NO EXCUSES, PHOTOGRAPHING D.C. DURING A SNOWSTORM

The movement caught my eye, then when I realized what was happening I knew I had my first real photo of the day. For me, the yellow snow shovel makes this image. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/1500 @ f4, ISO 400.

The movement caught my eye, then when I realized what was happening I knew I had my first real photo of the day. For me, the yellow snow shovel makes this image. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 50mm, 1/1500 @ f4, ISO 400.

I look for any excuse to get outside and take photographs. More often than not I make excuses to stay inside. This weekend I had the time, motivation and a favorable weather forecast. And by favorable, i’m talking snow, lots of snow.

It’s been a while since I roamed around Washington, D.C., in search of photographs. When walking around in search of subjects or situations to photograph, it’s important to have realistic expectations, or in some cases no expectations. What? For me, In lieu of a paid assignment and with an absence of deadline, I have to remind myself that it is alright to spend a day with my camera and not come home with a photograph.

And that’s exactly what happened on Saturday. I walked about seven miles while I waited for snow that didn’t come and in the end, didn’t take any photos of significance. But I did take notice of how quiet D.C. was. Even for a normally quiet Saturday, the federal government shutdown made it seem even quieter. No museums open, cold weather and a threat of snow, meant a lack of activity.

That night as I thought about the day and watched the snow begin to fall just as the light began to fade, I began to think about what I would see the next day when I returned. Snow and the federal government shutdown. Without knowing it, I was coming up with a self assignment. And sometimes it only takes a small idea to get the creativity started.

As the snow began to pick up in strength, I headed to the National Mall and found two people building a snowman. I like the simplicity of this shot, almost as if they are alone in America’s backyard. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 18mm, 1/2500 @ f5.6, ISO 100.

As the snow began to pick up in strength, I headed to the National Mall and found two people building a snowman. I like the simplicity of this shot, almost as if they are alone in America’s backyard. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 18mm, 1/2500 @ f5.6, ISO 100.

There was already four or so inches of snow when I returned to D.C. the next morning. I made a big sweep past the White House, around the WWII memorial, the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial. The whole while I was taking photos, but nothing was exciting me. Then it happened.

I was walking along Constitution Avenue past the Smithsonian National Museum of American History when some movement caught my eye. At first I thought it was just some snow falling off a high up wall. I soon realized it was an unseen worker clearing snow from the stairs and throwing it over the edge. I immediately framed the shot and waited. Sure enough the action repeated itself and I took several photos before I started to think about repositioning for another composition. I moved and shot some more. I then spent the next 20 minutes photographing several workers as they shoveled snow.

And just like that, I knew I had my first real photo of the day. A photo that told a story of the federal government shutdown, closed museums, but still a need to clear snow for people that wouldn’t, or couldn’t, enter. The photograph had story, a nice graphical element and scale.

Sometimes it takes that first picture to get things rolling.

Before I left the house in the morning, I heard about a planned one p.m. snowball fight that would take place at the Washington Monument. That was the only plan I had for the day. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 18mm, 1/5800 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

Before I left the house in the morning, I heard about a planned one p.m. snowball fight that would take place at the Washington Monument. That was the only plan I had for the day. Fujifilm X-Pro2, 18mm, 1/5800 @ f2.8, ISO 400.

It’s perfectly alright to not get a great photo every time you venture out. It’s ok to not know what you want to photograph when you leave the house. It’s alright to wonder if you will ever get a photograph that tells a story or evokes an emotion.

It’s not alright, however, to not pick up your camera and head outside.

A CASE FOR THE FUJIFILM INSTAX PRINTER

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I never intended to purchase the Fujifilm Instax SP-2 printer, or as it is known on Amazon, the NEW Fujifilm Instax SHARE Smartphone Printer SP-2, when I visited the store the day before Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been eyeing the SP-2 for several years, and the SP-1 before that. I’ve even gone so far as to pick it up, carry it around the store, only to return it to the shelf prior to checking out.

