Saturday, May 30, 2015

Matt Marash's Large Format Photography and Barber Shop Project

Old Style Barber Chair, by Reed A. George
Leica M8, Canon 50mm f1.4 LTM Lens
I met Matt Marash at the Film Photography Project's Walking Workshop 2014 in Ohio. He's associated with the project, and one of his areas of interest is large format photography. At the workshop, Matt was shooting 8x10 instant film. Very cool.
Matt has a lot going on photographically. His large format photography website is quite nice. Be sure to check out his barber shop project, which is just a great idea for a photography project. (Click Here) to see it.
(Click Here) to find out more about the Film Photography Project. If you're interested in film photography, this is the place for you.

Friday, May 29, 2015

It's Not All About the Camera, but the Camera Matters

Basement Cafe, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Zeiss Sonnar C 50mm f1.5 Lens
iso 640, f2, 1/45 sec.
As you most likely know, this blog is mostly about the interface between cameras (more broadly, photographic equipment) and creativity.
The Leica M9 is certainly one of the most wonderful cameras I've ever owned. It's by far the most expensive. But, it's also quite unique in the world of digital cameras. It makes images that just aren't quite like other digital cameras.
I recently went through the experience of being convinced that my M9 had the famous sensor corrosion issue, and as a result planned my exit from the M9 experience. Scenarios included an upgrade to the Leica M240 (which I was not thrilled about), or a complete exit from Leica digital (which I was less thrilled about). But, I could have made it work. My shooting style when using the Leica, any Leica, would not suffer much from shooting only film. I'm still deeply into shooting film, so there's no barrier to me in that respect. The only exception would be for travel, where film has become a large pain in the a$$.
Luckily, Leica informed me that my sensor was fine, cleaned it, and sent it back to me. No troubles since then. But, I do still think about the upgrade once in a while. The truth is, none of the features of the M240 really seem like an advantage over the M9 to me, with the exception of high iso capability. Let's face it. I don't need to adapt Nikon lenses to my Leica rangefinder. Nor do I need an electronic viewfinder on it.
Anyway, I'll stop rambling and just say that I'm glad my M9 is still chugging along. I'll continue to use it alongside some great Leica film bodies.
What got me started on this subject? An interesting post on a blog called "Into the Foto," where the author sent his Leica M-E (same sensor as the M9) in to have the sensor replaced, and reverted back to his Ricoh rangefinder and Olympus SLRs. Very interesting. (Click Here) to read that post.
Yes, the camera matters. What matters more is creativity and the motivation to get out and shoot. That's what I'm working to maintain and continuously improve.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Second Shot at Parkour Photography

Back in March, I had the opportunity to photograph some local practitioners of parkour, which is basically acrobatics in public places. (Click Here) to see that post, in which I used my Nikon F2SB and black and white film. I enjoyed it immensely, and they appreciated seeing the photos.
Last night, I went to one of the practice sessions for a larger group of DC Metro Parkour members. Here are some of the shots.
Parkour, by Reed A. George
While I shot a few of these images with my Nikon Df, most were made with my Micro 4/3 Lumix DMC-GX1 and Bower fisheye lens. All used flash to freeze the motion.
I recently came very close to selling off my Micro 4/3 gear, since I just have not been using it much. That, and the fact that the new Lumix LX100 (which also uses a Micro 4/3 sensor) is so capable, it replaces much of my interchangeable lens Micro 4/3 gear on travel, made me consider selling all of it. I did sell several pieces of gear, but decided to keep a smaller set of Micro 4/3 bodies and lenses. Specifically, I kept the most compact lenses, and the ones that are special in some way. The Bower fisheye is an example of that - I don't have a fisheye lens for any other camera system, so I kept it. It sure came in handy last night!
I'm planning to continue to work on creative techniques for photographing this exciting sport.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fun Snaps With Polaroid 250, Bounced Flash, FP3000 Pack Film

