The Speedmaster

So I have this new toy, the Sony A7s, regarded in a number of circles as the one camera to rule them all (in terms of shooting in the dark). I got the brightest native E-mount lens which is the sharpest autofocus lens Dxomark has ever tested in the FE 55mm f/1.8 but I still wasn’t satisfied.

One thing I had conceded with the A99 was the possibility of having something brighter than f/1.4. Talk about a first world problem. My shooting style lends itself to very shallow depths of field and I wanted to go shallower. The E-mount brought a wealth of possibility with all of the adapters as well as the third-party support. Doing some research, I had found a number of lenses brighter than f/1.0. Many of these were adapted in someone’s workshop and had a fixed aperture, or worse, a fixed focus. Using an adapter, I could get a couple of the legends out there. A couple copies of the Canon Dreamlens (50mm f/0.95) are out there in the $2500-$3000 range. And Leica has an option for ten times as much. There were already a few sub-f/1.0 lenses for the APS-C E-mount bodies, but only one available for the A7-series. The Mitakon Speedmaster. The biggest problem with the Speedmaster: availability. Both B&H and Adorama had them for pre-order for around $900. Or I could roll the dice with an international seller on eBay. I chose the latter. Five short days later, a box arrived from Hong Kong. I found the first surprise, a very well-made leather-bound box.

 

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ILCE-A7s, Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 @ f/0.95, ISO 1250, 1/60s

I opened the box and found a very heavy manual aperture, manual focus lens. I put it on my A7s and found it had a very nice, snug fit on the mount. With any bright prime, I started testing it wide open. Here is the first shot taken, followed by a crop of the center.

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ILCE-A7s, Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 @ f/0.95, ISO 100, 1/800s
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Not too bad, I could tell I needed to get used to the microscopic depth of field. I stopped down to f/1.4 (hearing myself type: stopped down to f/1.4) and produced this result:

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ILCE-A7s, Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/500s

Without a doubt, I realized this lens had passed the color test. The next evening I took the kids to the NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. I found the possibilities to be endless.

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ILCE-A7s, Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 @ f/0.95, ISO 250, 1/250s

Again, I am impressed with the colors. The person in the background behind my son with a hat and headphones on was about two feet behind my son. Sure, there is a little CA wide-open. But for $900, I frankly don’t care. And Lightroom could fix it enough.

I have a really nice problem to have right now. I have a new A7s and I am overwhelmed by the possibilities. I want to shoot all four of the lenses I have, but I can only bring one or two with me at any given time. My biggest problem is figuring out which two. Grace is not amused by my problem.

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ILCE-A7s, Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 @ f/0.95, ISO 100, 1/200s

I’m not good at posting regularly

The title says it all. I’m terrible at it. I am at a crossroads in my internal motivation, trying to dedicate more energy to what I enjoy doing and it is a constant struggle to find a balance. That being said, I was able to get this post started, and it should lead to a finish.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 300mm f/4 HS APO G@ f/4.5, ISO 500, 1/320s

My last post was a good part of three months ago. I posted about the anniversary of my first dive into serious photography. It was right before a trip to Colorado in January 2011. My first return with equipment I want to have with me is going to be later this week.

Playing with an A7

Where to get started? I was in the Pacific Northwest for a few days earlier this month and I was fortunate enough to meet with Ron Martinsen and he let me borrow an A7 for a few days and I allowed him to borrow my 50mm f/1.4 SSM ZA lens to test out the LA-EA4 adapter for his blog. I was flabbergasted at the opportunity. Here is the guest post I made on his blog.  The weather was dumpy and my schedule was dumpier, I even resorted to some testing on random objects, like a marker on the hotel bed spread in low light.

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ILCE-7, 35mm f/2.8 ZE @ f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/50s

The A7 is definitely a cool little camera. I’m still trying to figure out where the future of the A-mount is going and where I will fit into that equation. If I were to go to the E-mount, I’d have to go all-in and I just don’t see that happening any time soon.

Spring is Here!

It is well-documented, I am a Spring junkie. I have peach, pear, and apple trees, daffodils, tulips, azaleas, holly bushes, and a bunch of random other junk growing in my yard. I have a couple families of cardinals, a new family of blue jays, as well as a nest of owls and hawks close by. I planted some roses, primrose, and a few other things which should make for some good subjects. The first sign of Spring this year was these Columbine flowers which grow in a random spot in my front yard.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] @ T4.5, ISO 400, 1/160s

The daffodils came out in full force a week later.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/60s

And I spent the bulk of a later weekend putting in roses. I can’t wait to see how those turn out.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4.5, ISO 125, 1/250s

Random Final Thought

I have plenty more to talk about, yet more work and reality to deal with, so I hope to find some more time. I will leave you with this thought. I’m usually the person taking the photographs and rarely am I in them. I revisited my collection of photos from Austria which included Christian’s photos and found a few taken of me, by Christian, which I particularly like. At time I was a bit weirded out by the thought of my photo being taken, but now I truly appreciate it, especially those I didn’t know he was taking.

