Consider this my semi-regular reminder to caption your photos. Even though
Google Photos can figure out what is in photos, it can’t (yet) know why or
what it means. Take a few minutes and add a caption to at least some of your
And while you’re at it, print a few of them. Your grandkids will thank you.
I recently bought a fantastic digital camera,
It’s fast, well-constructed, and works in a way that a camera should work. It
looks and feels great. In fact it feels almost like using a Leica film
rangefinder. I take more photos with the Fuji than with film cameras and nearly
all of them are exposed correctly, in focus, and contain 24 Megapixels of raw
data to work with.
Popping a card into a computer and playing with the infinite processing
possibilities using Lightroom is fun. I can make technically fantastic images
that way; simply and quickly.
And yet, I don’t enjoy shooting digital. I wish I did. Making photographs would
be so much easier.
I sometimes poke fun at film photographers claiming that they dislike digital
photos because they don’t have the same “soul” as film photos. And yet I have to
admit that I agree with them.
The difference is having a negative.
When viewing a scanned film photo on my phone or computer, I know that there’s a
film negative in a binder somewhere containing a permanent, physically-rendered
image created by light originally reflected off the photo’s subject. For me,
having a negative imbues film photos with a sense of realness not found in
digital. I don’t care that shooting film is difficult, more expensive, and
sometimes a complete pain in the ass. I don’t care that there are fewer “hits”
and that sometimes the image is scratched or has dust spots or is grainy.
My film images mean more to me than my digital images That’s why I go through
all the trouble of shooting film.
is my second bag from ONA. I wanted something small that I could carry
everywhere and the Bowery fits the bill. I carry a Leica M, the Fuji
X-Pro2, a couple rolls of film, spare battery, and a notebook. I like
everything about it. I’m told it looks a lot like a purse but that’s
fine with me.
Whether you are a traditionalist like myself or a hybrid photographer,
The Darkroom Underground publishes a balance of technical and creative
articles in every issue along with featured photographers and some of
their best artwork
I’ve subscribed. Film-focused photography resources are becoming less
rare. This is a good thing.
My first Leica was an M6 TTL. I sold it in the mid-2000s and have since
gone through a number of Leica bodies, from an M3 to an M8. For the past
several years I’ve used an M3 and M4. I love them, but I sometimes
missed having a meter in the camera rather than on the camera.
So I bought an M6
It’s the perfect M6 for me. It is one of the last 10 “Classic” M6 bodies
ever produced (1998). It has had the finder optics upgraded to the
flare-free “MP” version. The only framelines displayed are 28, 35, and
50mm. This makes for a bright, beautiful, clutter-free viewfinder.
I chose the M6 “Classic” version because they are generally less
expensive than the newer TTL models, with no real disadvantage. I prefer
the direction of the shutter dial to be the same as my older bodies.
I’ve put one roll through it, and it’s just as smooth and solid as the
M3 and M4. Don’t let the forum trolls convince you otherwise.
As handy as having a built-in meter is, I found that I spent more time
obsessing over the meter’s lights than I did looking at the subject. I
didn’t expect that. I also ended up with a few badly-exposed shots due
to a backlit subject. I would normally have just guessed the exposure.
Instead I listened to the meter. I’ll have to re-learn when to stop
Here are a few shots from the first roll. It’s Tri-X, shot at 1250 ISO
and developed in Diafine, then scanned on the Pakon.
While many move toward carrying only an iPhone or small, mirrorless
system, I’ve been thinking bigger.
A Hasselblad is big enough on its own, but add a prism finder, longer
lens, and that big awkward flash unit and it becomes downright unwieldy.
It’s also awesome. Most of my favorite images from recent years are from
the Hasselblads. I blame the Zeiss lenses. I love the look they produce
and have yet to find anything matching it.
The flash, a Hasselblad D-Flash 40, is a recent addition. With the
503CXi body, it’s fully TTL and meters directly off the film. This means
getting a decent exposure every time without doing much of anything. I
just set the camera to f8 and 125th second and shoot.
This is terrific for shooting indoors. I just don’t have the eye or the
hands for handheld natural-light shooting indoors. I’ve always preferred
natural-light photography, but using the Hasselblad handheld with an
on-camera flash creates a different look, and I’m learning to enjoy it.
A photograph becomes real only when it’s printed. I love photographic
prints of all kinds. This is why I’ve loved the Fuji Instax cameras. All
you get is a print. No muss no fuss.
The Fuji Instax210
has been fun, but let’s face it, it’s kind of ugly. The later versions
are better, but still not great. I loved the Lomo’Instant Wide the
moment I saw it. Especially the “Central Park”
version, so I bought one.
It’s great. Here’s why I like it (compared to my old Fuji):
It looks great
Zone focusing on the lens rather than via menu
Controls are on the back, and are buttons and led indicators. No
The lens cap doubles as a remote shutter release. Genius!
Comes with various lens attachments (Close-up, super-wide, etc)
It’s plastic, but not as “plastic-ey” as the Fuji
There’s a PC sync port. I can use an external flash!
Super fun, cute, and more versatile than the one it’s replacing. I’m
happy with it.
I’ve gotten lazy when it comes to recording information about film rolls. This,
combined with my infatuation with notebooks, led me
PhotoMemo Photographer’s Memo Book at
Shoot Film Co. After
this review at 35mmc
I’ve ordered a couple of the notebooks to try. Maybe I’ll get better at logging
things or maybe I’ll just end up with a few more unused notebooks. Either way,
I’m happy to support the effort.
A friend of mine asked me to do a last-minute photo shoot for her son’s senior
portrait. The only digital portrait-making camera I have is the 14-year-old
Canon 1Ds. I still like the images it makes. Below is my favorite shot of the
day. I doubt mom will choose it.
I’ve really come to like Google Photos1.
I’ve been syncing my entire photos folder and it’s seamless.
The problem I’m finding with publishing my entire ~/Photos folder is that photos
are copied to Google before I’ve finished editing them. Even then, the
Lightroom edits aren’t included. This means the published photos don’t include
my carefully-applied cropping, color corrections, etc. I’m also finding that I
don’t need every photo published to Google Photos. I already have a solid
backup process. Google Photos is meant for finding and sharing my favorite
I solved the problem of selective publishing using Jeffrey Friedl’s
Folder Publisher Lightroom Plugin.
I have the plugin configured to publish to the appropriately-named “Publish to
Google Photos” folder. Friedl’s plugin uses collections to determine which photos to
publish. I have a Smart Collection that collects all starred
photos from my entire library. When I Publish, all of the images in the Smart Collection are
exported using configured settings to a directory tree that mimics the original
files’ locations. The Google Photos uploader is watching the “_Publish to Google
The result is that Google Photos only contains specific, edited photos that I’ve
determined worthy of publishing. If my criteria for which photos to include
changes later, I only need adjust the Smart Collection and republish.
One shortcoming of this approach is that if I modify a photo after publishing,
the plugin will re-export the file, but Google Photos does not update the
published image. I just need to make sure to wait until I’m certain that edits
are complete before publishing the first time.
So, you break up your assumptions about the models that you have to follow.
You don’t have to save the photos - they can disappear. You’re not paying to
process a roll of 28 exposures anymore. You can capture all the time, not just
the moment you press the ‘shutter’ button (which, for example, gives us
Apple’s live photos). The video doesn’t have to be linear - you don’t have to
record just the right bits as though you were splicing a mix tape or recording
from live radio.
“You don’t have to save the photos - they can disappear”
I know that wasn’t the point of his post, but dammit I wish people would stop
saying it. You don’t have to save all of them, but you sure as hell should
save some of them. Or maybe you don’t care that you’ll end up with nothing to
show your grandkids.
I took a few days off and headed to Traverse City. I didn’t spend time deciding
which camera to bring, I just grabbed the Nikon F3 and 28mm lens along with a
dozen rolls of Tri-X and Portra 400. It felt good. I was ready.
I shot a total of 20 frames using the roll that was already in the camera.
It didn’t help that the weather wasn’t great and we spent a lot of time just
driving around sight-seeing from the car. Still 20 frames while traveling for 3
days is disappointing. I can’t even post a photo from the trip yet because I
still have 16 more frames to shoot on the roll. If I’d have taken 20 images with
the Crown Graphic, that would have been something else. Nope, 20 frames with
auto-exposure and a motor drive. Sad.
Maybe I was just having so much fun that stopping to take photos would’ve
spoiled the mood. Maybe.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with my 4×5 cameras lately. Most of the images have been made using a Crown Graphic set on a tripod in my basement “studio”. I quoted “studio” because it’s really just a bedsheet hung as a backdrop and a couple of floor lamps for lighting. Not an ideal setup by any stretch but it works for now. I don’t have a way to trigger flashes with the Crown Graphic so I’m using poor-man’s continuous lighting.
Processing has been done one sheet at a time in R5 Monobath. Results have been inconsistent but it’s so easy to use that I’ve stuck with it. Six minutes in a single tray using one chemical and I’m done. It’s practically as convenient as digital! Ok maybe not but still, it’s pretty easy. Now that everything is set up it takes five minutes to shoot, 10 minutes in the darkroom, and a couple hours of drying time.
Here are a few of them…
Olympia SM3. Crown Graphic. HP5+ in R5 Monobath
Remington. Crown Graphic. HP5+ in R5 Monobath
Jack and Jessica Diet Coke bottles. Crown Graphic. HP5+ in R5 Monobath
Anniversary Speed Graphic. Crown Graphic. HP5+ in R5 Monobath
Smith & Corona. Crown Graphic. HP5+ in R5 Monobath
I’m still testing the new
from New55. My
didn’t go terribly well but this one looks much better. The projector was
shot on HP5+ using a Crown Graphic. Exposure was f/5.6 for 1/10th second.
I would love to continue using the Monobath developer, as it’s so easy to use.
1Shot comes packaged as individual negatives in “Readyload” type sheets.
They’re meant to be used with the Polaroid 545 film backs. The film is New55’s
“Atomic-X” which they describe as:
This 100-speed panchromatic black and white 4x5 sheet film offers a classic
tonal range from deep blacks through sublime mid-grays to soft and striking
Of course I had no idea how to use the things so I botched it. Here is the full
I grabbed it by the metal tab and accidentally pulled the backing away. Whoops!
I quickly slid it back in but the damage was done. Live and learn.
