14. desember 2017

Japan and Thailand

Here are some shots from a recent trip I had to Japan and Thailand.

I spent two weeks in Japan and visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Hiroshima amd Kobe.
I also spent two weeks in Thailand and visited Bangkok, Krabi and the Phi Phi Islands.

I actually took less photographs n this trip than I would normally do, because I also brought a GoPro Hero5 with me, so it was more filming than photographing.

I only brought with me the Canon 5D mark III and my trusty 24-105 F4L lens and it was more than sufficient for the whole trip.

Japan


Anyone going to Japan for more than a week and/or plan to travel a bit, should buy the Japan rail-pass. If you take the Shinkasen (Bullet-train) a few times, you have already saved a good deal of money. Also, it is really hassle-free to use to book tickets, re-book etc and if you miss a train, you can use the pass to get another one without charge.

Street view from The Royal Park Hotel, The shidome.
Tokyo, Japan.
Cann 5d mk III
Canon 24-105 F4L
1/5s @ ISO 3200

City view from The Royal Park Hotel, The shidome.
Tokyo, Japan.
Cann 5d mk III
Canon 24-105 F4L
1/5s @ ISO 3200
The Shidome was in general a quite reasonable hotel (for Tokyo) and both the standard and the location was excellent. The view was amazing too, since the hotel itself starts on the 24th floor in a skyscraper, I think the room I was in, was at the 32'nd floor.^^

After a few days in Tokyo, Kyoto was the next stop.
The plan here, was to explore more of Kyoto itself, than I did the last time I was there.

So I basically planned a few routes using google-maps, so it was possible to walk to several temples and areas, without criss-crossing too much in a taxi.


Kyoto skyline from the north-west, looking south-east.
Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto
Strolling around the smaller parts in the old town.
The couple wearing traditional, -and probably expensive, Kimonos in the foreground made the photo complete.

Kinkaku-ji or, as we westerners say: "The golden pagoda"
This is actually a temple-park with several other buildings.
Massive crowds of tourist though, so it was hard to get a clean photo here.
Day-trips to other places are easy from Kyoto, even more easy from Osaka, but Kyoto seems like a nicer place to use as the hub, seeing that city has 1400 or so temples and shrines.

Anyway, the city of Nara is mandatory ^^

Here, the Nara-park, with it's sika deer and the massive Toda-ji temple, makes for a really enjoyable tour.
Getting here is easy, you take the local JR line to Nara and walk straight up towards the park from there, they have maps on this outside the station, it's a 500-800 meter walk to the start of the park.
There are also buses going there if walking is not an option.

I seem to travel to this country during the hottest periods, so I struggled with the heat a lot.
My shirt actually got so wet from sweating, it was no longer apparent that I was sweating at all =D

Bring good shoes, lots of water and an umbrella to provide some shade while walking.


Sika-deer at Tamukeyama Hachiman-gū Shrine

A lovely walk in the old forest between the various shrines and temples.

Sika-deer posing for photos on the way to Tōdai-ji temple

The massive Tōdai-ji temple

I wanted to visit Himeji-jo as well, this castle was refurbished in 2013 I think and they changed the roofing to a more white appearance, when I visited the last time, the roof was all black.

I suppose the white is the original idea, hence the name "The white egret".
The castle is a huge complex and also involves a pretty hefty labyrinth, to get to the top.

Going here is easy, you take the Shinkasen train and jump off in Himeji, when you exit the north entrance, you can see the castle straight up there.

Entrance-gate Himeji-jo

The Himeji-castle with the extremely well-kept gardens in the foreground.

Thailand


After two weeks, the trip went to Thailand.
I wanted to visit the Phi Phi islands, to get a real tropical holiday.

In the planning-process, I thought it would be smart to have a lay-over after a 6 hour flight from Tokyo and another hour flight south from Bangkok. So the layover-town was chosen to be Krabi, since I wanted to avoid the crowds, backpackers and prices in Phuket.

Stayed only 2 nights here, to relax a little and book some ferry-tickets.

But even Krabi has something to look at :)


Wat Kaew, Krabi, Thailand

View over the Krabi mangroves from Chao Fah Park Pier
After a hefty 1h 45m ferry-trip, which started in grey and rainy conditions in Krabi, the ferry eventually somehow popped out of the bad weather and revealed the Phi Phi Islands.



Phi Phi island, with Ko Phi Phi Lee to the far left of the frame.
The city of Tonsai lies on a small strip of land, almost separating the  main island in two.



I can recommend Phi-Phi indeed, maybe not Tonsai-city, but one of the isolated resorts....those are indeed super awesome. The resort of choice was Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and it was wonderful. (although, not cheap, when you add everything together after the stay :P )

Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort, the view that was seem from the long-boat, after Tonsai was left behind, to transport visitors to the resort.

