This is not a review of the lens. This is purely a single first impression I have of it. Reality is that the weather has t been great in Seattle at the right times for me to give it a proper test. Hopefully that changes after this weekend, though, and I'll be able to compile a proper review. What I HAVE done is give the optical image stabilization a quick once or twice over. By that, I mean that I've sat and aimed my camera around my sitting area, seeing how slow I can set the shutter speed and still acquire a perfectly focused image. What I've discovered is that this lens' OIS is amazing.
This is the best image I've shot so far in the past year. I took it 2 days ago, during the winter storm we had here in Seattle, at Post Alley near the Harbor Steps. The lighting, the glow created by the falling snow, deep shadows and lots of straight, converging all came together for this long exposure. I tend to be excessively modest about my photography, but this image stood out as soon as I took it and reviewed it in my viewfinder. To me, it's just hauntingly beautiful and perfectly encapsulates the feeling I had while walking through the 6 inches of dry, powdery, freshly fallen snow at 4am. Because of Instagram's image compression, you miss out on all of the subtle nuances that exist in both the diffused light and shadows. The gradation of both color and tone, the sparkle and texture of the snow, details in the shadows... none of this is visible until you see it in full, 16-bit, ProPhoto RGB color. Because of that, I'm posting it here in full, uncompressed, 16-bit TIF format. No watermarks or BS in the way so you can see it as I do and judge it on its merits. (Warning: this is a 330MB file. Click image for full size) Enjoy!
For the past few years, I've been using my Gitzo Series 1 Mountaineer as my primary tripod. It served me well when my primary camera body was the Fujifilm X-T2, X-T3 and X-H1. Once I bought the GFX 50S to use alongside my X-H1, I became acutely aware of the tripod's shortcomings. The Gitzo Mountaineer Series 1 GT1542 is an excellent tripod. Combined with the lightweight Arca-Swiss p0 head, the tripod weighed in at just under 3 lbs and featured a very slim profile when folded down. The 25mm max leg diameter contributed to this slim profile, and while it works well with entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless camera bodies, the slim legs are just a bit too thin for a heavier, professional level body like the GFX 50S. Most people with a larger, heavier camera would be perfectly served with any Gitzo Series 1 tripod, as they only need it for single shots in adequate lighting. In my case, I use it primarily for landscape photography, astrophotography, night photography, etc... situations that require long exposures and/or multiple exposures for stacking, exposure blending or panoramas. This requires greater demands on my tripod as any movement between shots can ruin an exposure. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, to work with multiple, misaligned exposures in post-processing, thus a lighter-weight tripod can cause problems as any flexing will result in misalignment. While I haven't gotten rid of my Series 1 Gitzo, I recently bought a Gitzo GT3542 Series 3 Mountaineer.
So, I bought the URL "oakie.photo" today. I've spent the last few months trying to decide if, and how, I'd want to monetize the 4-5 photos I've taken that seem to hold value for people besides me. Why "oakie.photo"? Well, it's simple. That's it, it's simple. Simple to remember and promote. Two words, one dot, and it makes for equally simple subdomains and links. I considered the ubiquitous, "Name Here Photography" for a split second and quickly canned it; just adding 6 more letters to type into an address bar disqualified it, along with being a flashing sign of having no creativity. Sure, you could argue my choice is equally uncreative, but it's efficient and easy to remember. Lack of pluralization may compromise elegance for efficiency but who knows?
Waiting intensely for an ultrawide zoom lens for GFX, I was forced to get something, anything, for certain landscapes and astrophotography. So, until that lens appears I’ve decided on the only lens available: the GF 23mm ƒ/4.
So, it's barely Monday. It's a new moon. Comet Neowise is further down on the horizon. Jay and I are gonna camp at Stampede Pass, hoping to align the galactic core with Mt. Rainier and the west fork valley of the White River. Our last trip found ourselves literally behind the 8-ball, without a view of the summit, and under skies polluted with moonlight. Add to it the beginning of the work week, we're hoping we get the area to ourselves. Since we haven't scouted the location prior to today, we have no idea if Comet Neowise will be visible from our location and if there's anything interesting between us and it. I'll be bringing a 1200mm long setup just in case we do.
Back to gear... I got my 2 person tent and Shimoda Explore 40 back from Craig, a large version 2 camera unit from Shimoda and a 3 filter kit from PolarPro that integrates an ND and polarizer into a single body, allowing the combo to be used on wider angle lenses than previously. While that's the general benefit, the main goal was a set that fit my 23mm ƒ/4 lens and it's 82mm filter thread. The hope is the infrared response follows the same curve set by my Wine Country Cameras filter kit so I don't need to recreate presets for post processing. 10 days have elapsed and I've still yet to get any shots with these new filters. Initial impressions of these filters are on pause as I wait for an opportunity to really utilize them but even now I have a huge cartful of thoughts on them. The packaging alone spurred a thousand words but I wait so I can hopefully produce a measured reaction.
