Sep 172014
 

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The Fuji Monochrom

By James Conley

A major impediment most new photographers face is that color is the default mode of expression. Not only are we inundated by color images in every possible medium, but digital cameras presume color as the chosen palette. The tragic fact of these defaults is that it interferes with the development of seeing subjects and places emphasis on the impossible task of trying to capture a color reality which makes little natural sense in two dimensions. The result is a great deal of frustration when the captured image doesn’t match the experience of color.

Few cameras are available that address this problem. The Leica Monochrom is one of few. The Monochrom only records in black and white, and only displays its menus and previews in black and white. It’s the gold standard for capturing black and white—after film. However, the Monochrom body alone costs about $8k. That’s a lot of money to get rid of color. There are cheaper ways.

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The cheapest way to shoot black and white, of course, is to switch to film. Using a film rangefinder is one of the fastest routes to improving the composition and content of images, and you don’t even need a darkroom if you shoot Ilford’s excellent XP2 C-41 process film.

But I’m unable to buy into a Leica Monochrom. The next best thing is the Fuji X100s. The X100s contains all the elements needed to work strictly in black and white. To wit:

• A rangefinder, with an electronic viewfinder which can be set to display only in black and white.
• A fixed lens with a 35mm field of view.
• Small and light.
• Silent. (More silent than my Leica M6.)
• Monochrome JPEG modes with yellow and red filters.

All the images in this post are JPEGs shot on the X100s.

Learning to see in black and white is the process of evaluating the luminance of an object instead of its color. Simplistically, luminance is how much light is reflected from an object. People are often surprised when converting a color image to black and white because a bright color often has more or less luminance than expected and doesn’t appear as one would expect. Through the practice of reviewing the monochrome images you make, you’ll develop your luminance sense and start to better anticipate how a tone will translate into black and white.

A way to speed up that process is by using a monochrome viewfinder. When set to capture monochrome JPEGs, the Fuji X100s will switch its LCD back and EVF displays to black and white. This makes evaluating the scene much easier, and will helps to quickly adapt and recognize luminance values.

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Photographers are blessed with a nearly infinite variety of camera bodies and lenses, which can be shuffled into various combinations to address very specific needs. Photographers are likewise cursed with all those options. Options are choices, and choices are decisions. Having to make decisions is an active process in the consciousness, and it leads to a lot of distraction from the subject. In discussing the thought process behind a “decisive moment,” Henri Cartier-Bresson said:

It’s a question of concentration. Concentrate, think, watch, look and, ah, like this, you are ready. But you never know the culminative point of something. So you’re shooting. You say, “Yes. Yes. Maybe. Yes.” But you shouldn’t overshoot. It’s like overeating, overdrinking. You have to eat, you have to drink. But over is too much.

Making choices about lenses is just as distracting as making choices about color. One lens is enough, and your body can be the zoom. Having to move within space and time to frame your subject makes for far better pictures than standing in one place and letting a variety of lenses do the work of seeing for you.

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The X100s’s f/2 Fujinon lens would be fantastic on any camera. Fuji has a storied history in making high-end lenses for a variety of camera makers, and Fuji glass is world-class. The X100s can use autofocus, or a very smooth manual focus. It also has an excellent macro mode.

Having a small camera means you’ll have it with you, which is the most important ingredient in making any photograph. The smaller and lighter a camera is, the more likely it will be with you. The X100s is smaller and lighter than my Leica M6.

Other than opera or a royal wedding, the best way to do things in life tend to be subtle. That’s especially true for photographers, who are dependent upon other people living their lives so that an image may be made. Unless you’re shooting in a studio, pay respect to your subject by being unobtrusive. Being silent is part of that respect, and an X100s shutter is quieter than my M6.

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Photography is about capturing a moment and then capturing the next . . . and the next . . . and the next. Spending time tweaking and playing with images is decidedly not photography—modifying an image is working with software. The goal of any tool should be to do work so you don’t have to. As my dad always advises about using a saw, “Don’t push so hard. Let the saw do the cutting.” If your camera is making you spend more time post-processing than you do taking pictures, it’s either not a good tool, or you’re pushing too hard. Since we can’t get Adobe to make decent software, however, we can use the tool better by putting the work back into the camera and let it produce quality JPEGs that we merely need to review. This not only speeds up the process of selecting good images, but it also lets you learn the capabilities of the camera just the way you would learn about the qualities of a particular film. This is vital knowledge that helps you see better when you’re out taking pictures, meaning you get better results, which sets up a lovely, positive feedback loop.

