Friday, July 31, 2015

Live Music Concert- Scott Miller at Jammin' Java - Shot With the Nikon Df

Last Sunday (July 19, 2015), I went to a live music show at one of my favorite venues, Jammin' Java, in Vienna. (Click Here) to check out Jammin' Java. They have a very full schedule of interesting shows. Most importantly for this evening, Jammin' Java is indoors. It was still in the 90s and very humid outside, even after sunset.
Scott is a very interesting guy - professional musician and Virginia cattle farmer. (Click Here) to check out his website.
Once again, my Nikon Df is the master of darkness. Shooting with my favorite prime lenses (28mm f1.8 AF-S, 50mm f1.4 AF-D, and 85mm f1.8 AF-D), I was able to shoot at either 1/125 or 1/250 of a second and still have enough depth of field to be useful. This meant iso values of 3200 or even 6400 - no problem at all for the Df. I love this camera.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Freaky Dolls at The Gilded Flea

My friend Dwayne Brooke, guitarist and creative genius, owns a fun antique shop in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, called The Gilded Flea. (Click Here) to check them out.
I recently stopped in, while my Mom was in town. Of course, Mom found some treasures. But what intrigued me were these two uber-creepy dolls.
Cracked, by Reed A. George
Nikon Df, Nikkor Pre-AI 55mm f1.2 Lens
iso 400, f1.2, 1/60 sec.
Mom tells me the doll below has "sleep eyes." I'd say it looks more like out of body experience or possessed eyes, but that's just me.
Sleep Eyes, by Reed A. George
Nikon Df, Nikkor Pre-AI 55mm f1.2 Lens
iso 400, f1.2, 1/60 sec.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Farm Cats

My Mom recently visited me, and we went to Antietam National Battlefield for some sightseeing. While we were there, we met these farm kitties.
Farm Cats, by Reed A. George
Nikon Df, Nikkor Pre-AI 55mm f1.2 Lens
iso 160, f4, 1/60sec
I love the cat looking out from under the barn at right.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So, Which of My Lenses Are Best on the Nikon D810?

The advent of the D810, and its predecessors the D800 and D800E, caused many photographers to find the limits of their lenses. It used to be rare that the sensor was good enough to have the lens be the limiting factor in image quality, or acuity. Now, it's not rare at all.
So, which lenses from my (rather extensive) kit of Nikkors will work well on the D810 that's on its way to me in the mail?
I found a nice list on the DxO page, which lists the top choices for prime and zoom lenses for the D810. Testing over 100 lenses on the D810, they've compiled a list of the ones they found most suited to the new super-sensor. (Click Here) to read the full list.
As expected, my new 28mm f1.8 AF-S G lens, my most modern lens, makes the list. Importantly, so does the AF-S 200-400mm VR, though they tested the version 2 of this lens; mine is version 1. As the 200-400 is likely to be my most-used lens on this new camera, that's important to me. Another modern lens in my kit, the 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR zoom made it on the list. That's good.
Then there were a couple of surprise entries from my older lens selection: the 85mm f1.8 AF-D and the 50mm f1.4 AF-D (which I use all the time). Great to see those there, as well.
So, I feel that in addition to the 200-400, which will be my nature workhorse, I've got a full set of wide (28mm), normal (50mm), short telephoto (85mm), and long compact zoom (70-300) to choose from with this camera. I'll certainly use other Nikkors on the D810, but with these, I know that I can expect the very best results.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Well, I'm Going For It - Nikon D810

I have long said that my Nikon D700 is the single best-performing camera I've ever owned. Not the highest fun-factor (as I love my rangefinders and old film cameras), but best at getting the shot, and in the most high quality way. So, I have not upgraded it, even after several years. I did add the Nikon Df, which is just a different beast, and brings the fun factor up considerably with its retro design, ability to take non-AI lenses, and smaller size.
What I did upgrade was my telephoto lens choice. Selling the spectacular 500mm f4 AiP manual focus lens, I invested in the first version AF-S 200-400mm f4 VR lens. Having fast autofocus significantly improves my chances of capturing great nature photographs. On the D700, the 200-400 really sings.
So why upgrade to the D810? Well, really for one reason, and one reason only - resolution. I will be able to shoot the D810 in DX crop mode and still produce 15.4 megapixel images. That is higher than the D700 at full frame, and turns my 200-400 telephoto into the equivalent of 300-600mm, without the 1.4X tele-extender! That's powerful. Or, I can shoot in full-frame (36 megapixel) mode, and crop in post-processing. That's really going to increase the number of bird-in-flight images that will be useful and printable at large sizes.
Resolution is the only reason that I know now. I have a feeling I'll find other reasons to love the D810.
I bought mine refurbished by Nikon. The cost savings was significant - I paid $2,550 at Adorama, including a third party "drops and spills" 3 year extended warranty. The camera lists for almost $3,300.
I don't expect the D810 to become my most-used camera; I love the Df and know the D810 won't replace it. I do expect the D810 to be my go-to nature and wildlife camera.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Here's Something I've Been Thinking About - the Nikon D810 in Crop Modes

