As much as Kathy & I love to travel, we often talk about the fact that there are a lot of interesting things to do right here in Charlotte. Things that people come from all over the country – and even the world – to experience, and we have never been. So a few weeks ago we decided to try something new – to be tourists in our own town and start checking out some of the things we take for granted.
After a nice breakfast we headed to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art for an exhibit of photography that includes work by Paul Strand and of contemporary Mexican photographers. The office where I work is directly across the street from the Bechtler, and our bank gives us free admission once a month, but we had never been!
Next we rode the light rail out to visit Doc Porter’s Distillery, where we took a tour and sampled their products. This little distillery is cranking out bourbon, rye whisky, rum, gin, vodka and soon, malt whisky. Nice people and a good story, and well worth the effort to get there.
So a day of photography and booze – how hard is that?!
Perhaps as self-compensation for not shooting as much as I’d like to do, it seems that I have been loading up on Fuji lenses. Every time I think I’m done I decide to buy “just one more.” And I’m perhaps just a little embarrassed to say that I am now up to 8. Yikes! I just recently I sprung for the 35mm 1.4 lens. Going a little bit counter to conventional thought (who, me?), I considered the newer and slightly less costly f2 version in favor of the somewhat dated but still quite worthy older model. I put it through some initial paces on a quick walk around town this past weekend. So far I must say I’m impressed and happy with the purchase.
My photo buddy Paul Lester and I got together earlier this month for an impromptu photo walk. We don’t do this often enough, but when we do it’s a real blast. There’s nothing like wandering around with a camera to exercise the creative muscles a bit.
While there are meetup groups and photowalks staged and sponsored by “celebrity” photographers, those are often large group activities. Paul & I are alike in that too many people makes it more of a cat herding competition than a photography activity. I’d say that 4-5 people would be the max for me.
Paul lives on the south end of the county and I am at the north end. We met for breakfast down his way then drove to the light rail station for a ride into town. We ended up disembarking in South End, which is a neighborhood 1-2 miles south of “Uptown” then walked the rest of the way. After a few hours of wandering we boarded the train for the ride back to our respective cars.
Paul has already posted an article about our walk on his own blog, and it’s always interesting to see what he saw and compare it to what I saw. I’m purposely leaving out photos that are from the same places as Paul’s, although I certainly have a few that look at lot like his! Instead I’m showing some photos that are things that he may have seen but that he hasn’t posted (yet!).
As a rule I generally consider New Year’s “resolutions” per se to be a bunch of b.s. They mostly just give people something to talk about and to post on Facebook, and unfortunately are quickly forgotten. But I do think there is a lot of value to periodically evaluating our goals to determine if we are spending our time, money and energy toward things that truly allow us to meet those goals, or if the current of peer pressure and advertising has steered us off course. On a long journey, mid-course corrections are always necessary.
My friend John frequently talks about our “currency.” The idea is that in addition to money, and perhaps more so, we spend time and energy on everything we do. That is our currency, and we only have so much of each. Often we trade one form of currency for another, such as buying prepared food instead of cooking our own, or having someone mow our lawn or clean our house instead of doing it ourselves. I enjoy washing my car, but I seldom do it myself, because (a) that makes it rain 😉 , and (b) having a clean car isn’t that important to me so I’d rather spend my currency on things that give me more pleasure.
The best example of currency is how we trade a large amount of our time and energy to our employers in exchange for the money we need to do everything else we do. As our lives and careers progress, the relative value of all our currency changes. Early on we are anxious to accumulate as much money and as many things as we can, and are willing to trade a large amount of time and energy to obtain it. Later on we find that raising kids, buying houses and saving for college uses more of all of our resources – time, money and energy. Ultimately, we start looking forward to (hopefully) having enough money that we can find something else to do with our time so that, even if it does pay in money, it pays in something more. Like personal satisfaction or fulfillment.
So that’s a way-too-long way of saying that, while I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, I do often take the time to reflect on all aspects of my life to make sure that the way I spend my currency is allowing me to most effectively meet the goals that are most meaningful to me. And since this is a photography blog and not a philosophy blog (for now!), let’s wrap up by talking about photography.
When it comes to photography, my two primary themes are that (1) I love to photograph things to capture my view of the world, and (2) I love to share that view of the world with people to enjoy and appreciate it. Mostly I accomplish that through my blog, although I do happily accept money, and have a number of ways for people to purchase my work.
