Thursday, October 29, 2009

Testing out Lightroom 3 Beta...I Like It

Lightroom 3 Beta is available for download. I am thrilled and jumped on the opportunity to try it out. I have never used Lightroom until now so this blog is not about comparing the features of the current version and to the features of newer Beta version but rather my experience as someone new to the Lightroom image editing software. This is a standalone program so one does not need to have Photoshop CS to use it, although it certainly would be nice to run them side by side.

Having tried it out for 2 days rather thoroughly I might say, I found it to be very easy to use, and that says a lot since I was to Lightroom until this point. I was able to quickly import my pictures onto the library, at which point I could "develop" it, i.e. post process the image to my heart's content (adjust for exposure, brightness, vibrance, saturation and the likes, add vignetting and other creative stuffs). Adding watermark was a breeze, Open "Edit the watermark", type in your text, position it where you want, save and you have it as a preset. When you export the file, you can select to export with the presets or filters. You can add Photo title, add keywords, save keywords to be used later on another image. On the Print menu one could make frame border, select border color, and the Web feature comes with numerous templates ranging from simple single image to html and flash, allowing one to prep files for online upload to your server.

This photo (canoes on a lake taken by my sister) was further tweaked in Lightroom 3 Beta. I adjusted the "black" and "vibrance" channels slightly to enhance the effect

All in all, I like it. The Beta version expires in April 2010 essentially giving everyone a great editing software to use for free for 6 months. I would encourage everyone to do so (link below). A word of caution, the file is rather large, 120MB and you will need some RAM to run it smoothly. I am using it on my laptop which has 3GB RAM and 250HD and at times it seemed a little slow particularly on large files. That is the only issue I encountered thus far.
Link to Adobe Lightroom 3 Beta download

Lightroom 3 won't be available until late Spring next year. If you can't wait, must have one now :) you can order the very popular Lightroom 2 for $263.49 from Amazon Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2

or from Bhphotovideo Here for about the same price

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Searching for photo op...yea, it is one of those days

Fall color is almost gone after two long weeks of downpour in the Pacific Northwest, autumn leaves are now scattered about the lawn. The weather has really played havoc this year and I wonder if that foretells what winter will bring. Fresh in mind was the huge flood that shut down the low lying section of I-5 in Washington state which caused me to delay my drive south to San Francisco for the project.

Nevertheless, I tried to stay positive, I am like a fish out of the water whenever I am not out doing photography....I said to myself there is always photo ops no matter what the weather holds. Looking at the photos below, perhaps all is not lost :)

"Autumn Song"

Canoes, ever so elegant. Perched on the water by the pier, you find them gently rocking away, creating perfect ripples with their every breath. Casting a soft shadow at sunset and again when the day breaks....It is a priceless solitude, wouldn't it be nice to take her out for a paddle........


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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

'Web Style Guide" - Looking for Ideas?

If you are a photography enthusiast thinking about building a better website, you might want to read Web Style Guideby Lynch and Horton. I finished reading the book (352 page long) in one afternoon last Saturday, it was that good! I have read a few web design/html books in the past (I am not a geek) and most of them left me more discouraged than ever. This book on the other hand explains what makes a good website and the different page elements and contents one could have to make a nice website, the trade offs, all in plain language, as well as the very important subject of SEO (search engine optimization). As an avid photographer, I found the chapters on Web Page Structure and Design, Graphics and Multimedia and the illustrations extremely useful. In addition, the book contains many great tips and design ideas. Having read this wonderful book, I am definitely better prepared now to start thinking about my new website.

Web Style Guide, 3rd edition: Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites"by Patrick J Lynch and Sarah Horton

Editorial Reviews from Amazon

". . . a non-geeky Web-design primer-a rule-of-thumb guide that calmly introduces you to the issues involved in developing a Web site. . . . what you need to know about Web-site design in plain language, with understandable examples. . . . this . . . book is a gem."-Mary Creswell, Presentations (Mary Creswell Presentations )

"Just as many writers reserve a space on their book shelves for the thin but essential work of William Strunk and E.B. White, a similar space should be hallowed out for The Web Style Guide."-John Mello, HR Today (John Mello HR Today )

"This is one of the best design books that I''ve seen, catering specifically to information-oriented sites. . . . The Web would be an easier world to navigate if all Web designers read this book."-Deborah Lynne Wiley, Online (Deborah Lynne Wiley Online )

"[A]n excellent, practical handbook. . . . [T]he book can be unreservedly recommended."-Tom Wilson, Information Research (Tom Wilson Information Research )

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Bali on my mind.....

Wish I was more productive these past couple of weeks when essentially I have been in hiatus. Since returning from my 6 month stay in San Francisco, I desperately wanted to get some of my pet projects off the ground. I have not shot anything new for stock photography, wanted to see how things shake out with all the consolidation that is happening in the industry. Having said that I have seen increased downloads lately after a really tepid summer. I am saving every penny I made from stock photography as I have a lens I really want to get.

