Aug 212015
 

A Farewell to the Month of May, Bluebells and my Rolleiflex

By Ibraar Hussain

Hi Steve and Brandon,

Thought I’d share a few pictures with you which I took in May – a month I always love and look forward to as it’s when the weather is fantastic,  The tree’s have young leaves and everything is so bright and airy, and it’s a time when in some woods at home the English bluebells are in bloom.

I love this time of year and try to capture the Bluebells in all their glory as they carpet the clearings and patches of woodland bringing magic with them. They’re only fleeting though and after a couple of weeks they’re gone, not appearing again until the following Spring. I visited a few woods around Epping Forest, but the most amazing carpet was to be found in Wanstead park in East London which is a part of the Epping Forest. The Best time to capture these is at dawn or sunset when the sun is low and warm and illuminates these magnificent flowers and fills them with light, magic and drama.

I took my Rolleiflex 3.5F and a Rolleinar I and II close up lenses with a roll of Fuji NPH 400 Negative Film which has a wide Latitude/Dynamic range.
The Rolleinars are tricky as my eye sight isn’t the best at close up (need to get my eyes tested) and using a Waist level Finder while kneeling in bracken, brambles and stuff isn’t fun – But they’re great for portraits and head shots and give massive amounts of shallow depth in the photos when shot wide open.

I have just bought a Fuji TX-2 aka Hasselblad X-Pan II – a format I’ve been wanting to try for years, so my lovely Rolleiflex 3.5F complete with everything is having to be up for Sale to fund the purchase, and I think this was a fitting adieu to this legendary camera which I have used extensively the last few years and which has been with me to the Mountains of the Hindu kush, Karakoram and Himalaya.

One day I shall buy myself another, and for the time being my favourite Square Format photography will be performed with my Rolleiflex SLX II which I still have.

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Apr 102015
 

Wales in B&W. Film.

By Ibraar Hussain

Hi Steve and Brandon, I hope you had a joyous Easter. it’s almost Friday, and I thought I might submit an article again! How the weeks roll past!

To all those bored witless of the endless ramblings from I Hussain ESQ please turn away now!

I love going to visit Wales, fascinating place, and as magical and beautiful as can be. For all the delights and marvels of foreign lands, the East and the High Karakoram and Himalaya, the magic of Wales is right up there with the best of them and luckily I can return there again and again – being but a couple of hours drive West from London.

I think Black and White is suited in many ways to the broody landscape of fell and moor, beacon and megalithic standing stones and circles which are to be found in Wales. The landscape can be very bleak, and moody, with expansive skies and cloud. It can also be stunningly beautiful and uplifting with majestic coast lines and water features.

There were a couple of Films in my camera bag which I eventually decided, after a long hiatus, to develop. A roll of Rollei Retro 400s and a roll of Rollei Pan 25 – both shot with my Rolleiflex 3.5F. Both of these Films were exposed last Summer! Apart from my recent trip to Pakistan (March 2015) of which I’ve written already, I did absolutely no photography from August 2014 to March this year! Hard to believe but true! Rollei Retro 400s is a 400 ISO Film. I have never used it before, but have had exceptional results with the 80 speed Retro 80s before so had nothing but positive feelings about the results.

It’s a fine grained middle speed Film and has a nice character with slight red sensitivity it should give nice contrasty yet balanced results when developed with Rodinal. It has fine grain and has high sharpness. It features a tear proof clear polyester base which makes it excellent for scanning (the clear film base).

The other was another first for me; Rollei Pan 25. This is allegedly Agfa Pan 25. It is a very fine grained very slow ISO 25 speed Film with high sharpness and resolving power. It features extended Red sensitivity and a clear plastic base, so scanning again is very easy. This gave me a stiff lesson in how to meter for B&W. I have been using a Minolta Autometer III incident meter. The problem with this is that for B&W sometimes one should expose for the shadows and then control highlights in development. High contrast situations can mean a lack of shadow detail using this type of meter without being careful. Me being me took a light reading in the SUN rather than shade and off I went snapping away.

I shot this Film at Llanthony Priory, a ruin of an ancient priory which fell into decay after King Henry VIII ’s dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538.
It is a fascinating place with a wonderful remote atmosphere, and a photographers paradise. it has been photographed to death but there aren’t many B&W photos compared to colour. Anyway, needless to say the developed negatives were very contrasty and I had to work them in the Digital Darkroom (Photoshop CS4 Mac).

Rollei retro 400s was more forgiving but I made the same mistakes again. I shot this Film at the Waterfalls Walk by the River Ned, in the Brecon Beacons National Park. A magical place, full of delightful waterfalls, brooks and features, all in glorious woodland. I also managed one of an ancient Megalithic Standing Stone in the beacons. It can be tricky snapping away using a fully manual TLR and an incident light meter, but the whole process gave me some vital lessons which I have taken away and will not make the same mistakes again.

In future I will follow the golden rule of exposing for the shadows unless I want some more creative effect by adjusting exposure. Of course, with a 35mm Contax G2/T2/Tvs or SLR with an inbuilt centre weighted or matrix meter – it’s more straight forward, and incident meters are very useful too and 9 times out of 10 are superb, especially when dealing with backlighting, but for BW especially I think I need to be more careful.

Even with the exposure errors, I managed to get two rolls of mostly keepers! (20 shots all in) I’ve included some from each here, and have tried to reflect the atmosphere, mood and beauty of the places I visited.
I took some portraits of my Missus with a Rolleinar I and Rolleinar II but unfortunately they’re not for public show – the Rolleinar I especially is, I think, essential for the 3.5F if you want to shoot portraits with a very very shallow depth of field!
Black and White can be a very rewarding pursuit, and the more so with a manual camera and light meter, I waited 8 months to see my results – a far cry from instant Digital.
And Wales is a magical place.

