First things first. I have decided that this blog has been and will continue to be, to a large measure, about my photography. If my viewers don’t want to read about my trials, experiments, findings, etc. with a camera they can choose to not read about it. Now, about why you are seeing the above pictures and what I like about them. I have taken two steps forward with my camera and style and one step back in that I am going to return to writing about my photography.
I have been making progress on a style that I like, from two perspectives. One I am using a camera and a lens that I really like from a usability perspective. I plan to continue using my Fujifilm X-E2S with the 35mm F2 prime lens for most of my personal photography. I find that the effective 50mm focal length works well for me and I prefer the external controls. I can preset the camera and lens and then use the camera with one hand if necessary as I walk around with my cane, or when in the car. It is also small enough to carry on a strap most anywhere I go or fit into a small bag with my zoom lenses when photographing for Homewood.
The second aspect that I am liking is the quality of the images and the contrast, etc. when using the classic chrome camera calibration. While I have enjoyed using Light Room to process some of my more abstract images, I also like to set the style and then work purely on the composition as I photograph and prepare them for output.
I made the above images when I drove to the market before six am. One of the things I am constantly looking for is new subjects to photograph. In addition, I like images that are rich in color with large amounts of black and find the best way to make them is to go out after dark. So far I have only been trying camera settings, etc. as I mostly drive and look around for ideas, and I have been seeing new things that I plan to photograph. In the future I hope to be going to different areas around Hanover and parking and getting out and making more images similar to the above.
Next week I will be meeting my brother in Virginia for a few days. My brother’s hobby is studying and following our ancestors and the migration routes they used to go to central West Virginia. On this trip we will be going to the Cowpasture River area in Virginia where some of the ancestors of my mother’s mother’s family lived and migrated through in the mid 1700s. The chart above is my brother’s listing of those particular few family members; i.e., some of our great, great, great, great, great grandparents.
While I doubt that I will take many pictures, I have been thinking about which camera and lens to take. I don’t like to travel with much but since I’m driving I have plenty of room. The problem is that I still have to consider the weight since whatever I take will still have to be taken in and out of the car whenever we stop. Normally my travel preference is one camera which is small and light, i.e. had no viewfinder, with one or two prime lenses, but not this time.
This time I plan to take the E-M5 II and a new zoom lens. I just received a Panasonic 12-35 mm F2.8 zoom lens. Lately I have been photographing with two longer zoom lenses, the Olympus 40-150 mm and the Olympus 75-300 mm lenses, but for this drive I will take the Panasonic 12-35 mm zoom lens. For backup, in case the 12-35 mm lens doesn’t work or if I need something smaller and lighter, I will throw the Panasonic 20 mm lens in a small bag.
And now there is one. I now only have one camera. I found new homes for all but my Fujifilm X-T1 camera and three prime lenses, the 18 mm, 27 mm, and the 60 mm lenses. I hope to enjoy my path to a more simple existence. I have been shedding not only cameras and lenses, but also camera bags and other camera related stuff, and I hope to continue reducing other things from clothes to tools, etc. if I’m not using them.
I am now approaching photography a little differently and I’m enjoying the freedom from carrying a heavy camera bag and looking for a wide variety of subjects both near and far. I hope to spend more time photographing details, and life experiences up close with a wider prime lens. I will have to shorten my vision and not look for small images in the distance. It sort-of goes with the image of me walking slower with a cane and looking down rather than far. My 27 mm lens will be my standard walk-about lens for now. I’ll use the 18 mm lens for inside buildings when I need something wider and my 60 mm lens when I’m photographing details and/or need a little greater reach. The only change or addition that I’m still considering is getting the new 35 mm WR lens when it comes out and making it my standard walk-about lens.
I plan to continue my photography and make images of ordinary things around me with my single, lighter, smaller, higher quality camera. I hope to photograph the mundane, but with an ever-changing perception of how I see and think; but it will have to be up close since I no longer have a long focal length zoom lens. I like to go out with just one lens at a time … just one focal length at a time. I usually just select from one of my three prime lenses before I go out and then just photograph what works with that lens. I rarely change lenses out in the field but I do change them when photographing an event or project here at Homewood when I don’t have to walk far with a bag of lenses, etc.
I got rid of my Leica X2, Canon 70D, Ricoh GR, Olympus TG 820, and Nikon 1 J5 cameras along with all the gear that goes with them. I am shrinking and simplifying my photography gear and making some other adjustments. I have gone lighter and simpler. I kept my Fujifilm X-T1 and prime lenses to photograph events, etc. at Homewood as well as for my personal photography. I also plan to get rid of lots of straps, camera bags, etc. In addition to the X-T1, I have kept my Lumix LF1. I am keeping it temporarily for a pocket camera, to make close-ups, visual notes, etc. I am the closest I have ever been to using only one camera and one lens at a time and simplifying my photography to match.
