Vision

Voigtlander Kontur Finder

I have a terrific friend, Zoran, who from time-to-time lends me bits and pieces, some rare, some expensive, some commonplace, so I can try them out and see if I like whatever it is.  This time around he has loaned me a remarkable bit of kit – a viewfinder that has no view – the strange but effective Voigtlander Kontur finder. I have borrowed it in my seemingly never-ending current quest for an accessory finder for my Leica IIIf with a 50mm lens.

I believe that the Kontur was made for the Voigtlander Vitessa fitted with an accessory shoe as an alternate finder to optical finders for quick snapshot use (although my version doesn’t sport one). Here it is fitted to my favourite Canonet (a QL19 that took me a month of lunchtimes to repair, hence the red leather skin, but that’s another story for another post):

It is a chunky black plastic cube, with an eyepiece at the rear, and no obvious viewing window on the front, just a black nameplate in a metal frame that notes it is for 24×36 and 35mm – yes, a viewfinder without a view. Check that again – a viewfinder with no view. When you pick it up and look through it with the customary one eye open, one eye closed viewing arrangement most of us use, all you you see a black field, outlined with a solid white frame line and a dotted parallax frame. Oh yes, and a white dot in the center. A very strange unit, this, for a finder. If you switch eyes, you see the same thing:

Not very promising, eh? But now if you open both eyes, all of a sudden the design reveals it brilliance, a breathtakingly simple and blindingly clever finder for fast work. This is an approximation of what you see (I hope that it is an internet first):

Clever, eh? All you do is set the lens to a suitable hyper-focal distance, and shoot away. It is fast, just perfect for street shooting.  I believe that the viewing lens allows you to focus on the back illuminated frame lines – the central dot is to give your eye something to look at to make it all work in focus (but there is no straining to see the image at all). The other open eye sees the scene, and the brain superimposes the images, “seeing through” the blackness to give you a pretty damn fine rendering of the scene in front of you. Photo-journalist’s heaven. The finder works very well in dim conditions too. Confusingly, the numbers on the finder’s front screen mean that it is for a 35mm camera with a frame of 24 x 36mm, however this model gives a view of a standard lens – a 50mm unit on a 35mm camera, and not that of a 35mm lens.

Zoran might have a hard time getting this loaner back off me – I love it.

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Adventures at 3200 ASA

My astute readers will know that I have been looking for P&S nirvana in my journal over the past 6 months or so. Instead of dwelling on that issue in the blog, today I want to discuss my main tool, the mighty Canon 5D, but with a twist – what it can do at 3200 ASA, and what a spot of image tweaking can do. And not a camera picture in sight today either …

Here is a very dramatic image shot last night at twilight, immediately after a torrential rain storm:

I know I’m probably not objective, but I find this image breathtaking, because in my minds’ eye, this is how I remember the scene. Drama, color, light. It was shot at 3200 ASA, hand-held for 1/8 sec @ f4, and a tad underexposed. This is what 3200 ASA and a decent lens coupled with image stabilisation can do for you when you have forgotten your tripod. The insipid original, shown straight from the RAW file, looks pretty damn ordinary:

Just another dull, lifeless image. Well, that’s what I saw when I looked at the shots in Adobe Bridge. But how to bring it to life, to re-create the tension in nature that I had seen? Well, here’s what I did. Remove what noise I could fine to get a basis to start from – remember it was underexposed at 3200 ASA, and so had a few issues. Then, Topaz Adjust was run over it, to intensify colours and detail. Noise removal again, then a bit of adjustment to the curves, and voila. Oh, I also used the CS5 lens correction adjustment that is in ACR to fix the geometry and vignetting from the Canon 24-105 mm f4 L that occurs at full aperture use. And the picture jumps off the page…

Even as a mono it is strong:

In fact it was having processed it as a monochrome that inspired me to revisit it again as a hyper-real colour shot from a movie.

The moral – get out when the light is right. Look at your images, and think about how you can best represent what you saw. And revisit them a day later, to see if you can see something different. Oh, and clean your sensor. I did, using 2 tongue depressors, a few bits of lens tissue and some optical cleaner. Don’t pay $100+ for a shop to take 3 weeks to do it badly, do it yourself. Perhaps the next blog topic?

For the anoraks who may be wondering – the vertical white stick in the centre of the frame isn’t dirt, it’s the top of the 40 tonne stainless steel gargantuan flagpole at Parliament House a couple of kilometres away.

For Alex

This is what keeping a cheap camera in the car is all about – see my previous post.

I was moved today by the sad news of the death of a young guy at my work. I felt a  need to express myself in some way about this awful news. This was shot on the way home from work.

This image is for him. I hope it conveys a sense of sadness, of quiet desperation.

This is a 7 shot HDR, toned sepia, from a Fujifilm Finepix f6500fd.

Street photography so vibrant you can almost smell it

Shot as a grab whilst buying dinner. I always feel odd doing shots like this, I guess I am self-conscious poking a camera at people I don’t know in small places. I suppose the best way to get over this is to keep shooting.

Pizza in mono:

or the same image, pizza in colour:

Same image, same RAW file, different processing. Which image is more relevant for the scene?  I love the strength of the colours, but I also love the raw power of the B&W image.

Colour processing – get the white balance sorted, and then Topaz Adjust. Mono processing then done on top of the Topaz colour image. Shot on an Olympus E-P2 digital Pen, with the kit lens. I think as a P&S camera, it is just awesome. No-one noticed except the guy on the left, who asked for a look at it.

Dead centre

This is what the insides of a small but extremely important data centre looks like after it has been decomissioned. From its formerly orderly mechanical glory, with a row of expensive racks lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder like stormtroopers waiting for their orders, this room has degenerated into a, ah, well, a mess in just a year.  Boxes of crap everywhere, old desktop computers being wiped, a data cable snake from underfloor that has mysteriously migrated onto the top of a rack, waiting for a victim to consume….

Believe it or not, until about a year ago when I pulled the plug on it, this room would have been the busiest data centre in Australia last night, earning its keep for one of the heaviest day’s loads in the calendar.

I like the silence, the stillness portrayed in this photo, not a soul about but looking like a computer room in a modern day Flying Dutchman, where frenzied activity has just stopped and no-one is around to tell the tale of what catastrophe happenned.

Processing story – P&S camera, 28mm lens cropped and adjusted to straighten up the tilted lines resulting from squinting at the screen (always happens!), Lucis to crisp things up, Photoshop Smart Sharpen, converted to B&W by adjusting channels, and given a cool tone to make it look industrial.