Jun 062013
 

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Sheep-breeding – dying activity

By Illya Krasnoshchok (Illya Reddy)

Hello Steve and readers of Steve Huff’s website. This time I would like to share my impressions after spending time in mountains and observing sheep-breeders lifestyle in modern Europe.

Last month I had an opportunity to go the south of Poland, mountain district with little villages and tiny towns hidden between green hills. People that live there differ from those who live in the other parts of Poland, some of them don’t even consider themselves Polish, they are “górale” (people from mountains). The place is gorgeous: green hills, forests, lots of creeks flowing from the mountains, many small villages, and hard-working people, – no wonder that sheep-breeding used to prosper here.

Sheep-breeding is an ancient activity, which was one of the main professions of people living in the Carpathian Mountains. Unfortunately, like many other activities it is no longer profitable enough to be popular. But there are still people who are really dedicated to this kind of work and I was lucky to meet such people, and get acquainted with a family that lives from this business: Władek, his caring wife, and nine children.

Władek has been a sheep-breeder for his whole live. Everyone takes part in this family business. They do all work by themselves only occasionally hiring people to help. Children, even younger ones, help father to take care of the sheep. Older ones even take initiative to make some improvements to the structure of family business. For example, Władek’s daughter, Basia, being 17 years old high school student initiated and fully implemented the idea of improving their sheep-farm in order to meet the requirements of the EU so now they get a little bit of financial support from the European Union.

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I was lucky to observe their life for a couple of days and took some pictures of what they see as every day life. It is quite amazing how hard-working their children are and even more so they manage to do well at school at the same time. Władek himself in spite of some very serious health problems continues to work hard because of necessity to take care of the family, but also because he is very passionate about what he does.

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The whole family lives in a house in the village as other people do there, but two or three of them are always shepherd sheep on green hills or just staying bacówka. Bacówka (pronounced like “batsoovka”) is something like a sheep-breeders base placed outside the village, where shepherds can keep their stuff, sleep, make milk products or slaughter sheep. This particular bacówka consists of a small house, two sheds and fumatorium.

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Inside the fumatorium.

 

Two steps from bacówka a small mountain creek flows.

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This place is literally by the board between Poland and Slovakia, so sometimes it is difficult to say in which country you are.

Slovakia, just an hour walk from Poland.

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Despite being impressed by sheep-breeders passion about what they do I also feel rather desperate about the conditions of their work. It is a pity that Poland and EU don’t try really hard to help such activities as sheep-breeding which are part of nation’s culture to prosper. Though EU funds farms it is often too complicated bureaucratic system for people to understand without having specific knowledge in law. Often funding is so little, that many consider it not worth all the efforts you have to make do get it. So there is a lot to improve in this sector. It is hard to imagine, that couple decades from now we may not be able to see green hills all covered with hundreds of white sheep. Landscape feels naked without them.

For me it was a great couple of days spent shooting in nice company. Such a great feeling when you just take photographs and think, nothing more.

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My personal favorite shot from the whole trip. Evening, shepherds fold sheep.

Thank you for reading. For those of you who are interested, all pictures are taken using Olympus E-P1 with 17mm f/2.8 lens.

Feel free to visit:

http://momentumstreet.com/illia-krasnoshchok/ - Momentum street photography collective

http://www.flickr.com/photos/illyareddy/ - my Flickr page

Dec 072012
 

The Ultimate Film Compact: The Olympus mju II

By Illya Reddy

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

Size

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

Lens

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

Automatic camera

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

Price

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

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

 

 

Nov 282012
 

Momentum: From Eastern Europe with Love

By Illya Reddy

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

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

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

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

Our website: momentumstreet.com

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

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

Anastasia Kichigina

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Mikhail Palinchak

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Dmitry Stepanenko

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Ilya Atlas

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Max Chichinskiy

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Illia Krasnoshchok

Aug 092012
 

My Little Road Trip

by Illya Reddy

I’ve never been film lover neither film hater. I just couldn’t understand why people spend extra time and cash for it. I loved digital and didn’t want to complicate my photography by using film. But everything has changed…

This summer I’ve had kind of a working road trip – a very small one. During this trip I’ve visited Oleksandriya park in Bila Tserkwa and some villages near Kanyvske reservoir (about 60 miles from Kiev). The gear I took there was rather unnatural for me: just film P&S with some Agfa and Polaroid film.

The camera is Olympus superzoom 105g, which actually belongs to my mom. Nice, simple automatic camera. Although lens is quite blurry towards the edges, it doesn’t bother me. I never use the zoom, just shoot at its widest FL 38mm. Plus it has got built-in flash, so I started experimenting with flash photography.

