23 March 2017

Damsels and Dragons

It has been a rather hot and long summer.
I usually stay out of the sun in the middle of the day but these strikingly beautiful insect have kept me chasing them even in the blazing sun.

Wind beneath my wings
Kodak Cine 102mm f2.7  1/500sec

Where most other animals worthy of attention are hiding in the shade or sleeping, dragonflies are most active buzzing around hunting.

Hello stanger
Kodak Cine 102mm f2.7  1/1600sec

The delicate cellophane wings are in stark contrast to the menacing looking body, certainly inspiration to the modern helicopters.
And every so often they land to rest, usually in the same favorite high spot, giving me the opportunity to take a few quick images.

Redhead stare
Kodak Cine 63mm f2.7  1/200sec

In flight wipe
Kodak Cine 102mm f2.7  1/3200sec

Almost bedtime_c
Kodak Cine Telephoto 152mm f4.5  1/100sec


10 March 2017

Closer look at the bark

The simple natural beauty of a tree, looked up closely.

Flaking bark
refitted Hexanon 45mm f1.8 (from rangefinder camera) 1/160sec

There is great variety of trees in my part of the world and the bark is most intriguing at times.
I particularly like the shape and texture of some gumtrees that shed the bark and reveal a smooth and colorful new skin. The "exfoliation" seems to be constant and the colorful patterns revealed are most abstract.

Writing on the wall_c
adapted Pentax-110 50mm f2.8   1/100sec

Often when having a close look I notice a miniature world of ants and insects that are often hidden to the casual passer-by

Stick on bark_c
refitted projection lens 16-KP 50mm f1.2   1/100sec

And then everything suddenly changes; the fire completely alters the look of a once smooth bark and creates new textures.

Scorched trunks_c
adapted Kodak Cine 63mm f2.7   1/640sec

Charred tree trunk_c
adapted Kodak Cine 63mm f2.7   1/60sec


02 March 2017

Role reversal

What happens when one reverses the role of the intention?
When a lens that was meant to "show" images suddenly "captures" them?
That is what actually happens when I use a projector lens mounted on a camera, the role is reverses.

Grassy caleidoscope
refitted projector lens Meyer-Optik Diaplan 100mm f2.8  1/30sec

Technically speaking a lens from a projector lens is designed and optimized to show images there were once created with a different lens.
A projection lens, apart from being often not corrected for optical "faults", lacks mechanisms that most camera lenses have: a focusing helicoid and an aperture control diaphragm. They are really just a tube with several lenses arranged to project an image on the wall or screen.

Leaf's bubble bath_c
refitted slides projection lens Will-Wetzlar Maginon 85mm f2.8    1/2000sec

So why would I want to cripple myself trying to capture images with a tool that clearly is "inferior"?
There is no clear answer and most likely not one that most people accept: because images photographed with projection lenses for me are more capable to deliver the concept of fantasy rather than reality.

Blue and bubbles_c
refitted projector lens Meyer-Optik Diaplan 100mm f2.8   1/2500sec

Since trying to faithfully represent real life in a 2 dimensional format is a futile exercise that is simply limited by conventional constraints (perceived accepted unspoken rules) I much more prefer to explore the emotions that an image can create. Projection lenses enable me to create an in-camera look that modern lenses designed for digital imagery often can not.
While I am not interested in manipulating excessively a concept in post production, by compositing and editing conventional photographs, I allow myself to exploit the design faults of old simple optics to convey a sense of supernatural in my images.


17 February 2017

The foreground bokeh

In an image, bokeh quality is more important to me than sharpness.
While most of the photographic world seems to be stuck on one single way to measure I.Q. (Image Quality) by carefully analyzing resolution of a lens, I go beyond the simple charts and brick walls test-shots.
I look for how a lens renders the areas that are out of focus.

Sunset dragonfly_c
adapted Kodak Telephoto 152mm f4.5   1/125sec

There were a few lenses that reportedly sounded absolute stunners and I was interested in them. Through sample images I found however that they displayed horribly looking (to my eyes) out of focus areas. The whole image was kind of ruined for me: my eyes were drawn away from the main subject that was in focus, there was a certain "nervous" look to the background, the bokeh was not pleasant.
I never got those lenses despite being very sharp...

From the creative point of view a lens must have a certain look, character if you want, for the areas that happened to be not in focus. I often specifically look for subjects where the areas of blurred background will add so much interest to the image to sometimes become the main point of interest.

