Christmas Party

NECA’s Christmas Party was last weekend. I continued my new tradition of bringing the Crown Graphics but also has the M8 in my bag. After 15 or so “Polaroids” (really Fuji’s Instant Film) were shot I switched to film - TMAX 400 to be exact. I had my Metz 45 CL-4 digital mounted on the Crown but tried to avoid the direct flash by bouncing it off the ceiling. Here are a select few examples, first the Crown (“quick and dirty” scans at low res):

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Now some Leica Digitals:


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December Image

This image was taken ~2 weeks ago in Buckport, ME. It was unfashionably warm (and wet), which made for some eerie mist over the Penobscot river. You can see the Penobscot Narrows Bridge(s) in the background. Shot with the Leica M8 and I believe the 21mm CV lens.

Click the image to download the larger desktop file.

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November Portraits, Part 2

Another session, this time more family, less kids (at least young ones), but well beahved 2 dogs (and a few cats that were not really into photography). I also took 4x5 in black and white and color. Here is an example of a B&W, it is Trix 320 developed in HC-110B.

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"Crowned" Thanksgiving

I dragged my Crown Graphic to yet another party - this time at a Thanksgiving Dinner, graciously supplied by our friends, who not only cooked a magnificent meal but also shared seom great wines. Somehow these large negatives are always having fun and the instant "Polaroids" I take with it (well, they are "Fujis") seem to be well received, a nicy "pary gag". It is for fun - the 4x5's are not fine art, but great make for great party snapshots (than can REALLY be enlarged), these are cartainly not portraits for any corportae wall. I considered bouncing teh flash but the wooden ceiling made for less than ideal reflector. The drect flash makes for what I dubbed the Weegee effect. Weegee (Arthur Felig, 1899-1968) was a fascinating character and news photographer, whose images are representative of photography that used so called "Press Cameras", which were mainly in use unti the 1960s', surplated by 35mm film.


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November Portraits, part 1


Kelly and her family were gracious and let me take portraits - and let me practice my patients taking pictures of toddlers and small children, which were very gorgeous but not always too happy to be in front of a camera! Here a few examples, shot with a Nikon D700 nd a 35-70 or 105 f2.5 lens.


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Happy Birthday Blog - November Desktop Image

It has been a year since I started this blog (a little longer for the website), so flowers are in order: Happy B-Day blog!

I hope all readers have enjoyed the occasional musings and the desktop images. True to that, here is an image of flowers for this month's desktop image. Rather that the firey sky of last year's November image, this is more subdued. It was actually taken with my Leica M4 on Ektar 100, scanned, and underwent a little tweaking in Photoshop (mostly color). I used a 50mm lens wide open - the shallow depth of field is clearly visible, and yet the image is very sharp where focused, thanks to the great Leica optics.

So here is the deal: for the occasion, I feel like in a spending mood. Refer one person to my mailing list and receive a 5x7 print of your choice. Refer three and receive an 8x10. Maximum is one print per person (you won't get four 5x7 for four people, you'd get one 8x10) and you have to be already on my list... These people should obviously be willing to participate - I'd hate to get back messages telling me that I am spamming Happy. Among those who give me referals, I'll raffle off a voucher for a portraits session (provided you live locally or I'll see you soon). I am fully aware that I am not pro, so caveat emptor! The deal is on to the end of the year.

Bests,

BMS

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Halloween 2009!

Alan and Jess hosted another great Halloween party (topping last years). I thought I'd don my Crown Graphic 4x5 camera as a disguise ("the evil press") and took 12 sheets of TMAX 400 (half of them in a Graflex back that apparently had a light leak!) as well as my last box of 4x5 Fuji Instant Film ("Polaroid"). The Polaroids staid at the party and with the guests but I developed the B&W's last night and did "quick and dirty scans" this morning. All but one image turned out OK. Having has a glass or two of the excellent wine provided, I unfortunately exposed the film at ISO 100 (with a Metz Flash), so I had to pull it down two stops. Contrast was enhanced digitally, a few cops, some sharpening, otherwise not much alteration. The pictures are not lways flattering, but persoanally I like the 1950 press/"Weegee" style.... let me know if you want prints!

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Clear Night

Amazing how many stars you don't see, but they show up on photographs. Here are a few long exposre shots (15-30 s, 800-1600 ISO). YOu already begin to se the star trails at these times, but just close up.


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ISO 800, f/4, 30s



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ISO 800, f2.8, 15s





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ISO 1600, f5.6, 30s
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Fall Foliage

OK, I do not THE shot this fall. The shot of the white new england church amidst misty meadows and bright red foliage. I went south to teh Belgrade Lake area on a clear early morning but by the time I got down there, the sunrise (6:30'ish) was hidden by clouds. Fiddling with the camera at below freezing temperaturs is also not so easy. I shot film (Mamiya RZ 67 and Mamiya 7) as well as Nikon.

