I’m pretty sure that everyone will agree with me: waking up at 6:00 AM on a Saturday sucks, especially if you had a long day the day before.
Since I’m approaching the tail-end of my current graduate class, it’s starting to become a non-stop cadence of projects until the end of June. This is a normal, albeit very fast paced, occurrence…but since our final project require me to work with a group of strangers, it’s trickier than you think.
Needless to say, I finished my portion of the project early, therefore affording me the time to enjoy this long Memorial Day weekend with my camera (Amy is out of town with her girlfriends in New York City).
One of my friends and mentor asked if I was interested in coming out to Cars and Coffee in Great Falls, VA since this might be one of his last visits to Virginia for a long time since he had taken up a CFO position in Boston.
So I reluctantly threw some clothes on, grabbed my camera and headed out the door.
Photos taken with the Leica M9 + Summicron 50mm f/2
If you’re into photography, then you know that the world of Instagram has changed the way photographs are shared around the world. This introduction also changed the way photographers want to differentiate themselves and create their “look”, the concept of how the photographs are interpreted, each with its own character.
We’re talking about Instagram filters.
The problem with these filters, however, is that are usually indiscriminately heavy handed. Some people use these filters as a crutch to cover up their poor composition by making the colors more interesting. Or the trendy look that crank up the contrast or just desaturated to the point where half of your Instagram feeds look the same.
In the article (linked above) bring up a great point about Instagram:
“They’re diluting their own work and style by focusing on what will grow their account instead of focusing on developing themselves artistically.”
These “hipster filters” as I call them are typically too trendy for my liking; overall muting the natural beauty that the camera and lens has to offer. For example, if you shoot a Leica M camera, using one of these filters will kill the signature micro-contrast look that Leica optics are known for, sometimes flattening the image (there is nothing wrong if you want your photo too look flat, just not my cup of tea).
That doesn’t mean that I don’t like to edit my image to edit them to my liking. On the contrary, I very rarely not edit my images as part of my post-processing workflow. There are a few exceptions to this, especially if you’re a Leica shooter. I’ve noticed with my Leica cameras, that they have the most accurate and organic rendering of tones, especially paired with a Leica lens. I don’t want to take anything away from that beautiful rendering, especially when you pay a premium for that image quality and the shooting experience.
However, there are a set of presets that I want to talk about here.
These presets are impressive to say the least as they don’t too much from the original rendering. I liked them so much, I’ve purchased threeof her set of presets in the past two years because I loved the way they supplemented your images without taking too much away from the original. Her colors are used by world-renowned travel, wedding and lifestyle photographers, all swear by her presets as part of their post-processing workflow. Impressive resume references don’t you think?
Let me show you two examples.
The difference is not drastic, but it’s a noticeable in a pleasing way.
Don’t get me wrong, the stock photo actually looks pretty damn good, especially with the rendering you get out of the Carl-Zeiss Biogon lens. However, I felt the need to warm it a little bit based on the context of the photo with the cherry blossom and the mother’s “warmth” holding her baby.
I recommend checking her out if you prefer your images to look less “film like” and a more subtle, modern take on the aesthetics of your images.
I’ve came across a good read from a fellow photographer Pat Kay on the topic of ego and how the naturally occurring human characteristic can indulge us but then stunt our personal and professional growth. The main topic of this thought leads to social media and how all evidence points to its inherent ability of thinking you are better than you actually are.
“Social media has a tendency to inflate your your sense of self-worth, self-righteouness and level of perceived skill at an accelerated rate.”
I recommend reading his blog as it puts things into perspective on interaction is just noise which interaction actually carry value.
To me, there is nothing better and relaxing than being outside and absorbing all the visceral senses. The warmth of the sun. The wetness from the rain. The breeze against your face on warm day.
This penchant for sunlight and fresh air partially led me to photography in the first place, therefore if there is a chance of nice weather, you’ll find me outside with my camera. Unfortunately, my time outdoors have been truncated substantially since starting graduate school last summer, making my time being outdoors somewhat of a luxury, something I can no longer take for granted.
Despite these challenges, I always try to steal an hour or two doing some light outdoor activities. Whether they’re just short walks outside on sidewalk or a short two-hour hike on a local trail. It’s less likely I’ll be doing the latter due to the time commitment involved, such as organizing and driving.
However, I learned something the other day that would scratch my need for a local hike itch.
I’ve recently moved to a new apartment in Ashburn, VA this past January, near the Broadlands (it was a 10 minute move from my old townhouse that I’ve rented with a friend of mine), and my sister (who is also learning the strings on photography with her own Leica M9) had a couple of photos on her Flickr page that showed a trail she was on with her puppy “Pepper“. I looked up the trail on the Google machine, and behold…there was a trail five minutes from where I lived.
That wasn’t the biggest surprise however.
There were several hiking trails and parks outside the desginated National Parks that I liked to frequent. These particular parks were smaller in scale and under a county sponsored organization known as NOVA Parks, but they were good enough for me who was looking for something short and close.
That morning, I tricked Amy into coming out with me on a “short walk” since the weather was finally nice outside after suffering through a few days of rain. Little did she know that she was ill-prepared for this hike since trail on Beaverdam was very wet and muddy. I was fortunately wearing my Salomon Speedcross 4 trail shoes, but Amy underestimated the trail and left her Salomon shoes at home. She was not very happy about the muddy conditions, so to make up for it, I piggyback carried her over some of the nastiest parts of the trail.
She seemed to enjoy that (the piggyback riding, not the trail).
After a few encounters with the mud, I was starting to think that the muddy portions of the trail were far and few.
I was wrong.
The trail was in such bad shape from the previous rain, that over half of the trail were just spots of mud and water. Some even as long as 100 feet.
Unsurprisingly, this required more a lot of work for both my shoes and legs as I was carrying another human being on my back, therefore sinking my feet into the mud at a much faster rate.
