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Martin D
UK
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The Canham DLC45 is an intriguing foldable metal field camera made by KB Canham. Highly collapsible and super lightweight, meant for backbacking landscape photographers. Very elegant too, with an austere Bauhaus-style design. Folding up the Canham requires a very specifuc series of simple steps that everyone gets wrong, everyone that is except Mr Canham. Result: crinkles in the bellows, in a very specific staircase pattern top down from the top of the front standard. Every copy I have seen has them, my own copy which I bought used had those crinkles when I bought it. Functionally the crinkles don't damage the bellows (which is made from some rubber-based material). To me these crinkles are part of the look of this particular camera.
Toggle Commented Sep 12, 2020 on Last Man Standing at The Online Photographer
"Here's to turning pages, and writing new and better chapters in our lives." A triple YES! to this beautiful statement from Dan Gorman's comment on your 30 years. True for us all.
Ming Thein's style never really spoke to me, but he certainly knows what he is doing and he communicates well. His departure from active blogging is a serious loss in our valiant battle against the rise of internet bluster. The only photography site that I really need for serious inspiration is yours. You are the Montaigne of photography. I also regularly vist Kirk Tuck's VSL and Thom Hogan's sansmirror, both offering solid, experience-based commentary, such a rare thing. Beyond traditional blogs, I really like Sean Tucker's photography reflections on Youtube: they are thoughtful, subtle and intelligent.
You make it happen, Mike, you make it happen. Your writing is quiet and open-minded, and that invites quiet and open-minded comments.
In Jim Arthur's picture: those scratches absolutely make that picture what it is. Magic.
A single prime lens fixed to the camera body, that's how God has meant it to be. In my Fuji system, I have several bodies (all with the same sensor) and my lens cabinet covers the whole spectrum from 16mm to 90mm, all in primes. But the choice of lens is made right at the start, as I venture out, and each excursion then is with one body and one lens, or possibly two bodies with different focal lengths. That lens stays on the camera throughout the day. There may be a backup lens in the bag but it never gets used. The "day in the hills" then becomes, say, a "35mm day", or perhaps a "23mm plus 60mm day". And God smiles on me.
My advice to my younger self: share more. Make simple prints and send them out.
Toggle Commented May 26, 2020 on Do-Over at The Online Photographer
I love good viewfinders, and I like to experience all sorts of different types of viewfinder. My Fuji XPro-2 has a fine optical RF-style viewfinder. I like it and enjoy working with it, but whilst it is good and practical, it ain't magical or beautiful. Perfection probably comes in the shape of the 50mm external VF that Leica produced for the screwmount Leicas. In my final film phase I used it with a 2.8 Elmar on a Leica IIf. This viewfinder has a 1:1 magnification, and because of that it requires no special skill to use the camera in the proper, two-eyed way: right eye on the VF seeing the 50mm frame, left eye off the camera seeing the context. Perfection: an intellectually and aesthetically deeply satisfying way of working. The 35mm and 28mm external viewfinders by Leica are great too, especially the 35mm one, as the two-eye approach still works fairly naturally in this field of view. I have both and use them occasionally, the 35mm finder for the 23mm Fuji and the 28mm finder for the 18mm Zeiss that I use on the Fujis. For my Fuji 16mm lens on the XE-3, I got myself a Leica 24mm external finder, using zone focusing for distance and the external finder for framing. This works well in practice, a true grab-a-shot machine, though at such wide angles the optical viewfinder no longer feels as natural as at 50mm, the view is too compressed for that. Still, works great for street (and for taking pics of my kids). Never had a chance of using one of those wire-frame press camera finders: must try it one day! And then of course there is the groundglass on the view camera. Another form of magic, completely different from the rangefinder but equally compelling. Sadly those cameras never clicked with me, but I look at all view camera users with awe and envy. I do agree with you, Mike, smartphone screens can make for fine viewfinders, and the reason I think is because on modern high-resolution screens they do act like a groundglass.
Boy, am I glad that an obsession with sophisticated audio setups for music listening is not amonng my (many) ailments. I can get excited about quality microphones and mic preamps for voice recordings, but those are for producing audio materials. When it comes to consuming audio, I am content with respectable core comprehension of the message. But then in photography too, I love to have a lens that has spirit but when viewing a photograph I am content with a rough print.
Toggle Commented May 21, 2020 on Followup (Sorry!) at The Online Photographer
With the X-Pro2, I always shoot JPEG+RAW, the JPEG set to medium or small file sizes. All my photographs are in B&W, and the colour RAW file is just an intermediary. The JPEGs are set as "Acros" and that is also what I see in the EVF (if I don't use the OVF). The JPEGs are purely for bookkeeping, and occasionaly for immediate sending off if I want to share. The real output always comes from the RAW file, which I process in Capture One, where my starting point is the neutral colour file that comes from choosing the "linear response" option for the initial curve. The Acros JPEGs are lovely, and it is true, they are hard to replicate from the RAWs. But then I don't want to replicate them; I have my own set of simple preset curves and settings that do what I want to do, in a standardised fashion, with minimal fine-tuning required. When shooting, I expose with my eye on the final RAW processing, not the JPEGs. A bit like shooting with the old "positive-negative" B&W Polaroid film, Type 55. There you exposed for the negative and got a slightly over-exposed Polaroid print, as a bonus. That print now is the JPEG. For me, all of this works beautifully. But then I have always liked to think of the restrictions of a given film as a welcome reduction of complexity, not a limitation that I need to overcome.
