It's another Photo Day and Chris has made his way up to the TWiT Brick House in Petaluma to talk photography with Leo Laporte and his guests!
The theme for this Photo Day is Photography outside the mainstream.
Among many other topics, Chris will hang out in studio to talk with Leo and his guests to talk about the origins of Tilt/Shift, taking pictures from kites, digging up 1850s photo technology to create true works of arts and - of course - he'll answer your questions!
Guests include Leo Laporte (Chief TWiT), Cris Benton (Kite Aerial Photography), Paul Sergeant (Tintype Studio) and Susan and Neil Silverman (travel photographers extraordinaire).
Tune in Saturday August 18, 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern / 23:00 Central European time!
Follow the show live at http://live.twit.tv/
Ask audience questions via Twitter (hashtag #photoday2012) or at http://tfttf.com/photodayquestion
I just ran across another blog article that asked the question if mobile phones would take over in the long run and overthrow all other cameras because the sensor technology and the fact that you tend to have one with you all the time.
I'm not so sure for a two main reasons.
1. Control. Cameras tend to get better and better, but even the best automated decisions will not necessarily reflect your intentions.
An example: think about a backlit portrait. Without built-in intelligence, the camera's light meter willtell the camera that there's a lot of light and the image that comes out is likely to be a silhouette of a person. Most cameras nowadays will detect this and compensate for it, resulting in a well-exposed person (and most likely a slightly overexposed background). I guess in most cases that's what the person behind the camera wanted anyway, so it's okay.
But how about the times when a photographer intended to produce the silhouette picture but didn't have a way to tell the camera that that's what they wanted?
The way the current mobile phone cameras look, it's very hard for me to believe that they will get to this level of control any time soon.
2. Sensor size. Different sensor sizes result in different depths of field (DOF) and control over DOF is a very important tool for most photographers.
In-focus and out-of-focus areas in a picture are one out of a whole array of essential tools for photographers when it comes to telling a story in a picture. Focus will show or hide things, focus will help you guide the viewer's eyes through a picture.
Smaller sensors make it very hard to control DOF. Everything tends to be in focus. Bigger sensors make it easier to control DOF. A photographer can place focus where it's important. And as things look right now, mobile phone cameras are pretty unlikely to get larger camera sensors.
Even if mobile phone cameras got larger sensors, that would mean that the lenses needed to be bigger and further away from the sensors, adding bulk and size. Very unlikely.
Will newer technologies and computational photography replace the need for bigger sensors in the future?
Who knows, but at this point in time, even the Raytrix and Lytro cameras cannot do their job without a certain level of bulk, and the results are by far not where they'd need to be.
What do you think? Are we going to see DSLRs disappear any time soon?
Yes, 'tis the time where we say 'tis again. And it's the time where we bring out the box of Christmas tree ornaments and decorate the tree. Yes, the Brownie Tree is back! And finally.. FINALLY the Christmas spirit kicks in.. and it feels good again.
My goal for 2012 is to keep photography in the center of my life, and to look at my images at the end of the year and see that I've learned something new again. So far this has worked, so let's make it work again for next year.
Here's to a wonderfully photographic 2012!
Being confined to the studio with the Plaubel Peco for several months was a good thing as it allowed me to experiment and try out large format photography within a safe environment. But taking the Chamonix out for a first spin felt really really good too!
I took my friends Sean and Michelle for a spin in the Black Forest during their Germany vacation, and Sean brought his foldable Shen-Hao large format camera, which is virtually the same as the Chamonix.
Two guys with large format cameras in the black forest. Imagine the amount of geeking .. and eye-rolling from non-geeks ;)
Photographing large format is a very different way of working, and there are several things that blew my mind when I used the camera in the field and when I returned home and had a look at the pictures. One of the mind benders is the amount of freedom you have with the camera movements, also known as tilt, swing and shift. Perspectively correct pictures automatically become the norm, not the exception. You set the camera up straight, then shift to your heart's content. If the lens has a large enough image circle, that shift can be quite extensive.
