Sunday, September 30, 2012

More Emotion - Neither Smiles Nor Grimaces

I spent a few minutes photographing my daughter on a "boring" Sunday afternoon. In order to get her to drop the canned front-on smile, I asked her to imagine things - testing for her black belt and the related anxiety, driving for the first time when she gets her license in a few years, coming home to tell me that she's wrecked the car...
Thinking - Wait For It..., by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Elmarit 90mm f2.8
iso 1250, f5.6, 1/125 sec
I can't help but think these types of images will mean more to me than school portraits in years to come. Just the detail of her superhero t-shirt reminds me of who she is.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pentax Spotmatic - A Nice Review and a Few of My Pics

Well, my photographic interest started out with a Pentax K1000. I still have it. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I just bought a second one in nearly-new condition for $48 shipped, including a 50mm f2 lens. The awesome 50mm f1.7 is my favorite normal lens for the K1000.
I remember a best friend's Dad had a gorgeous Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic. He also had the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar, and 200mm f4. I was in awe of it, especially that telephoto. He only let us handle it very carefully.
A couple of years ago, I bought a truly beautiful black Spotmatic, and sent it off to Pentax wizard Eric Hendrickson. He does amazing work. It works like new.
You can contact Eric at
Next, I had to find a nice 200mm f4. It took some searching, but now I've got one. Anyway, here's a sample shot from the Spotmatic and 200mm f4 Takumar lens.
What the Duck Are YOU Looking At?, by Reed A. George
Pentax Spotmatic, 200mm f4 Takumar Lens, exposure unrecorded
And here's another, using a cheaper Vivitar 200mm f3.5:
Dwayne Brook of the Woodshedders, by Reed A. George
Pentax Spotmatic, Vivitar 200mm f3.5, exposure unrecorded
So what got me thinking of the Spotmatic? A very upbeat review on
(Click Here) to read that review.
So, grab an old Spottie and get outside! They're a blast to use.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bill Fortney Asks "Why Bother?"

I just found Bill Fortney's website. His theme is "Photography and Faith." While I'm not a religious person
myself, no one could deny the beautiful work and great photographic insights on Bill's site.
Image Source:
In one piece, Bill asks "Why Bother?" when there are so many unbelievably great photographers out there? I'm sure we've all felt it at some point. The feeling of being so inferior to some of the masters can really get you down.
(Click Here) to read Bill's thoughts on the subject.
Bill makes several good points:
  1. Enjoy the fact that there are so many great examples to learn from. Enjoy holding the camera as much as you enjoy your images.
  2. Celebrate when others succeed.
  3. Always photograph your passion. If you can find that, success will follow.
  4. Experiment. It has never been easier to experiment photographically.
  5. Have fun. After all, that's why it's your hobby.
I like this approach very much. One thing that strikes me is the idea of photographing what you are passionate about. This is easy to say, hard to identify and turn into a project, in my experience. I feel that I've achieved it with my Live Music project. And, it really makes working hard to get better at it fun.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Well, Here's a Funny Twist... Impossible? Yes. The Impossible Project, That Is.

Finally analog instant photos from your favorite digital images!
The Impossible Project's Instant Lab
Image Source:
So let me get this right. People want to snap pictures on their iPhones and turn them into Polaroid-style instant prints? Apparently so.
(Click Here) to read more.
This gadget allows you to shoot with your iPhone camera, bring the image up on your display, then lay it on top, expose instant film below, and print. I have to admit, I don't get it.
First off, I'm not an iPhone user (crowd gasps)...
I can understand why you'd want to be able to give iPhone pics to your friends. Here are a couple of things I don't understand:
  1. They're digital pictures - can't you give them all to your iPhone-carrying friends digitally? Of course you can.
  2. If someone wants to give ME one (without an iPhone), they can email it. I do have that.
  3. Let's say I just love to have photos on real paper - wouldn't I rather print it out directly? Something like this?
(Click Here) to see the Polaroid instant printer for iPhones, as reported by Chase Jarvis.
Why in the world would I want it to go through the instant film process and cost?
I've been wrong about things like this before. But I think this appeals to the very rare person who loves analog prints, along with the very analog process of making a Polaroid print, yet loves digital technology, and uses an iPhone camera. I'm in the first class of people, who still love analog photography. But, I just shoot with an analog camera. I can't imagine wanting the convenience of shooting with an iPhone (which is considerable), and still planning to carry the Instant Lab with me to make prints for my friends. So I can carry the iPhone in my pocket, pull it out and shoot anytime - that's cool. What, I also wear a backpack with my Instant Lab and pack film, sit down, expose, and wait a few minutes for a print of an image that's gone through the lossy process of exposing an LCD representation onto instant film? And have yet another battery to charge? Unlikely. Impossible? Well, that's their name.
I think these guys are very creative. I love that they're around. I love the idea that instant film is still available. I don't get why 8X10 film is available, while 4X5 is not. But, I'm sure there's a good reason.
Keeping working on it, Impossible. I'd almost buy one just to keep your creative gears turning.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Favorite Shot From A Recent Music Festival - So Far, At Least

