Jan 042014
 

dragan

USER REPORT: 9 Photos, 9 Places, 9 Cameras

By Dragan Arrigler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dragan Arrigler

www.arrigler.com

Dec 302013
 

brettprice501

User Report: Shooting Portraits with the Hasselblad 501cm

By Brett Price

Hey Steve,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyways, I hope you like my photos!

Technical details for the gear heads:

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

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

Scanned on a Fuji Frontier Scanner.

 

I also post regularly to my website:

www.iambrettprice.com

 

As well as my tumblr account:

brettprice.tumblr.com

 

And not to forget flickr:

www.flickr.com/photos/brettprice

 

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Dec 272013
 

Mama, don’t take my Ektachrome away 

By: Ibraar Hussain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Portraits with a black background and front lighting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Standard shallow depth of field with diffused front lighting Portraits

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Harsher midday sun light and group portrait

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

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

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

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

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

Environmental Portraits with a Wide Angle

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy snapping!

Dec 102013
 

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

By Ryan Melideo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to drop me a line anytime!

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Oct 022013
 

“Down The Drain” 

Down the drain

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

Max Marinucci Photography

Fine Art Photography

Silver Gelatin and Photogravure

South Salem, NY

www.maxmarinucci.com

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

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

“The Old Man By The Window”

Old Man By The Window

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

“Porte, Cassis” 

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

“Strength and Grace”

Strength and Grace

The Prints:

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

A word about the Photogravure process:

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

Oct 012013
 

Japan 1979

by John Shingleton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sep 242013
 
Scotland with the Mamiya 7
by Brett Price
Hey Steve,
I thought I would share a few photos and my experience with another rangefinder I had the pleasure of borrowing from a friend for my trip. Thanks again for creating a place where people can do this. I’ve had 3 other posts on your site, all of which highlight my experience with different rangefinder cameras and systems. I thought it would be good to post another :)
I recently did a 10 day trip across the U.K. with my girlfriend. I brought my Leica M7 w/ 50lux ASPH, (I wrote about it also here )  Hasselblad Xpan (I wrote about it also here ) and the Mamiya 7 w/ 80mm f4 that I borrowed from a friend. My normal 6×7 camera is the Pentax 67ii, which I decided not to bring due to the sheer size and weight. It is a truly massive camera and I went this whole trip out of one bag so every pound I could save counts. I was at first resistant to this… I love bokeh and out of focus qualities to cameras and the Pentax has the fastest lens for 6×7 that exists, the SMC 105mm f2.4. It is a fabulous portrait lens that melts backgrounds like butter not unlike the Noctilux. But 2 days into the trip, I didn’t miss the extra weight…
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The great thing about the Mamiya 7 is the weight and usability. It’s not the smallest camera but its footprint against 2 other common 6×7 cameras, the Pentax 67 and the Mamiya RZ, makes it look like a olympus pen in comparison. The image quality and sharpness is superb, it could easily be the sharpest camera system I’ve ever shot with. The predecessor to this camera was the Mamiya 6, which allowed the camera to collapse into itself to make it even smaller to carry. This was such a great design its a real shame that Mamiya didn’t incorporate it into the mamiya 7. The other drawback is the lens speed. f4 is as fast as you’re going to get on any of the available lenses which can be frustrating at times when the light is going down. I can only speak to the 80mm but I’ve heard that almost all of the other lenses are just as good in terms of their performance.
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I had never been to Europe before and I have to say that I suffered a bit from carrying 3 cameras with me. Before I left I couldn’t make up my mind as to which one I could leave so I just took all 3. I honestly wish I would have left one of them behind. Probably the Xpan although I really love some of the photos I got with it. One lesson I constantly forget is that you really only need 1 camera most of the time. If I had just brought my Leica alone I would have made it work and been able to get great photos with it and I probably would have never missed using anything else but alas, that is not how my brain works all the time and sometimes I make things harder on myself. It’s a mistake I’m sure ill make and pay for again and again.
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Overall the trip was great. Scotland is just as beautiful as I always imagined it would be and the people we met while there were some of the kindest I’ve come across. I think my favorite place was St. Andrews, a small little coastal town north of Edinburgh which is probably only know due to the golf course that its famous for. It was the only place out of anywhere we went that had almost no tourism, it felt like we had it to ourselves and for a photographer that is heaven.
As far as the other locations, there are some shots from Loch Lomond, and Beachy Head, UK.
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All images were shot on Kodak Portra 400 or 800, Fuji Superia 400, or Kodak Tri-X and scanned using the Fuji Frontier or Noritsu Scanner at my local lab. Filmboxlab.com
I constantly post to my tumblr brettprice.tumblr.com or my website www.iambrettprice.com if you would like to see more. Thanks for letting me share with you guys again. Happy shooting.
Cheers,
Brett Price
Jul 302013
 

