Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: portraits

Sony A7rII Evaluation and Test Images

Abstract taken in Central Park of a Sun Bather. 90 mm 2.8 aperture priority f16 B&W conversion Nik Silver efx

Abstract taken in Central Park of a Sun Bather. 90 mm 2.8 aperture priority f16 B&W conversion Nik Silver efx

This is my first A7 family camera to put to the test. I have been a big fan of the RX100 and RX10 since they came out, and had a failed Sony A6000 encounter. Meatloaf says, “two out of three aint bad”, so I planned on going in with an open mind for this camera and take it for a test shoot, or two.

Sony 90 mm f2.8 Aperture Priority f4. Super snappy autofocus made this shat a breeze. The little guy was moving bouncing around.

Sony 90 mm f2.8 Aperture Priority f4. Super snappy autofocus made this shat a breeze. The little guy was moving bouncing around.

I’ll be honest; I wasn’t a fan of the first A7. It didn’t care for the feel, fit and finish. Of course it was Sony’s first attempt, and I always am leery of first versions. However the camera did truly put Sony on the map, and turned many photographers away from Nikon and Canon so I knew it did have merit. I was eager to put the A7rII in my camera bag on two recent shoot.

Sony 90mm f2.8 Aperture Priority F2.8 Processed in Nik Silver efx

Sony 90mm f2.8 Aperture Priority F2.8 Processed in Nik Silver efx

Upon opening the camera I was taken aback about how sturdy and good feeling the camera is. The shutter has a solid quality snap to it, and is much quieter than it’s predecessor. I still wouldn’t call it quiet like a Leica, but the sound is lower and deeper. Something akin to a dulcet clunk than a tinny smack.

Grant and Ginzburg

I ran the camera with two lenses, a 90 F 2.8 macro and a 24-70 F 4.0. I shot with the 90 more; because I am a fan of portraits and that was the current project I’m on, Throttle Portraits of bikers and thier bikes.

The photographer-motorcyclist-paintballer known as The Kingpin shot with 90 mm 2.8 wide open with one reflector off to the side.

The photographer-motorcyclist-paintballer known as The Kingpin shot with 90 mm 2.8 wide open with one reflector off to the side.

This portrait says it all.

This portrait says it all.

The auto focus is superb. The A7rII has 399 focus points. Yes, that’s 399 focus points. My wife and I hosted Brian Smith and his lovely wife Fazia over for a dinner the first day I had the camera. Brian set up the autofocus spots to be manually shifted by hitting the OK button and then navigating the plane of focus. This took some getting used to, but the camera as you move the point of focus across its generous full frame view, you can also adjust the size of the focus spot with a command dial. Brian’s findings on the camera can be found here. Focus is crisp, and the multi point auto hits it’s mark effortlessly. I would venture to say that it is the best auto focusing camera I have ever shot with. This coming from a guy who sold the Maxxum 700 camera at JC Penny when Minolta first introduced the first generation at AF SLR.

Long Live Hogs and Heifers RIP Hogs and Heifers.

Long Live Hogs and Heifers RIP Hogs and Heifers.

An advancement with the A7rII is it’s low light capability. I really didn’t test that aspect since I was too consumed with shooting portraits. I did get the chance to bring Vincent Versace to Hogs and Heifers, a classic NY dive bar that will be closing at the end of August due to massive rent increases from a soulless corporation (that is rant you can joing me on Facebook about). I made one shot of the whole bar, with the setting sun pouring in from the east. I think it was a difficult shot to expose and the camera really handled it well. The interior shot of Hogs and Heifers was made in Aperture Priority f8 and auto out of the box auto iso. I wish I could tell you the iso it chose, but the 42 megapixel file is crippling my aging powerbook.

