Category Archives: Old Camera

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!

Old Camera, New Tricks!

Catchy title, don’t you think?  Actually the camera I’m referring to in this case is my Olympus E-P3.  While it may only be a few years old now, in the world of electronics (including cameras), this is almost ancient!

As time goes on all things electronic evolve.  In the never ending quest to keep people buying their products, camera manufacturers continue to up the ante.  The E-P3 had many things going for it, especially the retro look and feel.  The camera was built very solid and felt good in your hands.  And it looked very cool too!  One of the techie features that I liked was the in-body image stabilization.  The only complaints I remember reading about was that the E-P3’s image sensor (12mp) was getting old and could/should have been updated.  But even with a “dated” sensor there was plenty of praise for the image quality just the same.

I’ve had my E-P3 for a couple years now, and even though I’ve added a newer camera to my collection, I find myself drawn to the E-P3.  For our 3 week trip to the Eastern Sierra this year I brought my newer Olympus E-M5, Canon 60D, and E-P3.  The 60D stayed in the bag and in the motorhome for the entire trip.  My main shooter was the E-M5, but the E-P3 went everywhere that the E-M5 did.  At 1st I put the 14-42mm kit lens on the E-P3 and figured that I’d just keep it in the bag for backup.  I did end up taking some pictures with it and was pleased overall with what I ended up with.  It was then when I got to thinking that maybe I could use the E-P3 for more than backup.

One of the things I try to do when photographing a landscape scene is the look for something to help make it pop.  Clouds, beautiful golden light, or a unique perspective.  Not necessarily a gimmick, but rather something to help tell the story of my composition.  And it turns out that I had something in the camera bag that would help with this perfectly!  The Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye lens!

The fisheye is definitely unique.  It provides a very wide, and somewhat distorted point of view.  It’s not something that you want to use all time, but it is fun to experiment with.  And since I had my main camera setup for serious shooting, I could play with my E-P3 and Rokinon all I wanted.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the E-M5, but there was something hard to describe about picking up and using the E-P3 again.  It was fun!

My E-P3 has been with me for 2 years of shooting.  Sometimes it hasn’t been pleasant.  Not the camera, but what it has had to go though.  I’ve taken on hikes, in the rain, and snow.  It’s gotten soaked, and dropped twice.  I had some cuts and bruises but I healed.  My poor little E-P3 still has its battle scars.  There are a few nicks and dings on its body, and the pop-up flash doesn’t work anymore.  But it still fires up and takes pictures like a champ, and I think I love it even more now!

That’s enough of me singing the praises of the E-P3, here are some photos from its last outing:

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

10 Years Ago

It’s now 2014, and I’ve wanted to go back in time to see what kind of photos I produced.  What I found was interesting, at least to me.

Here’s an image (made in 2004) from my Olympus C-4000Z, a higher end point & shoot camera that I purchased in 2003.

Belmont Shores, Olympus C-4000Z

The image above is original with the exception of resizing.

I think the reason I made this image was because of the unique stormy clouds over the ocean.  It was very dramatic!  Unfortunately this photo doesn’t really capture what I saw and felt at that time.  It’s kind of, blah.

In an effort to “enhance” the photo, and try and bring out some of the tone, detail, and drama that I saw, I used a program that I can’t remember.  Back then, I was pleased with the results, even if they were a little overdone.

Belmont Shores, Olympus C-4000Z enhanced

The image above was enhanced with a program I don’t remember.

I don’t usually “pixel peep”, but in this case I did.  I wanted to see in detail, what I was producing and sharing back in 2004.  What I found was a lot of noise and some chromatic aberration (color fringing).  Luckily, virtually no one looks at photos that way.

By the way, “pixel peeping” isn’t what I would describe as something good.  It’s usually meant in an uncomplimentary manner.  Pixel Peepers have been described as those more interested in test charts and viewing images in extreme detail, rather than actually engaging in the art of photography.  Basically, they can’t see the forest for the trees.

Just for fun, I decide to revisit this photo, but using some of the post processing techniques I’ve learned along the way.  In 2003, there was no RAW file option available (at least for cameras in my price range).  Everything was either jpeg or tiff.  And with the limited amount of storage space available on memory cards, I stayed with jpeg.  And working with jpegs is very limiting compared to RAW files.

Here’s the end result (using photoshop).  One of the things I tried to do was keep the over warm color saturation to a minimum.  The other adjustment I made was to enhance the contrast without increasing noise.

Belmont Shores, Olympus C-4000Z redo   The image above was enhanced from the original using Photoshop.

I think my “re-do” brings out the drama of the scene, but keeps it much more real.  Instead of an unnatural warm tone, this version has a more believable blue tone, giving the feeling of a cool, cloudy, and stormy winter storm.

What was the point in doing this little experiment?  I think some of it was just nostalgia.  Another reason would be to see if I’ve grown in my pursuit of photography.  The answer to that question would be yes, maybe.  I think I have a better grasp of the fundamentals than I did 10 years ago.  I’d also like to think that I’ve improved my eye regarding composition.  And 10 years is a lot of time to improve post processing techniques, although it seems to be a never ending learning process.  In the end, I think I still have a lot to learn.

If you’re like me, you’ve stock piled quite a few photos over the years.  It may be fun to open them back up and take a look with a different set of eyes than you used to create them.  And maybe you’ll find that you’ve grown quite a bit in your own pursuit of photography.

Until next time – Happy New Year, and Happy Shooting!