Friday, November 30, 2012

More Unfulfilled Promise - the Maxell Airstash

Maxell Airstash
Image Source:
So close, but yet so far. Let me save you some reading if you like: AIRSTASH DOES NOT ALLOW TRANSFER OF RAW FILES FROM THE IPAD.
My Airstash arrived yesterday, and after a few blips in upgrading the firmware, was ready to go. Very promising. The app (Airstash+) actually has a simple interface. Click the little camera icon, and you can say whether you want to import (from Airstash to iPad) or export (to the Airstash), select your images, and go. So, I did a test with ~250 images stored on the iPad (in both jpeg and raw) during a meeting. I was elated. Within 40 minutes it was done. So cool!
The transfer rate was not fast, but certainly acceptable. The devise design is nice - it's very small, light, not much more in your bag than a normal SD card - USB adapter.
Then came the final part of the test. Plugging the Airstash into my desktop, I looked at my transferred images. What? No raw files! Just jpegs. The transfer changed all of my raws into jpegs.
I thought there must be a setting that I missed. There isn't. In fact, there are so few settings that I scanned all of them three times in a few minutes. So, reluctantly, I called the 24/7 Maxell service line.
After a several minute hold, I got a real person. He immediately told me that I'd have to do some internet research, and that this functionality was on the app end, which is produced by a third party. I replied that I had read the MAXELL web page extremely carefully before making this purchase, and that it clearly indicated compatibility with raw files. After pushing back, he agreed to talk with someone else there at Maxell. He came back on the phone after consulting with the Airstash Support Manager, and informed me that the software automatically converts raw files to jpeg upon export to the Airstash. There is nothing you can do to change that. I calmly informed him that this "feature" makes the device completely unhelpful to serious photographers, and it's on its way back. He said "Okay, thank you!" and we were done.
A couple of you have suggested divorcing from Apple for this function. I'm afraid I may have to agree with you. I'm so hooked on the iPad interface and apps for other purposes, it is difficult to consider something else. But, it just won't seem to help me out here.
I thought Apple's strongest core of users came from the arts, science, and imaging worlds. How can they not see the need to give this to us photographers?
I'm going to take a break from this pursuit for a while. I'm not doing any more big travel until spring...

Well, the Seagate Go Flex Didn't Solve My iPad Photo Back-Up Challenge, Maybe The Maxell Airstash Will...

The Maxell Airstash
Image Source:
As I mentioned yesterday, the promising combination of the PhotoSmith app and the Seagate Go Flex wireless hard drive let me down, in that they no longer allow you to write files from the iPad to the drive. This is obviously critical for the iPad to be a great back-up tool for photographers.
Here's my next attempt - the Maxell Airstash. This is a different approach, which allows you to connect an SD card to your iPad wirelessly. The description clearly states that the iPad will write files to the SD card. I sure hope it's true.
With the Airstash, my plan will be to carry a lot of SD cards of matched size. I'll shoot with one in my camera, then use the iPad to copy all of the files to both the iPad and to a second SD card. That's significant back-up (three copies).
Here's some of the pluses of this approach:
  • Solid State (SD Card) media
  • No moving parts
  • Fast read and write speeds
  • Easy to carry a lot of data in the form of SD cards
  • Does not rely on using the PhotoSmith app, which I have found to be less than 100% reliable
  • Easy to upload when I do get home. Just grab one copy on SD card and pop it in the desktop card reader.
Here are some negatives:
  • Solid State (SD Card) media - low storage capacity (per card) compared to the 500 Mb Go Flex
  • Wireless - I would be happier if I simply had the ability to write to an SD card from the iPad, using the Apple Camera Connect Kit. It would be faster. I simply don't need wireless for this application. However, I may use it for other things in the future.
  • Internal rechargeable battery - will have a limited lifetime. I wouldn't mind plugging in to AC, or better yet, have it powered from a USB connection.
  • Since you can't easily delete photos from the iPad without connecting to a host computer, I'm still limited in overall capacity to what's on the iPad (64 Gb max).
I'm returning the Go Flex, and have ordered the Airstash. I'll let you know how it goes. If this doesn't work, I will seriously consider the Macbook Air with 256 Gb storage. I'd still much rather have the iPad be my solution.
Let's hope the Airstash lives up to the marketing info.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Afternoon and Evening in Barcelona - I Think I Like It Here

Gelato Selection, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
We arrived in Barcelona today, Sunday, at about noon. After a quick nap, we went out for a tasty lunch of tapas (shrimp, avocado salad, local sausage and white beans). This kept us full enough that we only needed a small snack for dinner.
I can already tell that the street photography is going to be great here. For our evening walk, I grabbed my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 and Russian 35mm optical finder, set the zoom to 35mm equivalent, manual exposure at either iso 400, 800, or 1600 (pretty high for this small sensor), and shot away.
Mixed Traffic, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
In order to minimize jet lag, I need to stay up until at least 10:00 tonight, preferably closer to midnight. It's currently only 7:30PM. I may have to go out again to succeed in staying awake...
I'm certainly looking forward to the rest of this trip. The images above are both jpegs directly from the camera, shot using the Dynamic Black and White option. I don't know exactly how this works, but flickr is showing the filenames as if they were raw files. That can't be, as the Black and White option only affects the jpegs. And, I can't see my EXIF information, either.
At any rate, I'm pretty sure that some careful post-processing at home will clean them up quite well.
More from Barcelona coming soon!