There are many trips to the small, idyllic island of Ko Phi Phi Lee, the smaller sibling of Ko Phi Phi, but be prepared to wade trough masses of like-minded tourists.
It seems that the Chinese has also discovered this gem, be aware, when they arrive, they are usually not just a few.....they are plenty and often loud. :)

Normally, such trips involves a bit of hiking on the small Ko Phi Phi Lee island, snorkeling, swimming and some monkey-spotting.

One of a few "rocks" in the waters around Ko Phi Phi Lee
Amazing shape...and that warm, clear water! ^^


One of the monkeys on what they call "monkey island".
Monkey island is just the rocky part of the main Phi Phi island.
Funny buggers indeed, they almost jumped onto the boats.
Impressive climbing-skills on these, no fear of the water below.

Phi-Phi islands was a hoot and a really relaxing part of this trip, I can really recommend it.
Traveling back to Norway was done by taking a ferry to Phuket, jump on a plane to Bangkok and stay there at a hotel, close to the airport, for a couple of days, while sight-seeing a tiny bit, easy-peasy. ^^


Final sunset, Phi Phi islands with Thai long-boats in the foreground.


19. juni 2017

Edinburgh HDR-experience

I recently came back from a trip to Edinburgh and as usual, I took a day-trip around the city, to find good spots for photography.

The problem with trips like vacations or weekend-getaways, is that you will shoot in mostly high-noon light, or early morning to late afternoon.

The light during these hours isn't the best light really, as it is has high contrast and can also be a little boring; either very flat or very high contrast. If the sky is completely without clouds, well, then the shots tend to be pretty dull.

So, this time, I opted to do some HDR shots, taking several handheld exposures, mostly at +2 and -2 from normal exposure, due to the big span from shadows to hightlights, and later blending them in Photoshop, to obtain something different.

It is also possible to use tone-mapping, if you have only one exposure, but you need to prioritize the highlights, as the shadows are the easiest to recover with digital.

I also did this on my trip to Beelitz Heilstätten in Germany in 2011, check it out.

Now, HDR can be made into whatever you like, it's all in the processing and final output.
Personally, I tend to turn them into a more painterly style that is a little softer and I personally try to avoid halo's or super-sharpened details.

I like them a little dreamy and colorful, but also well defined, not always an easy task.
They do work ok to my taste here.

A "close" in Edinburgh old town, where people used to live and work during the middle-ages.
The slit of light seen at the end is normal daylight, which I recovered in the HDR processing stage and warmed up.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Balmoral Hotel bell tower.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Stairs leading up to the Royal mile from Cockburn-street.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Plaque at Canongate Kirk.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Cemetary Canongate Kirk.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Overview from Carlton hill, showing the Balmora hotel and the Edinburgh Castle in the backround
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.


Holyrood palace, shoot trough the fence.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.




Overview from Carlton hill, showing the Balmora hotel including more, like the Scott monument, parts of the Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens and the Edinburgh Castle and church-spires.Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.



Edinburgh castle, shot from Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.



The castle again, this time shot from the other side, Grassmarket area.
To the right is Flodden Wall from the 15th century.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.

Last light, old town and castle.
Canon 5D MK III, Canon 24-105L
Handheld +-2 stops, blended with Nik-collection and adjusted in Lightroom.


I tend to end up with something that isn't hard to look at at least, but the taste for these kinds of shots are many and varied.

The shot from Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens is perhaps the most normalized shot of the bunch, and is probably the type of shot that will always work well during sunny and difficult light, it is shot directly against the sun and the HDR-processing was mostly used to open up shadows and retain a blue sky, the composition helps to reduce the boring, cloudless sky as well.

The cemetery-shot is a good example on how to reduce the intense contrast to a level where it's actually starting to become more viable in terms of both tones and composition, the light is hard, but the tonal scale is long and ok to look at.

My main goal is to soften the photo, open the shadows, lower the highlights and make the shot "pop" a little more in terms of color-contrast.

I use the Nik Collection from google, which is now free. In that package, I use HDR-pro to merge and adjust the photo to my liking and in the final stages, I adjust them slightly in Lightroom as well, mostly in terms of temperature and/or  vibrance/saturation.

Google's Nik-collection can be downloaded from here: https://www.google.com/nikcollection/


I also shot a couple of rolls with my Rolleiflex Automat, but those are for a later entry. ^^

Oh and by the way, Edinburgh really is a nice city, not too big to walk around in and offer a lot to a visitor, both in term of views and history and also in terms of the number of brands of Whiskey to be tasted ^^

16. februar 2017

The Barnack

Before reading on, I can recommend the following article on the Current state of film in 2017
Quite uplifting and positive news from various manufacturers indeed. ^^


My Leica IIIF RDST (ca 1955) 
with the Thorium coated Leica Summicron F2.0 collapsible (ca 1952)
In this blog, I would like to give a short introduction to the Leica IIIf, a camera from a series of Leica's which is also known as Barnack Leicas.

