Creativity

posted by Jose Velasquez

It's been a long time since I wrote anything on here. I've slowly been re-adjusting to so many changes we've been through over the past few years. Life has a way of taking us away from activities that bring us joy and pleasure. Photography for me is one of those activities. I think the mirrorless evolution (it's never been a revolution in my experience) was a big distraction for me and my work. Having said that, there's always a silver lining to all experiences. The silver lining with my mirrorless experience is that I've grown to love video production, and mirrorless is leaps and bounds ahead of DSLR's when it comes to video. I've also come to appreciate what software such as Premiere Pro, Audition, and After Effects is capable of producing. But, photography, for me, is still, and always will be, a far more enjoyable hobby.

Although my chosen field of work (i.e. my day gig) is full of creativity (and creative cloud tools), I've been finding that it's not enough for me. Like a screaming safety release valve, my creativity is yelling at me that it needs to be let out in other ways, ways that I've long neglected over the past couple of years. Recently, I had an epiphany and it's one that I can't ignore. It's like someone lifted a veil that had long covered my eyes and suddenly the names of colors and things came rushing back to my mind. A better metaphor for this epiphany would be a fountain that just needed some priming and now the water is flowing freely to places long forgotten.

While photography will always be one of my favorite creative outlets, there are others that are calling me. That's not to say I'm going to neglect photography, rather photography has suddenly sprung up on me in a way that's refreshing, invigorating, and rewarding. Through my photography I've been able to reconnect with my creative vision and this vision has lead to more and more ideas, hopes, and dreams.

Till my next review, rambling, or post, this is, hey, hey
~jsv

I'm back home...

posted Aug 9, 2016, 6:14 PM by Jose Velasquez

I'm back to the dark side, and this time with a Df...

After going from Nikon, and then moving into a three system setup (Nikon, Samsung, Sony), and then exclusively to Sony, I am finally back with Nikon. I don't regret my journey, but I'm so glad to be back with a mature system and with a camera that is worlds more responsive than my a7II will ever be. And I'm not just talking about the tactile approach of the Df, but simply put it locks focus way faster indoors than my a7II ever did. 

Holding my Df was an awesome experience, and it brought back so many good memories of when I started with a Nikon FM. There's something fun about being able to change so many settings using knobs, it felt so natural and the layout was intuitive.  

As for the AF system...it can keep up with my boys and that's what counts for me, being able to put non-AI glass on it is just icing on the cake.

A couple of years ago I was a harsh critic of this camera, but over the months I've come to realize that Nikon took a very big risk in creating it and they did a great job in bringing it to light. Yeah, it's bigger than an FM, but it has to be given the electronics, the battery, and the AF motor. Still, it pays homage to Nikon's legacy and I couldn't be happier. 

I am so stoked about being back with the dark side and having access to the proper gear to once again photograph my favorite subjects...children and bees! 

Till my next review, rambling, or post, this is, hey,hey...
~jsv  

The Three Big Dragons

posted May 18, 2016, 9:16 AM by Jose Velasquez   [ updated Jan 1, 2017, 1:20 PM ]

I was recently reading a page on Nikon's 1001 Nights...that wonderful resource of historical data and stories of the past about Nikon, Nikkor lenses, and other wonderful things Nikon. It dawned on me that out here in the West the three pro zooms that are now in their third generation are often referred to as the "Holy Trinity". I have no idea how this name came to be attached to the wide angle, standard, and telephoto lenses that comprise the set, but it's what you'll find in most forums and discussion places online. Having said that I like much better the name that Nikon gives them...The Three Big Dragons. I'll leave people to call them what they want, but I much prefer Nikon's name for the threesome set and plan on calling them that from now on. 

Gardens Alive!

posted Jul 20, 2015, 5:53 PM by Jose Velasquez   [ updated Jul 20, 2015, 5:58 PM ]

I just want to take a quick moment to say a BIG, BIG thank you to the members of the Boston Beekeepers Community on Facebook and to the Norfolk County Beekeepers Association for spreading the word that I've been in search of large gardens where I can photograph bees. The response from both communities has been overwhelming. There are so many gardens out there! All I can say is New Englanders are a friendly and welcoming bunch. I'm going to take the next few days to narrow down my options. If you do not hear back from me right away, please don't be offended. I have quite a number of places to scope out via Google and plenty of emails to reply to! I can't wait to get started. I wish I had asked earlier in the summer when we first moved to MA, but alas the truth is I probably wouldn't have had the time to photograph any bees with all of the work we've done setting up our home. Weather permitting I should be able to visit a couple of gardens this weekend. Sadie and Dana, if you would like to use some of my photos on your websites/groups/presentations, kindly let me know which ones. It's my little gift to you for helping me out! 

