Jun 302015
 
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Visiting CHERNOBYL. A Photo Diary

by Gary Mather

 

Here is some brief history –

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a disaster occurred which has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power in the world. The accident occurred when the fourth reactor suffered a huge power increase. This led to the core of the reactor exploding. Due to this explosion, large amounts of radioactive materials and fuel were released into the atmosphere. This lit the combustable graphite moderator on fire. This fire greatened the release of radioactive material, which was carried by the smoke of the fire, into the environment and atmosphere.

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Radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the UK, and the eastern United States. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. About 350,000 people needed to be evacuated and moved to other places where they could live after the accident.

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Once the seriousness of the situation was known, Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the USSR at the time, quickly gathered the top physicists and nuclear experts at his disposal to assess the situation. Thirty-six hours after the initial explosion, these experts decided the residents of Pripyat must evacuate. Residents were given two hours to gather their belongings. The evacuation of Pripyat’s 43,000 residents took 3.5 hours, using 1,100 buses from Kiev. Residents remember that everyone was in a hurry, but nobody was panicking.

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The residents of Pripyat were initially told they would be evacuated only for three days. However, to this day, the town is uninhabitable. Pripyat city was founded in the 1970s, when the nuclear power plant opened. The site today is practically a museum showing the late Soviet era. With entirely abandoned buildings, including abandoned apartment buildings (four of which were yet to be used), swimming pools and hospitals, everything inside remains, from records to papers to children’s toys and clothing. Prypiat and the surrounding area will not be safe for people to live there for several centuries. Scientists think that the most dangerous radioactive elements will take up to nine hundred years to decay sufficiently to render the area safe.
We were there for a total of 2 days and I can feel we only scratched the surface of what happened on that fateful day.

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I was 13 when this disaster accoured and my only fleeting memory was seeing clips on the news as a child. To me it was something that happened a long way away in a place I could not even pronounce. I have wanted to visit this site for quite some time now, and I was, for want of a better word, lucky to have had that privilage just a few months ago.

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It is only when you are actually there can you understand the impact of such a huge global disaster, the heroism of the firefighters and the people first on the scene. It will be a memory that will stay with me for a very long time, It’s just a shame our time here was so fleeting.

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We explored hospitals, schools and the fairground where stands the almost iconic ferris wheel still waiting to be ridden to this very day. The piano still standing in the music hall and the 3 empty seats left in the burn out lecture room. In the hospital maternity dept room full of empty cots sit silent. Of the whole trip the most poignant moment was seeing the childrens gas masks littered all over the floor of the elementry school in the town of Pripyat.

Gary Mather

Jun 292015
 

Sony A7II with FE 35 1.4 and A7R with 55 1.8

by Kenneth Wang

Hi Steve,

I’m a old school amateur photographer who waited until 2009 to change from film to digital cameras. Prior to making the switch, I searched the internet for information about digital photography, when I found your site, your reviews and user reports provided a good guide for me to make the leap.

I now take pictures with Sony equipment, and in my recent trip to Japan and Alaska, I used a Sony A7II with the new FE 35mm 1.4 lens, along with a Sony A7r with the FE 55mm 1.8 lens.

Both the A7II and A7r systems take great pictures, but the character of the pictures are different as you compare them in the following pictures. The A7II has a natural rendering, while the A7r has a 3D pop.

Both the FE 35mm 1.4 lens and the FE 55mm 1.8 lens are sharp, precise and colorful.

Pictures 1 – 4 were taken with the A7r system, pictures 5 -8 were taken with the A7II system

A7ii 35mm ISO 100 125th sec f 1.4 pic 5

A7ii 35mm ISO 200 640th sec f 4 pic 6

A7ii 35mm ISO 200 640th sec f 4 pic 7

A7r 55mm ISO 100 80th sec f 10 pic 1

A7r 55mm ISO 100 200th sec f 4 pic 4

A7r 55mm ISO 100 250th sec f 7.1.jpg pic 2

A7r 55mm ISO 100 500th sec f 4 pic 3

Jun 292015
 
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Instax fun, fun, fun!

In memory of my father, Andre Lietaert.

By Ivan Lietaert

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On the 28th of February, my father, Andre Lietaert died. As my family and I were coming terms with this loss, we were going through old shoe boxes filled with pictures and old photographic albums, sifting through the pictures covering a whole life of 78 years. Then I suddenly came across a picture I had totally forgotten it even existed: a polaroid picture of me and my dad, shaky and awkward in color, between 35 and 40 years old. It must be the oldest picture I have of the two of us. In the days and weeks that followed, I was on an emotional ride, and my attention shifted to organising the funeral and more mundane tasks that needed to be done.

But that polaroid had nested deep inside my brain and soon after, I started doing research about instant pictures anno 2015. I quickly came across Fujifilm’s take on the instant picture: the Instax cameras. Until some weeks ago, I was so preoccupied with digital photography (and video), I didn’t even know that instant film is still around, or put to words even better: instant film is coming back. Polaroid stopped producing their instant film, but enthusiasts recreated the original film, and now have a huge following with their “Impossible Project”, I learned. And then there is Fujifilm’s Instax, quite popular in Asia, but less known here in Europe.

After quite extensive research, I decided to jump the wagon and I bought the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic, Fujifilm’s most advanced camera, targeted towards the creative enthusiast.

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Now, the thing is that using this camera requires a whole different approach and technique compared to digital photography. There is no chimping, no snapping, no shooting tens or hundreds of pictures and then simply deleting the bad ones. No! Taking an Instax picture is an event, it produces a unique print, that will cost you about 1 euro or 1 dollar. So immediately it makes you much more considerate and careful about the framing and the lighting, and even then, you will from time feel guilty when a shot failed. Basically, as when shooting film, it slows down the whole photographic process, and then, of course, there is the exciting waiting game as the picture is developing right there in your hands. As the picture leaves the camera after exposure, a rolling mechanism spreads the developing chemicals across the photographic paper and the development starts. After a minute or so – speed depends on the ambient temperature – the first details appear, and the picture is fully developed after approximately 10 minutes, when the chemical process comes to a halt.

