Sunday, June 18, 2017

Metal Prints Available For Purchase

Have you ever wanted to hang one of my photographs on your home or office wall? Well, I've got a unique opportunity for you!

I'm raising some money for new gear, and I'm giving you a chance to invest in the beauty of art and invest the future creation of art. I'm offering, for a very limited time, six of my images for sale. Pick one or two or all six!

The photographs will be printed 16" x 24" on metal. These are high-quality modern prints that are absolutely beautiful! They're gallery quality. They look like a million dollars! They come ready to hang. You'll want to show them off!

Printing on a metal panel isn't a cheap process, but if you've ever seen these type of prints, you already know that it's worth the extra cost. The results are stunning! They're conversation pieces for sure!

Each metal print is available for $175.00 (which includes tax and shipping). That's a great deal for beautiful art! Buy one or as many as you'd like! The process and printing time is about two weeks, plus a little time for shipping. Just let me know via email which one (or ones) you'd like to purchase. My email address is You can also use the Contact Form on my homepage. I accept PayPal (it's a different email address, so let me know prior to paying anything) or checks, with PayPal the preferred method. The deadline to get your order in is June 25th.

Below are the six options:

#1: Red Chairs - Cambria, California

#2: Mirrored Mountain - Mirror Lake, Utah

#3: Mormon Barn - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

#4: Little Blooms, Big Blooms - Lehi, Utah

#5: Tricycle In The Woods - South Weber, Utah

#6: Snake River Fog - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Thank you for your support of my photography! As Ansel Adams said, "There are two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." That means you are an integral part of my photography! Thank you for visiting my website and viewing my images. And if you should buy my photographs and hang them on your wall, I'm honored and grateful! 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Report: Fujifilm "Helping" Nikon - And What They Should Do

It has been reported that the Japanese government is trying to get Fujifilm to "help" Nikon, which has been deeply struggling over the last couple of years, losing huge sums of money. What the exact involvement of the government is and how much help, if any, Fujifilm may provide is very unclear.

It's important to understand that the way things work in Japan is much different than many western countries. You can't apply the rules and common practices of America to what happens there. It's just so much different, legally and culturally.

What we do know is that there have been offers to buy Nikon and move the company out of Japan, relocating it to China, South Korea or Taiwan. The Japanese government wants Nikon to remain a Japanese company, and they are making an effort to prevent the iconic camera company from leaving.

That's where Fujifilm's "help" might come in. Fujifilm has returned from the brink of death to become a healthy, profitable and innovative company. They know how to turn things around and to thrive, not just survive. They can offer Nikon a good deal of direction and advice. And possibly some money. At this point no one knows.

The question is, what kind of direction should Fujifilm give to Nikon? How much influence, if any, will Fujifilm have over future Nikon products?

If I were Fujifilm, there are some things that I would suggest that Nikon do and not do. To be clear, these are my own ideas, and I have no affiliation with either company.

I would start off by designing some new full-frame DSLRs. Nikon had some success four or five years ago, but didn't follow that up with anything. Where's the D820? Where's the D760? Where's the D620?

Nikon shouldn't take the same design and slap a new decal on it. It's been too many years, and people are waiting for an upgrade--and wanting a good reason to upgrade. The new cameras need to be fresh and they need to have some advancements over previous models.

The bodies of the DSLRs should be modeled closely after vintage Nikon SLRs, like the Nikon F2 and the Nikon FE. Give the new cameras a retro shape. Make a statement, yet keep it classy. Nikon should include shutter speed and ISO dials on the bodies like Fujifilm does.

There should be five new full-frame cameras. One would be a 24-megapixel low-end model that is still feature-rich and would also be fairly small and lightweight. Make it the smallest and lightest full-frame DSLR out there, and make that a selling point. It also needs to be affordable, so make it one of the least-expensive full-frame options. This camera would be an excellent introduction to full-frame for someone coming from APS-C and would also make an excellent second body for someone who needs that.

The next camera would be a mid-level option with 36-megapixels. It needs to be a full-featured body with everything the pro would want. Basically, take the D810 and place it in a retro design and update all the bells and whistles to bring it to today's standards.

The third camera would be in the same body and have the same features as the 36-megapixel camera, but with a 46-megapixel sensor in it. For those wanting maximum resolution, this would be their model.