To say that I got a workout while carrying Amy on my back would be an understatement. I jokingly thought of this moment as one of those “this is why I lift” memes as carrying Amy on my back gave my legs a nice workout, playing well with my Apple Watch as my heart rate rose to a warm 130 BPM.
The trail ended on the northern half of the trail, which led us to a public park where little league baseball and soccer games were usually held. Since we both refused to double-back and go back on the same (muddy) trail again to get to my car, we’ve decided it was a better idea to just Uber from where we were to the car.
I promised Amy that we would eat Acai bowls at Robeks after the hike, so we ended the morning there, but it was a nice experience to go out and explore a new trail. Albeit I got my Salomon trail shoes dirty, they more than paid their weight in gold as I used them in the exact situation they were designed for. I only wished that I had purchased the GTX (Gore-Tex) waterproof version instead, but for $60 on sale (vs. $130 for the GTX models), I’m more than satisfied with their performance.
If anyone reading this love to be outdoors, I would look at your local county’s parks because you will never know what trails you may find for a quick hit of nature.
Thanks for reading!
All images were taken with the Leica M9 with the Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2 lens.
Edited in Adobe Lightroom with Leica “Embedded” Color Profile with VSCO Fujifilm Astia 100F – preset.
It’s been about 6 months since I’ve purchased my Leica Q after my test drive with one thanks to Leica Store DC and to this day, it is the best camera I have ever owned. If you look at the current market of premium point-and-shoot cameras that have an EVF, the Leica Q easily stands on its own and as it’s getting closer to 3 years since its introduction, it still has no rival (the RX1R Mk II doesn’t count since it doesn’t have an EVF).
So who is the Leica Q for?
If you suffer from G.A.S. and care about the spec-sheet? The Leica Q covers that.
Are you interested in getting into the Leica eco-system without jumping headfirst with your wallet? Get the Leica Q.
Do you want incredible images quality, the “Leica look”, that only Leica cameras can do?
It just checks off all the boxes for me.
Full-frame CMOS Sensor
Leica “M” caliber optics – it comes attached with a 28mm F/1.7 Summilux ASPH
One of the fastest AF cameras in the world
Small-size considering it has an EVF and a full-frame sensor
Legendary build quality
You can use Panasonic batteries for it, which are half the price of the Leica batteries
The lack of interchangeable lenses forces you to not worry about the lens selection and frees you up to just shoot, thus there is no “lens anxiety” (Thanks Chris)
This post might be a bit short but I can’t emphasize that the Leica Q may be the only camera that most people need.
Photos from the Leica Q at a recent Laos New Years festival. Images are pretty much “stock”
We had a rare change in weather (for the better) where the temperature rose to the 70’s degrees Fahrenheit. To take advantage of this, Amy and I decided to go out on a day date in the city during the Cherry Blossom bloom by the Tidal Basin.
Photos were taken with the Leica M9
Switching perspectives now with photos taken by Amy
As the sun was setting, it was about that time to grab dinner and our friend Katie recommended a Filipino Restaurant in Columbia Heights called the “Purple Patch“.
I have to admit that I was very impressed with the food there, especially their desserts which Amy and I had devoured like fat asses after our entrees.
The small restaurant is located in the lower levels of the of another restaurant, which gives it a cozy atmosphere.
More photos by Amy
After dinner, we took the Metro back home and ended the long day.
It was one of those rare weekends when I had a gap between my graduate class ending and before starting my next class. To take advantage of this free time, Amy and I had decided to take a trip to New York City (Chelsea to be specific) for the weekend since we both wanted to go away somewhere while I had the opportunity to travel.
Our method of transportation via Amtrak from D.C.’s Union Station because I honestly did not feel like driving five hours for what was essentially an overnight trip out of town. The train tickets were not too expensive, definitely cheaper than flying for two people, and it the entire trip took 3.5 hours, including several stops along the way. I have to say that we were pretty impressed with the comfort and efficiency of Amtrak.
That being said, we’ve arrived.
Photos taken with the Olympus PEN-F + 17mm f/1.8
We’ve decided to detour East towards the Empire State Building to stop by Koreatown…and not soon after walking within a block of the area, Amy had to stop by and shop the local Korean beauty shop for facial masks.
After the short shopping event, we were famished and when you’re in Koreatown, you definitely need to eat some delicious Korean BBQ.
The restaurant that we’ve chosen for our late lunch (it was 4:00pm at the time), was Miss Korea BBQ with their famous beef bulgogi that had been marinating for 48 hours in a pot.
One word to describe this meal: amazing
After our late lunch, we then walked a few blocks south to 28th street to get to our hotel and as with any tourist, we were distracted by every little shop along the way, particularly this matcha green tea shop.
I’m not the biggest fan of match green tea but Amy seemed to love it.
INNSIDE Hotel by Melia
We’ve arrived at our little posh hotel on the corner of 28th and 7th Ave. The hotel in general was very modern and had a upscale feel to it in term of interior decorating.
Our room was not very big, but it was more than enough for two people staying overnight.
As the evening was drawing near and the sun was starting to set towards the west, we headed west from our hotel towards the High Line to catch some of the sunset and golden hour while we searched for a place to eat dinner.
Photos taken with the Leica Q
The High Line
The High Line (also known as High Line Park) is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) elevated linear park, built on an old rail track from the early 20th century. The park is built on a disused, southern viaduct section of the New York Central Railroad line known as the West Side Line. Originating in the Lower West Side of Manhattan, the park runs from Gansevoort Street – three blocks below 14th Street, in the Meatpacking District – through Chelsea to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street near the Javits Center.
The park’s attractions include naturalized plantings, inspired by plants which grew on the disused tracks and views of the city and the Hudson River
After our long walk south along the High Line, we’ve ended up in Chelsea Market, which I would say is the equivalent of D.C.’s Union Market, but much larger. We felt that this was the perfect place to grab dinner.
One place Amy had her eyes one was a place called “Very Fresh Noodles”, where they literally served everything that had to do with noodles.
