Views from Vietnam, Cambodia and Taiwan

Greetings folks.  Just got back from a big, long work trip Vietnam, Cambodia and Taiwan.  It was a long few weeks on the road.   But an amazing one.  I use these trips as a springboard for creativity and use photography to keep me aware, awake and inspired.  I often walk and explore where ever I am at, both for curiosity purposes but also to just try to stay awake at night so I can  get over the jet lag.

This trip did not disappoint!  In fact, I think it brought me some of my favorite travel photography in some time.  I usually do not mention camera gear in my posts, but this time I am so smitten with the gear that I had too.  I am so smitten with the new little Ricoh GR that I may even write up some thoughts and do a curated gallery of images shot with it.  This camera is so small and so powerful.  It is a true pocket size camera with a largish APSC sensor.  I truly fell in love with this camera and had it on me all times.  I set the camera in SNAP focus, preset a focal length, set the shutter speed I wanted for the desired effect and just let the camera choose ISO.  I had it with me all the time and it became an extension of my hand.

All but two of these shots were taken on the GR and transferred to my iPhone for processing.  My processing included adding grain to the images so please do not hold that against the little GR.  Many are taken while moving in a car or van/bus or walking. I wanted to try to mimic the constant motion and movement we had on this trip.   I then uploaded them and wrote this post while on my 18 hour journey home.  Modern technology is amazing.  I knew if I waited too long, I’d get caught up in something else and it would be months before I posted anything.

As always, click on any image to go to slideshow mode.  I just did a large slideshow.  Sorry that I did not break out pics from each location.  Please leave a comment if you have any questions?!   Hope you enjoy the pics and this little sneak peek into my world of travel.

 

Now….to get home and get some rest.  Until next time!   Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Fragments – My 1st Month with the Fuji X Pro 2

I am closing this month a very happy man. I’ve had an incredible month. My family is great. I’ve traveled to Oklahoma for the Landrun 100 and to Colorado for my family spring break and on Friday, I leave for Kansas City for a soccer tournament followed by Duluth, MN the following weekend for the state band concert. My job is going better. I also had my best month of traffic ever with over 35000 visitors and views. Blessed. That is the word that comes to mind. Thank you all!

It was also my 1st month with the Fuji X Pro 2. I had a great month of shooting. Here are a few shots. All of these were shot RAW and processed in camera to JPEG. I haven’t processed any RAW file yet.  Haven’t had too as the JPEGs are working well for my use. Here are few shots and links and words from my first month of shooting the amazing Fuji X Pro 2.

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This is my very first shot from the Fuji X Pro 2.   A friend of mine had just traveled to Minnesota and given me this whisky glass with Mount Fuji in the base. This was shot at ISO 6400 with the 35mm f2. Right then and there, I realized we’d get along well and it’s high ISO seemed to be impressive.

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I took it for a ride in the country on some of my favorite roads. Again, impressed. More pics from that post can be found here.

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I also had the pleasure of seeing my new Fuji X Pro 2, handcrafted, wooden grip frome JB Camera Designs  being made and Steve Huff picked up and ran the story on his site. So cool!

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I few images I like from Landrun 100 with the Fuji X Pro 2. It’s a wickedly capable camera. These images got over 30,000 views. Blown away to say the least.

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Driving home from Oklahoma, I found this abandoned farm house. I shot it with the X Pro 2 and 90mm f2. It made the Fuji Rumor readers most like images on facebook this past weekend.

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My kids. Lounging and reading while on spring break. I love the sound of the new shutter and of course the incredible Fuji lenses. Perfect for capturing those quiet and intimate moments.

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My primary walk around lens is the quick and quiet 35 f2. It is pretty much perfect. Here are two shots from walking around Steamboat Spring, Colorado. The 1st being a friend and the founder of Moots Cycles followed by going off on his own and founding Eriksen titanium bicycles. The second being from a western shop. I just liked the way this looked and how classic chrome rendered the colors.

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I brought the X Pro 2 skiing too. I carried only the 16mm f1.4 and the 90mm f2. Sometimes I like the wide point of view and other times I like the narrow and shallow. Of note, it snowed two of the three days so I really tested it’s weather sealing.  I’m happy to report that I had zero issues with body or lenses in the heavy snowfall!

