Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Going ultra-wide

Ever since I picked up my 28mm Summicron ASPH, my Voigtlander 28mm Ultrons have been sitting in their boxes. I was keeping them around as "backup," waiting on someone to offer the right price. But what good are lenses sitting in boxes hidden in the closet?

I traded the Ultron f2 a few months ago for a cool vintage Leica 50mm f2 collapsible that's now living on my M3. Then last night I finally traded the Ultron f1.9 for a lens I'd been debating for a while -- an ultra-wide.

Someday I'll own a 21mm Summilux or a WATE, but for now I'll be experimenting with the Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar f4.5.

Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide-Heliar f4.5

This lens is wide. In fact, I think this may be the widest lens ever made for Leica rangefinders.

This lens is so wide that I keep catching my fingers in the shots when I don't keep them flat against the camera.

I snapped a quick test shot in the Starbucks.


You get almost a full 180 degree view of a room.


I'm very excited to use this lens for two things. One is taking photos on the sailboat. Even with the 28mm on a full frame sensor, when you're on a boat, you can't really back up to get more of the action into the photo. This lens should give some dramatic shots from the cockpit that include the mast and sails.

Nothing ahead but sky

We're also heading north again for Christmas, so I'll have a chance to capture the night sky in wide angle glory. Look for a new timelapse coming soon.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Movie review: Man of Steel

Normally I'd never waste my time or yours with my thoughts on a movie, but I'm stuck in Bellevue, Washington until my 6 a.m. flight, and I just saw it, so I've got nothing better to do than regale you with my thoughts on this particular cinematic attempt at capturing the Superman story.

First off, I enjoyed the movie. It wasn't an atrocity of film. However, while it was a very interesting alien movie, it was a terrible Superman movie.

We spend too much time on Krypton. I don't care about CGI animals of Krypton, and we don't need to see baby farms. This isn't Avatar. This isn't the Matrix. Nobody gives a shit. I know the director was trying to give General Zod some sort of sympathetic foot to stand on, so that his character wasn't a one-dimensional warmonger, but he failed. Don't care. Krypton scenes were way too long and pointless.

So then the US government finds an alien ship in a glacier and Lois Lane shows up with her Nikon D3s thanks to the permissiveness of the Canadian government? Seriously, your camera batteries would be dead so fast in that kind of cold. But putting that aside, if Lois Lane is the number one reporter in the world and the ONLY reporter that gets that kind of access, what the HELL was going on when Zod's ship arrived and nobody at the Daily Planet had a clue? She's trying to find toner for the printer, and the entire Daily Planet staff is staring at the TV saying, "What's going on?" and "It's all over the news." HELLO! The Daily Planet IS the news. They would have known about this the second it happened. Lois would have been the first reporter contacted. Why was the Daily Planet even featured in this film because they did zero reporting the entire film and just stood around as helpless foils to Superman.

Continuing on the Daily Planet rant, how the eff does Clark Kent, who has spent all of his 20s working in bars and on fishing boats, walk into the Daily Planet, the top newspaper in the world, and get a job as a stringer? Where's his portfolio of stories? Has he really mastered AP Style? This is complete bullshit and it's insulting to journalists. (At least to non-Gawker journalists.) Clark Kent should have gone to college instead of wandering the arctic. (Note to Gawker journalists, yes there is an extra C in arctic.)

Now let's touch on casting. Could every director on earth please stop trying to re-cast Christopher Reeve? Seriously, Superman is an alien. He doesn't need to be a Christopher Reeve clone. He doesn't even need to be muscular since it's his alien anatomy, not body building, that makes him strong. However, I understand that making him muscular makes him more aesthetically pleasing and heroic in the eyes of the viewer, but I'm saying, take a chance with a new vision.

As for Amy Adams, I love her as the fun, plucky character, but she's not Lois Lane. With all due respect because I like her immensely, she's not attractive enough to be Lois Lane. Do you know why I switched my major from engineering to journalism? Because the journalism girls are HOT! News girls are hot. The most succesful female reporters are hot. It's a sad fact of life that most people would rather speak to a hot female than a pudgy male any day of the week, and female journalists use that to their advantage. It's not fair, but it's a fact of life. Amy Adams is not going to seduce a scoop out of anyone.