I personal favorite was the beef noodle (I forget the name and maybe Amy can chime in and I can edit this), but I would admit that it was best noodle bowl I’ve ever had.
After dinner, the rest of the market had your usual fare of international foods and desserts that would make any food aficionado happy.
What surprised me was that Chelsea market consisted of two floors, each with their own decor and theme.
You can also find fresh produce if you were grocery shopping.
After a long day, Amy and I walked back to our hotel but not until we had a speakeasy cocktail bar to try out…
…and that failed miserably.
Our idea of a speakeasy cocktail bar was somewhere quiet, exclusive and intimate…
New York City’s version of a speakeasy was just literally a crowded bar with a hidden entrance, which you can easily miss if it weren’t for the bouncers standing outside.
We’ve tried our three of these bars and we walked away disappointed because it was just too crowded and noisy to sit down and chat.
Photos taken with the Olympus E-PL8 + Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7
Not all was lost however as we’ve made a stop at a small and cozy Vietnamese restaurant closer to the hotel. It was no speakeasy, but the small and intimate bar table was exactly what we were looking for.
After our nightcap, we finally walked towards the hotel and called it a night.
I guess you could call this Part II of my previous post since it happened on the same day and in the same city, but this was easily my favorite part of the day.
After we separated from the Instagram meet at the Capitol, we all then decided to make the trip to Union Market for late lunch. It wasn’t a long walk per say, but it definitely burned some calories and I’ve managed to hit most of my walking goals for the day by the time we’ve reached our destination.
Union Market, if you don’t know already, is a place where you can artisan food and organic groceries located in an industrial park area where most people go for their trendy Instagram photos.
Amy and I were pretty excited as we both were planning for this all day, but what awaited us exceeded our expectations.
After you pass the picnic tables and the assortment of chairs filled with people stuffing food in their mouths, you enter through the large glass door – where you will suddenly become overwhelmed with the smell of food.
Your senses are on “can I have some more?” mode
Right away your eyes dart left and right as you try to take in what is going on around you.
“Where do I even start?”
You’ll ask yourself this as your natural instincts tell you to start from the left of the building and then walk around the various kiosks serving anywhere from Asian food to Ethiopian delicacies.
“Am I in heaven?”
“Am I in heaven?”
I’m pretty sure that was what I thought when I walked past the first couple of kiosks that served what looked like…really fucking good food.
I swiveled by head around to take in all the information around me and then checked on Amy to make sure she didn’t get swallowed by the crowds (or her hunger), but sure enough, she was smiling as she was recording a video clip on Snapchat.
Amy and I both couldn’t decide where to eat first, so walked around and lapped the building until we saw Ben holding some Korean tacos.
I looked over to what sounded like Amy and sure enough, she was gleefully pointing at the empanada shop next to us while I was ordering my Coconut Thai Basil Dumpling from what looked like a soul food kiosk that specialized in chicken broth based soups.
I’m telling you this now…shit just got real…
Amy loves empanadas and it’s probably one of her top favorite foods of all time (there are literally hundreds of foods that she likes) – actually, I think she just likes everything.
While my food was getting made, I continued to take picture to capture some street photography indoors.
For those of you that have never been to these hashtag meets, in this case, @walkwithlocals – it’s a meetup of sorts with a bunch of local instagram photographers that go on a photowalks in various parts of the DC area.
The meetup location and time was at the historical Lincoln Park, east of the Capitol at 11:32am. Despite my best efforts of leaving my place early and grabbing coffee at my favorite coffee shop, alas using the Silver Line on the Metro from Reston-Whiele to Eastern Market took longer than anticipated, therefore Amy and I ended up being 30 minutes late.
We were lucky, however, because by the time we were about 3 blocks away from the park, we could see a large crowd of people walking towards the Capitol.
“Hmmm…I wonder who these people could be?”
The massive mob of people turned out to be the exact group we were trying to meet up with and if the size of the group didn’t give it away, all the cameras around each person’s neck gave it away.
Strangers from various parts both in and out of the city, showed up today to meet with other photographers with their love for photography. You will meet people of all different backgrounds – from lifestyle photographers to food photographers.
When you’re surrounded by people with a common interest such as photography, you can’t help but notice the gear slung over their shoulders and necks.
General Survey on DSLRs
Most of the people (around 80%) had both Canon and Nikon DSLRs with kit lenses, while the small 1% came with their full-frame counterparts with f/2.8 zooms. The remaining 19% were the mirrorless crew (Fujifilm and Sony) and one shooter with a Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) with a 50mm Summilux.
This mental survey reminded me that majority of people still used DSLRs, but mirrorless made a big presence as well compared to where we were a few years ago.
I have an affinity for mirrorless cameras and DSLRs are going the way of the dinosaurs, people will get tired of carrying bigger and clunkier systems, unless you still think carrying a DSLR makes you look “professional” to impress people or clients. Don’t get me started with that
Once the group reached the Capitol, some people just hung out and socialized – trading business cards, introduced each other and some were partaking in a couple of photoshoots.
I myself, was talking to strangers – more interested in hearing about how they got into photography and how they grew into becoming better photographers.
After about 30 minutes of socializing, we took a group picture in front of the Capitol building and departed ways.
Most of the people planned to make a stop at Union Market and that is where our adventure will head to next in the next update.
Photos taken with the Leica M9 + SUMMICRON 50mm f/2 V3
You know what I love about having happy hour with a group of friends that all happen to love photography? It turns into our own low key version of “Beers and Cameras” and today’s location was at Ocelot Brewery, located in the industrial park area of Dulles, Virginia.
With a venue chosen and gear packed, today in particular was a special day because some of us were introducing our new Leicas for the first time.
Ben recently picked up a second-hand Leica CL.
Asif picked up a second-hand Leica M5.
