Tagged: Travel

Ancestral Migration Route

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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.

Future of (my) Photography

In the beginning, my blog was mostly about travel photography.  Then it was anything I could find to photograph close at home as I “practiced”.  Now I don’t know what to do next.

I use to be interested in documentary photography.  This actually started long ago when I would look at war pictures in old Life magazines.  Now I am appalled at what I see in documentary conflict photography.

I took to studying travel photography while traveling with groups when I had to be quick to capture all that I saw.  It was/is similar to documentary photography.

I started blogging so that I could share my travel pictures with those I traveled with and family, but few were interested.  I then started writing about what I learned as I tried different equipment and learned more.  That has pretty much ground to a halt since I’m not buying and trying much anymore.   Over time I kept obtaining better cameras and lenses.  A lot of my blog articles then became about various technical aspects of the gear.  Now I have reached a point where I can’t blame my deficiencies on gear, it is all on me.  In fact, the qualities of my cameras exceed my needs, especially if I don’t go somewhere to take pictures.

I have looked at a lot of different genres of photography hoping to see something that I could pursue.    I have looked for something that I could write about and take pictures and post about frequently … something that would keep me busy and interested.  I haven’t found it yet.

Maybe I will start a new photography genre … boredom.  They could be images of anything common around the house or wherever I go … along the street or maybe in the stores.  It might be the evolution of my practice photography.  I’ll just call it something different.  Maybe rather than “boredom” photography I’ll call it contemplative photography.  Oh, that already exists.  Hmmm, I wonder what the contemplative photographers would think.

This genre also seems to fit most of the “phone photography” images of others … lots and lots of images of whatever exists in front of them.  It is slowly dawning on me that this is what I have done … photographed whatever I saw.  It is just that my images changed over the years depending on what I did or where I went.  Should I call it boredom or contemplative photography?  Probably the term “life photography” fits better.

I know that I’m rambling but it is because I don’t know where I’m going, but maybe that is alright.  Well it might be alright for me but I’m not sure about you.  You may get quite bored at times depending upon what I photograph.  But then, you have an option.  You can move on even if I can’t seem to do it.  The more I think about it, my photography is just about life, my life.  It is just me capturing whatever I see, moment by moment, or day by day.  If it becomes bland or boring, it will be because I am getting more narrow in terms of what I see, where I go, etc., or that I am repeating images.  What you see is what you’ll get.

Blissful Ignorance

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“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
— Joseph Campbell

This even applies to my photography.  It is my practice, when using prime lenses, to make a judgment before I go out as to what lens I will use and then stick with it.  I rarely take multiple lenses with me or change lenses in the field.  I let the chosen focal length guide me to the composition and images I make.  For the above image I was using a 20 mm lens on a micro 4/3 camera so the effective focal length was 40 mm.  Maybe it is blissful ignorance in that later when I get the image up on my computer screen I don’t remember, or miss, what might have been out of view.

Favorite Travel Lenses

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Note the different style/shape/size windows/doors/openings in a very small area in a very old structure in the above image.

While I have gone back through my older pictures taken a few years ago in Ireland, I discovered that all the best images (my preference) were taken with a micro 4/3 camera with one of two prime lenses.  Those lenses were the Panasonic 14 mm or 20 mm pancake lenses.  They had effective focal lengths of 28 and 40 mm.  Looking at the images made with these two lenses brought back memories of how much I loved using these small pancake lenses on a small camera.  If we were in town and walking the streets or touring inside buildings I used the 14 mm lens and if we were out in the country or traveling in the van I used the 20 mm lens.  I found these to be near perfect focal lengths in Ireland.  As I often do, I have decided to go back to the future … get something new & better that replicates one aspect of a previous capability.

I now have the Fuji X-E1 camera which is even better than the micro 4/3 camera that I used in Ireland.  Since it is also small and of the same rangefinder style and since I already have the 27 mm pancake lens with an effective focal length of 40.5 mm, I decided to order the Fuji 18 mm, effective 27 mm focal length, lens.  Using these focal lengths on the streets in Hanover, PA will not be the same and may not work as well, but I will also be able to use my 35 mm prime lens (effective 52.5 mm) here if needed on the wider streets.