I have a newly-serviced Polaroid 250, which is one of the high end models, with Zeiss finder and a metal body. I've been playing with bounced flash (my Nikon SB600, for which I made a sync cable out of an accessory hot shoe cable and the terminal from the original Polaroid flash). I have found that setting the flash to manual, 1/2 power, pointed at the ceiling gives a good exposure for a close up subject when the camera is loaded with Fujifilm FP3000B black and white film and the camera is set for asa75 film with flash.
Coming home tonight, I saw my daughter sitting on the couch in her American flag socks, and just had to get a couple of pictures. I made her get up and pose on the stairs for me. Here's the best exposure of four:
And here's a slightly strange one, which is the result of two failed exposures where the flash didn't fire, plus a third good one, where it did:
Something about these old Polaroids. Somehow, the weirder the result, the better.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nikon 200-400mm f4 AF-S G VR Lens for Birds - The Warbler

My friend and I have just invested together in a very expensive lens - the Nikkor 200-400mm f4 AF-S G VR (version 1). Last weekend, I took it out in my kayak along with my super-sturdy Gitzo tripod and gimbal head.
While I was waiting for large birds to fly by where I'd set up the tripod, this colorful little guy showed up.
Prothonotary Warbler, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor 200-400mm f4 AF-S G VR Lens
iso 720, f5, 1/1000 sec.
I had the D700 set to auto-ISO, so that I could set a fast (1/1000) shutter speed and the f-stop I wanted, letting the camera adjust ISO. As you can see, the warbler has an insect in his beak, a nice additional feature for the image.
Here's another shot of the same warbler.
Prothonotary Warbler, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor 200-400mm f4 AF-S G VR Lens
iso 1600, f5, 1/1000 sec.
We also purchased the Nikon TCIIE 1.4X teleconverter with our lens. I could have used it here. Both of these shots are cropped from larger compositions (hey, he's a pretty small bird!). I did get a chance to try the lens and converter together. I'll post some of those shots in the coming days.
This is one amazing lens.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Belle of Belle Haven Plantation - Leica M9

During the recent Spring Shoot meeting of the LHSA (International Leica Society), we visited Belle Haven Plantation.
I've posted some images of the live oak trees at the plantation. (Click Here) to see those.
For our visit, one of our members arranged to have Gail come out to the plantation and model for us in period dress. Here are the shots of Gail that I feel are worthy of sharing;
All were shot with my Leica M9 and 35mm f2 Summicron (v.3) lens.
(Click Here) to learn more about LHSA (International Leica Society).

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Northern Water Snake - Nikkor 300-400mm f4 AF-S VR G Lens

I went kayaking today, for the third weekend in a row. Get it, in a row? Sorry about that. I think I'm a little punchy after so much exercise.
Today, I had the distinct pleasure of testing out a new telephoto lens, the amazing Nikkor 200-400mm f4. This is not an easy lens to handle, but mounted firmly on a gimbal head and super-heavy tripod, I was able to get it to shine, including with the Nikon TC14EII teleconverter. The focus is super-fast and accurate.
Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon), by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor 200-400mm f4 AF-S G VR Lens
Nikkor TC1.4EII Teleconverter (final focal length 360mm)
iso 2200, f8, 1/1250 sec.

I got some really nice bird shots today as well, including some really sharp shots of birds in flight. But, I'm too tired to process them tonight. So, you'll have to live with this teaser shot of a northern water snake until I get some sleep.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Orleans' Royal Street - Leica IIIC and Summar 5cm f2 Lens

Royal Intersection, by Reed A. George
Leica IIIC Sharkskin, Summar 5cm f2 Collapsible Lens
I was scanning a roll of film that I shot in New Orleans while attending the LHSA Spring Shoot 2015 when I came across this shot.
This corner on Royal Street, at Rouse's Grocery, is one of my favorite spots in the city of New Orleans. Always hosting live musicians, rain or shine, it's a real crossroads for everyone who frequents the French Quarter - musicians, tourists, locals, and yes, police officers. This image says a lot about this particular place that I love so much.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Honor of our World War II Veterans - DC Mall Flyover

