Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Contax T - a Neglected Performer

Several years ago, I bought a Contax T from a gentleman in Washington, DC. Mine is the first model, with a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 38 mm f2.8 lens, manual rangefinder, and aperture-priority exposure metering. There is no manual override of the exposure metering, with the exception of a button that provides for +1.5 stops overexposure, designed for shooting in backlit situations.
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The T is amazingly compact and shoots on 35mm film. It has a funny little flip-up lens cover which is a bit hard to get used to, and sticks out while you're shooting. The focus ring on the tiny Sonnar takes getting used to as well. Other than that, it's ergonomics are quite good, at least for my hands.
I have had the T in my car for years now, but used it very little. It's the perfect glovebox camera; my problem is that I usually have another camera with me and don't have a need to grab the T. I should get mine out and shoot it, which only requires me to bring it along.
So what got me thinking about this? I read a thread on Rangefinder Forum, where people shared both their challenges with the Contax T (light leaks around the film canister), as well as some wonderful example shots. Here's one posted by Rui Resende in the thread:

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(Click Here) to read about the Contax T on Rangefinder Forum.
I'm always considering new projects. I think I should somehow work the T into one of them. It's a bit of an oddity, not one that many people will still have or use. But, it's a unique little camera that's capable of wonderful results.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jorge Torralba Suggests We Think Twice Before Upgrading to the Newest Equipment

Shot With My Nikon F2 on Kodak TMax 400 Film
It's so easy to get caught up in the new equipment upgrade cycle. If you know me, you know that I love my old cameras. And, I still love to shoot film. I find it very rewarding, and while the results may not be as predictable (or confirmable) as shooting with the latest digital equipment, sometimes they can be outstanding.
I just found Jorge Torralba's blog, where he's written about resisting the urge to constantly upgrade. Specifically, he writes about his beloved Nikon AIS 50mm f1.2 lens, and how he enjoys using it on a film body (in his case the Nikon F6), as well as his Nikon DSLRs.
(Click Here) to read Jorge's post and see his images made with this classic, ultra-fast Nikkor lens.
My problem is that I simply love cameras. Old or new, big or small. So, even though my Nikon F2 is a great example of a camera that I love and will continue to use, the new Nikon DF is calling my name. I have not yet pulled the trigger, but it's on my mind.
So, I fully appreciate Jorge's point about appreciating the gear you have. I simply add to that the desire to test and enjoy the latest options, as well. In truth, Jorge shows images with the 50mm f1.2 on his Nikon D3S and D4 as well, which tells me he has the same approach.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Asian Archery - Japan and Korea

Japanese Kyudo Practitioner, by Reed A. George
Panasonic DMC-G1, Pana-Leica 45mm f2.8 Macro-Elmarit Lens
iso 400, f2.8, 1/50 sec.
Japanese archery, known as kyudo, has been practiced in Japan since prehistory. It first shows up in art a few hundred years B.C. No longer a part of military weaponry, kyudo in Japan is a contemplative art form, as well as a sport.
I found a related post on Walter Ulreich's blog, in his case writing about archery in Korea.
(Click Here) to see images of Korean archery, both today, and in some photojournalist's photos Walter found from 1961. Very cool.
Ulreich's blog reports the following:
"In the year 1894 bows were excluded from military use, but Emperor Gojong gave command to use archery for the cultivation of mind and body of the Korean people. As a result of that command, the Hwanghakjeoung pavilion was built in the Royal Palace and opened to the public. It is said, that Emperor Gojong personally enjoyed archery and often visited Hwanghakjeoung."

So, it seems that archery has made a similar transition from warfare into mental and physical concentration exercise in Korea, as it did in Japan.

Monday, October 27, 2014

From the Broad Creativity File - Using the Sun (and Magnifying Glass) to Make Art

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I love seeing new creative approaches to art. Usually, these come to me from the blog "Lost at E Minor," and this one is no exception.
This is Jordan Mang-osan. He makes the large murals by sketching them, then using a magnfying glass to burn the image into wood. Awesome, huh?
(Click Here) to read more.
I respect people who come up with different ideas like this. Once you see them, it's obvious. How many of us had wood burning kits when we were younger? For those who didn't, they were essentially electric soldering irons, which were used to burn pictures into wood. Using a magnifying glass instead isn't such a stretch. Why didn't I come up with that?
And regardless of who thought of it, I also respect people with the patience to put it to work on such a large scale. These pieces of art take Jordan months to complete.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How A Shot Develops - Mamiya Universal Press (MUP) at the World War II Memorial