As a backer of the original New55 Kickstarter campaign, I’ve been rooting for
them. I bought the 1Shot as part of their fundraiser so paid quite a premium. I
couldn’t justify shooting regularly at that price.
While writing this I discovered that New55 is selling
Atomic-X in boxes
rather than as 1Shot holders. It is much more affordable so I bought a box. I’ve
never shot 100-speed film so this will probably need to wait until the weather
The above image was processed using New55’s Monobath developer as well. I had
some troubles with it earlier but the new formulation seems to have worked them
Large format photography is slow, expensive, and can be frustrating, but I’m
learning to enjoy it.
I manage my image files manually and like them named in a particular way. Each image is named using its capture date and description. I write a description for _every_ photo I keep so I can easily see and find things using just my Mac’s Finder.
The above image is captioned “Wall with painted stones” and was taken on August 29th, 2015 so its filename should be “20150829_Wall with painted stones.jpg”. I use Photo Mechanic to ingest, name, tag, and file my photos but it will not allow renames to use the Description IPTC field. I was told that was because it’s too easy to create files with invalid characters. On the other hand, Lightroom handles this fine, but I’m trying to wean myself from Lightroom so I had to come up with something else.
I used the wonderful [exiftool] to create the following one-liner and it works perfectly…
You see, for the normal person, owning a dSLR will not yield a better picture. It is far more likely that you will get worse picture with a dSLR than with your iPhone. I know that many of you who didn’t heed my advice to not read this, are now thinking I am nuts.
Yep, I think he’s nuts. How is it “far more likely” that someone will get a worse picture?
Pick up any decent dSLR today and out of the box it will just work as long as you know how to turn it on and push the shutter button. Compared to your iPhone it will start up faster, focus much faster in any lighting condition, and your photos won’t look like shit in anything but broad daylight.
One doesn’t need to know the first thing about aperture, shutter speeds, or ISO to successfully use a modern SLR on day one and make better photos in the process. I get Ben’s point, but I don’t think he gives either “normal” people or their cameras enough credit.
I tossed my tinfoil hat aside the day Google released the new Google Photos. I’ve tried nearly every photo storage/backup/sharing service and Google Photos is by far my new favorite. It combines drop-dead simple backup with some fancy searching and categorizing features. All for free.
I started out by configuring both my Mac and iPhone to send photos to Google. The problem was that I also import my photos from my phone to my Mac so I was getting duplicates of everything. To avoid this, I’ve turned off syncing on my phone. Now my process looks like this…
Take photos on iPhone for a day or so
Plug iPhone into Mac and import via Image Capture (deleting all photos from phone after import)
Edit, tag, and caption every “keeper” using Photo Mechanic
Import into Lightroom
Since the photos in Lightroom are uploaded via Google Photos Backup they eventually end up visible both at photos.google.com and the Google Photos iPhone app. No duplicates. The other benefit is that all of the uploaded images are properly captioned, making the already great search feature even more useful.
Carrying around a Hasselblad and flash unit makes for a cumbersome kit.
"Hasselblad 503CXi with D-Flash 40
See what I mean? It’s a monster. Shooting handheld with a big camera in natural indoor light makes for a nearly impossible situation. Using a flash dramatically reduces the number of blown shots and with medium format film the higher the hit rate the better.
While the rig is bulky, it’s also dead simple to use. The Hasselblad 503CXi offers TTL metering when used with the D-Flash 40 so the whole thing ends up being sort of a giant point-and-shoot. I just set the shutter speed to 1⁄60 and the aperture to f/8, focus and shoot.
Dad-splaining (2015). Hasselblad 503CXi with D-Flash 40
The other day I was driving north on US23 towards Ann Arbor and home. On the right a large billboard flashed by advertising CameraMall, a new camera store in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. I blinked my eyes, turned down the music, and thought that perhaps I had just hallucinated. A new camera store in Ann Arbor? No way! Yesterday I parked my car and walked up Washington Street, behind the legendary Michigan Theater, and, sure enough, there it was—a camera store. I could not have been more surprised if I had seen a knight of the realm riding a unicorn up the street.
You just found that DVD you had in that drawer you couldn’t remember which one it was. Along with 9 old cell phones that no longer will work with today’s new technology. Your 3 inch by 3 inch cube computer no longer has a DVD drive since in 2015 they were totally phased out. Your 3rd grandchild is sitting on your knee and asks to see pictures of their Mom- and all you have to show them is this piece of round plastic that is pretty much worthless. Not to mention dusty and scratched from all those old cellphones moving around every time you opened that drawer. And since Instagram had been merged with another company, and they started charging, you let that go 8 years ago.
I’ve been saying this for years, the best way to preserve your photographs is to print them.
I know that my digital photos will be around for at least as long as I am, because I’m a nerd and I care deeply about them, but what about after I’m gone? Maybe no one cares and maybe it doesn’t matter. I believe it does matter. It matters a great deal.
Just print a few of your photos every year. It’ll be worth it.
I’ve been uploading photos to Flickr since 2004. It’s always been my favorite way to share images, even during its dark years when things languished for way too long.
Flickr offers unlimited storage, so I’ve always wanted to upload everything there, but I haven’t. The reason is that the Photostream displays all of my photos (public and private) when I’m logged in, with no easy way of viewing it as other people see it. I’ve worked around this by using a different browser or logging out. This works, but is a pain so I rarely bother. The Flickr mobile app has always allowed me to switch between public and private views, so why not the web app?
The changes Flickr rolled out yesterday are pretty great. They include a better integrated search, newly-designed “home” page, and a “Camera Roll” view which makes organizing and editing groups of photos easy, without needing to resort to using the “Organizer”. Those updates are nice, but my favorite is the ability to filter my Photostream based on each photo’s visibility.
Now I can upload everything without all those photos polluting my Photostream.
This was my first time using the R3 Monobath Developer from New55. Other people have great results with it but I’ve obviously done something wrong.
The image above is a scanned 4×5 negative (HP5+) shot using an ancient Crown Graphic. Many things can fail when shooting large format film that I’m certainly not ready to blame the developer. I’ve never seen this sort of ghosting effect before so it’ll be fun tracking down what went wrong.
Another thing I learned is that I’m finally going to need an exhaust fan in the darkroom. The R3 contains ammonia and phew it’s strong. Probably not good for me to stand there for six minutes in the dark just breathing it all in.
I love the idea of a monobath developer, especially for large format so I’m going to keep trying.
I was cleaning out a closet and found my bag of unused Olympus gear. I couldn’t remember why it was unused so I grabbed one of the OM-2n bodies with a “silver nose” Zuiko 85mm f/2.0 and shot a roll of Tri-X. I’ve found the 85 to be a bit prone to flare. Like this…
Demonstration of flare with Zuiko 85mm f/2.0. Leeloo (2015)
Generally, though, I still like the OM-2n. My favorite is the OM-1n but auto-exposure sure can be handy. Here are a few other images from the roll (scanned on the Pakon and basic curve adjustment in Lightroom).
Apple released the new Photos app today along with OS X 10.10.3. I never gave iPhoto a serious try, but I did use Aperture for a while. Photos seems to aim for somewhere between those two.
I love the idea of Photos handling everything for me. That seems nice, so I’m reviewing my current workflow to see how that might work out.
I have 3 different photo sources: iPhone, a Digital Camera, and my Film Cameras. Today I process them all the same way.
Import images from card or scanner using Photo Mechanic
Write captions for every image in Photo Mechanic
For film scans, write camera info into exif data using exiftool
Move files into dated folders (e.g. 2015⁄04-April/)
Import (in place) into Lightroom
Edit and share as needed
Photo Mechanic is the best way I’ve found for captioning, keywording, renaming, uploading, etc. It’s fast and great at what it does. I don’t want to lose that. Lightroom is a decent file manager and has no problem working with files organized in the Finder. I like being able to see the files. I’ve got a lot invested in Lightroom, plugins, and edits.
I rarely edit my iPhone photos, which means there might be a use for Photos after all. I’m considering handling each type of photo differently. That sounds like a terrible idea, but here’s what I’m thinking.
Film scans stay in their usual tidy folder-per-roll structure. Film scans are usually either ignored or edited in Photoshop. I upload my favorites to Flickr so they don’t need to be in the Photos library.
Digital (Raw) photos from the Fuji look best when converted from Raw using Capture One. I could use Capture one to crop, edit, tweak and export JPEGs for import into Photos. The Raw files would remain in dated folders, acting as a sort of “negative”.
iPhone images automatically end up in the Photos library so there’s nothing to do here, file-management wise.
The drawbacks I can think of are:
I have to caption all iPhone photos using Photos, which blows.
I lose my Lightroom plugin workflow. This is probably ok since most of them also work in Photoshop if I need them. I’m hoping we’ll see some decent plugins for Photos before long.
I can’t see the iPhone files. I hate that.
All my snapshots are everywhere all the time; easy to view and share
I get to use Capture One for Raw conversions from the Fuji
Raw files and film scans remain neatly organized, and those are usually the important files.
I’m certainly over-thinking this, but I feel it’s worth a try.
I wanted to burn through a roll today so I grabbed the little Leica IIIf and shot a few around the house then took a walk to finish it up. I nearly lost the roll while processing, but salvaged enough to get a few usable images.
The above image is poorly-focused, improperly processed, and full of dust spots. I love it anyway and wish I could make more like it. It also reminds me to stop worrying about technical perfection and to focus on images that I simply enjoy looking at. That’s what counts.
For 35mm color negatives, I’ve always shot either Portra 400 or Fuji Pro 400H; both great films. Also, at between $7.50 and $10.00 per roll, they’re expensive. And let’s face it, I’m shooting fast and loose, taking what most would call snapshots. It’s not art, that’s for sure.
Kodak 400 and Fuji 400 consumer films
Since I’m not creating art, I thought I’d try some cheaper films. I’m going to give the “consumer” films from Kodak and Fuji a try. I’m told both scan very well on the Pakon. At around $3.00/roll it’s worth testing. I’m expecting to not see a significant difference, which could save me a lot of money.
I’ve always hated scanning color 35mm film. It’s fiddly to work with and no matter what I’ve tried the color is always off. Then I met the Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner.
Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner
I started to see mentions of this scanner on various forums recently. Seemed too good to be true. The claims were that it could scan an entire, uncut roll of color 35mm film, with Digital Ice, in 5 minutes. That and the colors were supposed to be nailed right out of the box. Originally, the F-135 Plus sold for $8000 (in 2007-ish). Word was I could get one on eBay for around $300. I was sold! I won an eBay bid for $330. The risk was that the units were listed “As-Is” with no returns allowed. A week later the scanner arrived, and I got to work.
