A Year in Photos

Photography, fiction, and personal essays form my three primary creative outlets. For this blog's first 18 months, I used it primarily for photography. As I've returned to creative writing, I'll use this blog for fiction, too. Sometimes, when reality needs to be discussed more than truth, I write personal essays.

This blog will continue to showcase as many above-average photos as I can muster. Hopefully my written work will be as good or better than the visual. Whichever drew you here -- photographs or fiction, I hope you enjoy both.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Canon Can, but Can it Can-can?

This Saturday Special Edition features a new digital SLR -- a Canon T1I (EOS 500D). The lens is the kit 18-55mm job. Readers will know I have mixed feelings about Canons. My AE-1 is a brilliant camera. The FD lens is marvelous. My RT and I have a troubled relationship. This T1I only muddied the waters further.

I had this camera with me when I took the AE-1 inside the now-demolished building. Likewise, I had it for Yerba Buena Gardens. Here are some shots from the trip.

Digital monochrome conversion. Window looking out the rear on the second floor. The wall just off-frame to the right had the hole I shot through and shared the result of earlier this week.

A 'found still-life.'

NEXT! Let's show off some Photoshop work!

Stopped down, this lens is great. Wide open, it's AWFUL. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that wide-open it is one of the three or four worst-performing lenses I've ever used. Also, this camera's high-ISO performance is meaningfully worse than My K-7's equivalent performance. Honestly, using this camera doesn ot make me understand all the fuss about Canon. Sure I love my little Elph, but I can't fathom this camera being a viable, professional-grade camera.

Same image without the extraneous building cloned out.

So what do I mean when I rail against this camera? In honesty, the good results are VERY good. However, I downloaded about 600 files onto my computer after this photo walk and of that 28 images of reasonable quality emerged. Granted, some of the shots were multi-image stitches, but with those taken into consideration, I still took more than 150 single-frame shots and had less than 30 return results that I felt reflected what I would expect of myself to share on this blog.

Edited from the raw to enhance details in the ruffled petals. I'd never edited from raw before, but I can understand why photographers prefer it. However, to my taste, I prefer editing from jpgs as the jpg performs more like film.

I dig how the glass pinched the reflection.

A cherry blossom, late, after all the rest on the tree had fallen.

I have no idea what kind of flower that is.

Not all Heaven is in a rage. I, however, am furious about this poor wide-open performance. Look at how blurry the robin's face is! This lens performs terribly on this camera. Now, how will it perform on film? I'm not sure yet but I will endeavor to find out in a couple of weeks with my RT. I suspect it will perform better because film has a greater circle of confusion (CoC) tolerance than does a digital sensor, especially with how tiny the pixels on an 18.1-megapixel APS-C sensor are. Even Zeiss lenses, which have a CoC tolerance of 1/1,750th the image size (opposed to other high-end lenses which are 1/1,500th) can't provide pixel-sharp images on DSLR sensors much above eight or twelve megapixels. Nayway, that's all neither here nor there for this post. We'll leave it at this: I expected greater performance from this camera than it delivered and I feel with full confidence than the K-7 is a markedly superior performer to this one. The K-7 also feels more solidly built.

A cow bird, maybe? I'm not sure.

And to answer my own question, the Canon can, but it cannot can-can.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

First Fuji Velvia Experiment

Because I didn't get any shots with the FTN on Thursday, I decided to use it Friday. I only used half the roll, however, so I have no shots to share yet. A few weeks ago I shared shots from a trip up Mount Diablo in the fog. I also had my Voigtlander Perkeo I with me, loaded with Fuji Velvia 50 ISO slide film. I took half the roll that day and half a couple weeks ago in The City. I didn't intend to use this combination for the blog, so you'll get to see it in action again. This camera continually outperforms my expectations and these slide images demonstrate that.

Let's open big with the best image from the roll. Until now, I haven't used unexpired slide film since the late 1990s. This is amazing and slide film will certainly become a staple in my film fridge. I am absolutely in love with Velvia.

Into the Fog

Over a Foggy Cliff

Even in fog this film captures color nicely.

The Bay Bridge.