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a media event for the World War II Memorial Flyover, an event where dozens of war era aircraft flew in various formations over the National Mall in Washington, DC.
(Click Here) to read about the event, which took place on Friday, May 8, 2015.
On the day before the event, my associate, Rob, and I got to go to a local regional airport and witness the take-off of several of the airplanes that would take part in the event.
I brought along my Nikon D700, 35-70mm f2.8, and 70-300 f4.5-5.6 AF-S G lenses. All of the images below were made with the 70-300.
The event began with a short press conference, and then we were allowed out on the tarmac. Preparations for the day's flights were underway.
B-29 Superfortress, by Reed A. George
B-17 Crewmembers, by Reed A. George
Then, the engines started to crank.
Cranking up, B-17, by Reed A. George
We were warned about the noise, oil, and propwash (wind) that would result when this happened, and the B-17 didn't fail to deliver. It was quite a thrill to be so close to these aircraft.
B-29 Cranks Up, by Reed A. George
As the planes taxied for takeoff, we got some close up views of them in motion.
B-24 Liberator on Taxi, by Reed A. George
Here's my favorite shot from the day:
Between the Props, by Reed A. George
I used a gradual neutral density (ND) filter on my 70-300, to prevent the pure white skies from overexposure. It's a subtle effect, but I think it helped. Sure would have been nice to have a cloud or two.
Once all of the aircraft were lined up for takeoff, the staff lifted the barrier tape and let those of us with media passes out closer to the runway. At this point, having captured decent sharp images of all of the airplanes on the ground, I started thinking about what made this event unique. It wasn't the aircraft alone. I had photographed some of the crew, which I cannot see on a normal trip to my local Air & Space Museum (yes, I know I'm lucky, not everyone has the Udvar-Hazy Museum ten miles from their home). The real unique point, though, was to see these old beasts in flight. Asking Rob to be sure and capture sharp images of them taking off, I decided to try some panning, in an attempt to show the motion in my images.
I consider myself to be pretty good at panning, matching the angular speed of my moving camera to that of the object I'm tracking. Doing that with these big aircraft turned out to be really challenging. I set the 70-300's VR to "Active," which is supposed to be designed for panning. Every shot came out blurry. Not just most, all of them. Finally, turning VR off completely, I was able to capture one decent panning shot of the B-29. Here it is.
Superfortress Takes Off, by Reed A. George
So, I worked hard for it, but feel that I captured most of the feeling of the event that I was after. What an incredible opportunity.
I hope that many of our remaining World War II veterans were able to see or watch the live feed of this event. It's really something to see these 70 year old airplanes still in prime running (flying) condition.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Practicing my Telephoto Technique - Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR and the Ducklings

I am anxiously awaiting delivery of a used Nikkor 200-400mm f4 zoom lens that a friend and I have decided to co-own. It's an expensive lens, so this made it possible for both of us to have access to it.
Most of my lenses, especially telephotos, are older technology. Starting with the Ai-P 500mm f4, which is my longest lens, it's manual focus. It's a true beauty, and makes wonderful photos, but clearly doesn't have the latest AF-S focusing. Then there's my 300mm f4 AF-I, which does have autofocus, but not the blazing fast AF-S.
In fact, the only long lens I have with AF-S is the 70-400mm f4.5-5.6 G VR zoom lens. So, I decided to take that lens out for a quick shoot before work yesterday, to practice my focusing technique. Based on the video by Steve Perry that I posted yesterday, I set up my D700 for back button focusing and gave it a try.
Not an action shot, but here's the best shot I made in that fifteen or twenty minutes of shooting yesterday.
Spring Ducklings, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 G AF-S Lens
iso 800, f8, 1/500 sec
I wanted to test out the back button method, in which you leave your camera set to continuous AF, and use the button on the rear of the camera to decide when to freeze the focus, if at all. When photographing action (e.g. birds in flight), you just keep the button pressed, and the camera will focus through the entire shooting sequence. For static objects (e.g. these ducklings), you get the focus point you want, then release the rear button, locking the focus at that point. This worked very well for me here.
This 70-300mm lens is very good. It's not as sharp as I expect the 200-400mm to be, which should be obvious when you compare the specs and prices. But, I think it did a pretty good job for me in this case. And, it's very light and fast.
I can't wait to see what the 200-400 can do!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cottonwoods Blooming on the Potomac River