The scanner requires proprietary software and only works with Windows XP. I read that some folks were doing this successfully on Macs via Parallels. After a couple botched install attempts, I got everything working and scanned some test strips. The maximum resolution of the scans is 3000×2000. That’s fine for proofing and small prints, so I wasn’t worried about it.
Whoa! It’s so fast! And they were right, the colors looked as good as I’ve ever been able to manage. I have no idea how I didn’t know about the F-135 before. It completely changes the game for me when it comes to scanning 35mm film. No more fiddling around trying to get things flat and lined up in the V750’s flimsy holders. No more swearing at Vuescan or Silverfast and manually setting scan settings and cropping. No more hours wasted trying to get colors to look even close to realistic. I love this thing.
It turns out that I’m not the only one. There was a run on them happening. The same company that sold me mine for $330 was selling the same units just two weeks later for over $800. As-is for $800! The reason I know this is that mine fried itself the night I got it, and I was out my $330. I loved it so much that I wanted a replacement immediately. Not so easy.
I finally found a dealer who had taken over servicing the Pakons for Kodak. He had 56 refurbished units a month ago and was down to 4 when I called, so I paid $950 on the spot, and the replacement arrived today. It works perfectly and is very clean. The consensus is that hundreds of them became available when CVS shut down their film labs, and one company was setting prices at around $300. And they ran out. That pricing wasn’t sustainable, and now everyone is scrambling. Prices are over $1000 today and climbing.
That seems crazy but if you’d shown me one before I’d seen the “old” price and told me it cost $1000 I’d have happily paid that amount. Painful timing, but it makes me excited about shooting color film again. And I’ve only scanned one roll. The image below is from my Olympus Stylus Epic (Portra 400) right out of the scanner and shows Steve looking almost as happy about finding some KBS at Founders as I did about finding the Pakon F-135.
I spend way more time with photos at a computer. Why shouldn’t I be able to post something from there? The instagram web app/site is basically useless.
Looking at photos on a tiny phone screen is the worst. And the app won’t let me zoom. I hate that.
I shoot a lot of 6×6 film and I love the square format. I just don’t want to be forced to use it for every single image unless I want to cheat.
No access from other apps.
It seems the only way to post an image to Instagram is from the Instagram app or via way too many workarounds. Take a look at what Flickr offers. Everything can easily post to Flickr.
But I’m willing to reconsider using Instagram. For some reason everyone else uses it even though Flickr is now clearly better. And I suppose I’m not really sharing photos if no one is around to see them.
So I’ll use both. I’ll continue posting to Flickr from my desktop just like I have since 2004, then I’ll save the image from Flickr to my camera roll and post it to Instagram.
Every picture tells a story, don’t it. —Rod Stewart
This is one of the few photos from my grandfather’s photo albums without a detailed caption written the reverse. It says simply, “Aug 1954”. I love it.
The woman with the beach ball is playing catch with another woman who is out of frame. The man watches the second woman until his wife has had enough and snatches the binoculars away from him. At least that’s how I imagine it.
“I have days of photos and no actual memory of that day aside from the photos that I took. That’s because I’m so lost in the minutia of the camera and trying to get a photo that I’m not participating. I’m hiding behind this machine.”
“…no actual memory of that day aside from the photos I took.” I used to believe this was a thing. That you could take too many photos and not actually be part of whatever’s happening. I no longer buy it. In fact, I find taking photos to bring me closer to an event.
“Hey everyone, stand over there and look at me!”
See there? I’m interacting! I’m certainly not going to forget what’s going on right there in front of me. I look right at it, I take a quick photo, and I continue looking right at it. Didn’t miss a thing. No reason I’d forget any of it either.
I’m a total camera nerd and I don’t recall the “minutia” of a camera ever distracting me for more that a few seconds. I can miss those few seconds in order to take home some lovely photographs.
The point, I suppose, is don’t waste too much time farting around with a camera. Fair enough, but let’s not exaggerate the effects of doing so either.
B&H has discounted one of the most ridiculed cameras in recent memory, the Hasselbad Stellar. Originally selling for $3,299, the Stellar isn’t something a sane person would buy. At $999 in a nicely accessorized and boxed special edition? Almost.
I didn’t even know there was a Polaroid Museum until I stumbled onto it during a recent trip to Las Vegas. Seeing those old cameras made me a little misty. I’m going to have my SX-70 fixed and order more film from Impossible.
But it costs an absurd US$20,000 to own. The whole premise of it strikes me as ridiculous, especially this video that shows it being unpacked literally with white gloves.
It’s not as if Leica has never done this before. I’d love an M Edition 60. Get rid of that damn LCD, I say! $20,000 is ridiculously expensive for me, but not everyone feels that way.
He also says:
I find it so sad when companies create these exorbitant editions of their products
If Leica hadn’t released any normal1 products recently, I’d agree. Leica is on a bit of a roll with new products lately and having one or two “special” products in the lineup feels less obnoxious to me today than it did a few years ago.
Just wait until the Apple Watch Edition is released and costs $10,000. And that doesn’t even have a camera.
If one can consider a $7,000 camera body “normal” ↩
This new Leica M-P does look great. It may be a "Perfect understatment" but I can't pay $8,000 for a camera body. I'd sure like to try one, though. It looks great without the usual Leica "Red dot" and with the etched "Leica" script on the top. Maybe someday.
I love my Hasselblad film cameras and would love them even more if I could drop a digital back on them. The new CFV-50c looks like just the ticket. Now, if I only had an extra $15,000 around here somewhere. Still, wouldn’t it be cool to shoot digitally with a camera from the 60s?
Dog sleeping in doorway. Grand Haven, MI (Leica M3)
I should probably leave well enough alone, but I never do. Converted baty.net to WordPress last night. I know, right? I was tired of the work involved when publishing with Octopress. A static site is a great thing but not worth the hassle. For now.
I finally got to see Finding Vivian Maier. The hype surrounding her life and work gets a little tiresome, but it’s entirely deserved. The movie does a very good job of unravelling some of the mystery surrounding Maier’s strange existence and serves as a nice introduction to her work. I’m happy I was able to kickstart the project and still have my “Official film spool used by Vivian Maier”
I really didn’t understand what Mr. Thompson was getting at in “Why Photography Matters” and wasn’t interested enough to find out. Skip this one unless you’re just dying to read someone beat up on Susan Sontag
I haven’t shot a single roll of film in 2014. Must be the terrible weather is slowing me down. Still, not a good sign. Speaking of terrible weather, we’re about to get another 8-10 inches of snow today.
With that in mind, here’s a photo of my dad flying a kite on the beach.
I went for a walk with it this morning and after developing the roll I discovered that its shutter has begun “capping”, which means the second curtain isn’t behaving correctly. You can see the results in the examples below. Notice how the right side of the images are darker than the left.
Normally, I would just send the camera out for a nice CLA and keep it alive. The problem this time is that I want a “real” IIIf. You see, mine is actually a IIIc converted to a IIIf. That’s not a big deal but this one isn’t quite as “tight” as it should be. It’s also been re-covered and I don’t love the way the replacement covering feels. I may just decide to replace the whole thing instead. Dilemma.
I hadn’t shot a deliberate photo in a week, so I grabbed the M3 off the shelf, loaded it up with some HP5 and started walking. The goal was to keep going until the roll was used up.
I was thinking of it as more of a sketchbook of my walk, so I underexposed and
overdeveloped a bit. Then boosted the contrast even more, just to prove a point.
I like the results and it was a great exercise – in more ways than one.
My recent foray into large format has made me consider abandoning 35mm film. This started years ago when I began shooting medium format, but Iâ€™ve never really come close to giving up on the smaller format until recently.
The idea is that for "real" photography I'd use medium or large format film and for everyday snapshots I would use the X100 or even the iPhone. Both of them make perfectly fine images. I'll just sell the film SLRs, of which I have very nice copies from Nikon, Canon, and Olympus. The little point-and-shoot Ricoh GR and Stylus Epic won't be necessary in this scenario so those can go too. No more tiny little negatives to curse when they curl up like a spring. What a relief!
This is a perfect plan, but it falls apart as soon as I pick up one of the old Leicas.
Leica has developed a reputation in recent years of selling over-priced neck jewelry to dentists. This may not be entirely unwarranted, but if you've ever shot with something like an M3 you'll understand why there's more to it. A Leica film camera is a wonderful tool to use. I could give up even the Leicas, especially since I find it increasingly difficult to carry a camera everywhere. The iPhone is always handy so it's convenient just to use that. On the other hand, I find that every time I do carry either the M3 or the little IIIf, I'm glad I did. The reason I'm glad is that I end up with something the iPhone or Fuji can't give me, and that's a black and white negative I can process and print in the darkroom. Turns out that's rather important to me.
So, although it makes complete practical sense to abandon 35mm film, I can't do it. I'll have to just deal with those fiddly little negatives a while longer.
The above photo shows the current state of my home “studio.” This is probably why I’m leaning more toward “environmental” portraits. Anywhere is better than here right now. But, I have one light and a backdrop and it’s nearby so there are really no excuses.
What I usually say is that I just don’t care for photographs using artificial light (flash). What I usually mean, however, is that I just don’t understand how to use flash to make interesting photographs. Basically, it’s a copout.
I’m slowly trying to change that.
The above image of Zim was taken with a new (to me) Hasselblad 503CXi and the Hasselblad D-Flash 40. Not terribly convenient, but with simple TTL operation I can get some practice without having to over-think everything. The rig looks like this…
<img alt="Hasselblad 503CXi with D-Flash 40" src="/img/imported/503CXi-with-flash.jpg">
<div><p>Hasselblad 503CXi with D-Flash 40</p></div>
Yes, it’s a monster. I’m probably going to need a proper bracket, but for now this works. I still may not know how to make an interesting image using Flash, but it’s not going to be for lack of trying.
I've been trying to determine which print sizes I prefer. In the darkroom I usually print 8×10, mostly because it's the largest convenient size. Lately I've been making quite a few 5×7 prints and I'm finding I prefer them to the 8x10s. An 8×10 photo is just a little too big to hold, and just a little too small to hang.
I've also made a few 13×19″ digital prints and it made me realize that for hanging, bigger is better.