And then there's the massive amount of data in these pictures. I scan my negatives on a regular Epson V600 flat bed scanner. Still, my digital files end up at about 100 megapixels and that's far from what would be possible if I cranked up the settings. My little MacBook Air 11" sure takes a bit of time to render the full size Lightroom previews.
If you're not used to this resolution, zooming in has the potential to cause a bit of mental damage to the viewer. And drooling.
By the way, this detail is a crop from a down-sampled 50 megapixel version of the image.
But having all that said, large format is only partially about resolution. I love pictures to tell stories and that doesn't depend on resolution at all. Large format photography gives you the tools to take your time, enjoy the process, set up the pictures while thinking about their details, composing well and then taking a well-metered shot. Usually.
I have just dipped my toe into the large format waters though. There is so much more to learn, and I'm looking forward to diving more into its creative potential.
I've been playing with large format photography for a while. Last year I bought a used German-built Plaubel monorail large format studio camera, I'm in the process of building the Marquardt International Pinhole large format camera, which is by the way moving forward and if you are on the list, you should soon get an update.
I had been missing one important piece in the puzzle: a 4x5 camera with all the required movements that I could use in the field without needing yak and two sherpas to carry it for me.
A few weeks ago I discovered the Chinese manufacturer by the not so Chinese name Chamonix. They are a small company with 8 employees and they build various foldable large format cameras, 4x5" being their smallest one.
It's the model 045N-2, it comes in at about 3 pounds without a lens and this morning one of them arrived here at my studio.
I'm going to spend some time with it to get used to the camera and to experiment. The initial impression is that it's really well built and that it is very functional for a camera of that size.
Sometimes things move forward faster than expected. As it's just now happening with the Marquardt International Pinhole.
We had a meeting today and one of the outcomes was that we are going to build a run of ten cameras to see how people accept it. This will be a very special camera, not only because it creates beautiful pictures, but because each and every one of them will be a hand-made unique one-of-a-kind item.
I will not go into more detail right now because I simply can't - I know the general direction and I like it, but as you, I will have to wait for the final cameras to know what they will exactly look like.
As soon as they are finished, I will post pictures.
If you are interested in one of the first ten cameras, please send a mail to email@example.com
Offical website: www.internationalpinhole.com
Introducing the Marquardt Mini Pinhole (MMP) f/10 9mm. Who needs large format f/200 pinhole cameras that take sharp-ish pictures at crazy long 2-minute exposure times?! (hint: I do). Making pinhole cameras from matchboxes is not new (I took my inspiration from this video on YouTube) but I wanted to build one of those at least once. Perfect project for a Sunday early afternoon. Building this takesabout half an hour.
Due to lack of black tape, I used a light-proof metal-based tape that is normally used to tape pictures into picture frames. Not ideal, as it's reflective, but it should still do the trick. Might end up with some light spills inside the cam though.
I used a matchbox and two rolls of film, an APX to shoot on and a cheap Lucky SHD to dump in order to get the empty film roll. Note to self: next time don't dump all the empty film rolls, so you won't have to sacrifice a film for this.
There's something strangely satisfying in pulling out a perfectly good roll of film during daytime. 1.99 € down the drain. The things you do on a Sunday afternoon...
I cut a hole into the matchbox drawer. This will hold the film in place and provide for an unexposed frame around the picture.
Empty roll of lucky to the right (the exposed film will go into this) and full roll of Agfa APX to the left.
This is how the film will go behind the drawer inside the matchbox.
And this is how it'll look after it is put together.
But first, the matchbox needs a hole for the "lens".
Here's the pinhole. I used the same metal-based tape for this as it sticks nicely. The hole turned out a bit too large, so I can expect nice and short shutter speeds, but probably quite a bit of lack of sharpness. Focal length of the camera is the distance between hole and film plane, in this case 9mm.
Attached the film to the empty spool...
...and put the spool back into the cartridge. That's one of the reasons I used a Lucky SHD film: the film cartridges are easy to pull apart and put back together without tools. The film will be transported by turning the spool on the receiving side and winging it by gut feel. Some of the pics might overlap, some might have bigger space in between them. Oh well.
