Category Archives: Spike

Bokeh Magazine Issue 2 Now Available

Bokeh – The Art and Life of Photography issue number 2 is now available for the iPad.  And once again, they’ve included an article and photos from yours truly.  This one is titled How To: Music Photography and features my photos of HK bands FBI and Heta Uma, HK star Teresa Carpio and global stars Jeff Beck and Flaming Lips.

It’s normally US$7.99 per issue or $24.99 for a subscription but I’ve got a code you can use for a free three month subscription.  Here’s how it works:

1 – Download the Bokeh magazine app from the iTunes store here (link is to U.S. iTunes)

2 – Run the app on your iPad and click on Subscribe.

3 – Click on Existing Subscriber

4 – Enter this code in the box:  bokehtrial3651231

The magazine will start downloading.  If you enjoy it, please spread the word!




Camera Frustration & Upcoming Trip

I’m want to show you some pictures.  This goes back to an earlier post in which I mentioned the Fuji X-Pro1’s JPG vs. RAW output.  Here’s the first pair, taken a few days ago just steps from my home.

This is the JPG:

And this is the RAW:

All I’ve done with these two files is to import them into Lightroom and then export them, resized (and with my watermark added).  No other processing.

I personally like the JPG more, don’t you? Overall, the yellow leaf seams to have more definition and contrast than in the RAW file.  My assumption is that the problem here is not with the RAW output from the camera, it’s the way in which Adobe Lightroom interprets it.

Here’s the second pair, taken a few nights ago in Causeway Bay, believe it or not.

First the JPG:

And here’s the RAW:

Again, all I’ve done with these two photos is to load them into Lightroom and then export them out.  Based on my recollection, the colors in the JPG are accurate and the colors in the RAW are not.

I don’t want to stop shooting RAW because maybe someday Lightroom will do a better job with them, or maybe someday I’ll switch my photo processing software, and I’d like to have the RAW files to go back to.  But today, with Lightroom, they’re almost useless to me.

Now, a slightly different frustration, concerning my Nikon D800.  Here’s a photo I took in Central tonight.

It looks pretty nice – until you view it full size.  Then you’ll see that absolutely nothing is in focus.  This was shot with my “new” used Nikon 35mm F2.0 D lens.  I don’t recall for certain but I believe I was in manual mode, F4,0, 1/50th of a second (which should be fast enough with a 35mm lens) and the ISO was on auto and went for 1100.  In this case, is it the fault of the lens?  Very possibly I think.

I was at a party tonight, actually, shooting a lot in a restaurant, both with and without flash.  I note that on many of the photos that I took without flash, there’s visible purple vignetting.  Of course that’s fixable in Lightroom but that’s not really the point, is it?  The point is that the D800 demands good glass and it may well be that the current generation of G lenses are going to perform better on this camera than the older D ones.  I’ve seen nothing anywhere regarding this so it’s just conjecture on my point.

I’m off on a trip to New York City tomorrow.  I’m mostly packed but I can’t decide if I’m going to bring the Fuji or the Nikon with me.  Originally it was going to be the Fuji, because of size and weight.  But now I have something of a remotely serious and hopefully fun nature to shoot while there.  (A cousin of mine is executive chef at a restaurant that was a finalist for a James Beard award this year and he’s agreed to let me into the kitchen with my camera.).  For that, I’d normally bring the Nikon.

So do I only pack the Nikon for this trip?  And with just the 24-70mm lens, or with my 35mm, 50mm and 105mm primes?  Do I pack both the Nikon and the Fuji on the grounds that the Fuji will be a better daily walking-around camera.  Or do I stay Fuji only?  (And why do I agonize over small shit like this?)  I’ll decide in the morning before I head to the airport.  And whichever one (or ones) I choose, I hope to have some fun pictures to share with you a few days from now.



