Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cats through lenses

In my latest post, there are five cat photos from Amorgos and one from Crete where I could not previously identify the lens used. I went back to them, studied them, and now have some conclusions. The photograph of a cat lying on a concrete wall was taken with the Leica Summicron-M 50/2. The same lens was used for the cat fight photo (on Superia 200) and for the cat sitting on ground. The photographs of the cat with the man fishing and the cat on the roof of a car were made using the Voigtländer 35/1.4 Nokton SC. I believe this is the case also for the photo of the cat walking behind a fence, but I may be mistaken there.

Anyway, here is one final cat photograph for this year (with the Leica 50/2):

Amorgos, 2010 - 1/4, f/2, Kodak BW400CN

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More cats from the islands

Nothing more than a bunch of random cat photos from the Greek islands.

Oia, Santorini, 2007 - Canon EOS-30D, 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 400

Amorgos, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/250, ISO 160

Amorgos, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/500, ISO 160

Amorgos, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/250, ISO 160

Amorgos, 2010 - Fujifilm Superia 200

Amorgos, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/360, ISO 160

And finally a more urban cat:

Iraklion, Crete, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/90, ISO 160

The photograph with the Canon was made with the Canon EF 70-200/4L lens. The rest? Your guess is almost as good as mine. I think I see at least the Voigtländer 35/1.4 Nokton SC there. The film shot is a pretty heavy crop.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Super wide angles

Wide-angle lenses can be a lot of fun. Super wides are super fun. I liked the Voigtländer 15/4.5 Super Wide Heliar the moment I tried it, and it has since become one of my favourite lenses. It's tiny, sharp, and gives that extremely wide view on film — or a full-frame digital Leica. Using a wide-angle lens is however often quite challenging. They are pretty much the worst enemies of simplification, which is an important tool of good photography. If you have a single point of interest in your scene, a wide-angle lens can easily make it too small and distant. Let's look at a few photographs fresh from the scanner.

In this following photo, the temple entrance is very distant and occupies a rather small part of the resulting photograph. It is however the pseudo-symmetry of this image, the reflections on wet ground, and the leading line of the people that still make it work fairly nicely. I don't know if I like the helicopter in the sky, but I didn't want to remove it as it seems the people are looking at it.

Tokyo, 2010 - Kodak BW400CN

In the next photograph, I wanted to show the size of the fortress. It gets somewhat cluttered, however the clutter is created by repetitive shapes. That's not a no-no in my books.

Iraklion, Crete, 2010 - Kodak BW400CN

Wide-angle treatment can be effective for close-ups, too. You can either put some distance between your main subject and the background, or you can play the clutter card to your advantage. In this photo, I wanted to show the large pile of Hello Kitty's inside this UFO catcher.

Tokyo, 2010 - Kodak BW400CN

This is a nice lens on the digitals, too. Here's a past post featuring a photo with the Leica M8.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The colour and the shape

Three cities, three cameras, three photographs.

Hamburg, 2009 - Epson R-D1, 1/450, ISO400

Paris, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/360, ISO160

Tampere, 2010 - Kodak BW400CN

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Amorgos City

Following the visit to Naxos it was time to see Amorgos. This small island, the easternmost part of the Greek Cyclades island group, has a population of perhaps 2,000 or so. Amorgos is a great destination for some peaceful beach life and nice hikes. Here are a few pictures from and around the town of Amorgos (or Chora).

Amorgos, 2010 - Fujifilm Superia 200

Amorgos, 2010 - Fujifilm Superia 200

There are cats everywhere on the Greek islands. This one was a bit annoyed after an invading photographer ruined a perfect moment of relaxation.

Amorgos, 2010 - Fujifilm Superia 200

I believe the alleyway above is pretty much downtown Amorgos. This is however not the peak business hour. During the peak hour you may actually see the cat above walk through here.

Amorgos, 2010 - Fujifilm Superia 200

All these photographs were scanned from the negatives using the Epson V700 scanner. Not much was done in terms of post-processing, basically just some straightening and removal of a few dust particles. No cropping, as you can see from the uneven borders.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Markets, street vendors

Markets are often great places for street photography. Or is that market photography then? Anyway, with people interacting with each other and going on about their business, the photographer is often ignored. The markets are also full of colour and interesting shapes. Sometimes too full which easily makes photographs too cluttered if you don't simplify them enough. Often you however don't have the choice if you really want the shot. It's also worth hanging around street vendors. They are basically small, simple markets, which helps remove some of the movement and clutter while providing good opportunities for interesting photographs.

