I was 11 or 12 years old and looking for my first camera. My father told me, “Son, whatever type of camera you chose to be with is just fine with your mother and me just as long as it’s a Nikon.”
I had been perusing the centerfolds of camera magazines, ogling the Nikon bodies and yes, even the fine looking Olympus, Canon, Pentax, and Minoltas. When my father was once looking to buy a camera, his photographic mentor Gino Rossi told him to buy the one he really wanted, to not compromise. My dad told me the same thing and what I really did want was a Nikon. The others were pretty but they didn’t feel right for me. There was one caveat. I had read an article about Leicas and when I asked my dad about them he didn’t turn up his nose as he did at other brands. He said something about them being very good but too expensive — and for an 11-year-old about to spend his life savings of just over $100 that was the end of that. I ended up buying a well-used Nikon FM black body. My dad gave me a 50mm Nikon f/1.8 E Series lens, since my life savings wouldn’t cover any optics, and that camera carried me years into the future — to work at newspapers and on my first international documentary assignments in Central America. Along the way it was joined by a Nikon F3 and a few other lenses, most notably the Nikkor 20mm f/2.8. Finally, the old FM and the newer F3 were joined by a brand new Leica M6ttl. That my introduction to the M system and this is the story of that journey.
As I close my eyes, I could still smell the aromatic chemical fumes from a typical photo development store. If you have ever walked pass one, think of it as a mixture of ammonia, noxious gases, and vinegar- like acid mixed together in a chemical lab. It is undeniable an unpleasant odor. But if you need to spend 8 hours in the store; the smell sort of becomes aromatic.
This is – The One Hour Photo, also known as my second home from the age of 11-14. As a child, growing up in Shanghai and Los Angeles, I would accompany my mom, a self-taught photographer, to her store on the weekends and spent my whole day there while completing my homework. I always looked forward to it because there was an El Pollo Loco next door, which means, my reward will be waiting for me once I have completed my homework.
Monday: I stopped by World of photography and saw for the first time in person, the Nikon Z7.
Tuesday: I walked in with a D5 and walked out with the Z7 system.
I’m standing here holding the new Nikon Z7, and it feels great! A camera that I had no plans to own. I wasn’t expecting even to be able to see the camera till after Christmas. It’s widely sold out, with a waiting list at most major retailers. But here I am at my friend Gary’s shop, using it for the first time. It feels wonderful, just like a mini Nikon DSLR, the EVF is big and bright, sharp as a tack and the color is outstanding. I found myself coming back the next day and walking out with a Z7. The D5 is an incredible camera, but it’s big bulky and ill-suited for 98% of the work I do. The Z7 is small, light, fast and frankly almost as good as the D5. I’m not going to bury the lead here; the Nikon Z7 is very possibly the best mirrorless camera I have ever used.
Regardless of whether you are a seasoned professional, an avid amateur, or you just got your first camera last week, an excellent way to become a better photographer is to take photo-walks. Walking, of and by itself: exploring a new city, a faraway island, a familiar old trail or a nearby neighborhood is one of life’s great pleasures with or without a camera. But this story is about photo walks and one walk in particular I took with my friend, the inimitable Sebastian John, one hot day over a year ago in Mumbai, India. It was my last long walk in that city I called home for two years and similar to the first long walk I took by myself in Mumbai during the monsoon not long after we arrived. It was not quite as long as that watery hike, because Sebastian and I took our foray into Mumbai’s mad streets in the sweltering days just before the monsoon broke. The heat in that time of year is very nearly hallucinatory. The temperature, combined with the crowds, humidity, smoke and noise, can only be completely appreciated by someone who has been there. Neither a thousand words nor a thousand photos can describe the reality of the streets of Mumbai.
For years, going to Mount Everest was at the top of my bucket list. I grew up reading my brother’s National Geographic magazines and watching the Discovery Channel, dreaming about exploring the Himalayas, going face to face against mother nature. Since I didn’t have a spare $100,000 and a death wish, I knew I was going to have to settle for Everest Base Camp rather than the summit. While it’s not the top of The Mountain, going to Everest Base Camp is still no small feat, and required months of preparation. Continue reading “THE PATH TO THE SUMMIT, AN EVEREST ADVENTURE”
It may look like deepest Africa with fields stretching over rolling hills and wide open plains that resemble the Serengeti, but it is, in fact, The Wilds of Ohio. The Wilds is a nature preserve filled with African wildlife. Every so often, this wildlife refuge was home to an off-road event exclusive to those who owned a Land Rover. We brought a Jeep.
Go wide! Go wider!! Go as wide as you can without going too wide!!! This is how I think about the 20mm lens and, to be specific, the classic 20mm f/2.8 Nikkor in both auto and manual focus. In my long experience with this lens — I have used it in its MF and AF versions as one of my primary working optics since around 2000 — I have found it to be a special lens in particular and generally as wide an angle as one can get without entering the realm of special effects. Lenses wider than 20mm can come in handy for unique perspectives and situations, but rarely for every day use.
The 50mm is still and always has been a staple of mine. Over 20+ years, I’ve never been without a decently fast 50mm. To say I was excited getting my hands on a mint Nikon LTM 50mm f1.4 without any flaws or dust, fungus etc in the glass, well excited would be an understatement. Continue reading “NIKON LTM 50mm ƒF1.4”