PB James: Blog http://www.pbjames.com/blog en-us (C) Peter B James peter@pbjames.com (PB James) Tue, 29 Sep 2015 21:54:00 GMT Tue, 29 Sep 2015 21:54:00 GMT http://www.pbjames.com/img/s/v-5/u36701141-o806415494-50.jpg PB James: Blog http://www.pbjames.com/blog 120 85 Colorado Fall Color 2015 - McClure Pass, Marble, and Aspen http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/9/colorado-fall-color-2015---mcclure-pass-marble-and-aspen Winding back across the southern portion of the Elk Range, I turned north and headed up McClure pass, which has been a reliable spot for beautiful color on my past years' trips. Do note that currently road construction near the Paonia reservoir can cause a substantial delay (30+ min) during business hours, weekdays, and there is no decent bypass to the construction zone. Upon reaching McClure pass from the south, I found most of the southern slopes just barely beginning to change color, with a bit more yellow at the higher elevations towards Chair Mountain.

Near McClure Pass, Colorado

Cresting the pass, slopes on the north side showed a bit more color, as did the distant ridges and peaks to the north and east, however, I would still say this area is currently quite a bit before peak, based on my past experiences of just how electric these hills become.

Near McClure Pass, Colorado Heading down the road to Marble, I saw a lot of nice color along the Crystal River, from Aspen and Cottonwood, to Willow and smaller brush, the valley floor showed a nice range from green to dark yellow. The slopes around Marble showed a bit more color than those closer to McClure Pass as well. Still not what I would call peak, but a nice, early range of colors.  Shockingly, as I drove through the valley Monday afternoon, it was pushing 85F on my car's thermometer, not what one expects at 7000ft in the last few days of September.

Near Marble, Colorado.

From Marble, I headed on to the Aspen area, specifically the Castle and Maroon Creek drainages, both of which were simmering with fall shades from top to bottom.  I would say that the lower sections of Castle Creek were definitely not near peak yet, with plenty of greens still on display, however, the upper reaches were peaking, with vibrant yellows and hints of orange.

Along Castle Creek, Colorado. Along Castle Creek, Colorado. Maroon Creek, on the other hand, oddly showed some trees past peak, having dropped their leaves, in its' lower reaches, while the upper end above 8500ft was simply spectacular with wall-to-wall yellows and oranges, and just a few hints of green yet to turn.  Hiking up West Maroon Creek from the tourist stalwart Maroon Lake, the color continued to come in waves, all the way up beyond Crater Lake, where the aspen dwindled, but the smaller bushes and shrubs showed a variety of autumnal hues.

Maroon Lake, Colorado.

Above Maroon Lake, Colorado

Look forward to one or two more reports as I make my way to and from Denver over the coming weekend. Happy shooting!

]]>
peter@pbjames.com (PB James) 2015 aspen autumn colorado fall fallcolors mountains nature photography http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/9/colorado-fall-color-2015---mcclure-pass-marble-and-aspen Tue, 29 Sep 2015 21:54:17 GMT
Colorado Fall Color 2015 - Grand Mesa and West Elks http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/9/colorado-fall-color-2015---grand-mesa-and-west-elks Moving out of Southwestern Colorado's San Juan Mountains to the north, one approaches Grand Mesa, a massive table-top mountain towering 5,000ft above the surrounding valleys and cities. Near the top of this monolith, Aspen perch in groves, clustered near or just below the rim, dotting the otherwise green landscape with bright yellow here in late September 2015.

Near Land's End, Grand Mesa, Colorado.

The Aspen on the northern end of the Mesa are further along than their southern brethren, with the north end getting close to peak, with a few patches of green leaves still lingering, particularly at lower elevations.  The southern fringe of the mesa shows aspen in full golden glory primarily near the very edge of the mesa, while most of those spreading further down the slopes toward the valley still bearing green.

Mesa Lakes, Grand Mesa, Colorado.

While there are patches of Aspen here and there across the gently rolling mesa top, they are often clustered in small groups, and at this point surrounded by little more than brown grasses. Most of the isolated, mesa-top Aspen have turned yellow at this point, with a few having dropped their leaves already.  Aspen on the northern side, particularly near Mesa Lakes, were losing leaves fairly rapidly with each gust of wind, suggesting that the color bounty at that particular site may be shorter-lived than others.