A Gala Day at Spike’s Photos

Much of today was spent pondering whether or not to sell off my Fuji X-Pro1 and replace it with the new Fuji X-E1.  There is the greatly improved electronic viewfinder vs. the downgraded rear LCD (not a significant factor for me, really) and the question of whether I really should go to all that trouble if otherwise everything else is pretty much the same.  It will be some time before the hardcore detailed reviews and comparisons come out – and by then I imagine my X-Pro1 would be worth a lot less on the secondary market.  There’s also the question of if I can sell my old camera quickly, will there still be stock on the new one before I get on a plane for an extended trip next week?  I suppose it won’t hurt for me to post a classified ad and see what kind of response it gets.

What’s also happened today was that I posted a comment or two on some Fuji-related web sites and the resulting traffic driven back to this site has skyrocketed – not just multiples of what I get on an average day but also multiples of my previous best day ever.  The question is, does this mean anything and the answer is probably no.

I could have made the decision for this site to only feature my photography but I didn’t.  Long ago I decided to feature some limited industry news and links to reviews that I’ve found of interest.  This has probably helped my overall hit rate but for what return?

By that I mean I have no evidence that people who come here via a search for “Fuji X-Pro1” look at anything else other than whatever page they landed on.  They see it in a search engine, they click on the link, either they’re satisfied or not by what they’ve found, and then more than likely they close the window, never to return.

Not that I’m claiming any superiority but that’s not how I personally do it.  I do a search, I hit some links and then, if I like what I’ve read, I’ll click on the Home button and see what else this person has written about.  And then, if I like that, I’ll add the site to my RSS reader and continue to follow it.  (I’ve got more than 60 photography-related web sites that I follow in Google Reader.)

I certainly hope that some of the people who found my site today will find a few interesting things and want to come back.  By all means, feel free to make a comment or drop me a line about something you liked or didn’t like or things you’d like to see more of here.

In the background, I’ve started working on more targeted galleries for my portfolio page.  The first one is up now – HK Street Photography – first because it was the quickest and easiest one for me to put together.  Others will follow hopefully soon.

As for what I’ll eventually do in terms of the X-Pro1 vs. the X-E1, stay tuned.


Fuji X-Pro1 & Street

Not an extended treatise, just some random thoughts.

I was exporting a photo from Lightroom just now and saw that the number was 0014 and thought to myself, “what the hell, did the settings get changed, is it starting from 1 every time I reformat the memory card?”  The answer is no, I’ve shot 10,000 photos with the X-Pro1 in the few months that I’ve had it.  And even though the camera is much improved with the new firmware update, it’s still not quite where I’d like it to be.  It’s really still pretty much what my buddy Fernando Gros said a few months ago when he said, roughly, that it can be frustrating to use but when things come together the results are excellent.

The other night I was out with a buddy in a Mong Kok bar where they poured very generously.  A couple of hours later, about as toasted as I could be and still be walking, I had the idea to pull my camera out of the bag and try to shoot as I was walking down the street.  Over the next hour or so, I shot around 200 photos.  The next day, I deleted about 90% of them.  Much to my surprise, there were one or two reasonable shots.

This afternoon I was walking around Central (completely sober).  I pulled the camera out of the bag and tried doing some shooting.

The first thing I noticed was that, even with the firmware update, with focus mode set to S, the camera still wouldn’t focus fast enough for me to catch someone walking towards me.   I switched to C, where the camera doesn’t wait for focus to be locked in before triggering the shutter, and did reasonably better.  Shoot with the aperture closed down enough on a sunny day and it could work okay.  Even so, again I must have deleted more than 90% of the photos I took today.  My biggest problem at this point is that when I’m not bringing the viewfinder up from my eye, when I’m “shooting from the hip” in a manner of speaking, I have a tendency to point the camera too far down and come home with lots of photos of peoples’ shoes.  Something I need to work on.

On an only vaguely related note, you might be interested to check out Digital Rev’s hands-on review of the new Nikon D600.  It looks to be quite reasonable and if I had the need for a second camera body, this is the one I’d surely be considering.  What I find really interesting about this (and other Digital Rev videos featuring Kai) is just how fearless the guy is, how he doesn’t hesitate to kneel down right in front of someone and shoot a picture of a stranger on the street close-up without so much as a “may I?”  I think he gets some really nice shots but I don’t think this is something I’d be capable of doing – and on some levels at least I find it rude.  I suppose this is coming off as a criticism but I should also make it clear that I always enjoy Kai’s videos, just that I couldn’t do what he does.



