Friday, July 27, 2012

Three Dimensionality

I've been reading The Age of Insight by Eric Kandel for quite a few days. It's not a work to rush through. I can read only three or four pages at a time before I find I have to put the book down and think about and absorb what I've read. It's an exceptional book for anyone who wants to understand how our brains perceive and process visual art and stimuli.

The challenge for an artist or photographer is to present material that is rendered in two dimensions - length and width - and still create the illusion of depth. One of the greatest artistic revelations of the Renaissance was the concept of perspective and depth perception. It developed steadily through the 19th Century until artists such as Cezanne, Picasso, Bonnard, Gaugin, Van Gogh, and Matisse decided to rid themselves of the shackles of dimensionality. 

Kandel makes the point that the human eye, at a distance of more than 10 feet, perceives the world two dimensionally and passes that two dimensional information into the brain of the viewer which then reinterprets the data to recreate the third dimension based on our unconscious learned perceptions of the world around us. 

My aim as a photographer when creating an image is to give as much (or as little) information as is necessary to entice the viewer to see what I want to be seen in the way I want it to be seen. I took this shot on Fifth Avenue during lunchtime, when the sidewalk was jammed with people. It was a hip shot (I would have much preferred to have gotten the woman on the right with her whole arm in the frame, but such are the tribulations when shooting from the hip) with my Fuji X-Pro1 using the 18mm lens, at 1/250th second, f8, ISO 800. The critical vertical line in the image is the edge of the church about a quarter of the way into the image from the left. From that line the perspective drops off deeply to the left (into the dark), and more shallowly to the right and that composition defines the perspective of the image. The two people in the foreground of the image are on an extended plane from the left side of the church, and are brought forward in the image by the receding background behind them. 

I'd like to say that this was all carefully thought out when I took the shot. But it wasn't. It was a lucky hip shot. The more you get out to shoot and experiment, the more likely it is that shots like this will happen. I know it may be rude of me, bu t I call this shot 'The dork and the doll'.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fuji X-Pro1 and the M mount

One of the most compelling reasons to have gotten the Fuji X-Pro1 camera was the announced intention of Fuji to make an m-mount adapter so that old Leicaphiles such as myself (the Leica part, not the old) would be able to make use of their wonderful Leica m-mount lenses on this yummie new type of camera. I was hot to get the adapter but resisted the temptation to get a cheaply produced third party adapter ring with no electronic/digital functionality. 

When I got the Fuji adapter I checked all my Leica lenses to see which lenses would or wouldn't be functional.  There is a problem with some lenses because when focused to infinity the rear element housing protrudes from the back of the lens and hits an internal baffle in the adapter. I really wanted the adapter so that I could use my 50mm f2 lens and my 90mm f2.8 lens (on the DX sensor that translates into 75mm and 135mm respectively). I did all the setup stuff that Fuji recommended: adjustments for barrel/pincushion distortion, peripheral illumination, and color shading, and did some quick tests around town. Everything seemed fine.

I had yet to really use the adapter and Leica glass in a field test on the streets of New York. I made it a 
mission for my street walk yesterday. Those focal lengths are not what I would customarily use for my street work, as I like to be in close, so I found a chair on the plaza in front of the Apple Store on the corner of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue and watched as people walked by. My standard configuration now is to set the camera on Auto ISO 3200, shutter to 1/250th second, and aperture to f8. That's what I used here.

To manually focus I tried spot focus, hyper focal distance focus, and zone focus. Since I was sitting in one spot and taking my time to shoot manually, the best result was using spot focusing. It's essential to use the electronic viewfinder in this configuration. With the camera set to M (manual focus)  and with a gentle pressure on the function wheel the viewfinder zooms into the focus point at a magnification of 1.5X. The zoom functionality is very good to have for critical fine focusing, but with aging hands like mine the zoomed image was very jittery. No matter, the focusing in regular mode worked well, and for whatever flak Fuji has taken over the speed of its auto focus mechanism, auto focus is much faster than manual focus - at least for now until I get my manual chops back up to speed. 

I got this using the 90mm f2.8 lens at 1/400th second, f8, at ISO 1600. I was far enough from the young woman so that she was totally unaware of my presence until one of her friends mentioned to her that I was taking photos. I got several shots off before she turned to look at me. But this was the best of them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Forever Young?

One of my favorite spots in New York City is the plaza on the southeast corner of 59th street and Fifth avenue. I could sit there for hours and watch the world walk past. And photograph it. I spotted these two fillies strolling down the avenue hoping to be seen. They beamed with joy when I raised my camera to take this shot.