Near Kebler Pass, Colorado.

Further east, the Elk Range rises dramatically, and is also amid a near-peak showing of autumn aspen.  As I drove east on Kebler Pass road, the Aspen gradually grew more and more verdant, peaking in and around Crested Butte.  While patches of green leaves could still be found well west of the pass, the area immediately west of the pass showed excellent color.

Near Ohio Pass, Colorado

The nearby Ohio Pass road showed a somewhat less developed Aspen color, with a much high percentage of leaves yet to turn, but some nice highlights nonetheless.   The area north and northwest of Crested Butte, on the Schofield Pass Road was very much in peak form, with few green leaves to be seen, and even a fair number of trees losing leaves rapidly.

Near Gothic, Colorado

Next, I head to the north side of the Elks, near the town of Aspen, and on to Leadville and the I-70 corridor as I make my way to Denver.

]]>
peter@pbjames.com (PB James) 2015 aspen autumn colorado fall fallcolors nature photography http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/9/colorado-fall-color-2015---grand-mesa-and-west-elks Sun, 27 Sep 2015 23:59:46 GMT
Colorado Fall Color 2015: The San Juan Moutains http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/9/colorado-fall-color-2015-the-san-juan-moutains For the fifth time in seven years, I am visiting Colorado in early autumn, drawn to the mountains and to hiking by the irrefutably amazing colors of the Quaking Aspen, as they shed their summer garb under the lessening light.  I have a marked love for Southwestern Colorado's San Juan Mountains, which, while not the highest, nor the most well-known of the state's towering peaks, have always stood out for their beauty and variety.

Near Trout Lake, Colorado

Thus I began my journey out of Cortez, following Route 145 up into the mountains, seeing a decent color show as I ascended, with probably 30% or so of the trees and shrubs along the Dolores River turning. Reaching the top at Lizard Head Pass, the colors began to intensify, and stayed powerful through Trout Lake onwards, beginning to wane as the road dropped down towards Ophir, and further as one descends to Telluride.  These areas are probably a week or so off of their top color show, but curently have a nice contrast of green and yellow aspen leaves amid the confers.

 

Morning at Trout Lake, Colorado

Following the 4WD route Last Dollar Road out of the Telluride Valley, colors continued to stay mixed, with at least 60% of the foilage still not turned, a situation which only grew greener on the north side of the range, towards the Dallas Divide.

Mount Wilson from Last Dollar Road

Fall Colors on Last Dollar Road above Telluride, Colorado

Later, I headed up to Yankee Boy Basin, which showed similarly mixed, green and yellow aspen leaves, as the road ascended from Ouray, and once in the basin itself, the grasses and shrubs were a lovely variety of shades from green and yellow, through orange, brown, and red.

Gilpin Peak and Yankee Boy Basin, near Ouray, Colorado

However, it was above Ouray on US-550, just below Red Mountain Pass, where the Aspen were truly in top form. The valley walls were coated in a bright yellow sheen, contrasting with the surrounding dark evergreens, and the stark rocky peaks above treeline. Virtually none of the aspen had yet lost their leaves, and only a few had theirs remaining in shades of green.  It was a wonderful show, as in past years, I have always come to this particular area too late, finding it barren, by comparison.

Near Ironton, Colorado

 

Look ahead for further reports, as I will be heading to Grand Mesa, McClure Pass, and the Aspen area, among others.

]]>
peter@pbjames.com (PB James) 2015 aspen autumn colorado fall foliage leaves nature photography http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/9/colorado-fall-color-2015-the-san-juan-moutains Fri, 25 Sep 2015 21:14:09 GMT
The Simplest Choice to Improve Your Digital Photographs http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/4/the-simplest-choice-to-improve-your-digital-photographs If you could save your photos in a format that retained exactly what the camera captured, and allowed you to revisit and reimagine the look of your photos days, if not years later, why wouldn't you? Fortunately, odds are that you can, with a button press or two, by saving in RAW.

Way back in (digitally speaking) 2006, I bought my first camera, a mostly unassuming digital pocket cam, the Fuji E900, which distinguished itself by offering RAW file capture, a rarity on small cameras at the time. Nowadays, nearly all serious digital cameras, and even some phone cameras offer the ability to save in RAW, but many people remain unaware of the feature, the benefits it offers, and how to take advantage of them.

