Fuji X-E1 - An Elegant Non Klunker's Shortcomings
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Many years ago in the dawn of electronic
cameras I used to have students who were extremely proud of their A-1 Canons. These
were a marvel of the age.
In a fairly quiet tone I voice I would
instruct these proud owners to remove the single, fairly large battery. Some of
them did not know how to do this. Once this was done I would declare, to their
shock, “You now have in possession a very expensive door stop.”
In my last years of teaching at Focal Point
I used to ask my students, “Is there some way that you can take pictures with
your digital cameras in this studio and then go home and have nothing?” The
answer was, "Yes," and the most often one was, “Sometimes the storage cards become
I found out that if the scary mantra of the
turn of the last century into this one was, “The computers are down.” (and this
century, too if you think Translink). This was and is not as scary as, “Your
storage card is corrupted.” “Your hard drive is corrupted.”
Before we photographers depended on those
electronic door stops we would go with two cameras if we needed one. We had
four rolls if we though we would shoot one. We'd have several flash chords, and
two light/flashmeters. When my prime Mamiya portrait lens, a 140mm floating
element macro lens failed, on a job (Raymond Burr) because the shutter main
spring gave out I never ever went to another job without two 140 lenses.
So we photographers have always been
paranoid about photographic failure and we respected Patterson’s Law which
stipulated the Murphy (of Murphy’s Law) was an out-and-out optimist.
And when we have been faced with failure in
a job we have found roundabout methods of overcoming it. Once when I was sent
to Calgary to
photograph a CBC announcer my Mamiya RB suffered a broken mirror (it would not
go down. My solution was to find a used Mamiya at a pawnshop (I gave him a credit card number) and have it
delivered to the CBC by taxi. The chap of the pawnshop was happy to get money
and still keep the camera!
At the persistent urging of my wife
Rosemary I finally purchased a digital camera last year. I did not want to buy
those expensive clunker Canons or Nikons. I chose a rather sophisticated
mirrorless Fuji X-E1. I bought it at Leo’s Camera knowing that Jeff Gin would
help me every step of the way into the 21st century kind of camera. And
so he has.
Meanwhile I have been overtly making fun of
my friend Paul Leisz’s Canon klunker. He has been fairly subdued in countering
my rude aggression. I believe he might have, in the end had the last laugh.
|Jeff Gin at Leo's Cameras|
You see this Fuji X-E1 can do just about everything.
It will shoot panoramics (left to right, right to left, up to down, down to up,
long or extra long) without need of Photoshop stitching (like Leisz’s Canon). The
X-E1 is light and compact. It is elegant and the zoom lens that I purchased
with it (my first ever zoom lens) gives me just about every focal length I
want. And if that was not enough with an adaptor (which I have) I can use every
old manual Nikon lens I own.
While teaching at Focal Point I used to
tell my students that digital cameras like the ones they had were much better
than film cameras in rendering the true colour of human flesh. Even some of the
cheaper DSLRs could do this very nicely.
My Fuji X-E1 has one design flaw that most
people would not note. You see few photographers these days that fire studio
flashes with their cameras. I do.
I have been unable to get a correct flesh
tone when mating my Fuji
to my studio flash. In fact the pictures are incredibly tinted red/yellow. I
have to work extra time to get my colour pictures of people taken in my small
home studio to almost (never quite) accurate.
Leisz’s Canon has like most decent DSLRs
something called Custom White Balance.
has Custom White Balance but unlike Leisz’s klunker it does not allow for
balancing flash (intermittent light) but only continuous light sources.
So I went to Leo’s with my camera, a
portable studio flash and a small softbox and went at it with Jeff Gin as my
This was our conclusion.
1. The camera does not have a separate
flash setting. It has a flash setting for the little on-camera retractable
2. The camera will give an almost correct
flesh tone with a studio flash if the camera is set for the sun symbol
3. At 5800 degrees Kelvin (a Kodak
definition of daylight and a well corrected studio flash) the Fuji will give you very warm pictures as the
camera simply adjusts to the light in a studio, and ignores that it is tethered
to a studio flash.
