Lockdown level 2.5

Auckland moved to lockdown level 2.5 this morning, down from level 3. The main difference is that shops are open at this level but social distancing needs to be observed.

At the start of the second round of lockdown and work from home routine, I decided that the path to positivity lay in taking a break each day and stepping out for a walk. I decided to head down old faithful, Ponsonby Road. Light was dull but it gave me a chance to test my custom setting

The following two shots need a boost in exposure. I was toying with using auto iso and buggered up the shots.

Nothing fancy. Just slowly working out my photography approach and documenting my work in progress.

Thursday Lunch Hunt

I’m determined to make this Covid lockdown Mark 2.0 work. Firstly, I’ve reorganised my office setup. The setup gets my daughter’s approval

Bobby likes being close to me

Secondly, I decided to step out for a walk during lunch. I think that was my problem before. Working through lunch or watching the Covid news broadcasts during lunch is not a good way to stay positive.

Here are some shots taken today on my hunt for lunch.

As a sloppy dresser, it feels quite ironic that I get quite excited when I spot people who dress up nice.

These photos were made with my classic chrome recipe. If anyone is interested, it is:

Film Simulation: Classic Chrome

Grain Effect: Weak + Small Grain

White Balance: Auto, Red +1 Blue +1

Tone Curves: S+2, H+2

Colour: -1, Sharpness: +1, Noise Reduction: -2

The Evening Before

Today is 12 Aug 2020. As of yesterday evening 11 aug 2020, New Zealand has had 102 days of no Covid19 community transmission. That run was broken at 930pm that evening when Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield confirmed there were 4 confirmed cases of Covid19 community transmissions.

In one fell swoop, we’re back to Covid19 lockdown. While I resent working from home, I’m completely grateful that we take fast action here in New Zealand. Short term (3 days – 4 month) lockdown pain, which I recognise does equate to mid to longer term pain for people who lose their livelihoods, hopefully translates to lives saved.

My reluctance to work from home and my general distaste of my “home office” largely stems from my conservative and inflexible appreciation of routine. My daily routine consists of walking 30-40 mins to work each day, hopefully taking some time during lunch for a photo walk and ending it with a 30-40 min walk home, met halfway by my husband and daughter (Bobby our schnauzer). Those walking opportunities give me a chance to gear up for, take a break from and unwind from work. Three key moments that strangely punctuate my day with joy and give me energy. Three wonderful moments where I’m mainly alone and meditating with my Fuji.

I’ve been experimenting with straight out of camera (SOCC) jpegs. Here are a couple of SOCC jpegs and their raw counterparts. I used a variation of the Kodachrome recipe (created by Ritchie Roesch) that I wrote about here. The only editing done to the SOCC jpegs are rotation, crop and minor tone curve tweaks. The raw files have a little more tone curve, exposure and highlight adjustments.

New Work from Home Office
SOCC on the left, Raw on the right.
Work on the Water Break
SOCC on the left, Raw on the right

Maybe this is self selecting, but I prefer the SOCC jpegs. This is especially so with the second photo of the worker sitting on the water break. The colour, tone and added grain of the jpeg call out to me. However, I’m not saying good bye to raw files. For example, I prefer the raw file version of this.

SOCC on the left, Raw on the right

Or I think I am. I hope it is not because I want to be fair.

Karangahape Road

Karangahape Road in Auckland is a colourful and vibrant place to visit. There is a good mix of people and businesses there. Colloquially known as K Road, you can bump into suits, creatives and artists, mums and their kids and street folk who make K Road home.

K Road is a 5-10 min drive away from me. I like the street for the vibe, food outlets and the photographic opportunities. K Road is most alive at night. People are out eating the many good dinning venues and venturing on to pubs and clubs. As the night goes on, that energy can get a little dark. But generally, I would still feel safe walking along K Road.

I’m more of a day person and I like K Road when it is close to empty and there is a chance for me to explore without too much concern. With Chris returning from Hamilton on Saturday morning and my tennis washed out due to rain, I had 2 hours on my hand. I decided to walk along K Road and check out the side streets. Here are some photos from that walk.

Following the theme of the week, I decided to stick to a custom film simulation setting. My selection is a Modified version of Ritchie Roesch’s Kodacolour film simulation. I wanted a more look with more contrast and a smoother grain. I achieved that by creating an S curve emphasising highlights and switching the grain from strong to weak. I named this setting kodacolourish.

