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Happy New Year

Make a promise to a very special person, and keep that promise. It means so much for them if you keep that promise. Happy New Year to you and all yours. I wish the best for all of you.
Do you have any special plans for this year? Any special places you wish to go? Anything on your bucket list you wish to accomplish?
Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2EZ1jLI.

From Sony A to Canon EF or R

Way back in April 2018 I announced that I’d begin switching from my Minolta/Sony system to Canon. This blog post is a follow up to that, and to give Miles of Color some more details in my response to his question on Twitter. Well, making the switch was scary to do, but it’s mostly done. What’s the scary part? I had a great range of capabilities with the following gear (of course I’ve had other cameras and lenses, but this was the core kit):

  • Main body: Sony A99
  • Backup body: Sony A200
  • Film: Minolta A7
  • Wide angle zoom: Konica-Minolta 17-35mm
  • Regular zoom: Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 SP
  • Telezoom: Sony 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 G
  • Low-light: Minolta 50mm f1.4
  • Macro / portrait: Minolta 100mm Macro f2
  • Funky fun: Lensbaby 50mm Composer Pro

Note, with this gear, everything was compatible with no need for adapters, which was one of the reasons I kept away from the E-mount cameras.

Sony A77 left, Minolta A7 right. My cameras with ribbons that take evil spirits away given during the Konomiya Naked Man Festival.

Sony A77 left, Minolta A7 right. My cameras with ribbons that take evil spirits away given during the Konomiya Naked Man Festival.

The thing is, my Tamron 28-75mm was on the front of my cameras about 90% of the time. The remaining 10% of the time was mostly the 70-300mm, then wide, then the others. When I traded almost all my Minolta/Sony gear, I guessed I’d get at best USD$800, but hoped for more. I’d need at least $1,300 for the 6Dmkii alone, plus I could budget another $1,000 for a new main lens. In fact, all I could get was $800 on trade in, and it turns out my main lens, despite the fantastic quality, is actually quite obsolete (think, no internal focusing motor, needing the in-body motor), and… it was full of dust. It’s been very, very well used. I kept a few things, especially for the Minolta A7 film camera.

The moment when I traded in my Minolta / Sony gear

The moment when I traded in my Minolta / Sony gear. It was an emotional moment.

Why change?

Sony has never really demonstrated any commitment to their pro & amateur photography community. They took years to establish a professional support system. Prior to that, we had to line up with kids who needed to have their Play Stations fixed. When they did establish their pro support, it was/is expensive, and with no real benefits. It still took over a month for a repair turn-around. Very uncool if you wanted to work in that month. Despite Konica-Minolta never releasing a 35mm sensor camera, it took Sony years to release theirs (later known as “full frame”). At that time, APS-C was assumed by KM, Nikon, Canon, and others to be the sensor we’d want, but it never was.

My Minolta / Sony gear drying after a day at the seaside

My Minolta / Sony gear drying after a day at the seaside. Photo taken on iPad.

Additionally, Sony have basically abandoned the Minolta AF / Sony A mount in favour for the E-Mount. It took Sony nearly ten years to release pro level e-mount lenses. Also, their first A-E Mount adapters did not support electronic communication. That means, a two-thousand dollar Minolta lens could only be used in manual focus. It took another year or so for them to “figure out” how to create an electronic communication system. Even their flagship store here in Nagoya Japan doesn’t stock the flagship A99mkii anymore, or any A-mount camera for that matter.

Lifestyle of a Japanese girl at home during the hottest days of summer.

Lifestyle of a Japanese girl at home during the hottest days of summer. Photo taken on Sony A99.

Frustratingly, it appears that Sony never or has stopped all lens production from the former Minolta factories in favour of their subsidiaries Tamron and Carl Zeiss. Minolta lenses were considered second only to Leica, and occasionally bettered the Red-dot brand. The whole point of me sticking with Minolta was for the quality of their glass. Consequently, there’s no point in staying with Sony. Furthermore, Canon, since the digital era, has developed some fantastic lenses. I’m still not sure how they compare, but all experiences so far suggest they’re better than Sony.

Lifestyle photos of a Japanese girl at home during the hottest days of summer.

