Richard Man – Photography and Calligraphy

February 25, 2010

The Fan Ho Light

Filed under: photography — Tags: , — richard @ 8:37 am

I have written about Fan Ho a couple times. Upon studying his photos, it is clear that he loves the backlight, it’s really lovely stuff the way he utilizes them. My guess is that most of his photos are taken between 2 to 5/6PM. The ability for Fan Ho to find the lights and the right subject is remarkable.

My wife with her her chai tea latte in one hand, and the Droid in another, what more does one need?

Another one:


February 20, 2010

New Portfolio and “Fractal Branches”

Filed under: Chinese calligraphy, For Sale, photography — Tags: , — imagecraft @ 11:58 am

Also a new portfolio here:

August 16, 2009

Why Leica Still Matters…

Filed under: photography — Tags: , , — richard @ 3:43 am

It’s almost a certainty that Leica will announce the M9 on Sept 09, 2009 (09/09/09), and shipping some times later. At a rumored $7999.99 street price tag, for most photographers, it will be a non-event.

For others, it is a watershed event. For that to make sense, one has to appreciate the Leica DNA, which is as relevant today on the M8/M8.2 as it was fifty years ago, when the M3 was introduced:  small compact cameras with all the necessary controls,  manual focus with the world’s greatest rangefinder and the lens systems, that can produce the highest quality or the most appealing images at the right hands.

The last part needs some explanation: highest quality is because the lens are without peers. Most of them are sharp even at wide open, and wide open means F2 for the pedestrian Summicron, F1.4 for the Summilux, and the light fantastic F0.95/F1 of the Noctilux. Sure the Canon 85/1.2 is just as good, but we are talking the whole Leica lens range – not a lemon to be found.

And the most appealing does not equate highest technical quality. A favorite pastime would be to look at Henri Cartier-Bresson photos that people occasionally upload to the Flickr and other sites, and see the Internet photography “experts,” complaining the lack of sharp focus or other technical qualities. With a Leica, you can have both or either.

So who won’t benefit from a Leica? People that don’t like rangefinder or manual focusing, people that want the flexibility of zoom lens, people that like to shoot sports, telephone, macros, and people that don’t want to spend the price of a good car just to get a camera body and two lens. With the M8, you need to also add the expense and hassle of mounting IR blocking filters, and the 1.3X crop factor.

But what glorious pictures it takes. Any Leica, any medium – be it a digital sensor in the M8, or a roll of Tri-X, or gasp, even color film (I shot boatload of Provia slide film on my M7) – gives you no excuses to say, “my equipment is not up to my standard” (minus the limitation of shooting action, tele, macro etc. etc.). If the image is not so good, the flaws most likely lie with the person pushing that shutter button. Clear and simple. Yes, the M8 had issues, but the current generation of firmware and supporting software by and the large make them irrelevant. You will see what a 35mm frame looks like, you will anticipate actions. You will know the depth of field of an aperture and distance to subject. You will KNOW your camera.

So what will the M9 do that is so important? If the rumors are true, no more crop factor, and no more IR filters, and higher ISO performance. There will be more megapixels too, but for most people, it’s an non-issue. Cynics would say, that just means that Leica has finally caught up with Canon, Nikon, and Sony with the full frame sensors, but that just means that they do not understand the Leica DNA.

More importantly, the M9 will significantly drive down the cost of a used M8, and even M7. For anyone interested in honing their craft, get a used M6 or M7, and a used lens, for $1500-$2500, shoot with it for a year, and then sell it for a few hundred dollars “loss.” The lessons one will learn is well worth it. For those who want the convenience of digital and don’t mind losing more, then a used M8 can be have for as little as $2300. Yes, it’s the price of a new D700, but read above again for the Leica DNA.

No, a Leica is not for everyone, but if you like its DNA, that’s nothing else like it.

July 20, 2009

With a Twinkle in His Eyes, and Two Hands Across the Door

Filed under: photography — Tags: , , , — richard @ 6:30 am

Fan Ho,  (my wife says I look like a total fanboy in this picture, and it is true 🙂 ), gave a talk recently at ModernBook. He found places where the light and background might potentially give a top class image and then… waited, and waited, and waited, until the moment it clicked. He used a  Rolliflex and with the  large 6×6 negatives, he edited and cropped to get the images he wanted. You can tell by the twinkles in his eyes that he is always looking for something new and different:


A couple days ago, 20 of us had a book signing event in Modernbook. Her’s one of my favorite photos from that evening:

The rest of the photos here: Modernbook Events.

July 11, 2009

Light/Life and Death

Filed under: photography — Tags: , , — richard @ 10:40 am

I finished off a roll of film sitting in the Leica since Jan and found this:

As a Daoist and Buddhist, death is just a gateway to another period. However, I can’t help but to find a counter balance; so I cropped a photo I took a couple weeks ago. It’s more a Light picture, but what is Light but Life itself?

June 8, 2009

The Magic Panthermic Harvey 777 Developer

Filed under: photography — Tags: , , — richard @ 11:21 am

Do you know who Eugene Smith is? or Henri Cartier Bresson? They are of course legendary Magnum photographers who recorded some of the most iconic photos of the 20th century. Eugene also was  a photographer for the venerable Life magazine. What else do they have in common? Along with other Life magazine photographers, supposedly they used a magic brew called the Harvey 777 to develop their films. I don’t know about you, but if 777 is good enough for HCB and Eugene Smith, I am sure to pay attention.

So what does this magic developer do? How about this sample from a throwaway roll that I used to “season” the developer? By “seasoned,” I mean that after some usage, I expect the developer to give even creamier highlight:

The web pics probably does not show it, but this photo has much better tonality and finer grain right out of the film without post processing than the previous half a dozen rolls I have done using Xtol. Since I have no timing figure for the film/developer/temperature combo, I just used a “reasonable” number, based on my own experience and some recommended timing for other films. This is pretty darn incredible. Pretty much perfect tonality on effectively a blind test.

Lets just say that Xtol is a competent developer, but 777 is a great developer.

Here is a picture talen with the Leica a few years back, developed with a seasoned 777 developer:

The highlight goes on forever and the shadow never seems to block up. I stopped using 777 because a) there seems to be a bit too much desposit on the 35mm film, showing up as dust spots, and b) I was moving to digital out of necessity. Now the second need is taken care by the Olympus E-3, I now have the option to shoot with B&W again, and with the larger negative size of the 6×7, I don’t expect the dust spots to be much of a problem.

So I have a fresh batch of 777 ready to be used again. This is, as they say, a very exciting “development.”

January 24, 2009

A Picture 5 Years In The Making

Filed under: Chinese calligraphy, photography — Tags: , — richard @ 11:14 am

Ever since I took this photo in a rainy afternoon in Calistoga (home of the mud bath) in 2003 or 2004, I kept coming back to it, trying to make it work. Finally, I think I found a crop that I like:

The cropping is very minor, just a bit on the right and left, but it makes a difference. The Chinese reads, “Wind (and) Rain.”

What do you think?

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