Apr 082015
 

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Kathmandu, Nepal with the Sony A7s and the Mitakon 50mm f.95

by Judd Weiss

These Nepal photos probably would not exist if not for this site. Steve Huff’s blog and wider sharing community has been the single largest influence on my photography. I don’t connect with the approach of most photography communities online. But this community of mirrorless enthusiasts has continued to inspire me and push me to keep going further with this photography obsession. I’m still relatively new to photography, starting about 4.5 years ago when I picked up the first Sony NEX-3. For about a year I treated it more like a higher quality point and shoot for parties. Since I’ve discovered Steve’s site, I’ve become a daily addict, pouring over the daily inspirations and user reports, trying to understand new perspectives, obsessively studying how you impressive bastards pull it off. I’ve never taken a real course in photography, this blog has been my photography school. It’s possible I might still be shooting glorified point and shoot style photos without it. And all the beautiful photos in my life that I cherish might never have been if not for the influence of the community here. So thank you Steve and everyone else who has contributed inspiring photos in guest posts here. I’m honored to offer my small contribution to the mix.

Despite all of my public statements at the beginning of 2015 that I’m going to tone down this photography obsession and focus more on business, I just can’t help it. I want to do everything at once. When you’re doing something you’re proud of and excited about, it feels like a crime to restrain yourself. And there was just no way I could turn down this trip to Nepal. I didn’t know anything about Nepal except that it’s north of India and that some very different world awaits.

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I didn’t Google or Wikipedia anything about Nepal. Nothing. I didn’t want any movie spoilers, I just wanted the experience to be fresh. I was brought to Nepal to shoot a conference. I’m not a career photographer, I don’t market myself as a photographer or even have a proper portfolio site online at the moment. I’m not a professional, this is not my profession. I’m an enthusiast, I’m always obsessively trying to create beautiful compelling photos to the best of my ability. And that’s exactly what the conference organizers wanted. It’s a crazy expense to bring someone from the other side of the planet out to photograph your event in a 3rd world nation, so I knew I had some huge pressure to make sure I deliver.

The photos in this post are an album separate from the conference, purely the scenic photos of Nepal I captured outside of the conference.

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I am hopelessly in love with my Sony A7s. The lowlight ability is not a leap in technology, this is some kind of magic voodoo shit. I don’t know what dark forces Sony has negotiated with to let us finally see clearly in the dark, but I’m not going to ask too many question. It’s amazing, and 12MP is actually still overkill when most of my images appear online and are seen at less than 2MP. I’m not limited by that sensor. On the contrary, the limits of light are pretty much gone. I only shoot with manual lenses. Most photographers don’t believe me when I tell them that using manual lenses is tremendously FASTER than autofocus but it’s the truth. Unless you’re center focusing ever shot, autofocus slows you down and limits your ability to compose a scene where the point of focus is anywhere but the dead center. Believe it or not, 1/3 of the photos in this post were shot from the front seat of a moving car. Autofocus would have slowed me down and outright prevented me from composing the shots the way I wanted while everything is literally speeding by me. Focus peaking, I can’t live without it.

I only brought 2 lenses, and almost exclusively used only 1, the Mitakon 50mm f.95. I suppose there may be snobs that don’t like that it’s not an $11,000 Leica, but what I do know is that this lens helps me produce images that make my heart skip a beat. I also use the Voigtlander 21mm f1.8, but rarely. I love the wide Voigtlander, and I plan to keep it even though I rarely use it. I suppose the way I often think about the lens combo is that I like to take a couple 21mm wide shots to establish the entirety of the scene. And then I go through with the 50mm and focus in on the details. I’ve taken many critical photos with the 21mm, but the Mitakon 50mm is my new baby virtually permanently attached to my camera (replacing the status previously held by my Voigtlander 35mm f1.2).

One note about the Mitakon 50mm, I’ve been chasing wider and wider aperture lenses since I got started a few years ago, and now I’ve finally gone too far. f.95 is ridiculous. I usually don’t go beyond f1.4 as f.95 is just too insane, and not the kind of shot I usually want. I suppose I like the luxury of knowing that I can totally abandon reality and push completely into a dream world by going to f.95, but I would also be totally fine constrained to a maximum aperture of f1.4. The wide aperture chase is now over for me.