A Little Shy at First, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summaron 3.5cm f3.5 (ca. 1937)
iso200, f5.6, 1/125 sec
I recently went to my favorite local music festival, the Watermelon Park Festival, held every year in September in Berryville, Virginia.
(Click Here) to read more about the festival. If you like bluegrass music, this is a great one. The folks that run the event are super nice, as are the spectators. The festival attracts great local talent, as well as national acts. This year, the headliner was Del McCoury, a living legend.
The young man in the picture above is the son of one of the festival's vendors. When I asked permission to take his picture, he ran behind these hanging dresses, and peeked out at me as you can see. The moment really clicked for me. It was a perfect Leica moment, if you'll allow me that expression.
Shot with an old Leica Summaron 35mm screwmount lens that I got with a Barnack body some years ago, this image is one of my favorites from the M9 so far. I had to bring the contrast up in Lightroom, but didn't want to go too far with that. The original is almost creamy in its low contrast.
I'm quite happy with this one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

High Resolution? No. Sharp? Not Particularly. Special? Absolutely.

My Favorite Subject, by Reed A. George
Zeiss Ikonta 522/24, Schneider Kreuznach Xenar 4.5cm f2.8 Lens
I took this shot with my 1948 model Zeiss Ikonta (35mm). It was the first Ikonta 35mm, made in 1948. For a very short time, they came with Schneider Xenar lenses. My copy was picked up in an antique store by my Mom for very little money. After removing both front and back elements to get the shutter moving freely, I spent a lot of time trying to fine tune the focus with only basic tools. It works very well now. The shot above was made at f4. The sharpest point is a little in front of the subject, but is not bad given what I had to work with. At a little further distance, there is no noticeable shift in focus.
It is the subject, and the fact that the camera was a gift from my Mom, that make this image special to me. I hope you can see why I like it.
Shooting old cameras with film is good for the soul.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fossil Hunting in Maryland with the Lumix DMC-TS3

Erosion Forces, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
Last Sunday morning, I got up early and headed to a place on the Potomac River known as Liverpool Point, to do some fossil hunting. The video above shows the important parts of the scene - cliffs to the right, literally full of fossil material, the waves coming in from the left, day by day eroding into them. In the middle, beach, and awesome opportunities to find fossils that have washed out of the cliffs.
I packed up a Lumix DMC-G3, 14-140mm and 100-300mm zooms, and carried them in a waterproof bag on my back. I never took them out. The TS3 covered everything I needed to shoot. In fact, the TS3 did far better in closeups than I could have done with the G3 and the zooms I had. Of course, if I'd brought along the Macro-Elmarit 45mm f2.8, that would have been a different story. As it was, I just used the TS3, and never worried about getting it wet, etc.
Here's a cross-section of the cliff, showing just how dense the fossils are in places.
Cliff Cross-Section, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
This area is known for fossilized sand tiger shark teeth. Here's one sticking out of the cliff matrix.
Sand Tiger Shark Tooth, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
I also found a fossilized crocodile tooth - much less common. It's amazing to think that enormous crocodiles and sand tiger sharks once prowled the waters that are now the Potomac River. These ones were from the late Paleocene, approximately 55 million years ago.
Liverpool Point, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
It is great to be able to get out and hike the shore at sunrise, collect fossils from animals that lived there 55 million years ago, and be home in time for lunch (or nearly so).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Some Sunrise Shots With the Lumix DMC-G5 by Phrenic on

This one was "de-fished," taken with a 7.5mm fisheye.
Image Source:
User phrenic on shared a series of sunrise shots with the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5. Most were shot with a Lumix 14-45mm kit lens. The one above with a fisheye. The image was "de-fished" in post-processing. Wonderful job!
(Click Here) to see the rest on
I'm glad to start seeing some images from the G5 show up online. I'm holding off on any body upgrades (I use the DMC-G3) until I've had a good look at the GH3, which was just announced last week. More on that later.
This is a quick and easy post today, as I'm attending my favorite music festival, Watermelon Park Fest, this weekend. A quick run home got me connected to the internet, but I'm heading back out for another day of fun! Lots of DMC-G3 (including some with my new Olympus 75mm f1.8!) and some Leica M9 images soon to come!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shipwreck Coast, Australia - by Livnius on with Olympus OM-D and Lumix 7-14mm f4 Lens

Shipwreck Coast, Australia, by Livnius on
Image Source:
(Click Here) to see more dramatic images of this awesome place.
Livnius on posted the image above, and a few others, taken on the Australian coast near Melbourne. Livnius reports that he was hoping for blue skies, but a storm rolled in. I would say "thank you" to the photo gods for this one. What drama the storm added!
Apparently he had a different type of shot in mind, from lower down on the beach. I hope we get to see those, too!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Well, A Little Reporting Balance, Perhaps