The Obelisk next to the Met in Central Park. Sony 90 f2.8 Processed in Nik Silver efx

The Obelisk next to the Met in Central Park. Sony 90 f2.8 Processed in Nik Silver efx

I found the buttons plenty, and this is a camera that when getting used to, is a fine instrument to make digital photographs. That being said, at $3200 it better be. It is not that much smaller than a SLR, the Mirrorless aspect doesn’t shed that much size nor weight. It does, but not that much. Don’t buy this just to save weight, once you slap on the lenses it will be heavy. Buy this for the technological wonder it is. I didn’t test video, but lets make an assumption, it’s going to do very well. The only real problem I had with the camera was its viewfinder. It’s top of the line and works very well, however it is digital and I’m old school, I’ll take a digital camera and accept it and make inspired images, but I’ll be darned if I have to see the world pixilated. Come shoot with me using the Deardorff and you will see why I prefer an analog approach.

Look at that detail!

Look at that detail!

I will be moderating a panel with Colby Brown, Daniel Watson and Kenta Honjo August 12th at 2:00 pm. More info below- please join us.

panel

Spread the Word!

Have a ball with this camera! It’s a serious contender.

It's my ball and you're just here in my woof world because it's my ball.

It’s my ball and you’re just here in my woof world because it’s my ball.

~David

Coney Island Polar Bear New Years Day Swim 2014 : A Guide To Photographing This Tradition

Rush_to_ocean

The mad dash to get in the water first. Xpro1 – Zeiss 12mm

Attention Suspect Photography Fans- Finding Photographic Style and Composition in NYC 4 Day Intensive Workshop April 17th to April 20th 2014. Early Registration Discount By March 1st.

The first day of the New Year is celebrated by New Yorkers at Coney Island in the form of a brisk dip in the Atlantic Ocean. This has turned into an event which is organized by the Polar Bear club of Coney Island, an organization  founded in 1903. This year the event drew close to 4000 viewers and 2500 swimmers in an extremely festive environment filled with characters, personalities and lots of photographers. I was actually quite surprised at how many shooters turned out, the day was a who’s who of NY photographers that showed up; from the venerable Harvey Stein, the Daily News veteran  Todd Maisel, iPhone extraordinaire Ben Lowy, man about town Louis Mendez, Brooklyn’s Kevin Downs and a motley assortment of many local photographers. I got the idea to shoot the Polar Bears a few days prior (looking for something cool to do New Year’s Day) and I texted my friend and fellow photographer Brandon Remler to see if he was game for it, and found out he had already plans to go, so I hitched a ride with him (creative minds think alike aye?). The board walk was crawling with photographers when we arrived at 11:30 am.

The seminal NY Street Photographer Louis Mendez covering the event.

The seminal NY Street Photographer Louis Mendez covering the event.

Covering this event to make photographs is exciting, fun and actually fairly difficult. Here is my take: first off, set a parameter. I wanted to capture portraits that resonate with the oddity of the moment,  the anticipation of the action, and the shivering resulting from it. Coney Island is an old place (my Grand Mother and Grand Father met there in the late 1920’s) and has distinctive landmarks that beg to be integrated into the final image.

hulk_n_wonderwoman

Characters abound. This is a husband wife Polar Bear team. The wife parked the invisible jet behind the wonder wheel (where else?).

The first part of the day is the action on the Coney Island Boardwalk. The music was provided by a DJ  and the result was a party filled with electric energy of the new year. I slapped on the 35 mm f1.4 for this and opened up between f 4.0 and f1.4 depending on the “width” of the photo. The shot below needed a little more depth of field because I wanted to catch the stuffed polar bear and the lady, and shooting at 1.4 would have given me focus on just one of those elements. I stopped down to f4.0 to capture both.

polar_bear_lady

too_cool_4school

A very typical character you can find on the board walk of Coney Island. I love the tattered leather and the macbook.

Coney_mummer

Elements that give a sense of place like the roller coaster are important to keep in the frame. I didn’t expect the tongue, but fired away when she stuck it out.

I love to shoot wide open and blur the background, but essential to this shoot was Coney Islands uniqueness so I was trying to get the parachute jump or the roller coasters in the background. The 35 mm f1.4 destroys backgrounds into a soft bokeh-ness so if I wanted that background to be demonstrative, I would have to really think about how far I was from the subject and carefully position myself to include those elements in the frame.

jaws_attacks

We’re going to need a bigger camera.