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Most of these photos were taken in a single day devoted to exploring Kathmandu. I knew I wouldn’t have much chance to explore the city while I was at the conference, so I gave myself 2 extra days in Kathmandu to see and capture whatever I could. Unfortunately, due to some serious incompetence and dishonesty from a tour guide, an early morning hike out in the rural mountains surrounding Kathmandu turned into an all day affair that caused me to cancel my packed schedule of sights I planned to see in my precious remaining few hours on my last day in the country. Stuck all day in the middle of nowhere, I was furious to waste most of one of my only 2 sightseeing days, but it’s a lesson in relying on your common sense over and above the assurances of strangers who act like they know what they’re talking about when it doesn’t make sense. Even when you’re in a totally foreign land. But I digress. I did manage to get good shots of the rural mountain villages and some groups of cute kids after they got out of school for the day. I have no shame, I just go up to groups of random school kids and ask who wants to be famous. They get ecstatic when I show them nice shots of themselves and their friends in my camera. No one asked for my info to get the photos, they seemed happy just that these photos of them would be seen by people in America.

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One thing I totally didn’t expect was the weather. I knew I was going to the Himalayas. In January. I packed for very cold weather (I remember surviving the coldest winter on record in Romania), but it wasn’t that cold in Kathmandu. Once I was there I was told that Kathmandu is the valley surrounded by the mountains, and that it’s relatively warm. No snow ever falls in Kathmandu. It felt more desert like, maybe a little chilly at night, but no big deal. I had full body thermal underwear packed, but I wish I brought sandals instead.

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I didn’t have time to check out any other city, though I’m told there are some real treasures throughout Nepal. Kathmandu was both beautiful and gritty. The poverty is pretty extreme, people often live on $80 a month. There is trash everywhere. Los Angeles is not exactly a clean city, but it feels like a sterile sanitary clean room by comparison. I’ve seen plenty of stray dogs and cats in other countries, but all the stray cows was actually pretty cool. The warmth of the Nepali people was striking. Everyone was extremely friendly and graciously greeted me with a Namaste and a bow. I’m talking about the random strangers I approached with my camera. I learned to reply back “Thank you friend” in their language, which people enjoyed.

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The temples swarming with monkeys was a highlight. They’re really cute until you get up close. I was warned repeatedly not to get too close, but I didn’t listen, and one angry monkey tried to grab my camera from me. I was ready to fight him to the death, he’s not taking that (I did get a powerful angry picture of him, see below). The monkeys are rude. They are all unfriendly little shits actually. I can see why our society has so many problems, if we evolved from these bastards. Adorable as they are.

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I took a $200 sight seeing flight to Mount Everest with a few friends. I regretted it immediately afterwards. We didn’t get that close, I’ve seen mountains from a plane window before, I wasn’t that impressed, and I really could have used the sleep instead of waking up so early for a delayed and pointless flight. But when I got back to Los Angeles and saw the photos I took of these majestic mountain ridges, I’m glad I did it. I shot those mountains totally sleep deprived, wishing I was back in a bed instead of a freezing cold plane to nowhere, but I managed to still capture a few shots that are priceless to me.

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One night some of the conference attendees went out to a bar that had a local metal band playing. We were out on the patio where we could talk, which was my intention so that we weren’t drowned out by whatever crappy local band was set to play. But I was surprised and impressed with how good the local band actually was. I picked up my camera and started taking some shots of them, and damn did that amazing low light combo came in handy. They reminded me of some sort of a Nepalese Deftones. A throwback to 90s Numetal when it was still artistic, but driving and aggressive. And the guys were actually talented, the music was great, and fans were in a trance and pumped. I really didn’t expect that when I heard a local metal band was playing that night. I found the guitarist after the show and showed him a few shots I took, and he flipped out, immediately bringing me over to the singer to show him my camera screen. I promised they would eventually get these, and they invited me to share a joint with them. I got a picture of that too ;)

Pretty cool the places a little device in your hand will take you.