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With Fuji already announcing new X-Series cameras, ifyou don’t already have an X100s, you should be able to pick one up for a good price.

Once you get it, go to Shooting Menu 1 and select Film Simulation B with a yellow filter. (Red is another option, and will result in more contrast. Start with yellow.) Scroll down to Shooting Menu 2, and change Highlight Tone to +1, and Shadow Tone to +1. This will give you a decent starting place for your JPEG’s. They should require minimal development work after you import them into a computer. (**You can set the camera to shoot both RAW and JPEG files. This is a good crutch to get you comfortable with the idea of shooting only in monochrome. However, you’ll quickly discover that the Fuji’s JPEGS are very high quality and the RAW files are just a crutch.)

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Use the EVF. It will display in black and white and get you started on seeing the world that way. (Later, you’ll be able to take advantage of the X100s’s rangefinder.)

As you’re taking pictures, keep your thumb on the Exposure Compensation dial and ride it like you stole it. You’re shooting JPEGs, so work at getting the final product the way you want while you’re shooting.

With a few camera setting tweaks, you’re off to a better world in black and white! You’ll now:

• See luminance instead of color
• See shapes, forms, and shadows
• Cut down on development
• Spend more time working on your ideas and making stories

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The purpose of taking a photograph is to capture an image which conveys your impression of an event and tells the story. The purpose is decidedly not about tweaking, playing, collaging, and otherwise twisting the image into something unnatural. So, if you want to become a better photographer, you have to practice seeing what matters. Seeing what matters happens easiest with a rangefinder shooting monochrome images. Long live the X100s. (At least until those Leica Monochrom prices come down!)

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

May 302014
 

Zeiss love

By Brendan Gara

Good to see the site going from strength to strength. It’s been nearly a year since you published my report of my travels in South East Asia with my M6 and Fuji X100 (www.stevehuffphoto.com/2013/05/29/three-months-in-south-east-asia-with-a-leica-m6-and-the-fuji-x100-by-brendan-gara/). Since then I’ve been mostly shooting with my M6 and the Zeiss ZM 50mm C Sonnar T 1.5 lens.

I’ve always loved 50mm as a lens, probably because when I first started shooting the 50mm was the “standard lens” and the field of view just feels right on the M6. The sonnar is a fantastic lens; it can be crisp, sharp and contrasty when stopped down or soft, subtle and dreamy when shot wide open.

I’ve used it a lot in the studio where I love combining the softness to create intimate daylight portraits such as Rebecca reclining and portraits of Ariel. It is equally at home however, stopped down and shot in full sunlight outside as my normal lens. I have been shooting a series about the British seaside for a couple of years now, and the birds, dog and beach shots are from this series. The water lilies were shot at the National Botanic Gardens in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

The black and white photos were shot on Tri-X exposed at 250 iso and developed either in HC-110 or D76, and the colour photographs were shot on Portra 400 (also exposed at 250 iso).

Thanks Brendan

My blog: http://brendangaraphotography.wordpress.com

My flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/brendangara

Surf Beach

Rebecca Reclining

Rhossili Dog

Rhossili Martin

Lily

Jonathan and friend

Ilfracombe gulls

Ariel 1

Ariel 2

Ariel 3

Feb 182014
 

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A Year in “M” Monochrom

By Ashwin Rao

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Hello, my friends, the time has come to reflect upon a year seen primarily in black and white (and many, many shades of gray, which really is life, now, isn’t it ?) through the eye of Leica’s amazing Leica M Monochrom. I have previously written about my experiences with the “MM” after 6 months of use, and following journeys with the camera in Paris, Italy, New York City, and the Palouse. In this world of constant camera turnover, where every M9 is replaced by an M240, with Sony and Olympus seemingly staking their claims to fame in the digital camera world in place of Canon and Nikon, and with Fuji surprising and delighting us with every turn, the MM is now a venerable camera that remains unique as the only current mass-produced camera with a black and white sensor. The camera’s sensor, stripped of any ability to see in color, rid of the capacity to block moire, ends up being a photon eater, proving and incredible tool for capturing light in its many presentations.

