Category : The Learning Center

2 months, 3 weeks ago 23


I’m wearing a new wrist band, pictured above, and it does relate to today’s blog entry, and much more!!  The website for this not for profit organization is :  I encourage you to go there and look into this great site. Alex Sheen, the founder, tells the heart rending story of his relationship with his father, and his contemplation of what his father had left him after he lost him to cancer.  In short the organization encourages people to live with integrity, to not make promises we can’t or won’t keep, to live by the words, “Because I said I would”.  I gave my two sons and son-in-law wrist bands and t-shirts and the article I read on a Southwest flight that started my involvement with the organization.  I want to make the world a better place and that starts with making myself a better man, and my first step, beyond a comitmenet to my faith,  is to become the man I want to be, and live by my words!


Now because I promised to not beat the Fuji thing to death, but keep the techy members of my readership up to speed, here is the latest Fuji introduction, the X-T1



I never thought I would complain that a camera company was coming out with too many great products, to fast!!  Well in the short year and half that I have been a Fuji owner and shooter, they introduced the X100 (which I never owned), the X10 which was my first Fuji, and it was so good I could have it as my only camera, except above  ISO 400 the noise just wasn’t good enough for available light work!  Next I bought the X-E1 and it was incredible, shockingly low noise, and wonderful files, second only to the D800!  That was the beginning of my love affair with the Fuji X-system!  I upgraded from the X-E1 to the X-E2 a much improved model all this within a year!!  I added the incredible X100s my carry around and travel camera whey want to go super light.  Finally I broke down and bought the original big boy, (only slightly larger) X-Pro 1, which I love as well.   I was sure my next purchase would be in 2015 when the X-Pro 2 is likely to arrive, but Fui threw me a curve, a big juicy one, they introduced this new SLR like X-T1.  None of this would matter if the Fujinon lens line was not so superlative.  I now own virtually everything they have made (so far) and every single lens has been one of the sharpest of that given focal length I’ve ver used.



So let’s take a look at the new X-T1




What do I like about this latest body?


1.  Much faster, bigger buffer, can shoot 8 FPS for up to 47 jpegs before it buffers out!


2.  Very much improved EVF with great magnification and the fastest redraw in the industry.  Looks like it will make using a EVF finally almost as good as a conventional optical viewfinder with many great advantages.  Specs: 2.36 million dot OLED .77 magnification. a lag time of only 0.005 seconds that’s less than 1/10th the current best for Fuji!



3.  Fully sealed from water, dust, and works in super low temps. (-10 degrees)


4.  Same Sensor and processor as my X100s and X-E2 both of which make superlative images with that sensor set.  Super high response times, and very low shutter lag.




5.  A fold out LCD panel done right, with hardened glass, this is something I’ve wanted desperately!




6.  Predictive AF for moving subjects that really works!


7.  Fully encompassing Magnesium alloy body structure, one of the best I’ve ever seen. (image below)



8.  A battery grip that improves battery life and give a vertical shutter release and additional control buttons.




9.  While I love the form factor of the classic rangefinder cameras, I did miss the SLR type set-up and this X-T1 brings that back, but in a small, well built  body.





10.  And finally Fuji owners finally feet the remote operation with iPhones and iPads with live view and all the remoter setting sand shooting options, tyke app is available from the  App Store.





All in all another dent in my camera purchases savings account!!!  If that were not enough the 10-24 f4 OIS lens and the 56mm f 1.2 lens are due out in the next two months!!!  The year is starting off pretty fantastic!




the pilgrim


One Last Point!!  I know I will get an email later today with this question,  ( ” You said you were switching to this system to save weight, but you already have bought 30 lbs. of Fuji cameras and lenses and say you will buy more.  Where is the weight savings??” )   So let me answer it now!


I will never be carrying more than about 15 pounds in the field for long walks or hikes.  I generally carry one body, ( with a spare in the vehicle), and just the two or three lens for the kind of work I’m doing.

Here are some lens body/lens combinations:


Travel (going ultra light)  Fuji X1oos only


Travel ( moderate system)  Fuji X-E2  18-55 & 55-200


Outdoor and Nature (walking or hiking)  Fuji X-E2, 14mm, 18-55, 55-200 and the 60mm Micro.