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So I took my little daughter to the park and shot my first packet of 10 instax pictures there. I soon found out that this kind of photography is definitely lo-fi, with quite unsharp results, and the lighting/metering is tricky as well, with various degrees of success. But I found the whole thing so intriguing, I was hooked, I guess, and by the end of the week, I had ordered an Instax 210 online, which takes Instax Wide pictures, double the size of the Instax Mini. Both Instax cameras have been around for several years now, and I find them to be both quite well built, though plastic, of course.

Instax has been marketed in various ways. First, there is the ‘fun approach’. Young children love instant pictures; they are fascinated by the pictures as they slowly, as if by magic, appear. Kids (and their parents!) will love it when you give them the pictures to take home, much more than staring at your phone, or the back of your camera. It is great fun at parties – for the young and the old – and the people take home a lasting memory of the event.

Second, Instax is also targeted towards the hipster crowd, male and female; the younger generation of creative people, fashionable, who appreciate the things that really matter. Especially the Mini 90, with its sleek, retro-modern Fujifilm design, seems targeted at young fashionistas and cool, macho hipsters.
There is yet another, more relevant argument to consider: Print It Or Loose It! As this campaign article explains, up to 70 per cent of the youth between 16 and 24 already have lost pictures of important events in their life (due to drive crashes, faulty memory cards, stolen phones etc). Not convinced? Read more about the phenomenon called data rot here. With the Instax camera, you get instantly printed pictures and they will last a lifetime, and beyond. So even in the scenario a global, cataclysmic event, in let’s say 50 years time, your Instax pictures will survive and be a testament to posterity! So here are a couple of my pictures that illustrate how families are likely to take advantage of the Instax cameras.

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None of the Instax cameras have a true manual mode; in fact, I tend to get good results in auto mode, but still the outcome of each shot is quite unpredictable. My Instax Mini 90 has a tendency to slightly overexpose, which can be a nuisance. Also, the flash seems to have a mind of its own, ignoring my input. Both cameras have a fixed aperture (F12), there is no zoom and there is little tweaking possible as far as exposure is concerned: one can darken or lighten a picture, and that is it. The Mini 90 has a built in macro mode which allows the closest distance to be 30 cm. The Instax Wide comes with a macro/selfie clip-on lens. The macro mode is interesting for detailed close ups, and it also allows to create a background blur… sort of.

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I have used both cameras for some weeks now, and I have still not made up my mind which camera I like best: they both have their positive sides, and their drawbacks. The Mini 90 is small and has lots of creative modes (macro mode, party, kids, double exposure, bulb, darken/lighten). The mini pictures are slightly smaller than a credit card. The Instax Wide is much bulkier, ridiculous really, but renders a picture double the resolution and size of the Mini; also, the great Robert Frank, yes the one of the legendary, groundbreaking photographic book ‘The Americans’, owns one and was quoted saying it takes pictures of “very high quality”. Mind you, this Instax 210 costs only about 70 euros… If you can’t seem to choose between the mini and the wide, like me, buy both because they are dirt cheap anyhow!

The Mini 90 has the most creative modes and my favourite is the ‘double exposure’; here are two results. Again, the outcome of the technique is quite unpredictable, which is actually a good thing, because it is all very exciting.

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Really, these Instax cameras stimulate creativity a lot, and soon I was laying out the pictures on my scanner, with various fabrics, cloths and shirts on top them giving this as a result, like a scrapbook. It is great fun, and if you don’t have a scanner, just organise the instants on a nice surface, take out your mobile phone, and take a digital picture of them. Remember: it is likely that the original instant picture will outlive yourself and the digital scan/picture you made of them!

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Admittedly, these two fun, dumbed down, plastic toy cameras had rekindled my photographic enthusiasm! I have even dreamed about them, really! But then I started wondering about how useful they would be in a more serious context. What about the unimpressive latitude/dynamic range of the Instax? And, when you start pixel peeping, these instax pictures are awfully unsharp, aren’t they? So my next step was to look at what could be done with them in post, creating a digitally remastered instant picture! I soon discovered that these Instax prints get even better when you add a bit of sharpness and detail. Then I discovered that they can be easily successfully worked upon in post, with various, very unique results. I prefer using the official Google+ app, these days, for my post work, and usually, adding just a few tweaks and effects, will give quite a spectacular, atmospheric result. Below is a picture I took at Polygon Wood, a World War One cemetery nearby where I live – the Ypres/Passchendaele region in Flanders, Belgium. The first is a scan of the original Instax. Those under that one are various tweaked images I got in Google+. Now, I’m not saying these are masterpieces, but they clearly illustrate my point.

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Finally, I must warn you, dear reader, on at least two points. First, shooting Instax is highly addictive, and it is not a cheap addiction. So before you go out with one of these, make sure you are in a serene, meditative, controlled mood; if not, Instax costs will eat your wallet empty soon enough.
Second, using Instax may open the gate to analogue photography. I may introduce you, like it did with me, to a whole different photographic universe of laid back, slow paced photography… which, of course, is not a bad thing, is it?

Ivan Lietaert,
Belgium

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanlietaert/

BUY THE INSTANX AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Jun 232015
 
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My Sony A7II and 55 1.8 Experience

by Simi Tometi

Hello Steve, Brandon, and fellow site readers. My name is Simi Tometi, and I am a biochemistry student from Dallas, Texas. School usually keeps me busy(and broke) for the most part but whenever I do have some spare time I indulge in photography.

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I recently sold my RX1(with the external EVF), to fund the purchase of a refurbished Sony A7II with a FE 55mm f/1.8 lens. Due to the simple fact that I’ve only shot with the 55mm a handful of times, I must admit don’t I feel qualified enough to provide a full comprehensive review. With that being said my initial thoughts regarding this lens are primarily positive.

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From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Sony ZA lenses are by far my favorite with their remarkable matte black finish, metal focus rings, and conspicuous zen blue Zeiss badges. As expected the 55mm continues the holistic tradition with its gorgeous utilitarian build, whilst being only a few millimeters longer than the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II.

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In regards to image quality there isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been said by countless more reputable sources. This lens is just flat out outstanding. DxOMark(the industry leader in comprehensive image quality evaluation) has it rated as the sharpest lens in current production, besting both the OTUS 55mm($4000) & 85mm($4500).

