Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography


Another Drink and Click, the Pentax Q7 again with more black and whites

Kasey, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas

Kasey, Drink and Click 2015 – Austin, Texas

Remember the Pentax Q7 I bought back in Japan? I haven’t talked about it recently but I’ve been silently shooting it ever since I picked it up last December. It’s a very versatile camera, the smallest mirrorless interchangeable system around. I still go to Drink and Clicks and I thought I would cover last week’s with the Q7 since it was sorta sponsored by Pentax.

The challenge I have these days is that I shoot with so many cameras and I’ve fallen way behind in the blogging department so I don’t get to talk about all the fun gear. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II tends to get the most coverage since it’s my newest digital camera. But I’ll need to circle back to all the neat cameras I’m using, including a slew of film ones.

The center of attention, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas

I originally got the Pentax Q7 for doing my urban HDRs. It works great for that but it’s the black and whites that I really like. I shot these photos with the Q7 in JPEG using a custom in-camera black and white preset. I’ve tweaked a few of the photos, ever so slightly, in post — all I did was brighten the shadows a tad. I used the 01 Prime Lens which gives me f1.9 at a 40mm equivalent.

You may recall back in February, I also shot a Drink and Click with this camera. Last week’s performance didn’t disappoint. While I also shot my Olympus E-M5 Mark II, today it’s all about the Pentax. Perhaps I’ll sneak in some Olympus photos in a future post.

Pentax 645Zs, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas

Jessica from Pentax brought the entire line but it was the medium format digital 645Z that was the most popular. I opted not to shoot it. I figured I might be able to borrow one in the future, when I was in the mood and I wanted others to get their chance. I had my own Pentax for the night anyway and many were curious about my small Q7.

Mike and Kelly, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas
Kelly Shoots Olympus, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas

Just by chance I ended up at a table with a whole bunch of Olympus shooters. Jerry, the owner of Precision Camera was playing with the E-M5 Mark II, I had mine, Kelly, pictured above, was shooting hers. A bit later, Brett and Charles from Olympus also showed up. All told we had like 5 OM-Ds around. Not that it mattered. I think you know that I like and shoot a lot of different brands.

Behind the Scenes, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas
Kasey Portrait, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas

Pentax hired Kasey, a professional model for the event. She probably thought it was weird that I was shooting with such a small camera. I’m sure she did’t take me seriously but who cares. I rather enjoy flying under the radar, especially with the Q7. Look that these moody black and whites, I’m really loving it.

Bungalow Art, Drunk and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas

The Q7 also has in-body image stabilization like the E-M5 Mark II but not nearly as effective as 5 stop variety in the Olympus. I do get lucky at times as shot this at 1/10 of a second. It was dark inside this bar on Rainy Street. Even at 1/10 of second, I needed ISO 2000 at f1.9. It’s the first time I’ve been to the Bungalow. It had a nice feel to it.

Bungalow Reflections #1, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas
Bungalow Reflections #2, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas
Bungalow Reflections #3, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas

At the back of that bar, there was a giant plate-glass window that made for nice reflections. The Q7 managed to hold its own and I think I captured the feel of the place.

Sally Portrait, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas

In addition to the official models, patrons also enjoyed posing. Much of the clicking that goes on at these Drink and Click events are portraits. Sally had a nice look that worked great here.

Street Photography #1, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas
Street Photography #2, Drink and Click 2015 - Austin, Texas

I stayed later than usual and wrapped it up with some candid, street photography style photos. In addition to the black and whites, I really like this camera for unimposing street photography. It’s so small that most are not intimidated by it. But unlike a normal point and shoots, it has capabilities that match the larger enthusiast cameras.

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I took all the photographs with the Pentax Q7 in JPEG.

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My evolving criteria for camera selection and consideration of an old Leica

Revolutionary Olympus - Austin, Texas

Revolutionary Olympus – Austin, Texas

In lieu of photographing fireworks this 4th of July, I invited a couple of close friends over to the house. We had a relaxing get together over drinks, kitchen table philosophy and showing off our latest cameras. We came to realize that our photography has evolved over the years and that we’ve changed how we select our cameras.

Tony brought his newly acquired Leica X1, a well-regarded high-end compact from 2009. It’s the kind of camera that I would have never considered years ago. But with my evolving criteria and used prices dragging even digital Leicas lower, the X1 is beginning to look interesting.

Olympus Reflections - Austin, Texas

For me, color and camera feel are now the most important. Sure there are many secondary considerations. Image quality which include sharpness, contrast and low noise are factors but it’s color which first attracts my attention. Likewise, regardless of the technical specs, it’s the feel of the camera, which includes design, interface and build quality, which ultimately sways me.