Not Quite Ready for Photography Back-up Perfection - the iPad

Apple iPad 2
Image Source:
So, I've been using an Apple iPad for so many things in life recently. I really love the device, and it goes everywhere with me - mainly for work, but at home and on travel as well.
My meeting notes and plans are so much better organized than in the past, and always with me. The app Evernote has made that happen for me. But, you're here to read about photography...
I've been using the iPad for photo backup on travel. The Apple Camera Connect Kit ($29) allows me to transfer fiiles from an SD card (from the camera) to the iPad. That's great. Here are the current limitations:
  1. Limited storage (64 Gb total) on the iPad.
  2. The iPad will only upload photos into its own photo app.
  3. No way to export to a hard drive to have a second copy of the files.
  4. Limited capability in apps to organize, rate, and store photos.
On the positive side, if you have access to the internet, with LOTS of bandwidth (more than most hotels offer), you can use the iPad to upload photos for backup. One great solution for this is flickr, which allows you to upload (and hide if you wish) unlimited jpegs for $25 per year. The only drawback there is that you can't backup your raw files. But, it's sure a nice way to have at least your jpegs safely copied online.
If you don't have internet access, options are quite limited. What I've been doing is copying files from my SD cards to the iPad, AND keeping them on the SD card as well. This is not a bad solution, as SD cards are quite inexpensive now, and it's easy to carry a lot of memory in a very small volume. But, once I reach 64 Mb (which includes all of my applications and documents on the iPad), I'm kind of stuck.
I thought I had a fix recently. I purchased a book specifically about the iPad for photographers. I won't list it here, because the fact that it's already out of date is causing me problems. I can't recommend the book to my readers. Anyway, at one point in time, the photo app PhotoSmith ( had the capability of sending photos to a compact wireless hard disk from Seagate.
Seagate Go Flex 500 Gb Wireless Hard Disk
Image Source:
This drive is on sale for the reasonable price of $99 right now. So, I bought one. Guess what? It no longer connects with PhotoSmith. According to PhotoSmith Technical Support, that's because of some issues on the Seagate side, and they hope to fix it soon. But for now, it won't allow me to move photos from the iPad to the Go Flex.
Now, about the Go Flex. It's pretty cool. If you want to load up an enormous amount of video, photos, music, etc. for a trip (loading from a PC with USB), you can share all of that wirelessly to up to three devices (including iPads). So, you can keep the whole family happy with movies for a long drive. But, you can't move anything from the iPad to the Go Flex at this point. So, it doesn't solve my backup problem.
Another exciting development is the Kingston solid state wireless drive. That's a topic for a later post, as I haven't fully investigated it yet. However, at this time, I believe it has the same issue with transferring files from the iPad. Once this is solved, either device will be a killer solution.
A quick note on the PhotoSmith app. It's pretty good in most ways. It allows me to import photos from the Apple photo app to PhotoSmith (both on the iPad). Once I've done that, I can sort, rank, and flag my files, just like I do in Lightroom at home. And, there's a publish plug-in for Lightroom that allows me to transfer those files wirelessly once I get home, directly into Lightroom on my desktop machine, ratings and all. Now, this is not seamless. It has limitations. I've had a hard time getting ALL of my photos to transfer, and you don't have much flexibility in deciding where they transfer to on your desktop (they go in a PhotoSmith directory in MyPhotos on the PC, which is not where I want them). Overall, I give PhotoSmith 3 out of 5 stars. I'm sure it will improve.
I really love the iPad, and think the iPad Mini could be the right solution for travel photography backup, once it can send files to an external drive (by the way, that doesn't need to be wireless for me; a wired drive would be fine).
So, all of this leaves me thinking - what about just going to the Apple MacBook Air? I could carry a 256 Gb Air and a normal USB drive, and instantly have two copies of my photos, and free up my SD cards to be reformatted. And, if I have internet connectivity, it's even better. The Air is more expensive. It also lacks the nice touch screen interface of the iPad. I'd much rather solve the few remaining issues with the iPad and maybe go to the mini.
So, there's a quick update on the status of the iPad for photographers, as I see it. If others have found nice solutions, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Everyday Poetic" by Olivier Duong (

Everyday Poetic by Olivier Duong
As every morning, I was blowing through a lot of news and blog entries online to see if there's anything new and interesting in the online world of photography today. Not finding anything inspiring, I decided to take at look at Olivier Duong's blog, That's when I saw the image above.
(Click Here) to go to
Apparently, Olivier is writing an ebook, and took this shot during a mind break in the coffee shop. I'll be sure to look for his book when it comes out.
I love the flowing lines, monochrome treatment (I bet the colors in this shot were interesting, too), and sort of rough post-processing. The vignetting in the corners focuses the viewer on the smooth curves of the fabric, just as it should. Nicely done, Olivier!
It's getting near the holidays, folks! Please order your gifts from Amazon through the link below! Save me from another $.28 revenue month (not joking, that's what I made last month)! :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Olympus 17mm f1.8 Lens for Micro 4/3

New Olympus 17mm f1.8 for Micro 4/3
Image Source:
Olympus has announced a new 17mm f1.8 lens for Micro 4/3 cameras. This is a welcome addition to the Micro 4/3 world, giving an equivalent field of view to the 35mm lens on a full frame 35mm camera. This is a classic focal length, and comes in second only to 50mm field of view as a "standard" lens.
(Click Here) to read about it on ePhotoZine.
The new lens features Olympus new "ZERO" low reflection lens coatings, and a quick focus mechanism. I have never tried this, but the description says that you slide the focus ring to get approximately in focus, then twist it (like a normal focus ring) to dial in with precision. To me, this sounds like replacing one motion with two, and doesn't sound fast. On the other hand, if your manual focus ring requires a lot of turns to cover the focus range, perhaps this approach is faster.
So what does this lens compete with? First in my mind is the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7. The field of view is slightly different, but not that much. The Panasonic lens is a jewel - tiny, fast, sharp. Otherwise, there's the older Olympus 17mm f2.8 lens. I have never used one, but it sure doesn't get good reviews online. Now, take that with a grain of salt. I bet it's a quite useable lens, just not a premium model like the newly announced 17mm f1.8.
As with all Olympus lenses, there is no in-lens optical stabilization; Olympus builds that into their camera bodies. The Lumix lens doesn't have stabilization either, and in my opinion it's not needed at this focal length, as long as you have a fast aperture (like f1.7 or 1.8).
Based on the new Olympus 75mm f1.8 lens that I have recently purchased, I would predict that this premium lens from Olympus will be a real winner.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Psychology of Photography - Published by Theme

