So, it is 2019. How time flies. I can’t believe last year went by so quickly. Was shocking to me. Was really one of the best years in my life. That is, at least personally. It almost felt like a vacation of a year. 2019 is here and I need to buckle down and get productive. Here are my five goals for 2019:
Number One: Blog More
This one is kind of a must. The beginning of all this photography stuff from me came from my blog. I’ve become more lazy when it comes to my blog. I posted five or six times all of last year. That isn’t enough. I need to be better.
I plan to blog at least once a week, rain or shine. Some of the posts may very well be boring. I am still going to write them though. It is something I need to do for me.
I purchased a domain for the first time in my life today: jtinseoul.com.
Number Two: Take More Photos
This one may seem obvious. I took around 500 photos last year. That is down from the 800 the year before. Down again from the 1100 in 2016. I need to be better at this too. I think this goes hand in hand with my blog posts being down. I write my blog posts based on my photos and not the other way round.
I have started walking in the mornings with my camera. This isn’t something I’d done in a really long time. I very rarely just take photos. I always needed to have a purpose. Another purpose. I consider my other purpose to be getting in better shape.
Number Three: Get in Better Shape
Well, how about that for a segway. I have gained 15kgs since 2016. Not good. Basically the happier I am the lazier I am. Also not good. Last year was a happy year. That means lots of beer, good food, and very little exercise. Time to change that. I plan on doing those morning walks every day. It may not seem like much but it is a hell of a lot more than I’ve been doing for about 18 months. Hopefully I can keep this up. I promised my wife I would lose weight this year. I have to keep my promise. She literally dances like a ballerina while she cleans (see above picture) so I have a tough critic to please.
Number Four: Actually Start my YouTube Channel
This one I have been promising for years. I have tried several times to get it going but have never had the gumption nor the equipment to do it properly. Truth be told I was never really sure how to start. I was never really sure what content you guys may want. I will gladly take advice on this! I filmed a video last week about a laptop I got from Samsung. An unboxing, of sorts. Not sure how well it turned out yet. I’m scared to sit down and edit it, haha. I will do so this week. It won’t be the first video I post, however. I plan on shooting a channel introduction this week as well. I even hired someone to help me shoot it. No turning back now!
Number Five: Transitional Year
During this year one thing I really want to do is transition into an artist. Sounds cliche. Sounds stupid even. I’ve never given this lifestyle a real chance. I have never really taken this whole thing very seriously. I know it isn’t easy. I know it is in fact, really hard. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. I feel I owe it to myself to try. So, I will do so! I have already started the remodeling process of a darkroom and studio in my house. I have always dreamed about having an analogue studio in my house and I am going to make it happen. I am most excited about this of all the things I’ve mentioned so far.
This is perhaps the biggest of these goals. Again, I’m open to advice! In fact, I really enjoyed reading the advice from some of you after my post last weekend. It all helps.
Up Next: My favourite 10 Photos of 2018. Stay tuned 😉 One of the photos in this post is on the list.. can you guess which? haha.
Well, it has been nearly four months since I posted something here. Every time I post I promise I will get better and posting and every time I promise that I end up getting worse. I’d like to say that it is solely because I am busy. I am busy, yet, it is mostly out of laziness. When I have free time to do something like this I generally spend it with my family or relaxing. I didn’t even do a “Fuck you, 2018” post. It had become a kind of tradition.
The fact of the matter is this:
2018 was one of the best years of my life. It was a whirlwind of positivity. I basically rebuilt a house in the winter and spring. I got married in May. I started a new job with Leica in the summer. We added some new members to our family. 2018 wasn’t the kind of year I wanted to end.
That said, there are lots of things I want to do in 2019. Things I want to accomplish.
New beginnings of a different sort.
As I walked around a little today with my camera I thought about these things. Thought about what I’d like to do in 2019. One thing I want to do is do a project based on my now home city, Iksan. Many people tie me to Seoul (my fault I guess considering the blog title) but the fact of the matter is I actually live in Iksan. Iksan is a small city about 2 hours south of Seoul.