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As for focus speed and accuracy, I generally shoot this lens wide open yet it always hits its mark, but admittedly it isn’t the fastest.

My sole grievance with this lens has to be its price. Though it yields industry-leading performance, I often find myself asking if it was worth its initial price tag of $1000. This is likely due to the fact that it’s my least utilized lens. Having said that I don’t mean to deter anyone from purchasing this phenomenal piece of glass, it’s just that for my style of shooting I sometimes feel as that my money would have been better spent on the FE 35mm f/2.8 or FE 16-35mm f/4. Anyway, thank you for reading this and I hope you enjoy the photos✌.

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*All photos were shot in RAW and proceeded using Adobe Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film

*All photos were shot in RAW and processed using Adobe Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film 06*

Tumblr: http://justsimiphoto.tumblr.com/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/justsimi/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/simi.tometi

My Sony RX1 review: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2015/01/23/6-months-with-the-sony-rx1-by-simi-tometi/

 

Jun 082015
 
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The Mitakon Dark Night 50 0.95

By Isi Akahome

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Hi, my name is Isi, and I’m a bokeholic. It all started when I first shot with a rebel t2i in Target, and I fell in love with blurred backgrounds. Ever since then, I’ve chased after the widest aperture lenses. I remember drooling over the Leica Noticlux 50mm 0.95 when Steve and Digitalrev did their reviews on the lens. I wanted one, but unfortunately, the acquisition cost was laughable. My favorite lens on my old Nikon D800 was the 50mm 1.4, and then mirrorless cameras came out and that opened up the opportunity to get even wider apertures on a full frame sensor. Last November, I got the AMAZING Sony A7S and I started looking into moderately priced manual lenses with good optics. The thought of manually focusing was scary, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. The first lens I got was the Canon fd 58mm f/1.2, but it wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked and didn’t provide the amount of contrast I was looking for. This image below is a perfect example. The lens does render bokeh quite nicely.

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Then the Mitakon lens was announced! 50mm f/0.95 for under $1,000? It was like a dream come true. I remember scouring the internet for reviews and sample images for weeks. The comparison Steve did with the Noctilux was very helpful, because the difference in performance wasn’t nearly as close as the difference in price. In fact, in my opinion, it was negligible. After a lot of contemplation, I decided to get one. I found a demo copy on eBay for $750. The packaging was exceptional. It made me feel like I just purchased a priceless work of art. The box the lens comes in is quite spectacular, and the lens has a nice heft to it. It looks very well built, and for the price, I have no quibbles about the build quality. I decided this was going to be the lens I would use for most of my assignments. It seemed like it would be up to the task. I just had to master focusing with the lens wide open with that razor thin depth of field. The results have been nothing short of amazing. The subject isolation I was getting was just so unique that I was only shooting at f/0.95.

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Getting sharp focus accurately and consistently is quite challenging, but focus peaking comes in quite handy, and my accuracy has gone up substantially. Sometimes I just move a couple of inches back or forward as my subject(s) move, instead of turning the focus ring, and that makes a world of difference in getting shots in focus. When the focus is spot on, the sharpness wide open is very good, especially for portraits. Here a few shots I did for clients in varying situations.

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The one advantage that’s rarely mentioned about wide aperture lenses is the amount of shadow detail you get in situations when the subject is backlit. The faces of subjects are much brighter than with any of the other fast lenses I’ve used. Even in this photo with the harsh backlight from the sunset, the amount of shadow detail is quite impressive.

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Wedding season is about to start, and I’m both nervous and excited to use this bad boy to shoot full weddings. I think the difference between f1.2 and f0.95 is noticeable, it could be due to the fact that the lens has a certain look and character that makes the images unique to my eye. I don’t really have any complaints, except for the distracting bokeh rendering of foliage or busy backgrounds I sometimes get.

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I also shot the lens at smaller apertures because I had to in studio conditions, and it performed just as well as I would expect. These were shot at f5.6.

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I am very pleased with the results I have been getting with this lens. Even for random shots, it works fantastically. I took this as our plane was taking off from New Jersey.

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Mitakon has done something special with this lens. It is such a bargain considering what the lens can do. I would recommend this lens to anyone looking for a fast 50mm lens for their Sony A7 series camera, or other bokeholics who just want the shallowest depth of field with the added benefit of a versatile focal length. It’s a lot of fun to use, and you get all the bokeh you can handle. Don’t worry about manually focusing either. With focus peaking, it’s a breeze, and it almost forces you to compose your shots with more thought, purpose, and precision.

Thanks for reading. You can see more samples of my work on: www.isispiks.com.

Keep up the awesome work Steve! You’re a rockstar.

Isi Akahome

Jun 042015
 
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SEEING RED! The Redhead Days Festival

by Ori Cohen

Hi Steve,

My name is Ori Cohen and I have been following your website for many years. I am an avid photographer, a computer science Phd student, and a graphic artist, but first and foremost I am a redhead, a redhead married to a redhead. As you well know redheads are usually singled out most of their lives and the and it may come as a surprise to everyone, but redheads share this unexplained bond; to a point where you walk down the street, lock eyes with another redhead and instantly there is some connection. You can probably guess why I married a redhead.

Once a year at the beginning of September there is a special weekend for all redheads. In the town of Breda, Holland, thousands of redheads from around the world gather in the redhead days festival. Our first time was two years ago, we went to the festival in order to see for once, how does it feel to be the same as everyone else around us. It is hard to explain the first shock of seeing so many people who kind of resemble you, and in many ways it is intoxicating. In the festival I had the opportunity to photograph a lot redheads; many became our friends and today we have a growing community of redheads on facebook. In fact, last year while travelling abroad, we randomly met a redhead that recognised us from the festival.

Photography wise, I like carrying as little gear as possible. I usually carry several small near-weightless primes. On our first visit I brought my trusty Sony A300 and a Minolta 50mm f/1.4, and on our second visit I had a Sony NEX-7 Sony 16mm\F2.8, Minolta 24mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and a Minolta 50mm f/1.4. For portraits on a crop sensor I tend to use 30mm, 35m, and 50mm as they allow me to shoot in situations when people are around me. For group shots, crowds, and In doors I used the 16mm or the 24mm, which allows me to get a better sense of the atmosphere in the room.