Barnacks?

Yes, they are simply nick-named after it's creator, Oscar Barnack, who created the first Leica. Some also say he was the one who made 35mm into the common used format we know today. (Americans will say it was Kodak and Kodak-only....whatever :) ).

He wanted a light and functional camera what was easy to carry around, since he had asthma.

After the creation of the UR-Leica, he created the Leica I then there was the Leica II series in 1932 and the Leica III series from 1933 until the final one, the IIIg in 1960.












There have been written miles and miles of text regarding the history and variants (and copies) of these cameras, so I will not repeat them here.

Here is some material about the history of Oscar Barnack and the Leica I, II and III

Oscar Barnack:





About the Leica I, II and III

https://www.cameraquest.com/ltmcam.htm
http://www.shutterbug.com/content/leica-i-camera-change-photography

Google will provide you with tons of other information.

My Barnack Leica

My particular Leica, is a Leica IIIf, it has flash sync as well as red dials here and there and thus it is known as Leica IIIf Red Dial. It also has a self-timer, which makes the complete "eBay denomination" to be a Leica IIIf RDST.

Normally I just say my Leica IIIf or my Screw-mount Leica.


I bought mine from a reputable seller in Japan trough eBay and the camera really is in a beautiful cosmetic and mechanical condition.
My Leica IIIf has a slow-speed button (1/25 and lower) on the front next to the self-timer..
The collapsible Summicron is not as small as the Elmar when collapsed, but it's faster, looks more solid and fits the IIIf quite well.

The viewfinder and rangefinder is clear and bright and the double-image is good, no problem focusing or composing.


Top-view, from the left to the right:
Film advance knob with film-type indicator and counter.
Shutter-release button.
Film rewind release lever (open position)
Shutter-speed dial (only set after cocking the shutter!)
Below the shutter-speed dial, is the flash-sync dial.
Hot (cold) shoe. (the flash sync is on the back of the camera)
Film rewind knob.
Diopter adjustment-lever.

The top-view is such a masterpiece of retro-design, looks very lovely.

In practical use though, I would have preferred the shutter-release to be raised up or moved somewhere, because it can be a little difficult to hit/find during practical shooting, due to the huge film-advance knob standing in the way, I am sure it will become second-nature after some use, so it's no biggie.

Note that the infinity-mark on the LTM-Summicron collapsible is off-center (at around 02:00 o'clock when you look at the camera from the front. The first time I saw that, I thought I had gotten a faulty lens. This offset is by design though, so don't worry. (It's meant to be easier to see when you have an auxiliary-viewfinder or similar attached to the hot-shoe).

Other than that, the operation is both quick and easy and it's good fun to shoot with.

The vulcanite (black part) on my IIIf is now stiff and brittle, so I am thinking about getting it replaced. Once it gets like this, it tends to break off after a while, there is nothing you can do, either you live with it, or get it replaced.

Silent? Well, it's not loud, especially when you are out and about, but I did compare it to my Zorki 1d, and I found that they were about equal in terms of sound level. (The Leica II may be different/more silent).

That is also just about the only thing that is equal in any sense between the Zorki 1 and the Leica III (apart from looking similar).

Really a quality tool

My Summicron collapsible lens


The lens was bought from Japan as well, very beautiful condition.

The Leica Summicron F2 collapsible lens.
My lens, a very beautiful specimen, has Thorium-coating in it, which makes it radioactive.
Activity is around 7 micro sievert/h on surface (Gamma/Beta), but radiation level is background around 30cm in front of the lens.
The radiation from the back is much less (around 2.5 micro sieverts/h on surface of rear element) with background levels when you have your eye/face up to the camera.

It needed CLA though (focus was very stiff) and since I didn't want to send the lens abroad to be serviced (or since I may be a bit silly), I opted to research how to do a clean and lubrication myself.

On this lens, the helical cleaning and lubrication-procedure is quite easy, the M-mount version is different.
Mine is very similar to the Summitar cleaned here: http://justinlow.com/articles/repair-leica-summitar

In addition, I took the lens-group out of the helical and trimmed the inner-felt that stabilize the lens and gives friction when collapsing and retracting and prevents the lens from creeping when collapsed. It was just way too tight, I kept screwing the lens off the camera when I wanted to turn it to collapse it.

In addition to that, I also lubricated the aperture-ring and disassembled and cleaned the aperture-blades. (not recommended really, it's difficult to re-assemble and you risk damaging the inner lens-elements).

