I wanted to keep up with my blog a bit more this year, so here is yet another post already in 2016. I have been shooting with my phone a lot lately, so that’s all today is. Enjoy the shots, and feel free to check out these shots and more at my flickr page.
I love the Hipstamatic app, and I have sung its praises in the past. It’s what I shoot with at least 90% of the time on my phone.
I posted yesterday and said that I was splitting my end-of-2015 blog into two separate posts, one for shots I took with a “proper” camera, and one of shots taken with my cell phone. This is part two–and if you like what you see, by all means go back and check out part one–of that promised post. Feel free to leave a comment down below or pass the link along to your friends/followers if you think they would enjoy some of the images.
This has been a down year for my blog. WordPress informed me that I only blogged five times during 2015, and still amassed more than 20,000 visits somehow. Even though that number is down considerably from my peak two years ago, I’m happy people still managed to enjoy my blog.
I have been taking fewer photographs this year; I’m not sure why. Sometimes I think it’s because I started a new job, or because I’ve been too busy with life. Ultimately, I think it’s because I’ve chosen to invest the spare time I have into other things increasingly. Do I enjoy taking photographs less than I used to? Is this temporary, or is it a shift in my interests going forward? That I don’t know. I find myself carrying my dedicated cameras less–I never used to leave the house without one–and find myself reaching for one I’ve brought along even less. I end up taking a larger percentage of pictures with my phone, but fewer overall. Ultimately, I love photography and I love taking pictures. My number one subject for the past ten years–my son, who is almost 11 years old now–is less interested in being photographed anymore. Or is it me who is less interested in chasing down pictures of him? I’m largely thinking as I type here; I don’t have the answers to these questions.
And so, I’ve decided to divide my now-traditional end of year blog post into two distinct categories: one of mobile phone shots, and one of shots taken with my “proper” cameras.
(On the subject of cameras: I have bought and sold almost no camera gear this year. I have said in the past I have less and less interest in equipment, and that has never rung more true for me than this year.)
So today’s post will be the shots that I took with my cameras, and the final one for the year will be my favorite shots that I took with my mobile phone. I hope you enjoy, and comments are always welcome!
I went from not having reviewed a camera in ages to having done two in a row.
In my last post, I waxed romantically about how I no longer care about gear so much. I talked about the real limitations we face–creative limitations, not those imposed by what camera we use–and how familiarity with a camera can yield great results. I also said I don’t take pictures of cameras anymore; I just don’t see the point. There is no longer a steady stream of cameras and lenses in and out of my life, and the U.S. Postal Service is surely feeling the ramifications.
However, I have to say that there have been a few pieces of gear that I have enjoyed more than others. The Fuji X100 and X100s have been a revelation for me; the original X100 unlocked so much that I had not yet discovered about photography. The Leica M rangefinder was something that I enjoyed using probably more than any other camera; it’s not quite the spiritual experience that some people make it out to be, but it is the most enjoyable shooting experience for me personally. There is one other camera in this group that I have enjoyed using and has challenged me and made photography fun.
The Ricoh GR.
The first thing you notice when you hold the GR is that it’s small–I mean really small–yet manages to pack a large sensor under the hood. It’s a fixed-lens camera, with a 28mm-equivalent, f/2.8 maximum-aperture lens. The camera has a matte black finish that has a functional attractiveness to it, and the grip has a rubbery feel to it that makes it easy to hold in one hand. The back has a large screen, and the buttons are laid out well so that the camera can be operated with only one hand.
The menu system can initially be difficult, but it is incredibly customizable; once you spend some time with the camera it really feels like it’s yours. The camera can easily become an extension of your photographic vision. The camera is virtually silent–a nearly inaudible *snick* is all you hear as the shutter goes–and so can easily be used in close quarters. It comes with a wrist strap for carrying, and has a small pop-up flash that can be programmed.
