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


06 October 2016

From the beach

The long weekend holiday made most places swarm with people; I needed to escape and have a bit of green time instead of screen time. Luckily my favorite beach was rather quiet.

Where are you now_c
Helios 44-7 58mm f2   1/640sec

Crystal deception_c
Zuiko OM 200mm f4   1/2500sec

With my friend Melt, I walked the beach at low tide, each of us interested in different beach-combed treasures, laying low on the foreshore exploring and capturing the light.

Ibis dinner_c
Zuiko OM 200mm f4   1/1250sec

Spinifex sunset_c
Zuiko OM 200mm f4   1/100sec

And just like fishermen trying to harvest from the sea we chased the sun, instead of fishing rods we had cameras in our hands.


30 September 2016

Scorched by the fire

It was my friend Melt that pointed out how beautiful the bark looked. I didn't understand: all I saw was the negative side of the recent bushfire.

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

Fire wilted leaves_c

Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/125sec

Where I walked a few months ago now the fields and forest were all charred by a fire; my eyes were focused on the destruction of the grassy meadows and the green bushes. Then I shifted my concern knowing that it was only natural to have periodical fires go through these places, more so essential to the release of some seed pods.

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

Australian flora has adapted to survive a non devastating fire, where undergrowth get cleaned up and transformed into rich nutrient for the next generation of taller plants. Some seeds need to be exposed to high temperatures to germinate, a from of survival to give the new shoots a chance to become strong enough to survive the next fire.

Life after fire_c
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/160sec

Now I was observing the saturated deep orange hues of a gumtree that otherwise looks mainly light grey. The charcoal details on trees showed ant activity while the grass was starting to recover with new tender green shoots.

Scorched bark_c
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/80sec

Ants on charred bark_c
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/125sec

Burned grasstree_c
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/500sec


19 September 2016

Image softness storytelling

Following my thoughts on image storytelling (in this post) I now can reason why I like this image I captured the other day.
Would the photograph "tell the story" in the same way if the image would be pin sharp?
I don't believe so...

Ride to Downtown_bw_c
adapted X-Fujinon 50mm f1.6   1/8000sec

This image is a combination of slight miss-focus with a lens that is not that sharp to start with.
As I used an adapted old SLR manual-focus lens wide-open the view appeared slightly blurry and glowy. That lens renders a sharper image and much better contrast when I close its aperture a bit; but in doing that I would have lost the vintage appeal and separation of the main subject against the background.

Would I have been using instead my superbly sharp (comparable angle of view) modern lens done a better job?
If the viewer is bent on sharpness and precision, recording an event and place with minute details, then yes, by a long margin.
But if the viewer can create in his/her mind a story around that image then I am afraid to say that the super sharp lens would probably not help to create that look of nostalgia.
And that is why I burden myself with the awkward old glass from film days, where I can create "the feel" that my modern lenses can not.

16 September 2016

Publishing "verboten"

Different places around the world have different laws about photography.
In USA and Australia I am pretty much free to photograph what I want (within reason, of course) if my subject is in a public space; however, I can not freely walk into a private property and photograph to my heart content. I understand.

Recently I was in Europe, Austria specifically. I was made aware that photography in a public place is restricted. I have heard of copyright laws forbidding individuals photographing certain buildings (The Eiffel Tower apparently is one of them) but I didn't know I was not allowed to take pictures of people in the street. To be more exact: I am not allowed to publish those images, or print them for public display, without a written consent.
Of course I laugh at such pitiful laws that seem to have been written without much thought or consultation and currently totally unenforceable. To the millions of images taken by the public every day with mobile phones in the street I say: keep on snapping, exercise your right :-)

Water play_c
Salzburg, Austria.  Zuiko14-42mm EZ    f5.6

But to the concerned photographer (not me) that wants to stick to the right side of the law, what is there to do? Get a signed released from every person depicted in his/her images? yeah, right...
Then it occurred to me: how does the law apply to images published electronically?  the law does not say one can not take the photograph, it says about publication.
What if the publication is not in Austria? what if it is published for an international audience? what if the server to where those images are uploaded to sits outside Austria?

just saying...

07 September 2016

The softer light

Living in Queensland I rarely get to experience the softer light that I remember growing up in Europe. The morning mists and the filtered sun through the forest's canopy are experienced but a few times  throughout the year.
When in Europe I admire the lifting fog and the clouds clinging to the hills after the rain.

Ferrara fog walking_c
M.Zuiko 45mm f3.5  1/2000sec

Walking in the forest towards high alpine lakes I was able to capture images that I often try but fail when in Queensland.

Towards the light_2_c
M.Zuiko 14-42mm  EZ   f3.5  1/80sec


05 September 2016

Story telling through an image

I like the concept of story-telling through a static single image.
While beautiful landscape photographs do capture my attention and I often admire the location and the capturing techniques, rarely are those images remembered.
And then there are moments that are captured where the photograph goes beyond the initial visual appeal: an image that tells a story.


