Thursday, April 6, 2017

Keeping it simple with the Fuji X-Pro2 and 18-55mm zoom

When I venture out with the Fuji X-Pro2 instead of the X-T2 it is usually because I want to keep my kit simple and unencumbered. Often this means outfitting it with the 23mm f/1.4 or, when I want a bit more versatility, the humble 18-55mm, the original Fuji X zoom.  This lens still has a comfortable aperture spread of f/2.8-4 and provides a practical equivalent focal length of 27-85mm.  Plus, focus is quick on the X-Pro2. The aperture is fast enough for some decent bokeh effects, which I needed for these photos I did wide open of rain on windows.  We've had a lot of rain lately in the city.

Basic though it may be, the X-Pro2 plus 18-55mm zoom is a great combo where you're pretty much limited only by your imagination.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Variations on an icy theme with the Fuji X-T2

My X-T2 was no sooner back from Fuji repair to fix some dead sensor spots, than I pressed it into service taking some photos of the ice blizzard that hit New York today.  Fortunately for me, I was able to take my photos from indoors. The ice patterns on the windows formed large abstract patterns, perfect to juxtapose with elements of the city view.  The scene below was one of my favorites taken from behind a large picture window where the ice had left an empty circle in the middle -- perfect for framing the top of the Empire State Building.

I used the Fuji 16-55m zoom on the X-T2 set for a mid range of about 40mm. I thought I might lose the background scene through the low contrast haze so I set the aperture to f/16 to keep both the ice and building in good focus. A good depth of field was also important because I had tilted the camera up to frame the shot. This would naturally put a plane of focus across only one part of the icy window had I used the aperture more open.

The top photo variation was taken with an B&W Acros setting, while the photo on the bottom used a Provia film setting. The blue tint was due to the cool color temperature from the heavy overcast.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Legends of photography -- The Contax II 35mm camera

The Contax II was manufactured from 1936-42 as a followup model to the Contax I. The Contax II and III -- the III had a light meter on top -- were the first cameras to combine the rangefinder and viewfinder into one unit.  This particular camera and its Zeiss Sonnar f/2 collapsible lens were both made in 1937, just before WWII.  The Contax II and III were introduced in response to the Leica rangefinder camera. Because Leica held many design patents, Contax had to re-invent many of its features. The vertically travelling shutter composed of metal one example of this. The advanced features and dependable design of the Contax II quickly made it one of the top choices of journalistic photographers, like Robert Capa.

Contax II with Contameter closeup kit. The closeup filter slips over the front of the lens and a corresponding lens is placed in the parallax correction apparatus that fits in the shoe on top of the camera. The down angle and off-center placement achieved the appropriate correction for parallax. It is show here set up for the closest focusing #20 filter. To use the other two 30 and 50 filters the apparatus was turned upside down to decrease the angle for the difference in parallax correction needed. 

Contax came up with an ingenious design for a close-up apparatus called the Contameter shown in the photos above and below. It allowed hand-held close-up photographs to be made at the set distances of 20” (1:10 magnification), 13” (1:6.5 magnification) and 8” (1:4 magnification). The device consists of a rangefinder with parallax adjustment to which one of three small prisms is attached and three close-up lenses that fit the standard 5 cm lens. With a prism and corresponding close-up lens in place the camera is moved backwards and forwards until the rangefinder image coincides. Measurement is done from the front of the mount of the supplementary. The lens is focused on infinity

Below are some sample photos taken with the Contax II, a collapsible f/2 Sonnar lens and the #20 closeup attachment on the Contameter. Photos were taken at f/5.6 on Kodax T-Max 400 film. 

The Contax had a great body of Carl Zeiss lenses designed for it. Below is the 5cm f/2 collapsible Sonnar. Collapsing the lens made the camera very compact.

Another ingenious design for the Contax II was the fold-out foot shown below. With the foot extended the camera would be balanced to stay straight. This allowed impromptu setup to steady the camera on a flat surface when a tripod was not available. 

The famous war photographer, Robert Capa with his Contax II camera. 