An even bigger change might be in what and how I photograph and blog about, but those changes are still in an incubation phase and, at the moment, only limited by my gear and subject availability. Not having longer focal length zoom lenses will necessitate some changes. While I am working this out and no longer trying new or different cameras and lenses, I will be photographing and blogging less.
One thing that has happened in the last month is that I have taken a larger percentage of pictures for Homewood and a smaller percentage for myself. This shift might continue with my current lenses since I am in a better position for documentary or street photography. Whether or not I will make that my primary personal style will depend upon my travel opportunities and how much variety in locations and subjects I can find; but, more Homewood photography and less personal photography usually means fewer pictures for my blog.
I am in the throes of trying to decide whether to totally give up taking pictures of wildlife with long zoom lenses. I have made the decision to change to a lighter weight camera with prime lenses to reduce the size and weight of my gear … at least for the events I photograph here at Homewood. If all works well, I will be using a Fuji X-T1 with two or three prime lenses to replace my Canon 70D with lenses between 17 mm and 255 mm.
I have two options that I’m considering for my other photography. First is to keep my Nikon J5 and lenses as my second camera. If I go that route I could still use my Nikon one inch sensor camera for wildlife and flower images like above which were all taken with it at 110 mm and then cropped and resized. The second option is to sell the Nikon 1 system and keep my Leica X2 or Ricoh GR primarily as a backup camera and use my X-T1 with a few prime lenses for all of my photography. If I take the second route I will have no long focal length lenses for wildlife. The first option gives me more opportunities for different types of pictures and the second option retains a higher quality camera and forces me to learn how to get the most out of wide-to-normal prime lenses and photograph exclusively with them.
It is coming down to sticking to what I have mostly done in the past when I used long focal length zoom lenses, but with lower quality, or forcing myself to learn what I can photograph exclusively with wide-to-normal prime lenses with a better camera and lenses. My long zoom capability has been my crutch in the past when I didn’t know what I was going to photograph. I always seemed to be able to extract an image from a distance out of the overall larger view. Prime lenses would force me to get up close.
I am waiting for the new camera to be delivered so that I can spend some time using it and see which choice I prefer to make: only using shorter prime lenses with better image quality, or keeping an option for longer focal length images albeit with lower image quality.
I took lots of pictures at Homewood’s Bazaar last Saturday. I will give those pictures to the staff here for use in in-house publications, etc. Above are two of my favorites which I feel comfortable in posting. I am not fond of what I call “snap-shots” or pictures that others are likely to have taken. I prefer the challenge of making something different out of my photography of events here. This includes making images that don’t impose on the privacy of those who live here unless they don’t mind. Those who live here should know the people in these pictures. Do you recognize them?
There are several techniques that aging photographers can adopt so that they can keep on photographing after they no longer wish to carry or hold their heavy DSLR camera. They can switch to lighter, smaller prime lenses and change what they photograph; i.e. stop photographing wildlife with big heavy long zoom lenses. Or, they can switch to smaller lighter cameras with smaller sensors. Even Saul Leiter moved “down” to micro 4/3 cameras and he hadn’t been shooting with a heavy DSLR camera or long heavy zoom lenses. I have mentioned these techniques before as I adopted them. This article is about a third scheme … using a lighter, smaller entry-level DSLR with a prime lens in order to cut weight.
One characteristic that I have noticed with my arthritic hands is that a lighter camera-lens combination is a big help but having a lighter camera-lens combination with a good hand-grip and buttons that aren’t too small or too close together is even better. In addition, I thought that an appropriate hand grip would compensate for a little more camera weight. For that reason I ordered a Nikon D3300 camera with a 35 mm prime lens to try. My hope was that the hand grip would compensate for the heavier camera with an APS size sensor and lenses and mirror. My motive for trying this approach was that I wanted to get a little better image quality in low light than I can get with my micro 4/3 sensor camera. I also hoped that the 24 MP sensor would enable me to do more crop-zooming with the 35 mm f/1.8 DX lens.
Well, I tried this third approach and rejected it. I didn’t find that the larger sensor was much better and I didn’t like the focus capability of the D3300. It focused fast enough in good light but it needed to use the focus assist light in low light and I didn’t like shining a small spot light on my subjects. The real killer was that the 35 mm lens back-focused about an inch. Having this problem along with the camera-lens combination being larger with few external controls was too much to warrant me keeping it. I returned it.
Another more subtle problem was that I didn’t find the cheap quality of the camera to be pleasing. I need to like my cameras. They have to feel and look like they have been well-engineered and constructed. I think I have learned a few lessons. One, I am done with the DSLR cameras and their large lenses. I have sold mine with a few attempts to try others one more time, but this was the last time. Two, going cheaper is not the solution.
The first year I lived in Hanover I would often walk the streets in the older sections and take pictures; but I haven’t been doing it lately. Since I am tired of photographing the same things in the area I live, I thought that I might return to the older sections. I did, and now I remember my previous concerns.