Outdoor and Nature (Driving to location)  Fuji X-T1, 10-24,  23mm f 1.4, 18-55, 55-200 and the 60mm Micro.


Available Light Work  Fuji X-T1 or X-Pro-1, 14mm f 2.8, 23mm f1.4, 35mm f 1.4, & 56mm f 1.2


Americana walk around (like Old Car City)  Fuji X-T1, 10-24, 23mm f1.4, 18-55, 55-200  (In a waist belt system)


Close-up Work  Fuji X-T1, 60mm Micro, Nikkor 200mm Micro (with a Nikon to Fuji X adapter)  Extension tubes and diopters


Hope that explains it a little better.



2 months, 4 weeks ago 11


postmortem |pōstˈmôrtəm|noun(also postmortem examination )an examination of a dead body to determine the cause ofdeath.• 


an analysis or discussion of an event held soon after ithas occurred, esp. in order to determine why it was afailure: an election postmortem on why the party lost.



Though the term postmortem is usually thought of in forensic terms, for years I’ve used it for other purposes.  After every workshop during the GAPW years we held a Postmortem after each event to evaluate what went wrong, what went right,  and how to learn from the experience.


I would like to start a series of posts that are postmortems of images.  Let me share what I think went wrong, what went right, and what we can learn from the image and the exercise of taking it.


The image above, we will call “trees in snow”.


How it happened:  I was driving to dental appointment and was early, I always try to be early because the best shots appear when you are running late!!!  I saw the single large tree near the edge of the road and the other trees in the distance behind it.  With the light snow on the branches and the overcast light it just looked interesting to me.  By the time I knew I wanted to photograph it I was past it.  I went down the road and found a safe place to turn around and then went back past the shot and started back down my original path.  Since traffic was light I was able to drive slowly watching for the shot to appear out my drivers window and then drive slowly until I saw the “perspective” that I thought worked best.  I pulled off the road there and put on my hazard blinkers.  There was no safe place to get out and set up a tripod.  I knew it was going to have to be a handheld shot.


Setting up the shot:  My driver’s side rear view mirror was in the way so I pulled forward a few feet so I had a clear shot past the mirror.  I knew that I would need a longer lens so I put my 55-200 on my Fuji X-E2 camera body, I zoomed until I got the framing I wanted.  Since I was sitting in the car it was necessary to hand hold the shot.  I set my ISO at 1600 so I could have a fast enough shutter speed that along with the OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)  in the lens I could get a tack sharp image.   1/1600 sec;   f/9;   ISO 1600


Composition:  I positioned the camera so that the tree occupied the right hand side of the frame with the branches reaching back into the frame.  I was glad the sky was pretty dark and wasn’t drawing the eye away from the branches.  I thought at the time I wish the tree was on the left side of the frame reaching right, so I flipped the image in Photoshop below to see how it felt.  I think it works either way.



Final Analysis:  It was worth stopping, I like the monochrome simplicity but also the complexity of the branches and opposing tones. I’m happy with the shot, but not overwhelmed by it.  If I passed some similar situation I would still stop and give it try!


 Now the fun part, chime in with your thoughts!!  We can all learn from each other here!




the pilgrim




2 months, 4 weeks ago 40


Excitement and confusion. Excited to see a really neat product coming from Fuji and confused at the reaction various people have to their choice in cameras!  Let’s get that out of the way first!  When I worked for Nikon I found it amazing that users of various brands are like tribes.


tribe |trīb|noun1 a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader: indigenous Indian tribes | the Celtic tribes of Europe.


In the Indian Nations tribes could be either allies or bitter enemies.  Sadly in the world of photography some people fall into that pattern.  Among some circles Canon shooters hate Nikon shooters, and visa versa.  It is no less true among Olympus, Fuji, Panasonic, Leica etc, etc.  I understand the dynamic.  You study and study, you try different brands and then you make a decision with both head and heart and then you “commit”!  Once you commit to a brand you become surrounded by friends and associates that use the brand you chose! Now the fun begins, the teasing, the joking, the debating, most is harmless but some folks just take the whole exercise to seriously!  For me, no harm – no foul.  I never took any of this very seriously even when I represented one of the 800 pound gorillas in the room!