Using more of the light-tight tape to seal the camera from the rays of the evil day glow ball in the sky.
Sealed all around (hopefully). Erm.. let's call the design functional. But then, did I mention it's a disposable cam? It will be destroyed at the end of the process anyway.
The camera needs a shutter now. I cut this out of the adhesive light-proof tape so only the sides stick.
A black strip of paper acts as the shutter. Just pull it up to expose and push it back down to finish exposure. It'll be difficult to time though, my little pinhole calculator tells me that the exposure time at this focal length and aperture is less than a second, so forget about precision. I have decided that I'll be happy if only two or three pictures on the film will come out alright ;)
This is what it looks like with the shutter open. Say CHEESE!
» Insert frantic picture taking activity here «
Removing the film in a changing bag and putting it into a development tank basically means destroying the camera. Bye bye little MMP.
And now (cue drum roll) presenting the first and only pictures that have ever been taken and will ever be taken with the Marquardt Mini Pinhole:
Update: I just posted the first picture out of the MIP
Update 2: The official Marquardt International Pinhole website is now online
Here's the first official test of the homebrew International Pinhole, complete with proper exposure times (I hope), taking reciprocity into account, even includingme freezing off my fingers, as a tough photographer should do (the other choice would be to throw myself on the ground, but that was even colder).
Some background info: aperture of the pinhole is f/200, focal length of the camera is 60mm, it accepts international (graflok) backs, which includes 4x5" film cassettes, Polaroid backs, roll film backs and more. To be installed: mechanism to hold the backs in place, soon to come.
Next up: develop and scan the pics. And post if they're any good..
Building pinhole cameras is easy and fun. All you need is a box, some tape, aluminum foil, a pin, and joy in experimentation.
Unless you're me and your landlord is a cabinet maker. Then creating a pinhole camera might as well turn into trying to make a really awesome one.
Since I've been dabbling in large format photography I had the idea of creating a beautiful pinhole camera that would accept large format film. Not just film though, but also the according large format film cassettes, Polaroid backs and other backs, including 6x9 backs for example. All sorts of formats.
When I ran across a wonderfully made DIY pinhole holder and tripod mount, I knew that this would get me one step further, so I talked to my friend and landlord, and the other day we made a first prototype.It starts with just some material, cut to the right dimensions. Here is the front wall, the sides and the top and bottom. Once finished, the camera will feature an open back that has the right dimensions to hold large format view camera backs (also known as Graflok backs). It will be able to easily fit a 4x5" film back or even a Polaroid back.
Wait a minute, excited about a digital camera? After all the analog journey you've seen me take?
That journey is still in full swing, and I still have quite a few things to learn in the analog realm. But I'm also a digital photographer, I use the 5D Mark II, I've got the older 5D Mark I as a backup, the Panasonic LX3 is my main point-and-shoot camera and of course there's the iPhone that I use most often simply because I always have it with me.
I have a soft spot for rangefinder cameras. They are smaller than DSLRs, they are quite inconspicuous, they have an optical viewfinder that shows more than the actual picture, so you get lots of context when composing an image, you frame the image by using a bright frame inside the viewfinder, the viewfinder is all the way to the left of the camera, so you can compose without squeezing your nose against the back of the camera and with your left eye unblocked, so you can get even more context of the scene when composing.
All that together makes an ideal street photography setup, as demonstrated by innumerable street photographers over the years.
Epson of all companies tried with a digital rangefinder and stopped the experiment after a while. Leica came out with the M8 and now the M9, but those are not really on the affordable side. Then Leica released the X1 in the rangefinder form factor, using an APS-C size sensor with a fixed focus f/2.8 36mm equivalent lens.
The concept of the X1 appealed to me. The form factor is great, the rangefinder concept in general is pretty much up my alley, but after a short while it started to become apparent that the camera apparently wasn't without its issues. Slow AF, no video feature, no built-in optical viewfinder (you can get an optional one) and the list doesn't seem to stop there.