Toggle Commented Apr 14, 2020 on Fuji X Raw Studio at The Online Photographer
Hi Mike. When I look at these pictures, I see myself walking through a city that is made up of deep, shadowy valleys, on a day when a strong sun makes the shadows even darker. I feel ill-equipped to disagree with you, but I have to say, these are great photographs and to me the tonality of the picture meets the nature of the subject matter in the most striking manner.
Well put; well put indeed. All creative work is driven by some sort of (often painful) tension, and I think your essay gives a very precise description of the specific creative tension that defines the work of the photographer.
Toggle Commented Apr 12, 2020 on Picturehunting at The Online Photographer
Talking of Fuji, allow me to recommend one of the few meaningful photography Youtube channels, called Andrew and Denae. A lovely couple, based in Utah, doing professional portrait stuff and regular Youtube broadcasts as well. He is the gear-head of the two, but they look at the gear as practicing photographers. They work with Fuji, but without the fanboy tone. One of his recent pieces is his summary of why he likes Fuji, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDE4PdouDKE. I enjoy watching their videos, they are informative and he is a lovely person too, with warmth and always speaking as a photographer.
Lovely post about your walk, cheered me up.
Gosh, Mike, let me get this straight. You've got that fantastic Rollei beast, tick, with that fantastic Schneider lens, tick. The combo works, tick. Moreover, the combo works in the best possible configuration there is: manual focus with in-camera focus confirmation. Another tick. Last time I checked, you had plenty of film rolls in your fridge, too. Another tick. I can see only ticks. Now I would expect to find you out there roaming the woods (respecting all the distancing rules of course), enjoying your wonderful setup. And yet, no such thing. Mike is at home, looking at his gear, searching for a problem. Intervention, Mike, intervention! I love you, Mike (in the forum sense, obviously), and therefore I think I have the right to say it: That missing autofocus is a non-issue, an absolute and utter non-issue. If you send that lens off for a not-needed repair, we will have to worry about you, Mike. Go out and enjoy some wonderful film in that wonderful Rollei with that wonderful Schneider lens! And stay safe, as we all must in these strained times. [Jeez, will you guys give me a minute? I just got the batteries back like two days ago. And it was raining. --Mike]
Pierre Charbonneau in his comment has nailed it. The main thing about shooting with a RF is the fact that you aren't given a flattering preview: you have to know what you are doing. For some photographers, this is a design flaw. For others (me included), it is the key to unlock a source of creative tension. The RF view puts my mind into a heightened alertness, and it does so because it forces me to pull together all the elements that will produce the image that I want. That "pulling together" has to happen in my mind, and this becomes easier if the viewfinder is not yet a nice-looking 2-dimensional image. The viewfinder shows me what I need to know to compose the shot, but it does not yet show me the visual effects. For some of us, this works better than WYSIWYG. Hence when using the XPro2, I will normally use the OVF, not the EVF.
As regards Leica vs the rest, I'm not entirely sure where your sarcasm ends and your true opinion begins, so I will stay away from that aspect. Instead, I merely list the "rangefinder-style" cameras I've been using over the years: Rollei 35, lovely; Contax G1, lovely; various "Barnack" screw mount Leicas such as the Leica II, Leica If and Leica IIIg, all beautiful and all true workhorses; the Fuji GW690 medium format giant, utilitarian and wonderful; and today in digital it's the Fuji XPro2. I also once held a Zeis Ikon ZI in my hands and should have bought it. Of the film cameras, the Fuji GW690 was the most powerful and joyful tool to use, so simple. And looking at the whole lot, today's Fuji beats them all in terms of "being the right tool". Note that in that list, only the Barnacks and the Fuji GW690 had an actual rangefinder. All the others had a RF-style viewfinder and possibly some other focussing assistance. But they all felt like proper rangefinders regardless.
"I've provisionally decided that it comes down to whether I want to a.) make B&W prints the old fashioned way, with an enlarger, or b.) commit to mastering B&W digital printing." Both of these avenues no doubt will lead to thought-provoking reflections in your blog. Looking forward to them either way! Speaking purely egotistically, I'd love to see you explore avenue b) and learn from your experiences. My own recent step into digital was coupled to my decision to do all my digital photography in B&W, and I feel painfully deficient on the printing side of the process. But as others have rightly commented in reply to your recent "To be or not to be" post, you must do whatever is right for your own creative growth, and we as readers will benefit most if you follow your own creative needs.
"[...] , attempting to entertain or inform or enlighten you or at least be thought-provoking." Indeed, Mike, indeed. You do all of these, and much more. You also create a wonderful place of commonality and exchange for people who are interested in "historically aware photography", as opposed to "imaging". Your Patreon appeal is right. Allow me to speak personally, as one of your readers. I had been a silent visitor to your site for many years, always feeling a little guilty for not making any payments to a site that means so much to me. I finally started my subscription a little over a year ago, in December 2018. The minute I had signed up, I felt liberated: I realised that something wrong had been set right. Not sure whether it matters, but my own contribution is meant to be roughly at the level of the subscription costs of two or three quality print magazines.