So, for now I’m going to stick with 5x7s for everything except the prints I intend to hang. For those, I’ll go as big as possible.
Too often lately I read about the demise of yet another film. Prices keep going up as availability goes down. In order to help stave off any imminent film shortages, I've begun stocking up on my favorite emulsions.
I'm not in a hurry, since I think we've got a few years yet before things really start slimming down, but I do want to start planning. What I've done is given myself a monthly film budget. I spend the same amount on film each month regardless of how much I've actually shot. The budget is higher than my burn rate so I net out with more than I started with each month. Over time this will provide a freezer full of film that should last a lifetime. My lifetime, anyway.
I'm wrestling with an old shirt in the wind as a focusing cloth while using the loupe to view the ground glass and trying not to drop the loupe when I discover I left the film holders in the bag so I stuff the loupe uncomfortably into my pocket, wipe the sweat from my eye and almost choke myself when the strap from my meter catches the tripod as I reach for the holders and now the t-shirt has blown away and so on oops I forgot to pull the dark slide.
It’s nice that my family puts up with my requests for them to model all the time.
After making a number of successful black and white photos using the new Crown Graphic I finally had the nerve to try some color. The above image of my dad was shot on Kodak Portra 400 and processed in the JOBO using the JOBO C-41 Press Kit and scanned with the Epson V750 and SilverFast.
I really like how the 4×5 negatives look, but I’m still struggling with color rendition. Scanning is hard, especially with color. Epson Scan’s color came out all washed-out cyan. Vuescan was closer, but still a bit weak. SilverFast did the best overall job but it’s still off somehow. I don’t have a great eye for color so I find it difficult to judge the output on screen.
But it’s a lot of fun. Processing color is not terribly difficult, and I have been surprised by how much I enjoy color images. They’re so, uh, colorful. I hope to shoot more, but with the cost per 4×5 exposure pushing $5.00 it’s not something to take lightly.
I took this candid recently and it's turning out to be a favorite from this year. I like that it's simple and yet there's a lot going on. If Steve and Bryan were an indie band I think this would make a great album/tour photo. They're not, but still.
I’m still trying to get a handle on making prints in the darkroom. It’s not easy. Last night I tried printing this image of a dandelion.
It was shot using the Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm lens with an extension tube, handheld in a slight breeze. By some miracle the image was focused precisely a the edge of the flower and quite sharp. The problem was that it was underexposed a little. This meant that I had to crank up the contrast filter to get a good black, but that also muddied up the flower. I made a little dodge tool out of a piece of index card and dodged the flower and stem while giving the background an extra dose. The first time I dodged too large an area so the edge of the flower lacked contrast. After a few more tries I think I came pretty close.
It’s not a great photograph, but it’s one of the first that went from camera to print looking exactly as I originally intended. Felt good for a change.
My dad is 72 years old and I'm almost sure his doctor would advise against this. To his credit, he did teach ladder handling at the phone company part time after retiring. Plus, he's properly using a safety belt. But still.
Many people feel they need to see their photos immediately after taking them. Digital photography solves that problem nicely for those people. Personally, I don't understand that need and I prefer the delay that shooting film introduces into the process.
The above photo was taken this past winter while driving during a snowstorm. The gentleman in the photo wasn't phased a bit by the fact that he was waiting at a red light on his bike while snow began to pile up around him. He was probably tweeting about it.
I just had the roll processed today, and was happy to discover images taken during an entirely different season. The pleasure of the surprise makes the slower process of shooting film worth the wait.
When I think of my introduction to photography, the Canon AE-1 Program is what I remember. It was my first real camera. I received it as a gift from my parents at my high school graduation in 1982. I loved that camera. First thing I did was load it up with Kodachrome and take a photo of a flower. As one does. I believe this next photo is the first taken with the camera
First photo taken with my Canon AE-1 Program (1982)
Then I decided to try some meaningful self-portraits. This next one shows me using the new camera.
I kept and used the AE-1 for years. I couldn’t afford much film, so there aren’t as many photos around from that period as I’d like. Here are a few of those I still have. Without these, I’d have nothing but my aging memory.
Jack and Liz (1985)
Graduation at Holland State Park (1982)
Car repair with friends (1983)
My old bedroom (1982)
Art on pier (1982)
1979 Datsun 280ZX (1983)
Friends at the beach house (1982)
Triple Exposed Self-portriat (1982)
Nostalgia got the best of me recently and I finally bought a “new” AE-1 Program. Same 50mm 1.8 lens as my original.
Canon AE-1 Program
I don’t know how much I’ll use it, but just having it around makes me feel good.
I quickly ran a roll through my new Canon AE-1 Program SLR just to make sure everything worked. Exposures seemed close, and the camera handles exactly how I remember it (from 30 years ago anyway). I grabbed the photo above from my car window while waiting for a light.
I find myself with a collection of some of the finest film SLRs ever made (and one really nice Digital).
The problem I’m having is that I really shouldn’t keep both systems. Why not?
It’s a matter of desire. By having really good Canon gear available I’m always
on the lookout for a nice new (or old) lens or maybe another flash. Same goes
for the Nikons. The F6 is great but I don’t have a good Nikon flash. Should I
get an SB-800 maybe? And that Canon 70-200 2.8L that I used to have was
fantastic. I should keep my eye out for another, right?
And so on. I have been unable to commit to a single system and it’s driving me nuts.
Part of me wants to give up 35mm film photography altogether and stick with
Digital for the smaller format. Many of my favorite photos the past
couple of years have been taken with medium format cameras. And now
with the fun I’m having with 4×5, not shooting 35mm film wouldn’t
be a huge sacrifice, would it?
Yes, it would. Besides, I still have a number of 35mm rangefinders and compacts
that I still love using. Killing 35mm film just isn’t going to happen
So, Canon or Nikon for the SLRs? To help me decide I’ve started to list a few
pros and cons of each below. I hope this helps me to decide on a winner.
My digital SLR is a Canon 1D Mark III. It’s pretty great when paired with the
24-105L. Without this camera I would be left with the little Fuji X100
as my only digital camera. Not quite willing to go there yet.
The EOS 1v is awesome. The canon bodies seem to fit my brain and hands better
than the Nikons and the 1v is about the best there is.
Flash works better. I’ve spent a lot of time with Nikon’s much-loved CLS flash
system and we just never got along that well. I used to have a Nikon D700 and
SB-900 and for the life of me could not figure out how to get the best of them.
I put a 580 EX II on the Canons and somehow the flash just works. I don’t
frequently use flash, so simple and working is what I prefer. Canon surprisingly
My AE-1 Program only uses the older FD lenses, so it’s almost like having 2
different systems. That is unfortunate. Also, there are very few older Canon
bodies that I’m interested in trying.
The Nikon F6 is arguably the finest film SLR ever made, or that ever will be
made. It truly is a fantastic camera. The meter is nearly flawless, it focuses
fast as anything I’ve used. Oddly, although it feels wonderful in hand, it just
doesn’t “fit” me the way the 1v does. I can’t explain it, but I get more of a
charge out of picking up the 1v than the F6. One little thing that bugs me is
that with my eye to the viewfinder, my nose pushes the focus point control and
moves the focus point inadvertently. I have to lock the control, making it
I also have a Nikon F100 which is nearly as good as the F6 and cost about 1/6th
as much. They feel and behave the same, so it’s easy switching between them, and
I’m not as afraid of something bad happening to the F100.
Lenses for the Nikon are everywhere. Old, manual focus AIS lenses work as good
as the latest auto-focus lenses.
Some day I want to try an FM3a or an FM2n or an F5 and would benefit from
already having lenses I can use with those older bodies.
I have friends with Nikon digital systems, so that makes a few other lenses and
accessories available to me. No small advantage, that.
Can you see the problem? They’re both awesome systems and I have just enough
invested in each that it could go either way.
Yesterday was to be a day of photographing. By 7:00am I had packed up 2 bags and was ready to roll. I sat for a few minutes thinking of what I might like to shoot. Then I sat for a few more minutes. The next thing I knew it was early evening and I had nothing.
The problem is that I’ve got things backwards. Instead of going out and randomly hunting for photo opportunities I should just know what I want to shoot and then go do that. Except it never works that way. I’m not one of those people who just can’t keep up with their own ideas. I wish I were.
So late yesterday as I was cooking brats I decided to do a fun still life with my food. The result is below. Not especially original or interesting, but it was something. Maybe if I just keep doing something–anything–the interesting stuff will come.
It seems like I post a photo of one or more of my dogs every week. This is not because I think my dogs are especially interesting or photogenic (although they are that,) but rather it’s because I can’t think of anything else to photograph.
Some days I walk around the house or neighborhood looking for things that might make interesting photos. Nothing. Then I play with the dogs. They’re so energetic and fun that I’m reminded how much I enjoy photographing them. Out comes the camera. Yesterday, it was the Hasseblad, which is the worst camera I own for taking photos anything that moves, but I still love the way it renders.
Studio photography has never really interested me. I take mostly “situational” photographs which require no setup or planning or, frankly, skill. Recently, however, with my continuing move to medium and now large formats, adding a little control to the process seems like a good idea.
As a baby step, I set up a “studio” in my garage. It consists of a backdrop, one strobe, and a small window.
Once I get the 4×5 camera rolling, I plan to try a few portraits here. Nothing fancy, obviously, but it’s a start. Here’s a test shot of my dad. I’ve got work to do, but it’s fun.
If I were making lots of huge landscape prints, having a 4×5 camera would be an advantage. I’m not making huge prints of any kind, so having a 4×5 camera is entirely unnecessary. With that in mind, I just bought a Burke & James 4×5 Speed Press. As you do.
I have film and a JOBO. All I need is a few 4×5 film holders and I could actually use the thing. Can’t wait.
Work on the 2012 photo album continues. I say “2012” as if there have been others. There have not been others, but I hope there will be.
Each page contains a photo, printed traditionally in my darkroom, and a hand-written caption. I started with 5×7 prints, which fit nicely along with an index card for the caption. I’m finding I don’t like printing that size, so I’ve switched to 8×10 prints instead. I’m making it up as I go.
You will almost always find an Olympus Stylus Epic on or near my person. The unassuming little Stylus Epic is in my opinion the best compact film camera for carrying everywhere. It easily fits in my pocket, is weather resistant, has a very nice f/2.8 lens, a spot meter, and goes from pocket to photo about 25 times faster than my iPhone.