All photographs:

Rolleiflex 3.5F, Rollei Gelb-Hell Yellow Filter, Minolta Autometer III.
Developed in Rodinal R09 1+50.
Scanned with an Epson 4990 flatbed using Epson Scan software.
Worked on in Photoshop CS4 Mac
I’ve used Overlay and brush tool to dodge and burn, used levels and curves. I then toned using a Pantone 7518c. then added a border.

Rollei retro 400s Maen Llia standing stone, Brecon Beacons.

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Sgwd Clun-Gwyn Waterfall, Brecon Beacons.

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Walk in the sunlit woods. Waterfall Country, woodland, Brecon Beacons

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Water. A brook in the Brecon Beacons.

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Rollei pan 25 Llanthony priory

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Apr 032015
 

Punjab part 2 – with the Contax G2 and 3 Film selection

By Ibraar Hussain – His flickr is HERE

I thought I’d just add a Part 2 to my Punjab trip here for you and for stevehuffphoto.com viewers and lovers.

I really enjoyed shooting with my Panasonic Lumix GX7 with the couple of lenses I had with it. But as usual whenever I travel I take my Contax G2 along with me.  Unfortunately, out of a 15 day trip, 9 days were rained off so I was unable to go where I wanted to and shoot the exotic things at the places I had in mind and planned.

I was able to expose 3 rolls of Film though and experiment with my seldom used lens – the 90mm Sonnar T*. Now this is a lovely portrait lens, great contrast and sharpness and a perfect portrait length – there is one problem though, shooting wide open with it is tricky as the focus on it for some bizarre reason doesn’t always hit right. When nailed the results are spectacular, but more often than not most people have difficulty with this lens. I have hardly ever used it in the past and then not often at f2.8 so I decided to give it a bit of liberal use.

Family of beggars
GT Road
Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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My usual lenses are the unparalleled 45mm f2 Planar and the 21mm f2.8 Biogon, but this time I was after portraits of local people in villages around the town of Sarai Alamgir in District Gujrat, Punjab.  The town straddles the Jhelum River and lies close to the city of Jhelum – Ancient Hydaspes of Alexander The Great fame.

I decided to shoot a roll of some different Films than my usual Kodak Ektachrome e100vs and Fujichrome Velvia. I had two rolls of The Original Fujichrome Astia 100 (not the later inferior 100F) my rolls were procured from eBay at a high cost as allegedly they had been frozen and gave accurate colors. I managed to shoot one of these.

My other roll was of a rare Film by Adox – Adox Silverman 21 at 100 ISO. This is a German made B&W Film which allegedly has a high Silver content and gives some unique results. And finally a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 people tend to rave about.

Shoe Shine and Repair Man
GT Road
Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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My results were a mixed bag. The 4mm Planar shots were nailed as usual and keepers.  The 90mm Sonnar T* shots wide open at f2.8 were hit and miss. I had as many off focus shots as nailed ones and I was very disappointed with this lens. Sure, the nailed shots are beautiful, but I want to be in charge and not subject to the whims of a focussing system. Anyway, the Astia 100 was pretty nice, not as nice as my beloved Kodak e100vs but not bad. The Adox Silvermax I shot with and without a Hoya Orange filter. I gathered the higher contrast Filter may give some good effects outdoors.

Kashmiri Child
Sargodha, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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I developed the Adox Silverman in Rodinal 1+50 and scanned everything using my Plustek Opticfilm 8100 scanner. I cleaned up the scanned Astia Slides in Photoshop (rid dust and spots), resized and gave them a border – hardly any post processing. The Adox Silverman results were very pleasing, I did foolishly drop the negatives after drying and there was hence some dust but very nice tones and feel – I’d love to print these. I used Photoshop Layers to dodge and burn and levels, then resized and border applied – not USM at all here!

The retired Soldier
Jhelum, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100

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The Matriarch
Jhelum, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektar 100
90mm Sonnar T* (bottom)

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The Kodak Ektar is a nightmare. I cannot understand why people use this stuff. In almost all respects it is Inferior to a decent E6 Slide film – the only reason to use this would be latitude and I had no need of such huge Dynamic Range. So this is the last time I will use this or any other C41 Colour Film (unless forced to). Give me Slides, BW or Digital any day. A royal pain to scan and to get the colours and contrast right – at least Slides (and in camera Jpegs) give me everything as I want with no fluffing around – shooting C41 is worse than RAW capture (which I find to be a total waste of time and effort and of vital minutes of ones life).

Anyway, enough ranting, here are even some samples. The others can be found on my Flickr.

Cheers!

Punjabi Widow
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Old lady with a Hukkah pipe
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Jatt Villager
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Jatt Village women
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Happy Village child
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Blind Kashmiri Gent
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 90mm Sonnar T* Fujichrome Astia 100

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Retired Village Gentleman
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Man with Motorbike
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Old Matriarch
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Servant Girl
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Punjabi Matriarch
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Hoya Orange Filter
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Brothers
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Hoya Orange Filter
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Retired Village Gentleman
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Kashmiri Village Girl
Near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab
Contax G2 45mm Planar T*
Adox Silvermax 21
Rodinal

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Mar 182015
 

P1000509

Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Yashica Makro-Planar in the Punjab

by Ibraar Hussain

I took a two-week trip to the Western Punjab (the real Punjab) in Pakistan and have just returned.  Most of my 14 days were rained off so I couldn’t go to where I had planned and use my Rolleiflex with my Rollienars. What I did do was shoot with my new Panasonic LUMIX GX7. I had initially decided upon the Fuji XE2 but I couldn’t justify the price difference.

