New 50mm

I recently grabbed another 50mm Nikkor to add to the two that I already have (f1.4 AI-S and AF-D). This is the f1.8G Special Edition that normally comes with the Df and styled to match the AI and AI-S lenses that made Nikon famous. A cheap investment as I have a soft spot for ‘normal lenses’ despite my love of ultra wide angles. Firstly, it looks great, feels great and handles great on both my Df and F5. However, there’s no point putting this on the F4 or anything older as it’s gelded. You’ll also need a new 58mm filter because Nikon stopped thinking of you a few years ago when it started giving every lens a different filter size. Too bad for your set of 52mm and 77mm filters for real lenses. The hood now snaps on which is convenient but it’s covered with text telling you it’s Nikon’s finest plastic from China. Despite my ramblings this is a very nice piece of glass that is currently welded to my F5 for an entire roll of Ektar 100 and images that aren’t sunsets (personal street photography challenge). Which brings me to my next thought, I’ve been seriously looking at the Nikkor 58mm f1.4G. Yes it’s priced astronomically, covered in plastic and has a 72mm filter thread but this doesn’t seem to bother me that much for what you get optically. Some of the most iconic images have been made with 50mm lenses. It is however, easy to compare the 50mm f1.2 AI-S (52mm filter on a f1.2!) and 85mm f1.4D as absolute bargains in comparison. Yet I’m not as compelled by them. Could this be NAS and Nikon’s marketing genius playing tricks? I could of course go and get another Fuji 6×9 to which all the above becomes mute..

Meta35 Review

I was fortunate enough to review a unique and new product called Meta35 prior to it’s release. Head over to NikonF5.net to see what I made of it.

Lake Eyre

It has been a little while since my last post so hopefully you have noticed the new images in the gallery and Instagram posts. In short my week in the outback sleeping under the stars and visiting Lake Eyre was fantastic. There is nothing like getting away from it all and exploring the wilderness. The trip produced a few good images with two that I was really happy with. As for Lake Eyre, well it’s a long way to go. I stayed at Halligan Bay which is just over 60km from William Creek. Driving out there is almost like traversing a burnt moonscape that is void of everything. Its a great place to view the lake (much better than the South lake) with about 90 degrees of bare horizon stretching across salt pan. It’s also a very clean salt lake and you don’t have to walk far out onto it. Unfortunately it has lost most of the deep red colour it had back in February but that’s luck. Only a small amount of water is actually left. Would I go back? Not in the short term and only if it fills to capacity though it is certainly a place that must be experienced if you are up that way or just need to get out of town for the weekend.

Albox’ed Up

Last weekend I finally got around to something I should have done a long time ago. I channelled my inner Walter Mitty (Negative Asset Manager), put on some white gloves and organised my film library. It took a couple of days but was well worth it. I had been looking around for suitable products to archive my film for some time and only recently came across a local company called Albox. They offer a variety of solutions using Polypropylene. Their film sleeves are really good and even my local lab is using them. Transferring all of my film over to these made me realise how sloppy my previous pro labs had been. I also made my own labels from strips of coloured card (different colours for different film types) and hand wrote the sheet names (ie 120V50R13 is the thirteenth roll of Velvia 50 in 120 format that I have shot). The folder is pretty good and comes with its own sleeve, however it’s not dust proof so you’ll need a box for it and others once you fill them. All of my CD’s with scans and digital back ups didn’t escape the treatment either. Some great products I can definitely recommend.

An Inconvenient Truth

I just re-watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth as it’s been 9 years since it hit the screens. Fantastic documentary, hats off to the guy. If you don’t know who Al Gore is, he’s the man who should have been the President of the United States and for most of his professional life he has been campaigning for action against global warming. Yes, it’s very real and if you’ve been living under a rock, believe that cheap petrol is a right or too ignorant in your ways to realise that mankind has been irreversibly destroying our planet then find the nearest crevasse as this post is wasted on you (there are also 8 billion people to replace you). It hits hard at the truth that we are over populated and over polluted. Extreme weather is here to stay as are rising temperatures. You only need to look around you to realise this. As a photographer of the natural world it’s increasingly important to explore and document the beauty that surrounds us before it’s too late. Images are, I believe, the most powerful form of communication. Just look at what James Balog has been able to achieve with his use of time lapse (and Nikon cameras). What I will say to the sceptics is this; science aside, why is it so bad an idea to change the way we live in order to balance our impact with nature whilst improving the quality of life for all? Image courtesy of NASA, opinion courtesy of an engineer.