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One of the craziest things I saw was a citywide protest that shut down all major streets on my last morning there, while I was rushing to get to the airport. Fortunately they were letting tourists through (the protesters don’t want to look like they’re cutting off vital income to the country). The protests were orchestrated by Maoists. Not Socialists, not Communists, but Maoists. With flags and banners of Mao. I’m just going out on a limb here, but it felt like it had to be China’s influence to me. Nepal is safe from out right occupation since it’s so closely linked to the massive India, but that doesn’t mean China isn’t going to meddle. Purely my speculation, but seeing very poor people that live off less than $100 a month carry around printed flags and banners of China’s Chairman Mao leads me to assume who’s funding this…

I WISH I had walked around and captured some compelling shots of the protests, but I was rushing to the airport, worried about catching my flight, and could only get a few imperfect shots as my taxi sped by.

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Anyway, these pictures are worth more than any of my words. This is a landmark album for me, and easily the most exotic photos I’ve ever taken. I hope they help you get a better idea of the experience of this different world.

Full album and original post can be found on my blog here:

http://hustlebear.com/2015/03/12/kathmandu-nepal-january-2015/

You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/juddweiss

I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss

[All the rest of the images in order (excluding those already used and excluding nepal-2015-1029.jpg):

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This final shot was a defocused cityscape take-off from my connecting flight in Guangzhou, China.

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Apr 012015
 

Gaudi’s, Casa Batllo house Barcelona

By Richard Craze

Hi, Steve.

Just thought I’d post a few pictures from Barcelona. My wife and I spent a few days there. It’s a wonderful place, so much to see and do. The one place you must go to is the Gaudi’s, Casa Batllo house, its amazing. If your into Art Nouveau, you will love this place. Not a straight line in the place!

Gaudi’s Casa Batllo Stair way. This is a grab shoot, I was taking a picture of the stair way when this woman came into the frame, thought it look good so quickly took the picture.

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Gaudi Casa Batllo Window_3. This image is of the Japanese kid, posing and hogging this beautiful window. So I thought I’d go around the back of the window and take pictures from that side, quite like it.

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Gaudi Casa Batllo_3. This is a little bit of cheating on my part. This image is taken on the roof of the Casa Batllo house, it was raining quite bad so I had very little time to take any pictures. I’ve worked on this image in photoshop just to make it a bit more interesting, hopefully?

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Anyway hope you enjoy the pictures.

Mar 272015
 

One Camera, One Lens and One Faraway Destination

By Fahad A

Hey Brandon,

Thank you for featuring my previous post I shared earlier this year.

Last summer I decided to go on a quick vacation somewhere far, somewhere I have never been before or even thought about visiting. Looked up the map, found Korea to be distant, far, interesting and not top of mind destination for someone who wants to roam around and take pictures.

Without any preconceptions about South Korea, I took a plane to Seoul, accompanied with a small suitcase that barely carries a couple of shirts, and a backpack that for my laptop and camera.

Few hours before the flight, I had a quick debate with myself about which gear should I take along with my Leica M + Summicron 50mm (V4), should i take the tiny Fuji 100s ? or should I take along the Nokton 35mm 1.2.

I decided to keep both Fuji and Nokton lens at home. went to Seoul with only one camera, and one lens! which means I’m stuck with 50mm focal length for the entire trip.

Did I regret it? I don’t think so. I enjoyed the limitation of only one lens. and how I should adapt with the focal length rather than replacing it or take out another camera with a different lens whenever I need to.

I might have missed few shots that were easier with a wider lens, however I’d sacrifice them anytime for the experience I got from limiting myself to 50mm.

Fahad A

For the full set, please take a look here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/sets/72157648593556971/

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Mar 202015
 

The Haiti Kanaval

By Vicente Pamparo

Hi Brandon & Steve,

I traveled to Haiti to document some of the traditional masquerade which occurs during the Haiti Kanaval.  What I saw was a mixture of incredible storytelling, and visceral imagery.  The energy behind the photographs and story was raw.  Needless to say, Haiti’s an incredible place that’s worth another look for visitors.

