The Fucking 35 ‘cron

Ok so I’m in conversation with a friend and he mentions something about Leica lenses and trending prices of one versus the other, and then this just comes out of me like a projectile vom moment. It’s so good I’m blogging it. Slightly modified for context and clarity, sort of.

35 cron has always been THE lens to have with Leica cameras. It’s like a right of passage lens. It has nothing to do with the quality of optics or what people do with the lens, but it has this mythical status of achievement.
First you go from digital to film, and get into the film scene, and then you get a few fixed lens rangefinders and claw your way up through that lineage from cheap clean Konica’s to Yashica’s, Agfa’s, Olympus’s etc, and finally find that sweet Canonet, and lust for a QL17 GIII, and realize that it’s actually usable, and really produces some hot-shit pictures on your favorite film. Some people will go on to medium format beaters, and modular systems, Lomo, specialty, low financial impact cameras and into that camera obscurity rabbit hole.
Somewhere along the way you make the connection between that Canon/Nikon rebel and this new film thing your into, and start thinking about cameras that have lenses, and rangefinders and the Russian Fed/Voigtlander Bessa/Konica Hexar/bashed up Zeiss Ikon inevitably steps in and makes you a rangefinder photographer. Then its one, two, or a few used Screw mount Canon/Fed/Voigtlander lenses, and you’re always striving for that mountain peak of a Leica lens, and in the middle of all that comes a choice Zeiss ZM lens, something that puts you a little closer to that mountain peak.
One paycheck, after a christmas bonus or something, you can fill in the gap between your savings and that figure that sits in the back of your head, the one that you can deal with as a credit card debt, and that’s the day you can start getting serious about all those watched items in your My eBay, or forum classifieds, looking for that perfect Leica Camera deal. Whatever it is, maybe an M4, M2, M3 or even an M6. Your new bling Leica with your choice Zeiss, Voigtlander or Konica lens.
But in the end all you really want is that fucking 35 ‘cron.

I do not own the copyright on this image.

Arc’Teryx Arro from Berg’s Snowsport Specialists.

As a bag maker myself, choosing a bag for myself from the seemingly endless variety out there in 2016, including looking back over previous years seasons, is an arduous task to say the least. It basically means research and meta research.

The Arc’Teryx Arro 22 bag is not perfect for my needs, but it does fulfill a few of the criteria I required such as a stiff back panel and robust design with robust materials that are tried true and tested.

My need for this pack are as a 2nd version every day pack for essentials, then for work and then for groceries.
I am a documentary filmmaker & I carry a basic two camera interview setup at all times:
I carry two mirrorless cameras with lenses, a Sony PCM-D50 audio recorder and two fistfuls of accessories to make that all go, that lot fits into a Domke F-5Xb which nestles in the bottom of the pack and under that I have cut a 1 inch thick piece of high impact foam to compliment the foam already in the pack’s base -take this into consideration as I talk about what else I put in this bag. Additionally I have an 11″ MacBook Air in an STM sleeve case, two external drives a thimbleful of accessories power and cables. Sometimes Ill even take non folding Sennheiser HD25 headphones.
I also carry a Sirui tabletop tripod and occasionally a full-sized micro tripod (Sirui T025X). All of this fits into my Cilogear 20L Worksack (which truthfully, is probably more like a 16-17L).
With all that in there, I would say the Arro is about 50-60% full. If I need to get groceries on the way home, I can grab the trifecta of veggies, a pound of flesh a small tub of yogurt, butter and a handful of treats from the bulk section, & that will all fit into the main compartment. The “bubble” as I like to call it, is an added bonus on this pack. I believe that 22L is the main compartment size, and the bubble is probably another 6-10L (my dimensional reasoning escapes me here). At the bottom it holds a fist size ziploc with daily essentials. After that a 1L Platypus ‘bag’ of water, lightweight jacket & cap.

What I wasn’t expecting with the Arro 22 is how high the pack rides when on a bike. Even full, it sits higher then I would expect given the strap engineering and location on the back panel. I suspect it’s because it is a narrow long pack. The bottom ridge, I tend to nestle on the top of my jeans belt. This isn’t a major problem for 10 mile round trip rides in Seattle but if I were going on a camping bike trip, I might have to look at other bags I have.

Like I said, it’s a long narrow pack, which makes it good in busy urban environments, and for getting through crowds. The bottom of the bag is wider, so it does hold more than you would think it should.

I’ve already been in a prolonged heavy rainstorm and it kept its contents dry.

The straps are thick, which is not the current thinking on packs today, however, they are very comfortable with load or not. The strap adjusters help to keep the straps present when not in use, so picking up the bag via the top handle and swinging it over your head to put on your back is the easiest I’ve experienced on any pack including my own *flawless* pack designs.. The bag just belongs on your back.

