A Tale of Two Disc Jockeys – Yes, Photography Related

Bear with me on this.  The payoff is worth the read.

When I was in high school I had a job at the local radio station in my home town working weekends.  That job experience would lead to a career in broadcasting that spanned over 40 years.  When I was discharged from the Air Force in Sacramento, California I walked into the studios of  KRAK radio and was hired as a weekend newsman.  I went from that job to being a DJ on WHNC, Henderson, NC then to WFBS  in Fayetteville, NC.  From there I went to work at WSGN in Birmingham, AL.  My next stop was WNOR in Norfolk, VA followed by WPLO Atlanta, WDAF Kansas City, WMAQ Chicago.  I finally ended up on the air in Dallas, Texas working at KPLX for a 20 year stint that ended in 1998.  I swore that I was not going to be a 50 year old DJ and I was 49 when I finally escaped the grip of radio on my life.

I met and worked with a lot of great people during my career in broadcasting.  Lately I have begun to wonder where all those people are today and what they are doing now.  Some of them have passed away and some are still in radio.  Some, like me, are in a totally different career today, having said goodbye to radio long ago.

Recently I decided to use the Internet to try and find some of the people I had worked with and I began with those I worked with at WSGN in Birmingham, AL.  When I worked there, back in the mid 1970s, one of the guys I worked with used the air name of Chris Love.  We all used “air-names” because most of us had names that did not sound very “Radio Like”.

But let’s get back to Chris….

Chris Love on the air at WSGN in 1974

Chris Love on the air at WSGN in 1974.

Chris was a young guy with a bushy head of hair and he loved being a Rock Jock on the radio.  He worked from 10PM to 2AM at night, if my memory still serves me well.  That was a great shift to have because none of suits or sales snakes were around. Chris and I did not see much of each other because I worked from 10AM to 2PM during the day but we did see each other in staff meetings and station events and on some of my late night visits to the radio station.  WSGN was a Rock station and Chris was the epitome of a late night Rock Jock in the 1970s.

Like most people who move around a lot, I lost track of Chris.  It’s been at least 40 years since my younger self and Chris worked together at WSGN.  I have not spoken to him nor had any communication with him in that 40 year period so I was very pleased to find some information about him on a website dedicated to WSGN.

I have been subscribing to Outdoor Photographer magazine for years now and I have read several articles and looked at photos taken by a photographer whose name sounded familiar but I could not place the name.  I chalked it up to my bad memory or maybe it was a name from some photography forum I had visited.  I don’t know, it just sounded familiar but I could not place the name with someone I knew… until yesterday.

And here comes the photography part…..

There is a section on that website dedicated to WSGN called “Where Are They Now” and that is where I discovered that the late night, screaming, Rock-N-Roll DJ I knew as Chris Love is now an amazing professional photographer and that the author of those articles and photos I read and viewed in Outdoor Photographer magazine were written and taken by Chris, whose real name was and is Phil Hawkins.

I visited Phil’s website and my jaw literally dropped.  I spent at least an hour or more looking at all his photos.  I am totally in awe of his abilities with a camera and his post-processing skills.  He has a superb eye, knows composition, reads the light like nobody I personally know and well, what more can I say other than I was totally humbled by his work.

Neither Phil nor I knew of the other’s interest in photography when we were working together, something he wrote to me yesterday after I emailed him.  I am so thrilled to have found him after all these years and even more thrilled that he chose the career I did not and is so accomplished as a pro photographer.

I wanted to share a link to his website because if you are an amateur like me or even if you are a pro, you should take a look at Phil’s work.  Here’s the link to his website: http://philhawkinsphoto.com/

Take your time and drink it all in.  His work gives me something to shoot for.  Please pardon the pun.

Phil may not still be playing the Rock-N-Roll Hits on the radio but he definitely Rocks! as a photographer.

 

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Are You Ready To Rumble?

Oh what fun it is to surf the various camera forums in advance of Photokina.

Camera makers are “leaking” specs of their new cameras and some are actually putting out official press releases in advance of Photokina.  All of this has turned Internet camera forums into arenas in which FanBoys and Trolls are engaged in verbal battle.

It’s always the same the week before Photokina opens. 

This year the biggest battle appears to be between the Sony FanBoys and everyone else as they tout the imminent death of Micro Four Thirds, Leica, Fuji, Canon and Nikon cameras due to the upcoming release of the Sony RX1.  To say they are overly excited would be and understatement.

The RX1 is a full frame, fixed focal length camera which is about the same size as some of those small MFT cameras.  It carries a suggested price of $2,800.  Add-ons include:  $599 Optical Viewfinder, $179 lens hood, and $249 for a thumb grip.  There is also an EVF for the RX1 but no price is yet available.  Judging from the other prices it will not be cheap.

It is all so futile, these online battles… but I have to admit it is fun to read the various threads.

Never have so many people been called Trolls or FanBoys in such a short period of time.  I’d love to see all the combatants in a stadium armed with rotten tomatoes and other soft, squishy produce they could hurl at each other.  Kind of a “Hunger Games” event.

Grown men (and a few women) are acting like children, defending and attacking cameras that have not even been released yet.  Is there any wonder that there will never be World Peace as long as people can become so rabid and defensive over something as unimportant as a new camera?

I will say that Sony is to be congratulated for figuring out how to put a Full Frame sensor in such a small camera body.  A number of camera makers have implied that it could not be done… but we all knew better, didn’t we?  We (photographers) will all benefit from this “impossible” feat.

So, go get some popcorn, sit back and surf the battles… and try not to get sucked in.

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Why The Leica M?

Warning: What follows is satire… there is a degree of truth AND exaggeration in what you are about to read.

 

Confessions and Observations of a Leica user…

 

I finally took the plunge and bought a Leica.  I had to discover for myself the meaning of the Leica Mystique.  The unboxing was an incredible experience for me after waiting days for the UPS truck to arrive.

I may find it difficult to put into words how it feels to use this camera and the handcrafted lenses I have purchased for it.  Nevertheless, I will try.

I have discovered that when using the Leica I achieve a Zen-like state.  I become one with the camera.  My vision through the bright, optical viewfinder results in an elevated state of awareness of what I see.  My composition becomes slow and thoughtful.  I become aware of all that is in the frame and all that is not as well as that which will soon be in the frame.  I can anticipate the decisive moment at which I am to press the shutter release and capture the perfect image.

It no longer seems to matter that my photos are not perfectly in focus as even some of the mundane shots I have taken now appear to be fine art photography due to the way the Leica renders the shot.

The bokeh produced by the Leica lenses is simply not attainable by a lesser lens and camera combination.  I finally understand the meaning of the phrase “The Leica Look”.

