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Martin D
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Dear Mike. It's tough to be a one-man business. You need a break. Physically, but I imagine mentally too. Lots of sleep, lots of tea-and-lemon, if you are up to it perhaps some quiet walks outside. Lots of sleep: sleep is the great healer, especially with colds and such like. And give TOP a break for a few days, we TOPers will still be there when you re-open. Take it easy. Did I mention lots of sleep?
I have no tips to offer, but I'd like to add a question. In my film days I adored Agfa Scala B&W transparency film, shot on 6x9 medium format. It was perfection for me, God had meant me to use this film. I was heart-broken when the film was discontinued. In the US, lab offers a dedicated reversal process for most B&W negative films. They have been around for a long time and moved location a few times, currently they seem to be in Iowa. Do any of our fellow TOPers have any experience with the dr5 lab and their process? The process looks impressive on paper (pun intended), but I have never actually used them. Back when Scala was dropped, I did consider switching to dr5, but I live in Europe and I felt that sending all my films across the Atlantic just to get them developed was one step too far, not just in terms of cost, also in terms of radiation exposure for the undeveloped film. (At the time I even wrote to the guy who runs dr5, to enquire about radiation: he felt it would not be an issue.) I am firmly on the digital side now, but I could still be tempted to get myself a TLR and have the occasional roll of 6x6 B&W transparencies, just for a bit of the old magic.
Toggle Commented 9 hours ago on Film Processing Labs? at The Online Photographer
Ergonomic perfection for me came in the shape of the big Fuji GW690, back in my film days. A camera that just was there and did what I asked it to do: not elegant, not exceptionally well built, but it worked. Two rings at the front of the lens for shutter speed and aperture, close to each other but clearly separated and without any risk of confusing them; right next to them the large focusing grip, with a pleasantly dampened movement. All three rings naturally in my left hand that also supports the camera body. The viewfinder was criticised by some but I don't know why, it was large and bright. The rangefinder focus patch in the centre of the viewfinder could have been a bit more contrasty but it was ok. My right hand holding the camera on the modest but helpful grip, my finger naturally resting on the shutter release. The release had a fair amount of resistance, just right. I guess for completeness we need to count the external lightmeter too, a Gossen incident meter hanging from my neck, half-consciously checked so that my mind knew the light at all times, even before raising the camera to my eye. Perfection. In digital, I am truly happy with the cameras I use, and I wouldn't want to return to film --- but boy, I still miss the Tao-like simplicity of that old Fuji setup.
A wonderful, wonderful story.
Very useful Zeiss paper in the link by our fellow reader marcin wuu. Among other things, it answers the query from my earlier post about the difference between rear and front bokeh. See pages 37-38 of the paper, which explain why the abberations from the rear have opposite properties to those from the front. Good to see it explained so clearly.
Re: 'Front and rear bokeh (meaning in front of, or behind, the plane of best focus) might also differ.' Someone once wrote a piece explaining why a lens with pleasant rear bokeh by necessity has the opposite type of front bokeh. I cannot, for the life of me, remember who that was and where it was published, except that at the time I found it convincing and the image examples were plausible. I think the explanation related to the fact that rear bokeh arises when the light rays from a point source meet in front of the sensor, whereas with front bokeh the rays meet behind the sensor, so for rear and front bokeh the blurry disks on the sensor come from opposite sides of the point of intersection. If we like a certain type of bokeh, we like some features of the uncorrected aberrations, and the article argued that these aberrations will go in opposite directions for disks from opposite sides of the intersection. What looks pleasing for the disks coming from rear sources turns ugly for disks coming from front sources. Mike, do you (or some of your readers here) have some optical-science insights into the relationship between front and rear bokeh?
That is how life wants to be lived. We perceive something that we know matters to us, and we allow ourselves to follow it through and to get it right, without undue concerns about the costs. Easier for the young, perhaps, but we can all preserve some of that energy and rawness and allow it to continue to shape our path. A great story, you got me hooked.
