

My time with the Pentax K1000 & Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4″ By Khunya Pan

Hello Steve & fellow followers,

This story will talk about my time with the Pentax K1000 & Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4, and how I ditched nearly all my equipment for this simple and brilliant setup.

I started taking pictures seriously about 5 years ago when I was 19, when my father bought a Pentax K10D DSLR. He hardly used the thing and I started to get interested in it. Next thing I know I’m taking it everywhere with me, upgraded to a K20D and the SMC-31mm f/1.8 Limited lens. It was a great way to learn the basics and fundamentals of photography. I eventually had an exhibition of my work done exclusively with the K20D and the 31mm. It was a great experience, but it was time to move on.

One night I was watching TV and a film called “Blow-Up” came on. I was instantly intrigued by the movie due to its main subject being photography. But the thing that stuck with me was the camera the lead character was using. No, it wasn’t a Pentax, it was a Nikon F, but it was a classic film SLR. Even though the actor had no idea how to use a camera in the film, I was still very intrigued by 35mm and film, and I wanted to try it out. Sick and tired of the point-and-shooters all around me calling themselves “photographers” just because they took pictures of their vacation or family gatherings, I wanted to do something quite different for my age group and actually learn “real” photography (wink).

I eventually got the K1000, mainly because I could use my 31mm on it, thanks to Pentax making a series of lenses that can be used on digital and film. Instantly I was hooked on it, and eventually learned how to develop my own film and scan it myself.

This sparked me to start a weekly mailing list where I would send out a photo a week, and while it hasn’t grown to a huge number of followers, it has kept me motivated to continue taking pictures. The pictures I was taking were making me happy, but I still felt like they were missing some kind of magic. Then I discovered the Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4…

There is not much in the way of reviews or web presence on this lens, and I seriously wonder why. The early versions of the lens were released in the mid 60s, and continued until 1971 where the SMC-Takumar’s were released. These did away with the radioactive coating. Some say they are better, some say they are worse. My version is one of the early ones, with the obvious yellow coating on the front element. In color, it doesn’t distract or cause any bizarre effects, and in B&W it’s absolutely stunning. My guess is Pentax was going for a Leica/Zeiss killer, and maybe on a technical standpoint they failed, but on an aesthetic and artistic point of view, they succeeded tenfold.

The setup has been my primary carry-around shooter. I have used many other cameras and lenses throughout the years. I’ve tried my hand at a Yashica & Rolleiflex TLR, a FED2 Russian camera, a Leica M3 and a Leica M9, and the Fuji X100 and X-Pro 1. Honestly, none of them are quite bonkers enough. I always go back to my K1000 and Takumar. Yes, sometimes the weight and bulkiness of an SLR are annoying, and it is far from an ideal street-shooter, but I really don’t shoot street photography, and the Takumar is not meant for that, nor is the K1000. This is a setup that makes you get in close. It is intimidating, as it should be. It is a $150 setup that produces $10,000 Leica results.

Sometimes I feel a bit amateurish walking around with what is essentially a “student” camera. But I think I’ve finally gotten passed the vain part of photography and trying to “look cool” while I take pictures. In the end, it’s the photograph that counts, not what the silly man behind the camera looks like.

I eventually sold my K20D and 31mm lens, and now I shoot exclusively film. From time to time I will borrow my girlfriend’s K-x and use an M42 adapter so I can shoot the Takumar on that, but it’s not very often. I am quite amazed though by the results of a nearly 50-year-old lens on a crisp and clean digital sensor. The lens has such a soul to it, it’s delicate and I worry if I accidentally whack it on a counter or something, it will fall apart with ease. But if you treat it well and with respect, it will be a lifelong companion and always give you outrageous and amazing results.

And so concludes my story, enough with the text and on with the photographs. The first three are from the K1000 and 31mm, the rest are the K1000 and Takumar. You can compare them for yourself and see if I’m talking total claptrap.

Thanks for reading and looking!

Yours friendly,

-Khunya

Additional images can be seen here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/khunya/

Quentin - SMC-31mm 1.8

Tokyo Drift - SMC-31mm 1.8

Ruta Maya - SMC-31mm 1.8

Bicycle - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Ellar - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

French Hand - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Hands - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Naked Bed - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Nikon - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Smile - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Rifle - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Feb 272013
 

Confusion

Understanding the Basics of Exposure by Emanuele Faja

Note: This is a guest post by Emanuele Faja from AndBeThere.com

Introduction

In this post you will find all the information you need to understand how the different aspects of photography come together to form an exposure and how each setting has a distinct effect on the final outcome. Please remember, this is a guide on the basics.

If, after having read through this guide, there is something you don’t quite understand then please do not hesitate to leave a comment with your question and I will answer it.

Another point to keep in mind as you read this guide: There is no such thing as a “correct” exposure! It’s all about YOUR artistic vision and it will vary with every scene. There is no “cut and paste” method. It will require plenty of thinking on your part if you wish to take your photography to the next level.

You will want to bookmark this page because there is a lot of information and it will require reading a few times.

What is Exposure?

Exposure is simply the amount of light that you allow to reach the light-sensitive photographic medium inside your camera. This medium could (or should!) be film or it could be a digital sensor.

The more light you let in the brighter your image will look and, conversely, the less light you let in the darker your image will be. You see? It’s not exactly rocket science!

The factors that affect Exposure.

There are three things that you modify to make your image darker or brighter.

  • Aperture – This is the adjustable opening in the lens. The bigger the opening, the more light hits your sensor at any one time.
  • Shutter Speed – This determines how long the shutter will stay open. The longer the shutter stays open the more light hits the sensor.
  • ISO – This is a measurement of how sensitive your film or digital sensor is to light. More on this later.

So far so good? Right now you only have to remember three things. Easy :)

Now let’s talk about each of these three factors in more detail. I will go over the basics of each factor and then explain how each one effects your image.

Aperture

The Aperture setting on a lens is expressed in “f stops”.

This is actually part of a conspiracy created by photographers who don’t want anybody else to understand how photography works so they can charge ever increasing fees for their work ;)

Of course, I’m just joking. The f/stop is actually a ratio that’s reached by doing some tedious mathematics. It’s the ratio between the diameter of the aperture in the lens and the focal length of the lens. Got that? No? Good, it doesn’t really matter…

This is all you need to know for now:

The standard sequence of f/stops:

2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22

Going from right to left (f22 to f2) each f stop lets in twice as much light as one before. So f/8 lets in twice as much light as f/11 but only half as much as f/5.6.

Got it?

Yes?

Good.