Yours truly picked up a second-hand Leica M9 with a 50mm Summicron f/2 V3 (1969-1979). There is a fantastic first-hand review about the legendary Leica M9 from someone that came from DSLRs: ShootTokyo
Right away, one of the first things I’ve noticed while I ran these photos through Lightroom is the lovely color rendering and the contrast due to the combination of the Leica M9’s CCD sensor (developed by Kodak back in 2009) and the vintage Summicron from the ’70s.
The LCD Screen is Shit
The other thing that I have to get used to is not using the rear LCD screen to “chimp” after taking the shot. The LCD screen is considered “vintage” now in 2018 (think of the time when we all thought the original iPhone had “good screen” back in 2007-2010). The screen is so shitty that I don’t even bother using it to actually check the photo other than to check my exposure.
Don’t even think about exceeding the ISO past 800. We’re talking about old sensor technology where ISO 800 was considered “high-tech” back in 2009. Shoot the Leica M9 like a digital-film camera: ignore the LCD screen, learn to use manual controls, and understand manipulating exposure/light both in and off camera.
56K of Buffering
After you take a photo, give it about 10 seconds for the buffer to fully clear before your next shot. Due to the slower-than-2018 processor technology and the M9’s finicky nature with high-speed memory cards (use 16GB 40-45 MB/s cards only). Again, treat the M9 like an old-school digital-film camera.
What is Sharpness?
Despite these quirks (it’s almost a decade old), the camera is capable of pulling some amazing images from the sensor thanks to the CCD sensor designed to simulate Kodachrome film stock. Paired with a Leica M lens (Summicron f/2.0 to a Summilux f/1.4), you will get that amazing micro-contrast “3D” pop effect known as the “Leica look” that no other camera on the planet can emulate.
I’ve been drunk with this stuff since my Leica Q and its excellent Summilux 28mm f/1.7. That lens is just stunning.
Remember – you can always sharpen photos in post, but you cannon create micro-contrast in post.
What Leica does understand better than anyone else, is that absolute sharpness (resolving power) of the lens means little if the images don’t look great. Something I’ve also been guilty of chasing since my Sony A7 full-frame days with my Carl Zeiss and G Master lenses. I loved how sharp they looked, but the images looked cold and sterile in comparison.
Almost too clinical.
A Sincere Camera
Despite these drawbacks and limitations with the Leica M9, there is also something liberating about these limitations.
No AF – learn to take your time and learn to use zone focusing like a proper rangefinder camera. You will soon learn that this method is even faster than auto-focus (unless you use the Leica Q, just throw that guy in AF 99% of the time and you will get a lot of keepers).
No EVF – learn to expose and compose with your eyes prior to taking the shot.
Slow Buffer – you can’t run and gun with this camera. This will force you to be patient and compose properly.
No LIVE View – Use the viewfinder like you’re supposed to.
Shit LCD Screen – Don’t even bother checking your images.
Pretty much what this camera is trying to tell you is this: “it’s on you”
This camera will make you a better photographer.
It will force you into becoming a better photographer.
I guess you could call this update a proper outing with my “new” X100F since I’ve sold it in my last X100F update after purchasing the Leica Q. The only difference being that this time, I picked up the black body instead of the silver one, because you know…want to stay inconspicuous for those candid photos.
One of the few things that drew me back to the X100F (other than my original reason here), were the following:
The awesome hybrid rangefinder – to be frank, I’m having a lot of fun using a OVF Rangefinder style camera. I personally turn off the LCD Live-View on the back of the camera and strictly compose via OVF. It’s overall preparing me for my ultimate end goal.
The compact body with a 24MP sensor with the 23mm f/2 lens (35mm equivalent) which is my favorite focal length for street photography.
The amazing in-camera film simulations, such as Acros, Provia and my personal favorite: classic chrome.
While everyone on social media paste on filters to give their photos a moody tone or film look, the Fuji X series cameras have these “filters” baked onto the photos straight out of camera, which cuts down on most of my post-processing.
I personally use the built-in simulations and add a touch of my own adjustments to add a bit more contrast.
Imagine your workflow where you don’t have to go crazy with the heavy RAW (.RAF for Fujifilm) files, but using the lighter JPEG files instead?
Speaking of end goals, I originally took the Metro into the city because I thought my Leica Q workshop was Saturday, but it actually ended up being the following Sunday.
Needless to say, I felt dumb but still enjoyed my time playing with all the Leica toys in the shop and then walking around the city a bit more to capture some more street photography with the Fujifilm.
To end it here, I’m thoroughly enjoying my time shooting with the X100F using the hybrid rangefinder and the images that come out of the camera is nothing short of satisfying.
To see more, you can follow my dedicated classic chrome instagram account here: @urban_chrome
Ever since I’ve known Amy, I knew she always wanted to get a tattoo eventually, but it wasn’t until recently she finally decided to pull the trigger.
A tattoo artist known as @jk.tat from Queens, NY, was in town this weekend at a local tendy Hair Salon called “Be Scene Studios“, a hair salon that is more in line like a urban hipster hangout lounge, but also some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
I’ll also add that I loved the interior decorating in the studio.
Now, I’m not an expert on all things beauty (or whatever is considered trendy since I care more about functionality and usefulness), but I couldn’t help but be impressed with their “lab” (or so I call it), where they mix their own hair color recipe in-house.
What looked like boxes of camera film, turned out to be small containers that looked like colored toothpaste, where each employee could mix the colors to their customer’s wishes.
As Amy’s turn was coming up, you could tell she was anxious (as if her leg shaking didn’t give it away), but at the same time, very excited to finally get her first tattoo.
Despite her anxiety, she still manages to strike a pose for the camera.
Needless to say, Amy was very happy with her first tattoo and I was very impressed how it turned out. Maybe I should look into that Leica aperture ring tattoo around my arm?
It was a typical Sunday for me, which consisted of the following:
..but in the morning, Amy suggested we go into the city for brunch after my gym session (brunch turned into late lunch) at this ramen shop called Daikaya in Northwest DC, close to Chinatown.
