photography

Posts: 45

Photos August 2017

July has been very slow in terms of photography, among other things because I spent a couple of days in the hospital for an appendectomy and then some more days recuperating.
In August, on the other hand, I spent as much time outside and with my camera as possible.

For one there was the annual "Schueberfouer" fair in Luxembourg city and I got this nice snapshot out of it.

Brightly lit funfair ride shot against the night sky

I went hiking a lot and especially enjoyed the various patterns and structures nature creates.

Large number of small mushroom on a tree stump

Timder fungus on a tree

Rough tree bark in the sunset

Of course, I always had our dogs with us and this led to me shooting some of my favourite pictures of Bijou. The first two because they're just pretty portraits of this amazing dog, the third one because she looks wonderfully derpy in it.

Headshot of Bijou in a field of wild flowers

Portrait of Bijou walking along a log, half of her face hidden in shadow from the light of a setting sun

Portrait of Bijou sitting on a log awkwardly and looking like Goofy

Bike re-build project, part 3

The bike is done and I‘m very happy with the way it turned out.

Part 1: intial thoughts and considerations
Part 2: ordering components, beginning assembly, a few discoveries

For comparison‘s sake, this is what the bike looked like as a CX/gravel bike, before I bought my Litespeed T5 Gravel frame set, and this is what it looks like now.

CX bike after a very muddy and fun ride

Finished CX bike to city bike conversion

I have to give a big „Thank you!“ to the folks at Fahrrad Heidemann for being so quick with fitting the DUB PressFit bottom bracket, shortening the brake hoses, and bleeding the brakes. These were three tasks that I wouldn‘t have been able to accomplish without buying a lot more equipment, which would‘ve increased the overall cost of the project. Not to mention the fact that I‘m not experienced in doing these things (yet).

The remaining build-up was pretty standard and enjoyable.

The Continental tyres were very cooperative and easy to fit with inner tubes. I also have to give it to Shimano with their Center Lock system: both disc brake rotors and the cassette were easily mounted and everything fits precisely.
Just like on my other bike, I applied Flectr 360 rim reflectors. I find them to be very effective, highly visible, and they look very good on the DT Swiss rims.
I‘ve had the fenders for quite some time but rarely used them while using the bike off road because they reduced the tyre clearance. They are a pair of SKS fenders that have been custom fitted by the fine folks at Fahrrad Heidemann in early 2018.

DT Swiss rim, Continental tyres, Flectr reflector

The cockpit setup was a bit fiddly, because the SRAM shifter and the Shimano XT brake levers aren‘t exactly meant to live next to each other and finding the right order, position, and angle took some time. I also found that while I enjoy using this Canyon MTB handlebar, it‘s wiiide, so wide in fact that I shortened it from 720 mm to 680 mm after a first test ride revealed that I felt too spread out and bent over.
I opted for Ergon MTB grips that sadly might be replaced with a different model because the ridges in the grips dig into my palms too much right now. I suspect that the grips are meant to be used with gloves but I‘m not going to do that with this bike.
There wasn‘t even a question which bike bell to use. I bought another Spurcycle Bell. These are very loud, sound great, are well made and robust, and user-servicable.

Front of the bicycle and the cockpit

The Spurcycle Bell in all its glory

Saddle setup was fine but I‘m not entirely sure this new Ergon SM Comp MTB saddle is all their advertising promises. We‘ll see. My butt has gotten so used to my Fabric Scoop Pro Shallow perch, maybe it just needs time to accept the Ergon and the more upright sitting position.

Ergon SM Comp saddle

My Abus Bordo lock now has a permanent spot on the seat tube of the bike and I hope that it‘s going to continue to offer enough protection when I have to leave the bike alone in places.
There are few bottle cages that fit a Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle properly (especially not Klean Kanteen‘s own offering) but the Iris King Cage seems to do the trick. The bottle sits in there securely even over rougher terrain and without rattling. There‘s a matter of the bottle being scratched up but personally, I don‘t mind.

Abus Bordo Granit X-Plus and Klean Kanteen Reflect in an Iris King Cage

Last but not least, I‘m very happy that the chainline worked out, using the full SRAM NX Eagle groupset on my CX bicycle frame set. I‘ve documented everything in detail in English here and in German here.
In short, SRAM dissuades customers from using their MTB groupsets on anything but MTBs, recommending their road bike- and gravel-specific components instead. Nowhere did I find any hint that with the right spacer rings everything would work out just fine.

Even the 32-tooth chainring up front, which I feared might be overkill combined with the 11–50-tooth cassette, was a good choice. In the 32+50 gearing it provides a ratio of 0.64 allowing me to almost effortlessly get up the hills we have here. Well now, that‘s a lie: pedaling uphill on an 18% incline is still a pain but much less so than with the lowest gear ratio of 0.9 on my gravel bike.

The bike has also already proven to fulfil its second purpose: being a shopping bike.
I did two weekly shopping trips with it already and even going up a hill and some short but steep inclines with a trailer filled with a week‘s worth of groceries and some beer was much less daunting/taxing/sweaty than expected.

All in all, this project seems to have been a success and I now have two really great and versatile bicycles at my disposal. I‘m particularly happy about this because I was also told in no uncertain terms by my partner that n+1 = s-1 = 2 in my case, so this is where it‘s at. 😉

Photos June 2017

June was another month with lots of time spent outside with friends and our dogs.

