Continuing from the last post, looking at my images that I like which are simple in nature, I found this one. A quick snap of my wife in very poor light. The scene, as I saw it, had wonderful snow falling at a Christmas market in Salzburg. My family and I had just arrived and went out for a quick dinner. We were standing around a small table eating some sausage and pretzels while drinking mulled wine.
The scene was incredible but the light was very low. While we could see just fine, our eyes are better than sensors at capturing light, I knew the images would be very dark. Instead of fighting it I tried taking some images of the family with their faces filling the frame. None of them were really working for me as they could have been taken anywhere.
I wanted to capture a bit of the scene around us. While we ate, I thought of this issue and then had an idea. I would drop the M9 ISO to 400 (I was trying much higher) and set the camera at a 1/45 sec shutter speed, open the aperture to f/2 (50mm lens as the 35 was too wide). My wife was looking at the market scene so I called to her and she looked back at me over her shoulder. I had already seen the umbrella coming towards us and the lights in the background.
Image captured. I like the simple aspect of the image. My wife's face, dark all around and the Christmas lights with umbrella in the background.
The image below I took a very different approach. We were standing at a train station with little in the way of interesting things to look at. Low light again however I wanted to clearly see my sons face. I opted for a small, on camera flash, and shot him with the lens wide open. The blurred everything behind his front eye and made it easy to burn out the background. He was wearing a coat with a hood on which was very dark blue. This was easy to darken up in post.
Occasionally I will take stock of what my photography is looking like, how is it adapting and what crutch have I recently adopted. I hate using crutches in photography but that is a topic for another time. In a recent self appraisal of my photos, I noticed that I tend to prefer two photography extremes, the busy and the simple. Here is what I noticed.
The picture above is an excellent example of what I consider a "busy" photography. This scene captured my attention because of the relatively simple foreground and the busy background. There is plenty to look at, from the actor dressed as the statue of liberty, to the Jonny Cash dressed man to the far right. The buss and cars traveling down the street and the symmetry of the two churches helps anchor the entire shot.
These busy photographs gives the viewer plenty to look at and removes the pressure of holding a viewers attention with a single element. The challenge is that many different elements need to come together in order to make it an interesting shot. Remove one or two of the elements above and the shot falls flat.
Below is one of my favorite early pictures. I took it years ago in Paris using my old Nikon D300. I once printed it very large (3 foot by 5 foot roughly) and hung it in my office. When I moved I tossed the large print and went with a smaller one. After all these years it still hangs in front of my desk.
Again I love the fact that there is so much to look at. Taking a step back we have some great shapes, some wonderful light and interesting internal architecture. Stepping in closer, we have people enjoying art. Different cultures, clothing and gestures. Every time I look at it I see some other detail that I had not noticed before.
I have gone back to this very spot and took a ton of images. Literally I must have captured about fifty from this very vantage point. None of them are any good. Sure the architecture is the same, the lighting was still good and the shapes were all there but the people were different. It was either too busy or too empty.
In short, looking at a busy scene as a potential photograph can be very rewarding and just as frustrating. When it does work, it works beautifully.
Every release of a new flagship camera, be it from Leica, Nikon, Cannon or Fuji will make a splash. It announces the direction the company sees photography going in and it highlights how the engineers of the company have managed to pull in new technology into their offering.
That is the problem with the Leica M10....there is nothing to talk about. Essentially Leica have taken the M240, removed a bunch of bells and whistles (video being the key thing), slimmed it down a bit and added an ISO dial. The argument is one of simplification. Remove what you do not need....except for the frame line preview (no one uses that but it was brought back), and simplify the shooting experience.
This camera matches the new generation of consumers that appear to be announcing themselves through documentaries of minimalist ideologies and the popularity of "off the grid" minimalist homes. This lifestyle is driving what people consume and how. If you are Leica, who have built an expensive brand around excellent build quality, it becomes a challenge to adapt to this new culture. Their answer, build a simpler camera with a minimalist design.
Few options, less buttons and the "classic feel" are the selling points. I get it and heck I even like the marketing but it does present a problem....what do we talk about? There is nothing really innovative in the camera aside from the lack of things...which is difficult to talk about for more than a minute or two.
Leica tells us that the image quality is better, and it may indeed be but it was never bad to begin with. Leica builds good cameras with excellent image quality so any improvement there is hard to discern. Low light performance has been improved but this is still not as impressive as some other cameras.
I feel for Leica...the M design and feel cannot be altered. If bells and whistles are added they get the backlash of diehard M fans. If they remove bells and whistles then there is little to talk about.
The best and worst thing is that this is a classic M. If you like the M design and concept you will love this camera. If you do not, then you will not. This camera will not convert photographers to use the M it will only persuade people who already like the M to buy another one.