Lifestyle photos of a Japanese girl at home during the hottest days of summer. Photo taken on Sony A99.

Finally, a point that everyone is talking about on social media is that the colour science of Sony is not so good. They’re too strong on the green hues so skin colours look off. I’ve not seen the greenish hue on my A99, but have struggled a bit to pull out natural colours. In contrast, the colours, saturation, and vibrancy of the Canon M6 is way, way, way better than the flagship Sony A99 and a bit better than the Canon 6Dmkii. It was the M6 that convinced me that it was time to ditch Sony. The only real advantage my A99 had was that it was full frame, and the variety of lenses I had, though in terms of focusing speed, they were getting quite obsolete.

What did I change to?

Well, having seen the M6’s iPad and iPhone connectivity giving me so many advantages, the 6D Mark 2 was a natural choice for a main camera that is full frame.

The 2019 calendar Inside Japan

The 2019 calendar Inside Japan with the Canon 6DMkII with Tamron 24-70mm SP f2.8 G2 at the Foreign Artists’ Exhibition

My main lens for so, so many years was the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8, which was meant to be a stopgap until I could afford a Minolta 24-70mm f2.8. It turns out that that Tamron lens was simply awesome. At that time in the camera world it was second only to the Carl Zeiss and Minolta equivalents. So, I thought the thousand dollar Tamron 24-70mm SP f2.8 G2 would also be good enough and high-spec enough. It turns out to be softer in the corners and with green-magenta slivers of chromatic aberration issues in unexpected places, so might only be marginally better than the older 28-75mm that is nearly two decades older. However, the G2 is so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so much quicker in finding focus. Further, I opted for the Tamron especially as other affordable Canon options were f4, which reduced my ability to be creative with depth of field. That is the main reason why I didn’t opt for the Canon R just yet. The Canon R main lens is an enticing 24-105mm, but off-putting f4. I considered I’d eventually go mirrorless, but I’d wait a bit until the R system is both a little more affordable (read, ‘available on the second hand market’) and mature (with a better lens selection, and lenses already on the second hand market). Besides, the adapters for EF to R seem way awesome.

The Mexican Team wins the 2018 World Cosplay Summit with their crowd stunning acrobatic Street Fighter performance.

The Mexican Team wins the 2018 World Cosplay Summit with their crowd stunning acrobatic Street Fighter performance. Photo taken on Sony A99 with Sony 70-300mm G lens. This photo went viral on Twitter.

For the longer lens, I opted for a second hand 70-200mm L lens. Since at longer focal lengths f4 is good enough for interesting depth of field, it’s lighter, and cheaper. The image stabilised version was only ¥10,000 (about USD$100) more, I opted for that. The experience I’ve had with the image stabilisation in the Canon M6 convinced me that in-lens stabilisation is so much better than the Minolta/Sony in-body stabilisation.

A snowboarder at Iimori Hakuba. Photo taken on Canon 6DMkii with Canon EF 70-200mm F4 IS lens.

A snowboarder at Iimori Hakuba. Photo taken on Canon 6DMkii with Canon EF 70-200mm F4 IS lens.

For a wide angle lens? I’m conflicted. My Minolta 17-35mm was rarely used, and when it was, it distorted the hell out of any picture that wasn’t taken gravitationally level. The only good options are perhaps the Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 behemoth (it’s huge and heavy, very bad for a travel photographer), or perhaps the Canon 12-24mm at over USD$3000! Remember the 24-70mm was on the front of my camera about 90% of the time. I can’t justify either the back breaking weight or the massive cost. So, for the time being I’ll wait and hope for a Canon M-mount $300 equivalent to be released.

Other lenses? Not got them yet. Currently, I don’t feel a need for a new 100mm macro/portrait lens; if anything, I might get an 85mm as a portrait lens (v.low chance though). To replace the 50mm f1.4 I might consider a Tamron 35mm f1.8, as that focal length is more versatile than 50mm, whilst still giving me low light performance. The Lensbaby is a tough one. Should I get another Composer, the 35mm Burnside (gorgeous), or the 85mm Velvet (my eyes are watering as my mouth would for delectable food).