Now for the biggest casting atrocity -- Non. Back in 1978 when Zod invaded the first time, Jack O'Halloran did a wonderful job playing the simple-minded yet large enforcer. Guess what? This time Non doesn't even have a face! He's 100 percent CGI. You're telling me you took the time to make that stupid, pointless flying dragon on Krypton, but you didn't have time to develop Zod's crew and at least give each one a face?!!! Travesty.

Now here's the immense plot hole that bugged me this entire movie. Zod, being a power hungry general with the ability to repopulate the earth with Kryptonians using the baby factory, is insistent on terraforming the planet despite the fact that he can be a virtual god on earth. He's already all about genocide, why wouldn't he want to create a supreme race? He has the power to conquer earth with his small band of warriors, and if he just plays it cool with Superman, he could have grown an entire army. Yet despite this, he's deadset on terraforming the place. Does he miss CGI dragons THAT much?!!! And seriously, he's only got the genetic equipment to grow people. If he world builds the planet and it kills all humans and animals, it will be a desolate planet with NO PLANTS OR ANIMALS. It's like, nice job Zod, now you can breathe easier, but you have no super powers and you've killed all manner of sustenance. Brilliant move.

Now let's talk about Christopher Meloni. He's a Colonel. Why is he flying his own planes? Does Zach Snyder not know how the military works?

One last nitpick. Lois knows Superman is Clark Kent by the middle of the movie. When he comes to work at the Daily Planet, she knows who he is. That's just stupid. It ruins everything. Watching Superman hide his identity is half the fun.

The LexCorp tanker truck was some not-so-subtle foreshadowing that Lex Luthor will be the villian in the next installment if this Superman doesn't get fired. Let's hope there's a more engaging plot with less holes next time. I want to see Clark Kent being sneaky. I want to see some journalism. I want to see some non-American cultures represented as our favorite alien unites mankind. Superman shouldn't be good enough, he should be great.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Talking heads

Well, I finally did my first video job using the Sony NEX-6.

   Nex-6 video

I normally put a Rode shotgun mic on a stand near the person being interviewed, but as the NEX-6 does not have a mic input I decided to take a chance on the Sony ECM-XYST1M stereo microphone that fits the NEX-6 smart shoe. Results were pretty good, but as with all camera-mounted mics, the further the camera is away from the person being interviewed, the more ambient noise you pick up.

I was hoping to use my 50mm Summilux for the project, but due to space constraints I used a 28mm Summicron, which has an effective fov of 42mm on the NEX-6. I had a large window on the left side of my subject and a 500w softbox on the right side.

Project settings were 1920x1080p, 24fps, f2.8, 1/50s, ISO100.

NEX-6 Video Still

Lighting was good. Sound was good. Motion was good. My only complaint was that having to use a wide angle lens, when people gesticulated, their hands looked very large. Of course, this is why it's generally suggested to use a 75mm or longer lens for portraits -- it flattens the image. I have three interviews left to shoot, so I'm going to attempt to find a room large enough to use at least the 50mm. I'd love to try my 90mm Elmarit, but on the crop sensor that's just not going to happen indoors.

The good news is that the NEX-6 has proved a very capable and portable video solution.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Coding Leica M lenses

One thing has always bugged me about the digital M series. I use vintage or non-Leica lenses, and one morning I might remember to manually set the camera to a 28mm f2 lens, but then I'd shoot all week, switching lenses multiple times, and the EXIF data of all my shots would say 28mm f2 Summicron. I know, it's not THAT big of a deal, and it doesn't affect the RAW file, but I just wanted the same features and benefits someone with a new, coded 50mm Summilux f1.4 would get. However, being cheap, I did not want to send all my lenses off at $150 a pop to get them professionally coded.

At one point I attempted to download a template from the internet, but even when printed on card stock I could not cut the small holes accurately enough to make it work.

 For $75 I could supposedly code every lens I owned. I decided it was worth a shot. When it arrived I was not disappointed.

match technical M-coder

The plastic template snaps onto the M mount making it very easy to use the included marker to color in the spots that should be coded. The D-Coder gives you the best codes to use for Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses. The only downside is that it doesn't list the codes for all Leica lenses. For my 90mm Elmarit and 135mm Elmarit I had to do some googling to find the codes, but it was not hard to procure them.