RAW files are a direct copy of the data coming off a digital camera’s sensor, with no, or very little processing applied, resulting in much larger files than typical processed JPEG files. This data would be unrecognizable as a photograph, without additional processing, as much interpolation must be done to create the image we see from most digital camera sensors.  All this extra data is the key to the benefits of RAW, as you can leverage improving image processing technology to reinvent your photos into far higher quality renditions than possible with a camera’s internal processing.

Photo processing software, like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, Phase One Capture One, and many others, are the tools for turning your RAW files into beautiful finished photos, and they are improving continually. With each new release, the software makers improve the algorithms that interpret RAW data into photos, giving lower apparent noise/grain, sharper edge resolution, and improved color fidelity. Contrast that to the JPEG processing engine of most digital cameras, which is typically fixed at release, and never changes again.

Yosemite Falls, Morning HighlightYosemite Falls, Morning HighlightPeak runoff season in spring 2008 saw Yosemite Creek running high, filling the upper falls with a weighty torrent that thundered into a drowning mist near the bottom, in the morning light.

Yosemite National Park, Mariposa County, California, USA.

I’ve presented two photos taken with the E900, a camera which, by modern standards, one would not expect to be a high-performing digital camera, as it had a relatively small sensor, slow lens, “only” 9 megapixels, and no image stabilization. These photos are ones whose composition and subject I have always liked, but until recently, I wasn’t pleased enough with the output quality in order to print and share them as part of my collection. However, revisiting them with the most recent version of Adobe Camera Raw, I was surprised to see just how much the software advances helped control some objectionable noise, and allowed me to increase the resolution while maintaining sharpness.

Afternoon AspenAfternoon AspenPerfectly golden autumn Aspen catch the afternoon's final rays of sun, as Carson Peak looms large in the shadows to the south.

Inyo National Forest, Mono County, California, USA.

The ability to reinvent your photographs with improved technology, years and years later, is why I argue consistently for the use of RAW files.  While the files are larger, and hence consume more storage space and can slow the responsiveness of some cameras, the potential image quality benefits are such that I would only use JPEG for the most time-sensitive, fast-action photography where the luxury of time for post-processing simply isn’t possible.

As such, I've been on a program recently of revisiting and "remastering" a number of photographs taken over the years, consistently being impressed with just how much better they look, with the application of updated post-processing software, and post-processing skills. If you sock away a a library of RAW photos, they can grow with you, as you improve your technology, and, more importantly, your ability to leverage it. Look forward to more remastered classics for me, and I hope you'll consider, if you already haven't, the potential impact of RAW on improving your photography.

]]>
peter@pbjames.com (PB James) capture one digital photography lightroom photoshop post processing raw raw files http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/4/the-simplest-choice-to-improve-your-digital-photographs Mon, 20 Apr 2015 17:13:59 GMT
Riding the Wind and Waves http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/2/riding-the-wind-and-waves This past weekend, the atmosphere came together in just such a way as to provide a strange phenomena in recent history - rain in Central California!  The so-called "Pineapple Express" describes an alignment of the upper atmospheric wind patterns that draws warm, moist air from the Central Pacific, near Hawaii, directly towards the California coast, an arrangement that can account for a significant portion of the state's overall precipitation each winter.
 
On my way to San Francisco, I skirted the Pacific along Highway 1, just as the first storm was spooling up into full fury.  In between bands of intense rain, the wind violently tossed back and forth above the roadway for a menacing, Tolkienesque effect.

I stopped at several beaches between Santa Cruz and Pacifica, as I made my way up the coast under darkening, overcast skies.  While this section of the California Coast may not be as heralded as its' counterpart to the south of Monterey Bay, it is very scenic nonetheless, if a bit less rocky and dramatic.  Rain and fog conspired to obscure the view of Pigeon Point Lighthouse, but I did catch a few breaks in the weather to watch massive waves come tumbling ashore. Strong winds blowing directly out to sea would catch the waves as they crested, shearing off the tops into a misty spray.

Amazingly, despite the crashing surf of 10-15 feet, and menacing winds that I felt just as high as 60 miles per hour, there was a group of dedicated surfers and boarders still out on the water of Pacifica beach, even as the evening light began to fade into darkness.  As one group passed me, there was a nod of acknowledgement, through the howling wind spraying salt water and sand about, a look recognizing the slight crazy in all of us to enjoy braving such elements, whilst most were content to a warm meal inside.  