Occasionally, I like to back up and think about why I (we) photograph. I put an enormous amount of time and thought into my photography, and it rewards me back more than I put in. Theme recently published a thoughtful article on the subject.
(Click Here) to read the story on Theme. Be sure to watch the TED video. There are graphic images in the video, but they're strong, meaningful ones.
Sometimes the "philosophy of photography" can seem dull and overly-introspective to me. I've read some books (including some famous ones) that I forced myself to finish, and then concluded that I was no smarter at the end than the beginning. So, I like short, thoughtful pieces like the one above.
A couple of concepts that stuck with me are that photography is a way of "...crystallizing one's own experience..." and a way to " less ignore the life we live in..."
Another touchpoint of this article and video is that good images force us to act. I believe that all good art evokes emotion (I'm not sure who said that, but it's not my original idea). That emotion is not always positive or good. And, I also believe that emotion drives action. So, I can go along with this concept.
Finally, the piece makes the point that a good image is made by the photographer, the camera, the object, and most importantly by the viewer. The viewer must get the point for the communication to have been effective.
I found this brief piece interesting. But, enough navel gazing. Let's get out and make some pictures.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Three Years of B&W Images from noizy's Lumix GF-1

"I Will Come for You," by noizy on
Image Source:
I still have a Lumix DMC-GF1. When I bought my G3 bodies, I happily sold my trusty G1. I chose to keep the GF1, mainly because I really like the form factor. However, I have not used it since getting the G3s.
Member noizy on has shared an awesome selection of monochrome images shot with the GF1 over a three year period.
(Click Here) to see noizy's post on
I really like the shape, size, and style of the GF1. However, I always use the accessory electronic viewfinder (EVF), which really breaks all of that in my opinion. I just can't be happy shooting from an LCD. The accessory EVF makes the GF1 really no smaller than the G3, which has the finder integrated. I thought it may be a great back-up body to carry on travel, but since it uses a different battery than the G3, I don't use it for that, either. I don't want to carry yet another charger. I really should sell the GF1.
I love it when someone just uses a camera, regardless of what else is out there in terms of new products. This is exactly what noizy has done here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Olympus OM-D and Lumix 45-200mm Zoom - Nice Horseback Pictures by caimi on

Olympus OM-D, Panasonic Lumix 45-200mm f4-5.6 Lens
Member caimi posted several very nice pictures from a horseback riding event, all shot with the Olympus OM-D and Panasonic 45-200mm f4-5.6 lens.
(Click Here) to see the full post on
I bought the Lumix 45-200 with my first Micro 4/3 camera, the DMC-G1. It is an awesome lens - very compact, fast, and sharp. I sold it when I moved to the 14-140mm f4-5.8 and the 100-300mm f4-5.6. I believe the 45-200 is sharper than the 14-140. The 100-300 is so good, I can't say either one is better in the range where they overlap.
Ducking Parade, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, Lumix 45-200mm f4-5.6 Lens
iso 400, f6.3, 1/640 sec.
Goldfinch, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, Lumix 45-200mm f4-5.6 Lens
iso 400, f5.6, 1/500 sec.

Nothing wrong with the 45-200, even though it was one of the first Lumix Micro 4/3 lenses.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Frankie Torres Shows Us NYC After Sandy

Photograph by Frankie Torres
Hurricane / superstorm Sandy seems like a distant memory here in Virginia. We were extremely lucky, and suffered very little damage, at least as far inland as I am. I'm a little embarrassed to say that we didn't even lose power here. So, it's very easy to forget that others were not so fortunate.
In a post on Elizabeth Avedon's blog, Frankie Torres, Marine Corps soldier turned photographer, shows us what Sandy did to Manhattan.
(Click Here) to see more pictures from Frankie.
I was on public transportation in Washington, DC yesterday when I heard a lady talking about what it's like in NYC right now. She said there are National Guardsmen at the gas stations, and the whole city feels like it's some place else.
In addition to how easy it is to forget when you are not directly affected, I find it interesting that each of us turns any catastrophe into something we can understand on an individual basis. A death makes us think about what we could have done to be closer to a person, or to help extend their life. In more distant situations, our brains struggle to connect in some way or another. For example, on the photography blogs, the tsunami in Japan turned into the damage to the camera companies' factories and operations (after much heartfelt expression for the people). One of the things I'll remember about Sandy is how Adorama announced their recovery, step-by-step, on the web. Insignificant in the grand scale, these things must somehow help us to accommodate the bigger impact in our minds.
Best wishes to New York and New Jersey, and other places affected by this storm.

Amazing Deal! Lumix DMC-LX7 for $299 New!

Panasonic DMC-LX7
Image Source:
First off, I have no connection to Hunt's Photo. However, they have an incredible deal on the Lumix DMC-LX7 today. Get it quick!
(Click Here) to go to Hunt's for the LX7 at $299 (regularly ~$499)!
This is an awesome little camera. I have the previous version, the DMC-LX5. It's an amazing street shooter, with raw file capability, a fast lens, and quick response. The LX7 has an even faster f1.4 lens.
I am sorely tempted by this deal, and would go for it if it didn't mean buying a new electronic viewfinder (it's different from the one on the LX5) and spare batteries. The truth is, I'm happy with the LX5, so it's not worth the upgrade for me. If I didn't have the LX5, I'd jump on this in an instant.
If you buy one, please get your finder (LVF-2) and extra batteries through the link below:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

New Olympus OM Blog

Today I found a new blog. Being a Micro 4/3 fan, I'm always looking for others using Micro 4/3 cameras and posting lots of pictures. Today I found the OM Experience, an Olympus OM-D focused blog, by Matthew, who lives in the Baltmore, Maryland area.
(Click Here) to see Matthew's blog.
Matthew is posting a lot of pictures - key to a great photography blog. He posted a nice set of images from the Maryland Renaissance Fair, which runs through late October. I guess I've missed it again this year. I have been planning to go for quite some time.
Anyway, for my friends out there that use the Olympus OM-D, this will be a great blog to follow. He also uses Panasonic lenses, including the Pana-Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4. So, you Lumix fans won't be left out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Are We Almost There? With Unobtrusive Wireless Backup, That Is?

