photography

14 YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOG

I recently had the honor of telling my story and sharing 14 years of photography documenting science and technology for the Office of Naval Research as part of a Distinguished Lecture Series.

It was a humbling experience and I had a blast putting the presentation together. There are so many more photographs, assignments, and stories I wish I could have shared, however the adventure is not over and I’m not done yet.

I would love to hear your feedback or answer your questions in the comments section below

FUJINON LENS DILEMMA, OR PROBLEM, OR...

From left: The Fujinon 16mm, f1.4; 50mm, f2.0; 35mm, f2.0; 23mm, f2.0; and 18mm, f2.0.

From left: The Fujinon 16mm, f1.4; 50mm, f2.0; 35mm, f2.0; 23mm, f2.0; and 18mm, f2.0.

I'm not sure how it happened. Of course, it started with one lens, the Fujinon 35mm lens which I purchased at the same time as my Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera. Then the desire to go wider, combined with a rebate, led me to purchase the Fujinon 16mm lens. Somewhere along the way I became aware of the Fujinon 23mm lens, followed closely by the Fujinon 50mm lens.

Now I've acquired the Fujinon 18mm lens. That's when I realized I might have a problem. Or more accurately, a dilemma. Even before this recent acquisition, I was looking to pare down my lens lineup. But which one would go. I was leaning towards the 35mm, however, with the addition of the 18mm, does that mean the 23mm is the logical choice to go? 

The Fujifilm 50mm, 35mm and 23mm lenses are all f2.0 and are sometimes referred to as Fujicrons, a nod to Leica's Summicron lenses which also have an f2.0 aperture. I've also referred these three lenses as the trifecta.

The Fujifilm 50mm, 35mm and 23mm lenses are all f2.0 and are sometimes referred to as Fujicrons, a nod to Leica's Summicron lenses which also have an f2.0 aperture. I've also referred these three lenses as the trifecta.

But the 23mm, along with the 35mm and 50mm make up what some call the "Fujicron" lineup, a nod to Leica's Summicron lenses. In this case, the Fujicron lenses are all sharp, lightweight, sturdy and do provide an acceptable range of coverage. I also previously wrote about how the Fujinon 23mm was possibly the perfect X lens, or how the 50mm completed my kit

Before I go any further, I should mention that I've decided the 16mm will stay. I've written about it before and while it is a bit heavy and large for everyday carry, it is absolutely my go-to lens for landscape photography.

Table and Chairs, Memphis, Tenn., 2018. Fujifilm X-Pro 2 with Fujinon 18mm lens, 1/125 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

Table and Chairs, Memphis, Tenn., 2018. Fujifilm X-Pro 2 with Fujinon 18mm lens, 1/125 @ f5.6, ISO 200.

So, what about the 18mm? I love the compact size and it's the first Fuji lens I've purchased that came with a usable lens shade out of the box. On the negative side, it's a noisy lens and a bit slow when focusing as compared to my other Fuji lenses. It also doesn't have the same build feel of the other Fuji lenses, yet it doesn't feel cheap either. Obviously, I need to shoot more with this lens before I make a final decision.

If you're reading this and have an opinion, I'd love to hear it in the comments. And if you haven't realized it yet, I probably won't part with any of these lenses. What's the point? Unless, of course, another lens catches my eye.

NOT A LAUGHING MATTER - PHOTOGRAPHING REMOTE LOCATIONS

If I was going to be stuck in a snowbank, it might as well have been with this view.

If I was going to be stuck in a snowbank, it might as well have been with this view.

It was two pine trees that first caught my eye. Two trees out of thousands, with snow-capped mountains in the distance. This was going to be the first photograph I made after entering Denali National Park in Alaska. I didn't realize it would also be the last photograph of the trip.

I suppose before I go any further I should say that I wasn't seriously hurt when my leg broke through the snow and it dropped two and a half feet, although it was serious enough that I did visit urgent care the next day. I want to also say that at the time it was a laughing matter and I'm thankful that a co-worker who joined me during my scouting trip had the presence of mind to capture some photos on her cell phone.