Another day, another storm, another wave chased, whether with board, or lens.
]]>
peter@pbjames.com (PB James) beach ocean photography rain surf waves weather wind http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/2/riding-the-wind-and-waves Fri, 13 Feb 2015 00:12:09 GMT
CES 2015 Report: A Photographer's Perspective, Continued http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/1/ces-2015-report-a-photographers-perspective-continued On with the show from CES 2105!  An unfortunate bit of memory card corruption on my Fuji XE-1 cost me some pics, so this post will have to do without.  On that note, I am looking forward to having reliable Wi-Fi built into all cameras in the near future, avoiding the need to use the kludgy, slow, and only sporadically reliable Eye-Fi SD card to transmit photos wirelessly.

Panasonic

Panasonic showed a product that while not new, had yet to be seen in the U.S., their CM1 Android Camera/Phone, with 1”-sensor and f/2.8 Leica-badged lens.  Upon its’ initial announcement (only for select European markets) in 2014, I was quite intrigued, as it looked to be just the sort of serious camera/phone mash up that I had been hoping would exist someday.

Panasonic got a lot right with the CM1, most importantly, the ergonomics and interface, which made it seamless to go from phone to camera (or from off to camera), and capture shots far more quickly than the cameras on most other smartphones.  The control ring around the lens was great for controlling aperture or shutter speed in manual exposure modes, and the shutter button had a nicely damped feel that reminded me of a premium camera, again, not a phone.

The custom camera app ran very smoothly and quickly, and would be quite familiar to those who have used Panasonic Lumix cameras in the past.  The only significant delays I experienced came when shooting bursts of RAW+JPEG, which did leave the camera app somewhat unresponsive for a few seconds at a time (though it was possible to return to the Android home screen and use other apps).

The Lumix CM1 is a success in terms of integrating a serious camera with a smartphone better than any of the other attempts I have handled (Samsung Galaxy Camera and Lumia 1020 come to mind), and doing it all in a rather svelte package that didn’t compromise phone functionality.  However, it was let down by Panasonic’s typically mediocre JPEG processing engine and lack of optical image stabilization, producing shots that side-by-side looked only marginally cleaner in low light than the smaller-sensor (1/2.3”) Galaxy Note 4.  I would think that processing RAW files from the CM1 would result in significantly better results, if my experience with past Lumix cameras is any indicator.

Given the popularity of large-screened phones like the aforementioned Note 4 and Apple iPhone 6 Plus, I’d like to see a future CM1-like device take advantage of the larger frame offered by such a size to address issues like the CM1’s trapped battery, and bring battery life in such a device up to the standards expected from smartphone contemporaries.  Also, the Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus demonstrate the huge advantages of an optical stabilizer to image quality on a smartphone platform, and no future phone serious about its’ image quality should be without one.

I commend Panasonic for taking such a serious first stab at this segment, and hope they stick with it, refine the concept, and come up with the true photographer’s smartphone, one that doesn’t compromise on what we expect from a premium smartphone, nor a premium large-sensor compact camera.

I also took a quick look at the LX100 and GM5, two small cameras approaching the high-quality go-everywhere camera from different angles, but a similar Micro 4/3 sensor and electronic viewfinder.  The LX100 bears a fixed 24-75mm equivalent lens with a fast f/1.7-2.8 aperture, and a bevy of manual controls.  The GM5 has fewer manual control points, but gains an interchangeable lens mount, and an even thinner body.  Both have a small electronic viewfinder that will be welcome to mitigate camera shake and compose accurately in bright conditions.  Both cameras performed admirably for their size, but ultimately, I prefer having a bit more depth-of-field control and signal-to-noise ratio from an APS-C sensor, even if it means a slightly larger camera/system.

Sony

I stopped by Sony primarily to see how their new A7 II model had evolved from last year’s initial foray into full-frame mirrorless cameras.  While the new 5-axis image stabilizer in the A7 II worked just as impressively as the similar unit in the much smaller Olympus OM-D models, the body of the A7 II grew quite a bit in order to accommodate it.  Given the popularity of adapting manual focus lenses to the Sony E-Mount platform, I don’t doubt that this feature will be a major boon for many A7 shooters, and potentially worth upgrading for alone.