Because of the tedious mathematics, the smaller the number, the bigger the aperture. This is because they are actually ratios and the f stop number is the bottom number of the ratio/fraction. So they really should read 1/2, 1/2.8, 1/4 etc but they don’t… probably part of that conspiracy theory by photographers…

Here is a nice little graphic to make everything even easier to understand:

Aperture Chart

There are lenses which go beyond f/2. For instance, I own a Pentax SMC K 50mm f/1.2 lens. There are various reasons why a photographer would want to own such a lens. We will talk about that a little later but it’s worth mentioning that the lenses become much heavier and more expensive as you go beyond f/2.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is expressed in seconds or fractions of a second.

Most cameras have shutter speeds ranging from 1 second to 1/2000 of a second and also a “bulb” mode that will keep the shutter open for as long as you keep the shutter button pressed down.

1 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000

Leica_M3_mg_3685

Going from left to right (1 to 1/1000) each shutter speed is twice as fast and so lets it half as much light. 1/125s lets it twice as much as light as 1/250s but only half as much as 1/60s.

Easy!

Instead of tediously writing 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, the shutter speeds are just written as numbers on the shutter speed dial.

Iso

Iso is a measurement of how sensitive your film/sensor is to light.

Iso is actually a throw back to the lovely pure days of film photography. It’s named after the International Standards Organisation which decided the ratings in the first place. Different films would have different Iso ratings and a photographer would select which film to use depending on the situation and, of course, personal preference. A few examples:

ISO 200 color film

kodak-gold-200-36-

ISO 400 Black & White film

kodak_-tri-x-400tx-

ISO 800 Color print film

Fujifuilm Fujicolor Press 800-

ISO 1600 Black & White film

Fuji Neopan 1600

In order not to confuse the hell out of everybody when photography went digital the camera manufacturers continued to use the term Iso and also the same scale:

25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

Going from left to right (25 to 6400) each Iso setting is twice as sensitive to light. Iso 400 is twice as sensitive as Iso 200 but only half as sensitive as Iso 800.

The higher the number, the greater the sensitivity of the film/sensor.

The greater the sensitivity of the film/sensor, the less light is required to create an image.

The sensors in new digital cameras today are becoming so good that they reach ridiculous Iso numbers like 51200 and even higher! This does mean that digital is great for night-time photography but I do wonder what will happen in a few years time when Iso numbers in digital photography will be 7 digits long!

 

A Quick Recap

So now you should know the following:

What are the three factors that affect exposure?

Which is the bigger aperture: f/2 or f/16?

Which shutter speed lets in more light: 1/2s or 1/500s?

Which Iso setting is more sensitive to light: Iso 200 or Iso 1600?

 

If only it were that simple!

I have a confession to make. I have not been entirely honest with you in this article but I did it for your own good. Instead of drowning you in information right away I just introduced you to the three factors that make up exposure but I did not tell you the “side effects” that these factors have.

  • Aperture also effects the Depth of Field. I will explain what it is in just a moment.
  • Shutter speed also effects how sharp your final image will be due to movement.
  • Iso is linked to how much film grain or digital noise your final image will have.

Depth of Field

“The distance in front and behind the subject that is acceptably in focus”

Depth of field is often abbreviated to “dof”

The smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of field. So at f/22 (small aperture) you will have a much bigger (deeper) depth of field than you would at f/2 (large aperture)

Depth

Depth of field is actually determined by three factors:

  • The aperture – We just saw how that affects the depth of field.
  • The distance to your subject – The further away you are from your subject the greater your depth of field.
  • The focal length of your lens (35mm, 50mm, 85mm etc.) – The longer your focal length (i.e. 100mm vs 35mm) the shallower your depth of field.

Boring Note: Sensor size also plays a big role because of the way it magnifies the focal length of a lens. Most DSLR cameras these days have “cropped” sensors which are around half the area of a full 35mm frame. This means that they magnify the focal length of a lens by roughly 1.6. So a 35mm lens becomes roughly a 50mm lens.

My advice: shoot 35mm film and forget about it. ;)

Sharpness

Generally speaking, if you are hand holding your camera you should be using at least this shutter speed if you wish to get optimally sharp images:

 

1

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Focal length of your lens

So this means if you are using a 50mm lens your shutter speed should be at least 1/50s (or 1/60s if your camera doesn’t have a the 1/50s setting). I find this to be true if you are shooting a camera that uses some kind of mirror system (analog or digital SLR systems) . If you are shooting a rangefinder camera (which is a different type of system which has no mirror and thus far less movement going on when you press the shutter) you can get away with far slower shutter speeds. Some people claim they can shoot a rangefinder at 1/10s or slower!

Here is an example of a picture I took using my Pentax K1000 at a low shutter speed. I had no choice. It was late at night and I had Iso 1600 film and my lens was fully open at f/1.2 so my only option was to lower the shutter speed below 1/60s. If I remember correctly, this was taken at 1/15s.

You can clearly see that the image is not sharp because I was holding the camera and the cars that were crossing the bridge in the background are also very blurred. This is also due to the very small depth of field at f/1.2

 Scan-121206-0010

You also need to choose a shutter speed that is fast enough to capture your subject while they are moving. We will talk about this a little later on…

Grain/Noise

The higher the Iso the more film grain or digital noise you will have in your final image. Film grain can be quite lovely while digital noise is always disgusting. Thankfully, digital cameras are getting “cleaner” as the technology matures.

A quick example:

Iso comparison

Putting it all together

Time for another little test. :) Feels like being back at school eh?

  • Define “Depth of field”
  • What will have more in focus: A large d.o.f or a small d.o.f?
  • What is, generally speaking, the longest shutter speed you should use when shooting hand-held with a 50mm lens?
  • Fill in the missing word: The higher the Iso the more ______ your image will have.

Final Triangle

Let’s now talk about the Exposure Triangle that is created by Aperture, Shutter Speed and Iso.

Let’s assume that a particular scene can be shot at f/8, 1/250s with an Iso of 200. There are actually many other equivalent exposures that we could use to shoot this scene. If you change one factor of the triangle of exposure then you must do an opposite change with another factor to keep the exposure the same.

For example:

  • Original exposure: f8 1/250s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 1: f4 1/500s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 2: f2 1/1000s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 3: f11 1/125s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 4: f8 1/125s, Iso 100

There are a huge number of variations but they all have one thing in common. The exposure (brightness) of the image will be the same.

What does change between these equivalent exposures is the following:

  1. Depth of field due to Aperture
  2. Sharpness due to Shutter Speed
  3. Grain/noise due to Iso

So what happens when you under-expose or over-expose an image?

The first image is under-exposed, The middle one is a normal exposure. The bottom image in over-exposed.

exposure

If you under-expose a scene then you will lose details in the shadows and your image will be dark.

If you over-expose a scene then you will “blow” the highlights which are the bright areas of the image. They will usually come out as blocks of white.

