Moonstone Beach Park...
A bunch Winnebago Revel owners met up at the San Simeon Washburn Campground this weekend. It was nice meeting up with people who shares the same passions and interests. A lot has been talked about the down side to social media, but I think it's simply a tool, and it's about how you use it. There is quite a large group of folks on Facebook, and we all help each other by sharing mods, troubleshoot problems, and just share adventures. A meet up like this highlights the fact that sometimes it's just more fun seeing each other face to face and have a conversation in real life. On Sunday, once we departed from the group, we head into Cambria to get some deserts and visited the Moonstone Beach Park to have our breakfast.
Maybe the title should be "So many things to buy, so little money". A bit off topic from Photography... After my recent trip of RV camping with friends, I've looking at various Class B RVs. Due to our city's parking regulation, which doesn't allow RV parking on streets nor trailers on driveways, I was thinking about finding a trailer that will fit in our garage. I already had my eyes set on the Taxa Cricket Camper, and it seemed perfect for us. Its 6'9" height will barely fit through our garage door, and we've started moving things out of the garage to make room.
But after the last trip, I was convinced that an RV is probably the better way to go. A class B RV will look like a van that can be parked on our driveway. It'll allow the kids to move around in the back, distract them from long drives. And, the thought of having a shower/toilet built-in will make boondocking possible. The trailer camper was always meant to be a stepping stone towards an RV in the later future (we're not getting any younger), so I asked myself, why not skip the middle step and just go directly to an RV?
The major deterrent is obviously the price, about 100k. They don't depreciate that fast so it'll likely keep its value for a while. Another fear is that it'll end up sitting in my driveway not used, but knowing us, I think we'll put it to good use. Having an RV means you can plan trips that go further, longer, and in seasons where you wouldn't dare with tents. The RV industry has gone through some technology update in recent years, with solar and lithium battery, some RV makers are moving towards a no-propane and no-generator design. I've found the Hymer Aktiv to be the one for us. Time to save some money, quick.
So what does this has to do with Photography? Well, it means no more new lenses, no more M10, and no more new gears. Plus, some people have often suggested that instead of a piece of new gear, people should invest the money on trips to make new memories. That's my main goal here. New RV so we can take more trips to make new memories... That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.
Musings on the M10...
Leica doesn't make it easy for someone to hold on to a camera year after years. With great restraint, I'm using shooting with the M9 after all these years. The sensor of the typ-240 didn't impress me enough to upgrade, which is ultimately the same reason I didn't go for the M-D, even though it hit all the right notes for me ergonomically. I'm afraid the M10 is just too much for me to resist with the ISO dial, thinner body, viewfinder upgrade, and wonderful new sensor. I will, however, be a little bit more stubborn and wait for the M-P version, making my M9 almost 10 years old when I do switch.
Why not wait for the M-D version? The real pull of the M-D version for me was the ISO dial on the back and never needing the LCD screen again. However, now with the dedicated ISO dial on top, I will have what I need and be able to see all my exposure settings by look down at the camera. I can just turn off previews, and reserve the right to use it when I need it. I would love to try to shoot with the WATE without the franken-finder and use the LCD screen liveview for focusing and composing. Also having the option to format SD cards in camera will be nice, which is not available with the M-D.
So, I've successfully punt the camera purchase decision down another 1 or 2 years, and my wallet will thank me for that.
Farmer's Market Musician...
Feels like it's been ages since I've taken the camera out. Today we strolled through our local farmer's market and I took a few shots of this travelling musician. I believe he was setting up all the equipment for his one-man band (not counting his dog). What kind of dedication does it require to maintain this gig, with all the setups, tear-downs, driving around, and often tuning his instruments and craft... just to make a few bucks at this smallish farmer's market? I think it's more than that... there must be passion. Then I think of myself and my photography... what a fair weather practitioner I am.
Today we visited a house with pool up on the Hollywood Hills. This perhaps the last chance for the kids to get to splash in the pool before autumn roll around. Labor Day, to me, is always the holiday to send off summer with a last hurrah.
It feels kind of strange, now that we're grown up. Back in the days, this marks the beginning of another school year, time for us to collect ourselves. But now I look at September melancholy because it feels like another year is almost passing us by... Where have all the time gone? What have I done this year that was memorable?
Maybe these shots of empty pools shows what I'm feeling. It reminds us of the fun we had... after the party ends, all that's left are the still water and the eerie lights.
The "Leica Q", just released yesterday, seems to have a lot of people excited. It checked a lot of must-want boxes that people have talked endlessly for: full-frame, slimmer body than the M, better ISO performance, EVF, and very good autofocus. Wait, what? AUTOFOCUS?! When did that become a big thing for Leica shooters?
The Q looks to be an effort for Leica to appeal to non-RF shooters who might come from DSLR or other Mirrorless offerings, but it doesn't interest me much. To be honest, I was tempted at first, too. I immediately thought that this would be a great backup to my M9 when the lights are low, but then I realized the flaw in that line of thinking... it will only be an second option for me. What I wanted was a camera that's good enough to replace the M9 to be my first option.