So in reflecting on where I am today and where I want to be tomorrow, I’ve some up with a list of things that I want to concentrate on this coming year. Essentially those come down to three things. First, I want to get better at taking my camera with me more. I wrote a few weeks ago how I tended to talk myself out of taking my camera with me, so that is something I had already identified and had started working on. Second, I intend to post more frequently on my blog. It may be just a picture or two with few words, but more frequent sharing often results in a more open dialog with those who take the time to read and comment. That means a lot to me and I would like to encourage more of that exchange. Third, I intend to do a better job of keeping my website up to date with my best and most recent photographs. I don’t do photography to pay the mortgage, but I do manage the business side of things in a professional way, and keeping up the website is the most public way to do that.
So there you go. Yesterday morning I had to go into town for a haircut. I decided to take my camera with me, got there about 20 minutes early and spent those minutes taking the long way from my parking spot to the barbershop. That also accomplished the goal of walking more, so I got two for the price of one on that currency!
I often have the best of intentions about carrying my camera with me and making photographs when we’re just out doing random stuff. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but way too often I talk myself out of taking my camera along, figuring that either I won’t see anything worth shooting, I won’t have time it will be a hassle or it will make me “conspicuous.”
Last Saturday night Kathy & I had planned a bit of an adventure, parking in uptown Charlotte, walking around a bit then taking the trolley out to the Elizabeth neighborhood for dinner and a concert. I went back and forth all afternoon about my camera, talking myself into and then out of it a number of times. Yes, self-inflicted angst is one of my specialties!
At some point in the afternoon I read one of Monte’s recent posts about Christmas in Old Town Fort Collins, and it gave me the resolve I need to say “darn it, I’m taking my camera!” I knew it wouldn’t be a problem anywhere, but just to be safe I figured out how to keep it out of the way at dinner and took one of my smaller lenses so it wouldn’t be too hard to carry (or hide, if I felt like I needed to).
As it turned out, we had a booth in the restaurant with plenty of room to put the camera on the seat next to me. One unnecessary worry out of the way. I knew it wouldn’t be a problem at the concert because it was at a church and not a big arena with metal detectors and security Nazis. Second problem solved! The only (relatively minor) glitch came when we found out that the trolley had broken down, and along with it our ride back into town! Fortunately it was only about a mile. We could have gotten an Uber, but it made for a nice, but chilly, walk.
All it all it was no big deal. I didn’t get any really great photos, but that wasn’t the point. It was more about the practice, and the point was just to get out with the camera. Hopefully I’ve learned a lesson that taking my camera along isn’t that big of a deal most of the time, and that I can spend more time making photographs and less time making excuses!
Kathy & I celebrated the Christmas season by attending a choral concert by the Singers of Renaissance, a Charlotte based choir. Christmas music is part of what makes the season special for us, and a choral concert in a beautiful church with a lovely organ brought back a whole smorgasbord of memories.
One of the most amazing things (other than the music) is that I didn’t see a single cell phone during the concert. A very rare thing anywhere these days, even in church. I was carrying my camera and took just two pictures during the performance, but since I was sitting in the back row I didn’t feel too conspicuous.
Technically, we don’t have a back door. But we do have a screened porch at the back of our house that overlooks the woods next to our neighborhood. Kathy & I spend a lot of time on that screened porch, it is our outdoor space where we relax and unwind after a long day or a long week.
This past weekend was just about the ideal weather here in Charlotte – temperatures in the upper 70’s on Saturday, low 70’s on Sunday. We spent a lot of time on the porch.
These trees are directly behind our porch, and this is the second fall since we moved in. They sometimes call my name, and the call got especially loud on Saturday so I got out my camera. Nothing special artistic-wise, but it was good to answer the call and take a few shots. In a couple more weeks the leaves will all be gone.
Kathy & I paid a visit to the Charlotte Regional Farmer’s Market yesterday. We don’t get there often enough, and every time we go I’m reminded of the availability of fresh foods from local and regional farms. It’s also an interesting place to take photographs, although from a few of the pictures, a few of the people didn’t look too happy to see the front of my camera. Maybe they were Nikon or Olympus fans. 😉
It probably wasn’t the best place to use a wide angle lens, but I hadn’t had much time to use the 10-24 and decided to use it there. All in all I think the photos came out pretty well.
Well, I shipped off 20 pounds of used camera gear this past weekend, and plan to use the proceeds to form the cornerstone of the next collection of gear. After nearly 14 years of lugging around the Canon stuff I’ve decided it’s time to bite the bullet and try something smaller. The decision is not entirely straightforward or simple, as I tend to be a very loyal consumer, and there is still a lot to love about the full frame cameras. And while I’m hedging my bets by hanging on to a solid collection of full frame gear, I’m pretty sure I can predict what is going to happen.