When I first photographed around Hanover I photographed a lot of the houses and buildings. They are static and I soon photographed most of interest to me at that time.
Another reason that I haven’t been doing as much photography on the streets is because a camera hanging around the neck draws attention and questions. I would like to find a camera and appropriate lens that I can easily carry and use with the least amount of attention prior to getting the shot. The biggest problem is photographing people in this area. They don’t like it. Are there enough other things to photograph? I would like to avoid photographing people.
As I returned to the streets I started wondering if I wasn’t missing something or if maybe my techniques were not the best. What have I been missing? At this point I have decided to go back to the masters of street photography and see how they did it.
William Eggleston was one of the early photographers out on the streets. In fact his normal territory was very similar to my Hanover area so I have decided to look at his work and techniques. One of the easiest ways to learn about him is to watch the BBC documentary on him. You can see it by clicking here. Or, if you want to see Eric Kim’s summary of it you can click here. Eric is a current well know street photographer.
Another photographer who has taken pictures that I like is Saul Leiter. I have a book of his as well as a DVD about him on order. I’ll bring you up to date on my feelings about Saul’s work after I get the book and DVD.
The following is another picture that I took walking a street in Hanover. It certainly isn’t a pretty picture but it sure is unusual … and it is life today, here and now. I really don’t care for the following picture but maybe I can learn from others and find some new subjects/scenes to photograph on the streets. My best guess at the moment is that if I follow Eggleston’s approaches, I’ll never run out of things to photograph and that is one of my current goals … learn to find and see additional things.
One of my major concerns is how to deal with those questioning looks or outright being stopped and asked why I’m taking pictures. From their tone of voice it is usually obvious that they are concerned. There seem to be two approaches I could go relative to this issue. Either try to hide my camera or be open about it and deal with their concerns. Many current street photographers recommend being as invisible as possible, but the old masters like William Eggleston and Saul Leiter were very open about it. What should I do?
I am currently using an Olympus E-PL5 camera. I love it for my projects here around Homewood and for use with longer focal length lenses since the micro 4/3 lenses are so small. But I am not sure about using it on the street. It works OK, but is there a better camera? It isn’t too large but is obvious hanging on a neck strap. In addition when I have tried to use it fast or discreetly I have often accidently hit the movie record button or another setting button.
If I choose to hide the camera as much as possible and always have it with me I might prefer a pocket camera. I have been thinking about the Sony RX100 II. But, cameras like it also have disadvantages: small buttons that are easy to hit when I don’t wish to, they take time to turn on and extend the lens and then zoom it, hard to hold due to their size and lack of a hand grip, and people still see you when you point it at them. Their advantage is that many people don’t take you as a serious photographer, certainly not as a photographer who might be getting pictures for a lawyer, or developer, etc.
Another approach is to get a camera larger than the E-PL5. This could be micro 4/3 or one of the APS-C sensor size cameras. The reason for going larger is to get a camera with a good hand grip that is fast to focus and shoot without accidentally hitting buttons. I have also found that sometimes such a camera isn’t as visible if I carry it in my hand down at my side and use a wrist strap. I can do that if the camera isn’t too heavy and has a grip that fits my hand.
I haven’t decided on my approach relative to street photography and camera. One thing I did when I took the above pictures was to use an equivalent 50 mm focal length lens. I haven’t decided whether a 35 mm or 50 mm works best on our streets. That is an important issue relative to which camera since APS-C size sensor cameras don’t have a good range of equivalent 35 mm pancake lenses available. If I decide to go with an equivalent 50 mm lens I could get an inexpensive, bottom of the line Canon or Nikon DSLR camera. If I decide to go with 35 mm, I could get something with a fixed lens like the Fujifilm X100s or the Leica X2 but I would need to add a hand grip.
I took these pictures early on the 4th of July after we had overnight showers. I hadn’t been doing much photography with the 40 – 150 mm lens and I wanted to look at some images at 150 mm. If I had my way, I would like to have a prime lens with 150 mm focal length if it weren’t too large or expensive, but I will stick with this lens for my diminishing longer focal length images.
I would like to primarily use prime lenses with the E-PL5 and get away from using longer focal length lenses. It is just a matter of convenience in carrying a small camera. The newer collapsing zoom lenses help reduce the size a great deal but I prefer the better image quality of the prime lenses and the ease of using them. I don’t have to unlock and extend and then zoom the lens.
My current intent is to use prime lenses whenever possible and to get up closer. If I can’t get close enough I’ll look for something else to photograph. How long I continue this style of photography depends upon what I can find to photograph. I am trying to limit my photography to primarily using 17, 25, and 45 mm prime lenses since I prefer the small sizes of the lenses and their image quality. I will keep and use this setup with a micro 4/3 camera until I determine whether or not I can adjust to this style of photography. I adopt ever-changing systems as my needs, abilities, and desires are ever-changing; so don’t be surprised if I end up doing something else.