However, that I had someone with me at all, was a rarity and why I've decided to write this post. I've written often about how when I get an opportunity to travel to a great location, I always try and build in extra days so that I can explore the area fully and make some personal photographs.

I was laughing at the absurdity of being stuck in a snow bank only three feet from the road and ten feet from my car.

I was laughing at the absurdity of being stuck in a snow bank only three feet from the road and ten feet from my car.

That was the case on this assignment to photograph the Department of the Navy's Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institution program office's historic visit to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. When the assignment came in, I was determined that when it was over, I would visit Denali National Park, only 124 miles south. During a previous visit to Fairbanks* to photograph research on marginal ice zones over the Arctic Circle, my plans to visit Denali were changed when the C-130 aircraft I was in was diverted to Kodiak** on the last day. So this trip was finally going to give me that chance.

But this isn't a blog about making epic photographs, it's about how in almost all cases during these trips, I'm alone. Whether it is photographing the coastline in Oregon following an assignment in Portland, or climbing giant rocks in Joshua Tree National Park after several days filming at Camp Pendleton, I've never given much thought to the fact that I'm by myself in these remote locations. Often scrambling down steep embankments or climbing trails and crossing streams, in the dark, just to capture the sunrise.

To be safe and satisfy friends and loved ones, I visited urgent care Saturday morning for an x-ray on my lower leg. Results showed no break.

To be safe and satisfy friends and loved ones, I visited urgent care Saturday morning for an x-ray on my lower leg. Results showed no break.

Injuring my leg has me thinking differently about the risks I've taken in the past. My original plan for the weekend was to borrow some snowshoes at the visitors center and do a series of short hikes. This trip was a chance to become familiar with the park and plan out those weekend hikes.

Even though it was late April, the trails and much of the park was still covered in snow. I could see this, yet still, I was only one step off the road when I broke through the snow. It happened quick.

Getting to a place in order to make great landscape photographs often means visiting remote locations. Getting off the beaten path. And I know we don't live in bubbles that involve no risk, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take precautions. Below are just a few I'm thinking about.

The only positive thing about not being able to return to Denali over the weekend was that it gave me more time to visit some of the outstanding breweries in Fairbanks, like HooDoo.

The only positive thing about not being able to return to Denali over the weekend was that it gave me more time to visit some of the outstanding breweries in Fairbanks, like HooDoo.

1. Always let someone know where you will be. Better yet, let multiple people know. The hotel desk clerk, the park ranger at the visitor center and even friends and family members back home. Set a time you will make contact so that if they don't hear from you, they can alert authorities. If available, sign in (and out) of the trail log.

2. Be aware of the risks involved and understand your limits. It should go without saying that no photograph is worth risking serious injury. The older I get, the less risk I take, but I also have to understand that I can't do everything I used to do.

I'm putting on a good face even though my leg was killing me. Thank you to Sophoria for both capturing the photos of me in the snow, but also for being another voice of reason, urging me to visit urgent care, and checking in on me before catching her flight home that night.

I'm putting on a good face even though my leg was killing me. Thank you to Sophoria for both capturing the photos of me in the snow, but also for being another voice of reason, urging me to visit urgent care, and checking in on me before catching her flight home that night.

3. Don't be afraid to ask others to join you. It can be difficult for non-photographers and photographers to travel together, but having someone along to share the experience or offer a different perspective can enhance the experience. And if you are lucky, they will also understand why you need to stay in one location for an hour waiting for the light to change.

Luckily this story ended well even if I didn't get any photographs from Denali. I'll be back and next time, I'll be sure to play it safe.

*On my last visit to Fairbanks I didn't make it to Denali, but I did capture the Northern Lights.

**And on that diverted flight to Kodiak, I was treated to an aerial view of what was then called Mt McKinley, now Mt. Denali.

PHOTOGRAPHING MEMORIES AND LETTING GO

Pooh.jpg

It is said that you can't take it with you. But that doesn't stop most of us from accumulating a whole lot of stuff over a lifetime. And associated with all that stuff are memories. Memories of a lifetime.

