2.03.2023

New lens. Not yet mine. Still in the testing phase....

 

I was minding my own business, wondering when more tree branches were going to fall from the sky when I got a text from a photographer friend of many years. He was reaching out to see if I would like to go up the street from my house and grab a coffee with him at Trianon Coffee. Since this friend is an unapologetic gear hound with lots of fun information to share I didn't see how I could possibly turn down his invitation.

The coffee house was crowded. Especially for a mid-afternoon. I mentioned this and my friend reminded me that many of the folks present might be there instead of in their homes because at the moment over 100,000 people in Austin are without power. Camping out at the coffee shop means hot coffee, a warm environment and free wi-fi. Ah, that explains the amazing, topical burst of coffee's popularity. 

We grabbed our preferred beverages and found a table. From seemingly out of nowhere he produced a leather lens case and handed it to me. I opened it and found inside one of the "holy grail" Leica R lenses. It's Leica's R series 35-70mm f4.0 zoom lens. Not to be confused with two earlier, f3.5 zooms nor the two 28-70mm f3.5-4.5 zooms made for Leica by Sigma. 

I had always heard that this final iteration of their 35-70mm lenses was completely designed by Leica, unlike a series of re-badged Minolta and Sigma lenses. And while it was "completely" designed by Leica in Germany I'd also heard that it was produced by Kyocera in Japan. Indeed. Looking at the lens revealed an engraved line of type on the opposite side of the lens from aperture settings that read: "Designed by Leica Camera. Mfg. in Japan. At the time Kyocera was also the owner of Contax cameras and was making very nice lenses for the mark under license from Karl Zeiss. They still make really great lenses for Voigtlander. 

While all the previous 28-70 and 35-70mm Leica zoom lenses were "pretty good" The Leica 35-70mm f4.0 has always been considered head and shoulders above them for sheer optical quality. The late Erwin Puts was widely regarded as having a comprehensive knowledge of Leica optics, from theory and design through manufacturing. He exhaustively tested a number of their lenses over the years. His assessment of the 35-70mm f4.0 ROM was that it equaled or exceeded the performance of the 35mm Summicron R, the 50mm Summicron R and the 75mm Summilux M if all were used at f4.0 or higher. It was reported to be capable of resolving upwards of 125 lp/mm in the center of the frame at full aperture. 

It's a fairly small lens and it lacks AF and I.S. which only adds to its reliability and durability. 

My friend's copy is pristine and was recently serviced. He suggested that I take it and shoot it for a while to see if I might be interested in owning it. Otherwise, after I'm through playing with it (testing it?) if I decide it's not for me he'll put it on the market. 

After we finished our coffees and catch up I headed back around the corner to the office to put the lens on a Novoflex R to L mount adapter, put that assembly on an SL body and headed out onto one of my downtown routes to see how I liked using the whole package together. The fly in the ointment today was the heavy overcast for most of the afternoon which limited what was available as subject matter. 

The focusing ring is firm and smooth. The aperture ring clicks in half stops and feels just right. And, of course, it zooms with amazing grace. 

I need to shoot it in full sun. If it performs as well as its historic legacy indicates I probably will buy it from my friend and then sell my Panasonic 24-105mm zoom to offset some of the cost. The 35-70mm is a beautiful and convenient lens for walking around and for shooting in the streets. If you are into manual zone focusing it's got hard stops at minimum and infinity settings along with a very legible focusing scale. You could put the lens to f11, set the focusing distance to 10 feet and have a blast shooting without focusing.

It's early days with the lens. Tomorrow is supposed to be a sunny Texas day for a change. I'll have more to say about his lens soon. So far I like what I see. 




























Iceland 2018. Small camera, big photos.

 


Neutral and non-judgemental photos from Reykjavik. 

Taken with a Lumix G9 camera and an Olympus 12-100mm lens.

I really have nothing more to say about the images.

Have a nice day.

2.02.2023

Hmmmmm. blah, blah, blah.

 


Oh wait. I remember now. I shot these in color, in the raw format, when I was in Iceland in 2018. I came across them a few days ago and wondered to myself...."how would these look as black and white landscapes?"  

blah, blah, blah. 

There you go. Nicely gutted and made happily neutral.

Effort sometimes required to gain access to the grand view. Why photographers who shoot landscapes and street photos should make physical fitness part of the picture taking practice.

