Winter is winding down. Time to wind up!

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!

Lone Tree

Fujifilm X-Pro2, XF55-200

Budget shooting with a Canon t6 Rebel

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.

Happy Holidays!!

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in 2017!!!!

winter-shed_christmas

©David Guidas

Right light, wrong place

washington-intersection

Fujifilm X-T10, 14mm

 

 

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.

Hey that’s not a nature camera! Shooting trees with my Fujifilm X-Pro2.

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!

Monochrome in a colorful place

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.

 

Getting squiggly with it

I am not squiggly.

Squiggles

Just some plants reflecting in a wavy pond/.

I know, it’s a ho-hum photo but I did want to post something since I’ve been away for a while. It’s generally not a good idea to post ones crappy photos but I felt like I had to do something.

I’ll be back soon with some black and white, to get the groove back.

Oh heck, since I’m here I may as well throw in a couple more.

A bee. While in the local park, my wife insisted I catch a bee in flight around the flowers. I tried for a while but with not much luck. The light was getting too dim for a decent shutter speed. Focus tracking a random flying bee was bit too tough for my camera (or me, since I don’t usually do that type of thing), so I am glad I at least got some shots while it was stationary on the flowers.

bee_sm

Some nice color, while I was trying to capture the bee:

pallette_sm

 

 

Shooting vicariously through others

My photography output has been awfully low these past few months. I think I have shot less than I have in years. Why? Just a combination of things – first the usual suspects such as work and home, followed by the total lack of anything to shoot. I know, I have pretty much created my “style” around shooting anything and everything I come across but the anything and everything I have come across lately just aren’t yelling out to me, “shoot me!”. No amount of “good light’ can help around these parts.

I desperately need to take a vacation and get out of my usual environment to find  some fresh perspectives. It won’t take much, I’m not asking for Paris or Venice, although those places would be sweet, I’m think more like somewhere that’s just not here. Heck, Cleveland could work for me! I could happily walk down some strange cities streets and shoot away at anything I see. New lines, new angles, new light, everything is new – to me.

We’ll see how the vacation goes. In the mean time I have been clicking the shutter but my subjects are usually weeds and cows, with the occasional wild turkey. Not too exciting and far from what I want to photograph. Not only in the sense of subject matter but even more so in the sense of creativity. I’ve always liked shooting somewhat ordinary things in new ways and I haven’t been doing much of that at all. My creativity is on hold for some reason.

In the mean time I have been enjoying the work of others, I’m finding inspiration out there and it helps. There’s lots of great work floating around the web. But every time I see a photo that I like and think that it’s similar to what I would have shot I just want to be out there shooting instead. Time to get out of town!

Looking at details

As I mentioned in past posts I am going to occasionally critique my own work on this site. I am critiquing to not only confirm what I already know what is wrong with some of my photos but hopefully to help you better understand how photos can be improved through thought and composition.

My first photo is a simple tropical plant photo. I took the shot at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens and I liked how it resembled  fireworks in the sky. A classic looking up perspective shot. Nothing fancy. Exposure and focus seem to be spot on, so no problem there.. Where I could have improved the shot was in composition. Although subtle, if I rotated the camera slightly to the right and zoomed out a bit I could have better fit both plants in the photo and that would have eliminated a lot of the blue sky on the left which would have balanced the photo a little better.

Thorny

I can’t even rotate the image to better balance it because I shot it too tight. Which brings me to another rule (for me) that I broke. I only took a single photo. If I shot a number of photos at different focal lengths (or in this case, orientations) I would have had more to work with in post-processing. If I am shooting a still subject I almost always try to shoot varied compositions . I’m usually correct in my first shot but it cant hurt to have backups just in case!

 

Cubism

In my last post that I titled a whirlwind of activity I found that I failed to mention any activity. Since the post before that one, my old computer died and I had to get a new one and start all over with installing programs, getting used to Windows 10, reinstalling programs, getting aggravated with windows 10, finding workarounds to the new “helpful” operating system, reinstalling programs again, and taking a break from it all.

My photos, of course, are on separate hard drives but I have to start my Lightroom library all over again, I think. I still haven’t transferred data from my old hard drive that will hopefully bring back some familiar items, such as my browser favorites, my Rhapsody catalog,  and, fingers crossed, my Lightroom library. And the computer broke down the weekend that my home central air conditioner threw a fan blade and I had to wait four hot days before it could be repaired.

I have also been changing around some camera gear. I’m still using Fujifilm though I did spend considerable time checking out other systems. I seriously though about “full frame” (I dislike that term, by the way) but the sheer size of those monsters turned me off. I know the Sony A7 cameras are small but the lenses are still big. Besides I just don’t like the feel of them. I do like Canon and thought about the 6D but in the end I still found Fuji offered me the best all around image quality coupled with a smallish system and great lenses. It just works for me! I ended up selling my XF10-24 zoom and in turn purchased the XF 14mm 2.8 prime. The zoom was great and I kind of miss it even though since I sold it I haven’t had a scenario where I actually needed it. But I found on a recent trip that the 14mm is a stellar lens. It’s small, sharp, focuses pretty close, and in most cases is wide enough for me with that classic 90° angle of view. Plus the 14 has a marked aperture ring and that works for me as the readout of the aperture on the LCD is too small for quick glances.

Finally, as of last week, I purchased the Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera body. Although I was getting used to my X-T10 I still had some handling issues with it due to its diminutive size. I had to turn off just about every function button on the body so I wouldn’t accidently hit them while shooting. So I made a 2.5 hour drive to a store in Columbus just to hold the X-Pro2 to see if it was a better fit for my hands. It was. The larger body coupled with the left side viewfinder gave my right hand a lot of room to work with and it just nailed it for me ergonomically. The focus point toggle was icing on the cake and I bought it them and there. I’ll give a user review on it in the near future.

Okay, that’s it for the activities, now a photo. I shot this photo of an old water fountain while walking around Pittsburgh one evening. I thought it “had something” when I shot it and I tried a few different angles and perspectives to bring out something abstract. In the end I don’t think it worked out. I do like the reflections of the “cubes” in the water and the textures, but that’s about it. Maybe it’s too balanced  or maybe too close. I don’t know, do you?

Fountaim of Old

© David Guidas