The action is carnival like, and people dressed up and cavorted for the many cameras. It was easy to make a portrait, all you had to do was get their attention and ask for the photo. I found you could also direct them a fair bit and roll out with some nice work. I would wait till the subjects were not being harrangqued by any other photographers so I could get their attention. You can see in their eyes if they are working with you, or the photographer next to them. The lesson here is wait your turn and make the photo yours.

run_to_water

The first wave of Polar Bears head to the cold surf.

The dip in the ocean occurs at 1 pm, so around 12:30 we made our way down to the beach and joined a crush of photographers. The Polar Bear Club makes a channel about 75 feet wide for the swimmers to run down the beach and hit the water. It gets filled up fast, so stake out your spot early. My plan was to shoot wide (Zeiss 12mm), and get in as close to the swimmers as possible. I set the camera for manual focus at f22 and just used zone focus to capture the run. I also put the camera into hi-speed drive mode and shot at 6 frames per second. Editing later on  you can find just the right shot and a lot of ones that clutter up your hard drive.

first_splash

This is my favorite shot of the day. I love the composition, but I did have to crop heavily, there was a Nikon 70-200 2.8 with lens hood sticking into the frame from the left side.

OMG_cold

The police boat on the horizon is an interesting element to include.

Winter_Splash

I did get tired of the police boat in the background, but the back lit splashes never gets old. One problem was the sun was just above the frame and wreaked havoc with the exposure. I was at +2 Exposure Comp to make this one.

After the swimmers took their dip they returned to the shore and an army of photographers converged on them. They showed great attitude and fortitude and posed for us. But again, you have to be proactive, smile at them and ask for the shot. Subjects looking into your lens will connect far better than subjects looking over you shoulder.

have_a_cigar

He couldn’t keep his cigar dry, but that didn’t stop him from smoking it.

I_did_it

This girl was skinny, so the cold was electric but look at that smile. A true NY’er and we don’t need the Giants hat to prove it.

This couple had just gotten engaged and were celebrating by taking the dip. I think everyone had a story, but with LBGT rights being the #1 story of 2013 I had a special warm place in my heart for these lovers. The woman on the right is proudly displaying her engagement ring. Let love rule!

married

How do you celebrate an engagement? In 32 degrees water thats how!

So what does a Coney Island Polar Bear get aside from a jolt of excitement? They get an official certificate stating, “I Did It”! Aside from crazy NY locals, this event also attracts thrill seekers from across the country.

I_did_it.too

This Polar Bear is loud and proud of her accomplishment.

This family came all the way from Sunny San Diego for the celebration and dip.

This family came all the way from Sunny San Diego for the celebration and dip. The family that freezes together stays together. They could have done this in their home town, but it wouldn’t have been the same.:-)

This work was all shot with the Fujifilm Xpro1 and my trio of favorite lenses, the Zeiss 12mm f2.8, 18mm f2.0 and 35mm f1.4. I was aperture priority and on the beach was always at +1 1/3 exposure compensation. I shot with B&W Yellow filter to bring out a little more contrast in the sky. The entire shoot was processed on my iPad using Snapseed. For those of you who find the FujiFilm Xpro exciting, please visit this blog  that collects all artistic articles about the camera. I also brought along my Fujifilm Instax Neo-Classic Instax camera. I gave away about 15 pictures throughout the day. Like I have written before, this camera just emanates good photo karma and it makes subjects happy when you  hand them an instant photo as a take-away.

Pin_hole_man

I saw Xpans, Graphlex, Hassy, and even a pinhole camera to capture the day with.

I am definitely going again next year, and to make better images I want to try mounting the camera on a pole and shooting remote to get a higher angle. I’ve noticed the press guys had fishing waders on and were in the shallow water making shots. I think this is needed, as I found it very hard to make images without lenses and other non “polar bears” in the image.

and the last image... the lone photographer capturing the surf of a new year. Complete with black fedora.

…and the last image… the lone photographer capturing the surf of a new year. Complete with trench coat and black fedora.

Regards to the brave Polar Bears of Coney Island  and see you next year.

~David

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