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am a big fan of the Micro 4/3 format. I chose the Lumix DMC-G3 as my Micro 4/3 camera, and regularly carry two bodies and primes lenses. I'm quite happy with the results.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX3
Image Source:
Micro 4/3 is by design a compromise between sensor size and overall camera and lens weight and volume. Micro 4/3 is a great compromise in that way, in my opinion. While the sensor is ~1/4 the size of 35mm full frame (50% in each direction), the compactness of the system is just plain right. If it were smaller, it would be too hard to use with human hands, in my opinion. As it is, I certainly hit the wrong buttons on the G3 once in a while, but that's probably my fault. Again, in my opinion, if I were designing a system, I would likely do exactly what they did with Micro 4/3 - go slightly smaller in sensor size, in favor of a compact system overall. This is because we all know that sensor technology will continue to improve, so the down sides to a small sensor will decrease over time. The progress made in high iso performance since Micro 4/3 started a few years ago is amazing. And, it's getting better all the time. The only real limitations are physical - like the effect on depth of field imposed by the small sensor. That can't be fixed by sensor improvements.
That said, not everyone agrees with me on how good the format is. PhotoPat on posted that he had a terrible experience with the Lumix DMC-GX1. He's now sold it off.
(Click Here) to read PhotoPat's thread on
As you can imagine, and read in the comments in PhotoPat's thread, posting disappointment in Micro 4/3 on a Micro 4/3 forum invites some dissent. Nothing too bad, but interesting.
Sometimes I have to go back and compare images that I've gotten with full-frame cameras to what I'm getting with Micro 4/3, just to convince myself again that Micro 4/3 image quality is good. It is. I'm pleased with it for much of my photography.
Here's an example shot, which won me a contest and made it into the Civil War Trust's 2011 calendar (September page). This was shot with a first-generation Micro 4/3 camera, the DMC-G1.
Henry House at Manassas National Battlefield, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Leica Elmar 3.5cm f3.5 Screwmount Lens
I would never prescribe Micro 4/3 only to anyone else. In fact, you'll see that I shoot plenty of other systems. But, if you use it carefully, the Micro 4/3 system is surely capable of producing some nice images.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Emotions - Not Always Smiles or Stern Looks

Stage Fright, by Reed A. George
Stage Fright, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Lumix 20mm f1.7 Lens
iso400, f2.0, 1/400 sec
I have mentioned before Chris Orwig's book on People Photography. I was recently reading an assignment in it about capturing emotion other than canned smiles or stern glares into the lens. It reminded me of the shot above, which I took at a Japanese Obon festival. I love the look on the little girl's face.
I also enjoyed a single image post on by user LC55.
(Click Here) to see the post on mu-43
I need to complete the assignment in Chris' book, and see if I can come up with some more shots of emotion.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Few Tips on Shooting Ruins on ePhotoZine

ePhotoZine has posted a brief piece on how to shoot ruins - abandoned buildings and obsolete facilities. Clearly, the author lives in the U.K. - speaking of shooting abbeys and the like.
(Click Here) to read the entry on ePhotoZine
In terms of equipment, the suggestion is to bring a wide angle lens, a longer zoom, a tripod (either full-size or tabletop), and a polarizer.
For technique, the author suggests walking the site carefully before jumping in to take pictures. Give context to the rubble piles that you find interesting, rather than just shooting closeups of them. Try shooting out through window openings, and down long corridors. Also, consider including signs as part of detail compositions.
If you're able, get a high perspective for overall shots of buildings, in order to reduce distortion caused by having to point the camera upward. Another way to achieve this is to shoot the building from further away, using a telephoto lens.
Finally, consider shooting a panorama, if the site warrants it.
Here are a couple of recent shots by my friend Rob Svirskas (flickr id: robsv), taken at an abandoned Bethlehem Steel factory.
On Deck, by Rob Svirskas (flickr id: robsv)
Nikon D300, 18-200mm Nikkor f3.5-5.6 at 70mm
iso 400, f6.3, 1/160 sec
Bus Stop, by Rob Svirskas (flickr id: robsv)
Nikon D300, 300mm Nikkor f4
iso 200, f6.3, 1/160 sec
These dilapidated facilities hold real opportunities for great photography. Typically, especially in industrial ruins, there are lots of details that make for interesting compositions. Many times, the function of the apparatus is not clear, adding a little question to each image. Usually, there are also echoes of a busy past, left bouncing around in now-empty buildings and parking lots.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

From the Zeiss Lens Blog - Photographer David Zimand Talks Portraits

Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.4
Image Source:
The Zeiss Lens Blog has posted an interview with portrait and people photographer David Zimand.
(Click Here) to read the story and see several of David's gorgeous black and white portraits.
(Click Here) to go to David's site.
Also, google David's name to see tons of great images.
David shares several important thoughts about how he approaches people photography. First off, he loves people. That's important, and shows through in his work.
He especially seeks out people with "bright eyes." Then he accentuates their eyes, or other distinguishing features, including with the use of ring lights. You'll see the characteristic profile of a round ring light in the eyes of many of David's subjects. Some people find this troublesome. I think it is defintiely "in your face," and not subtle at all. However, it does make for dramatic eyes. Along those lines, David also prefers to shoot his subjects looking into the lens.
David shoots about 80% black and white. He feels that it gives him better control, and allows him to produce the richness in tone that he prefers.
In terms of suggestions for developing photographers, David's advice sounds like many others - try many different approaches to develop your style, step out of the comfort zone.
I find this kind of advice vaguely motivating, helping me to go a little further. However, it is generic, a little abstract. I think it's the kind of advice that makes more sense once you've experienced its use in your own way. It's sort of like saying - "Work on projects, with subjects you love." Well, sometimes we don't know what we love most until we've spent time and effort trying to photograph it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Selling My Leica M8

I guess the M9 has a hold on me. I'm selling my Leica M8, which just arrived back today from a check-up at Leica, which includes one year of coverage.
My M8 For Sale

It's used, but very lightly. No scratches or dents, laminate still on bottom plate. Service included new skin, CLA, meter system check, switch cleaning, rangefinder adj., CDD position/tilt adj., clean CCD, pixel/column restoration, repair/adjust motor coupling, clean and adj. for good working order. Clean bill of health signed 9/13/12.