Paris, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/125, ISO 160

Helsinki, 2009 - Epson R-D1, 1/2000, ISO 200

Tampere, 2009 - Epson R-D1, 1/450, ISO 400

Sometimes it's the advertising that catches your eye:

Tokyo, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/125, ISO 320

The Leica M8 photos were taken with the Voigtländer 15/4.5 Super Wide Heliar and the Voigtländer 35/1.4 Nokton SC, respectively. The Epson R-D1 photos, on the other hand, were with the Leica Summicron-M 50/2 and the Voigtländer 35/1.4 Nokton SC.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Windows in photographs

I often find myself photographing windows and doors. They are the kind of architectural details you will find practically everywhere with many details of their own: locks, knobs, decorations. They also bring a strong human element to photographs with people looking from windows deep in thought or hurriedly coming and going through doorways. Windows and doorways make simple frames and provide lighting. They can essentially be the subject, frame the subject, or light it. And they are everywhere around us in the urban environment providing endless possibilities for interesting photographs. Actually, I think I don't find myself photographing windows and doors anywhere as often as I probably should.

Here are some photographs with windows I chose for this post. The first two pictures feature a window as the main subject. The first one is really about the humorous balance between two halves of the window: one side advertising the store with the text "now open" while the other side suggests the store is under renovation. The second photograph features a window in a lighthouse.

2007 - Canon EOS-300D, 1/125, f/8, ISO 200

2009 - Sigma DP1, 1/200, f/8, ISO 100

In the next two shots the window acts as a frame. The first of the two I took in the same lighthouse as the previous photograph.

2009 - Epson R-D1, 1/2000, ISO 200

2009 - Canon EOS-1D, 1/3200, ISO 250

In this next photograph I really liked the window frame. However, with its nasty reflections the window alone does not make for a very pleasant subject. The man sitting on the bench gives it both a context and scale.

2009 - Sigma DP1, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 400

The last image features an open window, which breaks the pattern or repetition of closed windows. Emphasis is given to the open window by using a tilted lens (essentially this just gives a very shallow depth of field in this example).

2009 - Canon EOS-1D, 1/8000, ISO 320

I used a Carl Zeiss Jena 80/2.8 lens on 1D, a Sigma DC 18-50/3.5-5.6 lens on 300D, and Leica Summicron-M 50/2 on R-D1 for these photographs. The 80/2.8 lens was used with a tilt adapter.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The almost-a-digital-rangefinder is here

I haven't been this excited about a digital compact camera since the Sigma DP1 launch. This time it is Fujifilm's turn. Only a few days ago did we hear the news about their new GF670W medium-format camera, and now their latest announcement is here: the FinePix X100. This is a 12.3 megapixel camera with an APS-C size CMOS sensor and all that. Forget all that. The really interesting thing is the viewfinder technology: this new baby sports a hybrid viewfinder that combines the brightline optical viewfinder used in many film cameras of the past and digital rangefinder cameras (such as my Leica M8) — and an electronic viewfinder used in most compact digitals!

Okay, most compact digitals only have the LCD on the back and lack a proper viewfinder altogether, but some good ones probably have electronic viewfinders. Think about the not-quite-so-compact Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 and its viewfinder. That's what I mean. Trust me, this hybrid thing is big news.

According to Fujifilm's marketing material, both the optical and electronic viewfinder in their hybrid system should be of high quality, and you should be able to switch between the views without much effort. If it works anywhere near as well as advertised, this will be great. Kudos, Fujifilm!

I have waited for this to happen for a long time, and soon it may very well be a reality. This camera is basically a digital rangefinder camera without the actual rangefinder focusing.

The FinePix X100 should be available from early 2011.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Going underground

Two photographs away from the sun light, two photographs of decay. One is from the Jaurés metro station, the other from the Catacombs of Paris.

2010 - Leica M8, 1/125, ISO 640

2010 - Leica M8, 1/20, ISO 1250

I used the Voigtländer 35/1.4 Nokton SC lens for both of these photos. The shot from the Catacombs was taken wide open and pushed 2 stops in Apple Aperture. No noise reduction was used. I believe the metro station photo was taken at f/4, but it could be f/2.8.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Subdued colours of summer

It's September and the summer is pretty much over. Well, here anyway. So, let's look at some summer colours while they are still fresh in our minds. I took these photographs to test an old Leica screw mount lens, a Canon Serenar 85/1.9, on the Leica M8. It's a reasonably sharp lens that however produces images that have rather low contrast (which is typical for old lenses). This can be beneficial in harsh light, but usually you need to add contrast in post processing. I believe all these photos were shot wide open at 1.9.

2010 - Leica M8, 1/4000, ISO 160

2010 - Leica M8, 1/750, ISO 160

2010 - Leica M8, 1/2000, ISO 160

There are several old, fast 85-mm Canon lenses. Internet legend has it that the best of the group is the 85/1.8, which I have never seen myself. If you find one, grab it. The 85/1.9 and 85/2 are supposedly pretty close in quality and both are considerably cheaper than the 1.8.