Working through the Fog … Prime vs. Zoom Lenses

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I used my 55 – 300mm Pentax zoom lens set at 107.5mm, f/5.6, ISO = 400, and 1/200 sec. to take the above picture.  This was a clear case where I needed the zoom’s focal length to reach across the pond.  The conditions were also such that I didn’t want to be changing lenses while out in the field.  Conditions like this, along with the potential of seeing wildlife, have made this lens one of my favorites except for when it isn’t.

There are many situations when the 55 – 300mm f/4-5.8 zoom is not my preferred lens.  These are when I find it too heavy to carry long distances, when I desire greater image quality such as sharpness, when I desire a faster lens, and when I’m working among people who don’t like to be “shot with a cannon.”  For those times, I prefer to use a prime lens.  I will occasionally use my 18 – 55mm zoom lens, but not often.  I don’t like the quality of the images as well as those taken with a prime lens so I generally only use the 18 – 55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens during inclement weather since it is weather resistant as is my K-5 camera.

But, the decision process of which lens to use is sometimes foggy since I can’t see into the future.  My preference when going out to take pictures is to decide which lens I’ll need before I go and then put it on the camera and not take any other lenses.  I usually manage with my decision, but not always.  I have three prime lenses for the Pentax K-5 … the 21mm f/3.2 (on order), the 35mm f/2.4, and the 50mm f/1.8, which give me effective focal lengths of 31.5, 52.5, & 75mm.  A big difference between Pentax and Nikon or Canon is that Pentax decided to produce small light-weight primes rather than fast primes; therefore, the Pentax primes are lighter and create a more discreet camera-lens combination than its competitors.  I love the smaller, lighter size of the system when using primes, but I still have to decide which one to use.  I try to error on a slightly wider focal length than I think I’ll need since I can then crop-zoom to get the composition desired.

I’m going to change my setup in order to decrease the chances of having the wrong lens with me.  If I know that the odds are high that I might need different lenses, I’m going to start taking a camera bag with an extra lens or two in it.  I have mostly avoided this in the past since I didn’t want to carry any more weight than necessary.  Since my circumstances have changed … my back is doing better and the weight isn’t as much of a problem, and I’m not out in the field for long periods of time any more … I am going to take a bag and multiple lenses.  But, this also means that I need to get familiar with changing lenses while out in the field.  I’ll let you know how it works for me and tell you a little about my bag setup as well as different strap arrangements at some later date.  My desire is to work the kinks out and have my techniques perfected before spring so that I can concentrate on taking pictures.

BTW … if you aren’t using prime lenses, try them.  I really prefer the image quality, the lower weight, and greater ease of carrying a more discreet system.  I’m looking forward to my new 21mm prime lens and will use my primes more than my zooms if I take less wildlife pictures.

Fuji X-100, a High Quality, All-purpose Camera in Western Maryland

I recently made a quick trip to WV and back.  The following pictures were all taken at Sideling Hill Rest Stop in MD on I68 while I was on the way to WV.  It had rained hard but it let-up just as I got to this rest stop where it was still sprinkling. The following pictures were taken in raw format and then developed with Adobe Lightroom 4. I didn’t plan on taking many pictures since I wasn’t going to have much time but I tossed in the Fujifilm X-100 just in case … and I’m glad I did.  The X-100 is quite a camera.  I had mainly been using it to take pictures inside of buildings where it had always performed superbly, but I hadn’t used it much for landscapes.  (See how it performed inside the Gettysburg museum by clicking here.)  In addition I had recently been shooting with my Pentax K-5 with a 50 mm (effective 75 mm) prime lens and I didn’t know how I was going to adjust back to an effective 35 mm focal length.  Well, the answer is that the X-100 does very well and I had no trouble. I am finding that the X-100 comes closest to being the camera with the best IQ and the most appropriate all-around effective 35 mm fixed lens camera that I have ever seen and used.  In my opinion you can’t find another camera that performs so well as a travel camera for its cost.  It is small, light-weight, discreet, silent, does well in low light, and has excellent image quality.  I’ll show you a few more pictures from the trip at a later date.