I am delighted that Fuji show their commitment to maintaining this line. It is good to see that they keep most aspects of the camera unchanged, rather than trying to innovate for novelty's sake. I gave my wife an X100F at the time when I gave myself an XPro2, some 18 months ago. Just as the XPro3 doesn't induce the slightest bit of update urge in me, neither does the X100V. In both cases, I feel not the slightest bit of upgrade urge, and no envy. I am happy that those who need a new camera can get an upgraded model, and for myself I am relieved that Fuji keeps these camera lines alive. Both the XPro and the X100 lines are "true cameras", in all their past and current incarnations. Thoughtful designs that work and that are a joy to use. It is good to see them supported. (Incidentally, that "lift-and-turn" collar for ISO is already on the 100F.)
A good list of items that make me worried too. A few comments on four of your bullets. (1) Physicallty. Yes, we owe it to our photographs to produce physical versions of them, a paper print in a frame, a Zine, a book, a postcard we send to frieds. This is from my perspective as someone who does photography for personal enjoyment and without any claim to cultural significance; I understand that you, Mike, are also worried about the output at the "major artist" end of the spectrum. (2) B&W. When I made my late move into digital, I hesitated a geeat deal about colour vs B&W. I wanted to do B&W, but I was worried that in digital somehow this would become inauthentic and pretentious. I ignored those worries and took the jump into monochrome, committing all of my digital photography to B&W. Never did I make a better choice. A strange thing has happened: others don't fuss about the fact that my pictures are B&W, neither positively not negatively. They notice it, they make a few remarks about it, and then they just deal with the actual photograph as a photograph. (3) Expertise. To be creative in my own photography, I need the receptive alertness that comes from shooting all manual, both focus and exposure. After decades with film I am reasonably competent in doing that, but boy, I am not even remotely close to "seeing like the sensor sees", so I am still faced with challenges regarding skills and expertise. Others will have fewer such challenges, but for me nothing has changed. Does it trouble me that today's cameras allow beginners to nail exposure and focus much better than I can with all my efforts? No, not really. (4) Modification. Again, for me personally the matter does not arise. I shoot RAW, perform a very simple set of exposure and contrast correction in post, and treat the result as final. I try to standardise the processing, so that these transformalions yield the same consistency across images as came from using the same film. I never change details. I leave sharpness and noise reduction settings at their lowest levels. Photographs as straight recordings. If others operate at the other extreme of the manipulation spectrum, does that make my own photographs any less straighforward? I guess you are right, society's perceptions regarding the authenticity of a photograph are undergoing a fundamental change, and ultimately this will impact on how my own photographs are perceived. But at the same time I also believe that somehow, subtly but deeply, a photograph that was done "straight" will be perceived as such by the viewer, whatever the surrounding culture. This comment is getting way too long, so I stop here. Let me just say that today, despite all the challenges you mention, I feel more like a "genuine photographer" in the Evans-Abbott tradition than in all my film years beforehand.
Very happy to hear this, Mike.
Toggle Commented Jan 31, 2020 on Doctor My Eyes at The Online Photographer
Lovely link to the Oscar Peterson piano master class. And to think that he was a TOP reader! Amazing. As it happens, Gettyimages have a picture (from the Hulton archive) of Peterson with his Zeiss Ikon Contarex Bullseye: https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/canadian-jazz-pianist-and-composer-oscar-peterson-holding-a-news-photo/1084521464?adppopup=true.
By profession I am a university teacher, in a mathematics-oriented discipline. I treat my lectures as open-ended workshops, the main ideas and cases are carefully prepared in advance, but the actual unfolding of the lecture is improvised. There was a period, some ten or twelve years ago, when I made sure that before each lecture I would have the time to listen to the first part of Keith Jarret's 1975 The Köln Concert. Perhaps I could do this an hour before the lecture session, or perhaps in the evening the day before. Jarrett works with his audience and with his musical material, and part of his art is to make that work explicit. You can see how he picks up a potential theme, tries it out for a few bars, perhaps there are several attempts of giving it another twist and another twist, until finally he has found the right way of placing it and the true theme can emerge. The audience is ready too, since we have been allowed to follow him in all his preparations. The final version of the theme breaks through, often with some surprising final twist, and now the theme unfolds further --- sometimes for a minute or two, sometimes only for a brief moment. I know it sounds horribly pretentious, but I always took Jarrett's concert style to be the model for my lectures: allow my students to see me grapple with an idea that is essential to the subject matter, try out various twists, and then let it loose and see how it unfolds in new, unexpected ways. Nowadays I don't do those pre-lecture meditations any more, at least not very regularly. But deep down, the way I engage with my students has been shaped by those years of infusing my subject matter with the music of Keith Jarrett. (Otherwise, music for me is mainly one composer, Johann Sebastian Bach.)
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 Jan 22, 2020 on View Cameras at The Online Photographer