The iPad (2, in my case) has become a major part of my life, even though I'm an Apple curmudgeon in general. And, as you may know, I still have a love for cameras that don't need a battery. But, the iPad is dragging me, kicking and screaming, into this millenium.
I am committed to using the iPad as backup and viewing of my photos on travel. Right now, I use the Apple SD adapter, and get a second copy onto the iPad as soon as possible after shooting. However, I typically keep the original copy on my SD card, which means having a lot of SD cards with me. So far, uploading the files to the web is too slow to be a useful third copy. Or, wireless connection in hotels is spotty enough to make it really hard. And, my iPad only has 64Gb total storage, which includes all of my business apps and work.
I've been looking at wireless hard drives, like the the Seagate GoFlex, which is essentially a wifi-capable mechanical hard drive.
(Click Here) to see the GoFlex on Amazon.
I've read some mixed reviews of how it works, so have not pulled the trigger.
Now, this morning, I saw my first solid state (as in "no moving parts") wireless hard drive, the Transcend StoreJet Cloud:
Image Source:
The storage capacity isn't huge (64 Gb), but not bad, either. This device is marketed for use in taking all of your music and videos with you when you travel. I want to turn it around, and use it to back-up the photos I take while I'm out. I need a demo to convince me that's possible.
(Click Here) to see the Storejet Cloud on Amazon
The process I'm considering at this point is to continue to use the Apple card adapter to transfer images from my SD card to the iPad, then back it up wirelessly to something like the Storejet Cloud.
Then, I see this:
Image Source:
(Click Here) to read about the card on
This is a Wi-Fi enabled SD card, which is designed specifically for use with iPad (iOS) or Android devices. If it works as I envision, I can upload directly to the iPad without the Apple adapter. I'm sure it will be slower, but it even has a mode where it will do it as I'm shooting. Now, if that ever negatively affected my shooting, it would be turned off forever. But, think how great it would be to have a backup of everything you shoot being made as you shoot, through a direct wireless connection between your camera's SD card and the iPad in your camera bag. That would be cool.
I don't know if it works that way.
Also, one more question - if I bought the StoreJet Cloud and the Wi-Fi SD, could I have the card make copies to both the iPad and the wireless hard drive at the same time? Ideally, I could save a jpeg version to my iPad, and both raw and jpeg to the hard drive.
Tough customer, aren't I? If this worked, I'd buy both the card and hard drive today. I think the chances of all the integration points working is very slim.
Note to Transcend: You now have all the pieces. Make it happen for me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Great Primer on Night Photography

Night in DC, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.8 AF-D Lens
iso 200, f11, 30 seconds
Well, given that daylight savings time just ended here on the East Coast, it may be a good time to think about night photography. I am no expert in this type of photography, but am willing to give it a go.
What got me thinking of it is this excellent video primer, by adventure photographer Kamil Tamiola, on
Video Source:
If you have trouble with the video, please go to the link at the bottom of this post to view it on
Kamil shares several important steps, a checklist of sorts, for preparing for great night photography, specifically in mountain landscapes, sometimes including people or other features lit with artificial light sources.
First, Kamil suggests considering the following things about your location and timing:
  1. Go as high (altitude) as you can. This provides more clear atmosphere.
  2. Go when it's cold out. There is less humidity in cold air to cause aberrations.
  3. Monitor the pressure. High pressure means clear skies.
  4. Check the moon phase. A new moon gives the best light.
Kamil also presents some tips on equipment. He uses a Nikon D3S DSLR. He also suggests a fast lens (f2.8 or faster), and a very solid tripod. He reminds us repeatedly to turn off any vibration reduction features. He also says "don't go cheap on the tripod."
Finally, here are his recommendations for settings:
  • Manual focus, distance set to infinity
  • Manual exposure, 30 seconds exposure time
  • Aperture wide open
  • iso 3200 as a starting point
  • Noise reduction off - apply it in post-processing only
  • Shoot raw files
  • Mirror lock-up, if you have it
  • Self-timer or remote shutter release
Now, you're ready to frame and shoot. If your image is underexposed, he suggests longer exposures. If overexposed, reduce your iso setting.
Finally, to balance lighting from artifical sources (flashlight on a climber for example), remember the inverse square rule. If the climber is too bright, back away some distance, which will reduce the amount of light hitting your sensor by a square of the distance.
Kamil takes really beautiful night photos. (Click Here) to see some on

Monday, November 19, 2012

Found Film - How Cool It Can Be

A couple of years back, I took a chance and bought a largely-undescribed Zeiss medium format folding camera from a seller on ebay. The seller did not normally deal in camera equipment (I checked), so I thought

"Who knows, maybe I'll get lucky."

Well, I did. Not only did the camera turn out to be equipped with a downright gorgeous Tessar f2.8 f3.5 lens (YES!), it had a roll of film still in it. I could hardly breathe as I processed that roll. Here are a couple of the results:
Found Film, Recovered by Reed A. George
Zeiss 521/16 Folder, 120 Film
Man, I Wish I Knew the Exposure (and other) Details!

I quickly posted the results to my favorite online neighborhood of friendly photographers.
(Click Here) to see what people had to say, and the rest of the pictures from this camera. Consensus says it's likely from a JFK speech in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, probably right before I was born.

(Click Here) to read a tongue-in-cheek story I wrote about it for JPG Magazine.

And here's what the camera can still do:
Waterford News, by Reed A. George
Not Bad for Guess Focus and f2.8 3.5, Huh?
Zeiss 521/16, f2.8 3.5

What got me thinking about this? A very cool post by New Zealand blogger Jason about purchasing some Leica equipment from a deceased photographer's family and discovering a treasure trove of slides.

