Too Late for Fall Color? Catoctin Furnace, Thurmont, Maryland

I've been in a slump and a funk for quite some time because, other than my recent trip to New York for PhotoPlus Expo, I haven't made a photograph in months. I've barely even taken a picture! So it was decided that, no matter that I played a gig last night and didn't get home until after three, I would be getting up early to go make some photographs. I decided, too, that the direction headed would be west, to the area around Thurmont, Maryland, and one of my subject choices would be pretty uncharacteristic for me: fall color, assuming there was any left. The other "target" was to try to shoot some of the waterfalls in the area.

I managed to get up by 7:00, with surprisingly little difficulty. After I got myself ready to go, I dragged Donna out of bed, informed her that she would be "kidnapped," and that she needed to get ready to go. And, we were out the door by around 9AM. We stopped a couple times along the way to Thurmont, but once there, we spent our time at the Catoctin Furnace, and on the nearby walking trail.

Here are my results from the day:

A few shots are of particular interest:

First, it seems to be a requirement of nature/landscape photographers to get a picture of a yellow leaf. Maybe it's even the law. I don't know. At any rate, here's a yellow(wish) leaf:

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It's heavily backlit, so it looks more orange than yellow. But orange contains yellow. So there it is. Really, though, I think that being limited to only yellow leaves is somehow discriminatory against other-colored leaves. So, in the interest of at least a little bit of equality, I felt it important to include a red one:

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For the purists, it should be known that I did not place the red leaf. That's just how I found it.

Seriously, though, we saw a gorgeous Pileated Woodpecker at work on a dead tree. Of course, neither of us had the correct lens at the ready, and by the time I even got my bag open, the bird had ducked into a hole in the tree. Apparently, Sunday is interior decorating day for woodpeckers, because he/she/it commenced to banging away inside the tree. When we held our hand on the side of the tree, we could feel the banging! Very cool, and something we'd never experienced before!

After leaving the furnace, we took the road up around the State Park in search of places to shoot waterfalls. While we saw a couple of likely candidates, there were no places to pull over. So, we decided to head into Cunningham Falls State Park. Apparently, everyone else in the area had the same idea, because the place was mobbed! We decided that we'd save waterfalls for another day, and started home, sorta, by way of Blue Ridge Summit and Gettysburg, PA. We had a nice drive, but didn't stop anywhere else to shoot. And, by the time we got close to home, I was beat! Getting only three-and-a-half hours of sleep and finally caught up with me.

For the techies: Of course, everything was taken with my Fujifilm X-E1. For most of the shots, I used the excellent XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens, although I did use the old Mamiya-Sekor 55mm f/1.8 on a few. For a lens made in 1968, there's still a lot of magic there! Everything here was processed in Lightroom CC 2015.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, June 19, 2015

I had a go at some of yesterday's photographs with Snapseed 2 on the iPad this evening. Hope you enjoy them!

Mamiya-Sekor 55mm f/1.8 First Shots at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

This afternoon, on the way to a weekend visit to my parents', we stopped into the antique boat show at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. I thought it would be a great opportunity to try out a lens that's been in the family since it was new ... in 1968 or so. I'd actuallly been contemplating something like this for a while, and so early in the week, I ordered the appropriate adapter to mount M42 thread-mount lenses to my Fujifilm X-E1 camera. I think the total cost with tax for the adapter was about $12. The lens in question is a Mamiya-Sekor 55mm f/1.8, which works out to the "equivalent" of an 82.5mm f/2.5 on the Fuji's APS-C sensor. My thought, based on seeing some results from another old screw-mount lens, was that this would be an excellent portrait lens.

I didn't shoot any portraits with the lens today, but I did try a variety of other shots, some of which are shown here. There's minimal processing here, since I'm interested in showing the capabilities of the lens/camera combination. About all I've done is crop and make the most basic of exposure adjustments, all within the Photos app on my iPad Air 2.

I really enjoyed shooting with this setup today. Focus, of course, is all manual. Two things contribut to achieving sharp focus with relative ease. First, the Fuji has very good manual focusing tools -- a 10x zoom on the EVF, and bright focus-peaking, which in most conditions makes it almost impossible to miss the mark.

Exposure can be either full-manual or aperture-preferred automatic, and is also quite easy to control. The Fuji EVF can be set to automatically compensate for the change in aperture, and correct the brightness to display something very close to the final image -- including depth of field. The EVF even looks good when the ISO is pushed up for working in fairly dark conditions, though it does get a little laggy in low-light, high ISO conditions.

