Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Fujinon Lens Kit

I've been shooting with the new Fujinon 14mm f2.8 for about a week now, and as I've said before in previous posts, I love the lens. For several times out on the street I used it exclusively and there are some things with which I have yet to experiment, but with the results I've gotten so far (see examples on my previous blog posts) I couldn't be more happy. The last time I was out (Friday) I enjoyed the burst of fair weather at a favorite spot in Manhattan, and mounted the 18-55mm zoom lens. Between these two lenses I've got 97.4% of my shooting range covered. I'm looking forward to getting the 55-200mm zoom when it comes out later this year, then my lens kit will be complete (I think). I really like to photograph musicians backstage and during sound checks - when the light really sucks - so I'm sure the 18mm and 35mm primes will continue to get a workout.

I've felt goosed up by having the X-Pro1 and the fantastic Fuji lenses to work with, and once the weather starts to warm up a bit I hope to be out much more. I expect to hit the street again tomorrow (Sunday) so I need to keep ahead of myself in processing and posting images. The first two of these shots were with the zoom lens:



I have yet to play with the manual focus and hyperfocal distance settings on the 14mm lens. The big hoopla is that you can set the aperture to f4 and get everything into relative focus because of the extreme depth of field at this focal length. At that aperture you could supposedly get everything from five feet to infinity in focus. But the reality of the physics is not quite that. While elements in the image may be perceived to be in focus, in reality there can be only one point (or plane) in the image that is really in focus, the rest of the image is, to one degree or another, relatively out of focus, depending on the size of the circle of confusion at that distance. Five feet to infinity may seem like quite a large range of distance, but for my style of shooting, which is in very close, if I shot at f4 my depth of field would extend from three to five feet. When I took this shot I was about five feet from him, and used the autofocus on the XP1.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Some Street Shots From The Past Few Weeks

The first of these shots was taken with the Fujinon 18-55mm lens. Shot at 18mm, f5.6, 1/250th sec. and ISO 640. The combination of the wonderful tonal range possible with the X-Pro 1 camera  and the flexibility of the Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 plugin made getting the separation of the blacks and dark grays of the woman's coat, gloves, and pants possible, but not easy. I could have spent hours in a wet darkroom to get that kind of separation. 

Shot with the Fujinon 14mm lens, f5.6, 1/250th sec., ISO 2500. I'm still working on the angles. I wish I hadn't cut off the woman's feet so that there was a better  balance between her and the mannequin. Shooting from the hip with the super wide lens requires that I be in really close, but the angle of the camera is critical. I think I'm going to get into NYC again tomorrow to practice more shots like this.

Shot with the 14mm lens, f8, 1/250th sec, ISO 500. Two scary looking guys. With the super wide lens it was possible to aim the camera at a spot past the second guy's right shoulder and still compose the image. 

Shot with the 14mm lens, f5.6, 1/250th sec., ISO 2500. I shot this from the hip, got the comp right on. Sometimes I just get lucky.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why having a project is important

When I began my creative journey through life I was deeply influenced by two mentors who couldn't have been more different (as in different, not better, not worse, not more, not less) intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass music, took me in as a young hotshot from New York and taught me to play bluegrass fiddle. After I resigned from Monroe's band to study classical violin (at the ripe old age of 23) I found my way to Raphael Bronstein who was a world renown violin teacher and a direct descendant pedagogically of Leopold Auer who mentored Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein (not that either of them needed any mentoring, you understand). As I said, the two men (Monroe and Bronstein) couldn't have been more different, and yet the lessons I learned under Monroe's tutelage were the same as those Professor Bronstein taught me (with different language and more sophistication). And, by the way, they were pretty much the same as I heard from my photography mentor, Mario Cabrera. The core of that philosophy boiled down to this: It's all about the means, not the end. How you arrive at the end result of your creative endeavor(s) is more important to your never ending growth as an artist than is the result of your efforts. I could write pages and pages about this, but the subject of this blog is about having a project, so bear with me, and on to the next step.

Bronstein used catch phrases with his students to communicate key ideas of his pedagogical philosophy. One of the most important was, as he used to say, 'Attached is detached, detached is attached' or put another way he might say, 'Like it is it isn't, and like it isn't it is'. This is not a simple idea to get across, but here goes. Let's say I have a musical phrase with which to work that's maybe twelve or fifteen notes long and I want to make a beautiful creation of it. So I think about this melody and how I would like it to sound, I pick up my violin and play the phrase as I hear it in my mind's ear. Invariably when I did this for Prof the result was never what I wanted, it sounded like crap, and the lesson would begin. He showed me, for example, how to systematically dissect the phrase and imbue each little group of three, four, or five notes (he called them faces) with its own special character - in essence breaking the phrase down into small parcels (detaching them) to make each a special creation, and then gluing it all back together again (attaching) keeping those discreet parcels in mind. The end result was far more beautiful than anything of which I could have previously conceived.

How does this relate to having a photographic project? Well, it matters not with what I am creatively involved - be it writing, music, photography, etc. What does matter, however, is having a project in mind, and being able to articulate what the project is and what its end goals are. Having this in hand helps me to understand the steps I need to take to put the whole thing together. If I don't keep the end in mind and go out to shoot photos, I usually come home with a hodgepodge of images with no thought focus, and the result of the day is a collection of detached images. Some days it's good to do this, go out to shoot, have fun, and click away. I've gotten some great images that way. But if I go out with the project in mind, know where I have to go to get what I want, what light I'm looking for, what type of character I want to photograph, and so on - in other words, I have clearly defined goals - then I can't help but grow from the experience of shooting and afterwards reviewing the images. On the best of days (which doesn't happen all that often) I can go out with this idea in mind yet be flexible enough to to grab unrelated images when they happen around me.

Anyone who knows me personally who saw me without my camera would think I was seriously ill. I always have a real camera with me (I've not yet used my phone's or iPad's camera). I don't go out to shoot, I just go out. Photography is a way of life for me, as was music earlier on in my life, and it affords me the means on which I thrive and grow. The projects don't have to be grand ideas or profoundly meaningful, just enough to channel my thinking. I have several ongoing: I am always drawn to men with interesting facial hair (sometimes women's also) and men who smoke cigars (always women who do). Here's two shots I got yesterday as I walked on Madison and Fifth avenues.