Floral pattern_c
adapted Meyer-Optik Trioplan 50mm f2.9  1/400sec

In my quest for creating images that are more fantasy than reality I am constantly experimenting with new optics, mostly of them are old and obscure, some never intended to used on a camera
The focus has now shifted to create images with a dual field bokeh, where the intention is to look for subjects that have a busy depth of field, often natural elements.
On my photowalks I look for vegetation that is veiling a subject that is interesting to me and then I try to photograph it. By carefully focusing and shifting my point of view I search for the angle and composition that will create that dreamy surreal look.

Sunset texture in the grass_c
refitted projection lens Will-Wetzlar Maginon 85mm f2.8    1/250sec

Glorious rain_c
refitted projection lens Will-Wetzlar Maginon 85mm f2.8    1/6400sec


09 February 2017

The judgement

"Yes, but that is Photoshopped..."  with a consternated tone of voice.

Half moon rising_c
refitted projection lens Will-Wetzlar Maginon 85mm f2.8   1/125sec

So, if those images were created in camera, would it have more value?
If one works magic with in-camera settings, plays with lenses that are unusual, uses unconventional angles and cleverly crops an image, is then held in higher esteem?

I have that discussion often when on topic of editing: some are up in arms that images are manipulated but perfectly accept black and white ones :-)
To me however sounds like ignorance and laziness; somebody's defense for unskilled results.

*PS for the record, above image was created in camera....

31 January 2017

We are all photographers

We are all photographers. Some like to record the world in front of their eyes, others create art from reality.

The feeling of speed_c
refitted projection lens Meyer-Optik Diaplan 100mm f2.8  1/400sec

Pretty much we are all photographers, from the simple tiny mobile phones to the invested amateurs with hefty monsters around the neck. The difference lays in what we want: a record of an event or place to share socially (or file for posterity), or is it an outlet to express our creativity?
This goal alone will define us as we pursue our passion.


23 January 2017

The gaze

Two black and white images of wild animals
I used an adapted old Russian lens (1957circa) from a rangefinder camera since I like it renders the out of focus background more than my auto-focus modern lenses

Fowl gaze_c
adapted Jupiter-11 135mm f4  1/60sec

Dragon gaze_c
adapted Jupiter-11 135mm f4  1/160sec


14 January 2017

Winged predators

The fast buzzing dragonflies fly erratically in the summer heat, darting along the water.
And every so often they come to rest on their favourite patch that they claim their own.

Evening dragonfly_c
adapted Pentax-110 50mm f2.8 (freelens technique)  1/30sec

Fascinating bright colors make them very attractive although at closer look some might appear a bit menacing. They are predators snatching other bugs mid flight

Cellophane wings_c
adapted Jupiter-11 135mm f4  1/1250sec

Red tail_2_c
adapted Jupiter-11 135mm f4  1/1250sec

But what goes around comes around and themselves become meal for others.

Dragonfly down_c
adapted Jupiter-11  135mm f4  1/160sec


04 January 2017

Going deeper into the weird

Further and further I slip away from the norm, from what most want.
I find the pursuit of perfection futile and senseless if only applied to one parameter: sharpness.
I find less focus in images that are regarded as technically sharp but lack direction and emphasis on the subject that matters.

Sunrise screw_c
adapted Kodak Anstigmat 63mm f2.7  1/640sec

Lately I have been exploring the style applied to impressionist paintings: dots and brush strokes that form an image but are not intended to document a scene but rather give a feel for the moment.

Mercury leaf_c
refitted Helios-89  30mm f1.9  1/800sec

Purist photographers are applauded by such "low standard" style and a few years ago I would have been too...
Oh, how things change :-)

Ibis stare_c
adapted Jupiter-11 135mm f4  1/250sec


19 December 2016

Little green frogs

For years I thought green frogs were some kind of myth since I could never spot one.
Then one day somebody told me that if I looked carefully in the pond I would probably spot some.
And I did.