Today will be my first opportunity for an overnighter in the mountains near Mt. Rainier. During the extended offseason, I used the opportunity to upgrade most of my camping gear to reduce mass and improve efficiency. Much of this was forced as compensation for adding the larger, heavier Fujifilm GFX medium format camera system. The result of throwing money at the problem is an overnight kit that fits completely within my Action X70 backpack while still having 15-20 liters of space left over and weighing in below 20kg.
To demonstrate both the efficiency of my chosen gear and my packing skills, I made a short video of my unloading all of the camping gear from my backpack's expandable 35 liter cargo compartment.
First, and most importantly, know what genres of photography you enjoy the most and if that genre requires a tripod. Then, buy the largest, highest quality tripod you're willing to carry that fits in your budget. Specifically in that order; do not put budget ahead of any other aspect of the tripod. If you go too cheap, you may very well end up with a tripod that meets none of your needs when you're forced to replace it due to instability or fragility. The adage, "buy cheap, buy twice (or more)" applies here.
Went on another photowalk, this one being a bit more fruitful due to the weather conditions at the start time. Why do I do this to myself? I'm generally asocial and not very talkative, especially around people I don't know, preferring to operate alone. Despite that, it's hard to learn without someone to learn from and it's difficult to be inspired by my coffee table, so I fight my urge to run away for the sake of education and practice. Regarding the setting, while it wasn't ideal for golden hour, the cloudy skies and convergence zone did make for dramatic views and a highly textured backdrop to the humdrum scene. I hit the shutter over 40 times, but the result was less than 15 kept, fewer still that I liked and only 3-4 that I've processed to completion so far.
As for the evening, I took the Doc Maynard from downtown to West Seattle, meeting up with Kate Hailey and the attendees at Marination Ma Kai at Seacrest Dock. Two hours of rambling north, and then west, from the dock to Alki Beach as the sun set in the background behind a small convergence zone. Afterward, I jumped on the ferry back to downtown.
Normally in Seattle, we'll get a couple of inches of snow per winter. This winter, the snow showed up both late and in force, dropping 5 inches of snow on downtown in a single morning. This is on top of a few inches earlier in the week plus a few more inches a day later. As the snow begins to melt from slightly warmer weather bringing rain in the 24 hours since, I've managed to get a few photos processed that reflect the views around downtown in the early hours, shortly after the snowfall stopped.
I walked around downtown at 4am capturing the empty city streets and landmarks between Chinatown and Pier 66. While not very significant compared to other parts of the country, and even the region, the snow was one of the largest single accumulations in recent history for downtown.
The first three were taken before the penumbra even reached the moon. The weather had just begun to clear but a few clouds still managed to cross the sky before clearing moments before the Earth's penumbra began to cast itself upon the moon's surface. The full moon's glow and reflection on the passing clouds created an eerie look that was just too good to not photograph. All three were bracketed shots but the second is an HDR stacked in Lightroom. The first and third were fully recoverable from single images at the proper exposure.
finally went out to take some photos since the Alaskan Way Viaduct is closing for good this weekend. i ended up hitting the Pier 66 Rooftop Park at sunset then moved back to the Pike Place Marketfront location above the viaduct. finally, i went through Post Alley on the way home. oddly, it was through Post Alley that inspired the shot i liked the most from the set.
So I've revisited a few photos from the past year and applied what I've learned in Lightroom since then. The hope was to take what I felt were good photos and try to make them better, possibly even worth printing, since I liked the views.
The same location yet never the same. Kerry and Rizal Parks are probably the perspectives most photographed of Seattle, and while everyone has seen them, no two days are the same.
So I had this vision in mind: I wanted to get a photo of the Space Needle superimposed on Mt. Rainier. Now that I have the 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 lens from Fujifilm, I'm able to get this shot... if it's even possible. I've seen others who've composited the Space Needle onto a photo of Mt. Rainier, or Mt. Baker, and even Mt. Hood (uh, wtf?) and the results always look less than stellar, mostly because I've lived here most of my life and I know those shots weren't possible using the angles they'd chosen of either object.
I wanted to do this for real, all in camera, so I consulted a map and looked around Queen Anne hill and settled on Bhy Kracke Park.