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While it has not yet been around long enough to be deemed “legendary”, the MM is already ascending that ladder, and for those whom have had the privilege of using it, you’ll see that glimmer in their eyes of the prize that rests in their hands. So come along with me for my ride, should you choose, in words and images, of this camera that is destined for legend.

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Over the past year plus, I have taken over 15,000 shots with the Leica MM. I can truly and honestly say that the camera has delivered me the most joy of any camera that I have owned. The camera’s incredible CCD sensor that seems capable of coaxing the very best out of nearly any lens that you could put on it. In particular, the sensor seems to play particularly well with older rangefinder lenses, which in some cases were designed and coated for black and white photography. It provides a rich modern look with today’s aspherical glass, almost providing “shockingly real” views of the world, which I have yet to see from any camera. For me, the look of the MM with most modern glass is almost surreal, and I have thus primarily stuck with using older, “cheap” rangefinder lenses with the camera to great satisfaction. What’s interesting to me, and what I have heard increasingly from users of the camera, is that the camera’s sensor itself seems capable of coaxing something special out of these lenses, even when the M9 and M240 may not be able to coax the same look, clarity, or detail.

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Seeing in Monochrome

First and foremost, the Leica MM is a tool for image capture, as is really any other camera that the photographer may use. However, the sensor’s capacities and limitations have forced me to change my creative perspective. As I began my journey with the MM, I had to accept the challenge of only “seeing” the world around me in black and white. Color was no longer an option, and could not be used as a crutch or a tool ton lean upon. Having converted many of my M9 images to black and white, I initially did not see an issue with the process of only seeing in black and white, but after using the M monochrome a few times, I suddenly realized at what I had given up. Shooting in color offers its own creative possibilities and limitations, and when I suddenly forced out of this option, I found myself jarred. I decided to re-calibrate and try my best to see the world around me in black and white, before I even composed or took the shot. In a sense, I began to focus on light and dark, highlight and shadow, essentially in luminosity. I began to “ignore color” to the best of my abilities and focus instead on the remaining elements of any scene that I wished to capture Over a few months, what first was a challenge soon became inspiration and motivation. I was starting to see the world in monochrome. Just as switching from the AF-10FPS SLR’s to rangefinders is freeing to many photographers who are stuck in a rut, shooting with the M Monochrom re-invigorated me to explore the world around me in new ways. I called it “Going back to finishing school.”

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Monochrom magic?

There is just something about the MM’s sensor that seems magical to me. I know that this may come off as overly dramatic, but for me and for others out there with whom I have discussed the camera, it is true. The images that I have been able to capture seem to defy my own meager skills as a photographer. Lenses that were forgotten or passed aside on the M8 and M9 suddenly took center stage in the manner of how they interacted with the MM’s sensor. Let me say a few more words about this (The following is entirely theoretical, so feel free to disregard)

I have said in many instances that the MM seems to play particularly well with older lenses. Many vintage lenses from Leitz, Canon, and Nippon Kogaku were designed and used in an area of black and white photography, where color options were rare, limited, or non-existent. Thus, such lenses utilized coatings and design that was suited to capturing monochrome images, or so I have gathered. Whereas some of these older lenses’ coatings provide poor color reproduction on digital cameras, they seem to offer subtleties in tonal capture that modern lenses of aspherical design, aimed at gathering maximal contrast and detail across the frame, seem to miss. I have noted than many modern aspherical designs seem to limit the M Monochrom’s abilities to capture shadow detail, in particular, while older lenses, which tend to capture much lower macrocontrast, save these shadows, and instances, highlights as well.

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Second, I suspect that some of the MM’s magic in interacting with old lenses actually may have come from within. When I consider photographers that have inspired me, I have tended to prefer the “look” of the works of the early Magnum photographers, Sebastio Salgado, and others who shot in an era where my “vintage” lenses was their modern options. In a sense, I learned to prefer a way of seeing in black and white in the manner that was reflective of their gear…i.e. older lenses.