 

Artistic considerations

Now this is the fun part. You have gone through all the theory and now it’s time to see how you can use it in the real world and how it can spark your creativity.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there is no “correct” exposure. It’s all about YOUR artistic vision. Each scene you photograph has a certain dynamic range (the range between the darkest and lightest parts) and often its greater than the dynamic range that you can capture with your film or digital sensor. It’s up to you to decide how to handle the situation.

Before we jump straight in I want to say one last thing:

You need to pre-visualise the effect you want to create in your head before you start to change the settings on your camera and lens. Otherwise will you have a hit and miss approach and you will never understand why you aren’t capturing the type of photographs you want.

A few ideas to set you thinking:

  • Using Shallow Depth of Field for flattering portraits.

This is perhaps one of the most common uses of shallow depth of field. By taking a portrait of somebody using a large aperture (i.e. f/2) you blur the background. This is especially useful if the background would otherwise be distracting to the overall feel.

Notice how the woman is in sharp focus but the wall behind her is blurred. 

Scan-121219-0001

  • Using slow Shutter Speeds to create artistic effects with water.

This is incredibly common all over the internet and for good reasons too. It looks great.

Remember that if you are shooting fast-moving subjects then you probably want to use a fast shutter speed like 1/250, 1/500 or 1/1000.

  • Using large Depth of Field for landscapes.

If you shoot landscapes you should try to use a large depth of field so that the entire image appears sharp. This means you will need to use an aperture of f/8 or smaller (f/11, f/16, f/22 etc).

 

Sometimes photography is about compromise. I couldn’t use a really tiny aperture like f/22 because the sun was going down and so that would have meant that my image would have been under-exposed.

  • Mix it up a little!

What ever your artistic choices, make sure you don’t always do the same thing. Don’t shoot every portrait with a shallow depth of field, the background can often add to the the image!

As this is an introduction to exposure, I’ve not covered exposing for backlight, sidelight and exposure compensation.

Conclusion

(and the best way to learn exposure)

Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything yet.

This does take a little while to all sink in.

The best way to learn, in my opinion, is to get yourself an all manual camera like a Pentax K1000 and 10 or 15 rolls of cheap film like Kodak Supercolor 200.

There are a few reasons why I recommend using a simple all manual film camera like the Pentax K1000.

These cameras they have a real shutter speed dial on the camera body and an Aperture ring on the lens. This means that you are always aware of the settings you are using. Also, the physical location of the shutter speed dial and aperture ring remind you that one is a function of the camera and the other is a function of the lens.

There is no “auto” mode! This means you are forced to think at all times about what settings you are going to use! Don’t worry, there is a light meter to tell you if your exposure is correct.

By starting out with a film camera and using the same type of film you take Iso out of the equation. If you take my advice and only shoot one type of film while you are learning it means that you will always be using the same Iso value. This means that you only have to worry about shutter speed and aperture. It makes it even easier! You are turning the exposure triangle into a see-saw.

There are plenty of reasons to shoot film. Once you try shooting film you might just want to stick to it! Check out my article on giving film a try.

A Real Aperture Dial with a Depth of Field Scale 

1332433062_332686004_1-Pictures-of--FS-SMC-Pentax-50mm-f12-prime-lens

Shoot 3 or 4 rolls a week while also making a note of the aperture and shutter speed setting and in less than a month you will have it down like a pro. As a bonus, you may also have some lovely pictures too ;) After you have shot your 15 or so rolls and got accustomed to manual setting the exposure then feel free to move to scanning, digital or a more advanced camera… It’s up to you!

Thanks for taking the time for reading this guide and I hope you found it helpful.

Feel free to leave some feedback about what could be improved. I’ve tried my best to explain everything as clearly as I can.

If there is something you don’t quite understand then don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I will clear it up for you.

Note: This is a guest post by Emanuele Faja from AndBeThere.com

You can connect to AndBeThere via: 

Our Website | Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Flickr | Via Email

I would like to thank Steve for the opportunity to write an article for his website.

 I am a big fan…keep up the good work!

Feb 212013
 

titlepas

Shooting Medium Format alongside Leica M for Travel and Documentary Photography

by Pascal Vossen

Hi Steve, thank you for your contribution to the photographic community and giving me the chance to ventilate my thoughts to other photographers!

Shooting medium format alongside 35mm format is what I did during my latest trip to Sri Lanka and it turned out really well for me. I enjoyed it a lot and it made sense to me before I left, during shooting and afterwards when I looked at the results. The only ‘regret’ I got is that I didn’t go bigger in film size. Still though, the Leica M was and will remain to be my main travel and documentary camera. Let me first tell you why, before I move on to the medium format part;

Photographing with a Leica M is special. I don’t have to explain that to someone who handled a Leica M before, but to the photographer who didn’t. It’s a camera with a magic feel, handling and character to it. It gives you the best of 35mm in a small and intuitive package. You don’t feel like you are getting blocked off to what is happening around you as soon as you bring the camera to your eye. The design of the Leica M, being a rangefinder camera (i.e. with a separate optical viewfinder), will allow you to stay in contact with what is happening around you. You never loose focus on your subject. You see everything. Notice the light, meter, frame, focus, reframe, anticipate and shoot your image. Its a fast process that always allows you to stay in control. Rangefinder focusing is imo also the most accurate way of focusing, since you don’t have to rely on an auto focus system that might fail. You are in control, you decide where you put the focus. This means that you know exactly where your focus point is. Is this off, then you failed and not the camera.

Leica M7 | 28mm | Portra 400 | Polonaruwa.

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Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400@800 | Red Mosque, Colombo.

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Because of its construction, the fact that it is a rangefinder and thus not has a mirror like a DSLR, the Leica M is compact and elegant. It is without a doubt the most beautiful camera I will ever own. The first time I tried one myself I noticed by its reassuring weight that this thing is build to last. Furthermore, it does not scream for attention and gives most people the impression that you are carrying an ‘old-timer’ around. Yes, sometimes that’s true, but its a very competent ‘old-timer’. But then again even the 2013 Leica M (type 240) still looks like the camera Leica build 30,40 years ago. That is partly the beauty of it and gives its user the freedom to walk around without drawing too much attention to themselves. Even the small time street criminal would more often go for a larger looking plastic DSLR from e.g. one of the Japanese brands, because they think you are holding a worthless old camera that is not worth stealing. If I however go on a trip where I suspect to end up in more dodgy areas I would maybe tape off the ‘Leica’ sign and put some more tape on it to make it look broken, just to make sure. I don’t care what it looks like when I am photographing (I do when its on the shelf ;)). The purpose of having this camera is to be able to get the shots I wouldn’t get with another camera. It is inconspicuous and enables the photographer to get really close without getting noticed. Even the shutter won’t give away your presence when you are photographing with an analog M, since it a cloth shutter and therefore near silent. I have found the digital Leica M (e.g. M8.2 that I also shoot with) in ‘discreet’ mode also very silent until you take your finger of the shutter button and the shutter re-cocks. Prepare yourself to be notices or walk away first.

Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400@800 | Temple of the Holy Tooth, Kandy.

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Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400@800 | Temple of the Holy Tooth, Kandy.

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It is my opinion that photographing with a Leica M stimulates you as a photographer to take pictures in a more intelligent way. This has partly to do with the way you frame your images through the viewfinder. The frame lines give you the possibility to anticipate and be in control of the moment. Furthermore, the typical rangefinder character and lenses (prime lenses, mostly ‘wide angle’ to ‘normal’ focal length) force you to come close or be more creative. These are all reasons why the leica M is my main choice for shooting travel and documentary photography.

Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400 | Kandy.

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Leica M7 | 28mm | Portra 400 | Colombo.

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So what made me bring along a medium format camera and why did I think it was a great combination? Let me say this first; Before I left for Sri Lanka I figured out that too many options is no good! I planned on limiting myself to two lenses for the Leica M, the Summicron 28mm F2 for wide angle landscape and environmental portraits and the Summilux 50mm F1.4 ASPH for shots/subjects that are better suited with a normal focal length or less depth of field. But then I threw in a Voigtländer 15mm heliar! I forgive myself since I got some good shots with it.

Then I had the choice of leaving it the way it was, which is a really light travel setup, or fill the bag (i.e. a Billingham Hadley Pro) up with a medium format camera + one standard lens for portrait and landscape. Reasoning behind this was my intention to take close-up portraits and high resolution landscapes. A larger negative means you can capture more information, details and you gain quite a bit of dynamic range (that’s even more true when its digital imo). This and the larger control in depth of field all add to the look of medium format. Nevertheless, the obvious image quality gain was not the surprising part. It was mostly the ease and the way of handling both cameras alongside which I found to be great.

A standard part of my day would be that I would ask my driver to drop me at the beginning of a town/village/city on the way and pick me up a few hours later on the other side. I walked, explored, observed and talked a lot to people. When I saw something interesting I would normally have my Leica M7 in my hand, approach my subject and photograph my subject from the intended angle in the most natural way. This often required me to get pretty close without disturbing them with what they were doing at that particular moment. Would they have noticed me and stopped what they were doing then the image would have been lost. This is definitely important in countries like Sri Lanka where people don’t mind to be photographed and gladly pose with a smile when they notice you. I don’t want that. At least not when its not intended as a portrait. You could consider this ‘phase one’ in the approach to my subject.

Leica M7 | 28mm | Portra 400 | Dambulla.

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‘Phase two’ would be approaching my subject for a short chat, making him or her feel comfortable and then ask them if I can take their portrait. If you photograph people in this way you set yourself apart from the average tourist that just snaps away at them and then walks away without saying anything. It really is more or a social and respectable thing to do and you will notice that you will gain a bit of their trust. Just enough to get close enough for an intimate and well-composed portrait.

Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | Dambulla.

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If you use digital you show the image to them, which could lead to fun reactions and even more photos, or you give them a chance to hand over an email address (if they have that) so you can send them the picture you took of them upon arrival at home. For exactly these kinds of shots I would grab for the medium format camera. I have introduced myself and my intentions to them and I can now take the tool that gives me the largest IQ. Handling the cameras together was great since I could easily tuck away my Leica M and take out the medium format SLR (I used a Contax 645 + 80mm F2). They fitted comfortably in my Billingham Hadley Pro bag, which is not a gigantic bag. It has great padding and with its flat shape it fits perfectly to your body. Another great advantage was that I didn’t have to fumble around and switch lenses on my Leica M the whole time. Switching lenses is a process I find annoying and a little tricky when traveling to dusty and humid places.

So, to sum up what I found great about this setup is;

-Inconspicuousness and intuitive handling with the Leica M

-Advantage of higher IQ from a larger negative (6×4,5> or sensor a-like) when needed.

-It is still a fairly compact setup (Leica M, two lenses and a MF camera) and packs well in a medium sized camera bag (most Medium Format cameras are actually not that big if you think about it).

-It avoids that you have to change lenses when you want to take a portrait or landscape (if you are comfortable using one lens on the medium format camera)

Some more medium format examples:

Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | View from Lipton Seat, Haputale.

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Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | Kandy Bride, Kandy.

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Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Provia 400X | Near Adams Peak.

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Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | Mihintale.

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Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Acros 100 | Galle.

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I have found there to only be one possible downside and one ‘regret’ to this all. Downside was that you would have to bring two different formats of film and load two different cameras (if not one or both are digital). The regret was in a way that I didn’t bring a MF camera with a larger negative. That would have been even better. Thus, in the future the MF camera alongside my Leica M will be either a Mamiya 7 or a MF DSLR (Phase One or Hasselblad) depending on the destination, subject/project or way of shooting.

All images are taken in Sri Lanka and the whole series can be viewed on my portfolio (www.pascalvossen.com):

Flickr

Thank you for reading!

Pascal Vossen

 

Feb 202013
 

Sharpness and Bokeh are bourgeois concepts by Dro Grigorian

As a Leica user, I know whats it’s like to have a bond with your camera. I myself shoot with an M8, M9 with a 50 Lux and 35 Cron. I get results that I like more than any other combination. But sometimes, you have to change your medium and let your hands and eyes experience something that you are less accustomed to.

When I was a little kid, my father passed me down his Voigtlander Vito CLR. I remember thinking this was the coolest piece of equipment I had ever seen. It took me a while to learn to use it. I didn’t understand the idea of using exposure settings properly. Over time however, I would get my prints back from the local Pharmacy, and a few of the slides actually had something to look at! This inspired me to keep trying.

Now that we’re in this digital world of pixel peeping and micro-sharpness and what have you not, it’s truly nice to step back and shoot with some old traditional equipment. It’s quite peaceful actually, and it allows me to slow down and enjoy the everyday aspects of life. For those of you who are not familiar with the Vito CLR, it is a 35mm film rangefinder produced in 1963. It’s got a build in light meter and the fixed lens has an aperture setting ranging from 2.8 to 22.

I recently stepped back again and started to shoot with it just for fun, and I’d like to share some of the pictures. The beach photo was taken with C-41 process film. These pictures show that sharpness and bokeh are not necessary elements, but a luxury.

Thanks,

Dro Grigorian

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arch8

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R1-02571-003A

Feb 102013
 

Afghanistan with a Leica MP & Film

By Daniel Zvereff

Afghanistan was truly an unforgettable adventure. This was partially because I never intended to visit there. I was originally bound for Turkmenistan and, at the last minute, was denied entry. Thus throwing me into a sort of tangent undertaking through Afghanistan’s incredible scenic north and then encountering the inspiring people of Kabul’s outskirts.

All photographs were taken with a Summicron 35 ASPH, and the Voigtlander 15mm 4.5 on either TRI-X or Across 100 film.

