November 25, 2010

November 18, 2010

Coming to grips with Wired's pick of the litter

Always on the hunt for the perfect combination of equipment to live and work with, I recently got a Panasonic GF1 thinking it would the perfect little commuter camera to accompany me on the train and other domestic adventures.  

After shooting with both the 20mm f/1.7 and 14mm-45mm zoom lenses, I started questioning my choice.  Fitted with a lens, the finder, neck strap and shade, while it was considerable lighter that a 5DmkII, the form factor was remarkably large.  Vowing to be less Sherpa-like, I switched from my backpack to a small commuter bag, so size is important. 

While the images the GF1 made were good, I have to say, I was expecting more. For the high cost and larger then expected size of the system, the GF1 made it’s way to eBay as I replaced it with it's little brother, the Lumix LX5.  Loving both German lenses (my license plates are Zeiss 1, after all) and wide-angle lenses, the 24mm f/2 Leica lens sure looked hard to beat. 

After shooting with the camera for a couple days, I am ecstatic with my decision, the lens is hard to beat and the smaller, pocketable size makes all the difference in the world.  It is clearly the logical bridge between the iPhone and the mkII. 

The only improvement I was looking for was a more robust grip than the camera provided.  The current Leica version of the LX5, the D-LUX 5 and the earlier D-LUX 4 both have accessory grips available that would solve this.  A quick trip to world famous Leica dealer, Central Camera to talk to Dan and Mani, proved the D-LUX grip would be perfect...


the D-LUX 4 has a completely flat front and Panasonic added a moulded grip that looked freakishly similar to one of the fantastic products made by Richard Franiec.

Looking at the Leica grip (model #18697) it looked like soft aluminum that could be milled down to fit over the handgrip.  I'm game...out came the plastic and a minute later I was the owner of a shiny new D-LUX 4 grip.

After the wife and kids were tucked away in bed, I headed into the basement and constructed a mount to hold the grip properly in the mill and fired it up.  Less then a minute later I slammed on the brakes because I realized the grip is actually made of plastic.  Bummer, but now, easy peasy... plug in the Dremel and get to work.  About an hour later I had removed enough of the upright that the grip will mount to the camera perfectly.  Even the centering pin on the bottom of the grip lines up perfectly to the bottom of the camera.

So out goes this call to all large handed owners of Wired Magazine's camera of the year: if you own a Dremel (and are comfortable dicing up some perfectly good Leica products) then rejoice and enjoy the added ergonomics you find with this modification.


November 8, 2010

Parting thoughts (and shots) about/of New York

Times Square shot and stitched with the iphone

I was only in New York for two days and after a two hour wind delay leaving Chicago and an hour-long medical emergency that kept us from our gate upon arrival, it seemed as if I would be in a airplane longer then I would be on the ground.  The last time I was in New York was 2006, also for PhotoPlus, but with my wonderful wife Kate. 

24 hour Apple Store
When I'm traveling by myself I tend to be a people watcher, wearing headphones and shades so I can keep to myself while peering out observing others.  This trip was different from the get go.  I spent most of the flight chatting about all things Mac as I found myself having an enjoyable flight comparing not just iPhone but iPad apps with my neighbors.

Once on the ground in NY, I keep waiting for the overtly rude encounters that are depicted almost as a sport in the movies but I have to say, each interaction with a true blue New Yorker was pleasant and genuine.

Right from the cab ride, check-in and my 1:00 am visit to the deli across from the hotel (best baklava that I've had in a while) the Soup Nazi was nowhere to be found.  It felt more like stepping into the Carlos Bakery for an episode of the Cake Boss.  Cab drivers, the B&H shuttle bus driver guy, even random people on the street seemed warm and genuinely eager to tell me about their family and kids and really anything 'New York' when asked.

I was particularly moved by an interaction I glimpsed quickly that brought a tear to my eye.  My boss and I (both devout Applephiles) were cutting across town after dinner to check out the flagship Apple Store.  We were walking through the theater district taking it all in when I spotted the handoff.  A behind the scenes theater tech was poking his head out a back door with what I would guess was his six year old son.  His batman back pack was hanging squarely across both shoulders and his coat was zipped up to his chin.  At 10:00 pm his eyes were glassy and the poor kid looked as weary as one would expect.  As we passed them, mom was picking him up and I overheard dad saying, 'he only had one worksheet that he did at school'... that's what made me pull my phone out to check the time. 

My boys, ages 7 and 10, would not be able to do homework this late and I was relieved this little guy wouldn't have to sit at the dining room table to get his done before bed.  I can only hope this was the end of a super special behind the scenes night with his dad and not a regular occurrence by hard working parents simply trying to make ends meet.

It still makes me sad to think about him.

So New Yorkers and everyone, I hope you enjoy these pictures of your city.  I sure enjoyed shooting them and especially my time in your city -  see ya next year!

November 4, 2010

Robert Vreeland, 1986-2010

Student turned published photographer and friend.

you will be missed Rob.

November 1, 2010

Cutting to the Chase, Jarvis @ Javits!

This years keynote speaker on the opening day of PDN's PhotoPlus was photographer, artist and innovator/extraordinaire, Chase Jarvis. The topic, The New Creativity and the Social Art of Photography
His opening statement: 'There has never been a better time to be a photographer' was a prelude to a discussion about new avenues that technology has has made available for photographers and visual artists. Chase went on to challenge all 600 in the audience and the tens of thousands watching a live feed, to embrace these tools, use them often to share your voice and vision with other like-minded individuals. 

Regularly squawking a similar message in my classroom, I felt like he was preaching to the choir, which makes this part pretty funny. 

As he's urging us all to share our own vision with the world, not a soul (a least that I could see) was shooting any pictures.  So to give him an instant and global shout out plus a hearty amen, I shot this pan and uploaded to my flickr stream, all during his round table discussion, which was fantastic, btw.

So shoot share and be happy.  Be on the lookout for the keynote and push yourself to apply any and all new technology to your own work.
iPhone 4, flipped to B&W and tweaked in PS Express and assembled in AutoStitch

Ironic beyond belief...

Heading out to PhotoEast for workshops and industry stuff, I pulled into the new long term parking lot at Midway just as the sun was setting.  For some time, I have wanted to photograph the small propeller wind turbines the city has installed on the roof the evening  sky and light looked great.  

Being that day (October 27th) was the windiest day in Chicago in decades (and my mom's birthday, Happy Birthday Mom! Celebrate by checking out her blog) one would think they would be spinning with enough might to power the entire parking garage and half the airport too, but no, securely tied in place, they were going nowhere, generating nothing.

Between trying not to get blown over and wiping the amazing amount of tears pouring out of my eyes from the gritty 50 mph gusts, I was struggling to hold the camera still and compose a decent photo.     

For some time now I've described my work Cultural Irony and while this particular image is not ironic on it's own, the situation and back story certainly was.

Building your own cine style 5D MKII finder

Late in October 2008 I got an email to come to ProGear to check out the new 5D mkII live and in person.  Without a doubt it would be an hit, I don't think anybody knew at the time (well maybe Vincent Laforet did) just what a complete game changer this single camera would turn out to be. 

I truly feel as if Canon thought it would be a nice feature to capture the video already generated from the live view LCD that made its first prosumer appearance in the 40D, I don't think they anticipated just how this one little feature would change the face of commercial photography as we know it. 

By I digress... I went home after playing with the camera that night wondering how to adapt a professional video finder to this new and magical machine that was on its way to capturing the attention of the industry.