Friday, April 13, 2012

Met Museum and a Photo Walk Down Broadway

One of the great joys of retirement is having the time to do anything I want on a whim. On Wednesday morning I decided the last minute to head into New York to see the Gertrude and Leo Stein collection of artwork on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I also had intended to spend some time in the new arabic wing, but the Stein exhibit was so large and when I finished with it I was so overwhelmed with all the masterpieces that I was already on overload. So many of the pieces they collected turned out to be iconic early works of the great masters like Picasso and Matisse - before they were recognized for being the great masters they were to become. 

As a photographer there is so much to learn by looking at artwork other than photographs - how these geniuses created their compositions, light, and colors (or lack thereof). I was very buzzed by the time I left the museum and started my walk downtown. Sometimes I find that after I see an exhibit, I am so totally absorbed in the work that I don't look around me as I walk, and I don't take many shots. Those that I take are not satisfying. But seeing so many wonderful Picassos and Matisses left me feeling like I wanted to get out and play with the light.

I'm working to overcome the autofocus difficulties I've been having. I was given two great tips today by someone who has had the same issues, so I'll get out tomorrow to try them. For now here's a few shots from the walk down Broadway.

On the subway going uptown to the museum I sat down in front of these people, and the boy in the center just about posed for me. The detail this camera grabs is comparable to my best shots with the D700, and the tonal range is all there.

This was a quick grab shot walking out of the museum. Very typical street situation where the moment happens suddenly right in front of me and there's no time to think. Just press the shutter and pray (of course it also helps to have a few years experience).

I'm always looking in restaurant windows. This is the first time I tried a 'through the glass with reflections' shot with the X-Pro1.

I was a block from Carnegie Hall when I saw three kids with violins strapped to their backs. I'd bet they know how to get there.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter Parade Photo (4)/ Fuji X-Pro1

I've been practicing quite a bit with the camera and getting more confident with it. Focusing is my major concern, and will continue to be once I get the M mount adapter and start to play with my Leica lenses. Since the adapter will effectively break the connection between the lens and the camera electronics, all focusing will have to be manual. It will be exactly the same as using those lenses on the M6. My technique with that camera was for the most part to set the lens on f8 and zone focus or set the high end of the depth-of-field range on infinity. But that's down the road.

Three more pics from the Easter Parade, shot with the Fuji X-Pro1. I can only say what I've said before, the detail is astonishing, and the color rendition is superb (even though these are b/w, you'll just have to take my word for it ;-)). 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Parade Photos (3)/ Fuji X-Pro1

I was out shooting in New York this afternoon on the West Side walking down Broadway. I can now hold the Fuji X-Pro1 without accidentally hitting inappropriate buttons, but I'm still having difficulty with the auto focus. It works quickly and accurately when I bring the camera up to my eye to compose and focus. No complaints there. I've been spoiled by the speed and accuracy of the D700, which I could hold at chest level and fire in burst mode as I moved past my subject. I can't do that with the Fuji camera, at least not yet. For the present time, until I get much more comfortable with the camera I'm shooting in single frame mode, and I have to anticipate my shots better so I can get camera buzzing before I click the shutter. Also, when I shot with the D700 at chest level, the camera was almost always in vertical (portrait) orientation. With the Fuji camera most of my shots are horizontal. That's neither good nor bad, but it means I can't wait until the last possible second before prepping to fire the shot. 

 Here are two more images I shot at the Easter Parade - optimized color and also b/w. This beautiful woman was shorter than me, and with that very large brimmed hat it was difficult to get a good shot of her face, so I went into a slight crouch. Not easy to look inconspicuous like that, but she had this great look of disdain on her face while I shot. Then when I straightened up after I shot, she turned to me and smiled. Duhhhh, she was posing for me.

This shot, with that red checked dress, red lipstick and sunglasses absolutely had to be in color.

But of course, being me, I had to do it b/w also.

Be sure to check out the latest issue of CameraPixo magazine #18 Different Photo Tchniques especially the feature beginning on page 64 (ahem ..... that would be mine).

Camerapixo Magazine #18

I have a feature in this edition. The magazine can be previewed here, and If you would like to save it to your desktop so you can come back time and again to view all the work in this issue, it's usually available for download as a PDF for registered members (registration is free) but I don't see the dowload link yet. All issues of the magazine are available for viewing here.