" are in my mind"

Playing around with Photoshop CS2, I had set my sights on a print pattern in my head. My photo as the original image, working with earth tone, or was it tuscan red? It could be that the late summer weather in the Pacific Northwest this year has influenced my color selection, may be....I am a warm blooded soul, the warmth of a pretty summer day lifts my spirit. I enjoy sitting on the verandah, sipping iced tea, reading a book, enjoying the simple scenery aorund me, my mind wondering to a distant shore.

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I would start with a photo that has quite a few colors and proceeded to work in different filters layer by layer. This one came from a photo of a garden taken at Boston Harbor in Olympia this past weekend. I worked on the pattern until it jumped out at me, and I stopped. As it unfolded infront of my eyes, my mind was transported back to the magical island of Bali, women dressed in pretty Indonesian batik sarongs. Life is slow, often those who set foot never is true. The people are forever so hospitable, the scenery so idyllic befitting of a tropical paradise.

While you are thinking about Bali and plotting your next get away, you might want to pick up the following books:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hush in the morning

My favorite photo subject - flowers

Hush in the morning......leaving for my destination early morning when the light is just breaking, the valley with a hint of beautiful soft light. I will arrive at my destination before most folks, except for some joggers and I am ready to have my stroll with nature. I walk, I stop, I hear the birds chirping, the mist in the air from the sprinklers. My favorite shot is always one with the dew drops still on the petal.To me photography is always about capturing the light

Red tulips - Tulip Festival, Ferry Building, San Francisco

This is a good reason why I am a morning person. It is the most beautiful hour of the day (and the second 30 minutes after sunset). Coffee in hand, I am so thoroughly happy, as I enjoy the view before me. This weekend morning routine never fails to wake up my senses (rather differently I might say from what one gets from a good cuppa of latte). It is so invigorating that without it I am not sure how I could be ready for Monday's grind. Walking, at time tip toeing not wanting to wake up the little critters whatever they may be around me, I feel as if I had walked into the garden of Givenchy, seeing a Monet painting in my mind. The song "Morning has broken" by Cat Stevens is ringing in my ears............

pink roses at a Malibu florist

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rhapsody in blue

The image below was a result of considerable post processing in Photoshop, starting with an original photo I took as the source image. I had adjusted the curves, saturation and hues and when I arrived at the image/art I wanted, I further cropped the image into 4 squares and increased the pixels in each of them resulting in a fluid glass like mosaic art. Out of the four in a series, below is my favorite creation. The image reminds me very much of the tiled bathroom in my old condo when I lived in Asia. I had gone to great length and had the bedroom painted deep blue. The bathroom was put through a complete remodel with a new tiled bath tub put in. The small square tiles were pretty ocean blue in color and they lined the entire bath tub which needed an additional water heater to fully fill it. The walls of the bathroom were laid with 12x12 inch blue tiles, so essentially when I walked into the bathroom from my bedroom, it was as if I had walked into a hideaway in the deep ocean. I would come home from work, put a music CD in the player (usually a Mozart Horn Concertos or a Barbara Streisand), turn the volume up, pour myself a nice glass of red wine, and decompress my brain.....while I relaxed in the bath tub. It was all so very soothing.....I am missing my old sweet pad already...

"Rhapsody in blue"

There has been an interesting and at times very passionate debate over the question of "when is photography considered fine art" in one of LinkedIn Group Forums. To follow the debate, click on this link. My first comment (#4 by JC) had stirred up a hornet's nest unbeknownst to me :( The very passionate debate only serves to re-inforce the notion that one's creative pursuit is indeed a very personal and intimate journey. In my opinion, there is really no clear line between the two genres. Ultimately it is in the eyes of the beholder, in that something special that connects the author and the audience that determines an image's worth to the beholder......

Sunday, June 21, 2009

First run off the "printing press" - the Beseler 23C II Condenser Enlarger that is

Getting hooked on photography is a bit like getting bitten by the golf bug. First, you spent way too much money to get your hobby started. Then you get on this train and at every stop you talk yourself into buying an extra photography gear or two, some you need, some you don't but you want them because you might need them....It is happening all over again....I used to spend eight hours on the green on weekends when I was doing my corporate gig, now, I am spending that same many hours shooting, processing and printing in my makeshift darkroom creating my photography/art :).

