Maple Springs Trail...
One of the drawback of owning a 4x4 vehicle is developing a taste for backcountry roads. I've been researching for trails around Los Angeles that might be suitable for the Winnebago Revel. I don't have the clearance and articulation for the gnarly trails, so I looked for easy to moderate trails that will hopefully lead to a nice view point. Maple Springs Trail is the first one I'm trying out. It passes through the town of Silverado in Orange County, and will lead you all the way to Santiago Peak, the highest peak in Orange County.
It took us about an hour going up a mostly single lane gravel dirty road. Once in a while you'll encounter people driving in the opposite direction and everyone's real nice about making ways for others to pass. We didn't drive all the way to Santiago Peak because my son and my mom, who were riding with me, was a bit tired of the bumpy roads. So, I whipped up a quick lunch and we rest a bit at the end of the Maple Springs Road and turned back. On this trip, I practiced lowering the tire pressure when we started on the dirt road and it really made the drive much more smoother. While coming back down, I engage the low-range on the 4WD and it helped me come down in a controlled speed without hitting the brakes too much. All in all, a successful first try at four wheeling, I'd say.
A Portrait Session...
Jessica needed some photos of herself, so we hanged some sheets for backdrop and setup a single light for a quick portrait session. A bit awkward for both of us... since she's not used to modeling and I'm not used to shooting studio portraits. But we pushed through and came out with some nice shots and a bit more experience for both of us :)
First time in snow...
Thanks to El Nino that dumped a bunch of snow in Big Bear the past few weekends, today we took our son to see snow for the first time in his life. It was also the first time I've shot the M9 in snow. He had a ton of fun sledding in the snow, and I ended up with a ton of post processing work. All metering was off while shooting in the snow... the white balance was off most of the time, picking a way too cool temp, and the exposure was mostly 1 stop under (I was shooting in A-mode).
There was no way I could have focused fast enough to catch people coming down the slope, so I cheated by pre-focusing at a spot on the ground about 8 feet from me and just waited for action to come to me. While I didn't get the right focus in many shots, I still like them because the emotion was there.
Shooting these cute kids is just cheating. There was no way I could get a bad picture.
If you would like to see the full set, [CLICK HERE]
Product Shots... a test
My wife and sister-in-laws are thinking about starting a business to sell pet products. I've been tapped to take product photos for them. Not having much experiences in that area, I felt I needed some practice. First, I purchased a 3 light setup with a tent (seen below) and set it up the best I could. Then it's time to take some test shots. I used my MiniDigi Rolleiflex as the model, mount the 90'MEM on the M9 and setup the tripod. Although the diffused lights were too strong, I really didn't have to worry about shutter speed since this is still life on tripod. After about 5 shots, I found f/8 to give me the right amount of depth of focus. Now, I just need to iron the background a little...
I thought the Leica 16-18-21mm Wide Angle Tri-Elmar (WATE) was going to my landscape lens. However, I didn't know how much fun a wide angle lens can be in a close quarter, capturing scenes that I never imagined before. What a fun lens!
CicLAvia.org Bike Ride...
I'm a bit shocked... This is a first event I've photographed this year. Man, how fast time flies.
On Sunday, there was a CicLAvia.org event in Studio City near Universal Studio. I missed their last event in Downtown LA, so I was determined to participate this time. It's just simple, fun-loving event where they blocked off about 6 miles of busy city streets for a day to any non-motorized transportation take over. There were lots of people on bikes, skateboards, rollerskates, and strollers. It was well organized and we had lots of fun... can't wait for the next one.
Since I had to keep one hand steering, I shot mainly using the hyperfocal and zone focusing. However, with the focus tab on the 35'Cron, I found that I was able to focus with my right hand. Not real critical focus, because I had to make sure I don't fall off the bike, but with aperture at f/4 to f/8, I felt I was able to focus well enough.
Here's a roll that's been sitting on the shelf for a while. Most of the images were captured in November at the Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas. It was the first time I took the Rolleiflex SL66 out to take some landscapes. A few important lessons were learn: 1) that's not the right hood for this lens, 2) it's hard to take an interesting BW landscape shot. The first lesson is evident in all of the shots I took, but the second lesson is only realized after I scanned the negatives. I thought I had captured a bunch of interesting shots, but in BW, I lost the beautiful colors of the red canyon and are left with just a bunch of rocks. Now I understand what people mean by focusing on the forms and contrast, because those are the characters that will show through. I ended up with a couple exposure left that I spent while on a biking trip with my son, testing out the built-in tilt function of the SL66. If you look closely in those shots, you'll see the plane of focus isn't parallel to the film.
Roll 6 and 7...
Back in May, during our weekend stay in Palm Springs, I took a couple of rolls with the Rolleiflex SL66 and just got it developed. Since I got some weird stripes from my old online processing place, I decided to try another place. This place, The Darkroom, is awesome. They provide a mail-in envelope and is very reasonably priced. This time I tried out some TMAX400 film, and I'm in love. I like it much more than Tri-X!
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
We went on a road trip for the kids' spring break, visiting the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. This time I had three cameras with me: the M9, the SL66, and Google Glass. I was reserving the SL66 for visiting the White Sands National Monument, but we couldn't get there in time so it stayed unused. The Glass was really just an experiment to see how comfortable I can get with it, and see what pictures I would take as results.
I think the lesson learned here is that the Glass is not a camera replacement. While it was nice to have a camera at the ready all the time, it was unreliable in terms of the image quality and ease of framing. I liked it as a wide-angle substitute that I don't have with the M9, but when I reviewed the shots I took with it, I didn't like most of them. The caverns wasn't the best place for the M9 either... I cranked the ISO up to 1000, manually selected the shutters around 1/15 second, and was able to get a few acceptable photos. However, no photos can do the stadium-sized halls and rooms any justice, you simply have to see it with your own eyes. Below are a few shots from the caverns, and you can see the full set of our trip [HERE].
I returned the lame film scanner I got from Costco and bought the Epson V600 from B&H Photo & Video. All I can say is... WOW! That's what I'm talking about! At first, I didn't know what DPI to scan it in, so I started from 4800dpi and worked my way down to 1200dpi and settled there. At 1200dpi, the scan time and file size are manageable and I'm able to get very good scan quality. Here are some more:
My Journey into Leica...
A path not to be taken lightly, not without reservations, and not without dedication, but the results can be sweet, OH SO SWEET! This is a documentation of my trials and tribulations into the world of Leica Rangefinder Photography, and I hope you'll enjoy coming along with me.