Then I heard about the upcoming Fujifilm X100. It's supposed to be out in March. It's supposed to cost around 1000€/$1200. And it has gotten me very excited even though I still have to see a single test shot or review.
A few of the things that got me interested:
1. Control: direct access to shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation through wheels. Aperture ring is on the lens where I want it. Manual focus ring is on the lens where I want it. OVF/EVF switch is a real hardware switch. Automatic modes: shutter priority, aperture priority, program, manual. Scene modes: none (Yey, no "baby's first steps" or "fireplace in the log cabin" or "group of three people in front of sunset" scene modes. Thank you thank you thank you!). Dioptre correction for the viewfinder.
2. Viewfinder: Optical. Wait, electronic. Wait, both! The hybrid viewfinder gives you an optical picture that shows more than the actual picture will show, so you get the context. It will give you a bright frame inside the viewfinder so you know where the image ends. Nothing too spectacular so far, cameras had that fifty years ago. But this bright frame and the surrounding information such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and quite a bit more comes from a 1.4 megapixel LCD panel and is an overlay to the optical view you have. It's like a fighter jet heads-up display providing you with accurate information but it won't obscure your fast and precise optical view. It could be a dream come true. Nice tidbit #1: the switch on the front of the camera will switch between the hybrid and an electronic viewfinder, so you can also use an electronic picture inside the viewfinder if you prefer. Nice tidbit #2: the bright frame will give you an automatically parallax corrected placement depending on your focus. Someone's been doing some serious thinking here, and I like it.
3. Lens & Sensor: Apparently the first thing Fuji started to work on was the lens in conjunction with the sensor. The sensor is an old friend, I've read that it is the same 12 megapixel APS-C sensor used in the Nikon D90. The lens is a completely new construction. Actually Fuji says they had to start from scratch a few times to incorporate all the wish list items without compromising on image quality. The sensor has received a new micro lens array and the back element of the lens is about the size of the sensor, helping to keep the incidence of incoming light in check. They also say that image quality was always their highest concern. They are clearly competing with Leica here.
4. Build & Design: The camera hits a nerve with me. Its retro design gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling, and if the build quality is as solid as I've been told, I am going to feel right at home with it. I've seen enough plastic cameras lately.
Here are some interesting bonus features in no particular order:
The X100 features a RAW button. My understanding is that it lets you shoot JPG and if you decide to shoot the next picture in RAW mode, that's when you press it. Supposedly it will also be used to do in-camera RAW to JPG processing of individual pictures.
The camera also features a 3-stop ND filter that you can engage. I've had enough sunny days where I wished to have an ND filter, just to be able to open the aperture a bit further or to get a shutter speed a bit longer. Now it's built right into the camera the same way you find it in many professional video cameras. If you don't use it, it's completely removed from the optical path and out of the way.
The shutter button features a nice retro touch that made me smile: it allows you to use a screw-in remote release.
The X100 is also said to feature a 720p24 video mode with stereo sound. Did I mention video is important to me?
The autofocus is supposed to be super fast, the official FAQ states that the shutter lag is extremely short, I actually find it hard to believe that they expect it to be only 0.01 seconds. Of course I so want that to be true!
The shutter is built into the lens, which will allow the X100 to offer high speed flash sync, something photographers love outdoors on sunny days.
If you shoot JPG, the X100 offers you PROVIA, Velvia and ASTIA film simulation modes. I know I know, I'd rather shoot those actual films, have them developed and scan them, but hey, it's Fuji. Adding simulations for the dynamic and color characteristics of some of their signature films into this camera is actually a nice touch.
It will use the pretty standard NP-95 battery which is readily available and not as overpriced as many other camera manufacturer's batteries are.
The X100 features a 49mm filter thread, a fairly standard size that should make it easy to get high quality filters at decent prices.
I could go on and on with this list, there is plenty of official information out there, but I have still to find the one thing that would make me go meh. I find it hard to believe what a prefect match this feature list is for what I wish in a camera this size.
