Friday, December 7, 2012

A still life....Kodak EIR film....and the late afternoon sun

This photo has a special place in my heart. A photo I shot in a dingy garage years ago, and a still life put together invited by the light. The garage had a low window with many 50s style square glass panes. It sits just above the ground, much like a basement or a daylight window. As winter approaches, the window would ever so gently filter in just enough light from the afternoon sun, and warm the garage. Each time I would stare at the window and the long shadow on the floor...saying to myself that I must put something together quickly and shoot this light before it disappears.

Positive "high res" film scan with SVP FS1700 Negative and Slide Scanner, Kodak EIR film, no post process

The wooden background panel had quite a history. I bought it from another flea market seller on Melrose in the Fairfax district in LA. I was attracted by the beautiful big bold paint strokes of the sunflower, painted in lime yellow and green. The seller told me it came from an old house and that the panel was a salvaged door. Someone he knew was an artist and decided to paint the panel hoping to sell it as a work of art. The seller wanted $35. We haggled and finally settled on $15. It was heavy and it was 3.5 ft wide and 4 ft tall and almost 3 inches thick. I lugged it 200ft to the parking lot to my car and was relieved it would fit inside the trunk of my old Jeep. It is perfect as a table top in my future garden, the money would be well spent, I consoled myself.

The antique garden jug belonged to my housemate. It had beautiful lines and despite being a little beat up, it looked elegant. I needed something to prop up the garden jug and balance the composition, the wooden carpenter step ladder looked perfect for the part, it completed the composition. I moved them around just a bit until they looked right...

I set my film camera on a tripod and proceeded to shoot a few frames. I had imagined the shots and wanted to capture the light before it is out. Much later when I was nearly finished with the roll of film that I realized I had one of my two remaining rolls of Kodak EIR color slide film in the camera. Until today I cannot get over how a simple still life at the spur of the moment can be so out of surreal, so beautiful and timeless.

Sometimes we spend days chasing after that perfect shot, and it is staring right at us, if only we take a pause..........

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

SVP FS1700 Negative and Slide Scanner Review

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I am not one to buy the newest latest gadget but the SVP FS 1700negative and slide scanner caught my attention two weeks ago. I was a little apprehensive, wondering if it would be worth my while. It is nice to be able to do a quick scan of my film negatives and slides from years past, even the more recent ones but I already have a Canoscan 8400F Flatbed scanner which does get some use when time permits. Do I really need another scanner, would I be disappointed with the results? There were literally hundreds of choices, both on Amazon and ebay, and many user reviews on each of them making the decision even more difficult. I finally settled on the SVP FS1700 with an LCD screen. Image is projected on the backlit LCD display which allows one to view the image and decide whether to proceed with the scan and save the file. Much like viewing it on the small light box, it is a nice add on that decided for me.

Right, Venice boardwalk. Positive scan, Ektachrome, X-Process, no post processing

I ended up bidding for one on ebay one early morning, a brand new one and winning it at a mere $8.55 + $9.99 shipping for a total of $18.54. The unit I bought does not come with a smart media card (and I have plenty of spare). Amazon sells the SVP FS 1700 Slide and Negative Scanner with an 8GB card for $49.99.

Now the review.

What I like about it:

1. It is fast, very fast, at the click of a few buttons and you are done scanning and saving the file on the SD card. The LCD is really a projection screen off your negative/slide but that is a nice touch. This means you don't have to hook the scanner to a computer monitor to view and do simple tasks such as flip the image or do a mirror flip, both functions can be accomplished on the scanner itself (if you put the neg the wrong way)

Picture on the left is a "high res" B&W scan of a 35mm neg Ilford SFX 200, no post processing
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2. You have a choice of low (866kb) or high resolution scan (1.5MB) and that is big plus, I am not sure if it would be useful if one can only do a low res scan. I set mine for high res scan just in case I want to get at least a 5x7 print at the local Walmart.

3. It is set up to scan positive or negative film, so as long as you set it correctly (positive, negative, b&w), the resulting scan is fairly good, good enough for the web and 4x6 or even 5x7 print. Start with a good negative/image, you should end up with a respectable result.

4. The negative holder and slide holder are quite sturdy IMO. In fact, I would say they hold the negatives far better than the 35mm neg holder for my Canoscan 8400F. It has little catch for film strip sprockets and that holds the neg down securely. Same for the slide holder, as long as your slide is in standard size slide holder, it holds it in place.

What could be improved:

1. The 3x2 instruction manual (more like a pamphlet) is very confusing, leaving much to be desired. (Some things may be obvious to the person who wrote the manual but hey if you are staring at it you would not know where to start). Having said that, once you have it all figured out it is pretty smooth sailing from there.

2. It would be nice to have a 6x4.5 neg holder or even a 6x6 neg holder, but this little inexpensive scanner is not for the serious professional but rather for those who want to digitize slides from family vacations taken before the world went digital and to preserve precious Kodachrome memories.
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Bottom line

I am impressed. The quality of the scan is probably just a tad below what I get from the Canoscan 8400F but it take 2-3 minutes to scan one 35mm neg on 8400F while it is a quick 10 seconds on this little scanner. Pictures posted here were from the SVP FS1700 with no post processing whatsoever.