I coded all seven of my lenses in about ten minutes at a cost of about $11 per lens. You can't beat that. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finally developed that roll of film

Back in January I popped a roll of Kodak TMAX 400 into the Leica M3 to try it out. I'd had some trouble with TMAX 100 and Ilford Delta 100 being underexposed when shooting indoors and ending up really grainy and losing detail. However, I'd never developed 400 speed film, so I was nervous about how it would react in Caffenol-C.

I don't know why, but I was really slow with finishing this roll. The 24 shots ended up spanning four months, but I finally developed it last night.

The first shot was from a visit to Austin in January.

Austin from the Omni

Then there was a picnic in Herman Park that took place in February.

Picnic in Herman Park

Then there was a trip to Offats Bayou in March.

Offats Bayou, Galveston

Followed by some goofing off around the house.


And finally some sailing in April on our new boat Gimme Shelter.

Mary at the helm

I was very pleased with the TMAX 400 in Caffenol-C. I used the same developing time I use for TMAX 100, but I added almost double the Vitamin C. The extra Vitamin C was just added on a whim after seeing the results some other users posted on the forums, not because of the 400 speed film.


I ended up with much better exposures with only slightly bigger grain than a well-exposed TMAX 100 shot. I'm really happy with them. I also switched to a plastic negative reel, which was so much easier to load than those stainless reels, and for the first time ever I had zero pink spots on my negatives. That made things a double success.

I've got to shoot through two more rolls of TMAX 100 and then a roll of Portra 160 and a roll of Gold 200. Then I think I'm switching to TMAX 400 full time for all my film work.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I found my OUFRO

I know you mut have all been worried and just stewing over where it could have gone to for the past week. It was under the bed behind some clean laundry that had apparently fallen off the end of the bed and then got scooted under the bedskirt. I found the OUFRO along with the M - NEX adapter and the Nikon - NEX adapter. I'm back in the macro business. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to shoot anything all week.

However, we did go sailing on Gimme Shelter, the new boat, last weekend.


It's sooooo large and luxurious compared to the Seahorse. Thankfully, aside from being a challenge to dock, we had no trouble handling her under sail.

Kemah Cruising

Mary and I are very happy with the upgrade. The dogs don't seem to care one way or another.


You can check out the new blog for our sailing adventures at

My entire week has been consumed by the MS 150, which takes place tomorrow and Sunday. It's my third year as team captain, but it's still not easy to get 100 riders and 50 volunteers organized and informed as to what they need to be doing. Plus, I'm riding this year, so I've been spending my evenings trying to get the last bit of training in -- not that it will really matter much. The furthest I've ridden is 25 miles. I have to do 100 Saturday and 83 Sunday. It's going to be two very, very long days.

On the bright side, through my impending misery I've raised $625 for the National MS Society, and our team looks like we'll break $50,000 before the weekend is over.

I've just got to survive the MS 150 and OTC, then it's finally time for a little vacation!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I can't find my OUFRO

It was raining when I got home last night, and there was this one little resilient flower covered in raindrops. I was like, hey, that would be an awesome photo. I ran inside to grab my gear and put a macro adapter on the NEX-6.

One problem. I couldn't find my adapters.

Ok, maybe the hectic schedule of the past few weeks has left my house, car, and camera bags a bit disheveled. It's not easy when you have different shoots every day that require different gear in the bag depending on whether it's photo or video. I also scale things down to fit a smaller bag if I'm going to have to walk a long way.

Usually, I can remember where I stashed everything and what I'm carrying. I distinctly remember the last time I used the M adapter and the OUFRO on the NEX-6. It was the weekend of the boat show when I snapped this flower.

First flower of spring!

I just can't remember what I did with it after that.

I spent well over an hour emptying all my camera bags, which probably needed to be emptied and re-organized anyway. No luck.

Then I started going through drawers where I usually put things I don't want to forget. I finally found all my European power adapters, but as for the OUFRO, no luck.

Then I searched the car ... and the kitchen ... and the bathroom counter. No luck.

It's time to do some major spring cleaning.

Thankfully it's not like these adapters are irreplaceable items, but it's still stressing me out that they're missing. Hopefully I just set them aside somewhere and forgot.

Sadly I'll be missing the April Texas Historical Camera Association meeting and swap meet this Saturday because I'm showing the boat to potential buyers all day, but I am glad to have so many potential buyers wanting to stop by.