Intrigued and in serious mood for hot soup filled with umami, I grabbed the Leica and took a day trip into the DC, which turned out to be a photo-centric day.
We parked inside the garage in the heart of City Center off of 11th street (my personal favorite parking garage) and took a short walk into Chinatown where Daikaya was close by.
What surprised (or shouldn’t surprise me as this was a legit ramen shop) was how small the restaurant was.
The entrance to the restaurant was packed with people waiting for their seat, which averaged between 20-30 minutes.
From what the ravings I’ve heard from Amy, the wait was worth it.
And spoiler alert: the food was amazing.
When it was our turn to sit down, the waitress sat us on the bar where we could catch all the action shots in the kitchen.
The ramen was probably one of the best ramen I’ve ever had. The mix of the flavors that hit your tongue (and feels) turned what was supposed to be a simple late lunch, into an experience.
The day didn’t end just there.
Amy’s sister Jennifer recently stopped by an ice cream shop close to Adam’s Morgan and since we were already out here in the city, why not stop by there for some dessert?
But first…the walk back to the car.
Jeni’s Ice Creams
We nearly missed the ice cream shop since it was located on a corner of a busy street in NW DC, but you definitely couldn’t miss it if you walked there on 14th Street.
I recommend stopping by this place if you’re in the area because there is more to this place than just ice cream; there is a sitting lounge on the loft above on the second floor where you can unwind like a trendy coffee shop.
Hope you enjoyed the update and some inspiration to go out and eat.
It’s no surprise that December is the busiest month of the year and it goes without saying that Christmas has something to do with it; not just for travelers, but for holiday events with families and loved ones.
As far as holiday festivities go, this one was a new experience for me. On top of the typical holiday shopping, family events, and parties – I’ve attended a Bangladesh wedding for the first time.
The invitation was extended out to me since it was one of Amy’s childhood friends, Nazia, was having a wedding reception at the Marriott hotel in Chantilly, VA. Apparently they had their wedding prior to the reception, so I’m not sure if I can count this as Number 20 since this wasn’t a wedding per say.
However, the wedding reception: and I had to describe this evening in one word:
I’m no stranger to weddings as you know (number 20), but if I had to rank the top 10 best wedding receptions of all time, this would be one of them.
Armed with my revered Leica Q, I thought it was an important day to do some documentary photography of this life changing event..
Amy’s friend Katie eventually joined the team and it was a good thing that I reserved a room with two beds.
The number of people in attendance were easily in the hundreds and people visiting from all over the world.
The groomsmen put on quite a dance show.
Amy’s moment in the spotlight finally came as she gave her speech
Everybody had their smartphones out to record the performance by the wedding party.
“…if I had to rank the top 10 best wedding receptions of all time, this would be one of them.”
As the lights were dimmed for the dance floor, the Leica Q had finally met its match: auto-focus in low light.
Any digital photographer will tell you that nailing focus in low light is very difficult without a flash, but the Leica was able to nail focus most of the time. For those other times where the camera had trouble, I switched to manual focus, aperture wide open and dialed in the shutter speeds between 1/15 – 1/30.
Unfortunately, there will be some grain from the spike in ISO but camera performed beautifully.
Right when things were going crazy, it got even crazier when a dancer on stilts showed up in what looked like a walking neon version of the Predator. I have to admit, he really stirred up the crowd with his moves.
“Right when things were going crazy, it got even crazier”
The Leica Q was not unstoppable, however, as the camera chewed through 3 batteries since 3:00pm with over 300 shots.
It goes without saying: bring extra batteries.
“It goes without saying: bring extra batteries.”
As Amy was on the dance floor doing her own thing, I went out to the lobby to check on the others.
As the party drew to a close (around midnight), the reception party moved outside to watch the bride and groom leave the hotel.
The Following Morning….
The next morning, Amy, Katie and I walked upstairs and treated ourselves to breakfast that was included with the room package…
…and the dining hall was MASSIVE(and empty).
Their breakfast buffet was possibly the best I’ve ever had (most of the reason was due to presentation and the service we were given) and the attention to detail that the staff showed to us. Albeit, we were the only people eating at the time, but impressive nonetheless.
Side note: if you have not had breakfast at the Marriott in Chantilly, do yourself a favor and grab some food because the food is fantastic.
As we both left the hotel, tired and weary about the next holiday obligation we had to attend, this wedding made me reflect on the beauty behind the commitment of love between two people that love each other very much. I wish Nazia and Siraj the best and congratulations to the both of you.
The weather was very nice today (as nice as it could be in late December) and since I’m done with my Fall semester class, I felt the urge to go outside and take some photos.
The Leica Q is now my primary camera for general and street photography since I’ve sold my beloved PEN-F to a member on Fred-Miranda.com. I felt that the PEN-F’s purpose and use crossed over to the Leica too often, therefore if I’ve decided to thin my collection.
That doesn’t mean I’ve left the beautiful world of Micro Four-Thirds. Not at all. I still have my workhorse E-M5 Mark II with its PRO lenses and Amy’s E-PL8 with Leica primes, therefore my attachment to the PEN-F was more emotional rather than practical.
With that update out of the way, here are some pictures from today.
Olympus recently announced two new flagship prime lenses for their professional Micro 4/3 collection of lenses and I was able to pick one up today to compare to my excellent Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. I took the lens out immediately after picking one up and here are two examples with my E-M5 Mark II.
The images are stunning and the photo below was cropped heavily (approx. 60%) and it still remains sharp. Testament to the Olympus’ 45mm f/1.2 resolving power.
I’ll follow up with additional more photos as I get more seat time behind this lens.
As a former Sony APS-C (A6000) and full-frame (A7 II ) shooter, I’ve had my fair share of experiences using excellent Zeiss lenses like the legendary Sonnar 55mm f/1.8, Distagon 35mm f/1.4, and the Sonnar 35mm f/2.8. I loved the contrasty colors and the sharpness of the lens and I once you’re accustom to such excellent optics, you can’t go back to the lesser (I say with confidence) lenses by Sony’s own in-house optics (not to take anything away from Sony, but the Zeiss lenses were superior).