The festival holds several main events: the pub-crawl, the opening ceremony, and the gathering in the park. There is an atmosphere of friendliness all around, and I can shoot anyone without asking for permission. I usually just aim the camera at random people and they stop for me, for as long as I need.

The pub-crawl provides a wonderful opportunity to get to know new people and capture some of the conversations and playfulness that happens after dark when people are drinking A LOT of beer, and it’s also a wonderful opportunity to get to know new people from around the world.

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During the ceremony I try to find a spot on the balcony, which overlooks a crowd of several hundred redheads, while trying not to lose sight of my wife. I usually don’t need to worry about losing my wife in a crowd, but when everybody has the same hair color as her, I need to keep a watchful eye :). You will be surprise to learn that there are many types of “ginger” genes out there, not just for fair skinned people, even dark skinned people can get a reddish hue in their hair, as seen in some of my photos.

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Immediately after the ceremony, people walk slowly toward the park for the annual record-breaking count of redheads. Two years ago we even broke a Guinness world record. While crammed in one spot, it is a perfect opportunity to shoot portraits of people. My wife thinks that I only shoot pretty redhead girls, but I actually try to do as many portraits as possible (of everyone!).

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The festival is not only for redheads but also for their friends, anyone who wishes to participate can come, in fact the city is crawling with photographers and videographers from all around the world. Everyone is welcome!

Thank you for reading.

My facebook photography blog: https://www.facebook.com/oricohenphotography

May 132015
 

Leica M6 TTL & Eeyore’s Birthday Party 2015

By Khunya Lamat Pan

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Hello all! Some might recognize my name and you may attribute it to my extreme loyalty to the Pentax K1000 and the Super-Takumar line of lenses. While I still LOVE the hell out of those, I finally made a big purchase on my dream camera and bought a nearly mint Leica M6 TTL body with a Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 lens. I chose the M6 due to its pure mechanical nature, with the exception of the light meter. Much like the K1000 actually! I like having the option of using a light meter, but if it fails or the battery dies, I can at least keep on shooting without any hiccups.

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Drum Men

Not long after I bought the new setup, the annual festival in Austin, TX known as Eeyore’s Birthday Party took place. For anyone not familiar, the festival is a celebration of the character Eeyore created by A.A. Milne. Most everyone probably knows him from Winnie-the-Pooh. The festival has live music, egg toss, yoga, drum circles, food/beer, a real donkey, etc. It’s an all day event held in a beautiful park, and while it can get quite intense, the best thing to do is to find a nice shady patch on the hill within the trees and set up camp to watch all the interesting people walk by.

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The M6 performed flawlessly. Like any Leica, it didn’t attract attention to itself in a horde of people. And while nearly everyone at the festival had a DSLR with them, I still felt relatively discreet. For the intensity of the festival, I felt the M6 was the perfect tool. I never felt like I had to worry about it, it just always works and feels smooth and precise. Even changing film on it in a crowd of people was easy, and I was expecting the worst since many people seem to hate the M6’s loading system. It was a very hot and sunny day, so I chose Ilford Pan F+ 50 and Efke KB 25 film. Efke is not longer in production, but I have stockpiled a lot of it in my freezer for special occasions like this. My style has always been to shoot more wide-open, so these two films are perfect for me, especially since I reside in sunny Texas. I developed them using Rodinal and Ilford Stop/Fix baths, and scanned myself using the Plustek Opticfilm 8200i 35mm film scanner.

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On to the pictures! You can follow me on Flickr here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/khunya

You can also check out my website here: http://www.khunyalamatpan.com/

Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoy!

-Khunya

May 062015
 

JPDoublemoon

The Power of Symmetry

By José Pazó 

In this article, the third one I am sending you, I am going to talk about an unexpected camera: The Nikon S32.

It is a very simple, waterproof, Coolpix series, yellow piece of plastic. Probably, for many out there, one of the worst cameras anyone can buy. The specifications are incredibly basic: diminutive sensor, lots of noise and tones of glare. All types of chromatic aberrations and quirks of use. At least, very cheap. I bought it for my 2 years old daughter, but cameras are always nice temptations. At the end, like Homer Simpson does with his bowling ball for Marge, this camera was partially for me. Do not tell my daughter.

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My prior two articles have been about film, b&w film. I like mechanical cameras (Leica M3, Hassy 503), old glass and expected and unexpected results. I still keep some reservations about digital cameras. I have a semi-old Ricoh GRD and a Pentax K01 that I like because nobody likes it. Call me old-fashioned, but pixels are like gremlins in my deep reptilian mind. Preys for ghostbusters. So I bought the Nikon S32, and when into my hands this yellow piece of soap came (probably the most non-ergonomic camera I have tried –slippery as hell), and while playing with it, the miracle showed up in the ancient form of symmetry. ¡Symmetry!

I guess I am a very asymmetrical type of guy. Although I like and practice yoga, one of my legs is shorter than the other, and size and shape of my nostrils are very unequal. Maybe that is the reason why I love Japanese art so much, because of its tendency towards asymmetry. While asymmetry is humble, subtle, suggestive and dynamic, symmetry is solid, pompous, affirmative and static. Symmetry is in general very much related with power. Japanese art tends towards asymmetry, but Chinese art (and power) leans towards symmetry. Japan hides power; China shows it. So I guess that, with the Nikon S32, a Japanese camera, I discovered ancient China and its marks in the Western world and in my reptilian brain.

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Symmetry creates admiration, or at least aw (The White House, the Taj Mahal). It also produces endless decoration (the Cordoba’s Mosque, the vegetal decorative motives of the Alhambra). Symmetry is also present in almost any altar or oratory in the world. Our bodies also tend towards symmetry (at least some bodies), our faces too. Studies have shown that babies prefer symmetrical faces, and religious iconography indulges in it. Greece was almost symmetrical, Rome was over symmetrical, gothic cathedrals and Viking homes were too, the Empire State Building is symmetrical. Butts are. Busts too. Eyes, fruits, shells… (When they forget Fibonacci, another aurean way of symmetry). Monsters and extraterrestrial beings are usually symmetrical. Hearts not so much. That is probably why they keep us unbalanced. But they produce rhythm, and rhythm is symmetrical. Trees are rotationally symmetrical and so are kaleidoscopes, one of my childhood loves.

