Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

Austin

Opening the 4 year old time capsule

Skyline by the dog park - Austin, Texas

Skyline by the dog park – Austin, Texas

I mentioned in my previous post that I’m going to experiment with film. I’m intrigued by the analog color which seems quite different from digital. I’m starting by unlocking a 4 year time capsule.

I have a Canon EOS Rebel T2 film camera which I bought for $40, with kit lens, when Wolf Camera was going out of business a number of years ago. This may very well be the last film SLR Canon released. What’s cool about this camera is that it’s fully compatible with all my Canon EOS lenses that I use on my modern, digital Canon 6D. So the Rebel T2 is perfect for my exploration of film.

I dug out the old camera and popped in a battery and noticed that I had a few frames left from an old roll. Best I can remember, I loaded this with some cheap Fujifim Superia 400 film about 4 years ago. I had no idea what was on it. I shot a few snaps and brought it into Precision Camera for film developing and an ultra high-res scan.

Apparently it’s a thing to actually shoot with expired film. If you do I recommend that you greatly overexpose, my newly shot photos came out dark and exceptionally grainy. From what I found out, film loses its light sensitivity as it grows old. But the images I captured 4 years ago look interesting in an artistic way. Increased grain with random color splotches but exposures looked decent.

The image above is my favorite. The tall building under construction is the Austonian that has long been completed. The two other cranes mark the beginnings of the W Hotel and the Four Season’s Residences. That was the last boom. Today in 2014, Austin is going through yet another one, even larger than the one four years ago.

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I took the photograph with a Canon Rebel T2 film SLR. The 4 year old negative was developed a few weeks ago, scanned to digital and I post processed it in Aperture 3.

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A Fashion Show at the Four Seasons

W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas

W by Worth Fashion Show – Austin, Texas

Here’s something different, for a change of pace. Last Friday, my photographer friend Mark invited me to shoot a fashion show with him. They had it at the top of the Four Seasons Residences in downtown Austin. The Residences, located next to the Four Seasons Hotel, is one of a new breed of high-end condominiums that’s become popular. I’ve shot fashion shows in the past and coupled with a spectacular view, I thought it might be a fun way to start the weekend.

Downtown Austin from the Four Seasons Residences  - Austin, Texas
Downtown Austin from the Four Seasons Residences  - Austin, Texas

As expected the view is spectacular. As I look at the sprouting towers, it’s obvious that Austin is no longer just a midsize college town. There’s probably a dozen or so significant buildings being built or in the planning stages. Austin continues to explode. Walking around on the 32rd floor of this swanky oasis, it’s hard to believe it’s that same place I move to, 23 years ago.

W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas

I didn’t know what to expect so I casually brought my Canon 6D with a 70-200mm f4 IS for the runway show. I also packed my Fujifilm X100S for taking more intimate candids. The room was nicely scaled for the event but I found that even 70mm was a tad long. In retrospect my 24 – 105mm f4 would have worked better. I shot at an angle as 25 models presented the W by Worth Collection that was on display that night.

W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas

I used a bounce flash for even illumination without that typical flash look. The fill and ambient mixed well and, set at ISO 3200, the image quality looked great with the 6D. Luckily this was indoors so that I could use indirect flash and luckier still it protected us from the torrential downpour mid-show.

W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas

The cream walls and ceiling added a nice warmth for the bounce flash. Here’s an interesting comparison. I shot only one runway photo with the Fuji, in ambient light. That’s the photo on top with a 35mm point of view. Compare that with the warm bounce flash shot with the 6D at 78mm.

W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas

More than the catwalk, what I really like is taking candids before and after the show. This type of shooting taps into the street photography aspects that I like. I used the X100S for these shots. A small unimposing camera but with high image quality.

W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas

I also did cover shots, that documented the event. Little peripheral details that captures the flavor.

W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas
W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas

Afterwards, I shot group portraits of the models and the guests.