I live here in a house with my wife and our two cats. Yes, a proper house. Not very common in Korea for people to live in houses. Our neighborhood is full of seniors. That’s okay, we like having a small yard and our own space. It is especially special considering how much work we put into the house.
Our kittens seem to like it. I was never a cat person. In fact, I was one of those dog people that said cats were emotionless and selfish. A friend then said this to me:
“If you don’t like cats it is probably because you haven’t met the right cat.”
I completely agree with this now. Our cats are almost like dogs. They play fetch. Play dead. Always greet me at the door when I come home and spend most of their time following me around. Weirdest of all they cry to be picked up. Our vet said it is quite unique. Well, our little sisters have certainly brightened up our home. They even have their own Instagram 😉
Iksan, January 2018.
So, aside from the yet untitled Iksan project and photos of my kittens, I also plan on becoming more active on Social Media this year. I have re-made my schedule in such a way where I will have lots of “cafe” time to get on the ball. I say “cafe” time because I find they are the only place where I am able to get any of this stuff done.
So, here is where it is my turn to ask for some advice. What type of things would you like to see on my blog? Long form posts about life in general? Reviews? Daily thoughts? Let me know in the comments. I am happy and willing to hear your thoughts.
RE: YouTube Channel
Okay, I have promised this forever and always failed. Basically I am not particularly good at editing video. Well, actually that is kind of a lie. It is more like I am too lazy for the tedious process of doing so. Lately though, I was introduced to an app called Lumafusion for the iPad that has changed my thought process about this. There are still some problems, however. My iPad is 128GB model and I think that will make it difficult to shoot as much as I’d need to for a proper full length video. That said, my “video” camera is a now aged Olympus EM-1 (don’t ask why it just happens to be the only thing I have that does a decent job of it) and it only does 1080p so perhaps it will be fine.
Anyone in Korea wanna be a camera person ? I pay great (booze and coffee). My wife has been trying to do so but I think she wants to retire her position. She hates the cold.
Well, Aside from that I don’t have a whole lot to talk about. I hope to have more in the days to come.
More than anything I want to thank everyone for sticking with me. I know I am quite bi-polar as someone to follow. I make no apologies, but I do feel grateful.
As of this week I started as the Leica Akademie Ambassador in Korea. What does this mean? It means workshops, lectures, exhibitions and more! I’m really excited by what is to come.
First! This Saturday, September 15th at 1:00 at the Leica Store Gangnam I will be having an artist talk introducing myself and my work. It costs just 10,000 won and drinks will be served! So if you’re in an around Seoul please stop by and say hi!
There are limited spots available, so please sign up at the website below. If you have any questions please let me know!
I’ve been busy. Busy getting married, finishing my house. I had guests in the house until yesterday. Not much time for anything. That doesn’t even include dodging the construction dust long enough to write a post.
I don’t do this often. Post in colour I mean. This is my darkroom light. My wife said she chose it because it reminded her of Eggleston. Only the opposite. Slightly confused, I asked where she’d heard of Eggleston. She told me after we had met she’d spent several weekends reading about the masters. She’s as cool they come.
This is her. I took this on our wedding day. She was certainly a site for sore eyes. She’s wearing a traditional Korean dress called a hanbok. I wore one as well, ha.
I want to make a longer post about the wedding when I have time. Hopefully I will have some now that things from the wedding are winding down. We had lots of guests. Junku Nishimura was here, Matt Martin, Aikbeng Chia. We had a blast. Lots of drinking. Lots and lots of drinking.
Anyway, that’s it for the update. On a side note, anyone have any suggestions for an enlarger? 😉
Been a while again. I know I said I was going to try and blog more. I think I say that at some point during every post. Reality is, things are always so busy that I rarely have a chance to do anything aside from eat and sleep, ha.
So, consider this an update on things to come! May promises to be a busy month. My mom is coming on the 13th from Canada. I’m getting married on the 20th. I have friends from all over the globe coming on the 19th. On top of that, I spend 8 hours a day trying to renovate the house I bought before people come and spend the other 8 hours working my day job.