"f/5.6, 6 seconds, Grade 2 paper. Plus X 125 film, Canoscan 8400T scan"

This is going to sound a little crazy. I already own an Omega B66 b&w enlarger which I bought for $40 off CL 2 years back and have printed very successfully from it (after tweaking it and adding ND filter to increase printing time). Unfortunately, I am in the Bay Area for a couple of months without it and desperately wanted to print (my creative pursuit). I checked out what is left in the rental darkroom scene from San Jose to San Francisco, and decided that they are too expensive since they go by the hour or a combination of one time membership fee plus a reduced hourly fee. I much prefer the comfort of printing at home in peace. So, you guess it, I bought another enlarger off CL again. This time it is the Beseler 23C II (the earlier version with the blue condenser enlarger head). Paid $120 for it. Besides the enlarger, there were a nice timer, a safe light, 4 negative carriers including 4.5x6 and 6x6 beg carriers, extra 38mm and 80mm enlarging lens, an almost new Saunders 4 blade 11x14 easel, 10+ stainless steel developing reels and tanks, and "several hundreds" of dollars of old fiber papers from 8x10 all the way to 16x20, still in their boxes and sealed. If 1/10th of the papers were any good, I would have recovered more than what I paid for, and the Beseler 23C II would be a bonus!! There was also a box of Zone VI Studios Grade 2 papers in the pile, I understand they were the standard until Multigrade papers came along.

"f/5.6, #3 filter, Ilford Multigrade warm tone paper, 8 seconds, SPX 200, Canoscan 8400T scan"

So I proceeded to set up my makeshift darkroom. There were two windows and a door that needed to be light tight. I taped the windows with black plastic sheeting from Home Depot and created a temporary workbench for the trays by putting a 2x4 plywood panel also from Home Depot over two plastic cabinets. Bought a fresh developer and stop bath from Kaufman's camera, and they "donated" a piece of perspex for my contact print (it worked). Printing was done after sundown (now you see why I wish the sun would set sooner so I get a few extra hours of printing at night). After some experimenting, I was able to settle into the printing routine.
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A few notes:
I used RC paper for contact print, at 3-5 sec increments, depending on the tone/contrast
After looking at the contact print, I decided to test print an image I shot at the recent Cinco de Mayo parade in San Jose on Zone VI Studio Grade 2. There was more contrast on the contact print than I wanted so I thought printing on Grade 2 paper would be a good compromise (I am still waiting for my filter pack to arrive). See the first image above of the young boy dressed in cowboy attire getting ready for the parade...the old Zone VI Grade 2 fiber paper probably gave the print its warm and aged look.....still experimenting....

The daisy shot (above) on the other hand was printed on regular Multigrade Fiber Paper with a #3 filter. When I looked at the contact print, it had nice shadows and highlights (the #3 filter was the only filter that came with the enlarger). I like the result, particularly the grain, which was very visible when enlarging to 11x14. I might add this was shot with Ilford Harman Infrared SPX200 (with orange filter). It was the first time I used Ilford SPX 200 and I love it. It has a nice soft tonal range and the highlights are a touch ghost white while the shadows are soft black, nice tonal range overall. Looking at how my scenics and still life turned out, I will definitely be shooting a lot more of the Ilford Infrared SPX 200 film.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ansco Speedex/Agfa Medium Format Rangefinder

Went at the Palo Alto flea market last Sunday, I was hoping the seller I bought my baby Yashica TLR camera from two months ago would be there this time. I remember seeing an old rangefinder that looked like an Agfa and he had wanted $50 then. (This was part of the lot of film cameras and saxophones he bid on at a Public Storage auction). Sure enough the rangefinder camera was there. It was an Ansco Speedex with Apotar 85mm f/4.5 lens, made in Germany in 1956 by Agfa for the US market. The body was a bit old, but the lens looked clean and shutter fired fine. I asked him what he wanted for it, hoping it would be less, he said $20 (he wanted $50 two months back). I offered him $10, "$15" he replied. I played with it for a bit, and said "what about $12, I am not really sure if this camera can be used for any serious photography". I had just told him that the Yashica I bought from him works ok but shutter speeds <1/30 are off (I am still working out the kinks). Anyhow, we settled on $12 and I was very pleased with my find, knowing full well may be this very old camera will not be up to the task and will be relegated to a place on my shelf and that is fine.

"Ansco Speedex 4.5"

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To make the long story short, after returning home with it, I went online, did some more research, found tips on how to check for light leaks expected of old folder cameras. Basically, one shines a bright light into the bellow in darkness and see if there are any pinholes. If yes, try patching it with black fabric paint - a temporary fix I would imagine :(

OK. now the not so good news, yes, I found at least 7-8 pinholes which I fixed by painting them with black fabric paint from Michaels. The focusing lens also appeared stuck from lack of use which can be expected of old cameras but hey for $12, I can afford to work on it. I wrapped a towel around it and try to turn it a few times and after a few attempts, it moved. I then turned it counterclockwise and clockwise a few more times to loosen it and that did the trick, the turning became much smoother. Next, I wiped the lens clean with my camera lens cleaning fluid. Now the camera is ready for a roll of 120 film. Film loading is similar to any other medium format cameras and the Holgas, one moves the empty spool from right to left and insert the new film in the space on the right. However, it took me a long while to figure out that the rewind knob can be pulled up so the empty spool can be inserted, silly me. This was because the rewind knob was also a little stuck from old age. Sometimes the most obvious thing is not really obvious at all.