(Click Here) to see the post on

I have to get that old Zeiss folder out soon. It's been a while. You just can't beat using an old camera that gives these kind of results.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Won A Contest - Two of My Images Will Be in the 2013 Calendar of Annual Reviews!

Image Source:
Two of my images (below) were selected for inclusion in the Annual Reviews 2013 calendar! One of my colleagues at work forwarded the call for entries (thanks, Jeanne!).
(Click Here) to see the full list of winners. As far as I can tell, you have to be a subscriber to get the calendar. They've offered to send me a copy; I wrote back asking if I can buy a few.
Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) in Flight, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor Ai-P 500mm f4 Manual Focus Lens
iso 500, f5.6, 1/1500 sec
Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus), by Reed A. George

Nikon D700, Nikkor Ai-P 500mm f4 Manual Focus Lens

I find it very rewarding to win a contest like this, especially a nature photography contest - they're notoriously difficult to win. So many great photographers focus their attention and cameras on the beauty of nature.

This is great motivation for me to keep pushing my skills!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Landscape Photographer of the Year - First Winner Loses Title Due to Overmanipulation of Image


Landscape Photographer of the Year 2012 Stripped of Title for Too Much Shoppin winner

The New Winner - Landscape Photographer of the Year, Simon Butterworth
Image Source:
"Take A View" ( has announced a new winner for Landscape Photographer of the Year. Originated by photographer Charlie Waite, the competition is in its seventh year.
Unfortunately, the initial image selected for first place this year was disqualified after the fact for over-manipulation.
(Click Here) to read the original posting, and see the excellent image that ended up being disqualified.
The website reports that the original winner, David Byrne, had not intentionally misled the judges; they simply found too much manipulation in the image to suit the requirements of their contest.
This is an important lesson for photographers. We all (or very nearly all) do some manipulation of our images. In fact, manipulation in the darkroom certainly precedes Photoshop. But, it's important to know the limits. And, the limits are different, depending upon the competition or venue.
I like to think that I use "straight photography" techniques, and don't rely too heavily upon manipulation. That said, I certainly have examples in my mind as I write this where the original image was, well, "ho-hum," until I got it into Lightroom for cropping, levels adjustment, conversion to black and white, and toning. Now it's one of my recent favorites. I would not consider it "manipulated" by today's standards, but it's certainly not straight out of the camera. Here's my image in question.
Forest Edge, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Pana-Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4 lens
iso 160, f8, 10 secs
Personally, I think what I've done here is quite acceptable, as all of these things could have been done easily in a wet darkroom. But is that the right measure? We also know that composites (made from multiple original images) can be made in the darkroom. I would think that's too much (obviously).
Where do you think the limits of acceptable manipulation are? I guess as long as we're honest about it when we're done, it's always up to each of us.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Manassas National Battlefield Revisited - Bronica ETRS Medium Format Camera

Cannon, Manassas Battlefield, by Reed A. George
Bronica ETRS, Fuji Provia film, exposure unrecorded
I live very close to the Manassas National Battlefield, site of two of the deadliest battles of the American Civil War, exactly 150 years ago. I recently decided to take out my Bronica ETRS medium format camera, and Manassas was where I ended up. I've shot this site many times. While there's not really much there in terms of clear photographic subjects, the place has real feeling. It's a little difficult to take a shot of cannons that hasn't been taken before. I don't think I really succeeded with that here, but I do like how the barrels are aligned, with the one in the distance just a little out of focus. That was my goal.
Henry House, Manassas Battlefield, by Reed A. George
Bronica ETRS, Fuji Reala film, exposure unrecorded
One of the few remaining structures from the Civil War era is Henry House. You may remember that I have shot this house before, and won 2nd place in a contest, resulting in the shot being used in the Civil War Trust's 2012 calendar. That image, shot with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, is shown below. The shot above is from the other side of the house.
Henry House, Manassas Battlefield, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, Leica Elmar 5.0cm f3.5 Lens
High Dynamic Range (HDR) Composite of Multiple Exposures
Finally, on my Bronica outing, I shot the old foundation of a house owned by a free mixed-race person during the Civil War. His name was James Robinson, and his mother was a black woman, and his father was reportedly a member of a prominent white family in the area. In any case, Mr. Robinson was very enterprising, and worked in many different ways to procure himself a piece of land and a house. As you can tell by visiting the remains of the old house, it was quite small. Judging only from memory, I would estimate the foundation to be about 400 square feet. Reportedly, it was a 1 1/2 story building, with the living quarters on the first floor.
Remains of James Robinson's House, Manassas Battlefield, by Reed A. George
Bronica ETRS, Fuji Reala film, exposure unrecorded
Mr. Robinson married an enslaved black woman, which meant by law at the time that there children were also slaves; they had eight together. While Mr. Robinson was able to arrange for some of his children to stay in the Manassas area, at least two of his sons were sold to distant plantations, including one in Louisiana.
For a short biography of Mr. Robinson, (Click Here).
During the first battle at Manassas (also known as "Bull Run") in summer 1861, after hiding under a bridge for the duration of the fight, Mr. Robinson came home to find 13 Confederate dead in his yard. His property had been in the direct path of the retreat from overwhelming Union forces. The Confederates would later push back, inspired by the arrival of Thomas Jackson's forces, routing the Union army and winning an important battle early in the war. This was the battle that earned Jackson his nickname, "Stonewall." Just 13 months later, the house served as a field hospital for the Union army in Second Manassas.
The house burnt down (due to arson) in 1993. While the National Park Service was dismantling the remains, they found an incredible cache of documents from the Robinson family, dating back as far as the 1830s.
I thoroughly enjoyed using the Bronica again. It has been a long time since I took it out. The camera and lenses are large, heavy, and noisy to use. This is no stealth camera. But, the optical performance is very nice. It certainly promotes slow, thoughtful composition. I hope you enjoyed seeing the result.
I find Fuji Reala (iso 100) film to be very nice for scanning. It is a relatively low contrast color print film. Order yours here:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Streetshooter's Street Presets - For Lightroom 4 and/or Nik Silver Effects 2

This is a first for me. Streetshooters is selling premade presets to give your photos a classic street photography look.
(Click Here) to read about it at
Presets are saved sets of parameters. In Lightroom 4, for example, you can make all of the settings that make your pictures look exactly how you want them, then save all of those adjustments as a preset. In this case, you're buying presets that some experienced street photographers have made for you.
I must admit that they look pretty darned good in the online samples. I'm not sure how I feel about paying for them. I suppose it's not unreasonable to pay $20 to have an expert give me their favorite settings, which I can reuse as many times as I like, or even customize a little further to my own liking, and save as my own preset.
Hmm. Something to consider. I'll let you know if I do it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This Charges Me Up For My Upcoming Trip to Barcelona!