I only really take pictures near my house because that is all the time I really have. I sometimes take a break to take photos in the neighbourhood. I mostly just use my iPhone because I’m too dirty to grab anything else.
My nieces are becoming some of my favourite subjects. Sadly they aren’t round too often now since the house is a construction site.
So, the upcoming review! I’ve been “using” the Leica T for around a month. I say using, but in fact I’ve barely had time to use it aside from around my room. That said, I have been preparing some thoughts on the camera. You’d probably be surprised, but I really like it.
I am completely over the idea that I need a viewfinder. I actually find it dumb when people say this. It is very rare that someone tells me they need a viewfinder and the reasoning is not related to some deep embedded hipster nonsense. The only excuse I can see for wanting a viewfinder is in super bright light and the huge screen does more than well enough from what I’ve seen.
As a bit of a precursor to my “review” I would say that there are lots of things I like but also lots of things I don’t like about the camera. The grip, being the thing I hated the most. I’ll explain how this was completely fixed by a simple accessory, though. Anyway, stay tuned for my full thoughts.
Also have a post coming up about Children’s Day here in Korea. I shot my school’s party with an M6 and a 28mm Zeiss on HP5 at 3200. It was a blast! I missed shooting flash on a Leica. Also, the results turned out to be great from HP5 at 3200. I’ll talk about all of those things in that post.
I’ve been borrowing this M6 to shoot some flash and shoot 28mm and have loved it. Feels great to get back to the focal length that I loved for so long. I look forward to talking more about this in a future post as well. The 28mm Zeiss that I have been using on both the T and the M6 is such a great lens. About as “good” of a lens as I’ve used.
Anyway, that is about it for today’s update! Still more busy times ahead! Hopefully I’ll have time for some posts about my family and friends being here, moving into the house, and of course the wedding!
So, this is my bag for the @24hourproject this year. I’ll leave work tonight and head for the port/beach city of Busan. The cameras I’ve decided to take are the original Fujifilm X100, the Leica T (with 50mm Summilux v2), and my phone. I’ll use the Fuji for street, the Leica for portraits, and the phone if everything else dies haha. I chose the Leica T (which I’m sure will surprise some people) because the battery can be charged in camera with a power bank and the Summilux becomes a good portrait length on it. The Fuji, I chose because I literally have the most batteries for it. I don’t shoot that much but it’s meant to be cold tonight so they might come in handy. It’s the original x100 that I took some of my favourite photos with (smoking lady, for example). I’ve decided to take a MacBook Air just in case and since it’s small it doesn’t take up much room in my bag. The other stuff you can see are some airpods, the Fuji charger, and a huge power bank. The bag is a@vanguardworld Havana 48. I’m bringing my Leica M3, well, because I want to ;).
I did a live on my Instagram (@jt_inseoul) today talking a little about the kit as well as the project in general and some other things.
Also, just wanted to extend a huge thanks to my good friend Jay from @leicastore_seoul_bando in Seoul for helping me get the T on short notice! And for always dealing with the most difficult customer in the world 😉 If you need anything Leica related be sure to check them out! Plus, they have one of the coolest collections of Leica memorabilia that I’ve seen.
Anyway, that’s about it! Hopefully I survive. If you have any questions, leave them in comments or on my Instagram. Answering them might help keep me up.
So I’ve done the 24 Hour Project for four years in a row. It is a difficult thing to do, in fact, sometimes it outright sucks. I don’t know why I keep doing it. Well, I guess I kind of do.
The memories. I do the project selfishly. Even though it is always a struggle the memories are always great. This year, for the first time, I’m doing the project in Busan instead of Seoul.
The gist of the project is that the participants are to take one photo per hour (and post to Instagram) for 24 straight hours. I usually get a lot of questions about what gear I’m going to use for the project so I’m going to make a couple of posts (more on this later) outlining the gear I’m going to bring. Consider this a kind of warm-up.
The first camera I decided to take with me to Busan is the original Fujifilm X100. This camera has been with me forever (my wife uses it now) and I still love it. It looks as though it has been through several wars but still works perfectly.
