Proposal Status

jen and joel

I just wanted to let everyone know what was happening with this story.

Yes, I met up with the couple, and we’re getting dinner next week. Joel, Jen, and I have a lot in common since we’re all in the tech space, so we’ll have lots to talk about!

//Did I get the coffee and cheesecake?

The reason why I asked for coffee and cheesecake was because at the time of the interview (kvue / cnn) Joel had already reached out to me to meet him at Mozarts, a cafe located along Lake Austin, which is known for having great desserts, especially cheesecake.

The thing is it kind of hurts that this photo is being shared on a bunch of other sites not giving credit to me at all. This is not the first time this has happened to me though. I’ve had another popular photograph on take off on tumblr which has over 12000 likes and comments in different threads, with the original only having 1 like.

le tart

I did buy myself a nice tart and an iced americano(no suger or cream).

I’m pretty sure that I’m getting that coffee and cheesecake.. many many times since Joel has a group called “the regulars” that meet up at Mozarts to talk about all sorts of random stuff! Can’t wait to meet them.

//How much money have you made off of this?
So far? $0.40.

Sucks right? But this is happening to countless photographers all the time. To give an example… the photo of Jenn Orr on the CNN broadcast was taken by Emily Kinsolving, please give her website a visit:

http://emilykinsolving.com/

I feel sort of used by CNN since they didn’t link to anything of mine, not even my twitter, after using the video on their front page for 2 days in a row, and now on their official facebook page. But this is every day for them.

By the way the $0.40 was from one of you guys purchasing the kindle version of The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum

The only way I am monitizing this is by posting links to Amazon in my about page.

I seriously think the gear I use is great, and I own and have read the photography books I linked to multiple times over and over. It would mean so much to me if you used those links on your next purchase.

//How has my life changed?

Not by much… hah. Really. I go to work…. and I still just hangout at my usual pub where I usually get free beer anyways even without the popularity. Today is Thursday so I’m going to go on a social bike ride, perhaps I will find another viral photo this time as well.

//Overall though…

I feel so blessed that my pictures are gaining exposure. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me. My goal now is to share with you guys my opinions on the most controversial topics in photography.

I’m about to post a buying guide soon. It’s going to be the best thing you’ve ever seen.

//So… without further ado...

this is a compiled list of all the links that I know of so far(based off my analytics):

more after the jump ->

Continue reading

How to take pictures of strangers

Generally there are 2 schools of thoughts when it comes to taking pictures of strangers:

chicon st crew

1. You ask them

party of 3

2. You don’t

The obvious safe practice is to ask them first, which is safer since you don’t want someone chasing you down trying to destroy your CF card. But in many cases it ruins the moment, probably the very reason why you were enamored with the person in the first place.

And you know what? Countless amounts of people have noticed me taking a picture of them, some happy, some weirded out, some indifferent, and even slightly angry in some cases, but never has a person ever tried to do anything about it.

The correct choice in my opinion is… both. I do a bit of both. It just depends on the situation.

oh taisho

If a person looks occupied with something, I leave them be. I try to capture them in that moment. This is a situation where you need to be as discrete as possible.

Do not make any sudden movements. Ease casually into your shooting position, or even better shoot from the hip. I find that the best time to take candids of strangers is when I’m already participating the scene myself. For example if I’m waiting outside to be seated at a restaurant… and someone of interest comes outside to sit down, they don’t notice me cause I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

A discrete shot needs to be fast. Take a quick glance… then

*Breath in* -> meter, focus, compose

*Breath out* -> click

Take as many frames as you can, which I find to be about… 2-5 before they notice (depending on your camera’s fps and loudness of your shutter sound). Then just carry on with what you’re doing. 