Thanks for the opportunity and keep up the work on the site!

www.vicentepamparo.com

Regards,
Vicente

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Mar 182015
 

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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/

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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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Mar 102015
 

Ice Hotel-10

Ice Cool X-Series

By Ben Cherry

A little about me: I’ve written two previous reports for Steve Huff Photo, it is also a pleasure to be involved with this fantastic site. I describe myself as an Environmental Photojournalist with a bit of a travel addiction, so when Untravelled Paths Ltd got in touch about going to photograph an Ice Hotel in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania I jumped at the chance. You can see more of my work through the following links:

Websitewww.bencherryphotos.com
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Benji_Cherry
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/BenCherryPhotography
Instagramhttp://instagram.com/benji_cherry/

This was my first international assignment using only the X-Series, having recently moved away from a Canon + Fujifilm set up to purely a Fujifilm set up. One of the main reasons for switching to this set up is the compact design of the gear, allowing me to keep much more gear in my carry-on bag without having to store any electronics/glass in the hold (a no-go for me because of the increased likelihood of damage to equipment).

Conditions were cold, as you can guess as it was an ICE hotel, but thankfully the gear didn’t skip a beat. Windchill factor in some instances must have been well into the minus teens celsius.

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For much of the trip I was using two X-T1 cameras with the following lenses: 10-24mm, 23mm, 56mm and 50-140mm. These are some of the best lenses I have ever used: fast, sharp and just a pleasure to use. The recently released 16-55mm would have also been helpful because of the weather resistance and the up and coming 16mm looks to be another gorgeous low light prime. I have very few negative words to say about any of this kit, the one thing I wish was different was that the 10-24mm had some weather resistance. Generally I had the 10-24mm on one X-T1 and the 50-140mm on the other. When I was outside in relatively heavy snow and a very sharp wind I was a bit concerned about the lens but it survived!

The other thing that I wish was different is the ability to fire a flash signal to external flashes/triggers in the continuous shooting modes on the X-T1. This would be really helpful when using quick recycling flashes to photograph scenes which are evolving quickly. After all, the camera should only have to send a signal to fire the flash, even if this was just for manual flashes initially it would be helpful. These two criticisms are made not to spit the products, as I love them to bits, but because I know this will make its way to Fujifilm and they will consider it in future developments. It is refreshing to see a company really take constructive criticism and often implement suitable changes to further the development of already very successful products.

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I really enjoyed the different film settings available, it meant that I could quickly change the look of the photos I captured when the conditions changed. However, most of the time I used Velvia as I loved the strong colour saturation, especially when the sun was shining or I was photographing indoors with LED lights imbedded into the ice.

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As well as the X-T1s I also had my ever-present X100s with me. This is such a great camera (yes I know the T is out and is a big improvement), so small and discreet, it is brilliant for taking shots in almost every situation. Here is an example where this elderly gentleman didn’t speak any English but we managed to just about communicate, using this little camera he was happy and at ease with me taking his portrait.

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A large proportion of the shots required were of the buildings interiors. For this I used two Godox V850 manual flashes for large rooms such as the Ice Church. The advantage of these flashes is that they run on lithium rechargeable batteries which are equivalent to 12 AA batteries, this was a major advantage because it meant that I didn’t actually have to change batteries once, even in the cold conditions. However, more often than not I was using the Nissin i40 flash, a brilliant compact TTL flash that really proved its worth on this trip. Being able to use this with a TTL cable and a shoot-through umbrella meant that I could efficiently get through the twelve unique bedrooms in a few hours. The importance of this was being able cope with the cold! Being relatively motionless in a building made of ice for a long period of time means your body temperature quickly falls. Thankfully the six layers I had on at the time kept me working for those few hours.

The X-Series has allowed my photography to really develop over the past two years of using it. It gives me back control through the dials which encourage creativity and certainly makes me think more before shooting. I find myself not missing my old equipment or the full frame sensor aspect, all in all I am very happy with the Fujifilm set up and its ability to cope with harsh conditions.

Feb 162015
 

Back from Japan

By Dan Bar

Hello Brandon & Steve

Just got back from Japan with my Leica MM and Leica 240 M-P!  What can i say , Japan is simply beautiful , lovely polite people willing to help, extremely clean. I fell in love with this fantastic country. Only problem is the 15 hours flight from Israel, It is too much.

