The Overland Diaries pt.XIX – modes of seeing

If you’ve been following some of my other posts you may have noticed that I’ve recently acquired a new toy, a lovely new Ricoh GR.

The reasoning behind the purchase (other than basic gear-lust) was a desire to simplify – I’ve developed my Micro Four Thirds kit to a point of maturity; the EM5 is all the camera I need and I’ve got about as good a collection of primes as one could hope for, but I had begun to feel as if the gear was getting in the way of the photos.¬†More and more I’ve gravitated towards a documentary style of shooting, but in a way I feel like the gear I’ve been using, and the myriad possibilities it presents, has been dictating the way I shoot. In response to this, I see the GR as a high-quality, no bullshit tool for simply capturing¬†what I see.

I’ve banned myself from buying anymore bodies/lenses over the next 12 months, and I’ll be shooting solely with the GR as much as I can, hopefully pushing the limits of both my creativity and GR’s capturing potential.

I’m hoping that bushwalking will be a big part of those 12 months, and here’s the first taste – a riduculously hot and sunny Overland (36degC on day 5…)

Barn Bluff

Everlastings

Flowering pandani

Alpine Sundew

Oakleigh, Pillinger and Dean Bluff

Light and shadow amongst the Alpine Ash

Anyone know what these are? Pelion Plains

Channeling Fred Smithies on the Pelion East ascent

The final climb

Eucalyptus Delegatensis reach for the light

Making our way through the Upper Mersey Valley

Star-trails over Castle Crag

The first Leatherwood blooms for the season

Rainforest

Shadows at Du Cane Hut

Early dawn from The Gatepost, after a late night climb by headtorch and open-air bivvy on the summit

The Narcissus River rests as the weather begins to change

Ricoh GR – honeymoon thoughts

I’ve bought a Ricoh GR (V – the APS-C version), and I’m very much in the honeymoon phase – the little beast is remarkable.

The GR is something of a coming full circle for me. My first ‘serious’ camera when I got into photography was a GRD1, way back in 2005. At the time I knew bugger all about photography, certainly not enough to take proper advantage of a P&S with a fixed wide-angle prime, and on reflection I’m not sure why the salesperson thought it’d be a good idea, but nonetheless I have fond memories of the camera.

Since then I’ve gone through all the standard photographic enthusiast’s phases. I got a dSLR and kit lens and never took it off that green spot on the mode dial. I started learning a bit and decided I ‘needed’ a weathersealed body and an f2.8 zoom. Then I got a longer f2.8 zoom and a fancy pants macro prime. Then I decided my current system wasn’t serious enough and decided to switch to something with ‘pro’ in the marketing text. I bought in with another couple of big zooms. Looking back I’m not sure why I thought I needed a 100-400/f2.8-3.5 equivalent tele, and definitely not sure why I had to carry it everywhere (can’t miss those long distance cat shots…), but pros shoot with pro bodies and two big zooms so thats what I needed.

After a while I started to become more comfortable with my own style and gear preferences, and decided to ‘down-scale’ to Micro Four Thirds. Around this time I also discovered primes, and after a few years my collection of lenses has evolved to being almost prime only (I just can’t let that 7-14mm go…).

After a while though, I also started to get frustrated. I realised that I wasn’t taking my camera everywhere any more, not even the little EM5 and pancake prime. For a bit I thought I was falling out of love with photography, but then I realised that I was still passionate about documenting the world around me, but that the majority of my shots were coming from my iPhone. I’m not saying iPhones are a replacement for ‘proper’ camera gear (anyone else read the NYT article?), but the fact is it was with me, all the time, in an unobtrusive, ‘just shoot’ kind of way.

Unfortunately, I despise the thing as a camera – it’s slippery and slow and has crappy IQ and there’s no tactility to fall in love with. I began looking for a simple, high-quality fixed-lens compact. It’s a bloody good time to be in the market for such a machine and the X100s, RX1, Nikon A and the oddball Sigmas all had me tempted.