I'm asking $2200, and I will pay the Paypal fees (continental US only, please). Shipping at cost.
It's a beauty, and takes wonderful pictures. Many more pics on my post at getdpi.
(Click Here) to see all the pics.
I also have an as-new grip for the M8 for sale, which I just bought in August, 2012. $160.

Sequence of Thoughts - In Pictures - Small Town Saturday Morning

Small Town Saturday Morning
It's Saturday, Labor Day Weekend, in Charlestown, West Virginia, USA. What's going on this morning?
Car Show, by Reed A. George,
Car Show, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 50mm f2
iso640, f8, 1/1000 sec
Roadkill, by Reed A. George,
Roadkill, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 50mm f2
iso400, f4.8, 1/750 sec
Oh, and the weekly farmer's market is also happening.
Market Morning, by Reed A. George,
Farmer's Market, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 50mm f2
iso400, f9.5, 1/250 sec

Do you hear that music? Where's that coming from?
Market Music, by Reed A. George,
Market Music, Acoustic Burgoo, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 50mm f2
iso640, f13, 1/60 sec

Rudy, Erik, and Timmy, by Reed A. George,
Local Music 10AM-Noon, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 50mm f2
iso640, f6.7, 1/350 sec
The music and market wrap up at noon, and things in Charles Town go back to normal. Could be a sleepy afternoon.
Back to Normal, by Reed A. George,
Back to Normal, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 50mm f2
iso400, f9.5, 1/250 sec
I hope you enjoyed this little series.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

And Here's Something Good! Donate $25 and Give Someone Fresh Water For LIFE!

Here's something amazing. is a charitable organization that provides safe drinking water to people who don't have it.

Image Source:
Here's the amazing part - for a single one-time donation of $25, you can give someone water for LIFE! is a well-established organization. I was introduced to them through a business associate, whose company gives to them on a regular basis. You can check their home page for more information.
I'm running a fundraiser as part of a program that is currently promoting. I am striving to get ten donations in ten days, at $25 each. This simple effort with guarantee ten people water for life. I'm currently up to three donations (two from within my home).
There is a drawing associated with the program. The winner will get to go to Haiti to see's work first-hand. That will be an exciting yet emotionally challenging trip for the winner, in my opinion. I'd love to win, and photograph the good we're doing. However, I'm only doing this fundraiser to help people. I don't expect to gain anything personally from it.
So, if you can afford $25 to really help someone in need, please:
(Click Here) to go to my fundraiser page, and give someone water for the rest of their life!

And Then Sometimes, It Just Doesn't Work Out

This morning, I took a gorgeous old Zeiss Ikon 35mm Contina out for some shooting at Eastern Market in Washington, DC. I spent a few hours, and really enjoyed shooting some street photography.
I shot two rolls, and at the end of roll number two, realized that the film transport was slipping. I got two full rolls of multiple exposures. Nothing worth saving at all.
Oh well, that's a risk of using old equipment. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to fix the old camera. I could tell, even with the transport problem, there were some nice shots there. If they'd been separated, that is.
And, on the subject of the reliability of using old cameras, I can't remember the last time something like this happened to me. I'm usually blessed with very good luck.
I'll be back at it tomorrow, with a more reliable camera!
As a substitute, here's a shot I took at Eastern Market some time ago:
Eastern Market Morning, by Reed A. George
Leica IIIC, Summitar 5.0cm f2.0
Exposure Unrecorded

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Work I Aspire To - John Delaney On Elizabeth Avedon

From JOHN DELANEY: Hoboken Passing
Image Source:
I have written about my desire to get more personal connection in my photographs. This project by John Delaney inspires me.
(Click Here) to see more on Elizabeth Avedon's site.
I did a one-day Digital Photo Academy (DPA) photo workshop in Hoboken, New Jersey with Rick Gerrity.
(Click Here) to get to know Rick, a great photographer and instructor.
(Click Here) to find out about DPA. They have workshops in most major US cities, are easy to work with, and can really add to a brief trip to a new city.
Anyway, my real point is that while I had a great time walking Hoboken and shooting with Rick, I didn't get much human connection with my subjects. Here are some examples:
While I happen to like these images, you can tell that I didn't meet any of the people in them. They're perhaps fine, maybe even interesting. But look back to the John Delaney image above. Not in the same league.
Now, to be fair to myself, I'm sure John didn't get these on his first afternoon walk through Hoboken.
So, I'm not putting down my own work; in fact I did much better connecting on a subsequent trip into Harlem. But, I am inspired to get more connection. More connection. More connection.