Stripy frog_c
adapted Kodak Ektanon 102mm f2.7  1/200sec

Not larger than 3 cm most of them are very shy and hide under leaves or hop away if approached.
It took some patience and steady hands with my favorite Kodak Cine lenses to finally capture them.

adapted Kodak Ektanon 102mm f2.7  1/500sec

leap to gold_c
adapted Kodak Ektanon 102mm f2.7  1/400sec

Wilted lotus_c
adapted Kodak Ektanon 102mm f2.7  1/100sec


08 December 2016

Beach kangaroos

A storm has been brewing for a few hours and the dark clouds started gathering and moving in.
I headed for the beach trying to capture the dramatic sky when I noticed a few kangaroos grazing on the dunes.
Just as I was photographing the shore a couple of kangaroos hopped right down to the water's edge wanting to dip their toes. A few minutes later a few more came and soon there were twenty or so.
In a rather bizarre moment they all lined up and started to wade, mother with joey in pouch, letting the spilling waves lap up to their bellies

Family beach trip_c
adapted Jupiter-11 135mm f4  1/4000sec

The dark sky served me a surreal scene with the parting clouds and the bright sun complements to the moment. I stood in awe and observed what was going to happen next.
Some hopped around, some just let the waves wash them a bit to then gather again and slowly retreat to the dunes again to forage.

Beach on-guard_c
adapted Jupiter-11 135mm f4  1/2500sec

The evening brought some very soft light where I could capture them again in a large grassy field.

Evening pasture_c
adapted Jupiter-11 135mm f4  1/100sec

Evening snack_c
adapted Jupiter-11 135mm f4  1/500sec

These are wild kangaroos, free to roam without enclosures, as nature intended.
I can not bring myself to enjoy observing wild animals in any other way...


29 November 2016

Rainforest birds

The subtropical Queensland rainforest is an incredibly rich and diverse natural environment.
The canopy is very dense allowing for little light to reach the bottom floor: a photographic challenge.
This time I tried to capture some birds even tho I insisted on using manual focus lenses.
I missed a lot of great images as the birds fly around randomly in tight places or scurry erratically on the ground. My auto-focus lenses would probably have given me sharper images.
However, sometimes it's not about sharpness

The bandit_c
Kodak Cine Ektanon 102mm f2.7   1/80sec

A very elusive Albert's Lyrebird, something I have only seen twice.

Albert's Lyrebird_c
Duo-Tamron 135mm f4.5   1/100sec

Hard to spot as they strike the "tree-trunk" pose these well camouflaged Tawny Frogmouths stood still trying not to be detected

Tawny frogmouth_c
Duo-Tamron 135mm f4.5  1/320sec

I also managed to spot this baby pademelon hiding in the grass, on the edge of the forest.

Baby pademelon_c
Kodak Cine Ektanon 102mm f2.7  1/100sec


10 November 2016

Flowery carpets

Northern hemisphere has the wonderful spectacle of fall colors painting the leaves of deciduous trees and I often wish to be there to experience it again.
But here in my subtropical climate there is a different type of fall: flowers from blooming trees.

Jacaranda flowers bokeh_c
adapted Canon TV-16 50mm f1.4   1/400sec

The hills are dotted with plashes of colorful trees: purple, yellow whit the occasional orange and red one.  In some places the roads and parks are covered with the falling flowers carpeting the grounds.

Yellow carpet for a dead leaf_c
adapted Navitar 75mm f1.3    1/2500sec

Jacaranda carpet_2_c
adapted Duo-Tamron 135mm f4.5   1/50sec

Riding on sunshine_c
adapted Canon-TV-16 50mm f1.4   1/2000sec

The flowers don't last long: the sun and heat of the day shrivel them up to then be replenished overnight again till blossom is over in a few weeks.


02 November 2016

Water dragon: 3 different views

I like to see wild animals unrestrained and I am very saddened by anything that is meant to be free kept in captivity. I can't stand images taken at the zoo, they bother me.

 At my local botanical gardens among the many plants there are resident bush turkeys, magpies, ducks and other birds. They are of course free to go as they please, no cages, but they hang around and are much less timid than in other outside areas, knowing that they won't be harmed by humans.
There is also a healthy population of water dragons and in the early hours, before too many visitors come, they often are found warming up in sunny spots.
If approached slowly they can be observed at relative close distance.

I have on occasions photographed them and each time I had a different vintage lens on the camera. The same subject (not the very same dragon) looks a bit different with each lens and the background blur is more or less pronounced with a different character. While each lens has its quirks and strengths some are easier to use on moving subjects and some are more suited for contrasty scenes than others.

The easiest to use is this series is the C-mount Navitar 75mm f1.3. Extremely sharp lens with a relative fast aperture it forms an interesting bokeh. It is the closest in resolution to my best Olympus lenses but with a different character, and of course it's manual, focus and aperture.