When I’m at a bar, I order a drink and sit around for a while, then I start looking for pictures. I’m part of the scene already so people are less alert to my presence.

grafiti

For this one I was already drawing on the floor with a friend when these lovely ladies showed up. Street photography is magnificent since you actually get to participate in the event. The way your subject reacts to you is a direct reflection of your involvement in the scene.

bikes

I find it helpful to actually shoot wider (28mm~)… and get super close to the subject, so close that they think you’re taking a picture of something else. Again I will write another tutorial on how to take pictures like this quickly, efficiently, and without bothering your subjects.

at the pub

On the other hand, I ask quite often. It doesn’t always have to be a verbal agreement though. A lot of times I just point at my camera or make eye contact and smile at them right before I take the picture.

brad

I used to be a very shy person who stayed inside all day. But now I’m probably the most extroverted person among my friends. Photography propelled me to speak to strangers, hear their stories, and it’s gotten me very far. This guy happened to be the head of customer service for the Metro in Boston, he gave us a couple free limited edition Japanese T passes. Pretty sweet right?!

busmate

You just never know the stories people have… or what they do. It’s all quite interesting. I had probably one of the most high level conversations about photography with a complete stranger. (I apologize in advance) Life is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get.

Oh yeah… what happens when the person says no? Don’t take the picture. Don’t think anything of it, sometimes they just don’t want it done, maybe they were having a bad hair day or something. Just walk away… you’ll find another potential target soon enough. 

next stop

So yeah… in the end its your choice. Just remember to participate, be chill about it, be kind, and smile.

Aperture Junkies July Photo Contest

I have a facebook group comprised mostly of my real life friends called “Aperture Junkies” and we just hosted our first photo contest.

Yes, this is TWO HOURS of me critiqing images. If you’re hella bored you can watch it, I wouldn’t be offended if you didn’t. I’m choosing a final 5 images to move on to the next round, and those should be decided by yesterday(hah).

To view these images, you can view the google doc here: http://bit.ly/MFWx2l

I plan on making the next photo contest open to the public, and have the prize something worth while, like a camera bag. Stay tuned!!

Instagram, good or bad?

おまたせしました

I remember reading an article complaining about how instagram’s filters were killing creativity with photography.

I believe the author’s opinions were unfounded since her own images were pretty bad, as in… worse than an average picture found on instagram. The irony is that the only photoshopping she did to her images was applying filters and changing saturation… (I’m not going to bother linking to her post).

Instragram is a fantastic application which has raised the bar when it comes to quality of images. The filters are actually very impressive on an algorithmic level, as in they fix things such as dynamic range without the user ever having to bother with layer masks in photoshop.

By removing the step of photoshop, which takes time and effort to learn, it allows the photographer to:

  1. Take more images, which is practice in itself
  2. Focus more on their composition (I love the square crop!)
  3. Eventually get used to the filters and how they work, to a point where they can actually view a scene and know exactly how to manipulate the shot so it works with a particular filter. This is a very powerful mindset to have since a lot of seasoned photographers think in this sort of manner. They take pictures with the post processing in mind even before clicking the shutter.

I feel that for those of us who take pride in our pictures and want to remain relevant, we need to step up our game to shine in this deluge of new images. We have the ability to be more innovative than a couple a algorithms. Embrace instagram, try it out, and then use it as a springboard to take your photos to the next level.

//———————————————————————————-

There’s an article by Ming Thein about how he uses iPhones for his photos… absolutely brilliant pictures:
http://blog.mingthein.com/2012/06/10/the-iphone-as-a-camera/

Stunning photos from the 12′ Olympics taken with an iPhone:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/jul/27/london-olympics-2012-smartphone?fb=native

Learning by mistake

“If you don’t succeed, try, try again”

Photography, like many things in life… requires practice. If you look through the beginnings of my flickr stream, you can probably see how much my photography has evolved in the past 4-5 years.

With the rise in popularity of digital cameras, especially digital SLR’s, I see way too many people taking pictures of their living room or their desk at home. These people rattle on and on about all the features of their camera, they upload jpegs straight from camera and complain about the smallest little details. “Oh no, the images from my 5D mk3 don’t seem as sharp as the ones coming from my mk2, look at this 300% crop of my coffee mug….”

In order to take good pictures, you have to go outside.

It’s not just that, you have to go outside often, and to different places.

henri

The overlying montra of photography is rather simple actually. If you see something you like, then take a picture of it.

ippudo

The thing is, in order to improve, you must review your images

Is it exposed correctly? Is it in focus? Does the image convey the message I want it to?