There were a couple of reasons I decided to take the X100. First is that I have three batteries for it. That’s a big deal when it comes to this kind of marathon event. On top of that, I am just really comfortable with this camera. It is the closest thing to my Leica I have that is also digital, haha. I’ve quite honestly sold more prints and had more “successful” photos from this camera than any other in my life.
One thing I haven’t decided is whether to shoot in colour or black and white.
I’ll transfer the photos to my phone via a usb dongle thing I got from the Apple store. I’ll edit them in Snapseed. This camera is 35mm equiv and the second camera I’m bringing is 75mm so I think they will work well together. I plan to take some portraits with the 75mm and do more street with the X100.
Care to guess what the second camera is 😉 ?
I’ll write a short post about it, and the other gear I’m taking on the project tomorrow. Stay tuned 😉
I’ve got some good news and some bad news about this ‘review.’
The bad news first.
I’d been waiting to do this review because I didn’t have any photos. Literally, I didn’t have any time since I promised this review to even take photos. Not even a spare hour to walk around. Feck.
My days most often look like above. Having recently bought a house here in Korea I haven’t really had much time for anything else. A fixer-upper would be being kind. That said, I’m loving the process of re-building. I will remember the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making it a house.
You might say, why not photography the process? There is one main reason for this:
This is Korea and people here work.
What do I mean? Well, if I am walking around taking photos while other people work then I look lazy. I should be working just as hard as the people around me. If my wife is working harder than me I can’t help but feel guilty. Also, I’ve never done anything like this before and I think that the process of “doing” is more important than the “documenting” of the process.
I’ve taken some photos of the stages, but very little. I guess I’ve come to realize this experience is better experienced,
As it were.
So, the good news! I have taken some photos during that time. I think I’ve taken enough to illustrate my thoughts on both the cameras in question. So, in the next 2000 or so words I’ll tell you about my experience with both the Olympus Pen-F and OM-D EM-1. I’ll tell you why I eventually got rid of one and kept the other. I’ll also talk a little about the system as a whole.
So, can you guess which of them I kept? In all honesty, it wasn’t a difficult decision in the end. Not even slightly.
Let’s start with the Pen-F.
Let me say this first, I think the Pen-F is one of the prettiest digital cameras I’ve ever seen. I’ve used a lot of pretty cameras -Leica Ms, Leica Q, almost all the Fujis – but I still think the Pen-F is as pretty as any of them. It’s a beautiful thing to look at.
In use, I found the Pen-F to be fast and competent. That “dial” on the front to change from colour filters to black and white filters never bothered me and I even found myself using it now and then. I did find the Pen in general a bit uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time without the optional (and expensive) grip which I eventually borrowed. When I was using the Pen for a job about halfway through my hand started to cramp a little. The grip seemed to solve this, however.
The photos from the Pen looked great to me, but I have always been a huge fan of Micro Four Thirds cameras in general. I find this sensor size to be the absolute best compromise between depth of field and image quality. When shooting on the street, I love smaller sensors. The deeper depth of field makes things easier and allows for more context. Of course, when shooting full frame (or film) I just stop down and get a similar thing. That said, light becomes a bit of a problem in that case. It’s strange but, I think being able to get the light of f/4 with the same depth of field as f8 on film is a real plus to me. I’ll cover “bokeh” later if that is a reason you’ve decided this sensor might not be for you.
The M43s sensor also seems to process better than any other sensor I’ve used. The photos take almost no work in comparison to files from a Ricoh, Sony, Fuji, or even Leica. They seem to look good almost straight out of camera a lot more often than anything from those other brands. I know, you’ll be thinking I’ve sang the praises of those other brands often enough. Fair, enough. All I can say is every time I use a M43s camera I am always surprised by how little the photos need. All my presets seem to be way “too much” for the photos. I like this a lot as I can do a lot more a lot more quickly. As you can see from the above photo, the original and the one processed to match my normal look aren’t far off each other. You’d find a much greater difference from something like a Ricoh for example.