Since I’ve moved away from Sony to Micro 4/3 (Olympus) and a full-frame Leica (Leica Q), I’ve been searching for the Carl-Zeiss equivalent of optics technology and I’ve found it with the Panasonic-Leica lenses for Micro 4/3. Excellent color rendering and very sharp lenses that anyone with M43 should have in their camera bag.
The Leica Q and its SUMMILUX lens cranked my lens satisfaction to another level.
Instead of typing out the word to explain to you how Leica has won me over with their lenses, let me show you some examples from a DPReview forum discussion: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4139186
The comparison was between the Carl-Zeiss (Sony) FE PLANAR 50mm f/1.4 (top) and the Leica SUMMILUX 50mm f/1.4 (bottom)
The two photos were shot with the same exposure settings.
The differences should be immediately apparent (at least to me) and show that the Leica has more dynamic range and micro-contrast compared to the Zeiss optic. I’ve also noticed that the Leica (my particular Leica Q) was sharper across the frame, wide-open at f/1.7 compared to my excellent Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 (the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 was soft on all corners and never really got sharp…at all, but it had amazing bokeh).
I’ve always thought that my photos with the Leica Q were more “3D” compared to my old Zeiss lenses and I can finally show tangible proof comparing the two lenses.
So when people talk about the “Leica look” in the digital world, you now know what to look for.
I was some of the lucky people that were able to pick up Apple’s new iPhone X on launch day without waiting 4-6 weeks because I was fortunate to be eligible under the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program. This allowed me to reserve a pre-order spot for the specs of my choosing ahead of the Friday morning pre-order madness at 3:00am EST.
All I had to do was wake up, open the Apple Store app on my phone and voila – my phone was ready to order.
Fast forward one week…
Amy and I lined up at the Apple Store in Reston (the pre-order line had a separate and shorter line compared to the people that didn’t pre-order) and as with the iPhone 7 launch, it was very organized.
When it was my turn, an Apple representative walked out and escorted me inside the store and the whole buying experience felt like it was catered specifically for me.
The Apple representative walk me through the whole purchase process and “paperwork”, which was basically showing them my ID and signing with my finger on their iPhone to confirm the pick up. While this was going one, another representative walked up and handed my sales representative my exact iPhone.
This was only the first process of the purchase.
The next step was with another Apple representative, whose job was to help me transfer my old iPhone 7 profile over to the new iPhone X.
I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with iOS 11’s new ease of profile transfer.
Basically, you make sure that your old iPhone is close to the new iPhone that you’re setting up and both phones will recognize each other and begin the transfer. All you have to do is confirm which iPhone X you want to “link” to by scanning the floating dot matrix code with your old iPhone (seen above) and that is it…painless.
The only hiccup during this otherwise smooth process was that I had to immediately update to iOS 11.1 and then load the backups from my iCloud. The whole restore process took about twenty minutes. Ten minutes for the original transaction. Thirty minutes total.
Overall, I have to hand it to Apple for another successful (meaning no crazy lines like the iPhone 5 launch) and reinforce my belief that nobody does it better than Apple when it comes to customer service and overall smooth experience.
Not sure if I’ll do a review on the iPhone X but so far, I’m liking it.
In continuation of my last post, this post will mostly be dedicated to my experience with the Leica Q and using the camera around the city. The overall experience opened my eyes on what a high-end camera could do and made me rethink about the camera (meaning – I want it a lot more now). What I’m about to say will also scare some people but after using the camera for a few hours, the Leica Q is a bargain for a full-frame Leica at $4,250.
Let me explain.
As I was explaining to my Candid.FM friends on Slack, the following attributes of the camera won me over:
The Lens. You can definitely tell that the camera and sensor was built around the lens as one unit. The two elements work beautifully together to produce some of the sharpest and please color rendering I have ever seen. Honestly, you can shoot this wide-open at f/1.7 all day and get super sharp images across the frame without having to stop down.
The price. Like I mentioned previously, the camera costs $4,250 (USD) brand new, which is not cheap by any means for the majority of people, including myself…but in the world of Leica, this camera is a bargain. An equivalent Leica M Body with a 28mm Summilux definitely costs more – and that setup will be larger and heavier than the Q.
The images. The RAW images that come out of the camera is gorgeous and I’ve never used a camera that require so little post-processing in Lightroom like the Leica Q. When people talk about the Leica’s “look”, I finally understand it now. The .DNG files (Leica’s RAW file) was very impressive with a great dynamics range, but I still think my Sony A7II had more wiggle room in comparison.
Build quality. I’m not sure you’ll touch any camera built like a Leica unless it’s a Leica and the Q is no exception. Built from a solid piece of aluminum with a magnesium chassis, the camera is lightweight but “solid” if that makes any sense. Think of it as reassuring weight that makes camera feel “expensive”. Every dial and button has just the right amount of pressure and resistance to give it that tactile feedback that people love in Olympus and Fujifilm cameras.
Auto-Focus. Yeah. It’s fucking fast. The Q will lock onto your subject accurately and quickly like a powerful magnet. Hats off to Panasonic for developing such an excellent system. The AF system is just as fast as a Micro Four Thirds camera and it smokes the Fuji X100F I was using side by side. (Speaking of Panasonic, if you want to save some bucks on a battery for the Leica Q, just buy the Panasonic variant since it’s the exact same thing).
Electronic Viewfinder. I’m personally not a fan of the old-school rangefinder like those on the flagship Leica M series, so I prefer to have an EVF if I had the option. That being said, the EVF on the Leica Q is absolutely stunning to look at with over 3.68MP, high refresh rate, and big. This is easily the best viewfinder I have ever used on a mirrorless camera.