I had a couple of hours free this morning, so I packed up my MUP and drove into Washington, DC, to the World War II memorial. Planning to capture some people out in the fall color, I spent a little time doing that, and then walked over to the memorial itself. I saw a nice composition in my mind, with the columns and wreaths of the memorial (one for each state) tapering off into the background, and nice contrasty light separating them from the foreground. A steady parade of people, including veterans, mostly in wheelchairs, was coming up the walkway.
I set up the MUP on a tripod, changed the film back to my Polaroid back, which was loaded with Fuji FP100C color pack film, and started shooting. I shot a total of six images. They're shown in the contact scan below, and are in order from left-to-right, top-to-bottom.
"Contact Scan," by Reed A. George
You may notice the wider perspective in the first shot. It was made with the Mamiya 50mm lens, which is very wide on the MUP, especially with the oversized image of the pack film. Notice the vignetting in the corners, which is normal, since the MUP is designed for 6x9 image size and the pack film is larger than that. After the first shot, I changed lenses to the 100mm f3.5 "normal" lens for the MUP.
I was shooting at about 1/250 sec and f16 throughout the series.
I also slowly moved my tripod to the left as the series developed.
In the beginning, the veterans that were being escorted up the walkway were just too far away. I wasn't trying to make portraits of them, but wanted to capture some detail of them in the context of the memorial.
I consider the final two images to be pretty good, but the last one (bottom right in the contact scan) goes furthest in telling a little story of our remaining World War II veterans and the memorial that reminds us all of what they gave for their country.
Here it is, scanned at higher resolution:
Final Shot, by Reed A. George
Remember that these instant films are not really designed to be enlarged, so the image you see on your screen is probably much larger than intended by the engineers at Fujifilm. I think the color came out very nice, and there's enough detail to see what's going on here.
I've become very interested in how a decent photograph develops through the shooting process. This interest was sparked by starting to read the excellent book Contact Sheets by Magnum press. I highly recommend this book. Be sure to read the introduction, as it discusses a lot of aspects of contact sheets, like the fact that many photographers, including Henri Cartier Bresson, were not in favor of sharing them with viewers.
If you decide you want this book, please buy your copy by clicking on the Amazon link below. You'll get a great book for the same price as going directly to Amazon, and help support my blog in the process!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Some Camping Area Shots from Watermelon Park Festival 2014

I've shared my Watermelon Park Festival writeup on Cosmic Vibes Live, along with my digital photographs, largely taken on or around the stage.
Now, I'll share a few more casual shots, taken in the Camping area with my Nikon FM2, 200 speed drugstore color negative film, and 50mm f1.4 Nikkor AF-D lens. Of course on the FM2, I had to manually focus.
Deep Morning Thoughts with Erik Burnham, by Reed A. George
Chester and Milo, by Reed A. George
These two guys are my music photography heroes - Chester Simpson and G. Milo Farineau. Both are mad-skilled, friendly, and generally great to hang out with.
Rudy B., by Reed A. George
Speaking of fun to hang out with, here's Rudy B. of the Plank Stompers.
I really love carrying around the compact FM2 and normal lens while I'm tooling around the festival, especially during the day. Yes, I'll carry the D700 for the lowlight stuff. But, the FM2 just fits my hands so well.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Some Tips for Taking Great Images in the Studio

Danny Knicely, by Reed A. George
I've been doing some promo images for my musician friends lately. I'm thoroughly enjoying the process, and always looking for new tips. I thought that the studio lighting setup would be one of the challenges, and therefore looked up some common configurations before starting. After a couple of these sessions, I now feel pretty comfortable with the lights. Really, I think it's more important to get them set, stop fiddling with them, and develop trust and interaction with the person being photographed.
I recently read a post by Sarah Hipwell on the Digital Photography School website. It has several good tips for getting things to flow:
  • Music can help to calm down a tense atmosphere. I use this one every time when I'm shooting musicians. I have not tried bringing recorded music to the session, though. Since my subjects are musicians, and typically want to be photographed with their instruments anyway, I always ask them to play. I get a private concert, and they get to do what they love. Another added benefit is that it brings out the performer in the person; they're not used to being in a photo studio, but they are used to playing in front of people, and even in front of cameras.
  • A tip that Sarah shares is asking the subject to blink ten times. I like this idea very much, as it will give a better catchlight in the eyes if they're wet, and I bet it reduces blinking during exposures.
  • Ask them to wear neutral clothing. The pictures are about them, not their clothes.
  • Sarah mentions that most great images come at the end of a session. I've definitely found this to be true. I think it's when the pressure is off, and everyone is pretty sure you've got some good images, that both the photographer and subject relax. This relaxation shows in the pictures.
  • Get feedback during the session. This is a mixed bag, in my opinion. First, showing them tiny images on the camera LCD generally won't work. Connecting to a larger display requires some technical ability; if you have it, great. If not, don't fiddle with wires, cards, and gear while the studio clock is ticking.
  • Get them to talk. Yes! Except, as mentioned above, I generally get them to sing. This is easy with most musicians.
  • Work fast. Agreed. While I try to work fast, sometimes I rush myself too much, and don't go deep enough with the subject. In other cases, what should be a one hour session easily goes into the second hour, probably too long from the point of view of the person being photographed. So, for me, the challenge is to balance between rushing too much and taking too long.
  • Another practical tip - have them point their legs toward the main light source, and twist their upper body to face the camera.
(Click Here) to read Sarah's full piece on the Digital Photography School site.
It's harder than it looks, folks. In my opinion, getting the technical stuff out of the way so that you can focus on the person and interaction with them is key.