Friday, September 14, 2012

So What About the New Panasonic DMC-G5?

Well, I've written a little about it, but have not invested in one.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5
Image Source:
The SoundImagePlus blog is covering the G5 in an ongoing series (four installments so far).
(Click Here) to see SoundImagePlus' review series on the G5. There are some nice sample images there, as well.
Here's what I've learned so far:
  • (+) Better grip than the DMC-G3, which is my current camera. Not surprising. The G3 is weak in this area. Can someone make a nice grip attachment for the G3?
  • (-) Newly-redesigned menus (sigh). This would mean working through another long set of menus, and writing a new eBook to figure out how to set it up.
  • (+/- no advantage) According to SoundImagePlus, essentially identical high iso performance to the G3 and GX1.
  • (+) Electronic shutter mode for silent shutter release.
  • (-) Different battery from the G3, which means carrying another charger.

So, here's where I am on this camera, at the moment. If I didn't already own the G3 (two, actually), would I buy the G5 instead? Yes.
Will I replace a G3 with a G5? No. There's just not enough improvement there to make the switch.
Of course, the buzz now is all about what the DMC-GH3, supposed to be announced this month, will bring. That may be a different story for me.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sony Announces A Real World-Beating Compact Camera! - DSC-RX1

8896: Sony announces the Cyber-shot™ DSC-RX1

Sony DSC-RX1 Full Frame (!) Compact
Image Source:

I remember my father-in-law getting me into digital photography. Living in Tokyo, he had access to the latest and greatest devices. First, he handed down a gorgeous Fujifilm camera, with a blinding 1.3MPixels. The optics on that camera were awesome. The sensor was good, but obviously not enough to make big enlargements from. That said, I did use it to shoot some artwork, which made it onto the front cover of Science. Not bad for 1.3MPixels.

The second generation gift from him was a Sony compact. At 3.2 MPixels, that little camera really had capability. In fact, it still does. It is well over ten years old. At one time, I used it in a Sony underwater case for diving. A little anecdote about Sony related to that camera. After using it for a couple of years, I was having trouble with charging the batteries. On a trip to Tokyo, I took it to Sony's service center, at their headquarters. Within two days, they had checked the camera out fully, and replaced both of my batteries, for free! That's service.

So, I have no issues whatsoever with Sony cameras.

In my work in science, which involves a lot of imaging (to put it lightly), I have developed a similarly positive relationship with Carl Zeiss. Their optics are simply wonderful. So, the combination of Sony cameras and Zeiss lenses is a natural fit for me.

I have an even closer feeling for Matsushita (Panasonic), having been accepted as a fellow and training in one of their factories in Japan for a year. Maybe that's why I got so into Lumix cameras in the beginning. Now it's because of the great equipment.

Anyway, with that introducion, let me say that I was amazed to see the announcement for the new Sony DSC-RX1 with Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f2 lens and full-frame sensor in a compact camera body. When I read the headline, I thought it had to mean some sensor size other than 24x36mm (full-frame 35mm format). Nope. It's really there.

(Click Here) to read the announcement on

With a full-frame CMOS sensor (and Sony sensors are used in a lot of other manufacturer's cameras) at 24.3 MPixels, this is awesome. It boasts iso settings from 100-25,600. You can literally shoot in near total darkness with that iso and f2!

The camera weighs in a 453 grams (1 pound)!

This is going to be interesting. Especially if Sony decides to make a similar camera with interchangeable lenses! With Zeiss lenses, it could even be an M-mount! Now I'm dreaming.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

10 Stop Neutral Density - What For?

Dramatic Reflection, by Sam M. on
Image Source:
This is timely for me. I have been known to use a neutral density (ND) filter occasionally, usually to lengthen my shutter speed to allow a longer expsosure, as was done by Sam M. in the image above. However, I carry a 3-stop ND filter, which allows 8 times the normal shutter opening time.
(Click Here) to see Sam M.'s post on
ND filters basically block a substantial portion of the incoming light, in a color-balanced way, allowing you to increase exposure in bright situations (either by lengthening the shutter opening time, or by opening up your f-stop for shallow depth of field).
In my Leica Akademie class on the M9 recently, our instructor, Justin Stailey, talked about 10-stop NDs. I had trouble imaging where I'd need that much of an effect. Sam M.'s image above answers the question well. Let's say you're shooting in broad daylight at iso200 - using the sunny 16 rule, you would want to shoot at about 1/200 second at f16. What would a 10-stop ND filter do for you? Well, if you wanted to make a long exposure, you could shoot at f16 for four seconds!
The shot above was made at 20 seconds exposure. That's what makes the clouds look so cool.
By the way, this effect would be very hard (impossible) to replicate in post-processing. The same is true if you use your ND for decreased depth of field.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Leica M9 Class - Interesting Twist With the New Leica M Monochrom

