Jonathan Fleming's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘art

This Ain’t Your Father’s Film Camera. Wait, Yes It Is.

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 Fuji X100 | 1/60th sec f/5.6 ISO200

On the heels of my last post, another film-related adventure! The camera above is an Ansco Cadet, a nifty little 127 format camera that was made in the late 1950s. I dug this camera out of my parents’ basement, and learned that they purchased it back in 1960 to bring on their honeymoon.  This camera has been in my family, then, for over 50 years.

I kept the Cadet in my home for a long, long time, and all the while it served no other purpose other than looking good on the shelf. The shutter was stuck and I just assumed it was broken, with no hope of ever firing another frame. But I very recently decided to inspect the camera further. I opened it up, played around with every moving part, put it back together, and doubting completely that anything different would happen after all these years, hit the shutter release.


No way. There’s no way that just worked. Cranked the film advance and fired again.


I can’t really put into words how exciting it was to hear that sound and see the camera’s shutter move so smoothly. It was time to find a roll of 127, and it turns out that only one place in the city that I know of carries that format (you rock, Glass Key!). Picked up a pack of both black and white and color, good for 12 frames per roll, and went through both of them in one little afternoon with the wife and the Suki:

Shooting with the Ansco is pretty interesting, to say the least. I had to tape up parts the body here and there to prevent light leaks. There are only 2 control points: the shutter release button, and a toggle switch between B&W and Color, which basically gives you two different apertures. Light meter? Of course not. Focus control? Sorry. Shutter control? Nope. It does fire though, which is all that really matters:

I had a hard time finding a place to develop this film, and it wasn’t cheap, so I may need to start developing the black and whites myself. On top of that, I had to take it to another place entirely to have scans and prints done. Goodness!

Here’s the color roll:

All in all, pretty happy with the results. Incidentally, I had the opportunity to share all of these prints with a small group of artists at Photobooth’s monthly portfolio night this week. It was a wonderful experience. Lately I’ve been used to sharing my photos on my blog or Flickr page or whatever other online service I’ve been using these days. But sitting down in person with others that have a passion and a respect for the art of creating photographs, laying real prints on a table, and sharing in thoughtful discussion with one another…that’s an entirely different experience altogether. I left that event more inspired than ever to continue my journey with the Cadet.

Oops. Where’s the Nano Coating? 😉

Written by Jonathan

April 20, 2012 at 9:16 am

Panoramic Portraiture

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Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 (19 image stitch)

Wait, what? The thought of stitching several photos together to make a portrait, a technique developed and made popular by Ryan Brenizer, seemed like an odd idea to me at first. But the kind of look you can achieve by doing so is really unique. Like any other kind of panoramic photo, the idea behind the method is to increase your final image’s angle of view while maintaining a given focal length and distance from your subject. However, this technique can work wonders when shooting very close to a human subject at wide apertures, because stitching several of the resulting photos together allows you to achieve some really pretty bokeh effects.

For example, at the distance I was from my lovely wife for the first panorama, a single-frame shot using the 85mm f/1.4 looks like this:

Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 

The photo above was taken wide open and pretty near the lens’ closest focusing distance. As a result, Bridget’s left eye is in sharp focus, but the background is completely and beautifully blurred into bokeh heaven due to the extremely shallow depth of field. But what if I wanted a wider angle of view while maintaining both the focal length and the super shallow dof? No problem! Lock your focus and exposure settings, and then take a series of overlapping photos surrounding the first photo’s point of focus. Merge the photos together in post, and poof! Bokeh panorama. The image at the top of this post is a 19-photo stitch from a series of photos I took surrounding the first image in the series, pictured directly above, which served an anchor point for the rest of the panorama.

One mistake I immediately realized that I made after the merge is that I didn’t take enough frames to cover the bottom right of my intended composition, though a little work in CS5 still gave me the composition I was after. But hey, not bad for a second try, right? (Wife will not allow me to post my first try because she’s not wearing makeup in the photo. I think she looks beautiful regardless, but hey, I understand). Indeed, the most difficult part of the entire process is pre-visualizing your intended composition and then taking enough frames to cover the composition when you finally merge the photos.

Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 

Another example of a single frame shot with the 85mm. This time I’m going for a full length portrait, accomplished by merging 19 total frames:

Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/160 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 (19 image stitch)

One side note: I did not stitch full resolution, 36 megapixel frames from the D800 here, but can you imagine the final size of these images if I had? Hoo boy….

Bokeh panoramas look pretty awesome on small, inanimate objects as well. Here’s a 13 image stitch:

Nikon D800 +  Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G | 1/320 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 (13 image stitch)

I’ve heard of this awesome technique before, but never really thought about trying it myself until another blogger I’ve been following, Kim Miller, put this ridiculously awesome blog post together that tipped me over the edge. To thank her for said tipping, a plug seems appropriate: Head to her blog for a little inspiration, because she does a much better job walking you through the process than I ever could, and her site is littered with awesome examples of bokeh panoramas. Enjoy!


All Images: Nikon D800 | 85mm f/1.4G

Processing: RAW images processed using VSCO in Lightroom 4 / Image stitching in Photoshop CS5

Written by Jonathan

April 14, 2012 at 8:03 pm

The Academy of Sciences: Monochrome Edition

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I have yet to visit San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences during the daytime. Instead, we always end up there during Night Life, a 21+ only event where the big kids get to enjoy the Academy’s exhibits with the added benefit of cocktails and music thrown into the mix. .and no little kids.

During the daytime, the building relies heavily on natural light for interior illumination, so it gets pretty dark in there at night. While there was no shortage of color to work with inside the building last night, I wanted to try something a little different photographically on this visit and create some black and white images of our experience. Lots of wide open, high ISO shooting that night, mostly with my Fuji X100. The high ISO files are so clean from that camera, however, that I added grain to these images for a better black and white look.

My favorite exhibit has got to be this giant glass dome that houses a four-story rainforest. Birds and butterflies whiz by your head as you examine plant life from different parts of the planet. Oh, and it’s terribly humid in there!

The aquarium is equally awesome:

There’s usually a special theme involved with each week’s Night Life event, and this week’s involved robots. Pretty cool:

Once you’re done with the exhibits, you can just hang out, get some food and drinks, enjoy the music, or just run around photographing things, if you’re a photo geek like me anyways.

Everything screeches to a halt at 10pm when the Academy closes, which always feels too early. I suppose that’s a good thing if you have to wake up for work on Friday morning, however.

You know, Night Life is great and all, but in the end it’s all about the company. =)

Images: Fuji X100
B/W Conversion: VSCO’s Kodak Tri-X

Written by Jonathan

February 24, 2012 at 10:53 am

Coffee, Chocolate, Tintypes and Lomo Gear

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This amazing tintype portrait of my wife was taken by Michael Shindler over at Photobooth SF on Valencia. The folks there were nice enough to send me a digital copy of it (pictured right). The original, of course, is a beautiful photograph forged on a metal plate using early 19th century tech. You can see more examples of this amazing artform on Photobooth’s website.

If you’ve been following my blog lately, you probably know that I frequent this shop. I originally discovered it on opening night, and came back again later to purchase some  film and get schooled on Polaroid photography.

This time, there were a bunch more reasons to return to Photobooth. First of all, a free coffee and Pacari chocolate tasting. Hello! Coffee and Photography are like, my favorite things ever. Favorite-things-ever overload goin’ on here.

Despite the fact that it was raining, we decided to bring Suki. She was looking quite stylish in her silly 70’s coat. The three of us hung out, checked out the new Lomography gear, watched the tintype studio in action, sipped on our (free!) Blue Bottle, and nom’d on some seriously good chocolate. Ok, obviously Suki didn’t eat, but she did meet people, sniff stuff, and made us look cooler than we tend to look without her around 😉

A few more snaps from the event:

That’s what I’m talking about. I normally pay 3-4 bucks a cup for Blue Bottle pour over. Went perfectly with little nibbles of Pacari chocolate.