 

this is a stairway in Iceland. It leads up and up and up to a wonderful vantage point
from which a proficient landscape photographer could take a very interesting photograph. 
The general location is already at an altitude a good bit higher than sea level. And there is 
no lift, elevator, escalator, tram or private car access to the shooting platform at the top.
You have to hike up the stairs. And when you get to the top you'll need to have your 
pulse rate recover quickly to it's baseline in order to handhold your camera 
as effectively as you can. With minimal shake. Rather use a tripod? You'll have to carry that up
the stairs as well. 

How do you practice this at home? Walk a lot. Carry a backpack filled with weighty gear and go up and down hills to prepare yourself for journeys and adventures. Always take the stairs when it's an option.
The fewer pounds over your ideal body weight that you have to carry around makes the climb easier.
Whether your body is 40 pounds overweight or you've shoved 40 pounds of gear in a 
back path both scenarios make your climb that much harder. 


Here in the USA we make age an easy excuse for not being in shape.
"Oh....I'm 65 years old. Falling apart. If there's no bus to the top I can't
make it."  But our counterparts in other countries, from my observation, 
don't use the same tired excuses. They expect to move; and in doing 
so get more out of every trip. It's something to think about.

So much dissatisfaction with getting older could be short circuited by 
making moving and exercising as routine as eating, showering and 
sleeping. We'd collectively feel so much better.  But it's always a choice.

My biggest complaint about people over 50?
Most of them are too easy on themselves. Too pampered. A little daily 
discipline would make so many lives so much better....

Wow. The ice storm sucked. Put a hamper on my street photo practice and taught me that chopping trees with a hand saw might be inefficient but it's awfully good exercise!

 


Wet cold sucks. Black ice on asphault sucks. PTSD about loosing power in an arctic ice storm sucks (memories of Feb. 2021, remember?). Big trees dropping thousand pound branches on your roof while transformers blink like Las Vegas fireworks in the night is tough to sleep through. Getting "chilled" out of your pool for five days super sucks. And feeling like you should stick around the house to take care of emergencies that might crop up instead of getting out photographing is beyond frustrating. 

People died again here in Texas this year when the weather went to crap. Even though in central Texas it never got below maybe 25. And here in Austin I think we hovered at 29° for most of the week. But it was still tough since the rain was cold, the trees and power lines were cold and just about any moisture that fell immediately stuck to something it really shouldn't and just made a mess of stuff.  Most died in car wrecks.

When the freezing rain stopped and the black ice melted away this afternoon I walked around the neighborhood to take a look. On every block grand old tees were injured and lost plenty of branches. Ice was still falling off the leaf canopies as well as the power lines. But I think the rough weather is winding down.

I've pulled all the big and menacing looking fallen branches away from the house. The ones that are somewhat upright and ready to fall again but this time through a double glass french door ($$$) or one of the new windows ($$). Some of the biggest branches had to be chopped up in order for me to be able to move them. At 67 years wise I've decided not to try and lift stuff that's heavier than my body weight. So I've been chopping the big stuff down to size with a cross cut saw. No, not an electric one. Just a hand saw. It takes a while but at least I'm getting exercise. Someone suggested a chain saw but the last thing I want to do is operate a noisy chain saw and potentially slice through a thigh or lose a hand. And they're so noisy. Seemed more "environmentally" sound to go all manual. At least my neighbor who is an emergency room physician believes it a wise move. He's seen me try out power tools...

Why did I go to all the trouble to pile everything up in one place? Well, I've got a lone portrait assignment scheduled for tomorrow morning and I thought it was basic customer service not to have my client stepping through a tangle of fallen wood to get to my studio door. Call me old fashion. 

We're shooting with flash in the morning. Using a Panasonic S5 for a change. And a good, ol' Lumix 70-200mm lens. 

Oops. My CFO (B) just informed me that it would be nice if I spent a little time vacuuming the studio floor as well. And maybe giving the rest room a bit of a shine. Jeez. It just never slows down.

I went out to shop for some groceries today. What a mess! All three grocery stores surrounding me in my "food paradise" experienced long power outages in the last two+ days. All three had to dump every last product in their frozen foods display cases, and all of their refrigerated foods. Sure, I could buy dry goods, canned goods and fruits and vegetables but I was looking forward to celebrating our survival with something fun --- like some salmon or a steak. Maybe a nice brie cheese. Some organic kimchi. Maybe even a shared, small container of coffee ice cream. But no. I picked up some of my favorite bread, an interesting can of vegetarian chili, some more of my favorite crunchy peanut butter (which experts now say is really, really good for you!!!) and a nice bottle of red wine to serve tonight with pizza. Not a very satisfying shopping trip but at times like these I'm reminded by family and friends that I'm lucky and so privileged that I'm almost the definition of spoiled adult brat. A few days without delicacies or indulgences should be just fine. At least I'm told it's so. 