Focus and exposure are probably the most common problems with pictures, even pro photographers face these issues everyday. The difference however, between an beginning photographer and a seasoned photographer is that the more experienced photog will have seen a particular setting more than once and will generally know what to do.

donah

For example, you’re taking a portrait:

  • First off you have to have a person who you generally like and want to take a picture of.
  • Then there’s the location… you need to pick out an area where the subject can be separated from the background. If the background is too bright, the viewer’s eyes will be directed to the background and not the person.
  • Third, you need to get the exposure correctly. For this you have to know your camera, and it’s little quirks.
  • Forth, composition. Even though rules are meant to be broken, I think the rule of thirds is a great place to start.
  • Fifth, focus… generally for portraits these days we enjoy using a very wide aperture (read my aperture review!), which creates a very shallow plane of focus. In my opinion, portraits are centered around a person’s eye or face. You need to get the eye in focus.

This checklist is one of many that should be in a photographer’s tool belt. You should have one for every situation from landscape to street photography.

Missing an image

I distinctly remember getting off a flight at SFO, and seeing a long line of flight attendants for Japan Airlines lining up for security checks… they were all so orderly and uniform… I was hesitant to take out my camera due to it being a security zone. It might have been my favorite image… ever.

I use this mistake to motivate me to bring my camera out every time I get the “itch” to take a picture. In turn, losing that one image has motivated me to take many more pictures.

Dropping an image

The hardest thing to do in my opinion is to drop an image, I think we’ve all experienced a special event where we tried to capture the essence of it, but in the end the image did not convey the feeling at all. After hours of photoshop manipulation the image still looks off and flat… We have to drop images like these, since more moments will come later. You have to reflect on what you did wrong and come up with a more innovated solution next time.

In my moment of fame

Hi, for those who are coming from this link:

http://mashable.com/2012/08/03/marriage-proposal-reddit/

the proposal *unedited*

Here’s the story:

I was biking back with my designer friend Megan Vo from a new startup space in SE Austin, called The Chicon Collective, it’s just starting out, but I think it’s going to be huge.

We had a couple beers and food in us… so we were tired by the time we reach the capital building. We stopped for a quick break, when Megan spotted the couple. I tried to get as close as possible, since my camera actually doesn’t have a zoom setting (I shoot primes only). I think I got a pretty decent shot.

The irony of this whole situation is that while I stress how important Photoshop and processing RAW images is to photography, the image I uploaded to imgur is actually a low quality jpeg, since I was at work (yes I’m admitting it now) when I put it up on reddit.

I plan to post process the image, and put up a final version for the couple to have, entirely free (maybe 2 beers and a meal >_<??)

-Where can you meet me?

-Every other Thursday in Austin at Google +’s Drink and Click ATX

 

If you work for flickr.com or Olympus, I need to speak to you about something.

 

That is all, I’m free for beer most nights in Austin! Cheers!

 

A run through my personal favorites

After getting my Google Nexus 7, which is amazing by the way… I started reading the book  The Art of Photography. During the course of the book the author asks you to go through your pictures to see if they align to themes such as good composition, meaning, and impact.

I like how my photography is developing, but I feel like I need to slow down my snapshot approach and concentrate more on composing the image in the viewfinder.

The Fuji X-Pro1 and 35mm f/1.4 XF lens.

**First edit of this review, I still need to provide links to many things… and take some images of the camera itself**

inside joke

Since this is my first camera review, let me give you a bit of my background.

I started getting interested in photography after I took a trip to Moma, NY in 2007. Since then I’ve owned a number of cameras, including the… Nikon D40, Canon 30D, 5D, Leica M6, Panasonic GF1, and Olympus EPL2. I’ve also worked for my college newspaper where I’ve used other various models. I enjoy taking photos of everything, which includes dogs, people, street photos, food and portraits. Am I too inexperienced? Take a look at my pictures (flickr link) it’s your call to make.

This review will be highly real world practice. No pixel peeping. Yes, ALL the images that you will see are photoshopped and post processed from a Raw file.

