Photo of the week - June 3, 2014

West Philadelphia Orchestra at Underground Arts, May 16, 2014. Fuji X-Pro1 with 18mm lens @f/2, 1/90.


Ingrid Michaelson @ WXPN Free at Noon at World Cafe Live

My Photo of the Week series is backlogged a bit, so I'm posting these here now rather than adding them to that queue. See them in color here.


Dana Bourgeois on tap-tuning and voice a top


Photo of the week - May 27, 2014


Man bags: BaileyWorks Pouch vs. Tom Bihn Large Cafe Bag

We're carrying more devices these days, but in my line of work I don't need a formal briefcase. A small messenger-style bag suffices for most things. Below I've made some obervations about two such bags, the BaileyWorks Pouch and Tom Bihn Large Cafe Bag. This isn't a direct comparison because they are different sizes and each serves a somewhat different purpose in my day-to-day life. Instead, I've provided some thoughts and observations about how each functions in my work and travel.

Click to read more ...


Photo of the week - May 20, 2014


Photo of the week - May 13, 2014

Jon Sanchez playing with Alejandro Escovedo at World Cafe, April 24, 2014. Fuji X-E1 with 56mm lens @f/1.2, 1/58. See more from this show here.


Photo of the week - May 6, 2014

Alejandro Escovedo and Jon Sanchez at World Cafe, April 24, 2014. Fuji X-E1 with 56mm lens @f/1.2, 1/320. See more from this show here.


What is a "professional camera"

A lot of concert (and other) venues note that no "professional cameras" are allowed, and by extension, that "non-professional" cameras are okay. This post isn't intended to cover whether one has the right, or not, to take pictures at a concert (or how to do so respectfully/discretely). Instead, I just wish that someone would define what a professional camera is...

  • Does "professional" mean that one is making money from their pictures; e.g., like a professional vs. amateur athlete? If so, then it's the use of the images, and not the type of camera that defines "professional."
  • Or does "professional" mean interchangeable lenses? This doesn't make much sense either, since by this logic the $2800 Sony RX1R and $1300 Fuji X100s are non-professional, while the $500 Nikon D3200 or 1-system are professional?
  • Does "professional" mean a zoom lens? Telephoto? A certain length?

Here's a list of camera regulations at each of the NBA arenas. Some of policies actually have a useful level of specificity! In addition to detachable lenses, the length of the lens seems to be a determining factor (6" seems to be the cutoff between non-professional and professional cameras).

The Fuji X-system (specifically thd X-E1 and similar) should be okay by most, but not all, definitions. It's not a DSLR, it has a relatively low-profile (i.e., no big viewfinder hump), and most of the lenses are under 6". The only sticking point is that it does have a detachable lens.

I've never been hassled with my X-Pro1 (or now X-E1, since it's even smaller) with the 60mm f/2.4 lens. I just received the 56mm f/1.2 which is bigger than the 60mm, but hopeful still won't garner much notice.

Update: I did recently get hassled by someone checking bags at a concert over my X-E1 wearing the 56mm lens. I mildly protested, and another person working the doors came over and after asking if it was a "zoom lens" (which it isn't), let me in. In the future, I should make sure the X-E1 is wearing a pancake lens when getting checked at the door so that it resembles a point and shoot, which they seem to be fine with.


Photo of the week - April 29, 2014

Alejandro Escovedo at World Cafe, April 24, 2014. Fuji X-E1 with 56mm lens @f/1.2, 1/250. See more from this show here.


Pono: Candy for my ears?

Okay, Neil Young, you got me.

Those of you who have known me for a long time remember the massive CD collection I built during college and graduate school. Those CDs are long gone after the huge "ripping" project that I undertook about 5-6 years ago. Thankfully, I did rip everything as (Apple) lossless files (ALAC) so that I wouldn't lose fidelity by converting to MP3s but could still play the files in iTunes and on Apple devices. So now I have a couple of terabytes of lossless music sitting on hard drives (and backed up multiple places).

When I listen to that music on the go, those lossless files get converted to MP3s (or, more accurately, AAC files) to save space on my iPhone/iPod nano. I'm pretty sure that I can't tell the difference between lossless files and MP3s when listening on those devices with cheap earbuds in noisy places. But I've recently started using a nice set of Klipsch over-the-ear headphones when I'm working and want to get the most out of my music (i.e., start listening to the lossless files). And just as I'm starting to think about this, Neil comes along with the Kickstarter-funded Pono player.