Voila, now the camera is ready to use. This is still a basic medium format rangefinder, nothing fancy but allows me a lot more control (shutter speed, aperture, focus) than the Holga (and no light leaks - I am keeping my fingers crossed that I have fixed all the pinholes). One's knowledge of the "sunny 16 rule" will definitely help here. I might add that I recently picked up a digital Pentax 1 Deg Spotmeter for $165 from a photographer in Mill Valley - definitely one of the best investments I made. I use it when I need help in determining the right exposure in challenging situations and for scenics, so with that I am ready to rock and roll with the Ansco/Agfa rangefinder :)

Pentax Digital 1 Deg Spotmeter
For various types of spotmeters available, check out selections at Bhphotovideo

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What can I tell you, there are just a ton of great film camera bargains out there today if one looks for them. One does not need fancy camera to take good photography, just a good eye for composition and a feeling for the light. With so many digital cameras flooding the market, great film cameras have become orphaned and can now be had for a tiny fraction of what they used to cost. Film cameras often last you a lifetime, they never become outdated the way digital cameras do the minute you walk out of the store. When I was at Kaufman's camera in San Mateo recently to buy paper developing chemicals, they had jokingly asked me if I am one of the "hold-outs". To which I replied "definitely". I have not abandoned digital photography, it is what I do half the time and it has its place in the modern world. However, nothing can ever replace shooting with film, developing and printing in the wet room. It is a labor of love and much much more satisfying....The only analogy I can think of is perhaps crushing grapes from your backyard grapevines and making your precious bottle of wine?

If your entry into the world of photography has been by way of digital camera, then you must give film (b&w that is) a try, It is a very enlightening experience, a beautiful world in black and white and shades of gray with no distraction. The images are often powerful and they leave you lusting for more......

A good place to shop for used equipment is

Monday, June 8, 2009

RawShooter software and a trip to the coast

Over the weekend, while on my second visit to Santa Cruz and Capitola, I made a series of shots of classic cars parked in the city square in Capitola. The end of the pier next to the Fish and Tackle shop were a dozen or so wooden canoes painted in red and blue....a colorful sight and I clicked my shutter away. A perfect day to be spending time in the popular seaside town, temperature was in the low 70s and light breeze in the air and sailboats in the harbor. We looked at each other and concluded that a glass of wine and lunch was in order. We proceeded to a restaurant with a view of the ocean and had a sumptuous lunch, the day could not be more perfect!!!

Softwares such as Photoshop, RawShooter, Topaz and Photomatix offer the creative photographer a mirade of tools to explore the boundaries of art and photography. (Click here to read my blog on HDR photography) A new software I recently added to my photo tool box is RawShooter. A standalone freeware that has sped up my post processing workflow tremendously. RAW files are displayed as thumbnails for quick preview and one can further group them into various priority folders for post processing or to send to Recycle Bin. Post processing has never been easier and adjustments made are saved as settings under "RW Settings" folder, leaving your original RAW files untouched. There is the usual "slide ruler" adjustment on exposure, saturation, highlight, shadow, saturation, hue, color temperature, tint much like in Photoshop. When you are done post processing the image, go to the "Batch Convert" tab and add your selected photos to the list. RawShooter will then apply your post processing settings to a copy of the RAW file and store the the processed image in a "Converted" folder in tiff format. Any changes you made are made to a copy of the RAW files and not the original which remains in your folder unaltered.

What a great software and it is FREE!! I have started reviewing all my old photo RAW files, giving it a spring cleaning and freezing up some much needed space on my external photo hard drive. Anyone who shoots RAW know how tedious post processing workflow can be, I highly recommend downloading Rawshooter as an alternative to Photoshop to speed up your workflow.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Painting with Corel Painter II

We are officially into summer and the day is long. I look forward to when I can catch sunset at 6pm again. These days the sun seems to sprint from the horizon in one giant step, to my dismapy the soft light would disappear just as fast as I could set up my camera. I decided I shall spent some time learning Corel Painter II and see if I could transform some of my photos into art - my original plan anyway. One of the tools I had learnt a day earlier was using layers in Photoshop CS2 so my plan was to layer the paintings.

Below are two favorites from my study: I titled them the "Garden Series". I love the pastel wallpaper look, a little of Givenchy garden. It is interesting how they say one's art is an extension of one's feelings and emotions and that seems to be how it is with my photography and art. It is really an extension of my inner being -talk about baring one's soul. You can see more here at : my Smugmug gallery

"Garden" copyright Joochiang Lee 2009

"I dreamt of red poppies" copyright Joo chiang Lee 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A visit to Napa and Sonoma wine country

Back to my other passion......that of visiting the wine country, soaking in the beautiful scenery...and letting my creative juices run.

I had not driven up to Napa/Sonoma wine country for a few years now and I have been wanting to make a trip. Early May isn't quite the right time for photography as the day is so long and it is difficult to catch sunrise or sunset without having to stay a night in the area. Unfortunately, the way my schedule has been lately it is either now or wait a few months and visit in the Fall. Anyhow, I jumped out of bed early Saturday, with my cameras already packed in the bag, I drove north heading to Napa and Sonoma with a plan to visit Sebastopol and Bodega Bay in the same afternoon. I was not expecting much as far as photography goes....

