Meike 50mm F2 Review by David Veldman

Wow a review! Everyone loves those right?

I generally don't review equipment, mainly because of my lack of qualifications to do so. However, occasionally I will find myself with a piece of kit that I feel so strongly about that I need to vent.

The Meike 50mm F2 is one of those.

I first saw the Meike by accident on Amazon, and was intrigued by the idea of a cheap, fast 50mm made in the XF format. I waffled on the purchase, but eventually pulled the trigger, a wise choice.

The lens is well made, solid and compact, with a clickless aperture ring and a well machined smooth focus ring. That matters a great deal, as the lens of course, is only manual focus.

Attached to the Fujifilm Xt10, the Meike creates a lovely look, and it a perfect size for the little APSC Camera.

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On the X series camera, manual focus lenses are a dream to use. Hitting the rear dial punches in to 100% magnification for easy detail adjustments, while focus peaking is a treat to use.

I haven't done enough serious shooting with the lens, but today I took it out for a quick walk with the missus, and came away very impressed with the quality of images it can render.

 

Most of the images in this post were actually JPEGS, shockingly. Although I tend to shoot Raw, I occasionally find myself using the film emulations. Because the light was rather nice today, I kept most of the JPEGs and tweaked them. Fuji JPEGs are wonderful for shadow retention, although naturally highlights that are blown, are a thing of the past.

 

Focusing seems incredibly easy - especially stopped down to f7.1 or 8 - it's impossible to know the exact number. For the shot above, I had my camera set to Black and White, with a Red Filter, and spot metering. With some exposure compensation dialed in, I got the shot effortlessly, despite almost running to keep up with an ever so slightly impatient wife.

 

I love the way the lens renders images. Combined with Fuji's x-trans sensor and film reproductions, there's a difficult to define luminance to them. Not the sharpest images of course, although the lens is quite sharp stopped down.

Most importantly, the lens is just fun to use. I really enjoy the process of shooting with it.

In short, for an Fuji XF user, I'd have to say I recommend this lens. It's fun, light and fast. You simply can't go wrong - not at 100 Canadian dollars.

The Forgotten Opeongos by David Veldman

I have not lived in my current county for very long - only 2 years to be exact. Despite that, I have managed to gain a respectable familiarity with the area, thanks to my predilection for long backroad drives in search of photographic opportunities.

Today, on a borrowed motorcycle, I headed out towards one of my favourite areas in the county - a long stretch of foothills called the Opeongos. The Opeongos are a part of the Laurentian Highlands. They start in Ontario, are bisected by the Ottawa River and continue in Quebec until they become the actual Laurentian Mountains.

I have taken many photos in this area, but despite that I find myself compelled to return on a regular basis. The road I chose to take was the aptly named 'Opeongo Road,' a settlement road with an interesting, if somewhat depressing history.

Although the settlement road allowed pioneers to build farms on free land given to them by the Crown, very few of them were successful. The soil proved mostly infertile, and few agricultural endeavors yielded results. As a result, the area is now dotted with abandoned farmsteads, churches and cemeteries. A few settlers managed to make a living, and in some cases their descendants still hold the land they worked so hard to tame. Thus, a drive down the Opeongo road is a trip through time, a testament to the transient nature of all human occupation.

I took few photographs today, but did manage to capture one image.

This is one of the many churches along the Opeongo line. Most are non-operable, but because they house cemeteries, are maintained by local volunteers. I captured the church from 3 different angles, but settled upon this one as the foliage provides a natural frame for the building.

I am sure that in time, I will return to the Opeongo road once again. There's a pervasive solemn mood that captured my imagination, and a wild beauty begging to be photographed.

Until next time.

 

 

 

The Perfect Light by David Veldman

Every now and then, a landscape photographer is blessed with warm, diffuse light. Today was one of those days.

Oddly, the day began poorly. The skies were hazy and flat, and I almost chose to remain at home, but I chose instead to see what I could capture. I set off towards the rapids on the Ottawa River known as Rocher Fendu (Split Rock).

I brought with me my cheap ND filter setup. The colour cast that these filters provoke is absurd, in fact one could say they are almost only useful for black and white - as you will see later.

When I arrived near the river, the light had changed from flat and dull to soft and warm. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I caught sight of late evening sun-rays playing through the forest, and I hurried over to a nearby creek to make the most of it.

 

Incredibly, I managed to capture a gorgeous sun ray. The light was piercing through a slight fog rising from the water, and I chose to use a very small aperture to blur the waters movement as well. Right away, I knew I had captured a great shot.

