Sorry not to give real-time updates while away on my little train trip to DC over the end of last week and this weekend. Not even a tweet. It's not that I didn't bring the tech with me to post or tweet or email, I just didn't. I have a lot of thoughts about the trip that I do want to share but the fact is this is the first day back and I need some time to really think about a few of those things before I can possibly share them on the blog. Heck I haven't even looked at what I shot over the trip yet. The bottom line is that it was interesting, fun, and since I had no plan, surprising.
The two biggest surprises were that I didn't shoot nearly as much as I had thought I would. A few hours maybe. The other surprise is that I actually decided on the fly to do a little work on one of my ongoing personal projects. That never happens - "personal project work" without any plan. The shot at the top happens to be a semi-random pick from that particular session. I am hoping that I actually made a few that will work after I let them all stew a bit and look at them with perspective…
One of the things that I am not surprised at was (as I mentioned before I left) was that I brought way too much gear. I ended up using one 50mm on the D600 and my X100S. I actually used the X100S about as much as I used the D600. Not in terms of the same number of shots but more in the sense measure by time in my hands.
I think for the next random road trip I am going to bring only a 50mm and 35mm and that's it. Possibly only the X100S but then I wouldn't have any backup. I don't know if I can get there mentally yet. God I wish Fuji would would cease and desist working on the dreck such as the XM1 and useless XA1(http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EYTM3FS/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00EYTM3FS&linkCode=as2&tag=rbde-20). Instead they should be putting all their energy delivering on that X-Series lens road map (remember they promised the 58mm f/1.4 would be out by now?) Ummm it's not and not coming until 2014, maybe. They will probably need to make a few more normal range shitty big zooms at every price point under the sun as well as an XB1 and an XN1 or a XM1s or something prior to getting back to why anybody wants an X-Series in the first place. Heck I would far rather an X200 with a 50mm equivalent instead of a couple of cameras that are most likely bested by other makers like sony of the same ilk. Enough of that - the point is. I would definitely travel with an X100s and X200 and enjoy that a lot better than even the XPro1 (or two of them) with the equivalent lenses.
I made the shot at the top with the X100S. Perfect camera for this kind of thing in my book and getting back to something I wanted to mention in this first brain dump upon return is that I shot it wide open. The fact is that I shot more than 95% of all of the images I made on this excursion wide open on both the D600 and the X100s. I didn't have to. It wasn't dark. I choose to. Not for any crazy DOF effects but more for an overall softness everywhere that wasn't in the exact plane of focus. For whatever reason I just wanted an overall softness for what I made instead of a hard edged digital perfection.
Take the shot at the top. Not the best example from what I made during the trip but it will do. It also happened to serve for the purposes of discussing the personal project - two birds one stone. Of course the subject in the foreground is out of focus to an extreme, Katya was about a foot from the camera and I focused on the farther image of her in the mirror. The softness I was talking about is things closer to the actual plane of focus like the vast majority of her hair. That's the softness I was looking for in just about everything I shot this weekend even when everything in the frame was relatively flat.
I just wanted to bring that up prior to forgetting about it for a couple of reasons. The first being that a lot of that close to focus plane softness is a pretty important characteristic for a lens in my book and even though subtle makes a big difference in whether I like a lens or not. Lens rendering, bokeh, whatever is not just about what a lens looks like with things way out of focus. The second reason for bringing up this weekend of wide-open apertures is that using a lens' lack of depth is not always about crazy OOF backgrounds - or it shouldn't be. Even with a relatively flat subject plane in the entire frame, even with short lenses and longer distances where OOF is not apparent the rendering of fine detail is a choice that can dramatically affect the way an image feels. Try both. Get a good feel for where that softer rendering works well. It can do wonders for skin and can also enhance the mood of a photo where appropriate.