"Napa wine country hillside basking in the early morning sun - I learned from a winemaker friend of mine that roses planted close to the vines for a reason..some of you may know why"

Left very early around 5:30am from San Jose, I am an early riser and you could get me out of bed wee hour of the morning if it is to catch the light for photography...As Napa is some 140miles away from San Jose, I did not get into town until 7:30am, and the soft morning light was already fading away....Fortunately I was able to catch a glimpse of it...just wished it had lasted longer.....

"Wine country landscape - I like the oil painting look"

The town of Sonoma is very charming...a bit of Taos, a bit of Palm Springs and a lot of wine country....many tasting rooms, great restaurants around the square, and world famous spas on the fringe of town.

"Morning sun showering into a very narrow alley between two weathered stone walls in Sonoma city square"

Also check out my blog entry on HDR High Dynamic Range photography here. I am speechless

Monday, May 4, 2009

The kids were simply adorable in their cowboy attire !!

Cinco de Mayo celebration - downtown San Jose, May 03 2009

I had not made up my mind what I was going to do when I headed out in my car this past Sunday. It was raining, though not very hard. I looked to the eastern sky and saw the sun was trying to break out from behind the early morning rain clouds. I was on 17W in the direction of Santa Cruz and had the idea that I would wait for the right moment and shoot the morning scenery as the light breaks and the rains stop with the mist still in the air. However, that never did work out. I surveyed the area I had in mind and decided that it would not be much of a shot. It was one of those mornings...I was searching for photo ops and really did not have any idea where I would find one - the elusive photo op :(. Not a good sign I was thinking to myself.

"Young cowboy and his craft"

I headed back into San Jose, decided perhaps I might find something downtown. San Jose is a rather interesting town with numerous century old buildings. I drove around the city square and was just about to give up to head to Trader Joes for my weekly produce shopping when I heard neighing horses to my left - Ah...a group of horsemen and their families had gathered with their horse carriages in the city parking lot a block from St James Park. Downtown San Jose is at the heart of Silicon Valley and so the horses were quite a sight to see. I parked my car quickly, grabbed both my cameras and sprinted across to where the small crowd had gathered. I had no clue what it was all about. In my mind, I had an image of a horse auction of some sorts, like the one one sees in the Western movies...I was told there would be a Cinco de Mayo celebration that morning and they were getting ready for the parade. The kids were all dressed up and looked so adorable in their cowboy attires. Some were sitting on the ponnies...I asked if I could take some pictures and many quickly obliged and gave me their email addresses to send them some pictures - Sometimes it is funny how things turn out..

"his eyes...there is something about them"

Above is one of my favorite shots (see more in my Smugmug gallery)....There was something about his eyes..... They remind me very much of the boy in the movie I Am David. There was definitely more behind that pair of eyes....I wish I know what they were.....

"I thought he looked rather like Paul Newman, this could have come from a movie..the ride along Pacific Coast Highway 1 in Malibu :)"

You can see more of my Cinco de Mayo photos by visiting my Smugmug gallery. The link is Cinco de Mayo 2009, San Jose

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The unexpected and the results of my Holga experiments

I promised I would post shots taken with my Holga and here they are...

Firstly, I experimented with it a great deal. I put two rolls of Tmax 320 B&W through it, shot all types of scenes. Then I shot another roll of ISO 400 color Fujifilm and one ISO 800 color Fujifilm as well. Now, there is something about a crude camera box and you and getting a good shot. It is really all about composition and light (I might add here that I completely messed up my roll of ISO 800 (zilt, nadah, is all I can say about that roll - shot inside a church in dim light, I totally underexposed the roll, forgot that the least I could have done was held down the button longer). Having to adjust to seeing everything in a square format is actually a rather refreshing experience coming from 35mm - I can also see how some shots are better suited for square format than others.

The fun part:

No. 1 - there is definitely light leak and I think I know where mine is coming from. I could tape it but that would take away the element of surprise. The vignetting is actually rather nice.

No. 2 - double exposing the same frame twice is so easy that if one is not careful, that becomes second nature. Well, unless you messed up so bad that you tie a little string around your index finger to remind youself to wind the film before you click that shutter again. I have one too many shots to prove how easy that is - however to my solace, it led to rather pleasant and unique results - see below. I was trying to figure out where I had taken that strange shot and then I realized it was two shots in one....


No. 3 - one definitely looks more inconspicious to others with this little cheap plastic camera than with a big Canon 5D and zoom lens. Theoretically, that means you are more likely to get the shots you want :) The shot below is a case in point.

