Pentax+GFX

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For several months now I’ve watched My KAGE buddies Bert Stefani and Jonas Rask, sharing GFX 50S images shot using various vintage lenses. Actually, Jonas is the mad doctor/collector in the gang—at this point I believe we can safely call it an addiction. But, needless to say, I’ve been curious about trying this myself.

I had an old Pentax K1000 (my “college” camera) that a friend had given me awhile back, and I realized the lens on this thing was a 50mm f/1.7—faster than what I thought. So on a whim I ordered a Fotodiox Pentax-K to GF adapter. I wasn’t expecting much but man...colour me impressed.

Obviously this is manual focus only, but the various options on the camera (focus peaking, zooming, picture in picture) make this extremely usable, even wide-open. This is a full-frame lens on a much larger sensor which does introduce some vignetting—easily corrected in post or an interesting effect on certain images. But what most surprises me is the sharpness: I wasn’t counting on this at all. I don’t mind a softer look and I was in fact expecting this combination to err on the side of “imperfection”... the reality is quite different. Just for kicks I shot a couple of studio images and although it’s probably not obvious at these resolutions, believe me we’re in pixel peeping territory here. I mostly don’t care about that sort of thing but it is surprising. 

 The K1000 shot with its own lens. 

The K1000 shot with its own lens. 

I don’t expect to fall into the rabbit hole of vintage collectibles. Honestly, I have way too much gear as it is. I’ve even taken steps to clean-up my approach and better identify my needs at this point—the two systems can certainly work in parallel but there are clear strengths on either side that I now see much more clearly.

This lens gives me a slightly wider 40mm-ish FOV—which isn’t negligible. Basically, the Pentax is a new, unexpected tool in my GFX arsenal.
The experiment has paid off. 

Hashtag

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I need street and colour and a giant gasp of visual oxygen. Been browsing through Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Tokyo work and it almost hurts. I can sense the crowds, the movements, hear the murmurs.

February is when starvation kicks in.

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diCorcia but also Crewdson...I’m on a rampage. It’s a new ritual, making a point of searching for images, seeing the work of others—photographers or painters or sculptors. Forcing it as an essential part of my day. Feeding, really. I keep a running screenshot scrapbook in Bear—I started this a long time ago but I’m now trying to add content to it daily. It’s a vicarious stratagem...to get behind someone else’s eyes and understand their impulse. A deconstruction of intent. Ultimately I’m creating a lookbook based on my own personal triggers, without direction or afterthought.

I invaded our bathroom yesterday morning, with a flash and a c-stand, a tripod and my GFX. I noticed colours, however dilapidated, and couldn’t help myself. Cynthia called it our crap as art when I showed her the results later in the evening. “Good hashtag”, I joked. Crap/treasure...we all know how that goes, right?

For now it’s all an antidote to whiteness.
 #crapasart

Artefacts I

ARTEFACT (ˈⱭːTꞮˌFÆKT) OR ARTIFACT
N
1.SOMETHING MADE OR GIVEN SHAPE BY MAN, SUCH AS A TOOL OR A WORK OF ART, ESP AN OBJECT OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL INTEREST
2.ANYTHING MAN-MADE, SUCH AS A SPURIOUS EXPERIMENTAL RESULT
3.(BIOLOGY) CYTOLOGY A STRUCTURE SEEN IN TISSUE AFTER DEATH, FIXATION, STAINING, ETC, THAT IS NOT NORMALLY PRESENT IN THE LIVING TISSUE

The sprawling Irving Penn exhibit I saw in Stockholm lives with me still. Namely his simple yet effective skull images: just a few monochromes on a white background. Nothing fancy, no tricks...just the purity of a subject without artifice. Anytime I get mired in complexity, someone or something throws reality back at me—and I remember we don’t need sixteen lights or a huge Hollywood production. We just need the desire to see.

My dad traveled the world on a freighter ship in his youth, back when a boy could escape without so much as a backward glance. From the Arctic circle he brought back a hunter figurine; from Africa, a couple of strange acrobats. Much later, while on a business trip somewhere in Canada, he bought me a necklace carved in caribou teeth. All of these sparked my imagination—the concept of political correctness still lost to a much distant future.

Then there’s the other necklace I found in my mom’s jewelry box one day, the one I wore on stage for years; the creepy baby teeth hidden away, slowly dissolving in the drip of decades. I wanted to see these artefacts again, to record them like Penn’s skulls.
Without makeup.
Without ruse.


Shot with the GFX 50S and GF 120mm f4 LM OIS R WR (Acros film simulation)


A Wider Palette

My KAGE colleague Jonas Rask posted about his Hasselblad X-Pan experimentations over the weekend (beautiful shots if you have a few minutes). It’s interesting how panoramic formats immediately feel cinematic, because it’s really nothing more than a cultural by-product: we’ve simply been conditioned to associate those thinner/wider ratios with moviemaking. Years ago—before HD—we’d add black bars to SD video content to make the content feel “bigger”...by actually making it smaller. Chalk this one up to the ever-fascinating psychology of visual storytelling.

The X-series have long included a 16:9 aspect ratio but I’ve rarely used it, mostly out of an ingrained reflex to conserve as many pixels as possible. When your images are going out to clients, the job is to provide the highest quality possible and technically, this includes resolution. In French we call this déformation professionnelle. It’s the reason why I’ve always focused on composition in-camera as opposed to dramatic cropping in post. This mindset has carried over to the way I shoot with the GFX 50S, even though the resolution argument all but flies out the window. Between the lenses’ resolving power, the camera’s sensor and the size of the files themselves, there’s really no reason not to experiment with different aspect ratios. At this point I’m like the people who lived through the depression and spent their lives in fear of spending money.

I still believe in the importance of framing in the field, because this speaks to our ability to see in the moment. That reflex is our foundation. But learning to compose an image with other aspect ratios really only expands on that concept. The weekend pictures below use a 65:24 ratio—one amongst an expanded set of options available on Fuji’s medium-format camera—and the resolution is still a tad higher than my X-Pro2. Part of me still cringes at “throwing away” pixels...but boy, I think I need to lighten up.

More tools, more possibilities...

P.S All images (except #4 below) were shot at ISO 6400.


Shot with the GFX 50 S and GF 120mm f/4 R WR


Subconnectors

Morrison brought darkness. Bowie and Murphy, theatre—Marceau and Artaud. Iggy was, is and always will be the endless scream, animalistic and unleashed. Raw Power baby.

Chris Cornell was swagger and sadness.
The news yesterday was a hit to the body—like Elliott Smith or Jeff Buckley so many years ago. It hurts a lot more when it's your fucking g-g-generation.

...

I listen to a lot of music, but loud music exists almost exclusively in the car. There's something about driving that makes this almost essential to the experience. Well, when I'm alone anyway. It's also where I listen to my own songs when I really want to judge a mix: if Queens of the Stone Age sound amazing and my new mastering is miles away...obviously I've missed the boat. Not that I expect to approach the same level of quality—but there's a middle ground to figure out. I call this the car test. I seem to remember reading about Jack White having a similar check as part of his mixing workflow, which really makes sense when you think about it: the best reference is the one you know. And a crappy reference is much more real world ready than a 20K sound system.

A few weeks ago I recorded a new song because...hmm, just because. And I uploaded it almost immediately to my music page, did a quick post about it on Facebook. But I skipped the car test. When I finally did listen to it while driving into the city...it made my ears bleed. Just a little. But enough. Let's just say I went a tad overboard with those mid-high frequencies—which are always a bitch to tame between vocals, distorted guitars and mellotrons; it's like 10 people crowding ONE corner of a room. I digress. Sooo...not being able to let sleeping dogs lie despite the absolute lack of urgency (this is really just me battling with myself): I remixed. And I added vocals. And...it still sounds pretty harsh and messy. But I'm posting it here, as a tribute of sorts—to Chris, to heroes...to swagger and sadness.

To peace in all of its cruel elusiveness.


Shot with the GFX 50S and GF 63mm f2.8 R WR