Wow, so Flickr got refresh. It’s funny since I was just thinking about it.
I generally like the update from the visual sense; especially the default way of viewing photo streams. It just looks much better now that images are arranged into a kind of nice, beautiful layout. The Terabyte thing doesn’t really matter to me since I don’t think I’ll ever upload that many photos and I have pro account anyway which doesn’t have the upload limit.
Overall, I’m really glad about the refresh and the cover photo is nice little touch. See my flickr here.
I had my recent WTF moment when I opened “Araki (Portfolio)” which I bought from Amazon. The book has awful Tamron and Sigma ads which feels like someone pouring cold water on you while you are having sex. Ads just don’t belong to art book! You can’t even rip the ads off the book since they are integrated into the pages.
Anyway, the sentence first page by the Stern-Art-Director Donald Schneider kinda made me sad: “It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen any sex, porn or SM photos before…”. It’s obvious that the director himself does not understand the deeper meaning or context of Araki’s work. I don’t know how Araki’s photos are perceived in Germany, it might be something cultural, but they sure didn’t receive this bad treatment in Kiasma in Helsinki!
The other introduction by Jochen Siemens is kinda okay, nice little text to accompany Araki’s photos. There is also a short interview with Araki which is kinda nice.
I regret however buying this book since there are tons of much better publications which portray Araki’s work in more spiritual and sensitive way. I definably recommend to skip this book unless you love ads featuring years old camera equipment.
I recently bought the latest edition of Magnum Contact Sheets (2011, Edited by Kristen Lubben). This (huge!) book is a landmark, perhaps one of the most important photography publications out there.
Contact sheet used to be a common tool for photographers when reviewing their work; it allowed photographers to see a quick overview of the images they had shot. This first draft reveals the thought process and work method of the photographer since the original sequence of the exposed film is preserved.
Indeed, contact print is something intimate that photographers are not usually willing to show. Quoting Henri Cartier-Bresson (from page 18), “A contact sheet is full of erasures, full of detritus”, and that “A photo exhibition or a book is an invitation to a meal, and it’s not customary to make guests poke their noses into the pots and pans, and even less into the buckets or peelings..”.
I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing the mistakes of other photographers, but more I wanted to see the flow of images that existed in original film, I find there is something very beautiful and human in the process and how the mind of the photographer works. A perfect marriage of the analog workflow and human subject..
The book starts with iconic images of Cartier-Bresson in Seville in 1933, and chronologically walks the reader through the century of great photographic culture into the present day. The written stories and descriptions by the photographers themselves are fascinating to read; here are many amazing, moving stories here. I am especially touched about description of Marilyn Silverstone’s life, she was the only woman photographer to record Dalai Lama’s arrival to India in 1959 and became Tibetan Buddhist nun in the later years.
And then there is the iconic picture of the lone protestor in Tiananmen Square.
But Magnum Contact Sheets is not only a record of famous images with historical importance, it’s a record of the art itself. On the latter pages there are even video stills, and screen shots of the thumbnail images on computer screen.
It will be interesting to see how this book will develop in future as more and more photographers switch to digital.
I really recommend this book to anyone interested in photography or the human subject.
I love Leonard Freed’s comment regarding his contact sheets in Magnum Contact Sheets “Police Work”:
“Contact sheets are mostly a waste of money, I find. 99.9 per cent of the frames on the contact sheet are mistakes one makes while photographing. Because it is a waste of money, I love them. There are things in life we must do just because we find them unprofitable”.
I couldn’t agree more.
Recently I have been editing the material I caught in Jeju in my new favorite tool, FCPX.
I really love the workflow in Apple’s new version of Final Cut Pro. The simple workflow makes a lot of sense to me. It’s so easy to learn and use that there’s almost no need for a manual.
I have no intention of going back to Premiere.
And FCPX really flies. By default settings, FCP does effects rendering in background, which is really cool; take a cup of coffee and when you return, you see the video is ready for smooth playback. Exporting is GPU accelerated which is wonderful, wonderful thing.
As a nice touch you can now just quickly drop in cross-dissolves in both audio and video; the same thing works for audio as a crossfade. There are many nice little touches like that all over in the application which gives the impression that the people who created it have actually thought about the needs of the video editors.
And VST & AU audio effects work fully with this application which is excellent thing; with most used video scopes and audio metering this really is fully featured video editing application.
It’s really easy to make a watchable DVD straight from FCPX although the process doesn’t give you much options regarding letter-boxing or fine tuning of menus. It would be nice to see some kind of mini-DVD Studio Pro bundled with this application. So It’s still necessary to have Toast installed if you intend to do any serious DVD authoring.