I’ve been carrying an Epic for about 10 years now, and the second one I’ve owned finally stopped working consistently. Occasionally it just doesn’t fire, and there’s a hairline crack somewhere which affects the top center of every frame. Not ideal, so I began looking to replace it.
Today on Craigslist, this showed up…
Olympus Stylus Epic
A nifty, like-new condition Stylus Epic Deluxe. In the box with all original paperwork, case, strap, etc. It’s not black, but the champagne color is pretty nice.
I paid $10. How great is that! This is undoubtedly the best ten dollars I’ve ever spent on photography gear.
The Hasselblad 500C/M is a favorite camera of mine. I love the images I get from those gigantic square negatives. It’s great on a tripod with motionless subjects when I can carefully meter at my leisure and don’t mind that it takes 10 seconds to move the focus ring from one extreme to the other.
Wandering around using the Hasselblad handheld is another thing entirely. I don’t like using it “in the field” nearly as much. Moving subjects are difficult with any system, but the Hasselblad lenses have a very long “throw” which makes it almost impossible to keep up.
Even when I’m lucky enough to get the focus right, rapidly-changing lighting conditions mean also dealing with exposure. The 500C/M uses no batteries, thus has no meter at all. I’m pretty good at using the Sunny 16 rule with my manual 35mm cameras, but for some reason always seem to get things wrong with the Hasselblad. I can’t explain it. Yesterday I wanted to burn up a roll so went in the back yard, as I do, and photographed the dogs. It was cloudy and late in the day and I simply underestimated the light. While I did get a couple of decent, focused images, the exposure was off by so much that they’re unusable.
As much as I love the Hasselblad system, recent failures on my part have me thinking of going with something a little more automated. Anyone have a Contax 645 system for sale?
I struggled with the decision of which camera(s) to bring on my recent trip to Maine. The purist in me wanted to bring the M3, 50mm Summicron, and a bag of Tri-X. That would have been easy, and likely a disaster. This trip called for color photography and some wide angle lenses.
Having just bought a Canon 1D MarkIII, I really wanted to take that camera. That would also have been a mistake. It’s way too big and heavy for hiking and biking.
I could just bring a selection of cameras and film and decide while there which to use. I tried that on my last trip and it was a mistake. I’d have either the wrong camera (too heavy) or the wrong film (too fast or slow) and spent too much time deciding which to use anyway.
I knew I wanted to shoot some film and some digital, mostly wide angle, and all color. Not too heavy. I finally decided on bringing both the Leica M7 and the Fuji X100. They are both very small, and even carried together aren’t too much trouble. I had the M7 loaded with Kodak Portra 400 and the X100 on auto ISO. With good light the Leica is perfect and when the light goes away the Fuji is great.
This turned out to be a terrific combination. Most of the time I carried both around my neck. No problems. On longer or more strenuous hikes I took just the X100. It’s very light and doesn’t require that I also carry film. Everywhere else I took both and alternated, depending on mood or subject.
I just don’t get on well with color film photography. Getting color right is hard. There are so many pieces to getting a good color image that I’m considering giving up on it altogether.
The first and most enjoyable color film over the past 70 years has been Kodachrome. Transparency film in general is fun and vivid and interesting, but only Kodachrome looks like Kodachrome. And now it’s gone. Same for Polaroid. Same for my long favorite Kodak Portra NC. And so on. With the fun emulsions disappearing, so is my interest in color film photography
Minilabs are disappearing faster than film stocks. The quality of the few that remain is so hit and miss that it’s generally better to ship color film off to a pro lab. Pro labs like Dwayne’s or North Coast or any number of others do a great, consistent job. The problem is cost and timing. If I wanted to see my photos _right this second_ I’d shoot digital, but waiting 10 days or more is not something I enjoy. Figure in the cost of shipping and it gets expensive pretty quickly. If I were more patient and cost was no object, I’d ship everything to a pro lab and have them do high resolution scans for me. Processing black and white film at home is so easy I can’t figure why more people don’t do it. To be fair, color processing doesn’t look terribly difficult, but I haven’t been motivated enough to try it.
Speaking of scanning. Scanning sucks generally, but scanning color film sucks hardest. None of the software is anything but horrible to use. This makes getting consistently decent scans impossible. I’m sure others have figured it out, but I’m never happy with my results. Between iT8 targets, color profiles, and horrible software, I’ll take a pass. Scanning black and white negatives is more a matter of watching shadows and highlights. That I can usually manage.
Inkjet printers are damn good these days. Getting good color out of them is still too hard. I don’t want to spend time calibrating monitors or finding custom RIPs or buying ridiculously over-priced inks. Even if I get it right, it’s still a computer-generated image on inkjet paper. I’m old-fashioned and a real wet print made with light and chemicals, by hand, is much more interesting. Color printing in the darkroom isn’t worth the trouble to me.
Aside from the above, I rarely find that color adds much to most images. Unless the image is _about_ color, I say leave it out.
Jessica came home excited to show me that one of her photos was published in a nearby local newspaper. She’d shown me the photo earlier and explained how she’d fought her way right up front near door of the Armory to make sure she had a good chance at capturing her boyfriend’s brother’s face when he walked in the room after returning from Afghanistan.
My first darkroom was in what my grandma called the “fruit cellar” of my old house. It was a small, musty place full of pipes lined with asbestos. I hated it, and printed maybe a total of 20 8×10 photos there. Eventually just gave everything away. But that was a long time ago, and I’ve mostly forgotten how awful it was. So, I built another.
My new darkroom is still in a basement, but for some reason this time it’s a lot more fun. I have no problem spending hours at a time in the dark, making not-very-good prints with cheap, 30 year old equipment. It’s like magic. Maybe it helps just knowing I can opt out, grab an inkjet and make prints the easy way like everyone else.
If it was easy, anyone could do it. I’m going to keep doing it the hard way for a while.
That’s 1000 selects, which had probably gone through quite a distillation process to even get there. Let’s figure that he chose maybe one image per roll on average, so that’s like 20,000 images over the course of two years driving around the country. Anybody is going to take some great pictures (though I’d like to say that as a rule, the images were not very good from a technical point of view. Often soft in focus, obviously heavily cropped from a larger frame, look like they had to be saved in the darkroom with lots of dodging and burning, etc. but I digress) So give a camera to your average joe and have him shoot 20,000 pictures over the course of 2 years, at a time when people didn’t have the same phobia of getting their pictures taken as they do now, then distill out the best 83. I’m pretty sure you’re going to get a decent sampling just by chance.
Robert Frank (b. 1924) Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955
“Anybody is going to take some great pictures,” he says. I’m not sure about that, but to find out, you’d first have to make the effort to travel around a new country for a couple of years and actually take 20,000 photographs. That is the hard part, and should not be taken lightly.
When looking at most photographs, I don’t notice, or care much about, the “technical quality.” Technical quality is irrelevant to something like The Americans. I think too many photographers spend too much time worrying about the technical aspects and not enough on making good images. Wadman is a good photographer, and his images bulge with technical quality, but they don’t move me like Frank’s. I suppose, like most things, it’s a matter of taste.
Robert Frank’s photographs make me want to go out and take photos. Wadman’s just make me want to go out and buy a nicer camera. I prefer the former. To each, his own.
The table by my reading chair, as of this morning. I love The Americans.
I want to be the type of person who always brings a camera along. You know the ones, dedicated to their craft even when it’s inconvenient or unnecessary. I read about people like that and think, “That should be me.” So I try. I leave an old Canonet in the car. When the weather calls for a jacket I stuff an Olympus Stylus Epic in the pocket. If I’m going somewhere I think might be photogenic I bring a “good” camera. I even choose cameras like the Olympus OM or Leica M because they are small and quiet and convenient to carry. So you see, I’m _almost_ one of those people. The next step is to actually use the camera I have with me.
I love taking photographs, but I don’t have what you’d call a strong artistic vision. (Wouldn’t _that_ be nice?) Lacking the appropriate creative drive, I just sort of fumble around with unclear ideas and hope something shows up. I spend a lot of time not taking pictures. Not ideal, but that’s where we are.
Buying and selling a lot of cameras helps. Not because I think they’ll make me a better photographer, but because new cameras trick me into carrying them, and into taking more photographs. And _that_ will make me a better photographer.
So when I’m looking all nerdy with a Leica or whatever around my neck in the grocery store, remember, that’s me – trying.
A few months ago I picked up a bag full of beat up Olympus cameras and lenses from a guy on Craigslist. (See [this post](http://jackbaty.com/2009/08/olympus-om-1n/).) I was told that the OM-2n was not repairable, but I continued to use the OM-1n and have become very fond of it. I like it so much I bought a working OM-2n to go with it – and it’s beautiful. I chose the 2n for its automatic exposure option and the ability, to use its off-the-film metered TTL flash.
The above photo shows the OM-2n (with an 85mm f2) next to my black Leica M7. The Olympus looks smaller, because it is. That surprised me too. It also costs about 10 times less. It may be just the novelty, but I’ve been grabbing the OMs on the way out the door more often than the Leicas. This little discovery could end up saving me a _lot_ of money.
There is a terrific scene from Adaptation in which John Laroche describes his obsession with tropical fish – and how that obsession simply and abruptly ended.
Then one day I say, “fuck fish.” I renounce fish. I vow never to set foot in that ocean again. That’s how much fuck fish.
The closest thing I have to an obsession these days is shooting with film. I love film cameras. I enjoy experimenting with new films and development processes and all the extra hoo ha that goes with it. Film for me is, for lack of a better word, neato. It’s not an obsession like with Laroche, but it’s fun and quirky and has all of the against-the-grain (no pun intended) qualities that I like.
But… Fuck film!
I spent last week in Maine hiking, kayaking, sailing, exploring and generally being presented with one great photo opportunity after another. I botched nearly every one of them. How? I’ll tell you…
I ran out of film while on a deserted island. I set the ISO incorrectly on my OM-1, overexposing the roll by 2 stops. I opened the bottom of the Leica M7 before rewinding the roll. I had only a 28mm prime lens with me when what I needed was a telephoto. I was in fading light with nothing but Fuji PRO 160. Walgreens scratched one of the negatives during processing. The lens hood I used caused terrible vignetting. And so on. Oh, and I left a roll of exposed film in the pocket of a pair of shorts. it didn’t survive a trip through the laundry.