Yes, I admit the price tag was high.  I spent part of my children’s college fund and I took out a second mortgage to obtain my Leica and two lenses but I have to say it was worth it.  You only live once, why not enjoy it?  The amazing Noctilux f/0.95 allows me to take photographs in near total darkness and was well worth the $10,000 price tag.  Using it I can now isolate a single moth in flight with a beautiful, out of focus, background and foreground.  I can also shoot a rock concert by the light produced by a single butane lighter held aloft by a concert goer in the crowd, its small flame illuminating the stage and musicians allowing me to capture the scene.  This is only possible using the Noctilux and my Leica.

I know many will not understand this but when using the Leica I sometimes find myself feeling as if I am having an out of body experience, floating above the scene I am about to photograph.  Colors are more vivid, even though I can’t seem to shoot anything but Black & White.  I now see details which I never saw before in the photographs I produced using lesser cameras and lenses.  A testament to the superior quality of the Leica M lenses.

Since acquiring my Leica I am drawn to street photography as never before.  I now enjoy and see the beauty of capturing a group of people on a smoke break, an old woman crossing the street burdened with four bags of groceries, people having coffee in a restaurant, merchants at fruit stands, bicycle messengers, pigeons in flight and so much more.  I have also discovered a whole new world of things to shoot and I owe it all to my Leica.  I don’t know how or why, it just happens.  A single leaf on the sidewalk is now something I am drawn to photograph.  I can’t explain it.  It’s just a leaf but yet when photographed with my Leica it becomes something more.

The depth of field indicator on the barrel of the lens and the manual focus allows me to pre-focus, insuring I get the shot.  I can shoot from the hip and my subject is not aware that I have taken their photograph.  This also insures I don’t get my ass kicked by those subjects who do not wish to have their photo taken.  In addition, the whisper quiet shutter allows me to do such things as take a close-up of a sleeping Pit Bull without fear of waking him and the resulting trip to the emergency room for stitches and a Rabies shot.  Try that with your big, mirror-slapping, DSLR.

I have also found that the Leica M is far less intimidating than my old DSLR.  My subjects no longer run for cover or turn away from the camera as they did when I was using my DSLR.  The small size of the Leica M does not threaten them at all.  In fact, they don’t even seem to notice I have a camera.  It is very stealthy.  The small size of the Leica M does not draw the attention of the police or rent-a-cops when I am taking photos in the city.  I apparently am no longer considered to be a terrorist plotting to destroy buildings, statues and fruit stand by bored security guys and the local police.

The sheer simplicity of the Leica M frees me from searching through seemingly endless menus to make some adjustment.  I can set the ISO, shutter speed and aperture and need not worry about such things as face detection, auto focus (there is none), film styles and such useless things as video and scene settings.  Finally, I own a camera that is the pure essence of photography in its simplest form.  It is invigorating.  The camera itself does not get in the way of the photographer.

I am now free of lugging around 30 pounds of camera gear which often resulted in back and shoulder pain.  I no longer need or desire a zoom lens as I have discovered that I can zoom with my feet.  I am no longer out of breath from carrying my gear with me when walking from one location to another.  The Leica is easily carried in a small Billingham bag which is quite fashionable as well as functional.

When not actually taking photographs with my Leica I can spend time caressing the handmade body and marvel at the jewel-like lenses.  Just holding the Leica in my hands makes me feel like a real photographer.  Its ownership gives me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment unequalled by any other camera purchase I have made in the past.  Not to mention feeling as if I belong to a brotherhood of photographers using a Leica.

I feel a kinship with the Saudi Princes, the rich and famous and Henri Cartier Bresson.  I, as a photographer, am forever changed by this handcrafted device of metal and glass, lovingly honed to perfection by skilled workers and artisans in Germany.

I will try my best not to be an evangelist for Leica but it is difficult not to proclaim the superiority of this finely crafted photographic tool and extoll the virtues and joy of using a Leica to any and all who will listen.

I have seen the light and now my Leica will allow me to capture it like never before.

John J Fictitious

 

But Seriously Folks…

This is satire.. with a bit of truth, nothing more, so please don’t take it personally or become defensive if you are a Leica owner.  Much of what was written above was derived or distilled from actual statements and posts made by Leica owners on various forums on the Internet that I have frequented over the years since the Leica M8 was introduced.  Some of it came from my own personal experience with the Leica M8.  Please, make no mistake; I am a fan of Leica but also a critic…. and I happen to have a sense of humor.

I’ve owned and used a Leica M and I can truly understand how many Leica owners feel about their cameras.  The M system is “special” and truly is capable of producing some absolutely amazing photographs.  I know, I’ve seen them and drooled over them wishing I had taken them myself.

There is one thing you will hear on every forum that is Leica specific and that is:  “A rangefinder is not for everybody.”   If you are thinking of buying an M system then do your best to use one before you buy one.  You may find that a rangefinder is not for you.  I finally came to realize that my Leica M8, which I saved and saved for, was not for me.  It just was not versatile enough for what and how I shoot but for others and maybe you, a Leica M may be perfect.  I enjoyed using the M8 a lot but in the end sold it due to the amount of money I had tied up in it and the lenses.

Will owning a Leica M make you a better photographer?  My gut says no but then I really can’t say.  I guess if owning and using one somehow gives you the confidence you need to take your photography to the next level, why not?

I, like many, continue to wish that the Leica M system was more affordable but the phrase “affordable Leica” is an oxymoron for many of us.  There is no denying that Leica glass is some of the most amazing glass in the world and it shows in photograph after photograph.  Even when mounted on non-Leica bodies it is amazing glass and produces great photographs.  Let’s hope that one day Leica will produce “the Leica camera for the rest of us” which will embody the greatness of Leica glass without the astronomical cost of the M body.   I know, I know, snowball’s chance in hell but we can always dream, right?

Personally, I have always said the heart and soul of Leica is not the M body but the M glass.  I still believe that it’s all about the glass and there is simply no denying that Leica makes amazing glass.  If you missed the link earlier, click here to see why.

Maybe there will be a surprise at the upcoming Photokina… or the next… or the one after that… I, like many of you, will be watching to see what Leica does now and in the future…. and I will continue to play the lottery.

 

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Testographers

I am often amazed at the number of posts on forums by owners of cameras who can’t stop testing their camera.  Months after their initial purchase of the camera they are still posting test shots.  Do they never really use their cameras for any purpose other than “testing” the camera?

How many brick walls, color charts, Etc., do we need to see?  Wouldn’t “real” photography under varying conditions of light and various, real subjects, rather than test shots, tell us more about the true capabilities of a camera?  Does anyone buy a camera based on test shots of a brick wall or a color chart?  I don’t.  I always look for actual photographs (not test shots) from the camera I am considering buying, preferably by a photographer who knows what he is doing…. and, if they have actually read the manual, all the better.

I am convinced that there is a small group of Photographers.. er.. scratch that… Testographers who spend 99% of their time testing their camera rather than actually using it for the purpose for which it was created… producing photographs, either for sentimental reasons or artistic purposes.  Yes, photography is an art form.

Test shots do have their place and it’s good to see them every now and then but how long does one really need to test a camera?