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I actually bought it after much research as something to compliment my Rolleiflex and Contax G2. I could also use my Yashica AF lenses with it and could use it to photograph birdlife too. I find the use of adaptors exceedingly useful, and decided to buy one to fit my Yashica AF lenses.

I chose this over the Olympus OMD series as:

a) It’s cheaper
b) Handling was more to my liking – the OMD EM-5 and 10 have a terrible grip and I wasn’t too keen on the overall design.
c) love the tilting EVF and LCD so I sometimes use it like I do my Rolleiflex – with a waist level finder.
d) it’s made in Japan rather than China

Took me a day of playing around at home to get used to it and I managed to set it according to my requirements, I set the Function buttons to what I want, with 1 focus point and Centre Weighted metering.

My weapons of choice were my Yashica AF 60mm Makro Planar f2.8 (this lens, I have been informed by many reliable sources, is a rebranded Contax Zeiss 60mm Makro Planar so Sshh… don’t tell anyone and pick up a bargain – superb lens which doubles as a nice short tele and portrait lens) the Fotodiox adaptor has the aperture control on the barrel which I am so happy with as another niggly hindrance is the jog dial to change the F stop which is cumbersome and slow.

My other weapons were the compact metal, Made in Japan 30mm Sigma AF fit and the Yashica AF 210mm f4 zoom . I left my other Yashica lenses including the 24mm Distagon type at home as I didn’t think I’d need a standard lens as I was aiming to shoot portraits and Birdlife.

Anyway I shoot mostly in the 1:1 square format and I shot some portraits of Punjabi people, young and old, rich and poor, in villages, town bazaars and shrines and enjoyed the experience.  I visited the colonial city of Sargodha, and took a long train ride on the 5’6” Indian wide gauge Railway. Trekked around the villages and fields near Sarai Alamgir near the City of Jhelum by the Jhelum River. And visited the Shrine of the Muslim Saint Pir-e-Shah Ghazi, Dhamrian wall Sarkar, Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.

In a two-week trip I only shot 260 odd exposures with it and most were keepers.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Beggar Kids, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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THOUGHTS

This is an excellent camera, and bar some niggles I will explain later, almost perfect in many ways. It looks great, the flip LED and EVF are excellent ideas and so useful. Lovely size and feel, and very quick to start up. Excellent picture quality and very good smooth ISO 800 speed for portraits of people indoors with natural light. Function buttons can be set, so the advanced user can have all at his disposal. 1:1 square ratio mode Takes good video too. Can use other lenses with adaptors. Focus peaking is very effective for MF.

A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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DRAWBACKS

I find the constant computerised settings messing around annoying and it tends to get in the way, and things keep happening if I accidentally touch the screen which is sensitive.
Having too much is a hindrance too – sometimes I’d rather just make do with a certain ISO speed and work around this, rather than spend ages pondering what speed to set it at.
This needed dedicated buttons for most things, the Function buttons were ok though.

I find the lack of a dedicated concise Exposure Compensation dial a hindrance, I was constantly having to press the appropriate F button, push one of the toggle dials in and then change – whereas a dedicated compensation DIAL would’ve been perfect.

Changing aperture using the toggle Dial is very annoying and lacks the precise feel and involvement a lens barrel mounted aperture ring gives.
and I think the EVF is a tad small though it is bright.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Jatt Villager saluting, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4

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Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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OVERALL

I prefer the use and feel of my Contax G2 for this type of portrait and people photography and the look and feel of 35mm E6 is way beyond what this M43 can achieve, but even so,Great camera with great results and the 1:1 ratio coupled with smooth ISO 800 are great to have.

I cannot see any reason to buy a budget APS sized DSLR or other camera any more, the picture quality is about the same, with the advantages of being compact, well-built and very quick.
All my images were JPEG fine and resized with border added in Photoshop – I don’t shoot Raw.

Some photos are soft, this is because focus is manual with the 60mm and focus peaking though very helpful isn’t flawless and I’m also in my 40ies so half blind!

The Yashica 60mm lens by the way is stellar – wonderful rendering and contrast and pin sharp if focussed correctly.

The 210mm is soft wide open and the 30mm Sigma is a tad long to be a standard lens but wonderfully sharp.

Ultimately though, pictures are as good as the person behind the lens, and I think I would’ve got more or less the same results with any Digital Camera with any sized sensor.

You can see some of the others I shot at my Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/71817058@N08/

Rail passenger. Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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View from the Guards window, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Mr Shahid, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

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Deaf Lad, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

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Hijra’s, Eunuchs at Sargodha Station.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A portrait.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri Village Girl, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri Village Boy, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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A ‘Sain’ boy, respected as divinely gifted, at a Cigarette and Pan stall
Sarai alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN

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Jatt Village children at play, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4

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Nain village Child, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri Village girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Kashmiri near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8

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Nov 072014
 

Halloween at the Hellfire Club

by Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, Brandon and all www.stevehuffphoto.com lovers!

A quick one, seeing as Halloween just passed, I thought it would be apt for me to submit some photos for the time of year.

I went to The Hellfire Caves at West Wycombe at this time of year, on a dreary dark Halloween, followed by a trip to West kennet Long Barrow and Avebury in Wiltshire, an area with a long tradition of things Pagan and ancient.