Neil spoke extensively at SXSW about his issues with current digital music files (and the music industry as a whole). The thing that resonated most with me were his comments about the fatigue that accompanies listening to today's digital music. It could simply be my ears getting old, but recently I haven't been able to listen to music (in headphones) all day like I used to. My ears just seem to get tired. Is it aging, or is it because of the 128kbps files? The notion of bringing warmth back into the listening experience is appealing.

Pono is both a music distribution platform for super-high resolution audio files and also a music player that is optimized to play lossless files. Frankly, I'm not that interested in the Pono music store because I don't buy a lot of new music and have no intention of replacing all my lossless files with newly purchased super-high res files (although I'll probably buy a couple of my favorite albums to compare with my CD rips). I suppose that when I do buy new stuff, I'd be inclined to get it from the Pono store rather than buy CDs and rip them to lossless.

The more interesting piece to me is the hardware. Pono claims that its player doesn't have the same limitations that components stuffed into smartphones have; that a dedicated player can be designed with the sole goal of maximizing audio quality. Essentially, their say my lossless files will sound better on the Pono player than they do on various Apple devices. Will I become less fatigued listening on the Pono player? That's the million dollar (or at least $300) question. 

Now, given my line of work, I'm very familiar with placebo effects, but I'm also an empiricist and am curious if Neil's claims about the improved audio quality are founded. So I backed the project on Kickstarter and will find out in October...


Photo of the week - April 15, 2014

Natalie Merchant at WXPN. Fuji X-E1 with 35mm lens @ f/1.4, 1/750. See a few more shots from this show here.


Summer 2014 is looking fun

Unfortunately, Tahiti isn't in my itinerary.Summer travels #1 - My biannual conference is in Australia this summer, which will make for some excellent travel and photography opportunities. Before the conference I'll be exploring New Zealand for about 12 days with a friend (and photographer), and then will have ~4-5 days in Sydney before ending up in Melbourne for my meeting. I anticipate the kit will be the X-Pro1 and X-E1 bodies, and 10-24mm, 55-200mm, 27mm, and 35mm lenses. The 55-200mm will likely be attached primarily to the X-E1 (since it's not a good lens to use with the optical viewfinder on the X-Pro1), and the 10-24mm will be at home on the X-Pro1. The primes will be used on both, depending on if using the OVF (X-Pro1) or compactness (X-E1) is desired. My guess is that I'll pack this all in the F-Stop Kenti, but haven't totally settled on that yet.

Summer travels #2 - Although Jen isn't going to Australia and New Zealand with me, she deserves a nice vacation too, right? We'll be meeting up with some friends/colleagues for two weeks in northern Europe, starting in Belgium (Ghent, Antwerp), then to Amsterdam, and ending in Prague. The gear will likely be similar to the other trip, with the 18-55mm kit lens added into the mix (and the 55-200mm staying home?). Update: Trip canceled at the very last minute due to some stupidity on my part and a big dose of greediness on the part of American Airlines. Sigh.

Summer travels #3 - I'd like to do a trip out to see my family in Oregon at some point. Update: this is going to happen! 

Since I'm about to sign a contract for a new, long-term, business venture/consulting gig (hopefully), I'm going to have to work a couple hours a day during my trip to the southern hemisphere. And as much as I like travelling with just an iPad (which I managed for 3 weeks last time we were in Europe), to do any real work I'll need to bring a laptop, and there's no way I'm going to lug my 15" MacBook Pro with me. So one thing I'll need to get before my trip is an 11" MacBook Air. These always seem to refresh in the summer, but I might end up having to buy in May, right before new ones come out. That would be a bummer, but probably how it will work out. When we're in Europe, Jen will need a lightweight laptop since she'll be teaching online. Either she'll use that MBAir and I'll go with my iPad, or we might need two MBAirs. I guess that's the price to pay for having jobs that allow us to work from afar.

(update) Summer travels #4 - A jaunt to L.A. for a few days to work on the business venture mentioned above. Wow, I'll be racking up the miles this summer...


(Almost) All in with Fuji

With the school year coming to a close and summer travels just around the corner, I've been doing some reevaluation of my camera gear. I haven't shot with my Nikon D90 in about 10 months, while my X-Pro1 has become my favorite travel and concert companion (everything in my 2013 albums and 2014 albums, to date, other than the Philly Cycling Classic and most of the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival photos, was with the X-Pro1).

With the new 10-24mm lens, and last year's 55-200mm zoom, Fuji now covers a great range for travel. My favorite travel lens for Europe on my D90 was the excellent Tokina 11-16mm super-wide lens. The Fuji 10-24mm is a stop slower, but has a more useful range. I'd been waffling on whether I should get the 10-24mm, mostly because I was worried it would be too large/heavy and defeat the purpose of traveling with a smaller system. But after getting my hands on one, it's manageble. Ditto on the 55-200mm; Fuji now has a credible telephoto zoom. Those two lenses and a couple of normal/fast primes makes for a nice travel kit.