A tinype of Suki would have been cool right? Impossible. I was told that the exposure time for a tintype is about 4 seconds, requiring the subject to be perfectly still for at least that long. Suki is used to being photographed, but not like that!

Another reason we really wanted to check out Photobooth again was the arrival of the Lomokino Movie Maker, pictured above. Vince, one of the owners, showed me how it worked and let me and Bridget view a finished roll of film shot with this camera. Hmmm, should we get one?

Should we get one!?!??!

We totally got one. I’ll run some film through it and share the details and results in another blog post. Stay tuned!


Images: Fuji X100

Written by Jonathan

November 19, 2011 at 9:23 pm

When the Light is Beautiful

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Fuji X100 | 1/250 sec, f/4, ISO 400 -2/3EV

The most common questions I get in my inbox and in comments on the blog lately go something like this:

  • Is there a post processing trick you use to give your images that dimensional look?
  • What camera settings do you use to get your images to look the way they do?
  • JPEG or RAW?

These questions most often pertain to my work with the Fuji X100, which makes sense since I use it for 90% of what I’ve been shooting lately.  But my answers aren’t very cut and dry. JPEG or RAW? Both, but mostly JPEG with the X100, mostly RAW with my DSLR. Camera settings? It depends, but usually my X100 is at default settings.  Post processing tricks? My post processing workflow is usually pretty simple, especially when I shoot JPEG for my casual work. If I do anything to a JPEG in post, it’s usually adding some vignetting, converting to black and white, and/or making slight tweaks to exposure or tone curves. Emphasis on slight. Nothing crazy.

If these answers aren’t terribly satisfying, it’s simply because I believe the look of my images has more to do with what I decide to point my camera at than with how I process the images or what picture control parameters I have set at the camera. Everyone sees and thinks differently, and my settings and work flow match my own vision and depend on how I desire to interpret a given scene. But what works for me may not work for you.

That being said, for this post I’ve chosen some random images I’ve taken over the last few weeks, either while on vacation or just out and about. I’ll discuss them briefly in order to answer what I feel is a more important question:

What am I looking for when out shooting photos?

Fuji X100 | 1/350 sec, f/5, ISO 800

I’m always on the lookout for dramatic light. When looking to add a sense of dimension to an otherwise flat image on photo paper or on a computer screen, focal length choice definitely comes into play, but light does as well. I try to put highlights next to shadows in my images, which reveals texture and shape and makes simple objects look pretty interesting, even, say, an old broom.

The above image was shot during sunrise on my way to grab some coffee. The early morning sun was low in the sky, casting some dramatic side light through the city. Most of the sun was being blocked by the tall buildings that surrounded me at the time, but slivers of sun light made their way through trees and spaces between structures. From across the street I spotted this broom sticking out from a homeless person’s cart, spot lit with this dramatic beam of light. My eyes were drawn by the texture the lighting revealed on the brick, the long shadow cast by the broom, and how the broom head broke the repeating lines in the background. This is a JPEG file out of the camera, with a little vignetting and shadow darkening applied in post.

Fuji X100 | 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800

Even something as mundane as a standpipe can look interesting in the right light. Again, highlights next to shadows bring shape and dimension into an image. The above was just a quick snap made during sunset while I was waiting outside a store for the wife to finish shopping. Below? Dramatic sunset light hitting a building. Not much else to it. Find that beautiful light, and go click!

Fuji X100 |  1/450 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800 -1/3EV

Fuji X100 | 1/450 sec, f/6.4, ISO 800

Above, the door of a subway train opens to reveal some fantastic light and shadow on the ground. Click! A couple more shots below:

Fuji X100 | 1/350 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800 -2/3EV

Fuji X100 | 1/220 sec, f/4, ISO 400 -1EV

The most common exposure setting I use is aperture priority, which I tend to stick to because it lets you make depth of field decisions while the camera takes care of the rest. It’s worth noting, therefore, that I’m on the exposure compensation dial a lot in response to these kinds of high-contrast scenes.