The fourth camera would share the same body as the previous two, but it would have a 16-megapixel sensor that would be optimized for speed and high-ISO (and it needs to be excellent at both). This would be the sports photographer's option. The entry-level camera should have 4K video, the others should have 6K or 8K.

The final full-frame camera would have a similar retro design, but it would be a 35mm film camera. Yes, a film camera! Film is making a comeback (to an extent), and for Fujifilm this could help with their film sales. It would be really fascinating if Nikon made a brand-new pro-level film camera, and it would certainly get a lot of publicity.

I know Nikon tried a retro-looking DSLR not very long ago that completely failed. The problem was that Nikon got everything wrong that they possibly could. Fujifilm seems to get a lot right with their designs, so perhaps they could help Nikon with this.

As far as APS-C DSLRs, I like the D3000 series a lot. These are very basic entry-level DSLRs, but they are small, lightweight, affordable and produce good image quality. They are easy to recommend for someone wanting their first better camera, and they are excellent as spare bodies. Nikon just needs to make it a little more enticing by including a few of the features from the D5000 series cameras (while still keeping the cost low).

Nikon should figure out which cameras sell better, the D5000 series or the D7000 series. Whichever one is more profitable, keep that camera and nix the other. If you keep the D5000 series, include some of the favorite features from the D7000 line. If it's the D7000 line that you keep, figure out a way to make it a little more affordable without compromising the features. In other words, kind of merge the two into one camera.

Why only two APS-C DSLRs? To keep costs low. Make two DSLRs that people will buy. Want something entry-level? You've got one choice. Want something more advanced? You've got one option. Fewer choices can be a good thing, just as long as they aren't missing key features.

Nikon should also make a compact fixed-lens APS-C camera. Fujifilm might not like competition for the X100 and X70 series, so perhaps it should have a different focal length (35mm, perhaps?). Make it look retro (maybe really retro, like a Leica II). Have it be a conversation piece. All three APS-C cameras would share the same 24-megapixel sensor.

If I were Fujifilm, I'd suggest against mirrorless. Why? Because if Nikon were to make a successful mirrorless camera, it could eat away at Fujifilm's market. I wouldn't offer any help in this category. However, if Nikon wanted to quickly get some quality mirrorless cameras on the market, they should buy Samsung's now-defunct NX line, and change the lens mount to Nikon DX.

I think Nikon should mostly scrap the pocket point-and-shoot genre. Sales of those types of cameras have plummeted thanks to cellphones. Have two options, one for entry level (auto-everything) and one for more advanced users (larger sensor, better lens and manual controls), and leave it at that. Don't waste a bunch of time and money on a dying category.

Where Nikon has an opportunity is in the cellphone market. Make an Android phone that has a zoom lens. It doesn't have to be crazy, but a cellphone with a 3 times or (even better) five times optical zoom would get people's attention. The biggest problem with cellphone cameras are that they're not particularly versatile. I think people would buy a cellphone with a zoom lens on it, especially if it had Nikon's label on it.

Another money-maker for Nikon is glass. A good in-demand lens will return significant profits. They should look at options for FX and DX where they aren't currently manufacturing a lens that people would buy. I know that for DX, for example, what is badly missing is a fast wide-angle option. Come up with four or five lenses to fill out what's missing. I definitely see some potential profits here.

Nikon should follow Fujifilm's blueprint, and that's to immediately cut what's causing the big loses, make products that consumers will get excited about, and diversify so that not all of the eggs are in one basket. Don't have too many of the same product. And make sure that your customer service is top-notch. Boom, Nikon's fixed.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Abandonment: Rural Homes - Salt Lake City, Utah

Losing History - Salt Lake City, Utah
I used to photograph abandoned places frequently. I let more than a year go by between this exploration and the previous one. I need to find more abandoned places to photograph!

I think it's an important photographic genre because people should be more aware of how society handles unwanted places (leaving piles of junk and rubble to decay) and because eventually these buildings will be gone forever (there is a limited opportunity to document them). It's also a fascinating and haunting subject, typically full of mystery and unanswered questions.

This particular site is in rural Salt Lake City near the airport. There were two sets of structures on the property: a newer home and garage in the front, and an older home and what might have been a workshop or shed or small home in the back.

