Category Archives: Themes

Breaking the Rules – Street Photography with the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

We’d normally use ultra-wide lenses for two reasons: (1)  to capture something very big (i.e. landscapes, buildings, stars in the sky); or (2) to create a sense of space in a place where there is none (i.e. real estate photography). Portraits are generally a big no-no because its inherent visual perspective creates a sense of unease. But then again, a cinematographer like Masanobu Takayanagi can use it masterfully in Silver Linings Playbook to subtly bring out Bradley Cooper’s troubled mental state in front of Jennifer Lawrence.

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Ian Norman over at The Lonely Speck uses this Rokinon to great results for his astrophotography

I bought my Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 on a whim and while it was on sale. At $339 MSRP, it is one of the most affordable lenses in the Sony E Mount line up. But as neither a landscape or an astrophotographer, I had no real need for an ultra-wide. And I suspect for real-estate photographers, who incidentally have the highest average salaries out of all photographer types, they won’t be relying on this bargain basement lens with wild barrel distortions either.

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The Rokinon is also labeled as the Samyang. When mounted to the A7 series, it is absolutely humongous. Not the ideal street photography lens then, but fun to use nonetheless.

One day, over better qualified candidates like the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 and as if to defy the camera gods, I decided to bring this lens during my recent trip to China for Lunar New Years since Asia, in general, is great for street photography. So, I challenged myself to use a 14mm ultra-wide on the streets and this is what I’ve learned.

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The Soulful Photographs of Majestic Casual

We first struggled with a mysterious black contraption. Buttons, knobs, and rings plagued us with their abstractness yet intrigued us with their potential. We experimented. We practiced. And eventually, we grasped enough of the basics to take decent photographs.

Then came a point when those buttons, knobs, and rings became intuitive. It became an extension of our own body. We wielded it blindly. We taught others. It was no longer a creative limitation.

Luis Rojas Contreras
Photo by Luis Rojas Contreras

Though we could manipulate this black box, we lacked style. We could create enough beautiful images to keep our passion alive, but half the time, our pictures were by accident or we were just at the right place at the right time.

Tammy C.
Photo by Tammy C.

We were determined to get to the next level. We looked outwards. We looked towards the old masters. The Ansel’s and the Annie’s. The Henri’s and the Terry’s. We took what we liked, and transformed them into our own. And we would be praised for what others came up with.

Viktor Vauthier
Photo by Viktor Vauthier

Yes, our photos were being published. Yes, the paid gigs were being lined up. We were being recognized. But our absolute narcissism continued to fight with our crippling self-doubt. Deep down, we still felt like frauds.

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Peyton Lake as “Harley Quinn in Los Angeles”

I’m not a huge fan of superhero movies. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight along with Heath Ledger‘s haunting Joker, and Christian Bale‘s anti-hero Batman pretty much defined superhero movies for me. It honestly was one of the best movies of all time.

I am not particularly looking forward to the upcoming Suicide Squad coming out in 2016. I’m not so sure about Jared Leto’s 30-Seconds-to-Mars Joker and especially not sure about Ben Affleck‘s effeminate nipple-clad Batman. However, I will definitely watch the movie for one reason and one reason only… Margot Robbie is the new Harley Quinn.

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Margot Robbie as the Joker’s girlfriend, Harley Quinn

There have been many visually iconic female characters throughout Hollywood’s history. Matilda from Leon/The Professional. Princess Leia from Star Wars. Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. They are arguably more memorable than the movies they appeared in. Okay, maybe not for Star Wars.

But most recently, the internet went berserk when Warner Brothers leaked behind-the-scenes images of their upcoming 2016 movie Suicide Squad. In it, is the gorgeous Margot Robbie who plays the deliciously devilish Harley Quinn.

Inspired by her character’s costume design and naughty panache, we set out to recreate our own Dr. Harleen F. Quinzel on the streets of LA with one of our favorite models, Peyton Lake. We bring you along our shoot in this photo essay.

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Exploring the Tiny World of Microphotography – (Part 2: Insects & Critters)

In Part 1, I gave an introduction to microphotography and the gear that you’ll need to take photographs on a very small scale. In this part, we will discuss the joys and challenges of working with tiny creatures and insects.

The world of insects, spiders and other small forms can be enjoyed on any beautiful day from early spring until late autumn. I can step out of my house on any sunny morning with a cup of coffee and leisurely browse the garden and see where the action is. Or I can choose my spot and watch and wait. And with a little patience, insects and spiders will show themselves and sometimes seem to pose for the camera.

Radical portrait speckled bush-cricket, made with magnification factor 8 and f/8. It looks now more like a raging bull. Made with a Canon 7D, a Canon macrolens MP-E 65 mm/f2.8 and a 2x Canon teleconverter. The speckled bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) is a flightless species of bush-cricket that occurs across most of Europe. The grass-green body, which is about 15 millimetres (0.59 in) long, carries minute black specks, as reflected in the common and Latin name of the species; in addition, the dorsal surface of the abdomen features a brown stripe; this is more pronounced in the male. A yellow-white stripe extends backwards from the eyes. The lower legs and feet are brownish. The antennae are twice as long as the body.The species is brachypterous: the male's forewings are reduced to small flaps, and those of the female are even more reduced. The hindwings are completely absent, and both males and females are flightless (source: Wikipedia).
Radical portrait speckled bush-cricket, made with magnification factor 8 and f/8. It looks now more like a raging bull. Made with a Canon 7D, a Canon macrolens MP-E 65 mm/f2.8 and a 2x Canon teleconverter. The speckled bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) is a flightless species of bush-cricket that occurs across most of Europe.

Watching the world of gardens in this way quickly reveals that it is truly “a jungle out there” – a jungle of small predators and preys striving for survival. Microphotography can uncover amazing details of the mysterious world of insects. And yet, this amazing world of insects is right outside the door of virtually every home.

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The Gritty Side of Beauty

I think I know why I really like boudoir photography and fashion photography.  I have always been a fan of fine art photography as well, but honestly, my work has never been fine art.  What I have wanted to get out of my photography is this, I am an artist, and I do require a certain amount of space to create my work as well as to ponder what it is I want to create next.  So I have what I call “The Average Jim’s Playground.”

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The Playground is my environment, this is where the magic takes place.  I am not one who wants a normal photography studio.  My first studio was a nearly vacant home!  My next was a commercial building that I was able to remodel as often as I wished.  I had that place for over 16 years!  I still have access to it, but my new Playground is in Palm Springs.  I really like it here too!

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