4. Going against the grain of logic (it
does make sense but it is much too complicated for me to explain here) if we
set the camera to a warmer 4800 degrees Kelvin the camera will attempt to
correct and with a studio flash you will get similar results at with the
In short we photographers have always found
a way of circumventing those systems designed to thwart us!
The device you see sitting on the camera is a safe sync. It is the only way I can connect the camera to my studio flash.
Friday, July 25, 2014
In my library I have a pretty good
collection of airplane books. One of them Dogfight – Air Combat Adversaries –
Head to Head by Robert Jackson with illustrations by Jim Winchester is not among
them. This one is in my guest bathroom. In that place where the king is always
alone I like to glance at it.
Of late two planes in the book have been in
the news. The Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II commonly, almost affectionately
called the Warthog for its ungainly ugliness has an uncertain future. US
Congress is attempting to save money and an airplane that was supposed to bust
tanks of a Soviet invasion into Western Europe
perhaps has no future in an era of drone warfare.
Had that Soviet invasion happened the
Warthog would have faced its Soviet counterpart the Sukhoi Su-25 ‘Frogfoot’
(the name given it by NATO).
Although this blog will be up for another
day, I am writing this today Wednesday, July 23, it just so happens that the
Frogfoot is in the news. Two of them, property of the Ukrainian Air Force were
shot down by Russian surface to air missiles today. Ukrainian authorities
allege that the missiles came from inside Russia.
Whatever happens I
kind of like the fact that although the articles mention the plane here in my
blog you can have a look at what it looks like.
For those who have a
memory for the Vietnam War I might note here that a converted military version
of the Douglas DC-3, the Douglas AC-47 aka Puff the Magic Dragon was equipped
with an advanced electronic version of the 19th century Gatling Gun. These were
gunships that terrorized the Vietcong. The Warthog has such a weapon and you
can see its multiple barrel sticking out the front of the A-10 in my photograph
which took some years ago at the Abbotsford Air Show.
Both aircraft were
heavily armoured to protect its pilots who in many cases as they strafed troops
while flying low would have been subject to ground fire. There was heavy stuff under their seats, too! It is for this reason
that it seems that the pilots of both downed Frogfoots were able to bail out.
Red Zinger Reid
Thursday, July 24, 2014
I first met Virve Reid sometime in 1977
which is when I took these photographs. Sometime before these photographs she
had posed for a well known American glossy magazine. Two of her principal
features that I particularly adored were her freckles and red hair. She had a
voice that was girly yet sometimes it was throaty. Only in today, as I write
this have I identified what it was about her voice that was so charming. You
see she sounded a lot like British actress Joan Greenwood. I have been
listening with my granddaughter Lauren to Greenwood
in a tape where she plays Alice in Alice in Wonderland and
Through the Looking Glass.
I first saw Reid on Wreck Beach.
She had a body to die for. It was a healthy exuberant body like few you see
now. She was with a musician friend who was busy placing two tape recorders a
few feet apart by the water. It seemed
he wanted to record the sounds of the sea in real stereo.
I have no memory on exactly how it was that
I approached this monumento (as we say in Spanish) and enquired on the
possibility of snapping her pictures.
What you see here are my first of her. In
1977 I was still attempting to find my style and direction. I was unsure if I
wanted to be a portrait photographer or a fashion photographer. I did not have
studio lights. I took these with existing light with a Spotmatic F with I believe
a precursor of Kodak Technical Pan film. The other photos (sitting in the chair
and looking up) I used a Pentax S-3 with Kodak b+w Infrared film.
I photographed Reid many times through the
years. For a while she worked at a Video Rental place Mega Movies on 16th
and Oak which subsequently became Rogers
and then closed.
It is probably a sure thing that I was not
the only patron of the place who was so, because Reid was always a sight to
behold. And since I knew her she would talk to me with that voice. It was
The pictures reflect the almost post-hippie
era when folks like Reid would congregate on 4th Avenue and in cafés (that did not have lattes or capuchinos)
they imbibed red zinger tea. One of them was called the Soft Rock Café.