I shouldn't really comment, since I am simply not good at judging the optical qualities of lenses, and those optical differences that do exist I won't necessarily recognise myself. I wish I had a better eye for lens character, but I don't, and I have come to accept it. What does matter to me is how the camera and the lens work together, and how the lens-camera combination impacts on my interactions with my subjects. Example: the little Fuji 27mm on the XPro2, used when photographing people in an informal setting. To the extent to which I can perceive optical qualities, I like the results of this pairing, but what I like most is that this combo is completely invisible to my subjects. They just ignore the camera and the lens. They do not think of me as taking a portrait, they just let me snap away whilst we talk. The same is true for the other smaller Fuji lenses, but with the 27mm, it really is as if some fairy has pulled a cloak of invisibility over the camera.
Toggle Commented Oct 25, 2019 on That Magic Lens at The Online Photographer
I have a great deal of respect for Erwin Puts. He is obviously infinitely knowledgeable on all things Leica, but more importantly he has made a very serious effort at conceptualising "classical rangefinder photography", and he has been willing to ask how this approach changes in the transition from film to digital. Myself, I never was an active M-user, though in my late film days there was a period where I gained a great deal of photographic joy from using a set of IIf and IIIg screw-mount Leicas. But strangely enough, if I had to express the reasons for the creative thrill that I get today from using a Fuji XPro2, it probably would be in terms that are very close to Erwin Puts's thoughtful reflections on his Leica-M experience.
Your site is wonderful: intelligent, original, dialogical, liberating. I know it's a cliche, but really, Mike, it is an honour and a privilege to be part of your project and contribute to your site: by writing comments and by subscribing to the Patreon scheme.
Toggle Commented Oct 14, 2019 on I Just Sent... at The Online Photographer
A question to Ctein. Going in the opposite direction to upsizing, is there a preferred method to downsizing? Turning a file from a 24MP sensor down to a 12MP file that uses all the info from all those tiny receptors and turns it into a file that has the quality of a sensor with fewer but much larger receptors? "Fewer but better pixels". This may be an old hat, or foolish, or obvious --- forgive my ignorance.
I remember it vividly. As a teenager, several decades ago, I am out with my first camera. Pressing the shutter to capture that stretch of snow in the frozen field before me, in that special evening light. As I pressed the shutter, suddenly I understood: taking this photograph has meaning. Experiencing that connection with the moment for me still is the enduring source of the joy and exhilaration that photography can give. I thank my younger self for having been open to that experience; and I ask my older self to remain open to all such experiences. Photography at its core is documentation: of patterns of beauty, of exceptional events, of the ordinary things around us, of people that weigh upon us, of people that pass by. Documentation requires precision in the individual shot, but it also requires repetition, persistence, systematic stocktaking. After several decades of using the camera to experience the moment, I regret that I don't have many "serial" outputs, documenting how everyday things change, slowly, as the years pass. I pursue such projects now, but those missed daily records of the past cannot be taken retrospectively, they are lost forever. So I say to my younger self: be a record taker, of that frozen field before you if you wish, but also of everything else around you, big and small.
Re: youtube photography channels. We all agree, of course: most of these are illiterate and ugly. Some are so horrible that I even get a perverse pleasure of watching them because they are horrible (they shall remain nameless). But it can be done. Allow me to mention two channels that, to me, demonstrate that youtube work can be thoughtful, perceptive, nuanced, quiet. I have no connection with these channels except that I visit them occasionally. (1) Sean Tucker, seantuckerphoto. He is a London-based portrait and street photographer who is working hard on his social media presence, via instagram and youtube. His youtube videos are carefully edited mini productions. Perhaps trying a little too hard to be groovy, but hey!, let him. The content is thoughtful and stimulating: intelligent refections on various aspects of photographic life. He tells us that he had a phase in his youth were he wanted to become a priest, and it shows, there is a little bit of "I want to change your soul" in his presentations, some may find this annoying but I can live with it and he does make me do some deep thinking about my own work. Also, he often invites other photographers in to show their personal approach to photography, and these too are informative and thought-provoking. (2) Denae and Andrew, Denae_Andrew. A lovely couple who run a family portrait business in Utah, I think. They do a lot of Fuji-related reviews, but intelligently, based on common sense and practical use. For example, a practical discussion of "should I use the f/2 or the f/1.4 version of these lenses", or a pleasantly down-to-earth assessment of our blurry background obsession. As a bonus, both seem to be genuinely warm and unpretentious people, the kind of person you would want to spend an evening with. Both channels have their promotional components, of course, but these are clearly flagged and easy to jump over.