Advantages of a Prime Lens

I have mentioned earlier about the advantages of prime lenses while traveling overseas but I will reinforce it in this article.  I find that all the same advantages apply even while walking around town or on country lanes or on the paths here in Homewood at Plum Creek.  Having a prime lens on the camera reduces the weight and bulk of the camera-lens combination and increases the quality of the images.  This is due to the design advantages for a prime lens.  They use less glass and don’t have the built-in zoom mechanism thus enabling the designers to better optimize the image quality (IQ) while keeping the weight and size smaller.  But, I need to remind you that to take advantage of this you need the higher number of pixels in late-model cameras, and if you are taking it to the extreme, you need to view the pictures on your computer or projection device and not make large prints.

I took the following picture on my Pentax K-5 which with 16 mp gave me a picture of 4928 x 3264 pixels.  The picture was taken with a prime 50 mm lens (effective 75mm) at ISO = 100, f/5.6, and 1/1000 sec.

Assume for the purpose of this article that I was curious about what was at the base of the trees.  Since I didn’t have a zoom lens on the camera, I couldn’t zoom in closer, and since the farmer was working right close to me I didn’t want to tramp across his field.  My alternative was to crop-zoom the picture on my computer after I had down-loaded the picture.  The following picture is a 1018 x 674 crop of the above picture.  As you can see it really makes a difference and I went from an area of 16.08 mp to 0.686 mp … quite a reduction with very little, if any, perceived reduction in IQ.  You can click on the pictures to see them larger, but they have still been reduced for display in this blog.

And there are other benefits.  The 50 mm lens is an f 1.8 lens and my 55 – 300 mm lens is an f 5.8 at the far zoom range so I achieve a significant increase in low light level capability with the prime lens.  In addition, the 50 mm weighs 122 grams and the 55 – 300 weighs 440 grams … and the 50 mm lens only protrudes about 1.6 inches in front of the camera while at 300 mm that lens protrudes about 7 to 7.75 inches.  Which would you prefer to carry … or have pointed at you if you were on the receiving end?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always use a prime lens.  I enjoy the ability to compose my shot with a zoom lens.  I can also crop zoom pictures taken with my long zoom lens even at 300 mm, but the quality isn’t as good.  If I’m walking where it is likely that I will see wildlife, I prefer to have a much longer lens than the 50 mm, but lately I have had back problems and have been almost exclusively using my prime lenses to reduce the weight of my camera-lens combos.  I either use my Fuji X100 with its effective 35 mm lens or my Pentax K-5 with the 50 mm (effective 75 mm) prime lens.  I’ll also mention that it has occurred to me that if I get a new camera with even more pixels, and/or a larger sensor, and a prime lens, that I might even do better. … maybe the new Sony RX1 ?

But don’t forget that I am talking about viewing the pictures on a computer monitor.  If you were to print the picture at 240 px per inch, the resulting size of the print would only be roughly 4.25 inches by 2.8 inches.  I don’t print my pictures but even I would be concerned about the small size of the picture in some cases.  For example, the newer tablets and monitors have much higher resolution.  There may come a time in the future that you would find the above picture too small.  That is one reason that I have generally limited my pictures on this blog to a minimum of 2000 px long on the widest side … and I may increase that in light of the latest Mac Reticular screens.

If you are interested in using prime lenses to reduce the weight and bulk of your system, I urge you to read about  street photographers since they tend to use primes lenses.  You might wish to first read my article about the similarities of street and travel photography by clicking here.  I would also encourage you to check out other articles on the web.  A recent good summary of street (urban travel) photography can be found by clicking here.

Left Behind 3

I should probably tell you a little more about this series of pictures which I have grouped under the title of “Left Behind.”  They consist of a series of pictures taken on one day while I walked around a few blocks in Hanover.  It is part of an experiment of mine.  I used one camera with one prime lens.  I kept moving with just brief pauses to take a shot.  I didn’t stop and contemplate why I decided to take what I did.  I didn’t take time to decide what aperture or other settings would be best.  I just moved and took the pictures in the program mode letting the camera pick the best settings.  In addition I didn’t weed out pictures when I was done.  These aren’t just the best or worst.  I only weeded out a few where I took multiple pictures due to traffic, people, etc. getting in the way just as I pushed the shutter, etc.