The GR slides easily into a pocket and starts up almost instantly, making it an ideal street camera. The wide 28mm focal length can work well for close quarters, but the GR includes a crop-mode that makes it a 35mm effective field of view (I have this programmed to one button so I can easily switch if needed). Finally, the GR has a unique “snap focus” mode; this allows the user to program a pre-set focal distance and thereby eliminate any lag when releasing the shutter. When the shutter button is pressed, the camera responds instantly when in snap focus mode. Normally, the camera waits for the auto-focus to lock on. The AF is by no means quick, but it’s usable–think the X100s as a fair comparison. It can occasionally hunt in low light or low-contrast scenes, but this is not too big of an issue in my experience.
One issue I have had with the GR is dust on the sensor. A little bit of research online has shown that this is a common problem, and can cause the camera to need to be sent to Ricoh/Pentax to have it addressed. My first GR had a real dust issue, and so far my second copy has not developed this. I have taken steps to try to avoid this issue going forward, but it’s not an exact science.
The biggest thing about the Ricoh is that with the small size it can go anywhere, and with the near-silent shutter can be used anywhere. This allows me to have an APS-C sized sensor with DSLR image quality in my pocket anywhere I go. Having the buttons customized to my preferences means that I can quickly change settings on the fly and operate the camera with one hand.
The GR simply gets out of the way. When I’m taking photographs with the GR, I can not worry about anything but the image. The camera is not overly complex. It makes things fun, simple, and enjoyable. Nobody is intimidated by the sight of the GR, as it looks like a cheap point-and-shoot, not like an expensive, “professional” (whatever that means) camera.
Anyone considering the GR should go for it. One of the blogs that pushed me off the fence was the fantastic blog by Wouter Brandsma, who shoots with the GR almost exclusively. He has some great shots.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
As the year winds down, I’ve been looking through the archive a bit and seeing what I’ve taken over the last year. After finding a few that I hadn’t blogged before, I figured I’d share them. There is really no rhyme or reason to this set of photos; they are simply photos taken over the past 12-14 months that I hadn’t shared before and like to varying degrees, for one reason or another.
I’ll have some new posts up soon, I hope. I’ve added some new gear to my arsenal and I have a few things to say about that, and hopefully some other things as well.
I was just going through some photos from this year and remembered how much I liked this photo when I took it, and how much I still like it.
I began thinking about the compulsion that drives me to make photographs, the way I see them everywhere, and how I see different ones from most other people. People who don’t know anything about photography and aren’t particularly interested in it are always fascinated with my need to make images constantly, and when I show them the images I make, they are often full of equal parts praise and bemusement. “How did you see that? Wow, that’s cool.”
I don’t say this to slap myself on the back about my own photographs; in fact, I’m generally the most critical of my own images. A fellow blogger (who I very much admire) has, over the past year or two, moved away from making images that appeal to others and focused instead on making images that are meaningful to him. Isn’t that what we’re all doing? Isn’t that the point of images generally?
For me, the image-making progress is about much more than simply recording a moment. It’s about more than capturing an image that I found appealing. It’s also about more than creating something someone will like. Sure, we all go through the phase were praise is of utmost importance; the stage of photographic development where “likes” and “faves” are the gold standard. Many of us graduate out of that and go back to what made photography interesting and attractive to begin with.
For me, photography is about experiencing life. It’s about interacting with my environment and the people around me. My wife constantly reminds me how bad my memory is, but I find that I can recall virtually every photograph that I’ve ever taken: the place, the situation, the camera/lens/film used, the story of the image, etc. It’s not because I obsess about camera equipment (although I went through that phase, and yes I am a recovering gearaholic) but rather than creating an image burns that moment into my brain. So making images is how I experience and enjoy moments that are important to me and those around me. Rather than being detached by having a camera in front of my face, I’m actually more involved by being behind the camera. It’s as if being behind the camera allows me to really be who I am, and really open up.
Last weekend my wife and I went to visit the brewery of Summit Brewing Company in Saint Paul, MN. Summit is probably the best-known local beer, and they have their brewery very close to where I live. They offer free tours (you have to book ahead online to ensure yourself a spot) that last about 45 minutes, and at the end, you get to try three kinds of whatever beer they are presently brewing for free. And the samples are easily a full half pint, so they don’t skimp!
