Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Kit

After much consideration and experimentation, I decided on the kit I will take to Paris.  I think.  
Initially I thought I would take the Fuji 18-55 kit zoom - after all, it’s autofocus and has image stabilization.  And it’s optically excellent.  But with practice I got better with manual focus lenses on the X-Pro1.  And I have just never got on with zooms.  Even the very nice manual focus Tokina 70-150 for my OMs has not seen the light of day for over a decade.
So the line up starts with the native, auto-focus Fuji 18/2.  It’s one of Fuji’s older primes and by some reports isn’t as good optically as later lenses, but it certainly is no slouch.  For the kind of work I do, it’s perfect - 28mm equivalent field of view, which I love for street work.  I have a feeling I will use it a lot.
Second is the OM Zuiko 35/2.8.  F2 might be nicer, but I don’t have one and it is larger and heavier than the 35/2.8.  I’ve always loved the rendering of this OM lens.  On the X-Pro1 it will provide a field of view of 53mm on a “full frame” camera/sensor.  If you only have two lenses for travel and street photography, 28 and 50 are the way to go.
I deliberated whether to take a longer lens and finally decided to go with it, so am packing the OM Zuiko 50/1.8.  I have a 50/1.4 which would give me one more stop exposure.  But the 1.8 is so small and light.  The 50/1.4 isn’t THAT much bigger, but it’s enough that the camera would balance quite differently than the 35/2.8 much less the Fuji 18/2.
What?  No film?  Well yes. Of course  I’m taking the Olympus XA.  It’s pocketable yet has rangefinder focusing and a lovely (if quirky to some) 35/2.8 lens.  It’s great at either quick street work or more deliberate shooting.
I had considered taking an OM body thus having use of the Zuikos on a film body as well as the Fuji.  I still may, but have pretty much decided to keep the kit as small and light as possible.  Too many choices does not promote good photography.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mobile Test

Since I leave for Paris three weeks from today (!) I wanted to try a mobile app to be able to blog.  I am not taking my MacBook - travel light is my mantra!

I will have some access to my son's computer, but I certainly don't want to inconvenience him; and writing and posting from an actual computer draws me into a longer session. While not as convenient, posting from a mobile device may focus my attention along with supporting "real time" blogging.

So I downloaded the free version of Blog Touch for my iPhone.  Along with the iStick to transfer photos from my camera's SD card, I may have a workable suite of tools.

The photo below is just a test of inserting images - let me know if you see anything funky.  And subscribe!

© 2016 Earl Dunbar

"My name is Buddy, please adopt me!"

PS - I've finished this from my laptop.  It turns out the free version of Blog Touch supports what I need for mobile blogging except ... publishing what I've written.  Back to square one.  Maybe I'll just submit to using Tumblr for awhile.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Buddy is the current foster dog in the house.

Young, full of energy and sweet!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fuji-Zuiko Marriage

I've resumed practicing using my manual focus Olympus OM Zuiko lenses on the Fuji.  I think I've made progress in understanding camera operations in manual focus meode and that I've gotten better.

I was out for a little while today at Lake Ontario, at the Irondequoit Bay access.  Both of these photos were made using the (legendary) Zuiko 21/2, which works out to a field of view of a 32mm lens on the Fuji APS-C sensor.  It's a nice compromise between 28mm and 35mm field of view.

I converted both of these photos from RAW.  The in-camera JPGs were very good, but I just wanted to gain further experience in editing.  The only changes I made were to work with the curves, light sharpening and resizing.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Buddy & Kalli

Today a new foster dog came to the house.  Buddy is an owner surrender - a new baby was severely allergic and even required hospitalization.

He's a little Shitzu and very busy.  It didn't take Buddy long to feel at home.  And while watching the Leafs and Sabres, Buddy decided he liked Kalli and wanted to give her a kiss.  Kalli was not impressed.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Sleepy Girl - Adapted Lens on the X-Pro1

OM System Zuiko 28/2.8 (with a bit of fungus on the front [I think] element)

This is cropped and with a minor amount of sharpening. ISO 3200, f2.8.  Love my dog.