I suppose I could never make a case for why I needed it, other than it was cool tech. Another reason was price. It always seemed to be just a bit too expensive. Well with the release of the Fujifilm Instax SP-3 (larger print size) and a whole line of Instax cameras, the price has been coming down. So when I saw it on a shelf last week for $90.00, and armed with a 20% coupon, I finally pulled the trigger and purchased it.

Before I continue with how incredible this product is and how I have already put it to real-world use, let me explain exactly what the SP-2 is for those of you who may also need to find a reason to get one.

The SP-2 pairs with your smartphone via the Instax SHARE app and lets you print any photo to Instax mini film. And just like the Polaroids of the past, or present, all you do is wait a few minutes for the film to develop and you have a 1.8” x 2.4” photo framed on a 2.1” x 3.4” card. Perfect for sharing.

When I was in New York City for the Photo Plus Expo the first place I visited was the Fujifilm Wonder Photo Shop located at 176 Fifth Ave., right across from the Flatiron Building. If you want to explore the entire Instax lineup in one place, this is it.

When I was in New York City for the Photo Plus Expo the first place I visited was the Fujifilm Wonder Photo Shop located at 176 Fifth Ave., right across from the Flatiron Building. If you want to explore the entire Instax lineup in one place, this is it.

With most Fujifilm X cameras, you can also print directly from your camera without going through the app. The only disadvantage is you lose the ability to edit your photos or use any of the features offered in the smartphone app.

Additionally, through the app you can sync with Facebook, Instagram or Dropbox and print those photos. Finally, you can always print photos from your DLSR or computer hard drive, you just have to move them to your phone first.

A few other observations before I get on with my story. It is smaller that I expected, which makes it easy to add to your camera bag. There are also many options when choosing film, including monochrome, black frames and frames for all kinds of occasions. Speaking of film, or the real question, what is the cost per print? Your best bet is to purchase twin packs, which gives you two packs of 10, or 20 images total, for about $.80 a print if you shop around.

Back to my story. On the day after Thanksgiving I visited my 94-year-old grandmother at the Masonic Village just outside Philadelphia. After chatting for a while she asked if I had my camera with me because she wanted me to photograph a friend who was only a week away from her 100th birthday. I grabbed my camera and made a half dozen photos of her friend and also a few photos of them together. Just as I was promising to send her some prints, I suddenly remembered the new Instax printer in my backpack.

You can imagine the surprise on my Grandmother’s face as I printed a photo of her friend and another of the two of them. Then printed duplicates. Instant satisfaction and instant smiles for all of us. In that moment it hit me, just how powerful a tool this printer is. And it took me finally purchasing one to truly realize it.


IN SEARCH OF LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY INSPIRATION IN FLORIDA

Clyde Butcher and me at his Venice, Fla., gallery, studio and darkroom.

Clyde Butcher and me at his Venice, Fla., gallery, studio and darkroom.

I never thought I would retire to Florida. When I thought about where I would retire, I pictured myself in the Smoky Mountains, maybe the Pacific Northwest, perhaps somewhere in Montana, or Arizona and the Southwest. It just wasn’t Florida.

It’s not that I have anything against Florida, but I just didn’t consider it a landscape photographers dream location. And in retirement, one thing I was pretty sure of was that I wanted to spend a great deal of my time outdoors photographing landscapes.

But central Florida is where I ended up.

Happy about the move and once I settled on the fact that this would be home, I began researching Florida photographers, more specifically, Florida landscape photographers. One name appeared at the top of every search. Clyde Butcher.

Clyde is probably best known for his large format fine art black-and-white photography of the Florida landscape. Specifically, what caught my attention, was his work documenting Big Cypress National Preserve in Southern Florida where he owns 14 acres and where he continues to lead tours through the swamp located behind his gallery.

Clyde’s Venice Gallery and Studio is open Tuesday - Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm . His black and white photography of the Florida landscape is inspiring me to get out and explore my new home state.

Clyde’s Venice Gallery and Studio is open Tuesday - Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm . His black and white photography of the Florida landscape is inspiring me to get out and explore my new home state.