Two personal friends. Photo taken on Canon M6 with Lensbaby 50mm Composer Pro (with Sony A to Canon M mount K&F Concept adapter)

Two personal friends. Photo taken on Canon M6 with Lensbaby 50mm Composer Pro (with Sony A to Canon M mount K&F Concept adapter)

Should I consider Sigma lenses? Absolutely not! They had very serious quality control issues. A US lens rental company once announced that a third of their Sigma lenses were unusable fresh out of the box straight from the factory. Hence the “Art lens” rebranding Sigma did. Perhaps they’ve fixed these issues, but I’m not testing those waters.

Current sitch?

Here’s what I currently have:

  • Main body: Canon 6D Mark II
  • Second body: Canon M6 with Canon 15-45mm f3.5-5.6
  • Film: Minolta A7 with Minolta 50mm f1.4 and Lensbaby 50mm
  • Wide zoom: x
  • Regular zoom: Tamron 24-70mm SP f2.8 G2
  • Telephoto: Canon 70-200mm L f4 IS
  • Low light: x (K&F adapter for Minolta A to Canon M and Minolta 50mm f1.4)
  • Funky: Lensbaby 50mm Composer with K&F Sony A to Canon M-mount adapter
  • Macro: x
  • Other: Canon EF-M Mount adapter
Andrew photographing autumn scenes at Gifu Park (self portrait)

Andrew with Canon 6D Mark II photographing autumn scenes at Gifu Park (self portrait taken on Canon M6). Note the brown ‘legacy’ Sony wrist strap.

Hakuba Mountains

For the first time I could see the tops of the mountains here in Hakuba. It’s about zero degrees Celsius, just my guess from seeing watery-ice in the empty rice fields. Wearing a thermal shirt, a hoodie, and snow jacket makes me feel toasty and warm. It really doesn’t feel cold.
I started the day with a terrible headache, I guess from the release of built up lactic acid in my muscles, and the two days of snowboarding. Anyway, today’s a rest day, so I went for a walk and got some photos for tomorrow’s Wednesday Wander. Depending on the weather, I hope to be back on the mountain trying to perfect my chicken salads, c-turns, and disembarking from the lifts 😄
Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2Rii0Zg.

View from Imori

The view from Imori. Surprisingly, I’m quite hot and sweaty! It’s just not cold enough! 😄
I’ve been announcing on social media that I’m currently in Hakuba until the 27th Dec, and available to do portrait work. Please contact me asap so we can organise a time and place. Payments will be made to PayPal, and more details are on the new TravelPhotos.Asia/portraits website.
Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2QJwgKU.

Sunday Surprise Autumn Christmas

In an unexpected new segment we are calling Sunday Surprise, is this little random gem I found on my way to the sports store. I have no idea who did this or why, but it’s a nice find. It’s still autumn and it’s celebrating christmas already.
I picked up a few things, so hopefully next week’s snowboarding trip will be a good one.
Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2S4t8pM.

December Newsletter

This is a modified blog-version of the email newsletter that goes out to my commercial and editorial clients. If you want to receive a more personalised newsletter direct to your inbox, contact me and I’ll add you to the list.

 

November has been an interesting month. First, getting over random illnesses. Second, getting the new website online. Third, I now have a print-version of my portfolio (sort of). Fourth, it’s autumn in Japan; and it’s BEAUTIFUL! Fifth, I am getting very concerned about the climate and the environment… and I hope that we can help it. There’s a short Christmas message at the end.

Let’s skip over illnesses, and look at what I did during that time. Despite feeling poorly, weakly, stuffy, snuffly, coughy, I still got out and tried to get some autumnal photos. I couldn’t travel to the destinations I wanted, but I still managed to get some interesting photos locally. This photo features a few things about my style: I look for different perspectives, colour contrasts, natural colours (no tacky Instagramy filters), and non-cliche.

Autumn leaves at Nagoya TV Tower

Autumn leaves at Nagoya TV Tower

Secondly, the new website TravelPhotos.Asia is up, still a work in progress, but it’s there. I’ve realised that I’m over-using recent photos and not showing enough variety, so I’ll dig a bit deeper into my archives when I get the chance in the future. I’m still adding more to my Instagram account, so you can see the latest there.