Otherwise, the camera primarily changed in terms of handling, both for better and worse.  I found the larger body and grip easier to handle, however the primary and secondary control dials for aperture and shutter speed were more difficult to turn, being further recessed into the body, which seems a potential nightmare for outdoor use with gloves.  I didn’t notice any significant difference in autofocus speed or image quality, the latter still being marred by Sony’s sub-par JPEG engine and lossy compression of “RAW” files.

Hopefully the popularity of the A7 series will spur other competitors to produce more compact, mirrorless full-frame cameras and reasonable sized lenses for them.  As much as I like the concept of the A7 series, Sony’s image processing, AF algorithms, shutter slap (on the 36MP A7R) and lack of compelling lenses make the system a non-starter for me.  But a small and light full-frame mirrorless system with high-quality, reasonable sized prime lenses is many a photographer’s dream, including my own, we just need someone to step up and do it optimally.

Wacom

Even if you don’t know the name, if you’ve ever used the pen/stylus on a tablet PC, Samsung Galaxy Note, or Microsoft Surface, you’ve likely used a Wacom product.  The biggest producer of precision pen-input computer devices hit CES with two major new products, a 27” QHD version of their flagship Cintiq graphics monitor, and the Companion 2, a Windows-powered graphics tablet that can double as a Cintiq or monitor for a standalone PC.

The Cintiq 27 QHD comes in both pen/touch and pen-only models, both sporting the same gorgeous 2560x1440 screen, and 2048-level pressure sensitive pen input layer.  This model also introduces a moveable, remote shortcut keyboard, that can be repositioned to suit each user’s needs, and up to 5 may be connected to one Cintiq simultaneously.  The Cintiq 27 QHD becomes the premier desktop graphics display for photographers and artists who demand the precision control of a Wacom pen input for retouching and creating, even if it demands a bit more of your desk space than the previous model.

The Cintiq Companion 2 is a very interesting product, outwardly it is a 13.3” QHD tablet which runs full Windows 8.1 on an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, configurable with up to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.  Those are the sort of serious specifications for serious work that most tablets on today’s market lack.  However, the Companion 2 doesn’t stop there, as it can be connected to any other PC, to function as a full Cintiq display and pen input for that computer as well.  It can also be used as a monitor, even running from its’ own battery, for higher productivity even when away from an AC outlet.

The Companion 2 is a compelling product that is powerful enough to potentially be a photographer or graphic artist’s primary computer, depending on their workload.  However, it does have a rather large footprint for a 13.3” display, and at nearly 4lbs, it isn’t quite as portable as most other current Windows tablets.  For the right sort of professional, who demands high power in a transportable graphics tablet, the Companion 2 could be just right.

Notable Absences

In the run-up to CES 2015, I was disappointed to read that Fujifilm would not have a booth at this year’s show.  Not only do I use the X-System as my backup/lightweight camera system, and look forward to each year’s new developments from Fuji, but I’ve also found their representatives to be amongst the most affable and knowledgeable about photography.  Oddly Fuji announced their new 16-55mm f/2.8 lens just before CES, so this made their absence doubly annoying. 

Sigma was another major photo company unfortunately missing from CES 2015, though at least they did not announce any new products just before the opening of the show.  Much like their counterparts at Fuji, the representatives at Sigma were always extremely knowledgeable and friendly, and were well oriented to photography, not just technology.  Hopefully these absences are not a harbinger of things to come, but I fear they may be, as the mass market for photography equipment is largely saturated by consumer DSLRs and smartphones, until somebody comes along to disrupt the market again.

]]>
peter@pbjames.com (PB James) 2015 cameras ces fuji fujifilm gear leica lenses panasonic photography sigma smartphones sony http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/1/ces-2015-report-a-photographers-perspective-continued Fri, 16 Jan 2015 19:50:13 GMT
CES 2015 Report: A Photographer's Perspective http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/1/ces-2015-report-a-photographers-perspective Ah, the annual desert pilgrimage to see the latest and greatest in electronic gear and gizmos that is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has come and gone yet again, leaving in its' wake a trail of visitors overwhelmed by the sheer spectacle of tech.  While it's easy to get lost in a sea of show reports, this one takes you through a number of developments all relevant to the serious photographer.

