talkin bout camerasa blog by Branden Frederick

2017 Review

Published 26 Dec 2017 – Updated 26 Dec 2017

a Self-Reflection

By far, the most important thing that happened to me this year was the birth of my daughter. Yes, this is a photography blog and childbirth has nothing to do with cameras, but her birth transcended all parts of my life, including photography. Not only do I have an eager new subject to take photos of, I also have less time to take photos of things that aren't her. So, in light of that, what did 2017 mean for my photography?

2017 end-of-year gear lineup

The Gear

In late 2016 I got my grubby hands on a Hasselblad Xpan II – the 35mm rangefinder with the nearly double-wide frame. I assumed that as a consequence, 2017 would be the year of the Xpan. But while I certainly did burn lots of double-wide frames, they didn't end up dominating this year. Rather, 2017 for me was the year of the 6x6cm square.

Hasselblad Xpan II

I've had a Kowa/SIX for a few years now, but nervousness and doubt regarding my own style and subjects have kept me from using it extensively. But this year I got over myself and pulled the Kowa out of storage for many photo shoots. To stack on top of that, in September I purchased a friend-of-a-friend's old Hasselblad 500C/M, and have been running film through that at a ferocious rate.

Hasselblad 500C/M with Zeiss 40mm Distagon

My next biggest buy was a Fujifilm X-Pro2. I thought this would well complement the Fujifilm X-T1 I had, which had been my favorite digital camera for a long time. But instead, the X-Pro2 completely knocked the X-T1 out of the park. I've barely touched the X-T1 after getting the X-Pro2, and while I owe that camera (and that comparison) a full and proper write-up, know that the X-Pro2 feels like it was designed to shoot awesome baby photos.

Kowa/SIX

For the comings and goings of everything else, there are just a few notes. A family friend gave me his "been in the closet for 20 years" Pentax SLR, which was fun, but had light leaks so I sold it for a pittance. Accompanying it out the door was all my other remaining Pentax equipment, including that brick/tape-measure K-01. The camera looked cool, the photos from it did not.

I also picked up Fujifilm's XF 50mm f/2, which has been great, especially for the baby. And replaced my tripod head (who cares?).

The Photos

Lightroom is saying I shot just over 6700 photos this year – nearly the same as last year. From that, roughly a third each were from film cameras, the X-T1, and the X-Pro2. Breaking down the digital portion, fully one-third were shot using the 16mm lens, and the remainder went about equally to the 23mm, 50mm, and 35mm lenses.

And now, some photos.

Early Morning San Jose // Pentax SF1 // DA 21mm f/3.8 Limited // Ilford Delta 3200

The Pentax SF1 was given to me by a friend after it had sat in his closet for decades. It had light leaks and was outclassed by my Canon cameras from the same era, but it did have that Pentax mount, so I ran a few rolls of film through it before selling it. This shot is from a Pentax crop-frame lens – there is mechanical vignetting caused by the image circle not being as big as the negative frame size, but it is hidden in this shot because of how dark the corners are naturally. Combined with high speed film and fog, I got this moody shot early one morning on the way to the train station.

San Jose // Minolta SRT101 // 45mm // Fujifilm Neopan 400

I continue my study of the suburbs, this time pulling out some of the Neopan 400 I hoarded when it went discontinued.

San Jose // Canon Rebel 2000 // EF 40mm f/2.8 // Kodak Ektar 25

I gathered more of the old Ektar 25 off of eBay and used it for these moody shots of San Jose in the rain. I do believe Canon's EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens is my vote for their best lens. I simply love everything about it and the images it can create. Incidentally, this spot where I took this photo flooded the very next day.

Maui // Fujifilm X-T1 // XF 23mm f/1.4

We took a mid-pregnancy casual vacation to Hawaii, and being a vacation, I brought only a minimum of camera gear, and played fast and loose with style and editing. Apparently I should do that more often, because I loved a ton of shots from that trip. This frame I caught on a leg of the return home was my favorite.

Travel Group // Fujifilm X-T1 // XF 26mm f/1.4

I chaperoned and photographed a school trip last year, posting photos on a blog for the parents each day of the trip. This frame is one of my favorites – and illustrative of the style I was employing: square frame, warm tones, sun-drenched, bright and cheery colors, and dramatic, deliberate compositions. The X-T1 coupled with the 16mm and 50mm lenses were a great combination, and not just myself, but the parents and kids all loved the images.

Crockett // Hasselblad Xpan II // 45mm f/4 // Kodak Gold Plus 100 (expired)

I stumbled across a Bay Area town called Crockett – even though I've lived in the Bay Area my entire life, I had never heard of it before and had no idea it was there. Built right onto a hillside adjacent to the Carquinez Strait, I was enthralled by the mix of steep terrain and aged construction. Armed with the Xpan and expired film, I took a number of frames, with this being among the better results. Like with most cheap Kodak films, the greens shine through in an especially "pleasing manner", and the overcast skies kept the lighting nice and flat throughout. The Carquinez Bridge pokes through the background.

Home // Kowa/SIX // 85mm f/2.8 // Kodak Portra 160

Of all the photos I've shot off my balcony, this one is the best. Others have been more dramatic or more expansive, but as far as conveying the real feeling of being home, this photo does it best. The warm tan colors, the hints of the city's skyline, the approaching flight hanging lazily in the air, my description isn't doing this frame justice.

