I will start this giveaway announcement with a short story. Why? Because people working at LoveCases are brilliant. So here it goes. A few months ago, I was contacted by a chap named David on behalf of an UK-based camera bag and accessory store, LoveCases.co.uk. He made a proposal to me – their team would send me a bag of my choice, and I would review it for them. I had nothing against the idea, why would I? There was only one condition that I thought was important we established – no matter what it was that they sent me, my impressions would always be my own, honest and unaffected by anyone else. Just as they would be if I had purchased the product myself. And you know what? A little while later, I wrote this.
During the past several weeks, we’ve been mostly talking about equipment and all sorts of technical aspects of digital photography. We’ve covered the Nikon D810, talked about its dynamic range, discussed the sRAW format, reviewed the Canon 6D and suggested settings for different cameras. We reviewed the Nikon D750 and even the flagship D4 and D4s cameras. I won’t even mention all the ISO comparisons and new equipment impressions. There were plenty more articles and you know what? You liked them. A lot. Which is a huge compliment for us, because of all the effort it took us to prepare them. Having said that, we could not help but notice just how much you liked them… And, at some point, I even thought – perhaps a little too much? Don’t throw stones at me, but are cameras and software always the right aspects of photography to focus on? Alright, saying it’s the wrong one to focus on is perhaps a little too naive. After all, if we did not use our equipment (and to use it one must first learn how to), we would not be able to enjoy photography. And yet it may be that, after so many technical articles, there is something righter (forgive me for coming up with words as I go) that deserves our attention. It may be that we need to balance out the sRAW talk with composition, the camera choices with actual photography. It may be that we need a week of photography and not a single review published. What do you say?
As good as X-Trans sensors are in terms of performance, most software makers have had some trouble with demosaicing the slightly unusual RAW files in the past. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has been noticeably trailing behind in this regard even back when version 5 was introduced, as I found out in the review. That’s not brilliant given that X-Trans has been around for, what, almost three years now? To be completely fair, the paint-like rendering isn’t as much of an issue in most cases as one might think, and yet I can’t help but wish Lightroom was able to render X-Trans RAW files at least as well as Fujifilm does with its in-camera conversion. After all, superior technical image quality is the whole point of RAW, and Lightroom should certainly deliver. So the question is – does it? Since the X-E2 has permanently taken residence in my camera bag and is now my second tool, if not quite the first one yet, I am very curious to see how my favorite RAW converter will perform.
Careful, now. I am about to get technical.
I pick up the camera and, for what feels like a hundredth time, get surprised by its low weight. It’s not what you’d call hollow, more like… tightly packed. There might be a couple of areas where you touch and feel mild disappointment – the control wheel at the back could be metal and the bottom, well, can’t help but wish it felt as cool (literally) and solid as the top of the camera – but only because the rest of it is just so pleasant to hold. It has quickly become a very natural size and shape – that Nikon body, though that much more secure in hand, feels almost unwieldy. It’s not, really, but also is when you compare it to the Fujifilm X-E2. And the dials – save for the aperture ring on the lens, but that is a separate subject – offer very good resistance. In the case of exposure compensation dial, when doing such time-critical types of photography as street, perhaps even a touch too good. It’s not that easy to turn with your thumb whilst holding the camera to your eye. And that is exactly what I am doing right now, bringing it to my eye as my subjects still don’t seem to have noticed me noticing them.
And then another thing happens for what feels like a hundredth time. I did not understand it at first, might not have even noticed my own reaction (since, more often than not, I can’t afford being surprised by something), but after relying so much on an optical viewfinder – be that of the rangefinder Kiev 4AM, my digital Nikon body or medium format Mamiya RZ67 – that EVF feels weird. It’s not bad weird, or good weird for that matter. Just… weird.
It must be snowing in hell – I bought a new camera. After much thought, much going back and forth, much of Nasim-nagging with what I not-so-secretly consider to be the most irrelevant questions, I bought a new camera. But that is not what I want to tell you today. All my impressions will come in due time. This time, though, there will be less talking and more viewing, as the first thing I wanted to do with it was… well, photography. Weird, am I not? And what better place there is to try a small, discreet, quiet camera than the narrow streets of my favourite city, Vilnius.
A side note: although everything I say in this article is indisputable truth, I won’t blame you if you don’t take my word for it all the time.