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Third, the MM’s sensor seems to be unique in being able to hold incredible detail with post-processing. This seems to be due to the dynamic range that MM images seem to possess in the mid tones. The MM has been roundly criticized for its tendency to clip highlights, and this is absolutely a reasonable criticism. What is often not discussed, however, is the incredible detail and flexibility of tone that preserved in the midtones captured by the camera, as well as the shadow detail that the camera preserves. When I first used the MM, I was enamored by the near infinite shades of gray captured within the RAW file, and as a result, my initial images with the camera tended to look generally grey. Over time, I found myself exploring these greys more and more, and using Adobe LR and other post processing tools to extract the contrast and detail that I desired from this more “boring” grey. One can push and pull the images in any number of ways, and MM files will not fall part, especially those captured at ISO 3200 or less. When used in “decent light”, the camera does just fine at ISO’s as high as 5000, capturing fine detail and suppressing noise appropriately (not really like film, though, but still pleasing).

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Finally, there may also be something to the M Monochrom’s naked sensor that coaxes the most out of vintage lenses. Lenses such as the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 LTM, which seem soft and washed out on color rangefinders, simply sparkle on the MM, both in detail and tonal rendition. I was surprised in particular, by the amount of detail and resolution that some lenses, over 50 years old, are capable of capturing when paired to the MM. I theorize that the lack of the low pass filter and Bayer array allows for optimal capture of unfiltered detail. No blur or image loss is imparted upon the captured image, as light does not have to pass through any barriers.

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The journey from new to old

So here I am, a year later, a year older and hopefully a year wiser, and my journey with the MM continues. The MM continues to be my favorite camera and my preferred way to see the world around me. My aspherical lenses continue to be relegated to my M9, while the MM continues to be mated to classic rangefinder lenses. I feel that for me, what was a casual experiment with vintage lenses has turned into a serious enterprise in how I prefer to see the world around me. It mates the rangefinder experience with a unique way of seeing the world around me and brings me closer to my own idols in the photographic world.

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Onward and Upward

The journey continues, and I hope to report back to you as I gain even more experience with this wonderful camera. Obviously, I can no longer wow you with reports of impressive specs, more megapixels, and quieter shutters. I hope to bring you more images, as my explorations with the camera, its files, and my use of processing, continues. These are exciting times for many of us, as photographers. Gear these days is so excellent that it’s really up to you to choose what tool suits you best. For some of you, it may be the camera phone that is always on your person. For others, it’s the latest greatest offering, with ever improving dynamic range, color reproduction, detail capture, and camera performance. For some, it’ll be the increasing capacity of cameras to deliver images and an experience that can be instantaneously shared. For me, it’s the simplicity of a camera that’s not capable of any of this, not even capable of seeing in color, that will continue to inspire and challenge me to grow my photography in new directions and to new summits. All the best to you all in your own journeys, and I’ll be sure to check in again soon!

Yours truly,

Ashwin Rao

February, 2014

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Feb 102013
 

Afghanistan with a Leica MP & Film

By Daniel Zvereff

Afghanistan was truly an unforgettable adventure. This was partially because I never intended to visit there. I was originally bound for Turkmenistan and, at the last minute, was denied entry. Thus throwing me into a sort of tangent undertaking through Afghanistan’s incredible scenic north and then encountering the inspiring people of Kabul’s outskirts.

All photographs were taken with a Summicron 35 ASPH, and the Voigtlander 15mm 4.5 on either TRI-X or Across 100 film.

For more please visit my website at www.zvereff.com

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boy4

breadboy

gatekeeper

kabul-ollie

kabulman

men

tired

Nov 272012
 

 

I Shoot Digital Film by Ofri Wolfus

Hi Steve, how’s everything doing? The other day, while scanning some negatives, it suddenly hit me. I was shooting Digital Film. I immediately thought this might be of interest to your readers, and so decided to write this article. It’s a bit technical but I think understanding these things can really improve one’s work.