And it’s real cheap. Costing less than 300 dollars it’s a bargain, and with App Store you can now legally install it in multiple machines. Makes a lot of sense for small editing studios with multiple workstations.
There are however couple of things that I’d like to see fixed. One is that often the UI doesn’t refresh always properly when working in timeline. And sharing to Vimeo or Youtube works unreliably despite my fast optical (internet) connection. And if you unlink audio it seems impossible to relink it (I might be wrong, if I am please teach me).
And broadcast monitoring doesn’t work unless you have Lion installed.
Overall, I find FCPX joy to use. I can recommend this to anyone who has upgrade plans in mind.
Yesterday I went to see Nakashima Hiroki’s photo exhibition Land of Smiles in Gallery NIW in Tokyo. I met the photographer in Dark Room Intl. in Yokohama before and had chance to see his work.
Land of Smiles is a collection of candid street portraits took in Thailand.
The portraits show natural connection between the photographer and the subject, and that, according to Nakashima is his purpose. The people looked at ease in their natural poses; the photos didn’t seem to be taken by a traveler, but someone local. Not a small achievement.
The sequencing of the photos as well as the technical quality of the photos were excellent, and show the obvious experience and skill of the photographer. I would also imagine Nakashima’s choice of the media, film instead of digital, is very conscious one.
Overall, the portraits had great variety and all of them had something special. In all of the photos the subjects seemed relaxed and at ease.
After I returned, it occurred to me that perhaps it was the last photo that gave me the final impact, the beautiful young woman dressed in white. The photo had a hint of sadness in it, what I especially liked, a photo that stood out from the others.
Without it, the smiles in the rest of photos might have lost their purpose. The sequencing is very important in any exhibition and the way how Nakashima organized his photos really made them shine, a skill what is only learned by doing.
Land of Smiles is a wonderful work of a human subject.
Visit Gallery NIW until 6/19.
Ektar 100 is a ultra-fine grain color negative film, which is designed for outdoor and studio shots. According to wikipedia it is rated as semi-professional film (although in the box it says Kodak Professional). The old Ektar was discontinued in 1994; Ektar 100 is relatively new film, based in new technology.
The results I get with Ektar 100 are amazing. There’s tons of dynamic range in the photos while the photos are rich in contrast. Colors are vivid and very natural. Even with my EOS 5D Mark II I find it difficult to achieve result that would be similarly natural or pleasing.
The film seems to respond especially well to the outdoor light and the results are immediately usable. There’s something a bit extra there what could be the magic of the film. I find that attractive and kind of “honest” to the scene I am shooting. I suppose it has something to do with white balance, digital cameras do auto white balance (if you set them to do it) while with film you kind of get what you see or whatever the film is balanced to. Ektar is really close to the dream I have always had about the perfect photo in means of the color and mood. It’s easy to fall in love with this film.
This is ISO 100 film so in rainy days it might be quite difficult to get the proper exposure unless you bring a tripod. Ektar 100 is also used for studio shooting and product shots and in Kodak’s site they actually recommend this film for those uses, likely because the photos with last some serious enlarging.
Indeed it seems that Ektar 100 shots can be enlarged very nicely, as long the scans are made properly and are a good quality. To get the scans correctly inverted requires a profile from your scanning software for this emulsion. Without the profile Ektar 100 can be tricky to scan. SilverFast Negafix plugin does feature it which is the reason why I decided to get Plustek scanner which is developed together with SilverFast (of course SilverFast comes included).
Shooting film in general is very different from shooting digital and getting to know different film stocks is necessary in order to know in advance what to get. Ektar 100 delivers for me and it is quickly becoming one of my main tools.
Yesterday, I found Miyoko Ihara’s photo book “Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat”. The photos are unique and heartwarming; I can feel the photographer’s intention clearly; the human connection between the cat and grandma.
In her website she says:
“My grandmother and her cat are always together. This is the photobook captured the everyday life of my grandmother, Misa who bends her self to the fields work with her cat Fukumaru.”
What especially delighted me about this book is what I call a kind of artistic honesty; Ihara doesn’t try to be artistic, the photos are simple captures of real life events, but are exactly that in creative and artistic way. Ihara’s framing and selection of subject feels very profound and honest; it must be the result of her years in Nippon Photography Institute that took her to this level.
Although I understand why some of the photos might be criticized as being a kind of cute, the meaning behind the photos is clear; they are honest description of human connection. Fukumaru is very unique, odd-eyed cat and his partner and the 87 years old grandmother whose eyes show experience of life are naturally suited to each other.
The life of this couple is well captured in their green, lush environment.