The newer home was boarded up, but someone had removed half of the plywood over the door, which allowed access to the interior. Inside was vacant and empty and mostly uninteresting. The roof was open in a couple of places and the elements were taking a toll of what remained.

The garage had some old paint cans and some other remnants that weren't removed, but it was also fairly boring as far as explorations go. The place had been vandalized--windows were broken and walls tagged with graffiti.
Illuminating Decay - Salt Lake City, Utah
The older house in the back was more fascinating. There were some old couches and left-behind junk inside. The front porch had collapsed and looked unsafe to be around. I wanted to go upstairs, but then I spotted some large beehives and evidence of beekeeping, so I left before getting into a sticky situation (pun intended).

I didn't explore the other building, which was probably a workshop or shed or possibly a small guest house. The grass and brush were fairly tall around it, and I didn't need to encounter any wildlife. No, it was time to go.

I have no idea any of the history of these buildings. It would be nice to know when they were built, who lived in them and the story behind the older places in the back becoming abandoned. I will probably never know. For whoever does know the answers, soon those stories will be lost to time, unless they write them down.

A couple of weeks after photographing this place, the newer house and garage in the front were completely leveled. They're gone, and only the foundations remain. I was one of the last people to photograph those buildings. The older buildings in the back are still standing, but their days are very limited, and a sign states that an industrial complex is coming soon.

I used a Fujifilm X-E1 with a Rokinon f/2 12mm lens attached to capture these images.
Abandoned House In Utah - Salt Lake City, Utah
Still, I Love You - Salt Lake City, Utah
Tree of Broken Glass - Salt Lake City, Utah
The Place Had An Air of Neglect - Salt Lake City, Utah
Gate To Indifference - Salt Lake City, Utah
Little House In The Valley - Salt Lake City, Utah

Photoessay: Urban Utah - Color Street Photography

Urban Flowers - Salt Lake City, Utah
This is a long overdue follow up to Photoessay: Urban Utah - B&W Street Photography published last April. I walked around downtown Ogden and downtown Salt Lake City with my Fujifilm X-E1 and Rokinon f/2 12mm lens, capturing street and urban images.

Ultra-wide-angle is difficult for this type of photography because you have to get really close to the subject. You can't be timid. I've been enjoying the challenge.

These photographs were captured a couple of months ago. They're all camera-made JPEGs (Fujifilm's JPEGs are excellent) that were post-processed using Google's Nik software. Enjoy!
Authorized Parking Only - Ogden, Utah
Hot Yoga Upstairs - Ogden, Utah
No Time - Salt Lake City, Utah
Somebody Thinks He's Important - Salt Lake City, Utah
Red & White Umbrella - Salt Lake City, Utah
Ain't No Love On The Streets - Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake Souvenir - Salt Lake City, Utah
Double Exposure
Blue Umbrella & Urban Garden - Salt Lake City, Utah
Double Exposure
Urban Garden - Salt Lake City, Utah
Only One Friend - Salt Lake City, Utah
Trax Train Downtown - Salt Lake City, Utah
Business Travelers - Salt Lake City, Utah
Running Behind Schedule - Salt Lake City, Utah
Standing On A Corner - Salt Lake City, Utah
An Urban Daydream - Salt Lake City, Utah
111 Main - Salt Lake City, Utah
Select Health - Salt Lake City, Utah
Chess In The City - Salt Lake City, Utah

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Camera Hack: Reverse Lens Macro

Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 8M Lens
Two days ago I published How I Accidentally Made Cheap Macro Lenses For My Fujifilm X Camera. Essentially, I used two adapters to create an extension tube, which converted my non-macro vintage Russian lenses into macro lenses. This allowed me to more easily photograph smaller objects and capture fine details that might otherwise go unnoticed. It's a good way to make an extraordinary image from an ordinary subject.

That's all fine and good, but what if I wanted to really go macro? What if I wanted to capture very tiny objects? What if I wanted to focus super close? Are there any easy and inexpensive ways to do that?

Absolutely! It's so much easier than you might think, and it might not cost you anything. Let me explain.

You'll need two lenses. In my case I used a Jupiter 8M, which I attached to my camera, and a Helios 44-2. The second lens (the one not attached to the camera) is better if it's not telephoto. You can play around with different focal lengths if you'd like. Don't get too hung up on what lenses you are using, it doesn't matter as much as it might seem.