Barcelona (Placa Catalunya) by jky on rangefinder forum
Member jky on rangefinderforum posted three excellent images from a recent trip to Barcelona.
(Click Here) to see them all.
I will be leaving for Barcelona for a family vacation, about a week from when I'm writing this post. I'm excited about street shooting there.
We usually end up going back to one of our favorite places on family vacations, and decided to do something really different this time. This will be a challenge trip for us, as we don't speak the language. But, we're very excited to meet nice people, eat great food, enjoy Gaudi' architecture, and anything else that comes our way.
I've read that theft can be a real problem, especially in the tourist areas. I'm thinking that I won't take my most expensive camera (Leica M9), even though it pains me to leave it at home. I'm also pretty sure that Barcelona is far safer than New York City, where I have used my Leica gear in the past.
That said, my Micro 4/3 kit of two Lumix DMC-G3 bodies will give me more flexibility anyway, and I won't commit suicide if anything goes missing. I won't like it, but I'll recover. Right now, I'm thinking that I'll take the two G3 bodies, and maybe only a couple of lenses - the Lumix 20mm f1.7 and Lumix 14-140mm f3.5-5.8 zoom. The zoom will give me awesome range in a single lens, including enough telephoto reach for external architecture shots. The 20mm is tiny and fast. Of course, I'm sure the lens list will grow before I get on the plane. Oh yeah, I'm sure I'll throw in the diminutive Lumix DMC-LX5 as well. It weighs nothing, and takes up very little space. I will also take a 35mm optical finder to use the LX5 for street shooting.
What do you think? Is this too minimal?
I'm getting psyched for this trip...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Defunct Rangefinder Blog Gains New Life - Nick DeMarco's Rangefinder Chronicles

And here's what brought it back - a "mint" Leica IIIF Red Dial and 5.0cm f3.5 Elmar.
Nick DeMarco's New IIIF
Nick DeMarco's blog, the Rangefinder Chronicles, has been inactive since January of this year. Recently, it got some new life breathed into it. Apparently, Nick found an essentially-new condition Leica IIIF from 1955, complete with original lens and case. So far, he's posted three different pieces about using it, including some sample images.
(Click Here) to read the Rangefinder Chronicles.
In one of his posts, Nick writes about how he set his own expectations too high when he started the blog. Believe me, I know exactly how hard it is to keep up a blog with daily entries. In fact, I find myself questioning if I'll keep it up, or in what fashion, once I've met my goal of trying daily blogging for a year. I just entered month eleven of twelve.
In many ways, I find blogging refreshing and informative. However, it sure takes dedication and time. Time is what I have the least of these days. But, I do believe for a blog to be useful at all, it needs frequent, regular entries. One per day is not a lot by active blog standards.
Anyway, I'm glad to see the Rangefinder Chronicles coming back to life. I'll be sure to follow it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Black and White Film for C-41 (Drugstore) Processing - And How To Best Shoot It

Chinese New Year Spectator, by Reed A. George
Leica CL, Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f2.5 Lens
I love to shoot film. I have found that over time, my choice of film has become easier. Rather than worry about color balance, contrast level, etc., I just go for a low contrast film, and adjust everything in Lightroom, after scanning. The reason I go for low contrast film is that you can always add contrast; you can't take it away. Fuji Reala 100 is (was) an incredibly good film for scanning. Now, I generally just buy inexpensive Fuji film of the speed I need. Actually, in retail stores, that's typically reduced to iso 200 and 400 only.
Anyway, I also normally use color film, even when I'm planning to have the final image live in black and white (b&w). Black and white conversion is so easy, good, and flexible in Lightroom that I rarely think about shooting black and white film anymore. When I did shoot b&w film, many times I would choose the films that could be developed in the ubiquitous C-41 process. This allowed me to just drop the film off at the local drugstore and get it back in an hour.
Mike Johnston of The Online Photographer has posted a piece on Ilford XP2 Super, which is a C-41 b&w film, and how to best use it. The C-41 b&w films, in addition to being convenient for quick processing, are also known to be very flexible in exposure latitude. That means that if you don't get the exposure just right, it's okay. Many people use this to push the film's native speed of iso400 to 800, or even higher. However, Mike suggests against that.
(Click Here) to read Mike's article on The Online Photographer.
Mike takes advantage of XP2 Super's characteristics to maximize the effect of the film's low grain in bright areas by typically overexposing, by shooting it at lower iso settings than the nominal 400. Here are his guidelines for iso settings with XP2:
  • In normal lighting situations, shoot at iso 200.
  • In very bright situations, shoot at iso 100.
  • In dim lighting, shoot at iso 400, never over 800.
The neat thing is, unlike normal b&w films, you don't have to adjust the processing conditions at all. So, you can still just drop it at the drugstore for processing, even if you shot at iso 100.
Go grab yourself a roll and try it out. And remember, to get the best out of XP2 Super, overexpose rather than underexpose it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Candid Portraits - "Commonality of Humanity"