For more please visit my website at www.zvereff.com

1gaurds

1scissorboy

boy4

breadboy

gatekeeper

kabul-ollie

kabulman

men

tired

Feb 012013
 

HAS

Using the Hasselblad 200 FC/M for Street Photography by Jerry Bei

“UFO” Kodak Ektar 100

UFO

Hi Steve:

I am a street photographer based in Sydney and I have a strong passion for photography in general. I used the Leica M9 and MP as my main tools for street photography in the past couple of years but recently decided to acquire something different. The temptation of medium format have always been there but I could not justify the cost of digital medium format cameras, at least for now.

Hasselblad has always been my dream medium format camera and luckily I got the chance to buy a Hasselblad 2000FC/M camera body with a A12 magazine at a very reasonable price that got me started into medium format. The world of medium format film photography was new to me so I had to learn everything from the start. I got a grasp of how the Hasselblad V system works very quickly since I had quite a bit of experience shooting film before.

“J&M” Fuji Pro400H

J&M

First thing I noticed when holding the camera is its superb build quality, I have held many Leica cameras before but this thing is different, it is built like a tank; heavy and solid. The Hasselblad 2000FC/M with a lens attached is significantly heavier than my Leica M9 with a 50 Summilux ASPH combo but still lighter than a full-frame DSLR setup.

“Black Riders” Ilford HP5+

Black Riders

The viewfinder on the Hasselblad V system is like nothing else I have experienced, big and beautiful. It is almost like a live-view 3 inch LCD screen in the modern days but even better since it is all optical rather than electronic. Viewing through the viewfinder is a pleasure and truly a treat to eyes. I have upgraded the original stock viewscreen to a even brighter Accute Matte D screen that helps to achieve faster and more accurate focusing for street photography.

The Hasselblad V system is equipped with a waist-level viewfinder and it is perfect for street photography. You can simply hold the camera at your waist aimed at your subject and most people don’t even know that you are taking a picture. It’s discreteness is perfect for the streets. The shutter click sound is no where as quite as a leaf shutter or Leica quietness but it is still a pleasure to hear the mirror flipping when the shutter fires.

“Circus Lady” Kodak Portra 400

Circus Lady

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“Gossip Girls” Kodak Portra 400

Gossip Girls

One of the big advantage of the Hasselblad system over other medium format film systems is its inter-changeable backs, which allows swap between different films on the go. There are several different types of film magazines available that can shoot different number of exposures. The most common is the A12 magazine, which allows photographers to shoot 12 frames of 6×6 exposures of 120mm film. You simply insert the dark slide to remove the film back and apply another back loaded with the film you desire. Therefore, you don’t have to wait until all exposures to be finished and able to shoot B&W or Colour during the same photo-shoot.

The lenses are made by Carl Zeiss thus equates to superior image quality. There are several different types of lenses for the V system, some with lens built-in Synchro Compur shutter like in C and CF lenses and some without that uses the in-camera shutter like the F lenses. My Hasselblad 2000FC/M can uses all three types of lenses since it has a built-in shutter and a top shutter speed of 1/2000 second. The optics are all made by Carl Zeiss and has the typical Zeiss quality with its renowned 3D rendition. Some people buy the system because of their famous lenses. There are also difference in lens coating and are noted by the T* sign. The lenses I used are the Carl Zeiss 150mm F4.0 CF T* lens which is equivalent to 94mm in 35mm format, which is the perfect lens for head and shoulder portraits. I am also using the “magical” lens in the Hasselblad world , the Carl Zeiss 100mm F3.5 C T* lens that is equivalent to 63mm and it is a mysterious lens that is rarely used but contains some magical qualities. One day I hope to get the “Noctilux” of Hasselblad, which is the Carl Zeiss 110mm F2 lens that will produce stunning bokeh!

I loved shooting with 35mm film on my MP, although the film qualities are presented i.e. the great exposure latitude, dynamic range and tonality but the sharpness is not up to the standard that I desired. Medium format film seems to be the “Perfect” solution for this, it has incredible sharpness, even at 100% crop looks tack-sharp amazing to me. Although with the significant gain of resolution over 35mm film but it still retains all the film qualities that makes it so attractive. There is also a great gain in shallower Depth-of-Field and the bokeh from the lenses are incredible. The frame is 6×6 which makes it a unique square shape that stands out from all other images. I have yet to print those images in large sizes but have heard that you can even blown them up to 2 by 2 meters prints, which is perfect for commercial usage.

It has been a real joy to use the hasselblad and I am still amazed at its quality. While my journey in the medium format world continues that I would highly recommend for anyone wanting try out medium format film photography : do not hesitate!

Please feel free to visit my Flickr or 500px to see more of my work:

Flickr: HYPERLINK “http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerrybay/” http://www.flickr.com/photos/jerrybay/

500px: HYPERLINK “http://500px.com/jerrybay” http://500px.com/jerrybay

 

“Father & Son” Ilford Delta 400

Father & Son

 

“Hairy Chest” Ilford HP5+

Hairy Chest 

“1958 Chevrolet Corvette” Ilford HP5+ 

1958 Chevrolet Corvette

“French Nun” Fuji Reala 100

French Nun 

“In the Wind” Fuji 400H

In the Wind

Jan 022013
 

My top 12 for 2012 by Jason Howe

As the year draws to a close, I felt it would be a worthwhile exercise to reflect on 12 of my photographs from the last calendar year, images that I feel were significant to me for one reason or another and to elaborate on the reasons behind their selection.

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” these words, immortalized by the great Ansel Adam’s are of course well-known in photographic circles, but are they still relevant in todays photographic world? Well, I believe so, of course it’s true that this statement originates from a generation where even the most industrious of photographers would have taken far less photographs than we do in the digital age, yet despite this obvious imbalance I feel it still holds some relevance.

Firstly, we must understand the context to the word “significant”, as only a relative handful of individuals are in a position to be producing images of “global” significance it’s important that we measure significance on a personal level and furthermore that we’re clear on the underlying reasons for that significance. Whilst this objective may seem quite achievable vs. the number of photographs taken, we must endeavor to look subjectively at our “crop” amongst the good, great and wonderful images we’ve collected only some will hold true significance.

I’ve applied the definitions of “meaning” and “importance” to the word significant, in addition to this I have imposed a further caveat that the image be technically sound although one could certainly argue that there are technically poor photographs that are of extreme significance, that is really a personal judgement.

Of course you may have more and you may have less? If you have hundreds, I’d suggest you look again! Too few, well there is always next year. Remember, I’m not talking about the number of good shots you have, just your significant ones.