Many readers of this blog know that I have been exploring this move for some time. Over the last several months I rented a Fuji X-T1 and an Olympus OM-D E-M1. Both are wonderful cameras and have their pluses and minuses, and I know people who are faithful to both brands.
I was pretty sure that my choice was going to be the Fuji, so over the 4th of July weekend I rented it again, this time trying both the 18-55 and the 18-135 lenses. I haven’t yet placed the order – the sale prices expired before I was ready – but once I’m ready to go I’m planning to buy the X-T1 with the 18-135. My rationale is that it will be an excellent travel lens for those times when I only want to take one camera and lens, and it will give me just about all of the coverage I could want. Eventually I’ll probably buy at least one or two of the “pro” lenses, and I really want to try some of the excellent Fuji prime lenses, so I’ll keep my options open.
So while I continue to work on Colorado images, I wanted to process the Fuji files in order to evaluate them, and figured I might as well post a few. I know it’s possible to do with any camera, but I really like the fact that I can easily create a develop preset in Lightroom to quickly process a bunch of files. For the most part the results are very good with little fiddling. These have had a little bit of extra work done to them, but for the most part they are as shot with a Lightroom preset applied.
Ever since I sold off my Mamiya 7 film rangefinder and its three excellent lenses, I have hoped to one day return to the simplicity of being able to carry all my gear in a small fanny pack. I used to be able to carry the equipment (and film!) I needed for entire weekend in one small bag. I love my Canon gear, and have always been happy with the results. The Canon bodies and numerous lenses I have owned over the last 10 years have served me well, but it has been interesting to note the gradual expansion in the amount and weight of my equipment over that time.
At first I was able to carry all of my digital gear in a reasonably-sized backpack. Soon, however, it became necessary for me to carry my equipment in a Think Tank rolling bag. For a while I was generally successful with the idea of making room in the rolling bag for something new by retiring something old. But a couple of years ago I finally reached the point where my bag wouldn’t hold what I had, and I started having to leave things at home. Perhaps coincidentally, at just about the same time I got to the point where I was getting tired of carrying that much stuff.
While having a wide variety of lenses at my disposal gives me the ability to pretty much shoot anything I want to shoot, the need to constantly make a decision about what to take or leave home distracts me from the creative inspiration to actually make photographs. I’ve been saying for a long time that the problem with carrying multiple lenses is that it increases the chances that I will have the wrong one on my camera. I found that carrying one or maybe two lenses is all I want to do, and I have gotten used to leaving the other stuff at home.
I have had a number of “Point & Shoot” cameras over the years and have been quite impressed by their image quality. In fact it was a Canon G5 that convinced me back in 2004 that digital was the “way of the future.” I have been watching the evolution of compact cameras ever since with great interest, and was very excited when the interchangeable lens compact cameras came on the scene. Starting with the early Olympus “Pen” cameras in the so-called Micro 4/3 arena and evolving to a large lineup of small cameras with varying sizes of sensors, there are now many choices. My early experience in this area was when I bought Kathy an Olympus E-PL2 camera and a couple of lenses. That camera is a great size, and the lenses are amazingly small and light. I tried using that camera myself, but was never really happy with the image quality. That really tarnished my opinion of the camera and I never really gave the format any serious consideration. In hindsight, that opinion was probably a result of lower-quality lenses.
Probably because of my earlier experience with the older Olympus camera, I have remained skeptical of the advances in quality of the compact cameras and the various photographers that have been singing their praises. The conventional wisdom, perhaps somewhat influenced by the marketing budgets of Canon and Nikon, has held that small sensor cameras just can’t produce the image quality of a full-size, full-frame, high resolution SLR. For anyone wanting to make prints larger than 13×19, it seemed that the SLR was the way to go, the larger the sensor the better. That was and still is pretty tasty Kool Aid.
Recently, I have been hearing and reading more and more stories, from people whose opinions I respect, who have had great things to say about the newer cameras on the market. Most of these cameras are from Fuji, Olympus and Sony, although there are others. Surprisingly, the entries from Canon and Nikon have been pretty weak and generally haven’t seemed to push the right buttons for people, and the general consensus is that those companies are not taking the market for these cameras seriously.
A few months ago I decided that the only way to find out how good these new cameras have become was to try one or more of them out myself. For me the choice seemed to be between Fuji and Olympus. So a couple of weeks ago, looking at a long holiday weekend off from work, I decided to try out a Fuji X-T1 for a few days to see just what all the excitement was about. I haven’t made any decisions but have reached several conclusions. The outcome of my little experiment will be the subject of my next post. For now, here are a few of the photos I have been working on from my time with this interesting little camera.