Tag Archives: Contax G2

Twilight Walkabout, Contax G2

A while ago a friend of mine asked me to shoot a roll of Tri-X through my Contax G2 so he could see how it performed in low-light situations, as he was thinking about getting one himself. I took a walk around my neighborhood one evening in the spring, put a roll through the camera, and these are some of the results.

One thing I notice about the shots I’ve been taking with the G2 is that my composition has been freer, less formal and less insistent on everything being nice, tidy, plumb and square. I’ve been shooting more off-angle shots and I don’t know if that’s because I’m shooting hand-held, eye-level, or because I’m trying out more ‘grab shots’ where the camera isn’t even really being brought to my eye, I’m just aiming and trusting the auto-focus. I know in the past I would have found a lot of these off-angle ‘grab shots’ objectionable and they’d have gone straight to the reject pile. But I’m reconsidering them now and I’m starting to like them. Well, maybe more appreciate them for what they are, and not reject them out of hand.

Etto Bistro
Etto Bistro

Cars at night are interesting. Depending on how you shoot them, they can be sharp, they can be blurred, or they can even disappear, leaving behind only the light trails of their head and tail lamps as proof they were once there.

The BMW was stopped fully at the traffic light when I started the exposure, but the SUV next to it was in the act of stopping, and the car turning onto 14th Street was in continuous motion.

BMW Convertible
BMW Convertible

Cars and people have to co-exist on city streets. Here a pedestrian follows a speeding car through the intersection, hoping to make the other side before the change of the light.

Le Diplomate, Twilight, Car
Le Diplomate, Twilight, Car

People in low light are a similar problem – they don’t ever really sit still. Combine that with needing to use large apertures with shallow depth of field in low light, and the requisite slow shutter speeds, and you have a recipe for blur. This was something else I used to always find objectionable; blurry people. Now, I think of it more as a sign of our humanity and our alive-ness.

Rice Restaurant, Interior
Rice Restaurant, Interior

This isn’t to say we always need to be in continuous motion – quiet contemplation in a sea of motion is often called for and a needed respite.

Sidewalk Patron, Rice
Sidewalk Patron, Rice

Architecture at twilight is in some ways easier to shoot because the subjects aren’t moving. But that still has challenges because the contrast range of dim exteriors and bright interiors, combined with hotspots from outside spot lights, can be just as difficult to balance.

Old Schoolhouse, 14th Street
Old Schoolhouse, 14th Street

The fun thing about these lighting situations, though, is that it sets up the viewer to make a psychological interrogation of the building- you are literally being pulled into the interior of the space to examine, investigate and interpret something illuminated from within that in daylight is muted if not hidden.

Bike Rack Store
Bike Rack Store

Contax G2, 35mm f2 Planar

Most of you know me as a medium format and/or large format photographer. But, every once in a while, I do like to break out my ‘toy’ format stuff and use my Contax G2. I was asked to take some photos for the office picnic as a second shooter, so I popped a roll of Tri-X in the G2, put on the 35mm f2 Planar lens, and shot a dozen or so shots. For whatever reason, they decided to have the picnic INSIDE the garage instead of on the top deck of the garage, and it was painfully dim, thus the lack of volume on the photos. I had two thirds of a roll left, so I went for a walk and burned some film. These are two shots that came from that quick walkabout by my office, and I think are very much in keeping with the general themes of my work, even if they’re shot on tiny film 🙂

Passing Cyclist
Passing Cyclist
Speed Limit 35
Speed Limit 35

The 35mm lens for the G2 has this odd reputation – by all standards, it is an outstanding lens. However, its siblings are so much better that when compared to the 45mm f2 Planar, or the 28mm f2.8 Biogon, it comes up a little lacking, and doesn’t get much love from the Contax aficionados. After shooting with it for the picnic/walkabout, I’m re-evaluating how I feel about it, and it might get more use from here on out.

Chihuly Glass and Abstracts, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond

Abstract, Wall Reflections, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Abstract, Wall Reflections, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Abstract, Wall Reflections, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Abstract, Wall Reflections, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Ceiling, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA
Ceiling, Chihuly Exhibit, Richmond, VA

This was taken over the Thanksgiving weekend at my visit to Richmond, Virginia and the Dale Chihuly glass exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. There was a passageway between rooms where the ceiling had been filled with all these marine-inspired glass forms and then lit from above. The glass forms (seen in the last image) then projected these really abstract color and light patterns on the walls. These were interesting enough that I tried to capture some of the effect of it.

Shot with my Contax G2, 21mm lens, and Kodak Ektar 100 film – hand-held.

People-watching, Virginia Museum of Fine Art

Hall, lounge chairs, VMFA
Hall, lounge chairs, VMFA
Patrons, VMFA
Patrons, VMFA
Formal Dining Room, VMFA
Formal Dining Room, VMFA
Staircase, VMFA
Staircase, VMFA
Café, VMFA
Café, VMFA

I realize there are no people in the staircase shot so it’s not technically people-watching, but it’s part of the same space, and in a way the absence of people can be about the interaction of people with a space in the same way that people in the frame can be. All photos were taken with my Contax G2 and the 90mm and 21mm lenses. Film used was Kodak Ektar 100.

New Toy – for adventures in underwaterland

On a spur-of-the-moment thing, I’m running off to Puerto Rico for a weekend with my dad. I have an underwater film camera with external flash, which is all fine and dandy, but it is rather bulky, so I decided to stop by my local camera store and see what was on the menu in a digital point-n-shoot. I walked out with an Olympus 6020 Stylus Tough. It seems to have a lot of potential, so we’ll see what I get from it. I’m hoping I can get some interesting shots from the bioluminescent bay. I’ve had a lot of fun in the past doing underwater photos, but of course there’s always been the frustration of having the 36 frame limit. Now, with a 4GB card I can shoot a lot more than that, and even do movies. It’s not much bigger than my phone (thicker, but not as long, and about as tall) so it fits nicely in a pocket. The LCD on the back is not the sharpest (my iPhone screen is WAY better, but it ought to be). For daytime/land-based photography I’m still going to bring my Contax G2 and a bunch of Ektar 100. THAT has been the rock star in my travel photography world – I brought back images from Barcelona that turned into enough sales to virtually pay for the trip.

I’ll be relying on my dad as a tour guide of sorts for this trip, because he’s been there several times, and this is my first. We’re staying in Old San Juan, and I’m looking forward to spending some time at El Morro and San Cristobal, as well as walking the colonial streets and doing a little shopping. If I’m lucky I’ll bring back one of the Vejigante masks and you’ll get to see it in some of my upcoming photo work from the new studio. For those who don’t know what a Vejigante mask is, it’s a Puerto Rican cultural icon – they’re a combination of native, African and Spanish culture. Made for Carnival, they’re supposed to scare away evil spirits. Part of the culture of wearing the masks is to go around with an animal-skin bladder full of air and spank people with it to chase away any ghosts or devils that may have gotten ahold of them. This spiritual quality of the practice is somewhat belied by the fact that the primary targets of the swattings seem to be pretty women, so it’s more of a pick-up line than an exorcism in contemporary use.