The 28mm focal length. The camera will inspire you to go out and get out of your comfort zone. If it was on any other camera, like say, Fuji X100F, I would hate it and sell it right away, but the images that you pull out of this camera will make you want to work for it. It will motivate you to work with the focal length and force you to be more creative with your composition. In street photography, that means you’ll be interacting more with your subjects than you would with a 35mm or 50mm equivalent. Luckily I’ve been shooting with the Leica DG 15mm f/1.7 (30mm equivalent) on the PEN-F, therefore it wasn’t that much of a change for me.
The Leica JPEGs were decent, but still not as good as the Olympus or the Fuji in my personal opinion therefore I don’t recommend using the JPEGs from the Leica unless you tweak the JPEG settings in the menu.
The skin tones were very pleasing and I loved the way the colors popped in the frame, which sort of reminds of Carl Zeiss lenses with its micro-contrast.
Here is another example of how good the RAW photos look in this picture with Jillian and Oliver.
Another example in low light
Below are a few pictures from the ARTECHOUSE to supplement my first post.
These were all edited in Lightroom from the Leica Q.
The images are please to look at and I’m completely smitten by the lovely skin tones out of camera.
The images from the Q have a really nice color palette in RAW but I personally wouldn’t recommend its JPEGs as I’ve mentioned before. The sensor is so consistently good that I look forward to looking through the images in post to blow my mind.
Another thing I need to mention that I didn’t mention in my top reasons why this camera rocks is the ability to select crop modes between 28, 35 and 50mm fields of view. This may sounds like a useless feature since you can crop and adjust in Lightroom, but for me it completely changed the way you compose with the camera. With a push of a button on the back of the camera next to the thumbrest, you can quickly change the field of view in the viewfinder to your liking. However, you are paying with resolution when cropping images, but I don’t see it as an issue for most people – even if you print.
Here’s a chart of the image sizes relative to the different field of view modes:
28mm 6000 x 4000 px 35mm 4800 x 3200 px 50mm 3360 x 2240 px
Being a full-frame performance, the low light performance is much better and less grainy compared to APS-C (Fuji, Sony A6500) and Micro Four Thirds (Olympus, Panasonic) and the Leica Q is capable of going up to ISO 50,000 – but I don’t recommend it. Personally I wouldn’t go beyond ISO 6400 as the image quality will start to take hits, but to me, that’s an acceptable ceiling for 98% of my shooting.
Another thing I think most people take for granted is the white balance (or how accurate the auto white balance can be) and to my surprise, the Q is the best I’ve ever used. I can confidently say that the Q’s Auto WB is accurate 98% of the time because who has time to go into the menu to change that on the fly when you need to capture moments.
If you’re in the market for a new high-end camera and have a few grand to spend, then the Leica Q is the only camera you should pick up if you want tactile feel, extremely high quality images, robust build quality and old school good looks. It’s beautifully made like all Leicas, but is super capable and functional that for most people, this is the only camera you’ll ever need. This is camera is the equivalent of a Porsche Cayman in a world where the Porsche 911 holds all the attention. The cheaper sibling is just as capable, but at a lower cost, but just like the Cayman, the Leica Q is a gateway drug to the higher end of the family – the Leica M.
Beware though – once you use the camera for a few hours out in the wild, you will want one. Trust me. I bought one.
Amy and I had planned on going into the city to visit a art “lightshow” you might call it, at the ARTECHOUSE near the Mall. Since we were going to be in town and I like to park in the garage in the City Center, I thought it would be a great idea to grab lunch with my favorite DC couple (@jollie_jillie) at the Momofuku restaurant located at the heart of City Center.
The parking situation didn’t go as planned for my car (I ended up bottoming the car out on the driveway since it had a steep incline) but the rest of the day went very well.
Today was also the day I got to shoot my brand new Fujifilm X100F out in the wild today since picking it up the day before, so all the pictures you’ll see here in Part 1 of this DC visit will be from the X100F in unedited JPEG in “Classic Chrome” built-in preset.
Lunch at Momofuku was expensive for “brunch” (in reality, it was pretty much lunch) but the food was quite good and the pork belly ramen tasted pretty good to me. Amy said that she had better at a local Japanese restaurant.
After lunch we headed out for a walk before Amy and I had to leave for the ARTECHOUSE and snapped some street photos. I’ll have to upload Amy’s photos in the next blog update.
After a brief walk, we stopped by the Leica store (at my request) to window shop the unobtanium cameras. I currently have my eye on the Leica Q in particular since it’s the “cheapest real Leica” (people called it the gateway drug to Leica), but I wasn’t so sure about the 28mm focal length, despite being a legendary Leica SUMMILUX lens. I always felt that 28mm was a little bit too wide for general photography, therefore I was a little timid about pulling the trigger on one.
What happened next blew my mind.
The Leica representative in the store loaned me the Leica Q for the day as one of their “test drive and buy” policies they had at every Leica store at no cost. Of course I took this opportunity to take the camera out for a spin, but I’ll have to update that in another blog update dedicated to the Leica experience.
One thing I can tell you is that the camera is worth every money and even considered a bargain for what you get.
I don’t want to distract this blog update with my gushiness over the Leica, so enjoy the rest of the photos from the day.
Next update coming soon.
All photos taken straight out of camera JPEG from the X100F
Amy and I decided to go out Friday night for date night in downtown Leesburg and I had one place in mind for drinks and food: Delerium.
The restaurant was surprisingly not packed and the lack of crowd in the bar was refreshing to see since the first time I have visited this spot was when they first opened a location in Leesburg and it was absolutely packed.
We made some friends at the restaurant that also happened to be Penn State alumni. We’re 6-0 right now at the time of this writing so I’m looking forward to an amazing season.
Thing of note here: Try out their red vinegar fries and thank us later.
After dinner and drinks, Amy and I decided to go out for a stroll for some street photography.
In this same alleyway, I noticed some shadows on the brick wall and how the light played with the safety handles of a walkway.
I thought the lighting was very cool.
After a couple of blocks, we stopped by a local bar that looked interesting.
They even had a live band playing.