I’ll digress for a moment to remind you that I got interested in photography while traveling internationally in organized tour groups.  I didn’t have time to do any more while taking those pictures than I did for this series.  I learned that I could get successful pictures while touring with groups with just a lighter weight camera with a prime lens.   I was now curious what I would get if I took pictures in the same way here at home.  The only difference is that I found that an effective focal length of around 40 mm worked best while touring and I changed to an effective focal length of 75 mm for these in order to facilitate a shortening of my view.  I’m pleased to see that it works just as well even though the subject matter might not be as interesting or different and the view isn’t as wide.

No, I wouldn’t normally use all of these pictures in any single project.  I intend to extend this way of taking pictures to cover more of the streets in Hanover with the eventual goal of picking a sub-set from them for a project or two I have in mind.  Whether or not that happens isn’t relevant at the moment.  I’m going to continue to practice with some different development styles and the final “look” may or may not be different.

In the meanwhile I will try to keep shooting and practicing to see if I can “shorten” my vision.  I am trying to “see” smaller and smaller details but those changes won’t be evident until after several more outings.  The following set is number 3 out of a total of 5 postings, all taken on one outing.  There is nothing different or significant about the different postings other than changes in location as I walked around a few blocks.  I just thought that I would give everybody a chance to see my results in five postings of nine pictures each rather than the whole bunch at once.

One View but Far-Reaching

Shores of Ireland

“A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts.  And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are far-reaching.”      Sivananda

I use the above quote to remind you that is why I have a blog.  At least I can record and share a few pictures and thoughts about life on this earth with the hope that I can make at least one person’s day a little better … as Charlie so often reminds me.

Dreaming About 2012

Early morning moon on 17 Dec, 2011

I don’t usually set myself goals for the coming year, but I do like to lay out the general direction that I hope to pursue in the year, so in this article, I thought I would write about some of my current thoughts relative to this blog.

Since photography is just a hobby with me, I don’t need to achieve anything in particular, but I would like to spend more time learning to achieve better results while having fun.  In accordance with that desire, I hope to spend less time lusting after new cameras and lenses.  This will free up some of the time that I have spent cruising the web and reading all the reviews on the newest and greatest; but, I have to admit that it will not be easy since I tend to be a “gear addict”, especially in the months when the weather is dark, dreary, and cold.

If I spend less time reading on the web, I need to come up with other, more creative ways to fill that time.  I started spending a lot of time reading on the computer these past two years when I had trouble walking and was recovering from several surgeries.  I just couldn’t get out and about as much as I desired.  This year I’m hoping to get out and about more to take pictures.  This may be my biggest challenge but yet it is the thing I most want to do.

One thing that I finally grasped this past year (it took the metaphoric two-by-four to the side of the head to make me finally understand it … thank you Charlie) is that my current cameras are far more capable than I, and I need to spend more time on developing my skills in using them.  The only reason for me to replace what I have at this point might be to trade in my two cameras to achieve a single light & small, but good system that is easy to carry.  In my case, the greatest gains in picture quality should occur with practice and improved skills and this would be easier with one system to master.

My interests in photography arose from the desire to record my travels.  Since I was usually traveling with a small group, I had to work on getting adequate pictures under the constraints of traveling with a group.  Since I have no plans for similar travel this year, at least not yet, I will have more time to hone other skills and experiment.  To that end, I plan to be far more deliberate about the pictures that I take.  While traveling I often took a picture thinking that I would really look at the scene later on my computer.  I now hope to slow down and spend more time improving my vision as well as making the picture.  I also hope to try different types and styles of pictures and work on developing them.

One thing that I would like to explore is simplifying my photography, including the images that I make.  I have tended to primarily take landscape pictures, and while that might not change, I would like to try reducing the scope of the images down to simple things.  While I won’t go so far as to focus on what other’s call “Art Photography”, I might try to find a compromise and record images that are all around us but in a way that others haven’t viewed them.   If I am successful, this style might open up opportunities for me while I’m doing less traveling.

Another thing that I would like to do is find other local photography hobbyists in this area so that I can discuss photography, share ideas and knowledge, ask questions, and go on photo walks with a few of them around this area.

Along with the above changes, if all goes as I hope, you will also see different types of articles in this blog.  While you will see less on foreign travel, gear, etc., you should see more about the local area around Hanover, PA, and more about my challenges as I try different things.  This may mean fewer photography articles, at least at first during this winter, so I might also go back to my original plans for this blog and write some more about other changes as I see them.

Unknown at this point is whether this is only a vision, whim, or fantasy … or is achievable.