My sincere respect to Luigi Colani. His influence on camera design is immense, and your comparison of the Canon AE-1, T90 and EOS1D is the perfect illustration. The first two almost concurrent in time but separated by a generational gap, but the second two almost identical in haptic philosopy, despite the decades that separate them. For me personally, like for some of your other commentators, those friendly grips never worked. Today's Fuji XPro2 is of course much closer to the AE-1 than to the T90. Our fellow TOPer Steve Jacob has I think nailed it: "When your hands are at eye level that close to your face, the natural forearm angle is near vertical." Exactly. The full grip makes this vertical position harder to do, whilst the absence of a grip brings it about in a natural way. Ergonomic perfection, for me: the austere efficiency of a Leica IIf.
Toggle Commented Sep 20, 2019 on Luigi Colani 1928–2019 at The Online Photographer
As I said in my earlier comment, in my view there is nothing wrong in principle with you contemplating exchanging one or two of these lenses for others. You can do so and still remain respectful and appreciative of the gift you were given. But should you do it? On further reflection I want to add that I agree with those comments that suggest you should give each of those lenses a fair chance, before making plans for replacing them. May be, may be,..., may be the photographic gods have decided that 2019 is the year where Mike Johnston needs to work with some lenses that he would not have chosen himself. Perhaps this is the challenge that you needed to be given and that you could not give to yourself!
Glad to hear that your Patreon subscriptions beat the general downward trend. Allow me another call to my fellow TOP readers: let us all participate in TOP's Patreon scheme, and let us do it at rates that reflect the intensity of our useage. For me personally, my daily visits to TOP are easily worth three or four issues of a quality print magazine, with unique content both in Mike's own articles and in the reader comments that he so elegantly encourages and edits. Well worth a generous Patreon subscription!
I can fully understand that some of us feel awkward about gifts being sold on, and it is a sign of the good community spirit at TOP that they felt able to express their reservations. We must thank them for it. My own view is that your friendly donor gave you a gift that was not a single item but a complete "Fuji system", a camera with a set of lenses. Your donor will want you to enjoy this system. You have been using this system for a while now, and you have been writing about your resulting experiences here on TOP. Those reflections are a big bonus to the donor and to all of us here; we visit your site because we benefit from reading your reflections. As part of the process of using the system, you are also considering some modifications to it. If you were to sell some of your Fuji lenses in exchange for some other Fuji lenses, you wouldn't sell the system you were gifted, you would merely adapt it to your needs. And once again, whilst you do this you also write about it here on TOP, helping the rest of us to make sense of our own approach to building camera system. The donor could not hope for a better appreciatiation of his gift, and as we have seen he has also confirmed this to you directly. If at some point you were to decide that the Fuji system is not for you after all, I hope you would write about this process too and we all, the donor included, would benefit from these reflections too. It makes me proud to be part of an online community where we can reflect on so many different facets of photographic life and where we can also raise and resolve personal and ethical concerns such as these, as among friends.