Bridge Dynamic – Leica M9 – 15mm Voigtlander Super WIde Heliar f/4.5

Bridge Dynamic – This image featured in my User Report on the Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5, you can view that HERE. I know from the emails and comments I received following this post that many people either went out and bought this lens on the back of my report or were able to achieve superior results because of it. The satisfaction that came with knowing my images and writing had assisted others really was the most rewarding experience. As a result of that and because this really is the most incredible little lens this image is included here.

Bridge Dynamic

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Day Dreamer – Leica M9 – 50mm Leica Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE

Day Dreamer – This is one of my favorite images of my youngest son and whilst that is reason enough in its own right to be included here it also marked the arrival of the 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE lens. This heralded a significant shift in my thinking on lenses. Yes, I moved from cautious to cavalier in the blink of an eye, in the main, because I had established that rangefinders were going to be my cameras of choice for a long time to come. You can read about my purchase of this lens HERE if you want a laugh….. As it happens I have not used this lens as much as I thought I would, that’s no reflection on the lens, just my attentions have been elsewhere, it is on my list to explore further in the new year.

Day Dreamer

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End of the Road – Leica M9 – 35mm Leica Summicron f/2 Asph

End of the Road – Looking too hard, yes I’ve found myself doing this a few times over the course of this year, I’m sure it’s a condition many will relate to. Your traveling to interesting places, thinking there must be a photograph here somewhere and before you know it that’s all your thinking about and it can become counter productive. This image and several others that almost made it in to this selection were taken on a road trip with my son’s, relaxed and having fun I still managed to see photographs, in fact I probably saw more and it finally sunk in that you don’t have to be on high alert to see photographic potential around you. This particular scene was spotted in the rear view mirror as we drove past in the opposite direction, I guess that kind of proves my point.

End of the Road

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Awakenings – Leica M9 – 15mm Voigtlander Super WIde Heliar f/4.5

Awakenings – Striking a balance between your love of photography and your love of family, should be easy, right? I’ve touched on this before and it is still one of the biggest challenges I have come across photographically. My family was of course quite used to seeing me with a camera over the years, but when my relationship with the camera became a little more serious (ok, obsessive) then at times it seemed there was a conflict between to two. This image serves as a reminder that with a little care, it is possible to combine the two, although admittedly there is probably still plenty of room for improvement on my part. Taken on a celebratory break in Queenstown, this image almost never came about as I seriously contemplated leaving my gear at home in a bid to avoid any photography/family clash. A last-minute change of plan and some of that care I mentioned previously, proved the two can be combined, most of the time…..you can see all the images from this post HERE.

Awakenings

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Showtime – Leica M9 – 50mm Leica Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE

Showtime – So many great memories are encapsulated in this one image, it really embodies all that is magical about the theatre in my eyes. My post The Producers which you can see HERE was the culmination of my time spent with the Tauranga Musical Theatre. What initially started as a one-off project has now evolved in to a more regular association. This ongoing involvement holds more than photographic significance to me, it enables me to be in the company of other creative individuals and that has been a real blessing.

Showtime

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The Mob – Leica M9 – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1

The Mob – An image with dual significance, I realized a long time ago that you can either sit around and wait for things to happen or you can make them happen. Have the courage to ask and be prepared to try new things, this mindset got me behind the scenes at the regions biggest horse racing meet and I was delighted to capture this scene. Less significant but still worth baring in mind is a point about equipment, I was prepared to part company with the 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 lens that was used in the making of this image. I hadn’t given it enough time on the camera and consequently I had not seen it at its best. I learnt a valuable lesson on the day I shot these images, you must get to know your gear and be prepared to take the time to do so.

The Mob

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Lakeview – Leica M6 – 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5

Lakeview – I began to shoot and develop film around 18 months ago because I felt somehow that I had missed out and also because it could only improve my photography in the long run, now with the benefit of hindsight I believe it was the right move and I would recommend this route to anyone. I suppose when I look at this particular image I associate it with my love of film photography. Certainly I have a very long way to go when it comes to film and this will be something I look to explore more in the coming year.

Kodak Gold 200

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Misty Mornings – Leica M9 – 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph

Misty Mornings – I’ll always look at this image and remember the wonderful time I spent on the road with my boys earlier in the year, having fun, exploring new places and really seeing them in a different light. Much like the light in this image their personalities and sense of humor really shone through on this road trip, we had so many laughs. Photographically, this journey really highlighted the quality of the 35mm Summicron f/2 which I had considered selling just a few months before. I bonded with that lens and in truth it was the only lens I needed on that trip. You can see the full post of images from the East Cape HERE.

Misty Mornings

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Rock Thrower – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5

Rock Thrower – One of the main draws to the Leica M9 and indeed the M/LTM system was the ability to shoot with retro glass, this image underlines that appeal for me. Shot on an inexpensive, 49 year old lens from the former Soviet Union I still look at it today with the feeling that I could almost reach in to the scene, such is the quality of the 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5. Proof if any were needed that it is still possible to get great quality without spending a small fortune. Not to mention, so much fun to shoot because there is always a chance of a magic. You can read my User Report on this lens HERE.

Rock Thrower

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Reach Out – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Leica Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE

Reach Out – The Leica M Monochrom didn’t mark any great shift in preference from colour to b&w for me, it’s quite clear from my photographs that b&w imagery is very much a part of my photographic identity. I mention it here because I have a strong feeling from what I have already seen from this camera that it is going to be very significant for me, I guess only time will tell……….This image featured in my first post from this camera which can be seen HERE.

Reach Out

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A Turning Point – Leica M3 – 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5

A Turning Point – This image has not appeared on here before, shot on Ilford HP5 plus 400 it made such an impression on me that for a while there I was considering abandoning digital and shooting solely with film. However one thing that I learnt early in photography is that your opinion on a specific genre, image, film type, you name it, can change quite quickly and decisions need to be considered. As time past my love of film remained strong but I eventually began to see that for me at least it did not need to be a choice between film and digital, I can see the merits of both, therefore I should enjoy both.

A Turning Point

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Lake Placid – Leica M9 – 35mm Summicron f/2 v.1

Lake Placid – I had the remarkable good fortune to not only discover some great equipment this year but more importantly the photography of the late Roland G Phillips-Turner, so far I’ve featured his work twice on my website with more to follow in the new year. It’s really been a discovery that has bought myself and many others a huge amount of joy. The image above was shot with the 35mm Summicron f/2 v.1 that belonged to the aforementioned photographer, this was certainly the first time it had been used in many years and it worked it’s magic accordingly. A great reminder of this wonderful discovery

Lake Placid

Food for thought…….

Taking an overview of my selections here it’s actually quite insightful and as it happens, a very accurate assessment of my shooting habits, for instance –

Two of the twelve photographs are film, equating to 1/6th of the images This is an accurate reflection of the amount of film I’ve shot this year compared to digital, I really want to increase this next year.

