With my veeeerrrry long time away from this blog I have been trying hard (OK, not that hard) to find some worthy shots to post. I know I make excuses all of the time about my lack of input but since my day job has been busier than ever and coupled with a lack of travel outside of my home turf, my photographic encounters are few and far between. I do snap the shutter quite often but being my own worst critic I’m finding that I don’t have many photos worth sharing on here.
That’s a shame.
My back road travels have me taking random photos of cows and not-so-nice looking horses just so I at least feel like I’m participating in the art of photography. those phopts often end up on the cutting room floor, or in contemporary terms, the digital wastebasket. So, I was really looking forward to the autumn color this year to maybe brighten my mood and my photos. Everything looks great with autumn colors, right? Well, not this year.
Because of the unusably warm early fall temperatures, the blaze turned into just a smolder. Leaves stayed green way into October and the colors came and went, not only fast, but sporadically. Small patches of orange could be found in a hillside of green or brown, already dead, leaves. It wasn’t a “big picture” autumn. The splendor was splent.
What to do? Focus on details! A leaf here, a leaf there, yeah, that’s the ticket!
All shot with Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujinon XF lenses – 55-200, 14mm, 35mm
I know, I have been a lazy poster. I do have to thank my own self for not even remembering I even have this blog. As I have noted in the past, job one for owning a blog is content, content, content. Without continuing content you cannot expect to get readers. Heck, my own motto in the past was, “If you cannot think of anything, start posting, it will happen”. So, I shall now try to redeem myself
Part of posting on a photography oriented site is having actual photography, or at least photography related topics, to post. My output this year has been lacking mainly because I seem to be spending most of my free time this past year on house hunts with my wife. As much as we like our house we feel like we are being forced out of it by outside, well, forces. We live on a very busy street that gets busier every year. I’m not talking car and people traffic, I’m talking lots of big trucks – industrial traffic. Nothing like the constant roar of a convoy (why to trucks like to drive together?) of tri-axles with loud exhaust rumbling past the house all night long. Although that should be enough to make one move, lets throw in the “quality” of people in the neighbor hood has also been on a decline. I swear I’m the only one who goes to work around here. Of course there is a handy dive bar across the street for all of them to hang out in and make shady deals. “Hollywood” thinks I should be accepting of people but “Hollywood” doesn’t live in my neighborhood. “Hollywood” has walls, I don’t.
I could go on and on about my housing situation but time to get back to the real reason we are here – photography. I am going to start off with a series of photos I took at the “castle” at Mount Wood overlooking Wheeling, West Virginia. You can follow this link to get some background on the castle or do some Googling on your own. It’s just one of the strange and mysterious places that seem to dot the Ohio Valley. The castle has been the subject of some of my previous posts but I like to return once in a while to see how it has changed. The graffiti is constantly evolving and I don’t think I could spot any previous work even if I tried. But when I think of color, I think of visiting the castle.
It was a rainy day on my last visit and I shot with my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and my XF14mm F2.8. All handheld and using the Velvia film sim to give the colors a punch. The Fuji has been working well for me and I am at the point now where it feels odd when I pick up a regular DSLR. So, for now, the X-Pro2 is it!
The view from the castle overlooks the Ohio River valley towards Wheeling;
And here are a few photos of the graffiti covered walls:
I know how much everyone has missed me since my last post, which seems like eons ago. Okay, maybe it was eons ago but I have slowly began to crawl my way out of my photography hole in the interim. Blame it on bad weather, bad colds, busy day job, old house, or any number of modern day sidetrackers, either way I have been clicking the shutter button but the results weren’t worth sharing here, or anywhere. Oh, and I often forgot I even had this blog. But have it I still do and doggonit I am sticking around….for now.
I don’t have anything new in the camera department, I’m still shooting with my Fujifilm X-pro2 and Fujinon lenses. They have been working great for me regardless of the dumb photos I have been taking. Looking into other camera models has bounced around in my head on occasion but I come to my senses and do away with those thoughts. To coin a phrase, it’s not the camera, it’s you! The Fuji performs as it should and with the exception of a few handling quirks I don’t feel another model or brand would do any better in my hands. What I do need to change is what’s on the other side of the lens – subject matter.
I have been facing the “I shot all of this already” slump as I look around my oh too familiar surroundings. You know the feeling, “hey that old car in the field looks cool, oh wait, I shot that already”, or how about “hmm, maybe I can take a photo of that old building in different light…uh no, it doesn’t look interesting in any light”. [Insert sad face emoji here] So with the same old environment I still have to realize it’s just me. After all, most of my prize winning photos have all been about relatively normal things I come across. Normal things I see every day. I just tried to see them differently and it worked.
So, with summer approaching, I think I will take advantage of the brighter days and start to see things the way I have in the past. Differently.