**(Image of camera)

The Fuji x-pro1 has been out since April 2012, and with the price point of $1700 for the body and $600 per lens, I feel that Fuji is targeting enthusiast photographers, who know the ins and outs of their DSLR’s and want to buy a smaller camera body with a huge sensor, but can’t afford the massive cost of a camera like the M9(which is $8000 alone for the body, and $2000 for a basic lens, $12000 for the big honcho lens.).

On paper, the camera just looks amazing:

  • -16 megapixel sensor designed in house
  • -No bayer filter, which most DSLR’s use in order to battle “moire” (example) but detracts from the overall image quality.
  • -Dual optical and Electronic Viewfinders (OVF and EVF for short)
  • -3 very well thought out launch lenses: a 18mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4, and 60 f/2.4 Macro
  • -Old school ergonomics, where you can physically change the shutter and aperture
  • -3″ 1.23M dot LCD Display

To be completely honest. After the first day I told all my friends that I was going to 100% return this camera. Now that opinion has changed, but let’s go through why I thought that.

When you look at it, it looks like a Leica (like a Leica, get it?) Which are known for their incredible manufacturing, build quality, and even heft, they are solid machines. When I first picked up this camera at my local shop I thought, “Wow this camera is unexpectedly light.” I fiddled with the controls, and dials… and just thought that there was something incredibly off.

But let me say this, The Fuji Xpro1 is not similar to a Leica at all, except for looks. There may be slight similarities in how you change settings, but in shooting, it is an entirely different animal.

-OVF/EVF System

One of my major complaints of this camera is about the OVF/EVF system that they implemented. EVFs are becoming very popular these days with mirrorless or ILC cameras (link to explaination of ILC cameras), since they actually show the user how the image will look like even before they press the shutter speed.

The EVF on the Fuji is very bright, but suffers from massive lag. Almost to a point where it is a pain to use. If you compare this EVF to that of Olympus’OMD EM5 or Sony’s NEX 7… you’ll see just how primitive Fuji’s is.

The OVF, which is also bright, has many cool and nifty overlays such as a leveler and distance checker, that you can put on top of it. Since this camera is technically a rangefinder (link to rangefinder definition… or article), what you see through viewfinder, isn’t exactly what you’re going to get in the picture. The OVF provides a white box, which gives you a good guideline to frame with, but in general it’s not going to be exactly the same image like on a DSLR.

The largest drawback of this whole system  is that you can’t confirm exactly what the camera focused on while in the ovf…

-Gripes on focusing

I saw a nice green rectangle pop up confirming focus when I aimed at the glass… so I pressed the shutter!!

With Leica cameras, you can actually confirm that you’re in focus due to their split prism mechanism. The Fuji however does not inspire confidence at all while in the OVF.

The thing is, the autofocus is very slow… on par with the original 5D and my EPL2, which aren’t well regarded for the autofocus either.

So if the autofocus sucks, what about manual focus? Complete horrorcrap with Fuji’s lens set. Fuji’s XF lenses are all focus by wire, which means that when you move the focusing ring on the camera you are not physically changing the focus in the lens. You’re actually telling a mechanism in the camera to focus… which then goes, “Oh, the user is turning the focus dial to the right! Hurry and change the focus!” Along with no focus indication via the AF points like you see on DSLR’s while you manual focus results in very unresponsive and inaccurate focusing.

The camera also seems to have a very large shutter lag or delay. It seems that I will press the shutter, and the camera will take an additional moment to think about the image… **According to another user of the X-Pro1, this can be solved by pressing the shutter the entire way from the beginning instead of a half press, which is different from other cameras. 

The thing is, If you can nail the focus. The results are frigging mind blowing.

nghiem

For this review I am using the 35mm f/1.4 lens, which turns into an effective 52.5mm normal lens due to the 1.5 crop (link to explanation of crop factor). In my opinion this is the best all around lens for this system so far, and it has gotten rave reviews (link to reviews).

-“Macro” Capabilities

S0732278

The Xpro-1 has a “Macro” mode which is turned on by a button that looks a lot like the macro mode found on most point and shoot digitals or old film cameras. The thing is, there are no flipping of elements inside the lens, all you’re doing is telling the lens to try and focus on objects closer to you. As you can see, the 35mm actually does a fairly good job at food photography, but some may find that the 35mm lens (52mm) effective) will be too close for most food shots, In which case you can switch lenses to the 18mm, which will be a lot wider and give you more space to work with.

