From my Flickr: “The Washington Bureau”

When I’m traveling on my own, I don’t really go out and see the sights until 9 or 10. I was relieved when Mrs. Holstein assured me that they didn’t intend to leave the hotel and start seeing the sights until late in the day.

Of course, dopey me: the Holsteins are very early risers. For me, 6 AM is "wakeup time minus three hours." Whereas Mr. and Mrs. H were already awake, bathed, and had spent two hours catching up on email and other dairy business.

But I won’t complain. During these trips I’m working for them. Plus, I can’t deny that early sunrise really does wonders for an otherwise common tourist photo.

See it here: http://flic.kr/p/FMaGuF

This Soviet 1,100mm Lens is Basically a Telescope with a Camera Mount

This Soviet 1,100mm Lens is Basically a Telescope with a Camera Mount:

Ever wanted to strap a portable telescope to the end of your camera and carry it around? With the soviet-made MTO 1000A 1,100mm f/10.5 mirror lens, you can just about do it. A monster of a lens, Christopher Frost Photography put it through its paces for one of his Weird Lens Reviews.

(Via PetaPixel.)

This Soviet lens is heavy, bonkers, and cheap. I want one. I’m certain that it takes “terrible” photos, relative to what a proper modern superzoom lens made in a non-collapsed Communist nation could do. But that’s not really the point, is it? This lens looks like it’s a lot of fun. It’d also encourage me to try some things I can’t do with any of my existing (and sensible) lenses.

Any item that lets you have fun and gets you to try new things has to be worth every penny of its asking price.

(I’m also aware that my micro four thirds camera doubles the focal length of any lens it uses. What in Heaven’s name would it be like to shoot with a 2200mm lens?!?) 

From my Flickr: “Best Airbnb EVER!”

The Gardner Museum has many true international art treasures. And yet, I think I took as many photos of the courtyard as I did of the artwork.

Can you believe that this used to be somebody’s house?! Sure, of course, Ms. Gardner designed and built it to be an "art museum with an apartment up top." But…I mean, imagine every morning, in your socks and flannel pajama bottoms, bowl of Rice Krispies in hand, yawning and padding across this to get to the TV room to watch last night’s Colbert show on the DVR.

See it here: http://flic.kr/p/FWzuQe

From my Flickr: “Mars Needs Milkmen”

The bad news is that after walking a distance that seemed extreme even for cattle who are used to long drives, Mrs. Holstein is now reasonably convinced that this is not the way back to the dairy.

The good news is that technically, they have succeeded in claiming Mars for the bovines.

(There was no flag available but if a future NASA mission lands a rover there, soil samples will defnitively prove that the Holsteins planted…something.)

No, no. The Holsteins are well aware that they didn’t walk all the way to Mars. They just wandered a bit too far during a tour of NASA and, after passing through a door that was supposed to be locked, found themselves on the soundstage where they were faking all of the footage from the so-called "Mars rovers."

See it here: http://flic.kr/p/FW6YoS

From my Flickr: “Triborough Bridge From The Cheap Seats”

This photo is almost four years old. I shot it from the window of my Amtrak train home one June day in 2012.

I spotted it again when I was doing some housecleaning on an old drive. I just dragged it into Aurora HDR to see what I could do with it.

Digital photography is endlessly interesting because it’s not just the cameras that keep getting better. I probably took this photo as far as I could back in 2012, but a 2016 app let me take it farther.

Sometimes I think about photographers who threw out boxes and boxes of old slides upon pulling them out of storage discovering that the colors had shifted. In 1983 it was unrecoverable damage, but today, even the free app that comes with your phone can fix it.

See it here: http://flic.kr/p/FtrYq1

From my Flickr: “Boston Opera House”

"The Sound of Music" was a terrific show with a fab cast. But it was also special because it was my first time inside the Boston Opera House.

When I was growing up, it was only famous for its shameful state of disrepair. Once a jewel, it was considered by many to be unsalvageable, and generally assumed to be demolished as soon as that became a part of the street that anybody had any interest in developing, or if one of the possums living in the shell finally chewed through a critical piece of structural carpeting.

So it was amazing to check out this fully restored palace. It’s the prettiest Boston performance space I’ve ever been in.

See it here: http://flic.kr/p/FGgnZS

From my Flickr: “Livestock Exchange”

Mr. Holstein was flattered to be invited to sound the ceremonial opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. He was slightly less-flattered when he learned that their regular bell was on the fritz and they just assumed that he would be bringing one of his own, from home, because he’s, you know, a cow.

See it here: http://flic.kr/p/EM7L3Y

“Religious Liberty”

John Adams  Annie Hall

ALVY: Are you even listening to yourself? And the funny part is…’Religious Liberty’…! You don’t know anything about religious liberty!

