Monday, April 30, 2012

Our Secret's Out

Cameras used to be simple. A major technological advance in film camera design may have been the new shutter that enabled 1/4000 second shutter speeds (a massive two stop improvement from 1/1000 second). Back in the 1980s, it wasn't uncommon for photographers and photo enthusiasts to use the same camera for over a decade. Once the initial investment in the camera body and lenses was made, the recurring costs for film and processing were very affordable and reasonable.

All that changed with digital cameras. The big advances in digital photography is largely in sensor design. Each generation of camera sensors brings higher resolutions, increased dynamic range, and reduced noise at high ISO. Digital cameras are expensive, but each new generation tempts buyers to upgrade to the latest version. In my opinion, we're reaching the point of diminishing returns. The incremental improvements are getting smaller and smaller as we move from one generation to the next. That's why I've been holding onto my Nikon D80 digital camera, while the rest of the digital photographers are spending their hard earned paychecks upgrading their gear.

I and a lot of other photographers have been quietly shooting film instead of digital. With the market chasing the "latest greatest" digital gear, we've been secretly taking advantage of the low prices for film bodies and manual focus lenses. Unfortunately, that's all changing now. My local camera shop raised their prices for film development and scanning by 75% recently. Furthermore, Fuji just announced they will be increasing their film prices in May -- potentially double digit increases. Someone let the cat out of the bag! Despite our best efforts to keep our little secret to ourselves, the industry figured us out.

My recommendation is to buy your film gear now while it's still affordable and before the speculators drive the prices up. I quickly ran out and ordered a load of my favorite Fuji Pro400H color negative film. I'll have to keep an eye on the Kodak BN400CW and Ilford XP2 Super black and white film prices, so I can stock up on it before its prices increase too.

Disclaimer: this is intended to be humorous. Purely tongue in cheek. Do not take this too seriously.

Here are a few photos captured in Alaska a few weeks ago. I was in the Anchorage area for business and had some time to take a few photos of the lovely landscape with my Nikon FM2 film camera. I'm so glad I purchased it before someone let the secret out...

Along the Alaska Railroad Tracks

Pond Closed

View from Seward Highway

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Big Win

Softball Line Up by Wayne-K
Softball Line Up, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

The PGSL Rebels lost a tough game on Saturday, giving the opponent their first win of the season. The umpire had a small strike zone, leading to 29 walks between the two teams.

Today, the Rebels came out swinging (the bats, that is) and they scored fourteen runs. Tough pitching and defense helped secure the win. Today's opponent was previously undefeated, so the Rebels handed them their first lost of the season.

Kami pitched a nice game, made a good play at short stop, and hit the ball well. It was a great game!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Track Season

Vaulting by Wayne-K
Vaulting, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

Like the girl's softball season, the high school track season seemed to disappear without me this year. I've been on the road for business a lot this year and missed a lot of my kids' sports activities.

Today, we had both track and softball, but the scheduling gods were kind to us. The track meet started early in the morning and the softball game in the afternoon.

Here are a few photos from today's track meet.

Lift Off

Please Jog in Outside Lanes

Back to the Ballpark

Number One by Wayne-K
Number One, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

The 2012 Pleasanton Girls Softball League (PGSL) season is well underway, but in many ways it seems like it just started. We've had a wet spring and many games were rained out. On the occasional game that wasn't rained out, I happened to be out of town for business.

Today was a beautiful day for a softball game, albeit a bit toasty...90+ degrees. Kami started the game on the mound and pitched a good game.

Here are a few photos from the game.

Field General

A Play at Home

Awaiting the Pitch

Conferring on the Mound

On the Mound

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Through the FM2 Viewfinder by Wayne-K
Through the FM2 Viewfinder, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

My daughter opened a Flickr account a while back and was posting photos taken from her mobile phone’s camera. I noticed recently her postings on Flickr ceased. Was she no longer interested in capturing her daily life in photos? No, she just transitioned to Instagram. Apparently, Flickr is for old, boring people…all the cool, young people are on Instagram.

Well, wanting to be associated with the cool, young people, I informed my family yesterday that I was going to sign up for “Instamatic.” I got a lot of strange looks in response to that proclamation. I hate to admit it, but the fact that it’s “Instagram” and not “Instamatic” automatically makes me so un-cool….and the fact that I even know what an “Instamatic” is makes me so un-young.

When it comes to my photography, it’s all about simplicity. I prefer to shoot film on a Nikon FM2 (manual focus, manual exposure) and typically with a single prime lens (usually a 50mm f/1.4). This is as simple as it gets – I don’t have to fiddle with a complicated menu system (like my DSLR), I don’t have to think about what focal length to use (like on a zoom lens), the ISO/ASA is fixed (for the roll), I don’t need to fight with an autofocus system, and I’m in complete control of the exposure.

Instagram is all about simplicity. While I used to snicker at people taking crummy photos with their camera phones (especially in low light), I can fully appreciate the photographic experience with Instagram. The process is incredibly simple and pain-free. One captures the photo on the camera phone, crops it to a 1x1 aspect ratio (square), applies one of the post-processing presets, and uploads the photo.

Instagram won’t replace Flickr for me, nor will the camera on my mobile replace my SLR. I will continue to use my SLR for serious and semi-serious work and artistic pursuits. But, when I want to capture something interesting in my day just for the fun of it, it will probably be done via the camera on my mobile phone and posted on Instagram.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More Photos from Mount Tallac

Sierra Snow Scene by Wayne-K
Sierra Snow Scene, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

Here are more photos from Lake Tahoe. I finished shooting my second roll of film last night and had it developed today.