On the flip side, in the last year my Nikon hasn't seen much action with the Tokina 11-16mm and 35mm f/1.8 DX; that's the range where the Fuji system excels (especially now the that 10-24mm has been released). So those, and Jen's D3100 and 18-105mm DX (since she's moving to a Fuji X-E1), found new homes to raise funds for the 10-24mm. Plus I just got a nice paycheck from some extra work I recently completed (the academic version of "consulting"), so the new 56mm f/1.2 arrived. This will be a great lens for concerts; I've been using the 60mm f/2.4 and it's okay for this, but being two stops faster and (hopefully) quicker to focus will make it a perfect concert photography lens.

It appears that I've officially moved over to the mirrorless camp, except for specific situations where the Nikon system still has Fuji beat (e.g., shooting cycling and macro). I did keep a handful of Nikon lenses; at some point I may step up to FX/full-frame and so I kept a few of my favorite lenses for that: the 105mm macro, 85mm f/1.4D, and 135 f/2 DC. The 135mm and 85mm may make for good lenses to use with a converter with the Fuji system (I shot the Aimee Mann concert with the 135mm on the X-Pro1 last spring). I also kept the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6; I wouldn't say that this is one of my favorite lenses, but I've found it to be okay for shooting cycling (at least since I don't have the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8). The only DX Nikon lens I kept was the 10.5mm fisheye. With a converter, this is a fun lens on the Fuji (and the only fisheyes available for the Fuji system are manual focus, so there's not a better option than my Nikon 10.5mm).


Photo of the week - April 8, 2014

Natalie Merchant calls out an annoying fellow who didn't silence his cell phone during a taping of World Cafe Live at WXPN's Big Day Out. Fuji X-E1 with 35mm lens @ f/1.4, 1/950. See a few more shots from this show here.


Photo of the week - March 18, 2014

Concert-goer at the Arcade Fire show in Philadelphia, March 17 2014. Fuji x100 f/5.6 1/25 sec, ISO 4000.


What's Old is What's New

It's been over a month since I've had time to post anything here. Work has been busy, the weather has sucked, and I've been sick so I haven't had time to get out to take any pictures. But there is some news on the photography (gear) front. With summer travel plans starting to come together, the opportunity to pick up a new camera body and lens couldn't be passed up!

Given my increasing infatuation with the Fujifilm X-series system, you're probably thinking I sprung for the new X-T1 or X-E2 (both of which look like an excellent cameras) or the forthcoming 10-24mm f/4 or 56mm f/1.2 lenses (both are on my wishlist). But no, I'm going old school. And by "old" I mean the one-year old X-E1, which has be replaced by the X-E2 i nthe Fuji lineup. Why would I spend money on a camera that has been discontinued? Because they are giving them away for $30.

The X-E1 originally sold for $1400 with the 18-55mm "kit" lens (which gets great ratings). A year after its release it has been replaced in the Fuji lineup with the X-E2 (which sells for $1300, with lens) and the remaining X-E1 stock is being discounted. I just found it for $729, including the lens. The lens goes for $699 when sold alone. So, if you were going to buy that lens, you can get the X-E1 for an additional $30 by buying the kit. Buying just a spare battery for my X-Pro1 (which uses the same battery as the X-E1) would cost more that $30!

Why do I need an X-E1 body. First, it will make a good backup body. When I'm traveling (alone) this summer, it will be nice to have a second, lightweight body to throw in my bag, and I can use it when I don't want to change lenses. Second, when Jen and I are traveling together, it will make a great camera for her. Although the Nikon D3100 she's been using takes nice pictures, it is comparatively bulky. And if I'm shooting with my X-Pro1, when we'd be carrying batteries, lenses, etc for two systems. The X-E1 is smaller and will fit her well, and can share all of the other gear I'd be taking anyways.


The Keepers - January 17, 2014

Here's my band, The Keepers, at our most recent gig (1/17/14). Apparently we're not on the same page when it comes to which camera to look at...Here we are in color, and all looking in the same direction:


Photo of the week - January 21, 2014

Suzanne Vega at WXPN's Free at Noon, January 17th, 2014. Fuji X-Pro1 with 60mm lens @ f/2/4. See more photos from this show here.


Photo of the week - January 7, 2014

Fuji X-Pro1 with 35mm lens @ f/1.4.