No new cameras or lenses to talk about. But I'd better get on the vacuuming. And toilet cleaning. I'd hate to fall short....








That branch is usually ten feet above my head. Put ice on it and it bends over precariously.
I hope it bends back up.

As long as it doesn't fall on top of my car I guess I'll be okay.

sunny tomorrow and I just got a note that the pool
will be returning to regular hours. Ahhhh.


2.01.2023

Reporting in from the Central Texas Ice Storm. Nasty out there.

Every tree and bush in sight is covered with a layer of ice.
So are the electrical lines....

One of our big live oaks likes to lay its branches down on the roof when 
the frozen branches get too heavy. It's a gentle descend and no 
branches are broken.....this time. When it thaws out our hope 
is that it will spring back up. It always has before...

I woke up last night to a series of deep, low frequency hums generated by transformers headed toward catastrophic shut downs. Outside my bedroom window I kept seeing bright, long time flashes of greenish light. The kind that usually signals transformer failure. We got hit by an ice storm last night. Pretty much everyone in central Texas got walloped. 

After the first wake up I couldn't get back to sleep. I kept listening for stuff. Was the central heating cycling on and off? Were the transformer hums and bright flashes getting closer? Brighter? Louder? Could I still hear the faucet dripping in the bathroom furthest from the city water supply? Did I have a back-up plan for any of this stuff?

At some point I dozed off and got a few hours of much needed sleep. When I got up I did the rounds inside the house. No frozen pipes. check. No leaks anywhere. check. Electricity on. check. Heater functioning optimally. check. No blinking appliance clocks = no power outage. check. All good so the next step was the creation of good, hot coffee. And some breakfast. check. 

I fired up the kitchen table laptop and checked the news. 20% of Austin residents are currently knocked out of power! Tree branches and trees are down all over the city. All untreated bridges and overpasses are coated with at least half an inch of ice. Every one is sending out texts and emails to inform the public that everything is closed down. It feels a bit like the really outrageous ice storm of 2021 but this time we haven't gotten into the freezingXinfinity cold temperatures. It's just hovering for the last three days around 29 to 31°.  Just cold enough to make ice stick on everything but not cold enough to tax the power grid. 

All the outages so far seem to be the result of power lines downed by ice or ice-covered tree limbs. The grid seems to be holding up okay. 

Relief is in sight. Temp are supposed to climb into the mid-30s this afternoon. We'll have one more freezing night, accompanied by sticky rain-turning-to-ice and then we start to come out of the chilly weather and actually are predicted to get some sunshine by the end of the day Friday. 

As soon as the day started I got (and sent) dozens of texts to check on local family and friends. Ben is fine. His house lost power for one hour. He's back at his desk working with a cup of coffee close at hand and the heater working well. My brother in SA dodged the freezing weather. They just have a bunch of gray raininess. Friend, Paul, has been without power since 6 this morning. He's got a gas range so he's been able to get coffee and breakfast. We've issued blanket invitations to any who need a place to warm up and get good food service to come on over. We've got a huge living room with a lively fireplace and room for a multitude. 

So, nothing got done this week. Nothing will get done this week beyond re-supplying just in case we get another storm soon. We've mostly been doing walks when and where we can. Doing yoga in front of the TV; "Yoga with Adrian" is a house favorite. Push ups are a fact of life. No swimming until the pool opens up again (Friday???) but that's no excuse not to get the heart rate up and the lungs working. 

Sadly, when the weather gets really bad my resistance to shopping for photo gear goes down. I've found several items on line that are battering my will to resist. Including a "Khaki" limited edition Leica Q (first version) for "only" $3,000. I haven't clicked the "buy now" button yet but it feels like it's only a matter of time. My last buffer is writing this publicly with the hope that someone swoops in before me and snaps this treasure up. Thus saving me from my own shopping dalliance. 

We'll weather this with some bruises to the trees and the almost certain demise of the sad succulent garden B. has been nursing back to health since the last freeze; and hope we don't get too many more ice storms this year. A soft dusting with dry snow? We'd like that. But black ice? You can keep that. 

Now on the search for the perfect cookie. I hope it exists in the house. Especially since the stores are likely closed this morning. Ah well, I can always bake.