So I submit that the companies that create dictionaries, online and in print, now need a new word and definition to describe camera owners who cannot seem to produce anything but test shots of brick walls, tree bark, focus charts, color charts, cats and various other items that are set up to test a camera’s ability to capture an image faithfully.

Testographer

Test-og-ra-pher:  (noun) 1 A photographer or sometimes just a consumer who tests his photography gear on an ongoing basis.  2 One who cannot compose an actual photograph but is capable of producing numerous test shots at every possible ISO setting and f stop.  3 One who buys a camera for the shear enjoyment of testing it until the replacement of the current model being tested arrives and then begins the process all over again with the newer model.

Don’t take offense to my thoughts if you fall into the category of being a Testographer.   Thanks for taking the time to do those ongoing tests but you really should get out more often and do a bit of serious photography.  There’s more to shoot than bricks, color charts, cats and your backyard fence.  Try it, you’ll discover a whole new world of people, places and things to shoot… and you might just wind up with something worth printing and hanging on your wall.

Everyone is expected to test their new camera gear.. but after several weeks and thousands of test shots shouldn’t the testing phase be complete?

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Well.. that didn’t last long!

I love this camera!Back on March 5, 2012 I wrote that I was happy with my current gear and I did not want another camera.  Well, it was true then but how things can change in just a month or so.  I am so ashamed of myself.  I should be stabbed, shot, beheaded and thrown under a passing freight train.  Why?  Well, it all started with a rumor.

I read on a number of photography related websites that Fuji was coming out with a “Pro” level camera, something far better than the X100 with its fixed lens and certainly much better than the Fuji X10 which had suffered from not being able to handle specular highlights properly, often referred to as Orbs.. (I returned my Fuji X10 by the way)  So, I continued to read and then the official Fuji press release came out and I was stoked by what I read.  Then the pre-production cameras hit a number of photographers and they raved about the X-Pro1 and then I saw the photos and the specs on the lenses…. sigh… everything looked too good to be true.  I knew I should wait and see but I just could not do it. I couldn’t help myself.  Resistance was futile!

A friend of mine bought the X-Pro1 and told me it was amazing.  This from a person I know and trust.. it was all too much for me!  I visited a camera store, caressed the X-Pro1 in person.  I brought a memory card with me and took sample shots which I would examine later that day.  The Fuji X-Pro1 seemed to be everything I wanted in a small, rangefinder style package.. and yes, I know it is NOT a rangefinder.  The glass was good the camera build quality was good.. and the sound of that shutter.. oh so Leica like.. just a whisper.. fwip, fwip, fwip… [Translation: Buy me, Buy me, Buy me]

The next day I caved and bought the X-Pro1 and the 18mm & 35mm lenses.  I brought it home, charged the batteries, formatted a memory card and began to shoot… and I thought it might all be a dream and I would wake up holding a Holga and a roll of film.  (No offense intended to Holga owners.)

I was amazed at the quality of the JPGs.  They are the best I have ever seen and that includes the JPGs that came from my Canon 5D and 5DII.  I’ve not really tried RAW as Photoshop CS5 does not support the Fuji RAW files and I am not a fan of SilkyPix and the   Fuji X-Pro1 JPGs are absolutely gorgeous.

I was annoyed by the “Lens Chatter” of the X-Pro1 but shortly after I bought it Fuji released a firmware update that eliminated the issue altogether.. and so, I really have no complaints at all with the X-Pro1.

The Fuji X-Pro1 just may be the camera I have been waiting for for years to be produced by Leica.  I am honestly very happy that Leica did NOT produce it.. because I know I would not be able to afford it if it bore the Red Dot.

Congratulations Fuji!  You have a winner and I have the camera I have been looking for for years!

Sometimes when something sounds too good to be true.. it really is true.

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What’s Wrong With Me? I Don’t Want To Buy A New Camera!

There have been lots of new camera announcements lately and I found myself not to be excited by any of them.  None of them have made me slip into “Buy Mode” at this time.

This is strange because over the years I have easily slipped into “Buy Mode” when the latest and greatest cameras were announced by Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Leica, Fuji, Etc.

Three things must be having an impact on my current state of non-responsiveness to these new camera releases:

  1. I am happy with the cameras that I currently own.
  2. I see nothing new that really makes me feel like I am missing out.
  3. I realize that yet another new camera will not make me any better at photography than I already am.

I recently traveled to New Orleans for the craziness that is Mardi Gras.  I took the Pentax K5 and the Panasonic GH2 with me.  I had a full compliment of lenses for both cameras and found myself not wishing for or needing anymore gear than I already had with me.  Not once did I say “Damn, I should have brought….”

I would shoot all day and then into the late night hours with both and then drag my tired old bones back to the hotel to quickly review what I had shot in the last 24 hours.  Not once did it occur to me that if only I had the new [Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Panasonic, Etc.] would any of my photos have been better.

What I did realize during those review sessions was that I was the critical factor in the photos I was reviewing.  Had I used a different lens, higher or lower ISO, faster or slower shutter speed, used a polarizer, Etc…. my photos would have been better.  It was my mistakes, not the camera’s shortcomings, that caused me to not quite get the shot I wanted on more than one occasion.   Hmmmm.. learning from one’s mistakes… what a concept!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Looking over the photos I took I can see what I should have done at the time.  This tells me I need to slow down a bit when I am shooting and maybe chimp a little more to make those adjustments that are needed.  It’s better to chimp and adjust on location than wishing you had made certain adjustments after leaving the location.   By the way, there is NOTHING wrong with chimping.  I’ve watched numerous pros do it (though many will not admit it).   I should have done more myself.

No, I don’t need a new camera.  I need to slow down and pay more attention to what I am getting from my current cameras.  The camera will talk to you via that LCD screen.. but you need to take the time to listen.

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Happy New Year! And…Why I don’t allow comments..

An individual in one of the camera forums recently criticized my blog because I don’t allow comments.  Why am I not surprised?  But just in case some of my gentler readers were wondering the same thing, here’s why.

Do you recognize either of those guys to the left?  Does one or maybe both of them look familiar?  They are why comments are turned off.

I decided to add a blog to my website so I could say what I had to say about various subjects without having to deal with others wanting to offer their own counterpoints.  This is not a forum.. this is my blog. These are my thoughts. I have a right to express them without having to deal with the kind of troublemakers one finds in online photography forums. If I desired to see the thoughts of those characters I would have created a forum, not a blog.

I do not make money off of this website. I am asked on a monthly, sometimes weekly, basis to accept and display ads on my website and blog. I always refuse. I get a lot of traffic here but I am not interested in trying to make money from that traffic. The cost of running this website is about $150 a year.. I think I can afford that without bringing in advertisers.  Besides, once I begin accepting advertisements for the companies which I may criticize, well, you can see the problem there.