MAN IN LINE: Oh, really? Well! I’m a former professor of constitutional law. I’m now a lobbyist with a top firm who’s successfully drafted the language that appears in several religious liberty laws that have either been signed into law by, or are currently on the legislative floor of, many states. So I think my insights on the founding fathers’ principle of religious freedom have a great deal of validity.

ALVY: Do you? That’s funny, because It just so happens that I have one of the Founding Fathers right here. C’mon out, John. Come right on out. Tell him.

JOHN ADAMS: I overheard what you were saying. When we underscored the importance of religious liberty, we were specifically trying to prevent the government from allowing the tenets or agendas of any one religion to restrict the rights of any citizen. If you’re creating laws to limit where Americans can work, shop, live…laws that even dictate where and how a severely mistreated and physically-endangered minority of the citizenry can use the privy, and you’re promoting this as defense of ‘Religious Liberty,’ you’re negating our — nay, everybody’s — entire premise of liberty! How you got into any sort of position of influence in the crafting of laws is totally amazing. And, by God, heart-chilling.

ALVY: Boy…if life were only like this.

Twitter Question: Nexus 5X as a primary camera?

Cory Hixson asked me a question about the Nexus 5X that was interesting and complicated enough that my reply became a blog post:


I’ve just finished recording an Ihnatko Almanac about traveling with a phone as your sole camera, and about camera choices in general, so this topic is still on my mind. I’m a little stuck on the phrase “primary camera.”

In a way, I’m the least helpful person to ask for camera advice. I’m an Enthusiastic Amateur, plus I’m a technology columnist. This means I don’t know about the needs of the average camera user and I’m way too arrogant to try to find out.

I’m going to zero in on the word “you” in this question. I wouldn’t be choosing a phone as my primary camera. I’m too persnickety about the results, and I want to have lots of control. I’ve just come back from a week at Yosemite and I would have missed my flight rather than leave home without my Olympus OM-D E-M1 and some lenses.

Nonetheless, for three days in New York city the week before that, I left the gear at home and relied solely on the Nexus 5X. Mostly because I had to catch a 6:30 AM train, so I was grumpy, and in no mood to sling a camera around my neck and find room in my bag for an extra lens.

I also knew that the Nexus 5X camera was up to the job of Taking Swell Photos:

 

Added another Daniel Chester French to my Life List. Outside the Hamilton Custom House, NYC.

A photo posted by Andy Ihnatko (@ihnatko) onMar 9, 2016 at 12:00pm PST

When I choose a daily carry phone, I want the best camera I can get but I’m trying to maximize other variables as well. I think the iPhone 6S Plus has the best camera overall, but I wouldn’t switch back to iOS just to get the camera. I think the Samsung Galaxy S series has the best camera on any Android phone (and it’s better than the iPhone’s in many ways), but I see many advantages to Nexus devices, and their “fresh from Google” updates, that I want more than that camera. If I had bought something else, I’d only be trading an excellent camera for a better one.

It’d be hard for me to choose a phone as my primary camera. I tend to think in terms of an arsenal of devices. I’ve got the Olympus for situations where I foresee myself immersing myself in photography and wanting to come away with the best photo possible. I’ve can trust the Nexus for those situations where I’m expecting to take mostly snapshots, or didn’t know that I’d be confronted with something amazing, or I just couldn’t be arsed to carry the howitzer with me all day. I keep attempting to seduce myself into buying a nice, tiny camera, such as a first-gen Sony RX100. The argument for is “teensy camera with a big sensor, a big lens, full manual controls and handling, and RAW capture.” The argument against is “$400, and don’t you already have a nice camera, doofus?” But I keep wishing for a “daily carry” camera that was a big leap better than my phone.

One shouldn’t become like one of those weekend golfers who keeps buying new and increasingly-exotic putters, thinking it’ll improve their performance. Every camera has limits. Even this Olympus that I love so much has limits. But great things happen when you try to find a solution to a creative problem that works within those limits. Phones don’t have zoom lenses. Okay, but is the photo of that Daniel Chester French sculpture no good because it’s a tight crop of a much larger photo? The resulting 3 megapixel resolution forced me to be even more careful about the composition; every pixel was carrying such a great load.

Plus, our desktop tools for massaging photos are extraordinary. I can do things with exposure, depth of color, and addressing sensor noise that would have been a fantasy just a few years ago. So really, I could just concentrate on framing the shot correctly and tapping the shutter button at the right moment.

The direct answer to Cory’s question is that any premium phone, and even most midrange ones, will take excellent photos. So don’t worry about it. Buy the phone that presents the best total package for you.

These sorts of answers can be very very frustrating, however. So if pressed, I will sigh and say “If I had to rely on a phone as my primary camera, it’d be an iPhone 6s Plus. Image quality is a real tossup between it and the Samsung Galaxy, but the iPhone’s speed and reliability tilt the scales.”

Yeah. That answer definitely took more than 140 characters, eh?