The feeling of a cheap-cheap plastic camera is not as bad as I expected it to be. In fact, it turned out to be stimulating, less concentrated on camera itself. You don’t think about your camera at all. You are not afraid to drop it or lose; you can take it wherever you go even in the roughest places.

First two images were taken in Oleksandriya park – what a nice place! I highly recommend it to everyone, who visits Ukraine. Great place to shoot also. People are walking, sitting on the ground, feeding swans and ducks, kids are playing… I just walked and took pictures – it was a great day.

This picture (above) was taken in Rghyshchiv village on a local football match. Couple just came to watch the game and drink some beer with fish. Very friendly people, but don’t like to be photographed, unfortunately. The below ones were taken in Balyko-Shchuchenka village during another local match. This time it was volleyball. These kids came on their bicycles just to hang around. We talked a little, than I drag raced on bicycles with one of them. I lost, obviously :)

 

 The picture above is my favorite one. This little guy looks like a real biker sitting on his Harley. The life in villages is pretty hard actually, even kids work a lot, and on this picture he doesn’t look like a child.

Bottom line

During this trip I met my new love – film. Photography started to feel different for me. No big changes, just different feeling – taking shots you never know which ones are good. You have to wait. This is so relaxing. And then, when you look on the negatives or slides or index-prints or whatever, it turns out to be better than you expected, or otherwise… Photography started to be less virtual, more real. When you hold negatives in your hands, scanning them, it feels more like an art for me.

Thanks for reading this small post about little trip, and thank you, Steve, for letting me share my thoughts on your website!

Feel free to visit my flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/illyareddy/

Jul 112012
 

Holga 25mm f/8 lens for micro 4/3 review

By Illya Reddy

Hello all the readers of Steve Huff’s website! Just a couple of weeks ago I got a very special product – perhaps world’s cheapest new lens – Holga 25mm f/8 lens for micro4/3 cameras. This review is going to be a short one, but I will do my best not to miss anything that you should know before spending 16$ on this marvelous product of HK photography industry.

Built quality and package

So, lens comes in rather simple package with informative manual and both lens caps (which are completely useless). I was not surprised by the built quality – plastic, plastic, plastic (even lens elements are plastic) – everything is made according to Holga’s best traditions.

When you put it on your camera you notice how light it is. This lens has approx. the same size as 17mm pancake. The front lens element is so tiny, that you don’t need any lens cap.

Grainy B/W filter with a hand-made red filter attached (a piece of red scotch tape)

Focusing

Manual focus is easier than I expected, but you must get used to it. There is no distance scale for focusing, you just focus by following symbols marked on the focus ring: single portrait, few people’s portrait, group portrait and landscape. But the problem is they are completely helpless. Between single portrait and group portrait you can shoot macro only. For real single portrait I usually set lens to a group portrait symbol. Keep in mind, that lens has fixed f/8 aperture so DOF is rather large.

Performance

Holga 25mm f/8 produces reasonably contrasty images on my E-P1 (I believe it works the same on other cameras). Pictures look just right even without post processing. Of course as a Holga branded product it vignettes strongly. So I keep camera in 6:6 mode, because in 4:3 mode edges are almost completely black. The interesting thing about this lens is that if you put it on your camera likewise it doesn’t vignette.

If you focused correctly this lens can produce sharp enough results, but of course it can’t match any real lens. If you focused on something that is really close you can get some bokeh. But DO NOT do this! This lens’ bokeh is just UGLY.

Quite unpredictable results when shooting towards the sun.

Top-tips to use Holga 25mm f/8 lens

1) Never use lens cap with this lens.

2) Keep focus ring between group of people and landscape marks. It suits most situations so you won’t miss shots.

3) Keep ISO at 640-800 in the daylight – lens is really dark.

4) Set camera to 6:6 aspect ratio.

5) Set Middle Fine image quality, because there is no point wasting space for 9mp square shots since lens can’t produce detailed enough image for such resolution.

6) Soot JPEG only. This is lomo lens, don’t waste your time – just shoot.

Bottom line

My heart is really attached to this piece of plastic. I love the ease of use, form factor and images it produces. The overall image you get from Holga lens I’d describe as a cheap-film-camera-like lomo-ish effect. It is definitely not for everyone. But I really LOVE it. I can just take this lens with me to some boring place and get some interesting shots. Because it makes me think more creatively, out-of-the box.

Thank you for reading!