Harlem Barber Shop Owner, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.8D AF Lens
iso 640, f2, 1/500 sec
If you don't know who Steve McCurry is, you probably know his most famous image - one of an Afghani girl on the cover of National Geographic magazine.
(Click Here) to see the picture(s) and read the story.
In this 7 minute video on Petapixel, McCurry and photographers Bruce Davidson and Miru Kim discuss how people photography reflects basics of human nature.
(Click Here) for the video on Petapixel.
One image critic comments how more than one photographer has commented that they're simply "taking self-portraits," no matter who they're photographing. For Miru Kim, it's literal. She shoots images of herself. For most others, they're saying that people pictures reflect as much of the personality of the photographer as of the subject.
In the video, Steve McCurry shares some of his favorite slides (on an old-fashioned light table, surrounded by filing cabinets with paper folders, no less!). He comments on the "commonality of humanity" being reflected in the subject's face, when they're not pulling a pose or wearing a mask for the camera. Interestingly, in his outing during the video, he shoots a Nikon DSLR, with a single, small, prime lens (a Nikkor 35mm f2, I believe).
McCurry also describes walking the city, exploring, being completely "in the moment." This is a very common expression in Buddhism and other forms of meditation. It really is great to be able to focus on the moment, and not worry about the past or future. This is what photography does for me.
Here's to now, this moment.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

APhotoContributor Author Shares His Fuji XPro-1 Experience. He's Left Leica Digital Behind.

Chris, author at the blog APhotoContributor, has posted a detailed summary of his shift from Leica digital to the Fuji XPro-1.
(Click Here) to read Chris' complete post.
Chris is a retired engineer, turned photographer and blogger. He was an initial beta-tester for the Leica M9, and took an amazing number of images (>100,000) with the M9. He always used the M9 in conjunction with either Canon or Nikon DSLRs, which he considered as more reliable. In particular, Chris had problems with the M9 hanging up while writing images to memory cards. I've never seen this with my M9, but I have maybe 1% of the M9 images under my belt that he does.
Chris says he's not a Leica hater, and continues to use a Leica MP (film camera) regularly. I would stretch to say that he's a "Leica-guy" hater, though. He includes a lot of disparaging comments about Leica photographers worrying more about whether their straps match their jackets than about their images, Leica photographers being those who "want to shoot in Cuba" (I admit, I'd love to shoot in Cuba), and being people who "wear a camera" instead of using it. He is also very rough on Thorsten Overgaard, a strong Leica digital proponent. To check out Thorsten's blog, (Click Here). I think Thorsten seems like a pretty good guy; Chris uses the phrase "king of dilettantes." Oh well, to each his own. Diversity makes the world more interesting.
On to the meaningful part of the post. Chris has been using the Fuji XPro-1, and is obviously pleased. He has had no problems with the camera writing files to cards, ever. He is a strong proponent of autofocus in digital cameras, and finds Leica's continued production of manual focus-only bodies an anachronism. Along those lines, he's not interested in adapting his Leica lenses (including the awesome 35mm Summilux) to the Fuji body. He is fond of the Fuji 18mm lens. According to Chris, the latest firmware update for the XPro was transformational, and made the autofocus on the camera "really good."
Chris also finds the XPro quieter than the M9.
Many times, critical reviews of the Leica M9 come from people who secretly wish they could have an M9, so go very far to find reasons why they'd never want one ("I'm sure those grapes were sour, anyway."). Not in this case. In fact, Chris still pairs his Fuji XPro-1 with the venerable Leica MP for street shooting.
Personally, I am very intrigued with where Fujifilm is going. I think the XPro-1 looks like a beginning of a great system. I'm not sure if I could get used to the hybrid finder system. Playing with it just a little made it seem a little clunky to me, but I certainly haven't given it a chance. In concept, it's a great idea. I also believe that Fuji is capable of making lenses that are every bit as good as Leica. They've made gorgeous optics for many, many years. I once had a Fuji G690 medium format rangefinder, with 100mm f/3.5 lens that was just plain incredible. Known as the "Texas Leica," the camera gave absolutely beautiful results, but was just a little too cartoonish for me to carry. It truly looked like a prop for a geeky photographer halloween outfit.
As you probably know, I do love my new (used) Leica M9. That said, I'm keeping my eye on Fuji. I think we're going to continue to see interesting new products from them.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lumix and Manual Focus Nikkor Lens - Scottish Highlands Cattle

Scottish Highlands Cattle, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AIS Lens
iso 200, f2.8, 1/500 sec
The hotel I stayed in for my conference in New Hampshire has a farm attached to it. Mostly for the enjoyment of the guests, they have horses, sheep, and chickens. The most interesting animals on the farm are these Scottish Highlands Cattle, also known as "kyloe" in Scotland. These cattle are adapted to survive extreme cold, with little to forage on.
I'm sure the New Hampshire winters allow them to keep up their strength in this area.
I enjoyed walking the farm on a lunchtime break from the meeting, and getting to know these guys. The Nikkor 28mm was a good choice for the experience. It reminded just how well manual focus works on the G3, especially with the magnification in the finder, which is achieved by pressing the rear control dial inward.
With the body currently priced at less than $350 on Amazon, I can't think of a more capable modern camera for the money.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sunset From Mount Prospect, Lancaster, New Hampshire

While I was on a business trip to a conference in Whitefield, New Hampshire (tough assignment, but someone's gotta do it), I was happy to get away immediately after the conference ended to hike up Mount Prospect, in nearby Lancaster.
Weeks State Park has a paved trail going to the summit, a round-trip of about 3 miles. I was very tight on time, and made it back to the car a little after dark.
I've missed the fall colors up here, so photo opportunities did not abound. However, I saw this on my way back down the trail:
Sunset from Mount Prospect, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Lumix 14-140mm f4-5.8 at 140mm
iso 200, f8, 1/15 sec (on tripod)
This is straight from the camera, as I'm still on the road as I write this, and uploaded directly from my iPad.
The bright stripe of water in the lower portion of the image makes it interesting for me. I like how you can see the pines silhouetted against the water.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Before and After - Some Fun With Snapseed