So, the big question regarding image quality that I most often get about M43s is something like this:
“Is it still possible to get bokeh like I can with a full frame camera?”
First, let me say that I think bokeh is the most overrated cop-out of a photographic effect there is. It is for lazy people that don’t want to compose an image with “thought.” When I’m feeling really lazy I use it to get rid of distractions in the background of a photo. Otherwise, I just don’t get it. Anyway, I digress.
The answer is simple. Yes, it is easy to get bokeh from a M43s sensor. In fact, I find it almost laughable when people talk about it. It’s laziness that creates this argument. Let me explain (apologies in advance for my terrible understanding of this – bare with me):
So, my Leica Summilux 50mm lens looks at 1.4 like 2.8 might on a full frame camera. That is to say, the depth of field is doubled? Doubly deep? Trust me when I say technical aspects of cameras are not my thing. How most people explain this to me the “bokeh” will be – ahem – half what it might be on a full frame camera. But then, the Summilux becomes a 100mm 2.8 (effectively in terms of depth of field) on M43s. A 100mm lens has more “bokeh” than a 50mm lens by double (assuming everything else is the same) as far as I understand it so what is the difference? Aren’t they the same then…? At least, to me, I can’t really tell the difference aside from compression.
Well, I guess lazy people will say they have to walk back twice as far to frame something. Sounds like laziness pure and simple. Sure, some situations won’t allow it but then that’s where that thing between your ears is supposed to come into play. Creative constraints have allowed me to make some of my favourite photographs.
Take the above photo for example. I had left my Leica M5 and Summilux in the car. I had brought an ND filter in the thoughts to make a pretty bokeh-ed out portrait. Left with nothing but my compact camera, I had to think and compose the photo in such a way where the “distractions” worked in my favour. I had to elevate to frame her head against the road. That turned out to be one of my favourite photos of the year. The context that was captured here would never have been possible with my initial plan. Creative constraints “created” this photo.
Recently, I took some photos of my film director friend Dong-bin in Seoul with the Pen-F and the 50mm Summilux attached. Even in the tight streets of Seoul I never felt “trapped” by the lens being 100mm on this system. In fact, it gave me an appreciation for a focal length I would never normally use. I’ve always sworn by wide lenses. I’ve evolved a bit though and now I kind of subscribe to the mindset that I should be able to get a photo with whatever focal length I have.
Anyway, in my humble opinion there is plenty of “bokeh” for those who like it available in this system. Of course, this is a pretty pricey Leica lens but there are cheaper options and literally any 50mm 1.4 lens can be adapted to these cameras and some of them are like $30.
It shouldn’t be an issue.
The other thing people often ask about when it comes to M43s is about the aspect ratio being natively 4:3. Well, this is a bit of a weird one for me. I find myself preferring 4:3 (for work) because it provides more context to me in a shot. I’m not sure why this is, but I find when I’m working on a job I prefer the look of 4:3 and seem to “see” that way a little better. In any case, purists who swear by 3:2 because it is the “same” as film are kinda off anyway. My negatives are never 3:2. Slightly wider from my M3, for example.
Another weird thing is I found that shooting the Pen-F in 4:3 felt weird whereas it seems to make sense to my brain with the OM-D. WEIRD, I know. I can’t really explain this aside from the fact that the form factor of the cameras might have something to do with my craziness.
Either way, I generally crop most images if I am posting them on Instagram to around 3:2 for continuity. This kind of thing doesn’t bother me very much anymore. Just, whatever works you know?
Anyway, I’ve gone WAY off topic. Back to the cameras. Have you been able to guess which I decided to keep yet?
Well, a lot of factors went into me deciding to keep the OM-D over the Pen-F. The Pen-F is obviously so much prettier. I loved to look at it. That being said, I already have a camera that is more beautiful to look at than even the Pen.
I’m fairly certain if I wanted to go out with a camera that looks good I’d still take this. So, that was the first thing that made the Pen-F redundant to me.
