Commute

2009, Photography

On my commute from work I descided to take a little detour. The weather was still fine and the darkness finally sets in later. Long shadows and beautiful light. Great fun at the end of the day.
Commute by Wouter Brandsma

Commute by Wouter Brandsma

Commute by Wouter Brandsma

Commute by Wouter Brandsma

Commute by Wouter Brandsma

Commute by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

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Why?

2009, Photography

I have mentioned it before that I kind of look for a different camera, preferably with a larger sensor. I checked the stores during the holiday season and played with some dSLR’s from several manufacturers. But I was so surprised how well my Ricoh camera handles in manual compared to these dSLR’s. Turn wheel there, turn wheel here, to change the aperture push button and turn wheel, exposure compensation, press other button and turn wheel again. There are only dials on top available for basic settings like program, aperture priority, shutter priority or manual mode, scene modes, you all probably know the drill. Many buttons at the back, extensive menu’s, and a overkill of settings. Especially with the consumer and prosumer models intuitive isn’t exactly what comes to mind.

Old School

Now you wonder, haven’t you used any SLR camera in the past? Be calm, yes I did. Had a Nikon and Canon SLR before and used Praktica and Pentor cameras. But these cameras were simple (even my EOS 1000F). The lens had an aperture ring on the lens, there was a speed dial and ISO dial on top, and you had all the important information in the viewfinder. And lets talk about viewfinders. Except for the very expensive cameras, these viewfinders are quite dim and small too. Where are those bright viewfinders? I loved the viewfinder on the Nikon N90, large and bright with all the important information.

And form factor. Most dSLR’s are pretty large and bulky and many cameras look like Canon EOS cameras. Now that is not necessarily bad, but I liked the size of the Nikon N8008 and the Pentax MZ series. Only the Olympus E-420 and E-520 still reminds me of those cameras. But these Oly’s come with the 4/3 sensor and as a result of the 2:1 crop factor it is hardly possible to get a real wide and fast angle prime lens.

Old School

I still believe there is a market for tough and simple SLR cameras like the sturdy Nikon FM2 or the Olympus OM2, built to last and to be reliable. I guess there are enough enthusiastic and professional photographers who would welcome such a digital camera. Dials on top for shutter speeds and ISO settings, large and bright viewfinder with 100% coverage, no internal camera-flash, a swivel LCD screen like the Epson R-D1(s), a full frame sensor, and fully weather protected.

As a result of my current impressions and experiences with these dSLR cameras, the Sigma DP1 becomes an even more tempting camera. Simple interface, still small and when outfitted with the optical viewfinder and the lens hood a quite attractive package. For a camera with a single prime lens I rather preferred a 35mm focal length, but the current price drops are getting better and better. In the UK you could get this camera for even less than ₤300,- (which is currently like €300,-). And hopefully the Sigma DP2 will be the much improved camera with a lens usable for more general photography.

What if Ricoh produces a digital Ricoh 500G, or that Sony has the guts to develop a digital Hexar AF? Too much money is spent on technical features in my opinion.

Old School

Enough dreaming, because eventually it all comes down to taking/making photographs. And I hardly have been able to do so this weekend.

Winter beauty

2009, Photography

Every season does have its beauty. Normally the winter can be dark and grey in the Netherlands, but with frost and snow it becomes very special too. And after a thick mist the other day, we got a lot of beautiful hoarfrost today.

This patch of snow contains some time limited evidence. Probably next week it will all be gone again.

Time limited Evidence by Wouter Brandsma

I am still amazed about the bokeh from this little lens.

Snow Crown by Wouter Brandsma

I photographed this place more often, you know that Ronald, but it seems so pretty today. I couldn’t ignore it.

Estate Hoekelum by Wouter Brandsma

Barbed wire gets covered with hoarfrost.

Barbed wire by Wouter Brandsma

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Feeling

2009, Photography

Do you think about your composition before you press the shutter? Or do you study your photographs when you are reviewing them? People talk about compositional rules and guide lines and that these help them make better compositions. Others say that there are no rules at all, they just lead to uninteresting non-suprising compositions. Henri Cartier-Bresson hoped that photo shops wouldn’t sell “little schema grills” to clamp onto our viewfinders, but today many camera manufacturers do.

feeling

When you read forums people all know it so well. Some of them can give extended descriptions with a sauce of artistic and intellectual flavor. Others praise photographs with short phrases: “Beautiful, wonderful!” And of course others will say that they dislike those short phrases, because they want real critics. Some will tell you that the photograph works, because it was taken with a rangefinder, others will pick on you for using the wrong camera. Some see the presence of the foveon sensor, others think film is still the best.

feeling

Some re-crop to make a composition work for them, others will never crop. Some, fulfilled with a healthy doses of arrogance, say there is a lot of meaningless stuff posted on the web, but do find it hard to cope with criticism. Some will say that landscape is silly and others will say that street photography is the real deal. A few professionals might say that all amateurs suck, because they are not …….. professional. And some amateurs think they are a professional.

feeling

I believe there are so many ways to do it. What works for you, might not work for someone else. And that is fine in my opinion. When I take a photograph I aim, frame, and press the shutter. For me it is a feeling. It feels right or it feels wrong. I don’t think about it. And OK, I do quite a lot of landscape photography. But for me no tripods, large cameras, and lock-up mirrors. I don’t capture a scene because of its beauty, I believe I try to document a state of the scene. I don’t get inspired by other landscape photographers, but find inspiration in the work of documentary and even wedding photographers.