I took a nice Leica M9 user's class at the new Leica retail store in Washington, DC. It was a good chance to meet some fellow Leica photographers, and talk shop. Our instructor, Justin Stailey, Product Specialist for Leica M Products, North America, was a real source of great information.
I learned a few key things about setting up the M9 that I didn't know before, and also picked up some pointers on how to recognize great lighting opportunities for street photography.
I also got clued into something that wasn't obvious to me, relating to the new Leica M Monochrom. This is an M9-like camera which is designed specifically for monochrome (black and white) imaging.
Leica M Monochrome
Image Source:
Normal camera sensors, designed for color photography, accomplish their job by using filters of Red, Green, and Blue over a set of four sensors, in something known as the Bayer pattern. This means that in order to get all of the color information for a location in the image, the chip must blend information from four sensors on the chip. The new Monochrom does away with the Bayer filters, and uses all of those sensor locations to gather light level information in only black and white. This results in exquisite detail in monochrome images.
Well, here's the twist. Until now, digital imaging has sort of rendered those old red, green, and yellow filters we used for black and white film photography obsolete. When converting an image from color to monochrome, we can use our post-processing software to balance the color channels, effectively allowing us to apply filters digitally, after the fact. Since the Monochrom doesn't even gather any color information, that's impossible. So guess what? Dig out those old filters - they're useful again. I think that's kind of cool.
By the way - if you're in the area, there's a spectacular exhibition of images by Magnum photographer Jacob Aue Sobol, all taken with the M Monochrom. They are awesome. They really show how this camera can make black and white images that look like the classics, but with detail and tones that are just beyond belief.
I can't imagine paying that kind of money for a camera that only does black and white. But, if that's your thing, this is the camera.
The regular Leica M digital cameras are no slouches at black and white, either.
All in all, an interesting day at the Leica shop.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How Well Does Micro 4/3 Format Work For Landscapes?

Landscape, by JohnW on
Image Source:
Garnet Lake, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, Lumix 14-45mm kit lens at 14mm
iso 100, f8, 1/200 sec
NOTE: the original picture for this post, from JohnW on getdpi, is no longer available. So, I've substituted one of my own landscapes made with Micro 4/3 equipment.
Everyone knows that the tradeoff in Micro 4/3 camera gear is sensor size, which gives you awesome small form factor cameras and lenses in exchange for the small image format. This has been written about, and argued about, ad nauseum. In my opinion, Micro 4/3 cameras started out pretty good in the image quality department (my Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 produced very nice images, and still does now in the hands of a friend), and have only gotten better. I'm pretty pleased with the Lumix DMC-G3 in terms of image quality and reasonably high iso situations. I understand the Olympus OM-D is even better. Maybe even better than the new products coming out from Panasonic. That last part is a little unclear, as the Lumix DMC-G5 has just come out, and the GH3 is anxiously awaited.
Anyway, one of the places where large format has always been king is in landscape photography. Ansel and his ilk carried 8"x10" or even larger cameras, films, and associated hardware (think BIG tripods) into the field to do their best work. So, how does Micro 4/3 fair in landscapes?
As usual, it's not black and white (pardon the pun). If you're printing wall-size, the bigger the format, the better. Unless, of course, it's so big that you can't carry it out to that pristine landscape that you want to capture. For those of us who print to 16"x20" or less, Micro 4/3 may just do the trick. Do we want better? Of course. Do we want to carry more and spend more? Well, not so clear.
(Click Here) to read a post on the subject by JohnW on My personal opinion is that JohnW's image above is gorgeous. I see lots of subtle gray levels, smooth transitions, and high contrast in places where it matter.
Here's an example of a cropped panorama that I made with the DMC-G3:
Rural Virginia, by Reed A. George
Panasonic DMC-G3, Pana-Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4
iso 160, f8, 1/250 sec
I have printed this to 18" wide, and am reasonably happy with it. Yes, a larger format would have been better. As it is, I'm quite pleased with the result.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Add Dominican Republic To My Bucket List! G3 Pictures by napilopez on


Dominican Republic, by napilopez on
Image Source:
(Click Here) to see several great images taken by napilopez on
All of the shots in the post were made with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 and Lumix 20mm f1.7 or Olympus 45mm f1.8.
I am leaving next week for a vacation in San Francisco. I need to change up my equipment a little, after focusing on the DMC-G3 so much for the first eight months of this year. I haven't decided yet, but am leaning toward taking my Leica M8 and only a lens or two. In fact, I may go as minimal as just the 40mm f2 Rokkor, which is a perfect normal lens on the M8, with the 1.33X crop factor. But, I'll likely take a wide angle and a short telephoto as well.
I really do respond creatively to using different types of equipment. Some people like the camera to become an extension of themselves, and not think about it while they're shooting. I think I do better to think about the constraints of the camera, challenging myself to work with them. For example, shooting in square format with say a Rolleiflex really brings out a different creative approach than a normal 2x3 format.
Anyway - I'll keep you up to date with how that goes.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

No, Really, What Do You Mean, Kodak? Are You In or Out of the Film Business?

