Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Walkabout In The Fog ~

Just to be clear, there's a mighty big distinction between a walkabout in the fog and wandering around in a fog. The former is the subject, more or less, of today's blog, and the latter is my usual morning affliction sans café. This past Sunday turned out to be a perfect day to grab a camera and go, which is exactly what Bill and I did. We were supposed to meet up and review the on-line projects we're working on, but that sparkling interplay of sunlight and fog along the Willamette proved irresistible. The photo above was taken from the Broadway Bridge with the 55-200 f/3.5-4.8 on my trusty little Fuji.

First up, however, was a loading dose of coffee and some lunch at Goose Hollow Inn, one of my favorite haunts in the city.  Yes, we accomplished some actual business without being too greatly distracted. We're working on a book about the how's and why's of studio lighting that we'll publish as an e-book, we have a series of workshops, and of course, endlessly itchy feet (figuratively only, I assure you) that look for those opportunities to go a-wandering with good shoes, good eyes, and good glass. And it appears that we're not the only ones.

Over the past year or so, whenever I've gone out to wander with my camera or iPhone either by myself or with Bill or Whitney, I've heard from so many friends and readers to invite them along next time. Usually these short walkabouts are completely unplanned and spontaneous, making it hard to plan ahead to call for fellow travelers. So we're going to try to put together an unofficial travel schedule on a basis that I hope might be fairly regular to make planing a little easier. Maybe one Sunday a month? Maybe one evening a month? Who's up for that? Our hope would be to make something like this a bit more formal to include some follow-up time where we could share images and ideas, and maybe even incorporate it into our workshop schedule. Who knows. I'm just thinking out loud here.

Shoot me some feedback, I'd love to hear your ideas and if it's something you'd like to do with us.

I promise, we'll start out with some coffee.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Exotic Places, So Close To Home ~

Being semi-retired (which means I really don't want to work very hard anymore, but kinda need the money) I try to get out and wander with my camera whenever and wherever I can. And just this week I visited one of my favorite Portland landmarks, the Lan Su Chinese Gardens. My good friend and co-conspirator Richard joined me there with his new iPhone, and after a weekend of fairly intensive rain we were happily surprised by the fair weather.

The Lan Su Gardens are considered among the most authentic outside of China, and while I can only assume that to be the case, I can certainly attest to its beauty and charm. I've been there many times all throughout the year, and each visit shows something new, something previously unseen, something so etherial it takes my breath away.

And of course, no visit there is complete without going to the Tea House. I don't know how many varieties of tea are offered there: white, green, smoked, herbal; the list is long and utterly confusing but we settled on a ginger-infused black tea that was pretty amazing.
But yes, we went there to do some photography, and you probably are expecting a little photospeak here. I brought my Fuji mirrorless and three lenses. I could have left two of them at home, the very wide and the very long. I had just picked up the 55-200 Fujinon and was so keen to use it too, but the close confines within the garden made that tough to do, so I used the little 18-55 throughout.  I took the image of the gate at the top with my iPhone 5s, and worked it Snapseed to get the result you see here. These other two were with the Fuji; both were imaged using onOne Photosuite 9, and the tea-pourer was blended with an Autopainter layer in CS6.

I'm anxious to see what Richard got; he has an artist's eye, a poet's heart, and an iPhone 6. It's impossible to wander around here and not see something breathtakingly beautiful at every turn.
It's what I love about Portland, too. So much variety, so much to see, to do, to photograph. Just park downtown and see the world.

Bring your camera.

Don't forget the tea.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Old and in the Way, Part 2 ~

So the only reason it's "vintage" day down here is because Whitney is prepping the studio for a handcrafts-product shoot, and what better background could there be to take some shots of this truly vintage Nikon Photomic F? It's the perfect backdrop for this blog about one of the all-time perfect cameras, and this one has a great story to tell.

This Nikon -- this very one -- is one of two that my brother Jim brought home from the war. Yes, that one. A Navy man at the time, he picked these up duty-free on the carrier he served on, the USS Hancock, for a couple hundred bucks apiece. Pretty sweet deal. This is the only one that survives in our family; the other, alas, having been stolen some years ago. It served with Jim on three Viet Nam deployments in '71, '72. and '73. It has been in action in Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, the Phillipines, Taipei, and Australia. Jim says he's going to start going through that amazing collection of negatives and get them digitized so he can begin sharing them. I am definitely keen to see them.

Pictured above is the ubiquitous 50mm f/1.4, which I think every photographer of my generation ran a million frames through. On the left is one of the first great Nikon zooms, the 80-200 f/4.5. I used one of these during my apprenticeship in '73 and '74 when we shot rodeo events in Wyoming and Colorado, and I gotta tell you they were damn near indestructible. Oh, and that leather half-case: why aren't those made anymore?

So just for grins and giggles I thought I'd throw the collection of cameras we have down here today together for a quick shot. It's interesting, yes, but barely tells the story of the lives of our cameras from 1971 to today. I ended up with so many different cameras from 35mm to 8x10. In fact, the last Nikon I personally owned was the F2A and a nice handful of lenses, my favorite being the 105mm f/2.5. So sweet, so sharp.
But enough tech talk, and enough teary-eyed reminiscences. Duty calls. We have lights to set up, and a session to shoot in around an hour.

Let me tell ya, nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Just A Quick Trip To Paradise ~

I tried to stick to my new year's resolution to attend to this blog every week, and immediately fell behind by two of them. But in my defense, the last two weeks included Christmas and New Year's, which should automatically trigger a vacation response in every North American. Me, especially, since I obviously work so darn hard...

So what's a guy to do, other than gather up an assortment of cameras and lenses and catch an early flight to Kona? It certainly sounded reasonable to me. I'd been to Hawaii many times: regular workshops and trade shows in Honolulu, and a photo trip to Kaua'i in 2013. But this was my first trip to the Big Island, and it was a joy and a revelation.
As far as gear goes, I really just travelled there with my Fuji Xe2 and the two lenses I own with it: the 18-55 f2.8-4, and the 10-24 f4. This is such an easy and lightweight system to carry around, and I'm getting more and more impressed with the precision and clarity of the optics. The images above and to the left were taken in the Tropical Botanic Gardens north of Hilo. The sun was bright and shiny, but the foliage so dense that I was shooting at an ISO of 800 and, at times, 1600. Truth be told, there's a bit of noise at 1600, but the new NR filter in Perfect Photo Suite 9 from onOne nails it down perfectly.

We stayed a couple of days down at the Kilauea volcano, and did a couple of hikes around there. (My wife calls them hikes; I likened them more to "death marches", but whatever). I never go anywhere without my iPhone 5s and took this shot of the crater, visible from the Jagger Museum, in HDR mode. Some editing in Snapseed, and finished up with some onOne filters, too.

There was plenty of snorkeling, swimming, and hanging out on the beaches around Kona, to be sure.  I saw this gorgeous tortoise swimming in the shallows at Pu'uhonoa, near Kona, and posted it to Facebook directly from my iPhone, but I've done a little extra work on it since then to bring out the incredible color and iridescence of the water.
We have a couple more trips planned this year; a trans-Canada adventure with a few days in Montreal, and hopefully the Albuquerque Balloon festival in the fall. Oh the things I'll do and the places I'll go just to make an interesting blog post. Honestly.
But Hawaii draws me back every year. There's a lot of pictures there I haven't taken yet.
And I ain't getting any younger.