West Wycombe is worth visiting, and the area around the Dashwood Mausoleum can be very creepy at night, even during the day there is something other worldly and eerie about the place. The Hellfire Caves were a meeting place for the Hellfire Club since the 18th century, and one Benjamin Franklin was also a member!

All worth visiting, and enjoying and great places for photography!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellfire_Club

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Wycombe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avebury

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Kennet_Long_Barrow

I was armed that wet day with a Minolta Dynax/Maxxum 5 35mm SLR with a slow kit lens and used the flash inside the caves. It is small and light with a very fast AF – and takes all Dynax/Maxxum/Alpha lenses. It was loaded with a roll of Ilford HP5 and I had it developed at a Lab so all basic and low-fi.

Sunlight at West Wycombe Hill, Buckinghamshire

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Wiltshire from West Kennet.

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Girl at The Hellfire Club, West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

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Wiltshire from West Kennet.

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The Dashwood Mausoleum, West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

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In The Hellfire Caves, West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

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West Wycombe Park and House, from West Wycombe Hill, Buckinghamshire

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At The Hellfire Club, West Wycombe Hill, Buckinghamshire

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Oct 232014
 

Some Contax G2 love

By Ibraar Hussain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hi Steve, Brandon and stevehuffphoto.com lovers!

Thought I’d reignite the site with some Contax G love.

The G2 has been written about many many times, here and elsewhere so should need no introduction, but with the Leica fetish around I think it’s high time the G2 reared it’s head again encouraging people to try it out and spoil the Leica party!
It was and still is the most advanced RF camera with lightning fast AF (some people find the AF on the 90 Sonnar a bit hit n miss though – no such problems here!).

I am surprised no one has copied it yet, and I am very surprised that Kyocera Japan who own the rights to the Contax name and the G2 haven’t released a Dighital G which would, judging by the Fuji X100 love and the other retro styled cameras, especially of the RF style, would be a huge hit!

The G2 is a proper RF, not a wannabe – and is almost near perfect, my only complaint is the relatively smallish (yet bright ) VF – I say relatively, as on it’s own it is large and bright enough, but compared to a Leica  it isn’t, and no reason why Kyocera couldn’t have made the G2 VF the same size as the huge and bright one of their Contax T2!

Now Kyocera, please make a Digital G and revive this masterpiece!

I’ve had mine for 10 years now and I would never choose anything else of any type over it!

Here’s a selection of B&W photos taken with fast Film – Ilford ~Delta 3200, Fuji Neopan 1600 and Kodak Tmax 3200 with the Contax G2, of a street style – My street style which I suppose isn’t very refined and which includes some street portraits and cityscapes in Constantinople when it snowed.
All pretty high key, contrasty – not to every one’s taste.

All shots taken with a Contax G2 45mm Planar, 21mm Biogon and BW Yellow Filter.

See some of Ibraar’s other posts HERE. 

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Jul 112014
 

The Ancient Aegean Coast of Turkey, Film Friday

By Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve and Brandon and all Stevehuffphoto.com lovers!

I thought I’d write a short article about Asia Minor, The Ancient Near East or rather Turkey and The Aegean Coast. I guess this is most likely a Film Friday post, but I am trying to make my posts more about Photography and less about Gear and whether Film or Digital.  I do love Photography and as you may have noticed, travel photography especially so.

Me and the Missus went to Kusadasi for a week and had a great time, and I went with just one camera, my Rolleiflex 3.5F and 6 rolls of Film, and my trusty iPhone 5. I spent most of the time relaxing, experiencing and soaking up the vibe, but I did get some time to take a few pictures here and there.

Me and my Rolleiflex, at Ephesus, picture courtesy of The Missus. iPhone 5.

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Kusadasi is a nice resort, a modern town with an ancient heart.

Amid the tourists, cruise ships, sun, sandy beaches and bazaars you’ll find some history and the resort is especially important as it is a base for exploring the surrounding country where you can find some of the most well preserved and glorious Ancient Greek, Roman/Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman sites in the World.

Kalaeci Mosque, Kusadasi. Rolleiflex 3.5F Fuji Velvia 100

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The beaches along Town are pretty crowded, nice and lively enough but too much for me, so we went over to Dilek Milli Park to explore the beaches down there.

Busy “Ladies Beach”, Kusadasi. iPhone 5.

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Travelling around is easy, just hope on the very frequent Dolmus or Mini Bus for less than a Dollar a journey and go where your heart pleases, the people are very friendly, hospitable and relaxed. For secluded beaches amongst pines, forests canyons and hills nestled along the Aegean and within sight of The Greek islands is Dilek Milli Park. There are three beaches in Dilek Milli Park and the first is a beautiful sandy cove – but pretty busy as this is where most of the families go.  The other two beaches are quiet and tranquil and here you can relax and enjoy the sea, sun bath, snorkel and just relax – but watch out for the Wild Boar!! And there are absolutely no shops or anywhere to buy anything within the park, so be prepared!

Beaches at Dilek Milli Park, with the Greek islands visible. Aegean Sea, Turkey. Rolleiflex 3.5F Fuji Velvia 100.

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The ancient sites worth visiting include Ephesus, The Meryama – the House of The Virgin Mary where St John brought her after the Crucifixion of Christ, Ayasoluk Hill – in Seljuk; the site of St John’s Basilica and the Byzantine Fortress (along with Isa Bey’s Mosque and many other Seljuk and Ottoman sites), The Ionian Cities of Priene and Militas, Aphrodisias and Pamukkale.