I like the overall rendering of this lens. It has a round aperture even when stopped down, which should help to produce some pleasant out-of-focus highlights. I have however mostly used the lens wide open or very close to wide open so far. Unfortunately, my copy does not focus quite correctly, which is why I'm not using it that much. It has considerable back-focus issues that I need to look into. I hope I can fix it. In the above picture of the reed I have compensated for the back focus.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pictures from Paris

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post, so let's follow up with some recent photographs. These pictures are from Paris. There is no central theme covering them all, but each three sets of two photographs have something in common: street scenes, kids reacting to their surroundings, and people sleeping. Enjoy!

Paris, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/125, ISO 160

Paris, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/250, ISO 320

Paris, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/180, ISO 160

Paris, 2010 - Epson R-D1, 1/450, ISO 400

Paris, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/500, ISO 160

Paris, 2010 - Epson R-D1, 1/600, ISO 200

All these pictures are pretty much uncropped except for the one of the boy chasing the pigeon, which I found best to crop to a square format. The lens I used for all the Leica M8 pictures is the Voigtländer 35/1.4 Nokton SC, while both Epson images were taken with a Leica Summicron-M 50/2 lens. These focal lengths correspond to about 45 mm or 50 mm for the M8 and 75 mm for the Epson in 35-mm equivalent terms.

By the way, the Epson re-covering job mentioned in a past post is still upcoming and definitely not forgotten.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Film shots from Naxos

Some more pictures from Naxos. These are all unedited, uncropped, almost straight from the scanner. The obvious tweaks are removing of most dust spots and resizing for web. That's it. I used an Epson V700 flatbed scanner for scanning. It is a fairly affordable option for film scans and it sings with larger film sizes. These images were made using 35-mm film in my Voigtländer Bessa R2A, so for optimal quality one should use a dedicated film scanner. For medium size prints, a good flatbed such as the V700 will do. For web images like these, it is even seriously overkill.

Less talk, more pictures.

Naxos, 2010 - Fujifilm Superia 200

Naxos, 2010 - Fujifilm Superia 200

Naxos, 2010 - Fujifilm Superia 200

Waffle house, Naxos, 2010 - Fujifilm Superia 200

Did someone tell you film is dead? Perhaps they meant some other film.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Room with a view

Countless movies present a view of a famous landmark from the bedroom window of an apartment or a hotel room as if yelling something like "Look, we are in Paris! Check out the Eiffel tower!" In the real world many of those views cost quite a lot, nor are the hotels always located in the most photogenic neighbourhoods. Sometimes you can get lucky, though.

The balcony door in the bedroom of this 30-euro-a-night (at the beginning of the high season, no less) apartment hotel in Naxos, Greece gives a calming, unobstructed view of the sea with the island's most famous landmark, the lonely temple entrance, Portara reflected on the glass:

Naxos, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/125, ISO 160

Close to the centre of Naxos town, this hotel offers not only a nice sea view but all the restaurants and other services within a walking distance. If you are looking for nice and affordable accommodation, I can highly recommend Magic View Studios & Apartments for your stay in Naxos.

Stay tuned for some more, probably film, images from Naxos.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Paradise Snake Bessa

The looks of a camera is perhaps not the most relevant thing in photography, but a pretty camera is nevertheless a pretty camera and an ugly one is just ugly. If all other things stay the same, wouldn't you rather have a pretty one? Like one with real snake skin? Yeah, eh, okay... There is perhaps no great argument to support re-covering a perfectly good camera, but I did it anyway. Here's how.

You start with a camera that has some sort of leather, rubber, vinyl, vulcanite, or plastic covering. Basically something you can easily tear off. Like my Voigtländer Bessa R2A here:

Okay, stop! Before you start tearing the covering off, you had better have some sort of a plan, right? One alternative is the hard route of DIY. Many different materials are available as sheets, or you can even get more creative and use something you already have. The options are pretty much endless. This however takes some time, some skill, and some basic tools. There is also a simpler route. Some companies and individuals offer pre-cut kits for various camera models. One example is They have a good reputation and a pretty extensive catalog of materials to choose from. Kits are available for dozens of camera models, mostly classic cameras, though. That's in fact where I got this red paradise snake kit from:

So, when your kit arrives (or when you have your tools and materials ready, should you play ball in the big league), you can proceed to tear the old covering off your camera. That should be pretty easy in most cases. However, you may be left with some glue residue that is harder to remove. You don't necessarily need to remove all of it, as the new covering will stick there anyway. You should however note that any residue that you can feel as a bump on the surface may create a visible bump after you have applied the new covering. A pretty effective way of removing all the glue (at least with the Bessa) is to tap a chunk of the already-removed glue over and over on the surface. Little by little the residue is removed.