W by Worth Fashion Show - Austin, Texas

I’ll spare you from endless stream of posing models but I wanted to highlight this photo. Unlike the super serious fashion shows with sickly and serious looking “pros” the models here are amateurs. You can tell because they are smiling, happy and they showed personality. Much better than the typical shows.

Downtown Austin from the Four Seasons Residences  - Austin, Texas

I’ll leave you with this moment that I caught before the show and before the rain — guests taking in the view with the ubiquitous smart phones. The tall tower to the left is the Austonian, probably the swankiest of the luxury condos in Austin. At 56 stories and 684 feet tall, it claims to be the tallest all-residentail building in North America west of the Mississippi. Proof that Austin is no longer a sleepy college town.

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I took most of the photographs with the Fujifilm X100S in JPEG and post processed with Aperture 3. I also used a Canon 6D with the Canon 70-200mm L f4 IS 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.



Impromptu Football Photography: How I ended up at Taco Shack Bowl again

2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas

2014 Taco Shack Bowl – Austin, Texas

File this under, “you never know when you’ll be shooting, so always have a camera with you.” It was Thursday night and I was going to my monthly Austin Photographic Society meeting. These meetings are lectures so I had no need for a camera but decided to bring one anyway. The Fuji X100S is small enough that it wouldn’t get in the way.

After the meeting, I was at dinner with a few of the folks when my wife called requesting me to pick my son. He was at the Taco Shack Bowl, the first High School Football game between rivals Anderson and McCallum. I was there last year with my family shooting with the Canon 6D.

2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas
2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas

A 35mm equivalent view is not what I call a typical football focal length. The photographers there were armed with long beefy f2.8 telephotos. But I got satisfactory images last year with a 40mm lens on my 6D. I like shooting documentary style more than as a sports photographer.

2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas
2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas
2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas

I shot on both sides of the field. The game was close and quite exciting, actually. While my son originally was expecting to go home at 10pm, the excitement kept us there until past 11pm. The game coupled with my love for photography made the hour pass in an instant.

2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas
2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas
2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas

I experimented with motion blur. Despite not having image stabilization, the X100S’s gentle leaf shutter allows me to handhold at 1/15 of a second. At times, I get some keepers even at 1/8.

2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas
2014 Taco Shack Bowl - Austin, Texas

Anderson won this year, reversing last year’s loss. Final score 33 to 23. I’m told throughout the bowl’s history the two schools are pretty much even. I’m glad I had a good camera with me, even though the X100S wouldn’t be the typical choice for football. Hey, maybe next year, I’ll figure out how to get on the field with a long lens.

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I took all the photographs with the Fujifilm X100S in JPEG and post processed with Aperture 3.

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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.



Playing with the new Olympus Pen E-PL7 over some Texas Barbecue

Dinner is Served, Stiles Swtich BBQ - Austin, Texas

Dinner is Served, Stiles Swtich BBQ – Austin, Texas

Fun evening tonight playing with a newly introduced camera, over some Texas barbecue. Charles from Olympus was in town and we had dinner. The E-PL7, Olympus’s newest micro 4/3 camera, was announced just yesterday.

We went to Stiles Switch a relatively new BBQ place in the mid-town Austin. There are so many new BBQ places that the competition must be tough. The Brisket and sausage were good but the beef and pork ribs were especially outstanding.

A Big Dinner, Stiles Swtich BBQ - Austin, Texas

I may do a comprehensive review of this camera in the future but for now let’s say the E-PL7 is an evolutionary upgrade to the Pen line. All of the current Olympus micro 4/3 cameras pretty much use the same sensor and processor. Sure there are some minor differences but the image quality is all very similar. What sets these models apart are their features and ergonomics.

For now the OM-D line has built-in EVFs (Electronic View Finders), the Pen cameras are smaller with optional EVFs. The E-PL7 is currently the entry-level model for Olympus’ 2014 mirrorless lineup. I’m assuming that the E-PM2, which I own, will not be updated.