We didn’t have time to explore everywhere so we will go to Priene, Militas, Aphrodisias and Pukkalake next time and I’m looking forward to it!

We did visit the Meryama and Ephesus, and impressive as these are, there were a LOT of tourists and the weather was hot! Beautiful places which i longed to photograph but alas the scourge of tourism meant that I could hardly take a snap without loads of people violating my vista so I include only a handful of shots of Ephesus here and none of the Meryama which I was reluctant to photograph as it’s a pilgrimage and holy site for many Christians and I found snapping it a tad disrespectful.

Ephesus was awesome, it really was awe-inspiring and amazing, the architecture, layout all worked with stone and utterly beautiful, yet again, a sadness came over me as I thought how it must’ve been like and how it has fallen into ruin. Ephesus used to be by the sea, but the sea retreated contributing to it’s downfall, but waves of marauding barbarians destroyed Ephesus ensuring it’d never rise again and will be just a monument and a place where tourists tread.

I think moody Black and White would’ve worked better for photographing these ancient monuments and cities, and for those interested, read the excellent Southern Frontiers by Don McCullin – a big book full of beautiful B&W Large Format plates of photographs taken in similar places throughout the Southern Frontier of The Roman Empire.

“Ephesus (/ˈɛfəsəs/;[1] Greek: Ἔφεσος Ephesos; Turkish: Efes; ultimately from Hittite Apasa) was an ancient Greek city[2][3] on the coast of Ionia, three kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital[4][5] by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor after Sardis and Alexandria Troas.[6]”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephesus

The Ruins of Ephesus, Rolleiflex 3.5F Agfa Ultra 50.

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did however go to Seljuk, and Ayasoluk Hill and explore the ruins of St Johns Basilica and the Byzantine fortress overlooking the hill – and resting upon where the Gospels were said to have been written down.
And at the base of the hill is to be found The Temple of Artemis; in ruin, with a sadness in the air but with a hidden majesty which befits one of The 7 Wonders of The Ancient World.
Walking around the ruins is an episode in itself, I could sit there for hours and reflect.

“The Basilica of St. John was a basilica in Ephesus. It was constructed by Justinian I in the 6th century. It stands over the believed burial site of John the Apostle. It was modeled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.[1]”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_St._John

The Ruins of St Johns Basilica from Ayasoluk Hill, Seljuk, Turkey. Rolleiflex 3.5F Fuji Velvia 100.

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The Byzantine Fortress at Ayasoluk Hill. Rolleiflex 3.5F Fuji Velvia 100.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_Artemis

“The Temple of Artemis (Greek: Ἀρτεμίσιον, or Artemision), also known less precisely as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was located in Ephesus (near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey), and was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction in 401.[1] Only foundations and sculptural fragments of the latest of the temples at the site remain.”

The ruins of The Temple of Artemis, Seljuk, Turkey. Rolleiflex 3.5F Fuji Velvia 100.

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In this picture you can see the Byzantine Fortress and St John’s Basilica atop Ayasluk Hill.

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A wonderful place which you’ll need weeks on end to visit and explore, I have only included a small selection of photographs here as there’s a wealth of things to see and experience, olive groves, peach trees, sleepy hillside villages, Greek Churches, boats and orange trees, and of course bazaars, market towns and fantastic food and people.

A wonderful place for the photographer.

Jun 202014
 

Portraits from The Punjab

By Ibraar Hussain

And onto part Three! (Part 1, Part 2)

I only spent a few days in The Punjab, mostly round my Grandparents old Village with locals I absolutely love. Some were kind enough to allow me to make some portraits of them while we were out and about in the village. And then back to England.

You can see all my other stuff plus the majority from this and other trips at my Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/71817058@N08/

All photographs:

Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektachrome e100vs

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Jun 172014
 

The Camera doesn’t matter! The Kodak Easyshare Z990

By Ibraar Hussain

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We tend to hear the old adage about the Camera does not matter, which means it doesn’t matter what Camera you have, the person makes the photo.
I agree and disagree, agree because a creative person or a talented person can make a good photo or masterpiece with anything, even a pin hole camera. But I disagree because not all cameras are capable of making any type or standard of photograph.

I tend to carry around a Kodak Z990 Bridge Camera, a small sensor Digital with a 30x zoom lens and a bright f2.8 equivalent (at 28mm) lens made by Schneider – Kreuznach.

I bought it as it has the 30x zoom which was pretty good when it was released, and I thought I’d be able to take some pictures of birds and animals with it, and I bought it as it’s a Kodak, and the last half decent budget camera they made before going belly up, and I’ve a slight bit of brand loyalty towards Kodak.
The first Digital camera and APS cameras I ever bought were Kodak, and my favourite Film of all time is Kodak Ektachrome e100vs, and I’ve always liked the Kodak Digital colours of their Jpegs.

I’ve been using it here and there over the last couple of years with mixed results. To be honest I’ve not use fit that much, and pretty much failed to use it effectively for what I bought it for – birds and animals.

The focus tracks well enough, but it’s too noisy at anything over 400 ISO.

The Image Stabilisation is pretty good, but at full zoom, unless I use a monopod, I need very good light and a well-lit subject.
it’s also too slow from one shot to another, the zoom is via a toggle and slow and not accurate enough, and the focus can hunt. So as a long zoom camera for birds – not good enough.

I ended up using it as a point and shoot and for that it’s not too bad, and for what it is and within limits, the old adage rings true, the camera doesn’t matter unless….