It finally cleared up so I can share some photos with you. The light actually turned out to be beautiful for an hour or two.

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Railroad bridge Fairfield, ME


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same, converted to Black and White



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Messalonskee Lake, Oakland, ME


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Messalonskee Lake, Oakland, ME



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Messalonskee Lake, Oakland, ME


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Cemetary, Rome, ME


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Augusta Road, Belgrad, ME

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Near Belgrade, ME

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Desktop Image for October

Almost overdue.. I finally took some time to shoot some foliage. As the area around Bangor is past its peak, I travelled down the Belgrade Lake area. I'll be posting some photos soon, but probably the best suited one for a desktop is here (right click image to download):

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Website Revamped


I took some time and revamped the website. There is a different opening screen, with plans to change the picture regulalry:

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and the home page has changed:

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As you may find, some section still need to be updated but there is now a section on "other work" and a section on "Silver Prints". They still have to be populated but will show some of my other photos (events, flowers, abstracts) and some of my darkroom work. The portraits section is back. I added quite a few shots, particularly to the street photography section.
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Desktop Image for September

A trip with family and friends to Mt. Kineo on Moosehead Lake yielded a few nice frames of some Echinacea plants. I thought the vibrant colors were nice going into September so I made it a Desktop image. Shot with a Nikon D700 and 105m Nikkor-Micro.

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More Wedding Fun

I seem to be going to a lof of weddings this year. For this one I dragged along my M8 with a few lenses. The official photographer was nice to lend me one of his flashes during the evening, as the high ISO performance of my camera is somewhat dismal beyond ISO 320. Here are a few shots I’d like to share



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Online Photo Class, Part 1

I have received numerous requests for more photo classes. Unfortunately, that is something I currently cannot provide -- there are only 24 hours in a day (although well managed, some people claim there may be 48).

So I decided to have a series of mini lessons online. I am no professor -- this is a very personal style and it may not be yours. I will send out notifications on my mailing list when there is new content, feel free to spread the word and let people sign up.

We’ll start with a basic question, the one I probably get most often: what camera should I buy?

It depends....... what you want and especially what kind of photos you take. But here are a few pointers:

1. Film or Digital?
This may seem moot, but there a few relatively cheap professional film cameras out there, especially if you are interested in Medium Format. One example is the Mamiya RZ67, which can be had for a few $100 with a superb lens. A few years ago, this would have costs thousands.

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RZ67, photo courtesy of piksi and Nikon F100, 35 mm film canera, photo courtesy of Rama

Furthermore, excellent 35mm cameras can be had for much less than their digital equivalents. If film is not for you, then you basically have a few choices

- DSLR (digital single lens reflex), including a new category of interchangeable lens cameras with a back LCD or EFV (electronic view finder), e.g. Panasonic G1 and Olympus E-P1
- Rangefinder (reall, the only one on the market here are the Leica M8 and M8.2, $4000-6000!)
- P&S (Point and Shoot), usually fixed lens or zoom.

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Consumer DSLR, photo courtesy of Sisser


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High end point and shoot, courtesy of Rama



Now, I think most people would do best with a DSLR - it is the most versatile,the lenses are interchangeable. Even a “consumer level” DSLR will give you excellent image quality, and if you do not want to go and spend thousands of dollars, just get a “kit lens” (normally something like a 18-55 mm), and you probably will be pretty happy. Now, a word to the wise: if you want to spend money, it is better to spend the money on a good lens or two, which will last you for years, rather than a DSLR body that will be outdated in 3 or 4 years.

If you do want to lug around a DSLR, consider a high end P&S. I say high end, because it should be able to shoot RAW images (more on that in a later post). RAW is the “digital negative” and records all the information the camera gets, while the usual JPG that every digital camera can produce are compressed images that lose data and will limit the quality of the material you can use for post processing (another post). High end P&S are, e.g., the Canon G10/G11, Panasonic LX3/Leica D-Lux4 (basically the same camera) or the Nikon P6000. The Olympus Pen E-P1 may be an attractive option, but I have not seen one yet, so I cannot really comment.

If you have are camera crazy like me, or you have money to waste and want to draw a lot of stares, get a Leica M8.2....

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Senior Little League

For quite a few years now, Bangor has hosted the Senior Little League Worldseries. I went for the first time, attending the finals (Texas vs California). Texas won, 9 to 7, and everyone had fun, including the winners as seen below. I took my Nikon and 70-300VR lens, mostly set at Shutter priority. Here are a few examples. I do not shoot much action, so it was a learning experience - I certainly appreciated the cameras fast autofocus and tracking, which worked very well.