Normally I would write these things off as part of the “charm” of using film. This time, however, it was annoying and disheartening. I was pissed. Still am. I don’t get to Maine every day, and now I’ve got maybe 2 dozen usable shots from the entire trip. Some may say that’s plenty, but they’d be wrong, since that wasn’t my intention. Some will say all of these problems could have been avoided had I paid more attention and been more careful. They’ll be right, but that’s not the point. The point is that for the first time in a long time, I didn’t enjoy shooting film. The entire trip I longed for digital for the usual reason: it’s easier.
I’m not quite ready to renounce film completely, and once I calm down I’ll probably forget much of why I’m still so upset. But for now, I’m culling my film gear and putting the money toward a nice D700 with a fast, versitile, autofocus, zoom lens that will just let me take some photos and be sure right now that I did it right.
When you think of SLR cameras what’s the first manufacturer that pops into your head? That’s right, it’s Nikon or Canon. It’s been that way for a long time. Today, though, we’re talking about one of the minor players – Olympus.
If you spend any time listening to people who still use film cameras, you’ll hear the Olympus OM system mentioned frequently. It seems to have an almost cult-like following. Of course anything with a cult-like following piques my interest, so I started looking more closely at the old OM cameras.
Most of the massive OM system
The OM-1 was announced in 1972 and seems to have been very well received. The camera was [designed to solve 3 problems](http://www.olympus-global.com/en/corc/history/camera/om.cfm): size, weight, and shutter noise. All sorts of magical engineering went into making a small, light and quiet SLR. Yoshihisa Maitani is the man behind the design. He was quite famous for the Pen and XA series of cameras at Olympus. There are not too many rock star camera designers, but Maitani was one of them. I read somewhere that he carried a diamond-tipped pen in his pocket so he could sign his name right into the bodies of cameras when his fans would stop him on the street asking for an autograph.
Anyway, I bought an OM-1n, OM-2n and some lenses off Craigslist for next to nothing. The OM-1n, according to the seller (a geologist) had been dropped down a volcano, and it looked like it. The bottom plate was smashed in and barely fit onto the body. The mirror was stuck – half-way retracted. I wrote it off, but brought it into a local repair shop (Peter’s Camera) along with the OM-2n, which I planned to have CLA’d. It turns out the electronics on the OM-2n were not repairable. With an electronically controlled shutter, there was no fixing the camera. Surprisingly, Pete gladly accepted the challenge of the OM-1n.
I just got the the camera back and it works perfectly and looks great. I guess there’s not much you can’t fix on an all-mechanical camera. Pete straightened out the bottom plate, adjusted the shutter speeds and meter, and cleaned everything up nice. I ran a roll of Tri-X through it today, and it’s drying now. So far, it’s impressive. The body is no bigger than a Leica M, and not much louder. The viewfinder is bigger than I expected. I’m still getting used the shutter speed being on the lens mount but that shouldn’t take long. Overall, it seems to be a great camera, just like they said it was. Tomorrow I plan to shoot a roll or two of color film and try out the other lenses.
Original photo by osiris555, chosen at random from the Flickr HDR pool
I spend a lot of time looking at photographs, mostly on [Flickr](http://flickr.com/). There are a few contacts that I follow and I also enjoy browsing the [Interestingness](http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/) area. What I’ve noticed though is that many of the “interesting” photos (according to Flickr), aren’t. That is unless you enjoy photos that have been Photoshopped to within an inch of their lives. Good lord, it’s nothing but vignettes, abusive mid-tone contrast, and the ever popular, disgustingly overwrought HDR shots.
I’m all for experimentation and am guilty of the above (except HDR, yuck) but I’d like to think that someday I could live without any of it and still make a decent photograph. My tastes run different than most, apparently.
Do me a favor, shoot for a month and then skip the heavy-handed Photoshop (or Lightroom) step and just crop and maybe adjust curves and sharpen a bit. Or maybe shoot some film, scan and upload whatever you get. Throwing a half-dozen effects at a ho-hum photo, as tempting as it may be, doesn’t make it interesting.
What I find interesting in a photo is the subject, composition and context. But that’s just me.
Once every summer the entire family (on my mother’s side) gets together for what we call “Christmas in August.” This way we avoid the whole issue of multi-family and ex-family scheduling that normally plagues the holiday season. I’m not a terribly social person, but it’s always good to see everyone and it’s also a great opportunity to take photos.
This year someone suggested we do a group portrait. There were about 40 people to include. I had the M7 with me and fortunately a 28mm in the bag. We were outdoors, which would’ve likely been the only option anyway. The problem was that by the time I got back from my car with the camera everyone was already lined up facing directly into the setting sun. I just shrugged, composed, focused, said “One, Two, Three, Smile!” and fired. The resulting shot is not a very good portrait, but it’s still an important picture. The more I shoot, the more I think that context and subject are all that really matters. Technical quality is just a bonus.
### Lessons Learned
A photo’s technical quality may be a bonus, but I still want to improve. Next time I’ll be a little more forceful with positioning people, even for an informal portrait. No direct sunlight causing everyone to squint! Also, with that many people, each person makes up a very small portion of the image. I’d prefer something a little less grainy and a bit higher resolution than the XP2 400 speed 35mm film I happened to have. I’d use either a larger format film or reasonably high-resolution digital. When framing the shot I left too much room at the edges, knowing that the Leica’s framelines aren’t always exact and I didn’t want to accidentally leave anyone out. This meant I had to crop a bit too much for the final image, making things worse.
Reading photography forums could lead one to believe [Ken Rockwell](http://www.kenrockwell.com/) is the devil. Or if not the devil, an idiot who has no business writing a blog about photography. I disagree.
Rockwell’s site is so over the top with hyperbole and its associated affiliate links that one wonders whether or not to trust his opinion. The answer, for me, is “sort of.” Let’s start with a look at the footer on the home page…
That alone makes me want to cheer for him, but at the same time narrow my eyes and take a step or two away. And then, just when you think it’s safe, there’s this bit from the [About page](http://www.kenrockwell.com/about.htm)…
“While often inspired by actual products and events, just like any other good news organization, I like to make things up and stretch the truth if they make an article more fun. In the case of new products, rumors and just plain silly stuff, it’s all pretend. If you lack a good BS detector, please treat this entire site as a work of fiction.”
So there you have it, right in plain sight. Next time you’re on a photography blog or forum and someone starts to diss poor Ken with things like, “Ken contradicts himself” or “I swear he just makes it up as he goes” or whatever, just move along or if you must, point out the above paragraph.
I enjoy the hell out of his site, and use the affiliate links whenever I can because, right or wrong, he’s working at it.
About a month ago I bought a [Bronica SQ-A kit](2009/06/medium-format-with-the-bronica-sq-a/) after spotting it on Craigslist. I wanted to try medium format film and I’ve always liked the square 6×6 shape. The big negatives are amazing, and the camera works just fine.
The only problem is that it isn’t a Hasselblad, which is what I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. After putting a dozen or so rolls throught the Bronica I decided to buy the Hasselblad and be done with it.
Hasselblad 500 C/M
The 500 C/M was produced from 1970 until 1994. Mine was made in 1990 and it’s gorgeous! That’s the good news. The bad news is that I couldn’t focus the thing. I don’t know how anyone ever got off any sharp photos with the standard focusing screen. I have since replaced the original with the later Acute-matte D screen with microprism and split window. It’s still tricky, but much better. The Acute-matte screen looks to be about 2 stops brighter than the original. I still need to use the magnifier, but at least if everyone holds still I have some chance of getting it right.
Hasselblad’s V series prides itself on being modular, and compatible. There are many different viewfinders, film backs and lenses available. Here’s a photo of mine with all of the parts separated.
It really is clever, and seems to be built to take years of normal use. I plan to invest in a 45-degree prism finder eventually to see if that helps with focusing, but for now, I’m having fun peering at the ground glass and hoping for the best.
I recently bought a Leica M8 and it seemed like such a great idea. I love my film M cameras and the convenience of digital could only make things better, right?
The M8 is a great camera, but I sold it. I just couldn’t get used to the quirks. Things like lens coding, crop factors, and IR/cut filters were distracting and preventing me from loving the camera. I paid $2,600 for it, and didn’t love it. For that much money I needed to love it. Besides, it was depreciating faster than the film Leicas. Leica is about to announce a full frame M9, which will likely reduce the value of the M8 even more. I sold it for $2,500, meaning I’ve about $50/month into it. Not a bad rental rate, but I don’t see that holding up. I’ve seen them for sale since then for $2,300.
One thing I enjoyed about the M8 was aperture-priority auto exposure. I love my meterless, fully manual [M4](2009/02/light-tight-box-my-ass-2/) but sometimes it’s nice to just focus and shoot, knowing the exposure is going to be spot on.
So I replaced the M8 with an M7, Leica’s most modern film camera. The M7’s automatic exposure is an improvement over my old M6. The electronically-controlled shutter makes the M7 battery dependent, but I can live with that.
Pro: Convenience of digital
Pro: Beautiful files
Con: Suffers from reliability problems
Con: Depreciating rapidly
Con: Still very expensive
Con: Wide lenses require coding
Con: Lenses require IR Cut filters to prevent color shifts
Con: I don’t like the body covering
Con: Larger than the film Ms
Con: Covering and lack of film advance lever make it difficult to grip
Con: Completely battery dependent
Pro: Aperture priority auto exposure
Pro: Easily replaceable sensor (film) 🙂
Pro: Vulcanite body covering better than the M8’s
Pro: Smaller and easier to grip than the M8
Pro: Price is not depreciating rapidly.
Pro: Quieter shutter than M8
Con: No chimping
Con: Electronically controlled shutter means partial battery dependency (some speeds work without battery)
As a kid, I would notice when someone on T.V. was taking photographs with a Hasselblad. I had no idea what it meant, just that it looked cool and I wanted one. Medium format photography is one of those things I’ve always regarded with respect, but not much interest. The gear is terribly expensive and everyone is using digital now anyway. The Hasselblad was something rich landscape photographers used, but now they all have 5Ds instead.
A funny thing happened. I was browsing around Flickr when I found myself in the middle of a 6×6 pool of photos. Loved them. Something about the the square format is interesting to me. And how nice to not have to decide if the shot makes more sense in portrait or landscape orientation.
I spent a couple hours looking for used Hasselblad kits and though much cheaper than they used to be, it’s still a $2000 investment. On a whim I took a look at Craigslist and spotted a used Bronica SQ-A kit. An hour later I was back home with an SQ-A, 50mm, 80mm, 150mm lenses, waist-level and prism viewfinders, extra focusing screens, a few filters – all in a waterproof, custom Pelikan case. Total cost, $500. Pretty cheap way to get my feet wet in medium format photography.