On my most recent kayaking trip on the Potomac River, I shot this image of a cottonwood tree, blooming and losing its blossoms to the river surface.
Cottonwoods on the Potomac, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS5
iso 160, f3.3, 1/160 sec.
As you can see, I made this image with the compact, waterproof Lumix DMC-TS5 camera. It's a great companion on kayaking trips, as it's really well-protected against water, dirt, sand, and shock. I think it makes very nice pictures for a compact point and shoot.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Use Nikon Autofocus? You MUST Watch this Video by Steve Perry

I have been shooting some wildlife recently with my Nikon cameras. With the spring weather finally here, I love to get out in my kayak and photograph birds and other wildlife.
My current telephoto lenses are a 300mm f4 AF-I (very old autofocus lens) and a 500mm f4 Ai-P (manual focus). Both are excellent optics, but are a bit dated. I have worked on my manual focus technique with the 500mm, and can even catch the occasional sharp image of a bird in flight.
Bald Eagle in Flight, by Reed A. George
Nikon D700, Nikkor Ai-P 500mm f4 Manual Focus Lens + 1.4X Teleconverter
iso 1600, f5.6, 1/1000 sec.
Of course, things get easier with autofocus, especially Nikon's modern AF-S lenses. I'm about to get my hands on a lovely 200-400mm f4 AF-S VR lens, so I'm reading up on autofocus technique.
Here's an outstanding 12 minute video by Steve Perry, showing some of the key concepts for successful autofocus with Nikon DSLRs:
If you have problem with getting to the video, (Click Here).
One of the techniques that Perry practices is "back button" AF. This means using only the back AF-on button to focus, and not the typical half-press of the shutter release. With the camera set to continuous AF (AF-C), you simply let your finger off of the back button when you want to lock in focus, or keep pressing to follow and focus on a moving subject. Really helpful.
Just to try it out, I took my D700 and 70-300mm AF-S VR lens out tonight and gave it a shot with some flying geese. It worked really well. I literally can't wait to get my hands on that 200-400!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Springtime is for Photography

Springtime is for Photography, Pinhole Included
Nikon Df, f/180 Pinhole Body Cap
I'm so happy that it's springtime again. Makes me want to be outside shooting every day.
Hope you're using the nice weather to get out and make some art.
For my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, don't worry. It's all just cycles; your time is coming as sure as winter will be back here before we know it.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

French Quarter in the Rain - Leica IIIC and Summar 5cm f2

I recently attended the LHSA (International Leica Society) Spring Shoot in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of my favorite places to photograph, I was hoping we'd get some inclement weather to build some mood into my pictures. I was not let down - it rained on and off, sometimes quite heavily, during my whole trip. I loved it.
Here are some shots of street musicians playing in front of Rouse's Grocery on Royal Street as a rain storm rolled in and subsequently left.
All were shot with the Leica IIIC and Summar 5cm f2 lens. One of Leica's earliest fast lenses, the Summar is infamous for being being soft. I happen to have a clean copy, without a scratched front element, which is rare. I find it to be a wonderful lens.
Shooting iso 400 film (Kodak TMax 400), I couldn't quite get a fast enough shutter speed to capture the rain as I wanted. I hope that you can see it in images 2 and 3.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, with Lumix DMC-LX100

Here's another shot showing the capability of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 for travel.
Kiyomizu-dera, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
iso 200, f5.6, 1/640 sec.
Now this is a situation where most cameras would do just fine - bright sunny day, outdoors, wonderful subject. But, the detail, sharpness, and color representation of the LX100 really come through here in my opinion. None of my (much) heavier, more complicated cameras would have done significantly better with this scene.
I'm quite pleased with the LX100 as a travel camera.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Japanese Street Scene - Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