Nikon Booth, CES 2015 As a primarily Nikon-based photographer, I was keenly interested to see one of the company's most recently announced products, the Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF VR Lens.  The lens is a stunning upgrade to the previous model, as it adds an active stabilizer (Nikon's VR system), and a high-performing anti-glare coating (Nikon's Nano-coating), while drastically reducing the weight and size through the use of Phase Fresnel optical technology, a first in Nikon’s interchangeable lens systems.  The lens weighs only 1lb 10.6oz (755g) as compared to the 3lb 2.8oz (1440g) of its’ predecessor, and the length also diminishes, from 8.8in (222.5mm) to 5.8in (147.5mm). 

The new 300mm f/4 VR when in-hand is remarkably small for a high-performing telephoto lens, significantly less cumbersome than the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 wide-angle lens I frequently carry, and balances well on a mid-sized body like the D810. I initially wondered how difficult the lens might be to keep stable, given its’ combination of long focal length, and light/compact body, however those fears were quickly dispelled as I captured sharp shots across the hall.  The lens showed the excellent focus speed, optical quality one expects from a top-level Nikon lens, and I was only able to spot a couple of instances where the bokeh looked anything but perfectly smooth, shooting into some unusually-shaped lights.  Nikon wouldn't permit take-away samples shots.

Overall, this lens looks like a home run for Nikon, as the 300 f/4 with VR has been a long-awaited update for many, and Nikon’s surprise bonus of enormous size and weight savings through the use of new lens elements makes it a lens that more photographers are likely to carry and use in more situations.  In my book, the size is the most significant improvement, as the older 300 f/4 was simply too large to fit into my kit, this new version would be right at home, even on long-distance hikes.  The lens is slated to appear in stores in early February, with an MSRP of $1999.

Another lens I that piqued my interest is the new Nikkor 20mm f/1.8 G, a fast-aperture ultra-wide prime lens that doesn't break the bank ($699 MSRP) or back (12.6oz or 355g).  The lens struck me as a great potential complement to the aforementioned 14-24, offering easy filter compatibility with its' 77mm threads, and trading a faster maximum aperture and more compact build for the flexibility of the zoom.  Shots were quite sharp, even wide open, with nice, soft out-of-focus rendering for a wide-angle lens.  Interestingly, the same aperture blades that were well rounded when opened widely, when stopped down produced harsher, heptagonal bokeh, but also allowed for sensationally sharp sunstars when shot against the light (with nary a trace of flare).  All-in-all, a very impressive lens in a very reasonable package, one I look forward to using in the future.

 

Samsung NX and NX Mini cameras at CES 2015

At this point it’s likely we all either use or are familiar with Samsung products, but few know the Korean giant’s interchangeable lens camera systems.  This should start to change soon, as Samsung’s NX (1.5x crop, APS-C size sensor) and NX Mini (1” sensor) start showing up in more retailers and likely in more camera bags and pockets soon.

The NX1 is Samsung’s newest, top-of-the line DSLR-like mirrorless camera in their NX line, and it runs an all-new operating system as compared to past models like the NX20 and NX30. It also features an all-new Samsung-fabbed 28 megapixel sensor (currently the highest MP count on an APS-C sensor), and a revamped physical layout and controls.  I didn’t much care for the ergonomics and control scheme of past Samsung cameras, but the new software and controls of the NX1 really changed my mind, as I no longer felt lost in endless menus trying to find basic options, and the touchscreen enabled easy option changes not available on physical controls.

The Samsung NX lens line continues to grow, adding a 50-150mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom to last year’s 16-50 f/2.0-2.8 standard zoom in their top “S” line.  On the NX1 these two lenses deliver the quickest autofocus response I’ve seen on any mirrorless camera, along with sharp results and relatively smooth out-of-focus areas.  Samsung featured their entire lens line in the NX area, including a fast, sharp 300mm f/2.8 lens, and their intriguing lineup of pancake lenses (16mm f/2.4, 20mm f/2.8, and 30mm f/2.0).  As with other mirrorless systems, focus speeds varied from lens to lens, with some, like the 60mm Macro, being quite sluggish, even on the NX1.