If you are interested in my photography feel free to visit my flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/illyareddy/

Jun 012012
 

 

I have always been told by more experienced photographers, that my kit lens (I used to have a Nikon one for my DSLR) is just a big body cap. And it made me hate my lens too, so I sold it and bought nice fast prime. It was like ìHo-Ho, here is your time Mr.Bresson younger, now your photos are going to be amazing, boy. Yeah!î. But no major difference happened. And during my photography life I learned about how my gear does not matter (more about it in my previous post HERE.

I mostly shoot street photography. It is my passion. But in this post I’d like to share with you my set of black and white non-street photographs. Part of them is family album. All of photos in this article were made with Olympus 14-42mm kit zoom and my favorite classic, the Olympus E-P1.

And before I start I want to clarify: I do LOVE good glass and I definitely prefer primes over zooms. So there is no reason telling me that are better lenses. I completely agree that a kit zoom is not a great lens and I can I rather put 17mm prime or any other prime in my bag. All I want to tell is that this lens is underestimated. Many photographers hate it, but I am sure that this piece of plastic and glass can find its place in almost everyone’s camera bag.

So let’s start. Here you go: 7 reasons why you should love your kit zoom:

 

1. It is cheap

This is the main point. Nikon 18-55mm costs under $140 and Nikon’s gorgeous 17-55mm costs over $1600. First is hated, second is loved. Why? 17-55mm is more than 10 times more expensive. But is it a 10 times better lens or does it produce 10 times better images? Nope. 18-55mm is much more kick-ass lens for its price than the professional 17-55mm. So for the price it is actually better!

And a kit lens is even cheaper when it comes included with your camera. With Olympus PENs you can get it for 100$ or even less. It’s the same price as SLR magic toy lenses, which are fun (just purchased one BTW) but optically can’t match the real lenses.

 

2. IQ is not that bad

I used to have the 18-55mm Nikon lens and I now have the 14-42mm in my camera bag and these two are not bad at all. The Nikon is slightly better but the Oly is still OK for most of the situations. I’ve heard that the Lumix kit zoom is even sharper than the Olympus one.

And such an irony that my 14-42mm has even less color fringing than 17mm pancake, which as a prime supposed to have better IQ. And 18-55mm paired with Nikon D40 was a bloody sharp combo, to be fair: minimal distortion, almost no color fringing and that kick-ass sharpness.

 

3. Nice focal lengths

28mm, 50mm and 90mm is the classic prime set of old school photographers (though some may consider 35mm instead of first two, me too). All these focal lengths are included in every kit zoom speaking about 28-85mm EFL ones and even more with the 28-190mm ones (such as 18-135mm from Canon, Nikon and other SLR brands). So it is suitable for most types of photography and allows you to think creatively if you want, not limiting with one focal length. Also it is great if you want to check if certain FL is suitable for you before buying a prime, for example. Then, maybe, after 20 years 28-85 zoom will be classic one, but even today it is the most classic lens among other zooms.

These are shadows on the museum wall

4. Macro performance

Can’t tell about all kit zooms, but these two, what I used, have pretty nice macro capabilities. At the maximum FL they can come up close to 20-25 cm to your subject. Personally I do not take macro shots and so that do not have macro lens. But it was a pleasure to find out that my kit lens is able to take pictures of film. It is a nice way to save money on scanning if you don’t shoot film much.

My color film shot on Kodak Profoto XL

5. Reasonably small

Of course size wise pancake primes are sure winners, but still, kit zooms are the smallest among other zooms. And Panasonic works intensively in this area as they took the Olympus idea of collapsible zoom and made it even better with their 14-42mm Power Zoom. Unfortunately this increased the price, but this lens is as small as a pancake prime, when collapsed, and still much more compact than competitors when turned on.

My Grandma’s chickens and a cat watching them from the other side of the window

6. Worlds best lens for beginners

Since film SLRs camera manufactures always include 28-85mm lens with their entry-level models. And they definitely have reasons for this. Though advanced shooter will be happier to see a fast standard prime, most of the beginners just NEED to have a lens, which includes 4 classic FLs (28, 35, 50, 90). It will help them to try most kinds of photography and find themselves in this art. Of course, most of them will grow up and buy new gear, but this old kit zoom will always be like first step, or first teacher.

Saw this lonely girl in a hospital. There were almost no people and she was sitting waiting for her doctor. Her look was so dreamy that I couldn’t resist taking a picture

7. Even PROs are using kit zooms

It is hard to believe, but PROs, who make money with photography, don’t neglect using these lenses as well. A lot of paparazzi use small cheap lens for close up reportage with flash. It is quite dangerous work for equipment, but they don’t worry about cheap one and concentrate on work.