Intersection, by Reed A. George
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
iso 200, f8, 1/1000 sec.
I used my Lumix LX100 a lot on my trip to Japan. It is a great little street camera, and is quite capable of good results at high iso settings, though this image was shot at iso 200. I really enjoyed carrying the LX100, which is very compact and light, and exploring what I could do with it. I have not reached its limits yet.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Baseball - Japanese Little League, Shot with Leica IIIG

Baseball is big sport in Japan, including Little League.
Little League Baseball, Japan, by Reed A. George
Leica IIIG, Elmarit 5cm f3.5 Collapsible Lens
Kodak TMax 400 Film
On one of my morning walks around Tokyo, I came across this team, running drills either before or after their games. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the young players, and the attention their coach paid to them. All of the following shots were made with the Leica IIIG, this time with a Nikkor 50mm f2 LTM lens that I purchased at Map Camera in Tokyo. It's a beautiful little lens.
I very much appreciated capturing a little slice of the Hawks' fun together. Great fun with an old Leica rangefinder.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Some Wildlife From my Kayak - Nikon Df and Nikkor 300mm f4 AF-IF Lens

I have an older Nikkor internal focus 300mm f4 lens. I have been tempted to upgrade it to the AF-S version, but mine is so good, I just haven't seen a reason to do it.
Yesterday, I loaded my Nikon D700 and 500mm f4 Ai-P (manual focus) lens and matching gargantuan Gitzo tripod that I picked up very used and very cheap, along with my Nikon Df and 300mm f4 and Tamron AF 1.4X tele-extender into my kayak and paddled out. I ended up never using anything but the Df and 300mm. Instead of setting up my tripod near my favorite osprey nest (even though the birds are on the nest), I decided to paddle further up the creek and explore.
Stopping to rest in the shadow of a steep bank, not five minutes later I saw a swirl in the water, followed by a head coming to the surface. Thinking that it was likely a beaver, I started shooting. The sound of the camera clearly alarmed the animal, who quickly went under water, then returned to the surface looking straight at me. It was a river otter! The first one I've ever seen in the wild. He actually raised high out of the water to get a good look at me. I was ready, with my Df set to lock exposure with the rear button, meter set to spot metering, and auto-focus ready to go. Here's one of the shots I got.
River Otter, by Reed A. George
Nikon Df, Nikkor 300mm f4 AF-IF Lens
iso 1100, f8, 1/1000 sec.

Another otter passed through very quickly a minute later.

I had the camera in auto-ISO mode, and exposure in M. So, I had a fast shutter speed and optimal f-stop already set. The camera chose the ISO. With the Nikon Df, I could shoot with confidence, without worrying about digital noise from the relatively high ISO setting.
I've printed this image at about 10"x15" and it looks just great.
I've got some more images from the morning kayak trip, and will share them in later posts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Worldwide Pinhole Day 2015 - Asian and Bonsai Garden with Nikon Df and f/180 Pinhole Body Cap

If you're getting tired of pinhole image posts, have patience. I promise not to do another for a while, but want to share some more that I took at the National Arboretum. Here's my favorite of this series.
I guess that the light hit the edge of the pinhole just right, allowing it to act as a prism and separate the colors of light. This was not visible in the scene.
Here are some more from the same time and place, from the Asian and bonsai garden.
As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed Worldwide Pinhole Day this year.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Worldwide Pinhole Day - More from the National Arboretum with the Nikon Df

Here are some more pinhole images, taken with my Nikon Df and f/180 pinhole body cap on Worldwide Pinhole Day. (Click Here) to go the the Worldwide Pinhole Day site.
For some reason, I really like these two. Not sure which I like best:
In the first, I like the total absence of people other than the two in the foreground. In the second, I feel that the two people in the far distance, and the way the lady in the foreground is turning her face toward the sky actually add to the scene. I know, they're just blurry pictures, but I really enjoy the change of pace with pinhole, which allows me to concentrate on composition.
Here are some more with people in them.