But first, here are some photos I recently shot at Bicycle Heaven in Pittsburgh, PA. I have posted from there before but I thought I would visit again and try to see the bikes in a different way.
Although it has been a relatively mild winter this year it was still winter nonetheless. Winter is my slow period for photography. Not because winter isn’t a great time for fantastic photos, it is, but it’s just not a great time for me. As I mentioned here before I do have a day job, which means I am out and about almost everyday. Winter is pretty ugly in this part of the country, especially in mild years when mud is more prevalent than snow. Being out and about in winter I try to look for photo opportunities and frankly there aren’t too many. Brown is the color of the day. Oh, I see what could possibly be a good photo once in a while but oftentimes I’m not able to take advantage due to time or location restraints. I just have to move on. After a while my motivation slows down along with the season and I end up waiting for that jolt that will get me out shooting again. Spring is my jolt.
Although I lean towards black and white images for the majority of my work, a good jolt of spring color and sunshine is what really gets me pumped up for photography again. A short trip to a different environment also helps to re-sharpen my skills. Once I get a few good sessions under my belt I start to ‘awaken’, just like the spring flowers.
Time to wind up!
I received a Canon Rebel t6 camera outfit as a gift during Christmas. Yes, that’s right, a Canon t6 – no “i”. A total beginners outfit consisting of the red Rebel, an EF-S 18-55 IS kit lens, an EF 75-300 f4-5.6 III telephoto lens, and a nice matching red Canon bag. It is an attractive little beast but, as I mentioned, it’s totally geared for the beginner and I am not a “beginner”.
So, did I scoff and say that this camera is beneath me? Of course not, I happily accepted the gift. As a guitarist I enjoy playing cheap guitars alongside my higher end guitars so I thought I could find at least some use for it. Although it certainly will not be replacing my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujinon lenses I figured I could use it for some casual family shooting and around the house stuff, such as product shots for my ebay selling.
I am fully aware of the cameras limitations. Take away the “i“ from Canon Rebels and you take away a lot.The well worn Canon 18mp sensor isn’t known for a wide dynamic range and having used the same sensor in a Canon EOS M camera I knew that the RAW files don’t allow for too much processing – lots of noise and the shadow turn to ugly mush if you try to push them too much. The AF is a couple generations old and doesn’t match up to current higher end Canon aps-c cameras such as the 80D or 7D MkII. But I’m not an action shooter kind of guy so that shouldn’t worry me much.
What I did know was the Canon 18-55 kit lens is capable of decently sharp photos and that was not a problem. A couple quick test shots around the house confirmed that. The 75-300 on the other hand was questionable. First of all it wasn’t equipped with stabilization (IS), which is hard for me to go without in a telephoto as I am not a patient tripod shooting kind of guy. I shoot handheld almost all of the time. I know, it shows in my work, but I often shoot while going about my daily business and I have to travel light. If I was going on a photography specific trip to the Rockies it might be a different story. Anyhow, after a few test shots the 75-300 confirmed my fears, it just wasn’t consistent enough for my use, as casual as that may be. I have read reviews where people like this lens, and it may well be good enough when used on a tripod at longer focal lengths, but it just didn’t work for me, so it had to go.
While the 75-330 was on the auction block I did some research and found just about everybody liked the Canon EF-S 55-250 4-5.6 IS USM lens and I found a Canon refurb for practically free, in my opinion, and made the purchase. The other issue I had with the 75-300 was the slow focusing and the 55-250 took care of that with it’s fairly quick and silent STM focusing. The 55-250 is an aps-c format lens so it’s smaller than the full-frame compatible 75-300, thus it was more fitting for the Rebel. It and the 18-55 have plastic mounts so, although not durable, they make for a very lightweight, wide-ranging kit.
End of story? Well, not quite. Since my initial test shots around the house with the 55-250 proved it was a very sharp lens, I though I would take it with me on my daily work and take some more “out in the wild” shots to further tests it’s capabilities. That’s where things went a little haywire. Being January in Pennsylvania the days were dark and miserable all week and throwing in some snowy days the light was never ideal and the Rebel failed to come through. It’s dated AF system couldn’t handle the low light and when I did get a subject in focus, usually cows, horses, or trees, the images never really came out sharp enough. I wanted to blame the 55-250 and the IS system but thought I would wait for brighter days to try again.
With a very cold (13° F) but sunny day in hand this past Saturday I swung by a local reservoir to further test the 55-250 lens. The water was partially frozen and although I had hoped to see a few ducks there weren’t any to be found. Regardless I just shot away at the trees and ice to see how the lens and Rebel performed under better conditions. I shot with the Canon alongside my Fujifilm X-Pro2 equipped with the Fujinon 55-200 lens just for comparison. In the end I am happy to report the Canon lens did fine. The comparison shots were very close to the Fuji but the Fuji handled way better and was a dream to shoot with compared to the Canon. Again, I’m not giving that camera up anytime soon. The canon? It looks like it will stick to being a fair weather fan. And who knows? I may add a 7d MkII to the arsenal just for kicks because I think the plastic fantastic 55-250 deserves it.