Olympus Pen E-PL7 at Stiles Switch BBQ - Austin, Texas

Much of the features of the E-PL7 are identical to the OM-D E-M10 that I reviewed. The E-M10 is $100 more but gives you an EVF. The E-PL7 adds a couple of new art filter effects and it’s biggest feature is a tiltable screen that make it easy to shoot selfies. This feature is well implemented, making good use of the touch screen LCD which adds a virtual shutter button.

This new camera adds premium touches, a nice looking faux-leather cover and tasteful chrome accents. In some ways, it seems slightly more upscale than the E-M10 but the difference is subtle. The E-PL7 seems more dense that the E-M10 but the Pen is actually 12% lighter. But the Pen is also noticeably smaller so maybe that’s what gave me the impression of a more dense camera.

Aesthetically, the camera seems better than the $599 body only price would indicate. Other mirrorless cameras in this price range, from Sony and Fuji, have plastic bodies which feel cheap but they benefit from a larger APS-C sensor. However, the 3 axis in-body image stabilization in the Olympus somewhat offsets the smaller sensor size in some cases.

If you want the least expensive and smallest 2014 Olympus mirrorless then the E-PL7 is for you. However, for only $100 more, the OM-D E-M10 gives you a lot more features. You get an EVF, a built-in flash, a superior grip and two control dials.

An Olympus Size Comparison - Austin, Texas

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I took all the photographs with the Fujifilm X100S in JPEG and post processed with Aperture 3.

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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.



Photo Essay: 2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight

2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas

2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight – Austin, Texas

I wasn’t going to the hot air balloon launch last Saturday. I had no desire to wake up at 5 in the morning. But it was 4:30am when I finished processing and writing about the Leica M camera that I shot on 6th Street the night before. What the heck. I took a quick shower and headed towards Mansfield Dam for the 24th Annual Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight.

I was there, in the same place, 3 years ago — that was my first launch. Its gotten a lot more crowded since then. I was concerned when I saw a line of tripods setup at the perimeter. Were they restricting access because of the crowds? Unlike 3 years ago, I didn’t bring a tripod. I was determined to capture the events, “street photography style” with one camera and lens. You guessed it, with the Fuji X100S. In order to do this, I needed to get in close. I didn’t have the luxury of a telephoto lens.

2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas
2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas

Luckily, as the preparations proceeded, people freely mingled between the balloonists. The defensive line of tripods was self-imposed. I was breaking through to get into the action.

2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas
2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas

Do you know how they launch these giant vehicles? After everything is hooked up and the material rolled out, they use a stout fan to blow air into the balloon cavity. They hold the mouth open for easy air access.

2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas

We’re in Texas, after all.

2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas
2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas

At a certain point, they turn on the gas burners to fill the balloon with hot air. Since the hot air rises, the balloon begins to float upwards. The reclining basket begins to stand erect. Things get exciting, photographically, when the flames come alive.

2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas
2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas

They started this process near sunrise so it wasn’t very dark. It would’ve been interesting to capture the glow in the dark.

2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas

The balloons take off quickly. This multicolored one was up and away, a lot quicker than expected.

2014 Lake Travis Hot Air Balloon Flight - Austin, Texas

All told there were about a half a dozen that took off that day. A small event compared to the ones in New Mexico but my friend Steven said this one was more accessible. He went to New Mexico to photograph those giant 100+ balloon launchings and he said the traffic was challenging. This small one in Austin was perfect for me. Relatively close to home, I got back by 9am and slept until 1.

From downtown street photography on 6th Street to a balloon launching out in the Hill Country, it was a busy 12 hours of shooting last weekend. Either I’m getting lazier or I’m seeing better but I ended up using one camera and a single 35mm equivalent lens to shoot everything. At least I got to travel light.

Challenging Patriotism, 6th Street - Austin, Texas
Bachelorette Party, 6th Street - Austin, Texas
A Big Margarita, 6th Street - Austin, Texas

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I took all the photographs with the Fujifilm X100S in JPEG and post processed with Aperture 3. If you find these reviews and stories interesting, please consider using my affiliate links for any future purchases.

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