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.
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."
We did some remodeling at the work office, so I went back to dig out some old photos of coworkers to make some prints to put on the wall. Yesterday, I spotted some 8x10 size frames on sale in Ikea with silver frames, perfect for some BW prints. Here are the three shots I decided to print.
Still jet-lagged, all three of us woke up early this morning while it was still dark. My wife suggested that we go somewhere to watch the sunrise. She found a place near us, Signal Hill in Long Beach. We barely got there in time and I was able to catch a few shots of the different palettes.
Following our trip to Taiwan, my son and I have been waking up at 4 in the morning. By the time I get him to brush his teeth, change his clothes, eat breakfast, there are still hours to kill before he needs to leave for school. So, I let him play a little bit of video games. The force is strong with this one :)
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].
Kids are basically sheets of white papers. As parents, the burden is on us to introduce and guide the right elements so that they develop into beautiful paintings one day. There's a lot of attention paid on reading and writing in school, a little lesser on math than I would like, but seriously lacking in the areas of the arts.
My son tells me "I can't draw very good", and I want to tell him that he doesn't have to draw good, he just need to draw. I think kids are inherently creative because they don't yet know the artificial boundaries that we have placed around ourselves. They are more free to experiment, do as they like. Here's famous quote by Pablo Picasso: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."
So, when I can, when I remember, I ask my son to draw something... anything. I think (hope) this would pay off in the long run...
I believe this is roll #10 and #11. I try to keep film always loaded in the SL66, so that I can pick it up and shoot a couple of frames whenever I'm inspired. Due to the cost of film and processing, I usually shoot portraits because I think pictures of love ones will increase the values of these negatives over time. Do you see a black bar about a third of the way from the left? It's back! Last time I thought it was solved by going to a different film processor, but now I think it may have something to do with shooting in bright day light. Maybe there's some kind of light leak that causes the stripe as I advance the film. I shall be more careful next time.
Here's another interesting place to visit on our way to Vegas. Take the Kelbaker Road exit off I-15 at Baker and go east for about 20 miles, then turn left on to Aiken Mine Road, which is a dirt/gravel path, for another 4 miles. While driving towards the destination, you can almost tell from the landscape where the lava flowed from, coating the land, and where it stopped, creating a wall.
Once I knew that we were going to visit this place, I wanted to buy the Sony A7s camera which would be perfect for this opportunity. But after some debate, I decided to stick with the M9 and bring a tripod instead. Limitation breeds creativity, right? Unfortunately, we got there a little too late to catch the sun ray beaming through holes. So, I setup the tripod and we took some silly long exposure shots.
It gets pretty dusty in there, so I wouldn't recommend anyone staying there for too long. After climbing out of the hole and look at the surrounding landscape again, you can't help but wonder how was this place ever discovered. Here's a shot of my friend, David, who at the time of this shot, had no idea his daughter Isabella will born in another 24 hours. Somehow, I feel the essence of happiness is captured here.
I also took a bunch of photo and videos via Google Glass, you can see them [HERE].
When I think about driving to Las Vegas from L.A., I usually dread that boring 3 to 4 hours drive. There is a high chance of slow moving traffic on certain spots, and some long stretches of nothingness through the desert landscape. So when I had to make that drive this past weekend, I tried to look for interesting places to visit along the way. The Bottle Tree Ranch can be found on the historic Route 66 between Victorville and Barstow.
Apparently, some guy named Elmer just decided to build this in the middle of nowhere. It has grown over the years and the "installation" has gained some notoriety. We spent around 15 minutes just look around the forest of bottle trees and saw other groups of tourists stopping by. Too bad we weren't able to speak to Elmer directly that day.
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.