Next I headed down to the river proper, where I found a composition I liked, and threw on my ND filters. As I mentioned before, I found that the filters create a heavy colour cast, but I liked the image enough to convert it to black and white and keep it. It also isn't very sharp, but sharpness is no measure of a good photo.

At this point I needed to head home for errands, and I was quite satisfied that I had managed to capture one or two decent shots. Little did I know, that I would continue to catch a couple more photos on the way home.

I have passed by the house below a few times before. I liked the way it looked, but the time of year was wrong more than once, and the light did not always cooperate. Tonight, all the elements lined up perfectly to create a stunning shot.

At this point, I REALLY needed to get home. I drove quickly along the back roads, but to my amazement the light continued to improve, lighting up a few straggling clouds in a glorious way. Just before I jumped onto the main highway I spotted one last composition, and I doubled back quickly in the RAV to capture it. I also took this image in landscape orientation, but ultimately chose the portrait version I snapped, with the assistance of Maceys input.

 

I am generally happy if I capture 1 good shot on an outing. Tonight, I managed to capture several, including at least 2 that I want to print. Once again, I'm reminded that it's all about the light!

 

Happy Canada day!

Bleak World by David Veldman

I used to live in Alberta. I spent five years in the city of Edmonton, although admittedly much of that period was spent traveling with the military. Still, I am not entirely unfamiliar with the province, having been as far south as Suffield, and as far north as Redwater. I also managed to catch the quintessentially Canadian rockies in Banff.

I would never want to live in Alberta again - I'm far too addicted to the terrain of my home province Ontario, with its rolling hills, escarpments and countless lakes. But even the less picturesque parts of Alberta have their own rugged charm.

Recently, while out in Alberta for work, I have been struggling to find chances to shoot. Even when I do find the time, my movement is limited. This morning, after a long night shift, I found that the weather had cooled enough to produce a thick fog and a coating of frost. Naturally, I had to grab my trusty LX100 and see what I could capture.

I was pleasantly surprised with what I did find. The land is rather barren, particularly at this time of year. The world felt bleak and wild, which I tried to capture.

All images are out of camera Medium JPEGs, with tweaks in Snapseed on my tablet. Not my preferred method for editing, but the real work can wait until I get home and work with the Raw files. I was more than pleasantly surprised that I got as many fun shots as I did.

Please enjoy

Douglas by David Veldman

Today I shot around the tiny town of Douglas. I'm not sure if you can even call it a town. More of a hamlet really. At any rate, I got a few great images that I'm very happy to share. Without any more ado, please enjoy. 

On the Edge of the River by David Veldman

The Ottawa river is a massive, storied body of water. In the Ottawa Valley, it played a very important part in the development of the area, and is also used as an endless source of recreational fun by thousands. 

Today I drove north along the Trans-Canada highway, which roughly follows the course of the River. I was hoping to catch some shots of ice breaking up on the river, but as it turned out most of the water is still frozen.

 

Fortunately, that didn't stop me from shooting. As you can see in the image above, the wind has sculpted out some interesting patterns in the snow. That wind was still present - despite it being rather warm (1 degree) it felt much colder and my metal camera quickly froze my fingers. Before I bowed out and ran for the safety of the car, I snapped a few shots. 

My next stop was in Deep River. There I found a derelict beach house. It looked to be in rough shape, even factoring in the winter. There I captured I think my favourite photo of the day. 

Simple, square, and satisfying. When I shoot 1x1, I try to look for balance in my composition. This image feels just right.

The image below is also pleasing to me. The blue of the ice was just too stunning to pass up. 

I finished off with yet another door. The repeating shapes here caught my eye, as did the side of the chair sitting in the tiny abandoned house.

Overall, I was quite pleased with what I got in just a few hours.

Parliament Hill by David Veldman

I recently went to visit my parents in the heart of downtown Ottawa, the bustling Capital of our nation. 

It was a casual visit - a stroll around on a particularly warm January day. However, we ended up at Parliament hill - which under overcast Sunday skies was as close to deserted as it gets. Realizing that free tours were still departing, we nipped over to the office and grabbed a set. 

Before continuing, I'd like to point out how amazing it is that we can tour our house of legislation every day of the week, for free. 

 

As you may know, the Center Block was built 100 years ago, after the previous iteration burned down. However, the library, a neo-gothic masterpiece, was unharmed, making it roughly 50 years older than the rest of the building. 

 

From the outside the library is incredible - and no less so on the interior, which I will show later.

We began our tour in the hallways of parliament - speaking in hushed tones as the building is still still a workplace for our government.