While browsing his website I saw an opportunity too good to pass up. Twice a year Clyde holds an open house at his Venice Gallery and Studio, located in an industrial park on Florida’s Gulf Coast, about 80 miles south of Tampa. And it just so happened that the November opening would take place when I was in Florida.

This was my chance to meet Clyde and get some first-hand inspiration. The gallery is beautiful and seeing his photographs in person, up close, was a real treat. I also had the opportunity to listen as Clyde talked about some of his work and then we discussed Fuji cameras and shooting digital while he signed my copy of his book Florida Portfolio II.

A 12x20 Ron Wisner Field Camera in Clyde’s studio.

A 12x20 Ron Wisner Field Camera in Clyde’s studio.

While known for his 8x10 view camera, I found out that Clyde has been using the Fujifilm GFX 50S 51.4MP mirrorless medium format camera lately and it just so happened that during PhotoPlus in New York City last month, I became interested in their latest medium format camera due for release in December, the Fujifilm GFX 50R. And it was Clyde’s photographs and those Florida landscapes that I was thinking about when I held that camera and formulated a plan to justify the purchase.

This huge rail camera turned enlarger, is just one of a unique collection of enlargers that occupy Clyde’s darkroom.

This huge rail camera turned enlarger, is just one of a unique collection of enlargers that occupy Clyde’s darkroom.

Besides viewing his photographs and talking to few minutes with Clyde, I was able to tour his amazing darkroom. It’s been many years since i’ve stepped into a darkroom, but it brought back many memories, and not just that familiar smell. It brought me back to how I started and there’s inspiration in that too.

I think I’ve found the inspiration I need and I’m ready to explore the Florida landscape. Next, I hope to visit Clyde’s gallery in Big Cyprus and maybe even take a walk in the swamp.







AN ORIGINAL POLAROID SX-70 REBORN

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Some of my earliest photographic memories are of my grandparents documenting holidays, vacations, and other events with a Polaroid camera. It was usually my grandmother who was behind the Polaroid, while my grandfather wielded the 8mm movie camera, blinding us with light as we entered their house.

In 1947 Polaroid introduced the Land Camera Model 95. This camera and subsequent models required that the photographic paper be removed manually, peeled open after 60 seconds, and then left to dry. This was often a messy process, but still it provided an instant memory. The SX-70 Land Camera, introduced in 1972, ejected it’s film automatically without chemical residue.

My grandparents Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera Alpha SE probably dates from 1976 and originally cost around $180.00, with film costing $6.90 for ten pictures. No small investment. In today’s dollars that’s $859.00 and $32.00 respectively. But the memories created by that camera, and my grandparents using it, are priceless.

Just some of the 30-year-old film packs that were stored with the camera. No surprise this film did not work.

Just some of the 30-year-old film packs that were stored with the camera. No surprise this film did not work.

While preparing for a move, I came across a bag containing that camera and several packs of film. I remembered taking the camera and film from my grandmothers house years before as a curiosity and to see if I could get it to work, but mostly for nostalgic reasons. Moving forced me to rid myself of many things, so if I was going to take this camera with me, it had to be for a reason, I had to see if it would work.

The first thing I tried was the obvious, take a pack of the old film and load it into the camera. It didn’t work. SX-70 Polaroid cameras get the six-volts they need to power the electronics and drive the motor from a PolaPulse cell inside the film pack, so it’s no wonder that the 30-year-old film pack had a dead battery. I ordered a new pack of Polaroid Originals 4676 Color Film from Amazon.

I used a 6v battery pack, some metal snipped from a piece of flashing, electrical tape, solder, and an empty film pack to build a Polaroid camera tester.

I used a 6v battery pack, some metal snipped from a piece of flashing, electrical tape, solder, and an empty film pack to build a Polaroid camera tester.

While doing background research on the camera I came across a few YouTube videos showing several ways to test polaroid cameras by applying external power. In order to do that, I purchased a 1.5v AA battery case holder for $5.89 and figured I had nothing to lose by trying it.

After several attempts which I show on my VLOG, I got the camera’s motorized drive to cycle. That, at least told me the camera was capable of working. Knowing this, I loaded it with that fresh pack of film and lo and behold, it worked. I was ready to take some photos.

