Hanami At Descanso Gardens

This past weekend I went to Descanso Gardens in La Crescenta, CA for their annual Cherry Blossom Festival. I love any opportunity to learn from another culture’s customs, and this one is a favourite. In Japan, the Cherry Blossom (Sakura) is one of their national symbols. In the spring, for the short duration of the blooms, people all over Japan watch the news for bloom reports and then head out to enjoy being around the cherry trees, these viewing parties and gatherings are called Hanami.

I took the Hasselblad with a 120mm makro-planar lens and some Fujifilm to the gardens:



Japanese String Instrument, Koto

Tulips also in bloom!

And lots of Magnolia trees!

[These were all shot on Fujifilm Pro400H, except for the tulips shot on expired NPS 160. Developed at home with Unicolour C-41 kit, and scanned in a Canon Canoscan Pro 9000 with betterscanning.com ‘s insert]

Here in LA, we don’t have many Sakura, but Descanso Gardens has several in their Japanese Gardens. The botanical garden put together two weekends of tree viewing with crafts (origami!), live music, and a barbecue. I highly recommend this event to everyone. The garden is accessible to all ages and abilities, the tickets were only $9 (get them in advance, they sell out), and food was reasonably priced.
I’m not much of a flora shooter, but after being so inspired by these I might have to go looking for wildflowers. Next stop might be the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve!

Japan Camera Hunter Street Pan 400

I’m so used to seeing my favourite film stocks being discontinued that it was very surprising and exciting to see a NEW film stock hitting the market.
Japan Camera Hunter has revived a discontinued AGFA film as Street Pan 400. It’s an ISO 400 Panchromatic film with high red sensitivity. It’s contrasty with fine grain, it was chosen to replace Fujifilm’s Neopan 400 (and probably because it was feasible to put back into production).
I have yet to find anywhere in California selling the film, but my partner was in Portland, OR recently and bought me a couple of rolls at the awesome Blue Moon Camera and Machine shop. Carol is by far the best gift-giver (and thanks, Jim, for the recommendation!).
Japan Camera Hunter does ship worldwide, but the film is (temporarily?) sold out.

We took a day trip to Long Beach to visit my sister and I shot a roll through my Canon EOS-3. I’m happy with the contrast and overall tones of this film. I’m even more impressed with how much of the sky detail it retained with all that contrast. It’s definitely a film I’ll use again!

JCH Street Pan 400 Test Roll

JCH Street Pan 400 Test Roll

JCH Street Pan 400 Test Roll

 

JCH Street Pan 400 Test Roll

It was a very nice gift, and a hard-to-find film, I had to do something cool with the canister after developing it (yes, I pull the film out without destroying the canister). So I stuck a magnet on it, and it now lives on my fridge along with photos of friends and family.

Leitz Park, Wetzlar, Germany

Back in May I got one of the coolest phone calls ever: “Leica wants to send you to Germany for training.”

The End.

(Okay not really, but what else do I even say after that?!)

Wetzlar is a small town about a half-hour drive outside of Frankfurt where Leica Camera AG has its headquarters. While the city looks like any city, it has a smaller “Old Town” area, with narrow medieval streets, half-timbered wood frame buildings, and a Gothic cathedral at its center. For an awesome week, a dozen of us Leica salespeople (and overall camera geeks!) were put up at a small, nice hotel in this Old Town area and spent our evenings dining and walking around there. We spent the days at Leitz Park, the Leica HQ area, learning about the company culture, history, products, and sales strategies. Sounds like boring conference room stuff, sure, but we were in camera geek heaven the whole time. We even had the chance to hear from Peter Karbe the head of Optical Design! The highlight of Leitz Park was the tour of Leica’s factory. I wasn’t allowed to take photos, but Oh. My. God… when Leica says “made by hand” they really mean MADE BY HAND. There is also a gallery of famous Leica photographs and a museum containing one of every model ever made. The architecture of the building itself is something to admire: one half built in the shape of binoculars, the other in the shape of a lens (complete with a center atrium), and the windows resemble film strips. We had lunch with Leica staff in their cafeteria and the Leitz Café (so fancy!). Here are my photos of Leitz Park and of my new friends from Spain, England, Italy, France, and all over the US.


Metabones Speedbooster XL and Ultra: The Abridged Version

New photographers are often surprised by how much maths is involved in photography. I’ve never been one to shy away from maths, actually, I was always good at it in school (my parents hoped thought I’d been an engineer!). Anyway, I understand most of the technical side of photography, the ratios, inverse square law, blah blah blah. But today I got stumped on trying to understand, and then explain, the mystery of the Speedbooster. So I’ve made myself this little pictorial “cliff’s notes,” so to speak.

Take full frame lenses (specifically Canon and Nikon, in this case) put them on  Micro Four Thirds cameras like Olympus and Panasonic and they have 2x crop factor. Then there is an additional 1.2x crop factor of 4k video. This makes for a 2.4x crop factor on 4k capable MFT camera such as the popular GH4, turning your 24mm lens into a 58mm. So Metabones comes along with these awesome adapters called Speedboosters that restore some of that crop factor while increasing the intensity of the light reaching the sensor. The first generations decreased the crop factor by .71x (2.4 x .71 =1.7) making that same 24mm a 40mm, also taking an f/2.8 aperture to f/2.0 (1 stop gain). A new .64x version of the speedbooster decreases the crop factor further (2.4 x .64=1.5) making that 24mm lens a 36mm with an aperture of f/1.8 (1 1/3 stops gain).

