Saturday, April 26, 2014

... Addendum

A new review of the Leica T from the Red Dot Forum:

"The Leica T looks like it might have emerged out of Apple, as its sleek uni-body aluminum design more echoes a MacBook Pro laptop than a camera."

"The camera just exudes quality and is simply gorgeous to hold and look at. And, yes, for those wondering, it is made in Germany at the new Wetzlar factory, proudly signified by the writing under the rear LCD: 'Leica Camera Wetzlar Germany.'"

from Red Dot Forum

"And yet, the camera is much more than just a pretty face. Leica is synonymous with image quality, especially with regards to optics and the T is no exception. The first of many lenses to come in the new autofocus T mount prove to be excellent. Two lenses will be available at launch, a midrange zoom and a wide-normal fast prime."

Okay, time for me to butt in here with a typical anecdote.  When Canon came out with the EOS system, I was a happy Canon user in a sea of Nikons.  The F1s I owned, I thought, were great and significantly cheaper than the top-of-the-line Nikon F3.  But now Canon had forced a choice on me.  The new EOS mount, while providing better autofocus and autoexposure function (the mounts actually started with a few more contacts than they had uses, anticipating future requirements), was completely different from the F mount I had heavily invested in.  I could stay with the F, haunting flea markets and estate sales for old glass and gear for all time, while technology passed me by, go with the expensive EOS system, or switch to Nikon.  Nikon was, as usual, playing catch-up in the autofocus business, but doing it while retaining a lens mount that accepted older glass.

I sold everything and went with Nikon.

Now Leica thinks that, for their new system, I'm prepared to invest in a whole new line of Leica lenses?  I know that they're planned to be cheaper than M, R and S glass, but still ...

"An M Adapter-T will be available as an accessory to the T for $395. Like all other Leica-made lens adapters, the M Adapter-T features solid metal construction with polished lens mounts."

I dunno'.  It's pretty and all, but I stick with my opinion about the photographic experience.

But read the review for yourself.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

The NEW Leica!

Normally, no one is happier than I when the words "new" and "Leica" come in the same sentence, and I understand that when you make a premium product (eg: expensive ... well, incredibly expensive), you need to reach out to as many customers in that limited demographic as you can, but lately I've had a stunning disinterest in some new releases from my favorite camera company.

First, it was the X Vario, and now the new T System.  It was announced in one of the big events Leica has specialized in since its glorious 9/9/09 revelation of the M9 -- a camera I would most definitely be interested in.  People are acting very excited, despite Leica releasing what PetaPixel called "The Most Boring Ad You've Ever Seen."

I still have to drill down into the technical stuff to better understand what this is, but from the company descriptions and stories about it I have glanced through, it may yet be another Leica that's not for me.

I recoil at the happy snap look, despite the Rolex-like, carved-from-a-solid-metal-block construction.  Maybe I should be more open minded, not judging the camera just by its appearance (and Leica's regularly pairing with designers from Audi or Volkswagen or some fashion house; what does that have to do with photography?)

But here's the thing: what I love about the M system is the way it makes me think and act and See when I go to make a picture.  I explain to people that those cameras make me look at the world in a different way, and approach it to make a picture in a different way.  You can't just hand me some rich man's tourist toy and expect the same reaction.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wandering the Internet ...

"Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography."
 - George Eastman

I have a nascent lecture that I noodle with (noodling being that thing where you think about it from time to time, but don't actually write anything down) that explains that all photography is nothing but light.  I'm still working on how to make it comprehensible and even a little profound, so you'll have to forgive this over-short, lunken version, but basically it revolves around the fact that, in physics, things don't really have colors.  Rather, they absorb all of the light rays of all the other colors in white light, and just reflect the wavelength of the color we perceive them as.  So a red ball isn't red as a state of being, but is something that reflects red light to your eye.

By extension, by the time you get to photography, you're not really making pictures of things, but rather you are capturing the light that reflected off those things.  Pictures aren't of things, but of light.