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Nikon S32 can produce symmetrical images. If I were a fashion photographer, I would be using it to play with models to create enticing, almost religious, visions. Since I am a mere dilettante, I am sending you a batch of everyday pictures. They are technically terrible, but visually addictive. Interiors, monsters, altars, flying trees and perfect landscapes. Etscheresque, for those who enjoy Etscher, the painter. At least for my obsessive brain. This first batch includes photos related with the vegetal world. I do not know if you are going to find enough merit in them to be published, not to even mention other batches. If so, thank you in advance.
As always, regards from Madrid to the whole Steve Huff’s clan. Keep your vision and very personal approach, I find lots of value in it. And the same for all of you who write or visit here. Tons of talent around. I do not have a webpage or similar. Thinking of making one but, for the moment, I enjoy just sending pics to others. So, hasta la symmetrical vista.

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Apr 272015
 

The View from the Rearview

by Mark Steiglman

As I was recently interviewed on the Leica Blog, I thought I would submit here as well.

Spending hours a day commuting in my car has made me acutely aware of my surroundings. One day while looking in my rear view mirror I became very interested in the comings and goings of the cars behind me. The scenes unfolded like little vignettes of humanity, people laughing, arguing, crying but mostly just looking bored and trapped within their heads as well as the glass and metal box they confine themselves to in their daily commutes. I wanted to capture what I was witnessing.

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After working out the technical aspects, my first attempts lacked the direct, unreserved look I was after as people were recognizing the camera. There is a long history of documenting people without them noticing. Walker Evans shielded his camera within his coat while making his subway series. Ben Shahn, while documenting for the WPA used a right angle mirror attachment on his lens pretending to take pictures of his wife while actually shooting what was off to the side. I solved this problem by buying a small stuffed bird, ripping out the stuffing and cutting a hole for the lens. The bird cam has made it virtually impossible to know that I am photographing and my pictures suddenly became what I had seen on that day I conceived of the idea.

Yarn

The imaginary line of public verses private space that the windshield seems to represent became my “monitor” for both real and imagined tableaus that raise so many interpersonal and social questions during the moment of exposure. Coming from the whole “social landscape photography” genre, these are the kinds of pictures I have always taken except now I am within the confines of my car taking photographs of my subjects within the confines of theirs.

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Mark Steigelman

marksteigelman.com

marksteigelman.wordpress.com

https://instagram.com/msteigelmanThe

Apr 022015
 

There is no “I” in Team

by John Tuckey

Team Efforts

I wouldn’t advise anyone to overload a shoot with unnecessary bodies. The fewer people cluttering your space, the better. The less people to organise the better. It’s an absolute if you’re trying to create a sense of intimacy or intrigue and a simple practicality when you’re working to a budget or a tight time scale as most of us are. But ‘one man and his lens’ is not always enough – indeed, modern professional work is hardly ever created so. It’s a creative collaboration between the photographer, an art director, a stylist, a make up artist, a hair stylist, a lighting technician and possibly a set dresser. That amazing image in magazine ‘X’ is usually the result of a tight team who have a good working dynamic – not ‘one man and his lens’.

If you’re thinking about crossing this river and working your shots with a team it can be daunting at first. My advice is to keep it simple and pick your team carefully, don’t waste your resources and know who you can and can’t live without. I get my moments, but I’m still no pro – so I won’t worry about an assistant until i try a complicated location set-up. And a stylist isn’t even on my list unless I get involved in a commercial fashion shoot and the client specifically requests one – and even then they will probably be chosen by the art director.

So I’d suggest that for an amateur or hobbyist, the bodies to make sure you have covered on a model orientated shoot are the make up artist and the hair stylist. Sometimes the model can cover this off herself, but indispensable doesn’t even come close to describing the best I’ve worked with. And without even thinking I can give you three very good reasons why they’re always worth stretching the budget for.

Transformation

A skilled makeup artist can simply transform a face. Try these two of Emily, one with ‘normal’ self done makeup and the Next from a Make Up artist.

emily-1

emily-2

The Devil is in the Detail

Much of my work revolves around vintage themes. Having the right make up or a particular hair style makes the world of difference. In these portraits of Olivia, the lighting may well have achieved the look on its own, but the work of the hair stylist in those thirties style fingerwaves added the polish – making the vintage feel of the final image effortless and complete.

olivia-1

olivia-2

olivia-film

Tricks, Shortcuts and FX

These Lonsdale shots aren’t just about beauty and boxing, but also strength, character and control. The make up artist on this shoot pulled the FX off with ease: Jammy the model was engaged with the concept and we got some great shots as a result.

jammy-1

jammy-2

jammy-film

Saving Time in Post

Doesn’t digital mean make up artists are a waste of money? If you don’t think of the hours you’ll spend in post-production as money, then I’ll grant you that a hair or make up artist might not be your best use of budget. But I’d rather get it right for real on the day and trade that time in front of a screen for more time with a camera thanks – a good MUA allows that.

If you are interested in my images or my workshops you can follow me on facebook at http://www.facebook/jrtvintage, on twitter where I’m @jrtvintage, at my own site at http://john.tuckey.photography or on my gallery page at Saatchi Art http://www.saatchiart.com/jrtvintage

Credits:

Models: Emily, Olivia Harriett, and Jammy Lou
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/oliviaharriet/
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/raspberryjam/

Emily and Jammys Make Up: James Minahan

https://www.facebook.com/pages/James-Minahan-Makeup-artist/482722908502345?pnref=lhc

Olivia’s Hair: Le Keux Salon
http://www.lekeuxvintagesalon.co.uk/
Best regards

John Tuckey

Mar 052015
 

 

4DAYS

4 days in the life of a Magnum photographer

by Sebastien Bey-Haut

Dear Steve,

I just came back from what has been one of the best photographic experience of my life and would like to share it with your readers.

I indeed had the privilege to attend a Magnum photography workshop mentored by Stuart Franklin in Panjim, a small town in Goa State, India.