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Newest Orono Residents

Our home has two temporary residents, Leo and Hunter, both part Maine Coon cat. For now, they will probably travel south to a new home, and hopefully will come back soon to visit. Pet photos are not my thing, really, but these two are too cute! Shot with my Leica M8 and the 90mm Elmar f/2.8, handheld wide open at ISO 640.


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Hunter (note the double paw)

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Leo (with white paws)
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Senior Pictures

Last weekend I had the honor of doing a photo shoot with a handsome young man for his Senior Pictures. We shot in Grotto Cascade park, just before sundown. He had brought his Cello and played some, too. His mother was in my employ, holding backgrounds and reflectors.




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Uncle Bob again

“Uncle Bob” is the proverbial wedding guest that takes pictures and often is accused of (or really does) getting in the way of the wedding photographer. As readers of this site will have noticed, I have shot a few weddings as the photographer, but recently attended weddings more in the Uncle Bob role.

Having read the complaints on web forums although never really having had my own issue with it. I try
not to get in anyone’s way while attending as a guest, and I hope I have succeeded.

Here a few images from my colleague Matt and Layne’s wedding. I took my M8, wanting to try something different. Not having either good low ISO performance (such as with the D700) or autofocus certainly is a hindrance, but I got a few nice shots.


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The first dance


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Cake!

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Father of the bride


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Uncle Bob?



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Blog restored

So I restored the blog - more or less. Still not sure why it happened, but hopefully this never happens again, as I’d rather spend my free time taking photos....
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August Desktop Image

So someone wondered where this month’s image is. It is here (click it):

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Now that the weather here in Maine has changed, we all deserve a sunny image. It was taken recently at about 6 AM. My neighbors were fishing out on the lake, adding an interesting element to the golden light.
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Updated Section - and lost everything else ?!?!

I just added a few shots from Europe to the Street Photography section. I think all of them were shot with the Leica D-LUX 4. But after writing this I noticed that all previous entries are gone! Help! I will try to retrieve them, but I am afraid they will be lost forever. Maybe I can at least restore the images.
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Large Format - Gotta love it!

I recently have been doing more developing in the darkroom. I am still a newbie at it, but it is more satisfying than downloading files. Even more recently, I dusted of my Crown Graphic. This type of camera, and its cousin, the more famous Speed Graphic, are pieces art. Speed graphic is a misnomer - nothing here is fast. The camera takes pictures on sheet film, and focusing is slow, although one can use scale focusing, a rangefinder or the ground glass in the back. The Crown graphic has a shutter in the lens, the Speed also adds a focal plane shutter. These cameras, not Leicas or the like, were the standard issue of press photographers until the 1960’s. They are currently undergoing little revival, e.g. in 2004 David Burnett shot the Kerry campaign with a Speed. My camera uses a 152 mm “normal” lens (the equivalent of a ~ 45mm focal length on a 35mm camera). The lens is interchangeable, but everything (focusing scale, rangefinder) is calibrated to it so I won’t bother.
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I am just starting out. My first attempt at WeeGee like pictures at a party failed - somewhat. I miscalculated the flash and the focus was off on half the shots (I since then have adjusted the rangefinder). However, when it works, results are priceless:



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TMAX 400, f/16 1/100 with Metz CL-4 flash, handheld, developed in X-Tol

The film this camera uses is 4x5 inches, which is ~ 10.2 by 12.7 cm, or 12,900 square mm - 15 times larger than a standard 35mm film. This means not only incredible detail (see below, whole picture and dtail), but also that the most I can develop at one time are 6 sheets, costing each half the price of a roll of 35mm film. Certainly, I won’t come back from an event with 400 shots!

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A Wedding - as a guest

My dear friends Dirk and Ling had their church wedding in Germany. Professional wedding photographers often lament the presence of “Uncle Bob”, snapping away pictures with his own camera right in front of the pro. Having been the photographer at the most recent wedding, this time I took the opportunity to relax and bring a film camera along (Mamiya 7) for some more “contemplative” shots, and tried to not get in the way (not sure if I succeeded at that.....) Unfortunately, there were some problems with development with the black and white (TMAX 400) as well as a light leak on the most crucial roll of film (shot on Ektar 100, a film I truly like). Alas, I am still such a bloody film amateur. I pushed the TMAX to 1600 (two stops), it is amazing how little grain there is, despite using TMAX developer, which produced more grain than some other developers. Anyway, here are some samples.