This product release will not open a new market but it will ensure that Leica keeps their market. The splash will be short-lived as, after much anticipation of this release, we are left with little to talk about. It is a pity because it is a great camera. Maybe, just maybe, we should talk about cameras less and shoot more....perhaps that is the point of the new Leica M.
I have been shooting film photography for a couple of years now after having dropped it for the simplicity of digital. There is nothing I like more than walking around with one of my many, but not too many, film cameras shooting away. While I have medium and large format cameras, there is something so wonderful about the 135 film format. Small cameras, built in light meters with a quick walk and shoot ability is wonderful.
I thought I would share some of my film shots here. Many of the ones on my "Home" page are film however I still shoot digital and include those images as well. There is something very special about capturing an image you are proud of but the feeling is ten times greater if I manage to catch it on film.
Most of the images below were shot in Australia. After spending 4 years there it makes sense that it represents a large portion of my negative collection. Most of the images were shot on HP5+ but some were on Tri-X. Have a quick look and enjoy!
To some the picture above is some camera porn. For others it is a travesty to have a Zeiss lens on a Leica camera. To a Leica diehard the selection of a Leica camera is done in order to shoot their amazing glass. Let me explain why I love to shoot Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM on my Leica M6 and ME.
We all know Leica makes amazing glass and we all understand that it is expensive. It would be very simple for me to point to the high cost as an underlying reason for moving to Zeiss but my decision is not that simple. Here is the thing...I LOVE Zeiss glass. Full stop. Lets leave the price discussion for the very end shall we?
I love the build quality of Zeiss. These lenses feel heavy, precise and perfectly balanced. When I pick it up I get the feeling of quality. I get the same feel with a Leica lens. I see no difference in their build quality. So lets call this part of the evaluation a tie.
Aperture is key on a ZM lens. Since you select the aperture on the lens itself you should feel comfortable with the aperture ring. With the Zeiss lens I have ⅓ stop selections. I like this as it gives me plenty of room to fine tune the exposure. With Leica I get ½ stops. Not a deal breaker but I prefer the fine tuning of the Zeiss. The feel is very different as well. The aperture ring on Zeiss requires more pressure to change. Leica, just like my Voigtlander, has a much smoother aperture. Now "smoother" is not always a desirable quality. On the focus ring it is desirable but on the aperture ring I prefer to have it stay where I put it. On the Leica I have to check to make sure it has not accidentally changed. This round goes to Zeiss.
In terms of size, Leica has the Summicron lens which is smaller and does not block the viewfinder. The Zeiss does. So this round would have to go to Leica. The fact is that if you shoot the M system you will have some lenses that block the viewfinder. The fact that on the 35mm lens you have see the full view is interesting but I do not put too much weight on it.
In terms of optical performance we have an interesting story. From what I have read, the Zeiss is better than Leica. At worst lets call it equal. But here is the issue with Optical Performance, it does not weight that much. If a lens is poor then I clearly do not want it. But the fact that this Zeiss might be 5% better than Leica it would not justify the choice. With such a great lenses the minor difference is not normally visible. So while Zeiss edges Leica by a hair it is not worth really discussing it.
Unfortunately I do not have any images using the 35mm Summicron but I do have some from the Leica 28mm Summicron. Since the focal lengths are so different, and wider angle lenses are harder to make, I do not want to compare the lenses (although the 28mm Summicron is AMAZING) but do want to show how solid of a performer the Zeiss lens is.
Here we have the Zeiss 35 f/2 ZM shot at f/2. I did not crop this image and very light post processing in order to show what the lens can do. You can see the buttery smooth bokeh and the lack of color fringing or chromatic aberration. Colors are bright and it is plenty sharp.
The picture above is from the Leica Summicron 28mm at f/2.8. This is an amazing lens and you can see that it is very close to the Zeiss. Obviously the 28mm is a tougher focal lens to make than a 35mm.
Here is the bokeh of the two lenses. Both are very nice but there is something about the rounder bokeh of the Zeiss. Again both are very nice.
Spend five minutes looking through this site and you will see that I love umbrellas, I always have even before I picked up a camera. The photo above would seem to really hit my mark on enjoyable photos. It is in a historic place, plenty for the viewer to look at, wonderful hint of mystery in the fog and the shot stopper...the lady with the red umbrella.
This photo was photoshopped. The lady was there that day, she walked this very same path. She was walking with her husband and son. The umbrella was red and she was using it. The problem is that I, as the photographer, missed the shot. I had shot the tunnel and path properly (see image below). I then saw the family and worked to capture the umbrella.
The problem is that I was so excited to get a bright red umbrella that I forgot about composition. The image I did get is below. These days I can open up both in Photoshop and combine the images into the picture I should have caught.
All images were shot in the same place on the same day (just a few minutes from each other) but on one I considered composition while on the next I lost the plot. Some would argue that there is nothing wrong with what I did. Since I was the author of both images it is perfectly acceptable to do what I did.