I have documented my procedure (more or less badly) here:

Helical cleaning, disassembly of the collapsible Summicron with pictures:
https://www.leicaplace.com/threads/replace-internal-felt-collapsible-summicron-f2.1689/#post-13979

Collapsible Summicron aperture blades assembly with pictures:
http://www.apug.org/forum/index.php?threads/trick-to-assemble-collapsible-summicron-aperture.143338/#post-1875478

In general, the lens has lower contrast wide open (but it is center-sharp actually), increased contrast and sharpness towards the corners as you stop down.

In the extreme corners the lens isn't impressive, but I've only shot it at F5.6-F8 due to dark winter-conditions.

I plan to use it for portraiture for the most part anyway, so the corners doesn't need to be tack sharp.

It's flare-prone, so use a shade, a small one or vented one, since a normal one will block half the viewfinder on the Leica III. :)

I love it for portraits, especially wide-open, gives a soft-feel with good definition and enough detail.

Yellowing from radioactive-decay.



The radioactive decay and the emitting of Alpha-particles in the Thorium decay-chain in this lens,  has (most likely, since they are stopped within the lens) caused yellowing of the glass.

This can be cured by exposing the lens to UV-light (or the sun) for a longer period of time.

- I have tried with a reptile-lamp (strongest they had), for two weeks, but I think I need to have it exposed for a longer time to rid the yellowing completely. The bulb has only UV-A and UV-B, but I think I read somewhere that UV-C has no impact on the yellowing.


- Also, the Jansjö-lamp from IKEA, did not clear or influence the yellowing on my lens, even after 2 weeks of illumination, as close to the lens as I could get it. (some reports that it does work on certain lenses, but not on this one). Good deal for IKEA none the less ^^

For black and white, you may get a light-yellow filter effect (contrast influence).

With color-film, you may experience yellow tinge, but I have actually not seen much of that yet (I scan, so my scanner may correct for it for all I know).

The reason I want the tinge gone, is that it takes away light and the tinge is not the original state of this lens, it was produced and sold as a clear lens.


Practical loading, shooting and using the Leica IIIf


Loading the Barnack leicas can be learned here, or here, or here or....well you get the drift ^^ Just cut that leader and load it.
- It's not hard to load.
- Do not use credit-cards to aid your loading, that is for dumb-people.
- Do not set the camera to bulb and adjust the film with your finger, that is for dumb people.
- It's not hard to load.
- If this is the most difficult thing you've ever experienced, you need to get out more. :)

I find the action of the camera to be quick. You thumb trough to the next frame, focus and take the photo.

I rarely use the composition-viewer when I shoot in the city, I just center whatever I am shooting, focus and move slightly to the left or right, depending on what I want to achieve. (portraits too).

I use the composition-viewer when I photograph more general architecture or features, since then I usually have more time, I normally like big apertures and people, so I stress that the photo is in focus more than perfectly composed. (plus the viewfinder isn't exactly 100% accurate). 

Some practical photos then, here are some Ektar-shots that I did. 

A lot of these are testshots, to check focus after my CLA, so the subject-matter is bland. I am sure HCB is turning in his grave over the non-decisive moments and horrible composition lol ^^ 

Focus-test at F2, focus on the L below the top-logo

Focus-test at f2.8, focus on the L below the top-logo

Isolation/bokeh 3 meters at f2

Isolation/bokeh 3 meters at f2.8

Angry speaker, general street snaps, f2.8

Dog with no front-paws, probably should have used the viewfinder here, but this is friggin impressive for being wide-open :)
General street snaps, f2.0

Street-musician, general street snaps, f2.8

Street-musician, general street snaps, f2.8

Bokeh-test, close focus limit f2.0 (slight misfocus actually, my fault, but it's about the 'boookeyh' huh?)

Bokeh-test, close focus limit f2.8

Bokeh-test, close focus limit f4

Lens is sharp enough and the backlight didn't flare here.
f2.0

More pronounced flaring/glare, but not disturbing, it can work well with the setting sun sometimes.
f2.8 (focus on infinity)

General street snaps, f2.8

General street snaps, f2.8

General street snaps, f2.8, focus was on the card with the teddy-bear.


Some Tri-x from a short photo-trip I had in the cold.

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible @ f2.8
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible @ f2.8
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible @f4
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B


Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Fuji Acros in Rodinal 1:25


Love the tones and the buildings in this shot actually.
Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Fuji Acros in Rodinal 1:25



These days, I am trying to bleach the yellowing of the Summicron with my UV-light, so I am not shooting much with this particular combo.


As long as I am doing that, I play with my Leica M3 instead, with the Leica Summicron f2 Dual-range -with goggles ^^

Leica M3 with Leica Summicron f2 dual-range and googgles.

More on that in a later blog-entry =)