Cosmicar 50mm f1.4  1/320sec

These images however have limited appeal because each viewer perceives them on a different level, depending on his/her personal life experiences and cultural background.
Images that evoke a certain emotion are very subjective as individuals draw on their emotional precedents (and image memory-bank) to be stirred by the two dimensional representation of a feeling that might have experienced in the past.
To reinforce one's perception the title usually gives away the photographer's intention.

PS. If all you see above is a poorly executed photograph of an old park bench and a blurry passerby in the background, then this concept might be lost on you...

31 August 2016

Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm

In my discovery of adapting old manual-focus lenses I have come across the wonderful old ones intended for 16mm cinema cameras of the 40's and 50's: specifically the Kodak Ektar and Anastigmat.
It is possible to use them on smaller sensor digital cameras that have a flange distance so much closer than a typical DSLR. Micro 4/3 cameras are ideally suited for these old beauties.
The images that one can produce with them are truly unique, where the edges of the frame start to darken and the background that is not in focus begins to swirl.
Among them I found the Anastigmat 63mm f2.7; a rather long focal length with a unique capability to extend the focusing for close-up subjects.

Butterfly on barley_c

I have tried several times to use modern lenses for details photography and none offer me the ease of use and the instant feedback as much as manual lenses. But the way the out-of-focus background (bokeh) is rendered by the Anastigmat is superb, in my eyes.

Green fluidity_c

Prone to flare, the lens can be used creatively to achieve dreamy soft images, something I can not reproduce with any "app" or post production work. The lens is however hard to use, with its small focus ring and stiff actuation. Not best suited for fast moving subjects.

Red droplets_c
When I want to create a photograph with precise level of blurriness and depth, a touch of vignette or a unique soft bubbly look, I generally reach for the Kodak Anastigmat 63mm f2.7.
And now Petra has discovered the same: it was "love at first click"

Raupe photography
taken with adapted C-mount Cosmicar 50mm f1.4


19 July 2016

Social isolation

I saw this image of original artwork from a gallery: some found it funny but it actually made me sad.

RX100 M2

On a recent Sunday, a beautiful sunny day, I walked around my city's urban park; it was crowded with families and (real, not virtual) friends, some were in groups.
But there was a disturbing trend: I rarely saw direct interaction...

Social isolation_bw_c
adapted Cosmicar 50mm f1.4   1/160sec

Are we too driven by social media to actually be social?


18 July 2016

Pokemon hunting

With a condescending thought I laughed at these guys running around the city "hunting" for the imaginary Pokémon (mobile phone game).
Then I paused and reflected: and how am I different?
The basic principle it's the same, the medium different and results possibly more "tangible" (kind of). However I see similarities: we are both satisfying an ancient need to hunt.

Pokeman hunting_c
adapted lens from Pentax-110 70mm f2.8  1/500sec

EDIT 19OCT16: ....and apparently now gone 

13 July 2016

French girls

There was a hearty feeling in the air at the French festival; a mild winter day with crisp skies seemed to make people happy.
I noticed that many girls there had a bit of a different look; less pompous, sultry or dismissive. I liked the atmosphere of the place.

French girls_c
Kodak Cine Ektanon 102mm f2.7  1/800sec

French girl_c
Kodak Cine Ektanon 102mm f2.7   1/1600sec

French girl_2_c
Cosmicar 50mm f1.4  1/4000sec


11 July 2016

Birds in the garden

My local botanical gardens are open to birds and human visitors to roam free. No cages, no nets, like nature is meant to be enjoyed.

Cactus juice_c
adapted C-mount Cosmicar 50mm f1.4  1/2500sec

Puffing up
adapted Kodak Cine Ektanon 102mm f2.7   1/2000sec

Flying off_2_c
adapted Kodak Cine Ektanon 102mm f2.7  1/5000sec


04 July 2016

Around the stables

My girlfriend is mad about horses, for me is something new. There was a local event that I went to visit on invite from my friends and wondered around the stables not knowing what to look for, photographically.

Evening jumps_bw_c
Nikkor-P 105mm f2.5 RF  1/1600sec

I had to be cautions enough to know when a horse was not happy having my big lens pointed too close to his body.

Horse portrait_1_c
refitted Sony Precision Projection 60mm f1.5  1/200sec (adapted here)

 I loved the people around the horses: genuine and unpretentious, friendly and approachable. A warm rural atmosphere pervaded the event.

Taking care_bw_c
SMC Takumar 50mm f1.4   1/500sec 

I was also there walking around with the most ridiculous refitted lens that I have tried to date. It was awkward to handle as it was never intended to be fitted onto a camera but the results I achieved were worthy of the trouble.

Evening feed_c
refitted Sony Precision Projection 60mm f1.5 (?)  1/1250sec


28 June 2016


We make the mistake to think photography represents reality, we want to believe that.