Art Bergmann - Drones Of Democracy
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
From exlaim.ca there is this
Yes you can hear the song here!
Canadian music vet Art Bergmann recently emerged from hiding to announce his Songs for the Underclass comeback EP for (weewerk), and now he's shared a song from the collection with "Drones of Democracy."
song is a slow, shadowy tune that takes a fiery, Crazy Horse-style
approach to spaghetti western atmospheres. A press release describes the
tune like this: "The making of a sleeper cell. Drones manufactured in
the heart of America. How to explain the use of advanced weapons,
cluster-bombs, made to shred tanks. Weapons used on innocents, man,
woman, and child alike. If you think Neil Young wrote this, well yeah, I
wanted my own Cortez."
Scroll past the tracklist and tour schedule, which now includes a newly announced Victoria date to listen.
Songs for the Underclass:
1. Company Store
2. Drones of Democracy
3. Cold Appraising Eye
4. Ballad of the Crooked Man
07/25-27 Calgary, AB - Calgary Folk Music Festival
09/05 Victoria, BC - Upstairs Cabaret
09/06 Vancouver BC - Commodore Ballroom *
* with the Courtneys
A Talent For Extra Points
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
When I was in the 11th and the 12th
grade at St. Edward’s High School in Austin,
Texas I was extremely jealous of
a fellow student (he was not a boarder but a day student) called Howard
Houston. He had a dry humour and a way with words. His essays were interesting.
He had the talent.
At University of the Americas in Mexico City I had an English Lit professor
(whose name I have long ago forgotten) who looked like Robert Frost. I sat in
the back row. This man mumbled, on an on about his friends Frost, Faulkner and
Williams. He told us stories about them and I frankly did not give a damn. I was
dense and stupid. I was pretty smart when I was 16 or 17 but by the time I was
18 my only interests were limited to science fiction and cars. I had reverted
to what now would be the stupid teenage 16.
In high school I had learning issues. The
word issue and learning disability had yet to be coined. I suffered from
dyslexia but I was not to find out that I had that until 1975 when I saw a TV
add about it in Vancouver.
Our teachers gave out extra points if we
could memorize a poem. I only memorized poems when I was assigned. This was an extremely
difficult task for me. I never was able to gather extra points for memorizing
passages of the bible for Brother Edwin but Howard Houston could and did.
Perhaps this is why I have come into
enjoying poetry so late in my life. I cannot memorize poems or quote
Shakespeare. But I do have a memory for events, names of obscure people or
citations and or paragraphs from books. I know on what side of the page they
and Homero Aridjis
I have never been
tempted to write poetry. I would not know where to start. It is far easier to
pick a photograph and then find an appropriate poem by Dickinson or Borges. This
time around this picture of Julia Reid has no takers with either poets. The
photograph will have to stand on its own.
A Baltic Surprise
The perfect and patient muse
Who Was Jack Kelly?
Monday, July 21, 2014
A kind of pleasant and somewhat unusual
week really began two Saturdays ago. My granddaughter Lauren Stewart, 12,
arrived early afternoon with a request. So we sat down in the living room to
listen to Alice in Wonderland with Joan
Greenwood as Alice
and Stanley Holloway as the narrator. Lauren’s grandfather has a tape player
(the Alice in
Wonderland is a Caedmon/Book-of-the-Month Club cassette. There is another,
Through the Looking Glass) a linear tracking turntable for records, a tuner for
radio and a CD player. I can play anything.
Both Lauren and I appreciate Joan Greenwood’s
phenomenal voice. Just about a month ago we watched on a Saturday evening Alec
Guinness and Greenwood
in The Man in the White Suit. We did lots of laughing with Greenwood’s
Alice. And then she floored me when she picked up my Leica IIIF and wanted to know how it worked. From there we went to my Pentax S-3 and I taught her how to focus and to click the shutter.