Autumn scenes at Gifu Park with a lady in a bridal kimono posing for another photographer's shoot.

Autumn scenes at Gifu Park with a lady in a bridal kimono posing for another photographer’s shoot.

Thirdly, I don’t have much experience in dealing with the North American and European clients beyond stock photography, but I do know that having a physical portfolio is important. I’ve spent some time working on my portfolio, there’s still some tweaks needed, but it is representative of my work and I’m surprised that I could easily pull together a great collection of images; and I’m a little proud after seeing the final selection. In this first ‘edition’, I was happy with the texture of the paper, and I think matte paper is better, as shine on gloss hides portions of the photo. However, the size seemed too small for my liking. One challenge was finding an online company that can do a quality job, and deal with international types like me, so for time being I’ll use Blurb unless I can get a better recommendation. Currently, I’m editing a larger version, and I would be very happy to send it to you to look at with pre-addressed return labels; contact me if you’d like to see my work. Any feedback would be appreciated, but importantly I hope that you can get a feel for the quality of my work.

Andrew Blyth showing his draft portfolio

Andrew Blyth showing his draft portfolio

Fourthly, winter is coming!… to Japan. How can I resist saying that?! I enjoy snowboarding, and I can work well in cold weather. I’ll be heading to Hakuba, which is an easy hop, skip, and a jump away. I’d be happy to go again for more photos if you like. Anyway, just letting know and giving you inspiration for the photography that you can request.

Fifthly, there are more and more headlines regarding the climate and the environment. I already do monthly donations to Tree Nation, who help offset my carbon emissions to help me try to be as carbon-neutral as possible. With your help, I’d like to contribute more. Either, become your own direct supporters of Tree Nation, or hire me for your projects, and I can boost my contributions to Tree Nation. The photo below is one of my top selling stock photos (back when I thought stock was cool). It was taken in 2007 in Yokkaichi Japan, which was regarded as the worst polluted places in Japan in the 1960s, which had the worst incidences of respiratory illnesses. Today, it is much cleaner and safer. After seeing too many recent stories of sea life with plastic in their stomachs, and more stories like this: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46398057 I really want to photograph more, and show more to help encourage more people to do right for the future generations. I want to show the problems, and the solutions. I hope that you have a project that I can help with, or can help sponsor me to photograph and share these stories.

An oil refinery in the port of Yokkaichi. (Note, the colours were adjusted for dramatic effect)

An oil refinery in the port of Yokkaichi. (Note, the colours were adjusted for dramatic effect)

Finally, Andrew is available for commercial and editorial photography projects anywhere in Asia. He is currently working to fill his 2019 schedule, so please get in touch soon. With his passport he is able to stay in almost any country for as long as the project requires. He has professional equipment, and is focused on getting the job done, despite difficulties and problems that might arise. He has abilities in Japanese, Korean, and a bit in Mandarin. He also knows how to pickup enough survival language for other countries, and lots of experience in working with non-native speakers of English. He can find and organise the right people to help with the job at hand. To learn more about his company see TravelPhotos.Asia, and contact him here or by replying to this email.

Andrew photographing autumn scenes at Gifu Park (self portrait)

Andrew photographing autumn scenes at Gifu Park (self portrait)

Merry Christmas and have a happy New Year. I won’t write again until may be mid January or early February, but feel free to contact me any time for me to to help you with your next project.

Autumn Leaves at Nagoya TV Tower

This Wednesday Wander will come in two parts, just because Instagram doesn’t like mixing wide & tall photos in one post. Short story, still have a cold, nose stuffy, husky but nasally voice, and low energy. Husky voices are sexy, but not when they’re nasally too. 😄🤧 This is not the photographic adventure I wanted to do, but it’s the one I can do. Sakae is in-exotically downtown, easily accessible, but close to cafes and lunch venues; perfect for me today.
Update for those in the know, my new Canon 6Dmk2 with Tamron 24-70mm SPf2.8 is still amazing me. Brilliant combo.
Update to the JapanesePhotos Instagram at: http://bit.ly/2za9xNp.
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