Lacey being clueless about food above her head

I really like this shot below because Amy, the Chihuahua of an aquaintance, was really enjoying the cold grass next to a lake. This was also shot with an old Soviet lens (a Helios 44M-4) that is known for its swirly bokeh.

Amy enjoying the cold grass next to a lake

I also attended FedCon in Bonn, which was a hell of a lot of fun. Among other things I received some Oo-mox from a Ferengi and a Cardassian and met this beautiful couple. I'm sure their child is going to have a very nerdy upbringing.

Oo-mox by two unlikely companions

Star Wars and Star Trek coexisting

Photos May 2017

It was such a beautifully sunny month and I spent a lot of time outside with friends and our dogs

Luna

Eyes always on the stick…
… always.

Mika's two modes

Happy hunter…
… sleepy puppy.

The gang

Please break! Seriously, I was afraid these two were going to crash into me.
Dylan and Lenny like playing rough.

My Bijou

A few impressions of nature

Photos April 2017

Amazing weather and lots of walks with friends and their dogs.

This is Dian. He's a Setter-Doodle. And a giant goof ball.


Dog or overgrown bunny, you decide

Rape in bloom.

Luna emerging from the water.


I love where I live.


And this is my beautiful Bijou showcasing her love for bananas.

Photos March 2017

I can't believe how many pictures I shot in this month that I really wanted to keep and even print. Picking stuff to publish was even harder which is why I'm going to group the pictures in two sections; close-ups and animals.

Close-ups

I had bought the Fujifilm 16 mm macro extension ring again after having returned it once before. The first time around I simply didn't know how to approach shooting with it but after some reading and really just having walks with close-ups in mind, it clicked.

Animals

The first picture in here still classifies as a close-up, being shot with the macro extension ring and the XF90mmF2 R WR but it's also the picture of a bumble bee butt that I was super happy to capture.

Many of the vineyards around here have dry stone walls which serve as perfect homes for various critters and this little lizard is one of them.

And almost no photo post of mine is complete without a few pictures of dogs. The first picture must be one of my favourite shots of all time, capturing what is in my mind, the most photogenic dog I know. He's absolutely clueless and kind but was very patient with me.

Dylan

The Fujifilm XF23mmF1.4 R is boring (and that's amazing)

When writing about gear, I typically try to limit myself to solutions for problems I faced, or some New Shiny™ that really piqued my interest. This is an exception. It's an ode to my favourite lens.

Half a year after having started shooting with a Fujifilm X-E1 and the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS kit lens, I was considering buying a lens with a wide aperture for greater creative freedom. I checked which focal length I used most often and at the time ~ 75% of the shots I kept were somewhere around 23 mm (~ 35 mm full-frame equivalent) leading me to buy the Fujifilm XF23mmF1.4 R.

I won't lose too many words about the overall quality of this lens. Many people have done so before me and most of them have a lot more experience with photography and gear than I do. The focal length is versatile, the build quality and the overall image quality are great. Placing the field of focus is easy, and considering the amount of glass that has to be moved, it focuses quickly enough.

The thing that I absolutely love about the 23/1.4, is the fact that it's so boring, so predictable, so utterly unspectacular. In other words, it's dependable.

The two characteristics that influence the dependability and predictability of the lens the most are sharpness and the way it makes out-of-focus areas look.

Sharpness

Even wide open, the lens renders sharp pictures across ~ 70% of the frame from the center. More importantly, though, this doesn't change based on the subject distance. I can shoot close-ups at ƒ/1.4 and be sure that the center of the frame is going to be tack sharp while anything behind it ends up an unrecognisable blur. When shooting landscapes in waining light at the widest aperture, I know that the result is still going to be good.

Rendering of the out-of-focus areas

Many great lenses can also be capricious at times, where the way the out-of-focus areas are rendered can vary wildly depending on the subject distance and aperture and lead to less than desirable results sometimes, like overly busy looking backgrounds. The XF23mmF1.4 R delivers absolutely consistent results that take a lot of guesswork out of taking pictures. I choose my subject, the distance and angle, and pick the aperture I want.
Furthermore, the progression from sharp to blurry moving from the in-focus subject to the background feels almost linear (depending on the composition). The same holds true for aperture changes from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/8.

Mika's front paws

If I could improve one aspect about the 23/1.4, it would be the addition of weather sealing. As one of the older optics in Fujifilm's line-up, it's not sealed against the elements.
Unfortunately the smaller, lighter, and weather-sealed XF23mmF2 R WR is no viable alternative. Its image quality is great but the rendering characteristics aren't nearly as predictable or dependable, making the lens less versatile.

Even so, the XF23mmF1.4 R is the lens I would take to a deserted island with me, the glass I would choose if I had to go with one lens for the rest of my days.

Photos January 2017

A month that started pretty meager in terms of photography but ended with a bang. At the end of January it was time for the annual company conference, which we spend it on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. This time I took a few days in Miami and Fort Lauderdale beforehand and visited the Everglades National Park.

A friend and I went there fairly early in the morning and rented two bicycles to take a 16-mile round course. It was great and I really want to do it again.

I crouched before this one about two metres away. I had never seen an alligator in the wild before and this was an absolute treat.

This dove was walking on the top deck of the ship like it owned the place. It was very cute.

Dove on deck

I never had a shot from a plane window come out this nice.