For $150 a year I get a small piece of real-estate (ad free) on the Internet which is free of trolls, thugs and those who know it all and are more than willing to post anywhere they can to prove it. It’s a small price to pay not to have to deal with those folks on my own website.  It’s bad enough we have to deal with them in forums.  Do you really think I want them here?

Now you know why comments are turned off.

Happy New Year Everyone!

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Forum Bullies: How to deal with them.

 

We’ve all run into them online. Those self-appointed protectors of truth and detail who inhabit online photography forums. They are belligerent, usually in-your-face, combative, sarcastic, cynical, project an air of superiority, usually don’t actually take a lot of photos and when they do they are pretty much the same kind of snapshots a Noob might produce. If they have an extensive vocabulary they use it to cow those they are addressing.. verbal bullying is their main joy in life. They LIVE for it. They are Forum Bullies.

Most Forum Bullies are compensating for something lacking in their life, something they are missing, such as: respect, friends, social graces, sex, Etc… Maybe they’re pissed off because they are short, maybe they’re ticked because they’ve gone bald.. or maybe they’re just nasty people who did not get enough love as a child. Let’s call a spade a spade: They’re assholes.

These pitiful people feel compelled to address every single thread in a forum that they disagree with.. they just can’t let it go. They are like a moth to a flame. They MUST respond because “the other guy” is an idiot and does not know what he is talking about and SOMEONE (meaning them) must right the injustice done and squash the false information being disseminated by THAT idiot.

I disagree with things I read in online forums all the time but I don’t make it my business to respond to every single one of them. Really, people are entitled to their opinions, even if those opinions are based on faulty information. Just agree to disagree and move on. Hell, there are much more important things to argue about e.g. global warming, pollution, whaling, drug addiction, crooked cops…  you get the idea, cameras seem to fall a bit lower in importance when you look at the big picture, don’t they?

Forum Bullies must have no life and no friends. If they have a wife and they treat their wife the way they treat people online I suggest they sleep with one eye open. If they tell you they have lots of friends, they’re lying and their so-called friends probably suffer them because they have no other options. If these bullies act in person the way they act online I am sure that someone would have put them in the hospital by now with a lesson well learned…. be civil or keep your damn mouth shut! The Internet allows many of these Forum Bullies to say things to others online that they would never say to them in person for fear of getting their asses kicked.

I’ve always hated bullies. I suffered at the hands of several when I was growing up. I remember one guy in particular during my high school days. Over the summer I grew quite a bit. I put on weight, muscle and height. When school began again I dreaded running into that guy but to my amazement he no longer seemed interested in me. It wasn’t until later that I realized this clown was no longer bothering me because he knew I could kick his ass.

Bullies only pick on those they believe they can dominate.

Here’s What You Can Do To Fight Online Bullies

When it comes to online forums and Forum Bullies, complain to the owners of the forum. Every single time you see one of these self-appointed defenders of truth step out of line. Complain. Do not get involved with name calling or sink to the level of the Forum Bully. That is what he wants. Do the right thing. When you see a Forum Bully attacking someone.. complain… every single time, never stop. Complain every single time. Not all forums have moderators so it may take some time but eventually these assholes will be evicted.. but only if YOU play by the rules and do not get sucked into the same bad behavior as the Forum Bully exhibits.

Trust me, it works. Been there, done that, several times.

Update: December 20, 2011… I bailed on a forum today because the owner of the forum was not enforcing their own rules.  When a forum owner is non-responsive to complaints and allows the forum members to run roughshod over their rules it is best to leave as the lunatics are running the asylum.  Sometimes the assholes win!

Update: December 28, 2011… I have never mentioned the forum name from which I bailed.  I have not posted there since I left on December 20, 2011.  In this blog post I have stated my opinion of how to handle forum thugs and bullies, nothing more, nothing less.  At least one individual has taken exception to what I have written here and posted the following:

And some people here get away with things that others can’t possibly get away with. Example: I like Jim R. – A LOT. I admire his photography A LOT. But if I had raced to a personal blog and bashed [Forum Name Removed] for not upholding the rules…..good gravy….I would have been hung out to dry. It was wrong of him to do – and disrespectful of [Forum Name Removed]. It doesn’t make [Forum Name Removed] look bad – it makes Jim look bad, at least to me. I’m very disappointed that he did that.

I know the individual who posted the above.  I like them and have no issues with them.  I am sorry they do not see any merit or truth in what I have written here.  Their own words kind of bear out the problem with the forum in question…. they state they would have been hung out to dry if they had done what I did.  Hung out to dry by who?  Probably the same forum members which cause all the problems.

Since I was used as an example here I feel I have a right to respond.  First, I never mentioned the name of the forum anywhere in this blog entry.  So it was wrong for me to express my feelings and suggest how people should respond to online thuggery and bullying in my own blog?  I don’t think so.   Any online forum that posts rules and guidelines for activity on that forum should be expected to enforce the rules they publish.  If they do not enforce their own rules and one finds the forum to be objectionable due to a small group of people intent on being combative then the only thing to do is to leave the forum.  That is exactly what I did.  I left the forum with a final post pointing out the rules that were being ignored by some forum members and pointed out that the owners of the forum were not enforcing their own rules.  All of it true.

If some find what I have written in this blog entry to be objectionable or unfair, then so be it.  I will not participate in any forum in which a small group of individuals continue to engage in verbal battles, thuggery, name calling and pot stirring.  If the owners of the forum cannot control the forum members then I have two options:  stay and suffer through the flame threads or leave.  What I have written is applicable to ANY forum, not just the nameless forum the individual above is referring to.

My post here was about how to handle those whose behavior in a forum is unacceptable.  Do not wage verbal warfare with them.    Do not get drawn into flame threads.  Complain to the owners of the forum and be done with it.  If complaining doesn’t remedy the problem then leave.  It’s that simple and it is sound advice… for ANY online forum.

I belong to a number of forums and all but one of them are well moderated.  In all of the forums that are moderated anyone who crosses the line of the forum guidelines is initially warned.  If they continue to break the forum rules after they have been warned they are banned, in most cases, permanently.  Seems fair to me.

Bottom line is this:  If  a forum owner has rules they expect forum members to abide by then they should be prepared to enforce those rules.  To do anything less is to show disrespect for the majority of forum members who DO follow the rules.

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In Search of The Perfect Camera

The quest for a perfect camera will always be an exercise in futility because we, as humans, are never satisfied with what we have for long.. and we simply cannot agree on the definition of perfect as it applies to cameras…. or anything else.

For some a point and shoot is perfect.  It fits in the purse or coat pocket.  No real brain power is involved, you really don’t have to understand the relationship between shutter speed, ISO and aperture… just set it to Auto Mode and then just point and shoot.

For some a rangefinder is perfect.  It has a small form factor with a full frame sensor and relies on the operator to focus it.  Great for shooting things that don’t move and if you aspire to be a street photographer, it is a must have item.  Shoot in color and convert to black and white because that’s just what rangefinders are for.  Rangefinders also proclaim you are in total control of your photography and that you are not in control of your bank account.