March Break with Daughter

March break for Ontario schools (and some other provinces?) is a wonderful time.  It's there in the middle of March, not dependent on the timing of Easter.  You've seen the backside of January and February (if not late winter storms) and you can see, even if in the distance, the end of the school year.

Students adore it, but teachers even more.  This year I was able to take my daughter on a little road trip to see her Grandma, who will be 92 the day after my daughter turns 26.  Mom is healthy for her age, but obviously won't be with us forever, so we want to take advantage of opportunities to visit.

Being a teacher, of course my daughter had teacher stuff to do.  So we headed to a good coffee house to take advantage of caffeine and free WiFi.  Dad was a techie and had an Internet connection, but after he died, Grandma reverted to her buggy whips.

The next day we met up with my "girlfriend", the retired French teacher who was my first date -- when I was 10 days old.  😇

Since my daughter teaches in a French immersion school and I am headed to Paris, it was a really fun time.

Great trip, I easily got into vacation mode and only responded to two work emails.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Martini Time

With my daughter on March break .. this was called a Raindrops Martini ... was tasty.

Fuji 18-55 @ 18mm

Monday, February 22, 2016

Paris - The Non-Plan

I have been "walking" Google maps street view ad nauseum.  My wife says "are you STILL looking at maps?"  Well, yeah, I am.

But I did set an arbitrary (and TOTALLY fuzzy) limit of the end of last week, then prioritize them so that I can set some sort of itinerary.  Yes, I am a silly, silly little man.  (Kelly, I hate you for that appellation.)

But the reality is that, for me (and by extension reality for ALL THE WORLD,) when you go somewhere both special and mythological, forget about the tour guides and "common knowledge" ... those guidelines are co-opted by two groups.

  1. The local office(s) of tourism - these are designed to extract the maximum amount of cash for the least amount of cultural enrichment.
  2. American/British (UK) tourism "experts", such as Rick Steves, who want to sell you something -- whether it's the latest in luggage or local, grubby souvenir vendor that takes advantage of American/western, glazed eye jet lag
I've tagged a whole bunch of sites, mainly cafés, bistros and hang-outs that promise to NOT be populated with tourists.  OK, some of them WILL BE no matter my effort.  But I will try and sit far away from them.

My son will likely be leaving his first floor sub-let this year.  Someone will need to take up that lease, right?  I mean ... 

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Paris - Developing a Travel Plan

Those who know me personally may understand another reason I have been apprehensive about making an epic journey.  One would think that with a pretty solid foundation in French it would be a no-brainer.  (I heard what you're thinking, Roger!)

Time out for a little story ... my first father-in-law, Samuel Barnston Hunter Smeaton (aka Barnie Smeaton) was a linguist.  (That gene obviously passed to my children.)  If my memory is accurate he spoke about seven languages fluently and could read and write in quite a few more.  His speciality was lexicography, and for several years he was an editor for a major English language dictionary.

My mother-in-law, Rita Smeaton (née Burwell) would never travel overseas.  Because she "didn't speak the language," even with a translator as companion.  Sigh.  I loved her (RIP) but I didn't want to repeat to that mistake borne of irrational fear.

With rusty French there is some language fear, but not that much.  The nagging doubts were more about mobility and stamina - I  mentioned this issue before.

But once I took the plunge, my thoughts turned to both itinerary (too much to see - must be selective!) and the logistics of travel.  The latter weighed on me.  As in I want to travel as lightly as possible.

The luxury I have is lodging, so here is my strategy.

I will travel to Paris with the clothes on my back, a carryon containing my cameras, minimal toiletries and maybe one change of clothing.  The latter two are for the unlikely eventuality of being stuck some where in transit.  That's it.  What?

I will ship additional clothing ahead.  Yes, I could check one bag at no charge, but then I have to schlep it.  With mobility assistance at each airport, this would not be an issue.  But then there's transport from De Gaulle  (CDG) to my son's apartment.  I want to carry/handle as little as possible.