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SLT-A57, Minolta 24mm f/2.8 @ f/7.1, ISO 100, 1/800s – Photo by Christian of optiphot.com

I still haven’t figured out how to express the Austria trip in words. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do so.

One Saturday in December…

My daughter, Georgia has been in ballet since she was in diapers. For the past couple of years, she has had various parts in the Charlotte Youth Ballet presentation of the Nutcracker. This year, Georgia was a soldier.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 300mm f/4 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 1600, 1/200s, –0.7EV

Being a soldier means you’re in all six shows. Three on Friday, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday. So we were busy that particular weekend. My wife spent her first years in college at Florida State University back in 1993 when they won the National Championship in football and Charlie Ward won the Heisman trophy. Though her collegiate endeavors moved her away from FSU, she remained a fan. And as circumstance would have it, FSU is the number one ranked team in the land and would be playing in the ACC Championship in Charlotte on Saturday evening, the same Saturday Georgia had two Nutcracker shows. And FSU had the eventual Heisman trophy winner, Jameis Winston.

But before Georgia had her two Nutcracker shows, she had to perform in a concert with her afterschool singing group and my wife gave me a green light to try to get tickets for the game in a subtle hint during the concert. Fortunately, the game wasn’t sold out yet. Unfortunately, the only tickets left were nosebleed seats.

I snuck my A99 in with a Lensbaby Composer Pro, put my 200mm f/2.8 in the diaper bag, and once I got to my seat I tried my hand at some tilt-shift.

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SLT-A99V, Lensbaby Composer Pro Edge 80 Optic (80mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8), ISO 1600, –0.3 EV

It looks like the electric football game many of us had growing up. I was too far away to get anything really good, unfortunately. I can say I saw the eventual Heisman Trophy winner  Jameis and the number one team in the land (at the time).

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 1000, 1/250s

A lot going on…

I constantly feel like I am falling further and further behind… Really, I am about where I need to be when it comes to my work stuff, which means I am actually behind in everything else.

I have a ton to write about and I am going to try to catch up, yet again to make sure none of this is lost. I plan on making some posts in the coming days, but probably not today, but I figure I would make a list. So in no particular order here goes:

1. Holiday Cards. The annual adventure which is the family holiday card.

2. The ACC Championship Game. A last-minute ticket purchase allowing me to see the number one team in the land and eventual Heisman trophy winner. And I snuck some equipment in as well.

3. 35mm Film Adventures. My latest addiction. Experimenting with 35mm film.

4. Wedding Lessons Learned. Post-processing lessons and other lessons learned in finishing the job.

5. Austria. I still haven’t finished writing about Austria. I’ve written about it in my head several times but I just can’t do it justice. I also want to revisit the photos with a clear head.

6. Adobe Creative Cloud. I purchased the Lightroom/Photoshop membership yesterday. Lightroom I already had. Photoshop, I am completely lost right now.

7. Picture Frames. I have a hard time purchasing frames for my photographs. I decided to attempt making one… And it turned into three.

Since this is a photo blog, I am obligated to post a photo. Here is one of the “throwaways” from our family holiday card.

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SLT-A99V,85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.5, ISO 100, 1/125s, +2EV

One year later…

Today, WordPress let me know I have been doing this for a year. A year and a week, actually by my count. I hadn’t logged in for a while as I am absolutely slammed with work right now. Now I feel bad. I really want to be able to post a little more frequently than I do. I’m still two months behind on posting about my Austria trip. I’ve had 16,000 unique page views. Hopefully some of those people got some value from my posts.

In my first couple of posts I mentioned something about not being able to shoot my favorite subject, my wife. Now I get to photograph her more often. One problem solved.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/640s

A year ago I was shooting with my A77, and though I still have it, use it, and love it; I now shoot mostly with my A99. I’ve learned some new techniques and figured a couple of things out.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 100, Various speeds (Processed in HDR Efex Pro 2 from 3 exposures)

I’ve made a couple of friends, and even hung out with one. Thousands of miles away from home, on a different continent.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 28-75 f/2.8@f/3.2 , ISO 50, 1/640s

Which I want to make sure and add as a side note, I have met people online from near my own town through this blog and not made it work to go shoot with them. I feel bad about that.

I’ve slowly started a business. And though it will be a while before I turn a profit (and I have to stop my little lens addiction), I have gotten to shoot some things I didn’t think I would get a chance to shoot before.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO 800, 1/125s

This little blog has done a ton for me. I’ll try to return the favor if I can. Hopefully a little more often.

Until then, I’ll do the best I can to post what I have learned. Even though I am living the dream, I really owe it to my few readers to be a little more diligent.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 2500, 1/60s

(Talk about living the dream Smile  )

Catch Up Post (Series 2, Number 2): The I-SHOT-IT 200 Contest

I have documented in the past about some of my submissions to i-shot-it.com. They started a new contest a few months ago when they reached 200,000 “Likes” on Facebook which was a free contest where the subject had to have something to do with the number 200. The submission time ended today and it appears there are 1114 submissions.