For some a Micro Four Thirds system is perfect.  It has a small form factor, auto-focus and allows you to use just about any lens you wish to hang on it… with the proper adapter.

For some a DSLR is perfect.  Big and bulky, it proclaims you are more than a hobbyist…. possibly a pro.  Auto-focus, full frame (on some) and its weight helps build upper body strength, especially the arms.  Downside is that, depending on how many lenses you carry with you, you may develop shoulder and back pain.

For some a Holga is perfect.  Light weight, uses film and allows you to take artsy photos without really trying.  No auto-focus issues either.  No one will ever think you are a Pro if you use a Holga.. even if you are.  And one other benefit.. you can recycle a Holga since it is 99% plastic.

For some a Polaroid is perfect.  Uses film (kinda) and offers the same instant gratification (60 seconds or so) that digital offers.  Scanning negatives is a bit difficult though.

For some a pin-hole camera is perfect.   Had to throw that in so pinhole users will not feel left out.. I honestly don’t know why anyone would enjoy using one.. but that is my problem, not theirs.  More power to the Pin Hole Users.  You don’t rush your photography when you’re a pin-hole user.

For some a Medium Format Camera is perfect.  Big and bulky, implies you are a pro and allows you to make extreme crops due to the huge sensor and the detail it can capture.

For some an iPhone is the perfect camera.  Fits in your pocket or purse and you hardly ever forget to take it with you and you can instantly post photos directly from the camera to facebook, Flickr and other photo sharing sites.  It’s also great for capturing police beatings and selling the video to CNN or MSNBC.  Downside is that it’s hard to find lenses for the iPhone camera.

I wonder when they’ll make a Digital Twin Lens Reflex camera?  Haven’t tried one of those yet.

I have owned or currently own: a rangefinder, several point and shoots, numerous DSLRs and two Micro Four Thirds cameras… none of them are perfect…. nor am I.

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Death Of The Local Camera Show

First, don’t confuse a local camera show with the big ones which are attended by all the major camera makers.. think camera swap meet or flea market….

I used to be an active amateur radio operator and attended many “Hamfests” in which there were all sorts of stalls (think flea market) set up for amateur radio operators to sell their old gear. Most of the time the gear being sold was what I would call “Boat Anchors”. That is to say they were old, antiquated transmitters and receivers that were in their prime 20 to 40 years earlier and weighed a ton. Lots of junk that no one wants or uses any longer.

Over the weekend I attended a local “Camera Show” and it was the same thing. Lots of old film bodies and manual focus lenses (most of them in pretty bad shape) that no one wants or uses any longer… Photographic Boat Anchors. That’s not to say that manual focus lenses are bad, I own a number of legacy lenses.. just that what was being offered was pretty awful stuff that wouldn’t sell on eBay.

There were a few Leica film bodies that I am sure someone collects but would rarely use and of course they all had the “Leica Price” so one could get the full “Leica Experience”, a quick reduction of funds in the bank account.

Aside from the Leicas there was very little of anything a photography enthusiast in the digital age would find interesting or useful. I was in and out in less than 45 minutes and believe me, I really wanted to find something to buy. I really did.

Every table I visited the guy behind the table would ask if I had anything to sell. I had my camera bag with me and I guess they thought I had brought gear to sell. I had actually brought my camera to try out a lens if I found one…. I didn’t.

There were lots of vendors there. One guy had a table full of old Polaroid cameras.. seriously, who in their right mind would want one of those in the day of instant gratification offered by digital cameras? Even some of the cheapest digital point and shoots produce better photos than any of those aging Polaroids. I guess you’d have to really have a “thing” for Polaroids to understand and appreciate the draw. By the way, no one was at his table.

Another vendor had a table full of old Nikon and Canon film bodies, all of them showing their age. I know some still use film but none of those bodies were flying off the table. He had about 50 to 75 of them. I never saw anyone show any interest in them.

Another guy had a table full of old camera cases.. yawn. I was very disappointed in what was being offered and it immediately struck me that it looked the same as most hamfests I have been to. Old, dusty gear, outdated and probably not worth the “bargain” price anyone was asking for it. It’s a shame because I enjoy browsing for bargains at such events. I found absolutely nothing of value (at least to me) at this particular camera show. I’m sure a few people came away with something they just had to have.

I think eBay has killed camera shows and hamfests. Why drive a hundred miles or so to look at old gear when you can do it using the Internet from your home?

I’m sure there are still some great local camera shows somewhere. This was not one of them. I think this may be the last one I attend. I can find all the old, dusty gear my heart desires on eBay or Craig’s List.

 

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The WAC Syndrome

The WAC Syndrome

WAC: Without A Camera

I recently had to send in my Pentax K5 for repair due to what is now called “Mirror-Overrun”.  I was without my main camera for 13 days.  During that thirteen day period of time I found myself to be irritable, anxious, moody and generally unhappy.  Those symptoms are all part of the WAC Syndrome.

Those of us who are really into photography seem to go through withdrawal when we are without our main camera.  I did have a Panasonic GH2 and GF1 to fall back on but it did little to quell my feelings of unease and restlessness while my main camera, the Pentax K5, was being repaired.  I probably experienced the same feelings smokers experience when using a nicotine patch instead of lighting up.  It wasn’t much fun.

I tried my best to ignore the fact that I was without my main camera during this period of time but found it hard to do.  I went through each day feeling that something was missing from my life.

I remember the day the camera was to return to me via a big, brown UPS truck.  I was full of expectation. I kept checking the clock, 9am, 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm… and then finally at 6:20pm the UPS guy knocked on the door with the package I was waiting for.  It was “the fix” I needed, no pun intended.

The mood change was immediate.  I was happy again, irritability disappeared and the world seemed to be a much better place.

My name is Jim and I am a cameraholic and there is not a thing I can do about it.  I know I am not alone. There are no weekly meetings I could go to for support. No one to share my misery with, no one to pat me on the back and let me know that things would get better.  What a terrible thing to go through!

I am once again happy and my world seems brighter and more cheerful.  I know I should seek professional help but for now.. I think I’ll just go take some photos.

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A Return To Black & White

I recently visited a photography gallery in Carmel, California.  What I saw there in the way of fine art black and white photography reawakened a desire to do more black and white conversions with no reference to what camera or lens was used.

Why? Because the entire time I was viewing those marvelous photographs in that gallery not once did I wonder what camera or lens was being used.  I just marveled at the art of black and white and how appealing it is to the eye and the soul.

So, I have set up a section on Boxed Light with only Black & White photos I have taken.  There will be no camera or lens information.  Just the photographs and nothing more.  I am light years behind the photographers whose work I saw in Carmel but the exercise alone will make me a better photographer.

I’ve always loved Black & White photography but got away from it because I did so much of it in my early years as a photographer, not because I wanted to but because I had to.  Color was too expensive and a bit tricky to master.