Also intriguing was the NX Mini, a very small (think iPhone 6) sized interchangeable-lens camera based around a 1” sensor.  Samsung currently offers it with a 9-27mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens (24-72mm full-frame equivalent), and more interestingly with 9mm f/3.5 and 17mm f/1.8 prime lenses (24mm and 46mm equivalents respectively.  Focus performance was reasonably good, and more importantly, low-light JPEG performance from the 20.5MP sensor bettered what I’ve seen from other 1”-sensor models like Nikon’s 1 system and Sony’s RX100 series, possibly due to Samsung’s improved image processing seen on recent devices like the Galaxy Note 4.  With a couple more tiny prime lenses, the Samsung NX mini could be an extremely compelling device for photographers wanting to pack ultra-light and not sacrifice too much creative control.

Overall, Samsung’s advancements in photography are quite compelling, and with updates to improve focus speed on some lenses, and filling out the lens line with missing lenses (fast 85mm, 35mm equivalents, faster ultra-wide prime or zoom, among others), the NX system should start garnering real attention and use from more and more serious photographers.  The NX mini also holds great promise for some niche uses, and as a go-anywhere companion, and I’m hoping that Samsung sees the promise and continues to expand the line.

In the next portion of this report, I’ll cover some other interesting cameras and gear from the likes of Panasonic, Wacom, and more!

]]>
peter@pbjames.com (PB James) 2015 CES cameras electronics equipment fuji gear lenses nikon panasonic photography samsung show sigma sony trade http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/1/ces-2015-report-a-photographers-perspective Thu, 15 Jan 2015 20:29:36 GMT
Making the Most of It http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/1/making-the-most-of-it A trip to Vegas is hardly complete without a tour of some of the incredible natural wonders within a few hours' drive, but on this recent trip, the weather decided not to participate.  Nevertheless, while clouds occluded the starry skies at night, and the towering sandstone formations of the Southwest by day, I pressed on to make the most of the trip.

Instead of spending as much time on some of the Southwest's sweeping vistas, I focused on finding the beauty in smaller, more intimate scenes, which can be found all over the red rock country of Southern Nevada and Utah, and Northern Arizona.

Etchings of ErosionVermilion Cliffs, Kane County, Utah, USA.

This photo is a great example of how those efforts can pay off, even in an unassuming area.  Off to the side of a road, behind some scruffy bushes and sandy dunes, stood one of grand Vermilion Cliffs, with a frozen waterfall covering part of its' face.  Rather than force a shot of the entire scene in mediocre lighting and overcast skies, I began tracing the cliff, looking for interesting patterns and formations.

A bit of scrambling later, and I found this aggressively eroded formation, complete with dramatic color and fin-like wings of rock jutting out.  It is only one of many interesting pieces found in this small area alone, allowing for an almost infinite number of intimate compositions.  Often, spectacular conditions, or simply the overwhelming novelty of a heretofore unvisited location can cause us to skip over these more intimate scenes in favor of the grandiose.

Don't give up on your day out in nature, just because the conditions aren't coming together as you might have hoped.  Press on, and keep looking, and before you know it, you'll find yourself shooting something interesting that you might never have imagined.  While pre-visualization is certainly a useful technique, don't let it constrain your creativity, and don't be afraid to get out there and explore.  I certainly find the journey to find an interesting image every bit as enjoyable as the final result, and I hope you will also.

]]>
peter@pbjames.com (PB James) US Southwest details nature perseverance photography http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/1/making-the-most-of-it Mon, 12 Jan 2015 19:23:50 GMT
Starting a Blog, At CES http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/1/starting-a-blog-at-ces It's a new year, and high time I started publishing my thoughts and adventures in photography and nature, so welcome to my new blog!

I'm headed to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and anxious to get hands-on with exciting new photography gear from the likes of Nikon, Panasonic/Leica, Samsung, and others.  I'll be reporting back with impressions and sample photos over the next couple days, so keep your eyes peeled for my coming updates.

Following that, look forward to exciting reports on winter photography from scenic, remote sections of the Nevada, Arizona, and Utah over coming week, and more to follow.

Happy 2015 and welcome!

]]>
peter@pbjames.com (PB James) CES consumer electronics show nature new blog photography http://www.pbjames.com/blog/2015/1/starting-a-blog-at-ces Wed, 07 Jan 2015 02:46:18 GMT