Yes, this is a genuinely instuctive graph, a fine example of good data-presentation design. We TOPers owe Sarge a big "thank you". The diagram has four scales, coming in two pairs, and as Patrick Cooney mentions, some of these scales may potentially be misleading. The bottom and lefthand scales are the true scales, counting "years of experience" in the respective medium. This is the question I think most of us tried to answer when we took part. The top and righthand scales then re-interpret these time spans in terms of "calendar year when I first used this medium". But the two do not map one-to-one into each other. Some of us will have had breaks where we did not pursue any substantial photographic activity and we may have counted those years as neither film nor digital. Or we stopped making systematic use of film some time in the past and don't count the subsequent years as film years. From the original discussion, I recall several comments mentioning such considerations when they explained their figures, and in my own case too, my 33 years of film started in the late 70s, and not in the late 80's as the righthand scale suggests. I think the diagram would be more accurate, and not any less impressive, if the top and righthand scales were removed, allowing us to focus on the "years of experience" on the lefthand and bottom scales. This is not a criticism, just a friendly suggestion!
I rather liked the Guardian obituary and felt it brought some genuine insights into Frank's life and work. Frank had moved to other fields a long time ago, and I felt that by quoting those resigned remarks from his later years, the Guardian article sharpened our appreciation of Frank's refusal to stand still. This wasn't a reflection on photography, it was a revelation about Robert Frank. The obituary made me think afresh about the man, and for that I am grateful.
Toggle Commented Sep 11, 2019 on Robert Frank 1924-2019 at The Online Photographer
What an intriguing and charming story. We wish the great man a safe journey onward, he has done some powerful things down here whilst he was around.
Toggle Commented Sep 11, 2019 on A Chance Encounter at The Online Photographer
Think of Eugene Atget. Well into the 1920s, he roamed the streets of Paris with his ancient 18-by-24 cm glass plate camera, making all his prints as straight contacts at home, his "studio" being hardly more than a table and a few trays. "Obsolete" technology by any standard. But photography by and for the gods.
Toggle Commented Sep 6, 2019 on Everything Has Its Arc at The Online Photographer
The print is the ultimate aim of photography. For me this is not so much because of the superior image quality of the print compared with the image on the screen, it is rather because of the physicality of holding the photograph in my hands, as a real object. This could be a single silver or inkjet print, or a book, or a newspaper spread. Digging a little deeper into my response to the photgraphic print, I find myself to be drawn to the output of the printing press rather than the fine-art photo lab. I wish it were otherwise, but personally I don't actually gain all that much aesthetic excitement from seeing the perfect print on the wall of a museum or gallery. I envy those (like Mike) who do. It just isn't a gift I posess. By contrast, place a book of good photographs into my hands, hopefully well-designed and carefully produced and with images that have at least moderate print quality --- and I am a happy man, ready to spend hours going through the pages. I always have some stacks of photography books lying next to my desk and my reading chair. Interestingly, the situation is reversed for paintings. I own a lot of books with fine art reproductions, but for me these serve as reference points, not as sources of genuine aesthetic experience. For that I need to see the real painting. Hence for paintings, unlike for photographs, I love to go to museums and I have done so ever since I was a teenager. True, I also enjoy visiting photo exhibitions in galleries or museums, but for me this just isn't the main mode of engaging with photgraphic output. The source of these differences is, I think, the fact that the output of photography has an inherent element of reproducibility. Because of this reproducibility, photography is the one visual art that is naturally aligned with the printing press and its modern variants. Printed books and photographic images just love each other. Incidentally, that is why I think that those self-publishing "zines" are a really important and genuine modern expression of the true nature of straight photgraphy. I haven't tried my hand at producing zines yet, but I will.
Toggle Commented Sep 2, 2019 on Prints! at The Online Photographer
As I have explained in my comments on earlier columns, my own take on Fuji is that it is a natural "two bodies, three primes" system. Or "three bodies, five primes" if you want to go wider. The whole system then acts as one single camera in flexible re-combinations of its elements. In this context, for me the XH1 is the camera that supports the bigger lenses, at both sides of the spectrum: the 16mm f/1.4, the 90mm f/2, also the 56mm f/1.2. Combined with the 16mm f/1.4, the XH1 forms the most wonderful organic unit, feeling almost light in the hand and unobtrusive in use, despite the relative bulk of the camera and weight of the glass. The shutter is a dream. I am an XPro2 man by nature, but the XH1 has similar depth in its design and gestalt, just taken in a different direction. Those not yet in the system: get the XH1 at the current bargain price and use the savings to also get the out-of-this-world lens that is the 16mm f/1.4. You won't need another 24mm-e setup ever again.