In the fall I'll be on the lookout for children. If you have children aged 5 and up, remember to keep me in mind--you can look up more info on what I do through my photos, my "About me" page, and my Pricing page. I'm an artist, so there's never any charge. 

If you're one of my followers, I offer you my sincerest apologies for not updating Professor Gadgetman and for not updating my blog sooner. The last few months have been a whirlwind for my family, and now that we're more settled in and getting into a good routine I'll have more time to update my other projects.  

Till my next review, rambling, or post, this is, hey, hey!
~jsv

Professor Gadgetman

posted Apr 8, 2015, 4:21 PM by Jose Velasquez

This isn't photography related, but just a little announcement that Professor Gadgetman's Technology for Kids blog is now live. It's a blog/newsletter for kids in 3rd through 5th grade and will cover a broad range of topics related to technology. Although it's mainly geared toward 8-10 year-olds there will also be lesson ideas and resources for teachers. As a former teacher myself I've been in the front trenches and know how difficult technology can be to use, integrate, teach with/through/around. 


From Nikon to Sony, then to Samsung, and back to Nikon and now to...

posted Mar 18, 2015, 5:16 PM by Jose Velasquez   [ updated Mar 26, 2015, 5:13 AM ]

You guessed it! Sony! Although my original affair with Sony left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, I think Sony has finally done something right with the a7II. For those of you who don't know my original a7 became a paperweight 3 months after I bought it. It was a sad day. All I did was install the firmware and followed Sony's instructions to a T; a few weeks later the camera would turn on but it wouldn't take any photographs. The AF worked, the LCDs worked (intermittently) and everything seemed fine, but I couldn't access any of the menus and, like I said, the darn camera wouldn't take any photos. It sounded like it took photos; I could trip the shutter, but nothing saved and I could review nothing! So I sent it in to Sony who was kind enough to fix it and within a week I had it back in my hands. I have to admit I was impressed with their quick turn-around time. However, I was not impressed that after 3 months the camera had failed. 

Here's a little video showing what happened a few weeks after I installed the firmware...



At least Sony was kind enough to fix it and it worked great after that, but the experience left me rather doubting Sony's longevity. And I'm no Luddite so I do know what I was doing when I installed the firmware. In any case I sold it and the person who bought it got one heck of a deal because they also got a grip, the kit lens, and a Sony mic and three extra OEM batteries. I lost that day and I didn't like it.

I didn't hold on to my a7 for very long. After I sold my a7 I gave Samsung a shot. Samsung is cute. But cute doesn't cut it for me. I thought about Fuji, but Fuji seems to be a cult! Not to mention their prices are way more than Samsung, so no Fuji then and no Fuji now. That's not to say that Sony's glass is any cheaper, but given that Fuji's an APS-C sensor I was expecting lower prices on their glass. Samsung was a fun little fling, but I had to go back to my workhorse. So what's my workhorse? It's my D700 that no one wants to buy. I don't know why, but it just seems to want to stick around. I've had my D700 since 2010 and it's still going strong.  

Having said all of that why am I looking at Sony again? Well besides the IBIS, better video codecs, and a slightly larger lens selection, I have come to the point where I've realized that I create photographs for myself and for my wife (who uses them to create her custom cards). I don't run a business and I have no plans to do so. My wife loves to make her own cards rather than buy them at the store. If Hallmark or American Greetings comes calling (because I'll admit her work is very nice), then we'll have something to show them. But that's neither here nor there. 

Another reason I'm looking at the a7II is I miss manual focus glass and Sony has most of the tools to satisfy my appetite for manual focus glass and it also has decent high ISO performance. Thus without further ado, after a few months with Samsung I have decided it's time to head back to Sony and give their a7II a try. My D700 will probably end up at Adorama or BH since no one I know wants to buy mine. All of my FX AF glass will also go on the chopping block as will my PCB gear. Like I said I've come to the point where I'm doing this for myself and creating digital artwork is something that I find therapeutic (and that's the entire process from shoot to final print).   

I'll let you know how Sony works out this time. I'm actually going to use it with some native FE lenses to get the full 5-axis IBIS and I am definitely going to use it with my MF Nikkor glass. 