Cameras and lenses are made to make photographs, that’s it.  Some do it better, or worse but they all get the job done.  Is a D800 higher resolution that Canon 5D Mark III?  Does a Fuji X Sensor have incredibly low noise at super high ISOs?  Does the Panasonic GH3 make incredible video? Sure, sure, sure!  Doesn’t matter, pick one, and make images.


Regardless of brand loyalties, sooner or later you have to find what helps you make the image. I’m not going to go through  the whole shoulder surgery story again, let’s just say I’ve found my everyday, walk around system, Fuji’s X System, and here’s why;


(1)  The weight is just right.  Not heavy, but with a feeling of real substance.


(2)  The image quality is absolutely incredible.


(3)  I can shoot at any ISO up to and including 6400 and not worry about noise, in 90% of the cases, not even notice any!


(4)  I own the 14, 18-55, 23, 35, 60, and the 55-200, and everyone is of the highest quality, absolutely stunning glass.  All of my lenses, and the ones that are coming from Fuji, are faster than almost any other brands, and cost substantially less! 


(5)  After years of using DSLRs, I’m loving the quiet shutters, and lack of mirror vibration.


(6)  I shot Fuji film in the old days, and always loved their color renditions, and the X cameras have those say lovely colors.


(7)  Photography is tactile, I love the feel of the X system, it just fits my hands!


(8)  I’m very impressed with Fuji’s commitment to continue to improve their products with constant firmware updates that make genuinely significant improvements to their products. 


(9)  Most of all, they listen to their customers!  A number of Firmware updates have addresses specific recommendations from their customers, that’s golden!


(10)  And lastly, they have developed a philosophy to produce products that are designed for photography, not the specs race!


So, I’m anxious to feet to try the XT-1, the 56 f 1.2 and the 10-24 f4 OIS, it’s going to be an exciting start to 2014!




the pilgrim


ADDENDUM:   Believe it or not, I had not seen Scott Kelby video on his blog about switching from Nikon to Canon before I wrote this blog entry!!!!!  I may have been the only guy in the photo world who hadn’t!!  The reaction to his video with Rick Sammon got as variety of responses, some pretty nasty!  This was my point in my own blog entry, and remember once again I had not seen Scott’s video!!  A number of pretty blunt charges were leveled at Scott, and I feel bound to respond in blanket form.


(1)  Scott is a great guy, and an honest guy, and I believe a sincere guy!  If he says he really liked the Canon stuff for what he does, I’m sure he does.


(2)  I am sure that Canon made a good offer ($$$) to NAPP, (now KelbyOne), to be “more involved” with them.  I’m sure they probably really wanted Scott to give their stuff a good try.  That Scott really liked the gear for sports, or for that matter any other kind of shooting, does not surprise me.  Remember I used to work for Nikon, and I can tell you that both Nikon and Canon make dang good stuff!   Why did Nikon not offer to become a bigger part of KelbyOne too?   I have no idea, you would have to ask the people in marketing at Nikon, they are the only ones that would know the answer to that.  I wish they had, I would love to see equal representation at KelbyOne between both brands, but they didn’t, and that’s that!  Case closed.   However, that is not Scott Kelby’s fault!


(3)  Does it really matter what camera brand you shoot?  I’m going to go out on limb and say that Jay Maisel could shoot all our pants off with a low end  Samsung camera!  I really believe that it’s the photographer, not the camera, and that is not being disrespectful of Nikon, Canon, Leica or anyone else!!!!!!!!  I think we need to grow up and start acting like adults on this whole brand thing!  Surely we are not so insecure that we have to roll in the mud over this subject?


(4)  I really respect and care for Scott Kelby, he has been a great friend to me, and it doesn’t bother me in the least if he makes good money doing what he does, he has earned it, and I can tell you I’ve seen him shoot superior work with anything you hand him.  All of you can infer anything you would like about the “brand wars” ,  but for me, I won’t disrespect  his ability with a camera, to reduce it down to Canon vs Nikon!


(5)  Want to take someone on, come after me, I don’t shoot either brand, and I’ll shoot it out with you anytime, anywhere.  Just be sure to tighten your belt, to keep your pants in place!