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Downshifting with the Nikon F5

By Mark Hutchens

I was in the south of France recently on holiday and a close friend who lives there loaned me a small BMW with a very big engine in it. If you accept that nearly the entire world has speed limits hindering our enjoyment of such power, it could easily be judged as overkill. However, the sensation of driving that car was incredible. The handling, the torque, the fit and finish, all combined together to make driving an engaging experience. And then the rare bit of straight road allowed for that brief and exhilarating (law breaking) jaunt. Then at the end, a quick downshift, release of clutch and enter the curve at a sane and legal speed. There are qualitative differences in the driving experience, even if it is just getting from point A to B.

This sensation came to me again as I held for the first time an unused Nikon F5 won on eBay from a pawn shop at an embarrassingly low price. For less that $200 I had a mint example of what was the top professional SLR from Nikon for years. It felt like the BMW in my hands, and as I burned through my first rolls of Tri-X and Portra, I relished in a sort of guilty pleasure that I was taking snapshots with a weapon. The finder is the biggest and brightest I’ve ever owned from Nikon. Even my old man eyesight can manually focus with my old AIs lenses. In autofocus, the assuredness and speed of operation is unknown in my medium format rig, even if the negatives are tiny. This camera focuses my nifty fifty like a paper shredder does tissue. An AF-S lens? It’s as if it is tracking my eyeball to focus. The fit and finish is extraordinary, its lightning fast film advance felt like the BMW’s torque.

A friend with a D800 called me a Luddite and winced as if in pain when I handed it to him. It is heavy. I suggested we drop both from waist height and see which one still worked afterwards. He declined. Why on earth would I buy such a big, heavy antique? Isn’t it overkill just for a 35mm negative? I suppose it is, in the same way that BMW is, if all you want to do is move without having fun along the way and not appreciate the nuance in the technology that got you there. Am I using the F5 for its’ intended purpose as a professional sports camera? Nope. Do I need 8 frames per second with 35mm film? Do I really want to chew through a 36 exposure roll of film in 4.5 seconds? Not anymore than I want that speeding ticket, but you never know. There might be a straight road somewhere and my daughters’ real smile may come at any second.

I usually don’t participate in the on line realm because I see too many “purist” folk who think photography is only for art and not for process, as if there are that many artists out there to begin with. I value the process and I accept that my snaps aren’t always artistic. Part of that process is feeling the nuance and capability in the technology that gets me from point A to B, even if it is only a snapshot at the end. I suspect that I will expose rolls of film in my F5 I will never develop, but I will revel in the process itself.

A mint condition F5 costs half the price of the EVF on your most recent camera. Go get one, and don’t let the purist police write you a ticket for enjoying your equipment for its own sake.

Mark

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Jul 262013
 

“In Praise of Film”

(…Yes, even for kids!)

Hi Steve,

Given all the recent posts regarding emulation software, I though it might be worthwhile to send you a bona-fide film post for all the “senseless die-hards” out there. About a year ago, I became one of them… Growing up, I had an EOS Rebel film body, and only pressed the shutter when I absolutely had to. Most of the pictures turned out poorly, and I had no idea why. I thought film was incredibly scary. (And expensive!) Thankfully digital came along…

Thirteen months ago, I was inspired by you and Peter (Thanks Prosophos!) to finally shoot and develop my own roll of B&W film. Thanks to the detailed instructions on his site, the process went flawlessly, and I haven’t looked back since.

I have now exposed about 900 film frames (some good, some bad ;) ) and have since learned to develop my color film as well. The process is incredibly easy, especially if you have the knack for B&W. I have posted a detailed guide on my site at http://iftimestoodstill.net

Included below are five quick picks from my recent favorites. I hope others are inspired to “keep up the art”. Once equipment is purchased, and your workflow is sorted out, it is actually not all that expensive or time-consuming (And yes, I know it doesn’t make sense…that’s why it’s senseless!) …But it sure is satisfying when they turn out well! For me, it will never replace digital, but at least it is nice to have a hobby that most people find somewhat intriguing.

Zeiss Ikon was used for all below; “Dandelion” was taken with Nikkor 8.5 cm LTM and the  Zeiss Sonnar 50 mm f/1.5 was used for the other two color photos. The Voigtlander 35 mm f/1.2 VII was used for the B&W images.

Thanks and best regards,

Mark Ewanchuk

http://iftimestoodstill.net

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Jul 252013
 

Using The Hasselblad X-Pan by Brett Price

Hey Steve,

I recently purchased a Hasselblad Xpan with the 45mm f4 lens and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on it for your website. Thanks again for making a site where people can do this. In light of their recent (laughable) offerings as a company I’m still optimistic they can change course and still make excellent cameras like they used to. Hopefully this semi-review/experience can breathe a bit of hope back into people, even if now its only nostalgia. I’m still hoping for a digital Xpan!

This camera has a cool story, I bought it from a teacher of mine who happens to be the Cinematographer of some excellent films such as Anchorman, Beetlejuice, and Jumanji and it was actually originally purchased while filming Anchorman. I believe he shot around 6 rolls through it total and has pretty much sat inside the original packaging until I purchased it from him. It’s as mint as it gets :)

I started shooting the camera as soon as I received it and I must say, in terms of build quality and feel, it’s as solid as a Leica. I honestly didn’t expect this only seeing photos of it online. For some reason the exterior looks very plastic-y which seems to throw off the conception of weight and build quality. Its pretty heavy for a camera its size but handles extremely well. I personally love shooting with it and its been my go to camera lately. I love cinema and movies and for some reason nothing makes a shot more cinematic looking that being in a near 3:1 aspect ratio. I don’t feel like my photos are all that different from what I typical shoot but this camera gives them a look that is extremely interesting and cinematic.

If you are interested in one of these cameras there are a few things I learned upon receiving it that I didn’t know (good and bad). There is actually a way to make the camera shoot normal 35mm aspect ratio as well as panoramic. There is a switch on the back that opens and closes a set of “blinders” inside the camera. I don’t really understand why this was done or why anyone would want to use it but ok, it’s there. The camera loads the entire roll into the take up reel when you first put the film in, this means if you accidentally open the camera, you probably just flashed most of your roll. I see this as good and bad, the good news is the shots you’ve taken are protected, the bad news is that you might loose a whole roll of film if opened. I doubt this will happen I just found it interested due to the fact it works almost totally opposite of any other 35mm camera I’ve used. There is no shutter speed indicator in the viewfinder (only on the first model is this a problem). So if you shoot on auto you have readouts as to what is being properly exposed and what is over and under. Much like a Leica you have — O + near the bottom of the viewfinder but this is always the case rather than on an M7 it would tell you the exact shutter speed.

The images you get from the camera are sharp. very sharp in my opinion. I don’t really see the tell tale 3D rendering I’m used to with my 501cm but its got a nice unique look to it regardless. Its stiffer to use than you would think, which is a plus in my opinion and its pretty easy to focus with the rangefinder patch being brighter than my M7.

