The Greatest Days in New York

Central Park West - New York City - 2013

I’ve been continuing viewing Ric Burns’ New York documentary – and am now up to Episode 7 – The City and the World (1945-2000) – on Amazon Prime Instant Video.

A few minutes into this episode, David McCullough comments that if he could pick a time to be in New York, it would be at the end of World War II – in the spring of 1946 when the American troops were coming home from Europe on the great ocean liners like the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary – twice a month ferrying troops back into New York City.

Ray Suarez comments that the thing about New York is that there isn’t just one thing. It’s vibrant. Pete Hamill notes that it was then still a manufacturing town. Proud guys, working guys, but troubles ahead. While New York comes out of the war on top, other forces are at work. LaGuardia ends up dying of pancreatic cancer at 64 years old – after 12 years as mayor. And the changes begin.

The back story about Robert Moses – and his beginnings described in Episode 6 – is fascinating. Robert Caro, author of “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York” about Moses provides great commentary during both episodes.

I’ve got an old used book copy of The Power Broker on the bookshelf behind me. Seems like a particularly good time to pick it back up and re-read once again before I head to New York again in June.

I’m only now coming up to the description of building the UN headquarters building in New York. So much more…

Ric Burns “New York”

Glance - New York - 2015

I’ve been enjoying this 1999 documentary recommended by my friend Jamie Smith. It’s available for free streaming on Amazon Instant Video.

I started on episode 5 which began in 1919 and went through the building and opening of the Empire State Building in 1931. I’m now into episode 6 which starts out lamenting the impacts of the automobile on city life.

Filmed before 9/11, many of the images include the World Trade Center twin towers.

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0220924/

Some Notes on Street Photography with the Fujifilm X100T

Fujifilm X100T

My favorite genre of photography is currently street photography – and the Fujifilm X100T with its fixed 35mm f/2 lens is ideal for my kind of street work. I bought my X100T from Amazon about six months ago – and have mostly been shooting with it ever since – it’s just a great camera for this kind of street work. Here are two Amazon Affiliate links if you happen to be in a buying mood: Fujifilm X100T 16 MP Digital Camera (Silver) and Fujifilm X100T 16 MP Digital Camera (Black). I bought the silver model – preferring its more classic styling over that of the black one – but they’re both beautiful little cameras!  If you already own an X100T, please share your comments here about your own experiences with this great camera!  

Here are some of my notes on how I use the X100T for street shooting:

  1. The JPEGs out of the Fujifilm X100T are awesome. While I almost always shoot in RAW+Fine, I typically only need the JPEG version.
  2. I like to shoot street work with the film simulation set to B+W plus Yellow filter – this works well where there isn’t much blue sky in the composition. For a more contrasty sky, I’ll use B+W plus Red filter when sky is an important part of the composition. When choosing one of the B+W film simulation modes, the electronic view finder will switch to B+W as well – I often use the EVF when shooting in this mode.
  3. My other favorite film simulation for street work is Classic Chrome – with is beautiful emulation of the old Kodachrome style colors. When I’m working in color, I will typically use the beautiful optical viewfinder in the X100T along with the little focus insert in the lower right corner. I love this combination of wide rangefinder view with precise center focus (typically manually focusing). The OVF in this mode is deal for watching/waiting for subjects to enter the frame.
  4. For street photography, I frequently turn Face Detection on. I’m typically switching between S and M focus modes while shooting on the street – knowing that when I flip to S that Face Detection will be enabled – while it plays no role when manual focusing.
  5. When in manual focus, the AF-L button provides a wonderfully quick zoom to proper focus – and from there I can make fine adjustments. I rarely move the focus point itself – choosing to leave the focus point in the center and recompose if required.
  6. When I’m in Automatic mode, I’m mostly choosing spot metering for my street work. I attended a street photography workshop a while back with Ming Thein and learned from him how spot metering helped me nail the exposure in my images. Sometimes I’ll need to hold the shutter down halfway and recompose after metering – that’s become almost a second nature instinct for me.
  7. I change the top function button (Fn1) from its default setting to ND Filter. I often want to shoot wide open and there’s usually too much light – I can hit the button and enable the ND filter quickly. The Fn1 button is right up top adjacent to the shutter button – where it’s easy to enable/disable the ND filter (and see the on/off feedback message on the display or in the viewfinder).
  8. In menu 5 of the Shooting Menu, I select MS + ES (Mechanical Shutter plus Electronic Shutter). This works mostly as a backup for me if I’m in bright light shooting almost wide open and have forgotten to enable the ND filter. With the new electronic shutter of the X100T, the camera will automatically switch to using it when it needs to for very bright scenes. I try to be careful enough to work with the ND filter on in such scenes – but if I forget or have to shoot in haste, this can often help save the image.
  9. I set Auto ISO to a range of 400 to 6400 with a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 (which the minimum shutter speed go even faster like my X-T1 can – seems like a simple firmware change?). A typical street shot might be taken at f/2 or f/2.8, shutter at 1/500th in manual focus with the ND filter on. I let the camera automatically adjust the ISO to complete the settings. Alternatively, I can set the low ISO to 1600, leave the shutter on A and let the camera pick both the ISO and a shutter speed – since the ISO is already relatively high, the camera will typically pick a faster shutter speed – which is appropriate for freezing gestures in street photography.
  10. I have added the thumb rest from Lensmate to my X100T. I find that it simply makes holding the camera for composition to be steadier for me. Here’s an Amazon Affiliate link to the silver model: Fujifilm X100T Thumb Grip by Lensmate Silver. Along with the thumbrest, I’ve tried to master the technique of holding the camera in a way which is suitable for manual focusing. I put the lower left of the camera in my left hand cradling the camera in such a way that my index finger can easily reach the bottom of the manual focusing ring on the lense – allowing me to hold and focus easily. With the thumbrest used in my right hand helping steady for composition. Took me a while to figure this out – but it’s been working great!
  11. I also have the Fujifilm TCL100 Conversion Lens for the X100T. This converts the camera from a 35mm equivalent lens to a 50mm equivalent – which can be handy in street shooting situations where a bit of extra reach is required. Here’s an Amazon Affiliate link to the silver model: Fujifilm TCL-X100 Tele Conversion Lens (Silver). Installing the TCL100 is a bit of a chore – I haven’t mastered being able to do so “on the run”. I need to find a place to sit down, remove the front hood, filter, etc. and then screw on the TCL100. On minor annoyance is that you need to use a menu item to tell the X100T that you’ve added – or removed – the TELE conversion lens. On multiple occasions I’ve forgotten to set it correctly – not the end of the world in that the images are still good enough – but, as I said, it’s annoying there’s no way for the camera itself to automatically sense the presence of the conversion lens.
  12. I’ve been using a third party wrist strap – rather than the strap that comes with the camera. Sometimes I think I should go back to the strap over my neck – at those times when I’d like both hands free to do something else – but I find the wrist strap makes shooting fast and easy.