I spotted this quiet sitting spot - a beautiful testimony to the architects that displayed a wonderful attention to detail in even the mundane spots.

 

The light was fading outside, and the building is dimly lit throughout. I was forced to shoot at a very high ISO, and I was using my LX100. However I was very pleased with the shot above. 

 

The foyer to the house of commons - beautiful and serene, a marked contrast to its regular use as a forum for post debate scrums.

Next we headed to the Library - and what a library. It is easily more beautiful inside than out. However, even at 18mm there was no way I could capture all of it, so I focused on the venerable statue of Queen Victoria.

Had I the time, I would have spent time shooting an image stack to capture the entire scene. However I only had a few minutes. 

Of course, we also got to see the red Senate.

Lastly, while we were exiting, I considered trying to capture the detail of the vaulted ceiling, and I did. The image isn't perfectly sharp, and it's a bit noisy, but I like it nonetheless. 

Parliament hill was great fun to tour. Regardless of your political inclinations, we should all try our best to support and understand our government, and stay ready to hold them accountable if they fail to represent the wishes of the people. 

The Parliament buildings are monuments to human dignity, and cathedrals of freedom. They represent an ideal that we in the West hold in high esteem - self determination.

 

PS - the buildings will be closed next year for 10 years. I recommend you visit now if you haven't already.

10 Days of Pepper by David Veldman

For the last three weeks, I have subjected myself to an unusual experiment. I decided to spend the month of January without using the internet for leisure, utilizing it only for emergencies and online banking.

Due to a professional obligation, I returned one week early, but I still experienced a rather isolated three weeks. Although I was born before the internet age, it has been a part of my daily life for many years now. As expected, communicating with family and friends was far more difficult, but in a way rewarding. I was forced to rediscover the telephone call, and I would say that if someone is important to you, you can find other ways to communicate besides social media. In fact, the majority of interaction on social media is often shallow and unfulfilling by nature.

What ultimately surprised me was the amount of free time I had on my hands. I believe that any person would be shocked to find how much of a time vampire the internet and social media can be. With this extra time on my hands, I decided to challenge myself to a photo series. Due to poor weather and general January malaise I was often trapped at home, so I decided to complete a set of still life images. 

I was inspired by the work of Edward Weston, who captured stunning images of Peppers. Weston supposedly saw feminine curves and qualities in the vegetable, and produced several memorable images that are valued to this day. While I did not expect to create pictures of such caliber, I wanted to focus on a single subject while experimenting with light.

All of my peppers were shot using a single light, a halogen work lamp that I propped up on a chair. For fill I used my five in one reflector, which at times resulted in awkward poses, one hand on the shutter, another trying to wrangle the reflector into the right position. 

I shot all of the images with my LX100, due to its close focusing abilities, and used the Square raw format which I then processed into black and white. 

The first shot was a simple one, as I learned how to use the lighting properly, and properly black out the background. I ultimately ended up using light to make the background (a patterned wall in my basement) disappear. 

 

A simple shot, with nice contrast. Next I moved on to explore the pepper from a different angle. 

I liked this one due to the 'rim' lighting. The next two shots were also exploratory, as I moved around the pepper, looking at it from all angles and in different lighting. 

The image above was likely my least favourite. 

Next I moved to a close up of the stem.

In the above picture I began using 'props' of a sort. I particularly like this shot, as the light part of the fabric provides a nice balance to the illuminated pepper. This is the only pepper shot naturally illuminated. I placed the setup on the floor underneath a window, and reflected the sunlight back onto the scene.

As time had gone on, my pepper was beginning to experience the ravages of time. I decided not to get another, but instead document the final day of an aging vegetable. So in the next image, the pepper met its destiny. 

 

As I am a fan of balanced images, particularly square ones, I used the knife to balance the pepper. Lighting both properly was more work than you might suppose.

Here the pepper experiences the beginning of the end. I quite like this shot, it may even be my favourite from the series.

Next, I got to display another side of the pepper - the inside. I lit this shot very carefully. The entirety of the light you see is reflected, with the main light sitting below, and off to the side of the subject. The setup looked and felt ridiculous, but I am pleased with the result. 

And lastly, before I laid the pepper to rest, a closeup of the flesh, and the amazing textures you don't think to observe when you're preparing a meal. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, I did not capture anything truly stunning, but I did learn a lot about using light indoors, and studying a subject to make the most of it. Most importantly, I gave myself a reason to keep shooting during an otherwise grey and uninspiring time of year. 

I truly did enjoy my time away from the turmoil and distraction of the online world, and I hope that in the future I'll remember that feeling of peacefulness and perhaps cut back on my internet usage.