Category Archives: Black and White

Using the GX-1 at an Air Museum

I have a Panasonic GX-1. It was purchased on a whim because of a “deal of the day” advertisement that I saw online. The deal was too good to pass up!  The GX-1 showed up in a few days and I immediately started using it.  And then, it stayed unused in a camera bag.

My thought on getting the GX-1 was as a back up camera to my Olympus E-P3.  Both of these cameras are in the same class, Micro Four Thirds (MFT) and are known as mirrorless cameras.  Neither one has an optical or electronic viewfinder and you must rely on the LCD on the back of the camera for picture taking.  While not really pocketable, they are both much smaller than my DSLR (Canon 60D), and produce very nice images.  This type of camera is generally not very good at any type of fast action photography, but do quite well for just about anything else.

I really loved my Olympus E-P3, from the moment I first picked it up.  It felt solid and has a nice retro look.  I’ve taken some very nice photos with it too!  The E-P3 is starting to show its age, especially with its older 12mp sensor.  Low light high ISO capability was not really one of its strengths.  To counter that and work within this limitation, I kept the ISO low and put the E-P3 on a tripod in low light.  The solid build has come into play for me personally.  While out hiking with the E-P3, I slipped and fell – twice!  I came away with some scrapes and bruises, and so did the E-P3.  Nothing too serious but there are a couple of battle scars on it.  Other than the pop-up flash not working very well, the rest of it is just fine.

As for the GX-1, it doesn’t have a very solid feel and is definitely not retro.  The body doesn’t look bad, it just seems like it has more plastic than the E-P3.  Both the GX-1 and E-P3 have plenty of external controls and touch screens.  I’m kind of funny in that I don’t really care for the touch screens and turned them off.  The GX-1 is a very capable camera, and has a newer 16mp sensor and better low light, high ISO performance than the E-P3, and when I used it, found that it too produced some very nice images.  The other plus of having the GX-1 is that being a MFT camera, it could use all of the lenses that I currently had for the E-P3.  I just never really warmed up to it and didn’t use it, especially after getting my Olympus E-M5.

A week or so ago, I was digging around in my camera bags and saw the GX-1.  I decided to get it out, dust it off, and give it another try.  One of the places that I enjoy walking around and using my cameras is the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino California.  It’s fairly close, and always has interesting subjects.  What better place to get re-acquainted with the GX-1!

To my surprise, I enjoyed using the GX-1 more this time than I had when I first got it.  I used my Olympus 17mm f/1.8 and 45mm f1/8 lenses and tried to capture images in a variety of conditions.  Nothing that I want to get too technical about, suffice it to say that there was quite an extreme difference in the indoor lights of the hangars and the harsh mid-day sun.  Not the most ideal shooting conditions, but very realistic.  You can’t always have an epic sunrise or sunset with deliciously warm, golden light.  Sometimes you have to work with what you have!

Here are some of the pictures from that day.  I had the GX-1 in aperture priority mode, and changed the aperture (f/stop) and ISO according to the brightness of the light.  I also set the camera to shoot RAW for the express purpose of post processing.  I know there are some that don’t like post processing, and that’s just fine for them.  Personally, I enjoy working on my photos and finding new methods for creating an image.  Sometimes it’s black and white, sometimes HDR, and other times just a few minor tweaks.  Since I don’t consider myself a journalist or documentarian, I have no problem with post processing.  But to each his own, it’s all good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m very pleased with the GX-1, it was fun to use again.  It’s fairly small and easy to carry around.  I got used to changing settings and didn’t have to fumble around too much.  The RAW files provide good quality images with plenty of pixels for me to play with in post.  I think I’m going to keep it out and use it some more!  Unfortunately it has been discontinued by the manufacturer, but is still available if you look around.  I found it on Amazon – GX-1.

That’s it for this post, until next time – Happy Shooting!