All the photos were taken with the Leica MM + Lux 50 ASPH.

On my way to Tokyo I stopped at Wetzlar Germany , they checked my MM and said there was a problem with my sensor, instead of fixing it they simply replaced the old MM with a new one.

Good for you Leica!

Danny

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Feb 102015
 

Second go with the Leica M Monochrom

By Chris H

Not long ago, I published my first blog post via stevehuffphoto.com (Many thanks to Steve for sharing my write up) about my first serious experience with the Leica M Monochrom + Vintage LTM lenses in Paris.

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The Leica M Monochrom has definitely sparked my passion for black and white photography.  I love shooting in black and white but was never as motivated until owning the Leica M Monochrom.  One of the main reasons is because the Leica M Monochrom leaves me no alternatives but to shoot in black and white.  There were times that I struggled to generate great black and white frames but the more I struggled, the harder I pushed myself.  I love keeping myself at the limit because that’s where you unleash your full potential.  Some people might ask why did I not keep a color camera in hand but that is because I like to be completely focused on the one thing I wish to master.  From time to time I seek challenges, keeping myself out of the comfort zone is a method to achieve improvement.

Tokyo, Japan is one of my favourite capitals as it has some of the most astonishing architecture, countless vintage camera stores and of course Japanese food allowing me to enjoy more than 3 meals per day.  Being a frequent traveller, I am always impressed by what I see but to also be able to capture it exactly as how I felt at that moment is not easy.  Often one perfect frame which I already have in mind will take quite long to reproduce through my camera and lens.  This time I have decided to explore a very unfamiliar focal length – 21mm   Knowing that it might not be easy to use since the Leica M 21 F/1.4 ASPH is not a shift lens (I love lenses with shift movement for shooting architecture / landscape) plus the widest focal length I experienced is 28mm.  Being a first timer with the 21mm I had this fear which I might not able to cope with such wide perspective in such a short matter of time.  Finder choice, I picked the Universal Wide-angle Viewfinder.  Yes, not many people like it due to the look, plus it adds weight and size to the M but for me I value its practicality..  It is bright, like a TV screen and features that beloved leveler.  The leveler is a star because I dislike correcting perspective in post-production; dragging or cropping pixels are never a good thing.  For a filter option, I went for a normal UV MRC by B+W which I did not prefer too much and would have loved to have a yellow filter (rarely in stock in Hong Kong) for boosting the shadow detail a little.

First location – Tokyo International Forum

This is a masterpiece location which I visited as part of an architectural tour almost 10 years ago.  There are only bits and pieces in my memory which I can recall unfortunately.  Being able to return and appreciate this beauty after so long has made me very emotional.  The camera was kept in the bag for the first 45 minutes or so after arriving on site. I just wanted to focus on enjoying the atmosphere and every bit of detail like the materials, shape and structure which formed this amazing art piece.  As time went on, the sun found its way out of the clouds.  I have noticed some amazing shadows being cast on the ground through the curtain wall and roof structures.  Walking up and down, standing and kneeling.  People at the Tokyo International Forum must have thought I am a strange person but I could not care less because I knew that there was not much time left for me to enjoy this ultimate wonderland and to make the most of it, I had to focus.  As a first timer to the 21mm the final images are very encouraging; I am pretty much in love with this focal length.

Understand one thing, shooting a non Tilt-shift ultra wide forces you to work harder on composition.  The Leica M 21 F1.4 Summilux Asph is extremely sharp even at wide open (if you own a good copy); to me, stopping down is for extra depth of view plus getting rid of the slight vignette.  There is a bit of pincushion distortion at the edges but is totally acceptable as such fast aperture ultra wide is not easy to design.  Running the lens profile option through Lightroom 4 can correct the distortion instantly.

Second Location – Tokyo Sky Deck

An awesome location that allows you to capture Tokyo’s skyline and sunset without having massive glass windows in front killing the image quality!  Even though you are not that into photography, it is a great location to spend an afternoon with your loved ones.  As the sun goes down, seeing Tokyo lighting up slowly, the atmosphere is just incredible.  If you want a good spot, please be sure you arrive early because there were plenty of photographers that were already there in the early afternoon.

