Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You Can Now Add The Title "Award Winning Photographer" To My Name, In Fact, I Insist

Normally, I don't care to enter photography contests, I mean, after all, who is to say whose art is better than someone elses? It's all subjective. It's the same reason I refuse to consider figure skating, gymnastics, synchronized swimming or cheer leading as competitive sports. The judging is subjective. Not my style. However, at the behest of my former First Sergeant, I submitted several photos into the 2015 US Army Commanders Cup Photography Contest. The former First Sergeant really wanted our unit to win the Cup in a bad way, so for this reason and this reason only, I entered the photography competition. Placing in this event would secure additional points that are added to the total score for our unit, which is in competition against other units. But I digress, back to the competition. I submitted one photo in each of seven categories and here's how I placed...

1st Place - Category: Nature and Landscape 
"Songdo at Night"

2nd Place Category: Animals 

3rd Place - Category: People 
"Boy on the Street"

3rd Place - Category: Military Life 
"Salute in the Rain"

3rd Place - Category: Design Elements 
"Ceiling, Lotte Mall"

Honorable Mention - Category: Monochrome 
"Korean - American Alliance Memorial"

Honorable Mention - Category: Still Life 
"Colorful Threads"

My First Roll of Film with the Leica M3 and Summicron 50mm f/2 DR Lens

I breathed a big sigh of relief when I glanced over the contact sheet from my first roll of film that I had shot with my Leica M3. There was still a cloud of mystery as to whether or not the M3 had sustained any damage after I dropped it recently http://felixgphoto.blogspot.kr/2015/06/i-dropped-my-leica-m3-besides-that-it.html

I shot a roll of Ilford HP5 ISO 400 Black and White film and as you can see below, I think the results are pretty good for my first go with a Leica. I still have to get used to using a rangefinder, it takes a little getting used to as far as framing the shot.

All images captured with Leica Summicron 50mm f/2 DR lens.

Pictured: Leica M6 TTL Titanium. No this isn't my M6. Mine is all black!

Father (left) and Son (right)

John Steele working his magic at Namsangol Village

Below... these are the kinds of photographs I am looking forward to capturing with my Leica M3. This little girl found so much joy and simple happiness by playing with the water fountain on a hot day. Her smile in the third shot says it all. Good job Leica M3!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Leica Summicron 35mm f/2

One of the simple joys of life that soothes my soul and gives me the yummy good butterflies is when I see my name on the list for mail call. Mail is critical to the morale of soldiers, especially those deployed overseas. I recommend contacting your local USO to find out how you can send a care package to a random soldier who is serving overseas, someone just like me!

Today's package contained a beautiful Leica Summicron 35mm f/3 lens, all black, which I purchase to accompany my soon to be delivered Leica M6. The lens is quite small and compact. Almost hard to believe that this little lens produces some of the sharpest images the world has ever seen. I will through it on my Sony A7II after work today and I'll share some of the images with you in the near future. For now you'll have just have to feast your eyes on the lens, which in my estimation, is a work of art worth admiring. Even came with a Leica filter!

Leica Summicron 35mm f/2 looks right at home on my desk.

Here's what it looks like mounted on the Leica M6, all black, same set up as mine.
Photo credit: Patrick Leon

Saturday, June 27, 2015

I Dropped My Leica M3, Besides That It Was a Great Day

Today was quite an eventful day. I was looking forward to picking up my Leica from the factory service center all week! I dropped it off to get a full service and cleaning, so that my vintage camera would shoot just like the day it came off the factory floor sometime back in 1956. I have heard that Leica's last a lifetime because they are so well-built, they are heavy duty and rugged and it's a good thing that they are built so well because about 3 minutes after I plunked down my $240,000 KRW (approx. $213 USD) the Leica somehow slipped off the hook on my shoulder camera strap and plummeted about 3 feet to the tile floor. The back plate flipped open from the force of the crash, thereby exposing the roll of Portra 400 I had just loaded in it.

Myself and 4 Leica employees let out with a collective ghasp. For the next few moments there was a suspense in the air rivaling the best edge-of-your-seat Hollywood blockbuster. Everyone was wondering if the Leica had any significant damage. One of the employees picked it up and put the back plate back on, he gave it a once over and handed it off to another employee who tested out the lens, aperture ring, focus ring, shutter, all the dials etc. The camera appeared to have come out of this heart-stopping event unscathed.