I am now the proud (half) owner of a Nikkor 200-400mm f4 AF-S VR G lens. Half, because I co-own it with a good friend of mine.
I always laugh when someone asks me what gear to buy to do a little nature photography, especially bird photography. Now that I have the 200-400, typically attached to my D700, I find myself thinking about what I could do with a D800 or D810 - so many more pixels that would allow me to use the crop modes (1.2 or 1.5) that are built into the camera, and still end up with images with sufficient resolution to print big.
At 1.2 crop, the D810 produces 25 megapixel images, and at 1.5 crop (same as DX sensors), the images are 16 megapixels. That's a serious advantage over the D700, with its 12 megapixels at full frame.
I love my D700, but a D810 may just be the perfect match for the 200-400 lens for nature photography.
(Click Here) to read a post by Kirk Tuck on the Visual Science Lab about this very subject.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Minolta Autocord

Manassas National Battlefield Walk, by Reed A. George
Minolta Autocord TLR
I'm really having a case of "too many cameras, not enough time" recently.
I was just looking at a new post by one of my favorite photographers, Evan Leavitt, a really cool color shot of a window with blood red curtains. Made with an Autocord, it's a wonderful image. (Click Here) to see Evan's post.
This got me thinking about my own Autocord, which I've used very little. Similar to my Rolleiflex T, the Autocord is a very special camera.
I've been considering a new theme or project for this blog. Maybe my TLRs, including the Autocord, will play a part in that.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Preparing for Some Travel

Belizean Scene, by Reed A. George
Panasonic DMC-G1, 100-300mm f4-5.6 Lens at 100mm
iso 2000, f5.6, 1/400 sec
I'm mentally gearing up for my trip to Maui and California. This is mostly a family trip, followed by a couple of days of hiking in the Northern California mountains. I'm trying to figure out how little gear I can get away with and be happy on the trip. We'll be in transport quite a bit, especially flying the small airlines between Hawaiian islands.
For the camping portion of the trip, it's already decided. I'll be taking my Panasonic DMC-LX100 and Fujifilm GS645S. The LX100 is the super-compact, super-capable solution. With its Micro 4/3 sensor and 24-75mm equivalent, fast (f1.7 at the wide end) lens, I'm almost convinced it's all I need for the entire trip. The GS645S will fill my need for a more manual camera, and as a bonus, it shoots medium format film.
For the Hawaiian portion of the trip, I'm tempted to take a camera with a longer focal length lens. Since the GS645S is a wide 60mm (35mm equivalent on 35mm format), the longest I'll have is the 75mm equivalent on the LX100. As you can see above, sometimes I like to shoot longer lenses on travel. So, this has me considering a small Micro 4/3 interchangeable lens kit.
For some travel gear tips from a real pro, (Click Here) to check out an article and video on B&H's "Explora" website.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pinhole Portraits by Stefan Killen

I love shooting pinhole images. I've shot a lot of scenery images, and even some people pictures with my pinhole cameras. But, I've never really tried any portraits.
(Click Here) to check out Stefan Killen's pinhole portraits. Inspiring.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lens Comparison: Nikon Nikkor 55mm f1.2 Non-AI Versus 50mm f1.2 AIS

Not long ago, I purchased a near-mint Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AIS lens from my friend. This super-speed manual focus lens is still made by Nikon, and is simply beautiful. I've posted a few shots from it. (Click Here) to see some photos I made with it in the darkness, during a fire.
Well, for no reason other than curiosity, I just bought a much older (1970s vintage) Nikkor 55mm f1.2 Pre-AI lens. With the older lens at about half the cost of the AIS lens, I was very interested to see how the two compare. So, I mounted the 55mm lens on my Nikon Df, set the iso to 160, and began to shoot from a tripod. I shot at f1.2, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, and 8. You can click on any of the following images to see them full size on flickr.
Here's what the whole scene looked like (top row: 55mm f1.2 Non-AI, bottom row: 50mm f1.2 AIS):
(Click Here) to go to the full flickr set, where you can get a much better idea of how these lenses compare. Be sure to look at how the vignetting decreases on both lenses as I stop down, look at the focus points (the flowers), out of focus areas (like the lemon painting on the wall at right), and how out of focus highlights are rendered. Here are a couple of selected comparisions, at f1.2 and f4:
f1.2, 55mm Non-AI on Top, 50mm AIS on Bottom
f4, 55mm Non-AI on Top, 50mm AIS on Bottom
I need to look at these more closely, but immediately conclude that the sharpness doesn't differ much at all. I also see that the 55mm lens seems to let less light in at the same f-stop as the 50mm lens. This could be do to the more modern coatings on the 50mm AIS lens.
If you're interested in these super-fast Nikkor lenses and their history, (Click Here) to read more on Nikon's website. Great information!
I plan to enjoy both of these lenses. The non-AI lens will be fun to put on a matching-age Nikon F2 and shoot some film with.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Do I Miss My Hasselblad Xpan? I think I Do.