It all started while browsing the Magnum website a couple of months ago: I saw a post calling for applications and having nothing to lose I sent a portfolio without too much hopes as they would accept only 12 participants worldwide… I received the good news a few weeks later: I was accepted! Living in Switzerland it meant a long trip (40h) for only 4 days of fun… But no way I would pass on it, so I booked my tickets, packed my gear and here we go !

The workshop was quite intense with mornings dedicated to discussions with Stuart and peer reviews, afternoon to shooting and evening / night to post processing. Our objective was to present a coherent 10 photographs story to be showcased at the Goa Photo festival… If possible without putting too much shame on our mentor’s name.

Of course having someone like Stuart reviewing your work is an incredible experience, his critics were always constructive but he would not miss the slightest default. Composition, tones, alignment of the different elements, everything has to be perfect or the photograph will be rejected without mercy.

The focus of the workshop was in building a coherent story and in editing our work so in order to give you a sense of what we went through I’ll first present the final 10 photographs we selected with Stuart:

10 selected photographs 

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002_Seb

003_Seb

004_Seb

005_Seb

006_Seb

007_Seb

008_Seb

009_Seb

010_Seb

Then here are some other “Stuart approved” photographs which did not make it into the final cut

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aDSC_7470-3

fDSC_5783-4

gDSC_6196-2

hDSC_5924-2

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And to finish some of the images that I personally liked but were rejected by Stuart:

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aDSC_7606-Modifier-2

bDSC_6538

gDSC_6218

pDSC_5752

pDSC_6066-2

pDSC_7410

pDSC_7556

As you can see the “image quality” is not what really matters, Stuart was looking for images which would invite the viewer to imagine a story behind it, transmit emotions, and more generally have their own strengths. Anything looking more like a nice “tourist postcard” was discarded, which is what happened with most of my portraits…

As a conclusion the main outcome of this workshop was to teach me how to be more demanding with my own photography, which is highly inspiring and will for sure be very useful in the future.

The gear I used is quite irrelevant to describe this experience, so I’ll let you guess what it could have been. One hint: Stuart was using the same camera “hipster” camera…

You can find more of my work here https://500px.com/Sebastien_Bey_Haut

Thanks for reading

Sebastien Bey-Haut

PS: I’d like to take this opportunity to send a big cheers to the Secret Magnum 12, keep the good images coming!

Feb 102015
 

The Light Weight Really Matters!

By Mohamed Hakem

I’ve written before on how Fuji helped me unhinge new passion in the street photography but now I’m back with a new experience. After the switched from DSLR (Nikon D800) to Mirrorless (Fuji X-T1). I wrote before on how this switch helped me discover new genres in photography as street and people. But what I couldn’t imagine is that the mirrorless could outperform the DSLRs in landscape also! I am a landscape photographer and I’ve been a loyal Nikon user all my life. Coming from a monster in the shape of a camera (D800) made me see all other cameras as toys. Huge dynamic range and massive pixels. When I first got into the Fuji’s I was never expecting that it will one day be my main camera and replace the D800, and it did!

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People tend to look at the technical factors only; dynamic range, color depth and charts and come up with a conclusion that DSLRs are much better for landscape. Yes the D800 is much more capable on paper than the fuji, but the fuji can come to you to places that the D800 would be a burden! The Fuji can provide colors and of the nature and sand the Nikon never ever did provide!

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I was going to a hike in Mount Mousa , Sinai,Egypt. This is the second highest mountain in all Egypt 2422m above sea level and it has extremely rough terrain. Its a challenge for an unexperienced hiker like me. Its an over night non stop climb that lasts for 5 hours and you stay up there for 2 hours then come back. So you have to save your energy as everybody will go up there to rest while you will be setting up for your shots. Everybody’s major tip was leave behind all unnecessary things. for me I carried the fuji X-T1, 10-24, 55-200 and 8mm samyung lens and a small 3leggedthing tripod. As we climbed things got heavier and heavier and it was really hard towards the end but we made it.

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I never thought of climbing a mountain before as I would die if I go up without a camera and my corresponding Nikon setup would be (Nikon D800 1KG, 14-24 1KG, 70-200 2KG, tripod 3KG. fisheye 0.5KG. and a decent backpack would sum up to roughly 10KGs! All of this on my back and I could barely walk! Compare this to a 3KG of the Fuji system. So I went up, setup my equipment and was really happy with the results and they sold well on my website. If I were to take the Nikon I would have either gave up during the climb or would have reached the top with no strength to compose and shoot!

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Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/hakemphotography

Website: www.hakemphotography.com

500px: 500px.com/hakem

Feb 022015
 

Four steps in Milan, with the Leica M-E

by Bruno Taraffo

Hi Steve, hello everybody!

I’m an Italian man 38 years old regularly reading your beautiful site and, about a year ago, I decided to make myself a gift: a brand new Leica M-E!!

M-Eb

That’s what I call “Love at first sight”, since I simply cannot imagine a more sensual object to take pictures…

I’m not the kind of guy walking around with tripod and filters shooting at silky waters; I like real life and I just try to catch its shades with my own gear and sensibility.

I’m a huge fan of italian photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin and, of course, I go mad for black and white. Nevertheless, since I know life is in colors, sometimes I give them the chance to stay in my pictures…

Recently I spent a few days in Milan in good company: my wife, my Leica and a 35 Summicron Asph, and here you have the results…

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Milano-6

Milano-12

Milano-25

Milano-53

Milano-81

I really hope you enjoy my shots and, if you have the time, give a look at my Flickr profile as “Bruno Taraffo”

Best regards, Steve!

Bruno

Jan 232015
 

RX1TTH

6 Months With The Sony RX1

By Simi Tometi

Hello Steve, Brandon, and fellow site readers. My name is Simi Tometi, and I am a medical student from Dallas, Texas. School usually keeps me busy(and broke) for the most part but whenever I do have some spare time I indulge in photography.

Last summer I was presented with an opportunity to purchase the Sony RX1(with viewfinder) in immaculate condition for roughly 1/2 of its initial price. With the Fujifilm X100S selling on Amazon for as low as $850(used), I was a bit hesitant. After reading countless reviews and analyzing the specs sheets I went with the RX1. To be honest the deciding factor was that I didn’t want to look back months later wishing I would have just spent the extra cash on the RX1 instead of the X100s.