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I also tested the continuous autofocus and tracking ability. The zone focus really tracked skiers well. I shot about 30 images in bursts and about 27 were usable and sharp. I still don’t think it works quite right for shooting sports like soccer with players crossing each other but for many uses, the continuous autofocus with tracking is likely more than sufficient.

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And with that, I leave you with one final peaceful images taken high up in the mountains. It’s my happy place.

As you can see, I am pretty darn pleased with the Fuji X Pro 2. Still shooting and learning. It’s got a few quirks, and all cameras do, but overall we get along nicely.  Looking forward to really finding out what the camera is capable of over the next few months.

 

 

The handcrafted JB Camera Designs Grip for Fuji X Pro 2

Last week I was in Stillwater, Oklahoma to ride the Landrun 100 gravel road race & ride, pics can be found here. While there I got to see one of my closest friends’ businesses, JB Camera Designs. JB Camera Designs makes hand crafted wood camera grips and accessories that are aimed to improve ergonomics and add protection to cameras. They are hand crafted right here in the good ol’ USA out of beautiful hard wood, bambo, plastic and/or machined alloy. On top of that, all three employees are photographers and the two primary craftsmen are also engineering students. What a cool college job.

While I was there, JB and crew (Ean and Eli) were putting the finishing touches on their new grip for the Fuji X Pro 2. In fact, the grip being produced in the photographs below is now mounted to my very own Fuji X Pro 2. I shot all these images with the X Pro 2 with either the 16mm f1.4 or 35mm f2 in RAW + JPEG with the JPEG setting to Acros with medium grain. I thought it fit the handcrafted nature of the grips. All these images shared are from JPEG as I have not processed any RAW files yet from the X Pro 2 but I find the JPEGS more than pleasing so it hasn’t been a big deal for me.

Below are some shots from my time at JB Camera Designs while they were making there new Fuji X Pro 2 grip, recently launched and available for pre order at Amazon. I grouped the images into some of the steps. These grips are a labor of love. All the details of the how and what happens at each step are not really mine to share so I’ll just share pics. I can tell you that the grips I am using on my Leica M and my Fuji X Pro 2 are really beautiful, fit perfectly and in my opinion have improved the overall shooting experience.   I especially like the new grip with my larger Fuji lenses and especially with the 90 f2. It has really helped me improve my grip to stabalize my shooting with this longer and heavier prime.

A couple of notes before moving to pictures.

  • Click on any picture in the tiles to make larger or move to slide show.
  • My friend JB did give me this grip. I just want to be up front and honest here. He’s a close friend and this was a gift. I am thankful. I make no money from this nor any affiliated link. I just enjoyed the experience and wanted to support my good friend. I like the pics too!

So with that out of the way, let’s get to pics of the new Fuji X Pro 2 grip.

Wood selection and initial preparation

Cutting, shaping, smoothing, sanding and prepping

Branding, finishing and adding alloy barrel grip

The finished product! I love it.

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I wish I had a studio to shoot images of the final product installed on my X Pro 2 but I don’t. But…Here is a shot taken with my little Fuji X70 for you to get an idea of what it looks like on the camera. I took this on the way home from Oklahoma. I had 12 hours of driving that day and needed a nice espresso!  I snapped a few pics and then hit the road. Sorry for the poor picture quality on this one, but it’s all I’ve got.

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Thanks again JB. Great seeing you and meeting your crew!

My first outing with a production Fuji X Pro 2

The wait is over. The Fuji X Pro 2 is here and in my hands! While I am bummed it didn’t arrive before the event, Frostbike, that I shot last week with a rented Olympus Pen F, it is here now. I am so thankful for my friends at National Camera Exchange. They had one ready for me at the store on the morning of release date. I sold my full Olympus OMD EM1 kit and was ready. With camera in hand I hit the country this weekend.

I was fortunate to have handled a prototype at an event here in Minnesota so I had an idea, but the production camera just seemed more refined and finished. I’m super pleased with all of it. The build. The handling. The joystick. The OVF/EVF. The focus speed. No camera is perfect. I lost my settings when I corrected my incorrect date settings and others are reporting this as well. We’ll see how that goes. Also, the shutter button, especially with a soft release seems a bit fiddly and loose.  But, still pleased and  I will share more about the good and bad as I use it more, but honestly, this is one very refined photographers camera.