feeling

Look, most of us are no professional photographers, nor am I. And that is fine I think, I hope you do? We don’t have to commit ourselves, we have no costumers who expect the best all the time. We have more freedom and time to try new things. No marketing to worry about, no mouths to feed with photography. It is a pure hobby for the sake of it. I like to improve myself, because I want it. Not because others expect me too.

feeling

I love to talk about photography, preferably about photographs and not about cameras, express my preferences and my dislikings. I am not so good at referencing to other photographers, or discussing arts in an intellectual fashion. I try to be polite and friendly. I hate 100% viewing and pixel peeping, but love getting prints. I personally rather prefer to go out, take my camera with me, and take photographs. That is what feels right to me, I hope for you too.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Follow up ………

2008, Photography

My post ‘A raw rant‘ generated quite some traffic the last few days and let me make clear that I didn’t post it to start a new debate on RAW versus jpeg. And look, I don’t mind editing my photographs either. In fact, I think it is great fun to edit my photographs. So I will try to explain my feelings towards preferring jpegs for my general photography.

I use only one camera for my photography, the Ricoh GX200. I regard the camera as an huge improvement. handling wise. coming from the GX100, but I much preferred the image quality of the GX100. Since I use one camera for all types of photography I try to make it work for all disciplines. In RAW mode, good lightning, and working at base ISO the camera produces great looking files. In combination with the huge depth of field of these cameras that works really well for landscape photography in my opinion.

Low light
Ricoh GX200, f2.7, 1/60 sec, ISO 100, manual mode

But see, I don’t only like landscapes. I also like street photography for instance and I often work in not so perfect light conditions. Cameras with small sensors suffer from more noise, less dynamic range, and decreasing colors at higher ISO’s. Some think these are flaws, I see this as habits of the medium, the facts of life.

Recent serious compact cameras have gained much speed. Faster RAW writing times, continuous shooting modes and improved in-camera handling. But these RAW files can be large (17 MB for the GX200 for instance). These large files not only slow the camera down, but also the editing. Not much fun when you want to review and edit a lot of photographs. With applications like Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture things have improved and it has become more intuitive to process RAW files. While I liked the way Lightroom processed the RAW files from my GX100, I dislike it how it handles the DNG files from the GX200. Sometimes Capture One works better, the other times Raw Therapee. Too many choices, too many different results. And despite shooting RAW more often I was more than happy with the jpegs.

low-light-4
Ricoh GX200, f2.7, 1/16 sec, ISO 200, manual mode

So here below I will explain how I make my compact camera work for me. I have tried several things in the past and I will likely be doing so in the near future. Recently I stumbled upon a great article about the Leica Digilux 2 on the website of Danish professional photographer Thorsten Overgaard. In that lengthly article he describes how he uses the Digilux 2 for his work and gain maximum performance from the camera. And best of all, he told me he still uses this 5 megapixel camera from 2004 for professional assignments. Even Peter van Agtmael uses the Digilux 2, instead of a Leica M8 which he disgusted (thank you for mentioning David Paul Carr). And remember wedding photographer Laurence Kim from the US who reviewed the Panasonic LX3 on his blog. He says: ‘As a professional photographer, I’ve never even considered using these “dummy modes” before. My thought was to just always shoot raw and then tweak the image in post to get it the way I want it. But you know what? These jpegs look so good straight out of the camera that I think I’ll stick with jpeg on this puppy, even after Adobe supports the LX3 raw files. Technology has evolved so why fight it?‘ So remember, it is not a rant. I just want to give some information on how you could use small sensor cameras in less than ideal situations. And Thorsten’s tips & tricks for the Digilux 2 certainly also applies for many serious compact cameras in my opinion.

Low light
Ricoh GX200, f3.0, 1/2 sec, ISO 100, manual mode

My tips & tricks
Whenever we read reviews or personal impressions of small sensor cameras, we always read that these camera are hardly usable at high ISO’s. Extensive noise, loss of details, and desaturating colors are often heard reasons. And because they all are pretty much true, why then use high ISO on these cameras? So keep it at base ISO, preferably at ISO 100 or at a maximum of ISO 200. Now this will result in longer exposures. So try to speed things up. First, select jpeg. The saving times are much shorter. Work with the camera in manual mode for more accurate exposing. Make the lens and sensor work for you and since small sensors give huge depth of field select the maximum lens opening. You still get plenty sharpness while getting the fastest shutter speed as possible.

Low light
Ricoh GX200, f2.7, 1/4 sec, ISO 100, manual mode

Fast shutter speeds at low ISO in dim light are pretty relative, but Thorsten Overgaard mentions another tip to get sharp photographs in low light. Shoot series instead of single photographs. Use the continuous or burst mode on your camera. When you do so the first shot of the series will likely have motion blur, but there is a good chance that the next shots are completely sharp and still. You will notice that you will be able to go to shutter speeds of 1/8 or even 1/4 seconds. These series of shots will be captured in only a second. Even a Sigma DP1 will be able to take 3 shots in a second and many mention that camera as being very slow. And Alex Majoli was able to use Olympus compact cameras on assignments in burst mode too. Though many will probably have read that story here and here.

Of course there are situations where it makes sense to shoot RAW in my opinion. For additional details, best dynamic range, getting the most out of a file and intended to be printed at large. But I think there are enough situations too where you won’t need the extra data. These photographs will still print fine at A4 or even A3 in my opinion.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma