Tag Technique

Controlling the Lens Cap of the Leica D-Lux 4 and D-Lux 5

Owners of the Leica D-Lux 4 or D-Lux 5 are surely already familiar with the dilemma presented by the provided lens cap. If strapped to the camera, the lens cap gets in the way and draws attention to the photographer. If kept in one’s pocket, the lens cap is likely to get lost sooner or later.

This is easily resolved with a bit of masking tape and velcro.

Voilà! One minor modification provides — simultaneously — a place to stow the lens cap while shooting and a substantially improved handgrip for the photographer.

Obviously, there’s a slight loss to the camera’s ‘objet d’art’ appeal — but given the reversibility and utility of this modification, I doubt that’s of any great concern to those who are willing to try it.

Zeiss 35mm f2 ZE

The Zeiss 35mm f2 ZE is a fantastic lens. Granted, I’ve only been using one for about a week, but I’m already becoming familiar with — and appreciative of — the distinctive way it draws the world. The most obvious difference between this lens and other lenses? The transition into and out of the depth of field is incredibly smooth. It is almost completely free of distracting artifacts.

The other characteristics of the lens are as one would expect. The lens body is well constructed. The focusing action is precise and polished. The weight and size feel right. I recommend it without reservation.

(I blame the Alternative Gear & Lenses forum at FredMiranda.com for this particular acquisition. Be careful. That forum is an enticement to bankruptcy.)

I Dreamt You Were There: Illustration Process Video

I Dreamt You Were There from Jon Fuller on Vimeo.

“The Rock”

The Rock

Here’s a quick equipment recommendation for anyone using a recent Canon, Nikon, or Pentax digital body. The Rokinon 85mm f1.4 isn’t the best lens in the world — it exhibits a lot of defocus chromatic aberration at its widest apertures and is quite difficult to focus unless you have a body with ‘Live View’ support or a good manual focus screen — but it may be the best ‘portrait’ or ‘wide aperture optimized’ lens you can purchase for under $1000.

It’s being sold for around $250 under several different brand names: Rokinon, Samyang, Vivitar, Polar, Bower, Opteka, and Falcon.

There are some fantastic examples of the capabilities of this lens at Flickr. Note the quality of the in-focus and out-of-focus areas in those shots.

The Alternative Gear & Lenses forum at FredMiranda.com is a great source of information about this lens and other (relatively) inexpensive, yet high-quality bits of glass.

A Ruined Empire

All great satire echoes truth. By that measure, Fake Steve Jobs’ Not-So-Brief Chat With AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson could be the best satire of this decade.

And now here we are. Right here in your own backyard, an American company creates a brilliant phone, and that company hands it to you, and gives you an exclusive deal to carry it — and all you guys can do is complain about how much people want to use it. You, Randall Stephenson, and your lazy stupid company — you are the problem. You are what’s wrong with this country.

I stopped, then. There was nothing on the line. Silence. I said, Randall? He goes, Yeah, I’m here. I said, Does any of that make sense? He says, Yeah, but we’re still not going to do it. See, when you run the numbers what you find is that we’re actually better off running a shitty network than making the investment to build a good one. It’s just numbers, Steve. You can’t charge enough to get a return on the investment.

Now there was silence again. This time I was the one not talking. There was this weird lump in my throat, this tightness in my chest. I had this vision of the future — a ruined empire, run by number crunchers, squalid and stupid and puffed up with phony patriotism, settling for a long slow decline.

“Okay,” I said. “Nice talking to you.” Then I hung up.

Outlaw Cat Fishes With The Stars

Outlaw Cat sits atop his hijacked villa and fishes using stars as bait!

Good friends Kate & Sam recently sent me a little surprise in the form of an Outlaw Cat figurine — along with some small pieces of their excellent rendition of Lost Dzimba. Since both the figurine and the buildings were of the same scale, I was compelled to combine them, leverage my newly acquired Strobist skills, and take the picture above.