Anyway, it has an interesting array of features. it can shoot in RAW, which I can’t be asked with, I tried it once and it’s about 20 years between each shot – and anyway, I ended up converting to Jpeg and using the image straight out of camera with some photoshop touching up.

Sure, if I were a Pro or shooting for print or display purposes I’d spend much more time in Aperture or Lightroom, and wouldn’t be using a camera like this anyway, so RAW is a waste of time and a marketing gimmick.

It has Aperture priority too, which again is a waste of time as there’s hardly going to be a way of getting shallow depth of field at 28mm so another waste of time and a gimmick.

What I love about it is the Film Simulation Modes; we have Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Kodacolor, T-Max and Tri X. Kodachrome gives natural colour, Ektachrome gives vivid with Kodacolor giving a 70ies look and so and so forth. You can also select the metering mode and other variables common to most cameras. It also has a decent program mode. So I can set it to ISO 100, Kodachrome, Centre Focus, Centre Weighted Metering and Auto WB and shoot away. Focus is nailed but does find it tricky when at full zoom. Full zoom gives a shallow depth of field to portraits and birds. ISO 100, 200 and 400 are very usable. and the lens is sharp with decent enough detail but very pleasing colour and contrast.

And it shoots 1080p video at very good smooth quality with no choppiness! The only downside to the video is that you can’t have much more control over focus selection and you can hear the motor when zooming, but I shot a lot of footage in the Himalays and it was as good as my iPhone 5 and not far off my Canon Legria.

It is well made and takes AA batteries which last a long time! And it looks nice.

With this it’s pointless trying to expect majestic landscapes or expecting to use Filters, and expect a very narrow latitude with the sensor so limited dynamic range. But keep it within limits and with well-lit subjects and you’ll get nice pleasing pictures with good colour and contrast! And you can crop to get some pleasing compositions, and for Birds…well, I’ve included a few shots here, but to be honest, it (and I am too) out of our depths as regards Birds.

So does the Camera matter? yes it does.

Spend more and get a camera suited to what you want to use it for or your style of photography.
I know the latest Bridge cameras with 50x zoom are very good indeed – but for serious Wildlife and Birds – save up for a Mirrorless at least a decent telephoto and a Tele converter. For anything else get one of the Olympus XZ-1 type larger sensor compacts with a decent zoom and fast sharp lens.

Buy one of these for it’s quirkiness and as a challenge, and the camera does’t matter if they’re just snaps for one’s own enjoyment or for a laugh (as mine are) A small selection of travel shots. I managed to get some shallow depth of field by standing back and zooming. And Post Processing was Minimal (framing for effect).

Snotty nosed Kids from The Nagar Valley. Karakoram Mountains

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Punjabi Village Life and Goats

Preparing the “Hukkah” Hubbly Bubbly pipe with black tobacco and unrefined sugar by the stove.

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a Village lady

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A Village snack shop

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Goatherd and their Goats

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Ice Cream seller

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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Various Snaps from Wales

Raven on a Wall

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Whitesands Beach, Pembrokeshire

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Sleepy Sheep, Brecon

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Some Sea Bird

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Rabbit Ears

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Christopher Robin

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Clivedon Pier

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The Wye Valley

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Jun 132014
 

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Friday Film: Hunza And Gojal

By Ibraar Hussain

Part 2: NAGAR, HUNZA AND GOJAL – See Part 1 HERE

The farther north one goes, the more magnificent the Karakoram scenery becomes. Leaving Shina speaking Chilas and Gilgit and the green Alpine Himalayas behind, with only backward glances revealing Nanga Parbat dominating the southern horizon and the line of the Himalaya.

North from Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway one follows the Hunza River, flanked on either side by the Hunza and Nagar Valleys. These valleys are absolutely gorgeous, full of tall graceful Poplars, Cherry, Walnut, Mulberry and especially Apricot trees.

The way is dominated by Rakaposhi, a 25,551 foot snow Giant, and flanked by His peaks, including Spantik or Golden peak, Diran, Ultar and Lady Finger Peak. The people of these valleys speak Burushuski along with the lingua franca of the North – Shina.

Hunza is famous for it’s Apricots, longevity and lifespan of it’s people and the astounding beauty of it’s country. just as Vigne described Nanga Parbat 150 years ago as ‘the most awful and most magnificent sight to be met with in the Himalayas.’ The Greats Eric Shipton, HW Tilman and Francis Younghusband along with Lord Curzon all acknowledged (amongst other explorers) that Hunza was probably the most beautiful country in the world.

From Karimabad and it’s Baltit and Altit forts one crosses the KKH until it joins the ancient Silk Route and they merge into one through Upper Hunza or Gojal where the people speak Wakhi, and onto Gulmit and Passu where one has to ford the Atabad Lake by boat. (This is a new lake caused by earth quakes, as the mountain sides collapsed damming th e Hunza river, and destroying the KKH and villages in the process).

This area is dominated by the Passu Cathedrals; a line of unclimbed jagged peaks which are a thing of exquisite beauty. Photographs cannot do this area any justice at all.

 

Faces from Hunza, Nagar and Gojal
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektachrome e100vs
Rolleiflex 3.5F 75mm Planar Agfa Ultra 50

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The Atabad Lake and River Hunza, Gojal
Contax G2 21mm Biogon T* Fuji Velvia 100

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The Passu Cathedrals, Passu, Gojal, Upper Hunza by the Karakoram Highway/ Silk Road
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Fuji Velvia 100

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The Altit Fort and The Hunza Valley from The Baltit Fort at Karimabad.
Rolleiflex 3.5F 75mm Planar Agfa Ultra 50

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The Hunza Valley and Rakaposhi
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The Baltit Fort and Ultar Peak Hunza
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Atabad lake, Gojal, Upper Hunza. Rolleiflex 3.5F Agfa Ultra 50. lab Scan

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May 302014
 

The Western Himalaya and Nanga Parbat

By Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve,

I hope thou rarest well along with stevehuffphoto which has as usual been full of wonderful stuff!