Toggle Commented Aug 19, 2019 on Fuji Fire Sale at The Online Photographer
I didn't do digital until much later, but in 2007 I bought an Olympus E-1 for my wife. That was when Olympus had just introduced the follow-up model E-3, and the E-1 could be had for a couple of hundred pounds new. We still have the camera, and out of respect I take it out for a fun drive every once in a while. A beautifully crafted camera, and if you stay with base ISO, then the 5MP files from the CCD are very good. The camera was introduced in 2003, now we have 2019, that's 16 years of active service, not bad at all for digital. My own main camera now is the Fuji XPro2, which was introduced in 2016. I won't force the issue just to win records, but I wouldn't mind keeping the Xpro2 for at least ten to twelve years. Film? Back in the early 2000s I had a phase where I was going all classic and worked with Barnack Leicas. I still have a small set of these elegant early Leicas: a Leica II (1932) with the Elmar f/3.5, a finderless Leica If (1952) with the Summaron 28mm f/5.6 and the external 28mm viewfinder, and the last of the screw-mounts, a Leica IIIg (1956) with the wonderful Elmar f/2.8. I loved the simplicity and functionality of these cameras. I don't really use them any more, but Barnack's dual-window design that uses separate finders for viewfinder and rangefinder has prepared me well for my current XPro2, where I use the lower-righthand corner of the OVF for the tiny focus-peaking LCD, in much the same way as my eye was switching between the two finders of the IIIg.
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2019 on Old and In the Way at The Online Photographer
Thom Hogan has described us Fuji users absolutely correctly, I think. Not too concerned about those final bits of resolution or focusing speed, very keen on traditional ergonomics, looking for a camera and a lens that let us become part of the flow. His own criteria are slightly different, of course, and I am delighted that he has taken the trouble to write down his carefully considered assessment of the Fuji lineup. He always writes with such precision and genuine respect for the real issues, plus his sharp insights into the marketing side of the industry. Does Fuji have too many cameras in their offering? I can see Thom's point, but I think Fuji plays it absolutely right. Their real offer to us photographers is is a tailored "2-body 5-lens" camera. For each sensor generation, Fuji offers a whole family of bodies, all sharing a common design philosophy and taking the same set of lenses, but each tailored to a different use pattern. The differentiation between these use patterns is meaningful, not artificial, and because the sensor & processing engines are the same, the files and therefore the later editing stages are the same for all bodies from the same generation. (Mike had posted a note about this aspect a few days ago.) This makes the Fuji system a natural multi-body system, and every photographer who has one Fuji body has the potential of becoming a two- or three-body user. The resulting ensemble of 2-3 bodies and, say, 4-7 lenses then really acts as if it is one single camera that changes shape according to need and circumstance. Myself, I am based on the XPro2 as my primary camera, but I also have the XE3 for compactness and the XH1 for those bigger lenses or when I need the image stabilisation. If Fuji didn't offer the XE3, I could go for the XT30 or XT100, but I probably wouldn't, the form-factor just doesn't appeal to me and I would rather stick to using the XPro2 on its own. Other photographers would prefer other combinations, of course, and I think the current spectrum of bodies allows each photographer to set up a system that is exactly tailored to their personal approach. Even if you go the whole way and really buy two bodies and, say, five prime lenses, you will still spend less than your buddy who buys a Nikon Z7 and two zooms. When you go out shooting, you pick up just one body and just one lens from your Fuji cabinet, and hey!, you are light and look like a harmless snapshooter, as we all want to.
Toggle Commented Aug 8, 2019 on Thom's Fujifilm Roundup at The Online Photographer