Fuji X100 | 1/300 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400

Light coming from behind your subject can give your viewer a sense of dimension and contrast as well. In the image above,  I made sure to compose the brightly back-lit leaves against a darker background (the building), which, in the final image, gives the leaves a more dimensional look, like they’re popping out at the viewer. A little vignetting was added in post to keep the viewer’s attention fixed on the leaves.

Fuji X100 | 1/30 sec, f/4, ISO 200 -1/3EV

In trying to create strong visual contrasts, I’m also on the lookout for colors that vibrate well together. One of my favorite looks is warm-colored light against dark, cool-colored light. The shot above was taken at Blue Bottle Coffee, where I regularly order up a brew made in these nifty siphon pots. The pots are lit by very strong orange light as they heat up, and using the tungsten white balance setting on my camera cools the orange light a little while making the daylight coming through the windows a really deep blue. I shot this one RAW, which allowed me to bring the overall color temperature down even lower in post, further cooling that blue daylight. I often use this technique by putting orange gels over my flash units.

Fuji X100 | 1/950 sec, f/2, ISO 400 -2/3EV

I made Suki stop at the sliver of sunlight above as we exited a local dog park. I think her facial expression says it all.

Fuji X100 | 1/1,000 sec, f/11, ISO 1000

For those who have been wondering about my black and white images, I convert them in Color Efex Pro II.  I also receive many questions about how I focus with the X100. Usually I’ll use the manual focus mode with the rear AFL/AEL button to activate focus. Works like a charm. If I’m chasing Suki around, or in the case above, Suki is chasing my wife and they’re both coming towards the camera, I’ll often preset my focus manually and use the camera’s distance/depth of field scale judge what’s in focus. This lets me catch the action immediately, without waiting for the camera’s auto focus to lock on my subject.

Fuji X100 | 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 -2/3EV

I’m often drawn to reflections. Taking a walk among massive buildings covered in glass during sunrise or sunset is the best time to capture images like the one above.

Oh, and one more thing. If your intention is to get better and better at taking photos, you should always have a camera with you. Seriously. My friends make fun of me constantly because I take my camera absolutely everywhere, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense (don’t ask me to explain that). I bring it whether or not I think I’ll be taking pictures. But you know what? All of these shots were taken on outings when I didn’t expect to use my camera very much, if at all. Out on dog walks, taking trips to the store, out for a cup of coffee, these are often the only opportunities I have to focus on my personal photography these days.

But the main point? I try my best to shoot when the light is beautiful, which has a significantly greater impact on my photos than what settings I use. Hopefully this post gives those who have asked a better idea of my thought process, however. Find the camera settings and post processing techniques that match your vision, and experiment like crazy. =)

Written by Jonathan

October 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Life in Color, Life in Black and White

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Browsing through my image catalogs last night, I discovered lots of random frames I’ve taken lately that I never posted anywhere. Just for the fun of it, I slapped them all together and made a couple spreads. These are all taken with my Oly E-PL2, which I still feel great about even though an X100 found its way into my bag this week. I think the two can actually work well together, but I’ll save that concept for another post.

I tend to just let loose and have fun with the Olympus. You can get some pretty insane results with the built-in filters, like pop art and pinhole:

That larger image of Suki in the car above was actually taken by the wife.  I myself take the blame for the badly framed shot of Suki at the bottom left of the spread, taken from the hip. Gotta give credit where it’s due!

I love how black and whites look straight from the camera, using either the grainy film art filter or just standard monochrome. The E-PL2 definitely has better black and white output than the x100 in my opinion:

That’s it! An image-dominant post. It is a photo blog after all. Happy shooting this weekend!
Olympus PEN  E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7

Written by Jonathan

June 10, 2011 at 7:35 am

Two Weeks with a Roll of Black and White Film

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Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

After more than two weeks of carrying my Nikon FM around, I finally finished a roll of Ilford HP5+ black and white film. 36 frames took two weeks?! Indeed it did. In my experience with film, that limit of 36 frames in a roll just makes me much more careful and thoughtful about what I shoot, and therefore slower…well, that and I’m so busy lately!