Here are a few shots from the Canon. There wasn’t much to see beyond ice and snow and I couldn’t help trying to shoot abstract instead of straight test shots, but I have to try stuff in my natural way of shooting.
Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in 2017!!!!
I live in a rundown town.
I’ve mentioned quite a few times on this blog how I don’t live in a particularly photogenic place. I live in a small town in Pennsylvania that had its day a number of years ago. Once the steel and glass industry disappeared the town began to fade, not unlike most rust belt cities. It was a slow fade but fade it did.
Being only a 30 minute drive to Pittsburgh, which is still doing quite well, amazingly for a steel town, and is having a bit of a renaissance with the young hipster/tech crowd, I still get to enjoy some of the perks of a larger city when I decide to venture over. Happily crime hasn’t grown too rapidly in my town and it is still somewhat of a safe city. Drugs, especially heroin are always a problem and are on the rise. Almost every day I read of an overdosing heroin user being found in a parked car or a store restroom. Pretty sad.
All that being said there still is money around. Not so much in the city proper but the outskirts of the city limits is littered with nice high income neighborhoods. There are home offices of a number of global companies within a few miles in nearby towns and the medical field is quite present throughout the southwest Pennsylvania area. So were not entirely poor and there should be plenty of tax money in the city coffers. That is what makes me angry most of all. The local government has done practically nothing to try to change the downward direction of the city. They do nothing with the streets except the bare minimum random pothole patching. The storm drains are always clogged and filth is everywhere. A street cleaner goes past my house ONCE in early spring and that’s it.
But the biggest lapse has to be what happened to our downtown area. As the county seat most of the downtown business is courthouse related and the area around it is sort of okay. But go a few hundred feet away from the courthouse and things go downhill real quick. They like to tout the Historic nature of the city to entice tourist but I can imagine any tourist would be sorely disappointed upon visiting.
I did happen to be driving through town a few months back and found the late afternoon sunlight to be fantastic. The light would have been beautiful for a nice landscape but all I had were some rundown storefronts in front of me. I always try to make the best with what I have in front of me.
These were all shot with a Fujifilm X-T10 with 18-55 and 14mm Fujinon lenses.
The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a fantastic camera and the more I use it the more I like using it. But the XP2 is clearly marketed towards street and typical “rangefinder” type users. A modern Leica, if you will. And I purchased the camera to use it as such. I wanted a “rangefinder” style camera so I would purposely stick to shooting moderate wide to normal prime lenses in the “Leica” style (I know, I’m quickly using up my quotation mark quota). Plus I wanted to try more street style shooting but I can’t seem to get started with it.
However I am finding it difficult to change from my old DSLR ways of shooting any and all subjects that interest me. I still like to shoot nature and macro photos on occasion. For that the Fujifilm X-T2/1 would probably have been the better camera for me. An X-T2 with some of Fujifilm’s great zoom lenses would be an ideal setup for an “everything” camera and I may purchase one in the near future for that exact reason.
But I still like holding my XP2, it just fits me well. It has it’s drawbacks for sure – the EVF is a little too contrasty in some bright outdoor situations and some of the controls could be arranged slightly better to prevent accidental changes- but there’s not really anything that I can’t get used to or work around. I do, on occasion, wonder if I should move on to a different camera but I always come back to thinking that the XP2 is a good fit for me.
So here are a few tree 9and apple) photos from the other day when I visited the Dawes Arboretum in Newark Ohio. I know, I need to get out of the woods!
I decided to finally visit the Palace of Gold in Moundsville, West Virginia after putting it off for decades. I don’t live too far from there yet I almost never even think about going. But it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I was wondering what I could photograph that would be different and I though it would be a nice time to make the trip to see what I could find.
I had visions of shooting the building and gardens in the golden light of sunset and as the clouds started to break up during our trip I thought everything would be perfect. My plan was if we got there a little early I would just shoot some details and maybe some interior shots and then shoot the exterior and gardens as the light got just right.
Of course you know how plans go. We barely got on the premises when we were told that they were closing. When I Googled the hours it said they were open until 8:00 PM but they said they closed at 5:00 PM after Labor Day. Bummer. No sunset shots. No interior shots. I hurriedly shot some environmental shots but didn’t get to look for, or focus on, too many details. I did what I could with what I had.
Although it is a colorful place I found a number of the photos worked well in black and white. All shot with my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and XF 14, 35 and 55-200 lenses.
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