During the last two weeks we have seen
(before he died) The Notebook with James Garner, Me and Orson Welles with
Claire Danes, Zac Efron and Christian McKay, Weir’s Gallipoli and finally this
last Saturday evening it was the remarkable film (Lauren said it was boring but
she wanted to know how it ended and what Duval’s mystery was all about) Get Low
with Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray and Lucas Black.
On that previous week Wednesday and Sunday
Rosemary and I went to Bard to see Bill Cain’s Equivocation and then Cymbeline (the same cast of actors plus one more).
I am still troubled after having read Kate
Atkinson’s Life After Life. It took me three weeks to read it as I was
disturbed by it. It is a novel that I will have to read again and again with
that other one with a difficult to figure out ending Daphne Du Maurier’s The
House on the Strand.
But I have spent the last few days thinking
about James Garner and how our present times seem to forget some of the
important things men like him did before the age of the internet.
In 1957 and 1958 while living in a dormitory
for about 50 boys (bunk beds) at St. Edward’s High School in Austin we had a TV that was on a high table
in one end. Particularly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights our prefect
brothers would turn it on so we could watch in from our bunks. In those years
there was only one TV station (I could be wrong about this perhaps there was
NBC, too) it was a CBS affiliate owned by Lyndon B. Johnson. I remember
watching Harbormaster with Barry Sullivan, The Hit Parade, Alfred Hitchcock
Presents, Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt, and American Bandstand.
By the time I was in the tenth grade (still
in a dorm) we watched lots of Saturday morning TV. We watched Have Gun Will
Travel, Gunsmoke, Maverick, American Bandstand, (Howdy Doody, too!), Highway
Patrol with Broderick Crawford, and a
long lost (I could not find any references) in which Calhoun competed with
Broderick Crawford as a cop in a car on a highway.
I have given thought to the fact that in
Garner’s obituary they mention his role as Bret Maverick but no mention is made
that the program alternated from week to week with Jack Kelly as his brother Bart.
To me it seems that between those two “adult”
Westerns, Fred Zinnemann's, 1952 High Noon and Peckinpah’s 1962 Ride the High Country you have
smack in the middle Gunsmoke, Have Gun
Will Travel and Maverick.
In our 10th grade dorm we had a
predilection for the no-nonsense almost brutal violence (in 30 minutes) of
Richard Boone in Have Gun Will Travel. I would not have known that Peckinpah
directed some of the episodes. There was one episode I will never forget were
Boone opens the swing doors of a saloon and fires his sawed-off shotgun (it
might have prefigured Straw Dogs).
One of my boarder classmates was the
sophisticated Daniel Sherrod who read Road & Track (we all read the rest of
the car magazines). His father had the Aston Martin dealership in Odessa, Texas.
Sherrod was the only one who knew anything about Grand Prix racing and how to
pronounce Peugeot. He liked Maverick. I
can understand that now. There was a level of sophistication, less violence and
the Maverick brothers got banged up a lot for hearsay card cheating. There was
little of the old-fashioned gunfight draws.
Few might not remember that when Garner
quit Maverick Roger Moore stepped in as cousin Beau Maverick.
It would seem to me then that Maverick was
a very important show to which few have remembered exactly why it was
important. But then few might remember
that in those days we unsophisticated Texan and adopted Texans watched Walter
Cronkite and believed that his word was his bond.