I’ll try to upload more photos as I go through them.
One of my little secrets in my area is this little coffee shop located in the heart of suburbs called Blend. If you’re local to the area, I highly recommend you check out the place and just drown yourself with good coffee and experience the low key and comfortable atmosphere.
I get most of my “off-site” work done here (professional and grad school) with my MacBook Pro and drown out any distractions with my B&O H4s.
If you’re a tea lover, I highly recommend their “Coconut Cake” tea (iced or hot). I promise that you will love it.
Photos were taken with the Olympus PEN-F with the Leica DG SUMMILUX 15mm f/1.7.
Recently I’ve been suffering from GAS with my penchant for fine glass(es) for my Olympus PEN-F and the currently flavor that I’ve been obsessing over are the Leica lenses that are available for the Micro 4/3 camera systems by Panasonic.
If you’ve read my previous blog post about the exotic Leica DG NOCTICRON 42.5 f/1.2, then my recent pick up of the Leica DG SUMMILUX 25mm f/1.4 should be no surprise for those of you looking for excellent image quality out of your Micro 4/3 system.
The lens itself is not cheap, which cost almost double over the excellent Olympus 25mm f/1.8, but the extra stops of light and better sharpness across the frame over the slower Olympus variant (albeit the Leica is softer at the corners wide open at f/1.4) make this an excellent choice for the prosumer/enthusiast photographer that know what they’re looking for.
The photos were lightly edited in Lightroom, but the JPEGs have impressed me and the RAWs were no exception. The sharp image quality and the micro contrasts that you get out of these lenses are worth a look.
The photos you’ll see below were straight out of the camera JPEGs.
As I’ve been searching for highly quality Micro 4/3 lenses similar to my Zeiss lenses on my Sony, I think I’ve found the answer with the Panasonic Leicas. The price premium over the basic Olympus/Panasonic lenses is worth it to me, if not for the Leica “look”, but for the extra sharpness and extra stops of light.
Every photography enthusiasts has a grail lens that they will inevitable buy if the opportunity presents itself and for most Micro 4/3 shooters, it would be the legendary Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH, the absolute king of Micro 4/3 lenses.
Recently, I’ve been on the hunt for a new Micro 4/3 lens for my Olympus PEN-F and I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of candidates:
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH
If you noticed the trend by looking at my choices above, I’ve been on the hunt for a fast prime lens between the 50mm-100mm focal length.
With this shopping list in mind, I stopped by my favorite local camera store and browsed their inventory. As I was eye-balling their new and used inventory, I was notified by the shop owner that they had a used Nocticron on sale.
Of course I excitedly picked it up.
As a PEN-F owner, you’ll want to shoot in “Natural” color settings with no presets because the color and the contrast that come from this lens is stunning. This lens is the definition of shooting just in JPEG because it color rendering is just that good.
Is it as good as the legendary Sony FE 55 f/1.8 Zeiss? Too soon to tell, but the Nocticron definitely has more “character” compared to the Zeiss, but the Zeiss has more contrasty “pop” if that makes sense.
I’ll follow up with an update once I get outside to shoot more. Readers will have to forgive me since I’m extremely busy right now with work and full-time MBA.
With a little over a month of ownership, I wasted no time taking the Cayman out to a proper track event.
The local PCA (Porsche Club of America) chapter hosted the annual Porschefest at Summit Point this year, something that they do every year on a weekend in August, with a myriad of events like dinner parties, HPDE (high performance driver’s education), and autocross.
Registering for the autocross with the PCA requires a membership, which makes sense, but I was shocked how quickly the open spot were taken up. I managed to register for the autocross on time and paid the $50 fee, which buys you five runs, breakfast, pizza lunch, t-shirt, and a raffle ticket for random Porsche merchandise at the end of the day (this also pays for the fee that track charges each club to use their track).
To get there from my house, you have to drive 45 minutes to West Virginia and since registration starts at 7:15am, you’ll have start your drive early in the morning.
The first thing I noticed on the paddock was the ratio of Caymans and 911s. I would guesstimate around 2:1 with more 911s, but it was cool to see the Caymans showing a presence on track.
I’ve been to many autocross events for over 20 years and I will say that the Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point was the best autocross course I’ve ever had the pleasure of racing on. The combination of the skidpad, elevation changes, uphill and downhill sections made it extremely challenging but most importantly, not confusing. Most autocross courses require the course to overlap itself and hope that the drivers will remember which direction they’re supposed to go, ultimately killing the focus for the driver to just tackle the course. This is distracting and kills the experience for me.
I was pretty happy with my results from the day as this was my first autocross with my base Cayman. There were two heats (groups) and each driver were able to get five runs, but I managed to miss two cones in my last heat so I was penalized with DNF (Did not finish). I looked at the time for this run and saw that I would have gotten a 55.218 seconds if I had not missed those cones.
I’ve been MIA lately due to a lot of changes in my life, most importantly starting my MBA doing it full-time while working full-time. It takes up a lot of your time during the day (including weekends) therefore most people wouldn’t do this and I would advise against it, but being single with regimented lifestyle makes it easy for me.
I’m going to start a recurring journal on my recent “milestone” present I’ve recently picked up; my new to me Porsche Cayman.
The car search took a few months and surprisingly difficult to find the one that I wanted that met these prerequisites:
Porsche Cayman or Cayman S (based on price)
One owner history (max)
Had an existing factory warranty
Under 30,000 miles
Immaculate paint condition
Immaculate interior condition
Fit my budget (my personal 30% rule)
Most of the local cars in my area (edit: all) were demanding too much money, none were manual, and the Cayman S models with the 3.4L engines were at least $10K more expensive with more miles compared to a base model with the 2.7L engine with a manual transmission.
The only car I could find that met my requirements was in Pittsburgh, PA (Allison Park to be exact), which was four hours from my house.
Anyways, I don’t want to spend to much on the “introduction” blog of the Cayman, but I did find the car that met all my needs.