The Vintage Lens Advantage

3 Reasons for Buying a Vintage Prime Lens

 Minolta lens line from the 1960’s

Minolta lens line from the 1960’s

 Sample of a lens adapter as mentioned. 

Sample of a lens adapter as mentioned. 

If you're rocking a mirrorless camera and are looking to up your photography game on the cheap, look no further than vintage lenses.  One of the advantages of owning a mirrorless camera is the very fact that you can pretty much put ANY lens on it, regardless what year it was made or what system it's for.  There are all sorts of adapters all over the place (there's a link to an amazon search down below) that are cheap, convenient, and give great results.  Despite the vintage haters out there, I have listed 3 great reasons to go old school on new school and blend the best of both worlds.

Reasons:

1. There is, without a doubt, a fascinating look produced from a vintage lens that just isn't the same no matter how you try to replicate that look in post production from a modern lens.  Images captured look timeless, and give a sense of importance to even subjects that may otherwise seem mundane.  They aren't particularly sharp, as modern advancements in glass and lens technology have come quite far, but the trade-off is well worth it.  Besides, some of the most impacting images ever captured were done with these lenses.  En fin, if the subject, light, and look of the image is great.. the rest is just extra.

 Both images were taken with a Minolta Rokkor MD 24mm f2.8 on an Olympus Pen F.

Both images were taken with a Minolta Rokkor MD 24mm f2.8 on an Olympus Pen F.

 www.fitoperez.photo

2. Old manual lenses help you learn how to REALLY take a picture.  This is not to say that you don't already know how to do so.  What I mean is that they slow everything down.  In a purely digital world, we are used to all things automatic. You can put your digital camera on automatic or program mode (automatic without flash) and the lens and camera will do the rest.  All you have to do is point and shoot.  The aperture, shutter speed, light metering, and focusing is all done for you.  Photos are taken in a flash!  On the flip side, everything is manual with a vintage lens.  When you see a scene you want to capture, you have to really think about the shot.  You have to select what aperture is best for the scene, focus on the subject yourself, and really get your framing spot on. (For more on framing, see my earlier post  So You're Ready to Buy Your First Real Camera )

 Both were taken with a Minolta Rokkor MD 50mm f1.4 on the Olympus Pen F.

Both were taken with a Minolta Rokkor MD 50mm f1.4 on the Olympus Pen F.

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3. They are super cheap!!  A vintage manual prime lens can cost as little as $15-$50 usd! (Sometimes even less!)  They can be found on ebay or amazon, camera stores like B&H, and even local thrift shops.  The fact that there are so many to choose from can sometimes be overwhelming, and opinions about which ones are best depends on who you ask and what you need it for.  I mean, there are amazing vintage lenses that can cost over $1,000, or even $5,000 (Leica lenses, for example).  Still, I can say that I have come to very much like Minolta lenses (sample images above), as I find them the very best bang for your buck.  They have a fantastic look and produce interesting and quite sharp images imo.  Keep in mind, however, that since these lenses are used, you roll the dice when you buy one online, so ymmv. I just suggest making sure you look for fungus on the lens or mold on the lens mount.  I wouldn't be too worried about scratches, since they seldom affect image quality.

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An Olympus OM-D EM 10 sporting a Minolta 50mm f1.4


Links for Gear:

 

 

Adapters

For Olympus and Panasonic Cameras

For Sony Cameras

For Fuji X Cameras

 

 

"From No to Nobody," A Reading Defined

Acclaimed theater director Oscar A. Mendoza and his, The Mush-Room Theater Company, begin work on his debut piece as a writer by bringing words alive in the talented cast's first live reading.

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This breakthrough play titled From No to Nobody is a work of inspiration that hails it's influence from such greats as Richard Foreman, and Umberto Eco, staring Alenka Kraigher, Craig R. Anderson, Rob Brown, Mary Sheridan, Alexandra Rosner, and Brian Wask as the Voice. Mendoza creates a peculiar sense of isolation while playing with the notions of repetition and the concept of nothingness.  Through chaotic dialog and character confusion, this work attempts to describe the impossible, and in turn, defines the impossible as life.

 www.fitoperez.photo

Richard Foreman onFrom No to Nobody

 

 

"When I read it, I read it as just voices.. It's difficult to find the balance with the sort of eroticism of watching physical bodies speaking and doing things"

 

I had the distinct pleasure and honor of photographing the first live reading of this play and can honestly say that I cannot wait for it to launch.  Aside from being a dear friend, Oscar A. Mendoza is a brilliant and talented dramaturge, director, and now writer!  Stay tuned for more information as this project unfolds, and look for the up-and-coming crowdfunding event on the way!

 

Gallery from the Reading!

Galicia Takes over NYC!!

The Galician Cinema & Food Festival puts the creative talent of Spain's northern Celtic region on display to the delight of New Yorkers from all over the globe.

 TVG's Jaime Arias, one of the festival's top organizers, introduces the film portion of the event.

TVG's Jaime Arias, one of the festival's top organizers, introduces the film portion of the event.

For the third year In a row, the GC&FF, a four day extravaganza, was home to Galicia's largest official celebration in the United States. I had the privilege of attending and photographing this wonderful event held in Instituto Cervantes (located in Manhattan's midtown east on 49th street between 2nd & 3rd avenue) where the energy was electric with the scent of Galician food and wine, and the sounds of laughter and discussion in numerous languages.  There to celebrate the richness of one of Spain's most culturally dynamic regions was a cornucopia of cultures both familiar with Galicia's splendor, as well as those experiencing it for the first time.  This is the type of ethnic affluence that only New York City can supply; a stage that Galicia more than deserves to be present in and enjoyed, and where, by the looks on the faces of the attendees, it certainly was.

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Pulpo! 

Michelin Star Chef Iván Dominguez teaches how to cook Galicia's famous octopus.

Not holding back in the least, the festival brought in an elite superstar in the international cooking scene in the form of Galicia's very own Michelin Star chef Iván Dominguez (from A Coruña), head chef of the Alborada Restaurant Group.  His expertise and charisma shone brightly as his obvious love for the products and natural resources of his northwestern Spanish heritage dripped from his every word.  So too did mouths water, as samples of his meticulous culinary talents were distributed for all those who attended to savor.  

The Documentary ¨Adén Do Cosmos¨ introduces the world to Santiago Formoso of the legendary Cosmos, the first Spaniard to win a championship ring outside of Spain.

In the center, Santi Formoso stands with a modern Cosmos jersey with his number on it and signed by the entire NY Cosmos team to his left. To his right he holds an honorary jersey from the Galician National Team. With him is Antonio Rodríguez Miranda (Secretary General of Emigration for the Galician Government), David Kiltpatrick (Official Historian for the NY Cosmos), and the film´s director Pedro Pablo Alonso, and cinematographer Cuco Pino.

Long before Pau Gasol came to the Los Angeles Lakers to win two NBA Championships, there was Galician born Santiago Formoso.  Immigrating from the port city of Vigo at the age of 16, Santi would go on to share a locker room with the likes of Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto, and of course, Pelé.  Using original footage from the 1970's, wonderfully humorous anecdotes from Santiago, and a warm, charming sense of nostalgia, Alén do Cosmos (Beyond the Cosmos) details the full circle journey of a young Galician immigrant from bewildered youth, to superstar athlete, and back to retired everyman.

Directed by Pedro Pablo Alonso, the film brings to light the matter that Formoso was, in fact, the first Spaniard to ever win a championship ring outside of Spain.  The audience laughed and basked at the tone of the film, which like Formoso, told the tale in fond reverence of that once upon a time glory without apologizing for its simplicity and with zero regrets.

The Festivities Revel the Final Night Away with Interviews, Live Music, Food, & Gratitude!

No great Galician event can go finished without a proper night of revelry.  Closing the festival in the beautiful gardens of the Cervantes Institute was a celebration of all the wonderful works presented throughout the week.  Hundreds of people danced and clapped along to the Celtic sounds of Slum Suit, drank wines and beers from Galicia, and once again delighted on the culinary wonders of Chef Dominguez and his straight from Galicia cuisine.

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Queimada Galega!

 

A 2000 yr old Celtic tradition from Galicia, said to imbue the drinker with magical health and prosperity.

 

The press attended in droves, interviewing Mr. Arias, Santi Formoso, the film's producers, and event coordinators.  Representatives of the Spanish government graced the floor to glean on how their hometown products fair across the pond, as Galician vendors poured Albariño and Estrella de Galicia.  Rounds of tapas like, octopus, mussels, and other delectable goodies circulated across the expanse, right before the grand finale.  This wonder came in the form of a Galician tradition called Queimada, pictured above.

The entire festival transmitted Galicia in all it's splendor, making this lesser known region stand out as the epicenter of creativity that it is for all the world to see.  This is a land of bagpipes and jigs, witches and mysticism, good wine, and even better food. The more people that are introduced to the wonder that is this gorgeous part of Spain, once known as the home of Finisterre (in Roman times thought to be the end of the known world), the richer we'll all be for it.

Photographer and blogger Fito Perez is of Galician decent.

So You're Ready to Buy Your First Real Camera

Most consumers believe that the first step to learning great photography is going out there and spending as much as humanly possible on a "real" camera.  Let's face it, by "real" camera they are referring to a camera that uses interchangeable lenses.  Ever since the dawn of the digital age of photography and the introduction of the "point-and-shoot" camera (you know, that little pocket camera you or your parents used to have for vacations or fun that disappeared since you can take almost as good a photograph with your smartphone), a camera's ability to change lenses has marked the difference between a casual camera and that which a "pro" might use.

However, I am here to drop a truth bomb.  Are you ready?  The purchase of a camera should NOT be your first endeavor in the pursuit of a higher photographic calling.  Surprised? A little? Allow me to explain..

You see, most people believe that the camera maketh the shot.  Constantly you hear someone looking at a great photograph and saying, "yeah, sure it's a great shot.. Have you seen that camera!?" First off, that's like seeing a masterful painting and saying, "No wonder this is such great art, have you seen the guy's paint brush!?!?"  But I digress..

Now, of course, having an amazing instrument will help make beautiful music, but have you ever heard someone pick up a wonderful guitar without knowing how to actually play?  Yeah, looks good but sounds awful.  The same goes for cameras.  The most important aspect of photography is the eye behind the camera.  Everything else is just flavor text.

That being said, there is a most important lesson that aught to be learned before you break the bank on your first kit.  Some may argue, but despite all of the factors that involve taking a really great picture, none is more important than composition.   You could have the moodiest light, the most striking color contrast, or the most beautiful subject, but if that shot isn't framed right, it's really not that great.  What is composition you ask?  It is the technical term for the way in which we position the subject of a photograph in relation to the background and foreground of the image.  In other words, it is the skill of putting what we're shooting in a specific position on the screen (or viewfinder) to make it look the best, and to learn this you can practice with any camera available.. Even the one on your smartphone.

Now this isn't the proper medium for a full-blown class on composition, but I want to share 3 tips on how to take more appealing photos by just moving a few inches one way or another.  On the bottom of the page I will include a few resources you can visit that are more complete.  These tips are intended to be a sort of cheat sheet.

 

Fito's 3 Tips to Better Composition

1: Rule of Thirds.  Heard of it?  This is one of the oldest photography tips of all time.  In order to illustrate what it means, let's take a look at the following image:

If the above image is the canvas of your photograph, the lines across the canva are imaginary.  These imaginary lines split your image into three vertical and horizontal sections (Thirds) that intersect.  Basically, the Rule of Thirds says that the subject of you image should always be centered on one of these intersecting points (circled in red).  This makes your shots more dynamic and interesting than, say, placing your subject in the middle of the frame.  In the following examples, we can see how by placing the subject in these points, our image has more impact.

In this example, we can say that there are two subjects.  Both the young lady photographer and the palace behind her stand out.  By placing each in the intersecting spots of our imaginary lines, we create a sense of action.  We can appreciate the angle of her shot, see her subject entirely, and even get a glimpse of what is in her camera's screen.  Also, when seeing her, there is an invisible line that leads up into the palace making our vision shift naturally to create the story the image is trying to tell.

Here we see that by following the Rule of Thirds we accomplish a few things.  First, we create the sensation of movement by showing a clear trail of where the dancer came from and where he is heading.  Also, we are able to show the expanse of the environment while still showcasing his sharp turn.

In this last example, we placed our subject in the upper left third of the frame.  More than anything, placing him there helps tell the story by bringing him to the forefront, yet allowing our eyes to travel and take in the entire context without allowing the background to be the major player..

 

2: Twisted Perspective. This tip I learned from the great photography educator Scott Kelby over at kelbyone.com.  Next time you are taking a picture of someone, compose the shot within the frame like you normally would (using the Rule of Thirds perhaps) and then simply twist the camera slightly in one direction.. and take the shot!

By twisting the camera at the last moment just a tad, we create a more interesting, dynamic, and fun shot.  It doesn't work with every shot, but when it does, it can really make a difference.

3. Sky or Foreground... Pick One!  This tip is for landscape photography.  When positioning the camera to photograph a scene, there is one rule that is always a constant. Do not put the horizon line in the center of the shot.  This is to say that when you want to take a shot of the scenery, decide what is more interesting, the sky, or the foreground.  To add a deeper aesthetic, move your horizon line either above or below the center of the frame, making the more important space (in this case, sky or foreground) larger.

In the above example we see that, while the reflection in the pond is striking, the star of the show is the multicolored sunset sky behind the temple.  By placing the horizon line slightly below the center of the frame, we created a subconscious visual focal point that begins with the temple and travels upwards.  The reflection is a wonderful piece of eye candy without taking away from the main focus.

In contrast, this photograph represents the vastness of Manhattan Island.  Here, we can see that the horizon is slightly above the center of the frame, creating a focal point at the beginning of the foreground that makes our eyes naturally travel upwards.  This gives the impression that the land may go on forever, and also gives a bit of added drama to the scene by shifting the focus more to the cityscape and less to the sky.

Like all rules, these too are meant to be broken.  However, I would recommend learning them and mastering them before breaking them.  At least that way, you will have a better grasp of basic photographic standards before you begin breaking new grounds.

 

A Few Resources...

Pic of the Week

A Comment on Color

Sometimes shots are all about color.  Okay, so kitties are adorable in and of themselves, but the most striking characteristic here is the beauty in the orange of the cat, earth tone of the ground, and green and white of the background.  They complement one another.  The subject could've been a similarly hued orange can and would still have the same effect.  Although, kittens are better. ;)

Happy shooting! 

Practicing Wildlife Photography at Your Local Zoo

Some folks dream about going off on safari, to far-away lands, or even to some nearby wilderness to try and snag that perfect shot of a majestic creature in the wild.  We all see those amazing National Geographic posts that leave us in awe making us think to ourselves, "Wow, wouldn't it be great to pull off shots like that!!"  Let's take it a step further and say that we have the funds and the time to go on this dream adventure.. Wouldn't it be better to practice taking shots of animals (other than pets) before spending a small fortune and embarking on this trip of a lifetime?  Wouldn't it be devastating to go on such a trip and wind up with lousy, or less than ideal photographs due to inexperience?  Well, fear not!!  Most cities have their very own zoo, and what better place to practice exposure, composition, and most importantly, patience than a place just full of subjects just waiting to pose for you!!

Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; M. Zuiko 40-140mm f2.8 + MC 14m 1.4x Teleconverter @ 210mm f4 

Our most recent escapade found us at the world famous San Diego Zoo!  Coming from New York where we boast our own Bronx Zoo, I wasn't sure I would be wow'd too much.  Needless to say, I was wrong. There are many factors that make this zoo particularly amazing, but the one that is least often talked about has nothing to do with the specimens or the grounds.  One of the things to seriously consider before venturing out to a zoo is the amount of time you will be on your feet.  Seriously, you will end up walking more miles during a visit to a zoo for a day than you might accumulate in an entire week.  That being said, the weather in the San Diego is PERFECT!  While in part this has to do with the particularly glorious condition of the particular day we visited, it has mostly to do with the climate in San Diego in general.  With 0% humidity, it is an absolute pleasure to not sweat at all.. especially when lugging around a camera bag.

 Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; M. Zuiko 40-140mm f2.8 + MC 14m 1.4x Teleconverter @ 210mm f4 

Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; M. Zuiko 40-140mm f2.8 + MC 14m 1.4x Teleconverter @ 210mm f4 

Since we're mentioning the fact that this is an all-day event, there are a few things to consider when deciding what to pack for your photographic trip to the zoo.

The Gear

I know there are a lot of people who love lugging around EVERYTHING in their photographic arsenal whenever they travel about riddled with the fear of missing a great shot because they didn't bring the proper lens.  This isn't really necessary. However, can I say that there is one perfect lens that covers all aspects perfectly?? Nope.  Still, being conservative with what you carry can be a big benefit. Having less options means you will be forced to be more creative, spend less time fidgeting about with lenses, and have greater practice at being patient.

The Bag

Bag selection can be a big deal to most photographers, as many of us have multiple camera bags for different needs/occasions.  For anything involving a whole day walking about, I suggest something light and efficient.  I have traveled with almost every type of camera bag you can think of, from backpack, to messenger bag, to waistbag, etc., and often struggled with what really fit my needs. I've found that shoulder/messenger bags put too much strain on one shoulder, waistbags don't distribute weight naturally (plus, they look really cheesy), and backpacks aren't that great for quick access to lenses and such.  Of all the bags I've tried, the type that I found works best for this instance is the slingbag.  It's compact size and easy access make it perfect for a trip to the zoo.  My sling of choice is the Think Tank Turnstyle 10. 

This particular bag, while able to fit a larger crop sensor camera and a few small lenses without a problem, is designed to hold a mirrorless camera system.  Luckily, that is exactly what I'm packing, having switched to the Olympus EM-1 (review in the works).  Here, I was able to hold my camera, 3 lenses, 3 extra batteries, some cleaning tools, a phone charger, and a small tabletop tripod.  I had it on my back for about 10 hours and had zero pains, problems, or discomfort. There's a link at the bottom of this post in case you're interested in taking a look at his fella.

The Lenses

Wildlife shoots generally means one thing in terms of lenses: telephoto!  You're obviously not going to be very close to your subjects when shooting animals in the wild, or in this instance those far from the public.  This means you're going to need some serious range if you want to get some expression and detail in your shot.  I suggest using something like a super-zoom (depending on your system, examples are 18-300mm, 24-200mm, 14-150mm, etc), or a trusty 70-200mm f.2.8.  While the super-zooms are great since that means you'll only really need one lens, they have a major drawback.  All of these lenses have very limited apertures, usually ranging from f3.5 on the widest end to f5.6 or even f6.3 on the long end.  Now, you won't really run into too many low light situations at the zoo since they're only open during peak daylight hours, but you might want to open up that lens to at least f4 or greater for some gorgeous bokeh. Even more so, zoo scenes can be super busy as they are attempting to mimic the animal's natural habitat. This can make isolating the subject from the background a complicated task. Working with a lens that allows you to shoot at at least f4 will allow you to blur out that background and help you tell your story more elegently.

Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; M. Zuiko 40-140mm f2.8 + MC 14m 1.4x Teleconverter @ 200mm f4 

Contrary to everything I just said, there will be instances when the subject might be extremely close and extremely large.  In this case, you would need a lens with a much wider focal length (herein lies the advantage of the ultra-zooms that can cover both tight and spacious compositions).  Now, exactly how wide depend on your particular setup but a typical zoom of 14-40mm, 18-50, or 24-70 depending what type of system/sensor you're shooting with should do the trick.  If you have room and the budget for an extra lens, you might want to take along an ultrawide. This lens isn't necessary, but it does give your shot an all-encompassing effect.

Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f4 @ 7mm f4 

Patience

This is at the heart of photography in general, but never as poignant as when dealing with animals that simply couldn't care less about your shot, the light situation, or your desire to move on.  Without a healthy dose of patience, there is no way you will be able to snag the shots you're hoping for.  Some wildlife photographers wait days or weeks to get that special moment.  Luckily, while practicing at the zoo, there is only so far the animal can go. Still, if the subject is of the fidgety sort, It might take longer than you'd think.  Speaking of moving subjects, make sure that your focus points are not fixed to one spot, since having more focus points active will raise the chance of getting the shot.  Also, remember to switch your camera to continuous autofocus or even tracking.  This will tell the camera that what you're shooting isn't static and will allow it to track that movement.  With wildlife, I tend to activate the top center half the focus points.  Since the most important parts of the subject are the eyes and overall face this helps assure that what I need is tack sharp. Still.. more importantly.. is the patience.

Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; M. Zuiko 40-140mm f2.8 + MC 14m 1.4x Teleconverter @ 200mm f4 

Some Final Words of Wisdom

1. Stay hydrated!  It can be easy to not realize how much your body is working.  Between walking around all day, standing in wait for that perfect moment, and simply lugging around gear and holding up a camera (with a telephoto lens) it can really take it's toll.  Carry a water bottle around with you.  The Zoo might boost a ton of water fountains, but that doesn't mean they all work.

2. If you're going with company, make them/ he or she aware that you will be taking serious photographs.  Don't just stop there though.. explain all that this entails: you'll be taking your time at most exhibits, and you might even be as long as 20-30 in a single spot.  Trust me, they might say, "Sure, ok, whatever you want!", but that usually means they have no idea what they're in for unless they know you well enough and are used to it already.

3. Find out the zoo's policy on tripods.  Most won't allow you to bring one or set it up, while others don't mind if you ask permission beforehand.  There's no need for you to carry the extra weight if you can't get a chance to take advantage it in the first place.

4. Maybe bring some snacks.  Food stuffs at zoo's can be simply awful, and on top of that, they can be almost offensively overpriced.

5. Just have fun.  Don't get too caught up in getting perfect shots.  Remember, this is just practice.  Plus, you can always come back another day

Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; M. Zuiko 40-140mm f2.8 + MC 14m 1.4x Teleconverter @ 120mm f4 

Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; M. Zuiko 40-140mm f2.8 + MC 14m 1.4x Teleconverter @ 110mm f4 

Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; M. Zuiko 40-140mm f2.8 + MC 14m 1.4x Teleconverter @ 155mm f4 

This last shot wasn't taken at the zoo, but at La Jolla Cove about 15 miles awayStill, it captures the essence of patience & preparation and is an example of an actual wildlife shot (since the seals there are actually in the wild).

Until next time---- > Happy Shooting!

Olympus OMD-EM 1 ; M. Zuiko 14-40mm f2.8 @ 40mm f2.8 & 3 Exposures @ 2 stops HDR 

 

 

Link to Think Tank Turnstyle 10


Pic of the Week

Salud!

     There are a few moments in everyone's life that are key turning points in the story of it all.  The decisions that we make help sculpt our future and give meaning to where we have been; as well as where we are headed.

     All things are uncertain.. that I can say with certainty.  However, life is a series of sequels that have no end (kind of like Rocky movies).  Or at least we can say the ending of the tale doesn't matter to us, ultimately, as much as the meat of it.  So pick up your glasses!  Raise a toast! And "ching-ching" to the glorious unknown and the beautiful ever after.

Pic of the Week

Behind the Scenes

Keep a sharp eye!!  You'll always find a different perspective if you're looking.  Although I was not the photographer they hired, I think this angle is more interesting & original than the orchestrated pose.. if it weren't for that pesky pro in the way  ;)

Still, he serves to tell the story of the record of a great day being recorded.

Pic of the Week

The Daily Grind

No matter where you live, there is something to capture that can tell a story almost all the time.  Living in New York City means that I am always riding the subway to and from work, to meet up with friends, or to go practically anywhere.  It becomes so mundane to repeat the same thing over and over again, making it easy to forget to stop and look around.  I mean, it's your story!  If you don't want to listen, who will??!!  So I remind everyone to take a few minutes throughout the routine and breath deeply; survey your scene.. with or without camera in hand.  I bet there's a story right in front of you.  Happy Shooting!

Capturing Puerto Rico

Our travels, this time, took us to the enchanting island of Puerto Rico, where the sun is bright, the food is rich (some of the best coffee I've ever had), and the people are endearing.  I really have nothing but great things to say about this place.  It's full of history, culture, castles, forts, cats (sooo many cats), salsa clubs, rainforests, caves, beaches, bioluminescent bays, and more.  For this reason, I deem it the best place in the Caribbean. There is just so much to look at and experience.  

     When people show you photos of Puerto Rico, it's usually just beaches and salsa bands. I'm not interested in showing you any of that. Instead, I'd like to take you on a visual journey about what is at the heart of capturing the world; the details.  I want to show you the bits that lie beneath the folded-over pages of the ruffled travel guides.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

     For starters, I suggest staying either in Old San Juan or nearby, like the neighboring area of Condado.  Old San Juan is where the charm left over by the settling Spaniards of old resounds on every turn.  Walking through the streets, you get the feeling that you are somewhere in the south of Spain.. only that it's a quick flight away (if you're on the east coast of the US) and you don't need a passport, visa, or currency exchange (once again, if you're from the US).  And for those of you who aren't familiar with the Spanish language, I found that 90% of the people in San Juan are bilingual!

Portal Andaluz

     From a photography standpoint, the place is a treasure trove of oddities and a pallette of colors and expression on every turn.  Light changes and adapts to multicolored hallways, building faces, and cobbled stone roads, making shooting fantastic, whether it's in the harsh noon sun, or the aurate hue of a waning moon.  It really doesn't matter when you head out of the hotel.. Just grab your gear and go!

Castillo San Cristobal

     I know there are a ton of cat lovers out there, and as I mentioned above, San Juan Puerto Rico is FULL of cats.  This may sound like it could mean that there is filth, but in fact, it means the exact opposite.  Besides the fact that the streets are the cleanest I've ever seen in the Caribbean, the people of San Juan absolutely love their cats.  People are constantly feeding and tending to any cat they come across.  Frankly, I hadn't come across a single mangy feline our entire stay! That, to me, was remarkable.  There is a book sold in almost any gift shop in PR that is called "Cobblestone Cats: The Cats of Old San Juan", where photographer Alan Panattoni pays homage to the colors, grace, and leisure of the island's more aesthetic felines.  That being said, as I saw the cats to my left and right, I couldn't resist. 

Paseo del Morro

Okay, Puerto Rico isn't all just cats..  There are also musicians on the streets!

Plaza de Armas

     Musicians in the cafe's (Cafeteria Mallorca has the BEST breakfast in town.. quick, cheap, and friendly.. don't forget to order a Mallorca with ham, egg, and cheese.. trust me!)..

Cafeteria Mallorca

     And let's not forget the music in the restaurants! - Triana Restaurant has live flamenco every night, plus, the best Mofongo (typical island fare of mashed plantains stuffed with goodies) I've ever eaten.

Triana Tapas & Flamenco

GO TO THE CASTLES/FORTS!!

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

     The views from the forts are magnificent, to say the least.  On the east side of SJ they have the Castillo of San Cristobal, and on the far west, the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro. Each has it's own uniqueness and personality, but the angles from the latter are the most striking.

Paseo del Morro

Calle Recinto Sur

     When walking around the streets, say hello to our friends over at Ole Curiosidades! This is THE place to get a true handmade and fitted Panama Hat in the Caribbean. The staff is amazing and accommodating, and the hat selection is exquisite! 

Ole Curiosidades

     As a kicker, this store is a paradise for photographers!! There are beautiful things at every turn, and they don't mind at all that you walk about shooting the place up (with your camera! to clarify).

Ole Curiosidades

Sooo many awesome and charismatic antiques!

Ole Curiosidades

Goodies and more goodies!

Ole Curiosidades

     Way outside of San Juan, lies the majestic El Yunque National Park Rainforest.  This is a place of visual splendors with rolling mountains, green canopies of trees and vines, and if you look closely, sprawling life.

El Yunque

     There are lizards all over the island of differing shapes and sizes that are just chilling on rocks, trees, houses, and anywhere else. All you have to do to spot them is keep a sharp eye!

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

El Yunque

Calle Sol

     The splendor of Puerto Rico is that there is beauty everywhere. Whether you're a searcher of detail of otherwise, just being there brings you to a land of simple pleasures and visual delights.  Even what may seem like the most ordinary thing is a thing of beauty as long as you're willing to look.

Dársenas Square

As the ad says: Visit Puerto Rico.

No, really, you should.

 

Buen Camino!

Visiting the Mayans

Sincerely, I'm not one for cruises.  I've been on two and can, without a doubt, say that there are better ways to spend your money and your time.. at least for me.  Still, there are merits that should be acknowledged.  Although I can only take so much of the beach, there are more interesting destinations that can be visited.  This is especially the case for someone with a camera!

Altun Ha - Belize

The family and I took a trip on the Norwegian Sun, leaving from Tampa and swinging by Roatan, Belize, Riviera Maya, and Cozumel.  Frankly, I have no photos of Roatan.  It was a beautiful island (tiny) with not too much to see, and our excursion was a snorkeling outing.  I don't happen to have an underwater camera, and I wasn't about to take my gear and lenses on the off chance there wouldn't be anyone to watch my stuff.  My girlfriend got some great underwater shots, but alas, those are her's to share.

Chacchoben - Riviera Maya

Each Mayan ruin has it's own unique characteristic and it's own gesture.  Unfortunately, they don't allow you to get in before they open for those magnificent sunrise shots (The largest temples are always facing the east, as the Mayans based their lives around the importance of the sun) and they close them off before sunset.  This means we are stuck with the harsh daytime light.  Still, I'll take what I can get for a chance to see something so extraordinary. 

Tulum - Yucatán Peninsula

The most unique and stunning of the three ruins that we visited was, without question, the ruins of Tulum.  It lies on a cliff overlooking an extraordinary beach, and is well preserved.  However, there is a huge downside to this.  It's pretty much set up like an amusement park.. along with all of the people.  Soooo many people.  Seconds before the above shot was taken, there about 50 people in frame.  This is not an exaggeration.  I had to wait about 15 minutes just to get only 5 in the shot.  I was excited.

Tulum - Yucatán Peninsula

All in all, I definitely recommend visiting these testaments to ancient human civilization and getting an idea of the grandeur of determination and art.  As you walk around, take it all in and don't forget to look at the details.  And if you have the time, stick around for the sunset.