So, for now I only have a few images in the Black & White section of Boxed Light but I hope to add more in the near future.  I hope you enjoy them.  Look for the menu option on the home page of Boxed Light or   http://www.boxedlight.com/bw

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Street Photography – It Just Ain’t My Thing!

Let me say right up front that I don’t dislike street photography.  It’s not my thing and I rarely shoot “street” but I do recognize good street when I see it.

For the most part  I find much of what is presented as street photography to be boring snapshots… usually in black and white.  Apparently proper street work has to be in black and white.  Much of it is usually out of focus or exhibits some degree of motion blur.  (Make HCB proud.)

Here’s one I took a couple of years ago using the Leica M8 during the State Fair of Texas.   Yep, it’s in Black & White… but no motion blur.. Damn! I am a failure!…..  And while I do like this photograph I don’t really think of it as street photography.

The premis of street photography, as I understand it, is to tell a story in one single photograph.   With street photography you have to be sneaky or blend in so well with the surroundings that potential subjects will not notice you and go about their business as if you were not there.   You are the epitome of the “stealth photographer”…..  but then…..

Some street photographers are so in the face of their subjects that I would call them street nuisances.  I’m serious, I’ve seen videos of some of these guys working and if I were one of their subjects  I think I’d use a stun gun to deal with them.  If one of those aggressive street photographers got in my face they would have a serious problem.

We do have this thing called personal space.  We cherish it and don’t really want anyone to encroach on it.. whether it’s some a photographer 2 feet away with an M9 or another photographer 20 yards away with a telephoto lens.   I really don’t want to be photographed without my knowledge.  I don’t want my personal space invaded and I think most people feel the same way.   This is one of the reasons I don’t enjoy doing street photography.  I don’t wish to do to others what I don’t want done to me.   Yeah, I know all about the law saying that if you are in public with no reasonable expectation of privacy that you are fair game for any bozo with a camera.  That really doesn’t make it right though does it?    

Yes, there is plenty of government surveillance what with CCTV systems, traffic cameras, Etc.. but all of those devices are pretty much passive systems.   The street photographer, on the other hand, is not.  He is out there, hunting….  just trying to capture you doing nothing more than you being you but without your knowledge.  Something about that bothers me.

Like I said, I enjoy good street photography when I see it.. I suppose this makes me a hypocrite.  There’s a lot of photography claiming to be street photography these days but to me, much of  it just comes across as being bad B&W snapshots of some poor individual who didn’t know they were being photographed…. just like all those people in the photo I posted above.  Not a one of them knew I stole their soul and a moment of their privacy.

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Fanboys vs Trolls

Fanboy Definition: 1. A person who is completely loyal to a camera or camera brand regardless of whether said camera or camera company produces products that are overpriced, overrated or simply suck or not.
2. A pathetic insult often used by fanboys themselves to try and put down people who don’t like whatever it is they like.

Fanboys are everywhere.  Those individuals who are quick to defend their chosen brand and just as quick to discount all other brands as being inferior devices made by peasants working for minimum wage in some factory in Southeast Asia.

I’ve come across a number of Fanboys in the last ten years.  Most of them used Leicas but Canon and Nikon also have their share as does Sigma and all the other camera brands.. they really are everywhere.  No matter which camera forum you visit there will be several Fanboys in residence willing to brand anyone who dares question or disparage their camera brand of choice as a troll.  Some of the Fanboys even follow the poor individual who has dared to question some feature of the Fanboy’s brand/camera from one camera forum to another taking pot shots at them and alerting the locals along the way that a troll is in their midst and is not to be trusted.

What drives someone to adopt such a behavior pattern?  Do they really have such a boring life that becoming a Fanboy provides status and gratification that cannot be achieved in any other manner?  Are they so blind that they fail to see what they have become?

I say live and let live.  If you have a problem or complaint with one of the cameras that I use, why should I care?  Why would I rush to the defense of the camera if  it did not perform in the way you expected it to perform?  What vested interest do I have in the camera or the brand that makes me feel so insecure that I must defend it and attack you.  Yes, you…. You stupid Troll!  Sorry… I got carried away.  See how easy it is?

I can remember an incident that occurred in one of the Leica forums in which one of  The Uninformed made the mistake of asking why the Leica M8 did not have auto-focus.  No less than three of the Leica Fanboys took this opportunity to label this poor individual a Troll.  Turns out he was not a troll, just new to photography and could not understand how such an expensive camera did not offer auto-focus.  He knew nothing about Leica and was just asking, what appeared to him, to be an honest and puzzling question.

I have to admit that I find the Fanboy threads to be highly amusing and even entertaining on occasion.  I know it’s not politically correct to take pleasure in the stupidity of others but hey, I’m only human.  Let’s face it.. we all enjoy watching a good fight every now and then… especially when we’re not involved but rather watching from the sidelines.

To be honest, Fanboys & Trolls are equally bad for camera forums.

Fanboys believe the gear is the second coming and has no faults.  How could it?  It is Divine!  In addition, Fanboys are quick to brand the uninformed as troublemakers.  One might ask a perfectly legitimate question and be branded a troublemaker.. which is just one step away from becoming a Troll.  For instance I might make the observation that the brand new Zomflecker Camera does not handle noise well at ISO settings above 128,000 and a Zomflecker Fanboy would take this as a serious assault on his own personal camera and manhood.  Withering defense to follow combined with dashes of name calling and the issuance of the Troll label.

The Real Trolls are there just to poke people (usually the Fanboys) with a stick and stir up as much mischeif as possible.  They think it’s great fun and know just what things to say to push the buttons of those loyal to the brand in question.  To them it’s all good sport and a jolly good time.

It doesn’t take a lot of brains to be a Troll.  Come to think of it, it doesn’t take a lot of brains to be a Fanboy either.

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The Road Less Travelled

The road less traveled.Sometimes it really pays to take the road less travelled.  This is what I am finding with the Pentax K5 and Pentax lenses.

I decided to sell all of my Canon gear about a month ago.  I found it hard to actually place the ad on Craig’s List to do so.  I’ve had a long relationship with Canon.  For years I bought into the Canon system because they were one of the Big 2.  The thought process was that with so many pros using Canon or Nikon, I could not go wrong.  Surely it was the best system to go with.  In fact, I didn’t go wrong as the Canon gear really is good… but over time the Canon gear began to bore me to death and it’s bulk and weight took its toll.  I reached a point where I was ready for a change.

After over 12 years of using Canon gear I sold it all yesterday.  Why?  Because it was big, weighed a ton and no longer excited me in any way.  You know your gear weighs too much when you place your camera bag in the passenger seat of your car and the seat belt alarm will not shut off.  Stupid car… it’s a camera, not a person.