My problem is that this image above reflects a better photographer than I am. If I was happy with the image, I would not be mad at myself and I would not improve. Photographers are not looking for a pretty picture, they are looking for the mixture of ability and the decisive moment. The image above is not a reflection of my ability as a photographer or a decisive moment caught on camera.
I used Photoshop and use it along with Lightroom. I do not have an issue burning, dodging, removing spots (I should clean my sensor) and adjust exposure, sharpness and the like. What I do not like to do is remove things from the scene, add things and I am careful with alterations of color. I want an honest interpretation of the colors I saw at the time.
The image above is a reflection of 10 minutes on YouTube and 5 minutes on Photoshop. This does not demonstrate the skill set I am trying to develop. So when I look at this image I am disappointed in my lack of concentration.
Interestingly I would have no issue with someone getting a model and arranging the shot. This would show prior thought process, careful consideration of what was needed and visualization of how the shot was captured. But to artificially build it from different composites is not the photography I am interested in.
So this image above will serve as a reminder to the opportunity lost. It will show me the benefits of keeping composition in mind always.
Everyone has creative slumps, some call it lack of motivation, dead batteries or a lost muse. Regardless of what you label it, the result is the same...you have forgotten how to view the world with an artistic eye. The internet is filled with different ideas for you to overcome this stage. I have often found that the best solution is a step by step recipes.
This morning, I awoke to find my muse gone. She abandoned me completely, I honestly believe that she takes a vacation in January. There is something dismal in January, the cold, heavy clouds, short days coupled with the post holiday blues. As I woke up and looked for my muse, I began to worry that the weekend would pass without accomplishment.
So I decided to give myself a little project. One that I would work through, not for the end product but for the artistic process itself. So below is the recipes I used, feel free to adjust to suit.
The first issue is that we were up at 08:00 with a thick layer of clouds which gave very little light. It was that white, flat light that is so typical of London in January. It offers soft shadows and deceptively little light. It is cold light. Even at an ISO of 400 I was not going to capture anything. I decided to push the film to ISO 1600 (the limit of the light meter on the OM-1). This will give me heaps of grain...
The second issue is that even with this setting I was going to struggle to keep my light meter happy. So I decided to ignore the meter and let myself under expose to my hearts content.
I burned through the roll in a couple of hours. I shot images of the different details that my mind used to define a Saturday morning. The bare feet of my children, the warm cup of coffee, my wife drying her hair and that cold, flat light. I let this dismal light trickle into each of my photos and I let it light up what it would and accepted the plentitude of shadows.
I laid in bed, with my camera listening to the noise of the house waking up. I watched the scene around me and waited. Then I saw a foot, a mirror and a wonderful reflection. I composed the image in my mind, I stripped out the color, I noted the dull light and picked up my camera....click and my muse came back. I believe she realized that I was not going to go back to sleep, I was going to find gestures, capture them in whatever light I happened to find and accept the results.
I will share some of the images tomorrow. Maybe one or two will justify the entire effort. Tomorrow I will leave the house and go back to a nearby park. I will try to photograph the people and the gestures of the park itself....
2016 has received a great deal of criticism of late. Many argue the election results in England and the US is evidence of the year being poor, ignoring the large numbers of voters who supported these moves. Others say that there is a large number of celebrities who passed away in 2016. I never knew these celebrities outside of the roles they would play in the movies I loved.
Looking back at 2016 from a photography point of view, I learned a great deal both technical and artistic. I learned how to develop color film (C-41 processing), I developed some stronger darkroom skills and I learned a great deal about some of the photography masters. I went to a Josef Sudek exhibition in Paris and was able to see some photos made by William Henry Fox Talbot. I learned about an amateur photographer that became a magnificent street and portrait photographer shortly before his passing. I have since bought several books and a few of his works and am enjoying the legacy that Colin O'Brien left behind.
In terms of gear, I bought more. I am not proud of that but cannot seem to help myself. I decided to purchase a Leica ME camera and purchased a wide angle lens for it. I shot a ton of film and digital photographs and even managed to get a few printed in the darkroom. Finally I shot my old Brownie Flash II camera which is something I have been planning on doing for some time.
So looking into 2017 what should be my goals? After some careful thought here is a short list of what I would like to do...
1. Have some images professionally printed.
2. Build a book of my photographs and a book on some of our recent trips.
3. Develop the skill of reading the light without a light meter.
4. Explore the dark end of the light spectrum. Leave more to the imagination.
5. Work with pinhole photography.
That is it. If I can accomplish these things I will be very happy with 2017.
In terms of gear, 2017 will be a year of consolidating my cameras. What I mean to say is that I need to have my Hasselblad repaired, the OM-1, Nikon F3 serviced. My Leica M6 also needs some CLA love. That is where my investment will need to go.