In the rest of this article I’d like to discuss what Digital Film is (other than a term I made up :) ), and how anyone can take advantage of it. However, in order to truly understand the idea let’s first understand how digital photography works.

From the moment we press the shutter button of our digital camera, to the point we have a finished photograph, the following three steps usually take place:

1. The sensor inside the camera captures the light hitting it, producing a bunch of digital data.

2. The camera’s firmware then creates a JPEG and/or RAW files. It usually does some processing on the data generated in the first step along the way.

3. We take the image files our camera produced to our computer, and then we apply further modifications to the image until we have a finished file.

Now lets zoom in a bit, and understand what happens in each of the above steps. Firstly, I bet a lot of people are unaware of it but our fancy digital sensors are actually *analog*. Yes, you’re reading this right. The part which converts light to electricity, the thing of which actual pixels are made of and where the magic really happens, is actually an analog device ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge-coupled_device ). Once light hits this analog device it generates electric voltage, which is an analog signal. This analog signal is then passed through an analog amplifier which then effectively boosts the ISO and adds noise. Finally, the signal is fed to a digitizer and then, and only then, our photo becomes digital. Another little known fact is that a digital sensor has a single sensitivity to light. Increasing the ISO in the camera simply increases the amount of analog signal amplification, but the sensor’s sensitivity to light remains unchanged.

At this point lets stop for a second and look back at what we have. Surprisingly, this mechanism is extremely similar to how we work with film. First, we expose the film to light. Then we develop the film, at which point we can push process it, effectively increasing its ISO and adding “noise”. Finally we pick our scanner and digitize the analog data captured on the film. Have you ever noticed this similarity before? :)

Anyhow, lets continue with our process. Once we got the digitized data from our sensor, our camera starts to process this data. First, it applies some noise reduction in order to compensate for the noise generated by the analog amplifier (higher ISO). Then two things can happen – either the camera applies further processing and creates a JPEG, or it leaves the data as is and saves a RAW file. Conceptually however, creating a JPEG is just letting the camera automatically perform the tasks we’d be manually performing on the RAW file, so let’s assume our camera is set to produce RAWs. Again, this resembles the scanning process very much. We can set our scanner to produce RAW files or JPEGs.

Finally, we have our RAW files in our computer. Usually, we’ll apply the following processing in any particular order: color balancing, sharpening, further noise reduction, any kind of color manipulation (saturation, contrast, etc) and so on. Obviously, we’ll do this kind of processing to any type of RAW file, regardless of its origin – be it a digital camera or film.

Now ladies and gentlemen, you know what Digital Film is. It’s both a workflow and a state of mind. You’ve probably been doing it yourself already but perhaps didn’t fully realize the potential, so lets explore it a bit further. When working with digital cameras there are certain techniques that are common. We may also apply them to Digital Film in order to produce really interesting results. Before that however, I’d like to point out two key differences between the “pure” digital workflow and the digital film workflow.

First of all, when film is your origin you actually have the analog data at hand. The equivalent in a digital camera would be to record the electric voltage generated by the sensor to some intermediate media, and postpone its digitization to a later point. Obviously, separating the digitization stage leaves the maximum theoretical resolution fixed, but the actual sampled resolution highly depends on your digitizer (scanner). Conceptually, imagine you had a digital camera that produced huge RAW files. They were so huge that your computer was unable to open them as is. Instead, in order to be able work with them, it automatically scaled them down. If you had a better computer it could scale them down less, and let you work with a file that’s closer to the original. At the time of this writing, this is the state of film scanners (digitizers). They’re not advanced enough to fully extract the details in all film formats.

The second key difference is color. Every digital sensor has its own unique color signature. It’s the way the sensor converts light to a color image. Film however, has a much stronger signature, and each film type has a different one. Conceptually, it’s as if the digital sensor could apply saturation, contrast, color balance, etc before the analog amplifier that increases the ISO. If we had that, each digital camera would produce a very different look, much like different film stocks have completely different looks.

