Orlando in July

Tourists

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, I recently spent a week in Orlando with my family. A family vacation was a long time coming, and we wanted to visit my grandparents (who relocated to Orlando several years ago to escape the winters), and take advantage of being there to visit the Universal Studios Harry Potter world–both my wife and my son are big, big Harry Potter fans.

I have spent summers in Florida previously, so I was not unaware of the heat. However, my previous trips brought me to the Gulf Coast, which is considerably cooler than the interior of the state. This is a lesson I would learn in the days I spent in Orlando.

I did write a previous entry about this trip to Orlando, which I titled a “Travel Journal”…you can see the post here, and the flickr set here.

Gator-watching

The heat is oppressive. In the days we were there, the daily heat index fluctuated between 110-118 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s really hot. We went to Universal Studios the first two days of our trip, and it was enjoyable, despite the heat; the park is really well done, with a lot of attention to detail ensuring that every nook and cranny holds something that Potter-ites will point out and enjoy.¬†The HP section of Universal studios is divided into two sections: Hogshead and Diagon Alley, and you can read more about it here. I would say that if you’re into HP at all, you should go. It is hot and crowded and expensive, but you only live once, right?

Welcome to Universal Studios

HP World

Rest

Shade

At this point, you’re probably wondering if there was anyone at the park. Yes, in fact, there were plenty of people. It was incredibly crowded, but as my wife always tells me, I have a way of photographing loneliness–even where it doesn’t necessarily seem to exist. But as you can see by the cars in the parking lot, it was full of people. As a matter of fact, in the photography below there are¬†two people.

Conversation

During our time in Orlando, we also managed to see other things. We went hiking, which despite our efforts to get out early in the morning, left us pretty drained. Still, we wanted to enjoy some of the state parks that the area has to offer. And enjoy them we did, until it got too hot; then we went back inside where it’s cool. We also enjoyed some of the coast, the Kennedy Space Center, and time with family. All in all it was a great trip!

Sweaty Kid

On the camera-geek side of things, this was the final trip for my Olympus EM1. After using it as the main camera all week, I found it lacking a few times, and sold it with all my lenses upon return. I kept the Ricoh GR, which also made the trip; that camera proves time and time again how good it is at what it aims to do. I’ll be continuing with the Sony A7ii that I bought earlier this summer. Ultimately, I didn’t find a place for the EM1 next to my A7ii, GR, and X100T.

Here are some other photographs from the trip. I hope you enjoy. Feedback is always appreciated. The full set of images from the trip can be seen here.

Max

Meg

Atlantic Coast, Canaveral National Seashore

REVIEW: Ricoh GR

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.

-Trevor

Wrapping up 2014

Standing Guard

It is the time of year where all sorts of “Year in Review” posts start popping up. I know, that makes this all a bit tired and cliche; however, bear with me and we can get through this together.

The following is a collection of some of my favorite photos I’ve taken in 2014. I hope you enjoy them!

Winter

Sense of Wonder

Warm

Winter Landscape

Nature

Family Day

Wildlife

Fresh Snow

Dance

Lake Superior

Snow

Landscape

Smile

Archive, 2014

Mannequin

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.

As always, thanks for following along!

Midwest

Run

Summer

Frozen

June & July

Portrait – July 2014

Summer has flown by, and there has been yet another massive break between posts. I suppose that’s just normalcy to some degree now. Rather than drown this post with words, I’ll just stick to what makes this blog tick: photos. I do hope you enjoy them, and I hope it won’t be another two months before I blog again.

There is no theme to these photos other than having been captured these past two months of the summer. It’s a bit random, but maybe that’s representative of my life and, more to the point here, my photography at the moment.

Aimless. Wandering. Searching.

Not finding.

Baseball – July 2014

Leaves – July 2014

Red, White & Blue – July 2014

Windy – June 2014

Air Force One – June 2014

Jay Cooke – July 2014

Evening – June 2014

April

Arlo

The past month has been defined by the gradual onset of spring. Winter is slowly fading, and although it hasn’t given up easily, the warmer weather and longer days are slowly winning out. This has led to an increase in the amount of time spent outdoors, which in turn has led to more opportunities to shoot. Still, I’m far from having the kind of time I used to have to get out and shoot; perhaps this is the new normal? As much as I’d prefer it not to be, I think it may be.

Evening Swing

I have been meaning to do a write-up of a camera I have been loving lately, the Ricoh GR. It has come to be my go-to camera every day, everywhere, for virtually every situation. The focal length was a bit of a problem at first, and it’s still not my favorite, but I’m learning to work around it and challenge myself; other than that, the camera is essentially perfect. If Ricoh made more of these, in different focal lengths–say, 21-28-40, or something–they’d sell a boatload. It’s awesome.

