Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why Film?

SEATAC Airport by Wayne-K
SEATAC Airport, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

I've been getting a number of comments on my photos lately along the lines of "wow, I never knew film was so sharp," or "you're doing so well shooting film." I find this somewhat interesting and amusing, but quite honestly, I can't understand why people think shooting film is any different than shooting digital. Photographers have been shooting sharp, well composed, and well exposed photos on film for over a hundred years.

Comments aside, a lot of people just don't understand why I shoot film. Why shoot film at $0.55 per frame when I can shoot hundreds of frames on my digital SLR basically for free? Well, for me it's not about the film -- I enjoy the experience of shooting the Nikon FM2. The manual controls force me to think about the shot. It makes me consider how I want to render the scene on film by consciously selecting the shutter speed and aperture. It also makes me think about the exposure and whether I need to override the meter to compensate for excessively dark or bright scenes.

If a camera company built a digital camera that offered an FM2-like shooting experience, I would buy it in a heartbeat (the Leica M9 offers that experience, but is prohibitively expensive). As I mentioned previously, I don't shoot the FM2 because I want to shoot film. I shoot film because the FM2 gives me the shooting experience I enjoy. I suspect 80% of the photographers out there cannot comprehend this perspective. Most photographers only care about the final product. For them, it's all about the destination...the journey matters not.

I read a great review of the FM2, where the author not only reviewed the technical performance of the camera, but also spent a considerable amount of time discussing the "experience" of shooting it. Read the review here if you're interested.

Kodak Brownie



Thursday, March 15, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes

Clearing the Bar by Wayne-K
Clearing the Bar, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

It's high school track season again. Last year was Kevin's first year in track and my first year shooting track. After today's track meet, I think we agree that we've both improved since last year.

One can spot a freshman pole vaulter rather easily. The freshman vaulter flings himself over the bar in an uncontrolled manner and flails his arm and legs in a non-graceful manner as gravity pulls him back down to Earth. That was Kevin last year. This year, he looks like a pole vaulter. His form and grace have improved dramatically. It's like poetry in motion.

After a single track meet, Kevin is already happier with my photography this year. I think it's for a couple of reasons. Last year, I tended to capture the pole vaulters hitting the bar. I loved the emotion and look of anguish in their faces. To me, the photos of them clearing the bar were boring. At the year end banquet, Kevin didn't select any of my photos for the slide show. In retrospect, I guess I can understand why. Who wants to see themselves not clearing the bar? At today's meet, I focused on the vaulters clearing the bar. Perhaps I'll also capture the thrill of victory, rather than just the agony of defeat.

I also think the technical quality of my photos has improved. Last year, I shot the track meets with my Nikon D80 and Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6 lens. I don't shoot a lot at the longer focal lengths and never invested in a nice telephoto lens. The lens has a maximum aperture of f/5.6 on the long end, which forced me to shoot at high-ISO during the late evening hours when the vaulters typically compete. The D80's image quality isn't very good at high-ISO. This year, I'm shooting the 70-200mm f/2.8. Shooting at f/2.8 gives me a two stop improvement over the 55-200mm lens (at the long end), allowing me to shoot at much lower ISO, resulting in cleaner images.

Here are a few more photos from today's track meet. It was an overcast and drizzly day today. Fortunately, the lens hood did a nice job keeping the rain drops off the front element of my lens.

Kevin looked at this picture and had the "now why do I care about a Cal High vaulter?" look in his face. I explained I was practicing, so I would be ready for when it was his turn to vault....

Cal High Flying High

This is what a freshman looks like....sort of like a baby bird falling out of the nest.

Gravity is Such a Strange Thing...

Here are a few more shots of Kevin showing his improved technique.



Monday, March 12, 2012

Wide Angle, Wide Open

Sunol Cows by Wayne-K
Sunol Cows, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

I woke up yesterday morning and thought about going for a jog around the neighborhood. I peeked out the window and decided it would be a great day for a hike instead. It was a bit overcast, which would be perfect to try out some different things with my camera. I've been meaning to experiment with my 24mm f/2.8 lens, shooting wide open. The soft, diffuse, low light would be the perfect time to shoot with a wide aperture. I also wanted to experiment with my new 81A warming filter. Sunlight is generally cooler (bluer) on cloudy days, so it was a nice opportunity to test out this filter.

I've been traveling a lot so far this year and haven't had much time to go hiking or on solo photo walks. Paisley decided to join me on my hike. I love hiking with Paisley. She's never too tired, she's always available on a moments notice, and she never turns me down. We went for a short hike around Sunol Regional Park. The weather was wonderful and we had a nice day together.

The photo above was shot with my Nikon 24mm f/2.8 lens, wide open. Nine times out of ten, I shoot my wide angle lens stopped down for greater depth of field. This is because I shoot primarily landscape scenes with my wide angle. Even wide open at f/2.8, the Nikon 24mm gets a decent amount of DOF. The cows in the background are still distinguishable. All else being equal, a wide angle lens yields more DOF than a longer focal length. In this case, I'm guessing about a stop or two more than my 50mm. I also notice a bit of light fall-off in the corners....which actually helps focus the viewer's eyes on the cows in the center of the frame.

Here are a few more photos from my hike with Paisley.

Alameda Creek

High Valley Camp 2

11 March 2012 - A Day in the Life

JR Ranch

Friday, March 9, 2012


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

KEH ( is offering free shipping this weekend. I am tempted to purchase a used Nikon 55mm f/2.8 macro lens (manual focus) or a second film body (Nikon FM or FM2). I'm interested in a second camera body so I can load one with color film and the other with B&W film. I am reading Ansel Adams' autobiography and have been inspired to shoot more B&W, but unfortunately, I have twenty more frames to expose on the roll of Fujifilm color film in my FM2. By the way, if you love photography and you love the outdoors, you must read Ansel Adams' autobiography. He's like John Muir with a camera...