As for myself, my pulse was racing and I was battling a vicious anxiety over what had just happened. The employees were empathetic, after all, Leica cameras are royalty and I was in the Seoul castle of the Leica kingdom. They asked me to sit down and brought me a Vita 500 energy drink, quite popular here in Korea. We looked over the camera one more time and verified that it was ok.

Now, I won't really know for sure if it truly survived the fall unscathed until I get the roll of film back from the lab and have a look. Maybe the fall messed up the rangefinder, throwing off the focus, or perhaps the shutter speed are off? Who knows? My gut instinct tells me everything is just fine and dandy but stay tuned to see the photos from my first roll.

With that out of the way, I headed over (still feeling the anxiety) to Saeki (a popular camera store here in Chungmuro) to meet up with John Steele, an extremely talented local photographer and university professor who I envy for his adorable Boston Terrier, Holly. John just purchased his first Leica as well, also an M3. I've been meaning to meet up with him for a while and today seemed like as good a day as any. I shot him a Facebook message and invited him to meet me for lunch in Chungmuro, to which he agreed.

John did some shopping today too, picking up a pristine Pentax lens for his Pentax 67. After lunch John suggestion we shoot some photos, which I hadn't really planned on but what the heck? Might as well get through a roll of film on my Leica and drop it off same day. Heck, I just wanted to see if I could get through a roll without something catastrophic happening. Ugh.

Anyway, John took me over to the Namsangol Traditional Korean Hanok Village which is directly across the street from Chungmuro. For all the times I've been to Chungmuro, I can't believe I never knew this place existed. The Namsangol Village is a park at the base of Namsan Mountain/Seoul Tower, it features a walking path, ponds and the Seoul Millenium Time Capsule, as well as the traditional village itself. I definitely intend on going back.

I finished out my first roll of film on the Leica with no further incidents or fumblings, no inept repairmen exposing my film for no good reason, no Felix butterfingers dropping a 1300 dollar camera, just good times, great weather and a fun buddy shoot with John. Check out his web site http://www.johnsteelephoto.com/ and keep an eye out for his awesome dog Holly.

Two new friends, Felix' Leica M3 (left) and John's Leica M3 (right)

Oh yeah! Leica baby!

We weren't the only photographers out there today.

This girl was doing some product photography.

Here is my Leica M3 with Summicron 50mm f/2 Dual Range lens. The near focus goggles are attached. I ordered those separately. The near range goggles will allow you to focus accurately as close as 31 inches from your subject. Without the goggles the closest you can get is 3 and a half feet.

View of my Leica M3 from above, with near range goggles. She's showing her age on the outside, but on the inside she purrs like a kitten.

Leica M3 without the near range goggles mounted.

Leica M3 with Summicron 50mm f/2 DR lens

The mark of distinction... Leica

Friday, June 26, 2015

Minolta Hi-Matic 7S Delivered Today

The Felix G vintage camera craze continues...

Today I took delivery of a super cool Minolta Hi-Matic 7S 35mm rangefinder camera. It features a 40mm Rokkor f/1.8 lens. This camera can be shot in fully automatic mode, which was a very advanced feature for its time. The camera was released in 1966 and saw great popularity.

This one is in extremely good condition and came with the original box and case. My vintage camera collection is really starting to grow and I'm still amazed at how inexpensive some of these cameras are. I paid just $35 USD (plus shipping) for this beautiful camera. What a bargain!

I can't shoot with it yet because it needs a 1.35v battery which is common for cameras like this from the 1960's and 70's but isn't particularly easy to find in stores. I have had to order these from eBay in the past, fortunately there are a few sellers who carry them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Vintage Camera Back from Service - Agfa Karat IV

If you've been following my blog lately, you're well aware that I have been bitten by the vintage camera bug lately and have been gobbling up vintage cameras on eBay like a game of Hungry Hippos. And with good reason. Vintage cameras are mechanical works of art that are to be cared for, admired and they should also be used to shoot photos. Most of the vintage cameras I have purchased from eBay have arrived in good working condition, however, a few of them have had mechanical issues and that's not unexpected.