Till my next review, rambling, or post, this is hey,hey...
~jsv

My favorite photo on Flickr

posted Dec 22, 2014, 8:49 PM by Jose Velasquez   [ updated Mar 18, 2015, 5:49 PM ]

With billions and billions of photos on Flickr it's difficult to find one that stands above the rest. One could make an argument, simply based on the plethora of images available, that there is a photograph available for every reason and season of life. For me there's only one photograph that I consider my absolute favorite on Flickr. It's Igor Pavloff's work with the rather mundane title of "personal shooting in Paris". How personal it was for him, I've no idea, but it's a photograph that I enjoy for multiple reasons.

(c) Igor Pavloff



It's not a technically astute image; it's gritty, it's grainy, there's not much to it, but the punctum of it strikes at my heart like no other photograph does. The simple gesture of the woman placing her index finger over her lips speaks volumes to what the photo is trying to portray. There's an austere simplicity in that gesture that transcends cultures and speaks of the romance and mystique that one may find, specially in Paris. Her partially hidden face adds to the mystery of this work. In many ways this photograph encapsulates the cliché that Paris is a city for lovers; Pavloff's work does this beautifully with a hint of mystery and anticipation thrown in. 

The way Pavloff processed his photograph would be anathema to pixel-peepers, those who need the sharpest of corners, and those who think grain is a terrible thing to have in a photograph. There's nothing in the EXIF indicating the gear he used to create this portrait--it could be medium format film or FF (35mm) digital. My money is on FF digital. Nevertheless, this lack of information just adds to the aura of the photograph, lending credence to the notion that photography is more than just about the gear. The subject, the background, and the gesture all come together in this photography to create a story. It's a story that slowly unravels itself and leaves one wanting more. Is she alone? Why is she gesturing for her viewer to keep a secret? Why Paris? There is an unspoken invitation from the woman's gesture to explore the subject further, but alas the moment is fleeting and we can only admire the moment.   

Till my next review, rambling, or post, this is hey,hey...
~jsv

I'm singing in the rain...

posted Jun 21, 2014, 6:02 AM by Jose Velasquez   [ updated Mar 18, 2015, 5:49 PM ]

Last night I attended a public rock concert in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. And it was raining cats and dogs. I don't mean a light drizzle, but really coming down. The crazy thing is I didn't go so much for the music (though it was entertaining) but to photograph the event. All I can say is Domke ruggedwear saved the day. While the bag looked soaked on the outside, my gear was safe and dry on the inside. I had about $1900 worth of gear in the bag, and I didn't worry about it for a moment. 

Domke you make good bags! It's a pain to wax them every few months, but it's worth the effort. There's no way any other bag would've survived the hour I was wandering around in the rain. My rain coat (which has taped seams) didn't hold up as well as my bag did. We have all these great synthetic materials, but sometimes the old-school ways are still best. 


 
 
 


To top this off I was rather surprised when a girl asked me "Are you with the news?". In all the years I've been photographing that's a first. And, yes, I told her the truth. "I'm not with the news!" She just laughed and went back to dancing and bobbing her head. People are crazy and photographers are crazy--long live rock and roll in the rain! 

In case you were wondering my D700 and the lenses I used were covered by an Opteka SRC-40 SLR Rain Cover...that's about one of the best $10 I've ever spent. It held up well and the rubberized interior kept the rain off my gear. 


Till my next review, rambling, or post, this is hey,hey...
~jsv

Mes pensées on the Sony a7

posted Jun 17, 2014, 7:22 PM by Jose Velasquez   [ updated Jun 18, 2014, 5:32 AM ]

After playing with the Sony a7 for several months I'm more convinced this is the future of photography. Is this the end of the reign of DSLRs? Perhaps, but not in the near future. As impressive as is the a7, it has some flaws and certain shortcomings that have made me hold on to my Nikon gear. Most notably are the lack of native FE lenses, the lack of 14-bit uncompressed RAW, and the lack of 3rd party wireless triggers. Having said that I'm sure it's just a matter of time before those issues are remedied. The tech behind the camera is undoubtedly top of the line. What my little a7 does is leaps and bounds ahead of anything currently produced by Nikon and Canon--and it's all done in such a small package.  Yes that is an Olympus Pen EE half-frame camera next to the Sony a7...it's that tiny!



The a7 allows me to run apps in-camera as well as use smart phone apps so I can control the a7 from my phone. The most impressive app is the RCCDroidPro tethering app. A sound trap for under $6? Yup. Plus it does a whole lot more. I doubt a sound trap is something Nikon or Canon would ever integrate into their cameras; the only option for the big boys is DIY or a manufactured tool that costs too much money. 