Me & My Missouri Meerschaum
Sunday, July 20, 2014
|One of General Douglas MacArthur's trademarks was his corncob pipe. The
Missouri Meerschaum Company, in business in Washington, Missouri, since
1869, made MacArthur's pipes to his specifications. The company
continues to produce a corncob pipe in his honor.|
From our Ozark Mini to the stately
MacArthur, our Genuine Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cob Pipes are the coolest,
sweetest smoking pipes you’ll ever find. With a variety of sizes and shapes to
choose from, you’re sure to find exactly the right pipe for your smoking
Washington, Missouri has long been known as the “Corn Cob Pipe
Capital of the World.” And, in fact, The Missouri Meerschaum Company – the
world's oldest and largest manufacturer of cool, sweet-smelling corn cob pipes
– began the tradition for which Washington
In 1869, a Dutch
immigrant woodworker named Henry Tibbe first began production of the corn cob
pipe. Legend has it that a local farmer whittled a pipe out of corn cob and
liked it so much he asked Henry Tibbe to try turning some on his lathe. Because
the farmer was well-pleased with the results, Henry made and sold a few more in
his woodworking shop. Tibbe’s pipes proved to be such a fast selling item, he
soon spent more time making pipes for customers than working with wood, and
began full time production of corn cob pipes.
In 1907 the H. Tibbe
& Son Co. became the Missouri Meerschaum Company. The word “meerschaum” is
derived from a German word meaning “sea foam.” Meerschaum is a Turkish clay
used in high grade pipes. Tibbe likened his light, porous pipes and their cool
smoke to that of the more expensive meerschaum pipes and coined the name
“Missouri Meerschaum” for his pipes. Tibbe and a chemist friend devised an
innovative system of applying a plaster-based substance to the outside of the
corn cob bowls. In 1878, Tibbe patented this process.
distribution system was eventually established for the sale of Tibbe’s pipes.
Other pipe firms also developed, so by 1925 there were as many as a dozen corn
cob pipe companies in Franklin County, Missouri – most of them in Washington. Today,
Missouri Meerschaum stands alone as the first and only surviving piece of this
living history. These gentle pipes are smoked and loved all over the world as
well as being used as souvenirs, often imprinted with the name of a city,
business, or event.
|My Missouri Meerschaum |
Sometime in 1970 my mother went to North Carolina to visit
her brother Antonio de Irureta Goyena. She returned with three presents for me
(there was something for Rosemary and a Marshall Field’s dress for our then
only daughter Alexandra). The three presents were:
1. Marion Brown’s Southern Cookbook. “Alex
you always said I could not cook. Let me now prove you wrong with some recipes
from the book.” She did with Chicken a la Barbara
Missouri Meerschaum corncob pipe.
3. Two plastic pouches of Danish Borkum
Riff – Mixture with Bourbon Whiskey.
As I have written here I smoked a pipe
until 1994 when I simply lost interest.
Today while cruising facebook I found that
one of my friends (I have hazy recollection of her face being familiar) Jills
Ville had posted a picture of her corncob pipe with an interesting statement. Upon
seeing the image I was accosted by a terrible nostalgia for my mother and the
very day when she handed me my presents. In 1970 I was not too sophisticated in
my pipe smoking tastes and I was genuinely fond of the aromatic Borkum Riff she
gave me. Previously I had been smoking a sweet concoction called Middleton’s
Cherry Blend. It was only by the 80s that I smoked “better” blends that were
not sweet like Three Nuns, Edgeworth and Balkan Sobranie.
I am including in my scan of my corncob pipe
the brass Zippo for pipes. A strict connoisseur would have never used such a
device to light a pipe as the initial fumes would taste of Ronsonol. A true
connoisseur would use wooden matches. I include the Zippo because in the mid to
late 50s when I was studying at St. Edward’s in Austin, Texas
I would buy my mother a Christmas gift. Many times it consisted of a pre-Zippo
but similar Storm King. No matter how rugged my mother had the talent of
breaking lighters and wrist watches. My Rosemary inherited the talent for
Jills Ville says we have friends in common.
Most of them are punk and/or alternative scene musicians of the early 80s. She
tells me that she lived at The Plaza on Georgia Street. D.O.A. lived at the plaza
and I went there a few times. This is why this picture of Ville as a young woman
is familiar to me.
Of her corncob pipe she has written to me
via facebook messaging that she smokes tobacco in it at “Mojave
desert…joshua tree…i have a homestead there.”
I can only thank Ville for
this jolt of warm nostalgia on an almost cold and dying day in a July summer.