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Martin D
UK
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Back in the early 2000s, I was in the final phase of trying to keep myself in the realm of film. Having dreamt of view-camera photography all my life, I made the jump and bought myself a second-hand KB Canham DLC 4-by-5 camera. Those are the all-metal ones, very portable, the design modernist, Bauhaus-style, beautifully engineered by the excellent Mr Canham. A 210mm Rodenstock Sironar came with it. I got myself a Polaroid back, and over the next few years every once in a while I did some black-and-white Polaroids. But I never took the time to make this a serious part of my photography. Life was too busy, and sadly I found out that to me, the appeal of the view finder camera was more conceptual than practical. Those who have found a way of working with this supremely elegant type of camera are very very fortunate. And those who actually make these cameras, like Mr Canham, should be very very proud. I still have the Canham and the lens, it's on a tripod in my study, next to my desk, looking out of the window. When a visitor enters the room, they immediately see the illuminated ground glass, showing the inverted image of the walnut tree outside the house. Whenever I have a new lens for my Fuji, the first picture I take is of the Canham. My 7-year old twin daughters enjoy exploring the laws of perspective with it, raising and tilting the front, changing the focus. Perhaps one day they will put some film back into it too.
Toggle Commented yesterday on View Cameras at The Online Photographer
I have an old Leica-R 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, adapted to my Fuji APS-C cameras (so it's 90mm equivalent). Used for portraits, at f/2.8 this lens produces a very pleasant background: definitely blurred and distant, yet still with enough detail to reveal what the actual objects are that meld into each other to make up the background. There is nothing wrong with complete blurring either, but I prefer a background that still has some degree of actual information. In the 19th-century treatises on the nature of photography, one of the key terms was "incidental detail", and to me that still is one of the defining characteristics of Straight Photography. If the background still has some discernable incidental detail, it adds weight to the photograph as the unique capture of a specific moment in a specific location.
Toggle Commented Jan 13, 2020 on Big Bokeh on a Budget at The Online Photographer
Yes, yes, yes. Middle apertures are good. They let your lens shine and they force you to get your framing and composition right. Having said all that, sometimes I wish I could shoot my Fuji 27mm at f/64! There can be little doubt that God created diffraction specifically with the aim of teasing us photographers.
I hesitate to admit it but I wasn't even aware of the Hasselblad X1DII. That, Mike, it the reason why I love your writing and the comunity that your blog provides!
Toggle Commented Jan 3, 2020 on Best Cameras of 2019 at The Online Photographer
Regarding OCOLOY: I spent most of my photographic life with one OCOL combination or another, and by way of counter-balance I now enjoy having built up a large set of primes from which I can choose. But the "limit yourself" ethos of OCOL is still lingering underneath. Last summer I went on a 2-week railway trip with my daughters, an important event for all of us. Most of my lenses stayed at home. I had with me one XPro2 with the 27mm f/2.8 attached and one XH1 with the 16mm f/1.4 attached, nothing else. Each day I took out one or the other, never both. Beautiful. Happy new year to you, Mike, and to all fellow TOPers.
Happy memories of using the Contax G1 for a few years in the late 1990s. Not a perfect camera by any means: the AF was a little bit erratic and the manual override clumsy and not always effective. But the build quality was pure Rolls Royce, and there was a design integrity to the whole system that made it a real camera. I had it with the 45mm and the 90mm. In fairness the camera didn't make much sense with the tele. But the 45mm was a joy to use with the rangerfinder-style viewfinder, and it made an effective and elegant pairing with the G1 body: a real photography tool. When my home got burgled, the burglers found nothing of value except the G1, and that was the end of my Contax period.
I love the current 27mm f/2.8, it is a natural fit to both the XPro2 and the XE3. But mechanically it does feel a little clumsy. My dream Fuji lens is a ruggedised version of the current 27mm: as tiny as the current version, but with a stronger mechanical build and preferably with internal focussing. An aperture ring would be great but since that would probably mean a larger size, I let go of that wish. The slow aperture of f/2.8 is ok with me, it suits the way I use this focal length.
Toggle Commented Dec 27, 2019 on My Ideal Lens at The Online Photographer
"And thus, in our common interest, we reach across our differences, and walk awhile together." The powerful truth about the site that you have created, beautifully expressed. Thank you, Mike. It is a joy and an honour to walk with you on this journey.
Toggle Commented Dec 24, 2019 on Merry Christmas! &c. at The Online Photographer
Fuji XE3 with the 27mm pancake. In the UK, with current discounts the camera body new is 440 pounds and the 27mm lens refurbished (from Fuji Europe) is 270 pounds. I'd add a protective filter too, and a simple wrist strap. So let's make it 750 pounds in total and you are set for street, city scape, portraits, family, close-up shots of environmental detail.
Toggle Commented Dec 16, 2019 on Best Casual Cameras at The Online Photographer
Agreed with all three criticisms, but not with your conclusion. I do only digital these days, and only B&W. Excessive contrast, over-sharpening, depressed mid-tones: I certainly agree on the first two and probably on the third one too. I commit these crimes on a daily basis and try to reshape myself into someone at least does not commit them by default. Over-sharpening is the worst offender. Somehow we seem to be able to detect this immediately in other peoples photographs, but not in our own work. The problem is I think less in the actual nature of the digital image but in the psychology of the digital editing process. Over-sharpening is the weakness inherently associated with digital B&W picture making --- the answer is not to give up on B&W, it is to develop the perceptive maturity that allows us to see in our own work what our untrained eye can only see in the work of others. Digital is still fairly recent, it may take us a few decades to become naturals in the new visual world. Let's start now.
Inspiring and insightful reflections on the nature of cooperation in a field where skill and true mastery are scarce. If we are really good at something, we need not fear the others. The good ones will work with us to develop our common field, and the mediocre ones will cater for the less demanding jobs. My own experience exactly, though sadly not in photography (where I am joyful dilettante), but in my professional work as an academic teacher (where I have the touch). True skill needs no protectionism.
Interesting remarks regarding NOS and digital cameras. I have a related question, addressed at the engineers and camera dealers among us. I truly love the Fuji XPro2: I think its sensor is good enough, and I don't expect future versions to make my shooting any easier. I want continuity of use. Suppose I want to be able to keep using this particular camera model for a long time, well beyond its end of production. Suppose I am willing to keep several bodies around, with the aim of keeping at least one of them alive for, say, 16 or 20 years. Let's make that four bodies. How do I use them best? Do I use two bodies as my regular work bodies and keep the other two in storage, until one of the active ones breaks down? Or do I use them all at equal intensity, perhaps rotating them every month? Or should I use one body most of the time but bring each of the others into the rotation occasionally, just to keep the shutter and the few other moving parts well-oiled? If I store a camera away for a while, what do I watch out for? Presumably I keep the batteries in the body but recharge them regularly, and I keep the camera in dry conditions, and at constant temperature? If a part fails and replacement parts are no longer available from the manufacturer, can an independendt repair person use the parts from another body, or are modern bodies an all or nothing proposition? I am aware that these are slightly crazy concerns, but such is love.
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?
Toggle Commented Nov 19, 2019 on Battleground (Blog Note) at The Online Photographer
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, www.dr5.com 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 Nov 19, 2019 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.