Hope you find these notes helpful. I wanted to gather all my thoughts about street photography with the X100T in one place – it was helpful to me just taking the time to jot them all down! You can seem some of my street photography shot with the X100T in this Flickr album.

My Personal Photo Books

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Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten into the practice of making a photo book out of any major photography event in my life. Those events might include workshops I’ve taken, travels I’ve made – or, for each year, an annual portfolio book. These books are one of the rare times that my images get produced on paper. In fact, I don’t even own a printer at this point – and, for the rare occasion when I do want a print, I’ll most often do a print at my local Costco warehouse!

I’ve primarily used iPhoto and Apple’s book capabilities for these photo books. The quality has been excellent – and the tools in iPhoto make the creation of the book reasonably straightforward. I’ve done one book using Blurb and the book module in Lightroom – my “Faces of Cuba” book. I plan to explore more of Blurb’s capabilities in the future.

Last night I pulled together my most recent photo book – Paris 2014 – based on images from a wonderful week last fall in Paris as part of a street photography workshop led by Valérie Jardin. It was a wonderful experience – perfect weather, beautiful city, and a great group of workshop colleagues who enjoyed each others’ company. Most of my images from this book came from this album.

I used iPhoto again for this book – probably for the last time given how Photos is soon to replace iPhoto on my Mac. I’m looking forward to receiving the final printed copy of the book and adding it to my archive of my other personal photo books that document those special photography events in my life!

Friday Fotos on the Streets of San Francisco

Yerba Buena - San Francisco - 2015

Doug Kaye and I headed out for one of our Friday photo shoots today on the streets on San Francisco. It was a beautiful day – we started, as usual, at the Ferry Building and walked up Market Street before jogging over on Fremont Street to Howard and then up to Yerba Buena Center.

I shot with my Fujifilm X100T – accidentally leaving it in JPEG only mode (I usually shoot in JPEG + RAW). Doug was shooting with his Leica M6 on film. As it turned out, my JPEGs felt a lot like I had shot the day shooting film!

Hope you enjoy the images! The full set is in this album on Flickr.

Solo - San Francisco - 2015

The Wall and Tree - San Francisco - 2015

Act Brilliantly - San Francisco - 2015

Stride - San Francisco - 2015

A Mighty Stream - San Francisco - 2015

Solitude - San Francisco - 2015

Rapture - San Francisco - 2015

Checking In - San Francisco - 2015

Glance - San Francisco - 2015

At Pier 39 in San Francisco

Pier 39 - San Francisco - 2015

Here are a couple of fun shots taken last Friday at Pier 39 in San Francisco. Doug Kaye and I had spent a couple of hours in the Mission District before coming back to Rincon Annex for lunch. After lunch, we caught a very crowded F street car and headed down to Pier 39. It was a beautiful Friday – and the pier was very busy – perhaps a Spring Break week for some folks?

Photographing in thick crowds can be really challenging – it’s really hard to get any decent subject isolation. I was able to get a couple of fun shots when we left the main area and headed out to the edge of the pier leading down to where the sea lions hang out. The image above shows some folks standing high on an overlook taking pictures of the sea lions. The image below is another fun one – a group of young women enjoying themselves at Pier 39! Both of these images were shot with my Fujifilm X100T.