Anyway I bought the camera on a whim and its quickly become one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy the photos. I constantly update my tumblr account with new work if you want to check out more in the future as I update. Its: BrettPrice.tumblr.com

Happy Shooting,

Brett Price

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Jul 022013
 

A discontinued look of Sapa with APS film

by Minh Nghia – Blog is HERE

Today we will be looking at something that is going to be forgotten.

In 1996, Kodak introduced APS film (Advanced Photo System) with smaller size than the popular 35mm: 25.1 x 16.7 mm vs 24 × 36 mm. The crop factor is about 1.44x. It has some advance features like recording aspect ratio, the date and time that the photograph was taken, exposure data such as shutter speed and aperture setting, more or less like EXIF in digital files. Most interestingly, the film comes with 3 image formats: Classic 3:2, High-Definition 16:9 and Panorama 3:1.

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Nonetheless, APS has been discontinued completely in 2011, mainly because of economic reasons (film production/developing cost). Rarely you hear people talking about it, even in film community.

Below are some pictures that I got from a trip to Sapa (highland in Vietnam) on a roll of expired Kodak Advantix 400 APS film using the Canon ELPH LT. It is a very small size Point-n-Shoot (PnS) camera using APS film that I got from my Dad. Some specs of the forgotten camera: fix lens 23mm f4.8 (equivalent to 35mm field of view for full-frame), 1-point autofocus, Program meter, 1/650 – 1/2 sec and weight only 120 grams.

There are only 25 exposures in one roll and that’s all I have for the trip. My favorite setting is High Definition 16:9 ratio, not only the image is more “panorama” but the viewfinder changes as well. That makes a whole difference of how I compose the image – horizontally. The camera is extremely light and small so that I can bring it with me everywhere. Knowing its limitation (fix aperture), I don’t expect much of “creamy bokeh” or alike, but the image quality for landscape shots is quite impressive. Lastly, it feels much enjoyable and special for each shutter count since I was capturing a beautiful landscape of Vietnam – my homeland, on something old & expired with a “discontinued” look. The reddish look with a bit of vignette on foggy days in Sapa becomes a part of my memory.

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May 312013
 

Friday Film! The Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f1.7 Aspherical: The secret little gem

by Mattia Giovanni

Hi Steve,

Thank you for your great work of divulgation about photography!

My adventure with range finders began unexpectedly in a beautiful autumn sunny day of the 2009. I was exploring an interesting flea market, when I saw an old Leica M3. It was love from the first moment, and my photographic style and philosophy was strongly influenced ever since.

I was already enough expert about photographic techniques and instruments, both analog and digital, but I never used a rangefinder camera before. Was a real revolution! What a great find: I discovered an easy and lightweight stealthy camera, with a precise focusing system for any kind of lighting, at long last!

This camera came with the much-discussed Leitz Summarit 50mm f1.5 in screw mount, adapted for the M system. It was a great combo in my opinion: I really enjoyed the character and the classic output of this old couple, but they wasn’t appropriate for my photo ethnographic and reportage work.

I needed to have a camera that made my work more comfortable with TTL metering, and a lens with a wider perspective. Something like a 28mm or a 35mm, and at the same time a suitable for lowlight situations. To find a new camera wasn’t very hard: I went for a Leica M6. I was excited also by the Zeiss Ikon ZM, but finally the matchless charm of Leica Red Dot kidnapped me completely.

For the lens wasn’t so simple. My dream was the Leitz Summilux 35mm pre-Asph. An absolutely perfect lens for its dimensions, weight and performances, but too expensive for a poor student with only a poorly paid job.

Another possibility could be the Zeiss Biogon 35 f2, but again: no way with its price. At this point, because I did not want to bet on rare specimens by Nikon and Canon in LTM, with a bit of fear I began to explore the unknown shores of the Voigtlander continent.

Initially I found the interesting Nokton 35mm f1.4. It seemed to be a perfect lens: cheap, but small and unobtrusive like the old Lux 35 moreover! My road seemed to be written, but what about the focus shift? Argh! Sadly many sources on the web diagnosed that problem to this lens…

Of course, I could never love a lens with this defect.