You Never Know What You’ll Find

Tonight I went over to Tsim Sha Tsui.  Normally I would have taken my Fuji X-Pro1 with me but instead I chose my Nikon D800.  I slapped on (well, okay, not literally) my 50mm F1.4D lens so that it would be lighter and fit in a smaller shoulder bag.  I was hoping to get over to Champagne Court, that wonderful little mall filled with shops selling used film cameras and all sorts of lenses.  Perhaps I’d find something interesting (and cheap?) that I could use with the Nikon.  Didn’t make it there tonight but hoping to get there in the next few days.  More on this a bit further down.

After a bit of shopping and dinner, my girlfriend wanted a massage.  She has a favorite place in Wanchai but we don’t know any spots for legit massage (at a bargain price) in TST.  We were on Ashley Road and saw some signs so decided to pop in and see what these places looked like.  By and large, these are not ground floor places.  They’re small spaces in walk-up apartments in old buildings.

The first place was super clean, looked very legit, and also was charging tourist prices (though in my experience, the HK$98 massage places give crap massages).  As we entered the building for the next place, we heard some strange sounds coming from upstairs.  At first I thought it could be the sound of someone having sex.  Then I thought it could be the sound of someone getting the shit beat out of him.  The second was closer to the truth.  Because we got to the next floor and right across from the massage place was a pocket-sized gym for training in Thai boxing and two guys were going at it.

I quickly forgot everything else.  I pulled my camera out of the bag and put it into full Program mode and bumped up the ISO.  I didn’t know if they might toss me out when they saw me shooting.  As it turns out they didn’t toss me out.  But there was only another minute to the match under way and when it was over, my girlfriend was tugging on my arm.  (Note to self: go out exploring less with her and more on my own or with other photographers.)

Anyway, here’s a few of the shots I got.

I know what you’re thinking – the guy in the t-shirt should have been the one in focus.  But I was (ahem) focused on getting shots of the other guy’s tattoos.

Maybe it’s just me but I’m quite pleased that I had the Nikon instead of the Fuji with me.  Focusing with the Nikon is much faster, not to mention better results at high ISO’s.  The downside was the speed of writing the huge files to the memory cards.  I’ve got the San Disk Extreme Pro and in burst mode I was getting two shots and then having to wait three seconds each time before I could shoot again. (I know Lexar cards are faster than the San Disk but they’re really hard to find in HK for some reason.)

So, back to lenses for a moment.

Actually, the Nikon 50mm F1.4D does okay, but there is significant vignetting – which can be fixed in Lightroom but that takes time.  Also, detail seems a little on the soft side and I’m wondering how well an older lens like this works with the D800’s mammoth sensor.

So I’m thinking of replacing it with one of Nikon’s newer 50mm G lenses – there’s an F1.4 and an F1.8 to choose from, the F1.4 costing about 2-1/2 times more.  I’ve read Thom Hogan’s reviews on these two lenses and the winner isn’t obvious.  I need to find a few more reviews.  Or just stick with the F1.4D and try to get the Nikon 60mm F2.8 macro lens?

I’m also thinking about a prime wide angle and a prime telephoto.  That’s where things get even more confusing.  I cannot afford Nikon’s 35mm F1.4G or 24mm F1.4G.  I can afford the 28mm F1.8G, not sure if that is wide enough for street shooting but not so wide so that I won’t get too much distortion around the edges.  Nikon still has a 24mm F2.8D – the lens went into production 19 years ago, is still around, and is cheap.  The 28mm F2.8D has been around for 18 years and is even cheaper.  But how well will these lenses work with the D800?

On the tele side, the answer seems to be a lot more obvious.  The 85mm F1.4G costs HK$12,980 while the F1.8G costs HK$4,280.   The reviews I’ve read say that the 1.8 does just fine.

I can’t afford to buy all three lenses right now.  So which one to get first?  Seems like the wide angle would be more useful for me.

But I still want to get to Champagne Court for a few hours to browse and see what else might be lying around there.