I love the idea of a big, high-quality negative, even if I’ll only be scanning them and printing digitally. And the shooting style of looking down at a focusing screen to compose is new and interesting as well. This should be a fun experiment! Yes, I could drop a lot less and get a Holga, but those are stupid and I find the whole Lomography thing irritating.
I burned through a roll of Neopan Acros 100 as a test, then processed it in D76 since I’d exposed it at box speed. The next roll I shot at 200 ISO and will be seeing how Diafine works with it.
Developed roll of Acros 120. It’s BIG!
Now the only thing left is to find a scanner. My Nikon Coolscan 5000 can’t scan medium format and the 9000 is way to expensive. I ordered an Epson v750, which gets great reviews and was only a third as expensive as the Nikon. I’ll find out on Tuesday how this all turned out.
I have no idea what I’m doing, but it should be fun.
I thought I’d share the latest iteration of my photography workflow. I recently bought a nice used Leica M8, rendering my Nikon workflow obsolete. Here’s how it looks today.
I still use the terrific Photo Mechanic to ingest photos from the card. I tried giving it up but it’s the only thing that moves and renames files exactly how I want them, which is…
Copy RAW files from card to the Capture One session folder (I’ll get to Capture One in a minute).
Copy duplicate RAW files from card to a second external hard drive.
All files are put into directories by date (e.g 20090521) and renamed with date and sequence (e.g. 20090521_001.DNG)
Photo Mechanic automatically applies whatever IPTC template I choose to each photo.
Cull and Convert
Once the files are off the card and named properly I fire up Capture One. This is new to me, as it came with the M8. At first I dismissed the idea of using yet another app in my process, but then I compared the RAW conversions of Capture One 4.8 with those of Lightroom 2.3. Out of the box it was no contest, Capture One’s conversions were cleaner and the color was better. It’s subjective, but there you go.
I then use the nifty Capture One workflow, deleting the junk and moving the keepers to a folder for processing. Once things are reasonably culled, it’s process time. The only things a RAW file get you are exposure and white balance. I tweak each keeper and set a white balance and adjust exposure as necessary. After that, RAW doesn’t get me much, so I output either JPG or TIFF files, depending on if I expect to do significant additional processing. These are output to a folder called, you guessed it, “Output.” I then delete the originals. (Remember I have another copy of each)
Catalog and Archive
I use Adobe Lightroom for cataloging, tweaking, printing and uploading to Flickr and SmugMug. The Capture One output folder is configured as the auto-import folder in Lightroom. All I do now is launch Lightroom and the latest processed images are imported automatically. I’ll move them around into folders from there, either by date or by event.
After any final tweaks, crops, etc. I’ll usually export one or two images to Flickr and several more to SmugMug right from Lightroom using the handy plugins from Jeffrey Friedl.
I delete the original RAW files from the processing folders of Capture One, but still have all of them on the external hard drive. I have 3 external drives. The first holds my Lightroom Library consisting of processed keepers. The second holds every RAW file ever pulled off a card. The third is a Drobo which acts as a backup of each of the first two. I copy everything from both of the “media” drives to the Drobo daily using Chronosync. I also occasionally buy an additional external drive and copy each of the backups to it, then store that drive offsite. Whew!
This all sounds very complicated, and perhaps I am trying too hard. After all, I could easily just import right from the card into Lightroom and be done with it. Who knows, that’s exactly what I might end up doing, but for now, everything is how I like it, file handling, RAW conversion and cataloging are all nearly perfect. Today, it’s worth the effort. I like that I don’t save every single raw image to my Lightroom library now. I might have a card with 300 images on it and only convert 20 or 30 for import into Lighroom. I still have the secondary backups on the other drive, but the library stays nice and clean. Clean is good.
After 3 years of pretending I didn’t want an M8, I now have one. Much has already been written about Leica’s first digital M so I will stick to a few personal observations based on first impressions using the camera.
I’ve been shooting with Leicas for while now, most recently with a nice M4. I get along well with the way rangefinders work. Leica also makes some damn fine lenses. Having 70 years of lenses by Leica, Zeiss and now Voigtlander to choose from is nice. I went back to film so that I could use a Leica M camera and 50mm Summicron. The size, feel, and build, (also admittedly, even the legend) made the Leica M a perfect camera for me. Too bad it wasn’t digital so I could stop swearing at dust and scratches and the tedium of scanning negatives.
When the M8 was introduced I wanted one, naturally. Unfortunately, $5000 for the body made the notion of buying one unrealistic. But, over the past few years I’ve kept buying gear, a little at a time. I noticed recently that if I sold a few things I might be within range of an M8.
So that’s what I did; sold my M6TTL and all of my Nikon digital gear and bought a nice used M8. I chose the chrome version because I think it’s beautiful that way. I’ve only had the camera for a few days, but here’s what I know so far…
Size and Sound. It’s bigger and louder than the M4. That doesn’t mean it’s big and loud, but there is a noticeable difference in size and sound. Also, the M8 is more difficult to hold. I think this is due to the lack of a film advance lever and possibly the covering. To compensate, I’ve already ordered a Thumbs Up. That should help.
Sensor Noise at higher ISOs. Image noise at higher ISOs is more prevelant than with the D300 I just sold. Significantly higher at anything above 640. If you’re looking for baby-butt smooth files at IS0 3200, look elsewhere. I convert 90% of my shots to black and white, and I’m used to noisy high speed B&W files, so this isn’t nearly as important to me.
Crop. The M8’s sensor is not quite full-frame, meaning it has a crop factor of 1.33. I tend to like wider rather than longer lenses so the crop factor limits my options. I only have 2 lenses, the 50mm Summicron and the Zeiss Biogon 35mm. With the M8 these are now effectively 66mm and 46mm lenses. I’ll be shopping for something wider soon.
Magenta Shift. Sensitivity to infrared light causes the M8’s sensor to render black fabrics as magenta. I’ve already seen this in a few shots and it’s a problem. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix by putting an IR Cut filter on lenses. Not ideal, but no biggie.
That’s a lot of cons, now for the good stuff.
It’s digital. That may sound obvious, but if you’re happy with film and prefer rangefinders, there’s no reason to buy an M8. Go grab an M7 or MP and be done with it. I like film just fine, but mostly because it was the only way to shoot with a Leica rangefinder. With the introduction of the M8, that is no longer the case. I now have all the juicy goodness of a Leica M paired with the convenience and flexibility of digital capture. Bliss.
It’s simple. Seriously, the value of having analog shutter speed and aperture controls with manual focusing is underrated. Even the M8’s menus are simple. They could be better, but with only a few choices there’s not much to do there anyway. I enjoy not having to choose between 4 metering modes, 9 shooting modes, 42 focus points and so on. I can just pick up the camera, set the important bits, almost by feel, and shoot.
File quality. The files directly out of the M8 appear to be very good, especially at IS0 640 and under.
Handling. It’s an M. It feels great in my hands. Framing and focusing with a rangefinder is terrific. It’s compact, quiet and thinks the way I do. In other words, the M8’s handling is just about perfect. Put an ISO switch on the body and we’re all good.
It’s too early for a real conclusion. I’ll need time to get over recency bias, but my first impression is that the M8 is flawed, but awesome. It handles like an M should, and is capable of producing outstanding images. I can put the camera and some lenses in a very small bag and produce images on par with what the best DSLRs have to offer. And I can do it using a smaller, quieter and prettier package. I’m in.
Well almost. I don’t have one yet, but it’s in the works. But why an M8? Mostly because I want a quality digital option and love my film Ms so much that the M8 seems a natural progression. I ran into a gentleman online who is looking for an M6 and has an M8. Convenient, no? We’re going to trade my M6 and cash for his M8. Might be a few weeks before it all happens, but it looks to be a done deal. Can’t wait!
The problem with being exposed to the best of anything is that everything else becomes, well, not the best. A few years ago I owned a [Leica Summicron 35mm ASPH](http://en.leica-camera.com/photography/m_system/lenses/2181.html). Best 35mm lens on the planet. Then I sold it with the rest of the film gear when I went insane digital.
Now that I’m back in the Leica fold I had to choose a 35mm lens. I want the Summicron, but finding a good used copy for less than $1500 is tricky. Right now that’s just too much money. On the other hand, the Voigtlander lenses get great reviews, and they’re inexpensive. I went with a [Color Skopar 35mm f2.5](http://www.amazon.com/Voigtlander-Color-Skopar-Angle-Manual-Focus/dp/B0000BZZG9) for around $300. I don’t like it at all. It’s not the images, they’re fine for the most part. What I don’t like is the handling. Those little plastic “ears” on the aperture ring drive me nuts. It’s so compact that it can be difficult to use. For sale.
I needed to find some reasonable compromise between the little VC lens and the crazy-expensive Summicron ASPH. The Zeiss optics have always seemed to be highly-regarded, and not as costly as the Leicas. I found a Biogon 35 f/2 for $650. I should be getting it in the next few days. Assuming the optical quality is as good as everyone says and that it doesn’t suffer from the “Zeiss Wobble,” the only variable will be handling. I’m used to tab-focused lenses. The Biogon has a little gnurled “nub” instead.
A camera is most decidedly **not** just a light-tight box to hold the film. This one isn’t anyway.
This is my new Leica M4. It was built in 1966 and looks practically new. You camera nerds might notice that it has been customized with the much cooler M3-style levers. I love everything about this camera. It’s small, built like a tank, and every single thing it does it does with buttery-smoothness. You’ve gotta love buttery-smoothness.
I’m getting used to shooting without a built in meter, which is challenging. One thing I’ve noticed is that I no longer meter every shot. Just once per situation and from then on I just fire away. Gives me goosebumps.
Developing film is a constant process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. So far I’m pretty good at discovering what doesn’t. I’ve been shooting either Ilford XP2 Super and having Meijer process and scan it or Tri-X shot at ISO 1200 and processing it in Diafine. My last roll or two of Tri-X has been too contrasty and grainy even for my tastes, so I thought I’d give old faithful, Kodak D-76 a try.
One of the reasons Diafine is so great is that it’s not sensitive to time or temparature. D-76 on the other hand, requires much more accurate tracking of both. Here’s a test shot processed for 9 minutes in D-76 at 68 Degrees. The box time for this combination is 11 minutes, but I cut it short in an attempt to control the contrast. I don’t mind the results at all.