Finally, let’s see how we can exploit this difference in color rendition for our use. For many digital shooters, myself included, pressing the shutter is when we set the framing, composition and exposure. We then have a rough idea of what the final image should look like but we postpone all color modification to RAW processing. Taking this state of mind and applying it to film is simply fascinating. First of all, in my experience, RAW files from scanned film have much more latitude to work with. Second, we get to work with very interesting base colors. When opening RAW files from a digital camera one usually gets dull and flat colors. With film RAWs however, the film’s unique look is already baked in. Saturation, contrast and color balance are already “in the pixels”.

Another neat idea is to think of film RAWs as digital without NR and sharpening applied. Some tools have magical noise reduction abilities and are able to almost completely remove the grain of low ISO films. This then produces files that look digital in their cleanness, but retain the unique film look. Neat Image is one such tool. With low ISO films that have very fine grain, and high enough resolution scans it’s able to completely remove the grain without affecting the sharpness. That said, since grain size is fixed but scan resolution is not, different scan resolutions require different noise reduction techniques.

The last technique I found about lately, and became hooked, is to add film filters such as Alien Skin Exposure and Nik Color/Silver Efex to the scanned film. These can combine with the unique rendering of the emulsion and turn out spectacular colors that I’m unable to get in any other way. Converting color scans to B/W using some B/W “film” filter also produces a very unique look.

Pretty much any digital workflow can be adapted to film this way if you take a moment to understand where it fits in the different processing stages. However, there’s one thing you need to be aware of. Excessively modifying film RAWs will kill the unique film look. You’ll easily end up with a file that looks like it’s “completely digital”. Obviously this isn’t a bad thing, just something to keep in mind. Basically, like with any other effect, don’t overdo it :)

In conclusion, my personal belief is that neither film nor digital is better. To my eyes they are quite similar in the technical concept, but greatly vary in execution. Each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. They are, in fact, completing each other if you get your workflow right and are not afraid of exploring new things.

Some Examples

So far I processed less than 10 rolls using the ideas described above, but here’s my flickr set with the shots I like so far http://www.flickr.com/photos/ofriwolfus/sets/72157632100772083 On each shot I tried to explain the methods I used for processing, though I’m quite new to film and its processing in general. This is turning into a really fun way of shooting for me, and I hope for others too.

Kodak Ektar 100 scanned with Plustek OpticFilm 7600i. Simply reduced any noise/grain with Neat Image, balanced color in Photoshop and applied unsharp mask. I tried to make it as clean as digital but retain the Ektar look.

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Me and my GF, shot on Kodak T-Max 3200 and scanned with Plustek OpticFilm 7600i. Tint added with Alien Skin Exposure, contrast was adjusted a bit in Photoshop from the RAW scan.

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Shot on Fuji Provia 400x pushed to 1600. Scanned with Plustek OpticFilm 7600i, but this time I used the proper color space for the file. It was then passed through Neat Image to clean up the grain, then further processed in Photoshop for color balance, sharpening and some curves.

Cheers,

Ofri

Aug 032012
 

Tri-X: The Real Deal by John Shingleton

I cracked a wry smile as I read Anand Asar’s post -“How to get that film look“( 30th July) and the torrent of not always polite comments which followed. I felt for Anand but found myself asking “But why try to digitally emulate film when you can still have the real thing”?

Regular readers of Steve’s blog may have read my story of my personal photographic journey back in February HERE. In this I set out my philosophy of minimizing my camera gear and travelling light .

Since writing that post my photographic journey has taken an unexpected turn .For some time I had felt that I was taking too many photos and I was in danger of becoming a “snapper” as opposed to a photographer .The tipping point came whilst I was travelling in Europe a couple of months ago . Everywhere I travelled there were hordes of tourists touting big DSLRs and they were just “snapping”, often unthinkingly raising their cameras to their eyes and shooting away without making any effort to compose the photo yet alone think about or even observe what they were taking .I could see myself going the same way. To avoid this horrible fate I decided that I needed to get back to my photographic roots and to embrace “slow”photography in the form of film or analogue photography. I had done the Leica thing for over 40 years so there was no point in going there again. Ever since I had been interested in photography (52 years ) I have lusted after a Hasselblad (Blad) medium format SLR although in the last 10 years I had forgotten about this enthusiasm in my rush to embrace digital. For those not familiar with iconic camera brands Hasselblad was the king of cameras before the digital era and was embraced by both top line professional photographers and wealthy collectors. The Apollo astronauts took Blads to the moon with them–I understand that they even left one there –probably to save weight on the flight back to earth.