I’d like to write to you about my recent trip which would be an interesting thing to share with you and the viewers at stevehuffphoto.
I spent about 18 days in the Western Himalaya, Karakoram and then a few days in The Punjab (I arrived back in England last week Tuesday 13th May)

Needless to say, the trip was fantastic; it never ceases to excite and amaze me whenever I see high mountains and the wilderness. One of my ambitions or dreams as some people may describe it had been to one day gaze upon Nanga Parbat; that most beautiful of mountains and I’d go so far as to say probably one of the most wondrous sights in the natural world.

It is a 26,660 ft Giant, the 9th highest mountain in the world and what it lacks in height it more than makes up for it in terms of beauty and grace, and the fact that the Rupal face is the highest most sheer mountain face in the world, that it is only one of two (with K2 being the other) Mountains over 26,000 feet or “Eight-Thousanders” which has never been summited in Winter, and which has claimed many lives and which has been called the Killer Mountain amongst other names.

Nanga Parbat is the guardian of the Western end of the Himalaya, and it’s an anomaly as it lies to the north of the main range and beyond both west and north the Himalaya dwindles to nothing.
She rules over the Western Himalaya, and faces the Karakoram giants of the Rakaposhi range over a green Alpine country which is still typically Himalayan.
Beyond that the Rakaposhi and Haramosh ranges dominate, yet are nothing more than Demi-Gods under the gaze of Nanga Parbat.

The Karakoram is very different from the Himalaya; different rock, different country and climate. The Karakoram then expands both north and eastwards and towers into vast cities of towering ice and rock with massive glaciers and here can be found the Snow lake, The Ogre and Latok Peaks and Eastwards to The Baltoro, Broad peak, The Gasherbrums and K2.

Photographs cannot do it a justice, and any photograph ever made is but a rough echo and photostat of the reality of viewing this masterpiece of nature at close quarters, so my photographs are merely reflections.

Anyway, I digress, I was meant to give a rough outline of my trip and my gear and what I photographed, and to let you know that this huge area is a photographers paradise, as here can be found vast mountain scenery, glacial lakes and waterfalls, pine woods and forests, quaint villages and valleys and brilliant lovely people.

After a night in Rawal-Pindi I flew to Skardu from where I made my way to Gilgit. I should’ve lingered in Skardu as that’s where expeditions to K2, The Baltoro Glacier and the massed iced towers of the Karakoram begin and the scope for trekking and photography is limitless…next time though as I went to Gilgit to hook up with a couple of friends and to explore the mountains and of course, to see Nanga Parbat.

My trip took me to Raikot, then by a lairy butt clenching jeep up to 8000 feet then a 3 hour trek up tp 11,500 feet and Fairy Meadows, then along the Raikot Glacier to Beyal Camp and finally to the German Base Camp at over 13,000 feet. TI then went to The Nagar Valley and Minapin amongst the Apricot trees with views of Rakaposhi, Diran, Spantik and Ultar of the Karakoram. On to Hunza and Karimabad followed by Passu and Gojal then back to Gilgit. I then flew back to Rawal-Pindi and spent 3 days in the Western Punjab valley of the Jhelum River.

I left armed with my trusty Contax G2 – veteran of almost 10 years of rough trips and exploration and bearing the scars, dints and dents of many a fall and bash and trip. It works like a dream and the optics and mechanisms are clear and smooth all being a testament to how good this camera is.

I was supposed to take along with Rolleiflex 6008i with lenses and backs, but on my departure date I had a change of heart and opted for my Rolleiflex 3.5F with the 75mm Planar instead. The thought of being without electricity to charge batteries for a couple of weeks somewhat put me off from lugging the beast around and I am so glad of the decision as the 3.5F is utterly simple and once you get the hang of it; quick and easy to use.

I also had a Kodak Z990 bridge camera I used to photograph birdlife and to use as a Video camera, plus a canon Camcorder and my iPhone 5 for Video too (I shot a LOT of video).

I shot 5 rolls of Agfa Ultra 50 with the Rolleiflex, (I had another 5 rolls of the Agfa plus 5 rolls of Velvia 100 too, but I take my time with shooting, and don’t waste frames)

I decided to stick with the Agfa Ultra 50 as it’s easy to expose (I was using a Minolta Autometer IV incident meter), forgiving, has excellent latitude and dynamic range, it is also very interesting in terms of it’s palette and grain and I wanted a different look, feel and mood hence I didn’t shoot any Velvia with my Rolleiflex.

I shot 2 rolls of Fuji Velvia 100, 2 rolls of Kodak Ektachrome e100vs and 1 roll of Agfa Ultra 100 with my Contax G2 which makes it a grand total of 55 Medium Format Agfa Ultra 50 photographs, and 180 35mm Photographs – 235 Frames: pretty meagre amount for a 3 week trip in this day and age, and apart from the one roll of Velvia at Nanga Parbat (see below) which was a mixed bag, the rest were pretty good by my modest standards.