Pre-Owned Leica items

Thanks to the super guide by Tokyo camera style, I was able to check out a few vintage camera stores around Tokyo.  Price wise was not very attractive but you can always find mint to like new condition items in Japan. Therefore if you are looking for collector grade items, Japan is the place to go!

http://kenshukan.net/john/archives/2013/12/26/tokyo-photo-travel-guide-part-2-shinjuku-camera-shop-walk/

I could never get enough of Tokyo.  Revisiting is the only option!

I hope you all enjoy the images. Please be sure to leave any comments and feedback by either emailing me or leaving me a message on my Facebook page! Thank you!

Instagram: FotografiePorter

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FotografiePorter

Website:  www.FotografiePorter.com

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Feb 022015
 

Four steps in Milan, with the Leica M-E

by Bruno Taraffo

Hi Steve, hello everybody!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best regards, Steve!

Bruno

Jan 162015
 

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Kolkata India – Shooting the streets and smiles

by Mark Seymour – His website is HERE

My photography travels have taken me to some of the most beautiful, interesting and diverse locations but I can honestly say this was unknown territory for me and before I left I really didn’t know what to expect. The little knowledge I had of India from its unique colour and spices to its religious and cultural heritage, the ornately carved temples to the lush landscapes, the fabulous history of the maharajahs to the well broadcast poverty, did not prepare me for what I was going to experience. Kolkata, once known to the English traveller as Calcutta, it is the capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal. Kolkata is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India and is the third most populous area in India.

My opportunity to photograph the streets and people of Kolkata came from the Hope foundation and professional photographer Mark Carey who regularly runs a week-long training workshop that in addition to providing photographers like myself the most amazing opportunity to build their personal portfolios, but also enables the Hope Foundation to raise some important funding and their profile for their valuable work with the local children.

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Over 250,000 children are forced to exist on the streets and in the slums of Kolkata. 30,000 children are trafficked into Kolkata on an annual basis to be forced into child prostitution, child labour and child slavery. The Hope Foundation was established in 1999 by Irish Humanitarian Maureen Forrest to help these children.They provide support to over 60 projects including education, primary healthcare, child protection, children’s shelters, vocational training and drugs rehabilitation. HOPE has extended its support and now provides a holistic approach to development which includes working with the children, their families and the community in Kolkata.

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Joining four other photographers we prepared ourselves as much we could before heading out onto the streets and slums that form the living areas of the local people. I can honestly say that what confronted me was challenging and life changing. But what struck me most and what I believe I captured was the spirit of the adults and children as they lived their lives, photographing everyday moments. For me the power of the images was in the expressions on their faces, there was so much joy and laughter in such difficult circumstances.

Initially they were curious and taken aback by our presence as we wandered in and out taking photographs, but they relaxed and engaged with our cameras, smiling and welcoming us into their world. I can honestly say these people touched me in a way I was not expecting. Their sense of pride and joy was humbling.

Whilst we were there we were invited to a special event put on by Hope, a picnic for some of the projects they fund. They ate, drank, played games and enjoyed colouring activities.

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I predominantly photograph my street images in black and white, but colour is an important element of visually recording India. My photos captured the very young through to the very old, living, working and getting on with their daily lives. My favourite images are of the children at play, just like children all around the world, enjoying climbing, exploring and making up their own games. The difference was in where they were found playing, not play parks and gardens, instead railway lines and amongst the confined spaces between the homes and make-shift buildings.

I travelled all the time with my Nikon D4s and two lenses The Nikkor 35mm F1.4 and the 28 1.4 although some days I alternated with the 35 and old but superb manual focus Nikkor 58 1.2. All the shots were handheld, the light was generally really good however it got dark quite early which is where the Nikon D4s really coped well as I quite often upped the ISO to 8000 to let me continue shooting without flash. I’m a great believer that it’s not about the size of the camera more about how you conduct yourself, how you move around and communicate that gets you the best images.

For me I can say that with all my heart I will be returning to India and extending my experiences of this beautiful land of extremes.