Until next week!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Film, Change of Plans

Last Thursday I had to visit Concord, California, for work. And, unsuprisingly, got no photos taken with my FTN and 43-86 combo that I'd taken. So that night I tested out a new film I got -- Ilford P4 400 ISO surveillance Film -- in my Pentax K2. I managed to pick up 450 feet of this film, on a lark, and to take a chance that it might be great. It is. This film has a greater tonal range than I had expect and many of the images are so silver that they look like digital monochrome conversions instead of standard monochrome film shots. Also, this film can apparently be shot at up to ISO 800 or 1,000 and push processed to deliver a low-grain, low-light film. I have three shots to share, two of which are of my dogs. Cope. You'll see more of this film next week as I'll use it exclusively.

Dogs make a great film test subject because if the film performs poorly, the fur will be a much or, at best, out of focus. This film performs superbly well with great detail and no white-space blowouts. Normally, Cheever's muzzle is a big white mash in photos, but in reality he still has some dark hair speckled throughout. This is the first film I've used that captures that without additional post processing.

I had read this film has a low glare propensity. This image would seem to confirm that. The sun is in the lower left and this lens (Pentax-A 28-80) has a tendency to glare.

One final shot, looking through a hollow football.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Thing for Shadows

"And there may be some who argue that if beauty has to hide its weak points in the dark it is not beauty at all" (Tanizaki, Junichiro. In Praise of Shadows. Stony Creek, Connecticut: Leete's Island Books, 1977.) Like Tanizaki, I believe that shadows present depth. Light, as Americans (and all Westerners use it) becomes a bleaching sterilizer. An ideal American room could be a hospital room -- white, evenly lit, uniform throughout, and devoid of shadows and depth. Another, similar room could be a cell in an asylum. Americans have fetishized light to a point where an overabundance in all aspects of every day is seen as normal. Too much light forces our eyes to work harder, with our pupils shut way down, and brings on eye strain and fatigue quickly. It robs what we see of depth and character. And so, today, we look at photos which praise shadows and in which shadows become the central actor in each picture.

San Francisco Public Library, Mission Bay Branch.

Fourth and King Muni stop. I liked that the shadows make a train track for the Muni light rail stop at Caltrain.


Cherry blossoms in their tree's shadow.

Willie Mays Silhouette.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The KX Kicks It

This was my first outing with the KX and it was difficult because the KX has something smeared inside the viewfinder. So composition was difficult but, fortunately, the smear is on the lower part of the viewfinder and not in the central focusing. This means I was able to focus but had some difficulty composing shots. That said, I managed eight reasonable shots on this roll.

Underneath the Bay Bridge.

Millennium Tower. Designed by Handel Architects and built by Webcor Builders. Somehow many of the buildings I'm drawn to photographing -- Infinity, Foundry Square, and now Milennium Tower -- are build by Webcor.

A train care nestled between some skyscrapers. It may be interesting to see what's inside it some day.

A sculpture I don't know much about. All year the plaza that houses it has been under construction. It looks like the crews are finishing up, though, so there may be more and more dynamic shots of this soon.

I don't know too much about this sculpture of two faces -- one yelling and one rolling its eyes. It's an interesting piece, sort of. Not my favorite, but not one I dislike.

I give the sculptor a lot of credit for the very good articulation on the mouth.

Establishing-type shot of Embarcadero Plaza.

An interesting double exposure. Cropped differently, it could look just like heavy fog.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

AE-1 and a Now-demolished Building

I took my AE-1 into a building that was torn down last week. In fact, as I was making my way around the building, the preliminary demolition crews were in there, thankfully just assuming I was supposed to be. So I managed a few photos from inside the building and outside, too, before walking over to Yerba Buena Gardens.

This combination -- with Kodak Plus-X 125 -- is a fabulous combination and this roll returned a great number of good photos. In fact, today's post has TEN photos. I think that ties the most photos for one day with my Nikon F3, the film camera I think of as returning the best and most consistent shot quality.

Firemen up a ladder, photographing the building I had just been inside of. The old warehouse-turned-sweat-shop-turned-pigeon-and-hobo-coop was pulled down last week to make way for a new fire station.

I was unsure how this shot would turn out. I liked the VERY polished fire truck bell. The result is not unpleasing. Kodak's Plus-X is one of the best films ever made. Top five, certainly, along with engineering masterpieces such as Kodachrome and Velvia. Results like this illustrate why -- rich tonal range and an almost tactile quality.