Slide film AND Digital (my friend had his Canon 40D which couldn’t cope) was at a massive disadvantage at Nanga Parbat, the mountain is HUGE and white and photographing it pushes everything to it’s limit.
Fuji Velvia 100 simply could not handle the exposure – the glaring white of the mountain relegated everything else to black – I expected this so only shot one roll of Velvia in the Contax, and instead focussed upon shooting the one roll of Agfa Ultra 100 in it, and a couple of rolls of Agfa Ultra 50 in the Rolleiflex.

The Agfa Ultra managed to handle the exposure latitude admirably, and I was very pleased with the results as the latitude is extreme!

We stayed in a wooden chalet in Fairy Meadows, over looked by Nanga Parbat, and everything about it was magic and unreal. At night the mountains glowed silver under moon and starlight and reports from Avalanches rumbled all around us.

Thanks to Mr Sabir and Mujahid of Fairy Meadows View Point for keeping their Chalet open for us and cooking our meals, as we were the only people there! Bliss!

It was a great trip, saw some wonderful sights and met some brilliant people, and I think this will be divided into 3 parts even though I can only include a small selection of snaps here (the rest can be found on my Flickr)
The first part is mostly attempts trying to capture the beauty and feel of this magnificent Mountain, plus a few of my friends there which I hope you enjoy. I thought I’d include most of the Rolleiflex squares as I like them.

These are only snaps, and the film IS grainy, and these are but Lab scans so I don’t want to get in to the Film vs Digital debate, yeah yeah, Digital is sharper and cleaner and this can be done with Digital, but as my Jamaican friends like to put it “..me no cyare about dat maan!…”

PART ONE. THE WESTERN HIMALAYA, AND NANGA PARBAT

View Point – where three Mountain ranges meet.

Looking at the line of hills, on the far Right, the Himalayas come to an end. They’re over lapped by The Hindu Kush range coming in from the left and to the rear, dark, grim and flanked by ice peaks is the Karakoram and in between snakes The River Indus. Contax G2, 21mm Carl Zeiss Biogon T*, Agfa Ultra 100.

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Sylph Clouds above Nanga Parbat with The Raikot Glacier

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The Naked Mountain

Rolleiflex 3.5 F, 75mm Carl Zeiss Planar, Agfa Ultra 50.

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View of The Raikot Face of Nanga Parbat from Fairy Meadows.
Rolleiflex 3.5 F, 75mm Carl Zeiss Planar, Agfa Ultra 50.

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Nanga Parbat, reflected, with Alpine forests and a Chalet.
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Mr Sabir and Mr Mujahid, of Fairy Meadows View Point.
Rolleiflex 3.5 F, 75mm Carl Zeiss Planar, Agfa Ultra 50.

I was very pleased with this top photograph as I could never expect anything to handle the exposure. (The print of this is very smooth) Thank you Minolta Autometer IV!

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Mr Mujahid.
Contax G2, 45mm Planar T*, Fuji Velvia 100.

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Mr Sabir and his Cock :) Poor thing was later turned into Cock Soup and Chicken Curry.
Contax G2, 45mm Planar T*, Agfa Ultra 100.

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Mr Habib, by The Raikot Glacier. A Friend and Alpine Guide.
Contax G2, 21mm Biogon T*. Agfa Ultra 100.

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Amongst the Forests and Snow Melt Lakes, below Nanga Parbat.
Rolleiflex 3.5 F, 75mm Carl Zeiss Planar, Agfa Ultra 50.

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Shepherds Huts, Western Himalaya, below Nanga Parbat.
Rolleiflex 3.5 F, 75mm Carl Zeiss Planar, Agfa Ultra 50.

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Apr 182014
 

Snapping Summer with Agfa Ultra 100

by Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve,

I’ve been enjoying myself this last year, and experimenting with different camera’s and formats; mostly my iPhone 5 and Hipstamatic, but also my Canon 700D, but mostly I’ve been enjoying photographing for my own pleasure, working on composition and trying hard to make things look and feel right to me.

I always find myself coming back to my old friend, my trusty Contax G2 – a camera I can use without thinking as it’s so intuitive, and such a pleasure to handle and use, and so reliable, and a camera which I prefer over any other.

I went to Barmouth in Southern Snowdonia in Wales this summer for a week, and shot a few rolls of Film with my Contax G2. Barmouth is a lovely secluded Sea Side town, at the southern end of Snowdonia. A dreamy place, on The Irish Sea dominated by the Mawddach Estuary, golden sand, the harbour and the wooden barmouth Bridge.

My Velvia and Sensia slides have yet to be scanned, but I took along one precious roll of Agfa Ultra 100 – a punchy and highly saturated print film which is very rare nowadays. It is quite grainy, but has an old world look and feel and obviously false colour which I think is perfect for Summer Holiday snaps. I have sourced quite a few rolls of Agfa Ultra 100 and Agfa Ultra 50 in both 120 and 35mm, and am using them sparingly.

These Films have long been discontinued, I prefer the ISO 50 version, but the ISO 100 version isn’t half bad.
Anyway, I submit a few snaps which I hope you can publish, as an ode to long gone Agfa Ultra 100, a Summer Holiday Film, where reds are really RED and the colour reminds one of a sunny seaside holiday and dreams of childhood.

Only snaps, but I adore this Film
Agfa Ultra 100
Contax G2 with 45mm Planar, 90mm Sonnar and 21mm Biogon
B+W Polariser
And a nice hot summer in Barmouth

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Mar 212014
 

A study in harsh light and tones

By Ibraar Hussain

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan 282014
 

The Contax RTS II Review 

By Ibraar Hussain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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