I will ship the rest of my clothing ahead of time.  Most of what I ship will be articles I can dispose of before I leave, older articles that I no longer need or care about.  Toiletries?  There's a pharmacy steps away from the apartment; I can buy travel sizes for use during my stay.

There is a Lomography shop a 4-5 minute walk from the apartment.  For my film needs I will buy film there - probably Ilford XP2, which can easily be developed  during my trip (it's a C41/colour negative process film that produces black and white negatives) so I don't have to worry film going through multiple X-Ray inspections.  And yes I will have a digital camera with me (along with my iPhone 6s,) but nothing beats a pure, analog manual camera.  What would Cartier-Bresson do?

This will leave me with a nearly empty bag for the return voyage.  Can you say du vin et chocolat?

Bien sur/I thought you could.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Going to Paris - Deux

Taking so long to go to Paris was not optimal.  I could say that money was the reason, but that would be less than honest.  Over the years I have spent more than enough money on other things, such as cars, housing, etc.  Certainly those are essentials, but also certainly I could have made different choices and saved the difference.

So maybe the real answer is priorities and being clear with myself.  When after a few decades of no contact I reconnected with my oldest friend the French teacher, I began thinking about going.  Having her relate her experiences during and after each journey got the juices flowing.  And after all, she is my personal travel resource for Paris in particular, and France in general.

Somehow I got it in my head to use frequent flyer miles to make the trip "free".   I had a few thousand miles on United, but not enough for a return trip.  So I started accumulating more by transferring points from other loyalty programs when possible, and eventually got a United-branded credit card with a bonus of several thousand points for signing up, plus points awarded for all purchases.  This works really well when I use the card for travel and other expenses reimbursed by my company.  Win!

But of course there is a dark side.  What capitalist pig business wouldn't get you coming AND going?  As I approached the number of miles required for a free return ticket (30,000 as I recall,) the amount changed - the number of points required, that is.  I watched it go up from 30K to 40K and eventually 60K.  I detect bastages in the marketing department!

When my son moved to Paris for work I was thrilled for him - and myself, of course.  Free lodging!  So that became a key element of the plan.  Sure I could pay for lodging, but that would have meant a shorter stay.  I may never be able to afford to go again, so staying for longer than a few days, if at all possible, is important to me.

That also means I can relax.  No need to cram everything into a few days.  While I will succumb to visiting at least a few of the tourist sites that everyone considers de rigeur (for a reason to be admitted discussed below,) whenever I travel I like to seek out the hidden, unknown and even ordinary.  Especially cities are defined by the people who have built and are building them.  Obviously geography and weather are foundational to how a village, town, city, et., is shaped.  But the everyday breathing in and out of a city is defined by its citizens.

And is there a better major city to people watch?  I am certain there will be disagreement on this, some of it centring around certain beaches in Brazil, Cannes, etc.  I'm not allowed on those beaches -that has nothing to do with my current parole stipulations.

The real reason for visiting at least some of the usual touristy sites is that if you don't, you catch hell from everyone.  "What?!?  You didn't go to the Eiffel Tower?  What are you, a commie pinko?" (Someone knows who he is ...)

"You didn't even try to get to La Sainte Chapelle!!! I'm no longer your oldest friend!!!"

Ok, I'm using a bit of hyperbole to just say my aim is balance.   

Back to why the delay ... more than financing the trip, the other factor that kept me from booking for such a long time was the reality of mobility issues.  Paris is a walking city, which is a significant part of its appeal.  That's hard for me at the best of times.  But after a few years of weight gain, combined with reduced flexibility due to a sedentary job, I knew I could end up going and being disappointed.

I decided to turn that into a challenge - make Paris an absolute goal so that it became my motivation to get in shape.  I started that process near the end of December.  I went back to my physiotherapy provider, going twice a week for a few weeks to kick start me and provide instructions for continuing at home.  Once I booked the ticket this weekend, I was fully committed.