Finally, as there is no way to control shutter speed but Bulb or N (is that 1/125? 1/250? that in itself is another mystery). Hence, the only way one could ever use it in dim light even with high speed film is the B setting on tripod, or hold down the shutter and time it yourself... that surely will contribute to even more unpredictable results if you get any at all...but I can see me testing that out....

Holga is cheap way to have a go at medium format. The camera is dirt cheap, the only expense is development and printing. The depth and clarity to me is still way better than similar shots on my 10D, may be I am biased.... but I think you would agree.

I did a little write up on Holgas and where you could get one cheaply... see link:
Holga's - the cult following

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Have fun !!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I am so happy I am giddy :)

I had been toying with getting a used medium format camera for the past few weeks. Tried bidding on ebay and always seems to be outbid minutes before the auction ended (never had any luck with ebay, there must be a trick :(. I was not going to get into a bidding war either). Anyhow, it crossed my mind perhaps to look for them in flea markets or antique shops where I might have better luck finding a decent one at the right price and I did!! three Saturdays ago at a Palo Alto Fleamarket.

It was a baby Yashica LM 44 (LM-selenium cell light meter - still works, and appears to be quite accurate now that I have tested it outdoor and indoor, 4x4 ). They said it was the poor man's Rollei (I see) It is in beautiful condition, with Copal SV 60mm fixed lens, cap, leatherette case etc, asking for $65!!.. The seller said he had picked up a bunch of stuffs at a Public Storage auction, guess whoever did not pay their public storage fee must be a camera buff, as there were other goodies, tripods, trumpets, clarinets etc.

The only thing that I was not sure before handing the $65 over was that it takes 127film,.... hmmm, was there ever a 127 film? This thing is older than I am. I called BelAir camera in Los Angeles, (my favorite camera store) and the girl at the film counter said "no, I don't think there is a 127 film" Yuks! I then called Foto Express in San Jose and was told the same thing, "we don't sell 127 film, I don't know if you can still get them anymore" ok, I started to waver....should I get it or shouldn't I? It is in such good shape and my heart is willing, my pocket book is wavering. It fits nicely in my hand, they said it is a lady's camera during those days due to its petite size. Oh, did I mention that the bright waist lever viewfinder is such a pleasure to use....

No surprise. I bought my new toy!! told myself that I will be just as happy to see it sit next to my beloved photo books. (does that sound familiar?)

As soon as I got home, I went online, found out that one could still get the 127 films, Efke B&W and IR from Freestyle and Provia film and slide films from Bhphotovideo (now I am really happy I am giddy). There are apparently quite a few classic camera buffs out there still actively using their baby Yashica, Rollei and other 127 film format cameras...I ordered 3 rolls of B&W and one rolls of IR films and they arrived in 2 days. I am now running the films through it and shot a roll in downtown San Francisco near Embarcadero.....I had a couple of envious looks, from people who either knew exactly what it was and from those who wondered if I was shooting video as I was looking through the viewfinder. I know now how one could be rather inconspicious using the TLR's with the waist level viewfinder if you think about :). Will be processing the films myself and if they turn out half way decent, I shall scan the neg's and post them on my blog.

Don't laugh at me if I tell you that I slept with the baby Yashica next to me the night I brought it home, you can imagine how giddy I am :)

For those who are curious about the Yashica and the Rollei TLR's and other classics in this digital age, here is a really good link: -Karen Nakamura- The definitive guide to classic film cameras -I love her site

Suppliers of 127 films: 127 films 127 films

Frugal Photographer

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

A trip to the city...

A San Francisco travelogue

Having read that there was a camera swap meet in south San Francisco Saturday, I decided to take the BART to town which is really the best way to travel to the city. I did plenty of walking and savored the sights and sounds and spent a good hour at the swap meet. I struck up a nice conversation with an old school commercial photographer on the Mamiya C33 twin lens reflex medium format camera he was selling. We chatted, mostly with me picking his brain...and wishing the good old days had not gone away so quickly. We talked about how producing beautiful photography is still about having your techniques solidly grounded, and knowing your wares....having the eyes for the light.....and that his very first used medium format camera he bought from some guy when he first started and how he produced great pictures with it. Later that morning, I walked to the waterfront of Embarcadero. As it was a Saturday, a bustling outdoor market was in session. Crowded with locals and tourists alike, it was at times elbow to elbow walking room. I did the quick tour, and some photography and soon found myself checking out the artists selling their work under big white tents in the park away from the crowd.

"Who is this man?"

I soon struck up another long conversation with an artist whose attire was rather nomadic, who interestingly has a Chinese sounding last name but grew up in Nicaragua as I later learned (not surprisingly, as many set sail to seek work and fortune some two hundred years ago and many went to South America). A photographer who spends a few months each year outside the country in search of inspiration, his works of brightly colored weathered buildings from Cuba to Nicaragua and Rajistan first caught my attention. There was also the image of two canoes in the morning light with the Bay Bridge in the background still shrouded in fog. Then as I looked to the floor, there was a photo of a young boy cloaked in red sitting on the floor of a monastery. He was holding up a long stick, pointing to a chalk board of sentences as if to repeat after his master. On the left, soft light flooded the dim room casting a small shadow on the boy sitting cross legged on the floor. The image stopped me in my track. I lingered on and looked at it for a long time. My mind wondered back to Asia, to the people and the colorful cultures, to the villages. Sometimes an image speaks to the soul and it takes one on a journey....may be because I grew up in Asia and had traveled to many corners of Southeast Asia where life is simple and yet plentiful...and learning and acquiring knowledge is what every parent wants for their child. It was the very poignant scene that moved the photographer and caught his eyes as he took that one and only shot.