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This was shot in color, but I combined two scanned images and could not get the whites to match, so I “saved” it by converting to black and white.


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This was also a color image, from the roll with the light leak. I was trying to change a roll quickly (the Mamiya only gives you 10 shots) and must not have wrapped the roll tightly. I tried to salvage this image, which was the only half usable one.


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The church with white walls, and quite a lot of natural light, posed some problems for dynamic range, which the TMAX mastered quite well. I do not know how a DSLR would have done (I am yet to see the pro photographers pictures, which he shot with a high end Canon).
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Bucksport Fireworks

I am glad that my assistant Kelly pointed out to me that Bucksport, ME, would have fireworks as a finale to their street festival on July 25th. So I packed up tripod, my Nikon and a few lenses (14-24mm, 35-70mm, 70--300mm VR) and set off. Even before the show started there were some nice shots to be had. The crescent moon was setting (you’ll see it in some of the fireworks images, too), and I captured it and the last colors of the day to over the hills to the North West.
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Then the show started, enjoy some of the keepers. Note to self: steady wind and soft grass make long exposures a little shaky, but the tripod up on something solid next time!


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It had been foggy all night, which made for a nice finish: the Verona Island bridge in the fog, the clouds are lit by lights coming from town.


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On my way back to the car, I came by this house, which was obviously abandoned. Does anybody else think of “Psycho”? An opportunity to play with the 14-24mm lens at the widest setting! It was lit by a single street lamp. The lamp was a sodium vapor lamp, which makes everything look deep yellow. Kudos to the software, which corrected the white balance on the RAW image quite nicely. One more reason not to shoot JPEG images.
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July Desktop Image

Here is this month’s image. As the theme this month and last was “rain”, I think it fits the mood. Early morning fog.... Happy


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Click on the image...
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Digital Leica

July is almost gone, so I am overdue for the monthly image. After I took the Leica M4 on vacation, I have grown fond of the rangefinder system. The new “stallion” in my stable is the Leica M8 - the only commercially available digital rangefinder (together with it’s upgrade, the Leica M8.2). Much has been written about this camera -- yes, the concept is 3 years old, and its low light performance is less than stellar, but it truly delivers some of the sharpest digital images I have ever seen. Usually, digital images look fuzzy when blow up, the reason is that the camera have an “anti aliasing” filter -- which has been left out with the M8. Images are sharper, with the expense of some other artifacts which are hardly ever visible in real life. This also make the camera infra red sensitive, an effect that can be used creatively (but makes for some ugly magenta casts under certain conditions). In any case, I am smitten. Here are some examples.



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Regular color (neutral tone)

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Panchromatic black and white conversion

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Infrared with a Hoya R72 filter



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Notice the sharpness of the flower and the typical rendering of the out of focus area ( called “Bokeh” ).

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Desktop Image for June

This months desktop image comes from the Netherlands. We were heading back from Leiden to Amsterdam the other night on a train at dusk (which was around 10 PM, much later than we are used to). The “nether” lands are flat, as the name suggests. Fields are transected by roads, lined with trees, which is what you see here. The image was taken with a Leica D-LUX 4, f/2.8, 1/125, ISO 200.

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European Journey

We have just returned from a trip to Europe, visiting Amsterdam, Leiden in the Netherlands and Aachen and Berlin in Germany. It made for some good street photography. After much thought, I travelled with my Leica M4 and the D-LUX 4 (small compact digital camera). For the wedding, I carried my Mamiya 7 rangefinder, as I was not the photographer but just a guest. I have not developed any film yet, but here a few examples of the D-LUX 4. The more I use it, the more I like the little bugger.
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Berlin (Mitte)


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Backstreet in Amsterdam


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Government Quarter, Berlin

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Government Quarter, Berlin

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Another Wedding

Just a few examples from Morgan and Bill’s Wedding

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May Desktop Image

One advantage (maybe the only one) of being called out in the middle of the night is returning home to an early sunrise. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw the sky light up pink. I ran inside and grabbed my Nikon D700 and a tripod. This months desktop image was taken around 5:15 AM - it actually does not do the colors justice (maybe some film like Velvia would have been better). Click on the image to download.

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For the more dramatic, here is a version in Black and White (with a digital red filter applied)


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Macro

A while back, I went on the auction site (aka feebay) and paid a few dollars for a Nikon PB-5 bellows. Basically, while dedicated Macro lenses (such as the Nikkor 105 mm Macro) let you take ‘life size’ pictures (1:1 ration of the real and virtual picture), a bellows extension lets you blow it up even further. In my case about 4:1, i.e. a 1/4 inch in the real world projects as one inch on the sensor/film, making for some really blow up shots. This is the way I took a picture of the seashell a few posts below, here are some more examples. It is fun, but cumbersome, as you have to focus well - even at small apertures the DOF is shallow, refraction becomes a problem and the object sits right in front of the lens, making lightening challenging. These were taken with an old 55mm Nikkor f3.5 mounted and the bellows almost fully extended.