Macro Camera Hack
You'll shoot through the second lens backwards. This sounds really strange, but, trust me, it works! Simply reverse the non-attached lens, place it in front of the attached lens, and you can shoot really close-in macro. It's super easy and you probably already have everything you need to get started.

The second lens needs to be set to a wide open f-stop or else the aperture will cause some vignetting. I don't know how much it matters, but I pre-focused the lens to it's closest focus distance (it just seemed logical to do so, feel free to try different things).

You can buy an adapter that allows you to use the filter threads to attach one lens backwards onto another lens. This is probably the best method. But it works just fine holding one lens right in front of the other. That's what I did, and I had no issues. If something is easier and cheaper, why not go that route?

You don't actually need two lenses to shoot macro through a reversed lens. You can buy a lens mount specifically for this, which allow you to attach a lens backwards directly onto your camera. This is actually better because you are photographing through less glass, but it's not a big deal to shoot through two lenses. Either method works.

Below are five photographs that I captured over the last couple of days using the reverse lens technique with two lenses.
Water Drops On A Nectarine - South Weber, Utah
Flower Macro - South Weber, Utah
Budding Red Leaf - South Weber, Utah
Broccoli Macro - South Weber, Utah
Monochrome Leaf Macro - South Weber, Utah

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How I Accidentally Made Cheap Macro Lenses For My Fujifilm X Camera [Jupiter 8M, Jupiter 12, Helios-103]

Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 8M
In the 1930's Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez coined the phrase, "I'd rather be lucky than good."

Just two weeks ago I was thinking about macro lenses. They are great when you need to capture something that's really small or when you want to focus close on very fine details. I used to have a macro lens when I had a Nikon DSLR, but not with my Fujifilm camera. It would be nice to buy one, but I don't have several hundred dollars to spend on a new lens right now.

I like to use vintage lenses on my Fuji X-E1. It's a good way to add quality glass with character without breaking the bank. There are many different inexpensive adapters that allow you to attach most any lens to your camera. Fujifilm X cameras are designed especially well for doing this.

About a month ago I was searching eBay for M39 screw mount lenses. I have an M39 to Fuji X adapter that is underutilized, so I wanted to get a lens that would allow me to use it more. As I was scrolling through the search results I saw a listing with three vintage Soviet lenses for $60: Jupiter 8M, Jupiter 12 and Helios-103. "Awesome," I thought, and I made the purchase.

If you know a lot about old Soviet Union lenses, you probably already recognize my mistake. The three lenses that I purchased are not M39 mount (despite coming up in an M39 search), but Contax RF mount. I discovered this the next day, but by then my order had already been marked as shipped and the seller was specific about no returns or refunds.
Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 12
I didn't think that this was a real big deal. I'd just buy another adapter, which are typically pretty cheap. Then I Googled Contax RF to Fujifilm X adapters and got the shock of my life: a fully functioning adapter is over $300! A semi-functioning adapter is $70, which is a lot of money for something that isn't going to completely work. There are also some cheap adapters that will only work with certain RF mount lenses. Thankfully I found a fully functioning home-made adapter (made from a broken Kiev camera) from Ukraine for $30. That's much more reasonable!

The particular home-built adapter that I purchased is not made for Fujifilm X mount, but M42 screw mount. I figured it wouldn't be an issue attaching the adapter to my M42 to Fuji X adapter that I already own, utilizing two different adapters to make the whole thing work.

Something to know about Contax RF mount is that there are actually two types: inner mount and outer mount. The inner mount lenses require mechanics in the camera or adapter in order to focus, while the outer mount do not. Typically longer lenses are outer mount and those 50mm or less are inner mount, but that's not always the case.

The adapter showed up in the mail last week. A few days later the three lenses arrived. I ripped open the package, pulled out the lenses, attached one to the Contax RF to M42 adapter, attached that to the M42 to Fuji X adapter, and attached that whole thing to my Fujifilm X-E1. I turned on the camera, set it to "shoot without lens" and all of my typical manual focus settings, pointed the lens down the hall and began focusing.