-Depth of field (DOF) and Bokeh

S0680381

Depth of field and bokeh(out of focus backgrounds) are excellent with this combination. It would be very hard for a micro 4/3’ds camera to reproduce such shallow depth of field. (explanation of why…)

Portraits

A lot of cameras now days come with a facial recognition feature that makes the camera focus on the eyes of a person. This feature is absent on the Fuji… but I feel like it’s something they can add easily via a firmware update.

I find that I absolutely have to shoot portraits using either the EVF or the back LCD inorder to confirm focus.

Due to the impressive dynamic range, quality of the sensor, and sharpness of the 35mm, you will have a great file to work with if you nail the focus.

-High ISO performance

The Reynalds Number.

The xpro1 has amazing high ISO quality up to 6400, which allows you to freeze action well even under dim lighting situations. This is where this camera truly shines over it’s intended counterpart, the Leica M9, which is known to only be usable up to ISO 800.

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An example of ISO 4000.

-Street Shooting

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Due to the camera’s all black exterior, the camera is actually kind of discrete. The problem is that the shutter noise has a high pitch which can alert your subject, also the autofocus is so dang slow… you’ll probably be noticed when you’re fiddling with the focus.

The real gold though is that the sensor in the camera has acceptable results all the way to 6400, which means you can put on a wide angle lens and use hyperfocal focusing very effectively. (link to hyperfocal focusing).Lenses that you might find better for street photography include the Fuji 18mm f/2 or the Voigtlander 21mm f/4. The voigtlander is made for a Leica Mount, which means you’ll have to buy the “M-Mount” adapter which is sold by Fuji.

Pros:

  • Amazing image quality for the size and weight of the camera
  • Well thought out range of lenses, while Fuji only offered 3 at launch, their future release plans cover all the bases.
  • Can shoot 6 frames per second on burst
  • Changing settings is very quick due to the awesome “Q” menu
  • Discrete and retro styling
  • Fuji is a company that listens to it’s customers, and comes out with many firmware updates and fixes to problems.
  • Ability to use M-Mount or other legacy lenses via an adapter

Cons:

  • -Slow autofocus coupled with horrible manual focus.
  • -Long shutter lag/delay
  • -No image stabilization
  • -Lack of a swivel or contorting screen, which seems like a staple in all recent digital cameras.
  • -Unable to confirm focus in OVF
  • -Laggy EVF
  • -No focus peeking mode for manual focusing
  • -No facial detection mode for portraits
  • -Large sized body in comparison to micro 4/3ds, sony Nex cameras.
  • -Annoying/non discrete shutter sound (My opinion)
  • -Very slow write times and small buffer, even with a 30mb/s card.
  • -Poor battery life: 350~ shots per battery.

Conclusion

The Fuji X-Pro1 puts me in a very weird position. The image quality it can produce is absolutely astounding. In use I believe this combo is almost like a 5d mk2 with a sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens, but at 1/3 of the weight and 2/3rds of the size in comparison.

With usable files up to ISO 6400, this camera has the ability to shoot under almost any lighting conditions when paired with a fast lens. The achilles heel however is the out-of-date autofocus and manual focus features, in which many of the Fuji’s competitors have figured out.

Fuji remains to be the most responsive and user oriented company when it comes to firmware updates, hopefully we’ll see some hot fixes to some of the issues that I’ve mentioned.

Side notes:

-You will need a very fast memory card to go with this camera. I have a 30mb/sec Extreme 3 card, and it could not keep up with the write times.

**All photographs in this review, unless denoted otherwise, were taken by me. They were processed with ACR 7.1, and photoshop CS6 using basic level manipulation, dodge/burn, and simple sharpening techniques.

A walk downtown

chow

Sometimes it’s nice to just walk up and down 2nd St. to see what you find.

urban crossing

Ever since I started cycling, I’m just always on the lookout for other bikers.