Secondly, I needed to consider what I needed for work. I am not a full time photographer but I do have some more serious projects I am working on. For those, I needed a camera that was better to “use” – not just better to look at. The OM-D, for example, is so, so much more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The large grip just makes it so nice in use. Also, it generally just feels much faster. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but the OM-D feels more like a tool to me. Things are all where they should be. Settings just are where I need them. When I mount my 50mm Summilux the placement of the function buttons just makes the OM-D a much easier camera to focus and shoot. The viewfinder is also nicer to my eye (at least, bigger). I find the image quality to be about the same. Also, the battery seemed to last longer and the fact that the optional grip carries an extra battery (if I need) makes it a lot more of a “pro” experience. In Korea this is important as people expect a photographer to have a big camera. It’s funny, I used to show up to shoots with a 5D or an A7 and huge lens but take all the photos with an RX100 or X100. The other camera was just for show.
I used to prefer pretty motorcycles. These days, I ride this scooter around because it is reliable and literally just works. No one would argue it being pretty, surely. The OM-D is kind of like that. I never feel the need to baby it. While the Pen-F is built very nicely it feels nowhere near as nice in the hand as the OM-D. It feels like there is no way it would take the abuse that the OM-D would. The OM-D is also weather and dust sealed which is a great plus considering the dust and things I’ve been dealing with lately. I picked up the cheap 12-50mm lens which is also weather-sealed and together they make a nice tight package.
Another reason I decided on the OM-D is video. While it lacks the pop out screen of the Pen-F it has a mic-input which I find a lot more important. I’ve been putting together some vlog posts (planning to launch first with new house completion) and I just generally found the OM-D to work a lot easier to use for video. It isn’t the best camera around for video, obviously, but is more than enough for what I need.
All those things aside, the OM-D was just the one I reached for all the time. I love the fact that I don’t have to worry about it. I can toss it around without care or worry. This part especially fits into my lifestyle these days.
Oh, and I forgot this part:
The OM-D costs about one third the price of the Pen-F used here in Korea. That alone means I’d pick it every single time. Building a house has made me frugal so this is probably one of the most important factors in all of this. I could buy the 12-50, grip, extra battery, 17mm, and OM-D EM-1 body for about the price of the Pen-F body and grip. Doesn’t make sense to me anymore.
Also, for family trips and what not the OM-D can be handed to anyone to use and I never worry about it. I wouldn’t in a million years just hand my M3 over to a kid to play with. At least not while sober.
The one thing I forgot to mention that many people asked me was about the electronic shutter on both cameras. Well, to be honest I am not the type to shoot in silence. I quite like to be seen or heard. I did try it a little but as you can see from above it is quite difficult if the lights are the cycling variety. Unless, of course, you like that sort of thing. In my opinion the shutter on both cameras is quite quiet so this shouldn’t really be a deciding factor. I just thought I would add it since some people asked. I found the problem to be very similar on both cameras.
So, this wasn’t much of a review. I apologize.
I don’t have the time I once did. I do hope I can balance things a little more effectively once the house is finished. I also will be undergoing some changes in my job soon which should give me more time for this sort of thing. I have a couple of reviews I want to get done.
I recently picked up the Sony RX100V for example, for my mom and spent some time with it before sending it off. A really nice little camera, and the fact it is the one I purchased for my mother should say quite a bit about how highly I think of it. That will be the next mini-review I plan on doing.
I took Eric Kim’s longtime profile photo with an older version of that camera. Also used two phones for lighting, but that is another story. A rip-off of the Irving Penn portrait of Truman Capote. So stay tuned for that post. Should be done before 2028. Maybe.
Considering how bad this review was, I wanna open up the comments to questions about the cameras. I figure if you have anything you want to know that I didn’t talk about I am more than happy to answer! I think this type of back and forth might be better than what I actually wrote…
Finally, thank you so much to everyone that ordered my zine, Neverland: Korea Volume I. I was blown away by the support. So much so, I’ve already started putting together Volume II (suggestions?). It will be slightly shorter and slightly cheaper and probably will be available sometime this summer.