Once you have removed the old covering and glue, you can start applying the new covering. For a simple design such as the Bessa, this is pretty straightforward. There are two more difficult points worth mentioning here. The first is making sure you introduce no skewing (meaning all corners of each piece ends up in the correct place). This is easy to get wrong even if you think you have the first two corners in corrects spots, because any error gets larger the farther you apply a piece from its original point of contact. So, make sure that the tops and bottoms line up nicely. This brings us to the second point. The adhesive on the kits is very aggressive. Don't just remove the carrier sheet and stick the piece on your camera thinking you can easily adjust it after you have it on the camera. That spells trouble, since the pieces really do stick to the camera (that's what they were made for!). Instead, remove the carrier sheet ever so slightly as you progress and you should be okay.

One more tip. The holes for the strap lugs can be tricky. If you have trouble getting the strap lug through the hole, simply cut the piece in the narrow part. I didn't need to do it, but the cut should be pretty much invisible as long as you line up the piece well.

Finally, we are all done. Let me introduce you to my new, old Bessa:

The camera certainly looks different — much nicer in my opinion. Not only has the look of the camera changed, though. The overall feel and handling of the camera has changed a bit as well, because the new covering is quite thin and lacks the molded shapes of the original rubber covering. The camera just feels a bit different, not necessarily any better or worse. In addition, a small thumb rest was removed from the back of the camera. This can be a real issue to some users, and I spent some time thinking about it. Should I remove the thumb rest and risk losing some of the ergonomics or rather keep it? In the end, I decided to try the camera without the original back cover (which I believe could easily be glued back if desired) and felt comfortable with the camera that way. So, I proceeded to apply the snake skin cover on the back as well. Note that the snake skin is mostly for looks and durability. It feels good, but it doesn't provide the greatest grip. If you are looking for the best grip, you need to consider some other material.

My next re-covering project is the Epson R-D1. Check that out later!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My latest camera — my greatest camera?

I'm about to discuss something completely different, but let me first make a short post about my latest camera purchase. It's the Leica M8, which was officially announced already in 2006. That's a long time ago in the digital camera domain, but there is only so much competition in the digital rangefinder arena that all the Leica offerings continue to be of current interest. And it's a very good camera to boot, perhaps even the best I own and have used. I believe I will be discussing using this camera much more in the future, so if you share an interest in rangefinder cameras you may want to wait and see what my future blog posts have to say about it. For now, here it is pictured with a Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4 lens and a Voigtländer accessory viewfinder. The Leica M8 has a crop factor of 1.33, which makes this 28-mm viewfinder ideal for the 21-mm lens. By the way, you should notice a purple colour cast on the front element of the lens. That is due to an infrared cut-off filter that is needed on the Leica M8 to produce accurate colours. This camera certainly has some little quirks.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Experimenting with the Bug

Last time I wrote about getting two soft releases for my rangefinder cameras. I have now run some Bug experiments. This means using the Bug soft release on my Epson R-D1 in my everyday photography. I haven't really done any low-light shooting and therefore haven't faced slow shutter speeds. So, the added stability is still a bit of a mystery. The overall feel of the camera and the control of the point of releasing the shutter is improved, though. That alone is worth the price, should I find there is no other benefit in the end. Well, there actually is at least one other benefit. Shooting with gloves was never this easy! It will be a couple of months before I will consider wearing gloves, but I just had to quickly try on a pair when the idea came to me. Wearing gloves in July obviously isn't too comfortable!

I browsed through some of my photographs looking for ones that show the kind of motion blur I'm trying to fight with the Bug. There were some so-so ones. I think I have culled most of those that don't work with a bit of camera shake thrown in. Here's anyway one shot I came across. Not a good example of anything I have discussed so far really, but a nice shot demonstrating another source of shakiness: a moment that is a bit too fast or otherwise takes you by surprise forcing you to trigger the shutter while in motion.

Woman in Hamburg, 2009 - Epson R-D1, 1/100, ISO 400

This shot doesn't appear too soft at this size, but there is some motion blur in it. I was standing there by the Hamburg Philharmonic Hall Pavilion all by myself, facing the other way. As I turned around to look for a shot, this lady who had just appeared from somewhere without me noticing her was stepping to the horn. I barely had time to check my pre-focus for this shot. As she leant in to listen to the sounds from the horn, I quickly brought the camera to my eye and saw the expression I had anticipated. Preferring the moment over the technical merit of the shot, I took it without steadying my camera. She noticed me only the very moment I had my camera to my eye and made the photograph, which shows through as faint surprise mixed with curiousness in her expression.

Shot at 1/100 this photo is far from a slow shutter speed image where the soft release should help the most. Based on my experience over these couple of days, I think it could however help a bit with shots like these as well. Even if only by making one more confident with one's camera.