That Road Trip, Photographer’s Block and Mixing Camera & Lens Brands

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Lake Erie

So, we’re back home. Drove about 1700 miles in a few days in weather ranging from summery to snow and sleet. Walked over college campuses, dined in small diners and enormous Italian eateries and saw parts of the United States much unlike our suburban New York neighborhood.

Actually, my teenage son and I have been back for a while now.

But I was hit with photographer’s block, if such a thing exists. Strange thing, that. I usually don’t suffer from that more common affliction called writer’s block, although I do write more than I end up posting.

But I do sometimes encounter an inability to open images in Lightroom and start editing them down. Wonder if others have this as well.

With me, it usually goes like this: I find a great place to shoot, take dozens of pictures, I’m excited about the shoot and what I see on the back of my camera, I put the images on my computer, I get less excited as I see flaws when I blow up the images. I end up being disappointed with the contrast between the fun and excitement of the shoot and the end result. I dither…

With ‘dither’ I mean I don’t touch the images again. I don’t open them in Lightroom again, I don’t edit them down to a selection for further post-processing. I just ignore them. Can’t look at them.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, especially when I’m not under deadline pressure. I have never yet taken a picture that I was 100% happy with. That’s okay. I’m used to it. I consider that part of the creative process. I don’t ever expect to be 100% happy with an article I write either.

Usually, the feeling goes away and the images don’t seem really that bad. It’s more about the things I wished I had noticed while I was shooting. Once I start to forgive myself, the block disappears. In this case, it hasn’t yet. It will, though.

So, back to the trip.

Photographically, the offerings were a bit thin until the last day. A stay overlooking Lake Erie was disappointing because of cold, gray weather. A beautiful stormy dark sky along the route appeared without an appealing subject in the foreground. Those American barns that seemed to be designed from the first day to fall apart and become photogenic appeared when we were in a hurry to get to a college.

Of course, that’s always the risk you run when photography is a side show on a trip. Other things must come first and you can only hope that you get enough of a chance to take some decent pictures.

On the last night we ended up in Auburn, Maine, in a room overlooking the falls of the Androscoggin river, which were at flood height. The sight was awesome. Despite the bitter cold, I spent quite a bit of time fiddling with gray filters as the sun set and, some hours later, as it rose. These were the pictures that caused my ‘block’ and I will post some of them later, when I write my final take of the Sony A7R.

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Maine Lighthouse

In a previous post, I recounted what I was packing for this trip. In short, it was the Fuji X100s, the Canon 5D Mark III, the Sony A7R and a bunch of lenses, mostly Canon. I also packed a ‘Texas Leica,’ the Fuji GW690III film camera.

I used the latter once, to take some pictures of a lighthouse in Maine. It was a joy to use and it’s amazing how silent that enormous camera is in use, especially compared to the much smaller Sony, which is nimble but sounds like a clunker.

The Fuji X100s was the walk-around camera and as such I used it quite a bit, especially on the college tours. I hadn’t used it in a while and had to get familiar with some of its settings again. I also had to get accustomed again to the relatively long time it takes the viewfinder to adjust to the light, during which the image is bright white and headache inducing.

I used the Canon a bit while out near Lake Erie, but to my surprise went for the Sony A7R with Canon glass when I saw something I really liked. I keep on having my reservations about the fun of using the Sony, but when something calls for the best image quality and is relatively static, the Sony gets picked up and the Canon stays in the bag.

Actually, Ricoh Pentax announced its 50-megapixel 645Z medium-format camera during our trip. I kept on thinking how I could sell all my Canon and Sony gear and get the Pentax and a few lenses. Then, the last night and morning, I found myself using the Canon 70-200 f/4 IS with the 1.4 converter on the Sony and I realized that I tend to use telezooms quite a bit and that a similar reach on the Pentax would probably fall outside of the scope of my bank account. Oh, well.

Looking back, I first of all wish we had encountered more favorable photographic opportunities. But that was just not to be. Overall, I was happy with the Fuji as the carry-everywhere camera and with the Sony as the quality monster. I’m getting used to putting Canon lenses on the Sony when I don’t need the speed. Of course, that still leaves me with quite some weight to carry if I were to take the Sony and Canon glass on a long trip.

But at the same time, the Sony zooms don’t appeal to me at all. They’re limited at f/4 and their quality seems far removed from the stellar 35mm and 55mm FE lenses. I’ve decided to sell the 35mm, since I don’t use it much. So, it will be the Sony, the 55mm and a bunch of adapters for Canon, Nikon and Contax Zeiss glass. That should do for slow work.

After this trip, I’m yearning for a real photo trip. I don’t really care where to. Just drive around and look for opportunities. One can dream.

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Same Lighthouse with Sony A7R and Rokinon 14mm – a usable but not perfect combo

Some blog plans:

– I received the Zeiss Otus from Zeiss on loan and hope to receive the new Sigma 50mm ART lens in time to compare these two lenses side by side; for now, I’m shooting the Otus alongside the Sony 55mm f/1.8 and I will also put it against Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 and the Contax Planar 50mm f/1.4. It seems 50s are back in play big time.
– I got the wide-angle lens extension (WCL-X100) for the Fuji X100s which turns the lens from an equivalent 35mm f/2 into a 28mm f/2. The image quality is fine, but I’m not sure the little bit of extra width is worth carrying the extension lens around. I think I just pick up my Olympus with a wide-angle lens if I think I need that coverage. Not sure yet.
– I’m renting the Sony A6000. Only had it a day, but I’m impressed. Feels good. Speedy. Great image quality (with the 35mm FE lens). Not sure I’ll write a full review of it, but so far it’s a pleasant surprise.

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