Saturday, May 2, 2015

Return of the errant Sony A7II

A replacement for the trial Sony A7II I had last week and developed an error message that rendered it more of a doorstop than a camera has arrived so my testing can resume. Along with the camera I am using a Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Leica M lens Adapter to Sony mount adapter that has a built-in extension ring allowing the Leica lenses to focus closer than their normal near focus distance.

The whole point of these tests is to find out how well a Sony A7 camera would work as a second body for a Leica M system.  Ultimately, I would prefer to use an A7r with its 36mp sensor, but for now I am performing my tests on an A7II because it has the new Sony in-camera vibration reduction system and I want to see how well it works with the Leica lenses. I expect Sony to add this feature to a future version of the A7r, and, if my tests pan out well, I would probably add it as a second body for my Leica system.

A Sony A7II kit with an assortmant of Leica M lenses fits comfortably in a small camera bag like this Tenba DNA 8 Graphite Messenger Bag for only $79.95. 

Leica lenses look really good on the Sony A7II, In fact they are a much better balance, size-wise, than the current crop of lenses actually made for the camera.  The extra lens extension offered by the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter is an added bonus I have already found quite handy.

Springtime in New York is offering plenty of opportunities to try out the close focus Voigtlander adapter on shots like this taken with the Leica 135mm APO telyt used in close and wide open at f/3.4.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Vacation lifestyle with a Fuji X-T1 kit

It didn't take much to convince me to take my Fuji X-T1 as my main lifestyle camera on location to Miami. I have been working with the camera so much that I now have total confidence in it to deliver the goods in most lifestyle shooting situations.

Below is a set of images taken in a hotel room using my favorite triumverate of indoor, available light lenses -- the Fuji 56mm f/1.2, 35mm f/1.4, and 23mm f/1.4.  Two gold/silver combo reflectors provided a bounce fill from the window light, and that was pretty much it.

The blur in this photo was acieved by shooting past two hand-held champagne glasses placed near the lens in the foreground. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

From sunrise to sunset

There hasn't been much opportunity to capture any serious photography this weekend. I've been in meetings most of the day. The sunrises and skies have been somewhat nondescript but I did attempt a few photos anyway.  Below is a sequence from sunrise to sunset all taken with the Fuji X-T1 and 18-135mm zoom except for the bottom image, which was captured on a cell phone.

Sunrise with the sun behind a thin layer of clouds. The dynamic range of modern digital cameras can keep the shape of the sun as a circle,whereas in the past the its brightness would have completely blasted out the shape. 

Here I tried to work the sunrise into a Mondrian-like composition by framing it with some foreground glass partitions.

With skies so clear the sun is very intense. I tried to capture that intensity with this high-key,  blasted-out shot of the morning sun reflecting off the sea.

Just one tiny cloud on the horizon in late afternoon.

Captured this tree silhouette against a sunset cloud with my cell phone. I've been playing with cell phone shots recently to see what techniques can be applied to improve their quality. 

Ten second night time time-lapse exposure taken with the Nikon D750 and 21mm f/1.8 lens at f/2. 
A beautiful tropical storm blew through here and was gone in less than an hour. Taken with the X-T1 and 18-135mm lens at 18mm.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Miami bound with my X-T1

I'm heading down to Miami for a weekend conference and two days of shooting lifestyle, one day in a hotel, the other on a sailboat -- assuming the weather cooperates. I spent the last week debating what camera to take as my main system, Nikon or Fuji. My confidence in the reliabilty of the Fuji X cameras to deliver the goods has increased a lot since I've been adding it to my normal shooting workflow. despite what I recounted in my blog post yesterday about going back to my trusty D4.

The Fuji X-T1 won out for the trip, although I am also carrying a Nikon D750 body as backup, since I know I can borrow the lenses for it in Miami, and I never like to travel without a backup.

I will be shooting both indoors and outdoors.  For me that means different lens sets. I like to use fast aperture primes inside to shoot mostly available light, or available light boosted with a fill light.  For this I packed my favorite lifestyle trio: Fuji 56mm f/1.2, 35mm f/1.4, and 23mm f/1.4. For outdoors, I included the 50-140mm f/2.8 and the 14mm f/2.8. And of course I'll have my go-everywhere 18-135mm zoom because I also plan on doing a lot of personal photography. Sounds like a lot of gear, but it all packed into one small camera bag. This mirrorless sytem is a whole lot less than I used to carry for on a DSLR trip.

A couple of Nikon SB-900 flash units with a set of  Yongnuo RF-603NII-N1 Wireless Flash Triggers and Gary Fong Lightspheres are included for fill light along with a few collapsible reflectors. A small tripod completes the package.

I expect to be able to post to the blog while travelling so stay tuned.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sometimes I just need my Nikon D4 to do the job

Today we did a simple lifestyle shoot in the studio of a mother and her baby. We were using real people rather than models because the trend lately has been for more of a "real life", candid look to successful lifestyle images. I had the Fuji X-T1 out with my usual assortment of lenses for indoor lifestyle, the 56mm f/1.2, 35mm f/1.4, and 23mm f/1.4.

With any shoot involving a baby or toddler, the photographer is completely at the whim of the child. It the child who is really directing the shoot. The little guy we had was an Energizer Bunny of energy moving around the set -- lot's of energy, lots of good expressions, but darting about so fast that my camera could not keep up with him, and when it did, the lens often did not achieve focus. To top it off, I was working the aperture around f/2 to keep the depth-of-field as shallow as possible.

I can usually time my shots and go for what I call the "peak of action". After two scenes I realized this was not going to work and we just were not going to capture the right mix of spontaneous action expreessing a real moment in time. With the child changing expressions and positions every fraction of a second I decided to switch over to a Nikon D4, which can work at 10fps with an almost limitless buffer. I also set it to 3D-autofocus so the focus point could track the child darting about,

Success. As simple as they look to me now, the scenes below, along with many others, would not have been possible without the D4. Nothing like the right tool for the job.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Photography for blogging -- keeping it fast and simple

In addition to running her own successful lifestyle photography studio, Jamie Grill Photography, my daughter, Jamie, also produces an almost daily blog called, Chasing Saturday's, with her blogging partner, Marisa. The two of them keep creating recipes aimed at making Saturday a week long event. Running a blog like this requires a lot of photography, and doing it frequently means no time to dawdle -- get in, set up, get the shots, get out. A workflow like this is best served by having a simplified routine for producing quality images.

The photos are taken mostly in a daylight studio or at home. With no lights to manage except for an occasional tungsten accent lamp, window light is one key to keeping things simple. In the studio, Jamie works with one camera, a Nikon D4, and one lens, a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 used fairly wide open. At home she relies mostly on a Nikon D5300 with a 35mm lens, and sometimes a 60mm for tighter close-ups. With the equipment needs kept to a minimum Jamie and Marisa can concentrate on the image concept, propping, and composition.

A by-product of all this blog photography is that Jamie can add the images to her successful stock photo collection, which helps to ammortize the time and expense of running the blog.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Simply the sun

One thing I love about modern digital cameras is their extensive dynamic range. The ability to capture light from its brightest to its darkest in one image is definitely an improvement over the film age. This morning I we had a sky with fast moving cloud cover and the sun occasionally peeked out from behind the thinner layers of cloud. I grabbed my trusty Fuji X-T1 with the 16-135mm on it and snapped away. The top photo below is the result, a white-on-white, minimalist treatment with subtle detail everywhere.

Below that is a couple of my old favorite "shooting-the-sun" shots. One was taken in the Badlands as an early morning mist was clearing the area, and the other is a reflection of the sun in a glass partition against the sky.