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!
You'll need to download the .zip file with the original .PNG files here. They're obviously Fujifilm themed, as you can see, since they're for my Lightroom and Capture One scratch drive and high speed backup. If you're not familiar with how to change the folder or drive icons in macOS, start by saving the picture to your Downloads folder. Open the picture in Preview, hit CMD+A then CMD+C to copy the image. Right click/2-finger click the drive or folder icon you want to change and choose "Get Info" from the menu. In the upper left of the window that pops open, click the image so it's highlighted, then hit CMD+V to paste the icon, replacing the old one.
Volunteered for Kate on a photowalk to the Seattle waterfront recently. After spending the past few months doing lonely portraits to practice using strobes in 1, 2 and 3 light configurations, it felt good to go out and do some of the type of photography I'm most passionate about. So, why did I volunteer and for what? Since Seattle is still under a pandemic lockdown that limits group sizes to 5 people, I chose to help by leading a group so more people could participate via proxy groups. Pier 62 reintroduces a location and perspective that's been missing since it closed for reconstruction. While somewhat pedestrian, the addition of new attractions and changes to the skyline have given it more value when compared with similar locations, both old and new. However, like those other locations, it offers a limited perspective and thus limits its overall value, long term, as a photographic location. It's one that will become over saturated by the end of the summer as a landscape and cityscape destination, even during a time of reduced foot traffic due to the pandemic, but will easily persist as a street, tourist and especially portrait photography location for years to come. Once the new waterfront master plan is completed, Pier 62 could become one of the premium destinations for environmental portraiture and street photography, due to its prime location, identifiable backdrop and potential for high foot traffic.
Wisdom, experience and knowledge are similar but they are NOT the same. Knowledge is facts that are taught and learned. Experience is knowledge gained first-hand. Wisdom is experience, combined with knowledge, over time. By advising someone that "gear doesn't matter," you're trying to instill your experience and wisdom into someone else as knowledge. You believe you're saving them from the frustration and cost of experience when in fact you're robbing them of it. Even worse, it's hypocritical to advise someone to "go out and shoot," to learn through experience, but then try to rob them of that very experience when it comes to purchasing gear. You can't play the blues convincingly by observing someone else's heartaches.
This is the one and only time I will directly address the pandemic because it's such a touchy subject in the US, even though it shouldn't be. The more we transmit the COVID-19 virus, through social interaction and spreading by direct contact and shared air saturated with aerosols, the more opportunities for the virus to mutate. Eventually, there will be enough DNA mutation where the vaccines currently out are unable to simulate, and thus stimulate our immune systems, to defend against what has essentially become a new virus. Limiting the spread helps to ensure the efficacy of the current vaccine. Once we're able to stop it's spread, through a combination of pockets of herd immunity and social distancing outside those pockets, the virus is unable to use us to replicate. The hope is that we can do this before the virus has mutated beyond the effectiveness of the current vaccines.
One of the things I've said I'd never do, in the past, was self portraits. Some of this is pandemic related, but much of it is girlfriend related. She doesn't really care to move into a larger space and therefore torpedoes my every attempt to bring up the subject. Our current condo was supposed to be temporary; we've now been here for 8 years and long since outgrown it. I have no space to work.
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.
As I specified in a previous blog post, it took me a long time to convince myself that this was a necessary accessory. I didn't want to buy it only to use part time because of the high price... the only way it would earn its worth is to make itself a nearly permanent part of my camera. Right off the bat, I find it to be exceptionally useful for my needs. I prefer using the EVF whenever possible and with the tilt and pan capability, along with the extra length, I can now use the EVF in more positions than ever before. Combined with the magnification, the EVF's display quality is much better than the rear LCD. That's not to say the rear LCD is bad, it's just that the EVF is that much better.
The M1 does what Apple promised during the PowerPC transition 15 years ago but failed to deliver. What you hear coming from a millennial's face on YouTube is not hyperbole; the M1 clearly has processing power to spare since its able to translate/emulate non-optimized code at a speed where users don't even realize there's an extra computing layer in-between. In many cases, it's actually faster. Let me repeat: the M1 is running non-native code, through an emulator, faster than an Intel chip running the native code, natively, and is doing it with substantially less power consumption and with no active cooling. If a millennial is shocked at the performance of the M1 when compared side by side with an Intel equipped MacBook, they can't even imagine what I, and others my age or older, are experiencing. Our minds are completely blown. For those who aren't as tech savvy, a metaphorical example: imagine 2 people trying to read a book in Japanese. One of them can read Japanese while the other doesn't understand Japanese at all but has a device they can use to translate it for them. What's happening here, basically, is the person who needs to use a translation device is able to read the book faster than the Japanese person is able to read it directly. We witnessed first-hand this sort of wholesale transition before from the very same company. We cursed Rosetta. That was a hard shot of reality after being massaged with marketing hype, promises and a near total failure to deliver. This also came on the heels of the painful transition from Classic MacOS 9 to the Unix-based OS X, where little was offered and even that didn't work well. Once we get past the fact that we have software running in emulation at a pace that's faster than the same software being run on native hardware, we are then confronted with the fact that it's doing it cooler and more efficiently. The M1 runs harder for longer and with much less energy consumption and our imaginations are running wild at the prospect of just how much more performance we'll get once our entire workflows are coded to run natively. Even faster(?!?) and more efficiently, possibly gaining as much as 50% more battery life once Rosetta 2 is eliminated? We can't even fathom it. Hell, most of us can't even fathom what Apple has already delivered.
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?
I finally bought it and it’s on its way. At $569, it was a hard sell, as I waited nearly a year before deciding its value overcame the price tag for me. The Fujifilm EVF-TL1 viewfinder tilt adapter for the GFX 50S and GFX 100 is attached between the removable electronic viewfinder and the camera body, allowing you to tilt the eyepiece up to 90⁰ upward to use the camera in a waist-level/chest-level viewfinder mode or pitched ±45⁰ when in portrait orientation. It gives the EVF far more versatility to be used in awkward positions where you'd normally have to resort to using the 2½-way rear LCD.
The ZX1 is a $6000 time bomb set to go off in 2 years. It won't even be sellable in 2 years, much less for even half the price, as the hardware required to run the software will be considered "legacy." Zeiss will have to scrap and refresh the internals every 2-3 years to keep pace with the smartphone industry that ARM, Google and Adobe are tied to. I'm afraid Zeiss has failed to truly consider all of this; Samsung, who has their own smartphone division, tried this years ago with the Galaxy NX line of point and shoots and APS-C mirrorless and scrapped it when faced with the choice between trying to sell outdated cameras for a profit versus annual camera refreshes that made them unprofitable. Ultimately, the product cycles of digital cameras and smartphones were just too dissimilar to be profitable. If I'm not buying one for $6000, and you're not buying one for $6000, who's buying this camera?
Usually the 85mm, or equivalent, lens offered on a system is one of their best lenses optically due to its popularity for portrait photography. The Fujifilm GF 110mm ƒ/2 is no different in this regard. Despite being one of Fujifilm’s first 3 lenses for the GFX system when it was released in 2017, the formula still holds up. The hype surrounding the GFX 100’s release last year also caused a resurgence in this lens’ profile and popularity. It’s reputation has reached near mythic proportions and for good reason: this is an excellently performing lens. It’s not without its flaws, but it has the right combination of flaws to give it character.
It took a fair bit longer than I’d implied but I’ve finally started on those lens reviews. If you’re new here, my reviews are really laid back and non-technical. I tend to focus more on the impact they’ll make on your photography and whether they’re worth your investment. For those outside the Fujifilm system, they’re a sampling of what you can expect from the brand.