Once Christmas was past, I began reducing my caloric intake.  As I got more flexible I was able to walk more easily, which helped with losing weight, which helped increase flexibility, which helped ... the opposite of the vicious circle.

My goal is another 10 pounds loss minimum, but I'm not fixated on that.  In fact my real long term goal is another 15-20 pounds.  I don't know if that's realistic, but we will see.  I'm not going to defeat myself by trying to grab the unobtainium.  Anyone who does that usually ends up regressing, sometimes ending up in a far worse situation.

Once the weather warms up a bit more here at home and daylight lingers longer, I will go on walking photo excursions of increasing duration.  I may even buy a cheap-ish bicycle and get back my cycling chops.

I hear people ride bikes in Paris and they can easily be rented.  The bikes, that is, not the people.  Well, some of them can be rented, but that's not permitted.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Going to Paris - Partie la Premiere

I began taking in French in Grade 5.  Our teacher was the formidable Mme Foreman.  I can't recall if she was from Paris or elsewhere in France, but she married and emigrated to North America.  If there was a better French teacher for elementary level, I can't imagine it.  Even students who did not like nor did well learning French, liked her.  Most of us loved her.

For several years we did not see a printed word of French.  This is the way we learn language in infancy -- duh.  We were privileged to be in a laboratory school run by the local university.  It was very progressive and allowed for experimentation of curriculum and methods.

I can't say that everything that the school attempted worked, but the method of foreign language instruction was an unqualified success.  One of our classmates struggled with pronunciation - you could see his brain churning as he struggled to translate and speak.  Yet he ended up living in Belgium, becoming fluent and accomplishing a stellar career in marketing management for major corporations involved in both consumer and commercial marine operations -- en deux langues. Or more.

Another classmate, whom I knew from birth and thus is my "oldest" (she will hate that designation!) friend on this earth became a French teacher.  With undergraduate and graduate level studies at two universities in France, including La Sorbonne, she retired after 33 wonderful years of teaching high school French.  She is a true successor to Mme Foreman, ushering a huge number of students not only into the joy of learning a new language, but of being open to a cultural world holding wonder and fascination.  (She travels back to Paris at least annually, so I may have a travel guide ...)

At the end of high school I was nearly fluent.  I remember walking a path along the St. Lawrence, chatting with an innkeeper in Cap Madeleine, Quebec, and being nearly giddy that we could converse without any trouble on my part either to understand or speak.  Our conversation flowed easily; it was heavenly.  I managed to keep my giddiness concealed.

Fast forward a few decades and I am no longer fluent.  Or even close.  I can shift into gear, but the right vocabulary, the correct grammar is locked a few levels lower, encased in cobwebs.  It comes slowly.  Sometimes Google or an app are required.

But my children.  Oh my children ...

My daughter achieved her Masters at University of Toronto and has embarked on a career teaching in a French immersion school in Toronto (Scarborough) ... and my son gained Bachelors, Masters and PhD diplomas in linguistics, with heavy computer science qualifications.

My son now works in cognitive linguistics and computation in ... Paris.  He lucked into a wonderful apartment in le troisieme (le Marais) so it seems eminently logical that should Dad choose to visit, free lodging would be available.  And it is.

Next up ... why the wait?

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

More X-Pro/Zuiko Love for Kalli

I am in the process of "thinning the herd" - that is, selling excess camera gear.  So I've been bringing cameras, bodies, lenses, accessories and paraphernalia from storage to sell online.  It turns out I have two Zuiko 50/1.4 lenses, and I stuck the one I'm going to sell on the X-Pro to shoot my favourite subject.

I'm getting better at manual focus (I actually read the manual to learn about focus magnification!) so this time the focus was much better.  And I think  my post process sharpening was better, though I'm sure someone could comment about "sharpening artifacts".  Whatever, it's the dog that counts.  If I recall, this was shot wide open at f1.4.

Click the photo to embiggin.