Three of the images or 1/4 are in colour. Again, I’d say this is a fair reflection. I only want to make great photographs, B&W or Colour it makes no difference to me, although it’s fair to say I can’t see the the ratio of colour increasing next year.

It’s been a good year for me photographically, I’ve continued to develop and whilst there have been challenges I’ve certainly done my best to overcome them and progress. Whilst it’s always rewarding to look back on the images you’ve taken the real excitement lies in the images your yet to capture, that thought should fill us all with encouragement and excitement in equal measure, enjoy!!

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and wish you a safe and prosperous 2013.

All the best, Jason.

Dec 072012
 

The Ultimate Film Compact: The Olympus mju II

By Illya Reddy

I’d love to tell about the camera I have deep feelings for – legendary film point-and-shoot Olympus mju II (a.k.a. Stylus Epic). This summer I began to shoot film (i described my first impressions here http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/08/09/my-little-road-trip-by-illya-reddy/). This experience was un-forgetful, so I decided not to give it up. Following my friend’s advice I bought myself a mju II. And yet I would never exchange it for any other film camera. This is my world’s best camera #1. Let me explain why this camera got such a special place in my heart.

Size

To say that “This camera is small” means to say nothing. When I first got my hands on Olympus mju II it was hard to believe one could fit a roll of film in it. The shape is just right, the lens covering doesn’t open when you put camera in jeans’ pocket. Nevertheless the price you have to pay for compact body is ergonomics. It is not very easy to hold it with one hand and not to cover the lens with your finger. But I have gotten used to it, so hopefully everybody will.

Lens

The main point of mju II is fixed 35mm f/2.8 lens. They managed to fix this beautiful sharp technology masterpiece in such a tiny body. Focal length is just right for me – not too tele (like 50mm would be), not too wide (like 28mm would be). F/2.8 is not that large aperture, but for the lens this size it is great result. At f/2.8 images are a bit soft in the corners but when it stops down a little bit images are sharp edge to edge.

Automatic camera

Aperture and shutter speed are not manually adjustable, unfortunately. But good news is great metering system, I had no problems with camera under- or overexposing shots. AF is pretty fast, and it is MultiAF, so there is more than one AF point (I believe there are 3 of them, but I’m not sure). Nevertheless it does not misses focus sometimes, but it doesn’t happen often. Also you can use central metering mode (I believe in this mode both metering and AF use only the central point) and it actually works well. But you have to turn this mode on every time you turn on the camera, which is not easy at all: it requires pressing two buttons at the same time. Flash always resets to auto mode and if you want to be sure it won’t fire you need to turn it off every time you restart the camera.

Price

Price is quite reasonable. You can find it on e-bay for ~60$ if you are lucky as I was you’ll find it for 10-20$. Price looks even nicer when comparing to its main competitors’ price tags: Yashica T4, Contax G2 – these film compact cameras are also famous for their 35mm lenses, but they are much more expensive.

Not a perfect camera – that’s for sure. But if you manage with its quirks Olympus mju II will serve you faithfully. For me it is a perfect film camera: I just load it with 1$ expired film and grab it with me in any kind of tough places or just whenever I’m in a mood to shoot film. It does the job!
Thanks for reading!
My flickr page
My page on Momentum’s website

 

 

Nov 282012
 

Momentum: From Eastern Europe with Love

By Illya Reddy

Last ten years one could call a ‘photography revival’ decade. Not just for photography in general, but especially for street photography. More and more people are interested in it, some love it, some hate, but no one can ignore it. There is no point talking about reasons of photography and particularly street photography becoming so popular. We all know them – ‘all-mighty’ digital technologies.

And I am glad about it: new names, new masterpieces. Thanks to Internet connecting us all, it is now easier to exchange our opinions and knowledge than ever before. But quantity unfortunately does not always mean quality. And though it is easier to share information with each other, it became much harder to find something outstanding. The same tendency is present for street photography: there are numerous photographers, but in is hard to find the good ones. That is why some of them started creating communities trying to differentiate themselves following the good example of Magnum Photos. And that is why the Momentum street photography collective has been founded.

Let me tell a little bit about Momentum which has been established by the new generation of street photographers with Eastern European roots. I was honoured to be a co-founder of this community when it started in September 2012. Our idea was to unite passionate street photographers who were born and raised in former USSR countries and show the world through these eyes. We travel, we observe the world you see, just with our way of seeing.

When we started, there were four of us and then two more photographers joined us. So now there are six photographers born in Russia or Ukraine and now living in four different countries (Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Great Britain). We are here to show you how we see the world around us and hope that you will enjoy the views.

Our website: momentumstreet.com

Our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/momentumstreet

Our Vkontakte page: http://vk.com/momentumstreet

Anastasia Kichigina

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Mikhail Palinchak

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Dmitry Stepanenko

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Ilya Atlas

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Max Chichinskiy

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Illia Krasnoshchok

Nov 272012
 

 

I Shoot Digital Film by Ofri Wolfus

Hi Steve, how’s everything doing? The other day, while scanning some negatives, it suddenly hit me. I was shooting Digital Film. I immediately thought this might be of interest to your readers, and so decided to write this article. It’s a bit technical but I think understanding these things can really improve one’s work.

In the rest of this article I’d like to discuss what Digital Film is (other than a term I made up :) ), and how anyone can take advantage of it. However, in order to truly understand the idea let’s first understand how digital photography works.

From the moment we press the shutter button of our digital camera, to the point we have a finished photograph, the following three steps usually take place:

1. The sensor inside the camera captures the light hitting it, producing a bunch of digital data.

2. The camera’s firmware then creates a JPEG and/or RAW files. It usually does some processing on the data generated in the first step along the way.

3. We take the image files our camera produced to our computer, and then we apply further modifications to the image until we have a finished file.

Now lets zoom in a bit, and understand what happens in each of the above steps. Firstly, I bet a lot of people are unaware of it but our fancy digital sensors are actually *analog*. Yes, you’re reading this right. The part which converts light to electricity, the thing of which actual pixels are made of and where the magic really happens, is actually an analog device ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge-coupled_device ). Once light hits this analog device it generates electric voltage, which is an analog signal. This analog signal is then passed through an analog amplifier which then effectively boosts the ISO and adds noise. Finally, the signal is fed to a digitizer and then, and only then, our photo becomes digital. Another little known fact is that a digital sensor has a single sensitivity to light. Increasing the ISO in the camera simply increases the amount of analog signal amplification, but the sensor’s sensitivity to light remains unchanged.