Dizzy from all the numbers? So was I. So a very curious and patient client (Thanks, Jordan!) and I decided to run a quick test in the store. We set up a GH4 using a marker on the counter to keep it in the same place and took 3 images of a set up of random stuff on the counter. In hind sight, I could have chosen a less cluttered background and a prettier setup, but this serves its purpose so please forgive the camera shop mess. We used the Lumix 12-35mm lens and then the 24-70 Canon lens with both the .71x and .64x Speedboosters, and I used a second camera to take these screenshots. Note the changes in angle of view (how much of the edges are cut off) and the aperture changes on these 2.8 lenses.

Speedbooster on GH4 comparison

IMPORTANT NOTE!!!!!

The .64x XL version of the speedbooster has a larger protrusion into the camera and can BREAK the shutter if used on an incompatible camera. That means DEAD CAMERA! Please make sure your camera is compatible before trying to use it.

Metabones Speedbooster comparison

Check out the size difference in the mounts of these adapters! Please do not kill your camera with the wrong one!

 

The Grand Pour at The Perfect Exposure Gallery

I’m super happy to share that I have work hanging in my 3rd show of the year! This time, I have a photograph at The Perfect Exposure Gallery as part of their group show Aesthetics, which exclusively showcases black and white photography. I have chosen (and was selected!) to show this photograph of The Grand Pour:

The Grand Pour, construction site of the Wilshire Grand Tower among the skyscrapers of Downtown Los Angeles

On view at The Perfect Exposure Gallery: The Grand Pour, a record-setting cement pour laying the foundation for the Wilshire Grand, soon-to-be the tallest skyscraper in the Western US. Los Angeles, CA 2014

I’d read that the Turner construction company were going to attempt to set a new Guiness World Record for the longest continuous cement pour as they build the foundation for the new Wilshire Grand Tower. I immediately called my dad, a cement truck driver, to ask if he knew about it (of course he did!) and whether he would be involved (sadly, no). The Grand Pour, as they named the event, started on Saturday February 14th, 2014. They used hundreds of trucks driving back and forth making thousands of trips to pour cement into funnels and pumps set up at the construction site.

On Sunday morning, the day the pour was set to end, I got an early morning call from my dad. With a few hours to go, more cement was needed. CalPortland subcontracted my dad’s company to help them, and my dad was loaded up and driving into downtown LA. I packed my gear and hopped on a train to meet him there (playing hooky from work, of course). I’m surprised I found him among the long lines of trucks, but once I did he told me where to go for a good view.

Trucks line up to deliver cement during The Grand Pour

Trucks line up to deliver cement during The Grand Pour. Los Angeles, CA 2014.

I took a digital camera, with which I documented the even as I walked around. But I knew I’d have a unique view of the LA skyline and of this building in progress, so I took my Hasselblad as well. The image on display at The Perfect Exposure gallery was photographed on 120mm Fuji Acros 100 film on my Hasselblad 500c.

The Grand Pour

This is not where you want to be when the cement trucks start blaring their horns in celebration of a World Record!

I was walking at street level around the cement trucks when the pour was completed at around 11:30 am on Sunday. The truck drivers blared their horns in unison to celebrate a job well done and a Guiness World Record set. The workers I saw walking around looked very satisfied with their efforts.

The Grand Pour

The Grand Pour

The Grand Pour

The Wilshire Grand Hotel, shortly before it was demolished to make way for the current construction project. Hasselblad film photograph. December 2012.

The Wilshire Grand Hotel, shortly before it was demolished to make way for the current construction project. Hasselblad film photograph. December 2012.

The Grand Pour, and the show Aesthetics runs through December 28, 2015.

Virtual Insanity

I took a chance to jump way outside of my technology comfort zone this weekend by spending my Saturday at the LA Virtual Reality show (VRLA). I was working for Samy’s Camera in conjunction with Ricoh to demonstrate and sell the Theta 360° camera. While selling cameras is well within my area of expertise, I’m a complete novice when it comes to video, virtual reality, video games, and things of the sort.

Within an hour of demonstrating the Theta camera I caught on to what is cool about it. It only took watching a couple 360° video clips through a Samsung Gear VR headset and I understood the appeal of Virtual Reality all-around photos and video. I eventually got so on board that I put the Theta on a pole and took it for a walk around the showroom floor. The quality isn’t great, so I took the same walk shooting video on my Canon. Believe it or not, it’s the first time I’ve shot any video on my DSLRs …Ever! 

I didn’t get to sample any of the products on display at the show because I was working the whole time, but I can’t say I can see much value in the VR technology available. I don’t know that it actually solves a problem, I think it only provides entertainment. So far anyway. I fear a future of young people unable to communicate in person, unable to separate fantasy from reality and without the drive to have actual engaging experiences in real life. I dislike that “in real life” is something.

Then again, I was skeptical about digital photography, about video in SLR cameras… but eventually I come around.

 (Photographer: Rebecca Joyce)

Ricoh product manager, TK, demonstrates the Theta 360 camera to a VRLA visitor.

 

 (Photographer: Rebecca Joyce)

visitors to VRLA sample new products and technology from vendors, such as Reload

My first 5D video:

The Theta 360° video is also on YouTube, I won’t embed it because it doesn’t look right outside of YouTube. The 360° view capabilities are available on the Chrome browser as well as the YouTube mobile app. If you have a VR viewer such as Cardboard or Samsung Gear, I suppose it can be viewed that way, too. Click here for the video.