All the work in this magazine is always top notch. My feature begins on Page 64. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Parade Photo (2)/ Fuji X-Pro1

At the Easter Parade the willingness of people to be photographed - that is, after all, the reason they get dressed/costumed up, to be seen and photographed - gives the event the feeling of a carnival.  It's not, strictly speaking, street photography, but the experience of being on Fifth Avenue with so many willing and eager models for me to hone my skills using the Fuji X-Pro1 was great fun. I saw these two beautiful ladies casually chatting, and I asked them to pose for me. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Every time I process an image shot with the Fuji camera I'm blown away by the colors and detail. When I zoomed in to touch up the eyes of the woman on the left, I could count her eyelashes. The raw images are really a joy to work with (would be even more of a joy if Adobe would get off its butt and update Camera Raw to accept the new Fuji raw format!)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Parade Photo (1)/ Fuji X-Pro1

This is the first image shot with the Fuji X-Pro1 (bought at B&H Photo) that I put through my processing workflow. The raw image out of the camera was a joy to work with. The clarity of details and vibrancy of color in the raw image are outstanding, probably due in large part to the absence of the low pass filter. I took this shot as I walked across 34th Street on my way to the festivities on Fifth Avenue. I had the camera in hand with the strap wrapped around my wrist, and when I saw this gentleman (who's name by the was is Señor Blanco - really, you can't make this stuff up) just picked up the camera pressed the shutter button gently to get a meter reading and focus lock (waiting for a split second, as I had learned and practiced doing) and got the shot just as he looked at me. I only wish I had shot it vertically, but I haven't yet worked out the mechanics of how to do that smoothly. 

My first day out with the camera I had set it up to shoot just as with my D700 - continuous focus and continuous shooting mode - which didn't work well for me. The shutter makes so little sound that I couldn't tell how many shots I was firing. When I shoot in single shot mode, I know the shutter tripped only because I can feel the very slight vibration in my fingers.

This first image is the same as posted yesterday. It's the raw image with a slight crop. As you can see, the color balance is cool (as in blue shift .... not cool as in hip) and the shadow of Señor Blanco's hat has covered his sunglasses.

I adjusted the color balance and contrast, and digitally dodged the shadow under his hat brim. The result is much more interesting.

And being who I am, I had to turn the image into a b/w with a slight warm tone. Not quite as festive as the color version, but still a great street portrait.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New York Easter Pics

One thing was abundantly clear at the Easter Day Parade (more a promenade than anything else): the Japanese camera manufacturers are making a killing in the American market, especially Canon and Nikon. It's a wonderful thing that so many people are taking photos. It raises the overall level of awareness of how important photos are to our culture, and how difficult it is to take a really good shot. 

I learned two things about the new Fuji X-Pro 1. Firstly, it may have a tendency to slightly over expose. I'll have to do more testing of that. Secondly, the camera uses a lot of battery power. I had turned off the power save feature because when it is turned on for some reason the auto focus functionality is slightly more sluggish. If I want to work with the camera in that configuration I'm going to have to make sure the battery is fully charged before I go out shooting for a day, and I'm going to have to carry an extra fully charged battery with me. The battery ran out of power after about 120 shots. At the end of its life I goosed more out of it by turning the camera off for a little while and turning it back on again only when I knew I was going to take a shot. I squeezed about 5 extra shots out of the battery. And on the train ride home I could review about 10 shots on the LCD before the camera just up and quit on me.
I seem to have a problem with using the SD card in my universal card reader. The volume doesn't mount on my computer. Other SD cards work fine. But when I plug the camera into the computer via a USB port the volume mounts easily. It may be about time for a new card reader. Having to use  SilkyPix Developer Studio Pro as my RAW engine is a royal pain in the ass. I've been so spoiled by the great functionality in Adobe's Lightroom. I pray that LR gets updated soon to read the new Fuji RAW format.

The biggest problem I had taking photos at the festivities was a result of the main attraction of the parade. HATS!!! They make shadows over the face, especially on a bright sunny day as it was. Here's a selection of color images almost straight out of the camera. Just a little tweaking.

Just a Thought For Today

No photos today for this post. I'm heading into New York City for the Easter Parade in a little while and I was mulling over what I wanted to accomplish photographically, when I had an epiphany. I need to slow down with this new camera. There is so much I want to learn how to do with it, many features with which I need to experiment so that I can incorporate them into my shooting flow. I have a bit of an obsessive/compulsive personality. I want to to it all now, and I want it to be right the first time I do it. Never mind that I spent many years honing my skills as a documentary photographer so that I now shoot street the way I do. Never mind that my understanding of how to use my D700 took several years of experimentation to develop an intuitive feel for the camera and what it can do.

When I step out with my Fuji X-Pro 1 (which is a totally different beast from the D700) I want the same quality shots as I was already getting. The only way I'm going to be able to do that today is set the camera up with the most comfortable settings, leave it that way, and go out and shoot. I have enough to learn with just that: how to gauge distance and framing with the fixed focal length 18mm f2 lens (effectively 28mm), how to get my timing right with the autofocus (it's different - not better, not worse - just different), how to hold the camera so I'm not pushing buttons or spinning little wheels inadvertently. 

In the coming weeks there are several features on which I hope to get a handle: how to shoot 
1) with the auto ISO feature - this is a functionality that I absolutely loved on my D700
2) with the manual focus and gauge hyper focal distance
3) panoramics
4) bracketed exposures

But for today (and just for today) I want to have fun with my new toy, get some great Easter shots, and post them here - maybe even in color!