Inside the building, a ladder leading to the roof. I have all the exposure information for these written down, but have lost my notebook.

A different shot of the ladder. The red filter has darkened the sky and made the near-invisible clouds more prominent. A nice effect hinting at foreboding. So I didn't go on the roof.

Looking through a hole in the wall from the second floor to part of the sweat shop area. For photo processing, this was actually composited from two images, one focused on the wall and one focused on what was below.

After leaving the domed building, I walked to nearby Yerba Buena Gardens and grabbed this shot of the nifty reflections on this building. Each pane reflects a different part of the neighborhood. I'm assuming that was an intentional design idea. It works nicely.

Another building near Yerba Buena.

This is the statue I actually set out to photograph last Monday. The Shaking Man.

I'm told this statue represents a business person and the different meanings a handshake can have. You may remember that I've photographed it before with my Nikon F3 on a rainy day. However, those results were not up to par, so I wanted to try again with better weather.

Overall, these shots turned out somewhat better than the go-round from the end of January.

A Year In Photos -- Week Thirteen

This week we have some great photos to share, including some taken with a new film to me and a very obscure film most people will never have heard of -- Ilford P4 400 Surveillance Film. I picked up 450 feet of the stuff and it is marvelous. Also, I only got three of my intended rolls shot last week,, but there's still five days of photos coming. Without delay, let's see what this week will offer:

For this week's cameras, we have an exciting lineup. Last week I said I would use my five film K-series cameras with the same lens and film. That WAS the plan until one of my K2 copies stopped working and needs to now be sent in for repair. So the K2 will be replaced by the F3. Also, I decided to try different lenses to give this film a heartier workout and provide (hopefully) a greater range of photos.

Monday: Pentax K1000 (7834930), Mamiya/Sekor 55mm (87084), Ilford P4 400 ISO Surveillance Film, and a CPL filter. I didn't get the Pentax out last week, so I'll reuse this combination with different film.

Tuesday: Pentax KM (8273837), Sigma 50mm Macro (1023532), Ilford P4, and a UV filter.

Wednesday: Pentax KX (8390811), Samyang 18-28 (211773), Ilford P4, yellow filter.

Thursday: Pentax K2 (7084574), Sigma 35-80 (1035933), Ilford P4, and a blue filter.

Friday: Nikon F3 (1635441), Nikon 24-120 (343019), Ilford P4, and a red filter. This red filter is more like a dark rose color, so the results are not likely to be as dramatic as may be obtained from a proper and good red filter.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

K-7 Building Photographs, Day Three of Three

Stitched together from four photos. A basic photomerge just to increase image size and resolution slightly. Cropped to cut out a fence and port-a-john.

Stitched together from 34 or so photos taken at 50mm from across the street. Main problems include the horizon sloping dramatically upwards to the right, a trade-off for the building being vertical. Also keystoned to reduce the amount the building swoops away from the camera.

The building looks good in terms of color balance, and the sky here is fabulous, but ultimately this photo suffers from other technical issues which make it an unsuccessful photo. Namely, the street moving upward and the barricades around the building. Photographing buildings in a construction zone is difficult, yes. In fact, it shouldn't be done for any sort of high-quality purposes. Additionally, the building isn't actually vertical, but to make it vertical would make the road appear to be steeply uphill and the white building on the side to be falling over.

There may be a way to correct that in Photoshop, but if so I couldn't find it.

For the sky, I copied the sky with a wand mask and re-pasted it. Then I dropped the gamma to about .1 or .2 and made the transparency 50%. So that had a nice effect.

This day's photos reiterate my point from Monday: A photo captured badly in the camera can't be made great with editing and processing. So the whole point of that to you who take photographs is: get as much right in the camera as possible. For you who enjoy seeing photographs, there's a lot of effort in capturing a good shot well before it's processed and well before you see it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rain and a Bronze Photographer

Last week I stumbled across a sculpture called "Smile." Here are some shots worth sharing.

Smile is a bronze, I think, statue that is so intricately detailed -- down to the pores on the statue's 'skin', that I had to touch it a few times to make sure it wasn't a street performer.

It's as though he's telling me to get out of his photo.

Check out the detail on the hand holding the camera. This is one of the most impressive sculptures in San Francisco.


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