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Jan 082015
 

Traveling with my Leica M6

By Philipp Wortmann

I’ve been following your this site for a while now and I thought it was time for me to try to contribute something to.

This is a small selection of pictures I took during a 3 week road trip through the southwestern USA this summer. To document the trip in the most simple way I decided to only take 1 camera, 1 lens and 1 type of film with me. These were: Leica M6, 35mm Summicron and a whole lot of Kodak Portra 160. Before leaving for the trip I was worried shooting film only might be too much of a risk or I might miss shot due to not being able to change ISO or the manual focus. But it turned out to be a complete joy! Taking this minimalist approach allowed me to focus on all the beautiful moments during this trip rather than LCD screens, settings or back ups. Using only Portra 160 gave me beautifully consistent results I couldn’t be happier with. I currently don’t own any digital camera and after this trip I’m confident that this will stay that way for a while to come :)

As mentioned this is only a very small part of the images. I shot 26 rolls of film and if you want to check out the final edit of the photos you can check out the little photobook I made HERE.

You can also see more of my work here: lifeon35.tumblr.com or https://www.flickr.com/photos/derphilipppp/

Best regards and thanks for running such a cool site,

Philipp

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Jan 062015
 

Traveling Middle East with a Leica M6

By Johannes Carlsohn

Hi Steve,

I want to share with you and your readers the experiences I had on a trip to the Middle East with only a film Leica. I bought my first Leica (an M6) a year ago, in December 2013.

I fell in love with it instantly and decided to use it as my main camera for all the trips I was planning to do in 2014. So I used it in Madeira, Barcelona, Greece and Georgia, sometimes accompanied by digital cameras.

For the last and longest trip of the year, 3.5 weeks in October to Iran and Oman, I decided to go film only. So I packed my M6 and few lenses (15mm Voigtländer, 50mm Summicron, 35mm Zeiss) and 35 rolls of film.  I relied on my iPhone for quick pictures to share with the family or on Facebook.

Shooting only film gave me a peace of mind I wasn’t used to before. No worrying about batteries or memory cards, no file formats, no settings, hardly switching any lenses (I shot 80% of the pictures with the 35mm), and that all in a small package that was never a burden to carry around.

I have not once had the feeling that focusing manually has slowed me down, but I definitely felt that unobtrusiveness of the Leica, that helps shooting strangers in the streets.

Apart from photography I can only recommend traveling the Middle East. The people, especially in Iran, are friendly, helpful and welcoming on a level I haven’t experienced anywhere else. The cultural heritage, the nature and the way of living there are amazing. And no, we have not felt unsafe at any point of the trip, nor have we had any trouble with authorities.

In the end I shot 29 rolls of film, had only a hand full of badly focused or exposed pictures and a lot more keepers than usually.

In the meantime I switched from my Nikon D600 to a small Ricoh as a digital backup. I planned to buy a digital Leica in 2015, but after having so much fun with the M6, I decided to postpone that investment for at least another year.

Keep up your great work!

Johannes

Munich, Germany
http://500px.com/blende2acht
www.blende2acht.de (has been a work in progress for the last 3 years…)

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Jan 022015
 

London with my new Coolpix A

By Kelsey Horne

Hi Brandon and Steve,

Before travelling to London this Christmas, I wanted to get a camera that didn’t sacrifice on image quality but would still fit in my jacket pocket, no case, no strap, no heavy DSLR around my neck all day. After seeing the great deal on your site for the Nikon Coolpix A, I decided to pick one up after reading your review. I figure $700 off the retail price is a good deal:)

GLAD I LISTENED TO YOU!!!

There is something about the way this camera renders the image that feels special to me. I wasn’t sure how I would like the 28mm focal length but after a couple of days of shooting it grew on me and I found it hit the sweet spot for shooting landscape and people. Sure it has some issues but having a large sensor in camera that is truly pocketable is worth dealing with the slow auto focus.

London is beautiful this time of year with the lights – contrasted by the old architecture. I shot more than usual because the camera was so easy to take with me no matter where we ventured.

Enjoy.