Solutions on the horizon?

…maybeeee YES! another Voigtlander: the Ultron 35mm f1.7 Aspherical in LTM!

The only problem was that there wasn’t review available on the web, so I decided to risk and I at the end purchased it.

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What I found?

The little Ultron it’s an hidden treasure. I’m not a pixel-counter and I don’t care laboratory tests, charts and strange artificial reviews, but I’m someone that loves take photos.

And in real life this lens shows formidable skills. With a maximum aperture of f1.7, this lens is suitable for almost every light situation: this is a fundamental characteristic for me because I really love shoot in natural dim light.

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Its 8 elements in 6 groups, with one aspherical surface, produce shots with a great sharpness and seem to show every detail. Even wide open it’s a razor, with only a negligible loss of quality in the extreme borders. The Aspherical surface also protects from the focus shift and avoids distortions: I often use this lens for shooting architecture without perceiving any alteration of the field lines.

The color rendition is neutral, and respectful of the natural tones of subjects; also the saturation is well balanced and without any excess. Its yield, especially in black and white, allows to the films to express the best of their dynamic range also when contrast is very strong.

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Furthermore the Ultron shows a nice smooth and buttery bokeh, without distracting elements, though it is not fully comparable to Leica results. Its dimensions are almost excellent, unfortunately is not small like the Nokton 35 or the Summilux pre-asph 35, but not much more, and then it intrudes only a bit in the viewfinder in the lower right corner. Nothing to worry about in short.

The only downside of this lens is the ergonomics. Why? It lacks the focusing tab, and though the focus ring is silky smooth, can be slippery sometimes. Be that as it may, I’ve taken great shots with this lens, and I found a perfect companion for my Leica M6.

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If you have the opportunity, you have to try it!

Cheers!

Mattia

May 202013
 

“Leaving Your Comfort Zone”

by Brian T Adams

Hello everyone. My fiancée and I recently went on our first trip to New York City. What a fantastically chaotic place. From all the sounds and sights akin to those in the movies to the chaotic guy on the subway yelling to the cosmos some sort of declaration that scared the hell out of everybody, New York was nonstop. And we loved it.

I wanted to seize the opportunity to photograph a new and foreign place. Yet, this time I wanted to do something different. I almost exclusively find myself trying to photograph landscapes and the occasional structure; sometimes with success, many times not. The more I am consumed by photography in general, the more I realize that a great many of the most iconic photos ever made are of people. For me, the idea of shooting a photo of a complete stranger, up close and personal, couldn’t have been more uncomfortable and awkward. Despite experiencing mild to moderate nausea at the thought of sticking a camera in the face of a stranger, I was determined to come away with some photos of people.

Within the first five minutes of being off the subway in Manhattan, I realized it was not going to be as easy as I had somehow convinced myself it might be. Perhaps I was just initially overwhelmed with it all. Eventually I concluded the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So, my first bite would be with street performers. I figured I’d give them a little dough and I’d take a couple of photos in exchange…I couldn’t have been the first person to have done this. Looking back, this was the perfect approach to help me get comfortable confronting somebody with a camera.

While I enjoyed this approach, I needed to get a little deeper. Eventually, I just started walking up to people and asking them if I could take their picture. The first couple times I did this, I could hardly keep the camera steady I was so nervous. Oddly enough, though, nobody ever said no. In fact, some people’s reactions were down right hilarious if not absurd. A couple of guys thought I was joking, one looked around in nervous fashion as if caught up in a prank and then fixed his hair when he realized I was serious. Another person, who was sitting on a bench at the time, quickly stood up and immediately got ready; clearly this wasn’t his first rodeo. Eventually, I was taking pictures of random people without saying a word. They weren’t necessarily portraits or even up close, but many times the subjects knew I was taking photos of them and they didn’t seem to object.