It’s been just over 6 months, and I’m glad to say I’m more than happy with my purchase. Though the camera as a whole isn’t perfect, it never ceases to amaze me.

Andrew-G.-Graffiti-Background-By-Simi-Tometi

Tre-Porter-Golden-Hour-By-Simi-Tometi

When I purchased the camera, the first thing I noticed was its cold utilitarian build. The whole camera is composed of metal, giving it a solid feel reminiscent of the Canon 5D Mark III(however I’m not completely sure if it’s made up of the same magnesium alloy). The buttons and dials are laid out logically, except for the record button, which is positioned between the rear and right side of the camera. I didn’t find this placement problematic until I added a Black label braided silk strap to the camera, which often presses the button activating the movie mode function.

The Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens, is nothing short of a masterpiece. From its buttery smooth focus ring, to its clickable aperture dial, it just does not disappoint. Wide open, it’s just a treat to use due to how jaw-droppingly sharp it is. Stopped down sharpness really doesn’t increase much, yet the increase in micro-contrast may make you think otherwise. Optical performance is just stunning; rarely do I find any traces of chromatic aberration.

Through-My-iPhone-Graffiti-By-Simi-Tometi

Tiffany-By-Simi-Tometi

In regards to ISO performance, the camera once again doesn’t disappoint. At 6400, noise is present but very well controlled with files retaining plenty of detail and files still being remarkably flexible.

Together, the Carl Zeiss lens, functional camera body, and full frame 35mm sensor(from Sony’s flagship a99) make a formidable little camera that best nearly every other comparable option. When shooting the rear LCD screen only gives you a taste of the outstanding 16-bit raw files did this beast is able to capture.

Admittedly, the RX1 falls short in numerous areas that can’t ignored due to its initial price tag of $2800.

Most notably the auto focus of this camera just plain sucks. It really is hit or miss. I feel as if this issue could be resolved with a firmware update, but the RX1 hasn’t received any since launch. For this type of investment one would expect more than this sluggish contrast detection AF system.

Regarding accessories, they’re just too expensive. I understand this is a premium item, and should be surrounded by such, but seriously… Why would anyone pay $250 for the Sony leather case(with no access to the SD card or battery when attached), when the Gariz version can purchased for $125? The Sony brand lens hood sells for $120, while the third-party metal hood that looks and feels the same is being sold on amazon for $7. Really the only individuals I could see purchasing these accessories are those who’ve previously considered purchasing the Hasselblad Lunar(rebranded Sony Nex-7) for $5000.

Dallas-Skyline-By-Simi-Tometi

Sunrise-Helicopter-Ride-In-Florida-Swamp-By-Simi-Tometi

Shotsbygabe-B&W-Mockingbird-Station-By-Simi-Tomet

For my style of shooting the EVF($450) is a must have, and without it I probably would have went with the Fuji X100s. I really wish Sony included it with the camera or implemented the same way they did in the RX100 III.

Weather sealing is something I feel Sony could have added at this price point. When you own something of this value, you’d like to be assured its protected against the elements(e.g. Unexpected light drizzle).

Street-Sunset-By-Simi-Tometi

To sum it up, the Sony RX1 is stellar tool for few photographers. If you can tolerate the sluggish autofocus and the daunting price tag, you’ll be rewarded with outstanding build, superb high-ISO performance, and top tier image quality.

Simi Tometi

http://instagram.com/justsimi_

https://www.facebook.com/simi.tometi

https://www.flickr.com/photos/simitometi/

Jan 082015
 

Me and my Fuji X100 (original)

by Jonas Luis

Hi, Steve!

I have followed your website for several years, now. I always look forward to new entries especially new reviews and daily inspirations submitted by photographers all over the world.

I started photography 8 years ago and was primarily a Nikon user. Then, came the Fujifilm X100. I just fell in love with the design of that camera. It reminded me of my Dad’s Kodak Retinette. So, I pre-ordered it and read all the online previews and rumors. I kept on waiting, even after production halted in the Fujifilm factory in Sendai, Japan due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami. After almost a year of waiting, I finally received my order. I wanted to use the X100 as my travel camera, not just as my primary travel camera, but my only travel camera. Of course, I had to contend with the built-in lens. I thought having a single lens would be liberating (if you have a DSLR with multiple lenses, you know the mental anguish of choosing which lenses to bring, packing, etc.) I sold all my other Nikon DSLRs but one, and traveled with my little X100. I also put-up a group pool in Flickr called X100rumors for users of the X100 camera and its future variants. Yes, coming from DSLRs, the X100 was frustrating initially: back-focusing issues, useless manual focus, camera freezing up, etc. (all of which were vastly improved and solved by firmware updates). Still, instead of traveling with an entire system, I now travel with “a camera”. In the beginning, the limitation of having a single lens bothered me. Soon after, it became a personal challenge to obtain the best image I can with that single focal length.

Before I took photography as a hobby, I usually buy souvenirs from my travels. Now, traveling with a camera, I am more inspired to bring home photographs of a place – photographs that I could truly call my own. Before traveling to a particular place for the first time, I would Google images of that specific place – trying to see note-worthy attractions, what tourists usually photograph. Then, I would choose which attractions to photograph, and imagine how I would shoot it in a way that probably nobody has ever done before (or at least not shown in Google images, Flickr or 500px). I usually take note of the predicted sunrise, sunset and weather on each day during my travel. As you all know, aside from the Golden Hour, a lot of exquisite images can also be taken in the rain. The following images were taken by my little X100 throughout the years. They were all re-sized for this website in Lightroom.

This first image was taken when I first saw the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I noticed that the other tourists had their cameras with zoom lenses and camera phones aimed only at the bridge. I soon spotted these array of coin-operated binoculars just in a corner, seemingly neglected – seating there while time and technology just whizzed by. They were probably fascinating and a novelty during their time, but now, just a relic. Yes, I was more enchanted by these shiny binoculars than the enormous man-made achievement that everybody flocked here for. I took a photograph of the binoculars, edited the image with Fujifilm’s free SilkyPix software and a free open-source software, Gimp. I ended up calling this piece, “The Old Robot”.