But that leads me to another point I’ve been pondering: gear. I’ve come to despise talking about gear. I spent the better part of 5 years obsessing in varying amounts about the type of gear I was using. I was fetishizing the equipment rather than what I was doing with it, and in the process spent a lot of money buying and selling various types of gear. I was a digital convert, a film purist, and Leicaphile…in short, I’ve covered the gamut of gearhead obsession and self-identification.

Sunrise

Over the past few months I’ve given myself some distance from gear-based forums. I’ve stopped following many on various social media outlets that only talk about gear. And amazingly, it all came about naturally. I just…stopped caring. I no longer care to debate the optical qualities of a certain lens, the megapixel count of a given sensor, sharpness, resolution, etc etc. I just don’t care. Because I don’t care does not mean I am on some high and mighty, holier-than-thou moralistic crusade; if that’s what interests you, then knock yourself out.

There are camera collectors, and there are photographers. I believe that due to the technical side of the art form, those two necessarily converge at some point in all those who take photographs, but how much varies. I used to be equal parts collector and user, and in some instances was more collector than user. If you take photographs of your cameras, or choose your camera as an accessory you’d like people to see, you’re in that territory as well. Like any recovering cameraholic, it has taken distance and time to be able to see that about myself.

What I’ve come to understand, only more recently, and with the benefit of space to reflect on this, is that my priorities were skewed. Yes, the addition of a new camera is always a thrill, but it’s a cheap thrill. Before long, you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of adding yet another piece of gear to achieve the same rush again. Eventually you don’t even use the equipment you have assembled, despite your reasoning to yourself that you’re only acquiring the gear to use, and that it will help you somehow. It won’t. The ever-shorter window that you own the gear before swapping it for something else means you can’t. You don’t get to know it; rather than becoming a trusted old friend, the article in question is never more than a passing acquaintance, something you only know superficially before bidding it adieu and welcoming another.

Last Snow

Increasingly, I have spent more time shooting for myself. And if I’m honest, I can barely tell the difference in varying optical qualities of lenses and sensors most of the time unless I’m looking at them side-by-side at the pixel level. When it comes to photographs that mean something to me, more important is that I have the photos, not that they are technically perfect. When someone looks at the photos of my life, will they care if I used the Summilux or the Summicron? When I look at them in ten years, will I care? Will I even notice?

So the GR may not get a review, as I have done with previous cameras. I have to say that consistently, it is the camera reviews I have done that garner the most page views. I get more traffic from them than from anything else I have posted over the years. I guess that says a lot about others as well, and how the prioritization of gear has consumed photography for a lot of folks.

Expect to see less about gear going forward.

Long Layoff

Lines – February 2014

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted–it’s been a long time since I’ve even looked at WordPress. There are a lot of reasons why that is, ranging from work, to family, to winter light being hard to come by, but the biggest reason of all is that my inspiration for taking photos has waned. I still usually grab a camera when I go out places, but not always. Often, I’ll take it out with me and then not shoot anything. I don’t see any photos at the moment; nothing grabs me and demands a photo be taken.

Perhaps it’s a temporary thing, perhaps not. I wonder sometimes–worry, even–if my love and passion for photography has started to fade. I haven’t been looking at photos, I haven’t been shooting. I abandoned my film project for the year after a month. The motivation to carry on just wasn’t there. My motivation to shoot, to share…all of it. Perhaps other things have simply taken my time and attention momentarily. I’m not sure.

Empty – February 2014

My thoughts on photography have begun to shift. I’ve begun to ask more fundamental questions about the point of making photographs, the way I make them; about the process of photography, and about what role photography should and will play in my life going forward. I don’t have many answers at this point, only questions. Some recent influences have caused me to question a lot of this, and it’s probably good to have more questions than answers–but it’s not always easy. Perhaps that will be the focus of upcoming blog posts. Then again, maybe it’s best to figure it out on my own and come back when I’ve got a direction?

I’m fully aware that today’s post is a mess. The photos have no focus, and I was tempted to not even blog at all today, but thought that I should post something from the past few months. I’m not even sure who wants to read the narcissistic, self-indulgent, woe-is-me ramblings from some guy who takes snapshots of his daily life.¬†Regardless, I’ve put together a few shots of my recent collection. I’m hoping the warm weather will finally re-introduce my will to go shoot; coupled with more hours of daylight, that usually does the trick. Winter up here gets to be really long, and by the end I’m worn out.

To all who keep visiting: thanks. I’ll try to get things up and running more frequently again.

-Trevor

Megan – February 2014

Franklin Freeze – February 2014

Lines – February 2014

Winter – February 2014