Watching the Dinosaur Come Back To Life?, by Reed A. George
Leica M4-P, Summicron 50mm f2, film
Okay, now I see a new post from Kimberly Snyder, President and General Manager, Entertainment and Commercial Films Group, Vice President of Eastman Kodak Company, written in moderately more clear language than the previous post (see my post from Wednesday). Kimberly's post indicates:
"As a matter of fact, all film manufacturing will actually stay with Kodak, including that of consumer and professional still film."
Well, I certainly welcome this news, and hope it's true.
(Click Here) to read the Kodak message.
At this point, I'm sure that Kodak continuing in the business is best for us photographers. At the very least, the transition of so many years of manufacturing process, expertise, and equipment would take some time. So, here's to Kodak. I'll buy some film today just to support your efforts.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Carl Zeiss Announces Big Plans for Photokina

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Photokina, to be held in Cologne, Germany September 18-23, 2012, is one of the premier photographic trade shows in the world. Carl Zeiss has posted some information about exciting news that they plan to formally announce during the show.
(Click Here) to read the Carl Zeiss page.
First, they plan to exhibit a new manual focus 55mm f1.4 lens for SLRs. Zeiss already offers the awesome Planar 50mm f1.4 for SLR mounts, but this lens is reported to give optical results formerly only available from lenses designed for medium format cameras. And Zeiss sure knows how to design those. If you know medium format cameras, you know that the legendary Hasselblad image quality relies on Zeiss lenses.
Next, and here's a big one, Zeiss plans to unveil a series of autofocus (yes, autofocus) lenses for mirrorless cameras. With Zeiss' collaboration with Sony, I'm sure this will mean NEX mount. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE make them for Micro 4/3 too! My heart says yes they will; my brain says no. It would make Sony angry. But, I'll keep my fingers crossed. How great would it be to have both Pana-Leica and Zeiss lenses for Micro 4/3? As I've reported in the past, Zeiss does make some very expensive cine lenses for the Micro 4/3 mount. Fingers crossed on both hands that they'll make the new line fit M4/3 as well.
Finally, they hint at an exciting new lens addition to the popular manual focus Zeiss lenses for the Leica M mount.
I am very excited to hear the details!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What Does Kodak's Plan to Sell Film Business Mean?

Choose Your Frame, by Reed A. George
Kodak has implied (announced?) that it's in the market to sell the film business. What does it mean for those of us who still shoot film? I believe it means that we're going to be paying more for film and processing, and probably waiting for the mail to see our negatives.
I noticed that Target stores near me have stopped processing film. That only leaves a couple of drug store choices, with site-to-site variability from terrible to pretty good.
(Click Here) to read a great post by Kirk Tuck about film in the modern world.
I have been thinking of exactly what Kirk brings up in this post. I am coming to realize that I while I like to have a lot of capability in my camera kit, since I mainly shoot for fun, I don't have to be prepared to capture every image that comes to my mind when I'm out. What I do need is to capture some GREAT ones. That's where I am focused.
For example, I love shooting with a rangefinder and 50mm lens. If I'm willing to bypass those shots that need a long telephoto or wide angle, I can capture some very special images with just one lens.
In Kirk's post, he describes a friend's analogy to eating out. If you got to an all-you-can-eat buffet, you get to taste everything, but go home stuffed with mediocre food. If you go to a fine restaurant, you don't get to taste it all, but what you do select is so good, it doesn't matter. I do see film in a similar way.
Now, don't get me wrong. When I'm shooting a musical performance in a dark venue, I'm sure glad that I can crank the Nikon D700 up to iso 6400 or more and pull it off. Impossible with film. But, when I'm out trying to be creative, some constraints can actually lead to results. And, shooting with a 50 year old film camera that has more mechanical perfection than any modern camera is just plain fun.
I recently bought a used Leica M9. Lovely camera. Great results. But, I almost decided to buy a new MP (film camera) instead. I'm happy with my decision. Plus, now less people think I'm nuts. Not zero, but less.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ashwin Rao on Steve Huff Photo: Leica M9 and Fuji XPro-1 in Paris

Paris, by Ashwin Rao
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Ashwin Rao, well-known proponent and user of the Leica M9, has shared an amazing set of images from a recent trip to Paris.
(Click Here) to read Ashwin's post on stevehuffphoto.
Ashwin presents many photos in this post, and links to even more. His work is always worth checking out.
Ashwin describes in words his impressions of the "City of Light," sharing with us the tastes, sights, and feel of the city.
I have never been to France, so maybe this post falls into my "traveling through the lens of others" category. It certainly makes me want to go. In fact, take a look at Ashwin's relative's blog to get even more of that feel.
(Click Here) for, a blog about city life in Paris
One point Ashwin makes, even though he's a self-admitted victim of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS), is to not neglect your existing equipment. I think he's right, that buying new gear tends to make us photographers shoot more. But, we should not forget the capabilities of our existing cameras. For me, some of my favorites are also some of the oldest.
On this trip, Ashwin took a Leica M9 and a Fuji XPro-1. Hard to believe that these two are no longer new, but September is expected to bring the announcement of an M10 and XPro-2.
Anyway, Ashwin shares that he used the M9 about 75% of the time, mostly due to familiarity. The XPro-1 came in handy in low light situations, because of its improved high iso noise performance. But, the XPro-1 reportedly has some focus-lag (I have not tried one, just handled a mock-up in Japan). So, Ashwin felt that he was less likely to capture the moment with the XPro-1.
While Ashwin remarked that the M9 has allowed him to select the classic 35-50-90mm focal lengths for most of his photography, I note that he also took along a 21 mm Super-Elmar. He didn't mention which lenses he used on the XPro-1, but I assume they were Fuji lenses, rather than using the Leica lenses with and adapter, since he referred to lag in autofocus.
I found Ashwin's images to be a wonderful taste of Paris. Thanks for taking us along, Ashwin!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Japanese Festival Pics