Some of my Xpan Shots, With 45mm f4 Lens
I used to own a Hasselblad Xpan and 45mm lens. It's the only Hasselblad I've ever owned. I liked it, but didn't love it at the time. It was valuable enough, I decided to sell it. Now, I wonder if that was a good idea. I was just getting into the panoramic composition. I have continued to play with panos, with a few different cameras that give me the option - the Reality So Subtle 6x17 pinhole camera is my favorite. I also have a Lomography Sprocket Rocket, and a 35mm wide (panoramic) back for my Bronica ETR. But, the Xpan was a nice combination of small size, flexibility (it can also shoot normal 35mm frames), and very high quality optics.
As I prepare for my upcoming vacation and hiking trip, I'm thinking about the Xpan again. My plan is to take my Fujifilm GS645S medium format rangefinder, and my Lumix DMC-LX100 on the trip. Both are excellent travel cameras. But, an Xpan would be great, especially for the hike.
Nick DeMarco of the Rangefinder Chronicles shoots an Xpan regularly. (Click Here) to see a nice post of Nick's work.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Great Blue Heron (GBH)

My birding friends refer to the great blue heron as a GBH. Very common in this region, they are really interesting birds. It's great fun to watch them feed. In the first shot below, you can see a fish scale hanging from this guy's beak; he had just dropped a big fish.
GBH Sitting, by Reed A. George
GBH Flying, by Reed A. George
I shot both of these images on a recent kayaking trip to Mason Neck State Park in Virginia, with my Nikon D700 and Nikkor 200-400mm f4 AF-S VR G lens.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mint Instant (Instax) TLR - Looks Fun


Image Source:

I think this looks like fun - a twin lens reflex camera that shoots Fujifilm Instax film. Manual focus, real viewing and focusing through the flip-up hood, even a B setting for long exposures. And, using the Instax format, you've got a decent chance that film will be available for quite some time.
I love photo entrepreneurs. I love to support them. But, at $320, I just can't quite bring myself to do it in this case. If you can, just (Click Here) to go buy yours!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Impossible Project Magazine - Rooster Brennan Documents African Safari with Instant Film

I am still thinking about how equipment and creativity interact to tell a story. Just yesterday, I met with my photographic friends and mentors, and got some feedback on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival images that I've been posting here recently. I got comments ranging from something like "See, if you control the background, you can't tell that these shots weren't made in Lima, Peru, as opposed to DC," which I loved, to "Not really sharp. That's the problem with flatbed scanning of 35mm film." All of the comments were useful to me, and were correct.
So, how does one share an African safari on instant film?
Well, you can check out the Impossible Project's magazine to see how Rooster Brennan did it, using the Impossible Lab to print his images on instant film. The article focuses on storytelling, more than equipment. I think he's done a fine job. (Click Here) to read the story and see the pictures.
I think that I still need to work on my storytelling with pictures. If the storytelling were strong enough, the technical details would become much less important. That's my goal.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Some Favorites from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2015 - Featuring Peru

Here is a selection of my favorite images from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2015. Peru was the featured country.
I shot all of these with my newly re-sealed Nikon FM2 and Nikkor AIS 35mm f1.4 lens on Agfa APX400 film.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

River and Roots Festival - Great for Kids of All Ages!

I love music festivals. But, size matters. The huge ones can be a bit much. My two favorite festivals, ever, are held every year at the same place - Watermelon Park in Berryville, VA.
River and Roots Fun, by Reed A. George
Nikon Df, Nikkor 28mm f1.8 AF-S G Lens
iso 1000, f2, 1/125 sec.
The Watermelon Park Fest, held every September, is the larger of the two. (Click Here) to read more about it.
I made the photo above at the River and Roots Festival in June, also held at Watermelon Park. This one's smaller, but so much fun. Large enough to attract major acts (the headliner this year was David "Dawg" Grisman), R&R is small enough that there's no stress or hurry to be anywhere. Wonderful. This year, I only made it out for the first day of the festival, going home in time to miss the deluge of rain, yet also missing Dawg and many other great musical performances.