At this point lets stop for a second and look back at what we have. Surprisingly, this mechanism is extremely similar to how we work with film. First, we expose the film to light. Then we develop the film, at which point we can push process it, effectively increasing its ISO and adding “noise”. Finally we pick our scanner and digitize the analog data captured on the film. Have you ever noticed this similarity before? :)

Anyhow, lets continue with our process. Once we got the digitized data from our sensor, our camera starts to process this data. First, it applies some noise reduction in order to compensate for the noise generated by the analog amplifier (higher ISO). Then two things can happen – either the camera applies further processing and creates a JPEG, or it leaves the data as is and saves a RAW file. Conceptually however, creating a JPEG is just letting the camera automatically perform the tasks we’d be manually performing on the RAW file, so let’s assume our camera is set to produce RAWs. Again, this resembles the scanning process very much. We can set our scanner to produce RAW files or JPEGs.

Finally, we have our RAW files in our computer. Usually, we’ll apply the following processing in any particular order: color balancing, sharpening, further noise reduction, any kind of color manipulation (saturation, contrast, etc) and so on. Obviously, we’ll do this kind of processing to any type of RAW file, regardless of its origin – be it a digital camera or film.

Now ladies and gentlemen, you know what Digital Film is. It’s both a workflow and a state of mind. You’ve probably been doing it yourself already but perhaps didn’t fully realize the potential, so lets explore it a bit further. When working with digital cameras there are certain techniques that are common. We may also apply them to Digital Film in order to produce really interesting results. Before that however, I’d like to point out two key differences between the “pure” digital workflow and the digital film workflow.

First of all, when film is your origin you actually have the analog data at hand. The equivalent in a digital camera would be to record the electric voltage generated by the sensor to some intermediate media, and postpone its digitization to a later point. Obviously, separating the digitization stage leaves the maximum theoretical resolution fixed, but the actual sampled resolution highly depends on your digitizer (scanner). Conceptually, imagine you had a digital camera that produced huge RAW files. They were so huge that your computer was unable to open them as is. Instead, in order to be able work with them, it automatically scaled them down. If you had a better computer it could scale them down less, and let you work with a file that’s closer to the original. At the time of this writing, this is the state of film scanners (digitizers). They’re not advanced enough to fully extract the details in all film formats.

The second key difference is color. Every digital sensor has its own unique color signature. It’s the way the sensor converts light to a color image. Film however, has a much stronger signature, and each film type has a different one. Conceptually, it’s as if the digital sensor could apply saturation, contrast, color balance, etc before the analog amplifier that increases the ISO. If we had that, each digital camera would produce a very different look, much like different film stocks have completely different looks.

Finally, let’s see how we can exploit this difference in color rendition for our use. For many digital shooters, myself included, pressing the shutter is when we set the framing, composition and exposure. We then have a rough idea of what the final image should look like but we postpone all color modification to RAW processing. Taking this state of mind and applying it to film is simply fascinating. First of all, in my experience, RAW files from scanned film have much more latitude to work with. Second, we get to work with very interesting base colors. When opening RAW files from a digital camera one usually gets dull and flat colors. With film RAWs however, the film’s unique look is already baked in. Saturation, contrast and color balance are already “in the pixels”.

Another neat idea is to think of film RAWs as digital without NR and sharpening applied. Some tools have magical noise reduction abilities and are able to almost completely remove the grain of low ISO films. This then produces files that look digital in their cleanness, but retain the unique film look. Neat Image is one such tool. With low ISO films that have very fine grain, and high enough resolution scans it’s able to completely remove the grain without affecting the sharpness. That said, since grain size is fixed but scan resolution is not, different scan resolutions require different noise reduction techniques.

The last technique I found about lately, and became hooked, is to add film filters such as Alien Skin Exposure and Nik Color/Silver Efex to the scanned film. These can combine with the unique rendering of the emulsion and turn out spectacular colors that I’m unable to get in any other way. Converting color scans to B/W using some B/W “film” filter also produces a very unique look.

Pretty much any digital workflow can be adapted to film this way if you take a moment to understand where it fits in the different processing stages. However, there’s one thing you need to be aware of. Excessively modifying film RAWs will kill the unique film look. You’ll easily end up with a file that looks like it’s “completely digital”. Obviously this isn’t a bad thing, just something to keep in mind. Basically, like with any other effect, don’t overdo it :)

In conclusion, my personal belief is that neither film nor digital is better. To my eyes they are quite similar in the technical concept, but greatly vary in execution. Each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. They are, in fact, completing each other if you get your workflow right and are not afraid of exploring new things.

Some Examples

So far I processed less than 10 rolls using the ideas described above, but here’s my flickr set with the shots I like so far http://www.flickr.com/photos/ofriwolfus/sets/72157632100772083 On each shot I tried to explain the methods I used for processing, though I’m quite new to film and its processing in general. This is turning into a really fun way of shooting for me, and I hope for others too.

Kodak Ektar 100 scanned with Plustek OpticFilm 7600i. Simply reduced any noise/grain with Neat Image, balanced color in Photoshop and applied unsharp mask. I tried to make it as clean as digital but retain the Ektar look.

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Me and my GF, shot on Kodak T-Max 3200 and scanned with Plustek OpticFilm 7600i. Tint added with Alien Skin Exposure, contrast was adjusted a bit in Photoshop from the RAW scan.

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Shot on Fuji Provia 400x pushed to 1600. Scanned with Plustek OpticFilm 7600i, but this time I used the proper color space for the file. It was then passed through Neat Image to clean up the grain, then further processed in Photoshop for color balance, sharpening and some curves.

Cheers,

Ofri

Nov 202012
 

Steve,

I’ve been through my own GAS cycle going from Canon 5D to Leica with side trips to the NEX and Fuji. The current equipment is Leica and Olympus. Recently, I bought an M6 and have been working with film, developing it at home. I scan the negatives/positives with an Epson V600. One great thing about film is the experience of waiting, developing, and then seeing what you got. NO CHIMPING.

I was shooting with the M9, M6, and X-Pro on my last vacation trip. The lenses used for these photos were a Voigtlander 15mm and a Leica 35mm Summarit-M. I usually work with 50mm and longer lenses so this was a departure from standard for me.

Film stock was Fuji Velvia, KODAK TMAX 100, KODAK Tri-X 400 pushed to 1000. Why push to 1000? Because I read an article, and I could.

Black and White developed in XTOL, Velvia developed by lab.

I make no claims as a great photographer or darkroom chemist. You can see that with just a few changes to equipment and chemistry a wide variety of looks are possible.

The last picture in this series came about when I was using up the last frames of a roll. Shooting the boys jumping in the pool and then there was a guest appearance…

 

Leica M9, Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5

(It was very hazy so I used a circular polarizing filter forgetting the effect it would have on a 15mm lens, thus the uneven sky color)

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Leica M6, 35mm Summarit-M. Kodak Tri-X 400

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Leica M6, 35mm Summarit-M, Fuji Velvia

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Leica M6, Voigtlander 15mm, Kodak TMAX 100
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Leica M6, 35mm Summarit-M, Kodak Tri-X 400
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Stop the camera madness!!!!!
Best,
Gary

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