To be fair, I have to admit, my nerves got the best of me many times. A lot of the close up pictures I took – even after asking – didn’t come out. Most were because I miss focused (shallow DOF) or had a poor composition. For some reason, I tended to want to put people’s heads in the lower half of the frame instead of the upper half. At least I found out something I need to work on. Keep in mind that I would usually only take one or two of a subject and then move on without looking at the image and some others were shot with film. I didn’t want to waste people’s time so, either way, each shot was a commitment. If nothing else, though, it helped me get more comfortable wielding a camera in public.

Ultimately, I left New York with some photos I like, some epic memories, and a new outlook. I absolutely want to get better at people photography. I had serious doubts about trying a whole new approach to photography. If anybody has been thinking about trying something different with their approach to photography, from my limited experience, it’s worth. If nothing else, it helped me interact with many people I wouldn’t normally have had I not taken their photo. Go out and get uncomfortable.

The gear:

Fuji X-E1 with 35mm f1.4, Canon 5DMKII with 24-105 f4 (great all around lens, nice bokeh on the long end, and I wanted a wide lens for buildings and stuff), and Canon AE-1 Program with 50mm f1.8 FD mount (a $28 powerhouse of a lens). I shot a roll of Acros 100 and a roll of Ilford Delta 100. Most shots with the Fuji and AE-1 Program had a B+W 2 stop ND so I could open the lenses up. I know that’s a lot of gear, but I don’t have a wide lens for the Fuji and I’m not totally ready to commit an entire trip to film (I also wanted to see how airport Xrays would affect film). There was never a time where I was carrying all that at once. I usually only had one camera at a time with me.

Wishing everyone happy shooting,

Brian T. Adams

www.silverspectrumphotography.com

 

The first group is from the Fuji X-E1

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This second group is from the Canon 5DMKII

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The third group is from the Canon AE-1P

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May 172013
 

Friday Film: The Leica M Monochrom vs Leica M6 on a wedding

By Joeri van der Kloet – see his website HERE

Let me start with explaining what I do for a living. I am a documentary wedding photographer, based in the Netherlands and a little more than two years ago I switched from a DSLR to the M-system. I work with one M9 and one M9-P and a couple of lenses. Being a documentary photographer, my approach to wedding photography is to capture real moments, without interfering in these moments. For me, and for my clients, this approach really works. The Leica M fits perfectly in this approach, after lots of practice though. During a wedding, things are happening fast, so focussing and exposure have to be adjusted continuously. Manually of course. I have trained myself to focus my lenses within an instant of a second.

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A few months ago I was asked by Transcontinenta, the company responsible for Leica in the Netherlands, whether I would be interested in testing the Leica M Monochrom on a wedding. Sure, I was interested! However, I didn’t feel like ‘testing’ a new camera on one of my clients, so I asked my friend Vivian, who is a wedding planner, if she had clients that would be interested in having a second shooter on their wedding. She came up with two couples and because I was available for those dates, I decided to shoot both weddings. The same day my contact at Leica called me and told me he had made a mistake. The Monochrom would only be available on the second date. Vivian however had already promised her clients that I would be there as a second shooter. I told her I’d come anyway, bringing another black and white camera: my trusty old Leica M6. The couple was excited and I was scared to death. Why on earth did I just say that?

I started in photography with manual film cameras: the Minolta XD-7 and XD-5. However, I had never covered a wedding with these things. When I started doing weddings, I had already switched to (D)SLRs. I don’t use my M6 that often. For professional work, it is not very usable. For fun photography, I also take the M9.

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So I decided to keep it very simple. I packed ten rolls of Kodak T-Max 400, my M6, a 35 and 50, a three-stop ND-filter, my Gossen external meter and drove all the way to the venue. During the day I shot seven rolls of film and only used the external meter occasionally. I trusted my internal exposure computer – my brains – and even left out the battery of the M6. I had to shoot at long shutterspeeds – 1/8th – and at very fast shutterspeeds, but it didn’t bother me at all that I was stuck to 400 ISO. Since I’m not exactly a machine gun shooter with the M9, the need to take ten pictures of the same moment is non-existent. Compared to a normal M9-wedding, I had to wait and anticipate more with the limited amount of frames that I had. On the other hand, it was quite fun and I enjoyed being able to work with the M6. Also, I loved the inconspicuousness of the M6, which I prefer to the M9 because of the shutter that is way more silent. Because the depression of the M6-shutter is quite big, I used a soft-release, to prevent camera shake.