It’s remarkable what the photos show if you take a moment to really look at them. Sure they are cute photos, but they are also much more. It is unclear to me at this point whether the photos were taken digitally or with film camera, but in any case, the print is excellent with very rich and saturated colors.
Especially I was moved about the second last photo, a rainbow captured in a very beautiful way.
I highly recommend this photo book to anyone interested in photography.
Find out more about the photo book in:
I have been a big fan of rangefinder cameras since my friend introduced me to his Leica M6 TTL. There is something magical about taking a photo with a rangefinder. It is very different experience. Unlike shooting with SLRs, you can view the scene during the exact moment when you take the photo; there is no mirror blocking your view.
Since I enjoyed the full manual operation of my friend’s M6, I chose the mechanical version of Bessa (the M in the name signifies the manual/mechanical version, R3A has aperture priority and is electronic in operation). You can shoot with R3M even if the batteries die. And even if the in-camera electronics would bite the dust one day, it’s still possible to keep shooting with this camera. I like that principle and I was willing to sacrifice the comfort of aperture priority mode for the sake of full mechanical operation.
Bessa is a popular camera here in Japan for film photographers. I’m not sure if it would be appropriate to call Bessa a poor man’s Leica but it is tempting to compare this camera to Leica M6 TTL since it’s similar in so many ways. I don’t have any information about exactly how popular the camera is, but at least two of my friends have it.
R3M is also a very portable and discreet camera (at least what comes to it’s size), making it a good tool for street shooting. When you hold it to your eye, people won’t get as intimidated as if you are holding a weapon-like SLR.
Today’s Voigtlander cameras are manufactured by Cosina company in Japan, and have nothing (except name) to do with Johann Christoph Voigtländer’s company. Nokton lenses are also manufactured by Cosina in Japan.
Operating Bessa R3M is comparable experience to Leica M6 TTL. It is a delight to to use and handle this camera and the Leica-like rangefinder magic is fully present. The rangefinder patch is bright even in low-light conditions and big enough for accurate focusing.
Bessa’s 1:1 viewfinder is bright and very easy to use. Since it doesn’t magnify, it allows you to shoot with both eyes open. The camera has 40/50/75/90 frame lines which must be manually set by using the switch. The camera won’t recognize the coding in Leica’s M lenses. Frame lines are parallax corrected just like in Leica and move as you focus.
40mm frame lines are kind of hard to see because they extend so far into the corners, so it might take some getting used to. There are no exact 35mm frame lines in R3M, but setting the camera to 40mm lines and anticipating the 5mm difference might not be such a big deal.
TTL center weighted metering turns on automatically when you press the shutter half way. Unlike in Leica, you don’t need to turn the camera on or off. This is likely to save some batteries. The metering has plus/minus scale of exposure in steps of 2, 1.5, 1, 0.5. It’s more informative than Leica’s simple arrows, because you get instant feedback how much you’re off from the optimal exposure. But this is a matter of taste. I can also understand why many prefer the Leica’s super-simple led arrows.
In my tests, I found the metering to be very accurate.
Bessa has maximum shutter speed of 2000 which is high enough for the most situations, although ND filter might be necessary if you want to open up the lens in bright conditions.
It is true that R3M’s shutter is kind of loud. It sounds like SLR shutter (it actually comes from Cosina’s cheap SLR line). This might become problem if you shoot in quiet places and the shutter sound might be one reason to choose Leica over Bessa, since it’s shutter is much more discreet.
This might also have something to do with the fact that Bessa R3M has dual plane shutter.
Bessa has no timer, but the shutter button accepts a standard mechanical shutter release.
Loading film is also very easy, perhaps easier that it is in Leica. With Bessa you don’t need to remove bottom plate to load film. Just move the switch on top plate back and pull up the film rewinding crank, and the back pops open. The switch on top plate should prevent accidental opening of the camera.
Winding back the film is easy. It requires pressing the film release button on the bottom of the camera and winding the film back to the cartridge with the crank. I would guess that the mechanism is more robust than M6, because the crank is not angled but straight; less mechanical parts.
I found Bessa’s build quality to be very good, if not as rock solid as Leica. The camera is mostly made of metal, except the back door. It feels comfortably solid and heavy, and it has some of that “real camera” feel. The camera feels very well balanced in my hands. It’s easy to carry this camera with one hand, so neck strap might not be necessary.
Shutter button and film forward lever are made of metal as well as film rewinding crank and shutter speed dial and they feel very robust.
The markings on the camera are painted and not engraved on metal (except shutter speed numbers). If one finds the top plate logo annoying, it might be relatively easy to remove it.