1.30.2023

It was cold today. There's a winter storm warning. We're going to get freezing rain. I dressed wrong for the walk today...

If people were out today it's because of their dogs.
My hypothesis? Dogs think their owners can't handle 
rough weather alone. They go along to assist...

Over the weekend the weather forecasters on TV were dismissive about our chances for rough weather. As the day dragged on today they kept revising the forecasts. I told B. yesterday that I thought we were in for at least three days of freezing weather so we might want to prepare. You know, bring the most vulnerable potted plants into the house, put the faucet covers back on the four or five outdoor faucets, stock in some decent Bordeaux, replace that organic Columbian coffee that Ben took off my hands after dinner yesterday. General prep work. 

As the day progressed reports of the school closings started to come in. And then workplace closures for tomorrow. A text from a swimmer friend said the crowds at a local grocery store were plentiful and shopping was proceeding as if in preparation for a siege. Ya think central Texans have some weather PTSD after the big storm in February 2021??? 

Then it got personal. The pool manager sent out a text and an email to all masters swimmers to let them know that the pool would be closed until Thursday morning. They didn't want coaches or lifeguards to have to drive on ice to get to the facility. I can only imagine that some swimmers, desperate for their dose of endorphins, are already planning to jump the fence and swim surreptitiously. Count on it. 

Looks like we're going to get another three days of Winter. Some freezing rain. Up to half an inch of ice on the roadways. Many hours below 32°. So, after I digested all the weather news --- and my lunch --- I decided I'd better get out for a long walk while it was still possible. 

I've been playing around with the Leica CLs lately so I decided to take one of those along with that wacky 50mm f 0.95 TTArtisan lens. Since it was cold outside I shoved a couple extra batteries in my pocket. I took along gloves, two hats (a skull cap and a wide brim, wool hat) and my best water resistant jacket. 

When I got downtown it was dark and gloomy. I imagined what it must be like to be British. To live through stuff like this for months at a time. The wind picked up and hit me in the face....continuously. I dangled my camera against my chest on the "comes with the camera in the box" strap and took off walking. 

The only equipment failure I had was with my gloves. They were too thin. Too amateur. Too much in need of some over gloving. My fingers were getting cold. I remembered there is a Patagonia shop on Congress Ave. so I angle my amble in that direction. Glory be. The Patagonia people were holding an "after the holidays" sale (40% off) on most of their inventory so I picked up a thick pair of down-enhanced mittens with which to complete my walking adventure. I'm sure you northerners already know this but thick down filled mittens are really warm. Nicely warm. Voluptuously warm. Satisfying. The rest of the walk was comfortable. A piece of cake. Which I did not have...nor coffee of any kind.

About halfway through the walk it started to kick down icy droplets. Some solid and some liquid. The hat with the brim was a masterpiece of forethought. My Pennsylvania raised father would have been so proud. 

My waterproof Columbia, insulated boots kept my feet nice and warm. 

So, now here's the problem with going out to shoot at the outset of a big winter storm... Everyone else has headed inside. Into the bars, into the coffee shops and restaurants, into their cars and, if they are smart, into their homes. There were scant few people to see out on the streets but I did my best to get a few shots. 

Now we're settling into the weather and night is falling. Burgers are grilling away. The nice bottle of wine is breathing. What the heck am I doing sitting here instead writing another blog? Time for me to embrace the depths of the seasons. Can someone come by and sand my driveway after the freezing rain hits? No? We don't do that here in Austin? I guess we'll just hunker down until the pool opens on Thursday. 

Now this is inconvenient.

 
Who says you can't go out of focus with a smaller than full frame format cameras?
Well, they are wrong.

Were I to take an afternoon coffee break, al fresco, I would not have had 
to tussle over a table. All available for anyone who would like to 
quaff coffee during an ice storm....

Rain drop art. A VSL specialty. 



Send in the clowns. Send in the psychotic clowns....


When the weather turns nasty every building managers' thoughts turn 
to plastic plant condoms. Trying to save their investment in shrubbery. 

The shop on 2nd St. taunting the homeless by showcasing a collection of warm 
winter coats, bespoke great coats and other outerwear. Now were did I drop that thousand dollar bill?




I am back home in the office. It's warm enough.
I'm heading in the house were it's always just perfectly warm 
(except when it's just cool enough) and seeing if we 
really are having hamburgers and tater tots for dinner...

Seems like fun cold weather cuisine. 

Stay warm. Stay dry. Keep walking. Keep photographing.