Water dragon on Navitar_c
D.O. Industries Navitar 75mm f1.3    1/1250sec

The longer reach of the super-diminutive Rotar (made by Fujita) 135mm f4.5 is harder to get focus since it shows less contrast, while exhibiting a more bubbly bokeh. 

Water dragon _on Rotar_b_c
Rotar (Fujita) 135mm f4.5  1/250sec

 The hardest to use it the refitted Russian projection lens that can be only used at a super wide aperture of f1.2. Any slight mis-focus and the image is not usable. The strongest trait of that lens is that it can isolate the main subject from a busy/disturbing background while giving a more structured bokeh 

Water dragon on KP-16_c
refitted Russian projection lens KP-16 50mm f1.2    1/1600sec

 Which lens is the best? All of them, depending on what I want to create and what my subject is.
 If I had to keep only one? ...well, I would not want to part with the Navitar :-)


27 October 2016

Photography and phone-photography

I had a little discussion with an enthusiast on how the public perceives that mobile phones have killed digital cameras.
Then the discussion turned to what is photography...
I wrote:
Once a person acquires a phone with a camera (pretty much any current offering) he/she becomes a photographer. I don't know anybody that has not taken an image on their phone, or others', myself included (I regard phones as phones, not as cameras!).
Then comes the difference: are we just happy recording and sharing or are we driven by the desire to create unique art, with little to no intention to record an event/place for memory/history sake?
I think the latter might be better served by a tool that is dedicated to create images versus a multitasking tool that acts primarily as a mobile phone and happens to have a lens in-built too. While incredible (yes, I use the right word: hard to believe) work has been created on the iPhone (great marketing from them) I just can't bring myself to get in the frame of mind to create something photographically that doesn't make me wish I had a better tool.
Documenting is no longer my priority...

Thistle seed to the wind_B_c
adapted Helios 44-7 58mm f2  1/1600sec

Semantically anybody that makes images is a photographer but I distinguish between mere recording and consciously be driven by the passion to create an image. Occasionally I am just recording but it doesn't feel right; I am more in tune with myself when I "create".
Any camera however is just a tool, although the line blurs sometimes when I hear people defending their choices like it's religion ;-)
So, if it's a tool, I view the phone as a multi-tool affair with screwdriver, pliers, wrench cutting blade and god-knows-what else in one place. A dedicated camera (ideally with interchangeable lenses) is to me a finely tuned job-specific tool.
I know which one I prefer if I want to find pleasure and satisfaction in doing the task hoping for a decent result.


24 October 2016

The afterglow

Sunsets: I have shot at least a couple of thousands. And I never tire of them.
From my very early days doing the mistake to just wait for the sun to come close to the horizon and then point in its direction before it disappears. If I was smart enough, I would have at least a subject in between so I could end up with a silhouette, of dubious quality.
As film could not hold the high contrast too well I then tried to wait for a softer light, post sunset, if my subject was back-lit. Suddenly the colors will start to show up in my slides, way more pronounced that my eyes could see. Little I knew that our eyes adapt to the changing light temperature and what might have looked "normal" with my eyes, film would record as very warm tones as the whole landscape was lit by candlelight.

Broken fence sunset_d_c
adapted C-mount Navitar 75mm f1.3 @ f2    1/25sec

With digital photography things change a bit: one can adjust the color setting and the sensor can capture way more details in the shadows than any film ever could. But the soft light remains the same.
I wait, knowing that the real show will happen when people are gone :-)

* and thanks to technology I was able to create this image that otherwise would have been totally blurred in my film days: 1/25sec on a 150mm lens!


17 October 2016

Mushrooms in the forest

The excitement was palpable when I stumbled across a group of mushrooms that looked like "porcini" (Boletus Edulis). As a kid I used to roam in the forests near my house and find them occasionally; it was like hunting, the thrill of the find.

Fake porcino_c
adapted Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/60sec

It turns out that those mushrooms were not porcini but instead very bitter and not really edible, even if not toxic.
The real reward came from the variety of mushrooms that I stumbled across and instead of looking at them as dinner trophies I observed them with my camera

Tiny yellow mushroom_c
adapted vintage cine lens Kodak Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/60sec

Tiny purple mushroom_c
adapted vintage cine lens Kodak Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/20sec

Small mushrrom in moss_c
adapted vintage cine lens Kodak Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/160sec

Mushroom colony_c
M.Zuiko 14-42mm EZ    1/13sec

Red mushroom_c
adapted vintage cine lens Kodak Anastigmat 63mm f2.7   1/125sec