Willow Glen // Leica M3 // 35mm Summaron // Kodak Tri-X

This is a simple sidewalk photo of parked cars, but I love it. I've been trying hard to bring my street photography out of downtown and into the suburbs, since suburbs are more an icon of San Jose than its downtown is. This shot, in the neighborhood of Willow Glen, was from one of these walks, and is a personal favorite of mine.

Pregnant // Kowa/SIX // 85mm f/2.8 // Kodak Portra 160

My wife wanted photos of herself pregnant, and was patient enough to put up with me bringing my film gear out to accomplish this task. This photo came out far better than I ever expected. The lighting, the depth of field, the framing, everything came out like I wanted it to. Great job, me!

Baby // Fujifilm X-Pro2 // XF 50mm f/2

And the baby is born. She's a great model, since she can't move and basically every pose she makes is cute. Here she is just a few days old, photographed using the X-Pro2, which I had just received a few days before she was born.

Hanging Out // Hasselblad Xpan II // 45mm f/4 // Kodak Tri-X

This is another personal shot, but I love the way it came out. The Tri-X does such an excellent job with lights and darks, and the Xpan's super-wide frame can impart such context into a scene that would otherwise be cropped out, that even a simple shot like this of a friend meeting our baby is able to show so much detail.

Road Trip // Fujifilm X-Pro2 // XF 16mm f/1.4

At a month old, we took the baby on a road trip to meet family and friends. I got this shot while riding shotgun down US101 through the Salinas Valley and continuing to learn and play with the X-Pro2. It's not a subtle image.

Pacific // Hasselblad Xpan II // 45mm f/4 // Fujfilm Reala (expired)

The muted colors of expired Reala coupled with the darkened corners from the lens's vignetting could sometimes be seen as a detriment, but in this minimalist shot of a surfer wading into the calm Pacific waters, the elements combine to emphasize the tranquility and solitude of the scene.

Engagememt // Fujifilm X-Pro2 // XF 35mm f/1.4

My sister-in-law asked me to take engagement photos of her and her fiance. I explained that I normally only photograph driveways and dumpsters, but that I'd be glad to apply those skills to these two lovebirds. This was the result. They seemed happy with it – it ended up on the wedding invitations.

Driveway // Hasselblad 500C/M // Distagon 40mm // Kodak Ektachrome E100VS (expired)

We now resume to our regularly scheduled driveway and dumpsters photos. This particular driveway is in San Jose, and I masterfully captured its exquisite detail using a Hasselblad 500C/M I had just picked up from a family friend. The E100VS film I "found" on eBay still retained most of its vividity (spell check is saying that isn't a word, but I disagree), and I thought that was just swell even if this vividity is at odds to the currently-en-vogue muted "film look".

Crockett // Kowa/SIX // 85mm f/2.8 // Kodak Portra 160VC (expired)

In the Fall, I returned to Crockett armed with my trusty Kowa/SIX and tons of Portra 160VC film, only to find that the weather decided to be overcast again. Well, not one to be stopped, I shot hundreds of frames of the town and its hills, doubtless inciting numerous Neighborhood Watch complaints. I was very happy with the photos I got that day, of which this one is an excellent example.

Crockett // Kowa/SIX // 85mm f/2.8 // Kodak Portra 160VC (expired)

Another from that same day, I also love this shot. The colors in particular are so great, I feel like I stole this photo from a better photographer.

San Francisco // Hasselblad 500C/M // Distagon 40mm // Kodak Tri-X

I had to be in San Francisco for work reasons, so I took advantage of the day and brought along the 500C/M. After all, if your only lens is the very wide 40mm Distagon, what better thing is there to point it at than all those crazy buildings in the Financial District?

Turkey Trot // Kowa/SIX // 85mm f/2.8 // Kodak Portra 160VC (expired)

Emboldened by all my recent 6x6 success, I wanted to keep on experimenting and pushing myself. I don't think I do a great job of pushing my boundaries, so I'm working on that. A photo like this is the result. Not only did this require thinking about what I was doing before doing it, it also meant being the center of attention as I stood near the start line of a packed downtown foot race with a gigantic antique camera. But the result? I love it. Not only did I get the smooth motion of the runners, but the building in the background is San Jose's historic Bank of America building.

Corporate Christmas // Kowa/SIX // 85mm f/2.8 // Kodak Portra 160VC (expired)

Then I rounded out the year, continuing on the same track as from the previous photo, by revisiting two ideas I've played with before but never given justice to: proper medium format night photos and photos mocking the corporate Christmas Tree tradition.

What's Next

I have no idea. I'm falling in love with 6x6 photography, so I think seeing more of that is probable. Especially once I get the old Fodorflex repaired. And I'm improving my tripod technique, and my willingness to carry it around, so maybe we'll see that continue to have an effect.

Amazingly, I'm having second guesses regarding the Xpan. I have a lot of failed photos from it, photos that I don't share online. I've held back on using it recently because of that, and the Leica M3 better fills the "vacation rangefinder" slot in my life. But, I'm not being hasty, so we'll see.

Regarding acquisitions, I don't have my eye on anything, but I say that every year.

about Branden Frederick

I am a photographer: I have fun taking photos, and I always have.

I've had a camera in my hand my whole life, a 110 camera as a kid, and the high school's 35mm SLR later. In 2008 I spent six months doing nothing but taking photos and loved it. From that point on I've had my camera surgically attached to my hand (I lie). I went digital in the year 2000, and I came back to film in 2013. My parents tell me my photos are "nice".

bf@branfred.com