Of course, all this fun and enjoyment becomes merely an acedemic exercise if the image quality isn't acceptible, and I'm very happy to say that I'm very happy with the results. The lens is amazing, especially considering its age -- somewhere in the neighborhood of 46 years old! It's sharp, and relatively free of flare. The bokeh is lovely. The contrast is nice, and the colors are good. There is some blooming when very bright objects are against very dark backgrounds, but it's not objectionable. As I mentioned above, my thought going in was that this would be a great portrait combination, and I'm really looking forward to trying it out for that.

For those interested, full-size images may be seen in this album on my Flickr stream.

Kite-boards at Assateague

We wandered over to Assateague this afternoon to see if we could see any birds or the new pony, but the throngs of people had most of the wildlife scared off. We did see some ponies, but they were off in the distance, and really weren't posing well. The wind was up, though, and the crazies were busy flying around on their kite-boards. I took it as an opportunity to make more pictures you're not supposed to be able to make with the Fujifilm X-E1 and the XC 50-230mm lens. I also make a couple of pretty "marsh-scapes," and, since it is the "unofficial first day of summer" here on the eastern shore, I made the obligatory "pretty girl on the beach" shot.

I used the "back button focus" technique, and all manual exposure (mostly, the good old "sunny sixteen" rule).

All images taken with a Fujifilm X-E1, and processed with Photos, Perfectly Clear, and/or Snapseed on an Apple iPad Air 2.

All images by and copyright (c) Geren W. Mortensen, Jr., All Rights Reserved.

At The Zoo

They tell me it's all happening at the zoo,I do believe it, I do believe it's true...

On Sunday, we went to join an iPhone meetup group for a photo walk at the National Zoo in Washington. While  I did shoot with the iPhone, I also shot a lot with the Fujifilm X-E1.

Here are my iPhone shots:

There are a lot of times I find using the iPhone camera(s) to be really frustrating. It's great for shooting when you can get in tight, or when you're looking to get a landscape, or for quick grab shots of friends in a pub, or for quick documentation. And using it to take pictures and "mess them up" is a lot of fun. But, dang it, there's a reason for interchangeable lenses -- or cameras with decent in-built zooms.

Here are my shots with the Fujifilm X-E1:

All of the shots were with the XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS, although I did use the XF 18-55 f/2.8-4 R LM OIS for other shots where appropriate.

Shooting at a zoo can be a significant challenge, as often, the animals are far away. In a lot of zoos, especially for smaller animals, the old-style barred enclosures have given way to natural barriers and fences with a relatively tight "weave." This is especially true for birds. While we can tend to look through without noticing, our cameras cannot. The trick is to get the lens as close to the fence as possible, and hope for some good separation between the fence and the subject. Even so, the fence or screen often has the effect of reducing contrast in our pictures. Finally, in a lot of cases, the backgrounds for the enclosed animals is, necessarily, less than attractive.

I continue to be impressed with the quality of the 55-230. The sharpness and contrast, coupled with its superb image stabilization, make it a great go-to lens for me. The only gripe I think I have is that when moving in and out of aperture priority mode, I have to scroll through all the aperture to reach the "A" setting. It's a little more cumbersome than on the XF lenses with aperture rings, because the control is not as readily accessible. Maybe if Fujifilm could release a firmware update that allowed the scroll wheel "push" to be set up to jump between the manually selected aperture and "A", or maybe allow it to be set on another button...

Common Ground Roots Music Festival 2014

Our weekend was spent at the Common Ground Roots Music Festival listening to lots of great music and visiting with some of the people Donna met during her Common Ground classes a couple weeks ago. It was a great weekend. For me, the musical highlights were Professor Louie & the CrowmatixNew Riders of the Purple Sage and Réveillons!, but all the performances were outstanding. We missed seeing Guy Davis, who we saw at the Northeast Blues Festival in Rockport, ME, a few years back. Of course, I did take a few snapshots...

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And, from the "you can't do that" files, I offer up the shot at right. "They" keep saying that the X-E1, especially when paired with the 50-230mm lens, is not a camera for fast action. I always take statements like that as a personal challenge. Looks like it did alright to me. In fact, all but the last eight pictures here were taken using the XC 50-230mm lens.