March Field Air Museum

It’s been a couple of years since my last visit to the March Field Air Museum (MFAM).  The reasons I had for making a return visit were first and foremost to see what was new.  Occasionally I pass by the museum which is located right off of the freeway in Riverside, and could see that some changes were being made.  My second reason was sort of a challenge.  MFAM has some strict rules about photography, such as no tripods, monopods, or camera bags.  I intended to follow those rules (although I never bring a tripod to air museums or air shows) and limit myself to minimal camera gear.  In this case, I brought my Olympus E-M5 with 45mm f/1.8 lens, Rokinon Fisheye lens, and my little Sony RX100.  Finally, the weather was changing and there were some fantastic clouds (not much rain), perfect dramatic backgrounds for airplane photos!

Walking up to the main building there are a couple of planes on display.  Just past those, you’ll notice several memorials.  They are all contained in what the museum calls the “Heritage Courtyard”.  The memorials include:

  • War Dog Memorial
  • P-38 Lightning Memorial
  • Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) Memorial
  • 15th Air Force Wall
  • Freedom Wall

Be sure to take a little time and look over these memorials!


Once you’re inside the main building, you’ll see the SR-71.  You can’t help but see it since it dwarfs everything else inside the space.  There are an abundance of other displays along the walls surrounding the SR-71 that are worth spending some time visiting.  I spent some of my time walking around the SR-71.  There’s something about that plane that has intrigued me since I was a kid.  I just wish I was able to see one in the air.  I did learn something about the SR-71 from my Dad.  He mentioned to me recently that he worked at the Lockheed Skunkworks for several years, and during that time worked on the 1st SR-71.  My Dad had a long career in aircraft and retired from McDonnell Douglas with over 30 years.  I knew he worked for Lockheed before his time at McDonnell Douglas, but never gave it any thought that he worked in the Skunkworks or on the SR-71.  How cool is that!

When you’ve allowed enough time to explore indoors, it’s time to head outside.  Just beyond the doors leading out there are dozens of airplanes.  There’s a little bit of everything from WWII Warbirds to surprisingly modern age aircraft.  I won’t cover everything there is to see, you can do that on your own.  I do however, want to share some of the highlights, at least from my perspective.

  • The B-29 “Three Feathers III”.  I have a strange connection to this particular plane.  In fact, I felt compelled to head straight across the yard to see it and spent quite a bit of time with it.  In case you missed it, you can read about my connection to the wonderful plane and it’s history here:  Three Feathers Part 1, Three Feathers Part 2, and Three Feathers Part 3.
  • MIG Alley.  MFAM has an excellent collection of MIGs, from the MIG 15 to the MIG 23.
  • YF-14A Tomcat.  This is another plane that I haven’t seen in the air.  While I have seen several in different air museums, I haven’t been able to get a good shot (photo) of one.  Air museums tend to be packed pretty tight, and it can be tough to get a clean shot, and mine always leaves me disappointed.  But not this time!
  • The F-4 Phantom.  The Phantom is one of my favorites and luckily I have seen them in the air.  MFAM has several models of the F-4 on display!
  • The B-17G.  I have a lot of admiration for this plane and the brave souls that flew them.  I was able to take a tour inside of one and they are a whole lot smaller on the inside then they look on the outside.  You really had to be a skinny kid to move around inside one.  And although the B-17 looks formidable with guns sticking out all around it, that thin sheet metal didn’t provide much protection for those within.  I can’t imagine being inside one with flak bursting all around, slicing holes through that thin skin.

So far I’ve done nothing but talk about the planes.  Now I want to talk a little about photography.  One of things about the gear that I chose for this trip is that it is very light and easy to move around with.  I never felt bogged down by my gear and it didn’t get in the way of making photos.  My Sony RX100 is technically considered a point and shoot, and it looks the part.  What sets it apart is its 1 inch sensor (I know its not exactly 1″ for anyone wanting to scream at me, but its close enough).  Suffice it to say that it’s much larger than the typical point and shoot and the image quality in turn is much better.  It also allows me to shoot RAW and many other point and shoot cameras don’t.  I like it so much that I ended up using it a majority of the time.  In fact, I used it for panoramas, black and white, and HDR.  I probably could have left the E-M5 in the car and used the RX100 exclusively.  Yes, for some things I think it’s that good!