I shot with my Nikon Df, and enjoyed trying out my new 28mm f1.8 AF-S lens. In the shot above, it allowed me to capture enough of the scene to share how it felt, but still shows the emotion and wonder on the little girl's face. I had to get pretty close to pull this off, but not uncomfortably so.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Another Person Who Appreciates the Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5 Lens

by Reed A. George
The Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 lens engenders a lot of debate in the photo community. Acknowledged by Carl Zeiss as an updated build of a classic Sonnar design, it does not have all the technical performance of say a modern Leica Summilux. It does have character. I own both lenses, and love them both. But, the Sonnar has more character than the Summilux. If I want near perfection, I use the Summilux. If I'm willing to take a chance and maybe make something more unique, I use the Sonnar.
(Click Here) to read an account of using the Sonnar on the blog DearSusan. I think it's nicely done.
Thanks to my friend Bill for alerting me to the DearSusan blog!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ice Cream, Anyone?

Ice Cream, by Reed A. George
Nikon Df, Nikkor 28mm f1.8 AF-S G Lens
iso 500, f2, 1/125 sec.
I shot this at a recent live music festival. My new, latest-technology Nikkor 28mm lens is pretty nice. At f2, focused on the ice cream cone, and this close to my subject, the nice lady serving me is slightly out of focus. Honestly, my attention was fully on the ice cream, and that's where the emphasis is in the picture.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Leaves

There's something about trees. They have this incredible range of dimension, from the microscopic detail of leaf structure, to the sometimes impressively large structure of the trunk and root system. There's a lot going on inside this one living organism, and even more just outside.
Photographers, including me, love to shoot the autumn leaves. I found this tree, which happens to be at its peak summer health, equally interesting
Summer Leaves, by Reed A. George
Nikon Df, Nikkor 28mm f1.8 AF-S G Lens
iso 3200, f5.6, 1/125 sec.
I spot metered a point on the gray tree bark to get this exposure. Of course, that meant blowing out the highlights in the white sky around the leaves, but that's okay.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Tombs

The Tombs, by Reed A. George
Nikon FM2, Nikkor AIS 35mm f1.4 Lens
Agfa APX400 Film
Just a quick shot I made while having lunch with my friend, Charlie, at the Georgetown restaurant called "The Tombs." You can see the rowing crew motif of the restaurant by noticing the oars on the left.
For this shot, I set my Nikkor 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens to f1.4 and prefocused to the top of a small set of stairs. Even though I have to shoot the Agfa film at iso 200 instead of the indicated speed of 400, there was enough light in just this one spot.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Impossible Project Instant Film - Color 2.0 Beta

I recently picked up a like-new Polaroid 600 series camera, just for fun. I've wanted to support the Impossible Project, who's restarted a factory making instant film for the 600 and SX70 cameras. (Click Here) to check out the Impossible Project.
I've shot a little of their black and white film in the past. This time, I ordered a triple pack of a new beta-version color film (2.0 Beta to be exact). I've shot one pack of it, and I like it.
Looks like Merlin the Dog wants a sip of Coke.
As you can see the color is a little on the yellow side. It has nice subtle tones, and reasonable saturation. I took these at the Waterford Store in Waterford, Virginia, in the exact place where I'd photographed my lovely daughter several years before.
It's fun to know that instant photography is still available to us. I like the mix of the immediacy we're used to with digital, and the uniqueness of film.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Some Fungi - Lumix LX100 in Macro Mode

Yesterday, I posted a couple of images from my hike at Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, Virginia. Here are a few interesting fungi I found along the trail and shot with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100.
This one was enormous (~4" diameter) and looked like it was made of velvet.
The closeup capability of the LX100 is also impressive. Such a flexible camera.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hiking Practice - Sky Meadows State Park - Lumix DMC-LX100

I've been practicing for a hiking and camping trip I'm going on in August. I'll be going to the Desolation Wilderness in California for a two night journey. At my age, you need to get the body used to carrying a full backpack and walking multiple miles before heading out into the wilderness. I also need to break in a new pair of boots.
I've been doing most of my practice in a neighborhood "nature preserve," which consists of a boardwalk over some wetlands. Very flat, but convenient to home. Today I went out to Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, Virginia, to add some elevation and hills to the practice. Here are a couple of shots I made there with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100.
Sky Meadows Barn, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100, Edited in Snapseed
Sunflower, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100, Edited in Snapseed
The LX100 is the perfect hiking camera. I can wear it on my backpack belt, and it really doesn't get in the way. It may be the only camera I take on the actual hike. But, I'll probably also take along the Fujifilm GS645S medium format film camera.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AIS for Environmental Portraiture - Folklife Festival