I have read some reports of small screws of the bottom plate becoming loose, so it might be good idea to check their tightness every now and then. But overall, if you want better build quality than this in a film rangefinder camera, Leica is the only option.
The strap connectors are positioned strangely a bit on the front side of the camera, so the camera doesn’t quite hug your body while you’re carrying it, but makes the camera’s lens to point to the sky in 45 degree angle. Although this camera has a double focal plane shutter to prevent damage from the sun, I would recommend caution. Strangely the weird positioning of the strap connectors seem to highlight this risk. My recommendation is to either use lens cap, or carry the camera so that lens faces your body in sunny days, like most pros do with their RF cameras.
Overall, it must be said that Bessa is a solid and very well built camera.
Bessa R3m is a reasonable cost alternative for Leica, plus it accepts all wonderful Leica’s lenses (but has no built-in 35mm frame lines). Bessa R3M with Nokton 40mm lens might be good option for those who want to try manual rangefinder photography for the first time. It’s also generally good idea to invest into M-mount lenses; should you upgrade to Leica one day, you can still use the same glass.
R3m offers full manual shooting experience. The camera is mechanical and only electronic part of the camera is the metering which can be turned off by removing the batteries.
The photos I took with 40mm 1.4 Nokton lens compare very well against the shots I took with Leica M6 TTL, they are similarly crisp and sharp, but that should be mostly if not entirely due to the lens and film.
The size of Bessa makes it also very portable. The camera is almost as small as Fujifilm X100, although almost twice as heavy. I personally like the reassuring weight of this camera, which makes it to feel like a solid tool.
I really recommend this camera for anyone who wants to get into the wonderful world of rangefinder photography, but are on a budget or hesitate to invest into Leica.
See the gallery below for my shots with Bessa R3M and Nokton 40mm 1.4 lens.
I have been using Fujifilm Finepix X100 for three months now. I’d like to give a kind of update of how it’s been.
After I got X100 and the replacement unit since the the original copy of the camera got the infamous stuck aperture issue, I’ve been shooting photos with it in daily basis. X100 has became my primary camera, the camera that’s with me everyday, pretty much where-ever I go. And like Chase Jarvis says, “the best camera is the one you have with you”. In my case, it has been the X100.
After I updated the camera’s firmware into the latest version, I noticed speed increase in autofocus and also some of the fixes of the quirks in the UI. The menu is still what it is, and the control wheel on back is flimsy, but at least there is that dedicated ISO button that saves you the dive in the menus.
I just love the JPG’s straight out from the camera; the in-camera processing is just great. The sharpening is set just right, the output is very crisp but clean, and free of any artifacts. And if I shoot RAW, I can process the RAWs inside the camera.
I still haven’t got around in installing the included RAW processing software that came in the CD’s..
I love the film simulation of the camera. It’s more than a gimmick, it really makes sense, Velvia and Astia look just like their film counterparts, the effect is subtle enough not to make irreversible changes in the images, but still packs a punch.
Sure, I prefer to do the monochrome conversion in Aperture because then I can have full control over the RGB channels, so I actually never use the in-camera monochrome setting, although that might make sense for some.
The number one feature of this camera, what I’ve gotten used to, is of course the excellent optical viewfinder. I use EVF or LCD only when shooting macros.
Of course, it doesn’t compare to shooting with range finder, but the OVF is really best I’ve ever seen in compact size digital camera. The frame lines work perfectly and when you set up the automatic parallax correction including correction of AF point, you can pretty much forget that the (parallax) phenomena ever existed. And you can even see live histogram in OVF as an overlay if you choose so; OVF overlay is excellent and unique innovation from Fujifilm.
The manual controls are excellent in daily use, especially the aperture ring and shutter speed control dial. Set either of those to auto and you get shutter speed or aperture priority. Very, delightfully “analogue” process.
Strangely, I find that there’s really not so much need to use the menus under normal outdoor conditions when shooting.
In my extensive tests, I find the battery life of X100 to be very good. In my normal shooting conditions I always shoot with OVF and I’ve taken like 300 pictures and never exhausted a battery yet. I keep extra accessory battery in my pocket just in case.
One thing worth noting is that unlike in Canon SLR’s, the USB port is not standard mini-USB port, but something which seems unique to Fujifilm’s camera. So it’s better not to lose that cord.
I bought the EF-20 external flash unit for this camera and I find it a very nice little flash. It packs enough punch and allows tilting upwards 90 degrees, great for those indoor parties and events with white roofs. The larger version of the flash also allows swiveling, a pro feature.
Overall feeling after three months of daily shooting, I just love this camera. The image quality produced by the custom glass and sensor is just great. X100 is almost completely silent, professional quality camera in a very compact package.