65 of them were mine.

Did I stuff the ballot box? Maybe. Am I playing the game? Maybe. I’ll call it research. I have 1 in 17 submissions. There are 20 prizes and a grand prize. While some of my shots were really just the number 200 showing up somewhere, I like my chances with some of the others.

I took photos in 4 US states, Germany and Austria with 200’s in them. This particular photo was taken in Hallstatt, Austria.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, 1/500s, ISO 100, –.2 EV

This self-portrait was taken in Munich

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, 1/640s, ISO 100

And this was taken on my way to Vienna from Munich. I would argue this submission should count as two. Both screens display the 200 km/h speed

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Nokia Lumia 1020 (~28mm f/2.2), ISO 320, 1/100s

A few shots I had to fabricate, like this photo of page 200 of the only available option in my hotel room on a rainy day in Houston.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA @ f/2, 1/200s, ISO 100

And others I had to just shoot because they were there.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, 1/1250s, ISO 100

But I shot a lot of them. And there is a 1-in-17 chance they’ll see one of mine in the list. And again, some I should get credit for two.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T4.5] STF, ISO3200, 1/20s

And I had a couple of natural thoughts when I hear the number 200 I had to act on at my house…

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/30s

Hello from Austria!

I haven’t posted in a long time. I have been busy. I have been working on the single most important project in my career at my main employer and the project is near-complete. Lame excuse, I know. I have a ton to talk about. And I may catch up sometime today or tomorrow as I have a lot of time on trains and planes coming to me. I have a neat little ride from Vienna to Munich and a flight from Munich to Charlotte via Philadelphia coming to me. Plenty of time to catch up if I am able. Chances are I won’t catch up but I will most certainly try.

Here is a list of topics I can post about:

1. Austria: I’ve been in Austria for a little more than a week now. Not only did I get to see the Alps, I got to see a man playing Mozart on violin accompanied by a pianist playing on a clear Plexiglas piano in an ice cave in the Alps. I also got to see a lot of Vienna and a charming little town outside of Vienna called Stockerau (pronounced something closer to Schtocker-oww). But there’s much more and I need to get this list finished first, so I will finish this point further down in the post (I promise).

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T/4.5] STF, 1/200s, ISO 100, +1EV

2. 135 STF. Remember when I said I wanted a 135 STF but I opted to get the 200mm f/2.8 APO lens instead?  I got a 135 STF. It is worth every penny I paid, even at the heavily discounted price I paid for it. More to come.

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SLT-A99V, 135mm f/2.8[T/4.5] STF, 1/160s, ISO 400

3. Pretty girls and horses. If you’ve read my posts, you know I did a shoot for Deanna and Stephen’s engagement. Deanna asked me to come back and shoot some more horse photos with her and one of her trainers, Laura. It was awesome. I can’t wait to write about it.

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SLT-A77V, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/5, 1/640s, ISO 100

4. Nokia Lumia 1020. I got this little gem of a phone the other day. It has a 41 Megapixel sensor. I haven’t had it more than 10 days, but I do know this thing rocks. It is the real deal. It has exceeded expectations.

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Nokia Lumia 1020 @ f/2.2, 1/1779s, ISO 100

5. Other. Other stuff has happened. I can talk about it if I have time.

So right now I am in Austria and it is 2:50 in the morning. I have to get up early to catch a train but it is important to me to get this last point out. I will write about my week in Austria but it will probably not do it justice. I have had a wonderful time here. I have been hosted by Christian who I actually met through this blog and his wife Monika, and had the opportunity to meet their daughters Doris and Angela, and Angela’s boyfriend Bernd. Below is a portrait Christian and Monika graciously allowed me to take.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/5, 1/200s, ISO 100

I know the light is horrible for a portrait, but they are standing high atop Vienna and this was a better backdrop than the backlit view.

Christian has been a mentor for my photography for a little while now online, but I really got the opportunity to learn some tricks an technique I wouldn’t have learned without watching and listening to him in person. He has experience with the early A-mount and before. But more importantly, he and his family are some of the the kindest people I have ever met and they were a amazing hosts. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Austria, but I was able to see sights outside the normal tourist stuff. And I got to see plenty of the tourist stuff as well. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay them for their kindness. Hopefully I will figure something out. I know I probably was an awkward guest at times; I understood very little German and I butchered most of the words I tried. I did try to learn words and how to say them. And I will keep trying after I leave.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/100s

I saw sights I never thought I would see. I saw sights beyond what I imagined I would ever see. I shot photos I have never shot before. I learned how to shoot better wide-angle lens shots. I learned how to shoot better macros. I got to play with a half dozen old Minolta lenses, a few other adapted lenses, Macro tubes, and work with creative shading and reflection. I am excited to apply what I have learned. I can’t thank Christian, or his family enough.

More to come later…