(For the curious: here’s a quick shot of the setup. White balance was set to daylight. Two flashes gelled with CTO (full and half) were firing from camera left. One was bounced, and the other snooted to provide a directional light down and across the scene. To highlight the star at the end of the fishing pole, I held a flashlight against a flash grid and directed the light just over the star’s face.)

The Palace Of Badminton

The Palace Of Badminton

When one is larking around with ideas, the ideas sometimes take their own route to completion.

In my senior year of high school, I played badminton practically every morning before classes. My playing partner was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known. I couldn’t hope to equal him at math or science or language (though we were close at the latter). At badminton, however, we were perfectly matched.

Naturally, this meant we had to destroy each other.

We explored various methods — beginning with increasing the speed of return, the height of the net, the number of birdies in play — and escalating into a kind of Calvinball of baroque and convoluted rules which borrowed liberally from soccer and ping pong.

Such a development between skilled, competitive players is inevitable and, once experienced, ruinously addictive. To every pursuit which follows in life, one brings an insatiable desire for the worthy opponent — the singular being who will force you to get better.

Find that person and go start a happy feud.

4 Years, 15 Notebooks

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Not pictured: The notebook in which I’m currently working.

A Design Observer post regarding Michael Beirut’s notebooks, Kate’s amazing photographic retrospective, and Merlin Mann’s thoughts on creativity recently got me thinking about my own growing archive of work.

Like Mr. Beirut, my mind fills with questions when re-examining the worn pages of these tiny notebooks — filled as they are with hurriedly scribbled notes and half-finished sketches. Recorded within them is a kind of personal renaissance, an arc of experience, the daily curation of a creative habit.

The first few — dating from 2005 — are filled with jotted notes for kung-fu classes (written in a particularly shaky I’m-too-worn-out-to-write hand), games of Ravenloft played with friends, sporadic, tiny, humorous illustrations made as time permitted. Throughout 2006 and 2007, a greater and greater portion of these notebooks are given over to personal illustrations and unsent letters.

By mid-2007, I am drawing — more or less — every single day. Escaping into one story or another. Reviewing those images now, I clearly recall everything about them and the setting in which they were created: waking at 5AM into the darkness of the little apartment, the comforting smell of wood smoke from a bakery across the road, the brilliant light and heat of summer afternoons, isolation and loss, a terrible flu, a circuitous resurrection through online communication, Planetes, and new stories.

I feel such chronicles are important. They’re maps of our internal territory, a perpetual well of inspiration and guidance, a reminder of what we’ve survived, what we’ve accomplished. A testament to the fact we just keep showing up.

1964 Voskhod 1 Stamps

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These stamps appear to depict the crew of the 1964 Voskhod 1 space flight: Vladimir Komarov, Konstantin Feoktistov, and Boris Yegorov. This was the first multi-person space flight.

Notice the strong left-to-right diagonal composition in both of these stamps. In cultures which parse lines of text from left to right, a line angled such that the left is lower than the right is interpreted as rising and emotionally uplifting.

This compositional approach is useful when an artist or designer wishes to intimate a positive future.

When reversed — such that the left is higher than the right — this is useful to intimate a positive past.

(Take a look at the last few posts regarding these vintage CCCP stamps — you may notice this compositional approach repeated quite a lot.)

Our Library

Here’s an example of how I go from conceptual sketch to final painting. This piece is titled Our Library and was done as a Christmas present for a friend with two cats. The cats are named Casper and Peekaboo, are great buddies, and — strangely enough — are almost completely identical.

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Illustrating the unique qualities and similarities of these two cats is always a challenge. For this piece, I first decided on an appealing setting — a warm, comfortable sitting room — then divided the space and modified the poses, palette, and compositional elements to individuate the subjects. (If you compare the sketch to the final piece, you’ll see that an awful lot of detail work was done after the concept stage; this is perfectly fine if you’re confident in your ability to fill empty space with interesting things.)

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Note all the artifacts in the background! Like most cats, these two are often occupied with adventure. One wonders what stories are associated with such a diverse collection.