I had over 35 emails from people wanting to buy the gear in less than 24 hours.  Yes, the buyer got a hell of a deal because I just did not want to deal with selling the items piece by piece.  I wanted it all gone and quickly, before I changed my mind.  So, I priced it right knowing that it would sell fast.  It’s all gone and I feel very good about it.  I am at peace and will not look back.

Change is not easy.  What system would I move to?  What would it cost?  Nikon? No, I’ve never really cared for Nikon and I won’t waste your time explaining why.  Nikon was not an option, period, end of story.  Sony?  No, I don’t think so.  Leica?  Oh.. now I could really enjoy a Leica M9 and three or four of their luscious lenses…. but I don’t have money to burn and paying $7K for a body and another $7K for a couple of lenses would result in my wife either leaving me or killing me.  Neither of those options are appealing.

Getting back to the road less travelled.  I honestly had not thought of Pentax as a camera system to own since the 1970s.  In browsing several photography forums I kept reading posts that mentioned the Pentax K5 and the Pentax Limited Lenses.  I was intrigued.  I began to research the camera and the lenses and what I found was an eye opener.

The Pentax Club is small by comparison to Canon and Nikon, possibly even Leica.  On one photography forum Pentax does not even have its own forum..  you’ll find it listed under “Other Cameras”.   I began to think that this is a club I might like to join.

The more I read about the Pentax K5 and the Pentax lenses the more I felt like this might be a great replacement for my Canon 5D II and L Glass.  I know, some of you will think I am insane.. and that’s ok.. insanity can be fun sometimes.  Several days before a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras I ordered the K5 and a couple of lenses from B&H.  I just did not want to lug the Canon gear around New Orleans for five days.  (You can see the Mardi Gras photos with the K5 here)

I have discovered that the Pentax lenses, especially the Limited Lenses, are quite amazing.  Honestly, I am getting sharper images and more pleasing images from the K5 and the Pentax lenses than I did from my Canon system.  Another thing.. the Pentax nails focus better than my Canon 5D II did.  Am I just trying to convince myself I made the right choice? No, not at all.  The Pentax is producing great images and those Limited Lenses are much like those coveted Leica M-Mount lenses or a lens from Zeiss at a fraction of the cost.  The build of the camera and the lenses is great.

I now browse the Pentax Lens sections of online dealers like B&H looking for my next lens purchase.  Many of the focal lengths are a bit quirky but so what?  The images I have seen from these lenses are stunning with great detail and amazing colors.  I am excited to be using primes again.  They’re small, well made, deliver the goods and I can actually afford them.

I am quite happy to have chosen to take the road less travelled.  I’m not going to look at a road map.  I’m just going to see where this road takes me and enjoy the journey.

Robert Frost (1874–1963).  Mountain Interval.  1920.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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Having Fun With Video And Stills

I just made my first ever video involving the Pentax K5 and the Panasonic GF1.  Well, not really.. I used the stills I took with those cameras while in New Orleans to create a video using Windows Live Movie Maker.  Below is the result.. kinda cool and it adds a different dimension to the still photography.  Take a look, it’s about 5 minutes long.

The Tombs of New Orleans from Jim Radcliffe on Vimeo.

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Uncharted Territory & Camera Reviews

First, let me make it very clear that Boxed Light is not a review site.  It is my own personal site broken down by the cameras I have owned or used and the images produced by those cameras.

In addition, I have added this blog section which allows me to blather on about anything I please without some forum bozo or forum policeman getting on my case for voicing my opinions.  If you don’t like my opinions you don’t have to read them.

Anyway….

I am considering selling all of my Canon gear.  It’s bulky, it weighs a ton, it scares small children and natives of foreign countries.  The 5D MKII makes me look like something I am not.. a “Pro” and that tends to make shop owners and others nervous and they begin wondering what the hell I am doing taking photos of their property or in their store, etc..

The other thing is that I am completely bored with my Canon gear.  That’s right, I find the 5D MKII to be boring.  I have probably less than 1,000 shutter activations on it and I have never used it for video.  So, why am I hanging on to it?  Because it may feel boring but it also feels “safe”.  It is like an old friend.. I feel comfortable (but bored) with it.  You know the type.. they pop over for a visit, sit on your sofa, drink beer, belch and fart while they watch your TV.

Here comes the uncharted territory part….

I am actually thinking of the Pentax K5 as a new addition to my family of cameras.  There are things about the K5 that I find very interesting.  So I began reading reviews… that was my first mistake.  Review sites can be so boring, especially when they use those mundane test shots.. you know, the ones with crayons, whisky bottles, thread, and other items that no photographer would ever take a shot of… and they drone on and on about specs, etc..

What I want in a review…

How about using a real, talented photographer to actually do some real work with the camera being tested?  I don’t give a damn about test shots.. I want to see real world use of the camera by a talented photographer.  I say talented because some of the review sites seem to hand the cameras being tested/reviewed to interns who churn out some really boring stuff… snapshots, if you will.

“Here’s a picture of me mate having a go at some fish and chips! Eh? What the hell is that growth on the side of his head?  Better have a doctor take a look at that.”

No, I want to see what the K5 can do in the hands of a real and talented photographer.  That would really help me make a decision.  Specs don’t always tell the whole story and sometimes I actually think they lie.  I much prefer to look at a body of work (serious work) from a camera and make a decision based on that rather than a bunch of test shots taken on a lunch break.

So here I am pondering something like the Pentax K5 and wondering where the truth really lies with that camera.  Some say it has auto focus issues, some say it does not.  Some say the IQ is not as great as some suggest, some say it is.  Reading the reviews is like sticking ice picks in my eyes… some of them actually seem to just use the press release from Pentax.  Frustrating.

In all fairness to those sites who do equipment reviews, I’m glad you’re there.  Even if it does take forever to get a review done or you did the review on a pre-release model which bares no resemblance to what was released.  I am glad you’re there.  You do offer helpful information.   But consider using a real (and talented) photographer in your reviews.  Sample photographs, not to be confused with “TEST” photographs, are really one of the most important things to me when I am making a decision.

I’m looking for something smaller than the 5D MKII with some cool camera features.  So far, at least on the spec sheets, the Pentax K5 looks pretty good.  But here’s the problem.  I can’t find one to hold and test myself.  (Not that I am a really talented photographer, I’m not)  But I do want to hold it, possibly even caress it and see if it speaks to me.  I hear the sound of the shutter in the K5 is a whisper compared to that of the 5D MKII… hope I can hear the thing if it does speak to me.

Maybe I should read the review on Jim Bob’s Plumbing Site.  Surely he won’t have one of those static displays with crayons and thread.

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Stop The Madness

I am constantly amazed (and amused) by the people in various photography forums who continue to lust for and demand that camera makers do a better job of producing new cameras.  They want higher ISO (3200 is not enough), they want better dynamic range (ok, that’s not too bad), they want this feature and that feature added.  They want fast primes and telephotos that don’t cost a lot and are a quarter of the size of the current crop of lenses available. Forget the laws of physics as they relate to optics.  Some want manual controls, some want touchscreen systems.  Some want a compact camera with a small sensor to provide the same shallow depth of field as a DSLR with a full size sensor.  The list is endless, it just never stops.  No matter how good the latest camera is, it’s never good enough.