Kelsey

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Dec 312014
 

Using the Sigma DP Quattro

By Michael Mak

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Hi Steve and Brandon,

I’ve been a frequent reader of your site for a little over a year now. I’ve always appreciated Daily Inspirations although I’ve never submitted anything myself. I’ve been into photography on and off for about 4 years now as a hobby. There’s something about the process that I find very calming. You choose your equipment, you find your environment and you let your creativity take over as you shoot away. I don’t restrict myself to any style of photography although I am generally drawn to human forms (as such I generally shoot portrait and street).

The whole basis of this submission came about in three stages. The first stage started when I came upon your Sigma DP2 Quattro review back in August. I pored over the review and assessed the pros and cons that you had stated. I loved the potential of the Foveon sensor in terms of image quality but I lamented some of the more challenging aspects of the camera (mainly the ease of use both during shooting and in post). At the time, the price of the camera at $999 was out of my reach.

The second stage came in November when you posted that B&H had dropped the price temporarily to $599. It was as if I was given a sign, and it was an easy choice for me to make. I purchased the Quattro and eagerly awaited an opportunity to use it.

The third and final stage came this month when I went to my parent’s place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (I live in Vancouver, B.C). There, I had an opportunity to put the camera through its paces and experience for myself the Quattro way of shooting. Although I’ve only had an opportunity to shoot with it for a week, I was able to form some of my opinions on the camera.

Like you said, IQ is unparalleled. When exposed correctly and given time to properly capture a shot I don’t think there is another camera I would pick for the image quality it produces. However, getting such a shot took a bit of fiddling around with the controls and a lot of patience. The patience extended past the shooting and into post. Now I have to admit that I gave up on Sigma Photo Pro. Instead, I saved the images as TIFF files and opened them in Light Room. Opening individual RAW files in SPP and then saving them as TIFF files and reopening them in LR might not be the most efficient work flow, but I think it matches the shooting style that the Quattro imposes on the user (whether for good or for bad).

When using the Quattro, I had to be more mindful in assessing the scene and choosing my shots carefully. I knew that once I fired a shot, it would be a while before the image was written to the camera and I could fire off another one. As a result, I ended up with far fewer images than I would normally have taken with a more reactive camera. Strangely enough, it also meant that the percentage of photos I felt were usable were substantially higher than normal.

In the end, the Quattro will be remembered as a polarizing camera for a lot of people. Some will buy into the capabilities of the Foveon sensor and adapt to its unique style of shooting while others will write it off as another example of great idea and poor execution. Regardless, I actually enjoyed my time shooting with the Quattro and I can’t wait to see how Sigma will develop this technology in the future.

Best regards,

Michael Mak

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Dec 252014
 

Sony 55 1.8 and the Voigtlander 21mm Ultron for Landscape

By Julien Ducenne

Hi Steve and Brandon,

Thank you very much for publishing my previous article.
http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/05/07/the-sony-a7r-55-1-8-along-with-the-m9-noctilux-f1-by-julien-ducenne/

I would like to share my experience with 2 very special lenses, the Sony FE55mm f1.8 and the CV 21mm ultron f1.8

A couple of months ago I had the chance to visit the isle of Skye in Scotland with my son, wife and of course my camera. For this trip I kept it simple and picked only 2 lenses to go along my Sony A7r.

A great place on the island is ‘The Old Man of Storr’, It’s a beautiful rocky hill that you can see in film like prometheus. After just a couple of hours walk you can take already pictures of some beautiful landscape. My first try with the FE55mm was great for the details and colours but I thought that lens was not wide enough to show the magnificence of the view.

So I chose instead the 21mm ultron and straight away knew that this lens was much better to capture my point of view, where I wanted to get all of it. However put together with the a7r, that lens brings you a ton of details but the downside is the magenta vignetting on the edges (you can watch the issue on left side of the sheep picture), and if you don’t work in B&W you will need some adjustment in light room or Photoshop to work out the issue with the magentas.

We travelled some place else and can take fantastic pictures pretty much anywhere else. A perfect example of that is the last picture of bunch that was taken from the hotel we stayed in. For this one I chose the FE55mm to capture as much as I can the clouds details.

This island is definitely a great destination for landscape photography.

Have a great Christmas and Happy New Year.

Julien Ducenne

My Flicker : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ducenne/

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