…and then I finally found a real camera store with a real GR than I could actually touch and fondle. And it turns out that that had it for $240 off.

So now I’m in the honeymoon phase, and it’s only getting better.

It’s tiny. The footprint is the same as my 5s, and about three times as thick. It fits in the pocket of my jeans without looking weird.

It’s light. Despite the magnesium body and excellent build, it’s much lighter than it looks. Meaning that while looking un-weird it also avoids pulling your pants down.

It’s comfy. Ergonomics are stellar. Like really really stellar.

It’s intuitive. The first film GR came out in 1996 and the user interface has been steadily evolved since. That’s 18 years to get it right and it shows. The addition of a few Pentax tricks (TAv) only makes it even better.

It’s unobtrusive. Essentially silent shutter and snap-focus make it remarkable as a waist-level candid shooter.

The lens, oh the lens. I’d read a few user reviews commenting on the remarkable clarity of the 18.3mm lens, and assumed they were just in their own honeymoon phase. They weren’t. Despite it’s so-so f2.8 aperture, this helps give the files a dimensionality, especially when combined with…

The sensor, oh the sensor. All the standard stuff – excellent high-ISO, excellent base-ISO, excellent dynamic range. This is also the first sensor I’ve used where the lack of AA filter is really noticeable, especially when combined with that lens…

And then there’s the battery – it sucks. Sorry honeymoon…

I’ve started a one year – one camera project with the GR. Check here for regular updates.

Here’s my first collection, wandering here and there around Sydney.

Long day, Redfern Station – f2.8, 1/30 @ 800iso

War is over! Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. f2.8, 1/30 @ 560iso

Lost me shirt. Near Central Station – f2.8, 1/250 @ 400iso

Lost me pants. Redfern – f4, 1/640 @ 1000iso

Beemer. The Rocks – f2.8, 1/15 @ 6400iso

The House. Circular Quay – f5.6, 8″ @ 100iso

Gentleman. Redfern – f4, 1/640 @ 640iso

Tradies. Redfern – f2.8, 1/500 @ 560iso

Kids, Redfern – f4, 1/640 @ 1250iso

Coffee with a friend, Redfern – f2.8, 1/90 @ 100iso

Amongst the trees, Darling Harbour – f3.5, 1/30 @ 400iso

Skyline, Darling Harbour – f2.8, 1/30 @ 2500iso

Discussion, Darling Harbour – f2.8, 1/30 @ 800iso

Reflection, Darling Harbour. f2.8, 1/30 @ 500iso

Up close, Redfern – f2.8, 1/180 @ 100iso

Observer, The Rocks – f2.8, 1/30 @ 3200iso

New member of the family…

After a hiatus of 18 months or so I’m finally back on the film bandwagon, with a lovely little ‘new’ Pentax MX arriving at my door the other day.

The MX was Pentax’s fully-mechanical and manual flagship 35mm SLR, sold between 1976-85. At slightly under 500g it’s a tiny little thing, but nonetheless it manages to pack in one of the biggest 35mm prism viewfinders ever released on the consumer market. With auto-nothing, and only the light-meter dependant on power (meaning it remains fully functional without batteries) it is a photography tool in it’s purest sense.

Spotmatic F + SMC Takumar 50/f1.4 – MX + SMC-M 50/f1.4 – EM5 + CV Nokton 25/f0.95

Sofia by candlelight

One of the many beautiful and oddball bars in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria; this one is in an old warehouse and lit entirely by candles.

As an aside for the gear-heads out there, I wonder if anyone really thought this kind of thing would be possibly back when the G1 was released back in ’09? Think about it – candlelight, 6400iso and a native, f0.95 lens wide-open. Sure there’s noise, but it doesn’t affect the way the images communicate their subject. Even the colour accuracy remains solid, something my 4/3 sensored E-3 struggled with at 1000iso…

MFT has arrived.

by candlelight #1, Sofia

by candlelight #2, Sofia

by candlelight #3, Sofia

by candlelight #5,  Sofia

by candlelight #4, Sofia

by candlelight #6, Sofia