Category Archives: Photography

Mourning Beard

Mourning beard 1
The last time I shaved was the morning of my father’s funeral, which was a month ago. I wanted to have a physical sign of my mourning. Originally I thought to shave my head, but the first thing that Dad said to me when I first arrived in the hospital to see him before he passed was “C.K., your hair is beautiful!”

I decided to grow a mourning beard and give it at least a month. It’s been a month, and as you can see, I’m not genetically inclined to grow a beard. Or at least not quickly. It’s actually on the verge of becoming a real beard, and I’m not really done mourning yet, so I’m continuing to let it grow.
Mourning beard 2

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New Cameras: Ricoh GR & Canon EOS M

I’ve been happily shooting Micro Four-Thirds with my OM-D E-M5 for a while now and sold all my Nikon gear to fund making the switch, but I’ve continued to lust after a mirrorless camera with an APS-C sized sensor (and I really dream of someday getting my hands on the ridiculously-priced full frame Sony RX1R) About a month ago, I decided to sell all my MFT lenses in the 20-45mm range (including my Leica 25mm). I used the money from that sale to fund purchasing the Ricoh GR, which is an absolutely amazingly small camera. I picked mine up from Precision Camera here in Austin, and actually grabbed a Nikon Coolpix A at first, but…


Cacti by C.K. Sample III (cksample)) on 500px.com
The Ricoh GR literally fits in my pocket, has all kinds of nice manual controls that all can be accessed via one hand, and has a nifty little toggle to let you switch between the actual 28mm of the lens and an in-camera crop to 35mm for a slightly tighter shot. I love it. It’s a great little camera that I can carry with me anywhere. You have to like shooting wide though to use it. There’s no zoom. There’s no lens but the built in lens. Wide is all there is and it’s beautiful.
Photographer by C.K. Sample III (cksample)) on 500px.com
The in-camera JPEGs are great, although I shoot in RAW+JPEG just in case I need to tweak the image a bit. Also, the camera has built in support for my Eye-Fi card, and is actually the first camera I’ve owned that works nicely with the card, provides you with a way of sending a particular image off, shows you when an image is transferring, and let’s you know when a transfer is complete with a little additional icon. It’s great.
Jackson and Kristin in the backyard (Jackson stomping away) by C.K. Sample III (cksample)) on 500px.com
The one downside to the GR is that there’s no built in viewfinder, electronic or otherwise, so you’re forced to either use the screen on the back to structure your shots, holding the camera at a distance in front of your face, or you have to just sort of use the force to frame your shots. Because of this, and since I had a little money left over from my lens sales (plus a nice little bit of leftover Father’s Day budget to spend), I decided to order the Ricoh GV-2 External Mini Viewfinder for the GR. However, in the wait for it to arrive, I got used to shooting without a viewfinder, so I sent it back a few days after I received it.

Canon EOS M

Mulch by C.K. Sample III (cksample)) on 500px.com
Sometime in the midst of all this, it was July 4th weekend, and something odd happened. The Canon EOS M mirrorless APS-C camera with included 22mm lens went on sale all of a sudden for an incredibly low $299. So I grabbed it too. It came in on Friday. It’s another APS-C chipped mirrorless that has no viewfinder, but unlike the Ricoh GR, it actually has removable lenses and via an adapter you can suddenly have pro Canon lenses on it. That’s cool. So I’m shooting with it a bunch and debating selling my OM-D E-M5 and all it’s accoutrements to stock up on Canon glass. However, the camera is odd. It relies much too heavily on its touchscreen display for the vast majority of its controls. It’s definitely heavier than the Ricoh GR, and even with the new firmware it’s not a super-fast focusing camera. But the 22mm lens’s glass is nice and the image quality of these 18MP pics are top notch.
Pug by C.K. Sample III (cksample)) on 500px.com
Jackson by C.K. Sample III (cksample)) on 500px.com
Kristin by C.K. Sample III (cksample)) on 500px.com
Pug and two chairs by C.K. Sample III (cksample)) on 500px.com

Olympus E-P2 with EVF, Fotodiox Nikon(G) mount for Micro 4/3rds, and Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8D mounted