"I am the proud owner of the photo - getting it dark wood with border"

It no longer matters if I took any photo at all with my camera. The sights and sounds of the San Francisco waterfront, the hustle and bustle had suddenly taken a back seat without my knowing.

Sometimes a photograph speaks to one's soul and it is that simple. I could not help but remembering the works of Dorothea Lange, her photographs of the "Migrant Woman" and the "Man in the Bread Line". Humanity and the ability to connect and feel is such a rare commodity in today's material world, I was so very glad to know it has not completely gone away.

"The artist's gallery along the San Francisco waterfront"

As I sat on the BART train heading back to Fremont and San Jose, I was deep in my thoughts. It was a good thought. I had bought the photograph from the artist whom I had gotten to know and we made some plans for collaborative projects in the coming weeks, stay tuned......

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Capitola and beyond on Highway 1

Ventured out south on Highway 17 yesterday morning, my plan was to check out the Northern California beach town of Capitola. It was just dawn when I headed south over Santa Cruz mountains and the serenity of the morning was a welcome change. I badly needed a break from my daily grind and had brought my beach chair and laptop along (well for some writing) just in case I was up to it after a morning of photography, I figure may be I will enjoy some sun on the beach.

"Capitola Fishing Pier - my tourist shot..just couldn't seem to get the right angle whether from the south side or north end"

Soon I was in the heart of Capitola. As it was early, I had no trouble finding a parking spot on a side street near the beach. A charming beach town, Capitola has a rather arty and upscale mediterranean feel to it, a little Tuscany by the sea if you will while the brightly colored Capitola fishing pier is very reminiscent of the Malibu Fishing Pier. The annual Capitola Art and Wine Festival in September is not far mind is twirling with plans

Colorful adobe mud huts line the beach by the pier - one of the many attractions in town. A nice holiday beach pad for the entire family to chill and have some beach volleyball fun. Book early though, as the town can be packed with tourists during the peak summer months.

"Colorful adobe style mudhut - vacation rental"

After an hour of photography around the pier and the beach, I decided to finally sit down for some breakfast at the Fog Bank Bar and Grill. I ordered a lovely Spanish omelette with fruits and wheat toasts and a nice large OJ. Sitting at the bench on the balcony facing the ocean I had a perfect view. It is a good morning. I said to myself. Seagulls were frolicking, bathing in the water, the bright colors of the mud huts reflecting in the creek - a nice water show of its own.

"She was happy to be photographed in the picture perfect creek"

Ah, then there is the "Margaritaville". It did not look like it is quite ready for the bar scene though. I wonder....I took a photo of the facade for a friend of mine who is a Jimmy Buffett fan.

Later I drove around the north end of the city up a small hill to Coral Cliff - a popular surf spot with locals and college kids from UC Santa Cruz. Surfers were out in full force riding the ocean waves below the dramatic cliff drop off. The rugged coastline and the few lone trees reminds me very much of Big Sur.

As you might imagine, I had many grand plans for the day, including staying over a night at some motel 6 so I can shoot sunset. However, that plan never did materialize. By 10am, traffic on Highway 1 had built up to a crawl as families came out to enjoy an unseasonally warm day in March. I headed south on Highway 1 as fast as I could, making pit stops along the way to check out sailboats in the many marinas and caught a quick visit to the Monterey Aquarium and the Wharf waterfront. It was either back on the road joining the bumper to bumper traffic or relax for an hour or two and I chose the later. The entrance fee to the Aquarium was $29.95 for non member and the line to get in was actually long.

"The aquarium ballet....I was forced to shoot the school of fishes going by handheld"

I was a little disappointed I did not see the moon fish I saw my last visit years ago.(or the "Sun" fish as they call it in Bali - I came face to face with them diving off Bali coast many years back)

It was 4pm before I finally make my way back via Salinas on 101 to San Jose.

What was the saying again? you need a holiday to recover from a holiday - playing tourist is exhausting!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Holgas - the cult following

I wanted to shoot medium format film and have been agonizing over whether to get a used medium format camera or a fixed lens Fuji last few weeks. Having heard and read much about Holgas, it has piqued my interests especially after seeing the works of Holga enthusiasts. It was tempting me as a very inexpensive way to work with medium format film. Researching further, I learned that Holga has a rather interesting beginning and has its roots in rural China. For more details on Holga, go to Holga and Camerapedia.Org

With Holga, it is just a "mechanical box with a crude shutter", the film and you the photographer. There is no blaming the camera for having a bad shot, although you might be able to blame the lack of electronics :) for missing a shot (pardon me for describing it that way, but simple is good and less is beautiful has great meaning here). The light leak prevalent in the Holgas is what makes each image unique.