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Image number two: my girlfriend and I traveled to Chicago. I wanted to have a souvenir photograph of the “Cloud Gate” like everyone else who has been there. If you Google it, you would know that this piece of art has been photographed a million times. So, I decided to have our souvenirs by putting my X100 in a Tamrac Zip-shot tripod, attached an infrared filter and with a couple of Cokin neutral-density filters to the lens. I then set the camera on long-exposure. My girlfriend and I took turns photographing each other. The shots were very long exposures, so we would take a comfortable pose while the one photographing would continually wave his or her hand like a conductor in an orchestra – letting the other know that the shutter is still open and for not to move. The image was converted to black and white and edited in Lightroom.

JonasLuis_2

The third image is a photograph of the Smithsonian garden in Washington, DC using the same tripod and infrared filter. I was carefully composing my shot one afternoon, when a gentleman just sat down on the bench at middle of my frame and unmindfuly read the day’s newspaper. Irritation turned to inspiration when I started seeing the results on my X100’s LCD screen. To me, the resulting image just exuded leisure and relaxation. My office and I ended up gifting a framed print of it to a co-worker who recently retired.

JonasLuis_3

This photograph of the beach, was taken in Cancun, Mexico. I was initially drawn by the red color of the floaters. Up close, I was amused to see a beer bottle under the lifeguards’ tall chair. Looks like they had a little “refreshment” while at work. To me, the image says, “Chill out! You’re on vacation! You are not in the USA!”. This was edited in Lightroom.

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The fourth image was taken in Richmond, Virginia. While gazing up the monuments and buildings, it reminded me of the architecture in the Eastern Bloc during the cold-war era. So, I edited this image to have a utopian look in Lightroom.

JonasLuis_5

My foray into street photography is pretty limited. Unlike other photographers, it is hard for me to find something to photograph on the street, that to me, seems worth-while. Maybe, I don’t have an eye for real street photography, or maybe, because of my little experience with a film camera as a child, that I try not to waste a photograph unless I see a potential story in the picture. In my mind, I keep on judging a potential photograph as just a regular snapshot, or a potential story that is worth telling. In this case, my girlfriend and I were crossing the street in Chicago, after a late dinner. I saw this cyclist coming towards us. It was close to midnight, it was cold, it was raining and I thought, “Why is this guy out here on such a miserable night? Is he going home? Going to see his lady, perhaps?” Granted, he could just be a regular commuter but I can’t sometimes help making up crazy stories like these. So, without thinking, I just stopped in the middle of the street and took a photograph while the cyclist and all the cars are rushing towards me. All the while, my girlfriend is shouting at me to cross the street. Until this day, whenever I look at this image, I still wonder where this night cyclist was heading to. This image was edited in Gimp.

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Image seven is a photograph of the outdoor public market in my hometown in the Philippines. During some days of the week, there is a public outdoor market, and vendors are there as early as two in morning, preparing their wares and produce. I took this photograph around sunrise. Now, I don’t know any of these people. I was only walking around taking photographs. I like this particular photograph because when I took it, I was in the middle of the crowd. But as you can see, I was nothing but invisible to everybody. Everyone had their own stance, their own gaze – as if actors on a stage and only I, could notice the play unfolding. Almost like a Renaissance painting. Edited in Lightroom.

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This colorful image of lights was taken at Disney World. I took this hand-held with the X100. I was surprised when I opened this image on my computer because it already looked perfect, straight out of the camera. The X100 has a great low-light capability. I converted it in-camera from RAW to Velvia. I only increased contrast a very tiny bit in Gimp. But you are hard-pressed to tell the difference between the edited from the original.

JonasLuis_8

This next image of a crashing wave is when my X100 nearly got nearly got killed. I was in Pebble Beach in California. I was trying to take photographs of incoming waves with a small tripod. Because the X100 doesn’t have a zoom lens, you really have to keep the camera a little close to the water, the tripod was set low and and I was almost seating on the rocks. Anyway, while composing my shot, I noticed a rather large wave coming in. I was quickly debating if I should go back and save my camera, or hold my ground and maybe, will have a helluva of a shot. I decided to hold my ground. So, as soon as the wave came crashing in, I took a single frame then immediately, raised my camera with the tripod over my head. My shorts got wet, but that little gamble paid off. Image edited in SilkyPix.

JonasLuis_9

The last image was taken in Baltimore, Maryland during one summer. There were a bunch of kids playing and running around the fountain. Like in a playground, all these kids were all chasing each other and playing despite being practically strangers to each other, all but these two boys. I saw that they were in their own little world, brothers – probably twins. Somehow, it reminded me of my brother and I, during my own childhood. So, I edited this image in Lightroom in a way that invokes a sense of nostalgia.

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All these images were taken by my beloved Fujifilm X100. It was only more than a year ago, that I upgraded my computer that I was able to embrace Lightroom and Photoshop. For more than five years, I was using a free program called Gimp and also the SilkyPix software that came with my X100. To me, having the X100, limitation became inspiration. Could I have made these shots with a DSLR, given the chance? Most definitely. But I selected a particular tool and made full use of it. Even my choice of editing software is of no importance. Coming home from a travel, I usually personally judge my photographs if they are worth the ink and paper they will be printed on, if not, I usually not bother sharing them. Years ago, I would spend more on gadgets and lenses. Now, I’d rather spend on printing and framing and decorating the house.

Finally, I continually strive for the elusive “6-second photograph”. If a stranger is able to look at a photograph for six seconds or more the first time, then I would consider that as a very successful photograph. Have I tested that silly theory? No. But it’s a lifelong goal that keeps me on clicking.

I hope I can inspire all of you, especially to those who are just starting photography, that regardless of the camera that you have, regardless of the latest editing software, the most important thing is your own vision and the stories you can tell. Only after extensive use of your camera that you will develop your own style and personal inspiration in photography. Even in music, the student plays somebody else’s music in the beginning. Only when they feel comfortable and proficient with their own instrument, when they usually feel inspired making their own tunes. Gadgets, extra lenses and accessories are fun, but most of the time, they just distract you from your own imagination.

Now, with my X100, would I be upgrading? Maybe not anytime, soon. Now unless… Fuji comes up with a X100T in graphite silver? :)
Keep on clicking!

Jonas Luis

JonasLuis.com

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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