The high density back panel is very sturdy and very comfortable. There is a small hardly discernible curve on the lumbar which makes the pack extremely comfortable (I have scoliosis & it’s still extremely comfortable). There is a removable PVC panel which I have tried with and without, the added weight is a non issue but the benefits of having added rigidity is priceless. The additional hip-panels also contribute to this comfort.
I will say, that in hot weather, you will sweat heavily into the back panel, and I could foresee this as being a problem in hot weather, and the material will soak up sweat like a sponge. I may modify my pack by adding two 2″ disks of foam at the lumbar area to a stand-off position.

As far as Hydration Packs go, well that is kinda weird on this bag. There is a long narrow elastic mesh pocket in the inside of the back panel, but there is no hook to hang it from, so you have to rely on the hydration pack’s own integrity to stay put. I was already using a Hydrapak 2L, which, incidentally is similar to what Arc’Teryx show on their website; a pack with a bridge lock top closure that simply rests on the top of the mesh pocket ~we will see how well that elastic top stands up to use after a year of wrestling..

The side pockets are ‘meh’ really not enough for a water bottle, but fine for whatever you can fit into them. Some is elastic & and loop for a carabiner, and the other has superman grade velcro which holds tight whatever you put into it (we will see how well that is in a year of heavy (ab)use.

I’m surprised I actually had so much to say about this bag, but so far and envisioning 5 years from now, I suspect I will still love this bag. Arc’Teryx are the Apple of backpacks, with astounding functional design backed up by gorgeous aesthetics.

Highly recommended.

I purchased mine at Berg’s who had the lowest price available at the time and really lovely customer service.

Visual Acuity

Imagine yourself as a cinematographer, tasked with the job of making iconic scenes with your camera.
The producer is watching you closely, because you are the one who realizes the dream. You are under pressure to make the world wow to your brilliance.

You have to be conscious in the moment, conscious behind the camera, aware and awake to make opportunities for yourself and exploit them further.
Take your time, instead of making one image make 5 or 7. Move around, look at the place you are in, think dimensionally.
Watch the elements as they move, snap the moments as they occur, add your own control factors, manage the scene without interfering in it.

Know your lens, and know what the image will look like  you’ve taken it.

Be conscious in the viewfinder, even if it isn’t at your eye.

Shoot to complement the thoughts in your mind, not the other way around.

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Ernst Haas

In sorry to say that it’s only now, 25 years into my career, that I am becoming aware of Ernst Haas. The publicly available repertoire of the man’s photography is immense. His philosophies of remaining independent and never adhering to a dedicated style are self evident.

A quote from the Ernst Haas Estate website affirms to me, now 25 years on, that my personal belief and instinct were correct all along;

“Still, I don’t want to declare there are no highways of fruitful directions. In learning there are. Follow them, use them and forget them. Don’t park. Highways will get you there, but I tell you, don’t ever try to arrive. Arrival is the death of inspiration. Beware of direct inspiration. It leads too quickly to repititions of what inspired you. Beware of too much taste as it leads to sterility. Refine your senses through the great masters of music, painting, and poetry. In short, try indirect inspirations, and everything will come by itself.”

Be aware of forward inspiration, but reverse-engineer everything, think backwards and look for the defining characteristics and recurring foundations in everything. Everything else is just dressing. 

the legacy

“…the act of thinking thoroughly through a scene and preempting a moment to capture it, comes with experience. The experience shows when is the right moment to take the shot. Because the shot is a legacy of that decision…”

EyeCup for A7s

Just about the only frustration I have had with the A7s is the fact there is NO available eyecup for it. If I am hand-holding I prefer to shoot video with a camera to my eye for a few reasons. There is as of this time (April 2015) no commercially available eye-cups available for this amazing cinema camera..
So I made by repurposing commercially available parts.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

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DIY Sony A7s Eye Cup design prototype.

Pop

I’ve been shooting a lot more video recently, video street photography. Figuring it out. It’s a concept that I’ve had for a while and finally got a camera to do it. Purpose built for the job.
I’ve been using 24mm lenses now for about 5 years, always preferring 24mm because it was wide and yet not insane. However today, I took with me two new lenses that I hadn’t used yet, and started the day on the 24 as usual, and saw something that I hung around a bit for, but it wasnt working so I moved on and found something else, and it didn’t work so I moved on again then went and had a cuppa coffee. During coffee I decided it might be a good idea to change to the new 35mm and see how it is. I put it on, went back out to the first spot that didn’t work and looked through the camera and thought what the fuck was I missing earlier? So I put the 24mm back on and there it was, a realization that I can actually see better with 35mm, I can see without having to look through the camera despite “knowing” 24mm and knowing what the image will be like before pressing the button.
These are all good Zeiss optics so the lens quality isn’t an issue. In fact that 24mm is, as 24mm lenses go pretty off the charts as it were.
Anyway, tomorrow I’ll be back on the streets with just the 35mm. Alex Webb told me that he likes how a 35mm lens ‘recedes’ and after this, I have to agree.

Fire & Slate

One of my favorite places to shoot in Seattle. Its a never ending smorgasbord of optical mystery and imagination.