There are most likely as many ways to achieve a beautiful B&W look as there are photographers. Maybe I am exaggerating it a little, but then I am in love with B&W. It is not as if I don’t like colour, oh no. It’s just that I like the “classic” look that much. So today, instead of doing some general article on B&W conversion and trying to cover several different looks, I am going to pick out a photograph and just work on it until it is exactly how I pre-visualized it a second before pressing that shutter. First of all, though, we need a photograph. I think I have just the right one.
I get asked very, very often how I process my photographs. And it is no secret – most of the time, I simply use VSCO. It suits me so well, coincides with the way I see and pre-vizualise my work, my style and my taste so accurately, only rarely do I need to dive deep into the post-processing closet to pick something else on my own. And yet despite me saying it, I get asked this one question really rather often – how do I achieve that look? It took me a while to figure out what do most people mean by that look, but I have. It’s not the colour or the light or the composition that a lot of you are so interested in when you ask me that question, it turns out. I also figured out why it’s so hard to describe properly – there really is no term for it (a reader has told me it is called “matte” and while personally I’ve not come across it before, we will see if the term will stick for good). It’s a sort of… vintage-retro-dreamy-low-contrast-film look. Sounds vague? It is. That is why any help on the matter is so difficult to find. And yet I am pretty sure you understand – or at least imagine – what I mean. Basically, a lot of you are wondering how to make the photograph on the left look like the photograph on the right.
You will be glad to know it really is rather simple.
I have a rather peculiar confession to make, something I’ve not spoken of loudly to all that many people before. Here goes: whenever someone asks me what I do in life, what I do for a living, I always cringe slightly. Now, I do not mean Photography Life – I am very proud to work here and enjoy writing interesting articles immensely (whether I manage to write something interesting is a different matter altogether, but I dare say I do every now and then). No. I always cringe before saying I am a wedding photographer. Mind you, I do not actually consider myself a wedding photographer – I am curious about people more than I am about weddings, and that is what I am interested in, people and their being. That is part of the reason why the “get to know me” section on my website is the way it is. But if someone asks me just out of curiosity or politeness, they’d be bored to death if I’d go on and dive into all the philosophical debates about how people photography during weddings and wedding photography are different. The time and place for such debates is on a comfortable couch among friends and with a glass of red wine in your hand… if you have patient friends. And so the easy way to answer is – I am a wedding photographer. You’d think that, after I say that, the question’s answered and it is my time to ask that person what he does. It should be that simple, for as soon as I answer I blush and am instantly overcome by the need to explain. And so I still end up diving into all the philosophical monologues trying to justify and explain my work, and consequently bore everyone to death.
I hate that.
A side note: if you suddenly feel the urge to scroll down to the comments section and tell me how I’m a hypocrite for doing what I hate and lying about it to my clients, hold on for just a second. There’s obviously a little bit more to it and I am afraid you are going to have to read all I have to say to get my meaning.
With most Photokina announcements behind us, it is a good time to look back and overview some of the new products we have not yet covered, namely Leica. As I expected, the new Leica M Edition 60 spawned quite a lot of differing opinions. But it’s not the only camera the legendary German manufacturer has brought to our attention and, whilst none are cheap, the other products are considerably more affordable. There’s the film Leica M-A, a new Summicron-S 100mm f/2 lens for the medium format S system and a few smaller format digital Leica models. Let’s glance through them in more detail.
Most modern camera makers have already embraced the fact that, at this day and age, providing a tool just for photography is not enough. A camera needs to do video, and really rather well at that. Connectivity is also a big deal these days with WiFi being the very least that is asked for. Bluetooth is slowly making its way in, too, and many raised eyebrows appear due to the lack of built-in GPS, something that’s been available on the cheapest of smartphones for years now. No manufacturer is brave (or stupid, or both) enough to go back to their purely photographic roots. The boldest move I’ve seen in recent years was the Nikon Df with all the “pure photography” campaign, and all they did was add some more analogue controls and remove video capability which, I am fairly certain, could be added via a simple firmware update. Not that I want to undermine that camera, far from it. Merely say that it is very much a 21st century product packed with features you may or may not use. No manufacturer is brave enough to go back to the very simplest things that are needed to capture an image and nothing else. Not even Fujifilm – under the gorgeous retro skin of X-mount cameras lies the very latest technology.
Wait. I think I may be wrong when I say there is not one such manufacturer. Leica M Edition 60, anyone?