Since I shot exclusively with the 28'Cron on Sunday in the San Diego County Fair, I thought about how it would have been if I had the Q instead? I think it would have been just fine. For the shots of my son on the rides, I would have relied on the autofocus and it probably would have gotten me more shots than I did with the RF-and-wait method. It could also miss a few, like the shot above. It wasn't mission critical for me to get every shot in the right focus, but I got enough keepers to make me and my family happy, and most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed the photo-taking process because I was 100% involved. If I had shot with the Q instead, I feel my own efforts or involvement would be greatly reduced to the level of using it as a point-and-shoot. Obviously, that's not where I want to be.
I know one can turn off all the auto-ness and shoot manual, but focus-by-wire with focus-peaking and live view zoom doesn't appeal to me. So... for now, I'll keep waiting. I'll wait for the right M9 replacement, while enjoy every minute with the M9.
If I didn't make the effort...
Everyday, we let many moments pass by. Being a photographer in training, I noticed those moments, and while I'm appreciative of them, I also understood that I failed to capture them. There are times, though, where I recognized something and decides to go grab the camera, and when the results came out, I'm so glad. This shot has been waiting for probably 2 months. I don't know why I like it... I can hardly remember why I took it, but it speaks to me now, just as it spoke to me then.
Who's Taking the Picture?
Saw an interesting discussion in a photography forum tonight.... a guy was describing how he has an active child and he want a camera that has killer autofocus that can keep up with his son. Any modern DSLR camera would have been an easy answer, except they are rejected because he wanted something that is smaller so he can always carry it around and keep it handy. So the conversation revolved around which mirrorless camera had the fastest autofocus and how people tried various cameras under various situations and various camera failed to nail focus. It got me thinking... who's taking the picture?
It seems the camera took a lot of blames for missing the focus, so the logical next step is to find a better camera that won't fail. I think differently... I think they are relying too much on the camera to take the photo, and since we don't yet have artificial intelligence running in our cameras, they are bound to fail sometimes. They don't know exactly who you want in focus, what part of their body you want in focus and not in focus, and they're not tracking the subject you want to anticipate their movements. This is exactly what I learned after shooting with a manual focus camera like the M9 after a few months. You learn to relax the depth of field, you learn to move the camera with the moving subject, and you learn to anticipate their movement forward and backward with your focus so you can nail the shot even as they run toward you.
Of course, I don't nail the shot 100% of the time. However, when I fail to nail the focus, I knew it was my fault. No need to get another camera, I just need to practice more, or try a few extra exposures to be sure. Now looking back, I've been shooting the M9 for almost 3 years and the camera itself is over 5 years old, and to me, it's just as awesome of a camera as it was when I got it.
I heard a great quote by Craig Semetko in a Leica ad:
"For me, the Leica M is the path of least resistance between what I see on the street and a final print in my hand."
I would title the above image with "Waiting to take off...", which is the way I'm feeling towards 2015. Looking back, I feel I picked up the camera less in 2014 than in 2013. I'm looking forward to the resurgence of my photographic activities. Some people talk of their one-camera-one-lens goal, or a-picture-a-day goal for the new year... Me? Not so ambitious. I want to take more pictures of my family, and more pictures with people in them in general.
I just returned from a rejuvenating vacation trip to Taiwan to visit families and friends and I'm still suffering the jet lag which prompted this post. It brought full on nostalgia visiting the island that I grew up on, but have parted for almost 30 years now. As I reacquaint myself to the city streets and country sides, I found that I was looking for a reconnection... to this land, to the people there.
When we go out to places, I often find myself trying to capture the scenery... waiting for people to get out of the way, or find a vantage point void of people. However, looking back at the photos taken, I find that it's the ones with people in them that make them more interesting. The scenery doesn't change much and one shot isn't so different than another, but it's the people, their facial expressions or the way they're organized within the frame, that makes that capture unique. Perhaps that's what makes street photography interesting... and it's something I've just began to grasp myself.
As for families... I want to capture them unposed. I want to capture them as I will remember them, not a smile for the camera, but with real emotions. It's a little easier to do this with family and friends than with strangers. I can blend in better with the camera so they won't be so conscious of me taking pictures. The three shots above are of my older brother, Roy, whom I rarely see once or twice a year. I love these shots because I snapped them just as I normally look at him, with no purpose in mind than just trying to capture his essence. Emotionally, these shots speak volumes to me.
So there it is... a bunch of rambling thoughts on a jet lagged morning. If you want to see all of my vacation photos from Taiwan, click [HERE].
Happy 5th Birthday, M9...
Leica M9 was announced on September 9, 2009... 5 years ago. It's considered a couple of lifetimes in the digital world. Just to give you an idea, it's the same year iPhone 3GS was announced, and we just heard about the iPhone 6. The M9 was the first ever full-frame digital rangefinder, and they've got it right the first time. It still makes beautiful images today. I've been tempted by the newer models that have been released over the years, but the images I take calms me down. Let's hope it'll keep going for many 5 more years!
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.