Wave surge on seagull_c
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7

If we satisfy ourselves with the idea that a 2 dimensional, frozen-in-time moment, cropped vision of an event/place is depiction of reality, sooner or later we probably will find disappointment.
If we accept that photography is an interpretation at best and deceit at worse in showing us a snipped of reality than we are closer to its concept.
Anything else is make-believe, including the emotion that we create around a poignant image.


Two images, taken moments apart. Two different messages.
Are they real? they are real to me where real is used as believable.
But no image is real, and all are.
If one looks at them at a philosophical level, yes all images do exist, but do they represent reality? They can't, as mentioned earlier, reality is not a two dimensional print or screen display; it's just make-belief.
If we grew up understanding that photographs represent reality than probably we can satisfy our mind when seeing an image. We can create a story around it, feel an emotion, or none of it.
In the end images are nothing but triggers for our brain to believe what we want.

As Galen Rowell said so well before: ​"One of the biggest mistakes a photographer can make is to look at the real world and cling to the vain hope that next time his film will somehow bear a closer resemblance to it" - Galen Rowell​

but ultimately:
  • “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
    — Richard Avedon

21 June 2016

Invasion of blue aliens

At low tide an army emerges from the sand and invades the edges of the shallow ponds.

Follow me_2_c
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7 1/1250sec

In their impeccable blue uniforms for a few hours they work hard at making "cannon balls".

Beach alien_c
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/800sec

But as the tide floods again their conquered beach they retreat underground once more.
The relentless life of a soldier crab.

Alien marines_c
Kodak Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/1600


14 June 2016

Re-porpoused cine lenses

My modern native auto-focus lenses are safely tucked away in my "special case" while my vintage adapted glass is constantly fiddled with and taken out for image gathering. I manly consider using the modern marvel on my extended trips to foreign places where I concentrate on recording more than creating images. At home I always grab my vintage lenses and recently discovered two gems from the 50's: lenses from Kodak intended for Cine 16mm film cameras.

I love the look that the Ektar 25mm has given me so far and wanted to try the longer focal lengths: the 63mm, and by chance I also discovered the 102mm
The image circle on those lenses was not intended to cover a sensor as large as the Micro 4/3 and the distortions are way more noticeable on the edges then they ever were on the smaller format of the film. And that is exactly what I am looking for: distortion and quirkiness that my Olympus M.Zuiko lenses can't give me.

Winter swirls preamble_c
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/500sec

The edges are often darker (vignette) and the bokeh can have a hint of swirl; all traits that I desire for moody and unusual look that I want to create in my images with feel.
I have shifted from methodical and accurate recording of buildings (my previous professional work) to a more arty direction in my images. The real goal for me is to evoke or depict emotions, through images. Even with static natural subjects I seek to capture a sense of nostalgia, dream or fantasy. Blurry and funky bokeh is all part of the composition where a sharp edge-to-edge image might not convey that feeling.

Golden grass_c
Kodak Cine Anastigmat 63mm f2.7  1/800sec

And then there is the part of manual focusing a lens that is a bit hard to handle, with small focus rings and tiny grip for the aperture control. Frustrating and fist and leading to missed opportunities but great for building skills and prediction of events.

Walking on sunshine_c
Kodak Cine Ektanon 102mm f2.7  1/500sec

I notice that I am willing to observe a scene for much longer and pre-focus on the area where the subject might appear instead of just lift my camera, point and shoot leaving the focusing to the microchip evaluation. The results are often different; images taken while manual focusing tend to show, how to say it, more passion?

  Innocent excitement_bw_c
Kodak Cine Ektanon 102mm f2.7   1/400sec


09 June 2016

Analysis and synthesis

Does great Image Quality of a lens lead to brilliant images?
It depends.
Depends on your interpretation of a great image and Image Quality.

I feel that the definition of Image Quality for a photographic lens is too often a misnomer to describe sharpness as to me IQ is a complex blend of optical properties that create photographs.
But can all the pixel peeping and perusal of resolution charts for the sharpest lens lead to captivating images?
I doubt it.

the blue ridge floral mountains
image by Pete Ware , used with permission

If a photographer heavily concentrates on analysis too often gets lost with synthesis.
The individual that highly values the ultimate resolution in a lens, the highest pixel count on a sensor, the widest dynamic range in a camera, frequently fails to see the forest for the trees.

I see technically perfect images, probably taken on tripods with the largest camera possible that don't deliver emotions. And if a photograph does not stir me inside then it is just an attempt to record reality, sterile and soulless. While it might be useful for analyzing a place or event, possibly for record keeping, it lacks vision.

The deeper I venture into the art of photography the less I obsess over the sharpest results in my photographs and rather concentrate on the passion behind the click. I forego technical perfection while chasing the aesthetic beauty of a scene, and if the image I create does not evoke any feelings then I have failed in my synthesis.

Before Night Falls
image by Mattias Kühmayer, used with permission

Thank you to Pete and Matthias for being inspirational and showing me that lens IQ is overrated :-)