It hasn’t aways been this way. When I first got started, high ISO, low noise capability was paramount. I judged cameras by their technical specifications than more subjective considerations. But the reality is today’s technology is so good, most cameras are sufficient. Indeed, for most people, digital cameras have reached adequacy a number of years ago.

All cameras have limitations and I am more apt to work around them if they produce good color and feel right. Perhaps that’s why I’ve ventured into shooting film along side digital. I’ve also realized that the limitations of old film technology is starting to influence my considerations for digital cameras.

Lucky Stares - Austin, Texas

The Leica X1 focuses excruciatingly slow, making the Fujifim X100 seem like a speed demon. But it allows for manual distance based focusing which could work well for street photography. That’s the way I like to shoot my film cameras, by the way.

The X1 colors looks very interesting. Unlike most cameras, the RAW DNG file is actually more colorful than the JPEG. I prefer the RAW. The X1’s colors reminded me of the ones from the Leica M that I shot last year. Unlike the M, which has a modern full frame sensor, the X1 has a smaller APS-C from 6 years ago. But even then, I found that ISO 1600 looked great and even ISO 3200 looked decent. The digital grain and processing on the X1 also resembles the M. Makes sense, they’re both from the same company.

While not inexpensive at $500 – $700, it’s not bad for a German-made Leica, albeit one that’s 6 years old. It’s certainly more accessible than the just announced Leica Q — while compelling — is beyond what I want to spend.

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All photographs shot with a Leica X1. Tony shot the second image with his trademark reflections.

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Have a relaxing 4th of July

Kayaks by the creek - Austin, Texas

Kayaks by the creek – Austin, Texas

It’s going to a quieter than usual 4th of July — there’s no 360 Bridge fireworks this year. The Austin Country Club, who puts on the show, is holding off due to construction. I’m having a relaxing weekend shooting a mellow, old but satisfying digital camera.

A year ago, I experimented with an ancient Olympus E-1, the first purposefully build DSLR with a 5MP CCD sensor. I love it for the rich colors, especially the reds. That camera started me down a path of exploring color, which eventually got me shooting film.

Some people say CCD sensors are more film-like, especially compared to the now dominant CMOS technology. After experimenting with film, I disagree, however there’s no question CCDs look different from CMOS. They seem less clinical though they still have the clean look of digital. I like CCD, but found the resolution of the 5MP E-1 limiting.

Cue the Olympus E-300 with a 8MP CCD, in a prosumer body. This was Olympus’ second DSLR, released about a year after the E-1, in 2004. The colors look similar but with an extra 3MP of resolution, which should be enough for decent 13″ x 19″ prints. I recently added this ancient digital tech to my collection for a mere $50.

Have a great 4th of July.

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I took the photograph with the Olympus E-300 in RAW and post processed with Aperture 3.

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Eeyore’s Birthday Party: Sharing images and experiments in analog

Posing with Instax, 2015 Eeyore's Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

Posing with Instax, 2015 Eeyore’s Birthday Party – Austin, Texas

Remember Eeyore’s Birthday Party from a month a half ago? Sure, I shot the newest Olympus digital as the primary, but I also brought two other mystery cameras. Film cameras. So today topic? My experiments in analog during that event.

I’ve been playing with film ever since the end of last year. While I haven’t blogged about it much, I’ve continued to shoot analog and with different kinds of cameras. At Eeyore’s, I tried two new things. Instant film and cross processing film. I got mix results and learned some lessons. Film is different and can be more difficult, especially if you are used to the immediate feedback of digital.

Jordan at Eeyores with Instax - Austin, Texas

Why shoot Instant film? The biggest reason is being able to share tangible, physical images with others. I did that at Eeyore’s and both Jordan and Ash loved it, as you can see in the first image. I shot several, I kept a few and gave them both their own copy. Hopefully, they’ll cherish it as an Eeyore’s momento. Over time these prints turn rigid like laminated paper and its physicality somehow makes it more precious than a digital photo. And, of course, each print is one of a kind.

Instax Portrait #1 - Austin, Texas

As a photographer, there’s another reason to shoot instant. It’s challenging. Making exposures in digital is easy. Even standard negative film isn’t bad. But using these primitive, plastic cameras with low dynamic range film is another story. I’m using the Fujifilm Instax 210, which only has the most primitive controls.

Instax Portrait #2 - Austin, Texas

Focus is by estimating distance. There is auto-exposure but not aways reliable and the film doesn’t have much latitude. Finally, you have to manually guess parallax, when framing close subjects. Since each shot is “one of a kind”, you won’t be able to post process the image either, before “printing”.