 

So here it is: you have 7 reasons to love your old crappy cheap body cap with glass ;)

Thanks you guys for reading, and huge THANK YOU to Steve for this beautiful website. (no, thank YOU Illya)!

If you are interested in my street photography, feel free to visit my Flickr page!

Apr 262012
 

Back to its roots, feat. Olympus PEN EP-1

By Illya Reddy

“The photography is all about me, not the camera, but me, me, me…” – I have been repeating these words in my mind. It was too hard for me to leave the cameras and go to photography itself, because I used to be a huge camera geek. Though I didn’t have a lot of cameras I spent all my time thinking about the gear, about how it limits me, about how I need a new camera. And it was really bad period in my photography life. I was stuck for 1,5 years worrying about the gear and not paying any attention to photography. During this period I got interested with street photography and fell in love with it immediately. That was a turning point and I realized that the only problem was that I didn’t want to actually LEARN.

My requirements to cameras have changed, and I also realized that I didn’t need all the DSLR power that much. I decided just to pick up the right one for me and leave it up. Well, I went back to its roots and choose the first digital PEN – the EP-1. However I can’t say that DSLRs are bad – no! They are actually great, but not for my particular needs. I need just a simple tool to study the art of photography. And EP-1 is the way to it.  
And it would be pity of me if I didn’t mention my feelings to this camera. I LOVE it. Though it can’t be called a perfect one. But the thing is when something kind of suits you, you can easily get through its weak points. I love almost everything about it. Despite reasonable price, this camera is made quite well and I like this nice solid feeling in my hands. Compact size, discreet body, it does not look like you are going to shoot someone with a gun. And I completely agree with Steve – this camera is really fun to use, I just can’t stop shooting.

Street photography requires a fast camera. And in this respect Olympus really does NOT stand out. You can hear a lot of complains about the slow autofocus speed. And it is slow indeed, although it is MUCH faster with 17mm pancake than with the kit zoom. By the way I quite often stop 17mm one down to f/8, pre-set the focus at 3-4 meters and then almost everything will be in focus – that is the way to get through EP-1 slowness. I have both of kit lenses and Arsat 50mm f/2 lens with a Nikon>M4/3 adapter. Most of the time zoom is just resting in the bag. The 17mm and 50mm lens couple gives me nice 35mm and 100mm equivalent. And kit zoom is used mainly to get a 28mm equivalent. Pancake is quite a good lens: fast f/2.8, reasonably wide 35mm focal length and incredible small size make it really great carry-around lens. And the 50mm Arsat one is also worth mentioning. Well. It is actually a Ukrainian-made lens for Kiev cameras, which have the Nikon F bayonet. I used it with my Nikon DSLR and kept it with me after selling the camera “just-in-case”. And voila: it perfectly suits EP-1, makes it well-balanced all-metal body and delivers this nice 100mm equivalent which I love using for portraits and far-away landscapes. Though it is a Soviet-designed lens, it is pretty sharp wide open and produces nice creamy swirled bokeh. Obviously as an old, cheap lens it has some weaknesses like bad handing against the sun, but I don’t care about it. If you do, then there are plenty of nice manual Nikon, Pentax, Canon 50mm lenses, which are almost as affordable as mine one. And nice thing about these lenses is that metering does work, so you have to just focus and shoot. Manual focus with this lens is just a pleasure: smooth focusing ring gives that classy like-the-Leica feeling. This Arsat is probably my favorite lens for the PEN in terms of feelings.

Anyway, I got distracted, let’s get back to the street photography. I started it 1 year ago. It became a big part of my life. It helped me to fight off my shyness. It is something like a special lifestyle, when you are not just walker-by on the street. You are kind of storyteller of what you see, and what will never be repeated. Walking down the street you can see many people or one person or no people at all, but almost everywhere there will be something special and your mission is to capture that. It’s interesting to capture some emotion, geometry and mood of the street’s life. I’m still looking for my own style; hope I will work it out soon.

It’s always like a small trip, a little adventure to go to the photo shooting. You’ll never know what kind of people you’re going to meet, what kind of places you’re going to visit. Maybe it’ll be a successful day and you’ll get a few nice shots, maybe it won’t and you’ll come back home a bit disappointed. But the next day, if you have some time, you’ll just grab your camera bag and go wherever and obviously this time you will get a few good pictures.

 

Check out my Flickr page:

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

Also check out those beautiful guys’ work, that inspired me a lot and helped with priceless advice:

- http://vk.com/sparrow_sparrow?z=albums6587480

- http://500px.com/KirillKotov

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