Spurred on by a friend in the UK I looked at the prices of ‘Blads and was really surprised by how affordable they have become . To cut the story short I picked up a beautiful vintage Hasselblad outfit/camera body/magazine and three lenses for $1000. Now the Hasselblad is a beautiful piece of kit with superb precision,  Swedish engineering made of steel, aluminium and glass with not a piece of plastic in sight and just handling it is a tactile experience. Not something you can say about many digital cameras apart from the Leica M9.

At this point I can almost hear the gear heads saying “is this guy crazy”? $1000 for a vintage clockwork film camera? For that money I could buy a super new Panikocany XZS 100-DM with 24mp ,auto focus faster than the speed of light, 128 very confusing menus , loads of little buttons , a touch screen but no viewfinder.”That would be totally missing the point.

This wonderful device called a Hasselblad has already given me enormous pleasure and I have only shot four 120 films -48 exposures so far. It is certainly slow and difficult to use . Even loading the film is a slow, tricky operation and the viewfinder is very dim and reversed which can be very confusing. If I tried using it after a few beers I would probably fall over. But setting the camera up, taking the photos ( it makes a wonderful noise as the mirror flips and the two shutters fire) and then waiting for the film to be processed to see the results is a completely different experience to digital photography. Yes, black and white film photos have a totally unique look and I have really embraced the black arts and purchased a developing tank and chemicals so I process the films as well. I did have all this gear once but gave it away thinking that I would never use it again.

But enough from me . I’ll let some of my first photos from the Blad do the talking. These are like the first beer made by a home brewer, I am sure I will improve with practice. These were taken on either Ilford FP4 or Kodak Tri-X film. Yes ,Tri-X the real deal. No digital emulation here.  In case you are wondering I won’t be taking my Hasselblad travelling with me. It is far too heavy and cumbersome for that. If I took the Blad outfit on a plane it would use all my luggage allowance. That’s no way to travel! A Blad outfit and one pair of underpants! No, the Leica X1 is safe .

If you want to see how my slow photography develops watch my eclectic blog on www.therollingroad.blogspot.com and please don’t comment that I am crazy as I already know.

 

Jun 252012
 

Photographing Tree’s. By Ibraar Hussain

Dear Steve, I hope all’s well mate.

I’ve really been enjoying the reviews and submissions and thought I’d add something else into the mix.

Here’s a short article about photographing Tree’s. Tree’s are usually looked over, and ignored, they’re just, well, tree’s! they’re always to be found and I love photographing them. Yes, I am a bit of a Tree Hugger, am quite conscious and positive towards ‘green issues’, and a ‘born again Pagan’, (not really, I just like the sound of the last bit! )

Tree’s are very interesting and curious to photograph. they have a lot of character and charm. To look at and to study their shape, way of growth, form and texture is something which can be a very fulfilling task.

The best thing about them is that they’re (more or less) to be found everywhere, in cities, along avenues and pathways, gardens, parks, forests, plains, high mountains, moorland, deserts and even in and around offices and shopping mauls – concrete jungles!

They’re also very interesting subjects on their own, collectively, or as part of a scene – urban or rural.

I like to mix it up bit and my pictures range from photographing a favourite tree at different times of the year with different mediums, (some folks have made some perfect examples of a tree during the year – blossoming in Spring, Fully laden in Summer, golden in Autumn and naked and bare in Winter – and of course covered with snow. Tom Mackie, a well-known landscape photographer has many examples, as does Joe Cornish and Charlie Waite in some of their books – superb stuff) to a shot of a scene where the line of tree’s make up the main subject.

I also like to capture fascinating or strange or historical tree’s such as The Druid oak in Burnham Beeches, or the major Oak in Sherwood Forest. I’m sure countries all over the world have their important landmark tree’s – and these can make interesting subjects.

