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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Haiku Photo: Willie Nelson Statue

Willie Stares - Austin Texas

Silently staring
Icon of Austin Music
Willie immortal

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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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Blade Runner, photography and predicting the future

A scene from Blade Runner

“Did you get your precious photos?”

That’s what Roy asked Leon. Look past the futuristic wizardry and you’ll see that photography has a significant role in this cult classic. That’s what I noticed when I recently watched the fully remastered Blu-ray version of Blade Runner.

Back in 1982, when released to theaters, I was in high school. I was mesmerized by the flying cars, the glittering city and the technology. But it wasn’t the near-human replicants, the video phones or gravity defying vehicles that were the most memorable. For me, it was the futuristic voice assisted computer that analyzed photographs in the movie’s pivotal scene.

A scene from Blade Runner

Understand that our current technology has far exceeded Deckard’s computer. With simple flicks of the mouse replacing cumbersome voice commands, all of us photographers do sophisticated image processing that would blow the minds of the fictitious characters in Blade Runner. Oh yeah and if we wanted to issue voice commands, we can do that too, via Siri. In fact, our portable smart phones are all that Deckard would have needed.


We’re a mere 4 years from when the movie is supposed to take place. What other technology “predictions” haven’t worked out as planned? The biggest is flying cars, though honestly even back in 1982, I never thought that would happen. Genetically engineered animals and humans, probably not for at least 20 more years? Off world colonies? Other than the Moon and Mars, that may never happen.

A scene from Blade Runner

But when it comes to computer technology, the movie was quite conservative. We already established that a PC with Photoshop or even a smartphone will blow away Deckard’s computer. Video calls? We can do that from our cell phones too. Yup, the movie has sorely under predicted the power of the hand-held computer.

A scene from Blade Runner

And our ubiquitous hand-held devices have other story line implications. We no longer print our photographs but carry them electronically. Blade Runner’s entire representation of photography no longer fits our modern world. The movie was set 37 years in the future from when it was released. If we re-made Blade Runner today, set for Los Angeles in 2052, much of the story will need to change.

A scene from Blade Runner

Scaling up our current technology, I suppose in 37 years, all the surveillance will automatically identify and track any perpetrators. The power of images and photography scaled up to an infinite and scary degree. Blade Runner’s quaint notion of printed paper photographs is as far-fetched as flying cars. But don’t get me wrong. Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies. I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching this classic.

The movie opened to mixed reviews but most of my high school buddies and I loved it. Only a few didn’t. Wikipedia has an extensive entry and indicates that the movie has stood the test of time. Several noteworthy groups have included Blade Runner in their greatest movie lists.

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