Equipment Update

With the purchase of my GW690III camera, I’ve changed some of my gear and what I take with me. I finally opted for a camera backpack to allow me to carry extra equipment including my tripod and water as well as 2 camera systems. I’ve had a Kata side bag for years and have been happy with the quality so when I saw the Bumblebee-210D for half price I grabbed it. So far its made life in the field much easier. I’m also carrying 2-3 filters with me so the Lowepro filter pouch is also a solid little investment and fits in the backpack with my film charts nicely. Lastly, I grabbed another smaller Benro tripod so that I can have my Df working on the side whilst medium format plays centre stage.

A Successful Failure

A couple of weeks back I went out to Island Lagoon with a mate to shoot the last two frames on my GW690III (10hrs travelling to spend $10). I had an idea for a sunset and star trail. The Island being the perfect silhouette for it. Unfortunately there wasn’t the water in the lake that we were hoping for but clear skies were in order. I wanted shoot the island facing west to get some of the after glow and the best star trail motion. The moon was about 20% which lit up the surface of the white salt lake. Using Velvia 50 at f8 I opened up the shutter for about 2hrs. The result was not what I expected and not a useable image (heavily edited sample on the right just to bring the detail out). However, as a learning point its perfect. The stars are sharp, f8 looks good and 2hrs is about the minimum (3hrs would be best). The film however, is the let down. Velvia 50 can’t handle the really long exposures. So next time, Velvia 100 or Provia 100 for 3hrs should be just right. Starting the image about 1hr after sunset also works. Either way, I’ll be going back at the next opportunity to perfect this image. It’s also what I needed to confirm before travelling to the Flinders Ranges and Lake Eyre where I’ll be taking more of these.

2015 Expectations

Happy new year to all reading this pokey little blog about photography and film. Well, last year was a great year to explore South Australia for the first time and resulted in a couple of good images. It also saw me starting to explore the world of underwater photography with my Nikonos V and 15mm as well as a move back to digital with the Nikon Df. The late edition of the Fuji GW690III further rounded off the year quite nicely. So what are my photographic expectations for 2015? As always, it is the pursuit of powerful images that drives me. I’d like to think that I can make 12 good images this year and maybe 4 of those which are really good. I have a photo trip in March to Lake Eyre (weather permitting) and the Flinders Ranges for some unfinished business. The Great Ocean Road is also on the list as a must see this year. More people pictures as well as getting wet underwater can be expected. Above all I need to enjoy the process which often means slowing down and shooting larger and larger formats. Getting out in bad weather is also a must! One day I might have enough images to make a book… PS: Star trails, nearly forgot to mention I have about 6 different star trail shots planned. I’m yet to get a really good one on film so that’s one of my goals this year.

ND Filters

Here is a handy ND filter compensation chart that I put together. Now that I’m using a rangefinder and metering manually, this chart becomes quite important for those long exposures where I still need some colour before last light but also want 2-4 minutes of exposure to blur water. Film reciprocity is then added on top depending on the film. Print it, laminate it or just keep it on your phone (my new light meter!).

First Impressions

Here’s the first contact sheet from my Fuji GW690III. I used Kodak Tmax 100 film to test out the camera in various settings and lighting. Firstly, I’m quite happy with the results, all of which were metered with my iPhone (Pocket Light Meter app). They are sharp and contrasty as expected. Secondly, I really just can’t wait to put some proper film though (Velvia!). As for the camera, here’s my thoughts. The 90mm is a good focal length though I keep looking at the 65mm option. I wouldn’t shoot below f8 or 1/60s hand held. Yes there’s a lot of plastic but this is forgiven by technical image quality. The ‘T’ mode is not forgiven as you need to touch the camera to close the shutter. This renders anything in the 1-10s range as risky and not worth it. Fortunately most of my sunset shots are 20-30s minimum to blur the water just right. The bubble level is useful. Film loading is very easy. The only saving grace of the built in hood is the ability to fit a 67-77mm step up ring inside (must have a 67mm filter on first though). Shutter sound is not that bad either, especially as you know what your light table will soon look like. That’s about it for now, stay tuned to see what I can do with a roll of Fujifilm Velvia 50 and this beast over the holidays.