Except everything was blurry. Nothing was in focus. Uh, oh! I tried the other two lenses and got the same result. Bummer! I thought, perhaps, that it might focus on something far away, so I placed the lens up to the window to see. Nope! As I pulled the camera away from the window I noticed that for a brief moment the window screen seemed to come into focus. That's weird, I thought, and I put away the lenses, disappointed that they didn't work. Were the lenses defective? Was it the adapter?
Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios-103
That night in the early morning hours, well before the sun came out, it occurred to me what exactly I had: three vintage Soviet macro lenses! These aren't really macro lenses, but the M42 to Fuji X adapter acts like an extension tube, essentially turning them into macro lenses. Extension tubes are an old and inexpensive trick for turning non-macro lenses into macro lenses. As soon as the sun came up I gave it a try and sure enough all three lenses worked!

The Contax RF to M42 adapter was made from a "for parts only" Kiev rangefinder, so it wouldn't surprise me if there was something not quite right about it. There's the possibility that something along those lines is contributing to the lenses only focusing really close and not focusing beyond a few inches from the end of the glass. Whatever the reason, I feel fortunate to have stumbled across this. It's better to be lucky than good, right?

The Soviet Union began manufacturing the Jupiter 8 lens beginning in the late 1940's. There are versions made for M39 mount, M42 mount and Contax RF mount. The Jupiter 8M is the Contax RF version, and it is an inner mount. My particular lens was made in 1977. It's a Russian copy of the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2 (the Russians took control of a Zeiss factory in World War II). A real Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2 will cost you around $150-$200.

The Jupiter 12 is a Russian copy of the Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2.8, manufactured beginning in 1947. My particular lens was made in 1966. There are two versions, one for M39 mount and one for Contax RF mount (it's an outer mount). The lens has this weird bulging glass element in the back, and the M39 mount version will damage your Fujifilm camera if you try to use it. A real Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2.8 will cost you between $300 and $1,000.

The Helios-103 is similar to the Jupiter 8M, and that's because it is an "original" Soviet design but based closely on the Jupiter 8M. The Helios-103 is a 53mm f/1.8 manufactured between 1978 and 1994, exclusively for Contax RF mount (it's an inner mount). My particular lens was made in 1983. Helios lenses are known for their "swirly bokeh" and this lens has that trait, although not nearly as pronounced as other models.
Contax RF Adapter
All of these lenses are sharp and create beautiful pictures with lovely bokeh. Image quality is not an issue whatsoever. Because I'm using them for macro photography, I'm shooting mostly in the f/8-f/16 range, to maximize the very narrow depth of field. I'd be interested in using them in a non-macro fashion, but in the current setup they won't focus beyond a few inches from the end of the glass.

While the three lenses seem similar to each other, they each offer something different. The Jupiter 8M is my favorite because of the lovely way in which it renders photographs. It just makes beautiful pictures! It is, however, the least macro of the three lenses and might not technically qualify as a true macro lens. The Jupiter 12, surprisingly to me, is the most macro, despite having the shortest focal length. Weird, huh? The Helios-103 is the fastest (not something you'll be using often in macro) and has swirly bokeh (when the conditions are just right), which adds an interesting element. The Jupiter 8M and Helios-103 lenses are noticeably smaller than the Jupiter 12.

If I could only buy one of these lenses it would be the Jupiter 8M. But since these Soviet knockoffs are so darn cheap, it's not a big deal to try a few. Mine were just $20 each! There are also other Contax RF mount lenses out there that are inexpensive, so don't be afraid to experiment.

When life throws you lemons, make some macro photographs! This whole experiment was nothing more than a happy accident. It didn't work out how I initially planned, but this outcome is actually better than I could have imagined! I can't guarantee that it will work the exact same way for you as it did for me (I don't see why it wouldn't), but if you are interested in macro photography it is something to try perhaps.

Below are 12 sample photographs that I captured over the last couple days using a Jupiter 8M, Jupiter 12 and Helios-103 lenses on my Fujifilm X-E1 camera, with the help of two adapters. Enjoy!
At the Edge of the In-Between - South Ogden, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 8M
Purple Flower Pedals Macro - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 12
Jupiter 8M - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios-103
F/8 - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 8M
Zenit-E Shutter Dial - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios-103
Macro Flower In Monochrome - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios-103
N-Scale Mail - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios-103
Blue Glass - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 12
Ground Coffee - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios-103
Pretty Weed - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 8M
Pollination Isn't Always Pretty - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 8M
Lily Stamen - South Weber, Utah
Fujifilm X-E1 & Jupiter 8M