One such camera is this beautiful Agfa Karat IV 35mm film rangefinder, which was produced from 1950-1956. It features a Solinar 50mm f/2.8 lens. There are a couple interesting features of this camera. Firstly, it has a strut-folding, collapsible lens. Secondly, the film advance lever is pulled towards the user to advance the film, rather than away like most cameras.

I took it in for a full service and cleaning and to get it back in shape to shoot photos. The focus ring was completely frozen and immovable and the aperture ring was inoperable as well. Fortunately there are some excellent camera repair shops in Seoul (that WON'T expose your film http://heydontshoot.blogspot.kr/2015/06/hey-man-you-just-exposed-my-film.html) and I got it repaired and serviced for a reasonable $80,000 KRW or around $75 USD.

I loaded my first roll of film into it this morning and everything seems to be working well. Focus ring is smooth and aperture rings adjusts fine. Stay tuned and I'll be sure to share some sample photos after I get the roll developed.

Isn't she a beauty?

Agfa Karat IV

My Views on the Ethics and Issues of Street Photography

I read a story recently http://petapixel.com/2015/06/22/great-war-photographers-dispatch-trenches/ that brought up a number of questions and scenarios in my mind about some of the issues and ethical questions surrounding the actual act of street photography and how it might raise eyebrows with overly concerned vigilant citizens trying to prevent another 9/11 and/or protective parents etc.

Street photography involves spur of the moment captures of people and things. It defeats the purpose of street photography if you stop to ask your potential subject for permission before taking their photo. In doing that you obviously lose the reality of the moment, there is no moment of reality if that's the case.

I use my own judgment and discretion when selecting my street photograph subjects but one thing I certainly don't do is take photos in a sort of sly manor as if I'm hiding the fact that I'm trying to get a photo without my subject noticing. I line up for the shot and take it, however, I am respectful and keenly aware of my surroundings and subject and if they make it know that they don't want their picture taken, whether verbally or through body language, I don't take it.

There's a video in the link I shared that shows some hidden camera footage taken by a news crew of some "street photographers" and I definitely can see where they might raise some eyebrows (and questions) as to what their intentions are. Some of them look like they might be snapping "upskirt" photos and I certainly don't condone that. Have a look for yourself, scroll down for the video... http://petapixel.com/2015/06/22/great-war-photographers-dispatch-trenches/

Now it may very well be that they are just taking harmless street photography style photos, but the way they are doing it doesn't agree with me and they don't help themselves by acting noticeably nervous and guilty when they are being interviewed by the TV news crew.

If I were to ever be ambushed interviewed about what I was doing (street photography) like the "photographers" in the video, I would first, present my business card and introduce myself. And then I would do my best to explain the beauty of spontaneous street photography and how it loses it's reality if you have to stop and ask for permission etc. I would also offer to show them the photos I have just taken just so there's no question about what types of photos I was actually capturing. Photographers can help themselves tremendously by not acting like they are trying to hide something. If you look like a legitimate artist, then most people will see you as such.

It might be a little paranoid for someone to think a pedophile is up to notorious deeds when it's really just a street photographer tying to capture children at play, but, the photographer should expect wary and watchful parents. With children, I think it's ok to ask permission prior to taking the photo because I don't think you'll lose that reality of the moment like you might with adults, kids will almost always be themselves, carefree and living in the moment.

On the flip side of this, it makes me feel a little bit depressed when I contemplate the nature of our society today, when we have to be on guard all the time. It's too bad we don't live in a world where the general public can't just see a photographer on the street with a camera and not have to worry if he/she is up to no good. It makes me feel like I have to be defensive, even in the authoring of this blog post!

Some of the most iconic photographs in the history of mankind were street photographs, taken at the spur of the moment, without the subjects permission.

I am including several of my own street photography images, take note that I did not ask permission from any of the subject prior to pressing the shutter. Perhaps ask yourself these questions:

1. Would the photograph have turned out differently if I stopped to ask permission from the subject before taking the photo?

2. If you observed me taking this photo would you feel you had anything to be concerned about?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A "Little" Seoul

I kind of enjoy snapping a few tilt shift or miniature photos from time to time. Sony cameras do a pretty nice job of adding the miniature effect in camera. Other times I apply the effect in post using the "selective focus" tool in Corel Paint Shop Pro.

Been saving a few for this photo gallery update I like to call... A "Little" Seoul.

Get it? Haha. So clever.