In the middle of my film scanning efforts, this image just jumped out at me.
Traditional Peru in Washington, DC, by Reed A. George
Nikon FM2, Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AIS Lens, Agfa APX400 Film
I feel that this image includes just enough of the surroundings to give the subject context, yet still emphasizes her beautiful face and expression. So this is why many photographers prefer the 35mm focal length for environmental portraiture! I also think that the Agfa film, with its relatively low native contrast and considerable grain, gives the image a slightly vintage feel.
I've got more scanning to do, but am sure that I will assemble a few of these images from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival into a small collection.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Mat Marrash Is Spreading the Word - On Film, That Is

I met Mat Marrash at last year's Walking Workshop, sponsored by the Film Photography Project (FPP). FPP is a great bunch of people, and I refer anyone and everyone interested in film photography to check out their site. (Click Here) to do that.
Mat was one of the organizers of the workshop, and led the large format aspects, including doing a demonstration of 8x10 instant film photography(!) using Impossible Project film.
Anyway, Mat continues to spread the word, and has recently held a film workshop at Midwest Camera Exchange in Columbus, Ohio (my home town). (Click Here) to read a little about that experience.
Image Source:
Keep spreading the good word, Mat! The film photography world at large appreciates what you're doing!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Smithsonian Folklife Festival - Featuring Peru - Shot with Nikon FM2 and Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AIS Lens

I just replaced the seals on my Nikon FM2. My latest roll of film showed evidence of a minor light leak. That's all fixed up now. It took about an hour to get all the old seal residue off and install the new ones, but it was well worth the effort.
To test it, I mounted my new Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AIS lens, loaded a roll of Agfa APX400 film (thanks again, Dennis!), met my friend Charlie, and headed into DC. We attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which featured Peru this year. Here are a few of the first pics I've scanned.
I just got the lens from another friend, Alain, a short time back. I haven't used it a lot. I think I like it.
I will be posting more from this event as I get them scanned.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Did You Get a Release for That?

Model releases can be very important for certain types of photography. I didn't get a release for this shot, as I'm not inclined to sue myself for posting a picture of my kid. But, you get the point.
I've actually been waiting to see an iPhone app that takes care of model releases for the mobile photographer. And, it's here. This app from Snapwire not only allows you to get signatures on the fly, on your phone, it integrates with several other applications, including Dropbox and Evernote (my choice of document organization tools).
(Click Here) to read about the app on

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Evan Leavitt Does It Again

Eternal Movement, by Evan Leavitt
Image Source:

Man, I really love this guy's work. Every once in a while I repost it here, when something catches my eye. Evan made this with a 4x5 Graflex Speed Graphic on a paper negative.

(Click Here) to go to Evan's blog.

Friday, July 3, 2015

And Another From the Handley Library - Fujifilm GS645S

Young Adult, by Reed A. George
Fuji GS645S, Kodak TMax 400 Film
I absolutely love how this image turned out. The "Young Adult" sign on the back wall was a bonus; I didn't even notice it when I was shooting the image! Too funny.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Handley Library in Winchester, Virginia - Fuji GS645S Medium Format Rangefinder

I have happily re-entered the Fujifilm camera owners crowd. No, I didn't buy an X100... I re-bought a camera that I had owned in the past, the 6x4.5 medium format film rangefinder GS645S. With a slightly wide angle (38mm equivalent) 60mm f4 lens, this is one perfect little travel camera.
I shot a 15 exposure test roll of TMax 400 in my new camera in Winchester, Virginia, last weekend.
Handley Library, by Reed A. George
Fuji GS645S, Kodak TMax 400 Film, Red Filter
The Handley Library is in my opinion by far the most interesting architecture in Winchester. Built in 1913, it strikes me as a little piece of Europe in rural Virginia. I shot this image with a 2-stop red filter, to darken the bright blue summer sky and bring out the contrast in the clouds. I think it worked.
Here's a shot from inside the library, in which I was attracted by the light rather than the subject.
Inside the Handley Library, by Reed A. George

Fuji GS645S, Kodak TMax 400 Film

I think this image demonstrates what I love about this camera. A wide range of tones, and sharpness that is as good as it comes, if you ask me. Not bad for a 30 year old film camera. I'll write more about the camera in coming days, but suffice it to say the GS645S is a wonderfully compact, if not sturdy, high quality imager.