Sorry, I was a little ticked off after reading all this, but that was pretty good line!!!!


the pilgrim

3 months, 2 weeks ago 8


I was cleaning some old drawers in my office and found a big stack of very old Nikon brochures and literature.   In the stack was an old catalog from Norman’s Camera in Battle Creek, Michigan.  This was a dealer I bought some early bodies and lenses from and I had called them and gotten the prices on various items which are hand written above in the catalog.  The catalog is from 1970, the year I got seriously into photography!!!  Above the Nikon Photomic FTN Black goes for $244.97.  That was the D4 of that day, in today’s dollars, (calculated on 3% inflation per year for 44 years),  that would be approx. $568.33, today’s D4 sells fro $5,995.!!!!  My grandfather bought me a $5,000. car when I graduated from college in 1968, that same car today would sell for around $35,000. a 7 fold increase.  If the Nikon price had risen 7 fold it would have been, $1,714.19!  Sure would love to go back to these prices!!!!!!!


Here are some price comparisons on lenses from 1970 vs today:


20mm f 3.5 back then  $189.97  today’s 20mm f 2.8 AIS manual focus $674.


24mm f 2.8 then  $139.97  today’s 24mm f 2.8 AIS manual focus $529.


28mm f 3.5 then $124.51  today’s 28mm f 2.8 AIS Manual Focus  $499.


35mm f 2.8 then $87.  Today 35mm f 2 AF $329.95  (Manual must be bought  used)


Interestingly lens prices have not escalated as much as bodies for AF lenses, manual focus glass has increased more in keeping with bodies.  I have started to use my old Nikkor manual focus glass occasionally with the D700 body, a great combination.  When the D800 was released I took it and four manual focus lenses (24mm f 2.8, 55mm Micro Nikkor f 2.8, 105mm Micro Nikkor f 2.8 and the old classic 80-200 f 4.5 Nikkor zoom.)  I wanted to prove to myself that they were still viable lenses even on the super high res D800, below are some of the shots representing each lens.  The D700 is less demanding and these lenses look fantastic on that body.



I’ve since acquired a very rare, very hard to find, (John Gompf located it for me), 25-50 f4 AIS manual focus zoom.  This lens is really strange, it is not one of the legendary sharp lenses from Nikon, it is very sharp, but not in a category with the four lenses above, but it has essentially no Chromatic Aberrations!!!  The result is a look and color quality that no other Nikkor can match! It’s a two ring zoom which for the kind of work I do is wonderful.  While I use the Fuji X System 95% of the time, it is still a thrill to shoot this combo of manual focus glass.  I own a bunch more and my all time favorite long lens is the 400mm f 3.5 AIS, which I enjoy a lot!


Modern autofocus lenses can’t have firm focusing rings because they have to be turned by tinny motors to autofocus and the torque required for the little motors would be too much.  Most modern motors would burn up trying to turn my manual focus lens, focusing rings.  It is that wonderful tactile feeling that makes these old lenses such a joy to use. I usually use this gear when I can work close to the car.  Of course for sports and action shooters AF is a must, but for travel, landscape and Americana these old manual focus lenses are great.


The big bonus to manual focus glass is the great pricing!   These prices are from KEH, a used gear dealer, based in Atlanta, I really trust.  You can buy the following in Excellent + or Like New condition for the following prices:


 24mm f 2.8 AIS  $205


55mm Micro Nikkor F 2.8 AIS  $150.  


105mm Micro Nikkor f 2.8 AIS $339.


80-200 f 4 AIS  $94.


( this was the updated version of the old f 4.5 version which can often be found for around $50.!!!  The f 4.5 lenses are hard to find in Excellent shape though.  I own both and find them both razor sharp!!  F4 takes 62mm filters, the f 4.5 takes 52mm).  For their asking price they are screaming bargains!


If you enjoy this kind of subject matter, consider joining Jack Graham and I in Acadia, in October of this year!  Check full details at


By-the-way my first serious camera was the Nikkormat FTN above, in chrome!  Wow, this has been, and continues to be a great ride, thanks for coming along on my sentimental journey!!!




the pilgrim


If you enjoy these kinds of old gear articles and posts, please let me know!  Happy to occasionally do more!