Friends - San Francisco - 2015

Into the Mission

Morning Light - San Francisco - 2015

Doug Kaye and I met up today for one of our Friday photo walks – heading out from the Ferry Building and first moving into the light down by the Bay Bridge.

Along the way, we passed by the Boulevard Restaurant – and I captured this image with my iPhone 6.

Boulevard - San Francisco - 2015

We caught a 14 Mission Muni bus and traveled into the Mission District – our second excursion into the Mission. While there, we explored some of the beautiful murals on the walls of the Mission!

Generations - San Francisco - 2015

Circle of Life - San Francisco - 2015

Big Hat - San Francisco - 2015

Mission - San Francisco - 2015

Groovin' - San Francisco - 2015

Carlos - San Francisco - 2015

Photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown: Ross Alley and Vinton Court

News - Chinatown - 2015

San Francisco’s Chinatown is an area rich in photographic opportunities for street photographers! My friend Doug Kaye and I always enjoy a few hours on the streets of Chinatown – so many interesting places, always a lot of people out walking, etc. – it’s a perfect street photography venue. And, if you time it right – and get the sun angles aligned with the streets themselves, it becomes almost magical.

We’ve been to Chinatown twice so far in 2015 – the first time on January 2 and, most recently, last Friday March 20. On both occasions, we timed our visit to a align with the sun using the The Photographer’s Ephemeris, a very useful tool for this kind of advance planning.

While the sights along Chinatown’s main market street – Stockton Street – or along Chinatown’s “main drag” Grant Avenue are always fun, we’ve come to love the alleyways of Chinatown and can get lost in them for considerable stretches of time! Two of our favorites are Ross Alley and Vinton Court.

Ross Alley runs between Jackson and Washington Streets and is just a single block long. Part of what makes it fun is how narrow it is – and the fact that it seems to get a lot of foot traffic with folks walking through the Alley. I assume it has something to do with no automobile traffic – making it great for just walking. Here are a few images I’ve shot on Ross Alley.

Post No Bill - San Francisco - 2015

Breaktime - San Francisco - 2015

Ross Alley - San Francisco - 2015

Another favorite spot of ours in Chinatown is Vinton Court at Grant Avenue. Vinton is a street that is a half block long which intersects with Grant Avenue near Pine Street. What’s great about Vinton Court is that the street itself provides a great background for capturing people walking along Grant Avenue. It helps isolate them – they’re not up against some noisy background of shops and stores. Plus, it’s just interesting – with the steps going up on the right with the handrails, etc. Here are a few images I’ve shot at Vinton Court.

Glance - San Francisco - 2015

Shopping Trip - San Francisco - 2015

Solo - San Francisco - 2015

Walker - San Francisco - 2014

As you can see from these examples, both of these spots in San Francisco’s Chinatown offer some great street photography opportunities. If you go and take some pictures there, let me know – I’d love to see them!

Below is a Google Map image that shows the location of both Ross Alley and Vinton Court – you can click on it to open and explore:

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The People of Palo Alto

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We had lunch today at a restaurant on Palo Alto’s University Avenue. Sitting at a window table, I did some experimenting with manual focus on my Fujifilm X100T as folks walked by that window – capturing their profiles. The film emulation was Fujifilm’s new Classic Chrome – these are JPEG’s from out of the camera.

Here are some more of the images.

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A Beautiful Friday in San Francisco

Strolling - San Francisco - 2015

Doug Kaye and I headed out today on to the streets of San Francisco. We met up at the Ferry Building – where Doug showed me his big surprise – a Leica M6 that he’d just acquired. The M6 is one of the classic Leica film bodies. Doug’s been accumulating a collection of Leica lenses to use with his Sony A7 bodies – and decided to try a film project – thus the M6. It was fun watching him shoot with this beautiful rangefinder body today! Here’s Doug shooting on Jackson Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Doug Kaye - San Francisco - 2015

It was a wonderful day – we hopped on the F street car across from the Ferry Building and headed to Pier 39. From there, we walked to Fishermans Wharf and then up Taylor St. to the cable car turnaround.

Bay and Taylor - San Francisco - 2015

Pressing on up Taylor, we turned onto Columbus and walked into North Beach. We had lunch at a by the slice pizza place just off Washington Square – Tony’s Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice House – very tasty pizza!

Saints Peter and Paul Church - San Francisco - 2015

After lunch, we made a jog over to Stockton Street and walked into the busiest part of Chinatown – the produce markets along Stockton. I’m always amazed by the sheer humanity in this area – chasing great produce.

Produce - San Francisco - 2015

Our goal was to hit the Chinatown alleys around 1 PM – when the sun was going to be shining right down them. Those alleys are sheer delight for street shooters like us and today was no exception.

Post No Bill - San Francisco - 2015

We eventually wound back down to Grant Avenue and came across one of our favorites – Vinton Alley. A perfect background for street shots!

Glance - San Francisco - 2015

Wow, quite a day! My iPhone 6 reported 10,033 steps for the day – about 5 miles of very satisfying walking in the great city of San Francisco. It doesn’t get much better!