It seems that many are so caught up in the technology of digital photography that they have let the actual skill of being a photographer fall by the wayside.  Heaven forbid that a photographer might have to think about a shot.. the camera should do that, right?  It’s as if the technology alone will make them better photographers and therefore they quest for and demand more and more from the camera makers.

We’ve all seen the sad photographs from the owners of top end gear from Nikon, Canon and Leica produce images a $399 point and shoot could have produced and somehow it is the camera’s fault because it lacks a certain “must have feature” that inhibits the photographer from creating an amazing image rather than yet another snapshot.

If those in the online forums would spend as much time developing their photographic skills and extending their knowlege of basic photography as they do whining about the inadequacies of their gear they might actually produce an outstanding image.

I read a post this morning on one of the photography forums in which a guy was asking the question:  What do you want in the GH3? The GH2, produced by Panasonic, has only been out for a short while and many who have ordered the GH2 have not yet received their cameras due to Panasonic’s inability to keep up with demand, self included.  So the GH2 is not yet in the hands of many who ordered it and already there are threads on various photography forums wanting to know what the GH3 should have in the way of  features.  It’s insane.  It’s madness.  No really, these people are suffering from Phototechitis..  There is no cure and those who suffer from this malady will never be happy with any camera.  The only cure would be.. wait for it… The Perfect Camera.  Of course, such a camera does not and will not ever exist.

If you want to be a better photographer, take the time to develop your skill as a photographer.  Don’t spend your time chasing The Perfect Camera.. because even if it did exist, some would not have the skill to use it and would then demand more features to make The Perfect Camera… more perfect.

Some will say…. But Jim, didn’t YOU order a GH2?  What was wrong with the camera you already have?

Answer:  We’re all insane.

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Customer Service: Catch 22

This post isn’t even about cameras but I wanted to share it with you anyway because I know that most of us have been through a similar situation in the past or will go through something similar in the future.

The abusurdity of the return policies of some of the companies we are all forced to do business with is enough to make you pull your hair out.  I understand the need for a company to protect itself from those who would take advantage of a return policy but there are common sense limits that are being ignored.

Anyway, turns out I needed to buy a microphone/headset to create a video with audio using a screen capture utility.  Since I only do this once in a blue moon I opted for the cheapest set that the local Office Depot had in stock.

And so begins today’s fairytale……

 

I entered the store and asked one of the guys working the floor (actually he was the only guy on the floor) if they had headsets with microphones for computers.  He looked at me with an empty stare that said “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”… after a moment he said “No, we don’t have those.”

Ok, they don’t have them, so I decided to look around the computer section and literally fell over the item(s) he said they did not have.   So there was this great buy from Microsoft for only $19.95, the LifeChat LX-1000.  Perfect, just what I needed so I take it to check out and the following conversation ensues….

Me: What is your return policy on this item?

Store Dude:  You can return it anytime during the next 14 days with no questions asked as long as it is in the original, un-opened package and you have the receipt.

Me: How can I determine if the headset works with my software application if I can’t open the package and try it out?  It appears I will have to open the package to test it.. or am I missing something here?

Store Dude:  Um..Yeah, well, if you open the package and it doesn’t work you can bring it back and we’ll give you another one.

Me: So, if I open this package and the headset does not work with my application you will give me another headset, just like this one?

Store Dude:  Uh, Yeah..

Me:  You do understand that what you are offering will not solve my problem?  You’re going to swap one incompatible headset for another incompatible headset.  How will that help me?

Store Dude:  Let me get my manager over here…

Now understand that the item is sealed in one of those clear plastic, ultrasonically sealed/welded packages which you have to cut open to gain access to what is inside.  In other words, you can not open the package without destroying the package.

At this point I realize this is not going to be a win, win situation but it is now more about the principle of the matter and customer service or lack thereof that is important.  I’m not trying to be difficult but I am not willing to accept their merchandise return policy either. 

The manager comes over and I explain my concern and once again ask about the return policy.   By the way, the manager turns out to be the same guy wandering the store who earlier told me they did not have the headset I was looking for.

Manager Dude:  Yeah, if it doesn’t work with your application we’ll let you swap it for another one.

Me:  Do you have another headset that sells for $19.95?

Manager Dude:  Uh, no, you’d have to buy a more expensive one, plus you’d have to pay a re-stocking fee on the one you returned since you opened it.

Me: If I don’t open it how will I determine whether it works with my software application?

Manager Due:  [Blank Stare]…. Uh, I don’t know?

Me: I’m thinking refund if it doesn’t work with my application.

Manager Dude:  Uh, we could give you a gift card.

Me:  I don’t want a gift card.  I want a headset that will work with my application.

Manager Dude:  Yeah but you’ve already opened the package…..

Me:  Do you not see a Catch 22 issue here?

Manger Dude: What?

Me:  Sorry, that was a movie made before you were born..

Manager Dude:  What?

Me:  Never mind, I’m going to Best Buy.

Manager Dude:  Do you have one of our Reward Cards?

 

 

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I Don’t Do Weddings…. but

I routinely turn down people who wish to hire me to shoot weddings.  I probably shouldn’t do that as I might have an M9 by now if I took on wedding photography.  Wedding photography is quite lucrative.. if you are any good.

Weddings are very demanding.  You need assistants.  You need the proper gear.  You need to be organized and you need to be able to PLAN… really plan!  You also need to follow both sets of parents “directions/instructions”.  You need to make every shot count.  You need to stick to a schedule during and after the wedding and reception.  Wedding photography is not for those interested in making a quick buck as you do tend to work your tail off… before, during and after the wedding.

Bottom line is that to be a really good wedding photographer you probably will not be able to do it all yourself.  There is too much going on and too many different angles you need to consider.  You have three demanding clients:  the bride, the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents.  The groom is usually happy with just about anything so he doesn’t count.

Where am I going with this?

My wife informed me that we had a wedding to attend on Saturday, January 8, 2011.  So I put on the suit I wear once a year (yes, it still fits) and off we went.   Stuffed in my jacket pocket was the GF1 set to Dynamic Black and White mode.  To keep the size down and because I knew it would be fairly dark, I had the 20mm f/1.7 attached.

I may not accept or take on wedding photography but as long as I’m at a wedding I might as well see what I can do with a camera whose feature set would really not be first choice for shooting a wedding.  I could have taken the Canon 5D MKII but I really did not want to lug that boat anchor with me to a fun event.  The food was great, by the way.. and so was the band.  I had a good time.

Here is a sample of how the GF1 performed. 

Panasonic GF1:  20mm Pancake Lens at  f/1.7 at 1/200 of a second. 
ISO 400   -   Dynamic Black & White Mode   JPG

And one more in color…  

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