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After the wedding, I mailed the films to a specialized company of which I was quite sure they’d do a good job. A little nervous, I opened the package a week later. Within one minute I knew that my internal exposure computer was still working great! All frames were perfectly exposed! Not a single one was ruined. A week later, when I had some time on my hands, I started camera scanning the frames. I needed a fast and cheap method, since the job was completely unpaid. Using my 5D2, a speedlite and a 90mm macro, I worked my way through the frames. It still took me more than a day to scan them all and I hadn’t even started selecting and editing yet. From the first frame on I decided to go hardcore: I would scan the edges of the frames and not crop the final image. It meant I had to throw away quite a few pictures that otherwise would have been good. Framing can be a little hard in the heat of the moment. Also, tilted shots, that otherwise would have been cropped, became unusable. Was I being too hard on myself?

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The more time I worked on the frames and files, the happier I became. Although the files are far from clean – TMax is pretty far from clean either – they have a unique feel and character. Maybe I fell in love with these pics, because I put so much effort and time in them, but to me they are pure and authentic. It is just one camera, two lenses, a few rolls of film and loads of work. Of course, I would have preferred to make some very nice fine-art prints in the darkroom, but I don’t have one and my dark-room skills are rusty.

The Monochrom

A few weeks later I picked up the M Monochrom and I couldn’t wait to see the results of this much praised camera. Having countless hours of experience with the M9, the Monochrom wasn’t hard to get used to at all. Even the post-processing wasn’t that hard. I only used Lightroom and was satisfied with the results. Compared to the scanned files from the M6, the Monochrom files are easier to work with, since they are so much more flexible. The toning is amazing, as is the crisp sharpness and the ability to use high ISO. After getting used to the camera I shot a wedding as a second shooter. While driving to the venue I thought it might be a good idea to make a comparison between the two cameras. Lots of things have been said about the Monochrom and one of the things is people saying: “I already have a Monochrome. It’s called Tri-X and my M2/3/4/5/6/7”.

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During the wedding, I found it hard to resist picking my M9 from my bag just to take some shots in colour, but I figured that would blur the experience. The wedding was one big party with many, many kids, lots of colours everywhere and there I was with a black and white camera.

I can’t say it felt different from shooting with the M9. The shutter is the same, as is the sound. The only noticeable difference is the high ISO capacity and that was useful. I even left my 35/1.2 at home for that reason. The biggest difference is during post-processing. There you’ll notice that sometimes black and white just doesn’t work, or sometimes just rocks! Also the files are more flexible than the M9 files and that is a good thing.

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Would I take the Monochrom or the M6 to one of my own weddings? No, unless I was asked to do so. In my work I use roughly 60% color and 40% black and white and that works. However, I like to be able to decide afterwards which picture will be converted to black and white and which picture will be in color. This is obviously not possible with the MM. With the M6 I would only use it with a couple of extra film bodies. One for high ISO film, one for color, etc. I would also have to invest in a high quality scanner and even then I would have to spend more time on each wedding, meaning my price would increase. Even though I would like that idea to work, I don’t think I can sell it. So if I, as a professional, had to choose between the two cameras, I’d go for the Monochrom. However, besides being a professional, I still have a passion for pure, raw documentary photography. And for me, the M6 just adds to the sensation of documenting reality. Despite the technical limitations of these pictures, I think I prefer them to the far better M Monochrom output. Maybe I even prefer them BECAUSE of the technical inferiority. I don’t know.

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I would have loved to keep the MM for a couple of weeks, but I had to return it. The M6 however will stay with me. Although I only shoot a few rolls each year, the amount of sheer happiness it delivers makes it impossible to part with it.

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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!

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