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Fern Spores
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A Penny

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Photoclass 101, Chapter 1

As some of you know I class recently on basic camera operation -- many expressed interest, however it was scheduled somewhat quickly, so quite a few people could not attend. Therefore I decided to put it online. You can download it here: Photo 101, #1 Addendum: I have learned that there may be problem with viewing this file. I have no problem on a Mac with Quicktime 7.6, but I think I may have found a solution: try this HTML version, too.

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Kenduskeag Canoe Race

No matter f you saw the race or not, you’ll enjoy these pictures. Who knows, it was fun taking them (thankfully the weather was nice), but maybe next year I’ll be in the race. IT looked like people were definitely having fun! Pictures were taken at Six Mile Falls - nomen est omen. I packed my Nikon D700 and a Tele zoom (I was a little envious, looking at the man next to me with a Canon 300mm f2.8 L, which I am sure took some great pictures). I was there for most of the race, so if you or someone you know were in it, send me the start number, maybe I can find them.
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March and April Desktop Images

It has been 2 months since the last post, partly because I did not take a lot of photos that would be good “desktop” images, partly because much was going on otherwise. So hereby I give you two images Desktop for March

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Desktop for April


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Voilá and pardon my tardiness. Extra points: what is this? BMS
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Bangor High School Dance

Back in March, I had the opportunity to see some stellar performances by the Bangor High School Students and their teachers. They truly did a magnificent job and I though I’d share some impressions. I was too far away for a Flash (which was not allowed anyway), so I had to rely on my Nikon’s high ISO performance, which did not disappoint.

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February Desktop Image

OK, folks, here is the desktop image for February. This is taken with a Nikkor Micro AF 105mm lens, which is capable of 1:1 magnification. This is a droplet that just bounced off the surface of water. I used flash, exposure is at 1/2000th of a second, f/5.6 (Nikon’s creative lighting system has a trick to “sync” the flash at such high shutter speeds). The reflections you see at the right and upper edge were not indented, but I think they add to the picture.

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You can download it here (1440x900 pixels). Here is another shot:

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Too Early for an Eulogy

Is film dead? If you go to online forums like photo.net, you get very different, and passionate opinions. The digital revolution has been amazing, and new cameras like the Nikon D3X or Canon 5D Mark II, even the D700 and the like, beat 35mm film by far - not only in resolution but also in light sensitivity. There are still some that will dispute that, but at least in my hands that is true. Furthermore, they approach the dynamic range of black and white film. But I sure hope film stick around. For one, unless you have $10,000 to $50,000 to spend on a digital medium format camera, taking 120 roll film and scanning it will still give you quality unsurpassed by digital any SLRs. You can get a professional medium format camera and a few lenses for $500, and for the remaining $9,500 you do not spend on a modest Mamiya 654ZD with a 22 MPix back, you can get and develop 1300 rolls of film, that is ~ 15,000 pictures, which a roll of film every day for the next 4 years. If you were to compare it to the $39,995 Hasselblad H3D, you probably could not shoot enough film in your lifetime.... Sure, the Digitals will get cheaper. But then there is Large Format. A 4x5 negative, scanned at 4800 dpi (that is what mot modern flatbed scanners are capable of) would give you a 460 (fourhundredandsixty) MPix image that you can print at high quailty over 6 by 7 feet! Good luck trying to prcess it on your home computer though...
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Holiday Hiatus


Those if you who thought this will be another dead blog...there! Here is my entry for the new year. Happy New Year, belated, to everyone! The holidays have been busy and I have had a few things happen on the photo-front. First, a new addition to my stable, the Leica D-Lux 4, bought on a trip to New York, as “my old lady”, which should have come with me , unfortunately had her Rangefinder adjusted. The D-Lux is a little gem with superb image quality (for a point and shoot), and it shoots RAW images, which was important to me and limited my choice in camera. I took it to the city for some street photography (something I have to get used to, and any P&S will not be ideal for that). Here are a few examples:
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City Island, New York


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Grand Central, New York Now mind you, any P&S is not going to get good quality images beyond ISO 200 or ISO 400, but noise levels are very very good at ISO 80 or 100, as seen here:

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JFK, Terminal 3, NY at ISO 80
And the same image “pushed” 5 stops in Photoshop (mind you these are JPGs):

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