I walked past these striking red cylinders earlier in the morning and waited for 10 mins for someone to walk up the stairs. No one did. Disappointed, I walked away to check out other streets. But on the way, I back, there were workers on the stairs and even though they watched me suspiciously, they smiled when they realised I was taking a photo!

Unmoaning the moaner

In previous entries, I moaned about Auckland’s winter and overcast days. I also talked about trying out a simpler approach to photography where I stick to a single file simulation recipe on my X-Pro3. Putting all the posts together, you won’t be wrong to think that I’m a moaner, worrying that I won’t find a suitable film simulation that will be usable in Auckland’s winter.

Despite all that the Fujifilm Gods must be smiling my way because everything came together from Thursday evening. That evening, I decided to try out Ritchie Roesch’s Kodacolour film simulation this weekend. And Friday morning turned out to be a sun drenched winter’s morning, allowing me to test this film simulation. These two things came together to produce a series of pictures that I really liked.

I really like the warm and contrasty look of the Kodacolour on a sunny day. My initial concerns that the film simulation recipe might result in an overly yellow toned photo has been washed away. Surprisingly, the greenish dark contrast of the photo has helped balance out any buttery yellow tinges.

The film simulation also worked well in the overcast rainy conditions. The earlier Ramen post featured photos taken later that day when it wet and dark. I think this film recipe might be a keeper.

5pm Ramen

What do I have in common with a group of hi-vis vest wearing builders, couple in their 70s-80s and a well dressed lady with her hair in a bun? Apparently we were all early dinners at 5pm, yearning for Ramen on a rainy winter’s night.

Dinning alone is not something most people enjoy. But there is much joy in quiet reflection in a restaurant on a wet night.

A simple approach

I know I’m a lucky guy. In this world where many are left wanting, I have the luxury of living comfortably. I’ve got a shelter over my head and 3 full meals every day. To be honest, I even have 2 Fujifilm camera bodies, 3 Primes and 2 zooms.

With all this excess and a smidgen of self awareness, I’m trying to lead a simpler life. How this translates in my photography is a conscious decision to use only one lens at a time. Each week I restrict myself to only 1 lens and I rotate the choice of lens on a weekly basis.

What this decision means is that my creativity is more focused. I work within the range that I have and I move my body and mind to suit the scene. There are times when I wish I had a different lens. However, almost immediately, I see a scene that fits the lens I have perfectly. The 50 mm prime I love for ability to be a silent observer from afar would result in me being too close to the builders in this shot. So the 35mm prime I have right now gives me the chance to capture this scene the way I want to.

I’ve been shooting like this since I got my Fuji camera last year. But now that I’m enjoying the creative license and freedom that jpg custom settings bring, I wonder if I should extend the same philosophy to jpg settings. Would sticking to one “look” allow me to simply focus on composition and the exposure trifactor? I think it would but what happens when the changeable weather in New Zealand goes from sunny to overcast and the chosen setting becomes too uninspiring?

Watch this space as I give it a shot.

Panic Stations

My form of street photography involves a patient eye and blending into the background, preferably not seen nor heard. I take my shots and avoid any form of confrontation. I like this style of photography as it allows me to observe the world from my little corner of the world. Embarrassingly, it is stalker-ish.

So it came as a huge surprise when these two chaps waved to me and asked me to take their shots. I took the shot but I must admit I was so surprised that I could do no better than press the shutter. There was no art to it other than their cool posing.

You won’t see me act all brave like other photographers and ask if they can take a photo. I’ll run a mile. Things are slightly different when I’m prepared and have the time to slowly build up my courage and wriggle myself into position to take the photo.

Maybe some day I’ll gather enough courage or get over my own self erected inhibitions to respectfully take photos of people face on with their consent.

A good run

Something’s up. Sun is shinning, I’m feeling positive and grateful. After a tough last week, I’m glad to have this stretch of good days to hit the streets and take photos. Let’s hope this consistent run of good vibes carry on.

Speaking of consistency, I thought I try shooting with the same film recipe to see if I can achieve the same look and feel to my photography. It’ll also give me a chance to understand the effect of pushing my jpg with different aperture, iso and shutter speed variations on the same file recipe.

A month ago, I discovered that the car park across the road from my office was a gem of a photography location. However, I think that I only scrapped the surface of possibilities. As such, I thought I change my usual approach of walking around town to exploring what I can do at the car park. It is multi storey carpark with an open air top floor. Here are the results of this afternoon’s shoot.

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