Instax Portrait #3 - Austin, Texas

All this makes for an unpredictable experience, which I guess, is part of the fun. And for me, it’s particularly tough. You see, by nature, I tend to be empirical and process oriented. I like to find ways to create high quality, reliable and reproducible results. That seems like the antithesis to the instant photography movement. No doubt, with practice, I’ll get better but this is my attempt to embrace uncertainty. If digital is about precise, easily reproducible results, this is the opposite.

Steampunk Man, Eeyore's Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

Under the guise of more unpredictable experimentation, I also took my first stab a cross processing film. Today, In color film, there are two popular types of chemistry, one for negatives and one for slides. You “cross process” when you use the “wrong” chemistry for the type of film you have. In my case, I shot Velvia 100 slide film and had it processed in C-41 chemicals, meant for negative film.

Texas Normal, Eeyore's Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

The result? You get strange color shifts, increased noise and more contrast. I shot these on a late 1960s Olympus Pen FT half frame camera. It shoots 72 images per roll, and makes perfectly nice pictures when processed with the right chemistry. It’s a great camera to experiment with since I get double the number of exposures per roll. I manually focus and manually meter with this fully mechanical camera. Yup, it’s a completely different world from digital.

Truth be told, I’m not satisfied with the effect I got. Through, I later found out that the cross processing color shift varies quite a bit with the type of film used — Velvia 100 tends to shift towards the reds. I want to play with more greens and blues.

Cross Processed Interaction, Eeyore's Birthday Party - Austin, Texas

I learn something different from every camera I use, probably because each camera has its own set of limitations. Film has changed the ways I look at a scene. I’m more aware of light levels, dynamic range and distance. All things that I rarely considered when shooting digital.

Of course the sophisticated computers in digital cameras only help with exposure and focus, which are the mechanical parts of photography. Creating a great image, now that’s an entirely different set of concerns.

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ROT Rally selfies, smartphones and keep it fresh through technology

Blue hour at the Capitol, 2015 ROT Rally Parade - Austin, Texas

Blue hour at the Capitol, 2015 ROT Rally Parade – Austin, Texas

What’s the first thing you do after riding 30 minutes to parade down Congress Avenue at the ROT Rally? Take a selfie of course. Or at least, use that smartphone to shoot the Texas State Capitol during blue hour.

It’s ROT Rally season again. Yes, many thousands of bikers have come to Austin to do what bikers do. I enjoy capturing the tamer aspects, via street photography, downtown. It’s my fifth year and things are about the same, every year. How do I keep it interesting?

Blue hour at the Capitol, 2015 ROT Rally Parade - Austin, Texas
Blue hour at the Capitol, 2015 ROT Rally Parade - Austin, Texas

Over the years, I’ve changed what I shoot. I started with sparkly neon bikes, when amped up with HDR, they look especially nice. It was a deliberate process, encumbered by using a tripod. More recently, I’m on a street photography kick, it’s light weight and fast.

My preferred cameras also change. It keeps things fresh and I get to play with my growing camera collection. Last year, the Fujifilm X100S was the primary with the Pentax K-01 in a small supporting role. This year, no surprise, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II gets top billing. I shot it with the Olympus 17mm which gives me about the same focal length as last year’s X100S. I also shot a few with the Pentax Q7, in black and white, which I really adore. Finally, I shot film too with a vintage Olympus Pen FT half frame camera.

I’ll do another posting when I finish the roll and eventually get it developed. But for tonight, I feature photos taken with the newest technology in the E-M5 Mark II. Yes, these photos are colorful, a bit gritty and with motion blur. They seem somewhat painterly and for me they capture the feel of the event.

Blue hour at the Capitol, 2015 ROT Rally Parade - Austin, Texas

This newest Olympus has some pretty special technologies. And while technology is always in service to the image and the creative goal, it’s interesting to talk about. These were all shot between 1/4 to 1/20 of a second or slower and are hand-held. Some are in-camera HDRs where the camera shoots 4 images at different shutter speeds, combines them accounting for camera shifts and people movement. The 5 axis, 5 stop image stabilization certainly helps but the sophistication behind this blows my mind. The net effect is that I get to create a different kind of image, in a way not possible before.

Blue hour at the Capitol, 2015 ROT Rally Parade - Austin, Texas

All the latest gadgetry is fine but I use it to explore photography. It’s also the reason I’m shooting film. Distinct technologies, old or new, create a different mix of advantages and disadvantages. New cameras create exposures too easily and I find myself pushing its boundaries. Conversely, exploring film counter balances all the new tech. Manually metering and manually focusing a 50-year-old camera pushes me in other ways. I’m really having fun challenging myself and it keeps things fresh, even if I do go to the same events year after year.

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I took all photographs with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with the Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens.

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Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.