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

The interesting side effect of going through the roll so slowly is that I end up with a pretty eclectic mix of images in the end, spanning a wide variety of different times and different places. With digital, everything is immediate. Shoot a bunch of frames, come home, upload, poof! Done. Everything I just shot at a particular location or recent period of time is all there.

Seeing this roll developed after carrying the camera with me these last two weeks is like going back in time and viewing a storyboard of little experiences, some of which I had completely forgotten about. Very interesting.

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Ilford HP5 is a fantastic film. Great looking grain and a nice balance to the tones. I’ll definitely be ordering more rolls. I just love the look of the film. It’s sort of surreal that they have such a vintage look to them, and yet I know I took these frames only week or two ago. I doubt you would have seen a Shiba Inu in San Francisco’s Alamo Square 30 years ago, however 😉

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Typical Suki, always wanting to go in the opposite direction of where you want to go.

Nikon FM + Sigma 35mm f/2.8  | Ilford HP5+

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

So much advertising for this coffee on my blog. I need to talk to Phil about getting compensated. Eh, it’s ok, the coffee so good I don’t mind.

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

I typically carry a digital camera along with my film SLR, whipping either out of my bag depending on what I feel like shooting with at the time.

Nikon FM + Sigma 35mm f/2.8 | Ilford HP5+

The following three frames are my favorite from this roll. Bridget was shopping with a friend while I waited outside with Suki. Out of nowhere a little girl approached. Children LOVE Suki. I don’t know exactly what it is…maybe it’s because she looks so much like a forest creature, you know? Not quite domesticated. “BABY FOX MOMMY, BABY FOX!” is a very typical thing I hear out of the mouths of little children as I walk by with Suki at my side…

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

….maybe it’s also because Suki is so approachable and tolerant. She’ll let children touch her, pull her ears, give her big hugs, and she never complains. She’s also every bit as soft as she looks, so kids love touching her fur =)

Ok, now for a little Film vs. Digital action:

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | jpeg output, monochrome

Digital images tend to have a much more clinical look than a high speed film like HP5. The above is a great example. Compared to the surrounding film frames, the digital image is clean, detailed, contrasty, and free of grain. I’m actually a big fan of the in-camera-processed black and white files from my Olympus E-PL2, but this shot looks way out of place on this post, doesn’t it?

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Back to the HP5, you can see a clear difference. When I posted a while back about my re-entry into film photography, many left comments on the post about how they prefer the look of film photos over digital, and that digital can never match that distinct “film” character. In many cases, perhaps not, but have a look at this digital image:

Nikon D700 + Nikkor AFS 50mm f/1.4G | Silver Efex Pro II, Ilford HP5 400 preset

This was a RAW file from my D700, which I processed in Lightroom 3 and ran through Nik Sofware’s Silver Efex Pro, a black and white image editor. The program can emulate many of the most popular black and white films, including HP5. I selected the HP5 preset for this image and was pretty surprised how closely everything from the contrast to the character of the grain matches real HP5. I processed a few more digital files this way, and I tell you what, I’m hard pressed to see the difference between the digital files and the film scans.

Olympus PEN E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | RAW output, Silver Efex Pro II, Ilford HP5 400 preset

Another digital example, this time from my E-PL2. HP5 is a medium contrast black and white film, so this image seems just a bit too contrasty. But still, pretty close.

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Then again, many argue that if you’re going to go out of your way to make your digital files look like film, why not just shoot film in the first place? I think that there’s a convenience factor that certainly comes into play, but for me, shooting film is an experience that goes beyond simply the final look of the photos themselves.

Nikon FM + Nikkor 50mm f/2 AIS | Ilford HP5+

Which is why I keep loading up new rolls. =)

Written by Jonathan

May 27, 2011 at 2:06 pm