Across the Barren Landscape

Another Sierra Snow Scene

Kim and Lyn

Trespassing Forbidden By Law

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mount Tallac

Snow Ball by Wayne-K
Snow Ball, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

After a week of technical training in Texas, I made it back home to California in time for a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe. We're planning a trek up Mount Shasta in May, which may require the use of ice axes, crampons, and roping up. The purpose of our trip to Tahoe was to hike up Mount Tallac to practice our winter skills. The weather was incredible and the scenery was...well, picture perfect.

Here are a few pictures from the hike.

Winter Tree


Hiking up Mt. Tallac

Sierra Snow

Frozen Lake

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Texas Again

Every time I travel to Texas, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to live in California. I think I could live in Texas, but the summer heat wouldn't be much fun....and I would miss the mountains of California.

This has been an interesting trip so far. I rode the BART train to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) on Sunday. There was a guy and his wife at the security check point who got their bag pulled aside by TSA. Apparently they were carrying two bottles of wine in their carry-on luggage. He thought it was okay to travel with wine, as long as the bottles were sealed. I quietly wondered to myself if this guy ever heard of Osama Bin Laden....and whether he and his wife had all of their liquids packed in a quart sized ziploc bag. Anyway, they didn't have time to run back to the check-in counter to check their luggage, so they donated the wine to the TSA garbage bin. Personally, I would have pulled the cork and started chugging it on the spot.

I arrived in Dallas without incident and headed to the Embassy Suites hotel in Frisco. The hotel parking lot and parking structure were packed....and with a fair number of pink Cadillacs. I entered the hotel to find out it was hosting a Mary Kay convention. Now I could make a few sexist comments about this situation, but I won't...well, except I'm not sure if Mary Kay cosmetics aren't very good or if these ladies just weren't applying it properly...oh, and how scary it was driving around the parking structure with all those women drivers. I'm just kidding....of course. Anyway, the elevators were packed to the gills with women but I eventually got to my room on the 11th floor.

I'm planning on climbing Mt. Shasta in May (and haven't exercised much this year), so some physical fitness was on the immediate agenda. I changed into my running gear, briskly walked around Dr. Pepper Park, home of the Frisco Roughriders, snapped a few pictures, ran up the stairs to return my camera to my room, and returned to the staircase to run the 14 floors of stairs five times. Did I mention there aren't many hills in Texas?

After a day of training yesterday, I headed over to Chipotle's for a burrito. I asked the lady for "their best burrito." After she returned a puzzled look, I asked her to make me a burrito the way she would want it. She asked what kind of meat I wanted and I told her to surprise she piled on half chicken and half beef. She sent my order down the assembly line and the next gal asked what kind of beans I wanted. I told her to surprise me. The first girl said something to her in Spanish, and the gal piled on some black beans and veggies. She then passed my order down the assembly line and another girl asked what else I wanted. I told her to surprise me. The gal before her said something to her in Spanish and the girl started piling on pico de gallo, salsa, corn, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce. They were all smiling and laughing...probably at me because I don't understand Spanish and I'm sure they told each other to pile on the nastiest combination of stuff on my burrito. But, it was the best burrito I've ever had there.

Today was interesting, I got to experience my first tornado! Two tornadoes hit the Dallas area this afternoon. It wasn't nearly as exciting as the earthquakes in California, but it was different. The storm shelter is in the basement, so we walked from the training room to the alternate storm the bathroom. It was "fun" spending an hour in a stinky bathroom with 20 other guys. A few guys used their time wisely and took a pee. Fortunately, nobody felt the urge to do a number two. I was thinking it would be more fun in the women's bathroom, but after further consideration, I was afraid I would bump into some Mary Kay reps.

After an otherwise boring day of training today, I headed back to Chipotle's....and the lady said, "I'm not surprising you today..." So, I ordered a chicken burrito...and it wasn't nearly as good as the one yesterday. Other than that, I did manage to bypass the complimentary booze the hotel offers its guests from 5:30 to 7:30 PM and ran the up and down 14 floors of stairs in Stairwell #2 a total of five times.

Just three more days in Texas and I'm heading home. I hope my flight isn't delayed on Friday because we're heading up to Lake Tahoe to hike up Mount Tallac in what I hope resembles snow.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Why Film (Part 2)?

Ocean Beach by Wayne-K
Ocean Beach, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

When I wrote the original ""Why Film?" blog, the point I was making was shooting film for me really wasn't about the medium (film), but rather the joy of shooting a simple, manual camera (the Nikon FM2). However, with the release of the Nikon D4, Nikon D800/800E, Canon 5D Mark III, etc., I'm seeing a million articles concerning the D4 verses D3, D800 verses D700, 5D Mk III verses 5D Mk II, D800 verses 5D Mk III, and every other possible combination and permutation, and I feel compelled to bring up another point or two.

A number of photographers are much too focused on the gear. While for the average pixel-peeper, the higher megapixel count might be significant, I'll go out on a limb and say it probably isn't to the average photographer (or it shouldn't be). I dare say taking a photography class (or spending a bit more time on composition) would have a greater impact on the quality of the image than upgrading from a D700 to a D800 (or from a 5D Mk II to 5D Mk III).

Photographers worry too much about the technical specifications of their digital cameras and not enough about just creating art. Technology changes quickly and if one continues to chase the "latest greatest," the size of one's checking account will change even more quickly. Let's shoot what we have and put the focus back on the art. It doesn't matter if your camera body isn't the latest, greatest, shiny model on the store shelf.

If you really want to make things simple, buy yourself a film camera and go make some pictures. Save yourself $6000 by not getting the Nikon D4, take your film camera to Europe with your lovely spouse, and capture some beautiful pictures of the Tuscan countryside. It will be a lot more fun and rewarding than shooting eye charts and brick walls with a D4.

View of the City