Nothing makes it clearer just how much stuff you have then when you move, or in my case, what I hope to be a final move. I've moved before and much of my stuff has followed and this frustrates me now, but explains why I still have so much stuff.

In the end, it comes down to decisions. Tough decisions that I've clearly put off before and most certainly have put off for the past 25 years in the Philadelphia house. What to keep, what to dispose of or donate, becomes the big question. 

One way I've come to terms with making the big decisions is to photograph my stuff, the objects that represent my life. Or at least the objects that represented the first 55 years. Note, I will not accumulate more stuff.

This is a photography blog, and I'm a photographer, so it may seem like this idea came naturally to me. It didn't. I have always been attracted to the physical object, but I've also spent the majority of my life capturing the physical object, first on film, and more recently, digitally, so now is the time to compromise. 

And compromise is the only way forward. To date, I've filled a dozen trash bags with more to fill. Some stuff is easy to let go of, for other stuff, a quick cell phone shot will suffice. For other items, a small studio set up and a proper photograph is the only way to truly do my stuff justice.

However, there will always be a few items that I can't replace with a photograph.

Which is probably why after photographing the stuffed Winnie the Pooh doll from my childhood, it went back in a box and has yet to be thrown out. Maybe some things are harder to part with than others.

I'd also caution against printing out all those photographs, because, well, you get the idea.

 

TWO DAYS, TWO VERY DIFFERENT PHOTOGRAPHS

The first thing I noticed was the bare feet and the half empty bottle of liquor as this couple approached me on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. That was enough for me to turn around and follow. When I noticed the dog, I had all I needed for an interesting photograph. I followed for about five minutes before the crowd thinned enough for me to isolate those elements.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 16mm, 1/340 @ f2.8, ISO 200 .

The first thing I noticed was the bare feet and the half empty bottle of liquor as this couple approached me on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. That was enough for me to turn around and follow. When I noticed the dog, I had all I needed for an interesting photograph. I followed for about five minutes before the crowd thinned enough for me to isolate those elements. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 16mm, 1/340 @ f2.8, ISO 200.

Part of me is jealous. I sometimes wish I could settle on just one genre of photography; landscape, street, portraits, weddings, etc., and become great at it. Instead, I find myself photographically all over the place. 

Take for instance a few weekends back. I was in Little Creek, Va., on assignment for the Navy photographing autonomous surface vehicles when weather canceled Saturday operations. Instead of calling it a day, I headed to Virginia Beach to photograph what was remaining of the annual Neptune Festival.

Since it was late in the day and the weather was not great, I decided to walk the boardwalk looking for street photos and then maybe a sunset. Sunset never really came, but I did walk away with one solid street photograph.

With sunrise or sunset photos, I like to have a foreground element. In this case, I used the pier which helps lead you into the photograph. The sun provides some backlight at the end of the pier and adds a subtle warmth overall without overpowering the photograph. Finally, I used a slow shutter speed to smooth out the surf, which further draws you in.  Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm, 1 second @ f16, ISO 200.

With sunrise or sunset photos, I like to have a foreground element. In this case, I used the pier which helps lead you into the photograph. The sun provides some backlight at the end of the pier and adds a subtle warmth overall without overpowering the photograph. Finally, I used a slow shutter speed to smooth out the surf, which further draws you in. Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 16mm, 1 second @ f16, ISO 200.

Then on Sunday with a scheduled day off and much better weather, I rose early and headed back to Virginia Beach to photograph the sunrise. Even though I was 100 yards from where I made the street photograph the previous day, it was a completely different scene. 

It was just me, a few surfers, and another photographer, so instead of the crowds and mayhem, it was just great light and the sounds of the surf.

I suppose I'll never settle on just one style or genre of photography. Why would I? After all, the only thing that seems to be affected by these ever-shifting genres is my Instagram numbers as those that followed me because they liked a landscape photo, unfollow as soon as I post a street scene. 

However, those are just numbers from mostly anonymous people. What matters to me, and keeps me shooting after all these years is the variety. So even if I never become known for a specific genre of photography, I am fully satisfied that I can come away with a decent photograph from any situation.