But of course no matter how much a feature list makes me smile, the real test will be in using the camera, spending time with it, and looking at the pictures that it will produce. Until then I will say a little prayer to the photography gods each night before I go to sleep and really hope I will never have to write a disappointed follow-up post to this one. Ever.
Is it March yet?
A day spent with photography is a great day!
We spent the first day of this year in the Autostadt in Wolfsburg, the huge Volkswagen museum right next to the VW factory.
They are very photography friendly there, especially if you're there almost by yourself. January first is not traditionally a day where the Germans go to car museums. So instead of the thousands of visitors that have usually entered the premises by noon, in some of the exhibit houses we were amongthe first ten. And the employees even helped us get the best pictures by adjusting the lights and getting out of the way.
We made two major decisions upfront: analog only and medium format. The third decision was dictated by availability of film and the fact that most of the photography would take place indoors:
We had no choice but underexpose and push the films. By quite a bit in some cases.
At this point, instead of saying anything to those who keep going on about how much you're going to lose out of an ISO 100 film when pushed by three f-stops using Rodinal, I'd just like to show you some pictures (click goes big):
The other film I had with me was the good old Ilford HP5+, which I used to shoot a lot with back in the 80s but kind of lost track of. I'm glad I gave it a shot the other day, and I'm glad I did a one stop push, the tonal distribution that came out is just wonderfully creamy, and the push development managed to give it a nicely steep-ish gradation curve.
Some of my learnings of the last two days:
a) I'm turning into more and more of a fan of push stand developments using Rodinal. With the right film the results can be wonderful.
b) In order to push Efke 100 by three stops, you'll have to make sure to get the exposure spot on, as you won't have much to play with later on.
c) Spending a weekend with photography, playing and trying out new things and learning lots in the process is FUN FUN FUN!
For those of you who want to give this a go themselves, here is some information on the films and the development:
The first three pictures were shot on Efke 100, underexposed by 3 stops, stand-developed in Rodinal 1:50 (for Sean: that was 12 milliliters for a 120 film) at 20 degrees Celsius for 70 minutes, 30 seconds mild agitation at the beginning, 10 seconds mild agitation 35 minutes into the development. Stand development means that after the first agitation you do not even think of touching the development tank. Hands completely off until it's time to agitate again.
The last three pictures were shot on Ilford HP5+, underexposed by one stop and developed in Rodinal 1:25 (24 milliliters) at 20 degrees Celsius for 8 minutes, 30 seconds initial agitation, then a few light swirls each minute.
All pictures were taken with the Pentacon six and an almost uncoated Biometar 2.8/80mm lens. Exposure metering was done using an iPhone 4 with the free Pocket Light Meter app.
Monika wrote a German blog entry here with more pictures from the same day, that she shot with her Pentax 6x7, which we call "the beast".
Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!
In September Monika and I made our way to Toronto, Canada, to hold an urban photography workshop. We held it at Sean and Michelle's place, and they were wonderful hosts to us and the entire workshop group.
Before we left, Michelle gave Monika an unbelievably awesome Christmas tree ornament: a Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash, made of glass. Then we had a vision...
In November I managed to track down what seemed to be the last few of these ornaments in stock at a US retailer. When I checked a few weeks later, they were out of stock.
It took them about a week to reach Germany, it took them another three weeks (and a few phone calls) to get through customs. "WHAT is in that package?" - "Ornaments" - "But they look like cameras" - "No, they are ornaments" - "But the boxes say KODAK on them" - "Yes, but they are camera-shaped christmas ornaments" - "Huh?" - "Open one of the boxes, but be careful not to break them, they are made of glass" - "Why would anyone want a camera made of glass?" ...
They finally arrived, ten in total, so together with the one from Michelle, we now have eleven beautiful little brownies hanging off our little Christmas tree.
(By the way, the glass is transparent at the viewfinder, the lens, and the little red window at the back, so you can actually look through them, isn't that awesome?)
And what's your photography-related Christmas decoration?