The Sony developed remote app isn't half bad; it's missing a number of features that RCCDroidPro offers, but the nice thing about the Sony remote app is you can control your camera without tethering it by creating an ad-hoc type wireless network. A gimmick for some is a wonderful tool for others. Set the camera on a tripod, and use your smart phone to control its parameters, and the beautiful thing is what you see is what you get:

 
The ability to actually see the results of your settings on the fly is incredible. You can see right away where your exposure is off. WYSIWYG is blessing in the world of photography. No more remembering formulas, aperture/shutter combinations...just keep your eye on the rear LCD or the viewfinder and have at it!

One of my favorite features of the a7 camera is called "setting effect". It allows me to toggle a feature that keeps the screen bright as I stop down an adapted old-school lens. In other words even though there's no mechanical/electronic linkage between my lens and the a7 the screen doesn't go dark as I stop down the lens (or what some call stop-down metering). This is impressive, and while it does get laggy in low light in bright light there's no lag at all. What this means is any lens you throw on there, you can go ahead and stop it down and still rely on the screen to compose your scene without worrying that it'll get to dark to work with.




Another feature that's handy is the peak focusing tool. I had no idea how handy this feature would be, especially on grass. This tool alone is worth the camera's price--you can pre-focus and actually see where you've pre-focused. From the video you can see how easy it is to use manual focus lenses on this body.





The magnification tool for critical focus is handy for subjects that don't move or who can stand still while you bring them into focus. It is extremely accurate, but it's a cumbersome and slow tool to use. Granted it has revealed just how sharp my 105mm f/2.5 AIS lens is @ 24MP, and boy does it hold its ground well! If only Sony would produce their version of a lens like the 105mm f/2.5 as an AF lens (would it be too much to hope for an f/2 with AF?)...then this system would really take off. I know they could do it--the 105mm f/2.5 delivers the goods and it's a small lens!!! 



If Sony actually updated the firmware so that the magnification tool included a dual display like that used in the Fuji XT-1 this approach to manual focusing would be incredible. A dual screen (or PIP) approach allows you to see the magnified view all while you can still follow/compose your subject properly. As it is right now you only see the magnified view but not your entire subject (it's a black screen). This is an easy firmware fix, and one that I hope Sony implements soon.

Will I keep going with Sony? I don't know at this point in time what their plans are in terms of glass. Unless they bring out an AF 135mm STF or make a more compact FE version of the 135mm f/1.8 in the near future, then I doubt I'll completely buy into the Sony system. Their plans for lenses are up in the air--slow zooms dominate, and the two primes, while incredibly sharp and compact, are at too wide for my work. If they can come up with a 105 (or 100) f/2 or f/2.5 and a 135mm AF STF, then I would love to make the switch. I don't like having to adapt lenses--I'd rather have a native FE-mount version of the lenses I do use. 


Till my next review, rambling, or post, this is hey,hey...
~jsv

Photographing Children...

posted Jun 16, 2014, 8:20 AM by Jose Velasquez   [ updated Jun 16, 2014, 6:36 PM ]

So when is everything right in the viewfinder? That's a very difficult question to answer. It could be balance, colors, movement, placement of the subject, light, the subject's eyes, the timing, the lens used, the props, but mainly I think it really depends on the vision of the person behind the camera. How they view the world and their subjects in the world can make a world of difference in the kinds of photographs they produce. 

Some approach photography with a spray and pray approach--they use their DSLRs like a machine gun hoping to capture a beautiful moment in one of the hundreds of shots taken. Others take a more thoughtful and quiet approach and they wait for the moment to happen. I think I stand somewhere in between those two approaches, though I will admit I lean more towards the sit and wait approach. That may be because I began in the days of film, but perhaps it's also my personality. I often have a photograph in mind, but often time something better presents itself. I don't know how I know it's better than what I had in mind, but I think something instinctual, something about the way I see things through the viewfinder causes me to push down the shutter button. Whether its the balance, the composition, the right light, the right placement of everything--I don't know--but I just know. I guess this is what people refer to as the photographer's "eye".

One of my favorite photographers has something to say about this topic and I think it's very fitting:

"Photography is a response to the world, not a reflection of it.  It is an attempt to bring order out of chaos, understanding out of confusion, wisdom out of ignorance and lastly, beauty out of despair.  It is my attempt to help us all find the right place at the right time so we can, once again, as a culture move forward in harmony." --- Rodney Smith

You just know when everything falls into place--it's not something that can be explicitly taught. In many ways it is something you have to learn through experience and something that has to come from within--a response to the world. Sure the fundamentals are important, the rule of thirds, balance, contrast, color theory etc. but skills gained through head knowledge take a vastly different approach than skills gained through experience and filtered through human heart. 

Till my next rambling, review, or post, this is, hey, hey,
~jsv

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