Olympus E-P2 with EVF, Fotodiox Nikon(G) mount for Micro 4/3rds, and Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8D mounted
I sold a few old kit lenses that I was no longer using and found this Olympus Pen E-P2 Micro 4/3 Digital Camera on sale used on Amazon for just under $400, which was a steal of a deal, considering that the seller included the body, kit lens, Olympus VF-2 Electronic ViewFinder, and a spare battery. Buying all those things bundled new would cost more than double the price (Olympus PEN E-P2 12.3 MP Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens and Electronic View Finder), so I’m pleased with the cost. For $25 more, I grabbed a Fotodiox Nikon(G) mount for Micro 4/3rds cameras, so I can use all my existing Nikon lenses with this little mirrorless shooter. I didn’t like the feel of the kit lens, so I’ve already packed it up and am sending it off to Amazon to sell it separately. Eventually, I’ll get a new Micro 4/3rds lens for this system, but for now, I’ve attached my Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens to the camera and am using the manual controls on the lens itself to adjust aperture and focus as I shoot. As you can see in this picture, the whole rig fits nicely (and lightly) in one hand:
Notice it is small enough to fit in my hand
This smaller size was the main reason I was interested in trying out a Micro 4/3rds camera. I wanted to see if I could get comparable shots to my Nikon D7000 in a camera I could more easily throw into my bag each day without having to lug that large DSLR around town. While I won’t be fully testing that out until Tuesday this week when I head back into the city, I have been shooting a lot with the E-P2 since it arrived, just to test it out and get used to the controls. With the manual only lens set up, it’s definitely slower to take shots and I find myself missing a few good ones (more on that in a bit), but I’m also taking more time to frame my shots and think about what I’m shooting.
Jackson
Shots of Jackson are good as ever. If I zoom in to 100% in Lightroom and do a bit of pixel-peeping, I can see a tad bit more noise in my shots with this camera than with my Nikon D7000 (which only makes sense given the difference in sensor size and resolution: 12MP vs 16.2MP). However, part of that noise is me still learning how to control this camera and the noise that I am seeing is, for the most part, not digital-noise looking, but more of a graininess reminiscent of film (especially when shooting in black and white). So overall I’m very pleased with it, noise and all. I also like how quickly I can get to a lot of the controls on this camera, like changing the aspect ratios of my shots and switching between color and black and white. It’s much quicker, once you know how, to make these adjustments on the E-P2 than on my Nikon D7000. And since I shoot in RAW+JPEG, I still have the uncropped RAW file available to me at all times no matter how I shoot the original picture. Here’s a ton of sample shots…

Shot in Monochrome 6:6 on the E-P2:

Jackson

Shot in Monochrome 6:6 on the E-P2 but converted back to color via the RAW file:

Misha

Shot in Monochrome 4:3 on the E-P2:

Jackson "yeah hand that to me"

Notice the detail of the eyelashes here. I can get really sharp shots with this camera; Shot in Monochrome 4:3 and converted to color from RAW:

Eyelashes

Shot highlighting the details of Misha’s feathers, pictured as shot:

Misha feather details

Missed shots: These are both slightly out of focus thanks to me getting used to shooting in a fully manual way:

Jackson smile
Curt

Shooting 720p video with the E-P2 (there’s something cool about shooting water in black and white)

Jackson, the suddenly pro-swimmer, shot in black and white, converted to color via RAW

Jackson swimming
(Thanks to Blake Marchewka for recommending the Stearns Puddle Jumper Basic Toddler Life Jacket 2012, which Jackson is wearing while he swims now. He loves it!)

Jackson with his Aunt Maggie

Maggie and Jackson

Monochrome JPEG straight from camera

Maggie

Mr. Mischievous Smile:

Jackson mischievous smile

Conclusion

So far I’m loving this little rig. It feels like an old school camera. It even has a very audible mechanical sounding “click” when you take a picture that is oddly comforting. This week when I take it into the city for some street shooting, I’ll have a better idea if it’s the digital-range-finder substitute that will stop me from lusting after a Leica M9. Or if it will convince me that the Micro 4/3rds platform is close enough to DSLR non-full frame that I should sell my D7000, and save up for a D800 or some other full frame alternative. Or if I should ditch everything and go with a the Olympus OM-D E-M5 16MP Live MOS Interchangeable Lens Camera with 3.0-Inch Tilting OLED Touchscreen and 12-50mm Lens (Black). More to come.