I was hoping that my first outing on the bike with this camera brought clear skies and a beautiful sunrise so I could test the colors. Instead, I got overcast, cold, windy and icy. I made do with shooting RAW + Jpeg Normal switching from Acros to Classic Chrome, both with “weak” grain setting. I threw a Velvia in there to really pop the colors on a close up of my bike. I haven’t processed any RAW images yet so all of these are shared as jpeg.  I brought only the 23 f1.4 and the 90 f2 with me.  For those curious why I have a picture of my espresso machine, it’s because we all know that any good bike ride starts with a fresh espresso!

Overall, pleased is an understatement. I have shot the X Pro 1 on and off for years and the last 6 months it has been my primary camera. Despite how much I love(d) the X Pro 1, after one outing with this camera, I can’t imagine going back and shooting it.

More to come as I have two trips in March that will really put the X Pro 2 to test.

Click on the images below for slideshow.

 

I aslo wanted to share one last, special image with you. This past weekend I received a special gift from my friend Shuji. He visited from Japan and brought me this whisky glass with Mount Fuji in the base of the glass. I finished the evening off with a taste. It was shot with Arcos, ISO6400 with the incredible, little 35mm f2.

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Frostbike 2016 with the Olympus Pen F

I am finally home after several straight days of work. We hosted our annual Frostbike event. This year marks my 20th year of attending as an employee of QBP and my 23rd or 24th if you factor in I attended as a customer prior to my employment. Each year I look forward to it.  Each year I come home both exhausted and excited about the industry that I work in, the products we make and the friendships I have developed over all those years.  This year is no exception.

I had originally expected to shoot this event on the new Fuji X Pro 2 but it has been delayed. Given I wanted to do some social channel imagery for the brands I work with, I needed a camera with built in Wi-Fi transfer as well as a couple different lens options. I have sold all my gear to fund the X Pro 2 and my remaining X Pro 1 doesn’t have Wifi so I was out of luck. I decided to rent a new Olympus Pen F from Lensrentals for the weekend from Lensrentals.

I’ve shot Olympus for a number of years. I was excited to shoot the Pen F. I think it is a gorgeous and well designed camera. It is quite stunning really. Sorry in advance,  no pics of the camera itself. Just images below taken with the camera.   I still own the original Pen EP1. This new camera is so far advanced from that original series it bears little resemblance. The newest Pen camera has both a new sensor (20MP), a front control panel for BW/Color simulations and a finally an EVF. Aside from its design, those are the features that are in my opinion as a hobbyist, the most important new features. Top construction. Incredible IBIS. Quick handling. Great IQ.  All that is there as you’d expect from Olympus.

The main reason I wanted to shoot this camera though is to try out the new front control dial with both color and black and white presets. Unlike art filters, these pre settings are completely customizable. It’s quick and easy to make adjustments. All images below were shot Jpegs in BW or Color mode II. On the BW, I set highlights to -3 and shadows to +3 and reduced contrast to -1. I shot the color mode as is. I tried the grain feature but left it off for 99% of my shooting as I felt like it just added too much mush and lack of clarity to the images.  But these mode dials and customization I think are a wave of the future. I also imagine a day where you can use software on your computer or an app on your phone to upload color and black and white presets to the camera, making your JPEGs just right instantly for social and digital transfer and uploading.

All in all, the Pen F is a beautiful camera. It’s built well. Performs flawlessly. I just wish it had a little bit better EVF and weather sealing. Right now I can’t see paying full retail for one when you can buy an Olympus EM5 Mark II for about $750 on the used market and still achieve very similar results. That difference is a lot to pay for style and not much difference in IQ and features.

But…Here are some images. Again, all shot JPEG and I will process RAWs when I update my Lightroom. This event is work for me, so the images are random shots and I don’t shoot everything nor cover the event in a way that is meant to give coverage of all people, brands, products and vendors.

Just having fun was the intention and the hope that I would leave the weekend with at least a couple of really good images that could be used for something more than social channel sharing. I have done that in the past repeatedly so I had no reason not to expect to be able to do it again.  The Pen F really added to that fun. It is a true joy to shoot and use.  BUT, in the end, I left the weekend with images that I don’t think really represent my vision and capability. I own much of that, but part of that fact is that I just didn’t get along that well with this camera.

Until next year……

As always, click on any image below to move to slideshow mode.