Here's a rather pedestrian shot of an old telephone pole that I recently took in New Hampshire.
Before - Old Telephone Pole, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Lumix 14-140mm f4-5.8
iso 200, f8, 1/125 sec
I really like the details in the pole, and the old wires hanging down. But, it was literally in the middle of a swamp, and I couldn't get a better perspective on it.
I decided to play with the image in Snapseed on my iPad.
(Click Here) for info on the mobile version of Snapseed.
Anyway, I did a few things to the image in Snapseed. First, I converted it to black and white, then, I used the tilt and shift function to restrict focus to the center of the pole, then I applied some "grunge," and finally an organic frame and a little grain. Here's the result:
After - Disconnected, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Lumix 14-140mm f4-5.8
iso 200, f8, 1/125 sec
Manipulated in Snapseed
I don't always go for manipulated images. And, I absolutely hate working at the computer as compared to being out using my camera. However, in this case, I think a few minutes on the iPad absolutely transformed this from a boring image to something at least a little intriguing.
All things in moderation, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fear of Street Photography? I Don't Have It, But I Understand It.

The Smile, by Reed A. George
The Smile, Greenwich Village, NYC, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 50mm f2
iso 320, f5.6, 1/125 sec
I don't have a fear of taking photographs of people on the street. Of course, there are situations where I decide that someone may react negatively, and in those cases, I don't take the shot. In general, though, I don't have much problem with it.
I seem to alternate between taking candids of people without talking to them, as in the shot above, and other times like to talk and get permission. The two approaches give very different feelings. Here's one where I asked permission, taken within less than a block of "The Smile:"
Hipster Glasses, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 50mm f2
iso 320, f6.7, 1/125 sec
I like both of these images, and really neither one better than the other.
If you do suffer from anxiety about shooting street photography, you may want to read a recent post by Jim Maher on
(Click Here) to read Jim's post. He's also advertising an eBook. I haven't ordered it, but I may give it a try. I don't know Jim, or have any connection to him or his book sales.
Jim suggests seven steps to help get comfortable with street photography:
  1. Street portraiture (ask permission) - We've already discussed this one.
  2. Pick a spot and let them come to you - This is a good strategy, but I don't find it any less confrontational than walking and scouting.
  3. Use a small, wide angle lens - I agree that small lenses are less threatening. Be careful with the wide angle part, though. They require you to get very close to your subjects. For street, I generally prefer a 50mm lens, or 35mm at the widest, unless I really feel like getting up close to people.
  4. Shoot from the Hip - Yeah, that can work very well. It won't help you get over your fear, though.
  5. Pretend you're shooting something else - I do this all the time. Good technique.
  6. Be confident - Hmm. Okay. At least, don't look like a stalker or a spy; people will notice you.
  7. Choose your subjects carefully - Sure. Of course.
So, get out there and give it a try! The worst I've ever had to do was delete a shot for someone. And that was because I didn't feel strongly enough to stand up for my rights. And, the shot wasn't that good anyway...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Now Here's A Rumor That I Hope Is True - Lumix DMC-GX2 Will Have GH3 Sensor!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
Image Source:
I have pretty much decided to ship a model in the Panasonic Lumix G series - the new DMC-G5. While I really like the ergonomic design better than my G3, there doesn't seem to be enough image quality improvement to justify the upgrade. Apparently, the G5 has about one stop better dynamic range than the G3, which would certainly be welcome, but it doesn't gain much in high iso performance.
The newly-announced DMC-GH3, the flagship Lumix that is also a high end video machine, promises much more. The new GH3 sensor is preliminarily reported to be much better at high iso settings. While I do like the idea of being able to shoot the highest quality video, especially in my live music project, the truth is that I'm currently just not a video guy. So, I'd love to have a still photography-targeted camera with the new GH3 sensor.
According to a post on, the rumors are saying that a new DMC-GX2, with the GH3 sensor, will be announced before the end of this year.
(Click Here) to read the post on m43blog.
I would really welcome this development. The GX series is a little different from the main G line, mainly in that it does not include an integral electronic viewfinder (EVF). The GF1 (predecessor to the GX1) and the GX1 both have optional add-on finders. They're expensive, and really take away from the small size and simple shape of the camera, but EVF is essential to me. I just can't shoot by framing on an LCD. This is why I chose the G3 over the GX1. I know that I will always have the EVF mounted, so I'd rather just have it built into the body.
In any case, I would seriously consider getting the GX2 and accessory EVF, if it indeed uses the GH3 sensor.
If you can't wait, PLEASE order your GH3 here :).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Autumn Walk at Shenandoah National Park

My family and I took a walk at White Oak Canyon in the Shenandoah National Park. Rather than take the typical drive along Skyline Drive, which can tend to be drier and browner, we hiked along the creek.
October in Shenandoah National Park, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Pana-Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4
iso 200, f5.6, 1/160 sec.
Since it took nearly two hours to drive out, we didn't catch great early morning light. It was still pretty good when we started the hike a little before 10:00 am, but most of the hike was in direct overhead sunlight.
All the Golds, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Pana-Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4
iso 200, f5, 1/200 sec.
And Some Reds, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Pana-Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4
iso 200, f4, 1/100 sec.
These conditions - bright blues skies and deep forest shadows - really pushed the dynamic range of the Lumix G3.

Looking Downstream, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Pana-Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4
iso 200, f11, 1/40 sec.
Dynamic range is one of the aspects of Lumix sensor design that is promised to improve, most specifically with the DMC-G5 (even though it reportedly doesn't gain much in high iso performance), and more so in the newly-announced DMC-GH3.
I made an attempt at high dynamic range (HDR) imaging in one case of excessive contrast. I must say that I'm not satisfied with the result, but have some trouble putting my finger on why. Here it is:
Pool in HDR, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3, Lumix 14mm f2.5
iso 200, f16, 5 Image HDR
Maybe there's just too much drawing the eye around in this shot? Is it cluttered with detail? What caught my eye was the band of fallen leaves in the foreground, and the reflection behind. Maybe I should have focused on just that, rather than trying to take in the whole scene?
Anyway, it was a very nice day in the forest. We caught the fall colors quite nicely.