Holga in baby blue if that is your fancy - available at Bhphotovideo

So, I am now a proud owner of a "Made in China" trendy and hip "Holga 120N". Got it at BelAir Camera in Los Angeles when I was down there last week and a certain "David" who works at the processing lab who shoots exclusively Holga showed me his incredibly wonderful Holga images. I asked if he sells his photos, his reply: "like to do a show someday". He helped me pick out the Holga 120N to start. You see, there are many different models and colors (pink! good God, I want to be inconspicious), with hotshoe, with built in flash, the classic (120S), all available for 120 and 35mm film format. In addition, there is Holga pinhole camera. Yours to choose from well under $45!!!

Holga 120CFN Medium Format Fixed Focus Camera

You might be interested in checking out this Reuters blog entry on Holga by Jim Young(and a little story of Crawford, Texas) Remembering the days of black and white film

To buy Holgas, try:
Amazon Holga 120

or Freestylephoto

As for my own Holga photos, I loaded a roll of TriX-320 into the Holga 120F I bought last week and have yet to make it back to Livermore to shoot the old train station and the old house on Highway 84w. I am in the thick of the tax season - and all I can see are thousand of line items of income, expenses and deductions for 10 hours a day (did I mention pages and pages of stock trades clients did in 2008 - oh well, that is the subject for another entry on my other Blog)

Having said all that, I look forward to doing some b&w film development soon at a community darkroom in San Jose as soon as I have my weekends back again.... and I will post the Holga photos to share then.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Highway 84W

Just a word on Topaz before the entry proper. I re-installed Topaz Adjust plug in I had uninstalled due to Topaz software bug, I am still getting the occasional "can't complete due to program error" (it is annoying as I have to re-do my processing all over again). It does not look like it is a bug that will go away....I resigned to that fact and left the plug in on CS2 for now.

Was up in Livermore California last weekend, took Highway 84 from 680N and it was a beautiful magical ride at 7:30am in the morning (I had to pick a daylight saving day and it was really 6:30am that morning since I had moved the clock forward an hour....that explained my sleepy eyes). There were a handful of cattle ranches along 84E to Livermore, still shrouded in the overnight mist as the early morning sun was breaking through. I said to myself if only I had been there before daybreak and waited for the first light to come through the old house.

Livermore is officially now on my "A few more visits" list :) I often visit a place for the first time to scout for photo opps and make notes of locations in my little notepad I carry with me.

I like the old town charm, oh did I mention the many vineyards in Livermore. Ah, that was the bonus. Or was it the reason why I went there in the first place :)

Footnote: I am going back there soon and this time armed with my old style Canon A1 with rolls of Black and White and Velvia slide films .... It makes me happy just thinking of the prospects.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Found a new tool to keep my creative juice going :) there is always something new to explore on my day off and find your groove as they say it. This time it is the Topaz plug in for Photoshop (I use CS2). I am using a 30 day trial and so far so good. It is certainly very arty, resulting in very dramatic image if you have a good starting image that is correctly exposed image or a fun image to dabble with.

For those who are learning about Topaz plug in for the first time. Topaz is a very similar to Photomatix HDR software, but offers a few quick adjustments on details, exposure, contrast, highlight by easily dragging a ruler slider on the menu. It is really for those who are drawn to Photography art or arty photography.

Here are a couple of my topazed images I like:

"Expansive wild mustard field and an old barn house in Milpitas

"The wooden gate of the wetlands in Alvioso. Compare this image with the tone mapped HDR image in my original posting if you scroll down to the bottom of the entire page"

"The famed Malibu fishing pier, slightly topazed"

Finally there is the purple daisy field taken last spring along a bike path in Marina del rey, CA. It is one of my stock photos transformed....

Daisy field "topazed"

If you are a photography traditionalist, please pardon me for pushing the limits here. I am always exploring the possibilities of a new creative tool. Guess you could say I am more of an arty photographer...frequently tipping my toes in the creative arty world to see what else is possible and then take three steps back - my own way of finding my own limits.

A word of caution: Topaz is not always stable, and does hang or refuse to process images from time to time forcing me to reboot my computer. From what I gathered from the many postings on the web, it is a known problem. So keep that in mind

Update on March 1st 2009: the Topaz Adjust trial plug in I downloaded has been unstable, frequently showing an error message that it cannot process due to program error. I had uninstalled and re-installed a few times and it would work only once or twice and the same error message would re-appear. So as of now, I have uninstalled it from PS CS2. This is a known program and widely reported on the web. There does not seem to be a bug free version at this point as the problem persists for those with lots of RAM space and those using the 2.6 version.