I love these cameras. Bought one a few years ago during my previous film phase and still use it today. In fact, I bought a second so I can load one with black and white and one with color film.
I’ve written before about why I like them so much. Today, it still boils down to the fact that for around $50 I get a full-frame, weatherproof, sharp prime lens camera. I don’t have to even look at it to shoot. There’s really nothing to see but the frame counter. Just slide open the cover with one hand and fire away.
It’s the shortest distance I know of between my pocket and taking a photo.
In 2005 I sold a nice Leica M6 TTL with a mint Summicron ASPH 35mm to some random stranger on eBay. Last week I corrected that mistake by buying another M6.
Leica M6 TTL with 50mm Summicron
Why would I do that? Hasn’t everyone “gone digital” by now? Sure, I’ve gone digital – twice, at least. Lemme ‘splain.
I went digital, the first time, in 2003. A few months later I became fascinated with rangefinders and bought a Canon Canonet. That chain of events let me to my first Leica in 2004. A year and a half after that I’d gotten frustrated with processing and scanning film, so I sold the film gear and went back to digital. That 20D was just too tempting it seems.
Whew! So where are we now? It turns out I never really got over the Leica. I was hoping for an M8, but at close to $6,000 for just the body, that’s not likely to happen soon. Besides, the M8 is not full-frame, and has certain other issues, not the least of which is impending obsolescence. Maybe the M9, but for now…
Recently I was going through a bunch of old shots and I noticed that many of my favorites were taken with the Leica or the Canonet. Maybe not _most_ but enough to notice. That was all it took. I gave in to another round of Leica Lust and ordered a nice used M6 TTL with a (5th version) Summicron 50mm lens. Guess I’ll just have to deal with the pain of scanning negatives. For that, I ordered a Nikon Coolscan 5000, so at least it will be faster and about as good as it gets, short of a drum scanner, scan-wise.
I’ve put 3 rolls through the M6 this weekend, and processed one (Tri-X in Diafine). Some things just feel right and this camera is one of them. It’s interesting, a week ago I was testing a $300 Photoshop plugin to make digital images look like Tri-X pushed to 1200. Guess I don’t need that anymore.
So Polaroid is officially ending production of instant film this month. I’ve not used a polaroid camera since my grandpa let me play with his back in the 70s. It’s still a little sad to see it go. If you’re at all nostalgic for instant film, watch this video about the SX-70 camera. It’s long but fascinating.
A photographic workflow is important to professional photographers. Not being a professional photographer, I don’t need one. And yet, I tweak mine constantly, and never seem to get it right. With so many good options, I just end up confused.
Given the number of forum threads and blog posts surrounding the whole workflow topic, it seems I’m not alone in my confusion. I thought it might be useful to write about some of the things I’ve tried, if only as a way to help myself sort it all out.
h3. The Pieces
There are a number of steps that all should work together in glorious harmony.
Ingest from card
Cull, Keyword, Label
Uploads (Flickr, etc)
Most people are covered by simply plugging in their card, letting iPhoto or whatever import the files, and that’s it. Not me, oh no. I have to complicate everything. And I’ve tried everything: Aperture, Lightroom, Photo Mechanic, Photoshop, Nikon Capture NX, Bibble Pro, iView Media Pro, DxO and on and on.
All of these apps are great, and _that’s_ the problem. Things change rapidly, but as of today at least, here is where I’ve landed.
h3. Photo Mechanic
“Photo Mechanic”:http://www.camerabits.com/site/index.html from Camera Bits is awesome. It’s not cheap at around $150, since all it does is copy files off my card and display thumbnails. Okay that’s not really all it does, but it’s still expensive. And it’s not what it does that rocks, it’s _how_ it does it. PM and I clicked immediately. I hate keywording in Aperture and Lightroom. I love doing it in PM. Can’t explain it other than it seems to think like me.
The other advantage for me (shooting Raw with a D300) is that PM displays the embedded JPEG from the camera where things like Lightroom render their own, and it’s not the same. I’ll explain later.
So PM handles ingesting, renaming, culling, labeling, uploading to PhotoShelter and browsing. The author has plans to add cataloging, so that may end up being all I need for handling files.
h3. Nikon Capture NX2
Nikon’s “Capture NX2”:http://www.capturenx.com/en/index.html is awful at first, with a slow and downright weird UI. I thought I’d have uninstalled it immediately but since I had a 60 day trial I played with it some. As it turns out NX does things I (personally) can’t or won’t do in something like Photoshop. Control Points are fantastic. The other benefit is that NX can read the D300 camera setting directly, giving me a head start when Raw processing. All of the local adjustments are non-destructive, the conversions are widely thought to be the best there is for Nikon files, and versions, ICMP and JPEG previews are all stored nicely in the original NEF file. Clean and dandy. I’ve gotten over the UI, but it’s still too slow.
h3. Photoshelter Personal Archive
I know, there’s Flickr, SmugMug and whoknowswhatall for storing and sharing images. I use them all. Right now, my favorite is “Photoshelter”:http://pa.photoshelter.com/. They recently updated their offering to include easy site customization and offered a free 30-day trial. I’m a sucker for 30-day trials. I really like the way Photoshelter works. Smugmug is great (I’ve been with them for a long time), and much cheaper, but I find keeping things organized there to be cumbersome. Again, it’s one of those things where something either clicks or it doesn’t. Photoshelter clicks. Also Photo Mechanic has deep, built-in integration with Photoshelter, no plugin required. I’m starting to put things out there, a few at a time. See “images.jackbaty.com”:http://images.jackbaty.com/
So this is where I’ve ended up. I change things around a lot, but for now, this works. I’m missing a decent cataloger, but PM is presumably adding that before long and considering how much I like what it already does, I’ll wait.
Why not Aperture or Lightroom? Good question. I have both. I like both. And they both are a pretty good end-to-end solution. Maybe that’s what I don’t like. I like smaller, specific tools. The all-in-one nature of Aperture and Lightroom is off-putting for me. Feels like too many eggs in one basket, but more likely it’s just a _feel_ thing.
h3. The Workflow
Here’s how it goes.
Ingest, Cull, Label and Keyword using Photo Mechanic. PM will rename and apply IPTC profiles to inbound images. It also copies each file to a second drive (a Drobo) as a backup. I make a quick pass though each image and “Tag” keepers. After 2 passes, I delete everything not tagged. Then I add keywords and rate the remaining images. One more pass to add ratings (stars) and that bit is complete.
I keep all files in directories based on date with a summary. Looks something like this…
Once things are culled, I open any image that needs tweaking in Capture NX2, make my edits, and save a version directly into the original Raw NEF file (no silly sidecar files for me!) After all edits are complete, I filter only images with one or more stars, then upload them directly from Photo Mechanic to Photoshelter for online archiving. Some of these are then published to galleries. One or two might then be exported for Flickr or emailed to family.
My first real camera was the Canon AE-1 my parents bought me in 1982. Since then I’ve gone through a few others: Nikon N6006, Olympus point and shoots, a Leica M6 and finally a series of Canon dSLRs from the original Rebel to a 1Ds. I’ve invested rather heavily in Canon lenses and associated gadgets.
Recently, I decided that I wanted a new, serious camera. The plan was to hold out for the 5DMkII. While waiting I kept running into articles raving about the new Nikons. Apparently, with the new D3, D300 and D700, low noise at high ISOs was no longer exclusively a Canon thing. They (the Nikon guys) would go on and on about the superior focusing and flash metering and whatever.
The new 5D was announced recently, and I was disappointed. The only compelling new feature of the new model? Video. No real improvement to the focusing system, metering, etc.
Screw that, I bought a D300.
So it would seem I’m now a Nikon Guy. Someday I’ll take some photos with it.
Its true that the tail shouldn’t wag the dog. It’s true that photographers and pictures are more important than cameras and lenses. It’s true that hours spent studying photographs and paintings themselves will often be far more valuable to a photographer than hours spent worrying over what equipment to buy next. Its true that many have been conned by decades of advertising into believing that becoming a good photographer is mostly a matter of buying the ‘best’ cameras and lenses. It’s true that there is no such thing as a ‘best’ camera or a ‘best’ lens for all photographers. Its true that we generally do not need the newest and most expensive cameras and lenses to make strong pictures. That’s all true.
But its not true that cameras and lenses do not matter. There is no best camera and no best lens, globally, but there may well be a combination of camera and lens that best suits a specific photographer for a specific set of work. It might be a combination that costs forty dollars or forty-thousand but whatever it is, it can play an important role in the creation and look of a given photographers’ work.”
So I’ve been playing with Tim Armes’ LR/Mogrify plugin for Lightroom and it’s amazing. Trouble is, I already use Jeffrey Friedl’s Flickr plugin to get stuff out to Flickr. Thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could somehow chain plugins?”
James Russell has a piece at Luminous Landscape called Leica M8 Revisited. The reason I bring it up is that I want one. I mean really want one.
Shooting the Leica is like going out with Pamela Anderson. The camera keeps saying you can make me clean, cook, raise the kids, but I won’t be very good at it., though if you let me do what I’m good at you’ll be very happy.
Even without the Pam Anderson bit, I know what he means. My old film M6 was the most amazing piece of gear I’ve ever fondled held. I miss it. Going through my photos from that period reminds me how much I loved that stupid, expensive, manual-focus beauty.
Mr. Russell knows what I mean…
50% of everything I shoot with it is not in real tack focus, 50% has too much noise, 50% has surprise framing, but no camera I have ever used has touched me so deeply.
So the plan has been to sell the entire Canon kit and shoot with my little GRD II for a while to sort of sweep away the cobwebs. I thought I was going to revisit things later, perhaps with a 5D, but I think maybe deep inside I’ve been missing the Leica, and that can’t go on forever.
Thought #1. At what point does the quantity-over-quality value proposition of user-generated content so overwhelm us with with crap that quality content becomes impossible to find? Seems it may have already happened.
Thought #2. Something feels wrong when the value of a viral video becomes more important than the rights of those of artists and authors whose work was used to create it.
I never use a UV filter on any lens, even the absurdly expensive ones. Especially on the absurdly expensive ones. With so much attention paid to the fine art of lens design and construction, it just can’t be a good thing to toss some cheapo filter in front of it. This Luminous Landscape article agrees, and goes into more detail – with examples.