Another idea would be to create a sort of abstract photograph combining certain elements from a tree – whether the branches as I am won’t to do, or the trunk – focussing on a specific aspect. Some people concentrate on the texture and look of the trunk – something which I think is very difficult to get ‘right’.

And Infra red – as this makes the leaves resemble snow! You can get some crazy results with this medium (whether film or digital).

And of course, tree’s can combine with the elements (both flora and fauna) in a landscape to make up the scene.

I also love to try to capture the play of light and shadow and the rays of the sun through branches when I am able to.

Anyway, here are some examples, and as for myself, I will be going out more as soon as the dire weather clears up, and will be having a look at interesting tree’s in the City. I’ve also just received my Polaroid SX-70 and a pack of Impossible Colour Shade Film – and I reckon tree’s will be amongst the things I’ll be photographing with it!

This is of one of my favourite tree’s in Epping Forest in Essex – just outside London. A lovely ancient forest which i enjoy walking in all year round.

it is an Oak, and a very attractive one at that, I just love the shape, the way the branches flow and extend upwards and outwards, and the curious shape of the trunk – the number 4 painted on it – well, I don’t know what that’s all about but I presume it’s an important tree and has been registered with the Corporation of London who own the Forest.

I photographed it with Tri X 400 (developed with ID11) with a GA645 Fujifilm camera.

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And I also snapped it with the same camera and Fuji Velvia film.

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This is a very interesting and dominant tree I came across in The Chitral Gol national park in the Hindu Kush. I love the way it fills outwards. (Fuji GA645, Fuji Velvia 50)

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The Druid Oak, a 500 year old Oak in Burnham Beeches in Berkshire. (Contax G2, 21mm Biogon T* Kodak e100vs)

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Line of trees in Osterley park – I love the form of the upper branches, the way the middle tree disrupts the shape,  and the reflections. (Fuji F200EXR converted to BW, dodge/burn, Film Grain added)

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The following line of tree’s is to be found near Turville in the Chiltern Hills. The Moon plus Red Kite add to some magic – i like this as it gives me the vibe of the place (Fuji GA645 Fuji Velvia 50)

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The following photos are in Epping Forest. The BW are my favourite as I wanted to capture the shafts of lights flltering through the branches and the magic they create in this beautiful spot. (Fuji GA645 Ilford Pan F 50 ID11)
The 3rd photo is a different spot – Fuji GA645 and Agfa RSX 200
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This photo was a hit n miss affair with the Contax G2 21mm Biogon and a red 25 filter. The Film was Kodak HIE Infra-red, which I didn’t have a clue how to expose for, nor develop – so was pleased with the results. Virginia Waters – Surrey
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The following is a snap of branches, I like the light and shade and reach of the branches backlit. Epping Forest. Fuji GA645. Ilford Pan F 50.
Jun 122012
 

JUST GO SHOOT! By Aaron Hardin

Steve, I’ve been a Leica shooter for a few years now and have used an M4-P and Voigtlander 35mm exclusively for one of my projects over the past 2 years. It would be nice to have an M9, but you can buy a TON of Tri-X for that kind of money (not to mention a few plane tickets). The following project called “Abyssinia” is a long-term project I’m working on in Ethiopia (primarily in and around Addis Abeba).

Though travelling internationally with film can be a real pain in the neck, I’ve managed to make it through without much hassle. I really wanted to shoot the project with all Tri-X due to the beautiful texture and longevity of its aesthetic. I also like T-Max 100 from time to time.

Now that the gear stuff is out-of-the-way, I wanted to encourage those frequenters of your site to GO SHOOT! I’ve spent countless hours researching gear, looking forward to the next big thing or pining over cameras far out of my price range (read “M9″). But what does it all matter if you aren’t going to take that little machine and produce something with it. We all have a voice and an eye and often times something to say. So don’t be afraid to MAKE A PHOTO.

I had many peers that thought I was crazy to fly halfway across the world with just a camera, lens, light meter and bag of black and white film. No digital camera. No color film. No excuses. We forget that Cartier-Bresson likely used the same body for many years and maybe 2 lenses for his whole career… and he changed photography forever.

Keep clicking,

Aaron Hardin

aaronhardinphoto.com

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