Nov 132011
 

Cobar is the typical 150 years old mine town. One main street straight out of a Western movie and mines all around the area. Next town is 120km so the sense of isolation must be quite strong for the 6’000 settlers. It doesn’t prevent kids to have some fun …

More later when I get a better internet connection

Leica M8 with 35mm Lux Asph at F2.0, 1/8000, ISO160

Nov 122011
 

Far from the glitter of East Coast hides the other face of Australia. Small towns in the middle of nowhere that survive mainly with farm work. Many of its inhabitants are either migrants or Aborigines descendants and alcohol and drugs are the main plague. Not quite the Bronx but still surprising to see cars driving around with RNB music shouting out of the windows, addicts staring at invisible worlds , stores protected by fences and bands of kids wandering in the almost desert streets.

Some say the govenment is taking action. To what I have seen, there seems to be still a long way to go. But somehow, I hope this little girl will beat the unfavorable odds. (click on picture for high res)

Leica M8 with 35mm Lux Asph

Nov 112011
 

Something that is definitely missing in smaller Australian towns is the downtown activity that can be found in Europe. Business close very early, around 17h and it becomes tough to find anybody in the streets after that. As we say in French, there ain’t even a dog there. Well, I actually found one in Roma (obviously, the Australian one, no spaghettis for me tonight), and another lone rebel soul.

Adelaide is about five days away … outback street photography is definitely too demanding in terms of patience.  (click on pictures for high res)

All pictures taken with Leica M8 and 35mm Lux Asph.

Nov 102011
 

Ever spent some days in the outback ? Well, that is probably Hell for street photography since streets are deserted most of day. An when people finally decide to hazard in the pounding sun of Emerald, they use their car. From door to door.

Today’s shots will therefore be without people. Not my favorite type of photography, but at least, you get a feel of what Emerald looks like.

Our van is not going to get fixed quick enough. We have received a hire car and will drive to pick up our replacement van, that is 1200 kms South. Who said France was big ? (click on pictures for high res)

All pictures taken with Sigma DP2 at 40mm, ISO100

Nov 092011
 

One sometimes it only happens in movies, but our engine failed in the middle of the Australian outback. Hopefully, a cowboy stopped to help us. He climbed on the top of his truck to get just enough signal to call the rescue services. Next town was 30km and only had 71 inhabitants. And for sure, no mechanic.

We finally made it this morning to Emerald after a 150km on the tow truck. Hopefully our van will get repaired soon … not too much to do here.  (click on picture for high res)

Sigma DP2 at 40mm at F2.8, 0.4s, ISO1600

Nov 072011
 

(All pictures taken in Boonah on the day of the Melbourne Cup.)

I often get questions on the Sigma DP2, be it in terms of my thoughts on it or more specifically regarding how to operate it. The Sigma DP2 is capable of wonderful imagery, yet it definitely got its quirks and some learning curve to master it. Here are therefore some tips and observations on how I shoot with the DP2.

Focusing

The DP2 has autofocus, yet it is quite a slow one. I therefore use it exclusively in static street scenes, landscapes or architecture. For street photography, you will have to go manual. The good news is that the DP2 has a wonderful manual focus dial with distance markings. I therefore zone focus and to do so, set the distance on 2 meters and adjust according to the situation. It gets a bit tricky when your subjects are very close since the distance markings are not very clear below 2 meters. In that case, I either switch to autofocus or stop down to increase the depth of field. Note that for those using autofocus, it is better to use the “landscape” focus mode for faster lock (especially if you shoot mostly at 2 meters and beyond)

Exposure mode

Though I am used to set exposure manually with my Leica M, I use aperture priority on the DP2 and adjust the F number with the Up/Down buttons. I find it is simply too slow to set both speed and aperture on the DP2. Good news is that the DP2 exposes very well,  especially in evaluative mode which I recommend. In cases where some compensation is needed, I’ll quickly adjust in thirds of stop through the left/right buttons of the pad.

ISO’s

I always shoot ISO100 on a bright day and will go to ISO200 when the sky is overcast. Above ISO200, I prefer to use another camera since I don’t like the color shifts and desaturation that start to appear in the files. As I often said, the DP2 is a bright day camera. Unluckily for low light, one must either shoot in B&W or accept that files won’t look the same at high ISO’s. Note that in terms of noise, ISO400 is still very good and ISO800 more than acceptable. FInally, I never use ISO50 since it is not versatile enough for street photography and it often leads to burnt highlights.

Aperture

Image quality, and more specifically sharpness and contrast do vary depending on the aperture you select. F2.8 has lower contrast and a bit less resolution. I find it great for portraits since a bit less detail is often wanted (ladies will thank you). As for the lower contrast, it will render better the skins tonal range. F2.8 is also the way to go if you want some background separation at up to 2 meters. Beyond that, most of the plane will look in focus due to the DP2’s sensor size (and 40mm focal). The DP2 reaches maximum sharpness between F3.2 and F4.5 according to my experience. A smaller aperture (>F4.5) will generate diffraction and reduce sharpness. Not a big deal in many shots but since sharpness is one of the DP2’s main strength, I like to take advantage of it. F4.5 is therefore my standard F stop when shooting. It will indeed provide me with the best image quality and sufficient depth of field for most street scenes.

Power on, battery life

The Sigma DP2 is very slow to power on (about 3 seconds). That makes it useless for these shot opportunities that come and go very quickly. I therefore leave it all the time on which evidently means lower battery life. Autonomy  is terrible on the DP2, count a battery for each 1 1/2 hours of shooting.

Hood

It is sold by Sigma as an optional accessory. It is rather big and I am not convinced it actually helps a lot reduce flare or improve contrast. Yet it protects the lens barrel and allows you not to worry about the front glass banging against your body or unwanted elements. I therefore have it mounted most of the time.

Framing

I use Sigma’s 40mm external viewfinder since it kind of replicates the rangefinder’s experience on the DP2. Indeed, the 40mm frame lines are displayed with space around it, allowing for better anticipation and composition.  There are nonetheless several issues with the external viewfinder. First the frame lines are often difficult to see, secondly the delimited field of view is significantly smaller than 40mm and third, there is no correction for parallax below 1 meter. Finally, let’s add that there is obviously no focus confirmation. All in all, the viewfinder could be better so I therefore would advise you to have a good look at Voigtlander’s 40mm viewfinder before you make your choice. Though bigger, I think it will enhance the shooting experience on the DP2.

LCD

I turn the screen off when I shoot since I mainly use the optical viewfinder and I want to preserve battery life. Also, the LCD is plain lousy, being both difficult to see in bright light and of small size. I do use it for portrait though and in those instances where I can’t use the viewfinder (low angle shots, …  etc).

In conclusion, the camera is definitely not one of those that you’ll just pull out of the box and start shooting. It will take some time and dedication to master it. Yet I think it is worthwhile since the result in terms of imagery are often stunning. At low ISO, you get close to Leica quality due to the wonderful lens and Foveon sensor. Also, the manual focus dial, fixed lens and external viewfinder provide an experience that is close to Leica M’s in a very small body. All of that, obviously, at a much lower price.

Do not hesitate to use the comments section if you have any other questions regarding the DP2.