My E-M5 with 45mm f/1.8 performed perfectly.  Nothing at an air museum moves very fast so tracking autofocus wasn’t an issue.  The 45mm (90mm equivalent) was perfect for filling the frame and getting what I’d call more intimate shots.  And I did end up using the Rokinon Fisheye lens a little.  You need to be careful not to over use the fisheye and I was selective with my subject and composition.

What about the pictures?  Good question, here they are:







If you like Warbirds and other types of Military aircraft, you owe it to yourself to stop by March Field Air Museum. I just hit some of my favorites and highlights, so check it out for yourself!

That’s it for this post, until next time, Happy Shooting!

My Photographic Niche

If you’ve followed any of my work you’ve probably noticed by now that I am hooked on a few subjects.  Landscapes have always been a passion of mine.  Military aircraft, especially WWII Warbirds on display in an air museum or an air show are something I really enjoy.  But lately I’d have to say that my niche is black and white photography.  It’s not that I’ve lost interest in my other photographic interests, black and white has just taken a front row seat.

One of the benefits of black and white is that I can still work on my landscapes and also the aircraft.  Since I shoot about 95% color (I do switch the camera over to black and white occasionally), I have the best of both worlds.  It’s after I’ve taken the shot and have it available for post production that I can begin to transform it.  Sometimes when I’m out and working a scene I can even picture it in black and white. Ansel Adams described this as previsualization where he defines it as “the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure”.  This may sound a little corny, but it works for me.  There are some scenes that just seem to cry out to me – “black and white”!

Here’s an example.  This shot is of the Imperial Beach Pier, just south of San Diego.  Whenever I’m down in the area I try to make a sunset photo side trip.  I was trying out my new Sony RX100 and got lucky to have a very pretty sunset.

Not bad, and I think most folks would probably just leave it as is.  But there was just something about it that made me wonder what it would look like in black and white.  I think the result gives this shot a completely different mood.  It’s been transformed from light, colorful and even cheery to dark, moody, and somber.

There’s one more aspect to my black and white obsession, and that’s adding a vintage look. I’ve been fortunate to have access a family travelogue from the early 1900’s. The book is called “Around Arizona” and chronicles my great-grandparents and very young grandfather’s 1000 mile journey around a very rough and wild Arizona. Being over 100 years old it’s not in the best shape and I’m in the process of scanning all of the pages and copying the photos. I’ve always admired vintage photos and like to study them to try and duplicate their unique look and feel. Having access to some that have a direct family connection is just icing on the cake.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s an example:

As you can see, this photo is far from perfect. It’s faded, scratched, blotched, etc… etc… And I think it’s absolutely perfect with all of it’s imperfections. Looking at it takes me back to simpler time, when there were no superhighways, no air conditioned cars, no fast food. Photography was very primitive compared to what we have today. The camera my great grandmother used for this shot was an Eastman-Kodak No.1 Pocket Camera. It used A-120 roll film and had an autographic feature that allowed the photographer to actually write a note on the back of each frame of film using a little stylus.

That’s enough history. My point in sharing all of that is to say that I use this as my inspiration to further transform some of my photos into something similar, something with that same vintage look and feel. I’m not always entirely successful, but I enjoy the challenge. Here’s one of my more recent images:

To sum it up, I’d say that black and white, including vintage images have more character than those technically perfect shots that are cranked out today. There’s nothing wrong with a perfect digital shot that is flawless down to the last pixel, but most of them lack character, or a soul. A photo doesn’t have to be perfect to convey a feeling, a mood, or tell a story. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with those that want to create that technically perfect image. I’m just going in a different direction, towards my niche.

If you like black and white photography and want to see more, check out my new Black and White Gallery!

That’s it for this post. I hope you find your photographic niche! Until next time, Happy Shooting!