Festival in Tottori, Japan, by monchan o
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Member monchan on posted a series of images from an umbrella dance festival in his town of Tottori, Japan. monchan apologizes for the lack of clarity and color the images. I think this apology is unwarranted. If nothing else, monchan certainly has an eye for composition, as shown above. I love this image.
No information about equipment or exposure was shared, but I can only assume it's Micro 4/3 equipment, as it was posted in the Micro 4/3 forum.
(Click Here) to see the rest of monchan's pictures from the event.
I have visited Tottori, where my Japanese friend attended college. It's a beautiful place. Unfortunately, I didn't get to experience this particular festival. monchan helped me to experience it at a distance.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Guilty as Charged - Leica M9 Is a Luxury Item

Leica M9
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I read a very interesting article on THEME by Ming Thein recently. The thesis of the piece is that expensive cameras have some similarities to luxury watches - and some differences.
(Click Here) to read Ming's story on THEME.
In terms of similarities, Ming makes the point that expensive watches (tens or even hundreds of times more expensive than fully functional modern watches in the lower end) not only lack any technical advantage in terms of accuracy or allowing the user to tell time better, they are worse. A mechanical Rolex is much less accurate than a Casio.
The similarities end when you consider that cameras really are tools for creative work. Ming makes the case that there are a lot of poor pictures made with Leicas and Hasselblads. In fact, he believes that the photographers responsible believe their crappy pictures are good, simply because of the tool they were taken with. I can see his point, but don't fully agree. I think this behavior reflects more about the person than the camera they're using.
I have recently bought a used Leica M9. Yes, it is a luxury. But you know what? I work really hard for my money, and am very happy to be able to enjoy the luxury of using what I consider to be a great tool. My Leica pictures are no better than those taken with a $350 Lumix DMC-G3. But, they are more fun to take!
I also believe that the Leica is capable of producing unique (not better) photographic feel - if I can connect with it better than other cameras. I certainly believe it takes more to make a good picture with the Leica. The same goes for shooting film in my opinion. I am more likely to develop that skill, and move into new creative ground, if I absolutely love the camera I'm using.
When I consider what Ming presents, I tend to think of cars rather than watches. For example, a Chevy Corvette will outperform a Porsche Carrera in almost every measure. I like both cars. However, early on, before I transformed into a family station wagon driver, I had a 1986 Porsche. I actually made the decision between the 1986 Porsche and a 1989 Corvette. The Corvette was awesome - fast, tight, like a jet fighter. The Porsche was something altogether different. I just plain fell in love with it. It also took me a while to learn how to drive the Porsche. But boy, was that a fun experience.
And back to Ming's point, I never felt that driving a Porsche made me a good driver. It did challenge me in different ways. Ways that added to my life, not the quality of my driving.
So, I will be sharing my experiences in using the M9 with you dear readers, as well as my continued use of the excellent products available and coming from Panasonic. Thanks for indulging my need for a little luxury in my favorite hobby.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Leica M8 Goes Off For a "Check Up"

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Leica USA service is offering a special check up for M8 owners.
(Click Here) for details on red dot forum. Thanks to Dale Photo for posting the information.
Basically, the service includes a cleaning, calibration of the sensor, rangefinder, and meter, pixel mapping, and sensor cleaning. Another big plus - it comes with a one year warranty.
This service normally costs $475. From now until September 15, 2012, it's available for $350!
FYI - the contact number in the link above takes you to Dale Photo. You can contact Leica service directly at 800-222-0118. They'll give you the details on how to ship your camera, and information to include.
Now that I've bought the M9, I'm probably going to sell my M8. I say probably because it's going to be hard to let go of it. I figure the service will 1) help the camera sell faster, and 2) give the new owner coverage for a full year. Of course, if I decide to keep it, I'll have a functionally brand new M8.
So, my M8 is on the Fedex truck as I write! If you have an M8, you may want to consider this service special seriously.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Morning Hike at Mount Diablo in California

Mount Diablo Landscape, by Reed A. George
Mount Diablo Landscape, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
iso 160, f3.3, 1/125 sec.
We are on vacation in California, staying with friends in Lafayette. At least we are as I write this. By the time you read it, we'll be home. While my daughter slept in this morning, I got out for a sunrise hike at Mount Diablo.
This was one of my favorite hiking areas when I lived here in the East Bay. This morning I found some great fossil deposits, made up of shells from the Miocene (6-10 million years old). Apparently, this current mountain peak is a geologic "plug," pushed up from the ancient sea bottom. Nearby, in a quarry, many Miocene mammal fossils have been found, including mastodons, wolves, and camels. Interesting stuff.
Morning Sky, by Reed A. George
Morning Sky, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
iso 160, f3.9, 1/1000 sec.
This little TS3 is really handy. Both of these images are straight from the camera.
I have some other images I took with my Leica M8, but will wait until I'm back home to upload them