Get it?

Yeah, I'll keep working.

Anyway, over the past months I've been saving some websites on photography and other things that seemed worthy of mention.

One is a blog by Cheri Frost explaining that, like any profession, photography can't be learned through one simple, miraculous training session.  "Instead of allowing Experience to teach, the industry has gone another route: they have replaced Experience and her years of wisdom with Mr. Fast Track," she writes. "Oh, he’s smooth, real smooth, and hip and trendy. He’s like the photography equivalent of Weight Loss Pills-guaranteed to work overnight. He’s got answers for everything AND a workbook, forum, DVD and/or downloadable e-book."

This is a variant on something I've ranted about before, especially when a couple of these charismatic session people were accused of plagiarism (and the reporter writing on it completely missed the point -- this point), 

Meanwhile, Mark Manson notes: "In our instant gratification culture, it's easy to forget that most personal change does not occur as a single static event in time, but rather as a long, gradual evolution where we're hardly aware of it as it's happening."  He's talking about the things he learned in his 20s that he wishes other 20-somethings would know before that special period of life slips by, and I couldn't agree more.

And while you're learning those lessons, there's also this.  Normally, I find these things overly technical, or reflections of the sort of flashy, pointless stuff the Superstar Photo Seminar people mentioned above do, but Jeff Meyer's suggestions are all good ones ... and not coincidentally, I think, resemble what you would have to do if you used an all-manual, film camera for a while.

Now I guess I have to get on that "post a photo a day" thing, maybe over at Guy with a Leica.

Finally, I find Avedon's work interesting in a paradoxical way.  Part of me thinks it's brilliant -- simple, unadorned, straight-on shots in front of a plain, featureless background; the subject stands alone.  Part of me thinks it's a rather simplistic, easily imitated trick, overdone even by Avedon.  I have that feeling about others who have "trademark" styles (like William Wegman or Joyce Tenneson), but then again, if it works ...

Anyway, there was an interesting little blog in the New Yorker about Avedon's efforts to make a portrait of the recently deceased author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  I wonder what it was he so disliked about the 1976 picture ...

RANDOM BONUS THOUGHT: Some April Fools Day, the cable company should list the "80s Porn Channel," which would be a signal that never descrambles.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

So, Where Ya' Been?

I have a friend -- well, I still call him a friend, and indeed I hope he still thinks as well of me -- who I fell out of communication with a while ago.  A while, like 25 years.  It's embarrassing, really.  We were the best of friends in college, and kept up for some time thereafter, but then literally fell out of contact for no good reason.  I failed to answer a message from him, and he had no obligation to nag me into staying in touch, and after a certain time, it became uncomfortable to try to call or anything.  "Hi!  Sorry I ignored you for a bunch of months.  Nothing personal, okay?" 

I think now's the time -- especially as it's a good exercise for Lent -- to reach out to him, explain that it was just stupidity and distractions and finally embarrassment over it all that kept me away, and it's frankly ridiculous.  I want to write a letter.  But Lent is almost over, and I still haven't found that quiet time to sit down and work it out.

Which brings me to this moment here.  I have always said that I get frustrated with blogs, especially good ones, that don't update regularly and frequently.  This is the internet, the land of 24/7, and if you don't feed the beast all the time, you clearly don't understand the medium.  Thus, those times when I fail to show up here for weeks and months at a time are an humiliating bit of hypocrisy, for which I apologize, no matter how busy or tired or not in the mood I might be.

The name, "Cat Typing," refers to the random keys punched by cats as they walk across the keyboard, and is meant to give some hint of the uncontrolled nature of what I might say.  Lately things have gotten a bit deep and occasionally theological.  I plan to take us back out of the thick reeds and more into things like photography again in the near term, but one never knows where we may go.

At any rate, I do want it to be more frequent, so that (I hope) is the one thing you can be certain of here.