This is the first photo taken with my grandparent’s SX-70 in over 35 years.

This is the first photo taken with my grandparent’s SX-70 in over 35 years.

One thing I didn’t do prior to loading the new film pack, was clean any part of the camera. Therefore, the resulting photos have some streaks that may have been caused by dirty output rollers or possibly a small light leak. Or maybe it was me who didn’t realize you no longer need to bend or shake the photo and it is best if you shield them from light and place face down while they develop. Whatever the results though, for now I’m having some fun with this camera.

#Nofilter or post production needed to obtain the “Polaroid” look.

#Nofilter or post production needed to obtain the “Polaroid” look.

I love digital photography. I love the instant feedback you get after taking a picture and the ability to share that photo widely is exciting. You can even obtain that “Polaroid” look in post production. And I’m intrigued by the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 or the Mini 9. And more than once I’ve almost ordered the Fujifilm Instax SP-3 Mobile Printer or it’s predecessor, the SP-2, to go with my Fujifilm X-PRO2. But for some reason, I didn’t or haven’t.

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But, there really is no substitute for the original. No filters needed. No digital anything. There is something truly unique about shooting with a 35-year-old camera and then holding a fully developed print in your hand minutes later. Edwin H. Land knew this in 1947 and I know it today.

From my VLOG.











A BRIEF ENCOUNTER WITH THE NIKON Z7 MIRRORLESS CAMERA

The Nikon Z7 with new 24-70mm f4.0 at District Camera launch event in Washington, D.C.

The Nikon Z7 with new 24-70mm f4.0 at District Camera launch event in Washington, D.C.

I wasn’t that excited when I first heard that Nikon was entering the mirrorless camera space. I was curious, for sure, but just wasn’t expecting too much.

I was disappointed before. Remember the Nikon 1 J1? Or, maybe the Coolpix? Decent cameras, however, I kept waiting for Nikon to release a small form factor camera that was capable of meeting my needs. Over the years I’ve watched as Sony, Fuji, Olympus, and Panasonic all released mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless cameras capable of providing professional results.

Finally, after giving up on a Nikon mirrorless, I purchased the Fujifilm X100S, followed by the Fujifilm X-Pro2, and have never looked back. I’ve written often about Fujifilm cameras on this Blog and provided many reasons why I love both the X100S and the X-Pro2.

However, to be fair, in my professional life, I never gave up on Nikon and currently shoot with a couple of Nikon D4Ss and all the associated pro lenses. As much as I loved my Fujifilm cameras for my personal photography, I was never comfortable enough to consider replacing the Nikon DSLRs at work.

When I was invited to a Nikon Z7 launch dealer event at District Camera in Washington, D.C., through Nikon Professional Services, I knew it was time to take a look. I have been watching and reading all the reviews following Nikon’s announcement a couple of week’s back and this would figured it would be foolish to pass on the chance to get a first-hand look.

Cutting to the chase, I think Nikon finally got it right. Even though I was only able to handle the camera for about a half hour, and not allowed to use my own XQD card (I tried), what I was able to see, amazed me. More importantly, I could instantly start to see how this camera would fit nicely into my existing system and production schedule.

I was not able to use my own XQD card or take any images with me to process, so I used my phone to photograph the display, left, and then I double-tapped the screen to zoom in.

I was not able to use my own XQD card or take any images with me to process, so I used my phone to photograph the display, left, and then I double-tapped the screen to zoom in.

The electronic viewfinder is bright, the touch-screen display is large and responsive, the buttons and menus are all familiar to Nikon users, and the 24-70mm f4.0 lens was tact sharp. This camera also feels right in the hand thanks to a great design and a nice beefy grip. But, what really impressed me, and probably sold me, was the FTZ adaptor which allows the seamless connection of existing F-mount lenses to the Z-mount on the body. That’s what would make it fit instantly into my workflow.

For years now I have been trying to find smaller and lighter equipment in an effort to make travel easier and take some strain off of my aging body. I just couldn’t compromise the end product, either with video or stills. With the Nikon Z7, I don’t think I have to.