So, I Bought a Creative Filter…

I purchased my first ever creative filter: a Tiffen Black Pro Mist 1/4 for diffusion. It should soften up direct light sources and skin while holding sharpness... or at least that's what it says on the tin.

My Best Image From 2020-21, So Far

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!

Back in the Saddle (Again) and the Return of Pier 62

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.

The Folly of “Gear Doesn’t Matter” and Similar, Poor Advice

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.

Things I Had Said That I Would Never Do…

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.

I Bought the oakie.photo URL and I Have a Plan

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?

Review: Fujifilm GF 110mm ƒ/2 Portrait Lens for GFX

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.

Finally Getting to Those Lens Reviews

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.

Adapting FX?

You may have heard that Fujifilm has opened the door slightly to third-parties regarding their APS-C based X-mount. It seems they've finally given in to both unrelenting pressure from their users and the reality of being able to fully flesh out their lens lineup with more niche lenses in a timely and profitable way. One example: poor sales of the $5995 XF 200mm ƒ/2 with 1.4x Teleconverter, a specialty prime designed for sports and wildlife photographers. It seems very few people "clamoring" for that sort of lens actually put their money where their mouths are and has made Fujifilm gun shy about serving up more high performance, expensive, niche lenses. However, the result is Fujifilm opening up X-mount to approved third parties...

I’m Stuck Deep In a Creative Rut and Have Started Digging

Stuck in both a depressive state and a creative rut, with each feeding off each other to create a negative feedback loop. The former isn’t necessarily tied to the latter, although the latter is a symptom of the former. Also affecting the situation is my stress induced psoriasis negatively impacting my desire to go out and attempt to break the cycle, further deepening my depression and lengthening this creative dry spell. My first notion was to sell everything and find a new hobby. It also doesn’t help that my penchant for landscape, nature and astrophotography are heavily impacted by my inability to drive; this reliance on others is a constant source of both anxiety and depression for me.

There’s No Replacement for OEM.. But Wait, There’s More!!!

My real issue is the lack of an ultrawide zoom. 3 years on and Fujifilm continues to neglect all of the landscape photographers they try to market this system toward. There have been rumors of a 20-36mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 but nothing official has been announced. You’d think this would be a priority... instead we got a 50mm pancake, 30mm ƒ/3.5 and the 45-100mm ƒ/4. The latter filled a huge hole in their lineup but the other 2 seem to serve only the GFX 50R buyers. Landscape users are left in the lurch for yet another year, unrewarded for our patience and dedication.

Medium Format Digital for Enthusiasts?

Now is an excellent time to get into medium format digital. However, there are a few things you need to know about it. Ignorance to these facts can result in an extreme level of dissatisfaction and regret if you don’t know what you’re getting for what’s inarguably still a large chunk of change. You’ll also need to honestly evaluate what sort of photographer you are and your expectations. While all of the technological and photographic principles are the same, medium format is a whole different beast.

First Use: Shimoda Designs Action X70 Backpack (Video)

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.

Comparison: RRS L-Bracket vs 3 Legged Thing Ellie for Fujifilm GFX 50S

A quick comparison between two products designed mostly to perform the same function. In case you're not familiar with an L-bracket, it's function is purely to allow rotation of your camera by 90 degrees while keeping it balanced on the X axis of your tripod. This is especially important for panoramas so the camera yaws directly over the center point rather than circumnavigating it, which alters the perspective enough to make stitching the result more difficult or even impossible.

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