I first went on the tour in January 2009, when my friend was visiting from San Antonio (if you’re reading this, we’ll go again when you come back up to visit again!) and we both enjoyed it. The fact that it is free definitely goes a long way to ensuring that their tours are pretty full; in fact, when I went to book my slot, I got the last one for the month of October–and the month just started! Tours are Tuesday/Thursday at 1300, and 1030/1300/1530 on Saturdays, in case you’re in the area. If you are, I highly recommend checking it out.
“Tour Guide” – Saint Paul, MN
We had the 1030 slot on Saturday, and so we arrived around 1015. Last time I did the tour, there were about 15-20 people in the group, and it was low-key. My, how times have changed. We were one of the first ones to arrive, but by 1030, the room in which we sat awaiting the tour (think about the size of a small school lunchroom, with picnic tables inside) was pretty full. There were probably 45-50 people on hand. I figured this early on a Saturday would be pretty dead. Boy, was I wrong.
The group was made up of couples, families, friends, and even a bachelor party was there (getting an early start on the day’s events, no doubt). Before the actual tour starts, the woman leading the tour gave us a Powerpoint presentation on the history of the company, the owners, the current site of the brewery, etc; she also went into a brief story of how beer is made, what ingredients are needed, what varieties Summit brews, etc. Finally, she gave us an idea of how the company has grown, how much they brew each year, and where they do most of their business (90% of their sales are in Minnesota, and over 60% are in the Twin Cities area alone, in case you’re wondering at home).
“Tour” – Saint Paul, MN
After a quick explanation of the rules for us tourists, we were split into two groups, and each group headed off on the tour, starting a different ends to avoid bottlenecking (no pun intended). Last time I did the tour, there was only one group. I’m glad there were two, as the people I were with were already a pretty large group.
The tour guide was spunky–some would say annoying–and delivered the tour well. We learned about the brewing, the bottling, packaging, storing, and shipping of the beer. We saw the bottling line, the various kegs and bottles they use, and all the rest of it. What we all really wanted to know was when she would stop talking and give us free beer…
“Attention” – Saint Paul, MN
Seriously though, it was very interesting and informative. It was long enough to learn something, and not long enough for me to become disinterested or bored. The tour guide took questions along the way and seemed moderately knowledgable, even when straying off of her talking points.
I don’t like all of Summit’s varieties, but I do like most. I will get to the three that I tried in a moment, but I got some bad news on the beer front. Summit has discontinued their Hefeweizen (which I quite liked) and has stopped bottling their Oatmeal Stout (which I also quite liked, though Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is by far a better oatmeal stout if you ask me), which you can now only get on tap.
“Flat” – Saint Paul, MN
Here are the brews which I elected to use my three samples on:
Summit Winter Ale – This one I think I had had before, but not for a while. It’s one of their “seasonal” brews, meaning that it’s only around for part of the year: the winter. First brewed in 1987, it has a great flavor and goes with a lot of different foods. Rating: 4/5
Summit Oatmeal Stout – As I mentioned above, I do like the Oatmeal Stout. I elected to use one of my samples on it since you can’t get it bottled anymore, making my consumption of it a rarity. First brewed in 2004. Nice and dark, a good dessert beer. Rating: 4/5
Summit Saga IPA – This is a new brew that they just brought out in 2012. It’s an IPA, which some people don’t like (such as my lovely wife), but I like some of. They aren’t my favorite, and I don’t drink many of them, but I do like them. This one was solid. Rating: 3/5
“Winter Ale” – Saint Paul, MN
One of the coolest things about the tour is the fact that at the end, you wind up back at the start. Well, that in and of itself isn’t that great, but there are picnic tables galore, and there are games to play too; they had a giant Jenga set which was pretty neat. People sat around playing games, talking, and drinking beer. There is no rush and the proprietors don’t make you get out at any point. You can basically take as long as you like to enjoy your free samples.
After we had our samples, we headed to the gift shop near the exit. I got a new T-shirt (the one I got a few years ago at the tour got shrunk in the wash) and a sticker for the window of my car (gotta rep’ the ‘Sota, as my friend says!) before we headed back home in what was a blustery, cold, fall day in Saint Paul. Later that night we had plans to go to a soccer game in Blaine, which I blogged about the other day–check it out if you want to see how that turned out!