The lens shown below is the Zeiss Tele-Tessar 18cm  f/6.3 with matching viewfinder. This was quite a long lens for its day and added to the practical versatility of the Contax camera system. 

The photo below shows the vertically travelling focal plane shutter made up of metal slats. 

Some more samples below taken with the Contax II and the Contameter closeup attachment. They were taken hand-held and focused by moving the camera in and out on the subject. The system worked quite well to achieve the selective focus and tight crop I wanted. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Still life with the Zeiss Touit 50mm macro, X-Pro2, and Classic Chrome

Nothing really beats the nostalgic look of muted colors, and deep contrast of Fuji's Classic Chrome. For the set of still life images below I used the back-lighting from a soft window light and no fill that further enhanced the dark contrast. All were taken with the Zeiss Touit 50mm macro and a wide open aperture of f/2.8 to achieve some selective focus. The only post-processing was to add some selective vignetting to surround the main subjects.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ghost City - Fuji 10-24mm zoom

Last night a dense fog rolled through the city. It swirled around the top of the Empire State Building and at times was thin enough to allow some of the lights to shine through providing a ghostly apparition of the top of the building floating in the sky above the city.

This is one of the many exposures I took as the changing intensity of the building lights dipped in and out of the fog. I liked this one because of the way the top of the building barely revealed its outline through the fog. My camera was the X-Pro2 fit with the Fuji 10-24mm f/4 zoom. I shot wide open at f/4 with the camera set to a square crop and Acros simulation.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Global views

The other day I receive a financial prospective in the mail. It contained pages of just numbers and gave me the idea of combining the numbers in a still life image with a glass globe to convey the concept of global finance and trade.

My setup for this was quite simple. I used daylight from a window combined with the light from a single, small LED source. The camera was a Fuji X-T2 fit with a Zeiss Touit 60mm macro, which I used wide open at f/2.8. In the top photo I shifted the color temperature towards a cool blue. In the second photo I sought more of a pure, bright, white light. I also used some of the white solar bursts from my Sunshine Overlays package to brighten several areas on the images.

The bottom photo was more of a complex setup. Here I used two small LED lights and different globes photographed against a black background. I took several views showing the different continents. Later I placed three of these views in Photoshop as layers on top of one another. Since they were photographed against black I was able to use the "Screen" layer mode to allow seeing through to the layers below. "Screen" mode will make everything black disappear. Next I added two more layers of blurs taken of out-of-focus lights. One of these layers was changed to "Soft Light"; the other remained "Normal" but the opacity was dialed down. This gave me a total of five over-lapping layers. Finally, I added layer masks to several of the images so I could paint out some of the overlapping areas where they interfered with one another.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New York snow with the Fuji X-T2

My X-T2 is no sooner back from Fuji repair as a result of my fall in the last New York snow, when I took it out again on an even worse snowy day. This time I visited the Brooklyn Bridge down by the water's edge. I used one of my favorite techniques for photographing snow, a flash to pop out the white flakes.

I used the Fuji 16-55 f/2.8 for most of the photography, resorting to the wider Fuji 14mm for one scene where I wanted extra coverage.

My first shot of the day was this one with the gull. It's easy to include flying gulls in your shots because they roost right under the nearby highway and are constantly flying by. It's just a matter of patience and timing. 

For the photo below I switched to the wider Fuji 14mm f/2.8 lens because I wanted to capture some of the snow-covered shore line.  

The technique for capturing the snow flakes with the flash requires a bit of trial and error, and is often dependent upon the scene and time of day. I varied the flash at both full and 1/2 power and tried to keep the lens aperture on the open side, ranging from f/2.8 to f/4. The more open the aperture, the larger the flakes in the foreground. Of course this also depends upon the focal length of the lens. compare the bottom photo taken with the 14mm and the one above it taken at 25mm with the 16-55mm zoom. The longer focal length results in larger flakes. The other important control for fine-tuning the balance between the brightness of the scene and the flakes is by changing the ISO.  During the day I varied the ISO from 200-400 in 1/3rd stop increments. This allowed me to fine-tune the balance for light from the flash and the actual daylight.