Armory Show 2015

This past Sunday saw us at the NYC Armory Show, where contemporary and modern art was filled in the gigantic space that are pier 92 & 94.  I don't exactly consider myself an art enthusiast, but we were invited to go and, frankly, one cannot pass up a good day with the missus and a chance to do some casual shooting.

It's fun to walk around completely unnoticed amidst so many (and boy was it packed), but it can become challenging for someone set on taking a few pictures.  Art does not always photograph well if you have no control over the lighting, positioning, or anything, for that matter.  Still, I figured I'd do my best and just have fun with it.

Rose Quartz Hasselblad Camera- Daniel Arsham

There were some pretty interesting works there from all over the world.  Sculptures paintings and dioramas filled the maze-like space, leading to outlandish expressions of fancy at every turn. Everything from the abstract to the obvious could be seen positioned almost side by side.

  A very old Thing- Gilles Barbier

A very old Thing- Gilles Barbier

As a photographer, seeing the different types of expression helps inspire a sense of perspective. There was one exhibit that struck a cord with me. It consisted of a flight of arrows being shot simultaneously towards a single centered target.  Each glistening copper arrow was suspended by translucent string from the ceiling, allowing for an action shot that could never be taken otherwise. 

  A Shout Within a Storm- Glenn Kaino

A Shout Within a Storm- Glenn Kaino

Moral of the story:  Go to art shows.  Actually, go everywhere.. with one body, one lens, and ready to take it all in.  As photography great Jay Maisel says, "You have to be open to everything.  Not only will you find what you're looking for, you'll find what you didn't even know you wanted, but need."


Birthday Trip to New Orleans

This last February, my amazing girlfriend took me on holiday to the wonderful city of New Orleans, LA as a birthday gift.  Of course, we made it a three day photowalk, as one does, and were able to drink in the city (both literally and figuratively).   We spent the majority of the time trekking around the French Quarter, but that alone blew me away.  The city, aside from culturally fascinating, was enchanting to all the senses.  There was extraordinary music on every street corner!  It didn't matter if it was a single fellow with a guitar, or a full bluegrass band.  They were all worth stopping to listen to.

On the Rue Royal 

There is an unusual charm to the architecture and stylings of NoLa that is a curious mix of French style terraces & cobblestone streets, Spanish-esque festivals, Creole-American food & scents.  If you walk around any European town during a festival parade, you would see the same scene of people looking on from their balcony.  Even the tattered building faces hold a special charisma that make you feel the suffered history of this great port city.

Rue de Charlse on Parade Day

And, just like any European city, there are churches a-plenty, and of coarse, the quintessential cathedral.  Coming from NYC by way of Spain, I was much more used to Gothic style cathedrals.   This cathedral looked great from up close, but as we walked across the street and up the step to the small park overlooking the Mississippi, we had to stop and stare as we finished our beignets (If you go, forget the hype about Cafe Du Monde... The best are at Cafe Beignet on Royale Street!!).

St. Louis Cathedral

Besides looking at the buildings from the outside, it is enlightening to take a look inside, as well.  There are old throwbacks to times all but forgotten, when the height of Creole lifestyle and American's fascination with French culture was thriving with a flare for fashion.  The entire quarter was full of boutique shops selling early century hats, dresses, suits, and books, that I could imagine would only be deemed normal to don  while in NoLa.. unless, of course, it's halloween or carnava elsewherel. 

Outside of the French Quarter, we decided to visit the Oak Alley Plantation.  This was an amazing experience that was bittersweet on so many levels.  For starters, as soon as you get there you are taken aback by the beauty and grandness of the grounds.  As you explore the landscape, however, you are reminded of darker times, coming to terms with the fact that the entire property was erected by the labored backs of slaves.  It serves as a very real wake-up call to how we see things and seldom stop to think about what we are looking at on a deeper level.  Here's a bit of trivia about the place, however.. It was the location where they filmed Interview with a Vampire.

Last, but not least, we partied as one only does in New Orleans!  We had bacon peanut butter burgers (yep, you read that right.. she absolutely LOVED it, I thought it was aaaight), partook of some deep green Absenthe, and even went all night walking around Bourbon Street on a guided ghost tour with a world famous Hurricane in hand.  One cannot say he has had a Hurricane, if one hasn't had one at its birthplace..

Pat O'Brian's - The Birthplace of the Hurricane

It was a great trip, and well worth both living it, and shooting it.  I recommend it if you haven't been there and figure 3-4 day should be enough to get it all in.  I'm sure we missed some stuff, but I, for one, left a happy guy.

Buen Camino,                                                                                                                                                      FP