Finally calling this nifty gadget a scanner is probably a misnomer. It "scans" by way of capturing a picture of your negative/positive or slide and giving it to you as a picture file. It is a pretty clever device!

Right, Reflection, Velvia slide scan, no post processing

Looking at my slides, I have forgotten how fun it is to shoot film!!!! It is sad the world is turning so digital, it is like a world without feeling. I really wish we could turn the clock back!!

If you are interested in the SVP FS 1700 Slide and Negative Scanner, Buy Here at Amazon

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Canon 28-135mm IS USM lens - A Real Winner Here

Just received my Canon 28-135mm IS USM lens this past week and I put it on my Canon 10D for a quick test. 28-135mm is a good focal range for street photography. On a small frame crop sensor camera, it might not be wide enough since 28mm translates to 44.8mm. On the long end, 135mm (216mm on a 1.6 crop factor) is perfect for the occasional long reach needed. Not having to switch lens in an outdoor environment is a very good thing indeed.

I am very impressed with the lens thus far. The color is fantastic and as good as images from Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L The lens focuses down to 1.5 ft and that can be useful when you need a macro lens. When used with a polarizing filter, the colors definitely pop. This lens is fast, focusing spot on. Images are sharp, IS (Image Stabilization) is handy. There is no questions this lens is going to stay on my street cam - Canon 10D that is, from now on
Picture on the left: Ojai Youth Entertainment Studio performing at the 2012 Ojai Day Annual Street Fair. Overcast day

Canon sells the lens bundled with Canon EOS 7D 18 MP DSLRand that makes a lot of sense. It is a great combo for serious amateurs and professionals alike. Considering that this lenswas first available 10 years ago in Sept 2002 and today it ranks #66 on the Amazon Camera & Photo list, that alone speaks for how well received this lens is. Canon has a time tested winner in their arsenal and they know it.

If you are planning to do a lot of macro photography and want a true (1:1) macro lens that does not break the bank, take a look at the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens. I shot 90% of my stock photos with the lens.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Day In The Big Apple

A Day in the Big Apple... I finally put this video together, a video made from a collection of photographs I took in New York City, downtown lower Manhattan more specifically, the few square blocks around the World Trade Center Memorial Site and South Street Seaport. The trip took place in 2011, on a wintry day. I walked and stopped to photograph whenever and wherever a scene spoke to me.

Having a camera, being a photographer is a privilege. Dorothea Lange once said - To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. But when the great photographs are produced, it will be down that road. But I have only touched it, just touched it.

On that day, I remember a famous quote from Ansel Adams - “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

I hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoy taking my long walk in the Big Apple that day


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wordpress blog and what I have been doing

Since my last blog post ages ago, I bought two Bronicas, an elegant, classic totally mechanical 6x6 square shooter, the Bronica S2a with 75mm f/2.8 lens and a Bronica ETR SI 6x4.5. I could not pass them up, these gorgeous medium format cameras can be had so cheaply these days as folks embrace digital photography en masse. I am looking to add another Bronica S2a if a good one comes along. I absolutely love the look and feel of the 6x6, it gives me such pleasure to shoot with it, not mentioning everyone stops to ask me what kind of camera that is:) No biggie that it is not metered, that is where my vintage Weston IV and a Sekonic zoom meter come in handy.

The last time I wrote, my Wordpress blog was still work in progress. I wanted to let everyone know that is coming along well and below is a snapshot of the blog, love to hear your comments. My Wordpress blog

I have also added a few precious books to my collection:

An Aperture hardcover book on Lola Alvarez Bravo by Elizabeth Ferrer. Lola Alvarez was the first woman photographer in Mexico. When asked how she managed to photograph painful subjects, she replied that she approached them "por el camino de la luz" - through the path of light. Well said indeed.

Vision of a Vanishing Race by Florence Curtis Graybill and Victor Boesen on the pioneering works of Edward Sheriff Curtis who recorded the faces and lifestyles of Native Americans with an unwavering passion and dedication. This book contains 175 pictures of Curtis's greatest works, selected by his daughter Florence Graybill Curtis.

The Hasselblad Manual, second edition, by Ernst Wildi. No doubt the definitive guide to the cult Hasselblad camera. I do not own a Hassy, but this 302 page hardcover book is more than a getting to know your camera manual. It is full of excellent technical information on cameras, lenses, lighting and more, that I found out after I started reading. It is a wonderful book to own and read. This book is ten times more precious than other photography knowledge books I own.

A book that I have ordered and will be arriving soon: Tina Modotti, Photographer and Revolutionary, by Margaret Hooks. Tina Modotti was an Italian actress who lived in Los Angeles who later became a model for Edward Weston and his assistant. She learned her craft from Weston and perfected it. Lola Alvarez and her then photographer husband Manuel Alvarez later acquired Tina Modotti's view camera when Tina Modotti fled Mexico. (and I shall keep you in suspense here)